Commercials

Okay, does anybody notice that the McDonald’s “Chicken Breast Strips” commercials are on the air way too much? Kind of ridiculous – “Ooh, look, real chicken meat!” – as if that makes it healthier (it’s still fried chicken; a McChicken without the bread, lettuce, and mayo). I’ll likely end up eating this latest item, but do I have to see the commercial twice in a row? (okay, not exactly; in between was a car ad or something).

Then, there’s the weird Buick Rainier ad. It’s weird for a lot of reasons. First, odd name for a minivan/SUV hybrid. Second, the ghost character who comes forth to guide the engineers to design this hybrid vehicle – wearing a fedora and nice suit to look like he’s a classic 1950’s Good Olds Guy mascot (umm, yeah, Oldsmobile is a different type of car, I know). Third, the appearance of the head engineer/auto designer, whom I recognize is the actor who plays the lead character for ABC’s “Threat Matrix” (the series about a Dept of Homeland Security special forces unit). By the end of the Buick commercial, the engineer character looks proudly smug, thinking, “Yes, I listened to the ghost, I’ve built it, and they will come!”

Well, I don’t know if people will go for the car or not, or else be confused that this is actually an ad for “Threat Matrix” (which, I could discuss in another blog entry, but suffice it to say that it’s a strange, cheesy show; did anyone hear the joke about it, calling it “Threat Nemo”??? It remains to be seen if the series is more than a joke, but it’s a guilty pleasure right now, just waiting for it to try something really silly, not just be a brazen take on current Homeland Security issues).

Season Premiere

Okay, so my first blogging attempt consisted of comments on television and books. Ah, well, they are of my interests, high-brow or not.

Anyway, I’ll stay on topic. I thought the season premiere of WB’s “Everwood” was quite good. When it first started last season, I didn’t think it was that much better than average. Yes, WB heavily promoted it and it had seemed pretentious, with the whole “Yeah, we’re a good family quality WB show” look to it. The series follows the misadventures of Dr. Andy Brown, his children, the brooding teen Ephram and happy-go-lucky Delia, as they moved to their new home in Everwood, CO, from New York City after the death of Mrs. Brown. The lives of the other Everwood denizens also get portrayed. It can seem very mundane (“Oh, look, a show about a Rockwellian small town; can we get any more sweet and precious around here?”), and at one point, when I channel-changed to WB, I found that it tiresome to keep watching Ephram’s tirade about how Andy was a bad dad for not being around, for being too busy being Super Neurologist, and for moving them out of New York City (which, he has a point, since Andy was probably taking his grief too far). Andy’s attempts to be the new general practitioner in Everwood could be trite. Andy’s medical rival, Dr. Harold Abbott, seemed too smug, and the Abbott teenagers, Bright and Amy, were too perfect. I couldn’t see why Ephram even had his crush on Amy, besides her being pretty (I thought her stubbornness seemed annoying).

“Everwood” is no “Dawson’s Creek” substitute. There’s no Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle, even if “Everwood” tried to play out the Ephram-Amy-Colin storyline. You see, there are – gasp – adults on the show.

But, yes, “Everwood” is a WB show, with WB characteristics – the teens are all moody, making pop references, etc. But, no, not one character is perfect, they’re flawed and all very human. You want to shake them, smack them on the upside of their heads for their bad actions; hug and admire them when they do well; and, their actions have consequences, for good or not. I would end up glued to watch for a whole hour, without originally meaning to do that. I didn’t even plan to watch this season’s premiere – but ended up doing it. It’s moving television, without being saccharine.

In the season premiere, Andy is feeling guilt for having operated Colin, who died off-screen in the end of last season’s finale. The town condemns Andy, for losing their local hero. Amy won’t forgive Andy, for taking away the love of her life. Ephram wants to be on his father’s side, but hates how the town’s alienation is affecting the Browns, as if Andy’s kids had to suffer for Andy’s sins. Is Amy taking her grief too far? Will Andy explain what happened? It’s quiet turmoil, if you can believe that television still does that anymore. I know it’s up against Monday night football, but it’s a great alternative.

Now, enough about a season premiere; I have to watch a series premiere already. Hmm. Should be interesting.

So what did you do this summer?

Summer is over and we have the million dollar question: what did you do this summer? Time to reflect and ponder; summer tv and summer reading had their moments. Here’s what I have to say:

As much as reality television is fun for some people, I’m so glad for the return of traditional form of television viewing – that is, stuff derived from written scripts, and actors acting, and so forth, rather than the construction of producers and contestants who seek their 15 minutes of fame (one can’t really call it “reality” if it’s that constructed). I can see why some people look to cable to escape the networks’ offerings, since who needs to see what the networks’ call “reality”

P.S. – this fall, CBS’ “Survivor” is back and is as chaotic as ever. The contestants seem to be backstabbing earlier than ever. Hmm. Well, it seems reality tv is easier to digest when there’s a return to non-reality offerings available.

Notable summer stuff: A&E’s “MI-5” has been topsy-turvy viewing – a show about the workings of the British counter-espionage agency (the guys who spy within the country against the country’s enemies). It has already been broadcasted in Britain. Considering that the Brits have a shorter run of a television “season,” there is less of an expectation to keep cast members around – so, the grizzly violence of “MI-5” leaves one guessing as to who gets to be the victim of the week. There’s more reality to “MI-5” than in any Bond flick (when you have references to terrorism and political references and issues, well, what would you expect? Bond never pretended to be about reality). “MI-5” was/is gripping television. Plus, interesting guest stars – such as Anthony Head, the guy who played Giles from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and was once the Taster’s Choice commercial guy; and even Hugh Laurie, the guy who played Stuart Little’s dad in “Stuart Little” and played Bertie Wooster in PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre’s broadcasts of the “Jeeves and Wooster” series based on P.G. Wodehouse’s books.

What I read during the summer in the subway:

“London’s Perfect Scoundrel,” by Suzanne Enoch. Published in 2003. Yes, it’s a cheesy, paperback romance novel, but I enjoyed it. I’d recommend it as a good read for the subway commute. Sexy, sensual, and fun – yes, indeed. It takes place during Regency England, turn of the 18th century, when the Prince of the Wales is covering for his dad, Mad King George III. The Marquis of St. Aubyn, Michael Halboro, is a serious scoundrel – he’s a swinging bachelor, enjoying the pleasures of married women, facing threats from cuckolded husbands, making sure he has no illegitimate children, and gambling. Evelyn Ruddick is a young, respectable lady, recruited to help her annoying brother earn a seat in Parliament. She wants to get her own life, and decides to volunteer to reform a London orphanage. It turns out that St. Aubyn is the head of the board of governors of the orphanage and aims to seduce Evelyn. Evelyn aims to help the orphans. The story can be a little unbelievable, but St. Aubyn the anti-hero does get nicely redeemed. Even Evelyn isn’t nearly as dim as she initially appears, taking great lengths to redeem St. Aubyn, to help the orphans and maybe to love the guy. His bad conduct does rub off on her, but that’s to her benefit, really – she gets to be less self-righteous and a lot more vivacious. Meanwhile, St. Aubyn learns to recognize the feeling in his chest is his heart – yeah, he has one. It’s a good read.

“Funeral in Blue,” by Anne Perry. Published in 2001 (hardcover). Victorian mystery, 1860’s London. Monk, private investigator, must figure out why Elissa Beck died, or else her husband, Kristian Beck, will be found guilty. But, who really is Elissa, who had seemed to be a proper English lady bitter by life with Kristian, and why would anyone kill her? And, there’s more to Kristian than Monk thought; Kristian isn’t just a nice, dedicated immigrant Bohemian doctor who came to England for a better life and reform medical services. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the characters, even though the solution still had me puzzled and seemed a little weak.

Until later; stay tuned for more…