Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top Reality Shows: Yes, Another List

I'll admit, I've never been a huge reality TV show fan. Back in 1998, I watched about 30 minutes of Survivor before I gave up on it. I know some people really enjoy that show, as well as numerous others such as American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, Big Brother, and so on.

I've never liked these shows, but I will give them credit for being wildly popular. I think a big push for reality TV has been from the networks. These shows don't pay actors, don't pay (many) writers (because it's all so real, get it?) and the production costs are low. If the show flops, no big deal. And if it is a success, its a huge profit.

Anyway, there are some "reality" (and I think I'm using the term pretty loosely) TV shows that I do enjoy. Most of them are on the Travel Channel or the Food Network. None of them are on VH1 (T.O. show, this means you).

One more thing. I don't really seek these shows out, but I will watch when they are on. It's kind of like College Basketball before March Madness. I have a general awareness of what's going on, but I'm not committed to making much of an effort to seek it out. (Notice I said before March. I don't want to hear complains about how great the tournament is. I get it. Opening weekend is one of my top 4 sports moments of the year.) So, here's the list of reality TV shows that I like.

1. No Reservations. Host Anthony Bourdain is at times very funny and at all times very full of himself. He talks way too damned much. And he really only knows what he's talking about in a few situations. But still, I love this show. He goes to exotic places (mostly) and does things that are off the beaten path. I enjoy watching this show. Also, he doesn't do that many gross things, like somebody later down on this list. I love traveling and I enjoy seeing places I haven't seen on TV. It's a good concept. Take some guy who is obnoxious but somewhat knowledgeable and send him all over the world to do different and random and local things. And then put it on TV with some (too much) of the host talking about what he did.

2. ManVentures. It could also be called Madventures, I'm not sure. Its sometimes difficult to understand these two dudes as they speak with their Swedish or Finnish accents. I'll admit, I've only seen about 2.5 episodes, but they've all been outstanding. Basically, these two dopes go around touring the world and doing stupid/adventurous things. They snuck into Cambodia once. One guy is the host and the other guy is the camera man. I don't think anyone else is involved. They're both highly unstable and unpredictable, and it makes for GREAT TV. Also, I think that these guys have consumed massive quantities of drugs and their brains don't quite work correctly. Again, fascinating.

3. Iron Chef. This includes both the Japanese version (which I don't think still airs) and the newer American version. I enjoy cooking and I think I'm pretty good at cooking some stuff. But to watch most of the people on this show is simply amazing. Now, don't get carried away, I'm not comparing myself to Iron Chefs or even the contestants. They are all some of the best chefs in the world. But, I do enjoy the creativity on the show. Even if they try to make a lot of weird things into ice cream, it's still a good show. It's been a while since I've watched Iron Chef, but I've always liked it. Watching people take something like oysters and easily make it into 5 or more (nearly) flawlessly executed dishes in less than an hour is incredible. And, let's not lose sight of how funny the voice overs were into English from the Japanese version.

4. Bizarre Foods. Some of you will recall I pointed out that I don't like this Andrew Zimmern joker in the past. Well, I've slightly changed my mind. Slightly. I like the show. Zimmern goes to cool places, much like Bourdain does. And he does some pretty wacky stuff, again, much like Bourdain. But he eats way too many gross things. Bourdain always eats pork, but Zimmern always eat animal genitalia. Sorry, I know it's gross, but he does it. In every episode I've seen he's eaten something awful. My father, a man who worked in Emergency Rooms and Operating Rooms for a long time and has seen just about any injury, no matter how gross, even finds this part of the show offensive.

5. Man vs. Food. The premise of the show is really cool. Some guy going around the country, checking out the local flavor, and eating some good food. If you followed my BBQ Road Trip blog, you'll know I love this kind of stuff. There's something inherently American about hitting the open road and seeing the differences from region to region, state to state and even city to city. And I think it's great. Here's my problem with this show. The host, Adam Richman, is so annoying. He's not funny. He's an idiot. And he should be replaced. Really, any joker can do his job. He never wins the eating contests, unless it's something that is hot and he can just eat it in two bites and drink milk as soon as possible. This show has potential, but the host is dragging it down.

6. Chopped. This is another cool show on the Food Channel, if you don't know. Chefs come in, are given mystery ingredients and have to create an appetizer, a main course and dessert. After each portion of the meal, one of the four chefs is "chopped." The winner gets money. It's a good premise, even if its kind of a mini version of Iron Chef. The funniest parts are seeing people struggle with how to make something good out of Gummy Bears, Ground Pork, Fennel fronds and Matzoh Ball Mix. There is always one or two ingredients that are just so off the wall compared to the others the chefs must use. I like this show. The judges are also very harsh towards the competitors. It's great.

7. Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. This is the exact same show as #5, only no eating contests. The idea behind the show is really cool, but the host is a jackass. So, the only real difference is the channel. Bonus trivia: Guy (that's his name, I'm not using a description) ate at Lankford Grocery here in Houston and thought it was great. He does get some points back in my book for this.

8. Hell's Kitchen. This show is about some young chefs trying to get their break into the big time from Gordon Ramsey. They compete in contests and in cooking. Each week, one character is sent home. It's pretty good, even if it's formulaic. There is also a lot of the forced breaks that are seemingly inherent in all reality shows. This show does get bonus points because Gordon Ramsey talks a lot of sh&t. And he's funny to me and intimidating to the contestants, which makes for great TV. In addition, Gordon throws things at people all the time. And people who lose flip out constantly.

9. Earlier, I dedicated an entire blog post to this show, so I won't rehash. I'll just say that Whale Wars is a monument to the stupidity of people and how easily a snake oil salesman can take advantage of people. Look, I'm not saying I'm anti-whale or anti-Earth anything, but come on. Fanaticism of any kind is over the top. But it does make for good TV.
What did I leave out? Anything I should know about? And "Battlestar Gallictica" is not an acceptable answer on this post.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Best TV Dramas

Just to be clear, since some people have not been able to keep up, this is a list of dramas. Dramas, meaning not comedies. Just kidding Colin. But seriously, this is a list of dramas.

1. 24. I'm not sure how good the last season of 24 was, but every season before 2009 was awesome. I used to watch on DVD or DVR because the suspense from episode to episode was too much. I just couldn't wait for the next episode. My favorite was the season where Jack went to Mexico. Although the first four seasons were all incredible. The novelty factor of the show is also noteworthy.

2. Law and Order. This show contributed to my desire to be a lawyer in a major way. Jack McCoy is one of my favorite characters of all time. This, in my opinion, is the best cop show and the best lawyer show at the same time. Even some the spin offs are pretty good. SVU and CI were good. The trial bureau show was a flop, but how much did Lenny's death have to do with that?

3. The Wire. I had seen a few episodes from time to time over the years. Not having HBO in my apartment contributed to this fact. But, after the bar exam, my cousin (who also took the bar in California [Hi Jay!]) and I managed to watch the entire series in less than 2 weeks. Ok, there are about 60 hours of the show, total, but I still think that was a lot of TV. And, after the bar, it was great to be able to sit and watch as compared to sit and study. Each season is different with some carryover of characters. This is a GREAT show. If you haven't seen it, drop everything and watch. I'll wait. You can read the rest of this post later. Trust me.

4. Lost. Ok, I'll admit I was obsessed with this show. I didn't watch it until before this past season, but I caught up on DVD quickly. I got season 1 for my mom for Christmas and "borrowed" the DVDs once. I watched all of season 1 when I was sick once in almost one day. I couldn't move from the couch. Season 1 was that good. In my opinion, and I know this won't be popular, but I think each season has gotten worse and worse over time. I will say that only last season was disappointing. The first 4 were great, but they got worse and worse.

5. The Sopranos. This was such a good show. Most of you know I love all gangster movies, especially mafia movies. This was like a 60 minute gangster movie every Sunday. I even enjoy re-watching some of the episodes. So many of the characters had been on other shows or movies as gangsters before, and this just added to the success of the show.

6. Rome. I don't know how many of you watches this two season show, but it was one of HBO's best shows. As far as I could tell, the show was pretty accurate historically. The plot was riveting. My only complaint is that I wish there were more episodes.

7. House. I know this isn't the most "realistic" medical show on TV, but I just like it. Maybe it's because I'm not a doctor (I do pretend to have medical knowledge all the time though), but the lack of reality or authenticity just doesn't bother me. Plus, House is so sarcastic. Clearly, I find that funny. There's also something to be said for his lack of political correctness, which, frankly, I love.

8. Homicide: Life on the Street. This was another great cop show. It was like Law and Order, but only the first thirty minutes. It followed the police half of Law and Order. The second best show about cops and the second best show about Baltimore.

9. The X-Files. Before this became all about aliens, this was a good show. The episode about the Chinese Lottery and the episode about the African who ate people's pituitary glands are two of the best episodes. I remember being freaked out when I saw them. Also the show about the crazy incestuous family in Pennsylvania was freaky. Great show when it wasn't only about aliens. Sure, some of the alien stuff was good, but in the end, it consumed the show.

10. I'm reserving #10 for the shows I've heard are good but haven't watched. And, who says it has to be a top 10 list? I'm not David Letterman. (Are you enjoying the shrimp?) CSI, Friday Night Lights, and the West Wing.

Ok, what did I leave out? What should I have watched or included? Please don't make any Walker: Texas Ranger jokes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hey look, another list!!

OK folks, let's get back to blogging and listing. You know you enjoy these lists.

(Photo caption: I'm number 1, I'm number 1.)

For background, over the weekend, Trey and I watched a few episodes of The Simpsons. We watched the episode in which the plot follows The Departed and also the episode where Homer is elected union chief. What do these two episodes have in common? Well, they're both hilarious. How do they differ? Well, the "Departed" episode is from season 19, which in and of itself is impressive. And, the union chief episode is from season 4.

Now, I don't go around memorizing which episode came from which season. Not that there's anything wrong with that. And you know who you are. But, it's remarkable that these two episodes, aired 15 years apart are both so funny.

I'll make my point and then get to the list. The old Simpsons episodes were consistently hilarious. I mean, side busting and always great. Now, not so much. There are a few good shows per season, but not many. It's more newsworthy when an episode is funny these days. Nonetheless, The Simpsons is the BEST sitcom of all time. Animated or not, this is classic TV. OK, here's the list.

1. The Simpsons. I've been through some of this already, but this is just the best show of all time. For about 15 years, this show was classically funny. It's still funny to watch old episodes. Even when I know the jokes before they happen, I still laugh. This is #1, and it's not really close after that.

2. Seinfeld. Hey, don't get me wrong, this is also an incredible show. But, maybe because it was ALWAYS broadcast in syndication, it seems overplayed. It's strange. I know when these jokes are coming too, and I can usually figure out which episode is airing within a few seconds, but it's just not the same. The social interactions are still good, but it seemed like the show became formulaic towards the end. I will grant you The Simpsons has been in this mode for a few years now, but it's my list. Feel free to disagree.

3. The Cosby Show. Come on, this show was incredible. It's a bit dated, but Cosby acting like Cosby is gold. Pure comedy gold. Maybe adding the two kids after Rudy was a bit much, but Olivia and Pam weren't terrible and really were small characters. Also, if you see some of the bit actors who appeared in the show over time, it's nuts. Adam Sandler, BB King, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Tito Puente, John Amos, and on and on.

4. Frasier. I know some people aren't on my side here, but this is classic TV. I think this would have made a great play. All of the episodes could take place in one room. It's really all about the characters. This has to go down as the best spin-off of all time. Although I hear that The Cleveland Show is great. Also, that was the sarcasm font.

5. Cheers. It's hard to believe, but the spin-off is better than the original, but it is. Cheers was great, even if Diane was a terrible character.

6. All in the Family. I'll grant you, this isn't the most politically correct show ever, but it is truly hilarious. Also, The Jefferson's was a spin off from this show. It's worth watching just to see Sally Struthers not eating children in third world countries.

7. Family Guy. In recent years, this show has gone the way of South Park, in that it is profane and offensive simply for the sake of profanity and offensiveness. Also, every episode has two to three random flashbacks that have nothing to do with the plot and are just there for the sake of filling time. Or at least, that's how it seems to me. These things are not funny. But, don't get me wrong, the first few seasons were great. Before the plot revolved around Stewie being gay, or potentially gay, or whatever and was about Stewie being evil, or potentially evil, this show was better. It could have been higher on this list.

8. Arrested Development. This is another show that could have been higher on the list, but not because it quit being funny. It should have been higher but it ended. And season three, the final season, just ended. I'm not sure why it ended, but it could have continued.

9. King of the Hill. Is it just me, or is this show a lot funnier if you're from Texas? Come on, Hank's niece is named Luanne Platter. What do you order at Luby's? Come on, it's gold. Considering this was supposed to be filler between The Simpsons and X-Files, King of the Hill was pretty damn funny.

10. Scrubs. I'll admit, I thought this show was great. But then I realized I didn't like the main character. At all. Then I stopped liking Elliot and Carla. Then Dr. Cox got really old. The Janitor and Ted remained funny, as did Dr. Kelso. But I just quit watching.

Honorable mention. Friends. I never really liked this show, but I know a lot of people did. I'll put it on the list so that people won't complain. Not that this will stop the best complainers amongst you.

I'll also include Sanford and Son, and I'm sure some of you really like The Office. There's it, there's the list. Have at it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This is meant entirely as humor so relax and have a nice day

This was forwarded to me from reader Jennifer Knox. Please address all comments to her and don't shoot the messenger. Again, let me state clearly this is a joke. So don't get upset. Laugh a little. It won't kill you.

In the future, everyone will win the Nobel Peace Prize for 15 minutes.

In other news, the 2012 Olympic Committee announced today that PresidentBarack Obama has been awarded the Gold Medal in the Decathlon, more than two years before the event was scheduled to begin. Commitee members were convinced of his fitness for the award based on shirtless pictures of the President published in People magazine.

President Barack Obama will receive an Emmy for his numerous appearanceson television in 2008 and 2009.

The President of the United States has been named as a 2009 Tony Awardwinner for his stellar attendance at a Broadway show in May 2009.

The producers of the Academy Awards program have announced President Barack Obama as the winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award forlifetime achievement. In addition, the award will be renamed the "Barack H. Obama Award" and presented annually to President Barack Obama.

In recognition of the pitch he threw at the 2009 All-Star Game,President Barack Obama has been named today as MVP of the 2009 WorldSeries.

The Heisman Trophy Trust announced today that the iconic bronze statuewill be recast, with a shirtless Barack Obama replacing the anachronistic college football figure from the 1930s. In a mild departure from tradition, the President will be portrayed clutching a basketball, though a similar arm-forward pose will be used. Also, the 2009 award and all future Heisman Trophy awards will be presented to Barack Obama.

The Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) has named President Barack Obama as their "Customer of the Year" for 2009. TheWhite House had no comment. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) was disappointedin his second-place showing, but congratulated the President in a press release.

The National Organization for Women followed the lead of the Nobel PeacePrize committee and named President Barack Obama as NOW's "Woman of theYear" for 2009. When questioned about the President's lack of female gender, the spokesperson said, "He said he WANTS to be female someday,and we think that's good enough for us."

Seen elsewhere on the Internet: Barack Obama has been named Motor Trend's Car of the Year.

The First Lady announced that for the first time in her adult life sheis proud of Norway."...

"Happiest guy in the world right now? The guy that had Barack Obama onhis Fantasy Nobel Prize team."...

In a little-noted announcement, William Ayers received an 'Assist' awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature category."

Monday, October 12, 2009


Sorry for the drop off in blogging, if anyone cares, but I've been sick. I'll detail some more of what's going on 10,000 miles from home soon, but in the mean time, I think we can all agree, or not (and I know who's likely to disagree) that Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize was at best premature and at worst, well, ludicrous.

Now, I don't want to delve too deeply into politics. Lord knows, the worst thing we can discuss is religion or politics. Oh, did I say "Lord knows"? I don't want to start a holy war.

But, considering nominations were due a mere 11 days after Obama took office, isn't it a little ridiculous that he won the NPP? Granted, many of you think the award is meaningless after Al Gore won his for his documentary (certainly not for his $22,ooo monthly electricity bill or driving a suburban) but 11 days? What could have been done in 11 days other than talk?

I understand he's improved America's image abroad, but he did that simply by not being George W. Bush. By the same token, I'm not W. Where's my prize? Free trip to Sweden? $1.6 million? Nothing for me? Rubbish.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

India: Days 3-5, Part 2

Just briefly, I'd like to take a moment to present a truly ironic development. As a quick side note, people often misuse "irony"and it really grinds my gears. But, anyway, back to the story.

I went from my mom's mom's house to my dad's mom's house today. I'm staying for a few days. In days past this trip, I had come for the day. Hence, I did not bring my laptop. Today, however, I did.

It took some time to get hooked up to the Internet. The wireless network was spotty, so my cousin and I were attempting to hook up a wired connection. I went into the other room and when I came back, my cousin, who lives in India (this becomes important in, right now) was on the phone with tech support. Which is locally based.

Ironic. But I didn't need to tell you that. You've been paying attention and you understand irony.

India: Days 3-5, Part 1

One of the most peculiar (I don't think I've ever typed that word before, but I kinda like it) aspects of Indian culture is the family dynamic. I'm not talking about the nuclear family, but the extended family. It's very important to make social visits and inquire as to the well-being of other people in the family.

(Photo caption: a 3 lane road in Delhi)

I suppose that in and of itself is not all the peculiar. What I find so funny, however, is the unannounced drop in. I think there was a Seinfeld episode along these lines.

Anyway, today, before lunch, we were hanging out and talking. The phone rang and my mom went to answer it. As the TV was on, she stepped out into the hallway to talk. And, before you knew it, some lady appeared in the door way. The unannounced visitor.

She came in, greeted my grandmother and said "Hello, Vikram. How are you?" Now, I had stood up so as to not be rude and greeted this woman in the common fashion. I said "Hello Aunty(every other woman, basically, is called aunty if she's not related to you directly or at all). I had no effing clue who this lady was. We went on, chit chatting about this and that for about 10 minutes. All the while, I still had no idea who the devil this woman was.

Finally, my mom came in and greeted this woman by name. Finally, I figured out who the hell this was. It was my mom's brother's wife's brother's wife. (I suppose it would be easier to say it was my uncle's sister in law, but I don't care to do so at this time).

Now, if we can all shift gears for a second, let's discuss traffic. I earlier said traffic was horrible here, and if a Houstonian says traffic is bad, you know it's out of control.

As I see it, trucks, buses, cars, motorcycles, scooters, bikes, people and carts of all shapes and sizes share the roads. At all times. Since traffic flows the British way, you drive on the left side of the road and the right lane is the "fast lane." Also, as more background, the bigger your vehicle is, the more "right" you have for space on the road.

If a road is 3 lanes, there will be at least 5 actual lanes of traffic. The painted lines on the road are only suggestions, and largely ignored suggestions at that. Turning is also quite an ordeal. Rather than form a line, all types of vehicles cluster in as narrow a space as possible near the intersection as cars in the opposite direction run lights and swerve to avoid objects in the road.

As soon as there is enough time for one car to inch forward enough to possibly go across the intersection, 10 to 15 vehicles flood the intersection. Collisions be damned. It's a giant game of chicken. It's not alarming to drivers for a crowded bus to be inches away from the side of your car on one side and 3 scooters trying to pass you on the other, even if you're up against the median. Well, let me tell you it is damned alarming for the passenger, IE, me.

In addition, bikes and scooters and motorcycles ignore the lanes and squeeze between 4 wheeled vehicles to inch towards the front of the line. Red lights apparently mean nothing to people on 2 wheelers, as they skid and fly through intersections as they please. Even if the bike is made entirely of rust and held together by bits of string and tape, it's not stopping for anything. It's got other cars to squeeze between at the next light.

Now, if you can imagine all of that, let me add pedestrians to the mix. Essentially, what you or I would call jay-walking is readily accepted, and even encouraged here. People put their hand out when they cross a street or highway, essentially daring motorists to hit them. It's unbelievable. Just because you put your hand up does not mean a car will stop in America. Unless you're in Rhode Island, where by law motorists must stop to allow pedestrians to cross the street. Here, however, it's actually effective. People will not exactly stop, but they will slow down enough for jay-walkers to get to the next lane of traffic. It truly is Frogger (sorry for the second Seinfeld joke, but you'll live) on a hugely dangerous level.

Part 2 to come later. Enjoy.