Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why 'Modern Family' Shouldn't Win The Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy in 2013

Neil Patrick Harris hosts the 65th Emmy Awards
Nominations for the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be announced on July 18Modern Family is one of the best written shows on Television, and has won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series three straight years. Its actually the only show to win it this decade so far. You can be sure it will be a finalist once again. However, even though I love the show, it would be a shame if it won a fourth straight time.

This past season, while good as usual, wasn't quite as strong as the previous three, and was out-shined by a number of other comedy series. Here are the following comedy shows I would rather see win the Emmy Award this time around.

The Big Bang Theory - Well this is the most obvious choice. In a time where broadcast shows are getting lower ratings thanks to rapidly increased competition from cable & pay channels (as well as streaming services like Netflix & Amazon), The Big Bang Theory has become a juggernaut. The show is the most watched sitcom since Friends. Its also really grown and come into its own since it premiered in the fall of 2007. The first & second seasons ended up 68th & 44th respectively in the final Nieslen Rankings. The most recent fifth & sixth seasons ranked 8th & 3rd. You can bet that the seventh season is a safe bet to become the top rated show by the end of the 2013-2014 season. The series has made nerds cool, and its time for the rise of the nerds to be capped off with an Emmy.

Parks & Recreation - One of the most underrated shows on Television. Parks & Rec, much like NBC's former 30 Rock, suffers from low ratings. However, it is one of the most laugh out loud shows currently on Television. Amy Poehler is the driving force, and the cast around her including occasional characters makes it feel like a live action version of The Simpsons.

The Middle - Modern Family gets most of the attention on ABC, yet The Middle has stood well on its own for the past few years. This season it exuded a sense of warmth around its dysfunctional family comedy with each & every episode, outshining the higher rated Modern Family for the first time. This year could be its best chance to strike Emmy gold.

The Office - The 2006 winner for Outstanding Comedy Series gave a final season that satisfied fans and critics alike. The show brought a satisfying conclusion to each and every one of its quirky characters that we grew to love over the past 9 seasons. The ensemble cast has been the shows strong point, and this year all their story lines came to a close in an emotionally funny way, without being too over the top. And I'm still mad that Steve Carell never won an Emmy for portraying Michael Scott. Its unlikely to be nominated, but I still think the final season is worthy, and was better than Modern Family this year.

Veep - The political satire stars Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as Vice President Selina Meyer, who just can't help but screw up time and again in the most hilarious of ways. The series uses its political humor without actually taking shots at any specific parties (which aren't mentioned), its more about the system we have and how ridiculous politics in general can be, which is much more satisfying.

I'm tempted to include The Mindy Project, but its tough for a freshman series to get a nomination & win. Mindy Kaling has a great chance to leave with some hardware herself though.

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards will be held on September 15 on CBS, and hosted by the hilarious & reliable Neil Patrick Harris once again.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Abby Wambach Breaks Mia Hamm's International Scoring Record

Abby Wambach was determined to get the whole "#ChasingMia" thing over with so the US Women's National Team could focus on other things. Well, she broke the International scoring record in soccer/football, previously held by Mia Hamm, in style. She managed to score four goals against South Korea. The second goal was the one that tied Hamm's record, and the third put her ahead and into history. It was fitting that both were headers, considering Wambach has been known to be one of the best at heading the ball into the back of the net. It was a header that helped Wambach score her most famous goal to tie up the Quarterfinal game against Brazil at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany, in the final seconds.

Wambach and the US Women's National Team now have their sights set on the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada, hoping to capture the first World Cup for the United States since the famous 1999 Women's World Cup on home soil. And for the US, Canada is as close as you can get to home soil without it actually being in the States. The close proximity means tons of American fans will be making the trip up North.

As a side note, its been a pleasure to watch both Wambach and Hamm not just because of their talent, but because they know that it takes an entire team to win. Hamm was all about the team effort and being humble with her accomplishments, as Wambach is now. Individual accolades are nice, but a team will fail if it isn't unified, and both made it a point to recognize that fact. Its refreshing to see in a sports world that seems obsessed with individual accolades. Just look at the NFL, when a team wins the Super Bowl, most headlines reference the QB being the victor. "Eli Manning has won two Super Bowls." No, the Giants won them. Sure, there is one player who is always the main attraction and most talented, but they can't win alone.

The US Women's National Team has always transitioned from one great team to the next, and there has always been a standout goal scorer in each. Michelle Akers to Mia Hamm to Abby Wambach and now onto Alex Morgan. Wambach isn't finished yet though, her determination now makes its way towards Canada 2015 to capture that elusive World Cup trophy. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

'Jurassic Park 4' Coming in 2015. Maybe.

The saga of Jurassic Park IV continues, but this time it looks like it has a concrete release set for 2015. Universal Pictures released an official teaser poster with a "new" logo (the regular logo with blue & silver colors) was released at a licensing expo, with the simple date of "2015" below it. Rumors say the plot may deal with an actual operating park being open on the island the first movie took place. Certain dinosaurs would be "tamed", like the raptors (declawed, muzzled) until something goes wrong with one of the new dinosaurs. Some new dinosaurs rumored to be in it are underwater ones. Hey, maybe that is why the logo is blue? I like the idea of an actual working & successful park which eventually turns into chaos. Which Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) would have surely warned would happen again.

Jurassic Park IV has been going through quite the roller coaster ride ever since speculation began after Jurassic Park III was released in 2001, with various ideas and scripts being tossed aside. Rumor has it the 4th film will be shot in 3D. The 20th Anniversary re-release looked pretty good, so one actually shot with 3D cameras might actually be worth it, unlike many other films that are converted afterwards.

Colin Trevorrow will be directing the film, and he previously directed the outstanding indie film Safety Not Guaranteed which starred Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson & Kristen Bell. Steven Spielberg will be back to produce the film. Although I guess considering all the false starts and rumors of the past, we can take it all with a grain of salt. Hopefully this new script doesn't go extinct like previous ones, and please have some of the original cast back. Laura Dern & Sam Neill would be tops.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Quickie 'Mad Men' Recap

Tonight's episode of Mad Men ("Favors") went heavy on the Vietnam War theme in an interesting way. However, there were two big moments that must be discussed which overshadowed that.

1. Bob Benson (James Wolk) made his presence known again, as per usual, and this tonight we see him hit on...Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)! He did it in his normally slick way after entering Pete's office. Bob Benson just walking into the office made me jump up. I'm starting to think him entering the room excites me a bit too much. So Bob is gay, and little does Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) know, he just wants to be her best friend, not her boyfriend. Or was he just concocting a sneaky plan to mess with Pete? Keep enchanting us, Mr. Benson. And bring back the famous short-shorts.

2. Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) also had a stand out episode, and is now officially the female version of Bob Benson in terms of entering a room like a boss. After getting the doorman's keys to go up and retrieve a letter her friend left for Sylvia Rosen's (Linda Cardellini) son. When she walks in, what does she see after hearing a feint moan in an open doorway? It's her trusty father Don Draper (Jon Hamm) banging Sylvia on the bed! She drops the keys, screams, they freak out, she runs. Later on he tries to explain to Sally that he was just "comforting Sylvia". I'm pretty sure a teenager knows what comforting is really supposed to look like Don. I'm now even more convinced Sally is going to head up to Woodstock 1969 next season, dance naked in the mud, and drop some of the brown acid. Let's just hope she doesn't run into Don banging some hippie in a van.

Another funny moment in the episode happened when Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) has a rat in her apartment, which get in the trap but stays alive tracking blood on the floor. Our beloved Peggy had some fun lighthearted scenes this episode, which we love.

By the way, Linda Cardellini is bringing it. Hint hint, Emmy voters. There are just two (!) episodes left this season. Dear AMC, can't we get more than 13 episodes for the final season next year?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

U2's Greatest Live Performances

U2 were in New York City last week, apparently mixing their new album at Electric Lady Studios. Rumors suggest the goal is to have their 13th studio album out sometime between October and December 2013, with a tour to follow starting in the Spring. We'll see if this holds up, but it looks like some new music is on the horizon. Throughout their long career, they've been known for creating some real chill inducing performances that could even leave non-fans speechless. Here are some of their greatest live performances, though there are plenty more to choose from.

All I Want Is You/Where The Streets Have No Name, Slane Castle (2001) - The Slane Castle concert is one of U2's most highly regarded shows. They seem to be in such a loose mood at this show, possibly because it wasn't originally going to be released as a DVD. Streets, with its slow building intro, is enough to deliver goosebumps to even the most jaded person. If you're looking for a top quality performance of the song, Slane Castle is one of the better versions you can get.  
Wake Up Dead Man/Walk On, Boston (2001) - I love the combination here, as this slow performance of "Wake Up Dead Man" leads into a passionate and rousing rendition of the live staple "Walk On". "MLK/Walk On" from the U22 Live album of the U2360 Tour has a similar effect. "Walk On", written for Aung San Suu Kyi while she was under house arrest in Burma, always has a high level of passion when performed.

Beautiful Day/MLK/Where The Streets Have No Name, Super Bowl (2002) - A few months after 9/11, U2 were tasked with putting on the first Super Bowl Halftime following the tragedy. And they delivered on a grand scale. It started with the soaring & energetic "Beautiful Day". Once the somber "MLK" kicked in, the giant screen with the victims' names rose to the roof and created the greatest moment in Super Bowl Halftime history. This eventually leads to the building "Where The Streets Have No Name" that ends the set on a high note that left everyone feeling that things were going to be alright.

Surrender, New Year's Day, & Sunday Bloody Sunday, Red Rocks (1983) - While their Live Aid performance is what launched them to mainstream status, Red Rocks (Under a Blood Red Sky) is what made U2 known amongst music fans as one of the best live bands in the world. Red Rocks is a famous outdoor amphitheater in Colorado, and on this particular night the rain was coming down, while torches lit the amphitheater. The red lighting & smoke from the fire amidst the mist and rain created quite the stunning visual and a fitting backdrop to the powerful music coming from the stage. MTV (back when they played music) put many of the song performances into rotation, and the video became a best seller. The rest is history, as the show solidified their presence. You could really pick any song, though those three are my personal stand outs from the show.

Bad, Live Aid (1985) - After the success of "Red Rocks" on MTV & video, U2 found a new venue to showcase their live performance, this time at a music festival headlined by some of the biggest acts on the planet at Live Aid 1985. The band played a 14-minute version of "Bad", which took up most of their set forcing them to cut a song. Bono jumped into the crowd and danced with a girl, who was close to being crushed by fans who were pushing towards the stage. Bono saw it and made his way to her to save the day and create a memorable moment. He just can't help himself! The performance put them on the map in a mainstream way for the first time.

SFOR Soldiers Stood Watch
Sarajevo Concert, PopMart Tour (1997) - There aren't any specific performances that stood out at this show, considering Bono was suffering from vocal issues that hurt his performances, though The Edge and the crowd helped him along. The main reason this is such a big moment is the magnitude of the show itself, where they became the first act to put on a major concert in Bosnia following the ends of the brutal Bosnian War in 1995 & Siege of Sarajevo in 1996. The band lost a lot of money on the show due to extremely low ticket prices, since unemployment in the region was so high following the war. Trains ran into Sarajevo for the first time since before the start of the war on the day on the concert. They were also the first big act to perform at Madison Square Garden just a month after 9/11 when other acts were nervous about putting on shows with large gatherings. U2 has a knack for using music and performance to help heal and boost morale.

With or Without You, Live in Paris (1987) - "With or Without You" is their signature song, and pretty much any version during the late 1980s is a gem. The live version occasionally is longer and adds the line "We'll shine like stars in the summer night/We'll shine like stars in the winter light/One hope/One love" which is simple yet adds so much to an already perfect song.

The Fly, ZooTV Live from Sydney (1993) - "The Fly" launched U2 into the 90s when it was released as a lead single from Achtung Baby, showing their versatility. The live version is a highlight from the ZooTV DVD, as the band tears through the track and Bono sings into a mic that distorts his voice. The track was thankfully resurrected on the U2360 Tour in 2011.

Vertigo, Glastonbury Festival (2011) - "Vertigo" is one of their most energetic songs, and the live version adds a nice intro that builds up to the pulsating guitar courtesy of The Edge. The crowd at Glastonbury provided some nice background vocals for Bono, as the rain fell down which was reminiscent of Red Rocks. This Glastonbury version also has a nice little snippet of The Beatles' "She Loves You", which is always great to hear.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

US Soccer Doubleheader June 2nd

On Sunday June 2nd, US Soccer continues the 100th anniversary celebration by having a rare doubleheader of "friendlies". First the US Men's National Team takes on world power Germany at 2:30pm ET on ESPN. Then the US Women's National Team takes on Canada in Toronto at 4:30pm ET on ESPNews in the anticipated rematch of the controversial game from the London 2012 Olympics.

In the men's game, USA will be playing against mostly bench players from Germany. However, bench players on Germany would likely be starters on most other teams, so it won't be much easier for them. Also missing will be Landon Donovan, who hasn't been called up for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers in June. However it was just announced he will be on the 2013 Gold Cup roster. He makes the team better, so not seeing him at the 2014 World Cup should the US qualify would be a surprise.

Then comes the main event, being dubbed simply "The Rematch" by the Canadian Soccer Federation. The game sold out in less than an hour, as 22,000 people will be packing into BMO Field in Toronto to watch rivals Canada & USA meet for the first time since the outstanding semi-final match at the 2012 London Olympics. Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan will of course be on hand, as well as Canadian star Christine Sinclair. Hope Solo is still recovering from surgery, so she did not make the trip. Sinclair & Morgan are NWSL teammates for the Portland Thorns, so it will be fun to see them as opponents once again. Even though this is a friendly, it will be an intense back and forth match that both teams want to win even though it doesn't have an impact on anything besides the FIFA rankings. Expect an involved crowd and for the boos to rain down on USA, especially Sydney Leroux, the dual Canadian-American citizen who chose to play for the US over Canada.

This is no doubt a huge match for Canada. Its a fantastic test to see how they handle the pressure of so many hometown eyes on them. A sold out crowd and millions watching on TV, facing one of the world's best teams on their own turf. In two years, Canada will stage the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, and the attention will be far greater. A strong showing on Sunday would increase fans' interest and excitement even more than it already is. One thing is certain, the 2015 Women's World Cup should work wonders for soccer in general in Canada, much like the 1994 World Cup & 1999 Women's World Cup did for soccer in the USA. The Canadian women have already become well known stars thanks to their bronze medal performance at the Olympics, and its great that the USA finally has a team that can challenge them in CONCACAF.