Attack of the Pos-Mens!

Tonight’s "supersized" episode of 30 Rock centered around NBC suit Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) asking the show’s writers to come up with a sketch centered around a product placement of their GE parent company. His marketing lingo for this was "pos-mens" (positive mentions). Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, and the other writers balk at this, while extolling the many pleasures of Snapple — a very funny bit of meta-humor, of which there was much in this episode.

Mocked as they were, actual "pos-mens" could be seen on NBC just a half hour earlier on The Office. On tonight’s mostly-good episode, we learn that Kevin (the chubby white dude) has very few responsibilities, but one of them is shredding corporate documents. And he loves his shredder. His Staples shredder. He demonstrates it for the camera, shredding paper, a CD, and then accidentally (predictably) shredding his own credit card.

And then we go to commercial… a Staples commercial offering a special deal on a shredder. The exact shredder being used in the episode! Nice and subtle. The commercial actually aired twice, both times right after a scene involving the shredder.

Do you think NBC Marketing or Staples came up with bit of synergy? Why is a company the size of Dunder Miflin using a home office shredder whose feed area isn’t even wide enough for a regular size piece of paper? I realize the age we live in, and am not easily offended…but this kind of offended me.

I do need a shredder, though. But I’m going to Office Depot.

Wonder Showzen RIP

WondershowzenripIt was too bizarre to last. Ran into Wonder Showzen co-creator John Lee over the weekend and he informed me that MTV2 has decided not to pick up the show for a third season. Given the dada-ist nature of Season 2’s final couple episodes, it’s not so surprising. But it is sad nonetheless. Next up for Lee? Writing a movie actually meant for children.

Wonder Showzen Season 2 is now available on DVD, with a nice bunch of bonus features, and typically annoying menus sure to drive some of you insane. Don’t miss Season 1.

Dirty on Purpose Co-Host MTV2’s Subterranean Dec. 10


Coming off a rousing five-show run (four of which were done in 24 hours!) at the CMJ Music Marathon, Dirty on Purpose are primed to take it to the next level, kick it up a notch, and generally become better known thanks to a sweet co-hosting gig on MTV2’s late night indie rock show, Subterranean. DoP’s episode will air Sunday, Dec. 10 at 1AM.

While I know Joe, George, Doug and DJ are gentle and kind fellows, I’d love to see one of them punch host Jim Shearer in the face when he asks them dumb questions about where they got their name. But I suppose that would be a bad move, career-wise. Still, one can dream.

I the meantime you can check out DoP’s aerobitastic "No Radio" video, and "Marfa Lights" (Pocket Mix) from Stereogum. Or download the regular version from me.

The boys are also heading out on a fairly extensive US tour, and I highly recommend you check them out if they play near you:

Nov 8 – Main Hall (Montreal, Canada) *
Nov 9 – Lee’s Palace (Toronto, ONT) *
Nov 10 – Big Orbit’s Soundlab (Buffalo, NY) *
Nov 11 – Blind Pig (Ann Arbor, MI) *
Nov 12 – Lakeshore Threater (Chicago, IL) *
Nov 13 – 400 Bar (Minneapolis, MN) *
Nov 16 – Chop Suey (Seattle, WA) *
Nov 18 – The Doug Fir Lounge (Portland, OR) *
Nov 19 – W.O.W. Hall (Eugene, OR) *
Nov 21 – The Independent (San Francisco, CA) *
Nov 22 – Howie & Sons Pizza (Visalia, CA)*
Nov 24 – Belly Up Tavern (Solana Beach, CA) *
Nov 25 – Spaceland (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov 26 – Cafe Dunord (San Francisco, CA) **
Nov 28 – Kilby Court (Salt Lake City, UT) **
Nov 29 – Larimer Lounge (Denver, CO) **
Nov 30 – Jackpot (Lawrence, KS) **
Dec 2 – Subterranean (Chicago, IL) **
Dec 6 – Case Western University (Cleveland, OH)
Dec 8 – Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA)
Dec 13 The Delancey (New York, NY- Free Show)

* = w/ Album Leaf
** = w/ Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s

They Call Him the Don

Flipping channels late last night, I wandered through the 1000s, where a lot of interesting on-demand channels live unbenonced to most of us (or me, at least). Time Warner offers a free movies-on-demand, most of which are obscure indie titles. One of them is Childstar, a 2004 Canadian film from exceedingly talented writer/director/star Don McKellar, whose resume includes the screenplay for 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, 1999’s little-seen but fantastic apocalypse dramedy Last Night and, most recently, the book for the genuinely funny Tony-nominated musical The Drowsy Chaperone.

In Childstar, McKellar plays a indie filmmaker who pays the bills as a driver for bigger productions. Working on The First Son (where Canada is once again subbing for the US), he ends up becoming the driver/tutor/lifecoach for a spoiled 12-year-old American actor. He also ends up sleeping with the kid’s mom, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. In Hollywood, this premise would have become something like The Toy or Life with Mikey, but Childstar is typical McKellar — dry, funny, adult, and more than a little weird. I recommend it.

This got me thinking about what I consider to be McKellar’s finest hour, Twitch City, the short-lived 1998 CBC "sitcom" (not really the right word) that he created and starred in. McKellar plays Curtis, an agoraphobe and TV addict who hasn’t left his apartment in a very long time. Spending most of the time watching sleazy gab-fest The Rex Reilly Show (Kids in the Hall fans alert: Rex is played by Bruce McCulloch in the first season; Mark McKinney in the second) and precious little else, he’s not the most likeable person… at first. In fact, his roommate is Nathan, an OCD-freak obsessed with "chore wheels" hates Curtis with a passion and would wield a little more power in the apartment if his girlfriend (Molly Parker, now of Deadwood) wasn’t currently freeloading.

In the first episode, Nathan is sent to prison for murder, opening the door for a revolving series of increasingly bizarre roommates, including a cat-hating psycho and Japanese mobster who uses the room to store highly-addictive cookies.

Twitch City was a surreal, weird and very funny examination of our obsession with televison (and cats), and featured a handful of cool guest-stars over the 13 episodes that comprised its two seasons, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, rock band Sloan, and, uh, Joyce DeWitt. Bravo aired the series in America a year later sometime in 2000 which is where I saw it and became obsessed. I still have the videotape i made of the first season, one of the few tapes I still keep… even though my VCR died a year ago and have no plans of replacing it.

Doesn’t look like I’ll need to, either, as Twitch City is finally being released on DVD — albeit in Canada, but their DVDs play in American machines — on October 17. Extras are few (commentary tracks for a couple of episodes) but having physical proof of this fantastic series that only I seem to have seen (amongst those I know) will be enough for me. You can order it through Amazon Canada. I have been waiting for this for a long time.

Curious but not sure? Watch the first episode of Twitch City on YouTube (in three sections).

Out of Order

A friend in the biz lent me a screener of FOX’s hyped new legal drama, Justice, which debuts tonight at 9PM and is being called by some CSI Lawyers. That’s a pretty accurate description, as it’s from CSI producer Jerry "Boom!" Bruckheimer, and he’s now doing for high-powered celebrity litigators what has already been done for lowly forensic officers: wooshy, CGI-aided zooms (and wooshy sound effects); hyperkinetic editing and supersaturated colors; a beautiful cast with perfect hair and clothes.

Unlike CSI (the original; I’ve never seen Miami or NY), Justice is pretty much total crap. Those wooshy zooms are gratuitous here and the camera movements in general tended to make me a little queasy. And it features some of the most stilted expository dialogue I’ve heard in recent memory. Maybe someone accidentally gave star Victor Garber the cast description to read as dialogue in this scene where he addresses his team to prep for a case:

"Tom’s first chair — the good-looking face of Not Guilty. Alden will take the physical evidence — nobody takes scientific testimony like you or scares expert witnesses more. Luther, get inside the DA’s head. You know how they think. Figure out what he’s going to prove and tear it up!"

That’s about as clever as it gets. The interesting stuff is the background machinations — jury selection, mock trials, the forensics, focus-groups, etc — but this is old hat, especially if you’ve seen The Runaway Jury or watched Murder One, ABC’s much better take on celebrity trials from the mid-’90s. The best part comes at the end of the episode when you find out what really happened. But chances are by then you’ve already tuned out. But it’s still probably better than Vanished.

Case closed.

TiVo Alert: Decline of Western Civilization Part II

Penelope Spheeris‘ landmark The Decline of Western Civilization documentaries chronicle the LA music scene in the ’80s: first with punk bands the Germs, Black Flag, X and others; and then five years later when glam metal took over the Sunset Strip. Both are absolutely essential and have never been released on DVD.

Which is why I got so excited to see that the Sundance Channel is showing Part II: The Metal Years over the next month or so. While it’s a much more satifying experience to see both back-to-back, any chance to see this classic is worth it, so if you have cable be sure to set your VCRs, DVRs, TiVos, what have you. You get Ozzy Ozbourne making breakfast… Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P. guzzling vodka (now rumored to have been just water) in a pool while his mom sits poolside shaking her head… Gene Simmons in bed with a bevy of girls… classic.

Seriously, if you have never seen it, Decline II is manditory viewing. Hilarious, shocking, rediculous, sad. These movies have been out of print on home video for ten years. I imagine that music rights are tying up the DVD releases, but until then be glad the Sundance Channel is showing at least one of them. Don’t miss it.

Here are the showtimes over the next month:

Sunday 08.20.06 at 01:45 AM

Saturday 09.02.06 at 01:30 AM

Sunday 09.10.06 at 10:00 PM

Thursday 09.14.06
at 04:25 AM

Wednesday 09.20.06 at 03:00 AM

Tuesday 09.26.06 at 04:00 AM

Interesting trivia: Decline II was produced by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Farris, who went on to direct Little Miss Sunshine.

24 Summer Redux

Don't worry, the gun has a silencer...and take this, they'll never recognize you! Now go -- the President must be stopped for the good of the country!
I’m certainly not suggesting that you stay in on Friday nights this summer (though nothing really get’s going till 10pm anyway, let’s be honest) but FOX is re-running the past season of 24 in two-hour chunks starting tonight (and every Friday) at 8pm. This was hands-down the best season of the "real time" suspense series since the first (maybe better than the first), thanks in part to breaking from the "beat the clock/stop the terrorist" formula that got a little old after four variations on it. Everyone involved seemed to be having fun this time and even at it’s most ludicrous this season really kept you watching. But mainly it’s due to Gregory Itzin’s delicious performance as spineless, duplicitious president Charles Logan. I’m not one to talk back to the TV screen, but I spent many of the episodes yelling at this fictitious head of state.

Plus: Sean Astin, Julian Sands, Peter "Robocop" Weller, C. Thomas Howell, and the totally awesome Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe. And as a primer for going out, you could just play the 24 Drinking Game. The "damn it!" rule alone will get you wasted.

Touch of Grey

I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I totally called this. Back in November I had a post about Au Revoir Simone called "Brooklyn Band Most Likely to Have a Song in an Episode of Grey’s Anatomy." And six months later… they did, in Part One of the season finale. (The episode was titled "17 Seconds," which like every episode, is named after a song.)  I may have missed on the actual song (I predicted "Back in Time" but they used "Through the Backyards"), but I feel vindicated nonetheless. Maybe "vindicated" is the wrong word, but you know what I mean. And I’m happy for the ARS girls — they’re a good band and deserve the recognition.

When I wrote that post in November I was halfway joking about the kind of music typically heard on Grey’s Anatomy, but the show has turned into one of the most musically adventurous on TV. Credit Music Supervisor Alex Patsavas, who also gives The O.C. its pulse. The same episode also featured The Coral Sea‘s "Look at Her Face," and other episodes have used songs by The Boy Least Likely To, Swedish popsters The Legends, Sing Sing, The Chalets, and lots more. A couple Grey’s-related mp3s…

Au Revoir Simone – "Through the Backyards"

The Coral Sea – "Look at Her Face"

More Stars in the Hollow

More info is coming in about this year’s Gilmore Girls season finale where Stars Hollow is overrun with musicians vying to take over the Town Trubador position currently held by Grant Lee Phillips. (In the show he’s discovered by Neil Young and brought on tour with him.) As reported last week, Joe Pernice is one of the many candidates, and now Entertainment Weekly has learned that Sonic Youth (with Thurston and Kim’s daughter Coco on shakers), Yo La Tengo, and avant-pop legends Sparks (!) will also be part of the proceedings. Plus: Sam Phillips, who provides the strummy, "bah-bah-bah" incidental music on the show; and the awesome Mary Lynn Rasjkub (24‘s Chloe, but also a Mr Show regular who has featured in Superchunk videos) who will sing the self-penned "I Drive an ’89 Volvo." Maybe it’s not Tom Vek at the Bait Shop, but that much quality indie rock talent in one show — The OC will never top it unless they do an episode from Coachella or something… which would be kind of cheating if you ask me.

I think much like the bike race finale last year, this whole troubador thing will be the wacky undercurrent to the more serious storylines: Lane & Zach’s wedding; Logan graduating from Yale and moving to London to work for his dad; and the sure-to-happen blow-up between Lorelei and Luke over their perpetually postponed wedding, not to mentions Luke’s daughter who, as of this writing, he hasn’t really introduced to Lorelei. The finale’s title is "Partings," so expect some teary moments.

Of course, Gilmore Girls had cool music references before almost any other show* (unless you count that Blossom where they mention the Pixies; or Darlene going to see Daisy Chainsaw on Roseanne). Any teen drama with kids dressed exclusively in Modern Amusement couteur can toss around a Shins reference; but only the Double-G could pull off mentions of Young Marble Giants or The Shags and not have it seem forced.

Someone on the current writing staff certainly seems enamored with rock n’ roll’s seamier side: we’ve already had an homage to indie rock doc DIG!, complete with a cameo from former Brian Jonestown Massacre tamborinist Joel Gion (who has guested again since); and there’s been a fixation with the human train wreck that is Pete Doherty (BTW, GG script supervisor… it’s pronounced "dockerty"). This week’s episode had Lane’s fiancé, Zach, mentioned Babyshambles.

*Now that I think of it, The Adventures of Pete & Pete was the first show with an indie rock sensibility. It’s not that far in spirit from Gilmore Girls, really.