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Monday, December 1, 2008

Entertainment According to Me

I always thought that being a reviewer/critic, would be a great job. Either you go to a bunch of plays or watch a ton of tv, and you write about your reactions. Who could beat that? Well, maybe there are actually some qualifications for the job in addition to being wildly opinionated.

In my freshman year in college, I was briefly responsible for reviewing the Lunchbox Theatre, one-act plays provided by the drama department at noon. There’s a lot to be said for just hanging around when it comes to getting good assignments and by-lines on university newspapers. I was probably the only live body around when the need arose and was thus suddenly a theatre critic.

Suffice it to say that I was young, a first-semester journalism student, and – despite my limited knowledge of plays and acting (I appeared in two high school plays -- whoopee) – I was strategically seated in the auditorium and not enjoying anything I saw. Guess I should have also told you that I was pretty full of myself at the time.

So I wrote a blunt, unflattering review. (My friends in drama are going to hate me for this confession.)

My editor sent me back the next week. I wasn’t any more knowledgeable about theatre, but that didn’t stop me from finding serious deficiencies in the play. And I expressed that pretty clearly in my review. Hey, maybe I was right.

That’s about when the head of the drama department called the editor of the newspaper and, disregarding the First Amendment, suggested that someone else be sent to the Lunchbox Theatre.

Fast-forward a bunch of years and here we are on The Plunk Chronicles where no one edits me. Ha! And that brings me to television.

During our extended stay in CA, we watched a lot more tv than we generally do and had a more than ample sampling of the latest fare. So here you have our reactions.

Starter Wife – USA – You absolutely must see it. Terrific ensemble cast. Smartly funny. Debra Messing soars even higher than she did on Will & Grace, but she still frequently plays off the humor of having a gay best friend. She’s perfection in this role. The mini-series that spawned this series took an Emmy.

Life on Mars – ABC – Well worth viewing. The premise is that the star was in an accident in 2008, goes into a coma and wakes up in 1973 – you still have hippies, not yet into the disco coma. Overdoing this theme could easily be cliché, but so far they’ve stayed on the safe side of the line. Though they skirt the border occasionally, it’s fun for the ‘70s clothes, music and archaic attitudes. A welcome surprise is new-to-tv Harvey Keitel’s role as the most un-PC, fist-slamming ‘70s cop. It’s worth a try. The show is up for a People's Choice Award for "Favorite New TV Show.”

My Own Worst Enemy – NBC – We like Christian Slater so we watched the first episode with high hopes and found it fairly enjoyable. “Enemy” is the ultimate extension of the plot of Schwarzenegger’s movie True Lies in which he maintains the front of work-a-day, white-collar guy with home and family (wife Jamie Lee Curtis) in the suburbs when, in fact, he’s a suave, slick, wildly dangerous secret agent. “Enemy” takes the plot one step further in that each of the two lives is secret to the other due to some microchip implanted in the brain. Well, of course. Flip the switch, he’s Mr. Boredom. Flip it again, he’s the cool, sexy spy. Yeah, well wait ‘til the wife meets the cool guy. Uh-huh. Anyway, we gave it a second try and it’s obviously a one-trick pony. The two personalities of the guy find out about each other in the first episode. Nothing much more to do about that. Don’t bother watching.

Crusoe – It doesn’t matter what network it’s on. Avoid it at all costs. I think I lasted about 15 minutes into the one-hour show. I suspect that boys under 13 might enjoy it.

Speaking of which . . .

Knight Rider – NBC – I watched the original Knight Rider with my son and gave the new show a try for Alex’s viewing enjoyment. I actually didn’t hate the first series. I was reminded of that due to the awfulness of the reincarnated version. I’d even welcome back The Hoff to replace the wimpy star of the new series. Again, it won’t injure boys under 13, but be sure to leave the room when it starts.

And finally . . .

Kath & Kim – NBC – Just dreadful. No need to say more.

On the non-tv side of entertainment, Mike and I went to see The Changeling when we returned home, and it was excellent. Reviews on it were mixed. The extended length was criticized. True, it was longer than the average movie, but we were hooked on the plot and wanted to know everything it conveyed. We even returned home to google the actual event and learn more. Contrasted with today's laws and procedures, it's more than shocking. Four stars from the Plunks. Although I’m not a big fan of hers, Angelina Jolie should receive an Oscar nomination for her role. It would have been easy to go over the top given her character’s circumstances, but Jolie perfectly portrayed the controlled hysteria of the mother of a missing child, frantic, yet – for the most part – maintaining the façade of determined calm. The viewer could palpably feel her struggle to contain her emotions. See this movie.

And that’s all for now from this critic’s corner.

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