Some thoughts re "American Idol," "Survivor: Redemption Island," "Modern Family" and other stuff I have been watching, after the jump.
A chat with Gerald Sindell about his lost movie, "Double-Stop," shot in Cleveland, is here. Our chat covered far more ground than this story does, and I may post some more of his comments here later.
This week's mailbag is here.
My column on Lifetime's Amanda Knox movie is here. It will be in Sunday's print editions of the Beacon Journal.
On to viewing . . .
Has "Survivor" ever had such a nutty, watchable, twisted Tribal Council so quickly? Has Boston Rob ever been more fun to watch?
I had my doubts about "Redemption Island," until and unless it led to Rob & Russell battling one-on-one in some Pit of Doom. And those Sprint what-if spots had me fast-forwarding a lot. Phillip "I was a federal agent" Sheppard provided a measure of obnoxiousness but that's still "Survivor" business as usual. And Rob's tribe looked too severely overmatched in physical challenges to be very promising in the long term.
Then there was Tribal Council.
Of course, much of the episode was spent with each tribe discussing how quickly people would take out Rob or Russell, who after all are the known quantities -- even if everyone seems to forget that neither has won the show (unless we count Rob's proxy win-through-marriage). And it seemed especially weird with Rob, who was posing no threat; his most aggressive act was telling Kristina that he knew -- rightly -- that she was idol-hunting. But all the scheming blew up gloriously in Tribal Council when Phillip exposed all of Kristina's plan. Not that the plan was going to work anyway, it was still marvelous to see Rob just sit and grin while other players engaged in mutual self-destruction. His face purely said, "Hey, it's not about me after all. How great is this?" But then he made the sort of brilliant move that I had hoped for in other Tribal Councils -- and one that reminded us how cunning he is -- when he told Kristina to give him the idol. Talk about making trust the issue!
Meanwhile, over at "American Idol," the series lays claim to being a big family show -- and last night's Hollywood round certainly offered the kids at home some valuable lessons. The little ones were (a) don't bully the fat kid and (b) don't expect anything good to come from hanging around with your ex-girlfriend. The big one, though, was -- in honor of the coming "Bambi" Blu-ray -- if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all, Tiffany Rios.
She had, arrogantly and idiotically, proclaimed herself better than all the other contestants -- and then had trouble finding a group that wanted her! How about that? If she had sung in a group, instead of a duo (which I suspect the producers helped set up, figuring the other girl wasn't going to advance anyway), she probably still would have gone home. But the icy reception she got from the others was -- in a just desserts kind of way -- fun to watch.
Other than that, it was your standard group-sing soap opera. It's funny how the show talks about how tired everyone is -- when it's the show that times the process so the singers have to practice into the night. And I think they're overplaying Funny Steven Tyler. When it seems spontaneous and off-handed, it's amusing. When they start making highlight reels out of it, it's just another "Idol" gimmick.
Another good "Modern Family" last night, and my favorite line was Jay's "Bear? I was gonna get a crucifix." Once again, the show's gift is that it doesn't go too long with a joke, or in too obvious a direction. (Cam's sulking at the party was far more effective than his deciding to be a clown anyway would have been.)
Am also getting to like "Mr. Sunshine" more. Decent second episode, some good lines and Nick Jonas did well. But all the corridor-rambling on the show gets a little tiring at times, like an overlong homage to Aaron Sorkin.