Sunday
Dec182011

Death of Kim Jong Il Puts New '30 Rock' Season in Awkward Spot

REVIEWING THE NEWS: A day after 30 Rock unveiled its extended Season 6 trailer, featuring their continuing, satirical Kim Jong Il storyline, the North Korean leader died of a reported heart attack. Will the sitcom still air all eps as planned? And will there be international backlash?

By Kenny Herzog

Hard to say if Jong Il's passing is cause for 30 Rock to pop champagne. (Credit: Art Streibler/NBC)

 

North Korea's pretty shut off from American pop culture, so it's not very likely that NBC's sometimes-political comedy of the absurd, 30 Rock, has been a major topic of interest for its citizens or government. Even if a good portion of Season 5 focused on network head Jack Donaghy's (Alec Baldwin) efforts to rescue his girlfriend, political reporter Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks), who was being held hostage and forced into marriage by Kim Jong Il (who was played with cross-dressed hilarity by Margaret Cho).

Speaking of Jong Il, the longtime North Korean leader and constant nuclear threat died Saturday of what his country's state-run media are saying was a heart attack, brought on by the rigors of "dedicating his life to the people." Man, he must have hated the people.

This brings us back to 30 Rock, which premiered a lengthy teaser this past Friday for its Jan. 12 premiere. Naturally, the clip (viewable below) features new snippets from the ongoing Jong Il spoof. And they are, of course, hilarious. But its fortuitious timing could lead to unwanted attention or protest from overseas toward Tina Fey and co.'s gentle sending up of the late Communist militant. And without having seen the episodes in context, it's tough to say if their satire will appear a bit mean-spirited or simply timely. 

 

But hey, South Park creators Trey Parker and Stone took their shots at Jong Il during the early years of his leadership and were even more on the nose. By the time Jan. 12 rolls around, it's doubtful American audiences or critics will dwell on the connection, nor should they feel particulatly conflicted (Jong Il wasn't exactly a defensible sort). And as suggested above, the jokes will probably just land more effectively. But some of the folks over at 30 Rock, if only to avoid a PR- and logistical-nightmare, have to be crossing their fingers, hoping that Kim Jong-un isn't a Hulu subscriber.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: This could be the best or worst thing to happen to 30 Rock, but will probably just amount to a surreal twist.

KIM JONG IL IS DEAD RATING: Why Can't All Evil Dictators Just Die of Heart Attacks in Their 60s?/10

30 ROCK'S RETURNING! RATING: Yay!/10

THE CRAZY TIMING OF SEASON 6'S TRAILER RATING: Never a Dull Moment/10

 

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Thursday
Dec152011

Relax, Howard Stern Is Gonna Be Great on 'America's Got Talent'

REVIEWING THE NEWS: The announcement that Howard Stern's taking over for Piers Morgan will bring the same tired, decades-old protests, which is what NBC wants. But the legendary radio host should also be great.

By Kenny Herzog

Possibly what Rodin had in mind when he sculpted "The Thinker."

 

REVIEWniverse Editor Robbie Woliver said it best when the rumors were first making headlines: Why not Howard Stern to replace Piers Morgan on America's Got Talent? Moreover, what would make him any less qualified a judge of musical potential than his predecessor or more leery and perverse than American Idol's Steven Tyler?

Stern is not an idiot, even if an enormous percentage of the listeners who call into his SiriusXM show are. But that's kind of the point. The Long Island native and longtime a.m.-radio voice has always been the non-coiffed alternative to condescending media phonies, and the fact that every on-air personality he's influenced merely apes and simplifies his panache is testament to the 57-year-old mainstay's absolutely unique charisma. 

By hiring Stern (and moving production to New York to accomodate his radio obligations, no less) America's Got Talent has found its everyman Simon Cowell and less slithery Steven Tyler in one package. For Stern himself, it's a great opportuntity to re-cement his legacy for a mainstream audience and new generation after years of cushy satellite autocracy. And NBC has guaranteed themselves a seventh season that will boast not only phenomenal ratings, but be a ton of fun for viewers and a surprising positive influence on contestants.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Everyone wins!

HOWARD STERN ON AMERICA'S GOT TALENT RATING: 10/10

ALREADY ROLLING OUR EYES AT OVERUSE OF THE TERM "SHOCK JOCK" RATING: So 1989/10

A WHOLE NEW GENERATION OF PRIMETIME STERN FANS: Baba Booey/10

 

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Wednesday
Dec142011

Chris Meloni on 'True Blood' = Best News Ever

  

REVIEWING THE TV-CASTING NEWS: Law & Order: SVU and Oz alum Chris Meloni has officially joined True Blood for Season 5, and all is well with the underworld.

 

By Kenny Herzog
Chris Meloni: From doing life to busting people for life to coming back to life. (Credit: HBO)

 

Hard as it is to believe, we here at REVIEWniverse occasionally contribute our editorial wiles to other media. Just last week, I'd helped report on breaking gossip for MSN TV concerning recent Law & Order: SVU defector Chris Meloni, and the possibility of him landing a featured role on the upcoming fifth season of HBO's True Blood.

 

Today, that rumor has become fact, and consequently, the most exciting news to hit Bon Temps since recreational V first rolled into town. Show creator Alan Ball has confirmed to TV Line (and True Blood's Twitter feed has dually validated the story) that Meloni will come on board as a powerful vampire capable of lording over both Bill and Eric.

 

Much as we all loved Denis O'Hare as aggro-pervert Russell, and Evan Rachel Wood as the now-deposed vamp queen, it doesn't get much better far as seductive, sinister badasses than Meloni. Anyone who watched HBO's brutal prison psychodrama Oz during its late-'90s-early 2000s run and remembers the actor's depitction of homicidal loon/perpetually nude sexual predator Chris Keller would agree:

 

 

IN OTHER WORDS: If Meloni's TB character is ostensibly a cross between Keller and his inspired Freakshow from Harold & Kumar, it could be the greatest casting ever.

CHRIS MELONI RATING: 9/10

CHRIS MELONI ON TRUE BLOOD RATING: 9.5/10

TRUE BLOOD'S RETURN MEANING IT WILL BE SUMMER AGAIN RATING: 10/10

 

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Thursday
Dec082011

Wait, Albert Pujols Signed to the ANGELS???

REVIEWING THE BREAKING SPORTS NEWS THAT SHOCKED US MORE THAN ANYTHING IN POP-CULTURE THIS WEEK: Baseball's best player and reigning World Series champion Albert Pujols, after being courted aggressively by Miami, signs with.... the Los Angeles Angels of the American League???

By Kenny Herzog

How could anyone not believe in an Angel?

 

We interrupt our usual coverage of meaningless entertainment to report, along with the rest of the free world, on breaking baseball news of little global consequence. It is, however, news that surprised us a lot and made us want to say something. Namely, Albert Pujols signed to the ANGELS???! Correction: Albert Pujols, baseball's premier first baseman and top free-agent prize, has signed a 10-year, $250 million contract with the American League's Los Angeles of Anaheim. Wait, what???

Don't get us wrong: As Mets fans, and after witnessing Jose Reyes and Heath Bell migrate to Miami, in addition to Jonathan Papelbon joining the NL East, we couldn't be happier to see the game's fiercest bat switch coasts and leagues. But this is probably the most unexpected 11th-hour offseason curveball with a player of this magnitude since Alex Rodriguez's negotiations with the Red Sox broke down in 2004 and he joined the hated Yankees. 

And I never thought I'd say these words, on account of how St. Louis bested the Mets in 2006 on their way to the World Series, but poor Cardinals. The Cinderella World Series champs lost their longtime manager, Tony La Russa (how is someone allowed to have two last names, anyway?), to retirement, and now, the face and heart of not just their franchise, but the entire city's sports culture, has walked away. 

And poor Texas Rangers, the Cardinals' hard-luck World Series opponent, who compete directly with the Angels for AL West supremacy, and probably won't see the big stage again until Pujols suddenly decides to stop hitting .300/30/100 every year and lifting ragtag squads on his back to glory. Oh, and did we mention the Angels ALSO just signed Rangers ace starting pitcher C.J. Wilson to a five-year deal? Oy.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Wait, what???!

PUJOLS TO ANGELS RATING: Depends on Your Perspective/10

PUJOLS OUT OF THE NATIONAL LEAGUE RATING: 10/10

ESPN STILL GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS OF "SPORTSCENTER" SEGMENTS ON PEYTON MANNING AND THE NBA INSTEAD OF REPORTING INSTANTANEOUSLY ON THE PUJOLS NEWS RATING: They Better Have Just Been Double-Checking Their Sources/10

STUPID BASEBALL RATING: Let's Go... Me... t... s...?/10

 

 

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Wednesday
Dec072011

Guns N' Roses, Beastie Boys and Other Former Recreational Drug Users Inducted Into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 

 

REVIEWING THE NEWS: The latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, including G N' R, the Beastie Boys, Donovan and Laura Nyro, may not be the head of everyone's class, but they're all pretty easy to root for.

By Kenny Herzog

"Do you know where you are? You're in Cleveland, Ohio baby. You're gonna live former in rock 'n' roll infamy." Isn't that how it goes?


Just kidding about that headline. Well, not technically, but it was intended in good fun. Truth is, this year's class of inductees, announced via the remarkably chintzy Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, is one of the instiution's more exciting and uniformly deserved groups of honorees in recent memory. Except for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who are the worst.

Music fans, critics and artists themselves have been vocal over the years about the Hall's dubious selections and omissions (yes to Madonna, no to KISS et al). And many of its deriders no doubt remain up in arms again over Guns N' Roses and the Beastie Boys' swift entrance, while everyone from Rush to Heart still warm the sidelines. 

But even if G N' R was chosen for sensational reasons, is there really an argument against enshrining Axl Rose, Slash, Steven Adler, Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin in the Hall? Is it such a bad thing? Was there any better mainstream band out of L.A. in the 1980s, and any single album in that era more influential than Appetite for Destruction? Moreover, has there been any global rock phenomenon in the past 25 years with a better story and bigger myth?

 

What about the Beastie Boys, who essentially integrated hip-hop and released some of its best singles over a 15-year span, interspersing their crossover output with commercial anomalies like Paul's Boutique, which completely redefined the practical use of and legal procedures for sampling? 

 

Donovan? Is there any debate? Has there been any better voice or more beautiful and influential blend of Celtic-American folk and psychedleic rock? 

 

And Laura Nyro? Can anyone truly have sour grapes toward future generations being turned on to that kind of songwriting and vocal talent, one gone far too soon? Is there any reason to second-guess what her legacy might have been had she still been alive, or to question what kind of impression she left on everyone from Joni Mitchell to Kate Bush? If there is, it's rhetorical.

 

Lastly, even if inducting legendary promoter and publisher Don Kirshner is partly sentimental recognition of his having passed away this year, how can one dispute? His Rock Concert series for ABC was religion for an entire generation, but his support of songwriters including Carole King and Neil Diamond, and production with the Monkees, among other accomplishments, has provided future music fans with decades worth of timeless composition and coming-of-age entertainment. 

 

IN OTHER WORDS: It's not a perfect system, but when the Hall gets it mostly right, it's just fun to see your favorites get in, and hopefully perform at the ceremony.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ADDITIONAL INDUCTEES FREDDIE KING, COSIMO MATASSA, THE SMALL FACES/THE FACES, GLYN JOHNS AND TOM DOWD RATING: 9/10

WE WERE KINDA PULLING FOR ERIC B. AND RAKIM RATING: Next Year/10

LIKELIHOOD OF ORIGINAL G N' R LINEUP REUNITING ON STAGE RATING: Negative-8,000/10

 

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