The first Swedish pop/jazz/hip-hop group to get the Colbert Bump, Movits made their US television debut on The Colbert Report in 2009:
It was one of the most captivating, interesting and entertaining live music performances on TV. And now Movits are back with a new album, set to drop in the US on April 5 and frenetically awesome new video for the album’s lead single, Sammy Davis Jr:
Movits! – “Sammy Davis Jr.” from The Syndicate on Vimeo.
The American Museum of Natural History is one of my absolute favorite places in New York. It was by far my favorite field trip destination in elementary school and continues to be one of my favorite museums in the world. It not only makes science accessible and fun, but has managed to stay largely the same, even while updating to reflect new scientific discoveries. Although if all of the exhibit halls are updated, like the dinosaur and ocean life exhibits, the nostalgic aspects of the New York state or minerals halls provide a comforting continuity.
So I was excited that my application to come to the museum’s first tweetup event to promote the new exhibit on the brain, Brain: The Inside Story The exhibit is very well-done and offers an accessible and comprehensive introduction to neuroscience. It is more interactive than typical for the Natural History museum, which is fortunate that they will be doing the limited timed admission. Make sure to leave enough time (or get tickets online in advance) to be able to schedule an appointment to see the exhibit.
It is certainly a worthwhile exhibit to use as a reason to get back to the Museum of Natural History.
The tweetup event allowed a fairly small group of Twitterers to see the exhibit and chat with the curators and scientists who directed the exhibit. Even more exciting, they brought us on a tour of some areas of the museum that are closed to the public.
Besides being one of the best museums in New York, the American Museum of Natural History is also a serious, major scientific institution, employing more than 200 scientists and housing an enormous collection of specimens. The displays in the museum only hold a small percentage of the collection.
Photos from the fifth floor tour follow after the break.
Britain and the US are often called two nations divided by a common language. British culture, particularly television doesn’t always click with American audiences and adaptations of British series for US television often lose much of the charm of the original in attempting to broaden appeal for us Yanks. (The Office is one of the rare exceptions where the adaptation is worth watching.)
Top Gear has a huge following worldwide because it completely reinvented the way of making a show about cars. Instead of simply reviewing cars, like PBS’s Motorweek, the BBC’s Top Gear aims to make an entertaining show that involves cars and occasionally actually reviews cars.
The strong personality of lead presenter Jeremy Clarkson dominates Top Gear. He’s big, loud, brash and has his own iconoclastic point of view. Any adapatation of Top Gear is going to come up short in finding a host as fitting for the role as Clarkson and also in replicating the chemistry between Clarkson and his co-presenters. The curmudgeonly and vaguely artsy James May represents the opposite brained approach to Clarkson’s while Richard Hammond is the affable everyman, usually standing in as the voice of reason.
Because Top Gear is on public broadcaster, it is not beholden to advertisers and the show isn’t afraid to review cars poorly. In fact, the show relishes in trashing cars (both critically and literally.) Top Gear is so far off-brand (and expensive) for American PBS, it might have to be watered down for broadcast or basic cable to appease advertisers.
But as great and as British Top Gear is, an American Top Gear could be even better. Clarkson, Hammond, May and The Stig revel in speed, power and destruction — all things that we do better in America. America has a rich car culture to draw on. While Britain’s nanny state mentality towards auto regulation and congestion pricing provide targets for Clarkson to demonize and rail against, there’s enough of that in America to use as a scapegoat, but there’s also a freer spirit of American motoring.
From the sizzle reel showed at the top of the show, it looks like the History Channel’s Top Gear is going to be borrowing liberally from the BBC’s archive of challenges. The big film of the first episode pitted a Dodge Viper against a Cobra attack helicopter, in a film inspired by Clarkson’s review of the Lotus Exige pitted against a Apache helicopter gunship. Top Gear USA will subject some of Detroit’s finest creations to the British Leyland water challenge. And that could be a good thing, because the American iteration of the challenges may well be bigger than the British originals. But although this one was nicely filmed, it didn’t really bring anything new to the table. And while the British version highlighted how nimble the Exige is, the US take showed that the Dodge Viper is powerful and clumsy. It might be that the US version may be trying to force square pegs into round holes in order to fit into the Top Gear template rather than create films and challenges that are truly American.
But that’s the nature of the adaptation process. The pilot episode of the US Office was a near line for line rehash of the UK Office’s pilot. And the reason that the US version is a success is because of how quickly it stepped away from that. Steve Carrell plays with Michael Scott a naivete that runs counter to David Brent’s malicious streak. Top Gear US will have to find its own identity. It will retain the lavish cinematography that makes it identifiably Top Gear, but hopefully find a viewpoint that reflects its place in American car culture.
A big part of that is developing the hosts’ on-screen personas. It took some time for Top Gear to develop the chemistry between its three presenters; James May didn’t even come in to the show until the second season. Fortunately, the US hosts aren’t simply aping the personalities of the British hosts. In fact, they’re going for a completely different paradigm, which gives me hope that Top Gear USA can find its way.
But what does Top Gear have to do with history? Given that one of the other History Channel shows advertised during Top Gear was Ice Road Truckers, does the History Channel show any programming that’s related to history in any way whatsoever? If Top Gear is a breakout success, how long will it be before the History Channel goes through some kind of SyFy-like rebranding?
To adapt a beloved, original show is always a challenge between maintaining the elements that work and not simply copying for the sake of copying. There has to be a reason for making the adaptation. The US version can in fact have a reason for existing and after the first episode is not a complete embarassment. Which is probably a passing grade.
Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter, Top Gear — TV Review “The two most important things to know about History Channel’s American import of the British sensation ‘Top Gear’: First, no, it’s not as good as the original. Second, the new version does not — in the parlance of those worried souls who keep asking — suck.”
Jalopnik, First Drive: Top Gear USA “It’s stretching the capabilities of understatement to say that the domestic edition of Top Gear has a great deal of work cut out for it. The original BBC production is a bona-fide sensation, a hit with people who don’t even like cars. At its best, it’s pitch-perfect, with the casual banter between the hosts, the high production values, and the obvious love of everything automotive combining into something really magic. It’s lightning in a bottle, and there’s really nothing else like it. Except now, of course, the History Channel is trying to make something just like it. And judging from the three episodes we saw, they certainly have their work cut out for them.”
For someone who watches way too much television, a full week of having a vague semblance of a life results in using a lazy Friday night in for a major TV catchup day/weekend. And I might as well blog the binge watching.
How major is this undertaking? Pretty much the only show I’ve kept up on is The Daily Show and Colbert Report. A quick look through what’s sitting unwatched on my TiVo:
30 for 30 (x3)
Boardwalk Empire (x7)
Bored to Death
Burn Notice (x2)
How I Met Your Mother (x2)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Sons of Anarchy (x23 yes, 23: some of those aren’t on the TiVo itself, but I just finished season 1 and started season 2 on Blu-Ray and recorded so far all of this season)
South Park (x3)
The Amazing Race
The Office (x3)
The Walking Dead (x3)
Community – “Conspiracy Theories and Soft Defenses”
Community continues its run as one of the strongest comedies of the year. And while not quite as epic as Epidemiology 206 or Modern Warfare, it was as effective of a parody of the conspiracy thriller genre while also managing to focus on the characters and be hilariously funny. By making some things small scale, such as with the miniature car bomb, setting the big chase scene in a blanket fortress, and making the conspiracy about a single credit, Community manages to poke fun at the tropes of the conspiracy genre without losing focus on the characters and, in this episode, the relationship between Jeff and Annie and how they relate to rules. In the absence of Parks and Recreation, Community has effectively become the overall best comedy on television right now.
30 Rock – “College”
In part, having the hilarious Community as a lead-in really does help putting 30 Rock in a more positive light, just like a stand-up comic is always funnier after a great warm-up act. But this season has been a return to form. This season has focused more on Liz and Jack and used Jenna and Kenneth sparingly.
Terriers – “Asunder”
Wow, this show is simply great. Hank and Britt are two very human characters, well acted by Donal Logue and Michael Raymond James. Theirs is the epic bromance of this TV season. But the show is also wonderfully Lebowski-esque, with Hank and Britt out of their depth in noir-ish plots. But what makes the show effective is that Hank is not The Dude. He’s actually competent at being a detective. He wants to be a better person, despite realize the shortcomings that led him to where he is. Having Britt and Katie’s most important conversation happen off camera was an especially effective way to making the moment more powerful than even the best dialogue and acting could have been. This is not only the best new show of the season, but may be the top show of the season to date.
Bored to Death – “Super Ray is Mortal”
Does enjoyment of Bored to Death decrease the further you are from Grand Army Plaza? There’s no show that’s more Brooklyn than Bored to Death. The trio of Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifinakis are perfect as the leads and John Hodgman is always enjoyable as Jonathan’s nemesis. It’s a shame that the season is so short.
Modern Family – “Manny Get Your Gun”
This is the first Modern Family episode of the season that really clicked for me, probably because it centered around Manny acting like a ten year old going into a midlife crisis.
South Park – “Creme Fraiche”
South Park taking on America’s obsession with food television and the shake weight may not have been their most effective episode ever, but it was decently funny.
How I Met Your Mother – “Natural History”
Bob Odenkirk is always enjoyable whenever he shows up on TV. And while Marshall’s boss at GNB isn’t quite as complete of a character as Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman, his HIMYM character is fine in small doses. More effective was the Barney story and revelation. It nicely subverted the expectation that the whale story was something that Barney simply made up and paid the guard to find in the files, but completely subverted the levity of that storyline. While the show is obviously best when it is succeeds at being funny, like The Office, I’m fine with an episode of HIMYM that advances the story and connects emotionally with the characters without being all that funny.
And that’s it for the night. Wow, was that a big concentrated dose of television, without even delving too deeply into the heavier material in Boardwalk Empire or Sons of Anarchy. Or even accounting for the second half of Justified’s first season that’s been sitting around for months. To be continued….
When we at Buzz Rant & Rave World HQ realized that CMJ was coming up again, the response was distinctly unenthusiastic. While it’s great to have the festival atmosphere along with all of the opportunities for afternoon drinking, as a festival, it’s never been the reason for many interesting and unique collaborations or bills that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Generally, the promoters and venues book acts who they would normally host on a typical bill (or would like to.) As we’ve gotten further from college age, the presence of all of the college radio programmers makes us feel old at the festival. And it encourages the annoying music blogger groupthink that’s turned us off from reading too many music blogs. Despite all of these drawbacks, it’s still an important presence in the NYC music scene and perhaps the best indie music festival after SXSW.
In years past, we’ve spent more time plotting out a schedule with a detailed timeline to hit as many showcases as possible. Unlike the last couple of years, when we analyzed trends in band names, we barely glanced through the roster this year (see Music Snobbery’s review of some of the weird, strange and usual of this year.) But the CMJ experience this year involved much more random sampling of bands playing in venues we like at convenient times, especially scheduled to fit around other non-CMJ social plans. But we still had the opportunity to catch some highlights.
The single best act I saw during the festival was Australia’s Philadelphia Grand Jury. They played a LOT during the week, but I caught them at the I Rock I Roll day party at The Delancey on Saturday afternoon. If Flight of the Conchords self-aware, funny and humble pop music represents New Zealand, Philadelphia Grand Jury (or the Philly J’s) are the embodiment of Flight of the Conchords’ TV show take on Australians: raucous, loud and brash– unchecked id. Unlike many of the bands to play NYC in general and CMJ specifically, Philadelphia Grand Jury wasn’t afraid to have fun. They announced every song as “[their] favorite song and the best song.” The band members all jumped out on stage, into the crowd and had fun, despite some issues with the mic stands unable to stand up to the frenzy. They’re a do-not-miss act the next time they’re back in NYC.
Earlier that afternoon, Ted Leo played a solo set at Public Assembly. He’s one of the few artists who can play a solo set that’s sufficiently rocking to be fun and engaging. The Brutalist Bricks has grown tremendously on me to become not only one of my favorite Ted Leo albums, but one of my favorites of the year. Catchy, diverse, incisive and rocking.
Earlier in the week, just down the block from Public Assembly on North 6th Street in Williamsburg, Screaming Females put on an impressive set at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Although the band’s name is both descriptive and misleading: there’s only a single screaming female in Screaming Females, they’re still great. A classic power trio with dynamic and virtuostic guitar playing. Punk rock and lyrical, epic guitar soloing usually exist in opposite corners of the rock and roll universe, but Marissa Paternoster brings it together in a fresh and exciting way.
Lost’s sixth season felt more aimless than previous ones. in large part, this was probably because the show is far better at raising questions than doing anything else. But the need to preserve a sense of mystery made the pacing of the whole season feel off. Parts of the plot felt completely stagnant, while other elements felt rushed and glossed over. And even though the season contained many good story elements, another pass might have made everything fit together better so that all of the pieces mattered.
And before we get into the details, I’ll reiterate that Lost remains one of my favorite shows of all time. So here are a few thoughts about the overall structure of the sixth season and questions the series left unanswered, slapped together after the jump…
The Heavy brought their US tour to the Bowery Ballroom for the first of two shows in New York City this week and the energy was consistently high. Supplementing their core quartet with loops and samples as well as a pair of backup singers and some Dap King horns, The Heavy tore through a fun, danceable set of songs, closing the set with “How You Like Me Now,” which has become a fixture on the airwaves, largely as the soundtrack to a Kia commercial.
Besides a deep love of soul music and impeccable influences, The Heavy makes its mark largely on the charisma of frontman Kelvin Swaby, who controls the stage with presence. Even though the group had a lot of energy, I’m not sure that the band grooved less than they might have because of the drum loops and samples that anchored a number of the songs.
After a brisk two song encore (closing with the high energy “Oh No, Not You Again”), the band left the stage again with the lights low and the audience applauding for an encore. But after a couple of minutes anticipation the house lights and music came up, indicating that the show was in fact over.
Of all the shows that I’ve seen over the last decade or so at Bowery Ballroom, this was one of the only ones where the sound was less then impeccable. The room sounded boomier and less crisp than usual. Openers The Black Hollies played with a mix that emphasized the guitar and minimized the vocals and bass. This was all very out of character for Bowery, which is typically the best sounding room in the city.
The Heavy will be back at Bowery on Wednesday, although it is already sold out. More photos follow after the break.
Previously: Heavy Indicia.
The House That Dirt Built: Vinyl CD MP3
With “Full Measures,” Breaking Bad wrapped up its third season confident of its place as the best drama on television all year. With one of the most focused and intense episodes, season three concluded with a bang.
Check the temperature of your tea and enter spoiler country after the break…