Josh Hornik Blog

February 13, 2006

Notes from Watching The Olympics

My TIVO is probably chugging away at this very moment, recording Latvia vs. Slovakia in Women's Curling. It really earns a medal of its own during the Olympics, recording away 10 hours a day -- CNBC, MSNBC, NBC -- you name it, my Tivo's on it!

The Olympics are great, aren't they? At no other time would I even think of watching speed skating -- it's a little like watching paint dry (in clockwise circles). Though I have to admit, if the networks would ever show Curling or Biathlon at any other time, I'd watch it. They said that Biathlon is the #1 sport on TV in Europe -- sounds aprocryphal to me, but if it's true, I can see why -- that's exciting stuff, watching those targets turn white.

But, of course, there are a few complaints -- mostly about the ridiculous TV coverage. First of all, the opening ceremonies. The ceremonies themselves are always absurd, and there's nothing better than hearing Bob Costas attempting to make sense of complete randomness -- "The man on stilts in the Groucho Marx costume juggling 5 clubs in the Olympic ring colors represents Perseverance". But can we stop inviting the news guy? Do we really need Brian Williams proving how much he knows with his NEWS 101 tidbits on each country in the parade of athletes? "Poland -- they're still mourning the Pope. He was a skiier, himself; Germany -- we actually went to war AGAINST them back in the 1940's..." Insipid and contradictory, since the whole point of the Olympics was to forget all of the geopolitical conflict and get the world together. And while we're un-inviting people, please never invite Mary Carillo anywhere. How did a lame tennis announcer get such a big role at the Olympics. No one even watches tennis, and those that do can't actually like Mary Carillo.

Speaking of TV announcers that don't make sense, is there anything stupider than using ex-athletes as commentators in sports they never played? "For more information on the intricacies of waxing your cross-country skis, let's go down to ex-high jumper Dwight Stones. And coming up, ex-gymnast Tim Daggett previews the ski jumping."

And about these sports...
Things have gotten a little out of control. Short-track speed skating is the worst sport I have ever seen. Not only does it just seem stupid that it's so easy for a gold-medal favorite to catch a skate and be out of the race, or get DQ'd for a questionable move, but it's also really boring to watch. They skate around in circles for 9 laps, then on the last lap they try to win it. Yawn.

Ski Jumping is always cool, and I have to admit, cross-country skiing is really exciting. I really appreciate the way the skiiers completely collapse as soon as they cross the finish line. The short-track speed skaters could learn something about trying hard from the cross-country skiers.

Now, about these "extreme" athletes. OK, the snowboarders did pretty amazing things on the halfpipe, and it's always good to see USA win, but can we just agree not to interview these guys? I don't want to hear how an Olympian is "stoked" about his run, or "tripping" about the pressure. At least pretend to take it seriously, guys. And wear a real uniform -- ski pants falling off your ass is not bringing honor to your country.

However, I will give the moguls a pass, because it brought us Kari Traa of Norway. She won the silver medal, which is impressive enough, but more importantly, she is the best-looking Olympian I've seen since the ultimate skating cutie, Ekaterina Gordeeva (Click to see the picture I had up in my high school locker in 1988). More Kari Traa, less Michelle Kwan, please!

Silver on the Slopes, Gold in the Ms. Photogenic competition: Kari Traa

Posted by JoshHornik at 12:05 PM | Comments (1)

October 20, 2005

TV Season review

Just in time for November sweeps, it's my review of the TV season so far...

BEST NEW SHOW: PRISON BREAK
It is truly impressive how consistently intense, supsenseful, and surprising this show has been in its first few episodes. If they can keep it up, this could be the most exciting season of any TV show ever. The lead actor is great and I know he had to spend hours in makeup every day working on that ridiculous tattoo. OK, it requires a bit of suspension of disbelief, but it's worth it.

BEST RETURNING SHOW: ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
I fear this will be the last season, which is sad, because it's just getting funnier and funnier. I'm not surprised people don't watch this show -- it requires serious concentration to catch all the jokes, gags, puns, and riffs. But it pays off. A lawyer named Bob Loblaw (say it fast). A Sunday brunch at a restaurant called "Skip Church's" and a Friday night drink at a bar called "Miss Temple's". A man bragging that he was both an "analyst" and a "therapist" and putting on his business card "anal-rapist". Laugh out loud funny every week.

Other new shows I'm watching:
Invasion -- The best of the new alien shows. Gets the creepy mood just right and seems to be moving just fast enough, with just enough mystery.
How I Met Your Mother -- This one's borderline, but I like the optimistic tone and I have an irrational liking for Neal Patrick Harris (aka Doogie Howser).
The Adam Carolla Project -- It's on TLC and it's Adam Carolla (who, despite The Man Show, is actually very funny) and a team of misfits renovating a house. It's really funny, and also quite a happy tone that I like.

Returning shows:
Lost -- Well-crafted yet frustrating as always, so I've given up and just decided to keep watching and stop caring that nothing's happening and there are no answers.
Smallville -- I'm a sucker for Superman. I'm the type to get excited that they're having Aquaman on tonight's episode and he'll be wearing orange and green, just like on the old Superfriends cartoons.
Gilmore Girls -- This show is as outstanding as ever. Well written with story arcs that really seem to flow naturally. Rory and Lorelai being estranged is great, especially since you know by the end of the season they'll have a huge thawing/reunion. However, the writers have turned the one decent male character (Luke) into one of the testosterone-lacking Milquetoasts all men fear we are already for watching this show.

Posted by JoshHornik at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2005

Is Stephen Colbert the funniest man on TV?

Quick, name the funniest two minutes on TV each week.

If you said Andy Rooney's weekly segment on 60 Minutes, the first segment of Two And A Half Men, or even the C-SPAN presentation of President Bush's weekly radio address, I'm afraid you are very wrong.

The answer is Stephen Colbert doing "This Week In God" on The Daily Show (Jon Stewart's show on Comedy Central).

"This Week In God" is so consistently funny, it almost makes me believe it was created by a higher power. Of course, when the entire world of religion is yours to make fun of, and you can be as smart and insouciant as The Daily Show always is, there's a lot of opportunity. Oh yeah, and events like a new Pope being elected and a brain-dead woman being kept alive inspiring a fight in Congress help, too. But the jokes are always original and surprising.

And sold to their fullest. On a show with a lot of comic talent (Jon Stewart, Lewis Black, Steve Carell, etc.), Stephen Colbert is the funniest of them all. He commits 100% to even his most absurd jokes, though always with a knowing wink to the audience (and Stewart). He just got a deal for his own show to follow The Daily Show, in which he'll spoof personality-driven political shows like Hardball. I'm sure it will be hilarious.

Anyway, I don't even know if "This Week In God" (click here and you can see an old segment) is really a weekly segment. It doesn't seem to be on any set day. So I suggest just Tivoing The Daily Show every day and watching for it.

Posted by JoshHornik at 07:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2005

Future Review: "God doesn't know the word Brain-dead"

Introducing a new feature on my blog: the future review.
For those of you who don't know, I have a prototype time machine I play around with -- just a silly hobby. Sometimes I like to go into the future and check out a movie or tv show, and now I'll be reviewing them for you poor saps who actually have to live life in order.

Well, I just watched the TV movie "God doesn't know the word Brain-dead" in the future, and even though I didn't really lose the 2 hours (since I came back to the present exactly 1 second after I'd left), I'm still not happy about that time I'll never get back. Teri Hatcher plays Terri Schiavo

As you may have guessed, this is the TV movie of Terri Schiavo's life and media-abused death. It also happened to be the first TV movie produced by Fox News, under the "Karl Rove presents..." marque. I guess that should have been a red flag.

First, the positives. Teri Hatcher was (will be) brilliant in the lead role. Either she'll be spending the next 3 years in acting classes, or she'll suffer a catastrophic stroke in that time, because the performance was unexpectedly subtle and naturalistic. Using her voice-overs throughout was a little heavy-handed, but effective. When the feeding tube was removed, in the hands of a less-accomplished actress, 5 minutes of screaming, pleading and crying in voiceover could have been maudlin...

Christopher Walken seemed like a strange choice to play Terri's husband, until I realized the producer's point of view. Walken plays Michael Schiavo as an evil, amoral cad who puts no value on life of any kind. However, having a message in your movie and jamming it down all the viewers' throats are two differnt things. The movie had scenes of Schiavo as a child torching ants with a magnifying glass and shooting a bird with a broken wing despite his troop leader's assurances that the bird would survive. As an adult, he is shown stomping on blooming flowers and turning off a television disinterestedly in the middle of a news report on September 11, 2001. Some of the characterization didn't even seem true -- did he really have a gay love affair with an abortionist?

George W. Bush is triumphant playing himself in a cameo. He portrays just the right balance of arrogance and holier-than-thou righteousness, but he makes sure not to play it too smart. He's spot on.

In the end, unless your name starts with Bishop or Reverend, when this movie comes out in a few years, I recommend you watch That 90's Show instead (it's quite funny.)

Posted by JoshHornik at 01:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack