What’s Keeping Kosmo Entertained?

January 17, 2010

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Our entertainment column has been on hiatus for a while, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite things to read and watch lately.  I’ve actually been watching more TV than I have in a long time – because I’ll watch in the wee hours of the morning when feeding the baby.

Monk – This was a show that my wife and I always watched religiously, until Ugly Betty popped in the same time slot for a while.  Unfortunately, the show has come to a conclusion.   I was pleased with the way it wrapped up, though.  I do have a couple of seasons on DVD that I can watch when I start going into withdrawal.

NCIS – Since I’m an aspiring crime novelist, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that crime dramas top my list of shows to watch.  I’ve eschewed CSI.  Despite the strong basis in forensics, it just doesn’t seem particularly believable and seems a bit contrived from the small bits I’ve watched.  NCIS mixes forensics with other investigative techniques, all within a military setting.  I really like Mark Harmon as an actor, and the supporting cast is good as well.  NCIS is a favorite show for me to watch on my wireless headphones while I’m shoveling snow.  The fact that it’s an hour long means that I can make decent headway shoveling during the course of a show.

M*A*S*H – When I was a kid, M*A*S*H and Wheel of Fortune competed in the same time slot.  My mom liked Wheel (and actually won something in a call-in contest through the local TV station once) and Dad liked M*A*S*H.  Personally, I thought both shows were pretty stupid.  Years later, I’m still not a fan of Wheel of Fortune, but I love M*A*S*H. I really need to snap up the DVD collection at some point. (All 11 Seasons (Amazon), All 11 seasons + Movie + Bonus Material (Amazon))

I’m also doing some reading, of course.  Yesterday, my fresh new copy of Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster for 2010
arrived on my doorstep.  This book is one of my tools for fighting the winter blahs.  Shandler analyzes secondary statistics in order to determine if a player’s basic statistical inputs accurately reflect his skill set, or are based largely on luck.  It’s a handy tool to have before your fantasy draft – did a player that you like actually have a breakout year in 2009 (and thus great things on the horizon) or was he lucky?

And, of course, I’m reading short stories by the master, Lawrence Block.  I’m currently reading One Night Stands and Lost Weekends, a collection of some of Block’s very early work.  The stories are great, but be sure to read the introduction as well – it’s as interesting as any of the fiction stories in the book.

I’m also reading a few blogs, of course.  I highly recommend all of the blogs that you see in the right column.  Today, I’ll give special attention to Living with Balls.  The author writes about sports and other manly pursuits (such as relationships and farting), with an unabashedly male point of view.  Haute couture it is not, funny it often is.  Be forewarned – if you don’t like it, you’ll probably hate it.  I can’t imagine that there is much middle ground.

Review: Monk and Psych

February 16, 2009

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Monk and Psych

I don’t watch much mainstream (i.e. non-sports) TV, so you’re not going to see a lot of TV shows reviewed in this blog. Two of the few shows that rank as appointment viewing are Monk and Psych, detective shows on the USA Network. They are on cable, and they get stuck in a lousy time slot (Friday nights), so you might be overlooking them. I personally enjoy Monk a bit more, but my wife is more of a fan of Psych – but both are really good.

Monk

Tony Shalhoub – whom you may remember as cab driver Antonio Scarpacci on the 90s TV show Wings – stars as former detective Adrian Monk. Monk was formerly was the San Francisco police department, but had to leave the department because of medical reasons – obsessive compulsive disorder and a wide variety of phobias. His late wife Trudy was able to keep things in check, but after her death, he became a bit of a basket case.

Monk’s OCD creates many humorous moments on the show. One of my all time favorites was when he felt the need to pour some coffee from one pot into another – so that each pot would have an equal amount. Of course, one pot was regular and one was decaf …

Monk is aided by his trusty assistant. Without her, he would be unable to accomplish anything in life. In the course of the show, he has actually gone through two assistants – Sharona (Bitty Schramm) and his current assistant, Natalie (Traylor Howard – you may know her from “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place”).

In between aiding Monk with every aspect of his life – including providing a disinfectant wipe every time Monk is forced to touch something “icky” – Natalie (who never gets any credit, of course) helps Monk ride to the rescue of the SFPD, helping them crack the trickiest cases (mostly murders)

Suspects tend to treat Monk with the same lack of respect that Columbo received – until the very end, when Monk explains, “here’s what happened.”

The show has a strong cast. My favorite supporting character is Lt. Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Standford), a well meaning but essentially incompetent cop who is somehow the captain’s right hand man (sort of). Sadly, Stanley Kamel, who played Monk’s psychiatrist, died in 2008. Since Monk needs a psychiatrist, Hector Elizondo was brought on board to play Monk’s new shrink. He does a good job in the role, but Kamel was irreplaceable.

Monk also lines up a strong group of guest stars – including Sarah Silverman, Andy Richter, John Turturro, and Wings co-stars Tim Daly and Steven Weber, to name a few.

Psych

Shawn Spencer (played by James Roday) and his childhood pal Gus (Dule Hill) run a psychic business. Most of their revenue comes from working on cases for the Santa Barbara police department. Shawn uses his psychic abilities to solve the crimes.

The only problem is that Shawn is not actually psychic. He is simply blessed with exceptional observation and logic skills (thanks in large part to childhood lessons taught to him by his cop father, played by Corbin Bernsen). However, since the Santa Barbara PD would apparently prefer to consult with a psychic rather than someone who is just smart, Shawn and Gus con everyone into think that Shawn is indeed psychic.

A cool feature of the show occurs when Shawn has a psychic revelation – you get some quick close-ups (and a cool sound effect) of the clues Shawn is using for his “revelation”.

Shawn also has a tendency to make life difficult for himself by annoying the chief (and others). He ends up in a lot of crazy situations – almost always of his own doing.

This review comes to you just in time for the season finales on February 20, but you should be able to catch reruns on USA. These shows are definitely DVR worthy, if you’re not home on Friday nights.

Monk
Season 1

Monk
Season 2

Monk
Season 3

Monk
Season 4

Monk
Season 5

Monk
Season 6

Monk
Season 7

Psych
Seasons 1 & 2

Psych
Season 3