Friday, September 19, 2014

On New Girl's Winston dilemma

On Tuesday, New Girl debuted its fourth season with an episode that gives the impression of a re-pilot attempt; the show has made a clean break from its failed Nick&Jess romance and returned to the show's template of humorous hijinks that serve to ultimately re-emphasize the familial (decidedly non-romantic) relationship between the roommates. Ideally this show would give equal time to all of its characters, but since the start of season 3 the show seems to have firmly strapped Winston into the passenger seat of the car driven by Jess/Nick/Schmidt. This would be fine if this hierarchy accurately reflected the characters' relative value. I am, however, of the opinion that Winston is clearly the funniest character on the show. Season 3 systematically morphed Winston into a veritable maniac, one who combines George Costanza's neurotic, volatile insecurities with Cosmo Kramer's oblivious eccentricity. Lamorne Morris's superb acting and commitment to the bits allow Winston to steal every scene by aggressively subverting the expectations of both the other characters and the audience.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Emmy Musings

Outstanding Comedy Series

This might be the most wide open category.  Personally, I would find a win for either Veep, Orange is the New Black, or Louie acceptable.  I feel that Veep’s early episode suffered from an overly mundane setting - the show almost felt *too* successful in capturing the mundanity of the VP’s job, to the point of giving viewers a boring universe.  But over time the show has gotten better as the stakes heightened, and it really hit its stride in this past season.  The campaign provided the perfect context to show just how hollow the American political atmosphere is, filled with seemingly incompetent politicians more concerned with equivocating and scheming their way to power rather than addressing actual issues of importance to their constituents.  Orange is the New Black was one of the most groundbreaking shows of the new millennium, and not just because of the Netflix model.  OITNB put characters on the screen that we’ve pretty much never seen on conventional shows - but the true magic lies in the careful way the show indoctrinates us into the somewhat foreign world of this particular prison.  With Piper as our liaison, we slowly come to understand the internal logic of the universe; combined with precise character development via flashback-heavy narrative structure, this allows the dedicated viewer to embrace convicted inmates in a way that wasn’t previously possible before this show came into existence.  Louie’s masterful fourth season often felt like anything but a comedy; “Into the Woods” was a painfully dark and cathartic look into one of the most scarring periods of Louie’s childhood, and said ghosts re-emerging to haunt his daughter - will drugs destroy his parental relationship like they did with Louie’s mother?  The 6-part elevator series deconstructed the sitcom fling by separating the communication, physical attraction, and emotional fondness from each other to provide insight into both the nature of language itself and the aspects of Louie’s personal nature that hinders his ability to engage in long-term relationships.  Of course, i’d be remiss to not acknowledge the absurdist “Model” or heartfelt “So did the Fat Lady” - if anything, season four epitomized Louie’s unparalleled ability for strong tonal shifts from episode to episode.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 in Television

I don’t know if 2013 was the greatest year for Television, but I feel confident saying it was the most intriguing.  It’s definitely my personal favorite calendar year of television in my lifetime, and I can’t help but pay tribute to it.  Full disclosure: I watch way too much television for my educational good, but I also watch way too little television to give a holistic account of the best television of 2013.  Therefore this post is poorly written, incomplete, probably a waste of your time, and also incompetently formatted (although that's Blogger's fault, not mine); but at least these thoughts are now on paper and not stuck in my head, which is good for my own sanity.  Spoiler alert: this piece contains spoilers, so read at your own risk.  With all disclaimers out of the way, here are my eight personal favorite television episodes of 2013.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

On the 2012-13 NBA Season

On Andre Drummond:

                I never once saw Drummond play in college, but back in June I was hoping the Blazers would take him 6th overall.  My philosophy with drafting:  it’s better to roll the dice on a potential franchise changer, no matter how high the risk is, than to settle on a guaranteed role player whose contributions won’t mean anything in the absence of a star.  Even without having seen Drummond I felt that his physical gifts and immense ceiling rendered his expected value worth a top 5 pick, because as an NBA player’s talent/production increases linearly his big-picture value increases exponentially.

                With Damian Lillard about to win rookie of the year, this Blazers fan would still without hesitation take Lillard with the 6th pick if i had to re-do the draft – but that’s because Andre Drummond wouldn’t even be available with the 6th pick, or even the 3rd pick.  When I see him play I think he has Hakeem Olajuwon-like potential on defense, and even if his offensive game never evolves beyond finishing pick and rolls, lobs, and put-backs I think Drummond’s ability to wreak havoc on defense makes him a game and franchise changer.  Eventually he’ll be able to shut down the opponent’s low-post scoring offense, control the boards, and erase perimeter mistakes (and by extension allow his guards to play more aggressively with the risk of a blow-by drive mitigated).

                It’s still unclear how well he and Greg Monroe can function together offensively (with the team miles away from title contention it is imperative that management give the new coach a long enough leash to spend at least a year finding an answer to this question and accruing ping pong balls, even at the expense of wins).  I have a hunch that they could end up as perhaps a more athletic version of what Memphis has, but in any case let’s hope this splendid rookie year was an accurate estimator of the amount of Drummond’s copious potential that is destined to be fulfilled.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

On the rest of the NBA Season

On Blake Griffin:  If you dislike his on court antics, or the way he disputes every call and stares down refs and players after every play then that’s fine.  But I think the hate for him strictly as a player has gotten out of hand, and people keep calling him overrated that he’s become underrated.  I can’t believe he still has the rep of being strictly a dunker – he’s also a good rebounder, and he’s a wonderful passer and ball-handler for his position.  He doesn’t have much of a low post game but he has a good face up game and when he’s not settling for jump shots he’s an excellent offensive player.  Sure he isn’t as well-rounded as he could be, but he’s also not a one-dimensional player.  Also, none of his critics ever give him credit for the fact that he plays his ass off every night – he’s easily one of the most intense, driven and hard-working players in the league and he just needs to learn to channel that properly.  It also doesn’t help that just a 23 year old who hasn’t received any semblance of coaching in the past couple of years – Jeff Capel basically told him to play eight feet and in his entire Oklahoma career, and Vinny of the Black coaches probably the most simplistic “offense” I’ve ever seen in my life as a basketball fan; neither of them are any good at coaching defense and it’s painfully obvious when you watch Blake.  The effort is there, the foot speed and strength are there, but he just has no clue about rotations, help defense, or positioning.  If he were playing for a real organization, with a real coach, in the proper environment these issues, all of which are still quite fixable, wouldn’t be so glaring.  He hasn’t improved at all from last year, which is a bit disappointing, but to say he’s just a sideshow and strictly a highlight reel player is totally unfair.  So if you want to criticize him for having holes in his game of being a bit of a prick on the court that’s fine, but I’m just tired of hearing people over-criticize his actual game.

Monday, September 5, 2011

College Football Opening Weekend Ramblings

The NBA lockout is still here, and that kind of sucks – but at least the next four months will be ever so slightly bearable with college football back. My scrambled thoughts on an exciting as ever opening Saturday, starting with my favorite team to ever lose at home to Sacramento State:

· Oregon State: I don’t think the Everclear is strong enough – pour me a double shot of rubbing alcohol.

· Mississippi: Part of me wants to see Houston Nutt remain gainfully employed just so Boise State can get a free pass in next season’s opener. The coaching matchup will be kind of like seeing Stephen Hawking run circles around a toddler on a Calculus test – comically and entertainingly lopsided, fascinating in a sick and twisted way, yet oh so excruciatingly painful to watch. But if Ole Miss is serious about having a good program I’m not sure how they don’t fire Nutt – even they can do so much better.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Scottie Pippen: Greatness in a Nutshell

With the lockout upon us, and the future of the NBA as we know it up in the air I want to take some time to reflect on the sport and the league that I love so much, and all the players, teams, and moments that hold the most special places in my heart.

What better way to kick-start all my lockout posts with a tribute to my favorite basketball player of all-time – the incomparable Scottie Pippen. I have always felt and still feel that Scottie continues to receive far less due than he deserves – he remains eternally underappreciated, and I want to illuminate some of the qualities that endeared him so much to me. There has already been a lot written by much smarter basketball minds (and much more concise writers) than myself, and I only hope to add a few of my own thoughts to the blogosphere’s Pippen anthology, starting with all the things I loved about Scottie strictly as a basketball player:

Monday, May 30, 2011

2011 NBA FInals Preview - 2006, the sequel!

In 2004 nobody gave the Detroit Pistons a chance to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals. The Lakers had two all-time greats still in their primes, and they had won three of the last four titles; Detroit simply didn’t have enough talent on paper and would never be able to score enough points to keep up. You just don’t win a series when the other team has the two best players, right? Well normally you can’t. But in retrospect we ignored some obvious advantages – namely that Detroit had a transcendent defense that made more of an impact than any one player on the Lakers, that their bench and their team was significantly deeper and more versatile, that the coaching matchup was beyond unfair (Phil Jackson is an all-time great but he was on total vacation check for this series), and above all Detroit, a team full of castoffs and misfits, had an enormous chip on its shoulder that reared its head on every loose ball, every rebound, and every fourth quarter.

In 2011 nobody is giving Dallas a chance to beat Miami, not when Miami has the two best players in the league in their primes, not when Dallas simply lacks the talent to contain Miami. But are we ignoring a lot of smaller advantages that can allow Dallas to steal the series? Like their ridiculously efficient, borderline unstoppable offense? Like their ridiculous depth and versatility? Like their experience and vast array of hungry, rabid veterans who have been turned back on the biggest stages so many times and are desperate for redemption? Like their 7-foot assassin who transcends matchups and lifts his team to greater heights not quantified by the sum of their parts?

To me this will be an extremely close, hard-fought, exquisitely well-played series; and given all the subplots, storylines, and notoriety of the stars involved this could be a historically entertaining clash and the perfect way to close out this era of hoops before the lockout. With that here are my thoughts on what will decide the series.