Silent Archimedes

Archive for the ‘Shows’ Category

Five can’t miss PBS programs – Frontline, NOVA, Nature, POV and Independent Lens

Posted by silentarchimedes on October 9, 2008

Even with all the hundreds of cable channels pushed upon us…not to mention Netflix and YouTube, some of the best programs are still on your local public broadcasting service (PBS). Here I list my top five favorite ongoing shows on PBS. What makes it great is that PBS also makes them accessible online if you missed them.

1. Frontline
Frontline

Frontline

is a public affairs television program of varying length produced at WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts. Marking its 25th anniversary season, FRONTLINE has built a reputation for powerful reporting that tackles the tough, controversial, and complex stories that shape our times. From Martin Smith’s probe into the decisions leading to the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to Michael Kirk’s investigation of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib; from Ofra Bikel’s examination of America’s racial divide over the O.J. Simpson verdict, to special reports like The Age of AIDS and provocative journeys like Hedrick Smith’s search for the answer to the question, Is Wal-Mart Good for America? FRONTLINE gives its award-winning journalists and filmmakers the time needed to thoroughly research a story and the time on-air to tell the story in a compelling way.

2. NOVA
NOVA

NOVA

is a popular science television series from the U.S. produced by WGBH Boston. It can be seen on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States, and in more than 100 other countries. It has also won a variety of major television awards, most of them many times over. Nova often includes interviews with scientists directly involved in the subject, and occasionally footage from the actual moment of a particular discovery. Some episodes have focused on historical aspects of science. Examples of topics include Colditz Castle, Drake equation, elementary particles, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, Fermat’s last theorem, global warming, moissanite, Project Jennifer, storm chasing, Unterseeboot 869, Vinland, and the Tarim mummies.

3. Nature
Nature

Nature

is a long-running wildlife television program produced by Thirteen/WNET New York. It has been distributed to United States public television stations by the PBS television service since its debut on October 10, 1982. Nature is one of the most watched documentary series in the world. It is a weekly one-hour program that consists of documentaries about various animals and ecosystems. The series has won more than 400 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film community, parent groups, and environmental organizations – including 10 Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, and the first honor ever given to a program by the Sierra Club.

4. P.O.V.
P.O.V.

P.O.V.

is a PBS television series which features independent nonfiction films. P.O.V.’s films have a strong first-person, social-issue focus. Since 1988, P.O.V. has presented over 225 films to public television audiences across the country. P.O.V. films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues. The series has garnered both critical and industry acclaim over its 20-plus years on television. P.O.V. programs have also won major industry awards including three Oscars, 19 Emmys, 36 Cine Golden Eagles and 11 Peabody Awards.

5. Independent Lens
Independent Lens

Independent Lens

introduces new drama and documentary films made by independent filmmakers. Each episode introduces new documentaries and dramas made by independent thinkers: filmmakers who are taking creative risks, calling their own shots and finding untold stories in unexpected places. From a Texas drug sting, to a plane crash in the Andes, to a research lab where beleaguered physicists search for the “God particle,” Independent Lens takes viewers behind the scenes to discover untold stories. Step inside a boisterous courtroom with 1960s revolutionaries Abbie Hoffman and Bobby Seale, or sit down to an intimate dinner with Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf—let this season’s line-up take you across the span of history and around the globe. Learn more about the U.S. deficit, and dive into hot-button issues like gays in the military, Islamic extremism and gang strife in South Central L.A. Meet a trained kamikaze pilot and an inspirational Kenyan activist who is protecting human rights through the simple act of planting trees.

Watch them…

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Show Review: Jerry Seinfeld Stand-Up Comedy at the Baltimore Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 8, 2008

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld Stand-Up

I had the good fortune of getting tickets to Jerry Seinfeld‘s comedy tour at the Baltimore Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Saturday. My friends had pre-ordered the tickets earlier but couldn’t go and I became the beneficiary of some high-demand tickets. So if you are ever lucky to see Seinfeld doing stand-up, get there early. Especially if you are driving there. Also, if you are like most people, you are already paying close to insanity ($60, at least for us students), and you’ll have to climb several floors to get to the terrace or upper tier levels. Get there like 20 min early. It’ll be worth it. They definitely start on time. When my friend and I got to our seats a couple of minutes late, the opening act had already begun.

VIEWS ON SEINFELD THE SHOW

Kramer and Costanza

Kramer and George

Now I must admit, I am one of the biggest Seinfeld fans ever, but it took me a long time to appreciate Jerry’s character. I always thought Kramer and George overshadowed the show sometimes. Remember the couple of seasons where the crowd would cheer when Kramer made an entrance? I also wasn’t a big fan of Jerry’s stand-up skits in each episode. I thought they were corny and cute, but not downright funny. But as I have gotten older, I have definitely become more appreciative of his humor. Kramer gave us free-spirited slapstick comedy while George gave us bitter self-belittling humor. As a kid growing up, these two characters were most beloved because of the simplicity in understanding the humor. However, the observational humor that Jerry’s character portrayed was more subtle and sometimes only appreciated when you’ve been through more of life’s experiences. For example, the sexual innuendo. The fact that Jerry portrays himself as the most successful in the group (both financially and dating hot girls) while being very supportive of loser guy friends, is much more appreciated when the whole show is analyzed for its themes. Jerry was the character that brought order to chaos. However, I still wasn’t a big fan of his stand-up skits. Until now…

Jerry is as good as it gets!

TOM PAPA OPENS FOR SEINFELD

Tom Papa

Tom Papa

This is one funny guy! For some reason, I can’t really remember any of his jokes. I do remember laughing a lot. His jokes were very natural and reactive. He was so funny, that I think he made Jerry’s initial few minutes less funny! I can’t believe I never heard of him, but I guess that’s good, because it’s another comedian I can follow now!

JERRY! JERRY! JERRY!

Ok, not that Jerry. This one is much much better. He got one of the biggest ovations I’ve ever seen for a live performance. It was pretty obvious that the crowd was going to laugh at anything, no matter if his jokes were funny or not. They were just happy to see Seinfeld live, and they were also going to feel good about themselves for spending over $60. I always thought you tend to laugh easier at live comedy events anyways.

Kevin James (right) with King of Queens actors

Kevin James (right) with Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller

Jerry did start off slow though. His first few minutes of jokes elicited laughter more for the honor of seeing Seinfeld rather than actual humor. But, wow, he then went on a roll for the next hour and twenty minutes or so. It kept getting better and better. What’s great about Jerry’s jokes is that they’re not crude or do not use expletives to elicit laughter. They are just funny. Observational humor is great because you can relate to it, so with a little exaggeration, you’ll start rolling in your seats. Some of my all-time favorite comedians have used observational comedy as their trademark. Guys such as Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Seinfeld and Larry David popularized this style. The younger generation of comedians I like have also been observational in style, such as Kevin James, Mitch Hedberg (RIP) and Russel Peters.

According to Wikipedia, observational comedy entails such examples as:

  • The differences between men and women
  • The differences between different generations
  • The differences between races
  • The differences between religions
  • Government red tape
  • Airport security, airline food, etc
  • Humans’ relationships with animals
  • Cliched aspects of childhood/adolescence
  • The leaders of nations

The ones in red are the ones Jerry touched on.

Warning: Spoilers below!

To see them, highlight paragraphs below with mouse.

Jerry and George

Jerry and George

He jokes a lot about his new married life, which includes differences between men and women (why do women ask so many hypothetical questions?), and children. He also takes ribs at old people, (muscular old men have arms that look like chicken cutlets wrapped in saran wrap!), and their similarities with children. He definitely updates his repertoire. He has a long bit about technology that includes jokes about iPhones, coffee, prescription commercials. He, of course, includes random observational humor like “great and suck are actually tiny differences”, and evil and suicidal random thoughts in your head.

Ok, I can’t help but list some of his jokes:

  • Did you know that Florida has an all drug-prescription TV channel?
  • My mom is so old she has a cataract windshield. It’s like a foot thick and makes everyone inside look like college football mascots!
  • Cremation is like you want to hide a crime. Hide the evidence everywhere.
  • Your house is a garbage processing center. Everything we own is simply at some point in the process of becoming garbage. However, things in the garage might be there for awhile. See, the word garage comes from garbage!
  • Fathers on Sunday mornings are like day-old helium balloons, wandering aimlessly, half-alive and people knocking into them!
  • Golf was invented so guys can get away from the family. That’s why they have such horrible outfits so no one will want to be seen with them. GOLF stands for “Get Out, Leave Family”
  • Humans are on an evolutionary path to becoming chairs. Our butts are the first sign (butts as cushions)
  • Where do you buy those doctor’s notepads that only have checkboxes of Itching, Swelling, and Redness?
  • Women and their hypothetical questions… “If I was paralyzed, would you still love me?”

That is a very small small sample of his jokes. I promise, no more spoilers! Go see him!!

Warning: Spoilers above!

Jerry is a cutesy family-oriented kind of comedian. When he displays emotion, such as yelling, it sound so absurd and pseudo-fake, you just have to laugh.  The fact that he doesn’t use expletives, props, and vulgarity (no toilet, sexual, or racist jokes) makes it that much more difficult to prepare for. It also makes it much riskier that people won’t laugh if they don’t get your observations. I definitely appreciate that.

What was neat is that he also throws in some local jokes and ad-lib jokes in there. He is comfortable enough with his repertoire and stage presence that he can do as he pleases. For example, he makes fun of the Inner Harbor, and leads to a bit about Michael Phelps and the Olympics.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Jason Alexander

Jason Alexander

Jerry ended his 80-minute with a short Q&A. It was the perfect ending. Someone asked him what are his favorite Seinfeld episodes, and he listed about four of them, including the Marble Rye and the Invitations. I was surprised he didn’t mention any of the classic episodes like the Contest, the Chinese Restaurant, the Fix Up, the Outing, and the Soup Nazi. Another person asked if he could bring the show back or at least have a reunion. He said, to everyone’s happiness, that he’s definitely open for a reunion show, but it won’t happen until the careers of all four are in the toilet! Hehe…What’s cool about Jerry is that he embraces Seinfeld. He doesn’t mind that he will forever be known for that show. Of course, it helps that the show is about him and makes him out to be the best character, but… I also saw Jason Alexander live when he was doing his campus tour. I must say, Alexander seemed bitter about being forever linked to George Costanza. He didn’t really want to talk about the show or his favorite episodes. It’s kind of sad because we loved that character, but now he seems bitter to be linked to such a loser character. It also doesn’t help that all his roles since then have not erased that stereotype (Mauricio in Shallow Hal? He’s more of a loser than George!) He also came unprepared and kept the whole session as a Q&A. If you can’t ask him questions about Seinfeld, what else was there to ask him?? Students started stabbing for questions, like politics and what not. It was pretty sad.

Of course, someone had to ask him which presidential candidate he was going to vote for. He definitely prepared for this question because he replied that comedians think they are better than everyone, so they think even presidents are below them.

Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld at Dreamworks' Bee Movie Premiere

Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld at Dreamworks Bee Movie Premiere

In conclusion, if you get a chance, go see Jerry Seinfeld live. We are very fortunate that even after making hundreds of millions of dollars, and having a family, he still loves to do and does do stand-up comedy. Comedians like him and Jay Leno are unique because as much as the fame has changed them they still do the things they love. It’s sad that Leno is leaving the Tonight Show (I find Conan O’Brien horrible! Such forced jokes… Same with David Letterman. Stop laughing at your own jokes.)

After the show, my friend and I waited in the lobby along with about 20 others, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jerry when he left the theater. However, he never did show up (probably left through a side entrance) and then they kicked us out. Hahaha… Oh well.

Posted in Opinion, Reviews, Shows | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »