Friday, May 14, 2010

Must Go Faster! I Met Jeff Goldblum! Plus: FRINGE Goes Insane! And More!

So this week, I had a true only-in-Hollywood moment. Throughout the week, The Cable Show has been taking place here in LA. The show is a huge gathering of cable industry types from across the country, and this year's event was headquartered in downtown LA. I am kind of on the fringes of the cable world, as I am more on the digital side of things - but there's crossover in my group, as some of my colleagues work closely with the big cable companies to manage the relationships with their on-demand platforms and such. Anyways, our whole group was invited to attend the show's big party on Wednesday night, at Universal Studios theme park. The epicenter of the party was the inside of the Globe Theater, where all of NBCU's various cable nets had booths set up, all of which featured talent on-hand from their various TV shows. Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough were there from MSNBC, holding court. Mel B of Spice Girls fame was there, as were Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth from Sunday Night Football. The Real Housewives of New Jersey were on hand, and I snapped photos with them, as well as with Ming Na of Stargate Universe. But I have to say, the highlight of the night was briefly meeting and getting a picture with one of my all-time favorite actors ... you guessed it ... Jeff Goldblum. As a young and geeky nice Jewish boy, I grew up on Goldblum's movies. Jurassic Park and Independence Day were two of the first big "event" movies of my youth, movies that left me completely blown away and giddy from sensory overload. But Goldblum helped to give those films quirky charm and wit, intelligence and humor. Plus, he's quite simply the man. The Fly. Buckaroo Banzai. This one super-awesome episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater. The Life Aquatic. His zany talk show appearances on Conan O'Brien. The hilarious way in which he recently handled premature rumors of his demise. And yes, the all-time classic Simpsons cameo featuring Planet of the Apes: The Musical ("it's the part I was born to play!"). Yep, you've got to love Goldblum. The guy is just 100% unique, and makes every movie or TV show that he's in that much better. And hey, he's a hero to awkward Jews and film geeks everywhere! In any case, that was one of the most surreal, "am I really here?" moments for me that I've had since moving to LA. If you had told my childhood self that I'd meet Dr. Ian Malcolm, my childhood self would probably flip the freak out. That's right, readers, the hometown boy has hit the bigtime!

Check out some pictures:

Meanwhile, how about them CELTICS ...?! What an amazing series from the Celts against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I know, all everyone wants to talk about is the self-destruction of the Cavs and the future of King James. And I admit, it's pretty fascinating. Rarely has a team with so much championship expectation had such a sudden and surprising collapse, to the point where the Cavs looked like they just didn't care anymore by the end of that final fourth quarter in Game 6. It's going to be interesting to see what LeBron does, but for now, I have to admit that I somewhat feel bad for Cavs fans. LeBron and the Cavs are a likeable team, and it was surreal to see them at such a low point. At the same time, it's great to see the Celtics back firing on all cylinders. The emergence of Rondo as a legit star point guard has kept the C's afloat this season and thus far in the playoffs ... but that Game 6 was so encouraging because Kevin Garnett was back and playing extremely well. Ray Allen has been pretty solid for several games now. And I feel like Pierce is due for some monster games against Orlando. The Celtics are a dangerous team if they are getting contributions from the Big 3 plus Rondo - I'm curious to see them match-up against the new-look Magic. It's going to be a really fun series.


FRINGE Thoughts:

- Holy crap, not THAT's how you kick off a season finale. Last night's mind-blowing episode of FRINGE, the first of a two-part season ender, was positively overflowing with crazy concepts and epic action, to the point that you almost had to pause and rewind several times just to make sure you didn't miss anything. In a way, it was almost jarring to see just how far-out Fringe was willing to go to tell its universe-spanning story. When you think back at Fringe's origins as a more grounded pseudo-procedural with a supernatural twist, it was crazy watching this episode, as it officially morphed Fringe into a full on sci-fi action epic. Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se. When it first premiered, Fringe couldn't quite shake the spectre of its supirtual predecessors like The X-Files. But, whoah boy, Fringe is now something else entirely - an all-out sensory assualt, with all the intrigue of a high-tech summer blockbuster, mixed with some real heart and intelligence. I got the same feeling I did from watching this episode as I did from reading Warren Ellis' landmark comic PLANETARY back in the day - an unparallelled sense of awe and wonder. Epic, imagination-fueled adventure with a hardcore scientific slant. Suffice it to say, if I had to sum up this episode in a word, it'd be: awesome.

Rarely has a show packed so many gravitas-infused moments into a single episode. I mean, how about that cold open? Holy lord. We're dropped down right into the middle of some Earth 2 action, as we're introduced to the other side's Fringe Division, a full-on task force that includes a red-haired, badass version of Olivia, a bald and still-alive Charlie, and a superhero-esque version of Broyles, decked out in Nick Fury-esque action gear. The awesomeness of the info-overload was almost too much. There was that disorienting yet exciting feeling of "damn, what craziness have we just been dropped into?" And that was compounded when we realized that our universe's Walter and Olivia were there on Earth 2, hiding from their otherdimensional counterparts. As the Fringe opening credits played, with the usual blue background replaced by an apocalyptic red, it was a true "holy $%&$!" moment. Business was about to pick up.

By the way, I always talk about how John Noble basically needs an Emmy for his drop-dead-awesome portrayal of Dr. Walter Bishop. Well, in this ep he played two friggin' versions of Bishop that were completely distinct and different, and yet both kickass. Ahhhh - best actor on TV. But ... how about Lance Reddick as Broyles? Holy lord, when he busted into Nina Sharp's office at Massive Dynamic accusing her of selling weapons to the other side, well, there was so much gravitas I thought the TV screen might explode.

How about the crazy drawings that one of the Observers dropped off for Olivia, depicting some insane mad-science machine with Peter at its core. What the hell was that? Will Peter be some sort of conduit between dimensions? Will he exist in all dimensions at once, somehow? Or will he just destroy the entire universe? No idea, but, dayum, that schematic drawing was all kinds of awesome. Speaking of Peter, the reunion with his true mother on Earth 2 gave the episode a lot of its heart and soul. Some really excellent work from Joshua Jackson, who has really become pretty outstanding in his own right as Peter Bishop.

And the icing on the cake? Leonard Nimoy back as William Bell, in what appears to be his last-ever role before he retires from acting. To the casual observer, it may seem odd for Spock to go out with this relatively minor TV role, but I have faith in Fringe to give him one hell of a sendoff. It was great to see Nimoy back in this one, and he had some really cool scenes. I cannot wait to see how Bell plays into next week's finale.

Also, all the details big and small on Earth 2 were just so well-done, from "President MLK" to the West Wing still on in Season 11. I loved the overall sense of darkness and paranoia that permeated the alternaverse, from the Orwellian ID cards to the almost scary medical technology. I was somewhat shocked that there was still hope for that one poor guy who got flamebroiled in this ep.

And on that note, this ep wasn't just content to stick to the usual Fringe cast of characters. We were also introduced to an X-Men-like group of Cortexifan trial participants who each had some sort of supernatural power. It was a bit jarring, maybe a bit much, to have these comic book-esque characters introduced (and then mostly offed) so quickly, but it added to the feeling that this Fringe finale was absolutely steamrolling full-speed ahead towards an epic climax. The revelations were coming fast and furious - it was almost too much, but the chaos definitely made for some ultra-compelling television. They even had Walter speculate about aliens at one point as having some role in human and metahuman evolution. WTF! Aliens? Aliens! Yeah, Fringe just couldn't seem to leave anything on the table in this one, and hey, that was part of the fun.

Fringe has never been this balls-to-the-wall or action-oriented before. It almost felt like a whole new TV show than what we are used to. But the whole thing was so much fun, it was hard to care. I can't wait to see what's in store in Part 2.

My Grade: A


- COMMUNITY continues its hot streak, with another absolutely hilarious episode. Annie ratting out Senor Chang made for some great moments. Bring on Anthroplogy class!

My Grade: A-

- PARKS AND RECREATION had a really well-done episode last night, maybe even a return to form. The introduction of Rob Lowe and Adam Scott to the cast gave the show a renewed sense of energy, and the Andy-April would-be romance continues to be both sweet and the inspiration for some very funny interactions.

My Grade: A-

- THE OFFICE really made me laugh last night. The cold open rocked, Dwight and Angela's baby-making negotiations were hilarious, and Michael Scott's decision as to whether to continue his relationship with a married woman was alternately funny and dark - in other words, classic Office.

My Grade: A-

- Meanwhile, 30 ROCK had one of its funniest episodes in a while. While I'm getting a little tired of Jack's neverending love triangle, this one compensated for the starting-to-drag storyline with a hilarious Tracy Morgan subplot, in which he grappled between doing a prestigious Oscar-bait pic versus the voice for the next CGI Garfield flick. Also, Jon Hamm with hook hands.

My Grade: A-

- So, not to sound too nerdy (too late, I'm sure), but between FRINGE and the NBC comedies, this was pretty much the best night of TV in a long time. Good TV overload, dude.

- Also, MODERN FAMILY had one of its better episodes in a while this week. I am still a little worn out with the show's new pattern of EVERY episode ending with a group-hug and a life lesson (since when is this Full House?), but, there were enough very-funny moments in this one (Phil on top of Jay in the hammock, Mitchell and Cameron losing Lilly in an elevator), that it was still extremely enjoyable.

My Grade: B+

Okay, time for the weekend. Thanks for reading!

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