Donald Bellisario

September 22, 2010

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I tend to pay very little attention to directors and producers. I can tell you that Stars Wars is a George Lucas film, but very little beyond that. It has simply never been something that struck me as terribly important. I’ve always focused primarily on plot and secondarily on the cast. The other details were never particularly important.

Recently, I have been watching a lot of NCIS. I got into the show about a year ago, and have been DVR’ing the crap out of it lately. I really don’t watch a ton of TV, so NCIS probably makes up about 80% of my non-baseball viewing right now.

I’m not really drawn toward military themed shows, so NCIS is a bit of an odd choice. It’s basically a cop show with Navy details. Why wouldn’t I just pick from the various cop shows currently on TV (Criminal Minds has been suggested to me by several people)?

A big reason why I enjoy the show is that is has a large number of well-developed characters. So many of the characters have depth that it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite character. I started watching the show because of Mark Harmon – who, for reasons that I can’t fully explain, is one of my favorite actors. On the other hand, I hang on every word of Ducky’s stories. I like the computer geek stuff that McGee delves into and the forensic science that is Abby’s forte. And let’s not forget DiNozzo getting smacked in the head or Ziva beating up some guy who underestimated her.

In other words, there’s not a whole lot that I don’t like about the show. I found myself enjoying the show so much that I want to Wikipedia to look up some of the details.

I had known that the producer was Donald Bellisario – but I wasn’t aware of Bellisario’s other credits (I told you, I pay very little attention to them). Quantum Leap, JAG, and Magnum PI? It struck me that this man was responsible for perhaps 40% of the dramas I have ever liked. When I watch non-sports programming, I generally lean toward comedies. The fact that I liked every Bellisario show that I had ever seen spoke volumes to me.

I always say that a true test of a story is the ability to interest me when I have no particular interest in the subject matter. In the case of Quantum Leap and Magnum, the subject areas were topics that I enjoy. Bellasario’s biggest challenge was getting me to enjoy JAG and NCIS when I really don’t have any special interest in the military – and he passed in flying colors.

If you haven’t caught NCIS yet, watch the new season on Tuesday nights this fall – or catch reruns on USA, Sleuth, or Ion. Reruns are on quite frequently. If NCIS isn’t your thing, give Bellisario’s other works a chance. This guy is truly an American treasure.

[Note: click on any of the links to visit the Amazon store for the series.  We will earn a small commission on any sales.  This does not increase your cost.]

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.