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October 22, 2014

Screen Time

TV on DVD: I'm an Addict

by Stephanie Earp, posted May 3rd 2011 3:00PM

Last Sunday night found me red-eyed and bleary, the first pangs of hunger finally breaking through the imaginary wall I put around my mind. I emerged from a two-day bender and found myself wrapped in my bathrobe, my hair lank, sitting in a well-defined groove on the couch.

You see, I just got the season 5 DVDs of 'Friday Night Lights' and I watched the entire thing in about 20 hours. I gorged on those episodes, ignoring all but the most pressing bodily needs, until the Taylors and the motley residents of Dillon, Texas had shown me all they ever would of their lives.

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Will 'The Voice' Be More Legitimate Than 'American Idol'?

by Stephanie Earp, posted Apr 18th 2011 5:00PM


In the Netherlands, that land of windmills, tulips and endless reality series, a show called 'The Voice of Holland' has become more popular that the Dutch versions of 'American Idol,' 'X-Factor' and all other singing competitions. So, of course, it's been developed for a North American audience, and starting Tuesday, April 26 on NBC and CTV, 'The Voice' will try to make a similar jump to the top of the ratings pile over here.

The show has all the hallmarks of a reality singing competition: celebrity judges (Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green), vapid host (Carson Daly) and a drawn-out audition phase. But it makes one subtle switch to the usual proceedings, and that has me very curious: The judges (called "coaches" in this case) can't see the people who are auditioning. It's a pretty simple twist, but potentially a very powerful one.

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Back to Heartbreak With 'Friday Night Lights'

by Stephanie Earp, posted Apr 11th 2011 5:00PM

As the final season debut of 'Friday Night Lights' approaches on Friday, April 15, my joy at the chance to return to Dillon is mixed with sadness and frustration.

I'm pissed that almost no one watched this show during its four miraculous seasons and that almost no one will be watching its swan song. Like 'Veronica Mars' and 'Arrested Development' before it, it will become a weird quirk of conversation for the people who watched it. At parties and chance meetings, fans of the show will reminisce about the beauty of it while other people will avoid the freaks talking about fictional, canceled characters as if they were real.

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'The Kennedys': The Accent Strikes Back

by Stephanie Earp, posted Apr 4th 2011 8:30PM


By now, you've probably heard a lot of things about the miniseries 'The Kennedys.' You've likely heard that's it's wildly inaccurate and that's why History Channel dropped it. Or maybe you've heard it spun the other way -- that it's too close to the bone, and the remaining Kennedys fought the production. You're probably aware that Katie Holmes plays the legendary Jackie O. and does a terrible job. If you've been following it very closely, you may also be aware that the series was produced by a conservative (Joel Surnow, '24') and a whole bunch of spin has been applied to that angle too.

All of these things are true, but none of them get the heart of what makes 'The Kennedys' so deliciously bad.

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2011 Juno Awards: If We Could Give Out Our Own

by Stephanie Earp, posted Mar 28th 2011 2:05PM
The 2011 Juno awards -- usually explained to Americans as Canada's Grammys, with a dash of the Teen Choice Awards -- were handed out last night. Actually, that's not exactly accurate. Eight Junos were handed out last night. Over two-and-a-half hours. The other 32 were handed out the night before at a gala dinner. I love that the Junos expend most of their air time on performances (and there were some great ones last night) but eight, in this case, just weren't enough. So I decided to add a few awards of my own:

Best Pre-Emptive Self-Deprecating Joke: Ben Mulroney
As eTalk host and national whipping boy Ben Mulroney presented, he said he wished he could be as cool as Jim Cuddy. And while everyone viewing was forming the words, he continued, explaining that would never happen because "I'm Ben Mulroney" -- said with just a touch of a sigh in his voice.

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Spreading Hockey Across a Hockey Nation

by Stephanie Earp, posted Mar 22nd 2011 8:00AM

I was recently doing some re-reading from my bookshelf and came across my collection of Bill Bryson. In 'Mother Tongue,' he describes a time when there were no dictionaries. But once the idea took hold, a number of people jumped into the business and started putting words and definitions onto pages.

Since those heady early days, dictionary-makers have had a number of troubles, among them the decision of whether to be descriptive of proscriptive when it comes to language. For example, should they include 'Jared Leto' under the 'douche' heading, since people do call him that (descriptive)? Or should they leave it out, since officially, douche is a feminine hygiene product (proscriptive)? For the record, the example is mine, not Bryson's.

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Discovery's 'National Parks Project' Dives Head-First Into Nature, Canadian Style

by Stephanie Earp, posted Mar 14th 2011 5:00PM

If you want to get film or television made in Canada, you're probably going to need a grant.

For my readers in countries with a population density over 3.3 people per square kilometre, a grant is a sum of money given by a government or charitable organization to assist artists and organizations in overcoming the fact that our free market is as tiny as our tundra is vast. And if you want to secure one of these grants, it helps if your goals are in line with those of the granting agencies.

On first glance, the new series 'National Parks Project,' debuting on Discovery World HD on March 19, seems designed to make the juries of our various arts councils cry with happiness.

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Mario Lopez vs. Charlie Sheen?

by Stephanie Earp, posted Mar 8th 2011 5:00PM
Mario LopezWhile Charlie Sheen spent last week making a reality show out of any TV or radio show willing to cover him, another longtime star debuted a behind-the-scenes show about his real life.

On Monday, I watched the Canadian premiere of 'Mario Lopez: Saved by the Baby.' Obviously the show has been in the works since long before Sheen's ill-fated publicity storm, but however accidental, it provided a chance for little compare-and-contrast.

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'America's Next Top Model': Still Worth Watching

by Stephanie Earp, posted Feb 22nd 2011 2:00PM
America's Next Top Model

It is a universally-acknowledged truth that Tyra Banks is crazy -- certainly by those of us who watch 'America's Next Top Model.' It is a truth universally mentioned by the people we live with and who are forced sometimes to watch it with us, that it's a pretty stupid show.

There really isn't a criticism I can level at the show that hasn't been covered, ad infinitum, by other critics, and even by me in previous columns. Tyra is a diva. The challenges are cruel. It's probably rigged.

And yet, the show continues to appeal -- on a fairly serious level -- to those of us interested in fashion, in television and in feminism.

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Lucky Us: Movie Stars Are Taking Over Our TV!

by Stephanie Earp, posted Feb 15th 2011 11:15AM
Everyone is talking about Forest Whitaker coming to TV. Actually, I should clarify that statement: By everyone, I mean my colleagues who write about TV or edit sites and magazines about TV. I imagine most of you haven't been racking up your long distance bill comparing Oscar winner Forest Whitaker to Laurence Fishburne.

I'm mainly surprised by how surprised everyone is. This trend -- if you can call it that -- of serious screen actors taking lead roles on procedural dramas is getting kind of long in the tooth. At this point, you can't even launch a legal or crime show without first securing the services of a frequently nominated supporting actor type -- a Sinise, D'Onofrio or Patinkin.

It makes me wish there was some kind of long-term betting site where I could place money on the likelihood of 'Law & Order: Space Station' starring Jeremy Renner debuting in 2035, or 'CSI: Missoula' with special guest star Mark Ruffalo.

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Checking Up On Conan O'Brien

by Stephanie Earp, posted Feb 7th 2011 5:00PM


It was about a year ago that Conan O'Brien was basically ousted from his newly minted role as host of 'The Tonight Show.' For me, the whole incident is forever tied to the Vancouver Olympics, since as soon as the Games were over, we all knew that Jay 'Lantern Jaw' Leno would be back in his old seat at NBC.

Like many others, I supported O'Brien's cause. Looking back on it now, I realize I was incensed on behalf on my generation; Conan's plight was a vivid example of how we young folk labor for years under the promise of an eventual promotion, only to have it snatched away (or, at least, we feel like that's what happens). If NBC was truly bowing to audience pressure in reinstating Leno as host, it was a clear victory for the boomers in the intergenerational war.

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'Glee' vs. Kings of Leon: Who Wins?

by Stephanie Earp, posted Jan 31st 2011 5:00PM

Last week Egypt erupted into revolution, and indie band Kings of Leon and 'Glee' creator Ryan Murphy had a media fight. As much as I'd like to tell you how I feel about current events in Egypt, I am a pop culture and television writer, so instead we're gonna be talking about a bunch of overpaid, self-congratulatory boobs -- which I swear would be my description of anyone who resorts to fighting on Twitter.

But if you sense more than the usual amount of venom in my turns of phrase, I can't deny it and feel I should warn you: I am not a fan of either of these two entities, and if you don't think you can handle someone crowing about how stupid they are without resorting to death threats, you should click elsewhere.

And now, to recap -- let's look at how this developed:

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Are You a Member of the Anti-Oprah Brigade?

by Stephanie Earp, posted Jan 24th 2011 5:00PM
Whenever someone gets truly huge and has the approval of almost everyone, a backlash is inevitable. It's like we humans have some primordial instinct for cutting people down to size. Think of it as the checks and balances system of pop culture; without it, Tom Cruise would have been crowned King of America, and no one would be making fun of Natalie Portman's laugh.

As a result, we've been in the midst of an Oprah Winfrey backlash since 2009, but the low-level simmer of resentment against The Mighty Opes reached a full-rolling boil as her cable network OWN launched. Personally, I've never had strong feelings about La Winfrey, which means I'm perfectly poised to become a member of the backlash. How easy it would be for my half-formed approbation of Oprah to turn to ill-informed disgust! (Of course, her announcement that she's found a half-sister will definitely bring on the defenders).

I haven't decided yet if I want to become a member of the Anti-Oprah brigade. There are certain advantages that accrue to naysayers -- at the crest of a backlash, they seem smarter, even like they care more about art, culture and people. But coming later in the wave, they just look like followers, mean-spirited and dumb. As a result, I can't decide if I want to join the Anti-Oprah brigade. But in case you do, I've compiled a cheat sheet so you can get started right away, and possibly cash in on that early-adopter bonus.

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'Skins' Lays It Bare: Teenagers Can Be Very Scary

by Stephanie Earp, posted Jan 17th 2011 5:00PM



Imagine 'Gossip Girl' without the money and glamour, 'Degrassi' without the PG rating, 'Risky Business' as a TV series, or 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' for the Facebook era, and you'll have an idea of what to expect from 'Skins,' debuting tonight on MTV in the U.S., and on The Movie Network and Movie Central in Canada.

The show is a U.S. adaptation of a successful British series, allegedly set in Baltimore, but clearly shot in my hometown of Toronto. Maybe the Toronto backdrop is what brings 'Degrassi' to mind, but the connection goes deeper than that. We've gotten used to TV teens being completely different from real teens -- they don't get acne, they dress impeccably, and spend their time fighting and/or dating vampires. As with early 'Degrassi,' the characters of 'Skins' have much more in common with the jerks we ourselves once were, and the jerks some of us are raising. They are messy eaters, they wear drugstore makeup, and go to school in jeans, not Prada.

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How to Tell If You're in a David E. Kelley Show

by Stephanie Earp, posted Jan 10th 2011 5:00PM
This week, Kathy Bates, an actress who has won Golden Globes, Emmys and an Oscar, will debut in her new show 'Harry's Law.' This is perplexing. Bates clearly has a love for television rarely evinced by successful film stars, but her roles on 'Six Feet Under' and 'The Office' are the TV equivalent of the Queen's sedate wave from her coach, as if to say 'Yoo hoo, I'm here, just being my awesome self, directing stuff and being in theater and just thought I'd remind you of how much I rock.'

'Harry's Law' is another thing altogether -- it's another legal show from David E. Kelley, a man so far past his best-before date that I'd blissfully forgotten he existed until the previews for 'Harry's Law' started running.

I can't explain what Kathy Bates is doing in this show. I can only guess that perhaps, with her busy schedule, she didn't realize what she was getting into. And lest this situation befall anyone else, I thought I'd draw up a quick list of warning signs that you too might be in a David E. Kelley show.

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