13 July 2010

Adult Swim's summer hits and misses

The World Cup is over?  Let the withdrawal begin!  Ack!

Near the top of my list of vices is a tendency to watch way too many things on Cartoon Network, especially the late-night Adult Swim section.

Hit:  Mary Shelley's Frankenhole is the latest from Dino Stamatopolous, creator Moral Orel, a brilliant sendup of fundamentalist Christianity that died a miserable death, both creatively and in the ratings.  Stamatopolous followed it up with SuperJail, a tawdry and violent show that's more typical Adult Swim fare.  I hated it, so when Frankenhole started, I avoided it.

[Correction:  Stamatopolous had nothing to do with Superjail.  Still, given Morel Orel's sad fate, my comment about Frankenhole stands.]

That may have been a mistake.  In this show, Dr. Frankenstein didn't stop at creating his famous monster.  Among other things, he's discovered gateways to parallel universes.  Fool that he is, he's opened them; and, on the basis of the first episode I saw this weekend, considerable hilarity has ensued.  I'll stream in the other 10-minute segments that have aired.  Hopefully, like the one I've seen, they'll be close in tone to Moral Orel's brilliant first season.

Misses:  [as] opened two live-action series this summer, both centered on popular comedians.  My feelings about them are not good.  Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule features John C. Reilly as the pathetic, forlorn host of an early-morning cable-access show.  Reilly plays the part too well: Brule needs therapy, not more episodes.  Meanwhile, Children's Hospital, Rob Corddry's much-ballyhooed expansion of an Internet series, opened Sunday night.  The opener was made for WB online viewing, so I'll give it pass.  But it doesn't look promising at this point.

Hit:  The Boondocks started its long-awaited third season back in May rather slowly.  The season low came with "The Story of Jimmy Rebel," in which the bizarrely racist Uncle Ruckus hooks up with his favorite singer, who writes and performs racist songs.  It could've been a funny installment, but the writers went overboard with the songs.  From there, the season has improved dramatically, including a brutally funny riff on Tyler Perry.  Series creator Aaron McGruder has reportedly declared that this will be the series' last season.  If so, that would mark a big loss for Adult Swim.

Miss:  Just today, the official Venture Bros. blog confirmed a 12 September start date for new episodes.  The same post tells us that Season 4 has now ended.  For my favorite Adult Swim show, it's two small pieces of bad news.  The original plan was to grant Venture Bros. a 16-episode season 4, split into two parts.  The first eight installments aired last winter, and the season was to restart late this spring.  Production delays took their toll, pushing the restart  back to 22 August, then to the now-official 12 September.  At some point recently, Adult Swim and VB creator Jackson Publick decided to re-label the second half of Season 4 as Season 5.  There is a Venture Bros. panel at Comic-Con in San Diego, so we should soon hear more on the show's near-term future.

Here's hoping the restart makes its new deadline.

11 July 2010

A picture of justice

You know what the best thing about the World Cup is? The best team usually wins the final!

In the NBC photo above, Andres Iniesta is the man in navy blue, celebrating the game-winning goal in extra time of the 2010 World Cup Final.  I don't know who the flustered Dutchman is, and frankly, I don't care.  At the end of 120 minutes, Spain prevailed, 1-0, over the Netherlands.  ¡Viva la Fúria Roja!  All hail Spain!

Much will be made of the lack of scoring from the new champions.  La Fúria only scored eight goals in their seven matches, and they even opened with a 1-0 loss to the Swiss.  They didn't have the best defense in South Africa (that would be Paraguay, Spain's quarterfinal victim), but it was more than good enough to frustrate the field.

As for the Oranje:  they have turned out to be world soccer's answer to the Pat Riley Knicks.  Let me explain.  Back in the 1990s, having taken over the ailing NBA team in New York City, Riley realized that (a) while he had talent, he didn't have enough to overcome the Jordan-Jackson Bulls and (b) Knicks management would never give him enough.  His answer?  Turn the Knicks into a team so physical, it could just bully its way into the NBA Finals.  At that, he succeeded -- but in the process, he literally set the entire Eastern Conference back a decade.

I think that's what happened to Holland this weekend.  Seeing no hope of overcoming Spain's superior personnel, Dutch coach Dirk van Marwijk had his players turn violent, collecting yellow cards and pulling crap like the assault at the right.  In this picture from ABC, Nigel de Jong delivers a flying kick to the chest of Spain's Xabi Alonso.  (I'm not exaggerating; it was a flying kick straight from a martial-arts movie.)  For that crime, de Jong got only a yellow card instead of the red that should've been handed him.

The word "crime" pretty much describes the Dutch effort today, including their complaints about the officiating.  Excuse me?  You guys turn the World Cup final into a bad MMA fight, and then turn around cry about anything?  Here's hoping that doesn't fly any higher in the Netherlands that it is anywhere else.

Ian Darke, I take back some of my screed against you yesterday.  The real disgrace was the Oranje today.  I'm so glad they lost, Scooter can hear me purr.

Can we deport Ian Darke already?

Presented for your approval: Luis Suárez, Uruguayan striker and, as of this World Cup, The Most Despised Man in Africa.  Commentators have rightly noted that, unseemly as it was, the hand ball against Ghana was perfectly legal.  No right-thinking field player in Suárez's impossible position (not even in Africa) would have hesitated to at least attempt what he did.  As it was, the red card he earned, also rightly, will go down as one of the greatest personal sacrifices in soccer history.

At the same time, though, I saw was nothing wrong with African fans constantly showering him with boos, as they did in Satuday's third-place match against Germany.  It wasn't as though in the first round, prior to That Hand Ball, a despicable Suárez dive hadn't tricked the referee into ejecting South Africa keeper Itumelng Khune.  Hell, that flop would have embarrassed Vlade Divac.

Which brings me to Ian Darke, who covered, among others, the USA World Cup matches for American TV.  I found him tolerable to watch until he went off on the South African fans for booing Súarez.  "Disgreaceful"?  "A lack of understanding of the game"?  He meant to insult Africans with teabagger-worthy phrases like those, but all Darke really did was describe himself.  Perhaps he should get out of England more.  In the rest of the world, singling specific players out for jeering is a time-honored tradition.  It's reserved for players who've committed egregious offenses against the home team.  (That means you, Chris Pronger, bane of all right-thinking NHL fans.)  Whatever else he did, Luis Suárez surely fit that profile.  The other fact Darke missed with his proto-colonialist missives was the fact that no human can simultaneously (a) boo Suárez and (b) blow on a damned vuvuzela.  That, of course, was a favor for everyone but Darke.

ESPN dramatically improved its World Cup coverage, finally giving the event the respect it deserves.  Heck, apart from Darke, it even made it safe to watch English-language soccer telecasts in North America.  But while they're washing off all the Gulf Coast oil from the punking they took from LeBron (the Impostor) James this week, perhaps ESPN executives can take a little time to hand Ian Darke a red card.

Obligatory comment on the games:  There wasn't a lot to say about the semifinals. The Netherlands' win over Uruguay was no surprise, nor Spain's victory over a German squad that definitely missed Thomas Müller.  The real surprise was that, though shut down on Wednesday night, it was der Mannschaft, not the Brazilians, who played the prettiest football of the tournament.  (Sure, England and Argentina helped, but still... .)

Regarding tomorrow's final:  as the U.S. team constantly allowed fatal early goals, the Netherlands have allowed silly goals late.  Spain will see to it that that will undo the Dutch, probably in the 84th minute or so.

04 July 2010

World Cup quarterfinal purring

So Germany blows Argentina halfway back across the Atlantic.
For once, loudmouthed Diego Maradona is at a loss for words.
 Purr, purr, purr!

And what'll you know?  Spain actually gets out of a quarterfinal stage!
The Tholians Paraguayans made them work, and there was that penalty-kick wackiness.
But finally, La Fúria are through to a luscious semifinal with der Mannschaft.
 Purr, purr, purr!

02 July 2010

Shoo, birds! This World Cup is for the kittens!

What? Brazil blew a halftime lead?
Yeah, thanks for nothing, Felipe Melo!

 Ghana missed a stoppage-time penalty kick?
Yeah, thanks for nothing, Asemoah Gyan!
(Though you did make up for it in the tiebreaker.)