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“Friday Night Lights” gets two-season pickup!

It’s probably uncouth to use an exclamation point in the title of a blog post, but I don’t really care. DirecTV and NBC came to terms on an agreement that will give “Friday Night Lights” two more 13-episode seasons.

DirecTV will get the first window on the episodes, to run commercial-free as the marquee property on its 101 Network channel, which is rapidly adding new and library product with appeal to TV aficionados from Hollywood’s majors (Daily Variety, March 23). This season, DirecTV ran the 13 episodes comprising “FNL’s” third season in the fall, while NBC’s run began in January.

Although the show has a loyal core aud, “FNL” has had a hard time drawing a broadcast net-sized aud. But the license fee NBC receives from DirecTV makes it financially feasible for the Peacock to continue with the show, which lends an aura of quality to the net’s sked at a time when NBC is struggling to rebuild its roster of scripted series.

It’s understood that DirecTV’s license fee covers just under half of “FNL’s” weekly production budget of a little more than $2 million per hour, which is modest by broadcast net standards.

I’ve been a die-hard “FNL” fan from the beginning and I figured that the show would probably be canceled after this season, but the ratings (while not strong for broadcast television) haven’t sunk below 3.8 million all season. It may not be huge, but the “FNL” fan base is loyal.

I was a little suspicious of this DirecTV/NBC relationship, but now it’s given one of my favorite shows a three-season extension. I also prefer the 13-episode season because, generally speaking, the shorter the season, the tighter the storylines.

No regrets.

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Old Show, New Season: “My Boys”

As you may recall, Season 2 of “My Boys” ended with Bobby running to PJ’s room to tell her, “I think I’m marrying the wrong woman,” only for him to see his brother standing behind her, his shirt half-unbuttoned. Unfortunately, when it comes to previewing the Season 3 premiere, TBS has put TV critics in a bit of a difficult spot by offering the following request at the beginning of the episode:

“We respectfully ask that you refrain from mentioning the outcome of the wedding and the last scene of the episode. We hope that you agree that this is the best way for the audience to experience the full impact of the moment in this episode.”

Well, of course it is. But given that the outcome of the wedding is determined well before the halfway point of the episode, it also makes it a little bit difficult to tell you too much about what to expect from the proceedings. Fortunately, there is no such embargo on the other key part of the episode, so here are the three words which will demand that you tune in:

MUSTACHE GROWING CONTEST.

There are a few other tidbits to be had throughout the episode that longtime viewers will enjoy, including Mike’s ongoing chatter about Maggie and a quicker dismissal of Andy’s newborn child than anyone could’ve imagined. (Seriously, as a sitcom geek, I almost felt like I should applaud. The writers aren’t pretending for a second that it’s going to impact the show.) And, yes, TBS is right: it’s a fine ending, indeed. But years from now, when you consider your favorite “My Boys” moments of all time, you won’t be picturing the ending. You’ll be picturing the boys sitting around the poker table, sporting some of the greatest facial hair you can imagine, and you’ll be hearing the various new nicknames they have for each other.

Oh, and you also might still be laughing at Reid Scott’s impression of Burt Reynolds’ laugh, which is uncanny in its precision.

Tune in to TBS tonight at 10:30 PM EST and get your first “My Boys” fix of 2009…and if you need to play catch-up before then, just look below:

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Blu Tuesday: Slumdog Millionaire, South Pacific and Riddick

Today’s Blu-ray offerings aren’t quite as good as the avalanche of titles from last week, but there are still a number of strong films to consider, including some of 2008’s biggest earners and a handful of catalog reissues.

“Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight)

Most avid movie fans are probably going to want to own the Best Picture winner, but “Slumdog Millionaire” is so good that it deserves a place in everyone’s collection. Director Danny Boyle has never made a bad film to my knowledge, but this is by far his best thanks to the amazing cast of actors led by Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto. I’m still a little confused why Patel wasn’t nominated for an acting award (surely the Academy could have given him Michael Shannon’s spot), but considering just how many other awards it won at this year’s Oscars, I’m willing to overlook the omission. Unfortunately, while the movie looks absolutely brilliant in HD, Fox’s Blu-ray release doesn’t include any additional material. Some kind of BD-Live trivia game (done in the style of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” of course) would have been fun, but it doesn’t really change the fact that this is the must-own title of the week.

“South Pacific” (20th Century Fox)

The Rodgers & Hammerstein classic isn’t exactly my cup of tea (read: musical), but it’s certainly one of the most unique films in the genre. Along with utilizing colored filters throughout the course of the movie, it’s also the only musical I’ve ever seen that features a song performed exclusively as thoughts in its characters’ heads. Fans of the film really have no reason not to upgrade, because for a 50-year-old film, the picture looks absolutely incredible. The two-disc set also includes a host of extras like a special “Road Show” edition of the movie, karaoke sing-a-long subtitles, two audio commentaries, a rare Mitzi Gaynor screen test, a full-length documentary and much, much more.

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24 7.16: It’s a rat trap, Judy, and we’ve been caught

Tonight’s episode of “24″ is the first one I can remember that didn’t have a ‘B’ story. I guess the ‘B’ story was Madame Prez’s boneheaded decision to appoint First Succubus Hillary Clinton as her temporary Chief of Staff until they find a replacement, but since that move won’t yield any (rotten) fruit until next week, it hardly counts as a subplot. Nope, tonight was all about the Feds getting their ducks in a row so they can keep Starkwood Country Club from committing the country’s most heinous act of treason since “24″ parent company Fox released “From Justin to Kelly” in 2003. And it was all going so smoothly, too. Hey, the good guys are gonna win this time!

Uh, not quite. You have to admit, though, the amateur one-act play between Jonas Brother and Jonas Jr. was good for a laugh, right? Come on, there is no way Jonas Jr. — who looks like he could be the son of President Charles “Buck Buck Brawwwwwwk!” Logan — is going to speak of destroying the weapons in front of Tony, nuh-uh. And in any other episode in the history of “24,” Tony doesn’t fall for that ruse. Instead, he waits until the President is about to sign the immunity agreement and says, “Stop,” then beats the shit out of Jonas Jr. for an hour and a half. You know that Carlos Bernard read the script for this week’s episode and said, “Noooooooooooooooooooooo!” And to make matters worse, he’s probably going to die before the season’s over (just a hunch, that’s not based on any gossip), and for this to be one of his last acts would just be wrong. Tony should go out like Bill Buchanan, only bigger. AK-47 in one hand, flamethrower in the other, while snorting coke off a stripper’s ass. Make it happen, guys.

“Everything’s in place, boss.” “Thanks, lackey. You know I crap bigger than you, right?”

On the plus side, my wish to see Kiefer Sutherland do some Serious Acting is about to come true. It turns out that, shocker, Jack’s tested positive for the Starkwood bioweapon, which sounds like an accelerated strain of Mad Cow Disease. And there’s no cure, dunt dunt duuuuunh. Why was I tempted to laugh at Jacqueline’s single solitary tear when she heard the news? I believe that she is truly broken up about this, but she needs to remember that this is Jack freaking Bauer we’re talking about here. He’s not going to let some stinking virus take him down. Instead, he’ll go undercover as a smaller virus, infiltrate the Mad Cow virus, and roundhouse kick it until it leaves his body. And anyway, Sutherland begins shooting the next season of “24″ in April, and I don’t think they’re pulling a Patrick Duffy to make that work. Man, does anyone under 30 even get that reference? God, I’m old.

I have to admit, even though I knew full well that the warehouse Dudley Do-Right and his merry men raided at episode’s end would be empty, I liked the Americans vs. Americans standoff, a la “The Rock.” I saw the guys on the roof, and immediately heard Ed Harris’ voice in my head. “Your unit is covered from an elevated position, Commander.” Still, the fact that Starkwood set up the Feds like this — is Jonas Jr.’s immunity agreement still binding if he lied through his teeth in order to get it? — has to be a dead giveaway that the real bioweapon is on the complete opposite end of the compound, right? Hell, I did that move in Stratego 30 years ago. Build a wall of bombs, take out a bunch of my opponent’s highest ranking men, and then when he came in with the miner (he was the 8 then; he’s the 3 now) to capture my flag, he’d realize that I was protecting…a 7, pow. Meanwhile, my flag would be in the opposite corner, guarded by one bomb and my 1. It was dangerous, but it was incredibly effective. Just sayin’, guys. If the Feds don’t know where the mad cows are with Starkwood’s bait-and-switch, then God help us all.

Next week (Mr. Paulsen, you may turn your eyes away now if you do not wish to see my “spoilers”): Hillary Clinton sleeps with her TV contact in order to get him to bury a story? In what universe is that the right play? Even if she gets her comeuppance at season’s end and goes to jail, it won’t be enough. She needs to die a slow death. I’m thinking flesh-eating beetles.

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Heroes 3.21 – A Little More Conversation, A Little Less Action

So Peter saved his mother last week not so much because he loves her but because he wants answers, but the sequences with he and Mama Petrelli initially seemed designed solely for longtime fans who’ve been complaining about a lack of character development…and, indeed, it’s fair to say that’s what both of the Petrelli-centric storylines were tonight. Once the government agents arrived at the church, we were taken a little bit further into Mama’s past, making her seem more human than she ever has before. (HRG’s sigh before giving the fake all-clear sign to his men was awesome, by the way.) Still, in the end, we spent a whole lot of time watching Peter and Mama doing very, very little. As for Nathan and Claire, I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Patzcuaro, Mexico, but you have to respect any city where the hotel clerks are familiar with the old “unless you’re paying hourly” joke. How is it that Nathan didn’t think to get a stockpile of cash before heading off to Mexico? Maybe he didn’t think his plan through very well…or, more likely, the writers came up with the idea of a tequila-drinking contest and had to figure out how to make it come to fruition. I’m sure all the ladies in the “Heroes” viewing audience enjoyed seeing him dressed semi-spiffy and sporting a couple of days worth of stubble, and all the guys blew a blood vessel when Claire whipped off her shirt to take her dad’s spot in the game. Win-win, right? I admit that Nathan’s drunken confession to Claire helped make him seem a little more fatherly, but Claire’s “Superman” speech before her teary departure the next morning was too melodramatic for my tastes.

The use of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” tonight was inspired, with Sylar popping up in the back seat so abruptly. The tension between HRG and Zeljko was palpable this episode once Sylar turned up, but none were better than Zeljko’s reference to “the big book of letting (Sylar) slip through your fingers.” It didn’t occur to me that Sylar had been the one who offered up the Puppet Master, nor did I entirely imagine a scenario where Sylar would team up with Zeljko. The idea of having a head in a box hasn’t had the same impact since we imagined Brad Pitt got that very special package from Kevin Spacey in “Se7en,” but it was still a pleasantly macabre way of allowing Sylar to offer intel to Zeljko. The shapeshifter special effects probably didn’t break the bank, but they were delivered cleverly enough. The reveal that the shapeshifter had decided to take on Zeljko’s appearance was fantastic. Just when you think Zachary Quinto isn’t capable of looking any more evil or crazed, he surprises you, as he did with the look he offered up when Zeljko asked him if there was any way to take the shapeshifter’s abilities without leaving his traditional forehead slice.

So we close on The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” with HRG almost certainly not believing that Sylar’s really dead, Nathan and Claire are homeward bound, and Mama’s taking Peter to meet…his sister? Fair enough. But let’s hope there’s a little more action next week, huh? I’m all for character development, but for the most part, this week’s episode really dragged ass.

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Baccano!: Volume Two

The second volume of “Baccano!” certainly isn’t as good as the first, but that’s to be expected considering the episodes included mostly serve as build-up for the events to come. In fact, while the series strives on the unconventionality of its storytelling, Episode Seven is actually quite traditional – a flashback that takes place in 1711 when the elixir of immortality was discovered on the Advenna Avis. It’s here that the audience learns how the elixir first came into the possession of humans, as well as the many rules that come with becoming an immortal. Perhaps the most important of these is that whenever someone who has drank the elixir finally wishes to die, only a fellow immortal has the power to “devour” him – which is a nice way of saying sucking his soul. We also get our first look at the Rail Tracer in action, Firo is welcomed into the Camorras after a ceremony involving a knife fight with Maiza, and Jacuzzi steps up to take control of the Flying Pussyfoot, despite his habit of breaking down and crying. Those that were confused by the first few episodes will probably be able to make better sense of Volume Two (though you still won’t be able to put a face to every name) and it’s a worthy reward for having the tenacity to stick around. “Baccano!” isn’t for everyone, but just because it’s smarter than the average anime doesn’t mean the average fan won’t enjoy it.

Click to buy “Baccano!: Volume Two”

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The Last House on the Left (Collector’s Edition)

If the aim of filmmaking is to provoke a response in the viewer, then Wes Craven’s original “The Last House on the Left” must be considered a massive success. For anyone with even a shred of decency, it’s a tough movie to sit through, and I found it be just that some 15 years ago when I first saw it. With the remake in theatres, a DVD re-release of the 1972 “classic” was a no-brainer, and I figured I’d give it another spin and see how I felt about it today. The good news is that my decency-ometer must still be working, because the first half of the film had me squirming and made me feel ill. On the other hand, as I’ve since seen far more depraved fare such as Pasolini’s “Salo” and Will Ferrell’s “Talladega Nights,” I also came away from it with more of an appreciation for what Craven unleashed all those years ago. One wonders if the Manson family killings were an influence on the piece, as it strongly evokes that time and place.

The story, if you can call it such, revolves around escaped convict Krug (David Hess) and his posse of animal followers, and what happens when they kidnap two teenage girls, Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham). What follows amounts to little more than rape, torture and death. It goes on seemingly forever, and it’s all done in a documentary style for maximum effect. The happenings are juxtaposed with scenes of two bumbling, ineffective cops, who might be there for comic relief, but really serve the narrative’s third act, which is all about taking the law into your own hands. In the last half-hour, Krug and Co. by chance arrive at the home of Mari, where her parents discover the fate of their daughter and exact revenge against the lunatics. Once you get past the generally off-putting nature of the entire affair, the biggest problem with “Last House” is that the climax isn’t anywhere near as harrowing as the setup. You never really feel that Krug and his cronies get what’s coming to them, although there may be a point buried somewhere beneath it all that people such as the parents could never achieve the same levels of brutality as Krug. Finally, there’s the weird, folksy score written and sung by Hess himself, which serves as unsettling narration. If the movie weren’t twisted enough, those songs take it to a whole other level of sickness.

Click to buy “The Last House on the Left”

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Hell’s Kitchen: ratings rule

Last night’s episode of “Hell’s Kitchen” began with Giovanni talking to Carol, and telling her she needs to calm down and stop blaming Andrea and everyone else for her own shortcomings, and that she should focus on trying to win. That Giovanni has his head on straight, and he could win this season. Gordon Ramsay started out by making something that would be on the menu that evening, tartare…both steak and scallops. Yuck….raw meat of any kind makes me want to vomit. Anyway, Ramsay threw a curveball…the beef was actually tuna and the scallops were actually sea bass. Surprise!

That led into the challenge which was the palate competition, in which they chefs are blindfolded and asked to guess what Ramsay was spooning into their mouths. Ben did better than Andrea, but Robert and Giovanni guessed zero correctly. Carol beat out Lacey, and it was down to Paula and Danny, but for their part of the challenge, they had to guess the ingredients in some vegetable soup. Paula won, and the red team’s prize was a photo shoot for TV Guide. The blue team, as their punishment, had to wait on the red team during the photo shoot, as well as prep both kitchens for dinner.

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American Idol: live TV can be painful to watch

Last night on “American Idol’s” results show, there was more proof that live TV can be awkward and extremely difficult to watch at times. Reality TV is sometimes too much of a reality check.
But more on that in a minute.

After the recap, a Motown medley and the obligatory Ford video (I confess to reading the sports page during all of this), Season 2 champ Ruben Studdard peformed his new single, “Together.” And judging by how big dude is, I think he may have been singing about his relationship with a cheeseburger. But that’s okay, because after the song as he was talking to Ryan Seacrest, Ruben lost about 10 pounds of sweat. Ewwwww.

On to the results. Adam Lambert, safe. Matt Giraud, bottom 3. Yikes…what the hell was America thinking? Admittedly, I didn’t think singing Marvin Gaye was smart, but Matt did a decent job with the song. Kris Allen and Lil Rounds, both safe. Michael Sarver, bottom 3.

Then came a creepy duet for the second straight week….Smokey Robinson and the hot and much younger Joss Stone. They sang “You’re the One For Me” and if you thought Randy Travis ogling Carrie Underwood was creepy, go watch this one again.

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American Idol: Motown week challenges top 10

“American Idol” just gets more full of itself. From the way they that “Tell them what they’ve won, Don Pardo” announcer that brings out the judges and perpetually peppy Ryan Seacrest, to Simon drawing a mustache on Paula and laughing so much that he can’t deliver a fair critique of Allison. Just get over yourselves, people! It’s about the singers, or at least should be.

What follows is a recap of last night’s Motown performances, with the great Smokey Robinson coaching the finalists, and the great Berry Gordy in attendance. Keep in mind these are grouped into the good, in-between and bad based on my opinion, not the judges.

THE REALLY GOOD

Allison Iraheta was in the pimp spot last night, and she hit a long fly ball that would have cleared two baseball fields. She sang “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and I think we all keep forgetting Allison is just 16, because she has ridiculous pipes, and shows almost no signs of being nervous. Randy said it was “blazing hot,” Kara said “wow,” Paula said she looked fantastic and sounded awesome, through her Crayola mustache, and Simon said, through giggles, that it was one of Allison’s best performances yet. No, it WAS her best Simon…you were too busy acting like a 5 year old to notice. How in the world was Allison in the bottom 3 last week? Well, she shouldn’t be tonight.

THE PRETTY GOOD

Matt Giraud took on Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Look, this is the exact song I was quoted in a Fox News article on, saying that no Idol hopeful should attempt it. But Matt actually did the song justice. I kept thinking he is no Marvin Gaye, but he did the best he could. Randy said it was challenging but that Matt did a nice job, Kara said she thinks all the girls watching liked it and that Matt is coming out of his shell, Paula said it was a nice job and Simon said it was a brilliant choice and a cool performance. Considering Matt went first, that’s pretty damn good.

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