Category Archives: Television

Celebrity Apprentice – Season 12 Episode One

The show opens demanding that we know they’re in New York. The Donald gets out of a car and reminds us that the show is all about charity, then the celebrities are introduced. I talked a lot about who they are earlier.

Next, we get the montage of celebrities showing how important their causes are. I get it, but I hope this isn’t part of the opening every week. We’ll hear enough about that during the episodes if the celebrities are at all passionate. Look at Meatloaf’s breakdown last year, when he realized that the enormous amount of money he made for The Painted Turtle, a camp for children with chronic illnesses, may go to another celebrity’s charity instead. I was happy to see The Painted Turtle walk away with over $200 grand, but I also enjoy seeing drama. That’s why this is on TV; imagine how dull it would be if we were watching normal charities try and collect normal funds the normal way.

Then again, maybe there’s a show in following a group of door-to-door petitioners trying to beg some cash. Of course, they all have to live in the same house. Contact me if you want to produce it – I’m game.

Next comes the montage that makes us want to watch the most. People start yelling at each other, calling each other out and creating drama. I notice that it looks like it will start out boys against girls again. I already have my two picks ready and I intentionally worded the last sentence to reflect my attitude that we’re picking favorites in a schoolyard game of dodge ball but with higher stakes.

Everybody shows up on set, some inspirational and amusing soundbites are given and the game begins. There’s a band on stage playing the intro music. Okay, a 19 or so piece orchestra can be called more than a band. It still costs less than what most of the celebrity musicians onstage would charge for one performance, so it isn’t quite as impressive as you might think. Nice try, though. A+ for effort.

Donald, because his first name is enough, reminds us that the building they are in cost a billion in donations to renovate. That’s a lot of loot and there’s a good debate in there over whether it was a good investment, but that’s for another article. For now we listen to the celebs tell us a little bit about why they’re relevant or what they care about or why they’re ready to fight. Arsenio takes an early shot at Clay Aiken and you should already be sad you missed the show. He’s still got chops. Here’s his show interview, from ScreenTeamMedia where he takes a shot at LaToya, admits to expecting to regain attention and sizes up his competition:

Dee Snyder cuts into the New Jersey housewife and tells us all that he thinks like we do when he says he’s waiting to see her flip a table. Is that a first act gun? I remember someone flipping a table in that montage we just saw. Lisa Lampinelli takes a shot at Donald by remarking on the lack of color on stage. Adam Carolla makes a joke.

Then Victoria Gotti calls out my girl. Debbie Gibson will destroy you, miss overly severe persona. (Please don’t have me killed, kthanxbai)

I was right. We’re going boys versus girls to start. Teams have to split up, pick the most popular kid and come up with a team name. Here’s where we pick our two winners. Since it is early, I’ll pick a runner-up, too. Those could change if people don’t live up to expectations.

Dudes, I’ll have to back George Takei on this one. I follow the dude on Facebook. I can’t say that about any of the other celebrities in the game. Penn and Arsenio are tied for runner-up.

Ladies, Debbie Gibson for the win. The rest of the field is made up largely of people I’m not familiar with or don’t care about. Lampanelli has been funny – I’ll pick her for my safety.

The men make a lot of jokes, and then Penn makes the brilliant connection between team naming conventions and the obvious and the boys are dubbed unanimous. Nobody disagrees.

Gibson is brainstorming names and Gotti reminds us that she doesn’t like the Pop Idol. Nobody cares because Gibson throws out the word Forte and Gotti is the only one that shows even an iota of disappointment.

Patricia Velásquez takes the project manager role. I discovered that she’s the first Latin supermodel. She’s playing for The Wayuu Taya Foundation. They’re an organization dedicated to helping indigenous Latin American people preserve their culture while still competing in the modern world.

Lou Ferrigno lets everyone know that he has a hearing problem. From this point on it should be a nonissue. It didn’t work out quite so easily for Ms. Matlin last season, but she was the last woman standing in the end so we know that even if the celebs make it a problem, it isn’t for The Hulk. Paul Teutul steps up as project manager, surprising everyone and speaking for the first time since the show started.

We’re told that the Andretti that isn’t present (I hadn’t actually noticed) is being by the Andretti that I’m actually expecting because of a fatal accident. That sucks, what’s the challenge?

Our celebs will be making sandwiches. Last year they made pizzas pretty early on. The men will win this one. Paul probably has more experience running something like a sandwich shop than Patricia and the guys seem to get along better. Plus, this season’s women seem to be more of the waited on variety than the men.

Paul (I’m sticking to first names from this point on) says he can pull a half-million in donations. Penn rallies the troops behind making mass amounts of good sandwiches, which is good because everybody else will “save their guns for later (Clay).” They’re branding the one day deli around Paul, and the sandwich is to be dubbed The Chopper.

Gotti starts chopping into ideas off rip. Things start getting catty when recognizabilty comes into question and Aubrey is offended because she has more Twitter followers than anyone in the group. She mentions a group she belonged to but I still don’t know who she is. She reminds me of Snookie a little bit; I should really look her up.

A feud is set up between Paul and George. They do have drastically different personalities, so I can see it. I like them both at this point, but it is a competition so we’ll set phasers to kill if it gets too vocal. Ivana shows up and points out that Paul is an everyman and she plans on holding his feet to the fire. I’m not too worried for him.

Patricia gets on the phone. Dayana does the same because she was directly inspired by Patricia. Also, she’s a team player. Other people get on their phones, too. Gotti does her own business and Lisa notices.

Debbie Gibson looks hot in what looks like workout gear.

Michael shows up. He’s ready to go.

Teresa is an awesome cook. I forgot about her. She’s got two cookbooks out and they’re both bestsellers. She’s just become golden this round and more interesting. Plus, Debbie seems to get along with her. Cheryl seems to be on some kind of mood diminisher.

Victoria doesn’t show up in the morning. She shows up late and announces that her eye is hurt and she’s prescient.

George is enamored with Lou. The guys are energetic. Hot girls curse in a group.

The girls are fun and Wyclef shows up to show some support. He drops $15k. Numbers are becoming important. Wyclef and Debbie jam. Aubrey trills a little and it doesn’t sound too bad.

The hot females bring $5k to the men’s table.

Big donors start loading up the ladies. Russell Simmons shows up, along with some others. Everyone starts scrambling to find him a vegan sandwich. Cheryl asks him if he wants to take the chicken out of a chicken sandwich and she’s done. Time to go home, girl.

Young Donald inspects the girls. He’s impressed.

The guys seem to be struggling. They’re entertaining, but the store is empty.

Patricia and Paul get a call from Donald. They’re supposed to go to Rachel Ray and get a pile of cash. Paul sends Adam and Arsenio. Patricia sends Victoria and Lisa. Rachel discusses the men’s ratio and the women’s chew. Arsenio points out correctly that a sammich is more delicious than a sandwich.

Clay reminds us that the guys aren’t making any money. The girls get another 20k. The stores close and the challenge is over.

In the boardroom, Patricia lauds Dayana. No surprise. Tia is also given commendations but she says something stupid and has to be put in check. Cheryl and Victoria are called out.

Paul gives Penn the thumbs up, which is absolutely deserving. Paul doesn’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but calls out George and “maybe” Arsenio. He uses the word “meek” to describe George, which will probably prove to be his downfall. Music gets serious, Paul apologizes for his choice of words, game continues.

Rachel Ray picked The Chopper. Guys get $35k. Lou is still in great shape, but smaller. Donald owns Miss Universe. I knew that but I forgot to care enough to remember. Paul was a great leader.

Patricia made over $120k. It’s a record. The men scored over $350. It’s a bigger record. It’s still shy of the $500k we were promised. I’m happy to see Paul keep the big donor anonymous.

The girls spread out. Dayana, Teresa and Aubrey all brought in money. Debbie defends Victoria, which shows me she’s thinking. She throws Cheryl under the bus. Cheryl deserves it.

Donald loves Diddy. He’s a good guy. Aubrey doesn’t like Victoria’s negative energy. Tia can defend herself. Ivanka thinks she was flippant. Tia would whoop her ass.

Lisa is turning out to be a sweetheart. She still calls out Victoria for her personal business and Cheryl for being unfocused. We’ve reached a decision, people.

Patricia, Victoria and Cheryl are the three left. Cheryl will leave, Victoria will be mean.

I’m wrong. Victoria gives a small pep talk to Patricia, reminding her not to show weakness.

Everybody held back donations. Cheryl has to go home, because she essentially gives up.

Next week Victoria will go home. You heard it here.

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The Cast of Celebrity Apprentice: Part Two

No need for a long introduction. This is the second have of the cast list for season 12 of The Apprentice. You can read about the first half here.

International Actress and Philanthropist Patricia Velasquez
Another person I’m not familiar with. She’s a woman with philanthropist as part of her title, so I’m sure she’ll be on point during her tasks. She’s also beautiful, which doesn’t hurt having to watch her on television. When I’m done writing this, I’ll be checking out her IMDB page to see what gems are buried there and how stupid I’ll look for not recognizing her.

Best-Selling Author and Daughter of the Mob Victoria Gotti
Snooki is also a best-selling author. I tried to watch Growing Up Gotti, but couldn’t handle it. She has the type of personality that I don’t enjoy, even as an antagonist, so I’m rooting for her to be one of the first out. She could surprise me and end up being a black sheep favorite, but I seriously doubt it.

Indy Car Legend Michael Andretti
Indy racing is something I know very little about, even though I’ve been to live events and known a couple of drivers. It really does absolutely nothing for me. I’ve heard of this guy, though, and even though he’s taking up the “token athlete” position in the cast I think he might pull something off based on his general reputation. If nothing else, we’ll get to see what one of the people that makes a living out of turning left is like.

The Original Supermodel Cheryl Tiegs
Can those of us that do our homework agree that if Lisa Fonssagrives wasn’t the first supermodel, she was one of the women that came before Cheryl Tiegs and enjoyed that moniker. I honestly forgot this woman existed except in decades-old Sports Illustrated issues. Her name is attached to some stuff related to beauty and whatnot, but I don’t know if that is just because it helps the brand. I don’t expect her to make it long.

American Idol Superstar Clay Aiken
I really don’t know what to make of his inclusion here. They didn’t even mention him as a musician, just as an American Idol contestant. I’ve heard his first CD and then he dropped off my radar. From what I know of him, he seems like a good dude. Right now, I’m tepid about him. It’ll be interesting to see how my opinion of him forms throughout the season.

Pop Star Aubrey O’Day
Now I know I should feel stupid. I have absolutely no idea who she is, which means she probably sings some song that is stupid famous and I should have heard of. She is pretty with really bright hair – that’s about all I got.

The Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno
He was also the World’s Strongest Man! This man is one of my favorites in the field. He’s thoughtful and driven, which is a wonderful mix, but he’s also well-spoken – a fact that is missed by many because of his speech impediment. In these high-stress situations that could make for some entertaining drama.

New Jersey’s Favorite Housewife Teresa Giudice
I’m assuming she’s on The Real Housewives of New Jersey but I don’t know what to expect. Although she was abrasive and annoying, Nene Leakes was one of my favorite celebs last time. This woman may provoke a similar reaction, but I wouldn’t put money on it just yet.

Television Icon, Star Trek’s George Takei
The whole reason I turned in in the first place. I was planning on skipping it when I realized he was going to be on it. I follow the man on Facebook, have participated in discussions on his blog and admire the man for what he’s done and what he stands for. He’s my current favorite in the field. Also, this:

Who do you want to see win it? Stay tuned for a recap of each of the episodes, along with some interesting insights from yours truly!

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The Cast of Celebrity Apprentice: Part One

This year’s cast of The Apprentice is going to be fun. I’m a pop culture junkie and watching the people that have created some turning points and high points in that which I love make fools of themselves in the name of charity is amusing. Some of the people on the show are less famous that others, and each has their own niche so I thought I would break them down as they’re introduced in episode one.

Some of these people I’ve never heard of. I’ll give you each “player” from my point of view, which might just make it easier to relate to future posts. Or not, but I’m doing it anyway.

Master Illusionist and Vegas Superstar Penn Jillette
One of my favorite celebrities, I watch Bullshit regularly. I don’t always agree with him, but this dude is funny, intelligent and passionate. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a big guy. Will we see a Meatloaf reenactment from him this year?

Pop Icon Debbie Gibson
Debbie Gibson’s title says it all. She wasn’t a singer – she was the blonde belter of a generation. She’s barely relevant, knows it and doesn’t care enough not to have fun with it. This woman starred in ‘Mega Python vs. Gatoroid’ and it doesn’t bother her one bit. Just a few years ago, she performed in Massillon. People like me know that she’s never stopped working, has more talent than most and deserves to have the spotlight remain on her. I’m in full on root mode.

Comedian and Internet Trailblazer Adam Carolla
I’m not a huge fan, but this guy gets respect. He does what I do but in a much more successful way. He’s famous because he has a big mouth and very little filter. This guy is going to be stirring the pot when he gets the chance, and since he’ll be stirring bruised egos and bad attitudes, it’s sure to be enjoyable.

Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza
Never heard of her. First impression – she spells her first name interesting. Where is she from? When did she win Miss Universe? Will someone please get her into a bikini? I mean, hey, the only thing I know about her is she won a really important beauty contest so let’s build on that!

Late-Night Legend Arsenio Hall
Some of late-night’s shining moments were produced by this man. His stage was set on fire and Bill Clinton played sax on his show. My favorite spot was when he interviewed Jim Henson, a man that the whole world misses, whether they realize it or not.

Movie Star and Grammy Award Winner Tia Carrera
Many of my adolescent dreams were occupied by this woman. I didn’t know that she was ever nominated for a Grammy much less won one, but now I’ll have to learn a new piece of trivia because I’m interested. I also wonder why she is still relevant – not because I’m surprised that she is but because I’m surprised I didn’t know. Maybe she’ll come back to my dream world.

Rock Star and Twisted Sister Frontman Dee Snyder
This guy is pretty awesome. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s on the show, after he did a guest spot on the last season. Most people think he’s bat-shit crazy, but he’s been known to be able to keep it together and make good decisions. This will be an interesting environment for him.

The Funniest Woman in America, The Queen of Mean Lisa Lampanelli
She’s going to be fun. This is an outspoken and opinionated woman who believes in many of the same things I do. I don’t know much about her, so I’m interested to see whether I’ll root for her. There’s the potential that she has a personality that could rub me the wrong way. In a lot of ways, she’s the female Adam Carolla – they’re both potentially annoying and impressive at the same time.

Star of American Chopper Paul Teutul, Sr.
Look at that mustache. Look at it, I tell you! I’ve never seen American Chopper but I’ve known more than my fair share of bikers in my lifetime. This guy better take no shit, tell it like it is and do the work of three regular celebrities to get my vote – but if he pulls that off without reenacting some of the more egregious biker stereotypes then he has my vote.

Since there are 18 contestants and I don’t want to make each article too horribly long, I’ll stop there. You can find the second half of the contestants here.

For now, I’ll leave you with the promo for this season.

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Must See TV – Canadian Edition

Although Canada and America share the longest unprotected border in the world, Americans are still blissfully unaware of most things Canadian – if that weren’t the case, Sarah Polley (Go, Dawn of the Dead) would be a household name.

Vancouver has become a shining jewel of filmmaking, and it would be hard to argue that “You Can’t Do That On Television” and the Degrassis, in all their forms, helped shape Generation X, but the reality is that most Canadian television shows are rarely seen south of the border. “Kids In The Hall” and “Reboot” (did anyone even know that “Reboot” was Canadian?) are rare exceptions.

Canadian programming has more influence on American culture than we think. “Fraggle Rock,” the Jim Henson favorite everyone on the planet loves, was an HBO coproduction with the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC). The new Starz serial “Camelot” is produced by the CBC. “Kenny Vs. Spenny” was Canadian. “The Polka Dot Door” was, too.

I may be the only one left alive that remembers “Kenny Vs. Spenny.”

That being said, here are a few currently airing shows, and a few shows that can be found on DVD that are worth looking out for.

Little Mosque On The Prairie

Little Mosque“Little Mosque On The Prairie” has been around since 2007, and it really is a shame Americans aren’t watching it. The show revolves around a Muslim community in the middle of Saskatchewan. Although the name sounds like “Little House On The Prairie,” the two shows don’t have anything in common.

Feeling a bit like “Northern Exposure,” the plot revolves around a man from Toronto that answers an advertisement to become the imam of Mercy, the 10,000 soul town the show is set in. The mosque the show is named after is a rented space in the town’s Anglican church.

There are the obligatory jokes that involve cultural differences between Muslims and non-Muslims, but most of the shows humor is very much traditional sitcom writing, which is one of the reasons the show should get more attention. The community of Mercy is a shining example of how a Muslim community in North America isn’t really much different than any other sort of community, and as long as we work together we can set the differences aside for the better of us all.

Lost Girl

Lost Girl Poster“Lost Girl” is a neat little show I started watching because the main character is a succubus and her sidekick is a cute little goth chick. Yes, I can be that shallow. I’ve continued to watch it because it has become quite interesting.

Set in modern-day Toronto (I think; it’s ambiguous), “Lost Girl” revolves around Bo, a succubus that just discovered there is a whole Fey community she’s never known about. She picks up her sidekick, Kenzi, at a bar after she saves her from date rape, and the wisecracks between the two help keep the show light and fresh. As the greater story unfolds, we meet a number of other supernatural beings. She partners with a werewolf and occasionally a banshee, and ends up having to fight will-o-wisps and other nasties as time goes by.

“Lost Girl” is on hiatus at the moment, but the second season should be coming around. You know how to use the internet, so you should be able to find it.

Hiccups

Premiering in 2010 on CTV, “Hiccups” is a pretty straightforward sitcom featuring a wacky woman that makes a mint writing children’s books but doesn’t really handle everyday life very well. She hires a kind-hearted but fairly inept life coach and hilarity ensues.

“Hiccups” is just mindlessly funny. Every episode ends with a short story set in the “Grumpaloo” world, which is the series of books the main character created, and an amusing moral is made from the episode’s events, but the show never takes itself too seriously and doesn’t expect the viewers to, either.

ON DVD

SCTV

Second City TelevisionSecond City Television (SCTV) may or may not be the funniest sketch show ever produced (depending on who you ask), but it certainly ranks up there with Monty Python, “Hee-Haw,” early “Saturday Night Live” and “In Living Color.”

The premise behind the series is that SCTV is a local television station that produces local programming. This means that sketches can cover just about anything, and with the talents of people like John Candy, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis and Martin Short you can be rest assured that they do their best to cover any and all ground coverable.

SCTV started in 1976 and was produced on a shoestring budget. The sets are cheap and often reused, as are props. But the makeup is great (sitting in a chair isn’t expensive) and the cast made a point of pushing the boundries of sketch TV as often as possible to the delight of fans.

The entire series is available on DVD. I suggest starting with the second or third seasons, then picking up the rest when you fall in love with it.

Road to Avonlea

With four Emmys, this show may be one of the most popular Canadian shows nobody in the US realized was Canadian. American’s may remember is as simply “Avonlea.” Regardless of what it’s called, “Road to Avonlea” is one of those wholesome family shows that create a fuzzy, feel-good in the tummy when it is over.

Based on a series of books by L. M. Montgomery, who also wrote the “Anne of Green Gables” series, the story revolves around a small, fictional town on Prince Edwards Island in the early 1900s. At the beginning of the series, most of the episodes revolve around Sara Stanley (Sarah Polley), a young girl from Montreal that is sent to live with her aunt, but seasons expand to focus on residents of the town. This helped the show continue when the star went away to college and had to leave the cast, but she did return to guest star on a few episodes.

The show had a huge amount of guest stars (Ryan Gosling, Faye Dunaway) and received piles of awards, so if anyone is looking for a family show that appeals to young women, this is the bees knees.

That’s just a taste of Canadian TV. There’s a ton more out there, so don’t be afraid to explore.

Which Canadian shows do you think I should check out?

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Who Doesn’t Love Them Some Whoopi

Whoopi Goldberg flipped out on the view because a New York Times article about the lack of racial diversity in this year’s Oscar race didn’t mention her name. She said “I am embarrassed to tell you, but it hurt me terribly.” She went on to explain to say that she feels as if she had been dismissed and erased by the film critics.

The New York Times then released a statement to Entertainment Weekly saying that people are reading the story incorrectly.

Who the hell are they to tell me how to read their newspaper? When I read the offending article, I was surprised they didn’t mention Whoopi. The piece doesn’t come across exactly like they describe it, and if they were expecting it to then the blame should be placed on the shoulders of the writers, not the readers. With the incredible amount of name dropping apparent in the article it felt like the writers were trying to show off how many black people they could name rather than make much of an argument at all.

“Unstoppable,” the only Denzel vehicle this year, was the only working-class black film this year? I’m sure there were at least one or two working-class people in the film that Whoopi worked on this year – “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf.” I realize that “Death at a Funeral” was too funny to be considered mentionable by people, but what about War Machine whipping Iron Man’s ass had anything to do with his color? This year, The Urban Daily reports that “2010 witnessed an impressive number of films starring African-Americans in lead roles.” The question raised by The Urban Daily is more of a qualitative nature, not a quantitative one.

The article in The New York Times isn’t focused on the movies of the year, it’s focus is on the Oscars – unless I’m reading it wrong. What black actor or actress do you most associate with the Oscars? If you’re in your thirties or forties, probably Whoopi Goldberg. Not only was she the first black actress to get a statue in forever, she hosted the damn spectacle a number of times. To many people, the names Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal will be forever synonymous with the Oscar broadcasts of the eighties and nineties, a time-frame very clearly referenced in the Times article.

Whoopi has every right to be upset. Now I’m pissed, too. Don’t tell me how to read your article, learn how to write it.

And give the woman the credit she’s due.

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The Truth In Nostalgia

It was beginning to get a bit silly, being a vampire.

He sunk into the old, wooden box and made himself comfortable. The velvet lining on the cushions inside had recently been replaced, and the new fabric had the unmistakable scent of lilacs and roses. And earth, but that was a smell that would never go away.

Over the weekend a new movie had premiered. It was one of those huge, summer movies that fans flock around for days to be the first to see. And it was about vampires.

It was beginning to be a bit silly, being a vampire.

He had been the first “interview with a vampire” so many years ago he’d forgotten the exact date. Not that it mattered any more. Human imagination had the ability to spin just about anything out of control. Especially things they didn’t understand.

He sighed. Everywhere he looked he saw vampires. When it came to TV and movies, bloodsuckers dominated the monster world. True Blood and Twilight and The Gates and The Vampire Diaries and Buffy and The Count on Sesame Street. Vampire goth music and nightclubs and clothing lines and cosmetic surgery.

Who would want permanent fangs? If his fangs weren’t retractable he would have gotten sick of them centuries ago.

There were people running around acting like vampires, playing games that made them act like vampires, writing silly amounts of books about vampires and even believing they were vampires.

When they weren’t.

You want to prove you’re a vampire, step out in the damn sun, son. The vampires he saw springing up all over were supervampires, as far as he was concerned. What had happened to the story?

Between sleeping on native soil, being repulsed by garlic (not killed, just nauseated excruciatingly), having to be invited across certain thresholds, having a super-sucky relationship with the sun (ha, sucky!), and having to feed on human blood to risk turning into a rabid animal, he was having a pretty rough time of it.

He wondered what his kindred thought of the modern world. He wondered if he had any kindred left. He wondered if he should turn someone else, just so he could have someone to chat with when it was raining out.

Going out to feed in the rain was obnoxious. All that flowing water…

With the world like it was, what would a freshly turned vampire be like?

“Wow, I’m a vampire,” he (or she) would say. “How do I turn into a wolf?”

“You don’t.”

They would be disappointed. They would almost definitely be a she.  That would just make things easier.

“You don’t turn into a bat or a cloud of mist or a dragonfly with pastel wings, either,” he would tell her.

“Yeah,” she would argue like any good, rebellious young lady. “But in that movie…”

“they got it wrong.” He would finish her sentence and cut her off at the same time, because that would be his role as an overbearing and condescending son of a bitch. “And you won’t be able to go out during the day, either. No matter how old you are or how many other vampires you kill.”

“Shitty.” She would role her eyes, but push onward. “So when do I meet the others?”

“What others?”

“The other vampires.”

“Well, I’m the only one that I still know of. And then there’s you. So you’ve already met everyone.”

“This is going to suck, isn’t it?”

“At least you can see the humor of the situation.”

“What do you mean?”

“Never mind.”

He breathed in deep. The scent of the flowers washed over him and he slid into his comfort zone. There wouldn’t be a crazy man with a wooden stake arriving any time soon, because nobody knew he existed.

His muscles relaxed and he began to feel himself slipping away. Perhaps he should find someone a little older. Someone that grew up with Keifer Sutherland and that guy from the time travel movie as vampires. Or Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. At least they were a little closer to the hell that was the truth.

It’s hard to be believably tortured when you have airbrushed abs.

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Unnatural History

The Cartoon Network has decided to branch out into live-action, scripted television, and Unnatural History is where that foray starts. Unlike the Adult Swim block of programming that is designed for adult viewers, Unnatural History is, or should be, reserved primarily for kids and teens.

Various reviewers have likened it to The Hardy Boys crossed with Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Scooby Doo. It’s like all of those. It’s also like National Treasure, Johnny Quest, Young Sherlock Holmes and a slew of other movies and television shows that are like a lot of other movies and television shows.

Kevin Schmidt plays the young protagonist, Henry Griffin, who gets taken out of his adventure-filled, world-wandering life by his parents because he needs “better role-models” than they have been. He’s sent to Washington D.C., where his uncle (played by Weeds vet, Martin Donovan) is the principal of “the best high school in the country,” conveniently attached to a huge museum.

On his first visit to the aforementioned high school, Henry breaks into the school, falls through the ceiling and lands in his recently deceased godfather’s casket. And the adventure begins from there.

Backed-up by his nerdy cousin, Jasper (Jordan Gavaris), Henry begins working on the mystery of his godfather’s death while trying to settle into his new surroundings. If settling means doing whatever he feels like at the moment.

Italia Ricci plays Maggie Winnock, a classmate with eidetic memory and a penchant for tofu. In the pilot episode her role is relatively low-key and she serves mostly as a source of information, but I’m sure she’ll grow as a character as the story continues to unfold.

On it’s own merit, Unnatural History has a number of strengths and weaknesses. The storyline is well-built and should keep the attention of the target demographic. Unfortunately, some of the writing is a bit stale and the acting feels lifeless and forced in places…it feels like an amateur production in a lot of ways.

The show should be well-received by its target demographic, for good reason. It’s well paced, interesting and shows spirit. If the writing tightens up (especially the dialogue–whoever wrote some of the throw away lines in this should throw them away next time), the actors become more comfortable with each other and the cinematography stabilizes, Unnatural History has the potential to be a great escape for the whole family. At the moment, however, it will remain a solid offering for our youth.

It is nice to see something offered to the younger generation that’s refreshing and intelligent, but to succeed the production value is going to have to climb just a bit.

Unnatural History (for adults): C-

Unnatural History (for kids): B

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