Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer DVR Dump: The River 1.06: "Doctor Emmet Cole"

“There's life, death. But out here, there's that third option. And what if that death was never meant to be final? What if it's more like a window? Except that that window is open out here?”

“Doctor Emmet Cole” was mostly a clip show of sorts. The Magus team finds a bag of Emmet’s old tapes and spends the episode watching them. Unsurprisingly, we learn quite a lot about Emmet’s motivations, the rest of his crew, and what happened leading up to his disappearance. I liked that the episode used the framing device of the present day characters watching the tapes, because we got to see their reactions to the events unfolding. It deepened several characters somewhat, especially Tess, Lincoln, and Lena. There wasn’t, however, a big treat that our present day characters had to face. Instead, Emmet and his crew faced multiple threats. The episode answered some questions and raised some new ones, which would be great if I didn’t know that there would only be two more episodes left after this one. We learn more about the Source and its guardians, and we think we learn a bit more about Emmet’s ultimate fate, but that kind of get turned on its head in the final minutes of the episode. Was it a twist too much? I guess I’ll judge once I’ve seen those final two episodes.

The episode begins in the aftermath of Russ’s re-death. The team is debating whether or not they should take Lena home or go to the waterfalls Russ said Emmet was looking for. Lincoln is in favor of taking Lena home, and Tess, of course, is in favor of continuing the search for Emmet, since they seem to be so close to finding him. Lena takes the high road and says they should investigate the falls first. She may have lost her father, but Lincoln might not have to lose his. The team follows the trail on foot, and soon enough, they start finding evidence of Emmet. Most significantly, they find a bag of tapes, presumably from his final days. The team rushes back to the Magus, and Clark and his cameramen throw that video into the editing bay like they’re ER doctors trying to save a critical patient. Its’ a touch overly dramatic, really. After just seeing a bit of the tape, they warn Tess that she won’t like it. The whole team gathers to watch anyway.

The first images on the tapes are from the Magus. The crew is expressing some doubts among themselves, and Emmet is just meditating. He swallows a dragonfly, and all of a sudden he has these revelations. He knows the location of the Source…roughly, at least. He’s also earing some strange music in his head. We see him instruct Lena to research the cord progression of the music, and that makes the current Magus crew a little suspicious of Lena and Emmet’s relationship. Turns out that a few months ago, Russ had the same line of thinking. The current day Magus crew watches on the tape as Russ and Emmet get into a full on knock-down-drag-out fight. Russ wants out of the whole venture, and he gets left behind on the Magus as Emmet and the rest of the crew continue on foot. Once they’re underway, the rest of the team starts questioning Emmet too. They want to know what he’s looking for. Emmet explains that he’s looking for the Source of all the supernatural stuff they’ve been seeing out in the Boyuna, and a tribe of people called the Zulus guard it.

We next see Emmet and his team camped out at night, when they start to hear a strange noise. They investigate, as all good horror characters do, and they find a rather disgusting skinned monkey. Well, they find the blood and pelt first, then Rabbit, a camerawoman, has the misfortune to look up. Emmet suspects that a spirit called Il Tunche is to blame. He tells his team that Il Tunche is just testing them. Back on the present-day Magus, however, Jahel warns that Il Tunche is a demon, not a spirit, and she doesn’t test, she kills. In another room, Lena and Jonas are having a heart-to-heart, and Lena admits that she set off Emmet’s emergency beacon (the event that set off this expedition in the first place). It was the only way she could think of to get anyone to look for her own father.

Back on the tapes, Emmet and his team are having a campfire moment, and Emmet talks about how Tess lost a baby before they had Lincoln. Apparently starting “The Undiscovered Country” gave him purpose in life again. The conversation is cut short, however, when Il Tunche strikes again. This time, it’s one of the camera operators who is skinned alive. Emmet manages to save himself and Rabbit by whistling the tune he was hearing in his head earlier in the episode. Rabbit turns out to be pretty ungrateful, though. Once she’s safe, she steals all the food and bails on Emmet. Things just go from bad to worse for Emmet. He finds his dog, but he gets a bad stomach virus. The most emotional moment of the episode happens when Emmet manages to place a sat phone call to Lincoln. Present-day Lincoln is upset that he kind of blew his dad off on that call to go give a lecture. Meanwhile, Lena is rather frantically trying to figure out why, on the tapes, Emmet told Russ that she was “marked.” She discovers what looks like a small tattoo on the back of her neck.

Things continue to go from bad to worse (or is it worse to worst by this point?) for Emmet. He breaks his ankle while climbing a tree to pick mangoes. So now he can’t walk to find food. He almost eats his dog, but he just can’t do it. Emmet seems to be very near death. He can’t even whistle to keep the demon at bay anymore. Tess and Lincoln throw everyone out of the edit bay to watch what they think will be Emmet’s last moments. Instead of dying, Emmet is taken by Zulu’s to a mysterious seemingly American, very top secret looking outpost. Tess and the team find the outpost pretty quickly, but it is now completely abandoned. Except for Emmet’s dog, of course. He’s still around.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer TV Rewind: Downton Abbey 1.06

“I always thought this family might be approaching dissolution, but I didn’t think dissolution was already upon us!”
- Violet

Getting to go back and re-watch the first season of Downton was a lot of fun, especially this episode. We get to see a little bit of where the Sybil/Branson storyline begins to emerge. Sybil actually gets quite a bit of the forefront of this episode which made me happy. We aren’t without some Mary/Edith drama. And of course Thomas and O’Brien continue to scheme against Bates. I really don’t know what has O’Brien’s knickers in such a tight wad to make her throw in with Thomas all the time. He’d stab her in the back the first chance he got if it suited him.

We start this week with Sybil and Branson at a bi-election rally where a liberal candidate is speaking about giving women the right the vote. Sybil is quite enthralled with the whole thing and is rather unhappy to be hustled away by Isobel and Branson. On the drive home, Branson says that he doesn’t want to go into politics just for women’s rights or for Ireland’s freedom from Britain, but to make inroads in shrinking the gap between the aristocracy and the lower classes. Lofty goals for a chauffeur. Things don’t go very well at dinner when Robert finds out about the trip and that Cora allowed it. Violet is none-too-pleased her granddaughter could be ruining her chances of finding a husband when they go to London for this year’s season.

We have a small callback to the Gwen storyline this week. Sybil isn’t giving up on finding Gwen a secretary position. It seems whatever Sybil puts her heart and mind to, she gets it. She wants Gwent o have the opportunity and so she’s going to fight like hell to make it happen.

I have to say, Sybil is the craftiest of the Crowley girls. She uses a meeting of one of her charities as a rouse to get her father to agree to let her go into town that week when really she’s going to the bi-election. Unfortunately, she lies to Branson about where they’re going, too, and he kind of freaks out when she gets out at the election. He’s trying to get her leave when Matthew (whose been working late) shows up. To make matters worse, a bunch of drunken Irishmen show up to bust some kneecaps because they aren’t happy about who won the election and Sybil gets injured. Not surprisingly, Robert is furious. Sybil, acting as any 18-year-old girl would (even in the 1910s), threatens to never speak to her father again and run away if he sacks Branson. She may have thrown a hissy fit but it appears Robert is willing to appease her.

Downstairs, Thomas and O’Brien are cooking up a plot to get Bates fired. They tell Mr. Carson that they suspect Bates of stealing from the wine cellar before Bates can give the truth that it was really Thomas who was the culprit. Part of me wonders if Thomas would be happier if he was getting laid more often. Honestly, he’s just so cranky all the time. Anyway, Mr. Carson tries to ask Bates if there’s a good reason he’d have been using the cellar key but Bates doesn’t give an answer. So O’Brien and Thomas rope Daisy into their little web of lies Luckily, William sets her straight, even if he doesn’t realize he’s done it. So she recants to Mr. Carson. Thomas and O’Brien aren’t happy about how long he’s taking to sort the Bastes situation out. He’s been distracted by the news about Mary.

Ultimately, Mr. Carson debunks Thomas and O’Brien’s story. However, Bates admits that he was an alcoholic and is an ex-convict. He did time for theft. Bates tries to give his resignation but Carson says he needs to consider it and bring it to Robert. Anna isn’t fazed by the reveal. She wants to be with him. They are probably my favorite downstairs couple. So sweet and honest.

Sir Anthony has returned and tries to entice Mary into a car ride but she’s not interested. Edith shows quite a lot of interest and the pair actually has quite a good time on their drive around the grounds. In fact it seems they had such a good time that Sir Anthony comes back and asks Edith to join him at a concert later that week. She’s all atwitter about it after he leaves. I have to say I really wanted the pair of them to work out. Sure, Edith can be a backstabbing wench sometimes but she’s the neglected middle daughter and she deserves to find happiness just as much as Mary or Edith.

Speaking of Mary, Mr. Carson and Violet get letters about Mary’s little indiscretion. Carson brings it to Cora’s attention and then Violet confronts her about it later. Violet is horrified to find out what happened and that Cora played a part. And Cora is adamant about not telling Robert the truth. And she refuses to disown Mary for what happened. By the end of the episode, Violet is back to her old pithy self and says she’s not so worried. She doesn’t think it will come out anyway since it could reflect badly on the Turkish ambassador (she wrote back to the person who informed her about the incident and said it was a wild story to discredit Mr. Pamuk). On the romantic front, she’s back on better terms with Matthew. He swings by looking for Robert to ask some questions about a farm and they get to talking. Things seem better between them, especially when Branson and Matthew go to fetch Mary after the incident with Sybil at the rally. She’s grateful to both Matthew and Isobel for looking after Sybil. They share a nice moment once all the yelling has finished and end up kissing. Off-screen, Matthew proposes to Mary and she’s actually considering it. Finally, progress!

We have a brief subplot about William and his mother. It turns out that William, despite his love of horses took the job as second footman to make his mother happy and to try and better himself. She’s very proud of his accomplishments but she’s dying. She’s got a weak heart and Isobel and Cora think they should respect her wishes in not telling William about her condition. Mary doesn’t agree. She ends up telling him to take a few days and go see his mother without actually saying she’s dying. I guess she got some of the crafty skills, too.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Newsroom 1.05: "Amen"

“I’m just a middle-aged man who never lived up to his potential. You don’t want to be on the wrong end of me if I ever do.”

Sorry, “real” critics. I’m still liking “The Newsroom” as much as you tell me it is inferior television. A commenter on Alan Sepinwall’s blog recently really hit the nail on the head. Because “The Newsroom” is a product of HBO nd Aaron Sorkin, the expectation was that it would be “the greatest” and “life changing.” It is neither of these things, and I think that disappoints some more established media outlets who had wanted to be able to hype this up. Instead, it’s committed the crime of merely being a very good show, an enjoyable way to spend one evening a week. And I’m okay with that. I love what Sorkin does enough that I don’t need this show to be “life changing.” I’ve got “The West Wing” and “The Wire” for that. I just enjoy basking in the Sorkin-ness for an hour a week. Well, I enjoy basking in the good aspects of Sorkin-ness. I enjoy the sharp dialogue and the workplace found family. I don’t enjoy the misogyny. But Sorkin’s been in the game long enough that when you watch his work, you should pretty much know what you’re going to get.

This episode focused on the Arab Spring, specifically the revolution in Egypt. I kind of which the narrative had continued long enough to cover the February 20th movement in Morocco, but I don’t think many people other than Moroccans and Morocco geeks like me even know what that is (it was Morocco’s fairly tame attempt at getting in on the Arab Spring which resulted in the King allowing for a reform of the country’s Constitution). Egypt was much more dramatic, which is probably why that’s the focus of this episode. Anyway, Elliot, ACN’s 10:00 anchor (Don’s boss) is holed up in a Cairo hotel room. Don is really frustrated that they can’t get any real footage of the protests for safety reasons. Elliot is just as frustrated, but he really has no choice other than keep broadcasting from his hotel room. Maggie interrupts this with news that teachers and other union members are protesting Scott Walker’s attempts to bust the public unions in Wisconsin. She thinks it would be dramatic to intercut footage of these protests with footage of the protests in Egypt. Oh and Maggie keeps accidentally hitting Jim with a glass office door, to the point where he needs stitches. That whole thing was just eyeroll inducing. The Wisconsin stuff does lead to the team investigating a Citizen United/Koch Brothers connection and Will giving a monologue on the air about how state government employees are underpaid. So as a state government employee (guess I ought to include a disclaimer that everything written here is my own opinion and not that of my employer), I appreciated the love from Sorkin.

After Elliot’s super boring broadcast, the News Night team has a big meeting and decide they need to find a “stringer.” Meaning an Egyptian reporter who can reasonably safely get footage of the protests and blend in with the crowd. Will and Mackenzie are called out of the meeting by Charlie because of yet another TMI story. This one concerns Mackenzie more than Will though. Guess that’s a change of pace. This particular story is about Mackenzie’s boyfriend, Wade. Apparently he’s seriously considering running for Congress. He’s even had conversations with the DCCC about it. Mackenzie had no clue he was that serious about it, but the TMI article insinuates she has been having him appear on News Night repeatedly in the past few weeks to raise his profile for the campaign. Let’s set aside the fact that a story would this would not at all be on the radar of a gossip mag (the Washington Post, maybe). Mackenzie is really upset that Wade was considering Congress without telling her. She has come to the realization that Wade was probably just using her for media exposure.

Meanwhile, Neal says he thinks he’s found their stringer. The prospective is an Egyptian youth who goes by the handle “Amen” on Twitter. Neal sees a lot of himself in Amen. This gives us a little opportunity to learn about Neal beyond his love for Bigfoot. It turns out that Neal was right in the middle of the 7/7 Tube bombings in London. Of course, Neal being Neal, when things all went crazy, he started filming. He definitely sees Amen as the same type of personality. To add even more urgency to the situation, Don breaks into the conversation to announce that Elliot tried to film outside the hotel, got beat up, and now he has to come home. After she’s learned about Amen, Mackenzie pulls Sloan into the most superficial meeting of all time. She tells Sloan that she will be appearing on a panel about how television covers economics, but she knows nothing about economics, and she needs Sloan to teach her. I just found this little subplot to be pretty pathetic. I can’t believe that someone who has been a serious journalist for as long as Mackenzie would not understand one word of Economics. Sloan thinks this is just as pathetic as I do, but she’s going to try and help anyway. When they do actually go out to discuss basic economics, the whole thing just turns into a Will cry fest.

On the morning show, the male half of the anchor duo actually brings up the stupid TMI story. The only thing less plausible than a gossip mag running a story on journalistic ethics is a daytime magazine show doing the same. The female anchor just looks uncomfortable and tries to get her partner to stop, but he just keeps going, earning a fat bonus from Leona, no doubt. Charlie places a phone call and finally gets it to stop. Later, Wade stops by the show, and Mackenzie actually end up breaking up with him. I was so very happy about that. Unfortunately, even if Mackenzie is done being stupid, Will isn’t. One of his producers tells him that Nina at TMI is known to take protection money to keep people out of her publication. When he’s warned about a new TMI story about Mackenzie that is about to be published, Will actually meets with Nina and is close to writing the check for the protection money. Of course, Will changes his mind when Nina has the audacity to say “we’re both journalists.” Never insult Will’s journalist pride if you want to get money out of him.

Before I get into the real meat of the episode, let’s talk briefly about one more silly, pretty darn stupid romantic subplot. Maggie is worried that Lisa is going to cramp her Valentine’s Day style, so she gives Jim marching orders to keep Lisa occupied and happy. Maggie’s got a romantic night at the Four Seasons with Don in her future, and she doesn’t want anyone or anything to ruin it. Chaos breaks out at the office (more on that later), and Lisa shows up looking for Jim. She is extremely pissed off that he stood her up on Valentine’s Day of all days. Never mind that a crisis is brewing in Egypt. The one redeeming bit of this plot is that Maggie starts giving this huge speech about how Valentine’s Day isn’t important (she’s trying to get Lisa off the warpath) just as Don walks in with a bouquet of flowers, wondering what he did wrong. Lisa eventually accepts Jim’s apology, and all seems to be well for now. Except, of course, it isn’t, because we know Sorkin’s plan is that Jim and Maggie eventually have to be together.

So, now as promised, the meat of the episode. Neal and the rest of the News Night team have a Skype chat with Amen. He agrees to help, although he hesitates a little when Mackenzie informs him that he will have to reveal his actual name for the broadcast to be credible. His name is Kahled, by the way. They do a successful broadcast, but then Kahled has a new, extremely dangerous idea. He says that what has happened in Egypt is more military coup than revolution. He wants to go to the Ministry of the Interior to get footage of the military burning documents. This is an insanely stupid idea and can’t possibly end well. I’ve been to the Ministry of the Interior in a MENA country, and those guys don’t play. Not surprisingly, soon after Kahled was going to try to get that footage, Neal loses contact with him. Just as that’s happening, Elliot makes his triumphant return. Don wants to put Elliot on the air all banged up to make a point, but Charlie puts the kibosh on that. Neal and Don are both really upset about Kahled going missing (Don mostly because of residual Elliot guilt), and they both end up physically hurting themselves over it. Neal breaks a few bones in his hand after punching a computer monitor, and Don injures his shoulder trying to bust down a door. Kahled is finally located. The military has him and is definitely open to a bribe to let him go. Will ends up paying for Kahled’s release out of his own wallet, earning him a kind of overly sappy standing ovation from the rest of the News Night team.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

MTVP London 2012 Olympics Coverage: Closing Ceremonies

So the London 2012 Olympics are officially over, and we all must return to the “real world” after living two weeks in a wonderful British fantasy land. In the past two weeks, we’ve seen the very best and the very worst of sport. The best being humble, talented folk like swimmer Nathan Adrian and gymnast Gabby Douglas win the gold medal for the United States. The worst being judging scandals in boxing and accusations of gaming the tournament in badminton. Anyway the Closing Ceremonies are a chance to say goodbye and just plain throw a big party. Because it’s a last hurrah, the Closing Ceremonies (although they have their required elements too) are generally much more laid back than the Opening Ceremonies, and they tend to show off the kitschier side of the host country’s culture. In that sense, this year’s Closing Ceremonies did not disappoint. There was music galore from artists as serious as Pet Shop Boys and Kaiser Chiefs to as fluffy as One Direction and the Spice Girls. Yep, those Spice Girls reunion rumors were no joke! I would have rather had a (living members of) Monty Python reunion, personally, but hey, at least we got Eric Idle!

The show opened with a bunch of large sculptures of great London architecture strewn about the field. Stuff like the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, etc. I thought that was just strange and too abstract. I did like how eventually, the field took on the appearance of the Union Jack. I thought that was appropriately kitschy and classy all at the same time. Because to us unwashed colonials here in the United States, the Union Jack is always classy. Once we got past the strange architectural stuff, it was time for the party. First we got a kind of random set of music, from One Direction (kind of gross boy band) to the Pet Shop Boys to Stomp. This segment of the show was kind of disjointed from the rest of it. After this section, there would be segments that were sort of themed around different aspects of British culture and heritage, but this particular segment was just one great blast of music.

The first themed segment of the show featured the song “Pinball Wizard” from The Who’s “Tommy.” It was performed by Kaiser Chiefs and was meant to be a tribute to the Mod movement. We then continued on with the classier side of British music and fashion. It got to be a bit much when famous actual supermodels like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell actually strutted the catwalks that were forming the Union Jack. Mostly because they were both obnoxious when they were in their prime, and now that they’re aging, it’s just sad. I kind of adored the shot the camera crew got of Nathan Adrian’s face when the supermodels strutted out. The only way to describe it is “WTF…okay, I’ll go with it!” The one real highlight of the music and fashion segment was a bit of a film tribute to David Bowie. Because David Bowie is freaking awesome. My mom would have loved that if she had watched long enough to see it. She was a big time David Bowie fan back in the day. Tween space geek me loved “Space Oddity” and “Starman.”

Once we got past the music and fashion section, we got a whole bunch of random bits of British culture and music. First up was Annie Lennox all dressed up in Goth finery and sailing in on a pirate ship. Now that’s badass. On the other end of the spectrum was the next segment. I was all excited when I heard the opening notes of “Pure Imagination” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” but then the camera unfortunately zoomed in and I saw who was in the role of Willy Wonka. None other than Russell Brand. I’m sorry, but he just plain creeps me out. I don’t know why I find him to be gross, but I do. That was followed up by a rather meh (especially considering the hype) Spice Girls reunion performance. I was never a big Spice Girls fan, even when I spent two weeks living with a British family in 1998, the height of their popularity, so the performance didn’t really trigger any nostalgia in me. I did, however, enjoy the performance of “Wonderwall” by the new band one of the Gallagher brothers started that followed the Spice Girls. It was an interesting dichotomy: some of the best and some of the worst of mid-late 1990’s music. We then had a little tribute to British comedy, which was pretty much the best bit of the whole production. At first, it wasn’t really working for me, because it was relying too much on physical gags (like a human cannonball) when the trademark of British humor is really dry wit. Then Eric Idle appeared and sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” and all was well with the world. I couldn’t help but laugh at the assortment of characters accompanying him. There were nuns and Bollywood dancers (with a Bollywood dance break in the middle) and bagpipers of course. It was rather glorious. This was followed up by an equally glorious performance of “We Will Rock You” by the surviving members of Queen

Then it was time for the bittersweet part of the show- the handoff to Rio. It’s tradition that the Olympic flag is handed off to the mayor of the next Olympic city and that city gives a short cultural presentation. Rio’s presentation was very colorful with elaborate costumes and blinking lights, which was pretty much to be expected. I’m sure the 2016 games will be amazing – Rio can certainly host a big party. The bitter part comes from the fact that I’m such an Anglophile. I wish this spotlight on the best of British culture could go on a bit longer. I’d love for this moment of triumph for London to last forever. But alas, with the official requirements complete and the ceremony over, it was time for IOC President Jacque Rogge to declare the Games closed. See you in Sochi in 2014!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

MTVP London 2012 Olympics Coverage: Men’s Tennis and the Wimbledon Rematch

While Jen is away at the national convention for our sorority, I am filling in with a post about the only sport I’ve even remotely been following during the Olympics; tennis.

I am a really odd sports fan. Ok, so I’m not really a sports fan at all. But 4 times a year, I do tune my TV to the sports channels for the tennis championships. I enjoy watching Roger Federer play and I usually only watch when he makes it to the finals of the tournaments. So I was thrilled when he won Wimbledon in July. Honestly, I’ve not been actively watching the Olympics this year. With the time difference, the good stuff is just on too early to actually watch. But I did settle in for the Men’s singles gold medal match this morning because Roger Federer made it through a rather impressive match where it went 19-17 in the 3rd set. I was actually quite excited for the match once I found out it would mean a rematch of this year’s Wimbledon finals against Andy Murray. Federer beat Murray at Wimbledon this year so it will be a great way for them to meet again on Centre Court. I’m also pretty sure the rematch mentality didn’t escape the crowd or the commentators. I think Henman Hill outside of Centre Court was even more packed today than when last these guys played each other. But enough rambling, let’s get to the match itself.

The first set started out pretty easy. Each player held on to serve for the first four games. Then Murray broke Federer and from there he just powered through to win the set 6-2. Part of me was proud of Andy for winning the first set. Given how meaningful it is to be playing in the gold medal match in your home country, there’s really a good chance he could take it and make up for the loss in July. But I am a Federer fangirl so I can’t fully give up on rooting for him. There were some pretty impressive vollies in the first set. I think the final game of the set went for a good 10-12 minutes with numerous break points. I think in this opening set we saw just how much younger Murray really is than Federer. Roger turns 31 on Wednesday and apparently being over 30 and still playing competitively is a big deal in tennis. I have to say I think some of his age may have been showing in this match. He really wasn’t moving as well as he normally does.

Things started getting interesting in the second set. Murray handily won the first two games and then we got the longest game of the match. Six or seven break chances but ultimately Murray hung on and won that game and the next two taking it fairly quickly to 5-0. One of the things the commentators noticed is how one-sided the crowd appeared. They were pretty much all rooting for Murray and I can understand why. He is playing a pretty solid game. Plus he’s had more time between matches since Roger made it to the gold medal in the doubles tournament whereas Murray lost in the first round of doubles (with his brother). Roger did manage to come back and win a game but Murray managed to pull out a 6-1 win and found himself up two sets to love. I have to say Roger really wasn’t playing very well. Though given how far behind he was in the second set, I wasn’t expecting him to win. Unlike the rest of the Olympics, the gold medal match for the men is a best 5 (so they need to win 3 sets). Right now it looks like Murray is poised to win in three straight sets. Something that’s never happened to Federer in his pro career. Federer needs to pull out all the stops and start making shots he normally doesn’t have a problem making if he’s got any chance of pulling out such a deep hole and winning his first singles gold medal. It would help if he didn’t keep dumping easy shots that he normally has no trouble making.

The third set was a little more even to begin with. Roger managed to hold serve a few times and at one point it looked like Murray would take it at 2-5 and serve for the match. But Roger held serve to bring it to 3-4. It was obvious Roger knew he had to dig deep if he was going to come back and win this thing. Unfortunately, though he did manage to get it to 4-5, Murray played a stellar closing game to take the gold medal in the third set 6-4.

I have to say Andy deserved to win the gold. It was a wonderful triumph for Great Britain and today at least, he was the superior player. He was on his game and he really dominated the court. I have a feeling Roger would have preferred to play with the roof over Centre Court closed as he did at Wimbledon last month. He’s able to better control his shots and serve without the wind and sun affecting his game. Still, it was a solid match and he gave Murray the moment. Roger left the court quietly while Andy and the crowd celebrated the win. I really do love to watch Roger play and I’m proud of his 17 grand slam titles, but winning isn’t everything. It’s not like tennis or the world will forget his name or his legacy anytime soon. Sure he may not be playing in the 2016 games so this may have been his final chance at Olympic singles gold, but he still has a lot of success to his name. Besides, Roger can go home knowing he has another chance at the top spot. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what happens with both players come the end of the month at the US Open.

I couldn’t end this post without showing a little patriotism. While the men’s singles tournament is heavily dominated by Europe, the US still has some sway on the women’s side of things. Serena Williams won the women’s singles gold medal match this weekend and she and her sister Venus took the gold in doubles. That really isn’t surprising since they tend to dominate when they play together but it was definitely a great win for the United States.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

MTVP London 2012 Olympics Coverage: Swimming, Gymnastics, and the Art of Managing Expectations

It’s been an interesting first week of the London 2012 Olympics, that’s for sure. On NBC’s primetime coverage, we’ve been treated to (or subjected to, depending on how you look at it) quite a lot of swimming and gymnastics. Each event brings a set of expectations, trumped up by the commentators, and the meeting or failure to meet those expectations drives the news coverage the next day. This is, of course, the media’s job, but it seems to have taken a heightened tone this Olympics and that is troubling. The Olympics, of all events, should be a time to celebrate the world’s diverse cultures and the almost unfathomable amount of training and dedication Olympic athletes put into their sport. I’m not one of those people who say everyone’s a winner and competition is bad, far from it, but the media coverage of the Olympics this year is disparaging to the athletes to an unacceptable degree. It’s fickle and gold medal obsessed. The same person can be the hero one night, a disappointment the second, and a hero again on the third. It’s like Oceana’s doublespeak in George Orwell’s 1984. The commentators hope that when they’re disparaging an athlete one day, we’ll forget that the athlete was deemed “the greatest” the day before. If it’s not fickleness, it’s unrealistic expectations in the first place. The coverage in general is just an unfortunate, America-centric (in the worst possible way) mess.

The coverage of swimming really exemplifies how fickle the coverage can be, most likely because there are so many potential events in which the athletes can compete. Both Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte have been the primary focus of the coverage. On the first night of the Olympics, Lochte won the gold medal in the men’s 400 IM, while Phelps failed to medal at all. Instantly, Lochte was crowned the “greatest swimmer in the world” and Phelps was a has-been. Then, the next night, in the men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay, Phelps swam an excellent second leg of the race, while Lochte, swimming as anchor, failed to maintain the lead his teammates had given him, resulting in the American team winning a silver medal. All of a sudden, it was somewhat cool to like Phelps again, while Lochte was a villain. The Phelps love amplified further on Tuesday when Phelps won his eighteenth and nineteenth Olympics medals (one silver one gold), making him the most decorated Olympian of all time. Sure, Lochte brought some of this on himself with his declarations of it being “his time,” but the back-and-forth of the coverage was just exhausting. And it took away from other, surprise achievements, such as 23-year-old Nathan Adrian winning gold in the men’s 100m freestyle.

When athletes fail to live up to the media’s trumped-up expectations, those athletes just completely drop off the radar. Going into the gymnastics competition earlier this week, if you listened to the commentators, you’d think that the Americans were expected to take home every gold like China does in diving (don’t even get me started on that one). The USA men’s team, however, met with disaster. After a dominant qualifying night that largely lived up to the trumped-up expectations, they completely fell apart in the team finals, with numerous major mistakes and falls happening, to wind up in fifth place. Part of the problem could be that since the majority of the public only watches these sports once every four years (coverage can be difficult to find in non-Olympic years, as I learned the last time I wanted to try and follow swimming), so it’s hard for us to know if the grand pronouncements made by the media at the beginning of the Games are in any way valid. Judging from what I saw of the men’s team final, I can’t understand why they were hyped up so much. Going back to the point I’ve been trying to make, once tings started really going south for the men in the team final, the coverage, which NBC had basically stated would be America-centric (don’t even get me started on that one, either…I still can’t believe they cut the 7/7 memorial from the broadcast of the Opening Ceremony), completely stopped covering the American men and started focusing on other countries. Now, in a way, I think that’s not a bad thing- I would be bored by only seeing American athletes all the time during the Olympics, but the obvious way it was put together to say “yeah, they suck so we won’t show you them anymore” was rather disappointing.

The individual all-around gymnastics competition also had some really strange coverage choices, including the dropping of an American who failed to meet hyped-up expectations (with the added level of schmaltz from multiple interviews where this particular American stated that he wanted to win to help his struggling family financially). That American would be John Orozco. Orozco had a rather disastrous set on pommel horse (what a strange event, by the way…I really want to know who thought “oh, let’s make a big block with handles and have people swing around on it and call it a sport”), and he wasn’t shown again for the rest of the night (that I could tell, at least…I was packing for a vacation I’m taking while watching). On the opposite end of the spectrum, German gymnast Marcel Nguyen won the silver at the men’s all around, and all we saw were his floor exercises. That was the last event NBC broadcast of that competition. It was like “here’s this guy we haven’t shown you all night, but look, he just won silver!” I could have done with a few fewer shots of American bronze medalist Danell Leyva wrapped up in his old towel and more coverage of the actual competition.

So yeah, I think that this year in particular, the commentary for the Olympics has been especially driven by hype and the very latest results. Place on top of that an expectation that nothing but gold is good enough (we have a lot of awesome silver and bronze medalists, people!), and you get coverage that, at times, can be kind of unpleasant. Just stop watching you say? Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. I’ve been watching the Olympics since 1988 (I remember really loving figure skating at the Calgary Winter Games), and I don’t see that stopping any time soon. I still love being transported to that other world for two weeks every other year. Another world where obscure sports capture the world’s attention and unlikely heartwarming stories can be found in the most unexpected places. Plus the athletes are kinda hot, you know?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer TV Rewind: Sherlock 2.02: "The Hounds of Baskerville"

“A twenty-year old disappearance? A monstrous hound? I wouldn’t miss this for the world!”

As you can probably guess from the title, this episode of “Sherlock” is based on “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” I thought this was an interesting modern twist on the concept, with conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure. It was quite a creepy episode, with lots of very dark imagery. It’s episodes like this where the worlds of “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who” intersect. After a decent, creepy episode like this you’d think Mark Gatiss could write a good episode of “Doctor Who,” but I think his reputation in the Whoinverse will be forever marred by “Victory of the Daleks.” That episode featured multi-colored Daleks, or, as I like to call them, the iDaleks. Anyway, another aspect of this episode that made it worthwhile, was that it really tested both Sherlock and Watson. Both were questioning everything they were seeing and believing, which made the investigation more difficult than usual. It also made their relationship a bit strained, but of course all is well in that department by the end of the episode.

The episode opens right up with the creepy imagery. We see a kid running across Dartmoor at night. There re flashes of him being afraid of a big, dog-like creature until he is stopped by a creepy old lady. Then we flash forward to the boy, Henry, now grown up and played by the awesome Russell Tovey (George the Werewolf in “Being Human”). I have visited Dartmoor myself way back in 1992, and it definitely is a desolate, kind of creepy place. It’s kind of beautiful too, though, which I’m not sure this episode captures. Although eight-year-old me mostly cared about seeing the wild ponies that roam the Moor. The only somewhat credibly haunted house I’ve ever visited was in Devonshire, too, for what that’s worth. It’s called A door there opened all on its own while we were on a tour. Creepy stuff.

Anyway, in London, Sherlock is all angsty again. This time, it’s because he’s trying to quit smoking and he doesn’t have a case. Just in the nick of time, before Sherlock throws a complete fit, Henry shows up at Baker Street. He shows Sherlock and Watson video of him talking about the Hound he saw and the nearby top secret Baskerville military facility. Baskerville seems to be sort of the British version of Area 51. Henry also says that his father was murdered by the Hound. Sherlock deduces that something specific must have happened to lead Henry to go back to the Moor on that particular night. It turns out that Henry’s therapist told him to go back, and when Russell did indeed go back, he saw the footprints of a gigantic, dog-like creature. Sherlock’s now interested enough to want to take the case. We then see a quick shot of Henry talking to his therapist, where he says he keeps seeing flashes of the words “liberty” and “in.”

Sherlock and Watson make their way to Dartmoor. First they talk to some guys at a pub, who direct them to another man who claims to have seen the hound. This other man is sitting outside with a “see the hound” sign. Nothing wrong with trying to profit from creepiness, I suppose. The next step of the investigation is to actually see the Baskerville facility. Luckily, Sherlock has a pretty easy way to accomplish this. He’s got Mycroft’s ID card, and Mycroft can get into pretty much any government facility he wants. So Mycroft’s ID gets them in, and Watson’s military experience makes the ruse plausible. Watson has a little fun pulling rank on a hapless Baskerville soldier. Inside they meet a female scientist who works with rabbits, and Sherlock instantly connects this to an e-mail he received from a little girl about her glow-in-the-dark rabbit, Bluebell, who went missing. Soon enough, the higher-ups realize that Sherlock and Watson probably aren’t who they say they are, but they are saved by a scientist named Dr. Franklin who tells the base commander that Sherlock is definitely Mycroft. Dr. Franklin then introduces himself and gives Sherlock and Watson his cell number, but he doesn’t really give them any information about what’s going on at Baskerville.

Sherlock, Watson, and Henry then go out on the Moor at night to do some more investigation, and Watson gets separated from the rest of the group. He sees a strange light blinking on a far-off hill, and he tries to translate the blinks into Morse code. Elsewhere, Sherlock and Henry seem to see the Hound, but Sherlock doesn’t want to admit it right away- he’s too rational. The group reunites back at the pub, and after Henry leaves, Sherlock and Watson have a long conversation, in which Sherlock finally admits he saw the Hound. Things get a bit frosty when Watson doesn’t really believe Sherlock. Watson decides to investigate the blinking light he saw, but it’s a dead end. All he succeeds in finding is the town’s make-out area. Apparently one of the couples had been inadvertently turning their car lights on and off. After this disappointment, Watson gets a call from Sherlock that Henry’s therapist is at the pub. Watson doesn’t really want to go back, but Sherlock lures him by texting a photo of the therapist.

At Henry’s house, Henry is just trying to relax a bit, but the lights keep turning on and off outside. This begins to agitate Henry, and then to top it all off, Henry thinks he sees the Hound again. Over at the pub, Watson tries to put some moves on the therapist, but Dr. Franklin ruins that by revealing to her that Watson and Sherlock are actually private investigators (and he makes some innuendo about them being romantically involved as well). The next morning, Watson and Sherlock go to the pub to find that Lastrade is now in town. He’s going to help them with the investigation. Lastrade proves to be helpful pretty quickly. He gets the pub owners to admit that they’ve been sending a big dog out on the Moor to drum up the Hound myth. That dog is not what Sherlock saw when he was out on the Moor, though. The boys need to investigate Baskerville a bit more, so Sherlock places a call to Mycroft.

Mycroft gets Sherlock and Watson back into the facility, and they get separated as they’re snooping around. Somehow Watson gets locked in a lab, and a really creepy alarm goes off. The lights also go off. Watson is convinced that the Hound is nearby (he hears it), and he backs himself into an animal cage and calls Sherlock manages to rescue him just as it looks like the Hound is about to attack. Sherlock informs Watson that they’ve all been drugged, and that’s why they’re seeing the Hound. They head back to the lab of the female scientist with the rabbits. Sherlock checks the sugar he’s been taking in his coffee for the drug, but the sugar is completely normal, and he gets very frustrated. He decides to go to his “Mind Palace” to puzzle this one out. He ends up making a connection to Project H.O.U.N.D. in Liberty, Indiana. The Project involved the making of a drug that would render military opponents paranoid and docile. The drug didn’t work as planned, though- it made the subjects go insane. Dr. Franklin was part of the Project (Sherlock figured out he spent time in the States when he said “cell phone” instead of “mobile”), and he’s obsessed with seeing the work through.

Meanwhile, Henry completely freaks out and tries to shoot his therapist, thinking the Hound is in the room. He realizes what’s happening before he actually shoots, thankfully, but he runs off, really upset about what he almost did. The team finds him out on the Moor, and he’s about to blow his head off because he thinks he’s too much of a danger to others. As they’re trying to talk Henry down, the Hound approaches. Sherlock realizes that the drug which has been making them hallucinate the Hound is actually in the fog that has been rolling across the Moor. He also realizes that it was Dr. Franklin, not the Hound, who killed Henry’s father all those years ago. Watson shoots the “Hound,” and as he’s trying to get away, Dr. Franklin blows himself up on a mine (the mines are to keep the public away from Baskerville). At the very end of the episode, somebody inside Baskerville releases Moriarty from a holding cell. So I guess we know who will be giving our detectives a run for their money in the final installment.