Thursday, April 03, 2014

Sitcom Catchphrase Quiz Party

I was walking down the street behind a sitcom writer a fortnight ago, and a document fell out of his pocket. I picked it up and kept it forever. This document was a quiz for prospective writing staff hires testing their catchphrase chops. I now present this document to you:

WHICH CATCHPHRASE IS BEST?
You will be presented with several hilarious and comical situations. Underneath the situations are four catchphrases that can be said by one of the totally outrageous main characters. Pick which one is the best. If you get them all right, we may interview you for a position on one of our madcap situation comedies like "The Slappies," "The Theory of Relativity," or "Single Robot Dad." Good luck, and as we say in show business, break a leg!!

1. The boss is coming over for dinner in three minutes and you are all out of Chianti! What catchphrase best sums up the situation?

A. You've GOTTA be kiddin' me!
B. It's not even Monday!
C. I must have slapped a baby in my past life!
D. This world we live in would seem cold, empty, and cruel if it wasn't so pointless!

2. You've accidentally arranged dates with two sexy ladies on the same night ... at the same restaurant! What catchphrase best sums up the situation?

A. Holy guacamole! (bites knuckle)
B. I can't believe I did it again! Goodnight, America!
C. Who do I think I am? Mick Jagger? (shrugs shoulders and grins toward camera)
D. My continuing objectification of women reveals a deep flaw in my character!

3. You walk into your swinging single neighbor's duplex and see an unsavory sexual act (tastefully presented offscreen). What catchphrase best sums up the situation?

A. That DEFINITELY ain't kosher!
B. Give me a time machine, somebody! I need to erase the last two minutes of my life!
C. Now that's the OPPOSITE of Viagra!
D. I will scoop out my eyeballs with a spoon and dance upon them until they are as flat as the terra firma on which we stand to ensure a revolting sight such as this will never again impress itself upon my soul!

4. Due to an administrative mishap, 200 extra pizzas have been delivered to the pizza party boy band benefit concert sock hop! What catchphrase best sums up the situation?

A. I said I could eat a lot of pizza, but THIS is riDICulous!!
B. I need a Caribbean vacation!
C. Cut me some slack!
D. There are starving children in this world who will never taste even one bite of pizza in their short, miserable lives, while here at Beach Party High, the streets are paved with hundreds of surplus pizza pies!

5. You and your loose cannon best friend, Jock Blingo, are handcuffed together for an entire weekend when he loses the key! What catchphrase best sums up the situation?

A. You've done it again, Blingo!
B. And it was such a pleasant morning!
C. I am not laughing out loud THIS time!
D. Our friendship is thin, superficial, and no longer of use to me!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Dr. Mystery guide to "Miami Vice" for gentlemen and gentlewomen of leisure (Part 5: Season 5): The Final Chapter

The epic saga is finally at an end. I have exhausted the supply of Miami Vice episodes, leaving only a Miami Vice-sized hole in my heart. There were many highs, many lows, many ups, many downs, and many inexplicably strange lines of dialogue. For the past year and change, Miami Vice has been the wind beneath my wings, my surrogate father, a weirdly inappropriate uncle, and that guy who tried to sell me weed from his frat house fire escape that one weekend in 1996. But that's all over now. I'm on my own, the only set of footprints on the beach, a lone wolf, a shy bad boy with a heart of gold and no one to look out for me but me. I knew this day would come, but a man can never quite prepare for the day when he has to pack up, move on, and leave his 1980s television show behind. Thanks for taking this journey with me. (wipes away fake tear, chugs flask of leftover Zima)
To be honest, this season was a bit of a chore to plow through. The first two seasons were hilariously awesome, the third season showed some strain but was still 2/3 hilariously awesome, and the fourth season was terrible but in hilariously awesome ways, but the fifth season was pretty tired and worn out. Most Miami Vice fans consider the fourth season the worst, but its over-the-top ridiculousness (alien abductions, serial killers with multiple personalities, a snuff film made by an "erotic performance artist," contraband bull semen, samurai swordfights, ill-fated marriages to pop stars, cryogenically frozen reggae superstars named Robillard Nevin, a boat explosion that gives Crockett amnesia and makes him think he's an evil drug lord) was so, so amusing to me. The fifth season is my pick for the worst. Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas are clearly bored with the show and sleepwalk through their performances, the show's distinctive visual style and color palette are replaced by blandly generic '80s network TV blocking and framing and bland cinematography, the rest of the cast is barely on any of the episodes, Jan Hammer's electro-synth music is replaced by Tim Truman's noodly hair-metal blues guitar licks, Crockett's houseboat is only seen once, and his pet alligator Elvis is never even mentioned. The show tanked in the ratings, and the network kept moving it around to different nights. Three episodes weren't even aired until the summer reruns, and a fourth wasn't aired at all because the network got cold feet about its subject matter. The show was tired, the audience was tired, the actors were bored. It was time for the Old Yeller treatment. That being said, there were still plenty of ridiculously bizarre lines of dialogue, interesting guest stars, and moments of entertainment.
Miami Vice began in the most 1980s year of the '80s, 1984, and ended in 1989. It wouldn't have made sense in the '90s. It couldn't have transitioned to a '90s aesthetic. You don't want Crockett and Tubbs investigating grunge- and new jack swing-related cases. It just wouldn't have worked. Here's the final Dr. Mystery recap.

"Hostile Takeover"
Guest stars: Jon Polito is a crazed drug lord named El Gato. Mr. Max Headroom himself, Matt Frewer, is a shady underworld type with connections to several drug lords. Mickey Rourke's ex-wife and a current yoga teacher Debra Feuer is the widow of a drug lord with the hots for Crockett. Victor Argo is not a drug lord but he is a South American comandante. Joe Santos is an ill-fated drug lord. Anthony Crivello is the son of the ill-fated drug lord. His character's name is Miguel. My notes about the episode contain this phrase: "Miguel? -- crazy, crazy hair."
Out-of-context quote: "Nice groceries. Roll over, Beethoven."
This episode picks up where the Season 4 cliffhanger left off. If you remember, Crockett thinks he's a mercenary drug lord because he got amnesia during a boat explosion. It could happen to anyone. My notes tell me that El Gato wears a chain that is a giant gold eagle, and that this episode features the return of Tubbs' awful Jamaican accent.

"Redemption in Blood"
Guest stars: Jon Polito, Matt Frewer, Debra Feuer, and Victor Argo return from the previous episode.
Out-of-context quote: "I am El Gato! You have not died in vain, amigo. El Gato will take your strength. El Gato is a player."
Bonus quote: "What are you boys waiting for? A Christmas bonus?"
Another bonus quote: ""Yesterday he threatened to kill me." "So?"
Polito knows how ridiculous his character is and wisely adds another 12 glazed hams to his already scenery-chewing performance in "Hostile Takeover." From my notes: "Polito is a cross between Pacino's Scarface and Rip Taylor ... & Cheech." Also from my notes: "(Crockett) should have stayed as his (drug lord) persona. Sexy girlfriend, money, slightly better hairdo, sweet jukebox, pet panther." Yes, Evil Crockett owned a panther that roamed freely in one of the rooms of his mercenary drug lord pad.

"Heart of Night"
Guest stars: Bob Gunton is a drug dealer. Rosalind Chao takes over for Joan Chen as Castillo's long-lost former wife. James Saito is Chao's current husband. Michael Lombard is Saito's boss.
Out-of-context quote: "What was he carrying?" "Strange toy birds."
Bonus quote: "You're gonna look like a serious freak and for what?"

"Bad Timing"
Guest stars: Melissa Leo is a bartender Crockett meets while on vacation recuperating from his amnesia and amnesia-related villainy. Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gary Farmer, and William O'Leary are murderous escaped prisoners. Stephanie Roth is Crockett's psychiatrist. Jermaine Stewart, late one-hit-wonder ("You Don't Have to Take Your Clothes Off"), appears as himself.
Out-of-context quote: "I hope you got something to drink and the treasure map."
In a plausible scenario, Jermaine Stewart performs his brand of effeminate dance-pop to a captive audience of murderous prisoners. They hate his music so much, they start a prison riot, and our trio of killers escapes.

"Borrasca"
Guest stars: Juan Fernandez is a counterrevolutionary who is good at killing and good at being a target for assassination. Brion James is a mercenary intelligence agent for hire.
Out-of-context quote: "Some street punk in New York tried to touch me there once. You know what I did? Had to carve a new face for that sucka!"
Bonus quote: "I let you live, peasant. Thank the Virgin."
Normal quote given a hilarious line reading: "What the hell is happening?"


"Line of Fire"
Guest stars: Barry Primus is an FBI agent. Justin Lazard is a heavy metal-loving witness to a crime who Crockett and Tubbs have to protect until he can testify. Aasif Mandviwala is a doorman.
Out-of-context quote: "They tell me you guys were Vice. I figure, hey, man, that's rippin'. Vice dudes know what's happenin', right?'
Bonus quote: "I hear Miami's a pretty moshin' scene. Insane clubs, huh?"
Another bonus quote: "That was a bonehead play, junior."
Yet another bonus quote: "They shot my boombox. I'm outta here, Crockett."
Sonny Crockett, rock critic: "This speed metal crap is just warmed-over Hendrix riffs played twice as fast and half as well."
I have several things to point out about this episode. Every time Lazard turns on a television, Ministry's "Stigmata" video is playing. Lazard sneaks away from police protection to attend a concert by Rugged Edge, a real local Miami band that combined hardcore punk with hair metal guitar solos. Crockett tries to turn Lazard away from metal by playing him Derek & The Dominos and telling him that metal won't be around in 20 years. Crockett gets into a shootout with a helicopter and EXPLODES it. Crockett and Tubbs visit Lazard in the hospital and bring albums by Anthrax, Megadeth, and Crumbsuckers.

"Asian Cut"
Guest stars: David Schramm is a professor of Asian studies. Russell Horton is a photographer. Julian Brams is a prostitute. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is a crazy nut who loves knives.
Out-of-context quote:  "You don't mind if we talk while my latest acquisition is being mounted?"

"Hard Knocks"
Guest stars: Richard Jenkins is a mobster in charge of collecting gambling debts. Victor Slezak is a sports agent with gambling and mob ties.
Out-of-context quote: "You run a fine organization, Chi-Chi."

"Fruit of the Poison Tree"
Guest stars: Amanda Plummer is a lawyer from a powerful family of lawyers. Paulie Walnuts himself, Tony Sirico, is a gangster. Stephen McHattie is another lawyer. Edgar Allen Poe IV (apparently, he's a distant nephew of the writer) is listed in the credits as "Junkie."
Out-of-context quote: "The man said he didn't have any sauerkraut."
Bonus quote: "You look terrific wet."

"To Have and to Hold"
Guest stars: Miguel Ferrer is the very intense son of a drug lord. Elpidia Carillo is the widow of a drug lord who gets in a little too deep with Tubbs ... between the sheets. Oh, snap. Belinda Montgomery is back as Crockett's ex-wife.
Out-of-context quote: "Wish I'd known you were into the classics. Last two pictures I checked in on, a moth ate a guy's head and a worm slimed Cleveland."
Bonus quote: "You're a very tender lady."
Another bonus quote: "Dr. Tubbs?"

"Miami Squeeze"
Guest stars: Rita Moreno is a hardball congresswoman whose son gets in trouble with drug dealers. Paul Provenza is a drug dealer. Robert Joy is a posh British drug lord with an unhealthy attachment to his pet dog.
Out-of-context quote: "Our transportation plan seems to have gone awry. Most unsatisfactory."

"Jack of All Trades"
Guest stars: John Santucci is a small-time gangster who is owed a debt by Crockett's cousin. Fame's Jesse Borrego is a big-time drug lord with the most ridiculous outfits I've ever seen on television or in life. You need to go to Netflix right now and stream this episode just to see the sleeves on this guy's shirts. From my notes: "It's like Seinfeld's puffy shirt if it was only sleeves or he's wearing two of Steven Tyler's mic stands on each arm."
Out-of-context quote: "I think you're wack. This is stinko."
Bonus quote: "We don't really have time to tally up all the bonehead plays you've made."
Another quote: "Call Dan Quayle. He'll vouch for me."
For some reason, this episode has a bizarre musical score that relies heavily on a capella and fits the scenes about as well as the glove in the OJ trial fit OJ.

"The Cell Within"
Guest stars: John P. Ryan is a criminal Tubbs busted years ago, and he's now a published author and reformed friend of Tubbs. Or is he? L.M. Kit Carson, screenwriter of Paris, Texas and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, is a documentary filmmaker making a movie about Ryan. Richard Gant is a former professional boxer who is now Ryan's bodyguard.
Out-of-context quote: "Maybe he got lucky last night with some literary chick."
This episode would have fit right in with the fan fic-style insanity of Season 4. Ryan kidnaps Tubbs and locks him in the simulated prison in the basement of his mansion, complete with working electric chair, because Tubbs refuses to assist his vigilante crusade to kidnap, jail, and execute prisoners at his own home.

"The Lost Madonna"
Guest stars: Michael Chiklis is a detective and art enthusiast responsible for investigating stolen art. Ned Eisenberg is a drug dealer and thief. Elizabeth Berridge is an art lover and the wife of a drug lord.
Out-of-context quote:  "My work is beyond syntax."
Bonus quote: "The latest exploratory probe into neo-Dadaism."
Another quote: "The painter here is engaged in an aesthetic mysticism."
And another quote: "Dig the prof."
Tubbs goes undercover here as a renegade art professor who is selling stolen art. He convinces because he slicks his hair back. A shirtless musclehead guy with a long ponytail is an angry, inarticulate yet famous sculptor.

"Over the Line"
Guest stars: No one I know (except Martin Ferrero as Izzy).
Out-of-context quote:  "We know that Dr. Dinky tipped Tommy T, but who tipped Dr. D?"
Bonus quote: "Certain reptilian fluids."

"Victims of Circumstance"
Guest stars: William Hickey is a Nazi war criminal. Karen Black is his crazy daughter. John Leguizamo is the younger brother of two murdered drug dealers. Paul Guilfoyle is a crazy white supremacist. Xander Berkeley is a homicide detective.
Out-of-context quote: "The liberal cabal controls the media."

"Freefall: Part 1"
Guest stars: Ian McShane is the dictator of a fictional Latin American country on the verge of revolution. Robert Beltran is his aide-de-camp. Elpidia Carillo is a political activist nun who is Crockett and Tubbs' contact while they are in Latin America. Greg Germann is a lowlife punk.
Out-of-context quote: "Social life in the '80s. Isn't it a kick?"

"Freefall: Part 2"
Guest stars: See above. They're all back.
Out-of-context quote: "You don't just catch fish, you achieve a oneness with them, but I sense that you're not here for pescatorial pleasures."

The Lost Episodes
The next three episodes never aired until summer reruns because the network kept moving the show to different days and times and preempting it for special programming because of low ratings in its last season.

"World of Trouble"
Guest stars: Dennis Farina is back as Al Lombard, the gangster with a heart of gold. Vincent Schiavelli is a scientist who has created HAVOC, a stun gun for vehicles that disables them while they are in motion. Luca Bercovici is an arms dealer with a yacht. Ned Eisenberg is a gangster who wants to kill Lombard. Julian Brams is Lombard's daughter-in-law.
Out-of-context quote: "Wait a minute. This weapon shoots lightning bolts and you say it isn't dangerous?"
Bonus quote: "I never liked your hair."

"Miracle Man"
Guest stars: Jose Perez is a mentally ill ex-drug addict who thinks he's a crime fighting superhero named Miracle Man. Zach Grenier is a tabloid TV reporter.
Out-of-context quote: "I need a place to kick back where the forces of evil can't reach me while I make my plans."

"Leap of Faith"
Guest stars: Keith Gordon is a psychotic college professor, drug maker, and leader of a drug cult. Jennifer Rubin is one of his students and followers who starts having doubts. Laura San Giacomo is an investigator and computer expert. Justin Lazard is back.
Out-of-context quote: "I don't give a damn if you were assigned by Dan Quayle."
Bonus quote: "Me, I'm into surfboards and bikinis. I'm from Long Beach, California."
This episode is hilariously bad and was meant to be the launching pad for a spinoff series about the Young Crimes Unit. Crockett and Tubbs are in the first few minutes of this episode, but after that, it's a whole different show. Justin Lazard, whom you may remember as the heavy metal-loving informant from "Line of Fire," joins up with two other young undercover cops, a Southern boy from Arkansas and a surfer dude from California, as well as computer whiz Laura San Giacomo, and their boss, the old man of the group, Kiel Martin, to work undercover in the young world of young crimes concerning the young. Lazard butts heads with the other two young undercover cops at first. He works alone and he hates California surfer dudes so much, but they soon earn the grudging respect of each other and become best friends forever. In their first case, they're undercover at a club where the live entertainment is one guy lip-syncing to "Sweet Child O' Mine" for a crowd consisting of hair metal rocker dudes, punks with mohawks and safety pins in their leather vests, and asshole Wolf of Wall Street types snorting coke and wearing professional office attire. Needless to say, this spinoff never became a show because this episode was not aired during the regular season and also it was fucking terrible. But hilariously fucking terrible.

This last lost episode was approved by the network, shot, and completed, but NBC decided at the last minute that its depiction of the rape of a young girl was too controversial and pulled the plug. It was never aired until syndicated reruns in the 1990s, making it the only Miami Vice episode not shown in the 1980s.

"Too Much, Too Late"
Guest stars: Pam Grier is back as a New York detective and Tubbs' ex. C.C.H. Pounder is a coke addict and old friend of Pam's. John Toles-Bey is her sadistic drug dealer. Malinda Williams is her pre-teen daughter.
Out-of-context quote: "Esto es un tango, and also a little financial advice."
Bonus quote: "Hey, I am talkin' life's highway."

That's it.  
 

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Great moments in journalism

From an ABC News article about the new Burger King burger, the Big King:

"Despite the familiar ingredients all the way down to the third bun, Burger King tells ABC News it doesn’t taste like the Big Mac because of the way the burger is prepared — it’s fire-grilled. The Big King is also 40 calories less than its rival.
Brooklyn resident Ty Bills, who eats from both burger chains, sought out the 'Big King' on the first day it launched. After the first few bites he smiled and nodded.
'It's very juicy,' he said. 'The sauce is different. I don't know what's in the sauce, but the sauce is good,' he added between bites."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Dr. Mystery guide to "Miami Vice" for gentlemen and gentlewomen of leisure (Part 4: Season 4)

When I began this odyssey, this quest, to watch every episode of Miami Vice and report my findings here on the blog (probably one of the greatest quests of the modern era, but I'll leave that for the historians to sort out), I went down some crazy rabbit holes of rabid Vice fandom. There are many disputes, debates, and differences of opinion among the online fanatics, but most of them can agree on one thing: that Season 4 is the worst season of the series. This is the season where the train went off the tracks, where sharks were jumped, where actors began openly criticizing the quality of the scripts. Miami Vice is commonly regarded today as lovable kitsch and nostalgic '80s goofiness, but I will go to bat for the first three seasons being a damn good show. Miami Vice really looked like nothing else on television at the time and was a unique blend of '30s and '40s film noir shadows-and-light formalism, '70s-style cop show action/thriller, '80s music video and neon-and-pastel flash, and shot-on-location documentary-style Miami local color. Most television up to this point had looked very stagy and flat, but Miami Vice had a cinematic look and style that jumped off the screen.
Season 4, on the other hand, dials down some of the stylistic formalism that made the show ahead of its time and dials up some of the silliest, most ridiculous episodes in television history. The ratings dropped, and the show went from being a huge hit to a minor one. I can see why this season turned off a lot of the fanboys, but as a time capsule and a piece of mostly unintentional hilarity and absurdity, it's pretty entertaining in hindsight. A handful of episodes have some serious pacing problems and listless acting, never a problem on this show before, and I can see the writers, producers, and actors struggling to find new places to take the series. Even so, there's something really, really weird about this season. It plays out not like another season of the show, but like filmed Miami Vice fan fiction written by slightly unhinged superfans. Most episodes seem like alternate reality Vice. In honor of this bizarre development, I have added a new category to my episode-by-episode wrapup. In addition to guest stars and out-of-context quotes, I've included the fan-fiction element.
General fan-fiction element for the entire season: The women detectives on the show, Gina and Trudy, used to wear long, flowing, billowy dresses, which was strange enough office wear for detectives. This season, they sexed it up about 92 percent by wearing tight, short skirts. Trudy also has a nameplate on her desk reading "Big Booty Trudy." That can't be regulation nameplate.

"Contempt of Court"
Guest stars: Stanley Tucci is a mob boss. Philip Baker Hall is a federal judge. Meg Foster is a U.S. attorney.
Out-of-context quote: "Common decency demands that we dismiss this indictment, which is a stew of rancid meat that makes me want to retch and vomit." (knocks all papers off desk in anger)
Fan fiction element: Though the plot of this one is pretty standard Miami Vice boilerplate, the acting is so volcanically over the top that I imagine the director's instructions were, "Act like people are watching your performance on a television that is on the opposite end of a football field." Tucci's mob boss regularly cracks wise in court, even ordering cannoli and veal cutlets from the courtroom. It's like an SNL Miami Vice skit turned actual episode.

"Amen... Send Money"
Guest stars: Brian Dennehy is a televangelist named Reverend Bill Bob Proverb who preaches that God rewards the greedy and loves material wealth. Anita Morris is Bill Bob's wife who has some illegal hobbies. James Tolkan is another televangelist. Ben Stiller is a sleazy guy named Fast Eddie who sells religious paraphernalia.
Out-of-context quote: "I love this Italian silk $750 piece of matter we call a jacket."
Bonus quote: "I've been to jail. Jail sucks."
Fan fiction element: The televangelist's studio looks like a cross between some Scientology bullshit, Morton Downey Jr.'s show, and a portal to hell. The preacher character is such an exaggerated piece of satire that it makes no sense on a cop show.

"Death and the Lady"
Guest stars: Paul Guilfoyle is an "erotic performance artist" who has directed a porno that's also a fake snuff film ... or is it? Kelly Lynch is a stripper who appeared in the snuff film ... or did she? Penelope Ann Miller is the sister of a woman who appeared in the film ... or is she? Yeah, she is. Miguel Ferrer is a district attorney.
Out-of-context quote: "Mr. Crockett, you're fixated on dead people. Are you a necrophiliac?"
Fan fiction element: Guilfoyle's performance artist character is, in a season trend, wildly over the top. We also have the is-it-or-isn't-it element of the snuff film, possible twins who are possibly just one person pretending to be twins, and a murder victim who may be still alive, or dead but not murdered. This is a really weird episode.

"The Big Thaw"
This episode is commonly considered one of the worst, but I happened to find it very amusing.
Guest stars: Bill Raymond is the head of a cryogenics lab. Alfred Molina is an attorney.
Out-of-context quote: "There's a big difference between making instant coffee and trying to bring a Rastafarian back from the dead."
Bonus quote: "He looks stoned." "He is. Stone cold frozen."
Fan fiction element: This episode is about a legal battle over the cryogenically frozen corpse of a Jamaican reggae singer named Robillard Nevin, who was frozen after he died from Fugu poisoning upon eating incorrectly prepared blowfish while on tour. Enough said.

"Child's Play"
Guest stars: Ving Rhames is a career criminal mixed up in some bad stuff. Danitra Vance is his girlfriend ... with a secret. Isaac Hayes is a gunrunner named Holiday. Belinda Montgomery is Crockett's ex-wife.
Out-of-context quote: "Man, it's like holding two volleyballs underwater. Can't be done for long."
Fan fiction element: Other than reintroducing a few characters from the first season, not much in the way of fan fiction elements here. This one's actually a pretty effective piece of crime drama that has more in common with the earlier seasons.

"God's Work"
Guest stars: Film director Alfonso Arau is a crime lord. Esai Morales is his closeted gay son who wants to turn the family business legit.
Out-of-context quote: "I think this guy took a wrong turn at the cheese and wine shop."
Bonus quote: "That's original. I love originality. But in Homicide, they don't give a damn."
Fan fiction element: Again, this one's mostly straight-ahead drama, but there's a lot of speechifying here about raising money to fight AIDS and treat AIDS patients.

"Missing Hours"
This episode enjoys a reputation as the absolute worst one in the entire series, but its off-the-charts absurdity and ridiculousness make it well worth seeing.
Guest stars: James Brown is a James Brown-like soul music superstar famous for singing James Brown songs named Lou DeLong who is also a government agent, a man who was abducted by aliens, and/or an actual alien. Chris Rock is a precocious young go-getter in the Central Records department who is also a UFO conspiracy theory buff. Charlie Barnett returns as The Noogman.
Out-of-context quote: "Why don't I reorient your intergalactic desirability?"
Bonus quote: "One thousand bucks and two dozen one-pound peanut butter jars in his shopping bag." "Creamy ... or crunchy?"
Double bonus quote: "Two men with weird eyes and purple auras. That's all she can remember right now."
Fan fiction element: Are you kidding? Trudy is abducted by aliens, one of whom may or may not be James Brown. Alien abductees somehow feel the need to buy multiple jars of peanut butter, travel to an empty house boat, and stare into the face of James Brown, which then disappears and turns into blue sky and clouds. Chris Rock's character is treated like an old series regular, even though he never appears on another episode. Chris Rock also reads about aliens on the pre-Internet computer message board groups. Sci-fi writer Thomas M. Disch wrote this episode. Peanut butter?

"Like a Hurricane"
Guest stars: '80s pop star Sheena Easton is '80s pop star Caitlin Davies. Xander Berkeley is a sleazy band manager who's running a payola scam. Tony Hendra is a music executive who's into some shady criminal underworld stuff. Teller (of Penn & Teller) is Hendra's very chatty and very sleazy attorney. Yeah, you get to hear Teller speak. The MCs of Rap play themselves performing in a nightclub. Yeah, The MCs of Rap. Also on the bill but unfortunately cut out of the episode were opening acts The Rockers of Rock and The Jazzmen of Jazz.
Out-of-context quote: "What the hell is that?" "'Rubber Love' by The Blowguns."
Bonus quote: "The drummer OD'ed on reds, the guitar player joined a cult, but the bass player got a lawyer and sued."
Fan fiction element: Crockett is forced to act as protection for Caitlin (Sheena Easton) when her life is threatened. As a working stiff detective, he hates this pop star celebrity. As a pop star celebrity, she hates the surly detective. However, as we learned in the 1990s from the live action human on rapping cartoon cat bestiality of Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat's "Opposites Attract," opposites attract. Crocket and Caitlin soon fall in love and get married. They also enjoy an oddly violent makeout session soundtracked by a flute solo. Don't worry about Crockett's cover getting blown. Sure, he's an undercover vice cop pretending to be a middleman for drug lords and gunrunners and pimps and he's marrying a famous pop star, but, as Crockett puts it, "she likes her privacy, so it's not gonna jeopardize my cover." Caitlin's big comeback single is a cover of "I Got You, Babe." Though it's a duet, she sings it alone, unless you count the children's choir on the last verse. Last but not least, three words: exploding demo tape!

"The Rising Sun of Death"
Guest stars: Sheena Easton is back. R. Lee Ermey is a corrupt homicide sergeant. James Hong is a Yakuza higher-up.
Out-of-context quote: "They just jerked a floater out of the bay."
Bonus quote: "Latin machismo."
Double bonus quote: "Look in the yellow pages under full-body tattoos."
Fan fiction element: This is basically a one-hour generic yakuza and samurai movie with small supporting roles from the regular cast. There's a big samurai swordfight in the rain with lots of talk about codes and honor and seppuku. There is also a strip club scene where the strippers are dancing to "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" by The Smiths. I haven't been to a strip club in years and have never been a strip club regular, but I'm willing to bet this song, one of the most melancholy Smiths ballads, has never been played in any strip club at any point in our nation's history.

"Love at First Sight"
Guest stars: Sheena Easton is back. Iman is a woman using a video dating service. She's got some secrets. Annabelle Gurwitch is a wisecracking prostitute. Lori Petty is an enthusiast of S&M who is using the same dating service as Iman. Christopher McCann is an FBI agent.
Out-of-context quote: "Somebody's not too fond of male genitalia."
Bonus quote: "A woman's eyes can tell you a thousand stories about her. Does she dig Mantovani or Manilow? Is she high for Club Med Guadeloupe or Club Med Martinique?"
Fan fiction element: This is actually a pretty scary, exciting, and suspenseful episode. Crockett goes undercover at a video dating service to bust a prostitution ring, but the focus of the investigation shifts when several men using the service are murdered. Crockett fits the killer's type, so he becomes the bait. The killer has a split personality, each one a different gender. Don Johnson directed this episode, and it's an effective piece of horror.

"A Rock and a Hard Place"
Guest stars: Sheena Easton and Tony Hendra are back.
Out-of-context quote: "This Fremont and Wiggins, they're a couple of tubesteaks."
Bonus quote: "Your reputation sucks."
Fan fiction element: Crockett goes to LA with Caitlin, who is doing a press junket for her new album and appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone, even though he's an undercover cop. The paparazzi go crazy over him when they think he's his undercover persona, and a scandal hits the press: pop star marries drug dealer, killer, pimp, and gunrunner.

"The Cows of October"
Guest stars: Harry Shearer is an overzealous, bumbling FBI agent. Gerrit Graham is a Texas businessman, and like all Texans, he wears a huge cowboy hat and speaks in a broadly fake Southern accent.
Out-of-context quote: "Obviously, you two have a little to learn about the chess-like interaction of international intrigue."
Bonus quote: "Our side just won a major battle in the cold war of animal husbandry."
Double bonus quote: "You're a credit to the free-enterprising vertebraes of this planet."
Fan fiction element: Several of the previous episodes have put the basic series template into an entirely different genre: satire, mystery, science fiction, backstage show business drama, samurai movie, horror. This one mixes the western with the screwball comedy and is about the international smuggling of bull semen, particularly one virile bull named Gargantua. The soundtrack is drawn from the scores of several classic westerns. Again, this is not very good, but it's incredibly entertaining.

"Vote of Confidence"
Guest star: Larry Pine is a gubernatorial candidate busted with a prostitute, which is only the first piece in a vast government conspiracy.
Out-of-context quote: "It's a little early in the morning for coffee."
Bonus quote: "That booger Pearl Harbored me."
Fan fiction element: This one starts as a satire of political campaigns before turning into a missing person whodunit.

"Baseballs of Death"
This is a rare old-school, solid episode, directed by character actor Bill Duke, who also directed the underrated '90s crime thriller Deep Cover.
Guest stars: Tony Plana is a bad dude. Please don't fuck with him. Lisa Marie and Michael Des Barres are con artists running a lucrative scam. Lisa Marie pretends to be a prostitute, using her womanly charms to lure rich businessmen. Des Barres takes their photos, and the pair blackmail the rich old philanderers. Mark Metcalf is a DEA agent with the trademark Metcalf intensity. Oliver Platt is a weapons smuggler named Speed Stiles.
Out-of-context quote: "Your mother can't satisfy your needs anymore. I can."
Bonus quote: "Is this for your gun club or are you planning to invade Uruguay?"
Double bonus quote: "Good morgen!" "Anything since last night?" "Couple of dogs fell in love and started a family about six hours ago."
Triple bonus quote: "I guess Guerrero was home makin' chile rellenos through all this."
Fan fiction element: Other than a spectacular speedboat explosion, nothing too bizarre here.

"Indian Wars"
Guest stars: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young drummer Joe Lala is a drug dealer. Joseph Turkel and his amazingly square, amazingly huge eyeglasses are a major drug smuggler.
Out-of-context quote: "I cannot be responsible for the peccadilloes of my associates."
Fan fiction element: This episode focuses on drug smuggling on the Native American tribal reservation of the Miccosukees, which gives the series the opportunity to feature lots of big speeches about the white man vs. the Indian, old ways vs. modernization, income from allowing drug dealers to use their land vs. going clean but losing all the money, youth vs. the elderly, idealism vs. business, etc. Plus, one character is a schizophrenic with his own vigilante army, and Tubbs goes undercover on the reservation as a doctoral student working on his thesis "Oppression in the Land of the Free." He convinces as a doctoral student because he puts on glasses.

"Honor Among Thieves?"
Holy shit, this episode is crazy.
Guest star: Dylan Baker is a homicide detective.
Out-of-context quote: "That's real heat, when they start arresting your horses."
Bonus quote: "Someday, you and me are gonna dance." "Strike up the band, baby."
Fan fiction element: A serial killer with a huge doll collection thinks his dolls can talk to him. They tell him to rape and kill young girls. The killer speaks in a high, squeaky voice whenever he's doing the voice of the dolls. He kills the girls by injecting them with an overdose of very pure cocaine. He then rubs cocaine all over the bodies and dumps them in a public place and rests a doll on top of the corpse. Crockett is undercover at a major drug dealer's compound, pretending to be a lawyer advising the dealer how to launder his drug money to make it look legal. The killer's use of cocaine is putting too much heat on the drug trade, so this dealer puts out feelers to catch the guy themselves. When they catch him, the dealer invites every other major Miami drug dealer to a kangaroo court on a nightclub dance floor. The club is closed for the night. Thinking Crockett's a lawyer, the dealer makes Crockett defend the killer. If Crockett can convince the assorted dealers the killer is too insane to know right from wrong, they'll turn him over to the cops. If Crockett can't convince them, they will torture and murder the guy. If you think that synopsis is crazy, wait until you see the concluding scene.

"Hell Hath No Fury"
Guest stars: Don Harvey is a convicted rapist recently released from prison. John Michael Higgins is the sleazy host of a Geraldo and Maury-style talk show. John Finn is a survivalist gun nut hit man for hire.
Out-of-context quote: "That's what rules are for, so you don't have to think."
Fan fiction element: We get both a satire of sleazeball talk shows and a ripped-from-the-headlines subplot about hired hitmen in the Soldier of Fortune classifieds. Also, Trudy is good friends with the rape victim as well as the arresting officer of her rapist, and the episode pretends like this has been an ongoing story even though this is the first and last we'll see of it.

"Badge of Dishonor"
Guest stars: Reni Santoni is lieutenant of a special ops drug unit. Barbra Streisand has a bizarrely brief cameo as a pedestrian walking down the street, so brief I didn't even notice it.
Out-of-context quote: "Great, couple of bad apples set back minority recruiting another 400 years!"
Fan fiction element: Weird Barbra Streisand cameo. Actor Julio Oscar Mechoso, who was a regular on the first season as a member of the vice team before the network decided to phase out the character, plays a drug dealer in the opening scene.

"Blood and Roses"
Guest stars: Stanley Tucci and Meg Foster are back from the first episode of the season. Michael Wincott is a sleazy guy with underworld connections. Frank Stallone is one of Stanley Tucci's goons.
Out-of-context quote: "Definitely not al dente."
Bonus quote: "Bottle of Dom P., two straws."
Fan fiction element: This episode has the exact same plot as an episode from the first season, and it's one that makes me feel gross and unpleasant. Why do it again? Gina is undercover and she's forced to have sex with a guy who creeps her out to avoid blowing her cover. She breaks down and is consoled by Trudy. At the end of both episodes, she kills the guy in a shootout and then stares deep into Crockett's eyes to let him know silently what went down. Freeze frame. Credits. Such a weird plot to repeat out of all the storylines from the past three years.

"A Bullett for Crockett"
Guest star: Fame's Jesse Borrego is a drug smuggler.
Out-of-context quote: "I never should have let him take Loco Mendez alone."
Bonus quote: "She's beyond the moral laws of this or any other world."
Fan fiction element: This is a fucking clipshow. Crockett is shot by the girlfriend of the dealer he's just shot. He's in a coma in the hospital, which happens to be the most dimly lit hospital in North America, which gives each character the opportunity to visit him and flash back to a scene from a previous episode. "In the Air Tonight" is brought back from the very first episode of the show to score the opening scene. Crockett's shooting will never come up again, and he's completely recovered by the next episode, even though he was in a coma with a bullet lodged in his spine. Fucking clipshows.

"Deliver Us From Evil"
Guest stars: Sheena Easton is back. Guy Boyd is back from Season 3.
Out-of-context quote: "This guy knows the difference between Baccarat and Lalique."
Bonus quote: "Did I ask for a lukewarm beer, Julia?"
Fan fiction element: This episode brings two completely separate storylines from earlier episodes together. We also get to see Sheena Easton perform "Follow My Rainbow" in its entirety, which is exactly the kind of song you imagine it is from the title. Also, several people in the audience give her bouquets of flowers after she performs. I thought this only happened to opera singers and theater actors and directors on Broadway.

"Mirror Image"
Guest stars: Antonio Fargas is a drug lord. Chris Cooper is a dirty detective. Julia Roberts is a drug lord's assistant. Brent Jennings is a vice sergeant.
Out-of-context quote: "Vice? I love vice."
Fan fiction element: Crockett gets a head injury during a boat explosion and wakes up with amnesia, which makes him think he's his undercover persona, so he turns evil. There is a weird Lynchian dream sequence. The episode ends on a cliffhanger.

One more season to go.















Crockett and Tubbs pose with Tubbs' bird, Pepito, star of the short-lived spinoff series Johnny Pepito, Tropical Bird Detective

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A song for every year of my life #27: 2003

It's been a while since I did one of these, so I'm going to kick this one off with a band that makes most people I know sigh exasperatedly, mutter angrily under their breath, or just involuntarily exhibit a look of mild disgust when confronted with an audible mention of their name. The Fiery Furnaces are a band I love, one of my favorite bands of the last decade and change, and a band that suffers from Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome among most of my local peer group. I tell you, they get no regard. Oh well. People are wrong about almost everything. People, eh? Can't live with them, can't buy beer without them. By the way, if the more challenging/irritating/proggy/musical theater aspects of this band drive you a little nutty but you do find some things to like about them, I urge you to check out Eleanor Friedberger's two solo albums. One of them is a catchy, poppy, gorgeous '80s new wave and indie-pop inspired record that reminds me of late fall, and the other is a catchy, poppy, gorgeous '70s singer-songwriter inspired record that reminds me of summer. Here's "Leaky Tunnel" for you curmudgeons.



Honorable mention: Pernice Brothers - "Blinded by the Stars"
I love the drums and how they're recorded. I love how Joe Pernice structured this song and how beautifully he sings it. I love the tone and the subtle yet awesome flourishes in the background from the guitar. This song's like a big hunk of enticing candy to me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Write your way to blogcess™: Tips from a blogging legend

Can-Smashing Robot celebrated its ninth birthday in July, and as a way of thanking my readers for a near-decade of unpopularity, I thought I'd do something special. Hypothetically, I'm constantly being swarmed in grocery stores, wine tastings, and my endocrinologist's waiting room by people of varied backgrounds who share nothing except this message: "Hey, you're Josh Krauter, right? Do you have any advice for anyone hoping to get into the writing game, paid or otherwise?" Well, I've never been paid for my work, so I don't know anything about that, but I do know from otherwise. Boy, do I ever. Without any further ado, here is my advice for transforming your writing from fool's gold into 24-karat nuggets of genius.

1. Avoid Topical References
Too often, amateurs will pepper their work with references to the hot celebrities and events of the day, not realizing how dated these references to, for example, the Hot Pantzz Boyz 2000, Millicent Cyrus, and the country of Syria will seem to readers of the future. If you are going to reference a famous individual, make sure it is someone who has withstood the vicissitudes and whirligigs of the various decades, reputation intact.

For quick reference, here is a list of celebrities it is okay to mention in your work (you may want to print this out and stick it on your computer or typewriter):
William Shakespeare
Sigmund Freud
Elvis ("the King of rockin' roll") Presley
Led Zeppelin
Marilyn Monroe
Pete Best
the Vicomte de Noailles
Peabo Bryson
Mark Twain
Dave
the famous Pope
Carly Rae Jepson
that guy's dad who's always making sassy comments on Twitter

2. Don't plagiarize
Don't plagiarize anything verbatim. You will get caught. However, it is okay to find someone much smarter than you and steal their ideas.

3. Write about da Vinci codes.
Write about da Vinci codes. People love that shit.

4. Don't waste time revising.
I've been blogging for nine years, and I have three different blogs. Every post is a rough draft. I could have polished each post and made it better, in some cases a lot better, but that would have sucked up time better spent eating deli meats and watching "Dharma & Greg." Readers don't know the difference and they don't care. I've posted some seriously terrible shit and no one's complained.

5. Make up words.
Look what I did in the title to this post. I made up the word "blogcess." This is Method A, which is the method where you take one word and smoosh it into another word. I smooshed "blog" into "success" and now you can't stop saying it. It's probably already gone viral. Method B is also effective. Method B is the method in which you just make up a word on the spot. Wingodangle. I just did it. You can have that one for free. Use it as you see fit, and watch the website hits soar into double digits.

6. Listen to the vernacular of the streets and incorporate it into your work.
If you want your work to pop, to really jump off the page with verisimilitude and pizzazz, you've got to get off your sweet, sweet can and mingle with the people. See what makes them tick. Hear what they're saying and how they're saying it. For example, I had a story idea that would require me to capture the essence of three young children. Instead of just winging it, I wandered onto a nearby playground to soak up the verbal world of today's youth. As I wandered over to a group of kids playing on the monkey bars, I heard this opening salvo: "Mr. Walker smells like pee." Attempting to blend in with the tykes, I put forth a witticism aimed at their primitive level of humor. "I saw Sylvester Stallone on the television last night," I began. "He's sure aged. Sylvester Stallone, more like Sylvester Nursing Home. Right, dudes?" I then raised my right hand to await the many high fives I was about to receive. Oddly, this gesture was not reciprocated, but I absorbed their priceless replies, which were a veritable literary goldmine of childhood vernacular:
"Who's Stavester Stallone? Is he your dad?"
"Why are you here?"
"Who are you?"
"Why are you on the monkey bars? You are a man."
"Stranger danger! Stranger danger!"
Classic stuff. Get out there and listen, and then use it. The streets are always talking and always patiently awaiting a scribe with the vision to capture it all.

7. Stock your liquor cabinet.
Make sure you have plenty of booze on hand, in case I stop by.

8. Commune with the dolphins. 
Just kidding. Don't do that. It's fucking stupid.

Alright, fans. Now that you have absorbed this advice, what are you waiting for? Get blogging. One day, you, too, may achieve my legendary status in the blogosphere and know how it feels to reply to the question, "How's the air over there on your side of the fence, the side with the greener grass?" with the answer, "Pretty damn clean and refreshing, my less distinguished friend. Pretty damn clean and refreshing."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The popular culture, topical edition

"It seemed to be business as usual for Monteith on his final afternoon. At 1:24 p.m., the star took to Twitter to ask, 'what the crap is Sharknado.' One minute later, at 1:25, he seemed to have found the answer, tweeting, 'oh. IT'S A SHARK TORNADO.' His tweets refer to the Syfy original movie 'Sharknado,' which stars Tara Reid and Ian Ziering, and is, indeed, about a shark-tornado. These would be the last tweets Monteith would ever post."
-- from a Yahoo news article about the final day of recently deceased Glee actor Cory Monteith

Historians of the future, the paragraph above will be useful to you when assessing, evaluating, and documenting 2013.