Monthly Archives: January 2010

Are You My Mother?

How I Met Your Mother is one of the best shows on television right now and, in a television landscape where the elite are defined by dramas (Mad Men, Dexter, LOST, Friday Night Lights…), the fact that HIMYM is still among the top shows (with a laugh track no less!) is nothing short of incredible. Its wonderful writing, unique story-telling methods, and pitch-perfect actors combine to form a show with genuine laughs, characters, and human moments. Its Arrested Development meets Friends, and I can’t get enough of it.

This season has been utterly fantastic, with only a few episodes approaching subpar for the series. It’s also advanced the plot of Ted Mosby actually finding his mother more than the other four seasons combined. Message boards across the Information Superhighway® featured a number of users who were positive that the anonymous mother was Rachel Bilson (who would have made an excellent choice) but, as we saw this week, the ex-OC-star was a red herring. The mother’s identity remains a mystery.

Figuring out this mystery is not an easy thing to do. At this point, the choice has to be perfect. Think about it: Ted Mosby has dated Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) and Stella Zinman (Sarah Chalke), and even briefly courted Amy Adams (the one who made Enchanted halfway bearable), yet none of those worked out. So it has to be someone better than Robin, an amazingly awesome character who (despite the first episode) we all assumed was the one, better than Amy Adams, who continually dazzles critics and is often singled out from asstastic movies as the one shining point, and better than Stella, who starred on Scrubs as Elliot (who was arguably the most perfect combination of smart, funny, sexy, and vulnerable ever to appear on TV).

So, what are the qualifications? Well, the actress who ultimately plays the mother has to be:

1) Someone recognizable. After the recent guests and the shows popularity, the days of Victoria from Season 1 are long gone.

2) Someone already likable. Similar to the first requirement, the actress has to be someone well-liked by TV audiences. After Robin and Ted broke up, I was disappointed and ready to attack the next girl who Ted dared to date; after all, how could she compare to Robin?? But then Sarah Chalke appeared and all was forgiven. She carried the likability from her (ongoing) stint as Elliot on Scrubs onto the show, and it worked wonders. There was no need for writers to try to make her uber-awesome or ideal – she had been doing that for seven years already.

3) Someone the right age (Ted Mosby just turned 30). This seems fairly obvious, but it does make the search that much more difficult. Sophie Marceau is amazing, but she’s also out of the age range. On the other edge of the spectrum, Keira Knightley  might pass the “half your age +7” rule, but her dating Ted would be all kinds of creepers.

As you can see, this is not an easy decision. But it’s one that I wanted to figure out, with the help of Jay-Jay Trubs. Here are some possibilities:


Natalie Portman

Why it might be her: Ummmm…It’s Natalie Portman and she’s perfect. *shakes head*

Why it’s probably not: It might be hard for her to jump from film to TV, especially if it’s something other than a small (near-cameo) role.

jessica albe

Jessica Alba

Why it might be her: Jessica Alba is hot (especially Into the Blue Jessica Alba. Yeah, that’s right, I watched the movie. I even own it! BAM!). Plus she made a foray into TV on The Office (another great show) and could probably use a break from filming a Meet the Fockers sequel. For reals.

Why it’s probably not: Jessica Alba is not the shiniest coin in the fountain and makes Hayden Christensen’s acting seem decent by comparison. She’s got nothing to offer HIMYM but looks, and there are plenty of actresses who can do more. I mean, if we’re going on hotness, why not just get that girl from Time Crimes. Oh yeah, and one more thing: Jessica Alba is not funny. She’s a beautiful woman who has been told that she is funny, which is all kinds of worse.


Mila Kunis

Why it might be her: Mila Kunis is (obviously) attractive, but she’s also hilarious. She was wonderful in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which also starred Jason Segel), she’s the right age, and would make an ideal choice…with one possible exception.

Why it might not be her: Kunis was wonderful as Rachel Jansen in Sarah Marshall, but most people still remember her as Jackie from That 70s Show. Rachel was awesome, Jackie was annoying. That would probably be the only hesitation (other than scheduling conflicts).

Those actresses definitely all have potential. However, they didn’t make the cut.

As near as Jared and I can figure (after much discussion and debate), there are two finalists who would be fantastic:


Kristen Bell

Why it could easily be her: Kristen Bell was also in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and she was also hilarious. She is beautiful, has great comedic timing, and was born in 1980. Jackpot!

The other one (and my personal favorite):


Isla Fisher

Why it could easily be her: She’s a cutie and, while she was great in Wedding Crashers (her breakout role) she was also wonderful in The Lookout (talk about underrated film!). HIMYM has had its share of dramatic moments, and someone like Fisher would have no problem playing an actual character rather than a face that appears for the first time on the final episode of the series. She’s funny, genuine, and has just enough of a low profile to be a wonderful unexpected surprise.

Much like Lily’s “front porch test,” I could easily see her with the rest of the gang at McLaren’s. I hope it’s Fisher, but knowing HIMYM it will probably be someone I’ve never even considered…and who’s better than I could have ever imagined.

Default Now!

The New York Times had an interesting article entitled “Walk Away From Your Mortgage.” In it, reporter Roger Lowenstein discussed a new phenomenon: homeowners who were voluntarily defaulting on their housing loans. Yes, voluntarily – it’s not a result of an immediate financial crisis or emergency of some sort, they don’t want to pay, so they don’t.

The same phenomenon was discussed by Megan McArdle in The Atlantic, but in the opinion piece “A New Breed of Deadbeats.” It’s pretty clear to see where she falls on the issue.

McArdle discusses the issue from a moral standpoint. She acknowledges that a vast majority of foreclosures are from people who cannot possibly pay the mortgage and therefore have no other choice to default. However, she argues that a growing number of people are trying to game the system by simply walking away from the mortgage because they owe more than the house is worth (especially after the housing market collapse on the cusp of the recession that Dennis Haysbert keeps talking about). She calls these people “morally appalling” and points out that there are a “sizable” number of people who are okay with this practice.

At first glimpse, it’s hard to see why. After all, a contract is a contract, and by voluntarily walking away from something like that while others are struggling to hang onto their homes is appalling. Or at least I thought so.

Lowenstein’s article in the Times was an interesting one in that it explained how corporations do this kind of thing “routinely.” The example given is of executives at Morgan Stanley deciding to stop making payments on a group of San Francisco office buildings (as a result of the plunging values of the buildings). Lowenstein writes, “Nobody has said Morgan Stanley is immoral – perhaps because no one assumed it was moral to begin with.” And yet, individuals are held to a morality code that doesn’t exist for businesses.

And so goes the debate. Why should homeowners not take advantage of strategic defaults when corporations have no such qualms? Of course there will be consequences (largely financial), but the disconnect remains: it’s the difference between a business decision and a moral one.

I’m honestly still divided on these so-called strategic defaults. In my ideal world, if homeowners are somehow morally obligated to hold onto (and eventually pay off) their mortgages, then no double-standard should exist. Lenders should be obligated (morally, legally, whatever) to renegotiate those mortgages if the country’s financial situation changes significantly.

But something tells me that’s not going to happen.

Best Worst Movie

Three years ago, my former roommate (and current cousin) decided to hold a movie competition. We got together, ordered pizza, and each watched our submissions. Jake’s was Gymkata, a film filled with combat so bizarre that Cracked actually featured it as the best fighting style “too awesome to actually exist.” Mine was Dracula 3000, featuring Casper “Hard Jaw” Van Dien, the long-lost Coolio, and one of the most bizarre endings in movie history. This was followed by much Patron, drunk dialing, and even drunker karaoke, and by the end of the night I was the winner. I had found that year’s best worst movie.

When asked what makes a great movie, legendary director Howard Hawks said, “Three good scenes and no bad ones.” If you think of the great films out there, Hawks is surprisingly spot-on. Unfortunately, it’s easier to find a great movie than a great bad movie.

The trick is that the bad movie has to be enjoyably bad, not just bad (like I’ve talked about scary movies). As wisely discussed on the fantastic How I Met Your Mother, when people think of the worst movie ever there are two main camps: Plan 9 from Outer Space and Manos, the Hands of Fate. Both groups have great arguments, but no consensus is ever made because they are talking past one another. Watch either one a few times (without help from the MST3K crew) and it’s clear that both movies are horrible. However, Manos is painfully bad – the plot is painful, the dubbing is like watching a foreign film without subtitles, and the film itself doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do. Plan 9, on the other hand, is the best worst movie because, at some level, it’s actually enjoyable. It’s got heart. Ed Wood was clearly going for something – he just took Suck Ave. to get there. The effects are hilarious, not pathetic. The acting is poor, but earnest. The plot is ridiculous, not stupid. And as a result, the film provides an opportunity for others to mock it (in a non-resentful way).

Jake and I tend to lean more toward the Plan 9 format. So, for our annual competition, the bad movie has to be enjoyable (e.g., Commando (which I argue is the best worst movie ever made) or Death Wish 3). As an extra twist, the movie also has to feature at least one recognizable actor/actress.

My entry this year was Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, which is a gut-wrenching tale of a mega shark fighting a giant octopus. For reals! Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that. I mean…there’s the…ummmm…I mentioned the shark, right? And the octopus? Yeah…that’s about it. Think of it like Boa vs. Python, but instead of a boa and a python, it’s an overgrown shark and a huge octopus. Awesome!

Needless to say, it’s a great bad film. It features, among other things, the giant octopus swatting a helicopter out of the air using a tentacle and it even has the mega shark attacking the Golden Gate bridge. For reals!

size mega-shark

And, for an extra bonus, it has one of the most ridiculously awesome scenes in the history of cinema. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed:

All kinds of craziness. Throw in the odd performance of Lorenzo Lamas and the romance between characters (featuring the most erotic scene since Leslie Bibb and Joshua Jackson showered together in Skulls), and I thought I had victory all but guaranteed.

Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. While Jake was blown away by the aforementioned ridiculous scene (he just stared at me in disbelief and said, “Are you going to win again this year, you SOB?”), the movie’s ridiculousness peaked too early (that scene was within the first half-hour), and so it didn’t have the impact of my epic victory from last year: Shark Attack 3: Megalodon.

It didn’t help that Jake’s film was Howling III: The Marsupials, which was hilariously bad. Granted, it didn’t feature a recognizable actor, but that was because last year my entry didn’t contain a recognizable actor (though I maintain that the actor Ryan Cutrona was recognizable, given that he was Betty Draper’s father in Mad Men, and was also in Changeling, 24, and a commercial for Cancun). This is an ongoing feud, as it was my response to the first year when Jake said his recognizable actor in Gymkata was that the film was directed by “the director who also directed Enter the Dragon.” Nice try, jackass.

IRregardless, next year we’re back on track with actor name-recognition and bad movie hilarity. One year to find the next best worst movie. I had better get started.

Stupid Playoff

It’s nearing the end of the bowl season that means everyone has a brief, precious amount of time left to complain about how college football should have a playoff system. It’s a popular sentiment and simply bringing up the BCS (more like the BS SYSTEM!!!11!!1!!!) is all but guaranteed to get plenty of irate posts. I’d love to write a piece bashing the BCS Bowl SHAM-pionship series (Zing!), but I can’t; I am one of the very few people who are publicly against a playoff.

A few of us exist. Tony Barnhart dismisses polls that show support for a playoff because those polls are too vague to actually mean anything (a good lesson for any methodology course). Stewart Mandel wisely supports a “+1” format. Even my man Pete Fiutak (hands down the best college football analyst online) has expressed unease about a playoff (though he does push for an 8-team design which seems feasible, especially when compared with the 64 team playoff (!) proposed by CBS writer Darin Darst). But for the most part, it’s easier to trash the BCS.

I could go on and on about how unique college football is. It’s a bullshit talking point, but it still has some merit: The entire college football season is a playoff. Right now I’m sickened by the talk about NFL teams who have clinched the playoff berth resting players for the final game or two of the regular season (just ask the Colts fans how that felt last week). It’s absolute bullshit and I fear it would absolutely happen in college football.

People point to the Urban Meyer/Nick Saban types who strive for perfection (no one else strives, apparently), who would want an undefeated record (much like Tim Tebow wanted this season). But the most important thing in football is winning the championship. In the NFL, no one gives a shit that New England went undefeated with one notable exception – the Giants won the Superbowl. And that’s in the NFL. In college football, an undefeated season is far from rare. In the past 20 years, there have been 22 teams who have gone undefeated. Any coach would gladly sit his starters if a college playoff spot was guaranteed, especially if players are a little dinged up.

Of course, for the first year or two, rivalries would remain upheld and announcers would pontificate about the importance of tradition in college football. However, in a world of multi-million dollar contracts, it wouldn’t be long before some coach under pressure to perform well in the playoffs decided to rest his players. Any modicum of success would be met with imitation. And suddenly the college football regular season is as boring as the college basketball regular season.

Right now the source of the excitement is watching other teams fail. I watch as much college football as I possibly can, but what really holds my attention are the upsets. USC getting the shit kicked out of it by the (at the time) unranked Oregon Ducks was fascinating because a Trojan loss all but guaranteed they would be out of the BCS picture and stuck in a lame-ass bowl game (done and done). Watching LSU lose, or Michigan or USC or Virginia Tech or Michigan or Texas or Michigan or Les Miles or Miami lose is fine and enjoyable, but watching one of those teams lose where there are serious repercussions is must-see TV. Is the Cincinnati/Pittsburgh game as exciting if the Bearcats are guaranteed a spot in a playoff? What about Nebraska/Texas?

Scrap the idea of a college football playoff and…listen closely…FIX. THE. BCS. Don’t just trash it – fix it.

By far, by FAR the worst component in the current BCS system is the human element. The polls are just awful (especially the coaches poll). For evidence, look no further than the Capital One Bowl. This year featured Penn State and LSU (ranked number 13 and 12, respectively, at the end of the season). But did either team belong? Penn State’s best win, best win, was over Minnesota. That’s rough, but it’s nothing compared to LSU, whose best games were losses to Florida and Alabama. But because their preseason rankings were so high (Penn State started off the season at #8, LSU at #11), these two were bound to end up at the top.

How do we fix this? Actually Kirk Herbstreit suggested this years ago on College Gameday: Create a panel of people who are required to watch every game every weekend. Sit them in a room with comfortable chairs and excellent food, and make sure they watch every single minute of every single game. Make sure they’re moving teams around early in the season (a la the genius of Doug Lesmerises) so that no one is guaranteed a top spot because they looked good in a bowl game 9 months earlier.

I would also love to see written decisions, like Supreme Court justices. Maybe not one for every team, but if there is a particularly controversial ranking (or if there is a close vote) the winning side would write (anonymously) why a certain team deserved a certain ranking.

I also am a firm believer in the “plus one” format, again using the same criteria as before (with the panel meeting to discuss the major bowl games to determine who deserves to challenge for the national championship).

It’s manageable, it’s something that can be adjusted if there are still issues, and it’s nothing as drastic (and overly simplistic) as the playoff cure-all.

Coach MacArthur

Mike Leach may like to think of himself as a pirate, but during this entire fiasco I could only think of him as Douglas MacArthur.

To recap: Less than a week ago, Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach came under fire for mistreating one of his players – a wide receiver named Adam James (son of ESPN analyst  Craig James). According to the accusations, Leach twice placed Adam James in a darkened shed after learning that the receiver had suffered a minor concussion. Leach was immediately suspended for his actions and, after filing a restraining order against Texas Tech University (so that he could coach in the Alamo Bowl), he was fired the next day.

Lubbock erupted. Insightful commentary (like this great piece by Jon Arnold) was rare. Leach is something of a deity down here and, to be honest, I don’t totally get it. Granted, I’m spoiled because I grew up as an Ohio State Buckeye fan, but to the outsider he’s a colorful, unique character who was good for an upset every now and then (and an inexcusable loss much more frequently). I personally didn’t care for him because I like defense, he only scheduled non-conference cupcakes to pad his numbers, and because he had Lubbock media absolutely cornered (and was a dick about it). But down here Leach was someone who brought prominence to the Red Raider football program. When the administration fired Leach, Hance and friends made a number of enemies.

Tons of keyboard commandos announced that they would be tearing up their bowl tickets (ummmm…you know you already paid for those, right?), not buying season tickets, and never donating to Texas Tech again (including one anonymous individual who gave “thousands” every year). ESPN radio programming was cancelled to allow more time for disgruntled fans to air their grievances on local talk shows. The angst was palpable, and it only grew when Leach gave a 34-minute interview to Rece Davis, during which Leach blasted both Craig and Adam James and the Tech administration.

Leach’s comments read like a list of talking points guaranteed to fire up a fan base in America. Craig James was a helicopter parent who hovered around, disrupting practices and trying to get his son more playing time. Adam James was privileged, acted entitled, and was lazy. Way to go, Leach – you should also talk about how he’s married to a welfare queen and has abortions for fun! Of course, those posting online used this as an homophobic argument for the wussification of the United States. Adam James is a coward!!11!!1!!one!! A real man would shake it off and punch the concussion out of his own head!!1!11!! Hell, James probably puts on Barry Manilow’s greatest hits, makes out with a line of dudes in his finest lace thong and then hands them all participation trophies!!!!

But I digest. Back to my comparison.

Airwaves and internet tubes are still flooded with arguments in support of Leach (with a number of amateur doctors explaining the nuance of a concussion) and few can believe he was fired for having (Adam) James placed in a shed.

That’s not why Leach was fired. Leach was fired because he was arrogant and stubborn and disobeyed his bosses. Period. General Douglas MacArthur was a hero on the rise (for a fascinating book about the man, check out William Manchester’s American Caesar) and enjoyed tremendous public support, especially after the daring Incheon Landing during the Korean War. Then, MacArthur decided to ignore Vizzini’s advice of the classic blunder…to the EXTREME (50s-style)! Sure, anyone can be involved in a land war with Asia, but MacArthur channeled his inner Max Power by basically invading China and almost starting a war. Against President Truman’s direct orders. Whoops. He’s lucky Truman didn’t nuke him.

That’s basically what happened here. Leach could have signed the apology letter to James (most likely a form letter to cover their collective legal asses), he could have explained his situation better, or he could have asked the administration for help (or forgiveness). Leach decided to go it alone, figuring that his tremendous popularity (and his own brilliance) would make him indispensable. As evidenced by MacArthur fading away, Leach was mistaken.

So stop complaining about James, stop pretending that Leach is a genius for being a pioneer in the field of concussion treatments, and just focus on the fact that Leach pissed off his bosses one too many times. It was completely preventable at a number of places, but Leach was too stubborn to take any of those offered exits. It was his fault that he’s gone.

Take solace in the fact that Leach wasn’t that great. Seriously, he wasn’t. Texas Tech was 8-4 this year, with a good win over Nebraska (who was struggling at the time) and a decent win over a drowning Oklahoma team. Last year’s victory over Texas was, without a doubt, the best game of the year (and made college football in October and November fun instead of this year’s plodding march toward predictable), but Texas Tech lost to Oklahoma by 44 points (and it wasn’t as close as the score made it seem) and choked in the Cotton Bowl against Ole Miss. More importantly, Leach went after the Miami and Washington jobs when they were on the table, and was a leading candidate for the Auburn position – he wasn’t going to be around forever, and as has been shown over and over again, Texas Tech has gone as far as it can with him.

You want to go further in the Big 12 and even nationally? Stop screwing around with half-ass replacements like former assistants or promoting in-house. Tommy Tuberville is the answer. He has expressed an interest, so bring him in. And hire him. He should have played for the championship in 2003 (13-0), has Texas ties (he was an assistant at UT), has coached almost 20 players into the NFL, and was a terror in the SEC. Throw a ton of money at Tuberville and watch the program soar. As for Leach, his spirit and support in Lubbock may never die…but it will definitely fade away.