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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Monday (10/19/09) 9:41am - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

Movies:  <none>
TV:  The Middleman [Bonus Disc]
Books:  What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew



The Middleman [Bonus Disc]
I had high hopes for the bonus disc of The Middleman.  The series was put out on DVD by Shout! Factory, which treats its television properties very well indeed.  The amazing DVD set of Freaks and Geeks was one of their productions, as was the recent anniversary reissue of Sports Night.

I was surprised to see that Shout! Factory had provided no commentary on any of the episodes, but I still had some hopes for the bonus DVD.  And the bonus DVD... well, it has a lot of content -- during the production of the show, they put up a lot of web featurettes and video podcasts -- but most of that content is not that interesting.  The various web featurettes are straightforward EPK-style material, light on the information and heavy on the reused show footage.

The podcasts are mostly Javi Grillo-Marxuach (AKA the showrunner AKA chaodai) answering viewer questions.  It's pleasant enough and witty enough, but one quickly realizes just how special the LOST podcast is.  For "answers to viewer questions" to be consistently entertaining, you probably need at least two people to riff off of each other, and those two-or-more people have to have just enough contempt for the whole process that they'll spend most of their time ignoring the questions and riffing on surreal digressions and running gags instead.

Ah well.

On the other hand, I was delighted to learn tidbits about the Middleman writers' room.  For instance, they had a "Stupid Stick".  This was a fancy stick that served as a special totem:  if you picked up the Stupid Stick, then nobody could mock what you pitched, no matter how stupid it was.  (And these are writers, so they know from mocking.)  Frankly, every writers' room needs a Stupid Stick, because pitching stupid ideas is an invaluable part of any collaborative writing process.

The one thing that's really worth watching on the bonus disc (and even this one is probably for die-hards only) is the table read of The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome.  Among other things, it's priceless to see the whole cast cracking up regularly.  It's also great that the actors crack up in distinct ways:  Mark Sheppard cackles with glee; Brit Morgan chortles and pounds the table with her fist until name placards shimmy off the table; Matt Keeslar buries his head in his hands and shakes visibly.

Oh, and from the gag reel, I learn that "Dammit, Javi!" was a regular phrase on-set, deployed whenever Javi had written some byzantine sentence that gave the actor fits.  During the SDCC reading of "The Doomsday Armaggedon Apocalypse," Javi himself was reading the stage directions, stumbled over the words several times, and eventually blurted out, "Dammit, Javi!" himself.

Additional note:  somehow, this doesn't include video or audio of that un-aired finale reading.  Shame on them!  Oh, wait, the DVD was released two days after said panel.  Never mind.


What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool
This is Daniel Pool's overview of Victorian society, written for the benefit of readers of Victorian novels.  I've been reading it as preparation for the Improvised Dickens show, whose run starts on November 7th, 8pm and the Hideout Theatre (plugplugplug!).

I don't really have much to say about this book other than "it's useful".  I already posted its description of Victorian currency, and hopefully I can summarize some of its other more relevant sections in the coming week or two.


For next time:  I'm starting in on reading David Copperfield, and watching that a Frontline special.

Side note:  I re-watched the Freaks and Geeks pilot this week.  Goddamn, I love that show.  I keep thinking there's no way it can hold up yet *again*, and I keep being wonderfully wrong.

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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