Thursday, August 7, 2008

‘Mad Men’ new season takes flight


Mad Men
Season 2, Episode 2: “Flight 1”
AMC, Sundays, 10 p.m., aired Aug. 3. Starring Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss and Michael Gladis.
Synopsis: The ad men at Sterling Cooper find themselves doing damage control after a plane crashes, killing Pete’s father. Meanwhile, Don and Betty Draper’s marriage shows cracks in the foundation.

Mat: I don’t think I ever missed smoking until I saw this AMC original, created by “Sopranos” alum Matthew Weiner. The coolness cannot be understated. “Mad Men” shows the repressed, buttoned-up side of the ’60s. The built-in sexism, not-so-subtle racism and pent-up frustrations over the human condition. Each character appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Sara: Yeah, can you imagine working in such a smoky office? I did like the fact that all the men with offices had their own bar, and they drank throughout the day. That would definitely make time fly. I’m not sure how much would get done around here, but it sure would be fun. Think we’re allowed to try it out? I’ve got some SoCo in my top drawer.

Mat: I heard that after 2 p.m. on a workday, drinking is technically OK.

Sara: I’ll see you at 1:59 then, bucko! Back restrooms?

Mat: The party scene was vicious. Paul Kinsey (Gladis) chatting with his ex Joan, who is white, and his new foil Sheila, who is black, at the same party = awkward. Joan cements her icy rep with this dart: “The last thing I would’ve taken him for was open-minded.” Ouch.

Sara: Bitch was ruthless! And her red purse was atrocious. How rude was it that she suggested as Sheila climbed the ranks at the grocery store, she could one day be a customer?

Mat: Pete Campbell (Kartheiser) is a preppy, unrepentant bastard, but maybe he’s got some previously unseen complexity. Last season he was a go-getter, ready to cut Draper’s (Hamm) throat every chance he got. When his father dies and he passes on the American Airlines proposal, he shows some genuine grace. Bastard with feelings.

Sara: Yep, bastards with feelings don’t get too far, do they? Here’s a tissue, Mat, and pull up your skirt. Loved when his partner said that to Draper when he was hesitant to pony up with American Airlines.

I must say Draper was my favorite character … as this was my first time viewing. He seems to be the only one who recognizes the social hypocrisy that was so prevalent in the ’60s. And he taught his kids how to make a decent Manhattan, right down to the muddling. And a Tom Collins gets a cherry, remember that.

Mat: The sick airline jokes were hard to listen to. In Manhattan, no less.

Sara: I was a bit confused — did the big-wigs at Sterling Cooper want Pete on the American Airlines project because he is a good ad rep, or because his father died in the plane crash? That’s pretty low if it was the latter.

Mat: If it was the latter, I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

South Park’s imagination runs wild


South Park

Episodes 1110-1112: “Imaginationland: The Trilogy”
Comedy Central, Sundays, 10 p.m., aired July 27.
Synopsis: When the entire contents of the world’s imagination lay open before them, Stan and Kyle step right in. Imaginationland is attacked by terrorists and evil characters, and the final battle between good and evil takes place. Back in South Park, Cartman swears he’s seen a leprechaun. (

Sara: I enjoyed this trilogy. It’s really one giant metaphor on how pathetic our society has become — “The terrorists are attacking our Imagination! We must nuke our Imagination!” Loved the dialogue about heaven and hell being imaginary. Justification for bombing: “Well, if hell is real, then we’d just be bombing hell, which is a good thing. But what if heaven is real?” And the fact that Jesus was a resident of Imaginationland, right alongside Wonder Woman and Freddy Krueger, was great.

Mat: Hell is real. I read it on a billboard in Indiana. So when terrorists plot their next attack, a leprechaun will be the one to tell us? Hey, it’s more reliable than Homeland Security.

Sara: I’ve been dying to see a leprechaun for some time now. Thought I’d have to resort to magic mushrooms … but it looks like all I’ll have to do is make a nasty bet with some dude. Balls!

Mat: Leave it to Butters to ask the elephant-in-the-room question before the kids climb into the Imagination Flying Machine: “Are you going to rape us?”

Sara: Can you imagine what it would have been like to go to Imaginationland on a field trip in grade school? To hang out with the likes of Optimus Prime, the Care Bears, Qbert and Jesus?! That would have been awesome. Instead, we were trotted out to a nature center and forced to eat soggy PB&J sandwiches while we dug through owl puke.

Mat: I went to the Louisville Science Center and learned about electricity and … uh, never mind. We didn’t have a dragon, though. How are you gonna climb on the back of a dragon and have it not breathe fire? Imaginationland must be experiencing cutbacks.

Sara: Maybe it was a friendly dragon — like that long white thing from “The Neverending Story.”

Mat: That was a flying dog, Shavens. Falkor!

Sara: Oh, OK. I don’t think Puff the Magic Dragon shot fire … did he? When Butters had to imagine Santa back to life, I thought for sure the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was going to make an appearance.

Mat: The only character missing! Fat bastard would’ve been on the dark side, though. It’s not too far fetched that the government would consult M. Night Shyamalan, Michael Bay, Mel Gibson and Kurt Russell on a terrorist attack. I mean, Mel Gibson did whoop ass in “Lethal Weapon 2.” You know, before the fall.

Sara: Mel’s mugging was hilarious. I’ve seen Jason hide in closets before slashing someone to bits … but who knew he recently came out of one? And what about those evil forest animals who wanted to pee in Strawberry Shortcake’s eye socket? I was slightly disturbed, yet intrigued.

Mat: Just when you think Trey Parker and Matt Stone are beyond warped, they toss in the animals’ search for “AIDS in the woods,” and set political correctness back about 400 years.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fear not the Super Rat, crazy tunnel-dweller


Episode 206: “Super Rats”
History Channel, Wednesdays, 8 p.m., aired July 16. Narrated by Stan Benard.
Synopsis: Rats are the stuff of nightmares, and recent archaeological evidence suggests they once grew to massive sizes. Could these huge rodents make a comeback? Waves of huge-rat sightings are sweeping our cities, and animal experts say these mutants are getting bigger — and more dangerous. Rat experts journey into NYC sewers and meet the witnesses who tell of cat-sized rats that have appetites for anything … including human flesh. (

Sara: OK, so your star witness for proving the existence of the “Super Rat” is José, a homeless man who has lived in New York City’s sewers for six years? Wonder how much change and Colt 45 they had to fork over for the interview.

Sure, I believe there are cat-sized rats in New York, probably some even bigger. Shit, the biggest rat out there is Donald Trump, right?

Aaron: From what I can gather, homeless tunnel-dwellers seem like some of the most reputable people to go to for stories about mythical creatures. I like the way Steve Duncan, “Tunnel Explorer,” enters the underground tunnel looking like the Indiana Jones of Rat Hunters and then explains how José “likes poking around” in the tunnels, almost like it’s a hobby. There’s a cast of some colorful characters on this show from the get-go.

Sara: I worked at a pet shop in my high school days, and for the record, rats were among the gentlest animals we had. If you really want to investigate devil-creatures, the hamster is a good place to start. I once witnessed one eat its own baby. I think rats get a bad rap because of their tails … and, as we learned, were unfairly blamed for the Bubonic Plague. It wasn’t the rodents or their apple-bottom jeans but the fleas in the furrrrr.

Aaron: Well, either way, I wouldn’t be excited about coming into close contact with a rat, be it wild or domestic. The reenactment of the girl getting attacked by a pack of rats was quite hilarious, but on second thought, it would definitely suck to be attacked by a pack of wild rats. I keep telling myself I’m not going to have nightmares after this segment.

Sara: Really? We need to get you rat therapy — they make great pets, I swear. Sure, I don’t want them around my food or biting off my toes, but fear of rat I do not have. Spiders, ghosts, praying mantises and the Amish — yes. Rodents — no way.

Aaron: The most hilarious thing about the show was that news clip featuring a guy who, after seeing dozens of rats run throughout a Manhattan restaurant, says, “I don’t think I’ll eat here again.” That shouldn’t be an issue anyone should have to “think” about.

Sara: What about those crazy scientists who tried to rig a camera to the alley rats? They were hoping to get a glimpse into the intricate tunnels that would lead to the Mother Mouse. Too bad the 10-pound Radio Shack camera kept falling off.

Aaron: Honestly, I’m surprised there are this many “rodent experts” out there willing to dedicate days to investigating rats and attaching cameras to them. RATCAM, unfortunately, turned out to be an utter failure, and the biggest rat they found was 8-10 inches. Steve thinks José’s “Super Rat” was probably a possum or a cat … or, dare I say, a bad acid trip?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Generation Kill" presents unfiltered, unbiased look at war


Generation Kill
Episode 1: “Get Some”
HBO miniseries, Sundays, 9 p.m., aired July 13. Starring Jon Huertas, Kellan Lutz, James Ransone, Alexander Skarsgård, David Barrera, Kasem Griego, Josh Barrett and Wilson Bethel.
Synopsis: Based on the Rolling Stone articles and subsequent book by Evan Wright, this seven-part miniseries begins as Marines in the First Recon Battalion push into Iraq during the first 40 days of the war.

Mat: “The Wire” co-creators David Simon and Ed Burns could make sidewalk graffiti fascinating. Their miniseries presents Evan Wright’s vivid Rolling Stone articles and subsequent book into a four-color treatise on this debilitating conflict. The focus is on the troops and the Iraqis — which is what matters.

Sara: While the subject matter was a bit intense and unsettling, I thought the first episode was beautifully shot. Some of those camera angles, especially while depicting the sparse desert, were amazing. I liked the naiveté of the journalist character — loved the scene where he got his boys twisted up in his gear. Ouch. And chewing tobacco never looked better. I had a similar swallowing mishap with dip in college — but it wasn’t because I was rushing to get my gas mask on. It did make me sick, though.

Mat: It’s nice to know the troops had everything they needed: Cpl. Josh Ray Person (Ransone) tells “Scribe” Wright (played by Lee Tergesen) that he and Sgt. Brad “Iceman” Colbert (Skarsgård) had to spend $500 of their own salary to outfit their Humvee. The soldiers were shipped green camouflage to fight in a desert, and Lt. Nathaniel Fick’s (Stark Sands) discovery that the battalion has no armed escort spells doom. But the kicker was Fick’s rock-and-a-hard-place order to leave the hostages at the mercy of Iraqi death squads in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Some rules were made to be broken.

Sara: Yes, that was pretty hard to watch. But orders are orders. And during wartime, orders trump emotion. Can’t believe some of the higher-ups were so concerned with the Marines’ appearance — from ’staches to which hat they wore. Give them a break!

Mat: Were I surrounded by people who wanted to kill me all the time, I’d be a screaming maniac, too. I wanna know how much Hustler paid to get their magazine featured. It’s like the official rag of the Marine Corps, and the soldiers ogling a picture of a little girl in the beginning was wretched.

Sara: Yes, that scene made me uncomfortable. Do you agree with Person’s rationale that if the country of Iraq wasn’t so uptight about sex, we wouldn’t be there? “Why can’t we ever invade a cool country,” he asked. “One with chicks in bikinis.”

Mat: I read Sebastian Junger’s article in Vanity Fair a couple years ago about these al Qaeda operatives who whored and boozed it up in South America, so sex can’t fix everything.

Sara: No, sex can’t fix everything. It’s more like duct tape — it can fix things temporarily, makes the rough edges bearable.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

If you’re happy and you’re Amish, clap your hands


Primetime: The Outsiders
Episode: “Teens caught between freedom and faith”
ABC, Tuesdays, 10 p.m., aired June 24. An ABC News production by Jay Schadler.
Synopsis: For a year, ABC News had unprecedented access into the lives of a group of Amish adolescents in central Ohio during the Amish rite of passage known as rumspringa.

Mat: Setting aside that “Rumspringa” sounds like a Captain Morgan’s product, “The Outsiders” reminds me why I’m a lapsed Catholic. Amish, as a belief system, is too strict. Kids have to learn to adapt in social situations, and it doesn’t appear they can.

The fact that Lena says she’ll “lose her family” if she leaves the Amish doesn’t speak well for her parents, and the elders ABC interviewed even spoke about driving a Thunderbird. You can be spiritual and still have fun.

Sara: OK, let me just get this out in the open — I’m afraid of the Amish. Spiders, snakes, drag queens I can handle. But if I see a buggy on the side of the road with tall, skinny men in funny hats, it freaks me out. We’re talking panic attacks. Maybe it’s because I grew up around them in Ohio, or maybe it stems from that creepy whistling dude from “Poltergeist II.”

Mat: These Amish parents could do a better job of at least informing kids of what’s out there. Harley’s midnight rescue mission makes it clear that these kids are unreasonably stifled. Otherwise, why would Danny feel like he needed to jump out of a second-story window?

Sara: So what would you do, Mat? Leave behind your family and peace and tranquility for canned beer and baseball games? It seems like when the teens “escaped” their conservative Amish life, they just set up a similar shop a few miles down the road in the form of a bachelor pad. How about you get out of Ohio. Go south to the big city with a 50-foot bat, like I did.

Mat: Sayonara. By train, plane, auto or unicycle. The world is simply too large, too wonderful and too diverse.

Sara: I must admit that Nelson’s tricked-out buggy was amazing. He had sub-woofers and an iPod … I’m sure the horse loves the AC/DC as it trots to the store.

Mat: I was surprised Nelson decided to stay Amish, but marriage is a powerful motivator. Note that he said “if” he finds a woman, so he left open other possibilities. Given how much I dropped in gas this week, a horse-drawn buggy wouldn’t be all that bad.

Sara: Good point. I wonder if you can get a DUI on horseback. Anyway, poor Danny … he’ll end up in the tight, white button-up before too long. Either that or a prison jumpsuit. I’m guessing he didn’t drop the soap during his short stint in jail for vandalizing a buggy. The Amish aren’t that naïve, are they?

Here’s to hoping Lena makes it out alive. Go to the light, Carolanne, go to the light!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Griffin’s "D-List" doesn’t suck it much


Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
Season 4, Episode 2: “Home is Where the Profit Is”
Bravo, Thursdays, 10 p.m., aired June 19. Starring Kathy Griffin, Jessica Zajicek, Tom Vize and Tiffany Rinehart.
Synopsis: Kathy’s assistant’s assistant, Tiffany, and her tour manager, Tom, are here to stay — but what do we really know about them? Kathy’s booked two stand-up gigs — one in Tom’s hometown of St. Louis, and one in Tiffany’s hometown of Tracy, Calif. She will meet their families and milk her own publicity machine by throwing them into the local media spotlight.

Sara: Gotta admit my love for Kathy Griffin. I just want her to adopt me, or make me an assistant to her assistant’s assistant. Hell, I’ll just hang out with her mom and we can knock back a few boxes of wine together. This is the fourth season of “My Life on the D-List,” and so far it scores as one of the best. She just seems more confident with her comedy and knows her place — firmly atop the D-List (although I’d argue she’s definitely B-List material, slightly above, say, Soleil Moon Frye).

Mat: You know you can’t trust your staff these days when you have to convince your mom to push your merchandise. Seems like Kathy’s humor is wearing thinner than a pair of pantyhose on her staffers.

Sara: Have you ever worn pantyhose, Mat? There’s nothing thin about them when they’re bunching up between your legs and squeezing you so tight your ovaries feel violated. I definitely want a “Team Griffin” shirt, and I’d even wear the “Suck It, Jesus!” boxers to a Catholic picnic. Gimme that cake!

Mat: From time to time, I consider wearing a shirt that says “Holy Fuckballs” to the office, but I figure it’s more appropriate if a nuclear bomb goes off.

Sara: Wasn’t that in her boxer line as well? Anyway, I’ve got other plans on my end-of-world checklist, and none of them involve clothes.

Mat: Tom Green is still around? What’s with the tie? Is this the same guy who used to prank his folks? And Coolio, the star guest, touting a reality show? Talk about D-List. I thought the upcoming “Greatest American Dog” series pushed it.

Sara: You know, I’ve always had a thing for Tom Green, too. He’s had this Internet talk show for a while now. Sheesh. Can’t you keep up?

So Kathy & Co. travel to Tom’s hometown of St. Louis — think you’d get the VIP treatment like he did? Think you could have Mayor Jer declare it “Mat Herron Day”? I may have to call in sick.

Mat: Did you catch the Y98 host’s D-List dig? “No, it doesn’t bother me.” Translation: Welcome to the Midwest, you stuck-up Angeleno!

Sara: Take it back!

Mat: No.

Sara: OK, we’re even I guess. I saw it as more of a journalist’s failure to prepare for an interview, just like the dude at the tea shop in Tracy, Calif. Loved when she quipped, “I’m sure that’s exactly how Christiane Amanpour does it over at CNN.”

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Weeds" tokes it on the run


Season 4, Episode 1: “Mother Thinks The Birds Are After Her”
Showtime, Mondays, 10 p.m., aired June 16. Starring Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Nealon, Justin Kirk, Hunter Parrish, Allie Grant and Alexander Gould.
Synopsis: With the embers of Majestic and Agrestic smoldering in their rearview mirror, Nancy and family flee southbound to the border town of Ren Mar, Calif. Meanwhile, the DEA interrogates Doug, Dean and Isabelle, who all pin the entire grow operation on Celia. Back in Ren Mar, Andy confronts his father and new landlord Lenny.

Sara: (taking long inhale) So … (speaking without exhaling) … what are we watching this week, man?

Mat: Pass that over here … “Weeds.” (inhale)

Sara: This is the last of it. Did you bring any?
Mat: No, the show “Weeds.” On Showtime. (exhale)

Sara: Dude. I love that show. (inhale) That chick from “Fried Green Tomatoes” is sweet … I’m glad she found something to do with her career. And Elizabeth Perkins — remember her from “He Said, She Said” with Kevin Bacon? Love that ’80s shiz. Hey, doesn’t bacon sound good? (exhale)

Mat: Bacon and eggs, scrambled. Kind of like Grandma’s brain in this episode. Len (Albert Brooks) has the crappy end of the diaper. I guess we all have to look forward to Depends in our old age (exhale), but it’s payback for him being a jackass to Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) while she and Judah were married. Apparently Dad forgot how easy-on-the-eyes she is. Not one to be outdone, her bringing German dinner into Len’s house was like a Freudian middle finger.

Sara: (inhale) Yeah, Freud was onto something. Deep shit. And you said finger … (exhale) heh. What did Nancy’s brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) say that I laughed at 10 minutes ago? He was reciting bathroom-wall graffiti he found at a rest stop. Something like, “Here I sit, cheeks a-flexin’ … just gave birth to a little Texan.”

Mat: Texas is big. Huge. It’s like its own ocean.

Sara: So this season’s gonna be weird, since Nancy burned down her SoCal mansion and left behind her a life of drug dealin’ … or did she? What’s she going to do now? Be a Wal-Mart greeter? Doubt it. Do you think Celia (Perkins), Doug (Kevin Nealon) and the rest of them will join Nancy & Co. in her new bordertown? I certainly hope so … wait … why am I answering my own questions. Mat … are you awake, man?

Mat: Doug’s a banjo-toting schmo. Assuming he makes it out of the police station, he should be deported to some never-neverland. Like Kansas. Toking while he’s at an emergency shelter? With cops around?
I wonder whom I’d have to bribe to buy a section of the Mexican-Texas border. Bein’s that Pablo Escobar’s dead now, maybe my options are wide open. And if you retire from drug dealing, do you have to give up your portion of the fence?

Sara: Fence. That’s a funny word. Say it out loud. Fence. Ffffence. Fencé. Speaking of the border, do you wanna make a Taco Bell run?

Mat: Cool, but I’m drivin’.

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