Olympics, "The Marriage Ref," "Amazing Race," "Law & Order," "Rules of Engagement" and other notes after the jump.
So I worked a Sunday shift which included another chat with Corbin Bernsen about his hopes for making a movie in Akron. But I was home in the evening for the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. Nice to hear Neil Young doing "Long May You Run" but, man, that whole thing with William Shatner, Catherine O'Hara, Michael J. Fox and then the bizarre "made in Canada" sequence -- gak, awful. Looked like something Corky would have come up with in "Waiting for Guffman." Shatner and O'Hara tried to make it work, but the lines they had were just horrible. Fox at least held onto his dignity -- and got a fine, deserved ovation before speaking.
As for those giant inflatable beavers, that was a moment when I would have loved to hear what Bob Costas was saying off-mike. There was such a pause after he introduced them, many entertaining things must have run through his mind.
I mean, giant inflatable beavers.
That scene echoed for me while watching the half-hour preview of "The Marriage Ref" following the Olympics, which struck me as thoroughly contrived and not especially funny (although, after "made in Canada," I was desperate for a real life). I thought of Costas because, based on the uber-tight editing of "Marriage Ref," there is a lot of riffing going on -- and I'd bet that the funniest material is also unairable for a variety of reasons, leaving us to watch highly amused reactions which were inspired by things we're not seeing. (Years ago I went to a taping of "Whose Line Is It Anyway" and there were a lot of laughs, and some vulgarity, left on the cutting room floor; but what remained was still choice.)
After all, what we saw on "Marriage Ref" wasn't great, and Jerry Seinfeld, who is also an executive producer of the show, has not yet mastered the art of feigned amusement. And when Kelly Ripa is trying to be funny, you need to be able to feign.
"The Amazing Race" has been endearing me to the Cowboys, who are funny, both deliberately and inadvertently, and likable and good at the game. (And, yes, lots of contestants encounter challenges which are in their wheelhouse. I's not just about knowing how to use a rope; it could also be, oh, knowing Chinese when you're in China.) But this season remains startlingly undramatic in other ways; this week we had a second-place team (Cleveland-connected Steve and Allie) we had hardly seen at all -- presumably because they went about their business with no bickering or confusion.
Tonight brings back "Rules of Engagement," and I can't claim any delight. I find the show generally unfunny, leaning on endless sequences of insult jokes, and only a sense of professional obligation got me through all of tonight's telecast. I mean, it's better than "Accidentally on Purpose," but that's a very low bar.
"Law & Order" also returns, with two new episodes, and the second one is better. It includes Debra Winger as a high-school principal the detectives encounter while investigating the murder of a kid from another school, and it has a lot of tangles. The first episode is much more routine, although there's a funny throwaway about how much better the detectives (Anthony Anderson, Jeremy Sisto) look now that they've had to shave off their beards and clean up more. I can't help but think that there's a little needle there at "Criminal Intent," considering how often I got mail from readers complaining about how sloppy Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) looked.
By Tuesday I will be posting a review of "Parenthood," which premieres Tuesday. I quite liked the pilot -- and will post a review I wrote for the print Beacon Journal once it gets online -- but a second episode arrived in the mail yesterday. I want to take a look at that and see how it affects my opinion.