SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who–The Return Of Doctor Mysterio; Carrie Fisher; Will & Grace; Gilmore Girls; Matt Smith On The Crown; Sherlock; Hollyweed

A Doctor Who Christmas Special is different from a regular episode. While there have been some exceptions, generally they are lighter and disconnected from the story lines of a particular season, making them something the entire family might watch even if they do not watch Doctor Who regularly. Keeping this in mind will answer some of the criticism I’ve seen of The Return of Doctor Mysterio, which worked fine as a Christmas story, even if light. It was not, and was not intended to be, a major story with profound ramifications for the mythology of the show. The show broke ratings records for BBC America.

The episode got its name because Peter Capaldi loved to refer to his character as he is referred to in Mexico, and it fit as it did include two times in which the Doctor returned to see Grant after he accidentally turned him into a superhero. Having the Doctor be responsible allowed for Steven Moffat to play with many troupes of superhero comics and movies without fully including superheroes as part of the Doctor Who universe. Instead it is superhero comics, and generally not superheroes, which are a part.

This was the first appearance of the Doctor (other than his brief cameo in Class) since last year’s Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song. While it was not necessary to have seen it, this episode is a direct continuation. Both episodes included a key situation involving not recognizing someone else. They also both involved  aliens exchanging heads or brains, and has the return of Matt Lucas as Nardole. Fortunately the Doctor’s many skills include the ability to reassemble Nardole’s head on his body, allowing him to become a valuable assistant after the twenty-four year night he spent with River Song before she met her fate in the library. Matt Lucas will remain a semi-regular in the upcoming season.

Moffat took advantage of his experience in writing the romantic sit-com Coupling. This was seen when he had the entire body of the adolescent superhero who couldn’t control his x-ray vision levitate, obviously representing the rise of something else. It was seen again in scenes with Grant and Lucy, especially when they had dinner on the roof, while Grant had to be in two places at once.

The roof-top dinner was a clear homage to the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman films. There were even panels from a Superman comic displayed early in the episode. How many collectors felt ill to see the Doctor deface what would now be a rare old comic by drawing glasses on Superman to show off how he figured out that Clark Kent is Superman, oblivious to the fact that everyone else already knows this (except for Lois Lane). It is just something we accept that wearing glasses keeps most people from figuring out his secret identity, but to the Doctor, “there are some situations which are too stupid to be allowed to continue.”

There were other ways in which this was a homage to Superman, including the double-L name of Lucy Lombard to match the names in DC comics. Moffat worked in the names of Siegel and Shuster, the creators of Superman, as names of employees at Harmony Shoals. There is a globe on top of the  building reminiscent of The Daily Planet.

Moffat didn’t limit himself to Superman comics. There are items from multiple DC and Marvel comics all over young Grant’s bedroom. The Ghost had aspects also comparable to Batman, including the look of the Ghost, his voice, and a reference to the bat signal. The advice, “With great power comes great responsibility,” comes from Uncle Ben’s advice to Peter Parker in Spider-Man. The Doctor reacted to Spider-Man’s origin in being bitten by a radioactive spider by expecting the signs of radiation poisoning. He considered himself to be the inspiration for superheroes with Doctor in their name.

There were other great moments in the episode, such as Lucy interrogating the Doctor by squeezing Mr. Huffle. I bet the BBC will be selling those toys in the future. I also liked the earlier scene when the Doctor came across Lucy, also spying on the aliens: “It’s okay. I’m an intruder too. Yeah, I brought snacks – mark of a pro. Keep listening.”  Plus there was the Doctor’s comment on the situation: “Brains with minds of their own? No-one will believe that – this is America.”

Yes, there was also an alien invasion, but this was a trivial aspect of the show, present to provide a backdrop for Grant’s story. This did make the episode seem a little disjointed at times, but the pleasure of seeing the classic superhero triangle of Grant, The Ghost, and Lucy made up for  this.

The episode ended with a teaser of the next season, and the new companion, Bill, played by Pearl Mackie.

Bill met the Doctor at a University and, contrary to previous rumors, is from the present. The trailer above does give some clues as to her personality and relationship with the Doctor. At this time we don’t know yet whether she will encounter the strangest aspect of being a companion to the Doctor, witnessing a regeneration.

The biggest genre related news of the week was the death of Carrie Fisher, followed the day later by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, dying, presumably of a broken heart. Carrie Fisher’s death was too big a story to wait for SciFi Weekend, and I posted about this story in greater detail here: Carrie Fisher Dies At 60, May The Force Be With Her Always.

Also this week, William Christopher, best known as Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H died.

It looks like NBC will be bringing back a ten episode revival of Will and Grace next fall.

Netflix dropped a hint raising speculation that there will be more of Gilmore Girls after the cliff hanger ending of A Year In The Life.

Bot Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman played British royalty in The Crown and Victoria in 2016. While Matt Smith’s role was not as big as Jenna Coleman’s, his portrayal of Prince Phillip was an entertaining aspect of The Crown. Radio Times reports that Matt Smith will continue to have a major role in season two of The Crown:

You might think you know what’s coming next in Netflix’s The Crown: after all, the life of the most famous family in the country is not exactly untold history and requires no spoiler alerts.

But with the making of season two, creator Peter Morgan has revealed how he plans to continue the story of Elizabeth’s reign – and the focus will shift away from the Queen herself as other royals take centre stage.

“We start to focus on Charles as a young boy and his education, and on Philip and his back story,” Morgan told People magazine.

Matt Smith’s Prince Philip was one of the most engaging characters in the first season as he struggled to adjust to his wife (played by Claire Foy) becoming Queen. The production team has recently been in South Africa, filming part of Philip’s Commonwealth tour which took him away from his wife and young family for months.

Executive producer Suzanne Mackie teased: “We glance backward to Philip’s childhood and his upbringing, and how that might have impacted him as a man, a father and as Prince Consort – which is fascinating.”

Diana won’t be appearing until season three.

Sherlock season four premieres tonight. Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis warn that it had people sobbing in an interview with The Sun:

We’ve watched the first episode and we really felt as though something bad was going to happen…
Mark: It’s prefigured. You start with the sharks and then you go into lots of light-hearted fun. But it’s important to think: ‘This is not going to end well.’ I was listening to people sobbing in our first press screening – that’s a very good reaction.

Are you two still moved to tears, despite knowing what’s coming up?
Mark: Oh, I cry every time with episode one. That one shows what fun the duo have, but that events have consequences… It’s about the past coming to get you. And there are at least two scenes in episode two that make me cry. And I always cry at a certain point in episode three…
Steven: Episode three is the finale of finales…

You have said that this is not the last series. Have you got the next one mapped out?
Steven: It’s slightly early to be talking about season five when season four hasn’t been on yet. But no one can really end the story of Sherlock Holmes, can they?
Mark: We’d like to carry on. We just don’t know.

Finally in show business, including Hollywood, news, someone changed the famous Hollywood sign to read “Hollyweed” last night. This happened once before in 1976 following the passage of a California marijuana law.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; Sherlock; Doctor Who; DC Shows; Gilmore Girls

star-trek-discovery-fuller

Variety reports that Bryan Fuller has stepped down as show runner of Star Trek Discovery.

The decision was made late last week to hand the day-to-day showrunning reins to “Star Trek” exec producers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts as “Discovery” gears up for the start of filming next month and a May 2017 premiere date. Fuller, who will remain an executive producer, will still be involved in breaking stories, and the show will continue to follow his vision for the universe that this latest “Trek” series will inhabit. Writer-director Akiva Goldsman is also expected to join “Discovery” in a top creative role…

Sources said there had been some strain between “Star Trek” producer CBS Television Studios and Fuller over the progress of production on the show, as Fuller is also juggling the final weeks of shooting and post-production duties on Starz’s upcoming drama “American Gods” and prepping a reboot of “Amazing Stories” for NBC. Fuller has penned the first two scripts for “Discovery” and has hammered out the broader story arc and mythology for the new “Trek” realm

It was previously announced that the show will have a female lead. The Hollywood Reporter has information on the rest of the crew: “the rest of the cast also will feature an openly gay actor as one of the male leads (which Fuller confirmed), a female admiral, a male Klingon captain, a male admiral, a male adviser and a British male doctor.”

It is now official that Sherlock will return in the US and the UK on January 1. Trailer above.

Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the first regeneration of Doctor Who when William Hartnell was replaced by Patrick Troughton. Now we anticipate such changes, but it sure must have been a surprise to viewers to see the lead in the show change in such a unique manner.

Inverse looks at what we know so far about the upcoming superhero-themed Doctor Who Christmas Special (sneak peak video above):

“The Christmas specials generally always have a kind of warmer feel … this Christmas special that we’ve done … has caught the feeling of that kind of superhero movie,” Capaldi said in new sneak-peak from BBC America. He also called this superhero “ironic” and “funny,” but made it clear that this would be a legit superhero story in that it would be “quite exciting.”

The new clip from BBC America isn’t a full trailer, so we don’t have much new information about the superhero, still only mysteriously known as “Grant.” Reiterating his previous comments from New York Comic Con, Who showrunner Steven Moffat said that he feels the best superhero story is still “Clark Kent,” which doubles-down on the idea that this story and “Grant” in particular will be more focused on a secret identity than a story about superpowers.

Humans returns on Channel 4 this week. Den of Geek has interviews with members of the the cast.

107117_d0623b_f2a203e8_5668e0045fff44-688523391

The Hollywood Reporter looks at what happened on the DC shows on Fox and The CW Network last week. This includes the revelation on Gotham that Penguin is gay, and speculation that Alex Danvers on Supergirl is also gay. We have a new version of Harrison Wells (who presumably will turn out to be evil) and the return of Killer Frost on The Flash. We are going to get yet another superhero on Arrow with District Attorney Adrian Chase becoming Vigilante. Legends of Tomorrow potentially has major changes for Ray Palmer (unless he just rebuilds his A.T.O.M. suit) and a mysterious warning from Barry Allen of 2056.

Movie Fone has additional news on the CW shows.

If there wasn’t already far too many genre related shows to keep up with, Greg Berlanti of CW’s DC superhero shows and Jason Rothenberg, show runner of The 100, are working together on a new show for The CW Network. Deadline reports:

Written by Rothenberg, Searchers is about a group of unlikely heroes who find themselves on the journey of a lifetime. Ten years after the death of their parents, a pragmatic brother and free spirited sister are forced to team up when they learn that their mother’s terrifying and bizarre stories may be a road map to discovering the great legends, myths, and unexplainable mysteries of the world.

Girlmore Girls returns on Friday, November 25. Perfect for an all-nighter after Thanksgiving dinner, and can be completed with plenty of time to spare before the Michigan-Ohio State game. Netflix released the official trailer above, complete with Wonder Woman and mention of Superman.

Gilmore girls makes its much-anticipated return with four memorable chapters from the lives of Lorelai, Emily, Rory and countless more Stars Hollow stalwarts. Picking up nine years after we last dropped in on the whimsical Connecticut town, Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life finds each of our leading ladies at a major crossroad: Lorelai’s relationship with Luke is at an unnerving standstill; Rory’s budding journalism career in New York has stalled before it’s even begun; and Emily’s world is turned upside down following the untimely passing of her beloved husband, Richard.

Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life is told through four 90-minute chapters — each spanning one season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall — and brings back to life everything from the quaint corner diner to the dreamy Dragonfly Inn to a fast-talking, quick-witted mother-daughter love story unlike any other. Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life launches Friday, November 25, everywhere that Netflix is available.

Talks are underway for a possible new season of Will and Grace.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD; The 100; Supergirl; Person of Interest; The End of Parenthood and Parks and Recreation & The Decline of NBC; 12 Monkeys; Netflix Marvel Series; The Americans; Sleepy Hollow; The End of The Marvel Universe; The Humor Of Sarah Palin; Mellisa Raunch Sex Scene

Agents of Shield Coulson Skye

Agents of SHIELD has come a long way from the first season. While they always hinted there was something special about Skye, they didn’t have the payoff on this plotline until the midseason finale with her conversion to an Inhuman. This might have major ramifications for her relationship with Coulson:

Executive producer Jeph Loeb says that the current Inhumans plotline has always been the plan for “Agents of SHIELD.” Like they always knew that Grant Ward was going to be HYDRA in Season 1, the seeds of Skye being something other were planned in the pilot.

“Once we started down that road hopefully you were coming along for the adventure, and now that you’ve come along for the adventure one of the things that’s so amazing about what’s happening on that show is so now we know she has gone through a transformation,” he says. “How is everyone going to react to that? And in the same kind of way you’re asking as an audience member, one of the things that I think is really valuable and one of the things that I think Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] and Jeff Bell and the writing staff really do have a great feeling for is they are audience members. The writers room sits around and tries to come up with, ‘What is it that you think we’re going to do and how can we then turn that on its ear in a way that makes it feel like it’s fun and valuable?'”

Blood says “SHIELD” has often gone in a different ways from what he expected. He says the latest script he read “just turned another corner,” and that audiences will “be surprised of a lot of stuff that’s coming up.” Because the SHIELD team doesn’t know about the term “Inhumans” like audiences do, Blood says “it’s going to be something that is unraveled.” He has yet to find out where the storyline is going.

The obvious turn would be that Coulson helps Skye — someone Gregg says is the “the person he cares about most” — through her transformation into an Inhuman. But what if he views her as a threat instead of an ally because of her new powers?

“His no. 1 job is to be responsible for SHIELD, which he views as being responsible for the safety of billions of people from things they don’t know about. That’s what SHIELD is. No matter how much he loves Skye — and it’s as much as you can love somebody — it’s the closest thing to a daughter he has. That’s a sacred trust,” Gregg says. “I hope he doesn’t get put in that situation [where she is a threat] because it would mess him up.”

He teases there will be trouble within SHIELD in the aftermath of Trip’s death and Skye’s transformation. “I don’t think the whole team is going to be unified behind what just went on, and it’s hard to blame them. He’s got a couple of people that he’s come to really trust,” Gregg says. “One of my favorite things about this season is that everybody comes up to me on the street really worried about Fitz and these new characters we introduced this year. Coulson also has these new people … he doesn’t have the same type of history with those people. It’s going to be hard to hold the baby brand new, on the run SHIELD together in the wake of what just happened.”

There’s also the question of Bobbi’s secret, which Blood says is as big a mystery in the second half of Season 2 as who the man with no eyes is. “I honestly think people are going to freak when they see some of the stuff we’ve been filming recently,” he says.

The 100
The 100 returned last week and the events of the fall finale continued to have a major impact on the characters. While I originally did not watch this show, thinking it was another CW show putting attractive young people in a sci-fi scenario which has been done before, I found that this was far better done than I anticipated.

Yes, it does have its attractive young cast members, led by Eliza Taylor as Clarke Griffin, who does an excellent job in the role. (Having binged on the first one and one-half seasons over a weekend, I did notice that Eliza Taylor does show less cleavage in the second season, which must have been a conscious decision by the producers considering that the characters couldn’t just run out to clothing stores in this post-apocalyptic world to change their wardrobe). There are also the CW love triangles, but they do not distract from the stories. Both the characterization and plot lines have been strong, even when going where other shows have gone before. Bustle and The Mary Sue both have posts on why you should watch the show.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Actress-Melissa-Benoist

CBS has chosen Melissa Benoist to play the lead role on Supergirl. Previous reports on the show have described it as more of a CBS procedural with Supergirl as a feminist investigating crimes, but with cross overs possible with the CW shows Arrow and The Flash.

CBS is showing success with another mixture between procedural and genre with Person of Interest. The show started out as a procedural show with a science fiction gimmick to propel it, and has evolved to what might be seen in the future as “a modern sci-fi epic that is considered a must-see show along the lines of Firefly or Battlestar Galactica…”

Many blogs and podcasts, along with this thread on Reddit, have looked at the question of how someone could get caught up with the show without watching all the old episodes. The purely procedural episodes of the first two seasons are mostly unnecessary to appreciate the more recent episodes since the show evolved into a more significant science fiction series, but it is hard to say exactly what can be skipped and must be watched as often early episodes would have a few minute segment towards the end to slowly develop the mythology in addition to the number of the week story.

There have been some posts, such as here and here, which might help in listing some of the more essential episodes. It would really be helpful if some of the other mythology segments which are only small parts of other episodes could be accumulated in a video.

Parks and Recreation

Time looked at the politics of Parks and Recreation, which is concluding its run on NBC.

But there’s a big idea in Parks’ small-scale vision. In the frame of today’s politics, it might be a liberal notion, but it’s one that for much of the 20th century was centrist, and even championed by Republicans like park lover Teddy Roosevelt: that we need government to do things the private sector can’t or won’t, like preserving public spaces.

Shockingly, Parks has dared to suggest that while some civil servants might be bumbling–sorry, Jerry!–they can also be well-intentioned and competent. (This too wasn’t considered a liberal notion before the era when Ronald Reagan joked that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”) Leslie is comically tenacious–Poehler plays her as a cheerfully overprepared super-wonk–but she’s good at what she does and is driven by a fierce love for her hometown as well as its famous waffles…

Leslie can’t do it alone, though: she’s assisted by a network of co-workers and friends (played by a comedy-powerhouse cast, many of whom–like Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza and Aziz Ansari–have deservingly become stars). Even her former supervisor Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) admires Leslie’s commitment, even though he’s so libertarian, he once illustrated the evils of taxation to a fourth grader by eating 40% of her lunch. Parks argues not only that we need our neighbors’ help but that helping makes us better ourselves; it’s in the small-town, populist tradition of Friday Night Lights and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Parenthood Series Finale

When I recently posted my list of top television shows of the year, I noted how little representation the major broadcast networks had on the list. Perhaps the biggest decline is being seen at NBC. They will soon be without two of their highest quality returning shows. Besides trying to run through Parks and Recreation as quickly as possible,  Parenthood concludes this week, apparently with Lorelei Gilmore marrying Ray Romano. If it ends with Zeke dying, I’m imaging angry mobs storming Rockefeller Center. After these are gone they will still have some shows worth watching, most notably Hannibal, which I’m amazed a network is broadcasting, but the lineup of quality shows will sure be thin. Their announcements of upcoming shows is being greeted with far more snark than interest.

In the past NBC would often be the home of some of the highest quality drama shows on television, such as The West WingFriday Night Lights, I’ll Fly Away, and St. Elsewhere. They probably had better ratings success with some, but not all of their sitcoms, which included shows such as Cheers, Frasier, Friends, Community, 30 Rock, and Will and Grace. Going further back, it was also the home of some classic genre shows such as the original Star Trek and The Man From UNCLE. (We won’t talk about some of their more recent attempts at genre such as Revolution, The Cape and Heroes after the first season.)

So, what happened to NBC? I suspect that that it is a victim of otherwise good changes in television. Writers and producers for many high quality shows are now going to cable and streaming networks, where they can develop an audience without the need for netw0rk-level ratings. (In the case of Community, it is moving directly from NBC following cancellation by NBC, with the first two episodes to be streamed by Yahoo! on March 17.) It will be a challenge for NBC to attract this type of quality show in the future, and it is questionable as to whether they even care considering that lower quality shows will probably deliver higher ratings.

Increasingly cable or smaller networks owned by the major networks are offering higher quality shows than the major networks. FX and FXX are offering some of the best shows on basic cable. CBS has Showtime and CW, with The CW Network  turning into one of the strongest networks, especially for genre, as it attracts a totally different audience than CBS. NBC/Universal have even lagged behind other cable networks which have produced better science fiction than its Syfy Network.

12Monkeys_gallery_102Recap_04

Syfy is finally trying to compete with hard science fiction. 12 Monkeys remains promising after the second episode, which aired Friday and was available for streaming last week. With Leland Goines dead, his daughter Jennifer becomes a major character. Her character in an insane asylum serves as an alternate version of the Brad Pitt character in the movie. As discussed previously, the television show can cover far more ground with changes such as having the ability to change time and with the Army of the 12 Monkeys playing a more significant role.

I saw a posted link here which supposedly allows streaming of the third episode for cable subscribers in the United States but it would not allow viewing through either my Charter or Xfinity account. I’m posting the link in case it works for other cable systems, or if it becomes active later. The first two episodes are available for streaming there.

the_defenders_poster___marvel_netflix_series_by_tchallacbm-d78ic4v

Netflix has released a brief synopsis for their upcoming Marvel shows. While previous reports suggested that we might have to wait a year between shows, it looks like the Jessica Jones show (staring Krysten Ritter) will be out sometime later this year.

Daredevil
“Marvel’s Daredevil” is a live action series that follows the journey of attorney Matt Murdock, who in a tragic accident was blinded as a boy but imbued with extraordinary senses. Murdock sets up practice in his old neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, New York where he now fights against injustice as a respected lawyer by day and masked vigilante at night. Coming April 10

A.K.A. Jessica Jones
Working as a private investigator in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, a troubled ex-superhero’s past comes back to haunt her in the live-action series, “Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones.” Coming 2015

Iron Fist
“Marvel’s Iron Fist” follows superhero and martial arts master Danny Rand in the upcoming live-action series. Coming soon

Luke Cage
In this Marvel live-action series, a street-fighting ex-con battles crime in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen as the superhero Luke Cage. Coming soon

The Defenders
“Marvel’s The Defenders” brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage in an epic superhero team-up in New York City. Coming soon

The Americans returns this week. Unreality Primetime has a couple spoilers on upcoming episodes. The season three trailer is above.

Can Henry be redeemed? The cast of Sleepy Hollow answer questions such as this in videos available here.

The Marvel universe ends as we know it in the comics this spring.

Who needs Tina Fey to mock Sarah Palin? Her own words are ridiculous enough. Check out the reaction to her latest speech from Twitter.

bronze

Melissa Raunch of The Big Bang Theory has received a lot of attention at Sundance for her raunchy sex scene in The Bronze.

“The Bronze” kicked off the 2015 edition of the Sundance Film Festival on a foul-mouthed note Thursday, sticking a dagger through the concept of hometown heroes and providing one of the raunchiest sex sequences in movie history.

The scene in question, one that involves pole vaults, cartwheels and pirouettes, was a constant source of amusement during a question and answer period immediately following the film’s premiere at the Eccles Theater.

“Right after this there’s going to be an audition for the sex scene in the sequel,” joked director Bryan Buckley.

Melissa Rauch, the star of the film and its cowriter along with husband Winston Rauch, said, “As for the sex scene, you write what you know.”

Her husband added that it gave the couple a chance to “show you what we do in our bedroom.”

Right Wing News Should Boost Traffic With Nude Obama and Palin Pics

naked-obama-unicorn

It is always amusing to see what types of search words bring in people from search engines. Obviously there are always lots of mundane searches such as Obama’s position on Medicare Advantage plans, but it is the non-political searches which are most amusing to read. Via Memeorandum I see that Right Wing News should do very well in the search engines after some of their recent posts.

The internet is often described as the world’s greatest repository of porn, and even tamer material dealing with women, sex, or nudity brings in plenty of attention. Paris Hilton is always popular and there is a huge surge in searches for pictures of Tim Tebow’s girlfriend whenever he is playing in big games. (Come to think of it, huge and big often play a part in that search). Britney Spears’ appearance on Will and Grace led to searches for poodle balling which still continue. There was a brief burst in searches for this nude picture of Jenna Elfman last week.Years after their appearance on Survivor, Heidi and Jenna remain popular searches.

The searches terms become even more amusing when they are not for items actually on the blog. Google and the other search engines often provide hits based upon words in close proximity. Due to having Buck Naked Politics in the blog roll and/or sometimes even using the word naked in a post, there are frequent hits for a wide variety of people naked. There are a tremendous number of hits for Emma Watson Naked. The actual post mentions Emma Watson but has a picture of Scarlett Johansson.

While for some reason I seem to get more hits for Emma Watson Naked than anyone else (with a bit of interest after she discussed posing nude) anybody can be part of such a search. During the primary campaign there was a tremendous number of searches leading here for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton naked. There were no nude pictures of either, but plenty of posts on both. In Hillary Clinton’s case this did include the famous cleavage controversy. This picture of Natalie Portman next to Hillary Clinton also received some attention.

While those looking for nude pictures of politicians generally do not find what they are looking for in a Google search, they now have an opportunity thanks to Right Wing News. They are now providing drawings of a naked Obama on a unicorn along with Sarah Palin, as well as a nude drawing of Michelle. There’s also more at Boing Boing.

Knowing the interest of internet users in naked people, I’m sure that Right Wing News and all others discussing these pictures will see an increase in traffic. Now I’ll sit back and see how popular this post becomes.

SciFi Friday (Saturday Edition): Jericho, Torchwood, and Britney

It was a slow week with Lost on hiatus, Torchwood off for a week on the BBC, and shows such as Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica being on the verge of returning with new episodes. Battlestar Galactica is airing a recap show in case someone wants to begin watching with the final season. (You will still have missed quite a bit with a thirty minute recap only touching the surface.)

The major event of the week was the series finale of Jericho. The finale, Patriots and Tyrants, had to wrap up a series which had already been condensed into seven episodes. My suspicion is that the season would have been much better if there was more time for each plot thread to play out as opposed to quickly presenting major events before fully seeing the impact on prior events.

The ending left things open for a continuation, with there remaining some possibility that the SciFi Channel or CW might pick up the series. This is hardly surprising as even though they did not leave without a cliff hanger they had created a country which was drastically changed, leaving plenty of room for future development. Executive Producer Carol Barbee provided some information as to what the finale would have been like if they had gone with the other ending prepared for if the show had been picked up. The show’s official web site also contains photos from the episode with a scene I do not recall (one above) making me wonder if it is something which was present in the other version.

One aspect of the rushed season I didn’t like was the minimal treatment of the John Smith subplot. It came as no surprise that he turned out to be a bad guy but we ultimately found out too little about him. In many ways his addition actually weakened the narrative for the final episodes. Jericho was becoming a commentary on Iraq and contemporary America with Jennings and Rall taking on the role of an even more powerful Halliburton. The viewers, and later characters like Beck, saw that something was rotten with the new government and there was the implication that there was a connection between them and the destruction of twenty-three American cities.

Until John Smith took credit for the nuclear explosions, the suspicion was that Jennings and Rall might have been responsible for the attack in order to take over. Instead John Smith claimed he did so in order to rid the country of the influence of Jennings and Rall. This still leaves the Allied States government with problems, but they are not as evil as they were appearing at one point. Without time to develop Smith, it would have been better for the attack to have come from J&R as at least we would have had known something about them. In John Smith’s case we saw far too little of the person who was identified to be the show’s ultimate villain.

Another question is why the bomb was brought to Cheyenne as opposed to a military base, especially considering that it was being transported out of the city shortly after it arrived. This was clearly done to give them an excuse to show Cheyenne, but it helped reduce the believability of the finale. The conclusion in which Texas is expected to join with the Columbus government in a civil war against Cheyenne would have been stronger if we had seen more evidence that the other two governments did not suffer from problems similar to those in Cheyenne. How does Jake and Hawkins really know that the other two would turn out any better?


Torchwood only has one more episode this season (with others still to be shown on BBC America) but it looks like there will be a bonus episode which we do not get to actually see. Digital Spy reports:

Bridging the gap between an apparently apocalyptic end to its second season and the potentially-revamped third, sexy alien-hunter show Torchwood is making the jump to radio. A special one-off episode about the secret organization that guards a “temporal rift” in Cardiff will be transmitted on BBC Radio 4 this summer — and it happens to be oddly topical, if you’re a science geek.

In the 45 minute episode, to be broadcast in Radio 4’s traditional “Afternoon Play” slot, the Torchwood team – portrayed by their television cast – will deal with a mission revolving around a particle accelerator. Why a particle accelerator, you ask? Well, because the episode will be transmitted on the same day as the opening of the world’s biggest particle accelerator in Switzerland, and if nothing else, Radio 4 likes to keep up with what’s happening in the world.

Having Britney Spears on How I Met Your Mother might have paid off as it led to the highest ratings for the season and greatly increasing its chances for renewal. Otherwise the episode was a disappointment, with Sarah Chalke (who replace Alicia Silverstone, who was originally planned to appear) having a much more significant role. Britney was undoubtedly added purely for her name and her minor role could have easily been filled by an unknown actress.

I expected more of her role considering her guest appearance on Will and Grace. On Will and Grace she started out appearing to be a conservative but then revealed that this was just an act as she said, “I’m not who you think I am. My real name is Peg. And I’m a hardcore lesbian. I’m into leather play, butch white girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling. Whatever you got, I’ll eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby.” Imagine Barney’s reaction to this type of Britney Spears character.

Poodle Balling and Blogging

This began as a brief discussion in the comments on another post, but which has shifted to some interesting discussion on blog traffic, stat counters, and RSS feeds with a few bloggers by email. It raised a number of points which I though should be elevated from the comments to a main post. This began when I was alerted of a slur elsewhere. While I haven’t verified this, the points raised remain of interest even if the attack didn’t actually occur.

The discussion began with reports of a claim being made that Liberal Values gets most of its hits by searches for “poodle balling.” If so, that would be the interpretation of someone who is ignorant of both math and how search engines work.

At the time of the first comment, 84 out of the last 4000 hits came from searches for “poodle balling.” Poodle balling is mentioned on the blog due to quoting from the episode of Will and Grace with Britney Spears. Britney plays a character who acts as if she is a right winger, but then confesses: “I’m not who you think I am. My real name is Peg. And I’m a hardcore lesbian. I’m into leather play, butch white girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling. Whatever you got, I’ll eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby.”

As a consequence of quoting this, about 2% of the hits involved searches for poodle balling. As this is a specific phrase, those looking for it generally put ‘poodle balling’ into the search engine exactly the same way. There are also thousands of searches based on specific political questions. These account for the vast majority of searches to the blog, but each individual search was only used once or twice, so these don’t rank as high as searches for ‘poodle balling’ or for other leading searches such as Paris Hilton and Heroes.

Incidentally, one of the top searches at the blog where this claim was allegedly made is for “Ann Coulter Nude.” Before anyone gets too excited, or repulsed, it is a picture of a monster without clothes. (Literally a monster, not Ann Coulter.)

This is one of the reasons I pay more attention to RSS subscribers than hits on the blog. Those who subscribe to the RSS feed are interested in the content of the blog. With search engine hits we get primarily people searching for meaningful comments, but there’s always a fair number of other searches. That is not to say that looking for discussion of Britney’s appearance on Will and Grace isn’t a decent reason to search for the blog. After all, there is a substantial amount here on non-political topics such as television, and Britney’s appearance on Will and Grace did have its political aspects.

It’s also interesting to look at search words ranked by visit length as opposed to visit number. As people looking for non-political topics generally visit briefly, the topics on this search are generally more serious ones. Current top searches include “growing libertarianism among the liberals” and individuals such as Ron Paul, Michael Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani. However “poodle balling” still leads this list, indicating that people searching for “poodle balling” wound up reading much more of the blog.

The portion above was already noted in the comments, but this raised more questions regarding RSS readers as opposed to stat counters and the strategy of using RSS readers. Some argued for only placing a portion of a blog post on the RSS feed, forcing readers to click through to the main post. In contrast, I have preferred to place the entire post on the feed. My feeling is that I would rather have 3000 people reading the entire post on in their RSS reader, as opposed to stopping at the end of a brief excerpt, and it doesn’t matter whether they click through and are seen by the stat counter. Of course those who hope to maximize ad revenue by increasing hits may have reason to limit what is on the RSS feed.

Another topic of debate was the value of page loads versus unique readers, and there was really no clear answer. On the one hand, fifteen separate people who come to read the blog might be more meaningful than one person checking the comments to a post fifteen times during the day. On the other hand, one person who follows the links and reads fifteen old posts is more meaningful than fifteen people who quickly come from a search engine but wind up not reading much on the blog. Even that is difficult to determine since, as I noted above, even many of the people searching for “poodle balling” wound up sticking around to read more of the blog.

It’s almost a running joke in the blogoshere that if you put up a picture of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan the hits will increase. We seemed to have figured out a little more as to why that sometimes happens and sometimes does not. The major variable appears to be how the picture comes up in search engines such as Google and MSN which allow searches for pictures. There are typically multiple copies of each photo on line, and some sites with the picture wind up coming up earlier and some several pages back, obviously determining whether this results in a flood of hits. Nobody involved in the discussion was clear on how this worked, but most likely it involves the usual web search karma which determines what winds up higher in a search.

Exit Polls and the Britney Factor

It’s the first time after 5:00, when the keepers of the exit polls were to be set free, that I’ve had a chance to check on line. Not surprisingly there are rumored reports of the exit polls everywhere. Different sites are offering contradictory reports, which doesn’t matter much since they aren’t all that accurate any ways in close races. All reports from liberal blogs with results show enough wins to take the Senate even if they disagree on the specifics. If I had more time at present I’d check the conservative sites and see if they have the same rumors. Regardless, we should have some real results in a couple of hours. (Update: There’s getting to be more consistency among the unsubstantiated rumors at least. Most sites now spreading rumors that Democrats winning all the key battlegrounds except Ford is narrowly behind. If true, this would give the Democrats the Senate.)

Update: Reportedly exit polls are showing corruption is the number one issue for voters, which wouldn’t be good for Republicans. Of course after 2004 the number one issue was moral values until they reexamined and found that it wasn’t. Reportedly Democrats are optimistic and Republicans are fearful, but it doesn’t take exit polls to suggest that.

The only hard news we have so far tonight is that Britney Spears (photo here) is divorcing Kevin Federline and wants the kids. The question is which Britney this is. If this was the Britney who guest starred on Will and Grace (“I’m not who you think I am. My real name is Peg. And I’m a hardcore lesbian. I’m into leather play, butch white girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling. Whatever you got, I’ll eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby.”) it might suggest a moral backlash favoring the Republicans. However as this is the real Britney, who once said “we should just trust our president in every decision he makes,” I suggest this is a bad omen for Republicans and they will do poorly tonight. Sure it’s meaningless, but so are those rumored exit polls.

While I hope the rumored exit polls are true, the only winner I’m willing to project so far is Kevin Federline. Congratulations, Kevin.

The New Puritanicalism


It seems that everywhere I look this week people are using attacks on sex to replace true political discourse. Earlier this week Pamela Leavey and Ginny Cotts of The Democratic Daily used the fact that I have incluced magazine covers such as the Harper’s Bazaar cover of Britney Spears above in blog posts on popular culture and the media as some sort of “justification” for their defense of Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism and for preventing me from condemning Gibson’s anti-Semitism when I was a writer on that blog. At the time I thought it was a totally irrational and irrelevant argument. Apparently I missed something. Pamela and Ginny have turned out to be trend setters as a new Puritanicalism has become the “in technique” of character assassination being used by Republicans.

One prominent example was George Allen quoting sexually graphic passages from Jim Webb’s novels. These included passages such as this one from Lost Soldiers:

“A shirtless man walked toward them along a mud pathway. His muscles were young and hard, but his face was devastated with wrinkles. His eyes were so red that they appeared to be burned by fire. A naked boy ran happily toward him from a little plot of dirt. The man grabbed his young son in his arms, turned him upside down, and put the boy’s penis in his mouth.”

This book is clearly shocking to Republicans, except to John McCain, who Publishers Weekly reports endorsed the book: “Webb (Fields of Fire) is no stranger to the bestseller lists; endorsements from heavy hitters like Sen. John McCain will help put him there once again.” Hotline reports McCain also had a blurb on the back cover of the book. Presumably this will be the main issue in the 2008 race should McCain enter it.

Maureen Dowd sums up the Virginia race by writing, “So the Old Dominion race now comes down to one guy denying he’s a racist and the other denying he’s a sexist, and the supposed sexist attacking the supposed racist as a sexist.” She notes the change in Republican political strategy:

The Republicans’ usual trick — having Dick Cheney terrify women into thinking that terrorists will kill their children if they vote for girly Democrats — isn’t flying this year, so now the G.O.P. is resorting to more personal, and goofy, attacks.

Republicans have also launched commercials against Harold Ford accusing him of attending “parties with lingerie-clad Playboy Playmates while he also films political ads in a church.” One of the ads ends with a scantily clad woman saying, “Harold, call me!”

Fortunately the Democrats are on top of these attacks. It might have taken the party five years to respond to the false Republican claims of keeping the country safe after 9/11, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is firm in their defense on this one. They sent out the following talking points:

  • In 1981, Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife Lynne wrote a book called Sisters, which featured a lesbian love affair, brothels and attempted rapes. In 1988, Lynne Cheney wrote about a Republican vice president who dies of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress.
  • Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich co-wrote a thriller called 1945, featuring such titillations as biting foreplay, “pouting sex kitten,” “exotic mistress” and “after-bout inhalation.” At one point, the mistress of the president’s chief of staff sits “athwart” her lover’s chest and hisses that he must tell her a secret “or I will make you do terrible things.”
  • In 1996, former Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby wrote The Apprentice, a novel that includes references to bestiality, pedophilia and rape.
  • In 1999, former GOP Governor William Weld said of his book, Big Ugly, “I think of the theme of this book is sex and money meets the great outdoors.” Weld’s thriller included sex, bribery and murder.
  • This week, it was discovered that a Republican statewide candidate in Texas, Susan Combs, wrote a romance novel “full of steamy sex scenes.” The book’s heroine is “a freckle-faced brunette” who is drawn to “the gray-eyed bodyguard” and his “powerful, strong arms,” and desires him to “fill the aching void at her center,” where a “deep heaviness throbbed in her belly.”

Personally I find it a relief to find that those Republicans aren’t all that Puritanical after all. As for America, all I can say is that the Britney Spears cover above is the number one search engine hit on this blog. Make that not just America but the world as this picture regularly receives hits from virtually everywhere, including those countries where women are expected to wear burkas and this type of cover would never be allowed. Review of search engine hits also confirms that America is still trying to figure out what Britney Spears meant by “poodle balling” on her appearance on Will and Grace. Of course such searches receive an exaggerated prominence as they are popular searches for a unique term, while there are hundreds of variations of searches for various political issues, with each individual one having a relatively low percentage of hits.

Update: It’s been brought to my attention that The Democratic Daily repeated their attack with a rather hypocritical post in which any sexual reference in a book by a Democratic politician is acceptable as while any sexual reference or photo in my posts on popular culture, the media, or what drives the blogoshere is somehow not acceptable. You cannot have it both ways, but somehow Pamela believes she is the judge of when it is right and when it is not right to report on matters involving sex.

It is also worth repeating that these attacks from The Democratic Daily remain a warped response to my criticism of their defense of anti-Semitic comments. Pamela Leavey never complained about any of these posts in the past, but suddently she thought that raising these personal attacks on me would distract from the support given to anti-Semitism on her blog. As she has no defense for her actions, she is playing the Republican attack game.

Emmy Night

The Emmy Awards are coming up tonight. Even though it was greater during the Sorkin years, I’m rooting for The West Wing to go out with some major awards. Its a shame that the Lauren Graham Rule didn’t do enough. Some deserving shows and individuals are not going to be recognized tonight.

I’ve already reposted some of my old blog posts on Gilmore Girls and several science fiction shows. To get in the mood for the Emmys I’ll add some other old television posts, including The West Wing, 24, and Alias, below the fold.

UPDATE: Alan Alda wins as Arnold Vinick

(more…)

Americans Know Their Pop Culture


As someone who goes to Walt Disney World virtually every year I see nothing wrong with the fact that 77% of Americans can identify two of Snow White’s dwarfs. I even have many of their autographs. I am bothered, but not surprised, that only 24% could identify two Supreme Court justices. This is one of the results of a Zogby Poll on popular culture released yesterday. Perhaps they are confused by the fact that the last two Supreme Court justices were appointed by Dopey.
Maybe we can understand why 73% could identify the Three Stooges while only 42% could identify the three branches of government considering that the leaders of each branch might be seen as a contemporary version of the Three Stooges. I do not find ths poll surprising considering that one of my posts from The Democratic Daily which received the most hits was on Britney Spears and poodle balling following her appearance on Will and Grace (This is reprinted under the fold, along with the nude Britney Spears magazine cover in an attempt at blatant blog whoring to increase search engine hits). Is George Bush bucking this trend, or putting on an act, by reading Camus?

I am a great believer in cultural literacy, but this should include both true culture as well as pop culture. It appears that I’m in the minority by being more familiar with the Iliad and Odyssey than Homer Simpson. I also differ from the majority in knowing that Mercury is the closest planet to the sun while also knowing that Krypton was the birth place of Superman (along with being familiar with Vulcan, Barsoom, Caprica, Gallifrey, Tralfamadore, and Bajor).

While knowledge of pop culture is fine this must not replace knowledge of history, science, literature, and current events. Such ignorance leads to a population which does not understand when the government is violating the principles this country was founded on. This explains a country in which many believe Saddam had WMD before the war or was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Lack of understanding of science (as well as the separation of church and state) allows Americans to be conned by arguments supporting the teaching of intelligent design in the schools.
(more…)