.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Send your comments about TV -- reality or un -- to ELinerTV@aol.com. And check out my other blog: PhantomProf.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

This blog has moved to a new address

And here it is. Follow me there!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Big hugs for HBO's Big Love

Like a polygamist with many wives, we who are married to HBO on Sunday nights remain most loyal to the one that first got us to the chapel, The Sopranos. And we'll dance with Tony, Carmela, Uncle Joon and the rest until the very end.

But this week HBO's new second half of the Sunday night series double feature, Big Love, was so good it is threatening to steal our hearts. It's taken a few weeks to get up to speed and to lay out its intricate storylines about renegade Utah Mormons engaging in "plural marriage," but this series' latest installment seemed to take on a whole Twin Peaks-y tone that really makes it snap, crackle and pop. We're hooked.

Acting-wise, it's first rate. Series star Bill Paxton plays best to the exhausting aspects of being a husband to three wives whose personal quirks and voracious sexual appetites make the gals of Wisteria Lane look like ladies who lunch. When he's not popping Viagra, he's on the phone to the drugstore re-upping his prescription.

His wives are happiest when he's shtupping them on schedule (shtupping being the Mormon slang word for coital union). As Barbara, the first wife the other two call "boss lady," Jeannie Tripplehorn oozes confidence and womanly maturity. Paxton's character, Bob Henrickson, owner of two home improvement stores, gets turned on just watching her pack lunches for their herd of children. Soon he's packing her off to the nearest no-tell motel for lunchtime quickies, drawing suspicions from Wife No. 2, shopping addict Nicky (Chloe Sevigny), that he's shopping for Wife No. 4. Young wife 3, babyfaced Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin), feels left out of almost everything. She bursts into tears as she unpacks her old high school yearbooks, realizing her only friends are her squalling infants, her mostly absent hubby and her two dominant "sister wives."

This week's episode introduced a handful of threats to the Henricksons' unorthodox marital bliss. There's the "junior bookkeeper" at Bob's store who rats out a co-worker she suspects is practicing polygamy (it is illegal). And the new neighbor across the street from Bob and his three families who befriends the vulnerable Margene, who's dying to spill family secrets. Then there's Utah's "polygamy czar," eager to follow up on the anonymous tips Bob is feeding him to try to topple the greedy leader of the renegade sect, who just happens to be his seedy father-in-law (Harry Dean Stanton). Oh, and Nicky's knocked up, adding yet another mouth for Bob to feed.

What is making Big Love so appealing is what it has in common with its lead-in, The Sopranos. Through terrific writing and acting, we viewers get to play voyeurs into subcultures that are both alien and strangely familiar. One lives in New Jersey and one in Utah. Each speaks its own language and adheres to its own unique and exclusive code of behavior and beliefs. But the fine storytelling of these series makes us believe that we know people just like the Sopranos and the Henricksons. We all have crazy families, don't we?

Friday, April 07, 2006

This week in Creepy TV

When Star Jones clopped back onto the set of The View this week, admit it, we were all staring at her new breasts. And for that, I am very, very ashamed. And a little frightened. According to legend, if you stare directly at her breasts, you will turn into a big block of cheese. (I still can't look at her without thinking of a term I once heard: obesely gaunt.)

Shown on CNN and elsewhere, Justin Berry, main subject of a long NYT expose by Kurt Eichenwald, testified before a Congressional panel that he began taking off his clothes for Internet pedophiles and accepting gifts of cash from them when he was 13. At 19 the smoothly handsome kid spoke with little emotion about his descent into the world of underage porn. His father approved of his activity and encouraged it. Leading to yet another creepy moment--this time on Larry King Live, center of the cable creepy-TV universe-- as Larry asked Justin where his father was while he was getting hit on by pedophiles. Not two minutes later, Larry asked the same question again as though he had no memory of it. Very Uncle Junior, that Larry.

OK, is Lost all a product of the twisted mind of the fat guy? That's what might be inferred from this week's brain-boinking episode of the confounding ABC drama. He has an imaginary friend and more voices in his head than Roseanne Barr, but is it really just his dream? And in that dream does he meet a comatose Tony Soprano? Or Star Jones' old breasts?

Creepy-great title for this week's Sopranos: The Fleshy Part of the Thigh. Bobby gets 7 grand for popping an ambitious rapper in the rump with a bullet. But isn't that just a metaphor for finding the one spot that's vulnerable without being fatal?

Speaking of vulnerable, Paula Abdul seems on the verge of toppling over the same precipice Lost's fat guy was perched on. After Tuesday's live American Idol she reported to police that she'd received a "concussion" and other injuries at a party Sunday night. Is a convenient brain injury just another way to explain bonzo behavior? What was that again about moths and mushrooms?

Mandisa got the boot on AI and blessed us all in the name of Jesus. Now if only we could hook her up with all of Star Jones' old big-girl clothes, the circle would be complete.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


As they say in Dodgeball, "It's a three-player swing!" That's what happens with the move of Katie Couric from NBC's Today to CBS Evening News. Out goes old pro Bob Schieffer, who has grown the CBS newscast by 2 million viewers since Rather's departure. In comes Couric, never able to get one sentence through her dental work without fluffing at least two syllables --then excusing herself with a hoity-toity "Rah-ther...." The third player in the swing is, by all accounts Meredith Vieira, who jumps from the left chair on The View to the sofa on Today, where she'll have to stop talking about "going commando" lest Matt Lauer get the icks.

The critics have had their say about Couric's lack of "gravitas" (which sounds like very strong gravy) and how she'll be the first-ever solo woman anchor of network newscast. But isn't Elizabeth Vargas already doing that on ABC? (No word on when the injured Bob Woodruff will rejoin her.)

Couric alone probably can't make CBS Evening News No. 1. The nighttime newscasts have been losing viewers for a decade (here in Central Time they air at 5:30 p.m., before most grown-ups are home from work yet). And the always-chased younger demos get their news from the Internet and cable... if they look for news at all. She's not a strong reporter and at 49 she's losing that babe-o-liciousness that made her so tasty with a cup of kawfee in the a.m. Will they be hiding those fab gams under that desk? Or rebuilding a plexiglas display case for them the way ET once did for Mary Hart?

Such points to ponder. But consider the Vieira-Lauer anchor marriage for a moment. There's an old theory in filmmaking: Some stars are "reflectors"; others are "absorbers." The reflectors glow with a sort of inner light. They make the best heroes and heroines and are perceived by viewers as friendly and harmless. The absorbers are heavier. They balance the up-energy of the reflector and provide that yin-yang thing. Think Bogie and Bacall (absorber/reflector). Think Lucy and Desi (reflector/absorber). Now, Katie Couric is a klieg-light-sized reflector. Lauer was her darker absorber, the yang to her yin. Together they were perfectly balanced. Over on The View, Meredith Vieira is the absorber opposite Barbara Walters' considerable reflection. Alongside Lauer, however, Vieria will be dark against dark.

You can have two reflectors to make a hit. Or a reflector/absorber pairing. But two absorbers? Disaster. Flop city. Good Morning America has the reflective Diane Sawyer teamed with the absorber-anchor Charles Gibson. Watch their ratings go up after Couric takes her reflective stardom to CBS news.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Anderson Cooper Grows a Pair

Growing up as the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, Anderson Cooper never had to worry about where the next meal was coming from (unless Le Cirque was closed for remodeling) or how the rent would be paid. Maybe that's why his career as a reporter and anchor is all the more remarkable. On CNN this past week, he's kicked some major media ass as a hard-hitting, compassionate and well-informed man on the scene. He has challenged the double-talk of authorities. He has waded into the murk to rescue people. And he has managed to do it without showboating, a la Geraldo Rivera, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and the rest of them.

Cooper has built his career on traveling to and reporting from the messiest disasters and conflicts on the planet. He seems to do it without vanity and with a sincere interest in the people affected in the area.

Remember him on ABC's goofy overnight news? He stumbled and stammered badly back then -- about 10 years ago maybe? -- and he's still not the smoothest voice on the airwaves. But he's no-nonsense and real. No faking emotions for the cameras, a la Geraldo, Diane, Katie and the rest of them.

Gloria should rightly be proud of her boy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

This just in

From TV Guide online: "John Leguizamo to join cast of ER."

Which means his career is DOA.

Laguna bleach and other woes

Been watching TV more often than writing about it. Thassaway it goes sometimes. When MTV's running a Laguna Beach marathon, it's better than a fistful of Ambien. Between naps I can watch "LC" get drunk with Stephen in Rosarita, Meheeko, while back in Cali, her nemesis -- her bleached blond Dr. Evil in Antik jeans -- Kristin, strolls the avenues, terrorizing lesser mortals. And what's with Talan, falling for Kristin's obvious come-ons? And who's the goateed satyr cutting through Laguna's teen girl tribes like a surfboard through a sweet curl? It's all too, too wonderful. Other blogs claim LC has a job with Teen Vogue. I'll bet she's one of those girls who call magazines "books," because they've never read the other kind.

Still haven't found Situation: Comedy, which Bravo has hidden deeper than Catherine Zeta Jones' birth certificate.

Still loving Kathy Griffin and her D-list life.

Brat Camp came to a blizzardy end with all the kids being reunited with their 'rents as the cameras rolled and the music swelled. Then we were treated to a 20-minute "follow-up" to find out how well the rehab "took" with the 9 kids on the show. Two went back to their old ways immediately. The mean boy was arrested for painting racial slurs on some public building. And Jada, always ID'd onscreen as "habitual liar," talked her folks into taking her out of boarding school and she went right back to being a user and a loser. She's Jerri Blank with better hair.

Big Brother 6 remains unwatchable, though I try. I really try. That Howie guy is a goon.

Then comes the coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Now we know it's not a real show until Anderson Cooper shows up to do those terrifying remotes from the eye of the storm. And there he was on CNN, his 80-lb frame buffeted by the winds so hard I was worried he might snap in two and his crunchy, light filling spilled for all to see. Local anchors repeatedly mispronounced "Biloxi," reporters' cell phones seemed to cut out just when it was their turn to talk and one channel kept playing a piece of tape of a poor man telling a reporter that he'd watched his wife float away in the flood waters. Too, too tragic to be used as TV fodder.

That's the sort of reality TV that TV doesn't do well. They don't seem to know what to do or say when things get really bad in these natural disasters.

The other reality TV writes better scripts.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Filthy Rich: All that's wrong with America

For Brat Camp 2, let's ship off all the spoiled young scions currently whining their way through Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive (E!). What a bunch of spoiled little pussies.

The premise is the old fish-out-of-water trick. They've taken a bunch of Beverly Hills 20-somethings and plonked them onto a Colorado cattle ranch. They're supposed to go on a cattle drive from one place to another, camping in teepees along the way. These kids on horseback look like those circus bears riding bicycles around the center ring. It just looks so wrong.

Among the rich brats: some oily club kid named Fabian Basabe; Alex Quinn, one of Anthony's 12 spawn; Brittny Gastineau, on a break from that creepy reality show in which she and her mom both hit on the same guys; Noah Blake, Robert's son, who keeps saying "We'll murder you!" to the other team; Courtenay Semel, daughter of the Yahoo! CEO; Shanna Ferrigno, the Hulk's kid; and Kourtney Kardashian, daughter of the only defense lawyer at the O.J. trial who registered shock at the not guilty verdict. Maybe a few others who don't get much screen time because they're even more boring than this other bunch.

Ms. Semel was seen dialing up daddy on her cell and begging him to "call the network or something" because the ranch experience was "too abnormally hard."

That description might also apply to the young Mr. Quinn, who can be seen hitting on Semel, Gastineau and Basabe. I think this kid was one of the offspring Anthony forgot to include in his will. So he's looking for the on-ramp to easy street, even if that means exploring both genders of ramp.

Kill Reality is wonderful in that horrible reality TV whores-that-score way. More about that one later.

Oh, my lord! I just heard Billy Bush of Access Hollywood call himself a journalist. That's like Tara Reid calling herself a diplomat because she hosts a travel show.