Shiny Things

By BOP Staff

July 24, 2008

It's all fun and games until somebody breaks out the McConaughey. My Boys

I didn't initially warm to this sitcom, which airs Thursday evenings on TBS and is also available streaming via their Web site. Since those early days (My Boys began airing in November of 2006), the show has really found its footing, offering consistent laughs and lovable characters that give viewers a reason to keep coming back for more.

Our story centers on PJ Franklin (Jordana Spiro), a sportswriter and a bit of a tomboy whose closest friends are a group of guys - something that can occasionally make her efforts at finding love in the Windy City a bit challenging. Her "boys" include brother Andy, requisite married dude and attorney; Brendan, a hard-rock DJ and PJ's college roommate; fellow sportswriter Bobby, a guy PJ initially introduced to the group when she was crushing on him; Mike, a guy who thinks ladies love him but can't make a commitment; and Kenny, a sports memorabilia store owner who has traditionally been awkward around women (but is making a huge comeback in season two).

The camaraderie and chemistry between this group is simply undeniable. They're all having a wonderful time working together and it shows. While in the beginning the show admittedly struggled to find its footing, we're now at a point where it consistently delivers on a weekly basis. PJ's struggles to find the perfect man could easily be trite and the type of fluff displayed in any run-of-the-mill chick flick, but her character is so whip-smart and charming that it's impossible not to love her. The guys are great, too. Mike has had a lot of choice moments throughout the second season, and Kenny is so sweet that he's completely irresistible. All of the characters are given their moments to shine, and you easily feel like this is a group you would be happy to hang out with yourself.

The show is set in Chicago (a place that I am not from though many people, including my husband, frequently make this error) and it makes good use of the location. Both PJ and Bobby report on the Chicago Cubs, which means that there's a slight sports lean to the proceedings but it's not strong enough to alienate anyone who isn't a fan. For those who live in Chicago or the 'burbs (or had college roommates or friends from that area), there are some jokes that really ring true. As an example, when the group goes to Andy's suburban home for a party, Mike wears a shirt that says "Chicago" and the group busts him on it because they know he's doing it to try to impress suburban girls. I had to giggle a little bit because as someone from the farmlands of Illinois, the city guys did seem exotic and more interesting in some unexplainable way.

I'm to the point where I don't really care much about what's on television these days, but I do look forward to Thursday nights, when both My Boys and Burn Notice air. I've kept the season premiere of My Boys on my iPod so that I can watch one scene in particular whenever I need a quick pick-me-up. It's an upbeat show that will keep you smiling, and really, it's rare to find a traditional sitcom that can come close to accomplishing that these days. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
This juggling act will not end well. Good Eats

About a decade ago, Food Network premiered with our cable provider and my life has never been the same since. The network made Emeril their flagship star and he brought the crowds rolling in. He was flashy, he was showy, he made incredible food and he lasted about five years before everyone was sick of him. He's off the air now

However, in that first year, Food Network had a Christmas special and Emeril made a point of mocking one of the contributors to the Christmas Feast. The mockee was Alton Brown and his contribution was Fruitcake, I remember watching him do that and feeling offended. Not because I like fruitcake, (I don't.) but I remembered having watched Alton's fruitcake episode and it was informative, smart and funny.

That's a recurring theme for Alton - half hours of entertaining food based entertainment that stick with you constantly. I never even imagined the possibility of making waffles until Alton brought it up about a year and a half ago. Now I own a waffle iron and make waffles every other week. Alton does that to you. He shows you how to make something, entertains you while he does it and makes you confident that you can produce the things that he shows you.

Alton goes out of his way to provide the viewer with delectable and delicious recipes, but as satisfying as his food is, the real star of the show is Alton himself. He's funny, smart, approachable, driven, just ever so slightly nerdy and completely without airs. He inspires a rabid following of fans and I'm definitely one of them.

You can catch Good eats several times a week on Food Network, mostly on Saturdays and Thursdays, and he's well into his 12th season on the show with no signs of slowing down. Food Network seems to have realized that they do have a genuine star on their hands and they have rewarded him with several other shows, specials and the recurring host role on Iron Chef America. The enlarged workload on his plate doesn't seem to be slowing Alton down much as he continues to pump out smart, funny food TV with little effort.

Alton does have DVDs of his old TV shows on the Food Network Web site, but they are rather expensive. However, his show is on all the time and I recommend anyone with a TV and a TiVo to set up a season pass. The show is brilliant and it will inspire you to try new things. Give it a shot and you'll be surprised just how entertaining food can be. (Thanks to Alton.) (Scott Lumley/BOP)

Is this a cryptic clue about casting for The Riddler? The Something Store

A thousand bizarre shopping trends and gimmicks have erupted since people first figured out that you can sell things on the World Wide Web, and the vast majority of them have flopped mightily (or turned out to be some form of scam.) However, for every failure, there are some sites that are just too cool to dismiss.

Straight from the why-didn't-I-think-of-that department comes The Something Store, online at The incredibly simple business model goes like this: give them ten bucks. They'll send you something. That's it. No special deals, no items to select, no nothing. (No shipping, either.) Spend ten dollars, and you'll get something in the mail.

Just to prove to you that the somethings at hand aren't utterly worthless, the site features a Something tracker that shows some recent...somethings. They vary widely in price and usefulness (and obviously, most are worth a little less than $10,) but part of the game is that some really valuable gifts are in the mix – recent shipments have included high-end GPS units, electric razors, Magic Bullet blenders, runaway alarm clocks, silver pocket watches, and more.

The true appeal of the game is the Christmas Morning feeling – you get a present, and you don't know what it's going to be, but it'll probably be something fairly neat (and something you wouldn't necessarily have gotten for yourself.) And there's a chance you'll luck out and get something pricey for only $10.

My first something was a new set of cell/Ipod headphones. If I were slightly more employed at the moment, I'd probably already have spun the wheel again for another something. Give it a try – at worst, you're out $10 on a fun experience, at best, you'll get yourself something nice. (Sean Collier/BOP)
BOP does the weird stuff. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

What in the world is a sing-along blog? That's probably your first question. And your second is probably the more fearful thought: "Does it involve ABBA?" The answer to that one is thankfully no. In fact, describing what Dr. Horrible involves is no easy task. Imagine if you will an episode of The Tick with singing and dancing. This assumes you have watched The Tick at some point but if you haven't, consider this a bonus Shiny Thing suggestion for the week. Animated or live action, it makes no difference to me. Both are great.

But I digress.

The world's first sing-along blog is the newest magical realm invented by Joss Whedon. This is a place where stories are sung, quips are made (every eight seconds on average), and the good guy is so impossibly self-absorbed that the viewer begins to wish ill fortune upon him. In this world, a horse replaces Lex Luthor, The Joker and Chairface Chippendale as the figurehead of evil-doing. This mischievous equine nicknamed the Thoroughbred of Sin is the Sarah Jessica Parker-styled face of the Evil League of Evil, a powerful group of anarchists super-villains. Our anti-hero, the titular Dr. Horrible, seeks to join their ranks but this is not his only ambition.

Horrible also seeks to find the courage to speak to the girl of his dreams, a redheaded do-gooder named Penny (former Buffy the Vampire Slayer co-star Felicia Day) he watches at the Laundromat. She wants to help the homeless, while he wants to be brave enough to say hello. She is not averse to conversing with the goggle-bound scientist's alter ego, but as a lifelong nerd, he struggles in talking to the opposite sex. His mortal enemy (no, Johnny Snow, not you) is exactly the sort of jock who terrorized him in school and now sleeps with all the best women since they are drawn to his heroic machismo. This man is Captain Hammer (BOP fave Nathan Fillion), and Act I (of three) sees the would-be evil-doer accidentally introduce Hammer to his beloved Penny. Acts II and III involve attempts to make her realize that the good guy is, well, a stupid tool.

The story of Dr. Horrible is less important than the fact that there is singing. This may sound crazy to some of you but give me a bit of leeway here. Joss Whedon did so well on the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that theaters across the country started running midnight showings of it a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show...before the studio's execs proved once and for all that they were pinheads by shutting it down. Whedon has demonstrated some skill in the field of musical comedy, and the Ben Edlund-flavored storyline allows for some genuinely odd jokes on his part. My particular favorite is a random aside about the benefits of not having a one night stand. It'll make sense once you download the episodes and this is exactly what I am strongly recommending.

On sale now at iTunes for the price of only $3.99, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has proven to be one of the most unusual entertainment success stories in recent memory. At a few intermittent points this week, the three individual acts of this online play have comprised the top three spots on iTunes' sales charts for television. Glowing word-of-mouth from Whedon's devout fan-base (including BOP) has continued to prop up sales to the point that a DVD release is expected for the approximately 45 minutes of content. This is one of the best usages of new technology/entertainment delivery in recent memory and we heartily encourage you to take advantage by being on the cutting edge. Come on, give it a try. It's less than four dollars! (David Mumpower/BOP)
I don't think I've ever had middle sex though I have had midget sex. Middlesex

I may be six years late on this – I personally blame my overall laggardness in discovering good fiction – but boy does Jeffrey Eugenides write a heck of a novel. In this context, the book's very title describes the biological sex of lead character and narrator Calliope Stephanides. Neither male nor female, Cal suffers from a rare genetic disorder called 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, which, among other problems, causes low levels of testosterone in males and abnormal-looking genitals. So abnormal, in fact, that many children with the disorder are mistakenly raised as females – like Cal – only to possibly learn down the line that they are actually males. Middlesex details the narrator's coming-of-age story living in Detroit, from doctors' visits to first loves, and finally Cal's life abroad employed by the U.S. government.

Typical epic stories like this one focus on just one character who grows up, goes through changes and the like. What separates Middlesex from other works, though, is Eugenides' repetition of this basic formula for far more characters than merely Cal. Present-day Cal is nothing more than Middlesex's frame story. The bulk of the narrative is actually set in the past, where Cal explains the early days of his grandparents, Lefty and Desdemona, and then the same for his parents, Milton and Tessie. Only when Tessie births Cal – hundreds of pages in – is the reader finally familiarized with Cal's younger life as a female. Eugenides' style, at least here, is highly original and utterly complex, complete with flash forwards, flashbacks and effortless switches of lead characters from Cal to other members of his family.

Eugenides' debut, The Virgin Suicides, was released way back in 1993. Cinephiles would recognize that title as the basis for a well-received 1993 film adaptation by Sofia Coppola. Middlesex marks the author's second published novel to date. And it's not just the winner of a Pulitzer Prize, either. Middlesex is also a certified member of the (incredibly) prestigious Oprah's Book Club. That's how you know it's good. (Eric Hughes/BOP)



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