Friday, January 29, 2010

Disgracing the Ace

A few months ago I wrote a blog to sing the praises of a new poker show on NBC, Face the Ace. Now, having seen several episodes of the show, I am writing to apologize.

The show appealed to me because I expected to see some everyman poker players, and some fun stories. I have seen neither. Frankly, my favorite part of the show is guessing the pro from his/her introduction, in which I'm batting 1000.

The parade of cocky 20 (and 30 and 40) somethings that I feared quickly arrived. Typically the level of cockiness varied inversely with the level of success, which was nice. However, the coversations between the pros and the amateurs is unbearable. Either it's blatant hero worship or blatant self-promotion. I found myself fast forwarding through as much of the chatter as possible.

There's little interesting about the matches. It seems the two players trade pots until the amateur decides he has a pre-flop hand good enough to go all in with, and if the pro has any ace, king or pair, he figures "what the hell, there's a big game developing at the Bellagio" and calls.

Steven Schirripa, whose "timid mouse inside a fearsome lion's body" act worked brilliantly in the Sopranos, is clearly suffering in his role as host. He is obviously not comfortable without a script to work from, and it shows. Often, his contributions are of the "So what do you think?" and "So what's gong on here?" variety. Not exactly what I'm looking for in a host. Ali Nejad's appearances to announce blind raises is a rather random intrusion as well.

Finally, way too many of the contestants are quitting after the first win. In addition to being a mathematically atrocious choice, it doesn't make for very good television.

Anyway, the public was right, I was wrong. Sorry about this one.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Human Target

There's a new series on FOX called The Human Target. I will tell you right out of the gate that I was prepared to hate this show for a number of reasons. First of all, as a kid, I was a fan of the original Human Target:

And I was quite sure that FOX was going to screw it up (the "Coming soon to ABC-TV!" banner on the above comic refers to a short-lived Human Target series on ABC back in 1992 starring Rick Springfield, which I actually kind of liked).

The original premise was that the mysterious Christopher Chance, a James Bond-type, would serve as a bodyguard, not in the conventional way, but using his disguise skills to actually take the place of the intended victim, drawing the assassin out. When I heard that Mark Valley's Human Target would instead use the intended victim as bait and put himself in harm's way, I was already skeptical.

I was also getting quite sick of this guy:

Mark Valley, who you will recognize most recently from the FOX X-Files knockoff Fringe. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with Valley personally, or even with his acting. What I'm really tired of is the blond, square jawed, 40-something, slightly goofy sci-fi/comic book hero, who you can also see in Eureka in the form of Colin Ferugson:

and in The 4400 and V in the form of Joel Gretsch:

Am I supposed to identify with these guys?

Anyway, so I watched the premiere, all set to give a scathing review about trite reimaginings of great concepts.

Ladies and gentlemen, I LOVED it. First of all, as action-adventure pilots go, I did not find that the plot was particularly predictable or cliched, which was incredibly refreshing. Secondly, I thought Mark Valley did a fine job, and his decision to be close to his target rather than actually become the target actually made sense. Next, and perhaps more importantly, it co-starred this guy:

Whom people my age will remember as the brash Kelly Leak from the original Bad News Bears, and more recent readers will remember from his absolutely brilliant turn as Rorscach in the movie Watchmen. The character Guerrero that Jackie Earle Haley plays in the Human Target is somewhere in between, a guy who doesn't look like much, but you just know could kill you if he wanted to. You're afraid of him and you don't quite know why. This type of character is possibly my favorite in all of fiction, and Haley is perfect for him.

Finally, and equally important, is Mark Valley's Christopher Chance. To my surprise, he was neither a douchebag nor an intolerable goofball. I'm all for a good anti-hero: I love seeing House put it to his hapless team and patients every week. But it was about time for a protagonist who has his shit together (relatively speaking) and is just a good guy. That's who Christopher Chance is. Chance is a callback to old school action heroes like the A-Team's Hannibal Smith and Mission Impossible's Jim Phelps. He's cool without being an asshole, and I dig it.

Anyway, watch The Human Target. If the episodes that follow are anything like the pilot (and you like this sort of thing), it'll definitely be worth your while.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Well will you look at this. Who would have thought it. The New York Football Jets are one game away from the Super Bowl, for the first time since 1998. It seems surreal, like some kind of dream.

The nice thing about the Jets is that they really are a team.

The only real breakout superstar is Darelle Revis. You could argue for anybody on the offensive line as well, but that’s the point. It’s ALL the guys on the offensive line, Faneca, Ferguson, Mangold, etc. who are playing at a higher level, not to mention the way the defensive line stepped up after losing Kris Jenkins for the season.


Will the Jets make it to the Super Bowl? Will they win it? Despite Rex Ryan’s protestations to the contrary, I still think the Jets have to be the underdog all the way. But are they capable of winning it all? Absolutely. The Jets defense has a reputation of being able to shut down high-powered offenses, and that’s what they’ll be facing the rest of the way. And if the Jets beat the Colts, in a repeat of Super Bowl III, they can quiet all the sour grapes fans complaining that the Bengals and Colts laid down to the Jets at the end of the season to make their playoff road easier. Seems the Jets had something to say about that.


For those who would argue that a rookie quarterback like Mark Sanchez could never make it to the Super Bowl, let alone win it, I’d like to remind us all of some other questionable quarterbacks who wear Super Bowl rings. Such unforgettable names as Trent Dilfer of the 2001 Champion Baltimore Ravens. Mark Rypien of the 1992 Champion Washington Redskins. Brad Johnson of the 2002 Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jeff Hostetler of the 1991 New York Giants. Can Mark Sanchez’ name fit in with such distinguished company? Oh yes, I think it can.