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ALF, "Try to Remember"

With four seasons and four Tanners, I thought I’d use the break between seasons to spotlight them one by one. I’d go over what makes them tick, their function within the show as a whole, and their relationships with the other characters.

Here I am, however, at the end of season one, and we still don’t have any characters.

The closest thing we do have is Kate Tanner, which is disappointing because it doesn’t leave me with much of a choice…but is also kind of nice, because I like Kate.

Part of me wants to give all of the credit for this to Anne Schedeen, the actress who plays the character. And, certainly, I can (and will) give her a great deal of it. But I do have to give some credit to the writers as well. That may come as a surprise to folks who have been reading these articles for the last 26 weeks, but it’s true. Kate Tanner is the closest thing ALF has to a character, and that’s at least partially due to the efforts of the writing staff.

ALF, "On the Road Again"

Don’t worry, though; I don’t mean it as much of a compliment. I only mean that Kate seems to be the only Tanner that they even tried to characterize.

The writing for Kate was not any better than it was for anyone else, but it was certainly more comprehensive. Consider the fact that, so far, Kate’s the only one with sustained relationships to any secondary character. I’m referring specifically to her mother, Dorothy, but who I insist we all keep calling Kate Sr.

We’ve met Willie’s boss and secretary, and then never saw them again. Lynn had a boyfriend for about two scenes. Brian was tormented by some geeky kid who had to go now, because his planet needed him. None of these people ever came back, and they never came back because they weren’t actually characters. They were temporary complications…something injected into the formula to help it stumble through another week. They were disposable.

With Kate Sr. we not only got a recurring character, but some passive insight into Kate as well.

I hasten to add that I’m not arguing that Kate Sr. is a good character or even that it’s nice to have her around…but she exists, and that says a lot. After all, who we are as people is something measured by the relationships we have with others. Kate is the only one of the central family that has relationships with others. Willie, Lynn and Brian all seem incapable of forming not only long-term bonds, but any bonds that last longer than 22 minutes.

ALF, "A Little Bit of Soap"

I griped during the Kate Sr. trilogy that we didn’t learn anything specific about the mother-daughter relationship these two shared, and that’s true. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I’m happy that we learned that there is a relationship; however hollow and cliched it might be, it’s something, and that helps to make Kate seem human.

It’s also interesting to me that the writers bothered to flesh out Kate’s family tree to the extent that they did. Not only do we meet her mother, but we find out her maiden name, we find out the name of her father, we know he’s dead, we meet her mother’s new boyfriend, and we hear second-hand about the tormented relationship between Dorothy and her old roommate Estelle. (That Estelle!!)

That, I think, is pretty clearly a lot of material. And it looks like even more when we compare it to what we know about Willie’s family. Which is…uh…

…anyone?

He has a brother named Rodney, which we learned a whopping two episodes ago. And his family used to have a real Christmas tree.

That’s it.

Granted, the writers on this show are fucking terrible, but they at least make an attempt with Kate to weave a bit of backstory. With Willie we get a series of disposable hobbies that we’re always meant to believe are important to him, even though none of them ever gets mentioned again.

With Lynn we don’t even know if the boyfriend that’s been mentioned several times is the guy we saw in “Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?” We don’t know because the writers don’t know either. They might still be together, and they might not. It doesn’t matter, because Lynn isn’t a human being.

And neither is Brian, whose role in most of these episodes is to sit quietly in the background and refrain from wetting himself.

On top of that, the “Jump” episode feels like it should be about Willie — and it technically is — but aside from another obsession-of-the-week, we don’t learn anything about him. On the other hand, we learn a lot about Kate: she was a bit wild, she was seemingly popular with the boys, she ran with the bulls in Pamplona, she had a work of fiction published, and she served as an enthusiastic vessel for Joe Namath’s sperm.

ALF, "Border Song"

Again, that’s a lot of information. And, again, it comes at the expense of the other characters. In what’s supposed to be Willie’s episode, the most interesting moments come when we learn about Kate, who gets substantially less screen time in the episode than her husband does.

This is why I can tell you all of these things about Kate, but I’d just have to refer to Willie as “the dad,” Brian and Lynn as “the kids,” and the Ochmoneks as “the neighbors.” (Though, funnily enough, we ended the season with more background on Mr. O than we ever got about Willie.)

It’s almost as though the writers find Kate the most interesting as well. Sure, they may not have found many things for her to do on camera, but when it comes time to pencil in some pre-ALF history, it almost always gets latched onto Kate.

And here’s where Anne Schedeen herself comes in; I think the gravity of Kate’s character, the fact that it manages to attract and accumulate a level of detail that the others do not, is down to Schedeen’s performance. Whether the writers consciously realized it or not, she’s by far the strongest of the regular actors, and that makes her a more appealing target for their efforts. They might not be good efforts, but she’s clearly on the receiving end of most of them.

While I don’t know that Schedeen would be a standout in a solid cast on another show, she’s absolutely the standout here, simply because she acts. Max Wright hams it up and chokes his way through basic English vocabulary, Andrea Elson delivers all of her lines like they’re being drip-fed through a tube, and Benji Gregory scratches his armpit and looks around the set for a clock. Schedeen, for whatever reason, decided to care, at least a little bit. And that’s what made me like Kate Tanner from episode one.

To Schedeen, her character amounted to more than the words that were printed on the cue cards. She managed to find a kind of quiet frustration at the heart of the character…something that worked just fine at first, and then actually seemed natural when we learned more about her past.

Kate’s fuse is short and her tolerance for dickassery low, and that’s certainly okay. But doesn’t it feel more real when you realize that she was once adventurous and creative, fawned over by professional football players, and is now married to an ineffectual, ambitionless dweeb and is trapped in a house with a space alien who keeps trying to rape her kids?

ALF, "Jump"

Of course her patience is thin. Why wouldn’t it be? Kate Tanner lives a textbook life of disappointment. The arcs of many fictional characters see them climbing the ladder toward their goals. The arcs of others see them falling further away. Kate’s is one of stagnation. She had a lot. Now she seems to have little. This isn’t a valley between two peaks…this is her life. Whatever it was before, and whatever it could have been, is irrelevant. She’s something else now. And she’s right to be disappointed by what that is.

The writers aren’t aware of this. Schedeen might not have been aware of it, either. But the fact is that by embodying a character instead of reading some lines and cashing her check, she leaves Kate Tanner open to interpretations like these. She feels more realistic, because it feels like there’s something going on inside of her.

I like that. Schedeen feels like a kindred spirit, in a way. Locked into a four-season contract with ALF, clearly aware that it’s shit, but determined to give it her best anyway. I can understand that mindset, and I respect it.

The writers seem to have picked up on this simmering anger that Schedeen brings to Kate, because every so often they play up the iciness. However, when they do it, it feels like they want us to dislike her…or at least get annoyed by her.

In actuality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, we like her more, because it’s always preferable to watch an actor acting than to watch three knuckleheads who are not.

I don’t know. Maybe, in real life, I would hate Kate Tanner. But this isn’t real life, and if Schedeen is playing an aggravating character, I’m happy to spend time with her anyway, because she’s putting forth effort. It’s the closest thing to artistry any aspect of ALF delivers, and I like it. With Kate, I’m not seeing somebody fumble through the twenty-one hour recording session; I’m seeing the hard work of an actress elevating her material to a level it truly doesn’t deserve.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

At first, I thought I liked her just because she called ALF on his bullshit. And certainly that’s part of it…but by now we’ve seen all of the Tanners call ALF, at various points, on his bullshit, and Kate is the only one who felt like she was doing it for a reason other than the fact that the script told her to.

It’s because of the gentleness of her anger. The active repression of what she really wants to say. Whereas Max Wright can spit and stammer his way through venomous hatred, Anne Schedeen sits politely on the couch, looks ALF in the eye, and calmly states that she will punch his heart out if he doesn’t cut the sheep dip.

Compared to the rest of these bozos, Anne Schedeen looks like Christoph Waltz in the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds. Unimposing, open, soft-spoken…yet delivering threats that you hope you never have to see realized, and which you will do anything in your power to avoid.

Kate Tanner isn’t a character. I don’t want to oversell it. Whatever Schedeen brings to the thankless role, it can only go so far. Television characters are collaborative efforts, and if the writers aren’t pulling their weight, it’s just an actress doing her best to keep us from realizing how much is missing.

But she does a great job of it, and because of that she’s the closest thing season one has to a character. For that, I salute her.

Just three more seasons, Anne.

We can do this.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

Michael Q. Schmidt InterviewRecently I had the honor of interviewing Palmer Scott, of Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! fame. As I mentioned at the time, I was hopeful that he wouldn’t be the last member of that cast that I got to speak with, as there was a wealth of fascinating individuals on that show.

Michael Q. Schmidt might be the most fascinating. Not only did he make his Tim & Eric debut a few years earlier than the Awesome Show gang, but he’s also had probably the richest, most varied career as well.

I was — and am — flattered that Michael took the time to speak with me, and so enthusiastically provided me with all of the images you will see in this article as well. He’s a smart man, very chatty, and up for anything, which makes him a more perfect fit for this site than I realized. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed speaking with him.

LAST MINUTE ADDENDUM: Michael has actually volunteered to answer any reader questions, so don’t be shy if you have them! They will be posted in a followup feature down the line.

1) You might be the longest-serving of Tim & Eric’s onscreen collaborators, as you played a central character in Tom Goes to the Mayor. How did you get involved with that project? And what about it appealed to you?

If not the longest, then at least the most uninhibited. I first met Tim and Eric when I went to a scheduled audition on a Monday in late 2003, at their old Dipshot Films offices in LA. They wanted character types to be the townsfolk of Jefferton.

I posed for pictures making expressions and clapping hands…stuff like that. The next day I got a call. They liked my (then) long hair and (still) big tummy, and stated that they’d like it if I would agree to being a recurring character in their upcoming series.

I said sure.

They said I might have to wear a dress.

I said sure.

I returned Wednesday and they gave me a few larger size dresses to check. We decided to go with the now-famous muumuu, and Joy Peters came to life.

Michael Q. Schmidt InterviewMichael Q. Schmidt Interview

2) Unlike some of the later collaborators, who might have at least seen Tom Goes to the Mayor for reference, I can’t imagine you had much of an idea of what to expect from a Tim & Eric production. At any point was there confusion on your part about what they were intending to do, or what the final product was going to be like?

I am always up for anything off-the-wall…and was invited a few times to sit in the production offices and see episodes before they aired, so it was a treat and not a surprise. I found myself looking forward to see what Joy was up to next.

And a couple times I got to be non-Joy characters. In season 1, episode 7, “Vehicular Manslaughter,” there were scenes where Joy was using the family laptop for her online sex business, and I was the fellow with whom she was having computer sex.

Michael Q. Schmidt InterviewMichael Q. Schmidt Interview

Hilarious. Also, in season 2, episode 5, “Wrestling,” I was Tim’s body-double when Tom was bulked up on “Flax-O-Max.”

3) You were the face and body of Joy Peters, but not the voice. Do you feel that that hindered your ability to put your “stamp” on the character in any way?

As I mentioned above, I was not always silent…I did react to Joy in my own voice for the “Vehicular Manslaughter” episode. Since I was not originally asked to put a voice to Joy, I trusted production to be happy with my giving her character believable action.

The “stamp” of body and movement was mine, and I was happy to provide. What production did with guest stars and town members was have us re-enact our scenes in costume and in front of a white-screen for a photo shoot. They then chose through the photos of actions and picked out ones to convert to the now-famous, blue-outlined, mimeograph-like townsfolk of Jefferton.

4) Joy’s voice was provided by Stephanie Courtney, which was a shock to me when I found out. Many people probably know her as Progressive’s Flo now…a sunny, helpful character that couldn’t be further from Joy Peters. Did you get to work with her directly?

I first met Stephanie at the premiere party on Sunday, November 4th, 2004, when the first episode aired simultaneously. I was introduced to her by Eric Wareheim and was surprised and pleased when she threw her arms around my neck and gave me a hug…telling me she loved what I brought to the Joy character. Joy was pleasant and polite to everyone except her husband Tom. She is an absolute doll.

Michael Q. Schmidt Interview

5) “Raise My Roof” only constitutes about 30 seconds of screen time. Why do you think it’s become one of the more popular and recognizable moments from Awesome Show? What causes it to resonate?

Well, beyond the actual screen time, “Raise My Roof” became a featured moment of live performance during the Awesome Show summer tours (at least in the southwest). It first went “live” at the Muscles for Bones show at LA’s Troubadour in August of 2007.

It was so very well received, Tim and Eric had me reprise it at several more such live shows. That first live appearance was filmed and became the basis for the later Awesome Show season 3, episode 5, “Muscles for Bones.” The live dance can be watched on the DVD’s extras.

6) Where did the dance come from? And the idea in general? How much of it was you, and how much was Tim & Eric?

Tim and Eric pretty well knew that I was unabashed and up for any sort of craziness. Series producer Jon Mugar called me and asked if I’d like to a wacky dance for their “new” series.

I said sure.

He said, “You might have to be naked.”

I responded, sure.

The day of the shoot, we shot the exteriors on a sidewalk a block away from the studios and then went into the studios for the dance. When I asked what kind of dance they wanted, they played their “Raise My Roof” music and told me to improv something that would work, so I did. It was their music and their trust that I would bring it home.

One simple sentence introduced what became strangely popular: “Hi, I’m Michael Q. Schmidt, and I’d like to perform for you a new dance I invented, called ‘Raise My Roof.’”

They did ask that I should treat the dance with a dead seriousness and not smile. I was fully naked for the in-studio taping, but for airing on Adult Swim, they placed a black square over my privates. However, each live performance after that, I came out in front of the audience, introduced myself with that same stoic line, dropped my robe and stood fully naked waiting for the music to begin.

When it started, I would perform the dance for about 60 seconds until the music stopped. And for an extra “zing” when the music stopped, I would look around nervously for the dropped robe, and with my backside toward the audience do a slow bend-over to get the robe.

The moon came out and the satellites were in orbit. The appreciative shrieks were astounding.

7) You’ve been in close to a hundred projects over the years, including video games, music videos, feature films…pretty much everything. Does it worry you that a certain number of fans will always remember you for doing a naked dance on a silly television show?

Well…several years before meeting Tim and Eric I had been doing nude art modeling for classes throughout southern California. So being “known” for being naked is fine with me. If the fans like it, I’ll do it. No problem.

Indeed, several times I have appeared at fan parties and performed live, posed for pictures, and signed autographs.

Additionally, as an art model I have been naked in public for many events in Los Angeles, including art installations at the Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica, The Hive Gallery, The Post Gallery, The Blackstone Gallery, LA’s Art Walk, and I was naked for six hours in Chinatown as “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Michael Q. Schmidt Interview

8) Tell us about your modeling career. You’ve taken what could have been a joke and elevated it to a form of art. How did that recontextualization come about?

Well…the first thing for me, as an art model, is to separate what I am doing from who I am. I do not think about the many starring eyes studying my every curve and crevice; I concentrate on simply holding still.

From the very first time I (nervously) stood in front of a room full of strangers, and then had them thank me for sharing my body, I was hooked. Apparently artists are mainly concerned with capturing the human form in its many varieties — tall, short, thin, fat, smooth, wrinkled, young, old — and I found a niche. There simply are not that many fat guys able to “let it all hang loose” in front of strangers.

My professionalism allows me to be the model they want and appreciate. They’d far rather draw curves and character than draw GQ gym rats.

Michael Q. Schmidt Interview

9) Body image is a major issue in modern America, and it’s something that can be tremendously damaging, to young people and children in particular. Why do you think that is?

I think the causes for self-doubt in body issues is rooted in and caused by the fashion industry trying to convince little girls that they need to be unrealistic “perfect” little Barbie doll types wearing size 1 clothes, and little boys that they need to become buff with 32 inch waists. That unrealistic demand on our youth creates the ready market for plastic surgeons who use body modification to make payments on their new Mercedes or Lexus.

As American youth is conditioned to be visual, simply telling someone to not worry about physicality is likely to fall on deaf ears. What I do as an art model is show that body type is what it is, and does not define the inner spirit.

10) How many of the Awesome Show regulars did you get to work with directly? While you weren’t in the show proper more than a few times, I know you appeared on Tim & Eric Nite Live and were a big part of the Chrimbus special.

Including the live shows, and apart from the obvious Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim and producers Bob Odenkirk, Jon Mugar and David Kneebone, I got to work with the talented Richard Dunn, Tanese Gray, David Lieberhart, James Quall, Palmer Scott, Ron Austar, Doug Lussenhop, Neil Hamburger, and non-regulars Rainn Wilson and Seth Green.

And, yes, while I was not as “regular” as many of the others, I did my best to create memorable moments for the fans. Those who have seen or found Tim & Eric Nite Live will remember my “Santa No-Pants” at the end of the Christmas episode, and my “Cupid” in the Valentine’s episode.

No doubt John Mayer will remember my Cupid most of all.

11) Tell us about your experiences with the fans.

I loved meeting fans at the Tim-and-Eric-hosted AwesomeCons in San Diego the same weekends as ComiCon. It gave me the opportunity to share stories and bring smiles.

Most memorable are those times a fan invited me to attend a party or event and perform “Raise My Roof” live. It’s for them.

12) Of all the actors, artists, musicians, directors, and anyone else that you’ve worked with over the course of your career, who was the most surprisingly pleasant?

I have enjoyed working with and for so many great talents. Wow. Once while completely naked I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Tony Shalhoub, and there are a great number of rising star filmmakers with whom working was a real treat. Acting with talent such as Richard Riehle and Bill Pullman on 2008′s Your Name Here, I was both pleased and surprised at how nicely they treated me.

Michael Q. Schmidt Interview

But I have to give the nod to director Don Coscarelli of 2012′s John Dies at the End. He made me feel very special indeed.

Michael Q. Schmidt Interview

Of course, more recently I worked with the amazingly funny Chris Kattan…I’m pretty sure he will not forget our time together on Fox’s new show Riot!

13) You’ve just been cast as the next James Bond. Who do you cast as your Bond girl?

I’d want dual Bond girls. (James gets what he wants, right?) My choices would be actress Robin Jean Springer [above] and model Debbie Day [below]. We have all three worked together on film projects, and they are wonderfully warm and beautiful talents with delightful senses of humor.

Michael Q. Schmidt InterviewMichael Q. Schmidt Interview

I think you might agree. Working with friends who know my proclivities makes any project better.

14) How well did you know Richard Dunn?

I first met him while working for Awesome Show, and while I did not know Richard as well as I might have wished, I had the honor to be part of his final photo project before he passed.

He and I were chosen to portray Bella and Edward in a spoof Twilight poster promoting a Los Angeles film festival. He made a marvelously ancient Edward and I a very matronly Bella.

Michael Q. Schmidt Interview

15) When I interviewed Palmer Scott it was very soon after you and he had worked on the pilot for Your Honor. He was tight lipped with details, but in the meantime some footage and photographs have started circulating. What can you tell us about the project?

I was introduced to the project by its creator, Adam Carbone, and cannot tell any more than has already been hinted at…except to say that any who loved our contributions to the former Awesome Show will be delighted with this new project. Color me tight-lipped as well… but I will available for appearances and interviews after the pilot is released.

16) IMDB lists your earliest credit (narrating a short film) as 2001. What did you do professionally before becoming an actor?

Actually I did not “narrate” the film Schmucks!, but had the role of an on-screen narrator, seen smoking his cigar and sipping his wine while discussing what the viewer was watching, in the manner of Masterpiece Theater.

Michael Q. Schmidt Interview

Before turning to acting, I worked as a hazardous materials consultant. I began modeling and some early acting during that same time. Indeed, when other employees bragged about traveling during vacation leave, I was able to brag about being in a film.

My very first feature, Naked Shadows, was shot in 2002 during the week I took off for my own birthday. Being an indie film, it took a few years to finally get released. Kirk Bowman, the director, had so much unused footage of my character from Naked Shadows that he created the short Misadventures of Mort the Landlord as an extra for the film’s DVD.

When the company for which I was working relocated, I left them and concentrated on more modeling and lots more acting.

17) What’s your favorite Tim & Eric moment or skit that you were not directly a part of?

Awesome Show season 2, episode 9, “Pepperoni”…because the episode begins with a live action re-enactment of Tom Peters in the Mayor’s office. It was a salute to the series Tom Goes to the Mayor, and had I not been working a different gig when it was filmed, I would have been in the episode as Joy Peters.

Maybe grabbing Tom by his ear and scolding him. Maybe having Tom hug his shrewish love Joy. My loss. Gee…I wonder if they still have her muumuu in storage?

18) The entire stable of Awesome Show regulars seems to be polite, enthusiastic, and always willing to engage with fans directly. Why do you think that is? And how did one show manage to assemble an entire team like that?

I like to think that like attracts like…or it could simply be kismet, and that something special in our makeups drew us all together.

We all appreciate the fans and their allowing us to be part of their lives. I think Tim and Eric were lucky to have found us all.

19) What would your dream project be? Any medium, any collaborators, any concept.

A dream project? Perhaps as the lead naked guy in a comedy series that, like the former Awesome Show, celebrates idiocy and pokes fun at societal mores and misconceptions.

Or, totally against type, how about a horrific feature film where I am the antagonist serial killer who. like a Ted Bundy cannibal, feasts upon the bodies of his victims after he uses them for his personal delight. And in the film’s climax, it is revealed that my character has survived and escaped to haunt everyone’s nightmares another day.

20) If you could perform “Raise My Roof” one-on-one for anybody, alive or dead, who would it be?

Simply put, I would be honored to perform it for anyone who asks…without the travel limitations caused by distance.

BONUS: What would you like to say to the readers that you haven’t had a chance to say above?

I greatly appreciate that I am myself appreciated by so many simply for giving in to my own adventurous spirit. If a fan wishes to have the “Raise My Roof” dance performed live at a party or event, or if a filmmaker wishes a Larger Than Life actor willing to give beyond expectations or hopes, they need only contact Michael Q. Schmidt.

I also wish to add that I love contributing to music videos. Some may remember having seen me in some and thought, “gee…that guy looks familiar.” What a director wants, I give.

I can give a director anything except thin.

Review: SelectSpecs.com

April 12th, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in review - (7 Comments)

SelectSpecs.com

I try to be pretty choosy about the products I review here. A film or book or album is always fair game, as far as I’m concerned, but products are a little hairier.

As some of you know, I lost my job a couple of months ago. It was nothing personal…just some unfortunate downsizing, and the president of the company wrote me a great recommendation. Great for the ego, but bad for the wallet.

As even more of you know, I’m insane…which is why I dove right into a 24/7 job hunt. I qualified for unemployment, but I didn’t want that. I knew I could do this on my own, and I figured that if I did have money coming in (however small an amount it might have been), it would reduce my incentive to find steady work.

Writing this, today, I have found employment. It’s contract work, but I love it, and I hope it turns into something full time. That part might be a story for another day, though.

Why all the setup? Because losing my job didn’t scare me into thinking I wouldn’t be able to eat, or pay my rent. I’d saved up enough that that shouldn’t have been a problem for a while, and even then I know my friends wouldn’t let me sink into starvation or homelessness. What did scare me was that I might get very sick, get in a car accident, or things along those lines. If that happened, I’d blow right through my savings (and, perhaps, then some) and be in dire straits far sooner than I expected. It’s scary that one big, unexpected expense can destroy you so easily.

As a glasses wearer, I have one more thing to be worried about. While I’m careful with my glasses, you never know what can happen, and if my roommate’s dog sat on them or something…well, that would be a several hundred dollar expense I simply couldn’t afford.

SelectSpecs.com got in touch and offered me a pair of glasses in exchange for a review. No money changed hands, though I was given a voucher for any product up to $45 in cost. It seemed like a great way to get a backup pair, and while for $45 I knew not to expect much, I figured it couldn’t hurt.

SelectSpecs.com

I was very surprised. The glasses I chose were closer to around $25, and they’re of a very good quality. That’s me wearing them in the first picture up there, with a case of bedhead because I forgot to write this review last night.

The second picture shows what I got in the mail. They arrived certified, which was nice, and though the packaging is just a thin, plastic envelope, the glasses were in good shape…due, no doubt, to the fact that they shipped in a complimentary case. There were also some inserts and guidelines, as well as a microfiber cleaning cloth, and overall I was impressed by how much you got for such a small expense.

The glasses themselves are plastic, right down to the lenses. (The hinges are metal, and they work well, but that’s it.) While this worried me at first, you’d actually never know unless you rapped your fingernail against the lenses. They look great, and they’re as clear as my much more expensive glass lenses. They’re very light-weight, which for some may be a selling point. I’m sure the frame is not as sturdy as a standard one, and that’s fine, because it’s not meant to be.

SelectSpecs.com is offering a service that I really appreciate: fast, attractive, inexpensive glasses. I wore these for a week straight before writing this review, and I’ve had no problems with them at all. While they may not become my primary pair, they’re perfect for when I go hiking, or jogging, or to a bar or something. Anywhere that I’m more likely to be careless or have to worry about external hazards, it will be nice to have this pair with me instead of the ones that will cost me a few hundred dollars to replace.

In fact, the glasses they sell start at $10. While of course I can’t vouch for the quality of their entire selection, I will say that if they’re even half as good as the ones I chose, that’s an incredible value.

Ordering was easy. In fact, I only ran into difficulty trying to figure out where to enter my voucher code…which isn’t something most folks would have to worry about.

You will need your prescription handy, so that’s worth noting. Otherwise you just pick your glasses, choose your color and lens options, decide on a shipping method, and check out. It’s very easy.

So if you or your kids want a second pair to be more adventurous with, want something new to wear for the sake of change, or you’ve already broken your primary pair and can’t quite afford to replace those frames yet, this is definitely a good service, and I’m positive I’ll be using them again.

It’s also nice if you want to dress up as somebody for Halloween, but that character wears different glasses than you do. You can buy a pair closer to theirs in your prescription for $10. You dork.

ALF Reviews: Season One, Reviewed

April 10th, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf - (8 Comments)

ALF, "A.L.F."

And so we’ve come to the end of ALF, season one. I have to admit, it was both better and worse than I remembered it being.

Watching this show again is a strange experience. It’s a bit like going out and recognizing somebody you haven’t seen since high school. You say, “It’s so nice to see you again!” because it is. There’s a comforting familiarity, but the more you talk and the more you catch up, the more you realize you don’t actually remember this person.

You know the name, of course. The kinds of clothes they wore or the shape of their face. But were they friendly? Were they an asshole? Were they smart? Were they funny?

You have no idea.

You can’t remember who their friends were, how you met, or if you had anything in common. The only thing you remember is that at some point in your life, this person was there, and while it may be nice to see them again, the fact is that that’s all they ever were to you: there.

That’s been my experience with ALF.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

I watched the show the same way I watched every show as a kid: religiously. I loved TV Guide. I loved the Preview Channel. I don’t know why. I memorized listings. I knew which nights would be worth rushing through homework and dinner, and which would not.

I grew up loving television so much that I almost hate it now. I got burned out on it at an early age. I don’t even have TV service, and haven’t for many years, preferring to catch up on the handful of quality shows on Hulu or Netflix instead.

So revisiting ALF should bring memories flooding back. Right? Playing old video games, watching the movies I loved growing up, finding a vintage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle at a thrift shop…all of those things bridge the gap between the man I am today and the boy I was several dozen lifetimes ago.

Memories come back. Details. Scents and subtle sounds, as they say. Colors in the void.

But here I am, watching ALF, and I don’t remember jack shit.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

ALF was one of the shows I always wanted to get home in time to watch, but before this experiment, I could haven’t told you anything about the show. He came from Melmac, ate cats, loved the song “Help Me, Rhonda.” What else?

It’s odd. I didn’t remember any plot lines, and, aside from the episodes I’ve now reviewed here, I still don’t. I couldn’t tell you anything that’s yet to happen in this show, even though I watched it every time it was on.

I’m tempted to just conclude that there’s a clear, qualitative reason for this: it sucked. But honestly, all kidding aside, that can’t be it. I watched plenty of lousy shows growing up, and I could still tell you at least one plot line. That’s what TV shows are, right? Little stories about a group of characters reacting to some weekly situation.

I remember Tim getting his head stuck to a table in Home Improvement. I remember Stephanie driving a car through the kitchen in Full House. I remember the Perfect Strangers staking out the newspaper office overnight to find out who stole Dmitri the sheep.

None of those were particularly good shows, but I remember them.

I still couldn’t tell you a mother fucking thing about ALF.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

A large part of that, I think, is the fact that we don’t have a group of characters reacting to a weekly situation. We have ALF, who is less a character than an anthropomorphic Jay Leno monologue that lives in a laundry basket, and a weekly target for his ostensibly wacky shenanigans.

Most sitcoms — and certainly all of the good ones — have some amount of chemistry. The actors and characters bounce off each other in sometimes predictable but still entertaining ways.

ALF forcibly restricts this from happening. Instead of characters bouncing off of each other we have them maintaining a respectful distance so that nothing will get in the way of ALF’s comedy routine.

ALF, "Don't It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?"

It’s bad writing, yes, but it’s also criminally disappointing. After all, for the millionth time, this is a show about a guy who came from space. There are so many things you can do with that; it’s a literally limitless concept. And yet it plays out in a more limited fashion than most sitcoms in general.

ALF takes up gambling. ALF sells makeup. ALF writes for a soap opera. Seeing how many episodes barely even acknowledge the fact that he’s not from this planet (and when they do it’s often for the purposes of a single throwaway gag) is a strange feeling. It’s like stumbling through a wormhole into a dimension in which the show MASH exists more or less as we know it…but the characters never mention the Korean War. Or like a version of Cheers in which nobody ever refers to the bar.

And those examples are settings. The settings of those show have more character than any of the actual characters have in ALF.

It’s clear to see why. When those shows were gestating, the creators had an idea: we’ll have this kind of show, with these kinds of characters, doing this kind of thing. That’s why even lousy shows are often memorable; they have a solid formula at their core. They know what they’re about, and while they may or may not be good at what they’re trying to do, they at least know what they’re trying to do.

ALF has no idea what it’s trying to do. It’s superficially a show about a family that lives with an alien. (Or, I guess, an alien that lives with a family.) But season one has been a weekly collision of incompatible intentions and overlapping confusions. Whereas MASH was probably conceived with certain specific, defining characteristics in mind (field hospital, gallows humor, absurdity of war, moral compass, inevitability, human stakes), ALF‘s list of defining characteristics was much shorter (a puppet, and whatever the puppet does that week).

Something like that won’t necessarily lead to a bad show, but it’s safe to say that the lack of direct focus would itself have to be a defining characteristic…a part of the show’s DNA, rather than an unfortunate byproduct of a production staff that wished it were dead.

That’s what’s frustrating about ALF: all that wasted potential. This show could have been good…but it also could have been a gloriously tone-deaf misfire. Instead it settled for a kind of intermittently competent blandness. In a word, it allowed itself to become forgettable.

I don’t think it’s coincidental that the three best episodes of season one are illustrative of richer directions this show could have taken.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

“For Your Eyes Only” explored the emotional side of what ALF’s been through. His planet is gone, everyone he’s ever known is dead, and he’s confined to a single home on an unfamiliar world, unable to make friends. Now, yes, I’m admittedly a big sap when it comes to comedies that allow themselves to explore emotional territory and delve into the psychologies of their characters, but even if we disregard that, there’s still a lot of potential in the premise. ALF desperate for companionship, for acceptance, for respect…all of that could lead to infinitely funnier situations than the guy he lives with going skydiving, or his fat neighbor burying a slab of spoiled beef. This was the first episode to pose the question of who ALF is. There should have been a lot more of that, since ALF’s extraterrestrial origin is about the only unique thing the show has to offer.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

“Going Out of My Head Over You” explored the logistics of living with a space alien. From simple things such as lying about where some hair on the couch came from to much larger inconveniences, like being unable to bring friends home, and getting driven batty by the creature’s strange quirks and habits, this too is a fruitful vein to mine for comedy. If “For Your Eyes Only” made us feel even slightly what ALF was going through, “Going Out of My Head Over You” shifts perspective and allows us to see the situation through Willie’s eyes. As it turns out, neither side is happy. ALF may be confined to the house, but because he’s there the family can’t have much of a social life either. ALF may think it’s unfair that he can’t eat the cat, but it’s the family that has to keep a close eye on him every hour of the day to prevent him from eating the cat. The central relationship of this show — ALF and Willie — is therefore defined by a sort of logistical stalemate. Each side wants it his way, neither side can have it his way, and both of them are too stubborn to meet in the middle. There are myriad ways to explore that theme satisfyingly (see any given episode of The Odd Couple), and while “Going Out of My Head Over You” absolutely does that — and also puts an unexpectedly sweet button on it — it’s an exception to the rule, suggesting a version of ALF that not only knew what it wanted to do, but knew how to do it.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

Finally, there’s “La Cuckaracha,” which explored the comic potential inherent in the simple absurdity of the show’s setup. By embracing the nonsense and — shocker! — having fun with it in the process, “La Cuckaracha” was one of ALF‘s most satisfying episodes. The two examples mentioned above pull the show into emotional and logistical territory, either of which, as we’ve seen, can work well. “La Cuckaracha” explores another area entirely, and proves that even if the writers and actors had no interest in treading relatively serious ground on a regular basis, they had another option available to them for a great sitcom: the complete dismissal of reality and characterization in favor of infective chaos. That would have been a great way to turn ALF into a memorable show, while also playing to its low-budget cheesiness and workshop-level acting quality. You can take the show seriously or not take the show seriously. Either way, it can work. The one thing that doesn’t work is taking it just seriously enough that you manage to fail on a regular basis. And that, unfortunately, is the ALF we got.

ALF, "It Isn't Easy...Bein' Green"

I have heard a few times that season two is better. Maybe it is. We’ll find out soon enough, but either way, I’m looking forward to it. Writing this series has been tremendously instructive to me as a writer. It’s one thing to watch ALF and say “this sucks.” It’s another to sit down and pull it apart, scene by scene, to figure out what’s working and what is not.

I’m grateful that I chose ALF for this project. At this point, I can hardly believe that I even posed the question of what to review. ALF just feels…correct.

It’s a show that does enough right that I get to look forward to a stray laugh or great episode, even at its lowest moments. It’s a show that does enough wrong that it’s always finding new ways to fail itself and its audience, meaning it stays pretty steady in its lousiness without growing tedious. And it’s a show that’s quirky enough that I’m surprised nobody’s given it this treatment before.

ALF, "Keepin' the Faith"

ALF is a show everybody seems to remember and everybody seems to have watched…and yet so few people seem to like it. I’d ask, “Well, why did we all watch it then?” but the fact is that I’m still watching it now.

There really is something addictive about it. We weren’t just dumb children who liked looking at a puppet; the show really is seductive in its unintentional stupidity.

I cheated slightly above; there is one specific moment I remember watching as a kid. ALF asks Willie for his wristwatch so that he can do a magic trick. Willie hands it to him, and ALF sticks the watch in a sock and smashes it with a hammer. The watch, of course, is destroyed.

My mother, watching with me, said, “Why did he give him the watch?”

And yet she was right there with me, watching this garbage every week. My brother was there, too. And my father.

And millions of others all over the world.

Not one of them could justify Willie handing ALF that watch. But all of them tuned in the following week, and the week after that.

ALF is not a good show, but like a fire at a carnival it’s a spectacular tragedy. You know the memory will fade and you know it’s healthier to just turn away…but you don’t.

At least, I didn’t.

And I won’t.

Roll on, season two.

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

Die komplette Serie, DieWell, at least slightly unexpectedly, some folks out there are willing to chip in to buy me German ALF DVDs. In my last review for season one, I said this:

If anyone out there is feeling generous enough to shell out for copies of the season two, three, and / or four boxsets that were released in Germany, I’ll use those for my reviews moving forward. The reason I specify the German releases is that those are the complete versions of the episodes…not the syndicated ones I’m reviewing here. All other regions, as far as I can tell, got these shorter edits. [...] I’m perfectly happy to keep reviewing these as they are; I just figured I’d ask.

A few folks offered to pony up to prolong my misery by several minutes per episode, culminating in commenter ERK finding this, which he says came to $66.94 after shipping. I didn’t check his math because fuck math.

So I figured I’d open the flood gates here: if you would like to donate anything to buy me die komplette serie of ALF, you can do it through PayPal. Just send whatever you’d like to send (and nothing, I want to reiterate, is a totally valid amount) to…

reed[dot]philipj[at]gmail[dot]com

From what it sounds like, if people donate I should be able to just pay the rest myself and make up the difference.

If I do find myself in possession of the rest of the episodes of this show (which the Germans refer to as The Triumph of the Willie), I will not only be able to review the complete edits moving forward, but I will also write up a bonus installment at some point, in which I review all of the scenes cut from season one. It’ll be like a clip show, but even more agonizing than usual.

Furthermore, I don’t want this thing. So after my reviews are done maybe I’ll host a raffle or a contest and give it away. We’ll see. No promises (mainly because I don’t even have the damned thing yet) but I think it’s pretty likely that I’ll manage to pass it forward to some unfortunate person who is going to have that cover art staring back at them from the shelf.

So, yes. PayPal anything you like to reed[dot]philipj[at]gmail[dot]com.

Make sure to include your name, because I’d like to thank you in some way. If you wish to remain anonymous, that’s fine too…but unless that’s the case, do make sure to let me know who you are.

And with that, I’ll leave you to consider how much money you’d like to pitch into the Make Philip Watch More of This Shitty Puppet Show fund. (I’m almost positive it’s tax deductible!)

…actually, no. I’ll leave you with this instead. THAT COVER ART YOU GUYS
ALF eyes Poland...

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