Les Miserables: The 25th Anniversary Concert

I’ve never seen “Les Miserables,” so watching this celebration of the enormously long-running Anglo-French pop opera recorded at London’s enormous O2 arena was like being introduced to “Star Trek” at a convention full of rowdy Trekkies. In this semi-staged version, Alfred Boe sings and acts the role of Victor Hugo’s impossibly good ex-convict, Jean Valjean. Valjean, of course, stole a loaf of bread to save his infant nephew, only to break parole and be hunted by the fanatical and pitiless Inspector Javert (Norm Lewis, superbly intense). He does this while becoming a wealthy bourgeois and experiencing guilt over his treatment of the tragic Fantine (Lea Salonga of “Miss Saigon” and “Aladdin”).

Later, Valjean tries to help Fantine’s daughter, Cossette (Katie Hall), who in turn must endure the perils of pre-revolutionary France while finding love with the heroic young Marius (Nick Jonas, yes, that Nick Jonas). Along the way, we bump into a pair of nasty and putatively comical brothel owners, the Thénardiers (Matt Lucas and Jenny Galloway). Lucas, his teeth blacked out, performs the damnably annoying earworm and George Costanza favorite, “Master of the House,” as the audience goes bananas. The geek-out goes into overdrive as the show proper ends and several casts are brought on stage. Encore highlights includes “the Four Valjeans.” Fans of “Les Miserables” will eat this stuff up. The rest of us should just either shell out for an ordinary production or wait for the movie. It might not be all that great, but it’ll beat being an outsider at a fanfest.

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5 Shows Which May Make Bullz-Eye’s NEXT TV Power Rankings

If you’ve checked out Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings for April 2009, then you’ve already seen the site’s picks for the top 20 shows currently airing, several honorable-mention entries, and what series they’re most excited to see return. Given the way new programs are popping up constantly throughout the year, however, it was always inevitable that the voting for the Power Rankings would close just as a few promising series were making their debuts but before their consistency could be properly gauged. Here, then, are five shows which, at least as it stands right now, look like they have the potential to be ranked next time around.

1. “Party Down,” Starz. It’s a longstanding Hollywood tradition for producers to build themselves a gaggle of go-to actors who they can always count on to make an appearance in one of their projects, and although it’s Joss Whedon who has one of the most recognizable posses on television, it’s clear that Rob Thomas is building a pretty solid one, too. In “Party Down,” which focuses on a Hollywood catering company helmed by aspiring actors and actresses, you can’t go more than a few minutes without seeing someone who once appeared on “Veronica Mars.” Ryan Hansen is the only “Party Down” regular who held the same status on “Mars” as well, having played Dick Casablancas, but Adam Scott (“Stepbrothers”), Ken Marino (“The State”), and Jane Lynch, who most recently proved hilarious in “Role Models,” all made visits to “Veronica” at some point or other. Enrico Colentoni had an unforgettable nude scene in the first episode of “Party Down,” and it looks like Kristen Bell will be turning up in the season finale.

Paul Rudd is one of the other co-producers of “Party Down,” and it’s clear he had a hand in bringing some of his favorite talent onto the show as well. Martin Starr, late of “Freaks and Geeks,” is here, and after scoping out IMDb, it looks like Ken Jeong will be turning up in a future episode. With all this talent, you won’t be surprised to learn that this is arguably the funniest new show of the spring season…if seasons even still exist, that is…and is already shaping up to be the place for cool comedians and actors to guest-star. “Crash” may have been a bust as Starz’s first original series, but count on “Party Down” to do for the network what “Mad Men” did for AMC.

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire”

Give Comedy Central credit: “Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire” is the most ambitious comedy ever to appear on the network…and if we’re really lucky, it will become so popular that American keyboards will finally earn the right to possess an umlaut key. As a music critic, I struggled for years with my inability to properly type the names of Husker Du and Motley Crue, but, by God, isn’t it time we finally got easy access to that little horizontal colon?

When I initially heard about the show, my first thought was, “Jesus, I hope this is going to be funnier than, say, ‘Meet the Spartans.'” Little did I realize at the time that Sean Maguire, the man playing Krod Mandoon, was actually in “Meet the Spartans.” When I heard that tidbit, I really started getting worried…but, then, I learned that the show’s villain, Chancellor Dongalor, was to be played by Matt Lucas of “Little Britain.” Suddenly, I was legitimately excited, which speaks volumes about how much faith I put in Lucas’s work. But, additionally, they showed us the trailer for the series, and it was pretty funny. Granted, I haven’t seen an entire episode yet, so this may well prove to be a case where all the best bits are in the trailer, but the production values for the show are fantastic. The whole thing was shot on location in Budapest, Hungary, and it feels about as epic as a comedy series can; indeed, it feels less like a Comedy Central series and more like a BBC production…and given what an Anglophile I am, that’s high praise, indeed.

Creator Peter Knight lays the blame for the series on his steady diet of “Conan the Barbarian” comics over the course of his adolescence, claiming that he merely blended that love with his own insecurities and a modern male outlook, but executive producer Brad Johnson elaborated on the evolution of the show a bit more.

“Peter had this idea, and it would be impossible to pitch anywhere, so he wrote it as a spec, which is always, I think, the best thing to do if you want to get through the process and really get a pure voice initially on something that’s this out of the ordinary,” said Johnson. “When I read (the spec) initially, I loved the world, but what we added was a layer of…we kind of put a contemporary post-feminist modern male in a ‘Conan the Barbarian’ character. It was a chance to really comment on modern society using this backdrop, and also to use magic and sorcery and things you couldn’t use in normal storytelling. It just opened up the world for us to invent some characters and actually comment on modern society a little better.”

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