TV

'The Bachelor' (episode 4, what better time to start?) recap: APOLOGY PLZ

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Forgive the late (mid-season) arrival, some copy got lost in translation. And if you buy that, Juan Pablo's public image has a shot.

So last week, amid all the real news (Chris Christie things, GOP things, Obama-NSA things, Sochi things) and amid all the Bieber news (eggs, DUI's, Jeremy Bieber's existence, shiny shorts, smiling mugshots) there was a bad piece of Bachelor news. 

Juan Pablo, the current Bachelor, decided to share his feelings on a matter he was totally unqualified to address, he did so in a socially tone-deaf manner and is now dealing with that fallout. 

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A first glance at 'Looking'

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Imagine a place where all the gay men are masculine, well-built, physically unselfconscious, and fashionably tousled; where young male artists and young male people of color mingle with young white male techies (yet are still happily banished to Oakland or work the door at Esta Noche); where having a "lazy eye" or being "slightly portly" renders you disqualified for relationships; where HIV, addiction, and politics barely exist; and where everyone is drenched in soft-spoken sophistication, vague existential ennui, and puppy-eyed cuteness.

This isn't quite San Francisco (yet), but it is the San Francisco of gorgeously produced, play-it-safe-so-far gay-themed HBO series Looking (it begins airing Jan. 19) -- at least the first two episodes, which previewed tonight at the Castro Theater. It's too early of course to pass any kind of judgment on the entire series, which in many ways may be an accurate reflection of current gay culture, and I maintain very high hopes, especially with such good actors, writers, and attention to detail involved.

But let me tell you: I have never wished more for a stereotypically sassy drag queen to stomp onscreen and break some shit in my life.

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Buuuurrrrp! Comedy Central's "Drunk History" stumbles through San Francisco

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Calling all boozehounds! Tomorrow night, Comedy Central's popular Drunk History series takes on the great, liquid courage-infused city of San Francisco.

Host Derek Waters — a veteran guest of the San Francisco International Film Festival, with this past year's "Inside the Drunken Mind of Derek Waters" and 2010's "A Drunken Evening with Derek Waters" (sense the theme?) — guides this weekly stumble through history, which features sloshed, slurring storytellers narrating re-enactments of great (or not-so-great) moments in time. Read more »

Brutal murder, wrenching trial: HBO's must-see doc "The Cheshire Murders"

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It was, people said, Connecticut's version of the In Cold Blood murders. In July 2007, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, were murdered by a pair of strangers — Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, who'd picked the family at random — while patriarch William Petit lay bound and beaten in the basement of their suburban home. He survived; the women perished either at the hands of their attackers or in the fire the men set to cover their tracks.

Clearly, the bare facts of the case — which took place in Cheshire, Conn., a bedroom community near New York City — are horrific enough, without considering any of its other elements. But The Cheshire Murders, created for HBO's Summer Documentary Series by married filmmaking team Kate Davis and David Heilbroner (2010's Stonewall Uprising), reveals that the deaths may have been preventable if only police had intervened; a frantic bank teller dialed 911 after observing a frightened Jennifer Petit withdrawing a large sum of money for the waiting Hayes. Or, perhaps the family would have been spared if Komisarjevsky and Hayes, men with long rap sheets, had been more closely monitored by their parole officers and drug counselors — or had received better mental-health care during their respective troubled childhoods.

But all the "what if" scenarios in the world can't restore three lives — or fill the void felt by those they left behind. Using revealing interviews that explore the many facets of the case, deft editing, and a sensitive yet questioning tone, The Cheshire Murders is a both thought-provoking and disturbing viewing experience. I spoke with Davis and Heilbroner ahead of the film's Mon/22 HBO debut. Read more »

Get out your action figures: 'Robot Chicken' is coming to town!

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For those of us who grew up in the 1980s, who doesn’t have fond memories of playing with action figures? Whether you were plotting elaborate battles and all-out dirt mound warfare with GI Joe and Star Wars characters, or continuing the adventures of She-Ra and Strawberry Shortcake, those toys were a big part of our childhood.

Today, some lucky — and very talented — people still get to play with those toys, and get paid for it. Breathing life into these inanimate objects, the hit Adult Swim TV show Robot Chicken resurrects classic action figures and projects them into wild scenarios, or the everyday mundane world of real life, making for some side-splittingly hilarious situations.

Marking the end of the special exhibit "Between Frames: The Magic Behind Stop Motion Animation at the Walt Disney Family Museum," the creative team behind the show is coming to the city this weekend for several special events celebrating their craft. Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, John Harvatine IV, Eric Towner, and Alex Kamer will be on hand Fri/26 for an after-hours party featuring food, drinks, an audience Q&A and screenings of behind the scenes footage, and then on Saturday for a special animation workshop followed by a panel discussion.

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I survived the "Real World: San Francisco" marathon

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 The 28th season of The Real World premieres tonight, and the trailer features some crying bros and a lot of slapping in Portland, Ore. To remind us of the show's less … well, shitty origins, MTV ran a “retro marathon” of its first three seasons last weekend.

Before the Teen Mom franchise, before Jersey Shore (and its ever-multiplying spin-offs), and before something called Buckwild that I don’t feel like researching, there were true stories of seven strangers picked to live in houses in New York and Los Angeles. And then in 1994, some strangers came to the wonderful city of San Francisco. The third season, last weekend’s grand finale, often gets credited with sparking the show’s popularity and indirectly launching the reality TV craze. It almost lives up to its reputation.

Usually, watching a reality television show after it's finished airing presents a predicament; the knowledge that the cast has returned to the world outside the screen takes away the precept -- flimsy as it is to begin with -- that we are seeing reality unfold. Watching the San Francisco season is a different experience. The 19 years of distance, a huge cultural gap (OMG, no smartphones!), makes the show a historical document.

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Happy hunting

Just admit it: you're obsessed with 'House Hunters'

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cheryl@sfbg.com

TV Stainless steel appliances. Hardwood floors. Walk-in closets. The House Hunters drinking game, which lovingly mocks the HGTV program's predictability, will have even a seasoned lush drunk before the first commercial break. "But there's nowhere for my man cave!" DRINK.Read more »

Faux-war TV is hell: 'Stars Earn Stripes'

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Savaged by anti-war activists, tut-tutted by nine Nobel Peace Laureates, and mocked by television critics, NBC's new competition show Stars Earn Stripes, which had its two-hour premiere last night, can add another pissed-off demographic to its rolls: fans of reality TV. Read more »

Queens, aliens, isles of wonder, and more: what to watch this week

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My pick for movie of the week is The Queen of Versailles, a likely (I'm callin' it in July) inclusion on my top 10 list for 2012. Seriously, this doc is revealing, timely, surprising, beautifully lensed (by photographer-turned-director Lauren Greenfield), and affords an insidery peek into the mysterious borderlands between extreme weath and excessive tackiness.

Hollywood would like you to see either an alien-invasion comedy with Ben Stiller or the fourth Step Up entry ... you could do worse, but you could do better. Frankly, I'd pencil in The Queen of Versailles for your Saturday night, and settle in tonight for the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony, which comes complete with the amusement park-ish title "Isles of Wonder." All the buzz indicates that the extravaganza, directed by Danny Boyle (not known for his subtlety), will be one for the ages, or at least supply some juicy fodder for the meme generation.

Reviews of everything opening this week (spoiler: there's a lot) below the jump.

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TV gone wild

A Vortex Room tribute examines William Shatner's dark side

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TRASH History does not record whether the evening of January 23, 1974 struck anyone immediately as a momentous occasion. Probably not: perhaps distracted by Watergate, porn chic, rising gas prices, the Exorcist phenomenon, and passage (one day earlier) of Roe vs. Wade, any television viewers straying over from CBS's Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour to ABC at 8:30 p.m. could hardly have fully understood the significance of what they were about to experience.Read more »