Baseball Toaster Western Homes
Who's Excited for the Fall Season?
2007-09-06 11:55
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I really do want to make myself write something every day in this space, both because I think it will be good for you the reader and me the writer. When I got into the habit of making only one very substantive post every couple of weeks, the barriers to my just stopping in for a couple seconds and trying out some ideas became insurmountable. I'm not the sort of person who likes to "blog on the fly," as it were; I prefer to ruminate for a while to compose my thoughts and figure out what my broader conclusion is before I sit down to type.

Since it's almost fall and therefore time for the return of all of our favorite network shows and the premiere of many, many new ones, it seems like a good time for me to force myself into the habit of blogging first and asking questions later. Unfortunately, I have just begun work at a new job overseeing college newspaper columnists for U-Wire, and as a result I now spend the majority of my mornings reading the perspective-free rantings of Generation Subliterate and mourning the constant misuse of my favorite punctuation mark; no one seems to heed the lonely, misunderstood semicolon. In the interests of keeping my new job, which I really do like since I enjoy eating, I'm not going to complain about it too much in this space, but there are some useful things I have learned in my first week on the job. First of all, and believe me I know how unoriginal a sentiment this is, but word processor spell check has got to go. Got to go. Second of all, every single stereotype you believe to be true about Duke University is completely on-target. Somebody needs to burn that place to the ground, stat.

I ended up seeing Superbad -- never mind how -- and I loved it. What a touching film. It is surely about time Judd Apatow and his crew made a project firmly centered on young women, though. As I've written before, Linda Cardellini's lead was the only one of the "Freaks and Geeks" cast that didn't ring true to me. (I also couldn't stand her little brother, but that was a casting issue and not a writing one. Boy, what a bummer Apatow didn't discover Christopher Mintz-Plasse until now.) On "Undeclared" the Monica Keena and Carla Gallo characters got short shrift. In his recent string of hit films Apatow has had a strong streak of nicely drawn female supporting roles, like Catherine Keener's G.I.L.F. from 40-Year-Old Virgin and the trio played by Martha MacIsaac, Emma Stone, and Aviva in Superbad. But it'll be interesting to see whether next summer's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, with Kristen Bell and Jason Segel (from Segel's own screenplay) indulges the game Bell to the same degree that established Apatow regulars Segel, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, and Bill Hader will get.

While Apatow (or his directing proxy, depending on the specific project) always gives each one of his "guys" at least one big scenery-chewing improvisation per film, he has a tendency to use actresses like stunt props -- look at the increasingly degrading roles for the extremely lovely Gallo in his last few pictures. I understand that Knocked Up, as yet unseen by me, addresses this issue somewhat but I still think there is work there to be done. Also, I have no idea where she is or what she's doing right now, but I can't be the only person in the world who thinks that Emma Caulfield and Judd Apatow need to take a long lunch meeting. There are few actresses who combine movie-star looks and superior comic timing any better, but that sort of comes back around to my point -- Apatow's comedies are surfing the leading edge of the zeitgeist right now in part because they make big-screen heroes out of regular-looking guys. But where, pray tell, are the normal-looking women? We need more roles like Christina Payano's from "Undeclared" and fewer like Gallo's "Period Blood Girl" and "Toe-Sucking Girl."

The fall season! I haven't done my due diligence yet as far as looking through the huge mess of premieres and figuring out which ones I need to be tuning in for, but I think I'll let the paid critics thin the deluge out for me a little bit first. There are some returning shows for which I am beginning to get excited. Will "Heroes" manage to avoid the second-year pitfalls that have befallen seemingly every heavy serialized network drama of the last several years? After a strong show of support from its network, can "30 Rock" turn a strong critical reputation into a mass audience? And will Tina Fey manage to make it through an entire half-hour episode without putting her supposedly plain-Jane heroine into a ball gown or tank top that in HD practically forces her décolletage into the viewer's face?

The show I am really eager to get back on board with is "Lost," but we won't see any new episodes until 2008. In entertainment-industry terms, that's an eternity. Which brings us back around to the suddenly ubiquitous Kristen Bell. (Who else taped that picture from Entertainment Weekly of Bell in a Chewbacca T-shirt to their fridge?) "Lost" and "Heroes," apparently, engaged in quite a bidding war trying to secure Bell's services after "Veronica Mars" bit the dust. Kristen elected to go with "Heroes," in part because they were willing to offer a role with flexibility -- she can leave if she becomes a big huge movie star, and she could become a regular if that's the direction her career goes. I can't think of any reason why she wouldn't become hugely famous, given the fact that she's driven, articulate, and freakin' adorable, but it will be fascinating to see how things play out. By the time "Lost" gets around to not telling us why Jack has to get back to the island, "Heroes" could be terribly unfashionable. A show can lose momentum in a heartbeat; look at "Joan of Arcadia" or "Desperate Housewives," or even "Lost" this time last year. So we'll see whether Bell made the right decision. Getting off of the CW network, by hook or by crook, was unquestionably a smart move.

2007-09-06 18:04:30
1.   Benaiah
As a recent Duke grad I can attest to the fact that most people who write for The Chronicle are morons (here is an article I wrote for the Chronicle about the Chronicle: That said you can hardly draw conclusions about the entire school from such a self selected group. I wrote for the Chronicle for a semester and it was maddening how insular the paper was. The larger social scene is very diverse (if frequently segregated), but 99% of the people who worked at the Chronicle were only in the social network of the paper itself.

If I judged you based solely on this post, as you are judging Duke based solely on the editorial page of the campus paper, I would conclude that you were something of a douche-bag who took cheap shots at easy targets. Fortunately, after reading all of your pop culture posts for the past year I can safely say you are slightly more than that. You are also a music geek and a Sci-Fi nerd, so that delicious combination of inexplicable elitism and reverse snobbery you reek of seems more cliche than anything special. Please stick to reviews of Star Trek and technical music analysis of a show that results rely exclusively on the whims of pre-teen girls; because I hate reading random "burn the place to the ground" call-outs of my alma mater on the Toaster.

2007-09-07 06:49:27
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
It's OK if you want to take cheap shots at Berkeley. I don't really remember most of my time at the place anyway.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.