Thursday, June 30, 2011

SYTYCD 8 - Top 16: A Kiss Before, We Shut The Front Door, & Say Goodbye to Two More

(When the Broadway Babies say goodnight, it's early in the competition.)

We’re back again Dance Fans! Have you recovered from the terrible bloodbath that was last week? I'm getting there. Not quite over it, but I'm getting there. We've still got 9 Contempos, 3 Jazz Hands, 3 Hip Hoppers, 1 B-way and... that's it. Sigh. Moving forward! Joining Nigel and Mary on the Judges Table this week are Lil C AND Kristin Chenoweth. We continue the trend of Broadway Ladies guesting on the panel this year. Kristin, as she would tell you is an ACTOR and a SINGER, who dances when the roles requires. So she'll probably go easy on the contestants tonight. She'll fit right in with the others. P.S. Lil C and Kristin both have albums coming out!

In addition to the pairs dancing per usual, we'll get two group dances of eight that split up all the male-female partners, so we get to see them with different people. Also of note: Cat looks lovely tonight in a dress that seems like she's running out of the stage version of Chicago and into the movie version of Great Gatsby.

First Group Number Choreographer: Tyce Diorio, Dancing To:"Hit the Road Jack," Ray Charles It continues to be Girls -vs- Boys this season which again, I say, would be less ridiculous if they weren't currently competing in boy-girl teams of two against the rest of the field. The girls attack the boys throughout the routine with strangely underlit chairs. I like the chairs more than the choreo. Look, I'm no huge Tyce fan, for sure. I really did enjoy his Top 20 routine to Little Bird by Annie Lennox. I don't mean to be a broken record, but his Broadway routines can come across so middle of the road. They look conceptually phoned in, so no matter what the dancers are giving it, there's just not a lot to sink your teeth into. That's how I feel with this one. Marko stands out from the field here, as does Sasha. Nice execution, but I'm not invested.

Sasha and Alexander, contemporary w/ Dee Caspary, Dancing to: "Belong," Cary Brothers. Concept the Ghost in the Piano! Alexander's character plays and then ghost Sasha comes out and they dance. How was this not set to Unchained Melody? Sasha Fierce is all power and ghostly beauty in her movement. Alex is totally there with her technically, but there's not a lot of emotional connection coming from him. Is he just a pretty face and amazing dancer body? If not, dude's gotta dig deeper. The routine ends with Sasha sticker her hands out from inside the piano and it freaks me out. Like her hads could get chopped off or something if that prop piano falls apart. It could. It looks hastily pieced together. When it comes to judging, Nigel and Mary want more from Alexander, but Kristen and Lil C think they both excelled.

Caitlyn and Mitchell, samba w/ Jean-Marc Généreux, Dancing to: "Put It in a Love Song," Alicia Keys featuring Beyonce. Concepts: Hips are your sound system. Shake those speakers! It's a good routinue. It took a couple seconds to really get into it, and I have to say I missed Iveta on this dance, but Caitlyn is giving it her all and Mitchell can really move. It was very fun. I like these two. Mary calls them hot tamales, but no train is in the station just yet. Kristin wants you to shut every door imaginable - the front door, the back door, the garage door. Shut all the doors. She's cute that, Chenoweth. The other judges have praise for them as well.

Miranda and Robert, Broadway w/ Tyce Diorio, Dancing To: "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," Sophisticated Ladies. Concept: Tyce phoning it in yet again. Seriously. Broadway dancing can be so many things! Why does it have to just stay in the realm of jazzy/groovy guy flirting with high-kicking girl to a song from the Great American Songbook? They dance it fine within the context of what they are given. No huge complaints here, but no huge praise either. The judges all think that it's fine. We should commend Robert again for curbing his grating early personally tics and growing into the partnering well, but I swear this routine does nobody any favors when it comes to getting votes.

Melanie and Marko, lyrical hip-hop w/ Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo, Dancing To: "I Got You," Leona Lewis Oooh M&M's doing hip hop! Yay! The Concept: Groom Marko is left at the altar but then comes to the Taylor Swiftian realization that BFF Melanie has been here the whole time as his real true love! Marko's starts the routine SO SAD! His face is all tears and pain. Dang. It only gets better from there. I'm even amused that Melanie is obviously dressed in the bridesmaid dress from hell, as fits her best friend station. The choreo is fresh and fun and the movement is well-synchronized. When it finally hits Marko that Melanie is The One, they have a crazy intense kiss and the tween audience in the house goes apeshit. The rest of the dance is fantastic.

These two are so good. The judges
of course love them and announce they are the couple to beat. They are definitely my favorite pair since Katee and Joshua in Season 4. Midway through judging everyone starts making out with each other. Nigel attacks Mary. Mary screams, but never says no. Those two need a safe word. Cat is grossed out. Then as soon as things seem like they might settle, Kristin kisses Lil C. knocking his glasses astray, then Nigel kisses Lil C. knocking his hat off his head. Everyone screams and screams. Cat regains control of the proceedings and then flinches at every double entendre coming at her from the teleprompter as we head to commercials.

Ashley and Chris, jazz w/Sonya Tayeh. Dancing To: "Lights Go Down," Telepathe
Concept: Beetlejuice Zombies. This is a rare miss for Sonya. She's been very consistent lately, but when she first arrived on the SYTYCD scene she was more hit-or-miss and this one reminds me of those early routines that never quite got there. Nothing about it is BIG enough. Especially if you invoke the name of Beetlejuice, you gotta really go for it. It's too small and contained. The music isn't right. Ashley is too pretty in her movements. It's too tame. This has Bottom 3 written all over it. Nigel is first to say it didn't work, and mentions the music being a problem even though he claims he hates when his Am.Idol judges tell contestants they don't like the song instead of talking about the singing. He wants to focus on the dancing but could never get into it. Mary liked the technical aspects to their dancing but doesn't disagree with Nigel either. She says they had sharp movements and good synchronization. Kristin also says it wasn't her thing. Lil C loves Sonya too much to say a word against her so instead he says Ashley is a sleeper cell. I don't think that means what he thinks it means.

Clarice and Jess, foxtrot w/ Jean-Marc Généreux, Dancing to: "Fly Me to the Moon," Frank Sinatra. Such a great song! They are good here, but they are better dancing separately than together. When they come together, it's like they don't fit well together. And he's just a little too short for her to really pull off lifts effortlessly. At judging, Mary says they were gliding, sophisticated, and jazzy. All true. But was it inspiring? I don't know. These two are great dancers but not really great partners.

Ryan and Ricky, contemporary w/ Sonya Tayeh, Dancing To: "With Every Heartbeat," Robyn. Concept: Tangled Relationships! Literally! Sonya redeems her earlier miss with this one. There's a long sash attached to Ryan and it alternately winds and unwinds around her in relation to Ricky. It looks really beautiful and Ryan finally puts away the permanent smile for this routine, but I felt like she then wasn't totally sure what to do with her face. Ricky does several amazing jumps. That kid's got facility. The judges all like it a lot. Lil C says they're another power couple, but that's a stretch. They were bottom 3 last week! Mary thinks the dancing was great and applauds them never getting tangled the wrong way in the sash.

Jordan and Tadd, lyrical hip-hop w/ Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo, Dancing To: "Memories," David Guetta featuring Kid Cudi. Another strong routine this week from NappyTabs! Concept: Morning After College Hook Up Hijinks! It's very light and fun and flirty and makes good use of Tadd's b-boy skills and humor. There's a lot of character and personality on display here from both of them. Jordan seems sweetly embarrassed about the situation throughout the dance, when one might have expected her to go into her sex-kitten mode. This was by far a better choice for her. When it gets to the judges Lil C tells them to push through the movements more, which is fair enough. Nigel is measured in his praise, but Mary liked it and Kristin is back to shouting about shutting all the doors.

Second Group Number, Choreographed by: Dee Caspary. Group B Dancing To: "Poison & Wine," The Civil Wars. Concept: Girls poison boys! I liked this one better than the first group number. Maybe just because Melanie was in it and she rocks. OOH! Suddenly I want to see Melanie dance with All-Star Jakob! Please makes this a reality, Show! The stand outs here are Melanie, Jordan, Caitlynn, Ricky and Jess. There are three other dancers involved, but I don't remember them. Not a good sign for those three!

So my ranking of the routines in order of personal preference goes:

Melanie & Marko's hip-hop
Tadd & Jordan's hip-hop
Caitlynn & Mitchell's samba
Ryan & Ricky's contemporary
Sasha & Alexander's contemporary
Clarice & Jess's Foxtrot
Miranda & Robert's Broadway
Ashley & Chris's jazz

If my Bottom 3 holds up... I don't know who they'll get rid of. It might come down to solos for the girls, who the judges all seem to love and maybe Robert or Chris for the guys. The judges seem way to set on Jess to let him go. If Alexander and Sasha dip into the bottom, expect him to go and for Sasha to get a new partner next week.

RESULTS SHOW! The Top 16 Dance is to The Incredibles theme! Hooray! Except the movement is super slow and totally against the music. Boo! Everybody looks timid and self-conscious. This is one of my least favorite group numbers of all time. Sorry, choreographer. Michael Bruni. "The Incredits" has so much drama and shifting dynamics and I didn't get that from the movement at all.

So moving along, we get a recap of last night's Smoochfest, and then tag the bottom 3 couples. First in danger are Ashley and Chris (not surprising), then Mirandai and Robert (not surprising, TYCE!) and then... Caitlynn and Mitchell! Oh, I thought they would've done well. I'm surprised by this. You can tell they ain't pleased about having to dance for their lives.

While the dancers ran off to get ready we the viewing audience get treated to two members of the AXIS Dance Company, which integrates dancers with and without disabilities, performing a pas de deux where the man is in a wheelchair and the woman is not. I really enjoyed it, but every time they did any sort of move, the whole audience shrieked in support. Sometimes when the music is soft or emotional I really hate that. Why can't they just shut up and enjoy the dance? If it's loud dance music and the routine has lots of tricks in it, then I mind it less. Can't we just take in the beauty of dance sometimes without screaming our heads off, audience?

So then the solos happen and they are fine, but not as strong as last week or the week before. I think Chris does the best and Ashley does the worst. At this point, my money is on Robert and Ashley to go home and Chris and Miranda to be partnered next week.

But first we get a performance from World theatrical ballroom champions Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian. What? No prerecorded lip-synched music performance this week? Thank goodness. Instead we are treated to a series of some of the most incredibly balanced lifts, spins and holds you'll ever see set to "Calypso" from the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End score. You wouldn't believe how the dude was spinning one way while the lady was spinning the other way on his head. On his head! And that's just one example.

So then after that, we get to the eliminations. Girls first. Nigel calls Miranda forward. He says last night they gave her such high praise and that she's the most improved and also that she's going home. Oof. Sucker punch to the gut for Miranda. Based on performance this week, it really should've been Ashley, but I guess judging dance is subjective! Miranda is totally composed and eloquent in saying goodbye.

At this point, the writing is on the wall for Robert. But then, Nigel goes and bungles the whole thing. While talking to Chris, he starts talking about Robert's past routines. He brings up Woodpeckers. That wasn't Chris! What's going on?? Ohh, it's so uncomfortable, I actually got up and left the room. Finally Nigel pulls it together and eliminates Robert. He's cool about it too, like Miranda, and gives the audience one final "woooo!" which I actually don't mind because he's grown on me, and because I haven't heard it in a couple weeks and won't have to hear it again.

This week's performances were a marked improvement from last week, but there's still room for improvement choreographers! Next week there will be seven couples left. Melanie & Marko and Sasha & Alexander are the only two left who haven't been in the bottom yet. We'll see if the trend holds. We keep inching closer to the top 10 and then ALL-STARS!

Wimby 2011: Rafa in the Quarterfinals

(Rafa's feeling good after his 4-set Quarterfinal victory!)

Fresh off his tough match with Del Po in the Round of 16, Rafa had an easier time yesterday dispatching American 10th-seed (and seemingly all around nice guy, sorry you had to lose for Rafa to win!) Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Our Hero did not show any sign of problems with his sorta-injured foot and was really dominating the match throughout. A huge relief!

Nadal, is one step closer to getting his 11th Grand Slam title, but he still has two steps to go. Next up is Britain's Andy Murray in Friday's semifinal, and here's the thing - no one will want Nadal to win. Murray has never made it to a Wimby Final and Britain hasn't had a Wimby winner in almost literally a million years. Now that Federer is out of the picture losing to Tsonga (in a crazy 5-set match), if Murray ousts Nadal then the tournament is assured to have a 1st time champion and a 50/50 shot at a Brit winning. It's a much more compelling news story than Rafa winning yet again, so all the commentators and press and fans will be willing Murray on to victory. But not me. I am a true Rafa fan! I don't want him to lose to Murray or anybody! Those Brits will just have to deal.

I'm also hoping Tsonga can get bast Djokovic in the other men's semifinal, so that Rafa can remain #1 in the rankings for a little while longer. Fed did him in at the French. I'm hoping Tsonga will do me a solid as well tomorrow and deny Novak again.

But more important than the ranking is the title. Rafa won't care if he gets bumped down to No. 2 in the rankings on Monday if he gets another Wimby trophy on Sunday. That's what we've got to aim for! Vamos!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wimby 2011: Rafa in the Round of 16

(Rafa roars into the quarterfinals!)

I almost forgot to post this! Rafa's currently playing his next match and I made no report on his battle with Juan Martin Del Potro in the Round of 16. Obviously, since he's still playing, he won. :) It was a high quality match with an injury scare for each player, which is par for the course with these two. Del Potro poses a real threat against any player. I was relieved that Our Hero got through with a 7-6 (8/6) 3-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-4 victory.

At the end of the first set, Nadal hurt his foot and had an injury time out right before the tie-break, which he then came back and won. Del Po didn't like it very much, and took the second set more handily. But then Del Po needed his own injury time out in the third when he slipped on the grass an fell badly. These guys play so hard, but jeez! Be careful out there!

Now that Rafa is through this challenge, and the MRI on his foot showed no severe injury, he faces American Mardy Fish in the Quarters. I love to root for the Americans! Why did Rafa have to face three in one tournament? Still I hope Nadal has a relatively easy time of it and sails through to the semis. Vamos!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 25

(Taste the Rainbow. Cookie Consumption Equality Now!)

It's Pride Week here in New York, and I am proud to say that I have not had cookies in 25 weeks! I think there were only two times this week where I came upon someone eating a chocolate chip cookie and wanted to impulsively snatch it out of their hands and shove it down my throat before they could react. That's a very low percentage considering how often I come across people eating cookies. I don't seek them out. These people are ALL OVER. Anyway, I am proud of myself for exercising restraint for another week.

I had no dreams about soda this week, for the first time in a long time. I thank my unconscious mind for the reprieve. Although, a funny thing happened on Friday night. Right after the State Senate announced that the Marriage Equality Act would become law, I felt such a wave of happiness and relief that I ran into my kitchen looking to celebrate with a glass of coke. Not wine, or champagne (not that I have champagne on hand). but who mentally thinks, "This event calls for a celebration! Bartender! Your finest cola!" ??? Apparently, I do. I have issues.

Next week is the big milestone. 26 Weeks. Half a Year without Cookies or Soda! On Friday, when the calendar hits July 1st half of 2011 will be gone. Seriously, people. If you set goals for yourself in 2011 at the start of the year, you have half as much time left as you did then to make them happen. Don't let the summer pass you by! See you next week, for the big celebration!!

Wimby 2011: Rafa in Round 3

(3 wins in, and Week One is Done!)

Congrats to Rafa on a very hard fought victory against Gilles Muller on Friday/Saturday in the 3rd round of Wimby. The first two sets of his 7-6 (8/6) 7-6 (7/5) 6-0 win were insane. Muller was serving with unbelievable speed and accuracy throughout both those sets. Rafa was certainly no slouch either, and he came through in both tie-breaks when he needed to. As you can imagine, playing the best he possibly could for two sets and still having nothing to show for it on the scoreboard, really broke Muller down mentally. The third set was no contest. It's too bad, because his play in the first two sets was exceptional. Rafa just converted on the big points. That's just what we can expect from Rafa!

Up next in the Round of 16, Our Hero faces the always dangerous Juan Martin Del Potro. This match up always makes me nervous. Del Potro totally crushed Nadal in the 2009 US Open Semis. The sting of that lost remains etched in my memory. A lot has happened since then so you can't really compare that match to now. First, this is grass, not hard courts, so the game is different. Second, Del Po is still coming back from serious injury in 2010, though he is in increasingly better shape. And third, Nadal still has a winning record against him (5-3), and won their last match at Indian Wells earlier this year. So we'll just have to watch and see. It should be a very exciting match on a big day of tennis at WImby! Week 2 of the tournament starts tomorrow! Vamos!

Friday, June 24, 2011

SYTYCD 8 - Top 20 Redux. Tens(e) Across The Board

(Cat wants to know if we're shouting "Boo!" or, "Boo-urns." Boooo!)

We’re back again Dance Fans! It's like last week never even happened! We've still got 9 Contempos, 4 Jazz Hands, 4 Hip Hoppers, 1 B-way, 1 Tappa Tappa Tappa and 1 10-Dance Ballroom World Champ. But oh, how those numbers will drop after Thursday! Joining Nigel and Mary on the Judges Table this week is Debbie Reynolds, because she is Golden-Age Hollywood and she’s still alive! This woman knows from her hoofers. But I suspect she will think everyone is simply amazing!

1. Ryan and Ricky, jazz w/ Mandy Moore. Dancing to: Addicted to Love," Robert Palmer
It’s supposed to be super sexy, but the costume department kinda went toward S&M. Also they put Ryan in this crazy boustier top that is just daring a nip slip to occur. The sharpness of the movement is great, but Ryan is grinning away just like last week! What is going on there? It takes away from the feeling of the dance. The judges all love it, but it was not super for me.

2. Caitlyn and Mitchell, contemporary w/ Stacey Tookey. Dancing to: "Turning Tables," Adele There’s a lot of set pieces in this one, which I’m not usually a fan of but there’s a nice white arm chair and a nice black arm chair and I want both of them in my living room, so I’ll let it slide. I think the theme here is violent relationships. It works because Caitlyn is looking super fierce and Mitchell punches her in the nose! And makes her BLEED! All through the judging! I think the dancing is really strong here. The judges love it. Will they ever not love everything? Come on, give these kids stuff to work on!

3. Missy and Wadi, cha-cha w/ Jean-Marc Genereux. Dancing to: "Cannibal," Ke$ha
From the very beginning Wadi is out of his depth. He looks super nervous and uncomfortable. Some of the lifts are good, but the rest is kind of a mess. Missy is strong, but it’s really not enough to lift the whole routine. Nigel and Mary tell it to him straight. Mary goes so far to tell him that it looked like dancing with the stars where one is a pro and the other is really just a student. Ouch. Debbie offers to take Wadi home to cha cha with her. Wadi takes small solace in the fact that at least he made SOMEbody happy. Aww. Poor dude.

4. Iveta and Nick, Bollywood w/ Nakul Dev Mahajan. Dancing to: "Baawre," Lucky By Chance soundtrack. It’s a very fast and bouncy routine and they are not quite together and not quite up to it, but I really like these two. I want them to do well. It doesn’t blow me away. But really none of the routines have set me on fire yet. The judges all say it was fun because they really don’t know how to critique this dance style.

5. Miranda and Robert, hip hop w/ Napoleon and Tabitha. Dancing to: "Break Ya Neck," Busta Rhymes. Concept: Woodpeckers! Robert knows all, while Miranda is learning the ropes. It's… good. It doesn’t really hold my focus though. Am I just in a mood? What’s going on tonight? Miranda does a really cool flip but can’t stick the landing. She makes it work for her character though. They both do a forward flip off the stage to end the routine that I might not feel comfortable attempting even if I was jumping into a swimming pool. Nigel says he appreciates that Robert stopped the woo-ing and I second that. Robert’s much more tolerable this week. Debbie Reynolds does an AMAZING Woody Woodpecker laugh. Even if she doesn’t give one constructive critique that impression made her presence here worthwhile.

6. Clarice and Jess, contemporary w/ Stacey Tookey. Dancing to: "Cathedrals," Jump Little Children. My favorite song!! Seriously, I love this song. I always include the first time I make someone a mix cd. Concept; prince & princess! UGH. That’s not right for this song. Jess is not partnering her well. The lifts are labored. The chemistry is not there. But the routine is just kinda weak too. Not a good outing for these two. Nigel again has the good sense to let them know how it was, but Mary and Debbie just ignore the blandness and think it’s great.

7. Jordan and Tadd, Viennese waltz w/ Jean-Marc Genereux. Dancing to: "Fade Into Me," David Cook. This one is good. There’s a nice rise-and-fall throughout and the judges are all up on that for this kind of dance. Tadd is a great as a partner, and even though I find Jordan less endearing by the week, she shines during this routine. It's romantic and light and technically strong. The judges eat it up and Debbie compares them to Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Which is ridiculous. It was good, but it was not anywhere near those three legends. I mean, c’mon.

8. Melanie and Marko, jazz w/ Mandy Moore. Dancing to "Sing With a Swing (Rat Marchesini radio edit)," DKS. (That’s a long track name.) Concept; They have hats. The routine’s just... not that good. Don’t’ get me wrong. They are total stars. I love watching them, but this is very middle of the road choreo. There is a moment where Melanie just leaps into a split and Marko has to catch her and they nail it. But overall, I think it’s boring. Like the Tyce routine last week. But the judges love it. Of course.

9. Sasha and Alexander, hip hop w/ Napoleon and Tabitha. Dancing to: "Coming Home," Diddy-Dirty Money and Skylar Grey. The concept: soldier coming back war. Oddly, this is it’s own category of dance concept on this show. Soldiers going to war, soldiers coming back from war. This show loves that dance motif. It’s a good routine. Sasha in particular moves with great emotion. Together, I don’t think they really got to the emotional heights of being reunited, but Debbie and Mary are both in tears and Nigel thinks it’s not worth critiquing the dancing, but I assure him that it always is. Whatevs, obviously it’s me who is having an off-week and not the show, because everyone seems to be doing everything PHENOMENALLY in the judges eyes.

10. Ashley and Chris, Broadway w/ Spencer Liff. Oh, I like Spencer. What will he do? Dancing to: "Please, Mr. Jailer," Rachel Sweet There's a set of jail bars and they are gonna dance on either side of the, It's fun and sexy, but it almost feels a little gimmicky. What is wrong with me? I like this show, don’t I? I just wasn’t really impressed this week. Sorry, dancers. I still think you are awesome, but this week it didn’t happen for me. The judges loved almost everything though, including this one. Mary Murphy even makes them the first dancers on the Hot Tamale Train this season. Hmm. I hope they are riding coach.

So even with my blah attitude, this is where I thought things fell this week in terms of my favorites.

Caitlyn & Mitchell's contemporary
Tadd & Jordan's Viennese Waltz
Melanie & Marko's Jazz
Sasha & Alexander's hip hop
Ashley & Chris's Broadway
Iveta & Nick's Bollywood
Miranda & Robert's Hip Hop
Ryan & Ricky's lyrical hip-hop
Clarice & Jess's Contemporary
Missy & Wadi's Cha Cha

So I think it will be Wadi and Missy and Ryan and Jess going home. We’ll see how it goes though! Most likely 2 couples the judges really like will find themselves in jeopardy and we’ll get screwed out of two dancers that are awesome because of the double elimination.

Results Show! It’s the 3rd Top 20 Dance Routine of the year which is a little weird. It’s Dave Scott and it’s kinda cool but they all look like boys in bowler hats (what’s with those hats??) and blazers and plaid shorts and I can’t tell the girls from the guys. Nobody stands out. Maybe Marko gets a solo? Or is it Tadd. Grr. Weird.

So then it goes to our bottom 3: We’ve got Wadi and Missy in the bottom and then later we get Iveta and Nick in the bottom. DAMN. That means we are losing at least two people I like. Then finally we get Ryan and Ricky as the final couple. Oof. So no one from last week’s bottom 3 is in this week’s bottom 3.

Before we get to all the solos let’s talk musical guests LMFAO performed with Quest. It was decent, as these things go, but I don't like lip-synching. And also Rage Crew was on hand and it was good… but there was this one little girl who was right in front, and she was doing her thing, but she was SO little and was doing some kinda sexual moves and it reminded me of Toddlers and Tiaras in an uncomfortable way. Then I remembered this, and it kinda made it all better again.

Also, tonight we got an in-show commercial for Gatorade. A nutritionist comes to talk to the kids about calories as if she's practicing her sales pitch for when she visits the Biggest Loser ranch in the fall. I laugh and laugh. This kids are young, in great shape, and busting their asses learning all these routines week after week. They can eat all the calories they want. They won't be gaining an once. Gatorade High Endurance really is magical stuff though. So it's nice they seem to be stocking their fridge with it free of charge.

So SOLOS: First out was Wadi and it was kinda low-energy. Oh NO! Wadi they are gonna send you home for sure for that!! It made me me sad. I though he’d be in the Top 10 for sure. he does leap from his back into an amazing crossed legged pose at the very end. It won't be enough though. Then it’s Missy and she is good, but again, I don't know how she'll fight her way out of this one. Then we get Nick who is adorable and who tappa tappa tappa’s his little heart out. I sort of love him. Will it be enough? Possibly. Then it’s Iveta and she too does well, but I had a feeling while watching that they’d keep either girl over her for some reason. They got rid of Anya too early back in the day. Then after a break, we got Ryan who is still smiling too much!!! It’s driving me crazy! Her solo is not super. And then Ricky, who EFFING KILLED his solo.

SO who stays and who goes? The judges kept Ricky and Ryan. That’s kind of bullshit. They just like Ryan. She hasn’t done one dance yet that would warrant her getting picked over Iveta or Missy. This is the judges playing favorites in the worst way. It’s a tearful goodbye, as sending off four dancers at once is as emotionally difficult as you’d expect. Next week, we eliminate only two. This week, I was not moved by the routine or pleased with the eliminations. Let’s do better, Show.

Wimby 2011: Rafa in Round 2

(Another win for Rafa! Striking the ball so well!)

It was another routine win for Nadal at Wimbledon on Wednesday, cruising to a 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory over Ryan Sweeting from the U.S. in the second round. Rafa was in great form and really controlled the match. It's exciting to see him in such good form this early in the tournament. He seems to really be adjusting to the grass well. Gone are the early round drops in concentration he experienced at the beginning of the French Open last month. Hooray!

The naysayers nay when it comes to Rafa's chances going all the way this year, but let's remember Our Hero is the returning Champ, and has now won his last 16 matches at Wimby - winning the title the last two times he played in 2008 and 2010. And remember, naysayers, he found a way to the final in 2006 and 2007 too! I believe Rafa has the mental fortitude and physical conditioning to get there again this year.

Up next he has Gilles Muller from Luxemburg in Round 3. All signs had pointed to it being a clash with the up-and-coming Milos Raonic from Canada. Unfortunately, Raonic took a bad slip on the grass and had to retire from his second round match. Luckily, his injury is not very serious. But it just goes to show you can take no match for granted. Here's hoping for another solid victory for Nadal in Round 3! Vamos!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wimby 2011: Rafa in Round 1

(Rafa rules in Round 1!)

Didn't we just have a major tennis tournament? We did! But it's time for another one. Wimby is here!! Rafael Nadal, Our Hero, and defending men's champion at Wimbledon, got to play the opening match of the tournament on Centre Court on Monday. It was a privilege he missed out on last time he was defending Wimbledon Champ back in 2009, because he was injured. It's very nice he got another chance to experience this special honor. His first-round match was pretty straight forward. Rafa had a bit of a sluggish start before getting it into high gear and beating Michael Russell from the U.S. 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Rafa now gets to face another American - this time Ryan Sweeting - in the second round. I love me some Americans, but if they are in Rafa's way, they gotta be heading toward the door.

Many people are counting Rafa out this tournament, saying he won't win. They think Federer will win, and that's fine. I can deal with that prediction. But then some other people have gone so far as to say neither Rafael nor Roger will make it to this year's Wimby Final. I think that is crazy, since it's been years and years since at least one of them has not been there. They both played the final in 2006, 2007, and 2008, then Fed was there alone in 2009 when Rafa didn't play, and then Rafa won again in 2010 when Fed lost in the quarters. So I think it's a safer bet that at least one of them will make it given how well they are playing right now. I'd love another Fed and Rafa Wimby Final! But we take one match at a time! Here's to more success in the second round! Vamos Rafa!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Papa, Can You Hear Me? Happy Father's Day!

(I'm confident I've seen my dad since Christmas 2009, yet somehow this is the most recent picture I can find of us together on my computer. It's a Father's Day Technology FAIL!)

Happy Father's Day to my beloved Pops. The man who paid for many expensive years of my education working multiple jobs, and who never brings it up to guilt me into doing things for him, as I would most certainly do in his position. The man who moved me in and out of several NYC apartments even though he was kinda too old to do it single-handedly yet always refused help (don't tell him he can't do it! he's fine!) The man who cooks me asparagus at every holiday even though I hate it more than anything, because he thinks maybe eventually I will like it (and HE likes it). The man who did not want me to come out to visit for Father's Day, but who, when i call him to wish him a good day, asks me (of course) when I'm coming to visit. The man who informs me the requested visit can't happen on 4th of July either, because he's taking a trip to Boston instead. I start humming "Cats in the Cradle" at this point. Oh, Pops. I love you. Thanks for everything you have given and the love you continue to give. Have a happy day relaxing in the sun porch. You've earned it. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 24

("You will spend a year without cookies. In Bed.")

Another week, another round of soda-related dreams. I am convinced they will never stop. They will be with me forever. At least none of them were super-disorienting upon waking. Small favors, peeps. We thank God for 'em.

This week I had to deal with a bountiful supply of E.L. Fudges and chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen at work. They looked delicious! But I had not a one. Then yesterday we order Chinese food fir lunch and after I opened my cookie to get the fortune ( for the record - "Everybody is ignorant only on different subjects. In bed.") as I went to throw it out, my co-worker Suki turned and snapped at me "You can't eat that. It counts!" I wasn't going to eat it! I know it counts. But don't think Suki was acting out of concern for me. She just wanted to deprive me of something possibly tasty. She is preggers right now and can't eat (or drink, eh hem...) many of her favorite things. So she takes joy at me missing out on yummy cookies. Don't judge her too harshly. We've a sibling's love for each other, and schadenfreude is a healthy component of that kind of love.

2 weeks left of June! 2 weeks left to 26 weeks. 2 weeks left until half of 2011 is OVER! Can you believe it? It's almost here!!

SYTYCD 8 - Top 20: Queen of The Beasts, Lords of The Dance.

(Strike a pose. There's nothing to it.)

Oh, crap. I recap this show, don't I? And the competitive season is starting this week? Okay, here we go.

I have high hopes for this season. We get a traditional top 20 and then the return of All-Stars once we're down to ten. It's incredibly hard to predict a top 10 out of 20 on this show, because a lot depends on how the voting public likes the partnerships. Inevitably, some really good dancers get dragged down by a sub-par partner, while others ride their very popular partner's coattails to Top 10. Also, the fact is that it will be an even split between 5 guys and 5 girls regardless, so Nigel can talk all he wants to about how all the girls are beasts this year . At Top 10, it's still gonna be Even Steven between the guys and the girls.

...Or not. Maybe because of All-Stars, they will take whoever they want when it goes from 12 to 10 regardless of gender. Hmmmm! With all that in mind, here is my prediction for top 10. We'll see how well I've predicted when the time comes!

Top 5 Guys
Wadi Jones
Tadd Gadduang (or maybe Ricky Jaime)
Marko Germar
Nick Young
Alexander Fost

Top 5 Girls
Melanie Moore
Sasha Mallory
Iveta Lukosiute
Ryan Ramirez
Ashley Rich (or maybe Caitlynn Lawson)

So, now to the show proper! We start off with 9 (!!!) Contempos, 4 Jazz Hands, 4 Hip Hoppers, 1 B-way, 1 Tappa Tappa Tappa and 1 10-Dance Ballroom World Champ. Not exactly a balanced field, but a varied one!

Unrelated to the dancers, I'm so happy they got rid of the cavernous stage and replaced it with... well, it's probably still the same stage, but with a back wall that provides some definition. It will make the dancing seem more intimate. Seasons 6 and 7 suffered a bit from the giant stage. So anyway, Cat's on hand in a very short black dress with her very long legs, and then it's usual theme song and our dancers all run out for their opening credit solos. It takes like 5 minutes because there are nearly two dozen of them right now in the competition. These solos are BLAND. The only one that does anything that stands out to me is Marko. Step it up, dancers! Do tricks for us!

Cat says we might have noticed someone was missing. We didn't. 19 Intros seems an awful lot like 20. Mitchell hurt his elbow and is not dancing and will be automatically in danger of elimination. Please let's not go through the every-week-an-injury nonsense we dealt with last year. Joining Nigel and Mary on the judges table is Megan Mullally as the guest judge because... she trained in ballet when she was in junior high and high school. She's also been on Broadway. Except for that one time when she wasn't. I don't really get why she's there. I like her. I do! But those "turn the tub around" commercials still puzzle and disturb me.

On to the dances!

1. Jordan and Tadd - African Jazz w/ Sean Cheesman. Concept: Human Volcanoes! Which reminds me of some awesomely crude humor from Bridesmaids. This routine is... okay. I wish they opened the show with a stronger routine. I like the couple. I'm not thrilled with the dance. They seem connected when they are looking at each other and miles apart when they are not. It's a little muddy. There's a very labored lift where he is holding her parallel to his left side and has to spin her around to his right without her touching the ground. It wouldn't be easy under any circumstances, and they don't make it look easy here. But the judges mostly give them a pass for going first. It was kinda weak though.

2. Sasha and Alexander - Contemporary with Travis Wall. Concept: Sasha is the physical manifestation of Alexander's subconscious, which is kicking the crap out of him. This is was fine too, but just fine. The connection between them was not super strong, and it lacked emotion. I think they could develop into a force to be reckoned with though. The judges admit that there wasn't a lot to grab hold of emotionally, and that's usually easy to do in a Travis routine. We'll just have to see how the others do!

3. Clarice and Jess - Broadway with Tyce Diorio - ugh. They really need to put everyone in their wheelhouse this week? That's what "Meet The Top 20" was for! This is exactly what I didn't want to see. The routine doesn't do anything for me. I think Clarice is hot and she is executing well, but there's nothing much to it. It certainly doesn't push Jess at all. High kicks to Liza Minelli singing? YAWN. The judges think it was great and memorable. I think it was neither of those things. C'mon, Top 20 week! Move me!

4. Ricky and Ryan - Lyrical Hip Hop w/ Christopher Scott. Concept: Remembering the good times of a relationship after it's gone? Maybe? I don't know. It didn't make a lot of sense upon first explanation. The routine is weird. Ryan is super smiles all the way through, which doesn't feel right. Ricky is expressive and strong though. They don't look like they are really moving together. I think part of the problem is that Ryan's costume is too loose and flowy. I think if it was tighter you'd see the sharpness of her movement better. The judges don't understand what it was supposed to be, and Ryan takes 10 minutes trying to explain what the story was about to no avail. Show, don't tell, dancers!

5. Caitlyn and Mitchell (Robert) - Jazz w/ Sonya Tayeh Concept: Dancers going if for the kill!! Mitchell sweats a lot and injuries himself early on in rehearsal. Luckily, my Season 7 Favorite, Robert is on hand to substitute. It's a strong performance by Caitlyn and you can tell that touring all year with SYTYCD has only made Robert a stronger partner. The judges all applaud her strength. Seeing that she can't really draw on anyone else's fan base this week for added support, if she were to fall into the bottom 3, I have a hard time believing the judges will send her home. Mary also campaigns for Robert to an All-Star later on this year. He's got my vote. He's already hanging out in the building!

6. Miranda and Robert - Latin (???) w/ Jason Gilkinson. I don't know why the reveal is the general style of dance known as "Latin" when the dance itself is the specific "jive." But not all questions have answers at the ready. It's kind of a 60's mod-themed jive. Robert, who already grates on me despite my trying to give him a fair shot because of his constant "Woooo!"-ing is wearing effing Urkel glasses AGAIN. Enough with the glasses! The dance is fine, but really nothing to write home about... or in this case, vote for. They have a good energy throughout and work fine as partners. I'd like to see them do a more seriously-themed routine. Not to the jive, of course, but just generally speaking. I want depth from these too. I know they can do light and fun. In judging, it's like
Nigel can see my reaction through my TV screen and warns Robert that his personality tics, which can work in his favor for a while, could also come across as annoying (to me). Here's hoping Robert takes that one in. Nigel goes on to say that the dance technique wasn't there.

7. Missy and Wadi - Jazz w/ Sean Cheesman. Concept: They have opened up Pandora's Box of Sexiness! Although, it oddly reminds me of this one from SYTYCD: UK. Perhaps it's just the boxes. Anyway, it's solid and I think Missy and Wadi will be a good couple. The judges heap praise on them. The praise this week is too effusive for what's being delivered...

Except by these next two!

8. Melanie and Marko - contemporary w/ Travis Wall. Concept: Statues come to life! Marko's statue wants to refreeze for eternity in a pose with Melanie. This routine is fantastic! They didn't really feature a lot of Marko or Melanie after their initial (outstanding) auditions, but it's clear the show loves them and put them together to maximize their awesomeness. Here is the result:

Already a SYTCYD classic! Everyone goes nuts. Cat cries. The judges stand and cry. Mary is moved, Megan is knocked speechless but feels compelled to say something since they won't move on from her so she cribs from Oprah, and then Nigel says that Melanie is Queen of The Beasts and the best female dancer ever on the show. That's setting the bar AWFULLY high here in Week 1, but at the same time there is something really special about Melanie. Oh Sweet Terpsichore, please let her get through this season Injury Free. Watch over her partner Marko, too. He's also a special dancer.

9. Ashley and Chris - Hip Hop w/ Christopher Scott. The concept: Double Cheaters caught in the act! I wouldn't envy them having to go after Melanie and Marko. I had high hopes for this routine, and I like the couple but I didn't like how this routine was executed at all. Chris has a very specific hip hop style and it was not as sharp and precise as Ashley's, so it felt like two different worlds the whole time for me. Aside from that, they were dancing to the most choppily edited version of "Forget You" that you ever will hear. I hate when they take a very popular song and hack it to pieces to fit the time allotment. As choreographers, they are so big on the transition of movement, can't they respect the transitions built into music a little more? Not the dancers' fault, but if I'm not digging the dance the musical jumps become that much more jarring. The judges across the board shout "Hey! That was entertaining!" Which, again, is their way of being kind in Week 1. Overall, not great from these two.

10. Iveta and Nik - Quick Step w/ Jason Gilkinson. Concept: Tea for Two Sexy Dancers. It's known as "The Dreaded Quickstep" on SYTYCD because almost nobody does it well and then they land in the bottom, but Iveta is world champion in the Quickstep, so how much could she possibly dread it? Nick says he's gonna really practice and Iveta is all dead pan serious, "of course." The woman is world champion in 10 Ballroom dances! I don't think anyone would question her work ethic, and I would think she expects nothing less than complete dedication from her partners. So the dance starts and it's quickly awesome. They are a great pair and the dance suits them. The crowd goes wild. The judges go wild. Iveta and Nick are thrilled. Thus we close the show out in fashion. We get a review of the numbers (we can also vote online this year!) and the group freestyle plays over the credits. My favorite part!

So running down the order of my preference, the routines go:

Melanie & Marko's contemporary
Iveta & Nick's quickstep
Caitlyn & Robert's jazz
Missy & Wadi's jazz
Sasha & Alexander's contemporary
Tadd & Jordan's African jazz
Ryan & Ricky's lyrical hip-hop
Ashley & Chris's hip-hop
Miranda & Robert's jive
Clarice & Jess's Broadway

I'm not sure who's going home. I assume it will be an early exit for injured Mitchell and maybe Miranda or Jordan for the girls. Even though I ranked Jordan and Tadd pretty high... I don't know. We'll have to see how voting goes!

Results Show! Let's see how quick I can get through this. The Top 20 (19!) perform a really fun opening number. Really sharp. Then in comes Cat in a super bright and lovely pink dress. Her hair is straightened again and she is already bracing herself for a sad goodbye tonight. Mitchell has been cleared to dance a solo, so at least he'll get that if nothing else. Melanie and Marko, Wadi and Missy and Iveta and Nick are all sent to safety first. I love that they make the safe contestants stand in a pit right in front of the judges platform. I don't know why this delights me, but it's amusingly unglamorous. In the next group on stage, Tadd and Jordan are the first sent into the Bottom 3. Then it's a face off between little ol' Caitlyn and Jess and Clarice for the second spot. And Caitlyn pulls out the win! I'm very glad that Broadway routine wasn't rewarded. The judges seem a bit surprised, but I'm not. Those two dancers are talented, but the routine was BORING.

So with two couples in danger, we have our first guest performance, which might have been recorded a million years ago, the stage looks completely different from where Cat was standing moments before. The performance is fine I guess. It doesn't look like she's dancing with any SYTCYD alums in her group though, which is what I look for with these performances.

Then we have our final bottom 3 reveal. Ryan and Ricky get through to safety and then Sasha and Alexander also get through which means Robert and Miranda fill out the bottom. This is the right call, in my opinion even though Robert and Miranda got much better reviews from the judges than Sasha and Alexander.

So then this guy comes out to do the Gopak - a dance from way back in season 5 that everyone - the judges, the contestant, the audience - hated at the time. But he's a professional and it's better, but it's still not really worth showcasing here. It would've been more interesting as a couple's dance I think. Then we get the solos. The solos are hot, y'all. Seriously, it goes Mitchell, Jordan, Tadd, Clarice, Jess, Miranda and Robert. Somewhere in the middle there, we get a premiere of a Lady Gaga video... that has NO DANCING?!?!? How can that be? I hope they ask her about it when she's a guest judge later this season. But back to the solos. They are all really sexy and fun. Leg extensions and tricks and leaps for days. The only one that was not super great was Robert, who had good energy, but was not very tricksy.

(The 20 express relief at a temporary stay of execution.)

Then all sorts of crazy stuff happens at once. Nigel wants Robert and Mitchell to dance AGAIN. Cat rushes everyone off stage so they can do that. They are basically at the same level they were the first time through. Then all the boys go off the stage and the girls come out. Nigel tells them they are all awesome. Then the boys are all rushed back on stage. Turns out everyone will be safe. This is not without precedent. When the dancer who is injured is the one they want to keep, the judges get a little nervous and wait a week. They did this last year with Billy and Jose. I'm cool with it. Next week, they better give them dances out of their comfort zones, so we see what they can really do. But for now, all the dancers are thrilled to be back one more 'gain. Cat is thrilled she gets to keep all her babies for another 7 days. It's only delaying the inevitable, my love. Next week, four dancers will fall. Hopefully not literally. Remember, no injuries!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wimbledon Looms, But Asparagus DOOMS!

(I wonder if 47p is a good deal for veggies in England.)

Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, has arrived in England in advance of the upcoming Championships at Wimbledon. He posted the above picture to his FB fanpage. He's shopping at a local grocery store for lots of fresh and healthy foods! What does it say about me that my first reaction was "Ay, no! Please not asparagus!" I became a little panicked that Rafa might be seeking out my most hated of foods. Don't do it, Rafa! That vile weed will do nothing for you! Luckily, upon inspection, there is no asparagus in view in the bins. Such a relief! We can't see in the cart, but I feel confident there's none in their either. Ugh, asparagus. It seems like much more of a Djokovic kind of vegetable.

The other thing that stands out for me in this picture is the people coming down the aisle towards him with their carts. What would I do if I came across Nadal in a grocery store? What if in the run up to the US Open I came across Rafa in my local Key Food? I'm pretty sure I would run away. History has shown that when I'm within several feet of Rafa, I lose all ability to make sound. Not only can I not shout simple words like "Rafa! Vamos Rafa! Te adoro!" I can't make any sounds at all. Not even a "Wooooh!" type of cheering noise. I just go completely silent. I have problems, I know, I know. But I just couldn't come face to face with him with a shopping cart full of lean pockets. I just couldn't.

Wimbledon starts so soon! I will be taking tennis lessons during Wimbledon this year and hopefully using Rafa's continued success as my inspiration! Vamos!

A Year Without Cookies - Week 23

(What Dreams May Come...)

Another solid week of no cookies and soda. Although with last week's heatwave came the most epic dream about drinking soda ever. I guess it was really hot in my room and I was really thirsty during REM sleep. I mean it's the same pattern as all of them, but it was on this epic scale involving a class reunion with people I never went to school with, a fight with my Dad over his dismissive comments about me using mexicorn in a recipe (I actually sang my frustrations at him) and a trip to a very strange church service with my friend Suki. Somewhere along the way I was drinking soda out of this giant goblet (I believe it was at reunion) and again when I realized what I was drinking I got really upset with myself. Then when I woke up in the morning, I felt like I had still done it. It took me a much longer time than usual to realize that since the circumstances surrounding this transgression never happened, the actual transgression never happened either.

I talked to a friend of mine later in the week about it and he said that as a former smoker he has those kinds of dreams about every six months, where he's having a cigarette, has the in-dream realization he shouldn't and then the post-dream confusion where it takes his brain a while after he wakes up to register there was no actual relapse. Oh, the guilt involved! Why must my brain keep doing it? It's just soda. It's not nicotine! Staying away from cookies is a tough task during the day with constant temptations, but soda's nothing like that. It's my subconscious mind that is the total soda addict. It wants what it wants, i guess, and what it wants is sweet sweet cola. It's just crazy to me that these dreams went away for awhile and now they are back in full force. What's to become of me? Edging closer to the 6 month mark. Oh, what a celebration that will be!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011 Tonys: Thoughts and Reflections

(Do ask, Do tell. It's Tony Time!)

So The Tonys Happened! Some Highlights!

Oh, Kermie. Do you remember the opening number? "It's Not Just For Gays Anymore!" was another musical home run for host NPH, who is really quite a good host for any awards show (and he's hosted quite a few at this point!) but he always seems comfiest at the Tony's. His closing number from two years ago has become a classic and this was another great edition to his hosting career highlight reel. The lyrics were fun and he sang and danced it well. Also Brooke Shields' complete inability to deliver her joke until her third attempt somehow turned out to be a total win for NPH. He can do no wrong!

The Normal Heart wins hearts and minds and Tonys! I really loved The Normal Heart and was very happy to see it receive multiple awards including Best supporting actress, best supporting actor and best revival of a play. Everyone should go see this show. Fine work. Congrats to all!


A War Horse is A Horse, Of Course, Of Course. I loved the Puppet Horsie that was all over the Tonys. Whether drinking water from the reflecting pool in Lincoln Center or carrying NPH out on stage, that horse looked amazing. The puppeteers were incredible. All of the fun of a horse without the smell of a horse! And War Horse cleaned up really well with the awards too. Definitely a show I want to see soon!

I'm a bumblebee and I need to get back to the hive. Somewhat surprisingly, the only Book of Mormon acting win came from Nikki M. James for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. As a result of shock and delight and perhaps feeling like she needed to continue to talk to fill the moment, she inevitably, charmingly and tearfully went off the rails a bit with a metaphor about the bumblebee. She comes from a long line of bumblebees. Somewhere, the Broadway Buzz lady stood up and cheered.

Sutton Foster and her Dresser: The Love That Slipped Away
. Sutton Foster gave a lovely emotional speech as well, but it went to another level when she declared her love for her Dresser of nine years and six shows, who was leaving her - but it's OKAY! BECAUSE HE'S PURSING HIS DREAM!!! It was a lovely moment, I thought. As I said on the FB, Please someone write a musical about Sutton Foster and her dresser saying goodbye after nine years. It can star Sutton Foster. In related news I don't think Frances McDormand has been friends with her dresser for nine years. The jean jacket was not really the proper festive attire for the night. Did she show up still in character?

Norbert Leo Butz in on the Book of Mormom juggernaut(bitch!).
With two equally worthy male leads, BOM split it's own vote, leaving room for one of the other really strong lead actor nominees to take the prize. That beneficiary turned out to be Norbert Leo Butz. I thought Aaron Tveit was the lead of Catch Me If You Can, but the tony voters and the number the production chose to feature at the ceremony would want me to think otherwise. Still, regardless of whether it's really lead or supporting, he won, and Norbert's cool. He paid tribute to his slain sister which was very touching, as the circumstances of her death were truly horrible. Ugh, it's upsetting just to think about it. He also thanked he dresser. Seriously, if you are lucky enough to have a dresser, you should thank them when you are on stage looking good.

(Accio, Tony Award!)

Daniel Radcliffe wins for Mr. Congeniality and John Larroquette wins a Tony! Despite his Tony snub, non-nominee Daniel Radcliffe was a terrific sport with his high energy stage performance (and American accent!) for How To Succeed and his crisp and energetic presentation of the Best Actress categories. Also John Larroquette won his first Tony and while his acceptance speech was a little... inward, I will always have a fond place in my heart for The John Larroquette show and can never begrudge him success.

Phone Rings, Door Chimes in comes Company! I liked the star studded Company reunion again featuring NPH. Stephen Colbert and Martha Plimpton as a couple? I didn't need more than that, but still I got more.

Jackman -vs- NPH, A Tony host Deathmatch!!
They each have impressive credentials, but I prefer NPH, who always powers through an awards show with slightly devilish glee. They sing and dance and throw shade on each other, but in the end I think they just decide to call the whole thing off.

Memphis shows up to remind us how much stronger a season we had this year as compared to last year. Honestly, I think any of the shows nominated for Best New Musical this year could've beaten Memphis last year. There's just nothing to that song they always sing! I think even Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (which sadly just missed the cut for Best New Musical this year) could've toppled Memphis had it been eligible last year. But my point is, it was a very strong year for Broadway shows this Spring. It means there are a bunch of worthwhile shows this summer.

Bono and The Edge remind us they are good sports who didn't write a good show. The Spider-Man jokes were plentiful but not too overwhelming. Ecah one was followed by a reaction shot of Bono and The Edge and they were always receptive to the gentle ribbing. Their banter before the Spider-Man performance was fun and humble and appreciative... and then the song started and as dedicated performers as Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano are, I switched to the Mavs game almost immediately. I just don't get it. I think if it was up against last year's field, Memphis could even still win against it.

Book of Mormon provides little suspense but lots of laughs. It was a forgone conclusion that BOM would win, but that didn't make the show boring and the number they showed wasn't very flashy and didn't give too much away, but I definitely laughed throughout. Not like it wasn't already doing just fine in the ticket sales department, but it's nice to have a highly successful original Broadway musical win the big prize!

NPH raps the whole thing up quite nicely. With some writing assistance by LMM and TK, NPH delivered a very fun rap that summarized the entire evening in under 2 minutes. He basically channeled LMM on stage which was highly amusing for those of us who know him and how he writes and performs stuff. But look, see for yourself!

All in all, I thought this was a very fun and playful Tony ceremony. It moved quickly and I enjoyed the presenters and the production numbers. It had rhythm. It had music. It had NPH and giant horsies and Harry Potter and tappa tappa tappa! Who could ask for anything more?? See you back here in 2012, Broadway babies!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

FIFTEEN: The Most Amazing Show Ever - Episode XIII Recap - SEASON FINALE!!

(Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Hillside.)

And so, all so-bad-it's-good things must come to an end. It's the end of the season, an end of an era, and the end of me recapping a show that was on the air 20 years ago. I am pleased that I stayed the course and finished the whole 13 episode arc. Stick-to-it-iveness is the mantra for 2011 around here. If anyone out there has been reading these recaps and enjoying them, I appreciate you staying with me. It's been quite a journey and I'm glad we took it together. Now, for one last time, let's get down to the angsty business at hand.

Last time, on FIFTEEN. Well, before we get to that, let's review the whole effing season. This happened, and then this. Followed by this. And this. This. This. Then This. This. This. Who could forget this? Then this. And then most recently: Ashley was caught cheating on a test to the delight of Brooke and Courtney. Jake tried to kiss Courtney and it was a disaster because she is a total disaster. Brooke and Kelly finally drove Ashley to a total psychotic break. Kelly assured a mysterious caller that Brooke was finally about to get taken down!

Episode 13: The Worm Turns. I honestly wasn't very familiar with this expression, so I turned to the internets to edumacate me. tells us "The worm turns" is a term used to describe when a person or group of people who have been treated badly for a long time suddenly become forceful and stop accepting a difficult situation. Ooooh, watch out Brooke! Comeuppance is just around the corner!!

(caring, sharing, every heinous thing that they are wearing...)

Brooke's Gigantor Bedroom. Brooke lounges around reading the geography paper she purchased that is filled with Olaf's Notes. Theresa comes in without saying anything and just stares at her. Finally Brooke tells her to stop spying. Theresa's like "not me! I'm not a spy! Just perhaps an accomplice to your impending demise!" Brooke calls her out on always lurking, and since Theresa is totally a lurker and has been all season, she has no defense. Brooke also tells her to keep her mouth shut about the purchased geography paper and Theresa grouses that she always does. Brooke shares with Lil Sis that today is the day that she officially announces her bid for Student Council President. Theresa wishes her good luck, but Brooke calls her out on being a total fake about it. Theresa guesses being a total fake is just a habit she picked up from Brooke, and then stomps out of the room. Oooh! Burned by Theresa! That's pretty bad. Brooke rightfully feels embarrassed that her sister scored a point on her so easily.

(Jake could use a drink but he'd lose the moral high ground on Drunk Matt.)

Avalon - Counter of Counterproductive Attitudes. Olaf and Cindy come over to talk to Jake, who looks troubled and exhausted. And then it's like five minutes of boring exposition. I don't know why they give so much exposition to Jake when he just can't make it interesting. Basically we learn Ashley isn't going to school after cheating on her test. And she's going nuts at her house. Also, Olaf still hasn't found his notes, so he has to hope his teacher is understanding that he has no assignment to turn in. Now let's get back to the Shakespearean Tragedy that is Brooke.

(Election time! May the best man, woman or scheming maniacal bitch win!)

Hillside - Main Hall. Brooke is standing around a bunch of extras alongside Kelly declaring her candidacy for Student Council President. They pepper her with all the usual questions: who else is running (no one - so far!) will she organize more school dances (absolutely!) will she reduce homework (read my lips: I'm not making any promises!) She's handling everyone like the slick politician she was born to be. Dylan comes down the stairs and Kelly wanders over to him. They share a laugh over Brooke's boundless ambition.

(Dylan & Kelly will sadly not be Hillside's next power couple. Sorry "Kylan"Shippers!)

Then Kelly kinda throws herself at him out of nowhere. She invites herself over to his place to hear him play. He laughs in her face. She's all WTF is your problem? Dylan just wanders away. Kelly grimaces in the wake of such rejection. It's such a weird exchange. I guess they just want to show you that Kelly's not gonna be able to manipulate everyone so easily? I don't know. Kelly still rules!

(It's the last awkward fight in the boys locker room of the season! While never addressed on the show, we can assume at least one of these fights led to great make up sex for these two.)

Hillside - Boys Locker Room. Drunk Matt approaches Jake and asks if there's anything Jake wants to take back from their argument the other day. Jake truly does not. Drunk Matt seems to feel bad about ruining Ashley's life so thoroughly. He tells Jake he tried to make amends but Ashley won't talk to him. Jake suggests to Drunk Matt that he sober up and try to figure out another way to make things right. And then he storms out. I enjoy Jake most when he's calling Matt on all his bullshit. These two dudes should not be friends.

(Kelly is about to turn Brooke's posters rightside up, and Brooke's life upside down!)

Hillside - Main Hall. Brooke and Kelly walk down the hall discussing Ashley's current condition. Kelly gleefully suggests that Ashley's so far gone that she'll drop out of school. Brooke expresses almost a pang of remorse for all the bad shit they did to her over the past twelve episodes of the show. Kelly is shocked. Brooke tells her it's a momentary thing and it will pass - especially since Ashley cheated on the test all on her own, and doesn't deserve any sympathy. Speaking of cheating, Kelly asks if Brooke turned in the geography paper yet. THE ONE SHE PAID FOR! Brooke tries to get Kelly to drop the subject since she doesn't want to talk about things in school that could result in a political scandal. She asks to see the campaign posters and Kelly displays them - upside down. Brooke has her flip them around and they look plain but professionally made. Brooke guesses they will be okay and orders Kelly to start putting them up all over school. Kelly agrees with minimum fuss since she's about to destroy Brooke anyway. Brooke registers Kelly's strange attitude but doesn't pursue it. Too bad for you, Brooke.

Hillside - Olaf's Corner. Olaf and Jake eat lunch and talk about the geography paper and Olaf's misunderstanding the difference between the words expansion/extension, but the visual gem of this scene is that while they are talking, Brooke covers up an environmental issues poster that has a picture of the Earth with Brooke's campaign poster so that it reads "It's the only one we've got - BROOKE FOR PRESIDENT. I appreciate this moment a lot because that stupid poster of the Earth has been hanging on the side of the soda machine for the whole season, so it's not like they just put it there this episode to create the visual gag. Someone in the art department was thinking ahead!

(Conspiracy theorists! The secrets of Olaf'sNotesGate revealed!!)

Anyway, Kelly inserts herself into their conversation and brings up several potential conspiracy theories regarding Olaf'sNotesGate. The idea that someone in his class stole his notes would almost make sense except that the thief would run an extreme risk of getting caught. Still Kelly insists something is fishy. Olaf and Jake begin to get suspicious of what she knows and Kelly backs off, leaving them to ponder what she's said. These guys are nice, but they are not smart enough to piece together that Kelly stole his notes or is somehow involved in what happened to them. Oh, boys.

(Courtney is so excited at the the idea of hanging out with Jake she's gone all the way around back to total disinterest.)

Hillside, Olaf's Corner Sans Olaf. It's later, and Jake is by himself. Courtney comes over and she seems to have a not-totally-stank attitude which is nice. They discuss Ashley's deteriorating mental condition. Have we even seen Ashley yet this episode? She has to show up at some point, no? Courtney has some good news in the midst of all the darkness. She's been asked to write a play for submission to an Arts Festival. Jake is happy for her! Courtney tells him it will probably be about a stupid girl who treated the guy she's friends with really horribly for no reason just because he liked her. It will be titled "Why Am I So Heinous?: The Courtney Simpson Story." Jake tries to apologize for the awkward kiss attempt, but Courtney rightfully says it was all her fault and she has no idea why she reacted that way. She was just upset about other things and was surprised and handled it badly. This is a very mature assessment of the situation for Courtney! She asks if they can still be friends. Jake says sure and then asks her out on a date to see Shakespeare in the Park. Wait, what? Courtney accepts. But are they going as friends? Is it a romantic date? Oh, Jake! You are right back where you started! SPECIFY YOUR INTENTIONS!!!

(Dylan laughs knowingly that Billy and Theresa will not be Hillside's new power couple. Sorry, Therilly Shippers!)

Avalon. Theresa and Billy are trying to look at each other from across the room without directly looking at each other. NO! They would be a horrible couple. Dylan comes in and teases him about Theresa and asks him to join a band Dylan is forming. Billy is excited. Hooray for mercifully shorts scenes!

(Olaf and Cindy ponder "The Jake Question.")

Hillside - Stairs of Sadness. Olaf and Cindy meet up. He got his extension/expansion for his paper. He is also going to organize a school debate on discrimination at the request of his geography teacher. This plot point isn't going anywhere in the future, just so you know. Then Olaf switches gears and tells Cindy how depressed Jake is because nobody sees him as more than a friend. "Girls?" Cindy clarifies. "Exactly! ... At least I think so..." replies Olaf. Cindy resolves to give Jake a little pep talk to get his groove back.

(Goodbye my lover. Goodbye my friend. You have been the one for me.)

Hillside - Girls Locker Room. Ahh, when frenemies turn into full-on enemies. Brooke says she just got a note from the teacher to go see the principal. Kelly is all, "Is SOMETHING WRONG??" Brooke is all, "no, he probably just wants to congratulate me on running for student council president." Kelly is relieved. For a second she feared Brooke was in some sort of... TROUBLE! Brooke is totally weirded out by Kelly's moustache-twirling attitude. Kelly gathers her things and tells Brooke to say hi to the principal for her as she bwahahahahaha's! her way out the door. Brooke can't figure out what is up with her devious scheming friend, Kelly. OMG, connect the dots Brooke. You are SCREWED!

(Matt worries about whether he's coming back for the second season. So many heads will roll!)

Hillside - Olaf's Corner Sans Olaf. Drunk Sad Matt is slumped on the bench. Jake comes over. They discuss Ashley. Matt's voice is all hoarse. I don't know what that's supposed to represent. Matt says Ashley is gonna be sent to private school. She doesn't wanna come back to Hillside. Jake doesn't know what they're gonna do. Matt might be heading out of town too. His parents found his hidden booze in his room and he is now in line to be sent to a substance abuse program. His whole life is falling apart. He is devastated. He runs away. Jake runs after him. Maybe we really DON'T see Ashley this episode... Weird, that she wouldn't be in the season finale.

As Jake runs after Matt, Kelly tries to stop him with awesome gossip. Jake has no time for this! Kelly instead finds Olaf who was sitting silently just a few feet away from Matt and Jake and most likely eavesdropping the whole time. Kelly has good news. They found his geography notes! Olaf'sNotesGates deepens, as apparently Deep Throat called the principal and told him the notes were in Brooke's locker. What's even better is that they checked, and Brooke's paper was based on those notes. Courtney overhears this and joins the conversation. Brooke got hauled into the Principal's office and was put on academic probation. That means no extra-curricular activities including Student Council President.

(Brooke betrayed! Brooke dismayed! Brooke's Overacting displayed!)

Brooke very appropriately descends the Stairs of Sadness in tears. Sad music plays. Brooke approaches Kelly. She accuses her of setting up the whole plot against her. Kelly plays dumb, but her inner-Iago comes through putting a nasty edge on all her denials. The thing is, Brooke has only been caught cheating on one paper. If she exposes Kelly, she exposes herself to all the papers she paid for and passed off as her own work. Brooke isn't going to do even more damage to her reputation than has already been done so she's trapped. Brooke knows it. Kelly knows it. And it's awesome. Courtney gives Brooke a dressing down, and shame from Courtney is too much for any person to bare. She runs from the group, while the rest of them give her hateful looks.

("SO, Jake... do you know Dorothy? Would you say you're a friend of hers?")

Avalon - Loser's Table. Jake is drawing a bad landscape with a river. Cindy comes over to him. She listens to him lament the sad state of affairs with Ashley and Matt. Then to cheer him up she tells him that people have a better opinion of him than he realizes. Cindy thinks he's a good artist and a good friend and she thinks he's kinda cute. This is like catnip for Jake who smiles a big goofy smile. Her mission accomplished, Cindy heads out to be awesome somewhere else.

("Um, yeah... wow, it's kinda awkward being here for you in your moment of need right now, since I totally helped set you a fall, and all? Maybe I should just go...")

Brooke's Gigantor Bedroom - Brooke is wringing her hands over Olaf'sNotesGate. She can't believe Kelly did this to her. Theresa just stands around silently watching her sister break down. Theresa lamely offers that maybe there's some explanation. The explanation, as Brooke rightfully screams, is that Kelly planned the whole thing! She then revisits all the steps that made Olaf'sNotesGate come to pass. Oh, the betrayal! Brooke is totally wrecked. Her reputation is ruined. She's a laughing stock at school. Her dreams of running the school have been crushed. She is alone and friendless. Theresa takes this moment to say she's gotta bounce. Brooke begs her to stay with her for a little while. "Sorry, no can do!" says Theresa and she gets the hell out of Dodge. Brooke cries and cries and hugs a pillow. She is very sad.

(Zack Attack they are not.)

Dylan's Garage Band. Terrible noise is being produced by the "band." Dylan's on lead guitar, Billy is on drums. Cindy is on keyboards. Some random dude is on bass. It sounds terrible. If they want to get to Carnegie Hall they are gonna have to practice, practice, practice!

Avalon - Winner's Table? Theresa joins Kelly and tells her Brooke is in horrible shape. Kelly is pleased. Theresa feels remorse. Oh, this is my favorite scene of the whole series and someone actually posted it to youtube, so I'll just let you watch.

Simply the best. Better than ALL the rest!

But the episode doesn't quite end there. Oh, no. We are treated to some Arena Rock from Dylan's Garage Band over the closing credits. And that, my friends, is that.

(The men you can hold responsible for this show being what it was, what it is, and what it will continue to be.)

EPILOGUE: Brooke got her revenge on Kelly and Theresa by kicking them off the show. Following the scene in the Avalon, Kelly is neither seen nor spoken of again. Theresa disappears too, but Brooke says later that Theresa transferred to a School for the Arts. Brooke gets a new younger sister named Amanda who proves very annoying, until she too is dispatched after 13 episodes. Olaf goes back to Finland and Cindy apparently runs away with him there and they are neither seen nor spoken of again. Jake gets sent on a secret mission to China with his Dad for a year but does come back in Season 3 to continue being a doormat for Matt and Courtney. Ashley eventually regains her sanity and returns to Hillside and lasts throughout the show's 4 season run, but never raises her voice above a whisper again. Brooke mostly remains friendless, gets a series of increasingly severe power lesbian haircuts, causes a lot more problems and at the end of Season 3, goes off to study in Paris. Courtney gains some fashion sense and self-confidence but continues to be very unlucky in love through season 3, after which her mom moves them out of the school district. Dylan remains pretty much the sensitive rebel musician through all 4 seasons of the show and somehow never gets kicked out of school. Matt goes in and out of rehab but eventually gets handle on his DRINKING problem. Several dozen other characters are introduced and jettisoned with little fanfare, but you haven't met any of them, so I won't bother you with there stories. As for Billy? He had a growth spurt, became the school bully, reformed, married Scarlet Johansson, became the Sexiest Man alive and joined the Green Lantern Corps. Which of them turned out the best, do you think?

Thanks again for reading. The Fifteen recaps are DONE! Sing us out, Taylor Swift!