Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, February 07, 2004
      ( 2/07/2004 10:15:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"I GIVE IT SIX MONTHS" – Well, NBC's Ed saw its season finish last night with the marriage of series leads Ed Stevens & Carol Vessey (is there ever a show that made us any more aware of its main characters' full names?) NBC is calling it a season finale, but to these eyes it looked like the end of the series entire. Makes sense: the wedding is the moment the show led up to from its beginning.

Gotta admit I'm not too saddened by the show's demise. When it debuted, Ed came off as a winning blend of romance and whimsical comedy – both tough to sustain over the long haul – and while it continued to have its moments (thanks, largely, to the efforts of a marvelous cast), the series lost much of its luster once the writers started tossing too many textbook complications between the romance of Ed and Carol (Tom Cavanagh & Julie Bowen). Writers/creators Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman seemed to acknowledge that fact last night in a song by nervous truth-teller Shirley Pifco (Rachel Cronin), who concludes a "Ballad of Jed Clampett" parody with a "thank God because we're all sick of Ed and Carol's story."

Well, maybe not sick, Shirley. But over the last year especially, it's the show's secondary plotlines that've proved more appealing: the high school travails of Warren and Mark (Justin Long & Michael Genadry), best friend Molly's (Lesley Boone) unsuccessful romances, Doctor Mike's (Josh Randall) work and family woes, the bowling alley rivalry between Phil (Michael Ian Black) and Eli (Daryl Mitchell). I'll pine for that more than I will the off-again/on-again antics of Ed's leading man and lady. Though I will admittedly miss hearing the way Cavanagh's Ed would deliver the name "Carol Vessey" – sounding at once both awestruck and self-aware – whenever I recall this off-beat li'l series. . .
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Friday, February 06, 2004
      ( 2/06/2004 10:26:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"ALL TALES ARE IMAGINARY! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?" – Tegan may continue to find Kyle Baker's Plastic Man uninspiring, but to these eyes the series still contains its risible meta-moments. Chief among them in issue #3: a scene where the malleability of comic book timelines and reality gets riffed on by the cast, plus a scene set on the Justice League satellite which parodies the lazy-ass writer's device of regularly reiterating Batman's origin in place of giving the character anything new or interesting to do. (Superman to Batman lost in his own flashback: "Stay with us, buddy!") If this is Baker slumming, then let's have more of it. . .
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Thursday, February 05, 2004
      ( 2/05/2004 03:27:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"SHEESH, GIRLS ARE SILLY!" – The central joke in Jeffrey Brown's new mini-comic, Be A Man (Top Shelf), is one-note and obvious. But that doesn't mean it's not a good 'un. Taking scenes and situations from his autobiographical break-up graphic novel Clumsy, Brown rewrites them to eliminate everything that made his original persona "too sensitive and pathetic," recasting himself as the kind of loutboy celebrated on The Man Show. So when his girlfriend Teresa confesses to an attraction to the comic book character Jet Girl, instead of being freaked by the admission, the New Improved Jeffrey contemplates "some threesome action;" left to his own devices by Teresa at a friend’s wedding, his instant impulse is to hit on the first girl he sees. Even the art is less uncertain, a fact Brown emphasizes in a fake ad for Clumsy 2020, a "completely re-drawn, re-written and improved" version of the original full novel that's "coming soon."

Lest we don't know how to take all this, Brown notes in the front cover indicia that "this is a parody." It's not, therefore, the book for a newcomer to the altcomicmaker's work, rather for those already familiar with his observational storytelling and determinedly awkward rendering. I liked the original Clumsy for its artist's almost masochistic flaunting of his sensitive new age podginess, so I'll admit I snickered at rewired strips like the one where Brown poses and flexes his muscles after besting an army of cockroaches. I'm guessing, though, that I may be in the minority on this. . .

UPDATE: Looks like I may've been wrong: Big Sunny D also weighs in favorably on the book, while Brown newcomer Dirk Deppey notes that he enjoyed the title without knowing a whit about Clumsy. Glad to be off the mark on this: now if only I can be equally off-base on The Unfunnies.
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      ( 2/05/2004 02:32:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"SO . . . HOW WAS THE COMA?" – Last night's Angel, the show's 100th ep, tied up a slew of loose ends, most noticeably the fate of longtime Buffyverser Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), who'd been lingering in a coma since the end of last season. Yanked into consciousness by the Powers-That-Be to provide brief intensive therapy for the existentially angsty Angel, Cordy also demonstrated the Good Bitch Attitude that's made her character such a cherished part of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel. (Cordelia to the ensouled Spike: "Heard you weren't evil anymore – which kind of makes the hair silly.") And our gal's reaction to some of the series 180's that've occurred since she was taken out by an evil power was priceless: "What freakin' Bizarro world did I wake up in?" If the episode's Big Bad seemed more than a little toothless – the last act battle between our hero and his terminally callow repeat nemesis Lindsay (Christian Kane) didn't really add much to the story – Cordy's beautifully delivered swan song (credit writer/director David Fury for hitting all the right character notes) more than made up for it. S'long, Cordelia. . .
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Wednesday, February 04, 2004
      ( 2/04/2004 02:00:00 PM ) Bill S.  

WHERE'S ANDY? – In a patent bid to send something good Johnny Bacardi's way, this small bit about mutual music fave Andy Sturmer, formerly of 90's power-pop giants Jellyfish: our teen titan tunesmith shows up on, Redhead, the 2003 major label debut disc of a guy named Bleu. On it, he shares a song credit with singer/songwriter Bleu Mcauley and performs backing vocal chores for at least two cuts – sounds to me like he could also be on at least one hidden track. (For one song, Sturmer is credited as the "King of Queen," which I take as a tribute to the man's ability to channel Night at the Opera era Queen.) As for Redhead itself, I'm happily reminded in spots of Jason Falkner's solo efforts (Author Unknown especially) – a good sound to recall . . .
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      ( 2/04/2004 07:24:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"KEEPIN' IT REAL" – Away from the 'puter for two days, I pretty much missed the teapot tempest about the Jackson/Timberlake Super Bowl boob flash: the night of the half-time show (I hear there was a game, too?), I was playing Scrabble with the wife and watching DVD-ed eps of Firefly. At this point, everything that can be said about the event and the oh-too-predictable umbrage that's followed has already been written by much sharper minds than me. Looking at the lineup of the MTV-produced halftime show, I realized (not for the first time) that I'd stopped connecting with the music teevee net ages ago. . .

Very funny post-mortem of the event on The Daily Show, of course, with Stewart, Rob Cordry (and even guest interview Randy "Keepin' It Real" Jackson) having a field day over the hyped-up media and FCC reaction.
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Monday, February 02, 2004
      ( 2/02/2004 04:59:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"WELL, I'M A TRAVELIN' MAN" – Yours truly is hitting the icy highway for the next two days, so postings'll be non-existent until late Tuesday or early Wednesday. So why not take a gander at all the spiffy bloggish writing that's just one click away on my blog roll? Already this a.m., ADD has posted a fresh batch o' comics reviews – and that's just my first link on the roll . .
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Sunday, February 01, 2004
      ( 2/01/2004 08:50:00 AM ) Bill S.  

I DID BUY A VOLUME OF RAVE MASTER, THOUGH – Went to Wal-Mart over the weekend (Becky had received a gift cert for Xmas), and while we were there, I remembered that the megalo-store was selling Tokyopop manga now. So I left my wife in the Arts & Crafts area (where she can happily play for hours) and made my way to the bookracks. There, in the children's and adolescent lit section, I found a selection of Tokyopop graphic novels.

As promised, the price for each volume was a bargain: a $9.99 paperback was going for $6.87, nearly a third off (31% actually). But despite this promising news, I had difficulty picking up a book that instantly appealed to me. All the titles being offered were in the "All Ages" to "7+" range: Gundan, Clamp School Detectives, Rave Master, Digimon. None of the Tokyopop series that I've acquired a taste for (Battle Royale, Petshop of Horror, even Kindaichi Case Files) were on display, and I suspect that was Wal-Mart policy. This is a store, after all, that only sells the edited version of Liz Phair.

So, manga has "gone mainstream," but only insofar as it's perceived as kid's entertainment. Good for those young readers just starting out on the books; less inspiring for those of us looking for a bargain on slightly older fare. . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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