More Post Presidents’ Day Stuff

The reaction to the NBC presentations for this week hasn’t been too pleasant. Reuters’ reaction to the “Knight Rider” movie – “A painfully long car commercial.” Well, yeah, the pacing was not very good and I couldn’t quite care about the characters, but was it a commercial? Too many commercials cutting into the action of the movie, I thought. (and it doesn’t help that the commercials with KITT were slightly more entertaining than the movie). Plus, if the most amusing moment was seeing the characters at the “Las Vegas” casino (NBC synergy!) — it really doesn’t bode much for your movie-as-a-tv-pilot (being hokey worked for the old series; dare we say that we’re an age of welcoming hokey tv? I mean, beyond that in reality shows? I don’t know, sadly, and ratings aren’t revealing much).

David Bianculli says that NBC will soon be known as “Nothing But Crap,” considering its offering of Really Crappy Reality Shows (and the not-very-good Knight Rider movie). I can’t say that this level of crappiness wasn’t long in coming for NBC – sure, “The Office” and “30 Rock” made it better, but the strike derailed NBC’s progress. Too many Law & Orders (the aging original and the ridiculous amount of spinoffs), an aging ER, a pitiful Bionic Woman, and Heroes needing help, stat… well…

NBC still has to keep going with the rest of the year. But is a tv season a “season” as we know it anymore? NY Times announces NBC’s plans for “an endless season” – somehow comparable to FOX’s set up of early fall/late fall/spring releases of shows (which never really impressed me because I still don’t end up very impressed with FOX’s offerings anyway). Apparently, NBC wants to find a way to branch out to other media (Internet, mostly) and get stuff out ASAP:

After months of speculation, NBC confirmed on Tuesday that it would sidestep the annual star-studded “upfront” presentation for advertisers and hold a series of client meetings with media buyers instead.

Perhaps more important for television viewers, the network said it would embrace a year-round prime-time programming schedule, jettisoning the frequently criticized practice of saving most shows for the traditional September- to-May television season.

For several years, the broadcast networks have gradually replaced repeats during the summer and winter months with some new shows, mostly of the unscripted form. NBC’s announcement appears to be a more dramatic step in that direction. The network is already preparing several shows for the summer months, including a second season of “American Gladiators” and a broadcast version of the singing competition “Nashville Star.”

Get ready for “the endless season, ” said Gene DeWitt, chairman and chief executive at DeWitt Media in New York, when the broadcasters “launch programs when they’re ready and promote them when they’re ready. ”

“There are many more opportunities to introduce programs to viewers over the course of a year than over the course of a few weeks in September,” Mr. DeWitt said approvingly of the NBC plans.

The fourth quarter is often the most important of the year for many marketers like retailers and auto makers, Mr. DeWitt noted, but under the current system many of the broadcast shows they are offered from October through December are new and untried.

If more shows are brought out earlier in the calendar year, he said, “you’d have a track record of their performance.”

“We’d have more reliable rating information,” he added, “so we won’t be going into the fourth quarter blind.”

A 52-week broadcast schedule may make it more difficult to track the hits and flops, Mr. DeWitt said, but “it’s the way of the world today; things move faster and we all have to keep up.”

Perhaps you want to move faster; fine. But if you present crap to us, it’s still crap, no matter how quickly you get it on-line or on tv. Have we not learned from the writers’ strike? We (the viewers/purveyors of entertainment) need content – preferably quality content. Or, is that just me wanting something with some quality (even if it’s hokey/campy)?

Personally, I’m not very good at moving faster anyway.

Oh, and breaking NBC news: Jesse L. Martin may be leaving Law & Order! Say it ain’t so! But, I understand if he wants to move on; just don’t be a stranger!

What strikes me as creepy: “Mysterious creatures found in Antarctica.” Look, as long as these are not the aliens posited by “X-Files” or the “Stargate” tv series, I’m all okay – it’s just how evolution can create really weird stuff. Really. Nature is both beautiful, diverse, and plain weird.

Having seen “Michael Clayton” on Monday, I still prowling the web for the reviews (’cause, really: George Clooney’s The Man!) – interesting reading, considering what one may think what the movie’s really saying. Slate has the review of the DVD: Patrick Radden Keefe writes on the movie’s observations on the state of the legal profession [hyperlinks removed]:

Clayton features terse dialogue, a pair of professional killers, and one exploding Mercedes. But beneath the expertly deployed suspense lies something more interesting: an indictment of the mercenary universe of white-shoe law firms and a devastating—and unusually accurate—look at the demoralized lives of the lawyers who work for them. Granted, George Clooney’s Clayton is an improbable 17th-year associate [link from the article, which is a NY Observer article by David Lat – interesting article, I thought, when I had first read it]. But when he says, “I’m not a miracle worker; I’m a janitor,” he could be speaking for the whole profession. [….]

As Clayton, Clooney has the raccoon eyes and zombie mien of a lawyer sucked dry by the job. Look around next time you’re riding the subway, or waiting for your order at Starbucks, and you’ll spot the type. [….]

In Michael Clayton, as in real life, the firm doesn’t employ people so much as consume them, creating a culture in which personal or familial obligations always take second place to work. Like a disproportionate number of lawyers, Clayton is divorced, and in one touching, sadly recognizable scene, he drives his 10-year-old son, Henry, to school, completely lost in his own thoughts as Henry tries to engage him in conversation.

As Karen Crowder, U/North’s general counsel, Tilda Swinton plays the villain. But when we glimpse her alone—while she dresses for work or has a panic attack in a bathroom stall—we realize she’s just as lost as Clayton. “Who needs balance?” Crowder says, when an interviewer asks how she reconciles her demanding job with the rest of her life. “When you really enjoy what you do … there’s your balance.”

When, in a nod to thriller convention, Crowder starts calling in professional hits, it strains verisimilitude. But only just. Her fidelity to the job is absolute—she has nothing else, after all—and she offers a frightening specter of “zealous advocacy” taken to its logical extreme.

Crowder is so tightly wound that she raises an interesting question: Do the studies showing high rates of depression among lawyers tell us something about the profession or the people who go into it? Crowder is a neurotic and a perfectionist; in that respect, she’s the kind of lawyer you want on your team. (She will worry so that you don’t have to.) But if that’s the self-selecting type who migrates to the law, it seems unfair to ask them to be happy as well. “I fear that happiness isn’t in my line,” Benjamin Cardozo observed in 1933, blaming “the disposition that was given to me at birth.”

Whatever the explanation, Michael Clayton offers an only slightly exaggerated portrait of a profession undergoing a kind of slow-motion existential crisis. It does so at a time when in the real world, midlevel associates are dropping out in droves. [….]

Ultimately, Michael Clayton is a movie about redemption—but also about naiveté. As Michael tries to retrace the trail of incremental compromises back to his original decision to become a lawyer, to find the point where his profession and his principles diverged, you wonder why it has taken a manic breakdown and an exploding Mercedes to prompt such basic self-reflection. As Marty Bach, the firm’s unflappable founding partner, Sydney Pollack offers a much-needed counterpoint: a corporate lawyer who loves his life and his work. With his townhouse and his trophy wife, Bach is not lonely or alienated like Michael or Karen Crowder. Nor is he disillusioned about the work he does, if only because he had fewer illusions to begin with. [….]

“The case reeked from Day One,” Bach acknowledges impatiently. “Fifteen years in, I’ve got to tell you how we pay the rent?”

So — do we prefer entering the profession without illusions, or can we accept becoming disillusioned? Can we handle the compromises we make along the way of developing a career? And, surely, it’s not just the lawyers facing these dilemmas? Just my rhetorical questions.

This article in the past weekend’s Week in Review in the Times “The Charisma Mandate” – is it enough for a candidate to have charisma? There are pros and cons to just examining a candidate’s personality. I have to agree with this article’s quoting historian Doris Kearns Goodwin: the ideal candidate would have both charisma and experience/expertise. Kind of hard to find that in one person, but we can wish for that, right? Enter with our eyes wide open. Or, maybe risk being disillusioned. Not sure.

Lisa Takeuchi Cullen for on “Does Obama have an Asian Problem?” Well, it would seem to be that Hilary Clinton has the majority of APA support; but then again, it’s not that monolithic – perhaps the APA vote has more swing to it, and AsianWeek endorsed Barack Obama on the Democratic ticket (and John McCain on the Republican ticket).

Post-President’s Day Weekend Stuff

Sunday – tea at Sweet Melissa Patisserie‘s Park Slope location.

Sunday night – watched the latest Knight Rider movie. What possessed me to watch…? My explanation: sentimental 1980’s nostalgia and the temptation of seeing how bad it was. Mostly lame, as expected; some thoughts:

Lots of driving around (what else?), and pointless dialog as the daughter of the inventor of (new) KITT had to go rescue her kidnapped dad. Sarah is herself a scientist and a prof at Stanford, but apparently is reduced to being the Damsel in Distress; too bad because she had some personality.

Character actor Bruce Davison does the simple job as the Inventor of (new) KITT.

The (new) Knight Rider, Mike, is the long-lost-son of Michael Knight; Mike lacks the camp factor that Michael had. Mike’s mom had more personality. The Return of actor David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight… umm, not much could be said about it because he didn’t do much.

Val Kilmer as (new) KITT, replacing actor Will Arnett (because Arnett is contracted to do Ford or Chevy (or whatnot) commercials and they weren’t pleased that he wanted to be KITT) sounded bland (or irritated that the NBC folks weren’t paying him more; who knows?).

TV Guide’s Matt Roush’s review made sense about how not fun the Knight Rider movie was. As a pilot for a prospective series, it didn’t make me want to watch more. Sorry, NBC. Not unless you show me that you as a network care about telling a story and having some interesting characters.

Monday – watched “Michael Clayton,” starring George Clooney. Really strong movie. Clooney as Michael Clayton, a son of a NYC cop; a Fordham Law grad; a former Queens ADA; a former federal prosecutor – and he’s now stuck as a Special Counsel at a Big Firm, Kenner, Bach & Ledeen. As Special Counsel, he’s not a Partner (despite having been with the firm for way too long) and he’s not on any litigation stuff – nope, he’s The Fixer, The Bagman, The Janitor. It’s starting to drive him nuts; being with The Firm already took the mind of his colleague, the firm’s litigation partner, Arthur Edens, played by Tom Wilkinson. Edens is a manic depressive, and he went off his meds and made a scene (to put it mildly) during the deposition for a major case for the firm’s client, UNorth. UNorth makes agricultural products that caused health problems for the farmers that made the stuff.

Other stuff: Tilda Swinton plays Karen Crowder, UNorth’s General Counsel – who really crosses some legal ethics boundaries (umm, Karen, no one said that murder is involved in trying to force a settlement for a case. Really!). Firm Partner, Marty Bach, is played by Sydney Pollack – pretty convincing as the partner who has his inklings about how ugly things are but pressing on with business. Bach sends Clayton to clean up after Edens, but Crowder makes things difficult, as the Difficult Client. Lives are at stake. Can you keep a conscience in the middle of such ugliness? Hmm. Clooney as Clayton seemed a bit stilted in some of the reading of lines, but he did such a strong job as the burnt-out lawyer – the one whose life is pretty much falling apart, but somehow he keeps going.

What a movie. Kind of makes one think twice about joining a Big Firm. Manola Dargis in her NY Times review of “Michael Clayton” makes the point of how there were no real good guys in the movie, but Clooney… well, he embodied the closest thing to what was left of Good in the corrupt corporate world. Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman puts an even Good vs. Evil opinion of the movie. (although I still have a hard time believing that a corporation would get its hands dirty in retaining assassins, but hey, who knows? If you’re crazy enough to pay so much for Big Firm Lawyers, what’s to stop you from hiring other ugly sorts?).

Okay, so I’m behind on watching the current season of “Law & Order” (yep, Season 18, people!) – but managed to catch a scene or two. Cute little scene here on – (a minute and a half in), where Executive ADA Cutter and Detective Lupo are bonding. Lupo’s apparently taking an evening law student — at the Alma Mater Law School! We got mentioned! High Five, people! A Law & Order character’s one of us! (ok, I wasn’t an evening student, but how often does the Alma Mater Law School get mentioned in pop culture items?).

As I previously noted, the ripped-from-the-headlines plots make the series almost laughable, but the characters – for a show that claims that it’s not about the characters – sorry, it IS about characters. What else would really make me care about a show – characters make the plot work. So, in a way, it has this season. Legal ethics, moral issues – characters being just a bit amusing. Man, is Season 18 turning out to be pretty interesting or what?

Time’s Lisa Takeuchi Cullen posts her observation how APA’s of the 18-25 age range don’t nearly vote as much as we’d like and she embedded an old and strangely campy video from the 2004 Presidential election to encourage APA’s to vote (you can tell it’s old because the video needs to update its collection of APA celebrities; no offense to Russell Wong and Ming Na, but neither of you are quite up on the A-List these days):

This more updated one is less hokey and straightforward:

I liked how the multicultural one has some of the stars from “Ugly Betty” – getting more diversity in our celebrities, are we?…

Valentine Wake Up

An “Auntie” of mine passed away this week (it’s a complicated genealogical relationship – the closest “western” description would be my mom’s younger sister’s husband’s cousin.) Her wake ended up being on Valentine’s Day. The nicest thing there was the three frames of photos throughout her life, from the wedding in Jamaica, the ones raising the kids (and a shot of the living room from the old house), and trips to China and back to the Caribbean. She had a good life and a loving family.

Afterwards, P- and I went to Randazzo’s in Sheepshead Bay. Even at 9 PM, the place was pulling a 35 minute wait for their glorious seafood, today being served on actual tablecloths. Normally, if you did not know better, you would first think it is cafeteria-style Italian with its linoleum floors and plain decor, but you would be very wrong. Calamari is not stereotypical here. Their secret red sauce that accompanies the plate is the star. It is thick and rich and must have some seafood stock to pump it up. The advertised cherry stones on the half shell were fresh, meaty, and full of flavor. We shared the lobster fra diablo, which was more than enough for the two of us. We saved some lobster pieces and red sauce for dinner the next night, which we used to cover our own pasta, licking our fingers. Recommended for the seafood, but you’ll have to go elsewhere for dessert. Some reviews gripe about how it isn’t Olive Garden, and that they serve 1950 style 8 oz Cokes out of the cheeky bottles, but deal with it – it’s inherently Brooklyn.

Afterwards, we did a flyby and visited the old digs in Sheepshead Bay. Much has changed, but much has stayed the same. There were a few new buildings, including a large Petco. We had one of our usual late night shopping dates at the nearby Stop N Shop, and we bumped into some people that we knew from NYU alumni (making my random meetup quota for the month). Maybe we’ll move back to the neighborhood.