Jared Feldman: Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of The Entertainment Bureau’s Chat Wrap. We’ll be talking a bit about TV, new films and of course the biggest celebrity story of the past few weeks. Jay where do you want to start?
Jay Sage: Well you know I’m not one of the Entertainment Weekly/People/Us crowd, but it’s been hard to ignore the whole Kardashian thing.
Feldman: That’s true. The Kardashian Network — excuse me — I mean, the E! Channel practically has 24 hour coverage of her divorce from Kris Humphries. I can’t really say I’m surprised but I figured it would last more than 72 days.
Sage: There’s this construct in the pop culture world where the wedding is more important than the marriage. I can’t say it’s particularly surprising that Kim and Kris (which does NOT lend itself well to a clever portmanteau like Brangelina, so maybe it was doomed from the start) broke up, but I’m not so cynical that I think it was a “take the money and run” scenario. I’m willing to believe that she was just unhappy with the situation.
Feldman: Well, her name is Kimberly so Krisberly or perhaps Kimberis. I agree with you that it doesn’t seem like this was a sham marriage. I believe she got so involved with the idea of getting married that she didn’t look hard enough at who she was marrying to make an informed decision. One way to be sure that it isn’t a big scam is her recent interviews where Kim appears genuinely upset. We all know she isn’t a good actress so it must be real, otherwise Kim would have at least a pair of Oscars already.
Sage: I thought she got hosed by the Academy for her role in Epic Movie.
Feldman: It’s certainly a bigger deal because of all the E! hoopla, but I do believe she thought she found the man she’d spend the rest of her life with. It’s an interesting predicament given the legal state of marriage in the country. A number of gay celebrities like George Takei are coming down on Kardashian for destroying the image of marriage. .
Sage: It’s an interesting point. The biggest rallying mantra of the anti-gay marriage crowd is that it will destroy the sanctity of marriage…isn’t it pretty clear that’s already happening? It’s funny when you think of these celebrities reciting vows that speak to the eternal bond, when really, how many last longer than 5 years?
Feldman: Very true. I find it ironic that the strongest Kardashian relationship is Khloe and Lamar Odom who married after knowing each other for only a single month. More than two years later and they appear strong. At least that’s how they are portrayed on TV. I don’t know them personally and don’t expect to anytime soon.
Sage: This is the longest conversation on the Kardashians that I ever hope to have, but while we’re at it…it sort of amazes me how famous they’ve managed to become on a collective level. They must be geniuses at marketing, because nothing about the situation ever screamed “mega celebrity!”. Essentially, people were familiar with the Kardashian name because the father was the 3rd most famous defense lawyer for OJ Simpson (after Cochrane and Shapiro) but the whole thing really took off. And none of the shows are entertaining, even in a train-wreck sort of way like Jersey Shore. It’s just…not…interesting. But people seem to eat it up.
Feldman: They do seem to do a lot of eating in those shows. Perhaps their viewers are hungry? Anywho, lets transition to some “real” news. Halloween came and went and a number of TV shows had themed episodes. Did you find any of them compelling or just silly?
Sage: Like usual, I tuned in for the most recent Simpsons’ ‘Treehouse of Horror’ Halloween episode, which was a stronger effort overall than what we’ve seen recently from The Simpsons. Still, it sucks in comparison to some of the classic Treehouses.
Feldman: To be honest, I stopped watching new Simpsons episodes nearly nine years ago. I do on occasion watch the special episodes but I avoided this one based on the repetitive commercials I was forced to endure during Sunday football.
Sage: Like always, there were three segments. The funniest one involved Ned Flanders in a Dexter parody where he offed pretty much everybody in town at the whim of Homer, who was pretending to be God. I found myself laughing at that one. There was also an Avatar parody though, which was a day late and a dollar short.
Feldman: I think one issue that is plaguing the Simpsons is the episode creation time. Each one takes around six months to prepare which really limits their ability to have topical episodes. Shows like South Park remain relevant because after exhausting all “creative” storylines, they can be extremely topical from week to week because each episode is produced in a much shorter amount of time.
Sage: There was a documentary that appeared on Comedy Central recently called “Six Days to Air” which portrayed the hectic process of putting together a South Park episode. Not that I lacked any respect for Matt Stone and Trey Parker to begin with, but the documentary really highlighted just how hard they work on a weekly basis to produce quality content. The simplistic animation of South Park allows for this sort of weekly improvisation. Did you see the most recent episode lampooning the 99% movement?
Feldman: I did catch a few minutes of it. I found it to be a pleasant yet obviously over-dramatic version of today’s events. I love the fact that South Park provides the level of satire of the Daily Show or the Colbert Report but in a totally different forum.
Sage: The episode also featured Cartman, for the first time in a long time, as the egomaniacal lunatic that we all came to love years ago, which was really awesome. Another Halloween episode I liked was Community, where the gang told their versions of horror stories in an effort by Jeff and Britta to find out which one was insane.
Feldman: I liked the route Community took, but for me, it felt too similar to the previous new episode which featured a number of parallel realities. They seemed too much of the same thing, and the Halloween episode couldn’t compare in my opinion.
Sage: They’ve definitely taken more to doing “theme” episodes as time has gone on, but with the show’s primary motif being a meta-narrative on other forms of entertainment, it’s not as stale as it could be. It will eventually become stale, though, if they don’t become more original.
Feldman: I think that’s fair, I was not impressed by Parks and Rec and especially not the Office for their respective Halloween episodes. Parks and Rec had a decent story, April and Andy’s Halloween party while Tom hosts a campaign party for Leslie. It had good bones but didn’t really come together for me.
Sage: I’m sad to see the whole Entertainment 720 storyline ending. It was nicely bizarre. The Office, well, The Office should just go away.
Feldman: Agreed, the Halloween episode was just terrible, I don’t even know what it was really about. While we are on the subject of The Office, this week’s was better, but they’re still like a ship without a rudder. No real lead has emerged and the show doesn’t work with the current ensemble cast.
Sage: When Steve Carell left, I had actually postulated that the show would be better without him because Michael Scott had become such a ridiculous parody of his own ineptitude. But the fact that he was replaced with a deadpanning James Spader…why?
Feldman: It doesn’t really make sense. A more comedic character actor like Will Arnett would have been much better, in my opinion.
Sage: The Office is one of those shows that would have benefited from saying “We’re doing ___ seasons and then it’s done.” That would have been a boon to the storytelling, which is now in a state of boring limbo. And they had a convenient “out” with the end of the supposed documentary footage.
Feldman: Considering the show isn’t really serialized at all, they did write themselves a neat and tidy ending but opted to continue despite the loss of Carell. I’m afraid the show has become much more like the final season of Scrubs which was just God-awful. I think they’ll get one more season after this one, and that should be it. NBC isn’t likely to cancel its “best” comedy over a bad start to a season, no matter how much they should.
Sage: Do you mean the actual terrible final season of Scrubs, or the even more awful “revamped” last season on ABC where the characters are teaching med school students?
Feldman: I suppose “Med School.” The “final” season of the regular show wasn’t great, but it had an ending at least.
Sage: Anyhow, let’s go quickly to the movie realm. I saw Rum Diary, which is the adaptation of the “long lost” novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Despite being a big fan of Thompson, I was not very impressed, and I’d even go so far as to say that Thompson would have been angry at the effort if he was still alive.
Feldman: I can see that. The commercials were extremely confusing for the average view who hasn’t read the novel, and Johnny Depp isn’t really a large draw unless he’s a pirate. It made around $5 million in its opening weekend, and I’m surprised it did that well. While I appreciate the “art house” style film trying to be a blockbuster, they didn’t do a good enough job making it accessible by the common man.
Sage: The film perpetually teetered on the edge of madness, but never quite jumped into the pool. The natural comparison is to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which did a much better job of portraying the type of drug and alcohol fueled rampage that Rum Diary was supposed to be. Frankly, director Bruce Robinson failed in this regard where Terry Gilliam triumphed. In addition, there was some trumped up theme about ethics and journalism that seemed awkwardly pasted onto the end of the film.
Feldman: I feel an issue with a lot of films these days is that they will have a decent idea, but then get bogged down, either by being too cute, too close to the adaptation, trying to appease a small group at the expense of another, or frankly just a failure to express an idea properly on film.
Sage: That’s well put. It tried to get too cute. Rum Diary seemed to revel in the idea of the type of madness that’s essential to Thompson, but never embraced it. So I understand that you saw In Time with Justin Timberlake?
Feldman: I did, while it had grand ideas and a very unique concept it quickly devolved into a typical action, heist, chase film. The basic premise is that people stop aging at 25 but have only one year to live after that. In order to live longer they must earn more “time” which is now the currency. Everything is paid for with time and when someone’s expires they immediately die. I will have a full review out in the next couple of days, but basically they had a great concept and couldn’t execute in the end.
Sage: After the warm reception to his role in The Social Network, the common wisdom seemed to be that JT would officially make the leap into being a leading man in Hollywood. After Bad Teacher and In Time, is this prophecy not quite playing out?
Feldman: I think he did fine in the role, which needed a bit more fleshing out. I personally am a fan and usually forget that he came from a musical rather than acting background. The rest of the cast of the film was underutilized. Cillian Murphy was a police officer investigating Timberlake’s character who had an interesting antagonistic role but not enough of a backstory to have any attachment to. The other strong actor was Vincent Kartheister, from Mad Men who played a rich centenarian who was worth “Eons.” The film tried to do too much in to short a time, and really missed despite a novel concept.
Sage: Murphy’s an interesting actor who still hasn’t quite pervaded the mainstream, but I really enjoyed the subtlety that he brought to his roles in both Batman Begins and Inception.
Feldman: That is a good assessment, he’s a talented actor who isn’t good looking in the traditional sense. Perhaps that’s why he hasn’t really cracked the American mainstream.
Sage: Meanwhile, Puss in Boots absolutely destroyed at the box office in it’s opening weekend. Is the Shrek franchise never going to die, or was this just the internet generation’s obsession with cats playing itself out on the big screen?
Feldman: Both. Prepackaged concepts are almost guaranteed money makers, and until one completely flops they will keep raking in profits. Well I think that is going to do it for us this week, any parting words Jay?
Sage: Well, I’ve decided to try to join in on the Kardashians’ money making scheme, so I’m off to try and start a fling with Bruce Jenner.
Feldman: I am jealous, he is the most rational of that entire family and an athlete to boot. In the immortal words of Edward R. Murrow, “Good Night and Good Luck.”