Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Friday, October 29, 2010

NBC's Thursday Night Line-up POWER RANKINGS: Week 6

This Week: Community>The Office>Outsourced

Let's go to the big board...

1) Community
2) 30 Rock
3) The Office
4) Outsourced

With 30 Rock getting bumped by Shrek this week, I decided it was time to watch Outsourced, so a potential reader of mine would not have to (you’re welcome, potential reader turned actualized reader). I am completely caught up on the season and I want to issue my blog’s second ever retraction. I wrote that Outsourced was “racist” and “hack” and now, after watching six episodes, I can say with confidence it is at least not racist.

I have lived bad television free since the very welcomed cancellation of Heroes. In the 90’s, however, I seemed drawn to those worthless sitcoms that surrounded Seinfeld. I loved Caroline in the City, Suddenly Susan, Boston Common, Veronica’s Closet, and the Breckin Meyer vehicle, Inside Schwartz. Outsourced fits perfectly into NBC’s long history of trying to throw crap into a normally stellar line-up with the hope of tricking the people at home into watching it by accident. Though unlike those other bad shows, Outsourced is said to be racist.

I would like to recount a situation from a show people do watch, 30 Rock:

Scenario: Liz complains to Jack that the writers are changing her door nameplate with comical ones. Jack proceeds to read a few out loud. Here is one such exchange

Jack: “Fart Barfunkel”
Liz: “Indian food”

This joke is not really racist and it is definitely not funny. This is the territory Outsourced lives and dies in. There are a lot of jokes about Indian food, which in actuality are bad poop jokes and not attempts to mock Indian culture. The show also tries (and fails) to find humor in the (boring) protagonist’s attempts to understand this kooky Indian workplace. This too feels less racist and more reminiscent of any fish out of water sitcom like Just Shoot Me, in which a serious journalist went to work for her Dad’s tawdry fashion magazine. In reality, Outsourced tends to comedically deal with race far less than the three shows sharing the line-up. The show actually takes the culture clash very seriously, as the protagonist spends a great deal of each episode trying in earnest to learn from his new cohorts and vice versa.

Though for the most part the show fails with these moments as well, there is a glimmer of hope in the current romantic arc. The American boss, played by the exceedingly wet-blanketesque Ben Rappaport, has fallen for one of his beautiful employees, but the beautiful employee cannot date her boss because (here’s the twist) she is supposed to have an arranged marriage. Will-they-won’t-they is a cliché’s cliché, yet each episode I find myself somewhat intrigued, which is saying a lot for such an awful show. This is mostly due to the hopefully breakout star of the show Rebecca Hazlewood, who perfectly plays the culturally and emotionally conflicted Asha. She is able to bring pathos to a show completely void of heart and intelligence. If given time to properly develop, Outsourced might effectively subvert a classic sitcom scenario.

Alas, The show will likely/hopefully get canceled before this could happen*. Outsourced might not actually be racist but it is still bad – very bad. Novelty items (!!!!!) are the shows primary source of comedy, which is even less funny that it sounds (and it sounds super unfunny). Novelty items are lower than the lowest of brows – they make Larry the Cable Guy seem like Mark Twain. I would take an Indian food poop joke over a fake dog poop “joke” any day.

Drawing the racist line in the comedy sand is impossible to a point where its discussion is hack in of itself. NBC’s Thursday night is the most diverse primetime line-up in the history of basic cable regardless of Outsourced, and with the eventually return of Parks & Recreation I am confident there will be two hours of comedy a week that deftly and, more importantly, hilariously navigates (post) racial America.

To the victor goes the spoils...

Quite possibly the funniest NBC Thursday Night related clip this week comes from the cast of Parks & Recreation announcing that next season will be in IMAX 3-D.

*I quote an AV Club recap that summarizes a likely reason for why Outsourced is here in the first place: "The hot rumor for a while was that NBC had picked a terrible show to go after The Office so it could slip Parks and Rec (returning at midseason) the post-Office slot without terribly antagonizing the producers of Community or 30 Rock."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BBQ Videoing Week 2

"By Your Side" (my blog needs mp3s)

Lots of blogs include music. I felt like a lazy good for nothin' by including only youtube embeds . Nothin', I am good for, no more...

I decided to use this opportunity to examine my relationship to the song "By Your Side" by Sade. The song was featured on their overwhelmingly Sade-titled album, Lover's Rock that was released in the Fall of 2000. Despite its popularity at that time, it was not until the Fall of 2003 that I first heard the smooth jam. What happened in the Fall of 2003?

Well, none other than Carmen Electra and Dave Navarro got hitched, and their first dance as man and wife was to, you guessed it, Sade's "By Your Side." Being a big fan of the show*, I deemed it reasonable that I should "purchase" the song.

In the seven year's since it just sat in my iTunes unobtrusively, getting only a handful of listens. Yet, in that same time period I have collected five other versions of the song, which seems like a lot considering it is not a song I particularly love.

Though, I realized while writing this post that there was something to listening to all of them in succession. It is a aggressively sentimental song that lends itself to heartfelt performances. Two of favorite artists ever, Ted Leo and Justin Vernon (here in Gayngs but usually from Bon Iver), each contribute a version and I get real pleasure out of hearing the two sing such a simply loving tune.

Without further ado, the same song six times...

Sade - By Your Side

Ted Leo - By Your Side

Gayngs - By Your Side

Sade - By Your Side (Neptunes Remix)

Beachwood Sparks - By Your Side

Ok, I won't lie, this last one is not a cover at all but the sentiment is the same and it is damn good.

CocoRosie - By Your Side

*I am serious. I really thought they were going to be the ones who made it. Maybe I was blinded from my own relationship at the time. Either way, they lasted less than three years.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kanye West's "Runaway" Teleplay Recap

I think I have made it pretty clear that I think Kanye is a genius. I cannot think of a more artistically ambitious Pop artist - ready for it - EVER. This very much does not mean he is perfect. Restraint, has never been his strong suit. Though, I would argue that subtlety would get lost when trying to appeal to billions of folks.

This past weekend Kanye West released a new music video/teleplay that highlights his artistic best and worst qualities. Pro: Every shot is thoughtfully composed and beautiful. Con: The story and a lot of the flourishes are laughably hackneyed. Pro: The music, which is completely made up of samples of his upcoming album, is great. After hearing "Power" months ago, I proclaimed Kanye would release the album of the year, I am even more certain now. Con: It has a few cringe-worthy moments that are so self-serious that they become hard to watch.

All in all it is Kanye in a nutshell: A unique combination of brilliance and trainwreck.

Here it is...

It is 36 minutes long, which is LONG. So, I decided to take a whole mess of screen shots and provide the patience-averse a recap of the absurdity, both good and bad.

Here it is...

Here we go. First shot, I wonder if he is running towards something or away?


Kanye is trying to subvert the rapper driving a sports car hip hop video cliche, maybe.

Slow-motion doe!

The story is about a sexy phoenix who falls to Earth. Kanye loves IT because it looks like a sexy human female. Kanye definitely knows what a metaphor is.

First of many gorgeous albeit incredibly cliche shots.


Sexy Phoenix learns about the news.

First lesson, Kanye hates the news.

Kanye plays a bunch of samples, creates a "beat" to introduce the real star of the teleplay...

This ladies boobs.


The giant Michael Jackson face is meant to symbolize Michael Jackson's dead face.

Yep, this happens.

Like "Pretty Women" but with a Sexy Phoenix.


1. Black people look great in light clothing.
2. "White servants! I am blowing your mind America. You're welcome." Kanye West.
3. This shot stars at least 70% of all the Black people living in Prague

Students of Dr. West's school of subtlety in cinema.
Man: "Oooooooooo. What is a Sexy Phoenix doing at this very fancy dinner party?"

Woman: "I think she is a symbol of Kanye's rebirth through art , maybe."

Shirtless Guest: "Your girlfriend is really beautiful."
Kanye: "Thank you."
SG: "Did you know she was a bird?"

Luckily there was a piano and ballet troop so Kanye can actually perform this supposed-music video's titular song.

The giant blond dancer definitely symbolizes Taylor Swift, maybe.

The lyric is "Let's have a toast" so the scene MUST respond accordingly.

Then there was a series of epic slow-motion shots of ballerinas being awesome.

It is hard to capture this in a still screen capture, but they were all fixed in this position for a minute or so. Awesome.

He has his hand over his heart because that is what hurts.

They all liked the dancing, except that girl in the front. She claps but is thinking, "What pretentious bullstuff."

Shit just got real

Horribly acted, awful dialogue eventually cuts to the chase.

In Kanye's world he must have sex with his symbolic mythical creatures.

This sex scene was soundtracked by Bon Iver's "Woods". I wonder if during its recording Justin thought, "I bet one day Kanye will bone a Sexy Phoenix to this, somehow symbolizing his artistic rebirth after he yelled at that tall blonde girl who looks like a bunny."

This is a very classy way of visually saying the sex is over.

Of course Kanye wakes up on the roof. But wait, the Sexy Phoenix is gone.

The sample says "woods" and the video is titled "Runaway" so Kanye makes it so.

Who would have guessed a Phoenix would arise?

Slow-motion doe.

The foreshadowed running (away) Kanye.

The symbol for Kanye's rebirth is sad to leave Kanye, who symbolizes the real Kanye, maybe. Also she has a gold plate over her boobs now, which definitely symbolizes his acceptance of the realities of our materialistic society, maybe.

Rebirth complete.



Starring: Booby Mcboobstein

Read: "Actually Directed By HYPE WILLIAMS"

She wins.

Kanye has famous friends.

Also wins.



The End

Slow-motion doe.