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Six fun ways to survive the dregs of summer TV

Attention, entertainment junkies: Here’s six fun ideas of things you can do instead of suffering through bad late summer movies and TV. Plus: props for ”Burn Notice,” the five least intimidating superheroes, and your mail

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What's Happening!!: Everett Collection

Six fun ways to survive the dregs of summer TV

It’s the end of summer. You should be reveling in your final days of long weekends, strolls on the beach, romantic candlelit dinners under a massive full moon…. I’m not exactly sure how and why this column just turned into a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie, but the point is, you should be happy. But you’re not, are you? That’s because we’re entertainment junkies, and the end of August is one big withdrawal spell. Your new movie options basically consist of Samuel L. Jackson pretending to be a homeless guy pretending to be a championship boxer, or something called Balls of Fury. Meanwhile, your TV choices boil down to David Duchovny throwing himself an invitation-only pity party and a wrestler moonlighting as a newscaster (wait, scratch that — Anchorwoman got canceled already). Music, you ask? Well, this week offered us such gems as the oxymoronic Ringo Starr best-of collection, as well as the Scorpions and American Idol reject Carmen Rasmusen (unfortunately, not together). But fret not, I got your fix right here — a list of activities to keep you feelin’ groovy until we all overdose on the new crop of upcoming movie, TV, and music offerings of the fall. Here’s six surefire ways to pass the time.

· Get your local video store to hold a midnight Friday Night Lights DVD-release party so you can honor one of the finest seasons in TV history. Then apologize to the store manager for the fact that no one else showed up while explaining that the set actually came out a week ago and that you were also lying about Harry Potter being the Dillon Panthers’ second-string QB.

· While you’re hiding from the manager at the midnight FNL DVD-release party, also pick up Showtime’s Brotherhood, which actually does feature someone from Harry Potter — Lucius Malfoy (a.k.a. Jason Isaacs). Spend hours trying to convince everyone how gripping it is, and to tune in when it returns Sept. 30. Receive blank stares in return.

· Persuade the 1977 lineup of the Doobie Brothers to reunite, and then strap a tape recorder roughly the size of Texas to your belt as you attempt to bootleg their concert. Watch the show come to a full stop when your recorder flies to the floor after ”Takin’ It to the Streets,” revealing your insidious plot to a stunned band and audience. Stand tall in your stylish red beret, knowing that you have single-handedly just brought the second most awesome episode of What’s Happening!! back to glorious life. Next up: the time Rerun joined a lettuce-worshipping cult.

· Go Jenny Craig crazy as you watch Valerie Bertinelli and Kirstie Alley contract and expand while you rapidly shift the aspect ratio on your high-definition TV between standard size and wide screen. Warning: Results not typical.

· Be a good Samaritan. Do one of the following for a celebrity in need: (1) Stage a Crappy Movie Intervention for Daddy Day Camp‘s Cuba Gooding Jr. (2) Allow shunned Van Halen member Michael Anthony to relive past glory by rigging a wire contraption in your backyard so he can fly across with his Jack Daniel’s bass to the sweet sounds of ”Panama” anytime he’s feeling a little blue. (3) Buy Foxy Brown a new BlackBerry with a service plan that covers for loss or damages incurred while being used to (”allegedly”) whack a neighbor upside the head. Upon presenting, ask Foxy if she has any idea why What’s Happening!! ends in two exclamation points instead of a single question mark. Shield face.

· Go in the basement. Plug in a guitar. Record a few songs. Release it under the title Chinese Democracy. Make millions.

NEXT PAGE: A Burn Notice obsession and The Five Least Intimidating Superheroes of All Time

OBSESSION OF THE WEEK
You readers (as well as several coworkers) have been imploring me to get on the Burn Notice bandwagon. I had caught the pilot when it first came on, felt it was fine, but didn’t think a whole lot more about it. Which is surprising, considering it stars Bruce Campbell, who, as you may know, I’m slightly obsessed with…in a stalkerish kind of way. In any event, I checked it out again the other night and have this to say — you were right! It’s not terribly imaginative or complex, but it is a lot of fun. And I’ve liked lead Jeffrey Donovan ever since he starred in USA’s incredibly underrated Touching Evil. He and Campbell play well off each other, but then again, who doesn’t play well off Bruce Campbell? I have to say, I am a bit confused as to why in the pilot Gabrielle Anwar spoke with a horribly fake Irish accent yet now sounds like any plain-Jane American broad, but I’m willing to overlook it. All an all, the show makes for a really nice, breezy summer entry. My bad for ignoring it.

THE FIVE
This week: The Five Least Intimidating Superheroes of All Time

1. Captain Nice
First of all, the name doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of bad guys. The fact that he was afraid of heights doesn’t help either.

2. Manimal
A college professor who can morph into various animals I guess is kinda cool if you’re trying to foil a pet-store robbery or something.

3. The Greatest American Hero
For chrissakes, learn how to fly, man! Enough with the ”no manual” excuse. Plus, it’s hard to get respect with a blond Afro.

4. Electra Woman
Not gonna lie — love the costume. But she didn’t have any superpowers, except the patience to endure her annoying sidekick, Dyna Girl.

5. M.A.N.T.I.S.
I suppose the exoskeleton suit is intended to look all badass, but I can’t help but start humming ”Mr. Roboto” every time I see it.

NEXT PAGE: Dalton answers your letters

READER MAIL
Admitting you have a problem is always the first step. Fellow DVD addicts wrote in to share their horror stories of wasting good time and money on DVD sets in response to last week’s column.

I couldn’t agree with you more on the TV on DVD dilemma. They’re all out at once, and I can’t possibly watch all the ones I need to by the time new episodes start airing. Worse in my case, I tend to not watch much new TV (eek) and wait until I KNOW the show’s worth watching to tune in. So I’m going to be watching Ugly Betty, Heroes, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, etc. for the first time. I don’t know if my Blockbuster card can handle it. —Kat Murray

Well, if you’re watching them all for the first time, then you are truly in for a treat, Kat. In fact, you’re likely to get so sucked in by all of them that you’ll most likely never see daylight again, meaning you can then audition to be on CBS’ new vampire drama Moonlight. If it’s still on the air. Which it probably won’t be. Better come up with a Plan B.

My DVDs are getting out of control. The main problem is that I can’t seem to pass up a deal. A movie ticket these days costs $7.50-$10, and if you wait a couple months after a DVD goes on sale, it will eventually be on sale at Best Buy, Circuit City, or Target for $7.50-$10. And you can watch it as many times as you want! And you don’t have to leave the comfort of your couch to watch it! Oh, what a deal! How could I pass it up?! With so many exclamation points, I couldn’t. And then there are movies I actually really like instead of the ones I would be okay with watching once and never again. Movies like Serenity, which I already own, but now they just came out with a new fancy-pants version that I’ll probably have to end up buying too. Any movie that has a one-disc version and a two-disc version sends me into a rage. How could I buy a one-disc version of something, knowing I’m missing out on a whole disc of special features (that I’d probably never watch, but never mind that)? But TV is getting to be the worst on DVD because there is just so much. My most embarrassing is my CSI collection. You see, I have heard many good things about CSI. And when a full season set, which is a full 20-some hours of TV, goes on sale for $20…well, it must be mine. So yes, I own the first 5 seasons of CSI. They are all unopened. I’ve never even seen the show. Not at all. I haven’t even caught a rerun on cable while channel-surfing or something. It’s completely crazy. —Justin Huneycutt

I hear ya on a few of these points, Justin. I too went through that ”deal frenzy” phase where I bought basically anything that was under $15. Why? Because it was under $15! This was especially dangerous in the early days of DVD back in the 1990s, when new websites were practically giving the damn things away with crazy coupons. I also have fallen prey to the craving of owning multiple editions of the same film. Regular Version, Special Edition, Extended Cut, Director’s Cut, Collector’s Edition — I have them all. I have to have them. And yet they make me miserable. Go figure.

Anyone who disses Flight of the Conchords or My Boys needs to be slapped or at the very least, have television-watching privileges revoked. I mean honestly, aren’t you people supposed to be professionals? Don’t let them get away with that nonsense, Dalton. Just don’t. —Drew Halstead

As much as I would like to stomp anyone who disagrees with me into the ground with their wrongness, the variety of opinions at EW is what makes it such a fun (and yes, sometimes combative) place to work. You wouldn’t believe some of the debates we’ve had over the new fall shows. Big Bang Theory, Pushing Daisies, Kid Nation, and Gossip Girl have garnered the most argument. I may not always agree with my colleagues, but I always enjoy sharing our often polar-opposite takes on entertainment.

Hey, Dalton, please don’t ever stop saying ”handy-dandy form below.” —Sandra

Why would I?!? You have to admit, it is handy, being right there on the page. And the fact that you can fill it out and click on a button to send immediate correspondence is most definitely dandy. Truth in advertising, baby!

That’s it for this week. Have some other techniques for getting through these last dog days of summer? Remember a lame TV superhero that I overlooked? Thoughts on Gabrielle Anwar’s disappearing accent? Send your questions, comments, and quibbles to theglutton@ew.com, or just fill out the, yes, handy-dandy form below. See ya next week!

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