Tag Archives: Pop Culture

Obsession of the Week: 30 Rock’s “Christmas Attack Zone”

Sure “30 Rock” can be extremely uneven. One week it’s great and the next week it’s weak. There Christmas episodes are always highlights. Last week’s episode “Christmas Attack Zone” really struck my funny bone. What’s a “Christmas Attach Zone?” Think of the airing of grievances from Festivus on “Seinfeld” and add in your own family, alcohol and Christmas and you have the CAZ.

What is it about the holidays that brings out the honesty in people – okay, sure, it’s the alcohol. I think Jack Donaghy sums up family holiday stress best when he says We Donaghys believe that when there’s something at all delicate to talk about it’s best to suppress it until it erupts into fist fight at a church barbeque. That’s funny and true about a lot of families. It’s also why some people want to avoid the holidays. They’re hoping to avoid their family’s attack zone. I think its part of what makes this episode hilarious.

Also funny is  this episode’s mild addressing of  the “War on Christmas” issue. Ultra-conservative Jack Donaghy (played by Alex Baldwin – haha!) and his liberal father Milton Green (play by Alan Alda) trade holiday greetings:

Milton: Yes I’d love to come to your Holiday dinner.
Jack: Christmas! Its Christmas dinner!

Then Jack’s conservative girlfriend, Avery Jessup (played by Elizabeth Banks) adds:

Avery: [Reading Christmas Card] Happy Holidays… is what terrorists say!

This show is so full of great comedic lines that you miss half of them because you’re laughing so hard. The writing on the show is unbelievably quick and subtle.  Thanks to pregnantcornbread.com I was able to pull up some of this episode’s best lines:

Liz (Tina Fey): You want to go the Penn Station K-Mart with me and then watch Tootsie?
Jack: I’m sorry, that’s what you’re doing instead of spending Christmas Eve with your family?
Liz: That’s my new thing.  Travel on Christmas Day.  That way I avoid the annual Lemon family blow up.  And this year it’s going to be a dozy.  My Aunt Linda is bring her new boyfriend who is neither her age nor her race.  And her ex-husband will also be there with his date, alcoholism.  I swoop in the next day for presents and pie.

Tracy (Tracy Morgan): As an actor it is my job to tell the truth, hold a mirror to humanity and sell Proactive.

Colleen (Elaine Stritch): What are my chums at death’s short retirement community going to say when I tell them my unmarried son has knocked up a Protestant!
Jack: I knew you would do it.  Take a happy moment and ruin it.  Just like you did at when I won that scholarship at my high school graduation.
Colleen: It should have gone to the other boy.

Milton: We have to call an ambulance.  Listen to me, dammit, I’m a doctor!
Jack: Of history. In what emergency would you be necessary?  If someone wanted to know if the 60s were awesome or not?
Milton: They were!

Liz: You know what I learned tonight?  As hard as you try no one can escape the horrors of Christmas, so it might as well be with your own family.  I’m going to get a bus to White Haven now and I should be home in time to see Aunt Linda try to prove she’s sober by holding someone’s baby and cooking.

I love this show! It’s smart, quick, witty, yet unbalanced. It reminds me of me. Ha!

Where else on TV can you have a transvestite and actress dressing up for Elton John’s “New Queers Eve” party as Natalie Portman from “Black Swan” and Pittsburg Steelers Lynn Swann as two black swans? Nowhere I tell ya!

Click here to watch 30 Rock\’s \”Christmas Attack Zone\” on NBC.com

Obsession of the Week: Ray LaMontagne

Last week, the Grammy nominations were announced, one of the “Song of the Year” nominees really stuck out for me. I’d heard the song “Beg Borrow or Steal” by Ray LaMontagne but couldn’t believe this traditional folk artist was up for song of the year. It’s a great song but not your typical Pop, R&B, flash-in-the-pan song that usually gets nominated for a Grammy.

More than likely you’ve never heard of LaMontagne or his music, but you may be surprised to find that this music has been around for the past six years and has been featured on various television shows including this season of “Parenthood” on NBC. For “American Idol” fans, you’re likely to remember Taylor Hick’s version of LaMontagne’s “Trouble” as he performed it on the show to rave reviews.

LaMontagne is the type of singer/songwriter that we haven’t seen the likes of since the 1960s and 1970s. His sound is very much reminiscent of the ballads of Cat Stevens (who LaMontagne also looks like), Loggins and Messina, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. It is said that LaMontagne heard Stephen Stills “Treetop Flyer” and quit his regular job to become a singer/songwriter full-time.

I think the pureness of his music and poetry of his lyrics are genius. His music is both mesmerizing and hypnotic. For a sample of some of my favorites try this year’s Grammy-nominated “Beg, Borrow or Steal”, as well as “For the Summer” from this year’s album, God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise.  Also try “Be Here Now” and “Empty” from his 2006 album Till the Sun Turns Black, “Sarah” from his 2008 album Gossip in the Grain and “Trouble” from his first studio album of the same name. Take a listen and let me know what you think.



Obsession of the Week: TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age”

Alright, it’s been more than a week since I’ve had anything decent to write about or recommend but this one is worth it. This show premiered last year right as I was turning 40 and I loved it. The comedic drama stars Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher in his Emmy-nominated role as, well, men of a certain age. The lyrics from t he show’s opening credits are from the Beach Boys “When I Grow Up to be A Man” ask Will I dig the same things that turn me on as a kid? Will I look back and say that I wish I hadn’t done what I did? Will I joke around and still dig those sounds when I grow up to be a man? Well, we’ve gotten older but have we really grown up? If you’re anywhere near approaching your late thirties or already beyond that, you’ll definitely identify with this show. It’s a perfect combination of both funny and real (in a good way). The writing is sharp and Romano’s turn as a more serious actor is decent. It was easily my favorite show last year during its first season. Its second season premieres on TNT on December 6, 2011. You can watch Season 1 episodes right now on TNT.com for free. If you’re a guy – you won’t be disappointed. It’s one of those undiscovered gems that you should be watching.

Obsession of the Week: “SouthLAnd” on TNT

I’ve run through just about every new cop show this season (“Blue Bloods”, “Detroit 187” and “Law & Honor: Los Angeles”) and found every one of them hard to sit through for an entire episode. A couple of years ago, “SouthLAnd” premiered on NBC as a replacement for the outgoing “E/R”. The show drew plenty of critical acclaim but was only a modest ratings hit so NBC cancelled the series. The series quickly moved over to TNT where you can catch up on all episodes (http://www.tnt.tv/series/southland) before its third season premiere in January.

If you haven’t seen this groundbreaking series, I implore you to watch just one episode. You will be blown away! The show’s gritty reality and high-tension drama make it what “Entertainment Weekly” said was one of “The Best Show You’re Not Watching.” It’s certainly under-appreciated at a time when so many crap cop shows are taking up space on the major networks. How this show doesn’t get Emmy nominations is simply a matter of no one watching it.

If you’ve tried (and even liked) some of the new cop shows this season, you really should give “SouthLAnd” a try. It truly leaves the others in the dust. Its stories and characters stay with you long after you’ve watched it. It is not just the current best cop show – it’s one of the best ever. Check it out! http://www.tnt.tv/series/southland/

Why Glee’s ‘Grilled Cheesus’ episode was inspiring and not blasphemous

Okay…I’m not a Glee fan but there was so much chatter this morning about the episode that aired last night called “Grilled Cheesus” that I went to hulu.com and watched it. Since I write a column on religion, of course, I had to weigh in on the discussion…click the link and let me know what you think.

Click here to read my article about Glee\’s \”Grilled Cheesus\” episode

Obsession of the Week: “Chopped” on Food Network

My wife and I have been loyal watchers (Thanks to DVR) of Food Network’s reality show “Chopped” for over a year now. The show pits four real world chefs in three rounds of competition (appetizers, entrée, dessert) where they have to create a dish using particular ingredients during a timed round of competition. The challenge is intensified by the mystery basket of ingredients that must be used (one mystery basket for an appetizer contained watermelon, canned sardines, pepper jack cheese, and zucchini.)

The four contestant chefs are generally varied in style and technique but often include at least one overly confident chef, a young upstart and at least one chef with a touching human interest story. At each round, the chefs’ dishes are judged by a panel of three executive chefs who are Food Network semi-regulars (including Geoffrey Zakarian, Aaron Sanchez, and my personal favorite, Alex Guarnaschelli).

Just this week, the show had it’s first ever “Chopped Champion” finale. It was one of the best episodes yet because the completion was fiercely tense and the end was emotional one with the winner taking home fifty-thousand dollars. If you haven’t discovered this gem of a show, you can catch one of the countless episodes rerun on Food Network almost daily. If you love to cook or are missing some sort of sports competition during the week – this is the show for you.

“Obsession of the Week” (OTW) posts talk about some pop culture reference that has infiltrated my head for the week. I use the term obsession because we’re all obsessive and fanatical about things we like so much that we saturate ourselves in it until we make ourselves sick of it and then move on to something else.