Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Futurama: Bender's Big Score

Futurama returned yesterday after a two-year hiatus in the form of a straight-to-DVD movie, Bender's Big Score. Roxanne and I watched it last night and I was pleased, although not blown away. The movie got off to a pretty slow start but I did enjoy the extended opening title sequence. After a long set up, the movie got into the meat of the story in the way that only Futurama could pull off. Without spoiling too much, just imagine lots of time travel and potential space-time paradoxes. It was interesting, but they seemed to shoehorn in a few too many of the favorite characters from the series just for the sake of putting them in the movie. They also interwove too many call backs to the series, again for the sake of putting them in the movie. It had some very funny moments in the middle but began to sag a little towards the end. There is a cliff hanger ending which I can live with knowing that another such direct-to-DVD movie will be coming soon to resolve it. Because the plan is to split this and the next three movies into twenty-two minute episodes for TV, I think it sort of damaged the continuity of the story. Rather than one long story, it had more of a mutli-part episode feel. All in all, Bender's Big Score is good, but not great. I'm sure it will grow on me as the rest of the series has and I won't complain too much because good new Futurama is better than none at all.

Notable extras on the disc are a feature length commentary by Matt Groenig, David X. Cohen, Billy West, John DiMaggio, etc. as well as a full length episode of "Everybody Loves Hypnotoad." I fast forwarded through the episode of Hypnotoad and let's just say it was funny at that speed. I haven't listened to the commentary track yet but those of the series episodes were very entertaining and insightful as I'm sure these will be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

LOST: Missing Pieces 3: "King of The Castle"

The third installment of the LOST mobisodes is out (a day late I might add) and it offers a chess game between Ben and Jack and conversation about the choice to leave the island. There isn't too much substance or character development in this missing piece, but there are a couple of nice call backs to Season 3.

Click here for "King of The Castle."

In writer's strike news, talks resumed yesterday but there is a media blackout, so I guess we'll hear something when they want us to hear something. Meanwhile, in Hawaii, production of Season 4 has been shut down since November 21. All principle photography on the first half of the season is finished and only post-production is left at this point. The strike needs to be resolved soon or I fear that the rest of Season 4 will have to be postponed until 2009(!).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Coach Mike Sherman

Texas A&M has named Mike Sherman as the new head football coach. Let's see how he stacks up on my list of criteria. Since I don't follow the NFL, it is hard for me to adequately comment of some of these criteria.

1. Not Tommy Tuberville - CHECK
2. Not Steve Spurrier - CHECK
3. Not Jimmy Johnson - CHECK
4. Not an Aggie - Offensive line coach under R.C. Slocum at A&M from 1989-93 and 1995-96; not a Aggie grad/former player but strong ties.
5. Not a "CEO" - General Manager of the Green Bay Packers organization from 2001-2004.
6. Someone who can win a bowl game. - As a head coach his playoff record was 2-4, only slightly better than recent Aggie head coaches in bowl games.
7. Someone who makes his players believe that they can beat any team on any day. - Coached the Packers to three first place finishes in the NFC North; fired after losing season.
8. Someone who shows genuine emotion on the sidelines. - Reportedly stoic.
9. Someone who isn't already a head coach at a major program. - CHECK
10. Someone who has new ideas. - To Be Determined.
11. Someone who is under forty year old. - Sherman is 53.
12. Someone who is flexible enough to make course corrections when necessary. - To Be Determined.

There are a lot of unknowns in this list, but I like that more than hiring somebody who won a national championship ten or more years ago. We all thought that Franchione was going to take us to the top within two or three years just because he had the reputation of being a "turnaround" guy. It turns out he had a couple of big playmakers that helped make the turnarounds happen in his previous jobs. In hindsight, we all set our heights too high, but we were expecting similar results to what had been achieved at earlier coaching stops. With Sherman, we will just have to wait and see. Expectations will be high, but I there a few coaches in the Big 12 who I thought were relative unknowns at the time of their hiring and a couple of them have really advanced their respective programs. Others haven't. Unfortunately, we probably won't know anything next season other than that we made the right decision to move on from the Francione era.

The important thing now is that Coach Sherman make sure to keep the recruits that we have and maybe add a few in the short time that is left. Meanwhile, he will need to hire some excellent assistant coaches to help him change the overall direction of the football program. It does concern me that he is only going to be working part-time until the end of the Houston Texans' season, but I suppose that is a sign of commitment and integrity which is something that our last coach talked a lot about but might have been somewhat lacking.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

In the Interim

Texas A&M defensive coordinator Gary Darnell has been named interim head coach for the bowl game, assuming A&M does indeed get an invitation. I guess this means that there will be no news on the head coach on Monday as many people on the internet boards have been speculating. That's probably for the best. It would be better for the regular season to be over for most schools for a couple of days to get good candidates in for interviews. I really want this to be a good hire and not to have Dollar Bill go off half-cocked in his decision just to appease the most vocal fans. But with Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan being fired, Michigan's Lloyd Carr retiring and a truly excrebale season at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis, there will be some stiff competition for good coaches in the offseason.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The End of an Error

In the days floowing yet another loss to Texas under Coach R.C. Slocum, I couldn't bear to think of another Aggie football season with him at the helm. The numbers didn't lie; A&M had been on a downward slide since 1995 with an outlier of a conference championship in 1998 that in hind site seemed more to be a result of the chemistry of the players that year than coaching. A few days later, R.C. Slocum was reassigned and the search was on for a new head coach and a new era in Aggie football. Shortly thereafter, Dennis Francione left a seemingly renewed Alabama program to turnaround the floundering A&M program. Hindsight is 20/20 and after five years in Aggieland, it appears that Fran's last season at Alabama and his previous seasons at TCU were more about the players drive and determination than anything he did as a coach or motivator.

Today, A&M is no better off than the day that Coach Fran arrived. Our record went down dramatically during his first year and then proceeded to yo-yo up and down over the next four seasons. Yes, he did helm teams that defeated Texas in consecutive years for the first time since the early '90's, but beating our rival is not the be-all end-all of Aggie football. Most fans want a team that is competitive in the Big 12 and puts themselves in a position to at least play for the Big 12 championship every year. Texas and Oklahoma have done it and, like it or not, they have raised the bar over the past decade in the Big 12 South.

Following tonight's win over Texas, Coach Dennis Franchione announced that he would be stepping down as head coach of Texas A&M. I don't think that anyone is gullible enough to believe that Fran wants to leave A&M, but the powers that be have realized that his continued tenure at A&M would only hurt the football program, and by extension the entire athletic department, more than simply starting over. I do think that it might have been better to wait a day, but on the other hand, we might as well strike while the iron is hot. This decision has been a long time coming and I know that quiet arrangements have been going on behind closed doors for a while.

There has been much talk and rumors lately about who will be the next A&M head coach and I have a few criteria that I only hope are used to winnow the field:

1. Not Tommy Tuberville
2. Not Steve Spurrier
3. Not Jimmy Johnson
4. Not an Aggie
5. Not a "CEO"
6. Someone who can win a bowl game.
7. Someone who makes his players believe that they can beat any team on any day.
8. Someone who shows genuine emotion on the sidelines.
9. Someone who isn't already a head coach at a major program.
10. Someone who has new ideas.
11. Someone who is under forty year old.
12. Someone who is flexible enough to make course corrections when necessary.

I don't want to replace one hiring mistake with another. I don't want to go for the big name. I want someone who has new ideas about the game and not someone who is so intractable in their game plans they refuse to admit their mistakes. I want someone who is inspiring and energetic. I want someone who is honest and forthcoming with their poor decisions. I want someone who really wants to make A&M a competitive program again and not just a spoiler.

Thanks for giving a go at it Coach Fran. I know that you had higher hopes when you started, but I think that your approach was a little misguided. It just didn't mesh with the established program. We gave you a good chance, but the Big 12 is a difficult conference and I think that you underestimated it a bit when you started. Thanks for playing a part in beating Texas twice but I just wanted a little more than a post-Thanksgiving win. Good luck and Gig 'Em.

Texas A&M vs. Texas

Today is a big day in Aggie football: the big rivalry game with Texas. It is also significant as it could be Coach Dennis Franchione's last day on the job. I don't know if there is really anything that can save him right now. Since his arrival at A&M, he has talked a big game but he has not coached that many. The Aggies currently have a record of 6-5 with only minimal hopes of getting an invite to a bowl game. Last year's mediocre season and Fran's job were saved by the upset victory over the Longhorns in Austin. A win this year against Texas would be great but it might just be too little too late for Fran. But alas, I get ahead of myself. Let the game be played and see where the chips fall. This one is for all the guys who go out there every weekend and play in the game!

Gig 'Em Aggies and Beat the Hell Outta tu!!!!

UPDATE: The second half just started and I have to say that I am amazed at this point by how dominant the Ags have been. Texas A&M has managed to hold the advantage at this point by a score of 17-3. We still have to wait and see what the half-time adjustments hold but things are looking pretty good for the Ags right now. Of course, Texas has been a second half team this year and there is still a lot of game left. Meanwhile, here is a picture of my dad taken on campus today just before the game started. With the score the way it is, this might not seem aprops, but it sure is funny as hell!

UPDATE: Two in a row baby!!!! Ags win by a score of 38-30! I thought that someday I would live to see the Ags beat Texas two years in a row, but I never thought it would be this year. I sort of have to feel for Francione a little because of his responses to questions in the post-game interview on the field. He didn't seem to be answering questions like he would still be the coach tomorrow. It's unfortunate, but why couldn't his teams played this well and consistently over the past five years? This team has talent and they showed what they could do if they think they can win and really want to win. I just don't understand why Fran couldn't motivate his team to play this way all year long. I'll be honest, if Fran is fired, it's going to make the Ags look like ungrateful a-holes, but if we had lost today, we would just be perennial losers. It is sad but I only hope that whatever happens over the next few days is in the best interest of the future of Aggie football. The life of a coach is hard and they know that getting into it. Tonight, Coach Fran should enjoy this win with his team and just take it one day at a time. Gig 'Em Ags!

Monday, November 19, 2007

LOST: Missing Pieces 2: "The Adventures of Hurley and Frogurt"

The second Missing Piece is out and it gives us a little scene of Hurley preparing for his ill-fated date with Libby in Season 2. We finally get a good look at Frogurt and boy is he an a-hole!

Click here for "The Adventures of Hurley and Frogurt."

Who knew that Neil Frogurt was the "Aaron Burr Got Milk" guy?!?

In other LOST news, producer/writer Carlton Cuse has gone back to least as far as doing some post-production for the eight episodes of Season 4 that are completely filmed. It is a difficult balance when you are a worker and a part of management. Another encouraging story emerged this weekend as studios and networks agreed to resume talks on November 26. Hopefully this will put and end to the writers strike and put LOST and The Office back into production.

Monday, November 12, 2007

LOST: Missing Pieces 1: "The Watch"

The producers of LOST along with ABC had planned to make the end of the long hiatus a little better by releasing a series of thirteen "missing pieces" leading up to the start of the fourth season in February. Now with the writers strike in full swing, this plan may turn a little bitter sweet if the season turns out to be cut short or even delayed. But until then, I will be checking for these weekly tidbits every Monday.

Click here for "The Watch."

The premiere piece appears to be set on the day of Jack's wedding and is a rather touching scene between Jack and his father. Enjoy and let's hope the strike gets resolved soon!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

LOST Season 4 Part I

The writers strike is taking it's toll on television as shows are shutting down production with most networks running out of new episodes by the end of the year. If the strike is still going, from there on out it will be reality TV and game shows. That is except for the two months of new episodes of LOST that will likely start in February.

ABC announced that there are eight completed episodes of Season 4 of LOST (half of the planned sixteen) and that they will be aired as planned beginning in February. From the picket lines, producer Damon Lindelof said that there is a cliffhanger at the end of the eighth episode that is planned to be resolved the following week, but if the strike continues, there could be a very long wait for that resolution. It will be irritating to say the least. LOST cliffhangers are notoriously hard to deal with even for a week, but having an indeterminate hiatus will be worse than what we have been dealing with since May. However, I would rather some new episodes of the show rather than nothing. The question is when would the second half of Season 4 air? Would it be produced and aired as soon as the strike is resolved or would it be lumped into the planned sixteen episodes of Season 5? Here's to hoping that talks will resume and this strike will be resolved before it's too late to conclude production of Season 4 of LOST in it's entirety!

Texas A&M at Missouri

Is this this last road trip for embattled Coach Fran? It looks like it might be if you believe all of the internet buzz. The problem right now is that Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne seems to be a contradiction to me. On the one hand, he is known as a no nonsense administrator and will make the decisions necessary for an athletic program to flourish. On the other hand he seems to me like he can be a stubborn a-hole on principle. However, I think that "Dollar" Bill is a smart guy and knows that if the majority of donors don't believe in Fran, there is no way that he can stay at A&M any longer. From what I am seeing, it looks like the vocal internet posters and bloggers don't want to wait until after Thanksgiving but would rather Fran's head on a platter now. But on principle, Bill Byrne will wait until after the Texas game to bring down the ax.

So is the Missouri game a forgone conclusion. I think so, but I have been wrong before. I remember when R.C. Slocum got a win against top ranked Oklahoma in his final season. But that didn't save his job. Even a win against Texas probably wouldn't save Fran's job either. It's funny because it was a loss to Missouri that sealed Slocum's fate six years ago and it looks as though it will do the same for Fran. I feel bad for the players who have supported Fran though all of this, but they have to know deep down in their hearts that things aren't working and Fran is just not a good fit for the A&M program and it's fans. I only hope that when the smoke has cleared, we haven't traded one mediocre coach for another.

(BTHO mizzou!)

UPDATE: Mizzou predictable defeated the Aggies by a score of 40-26. What more can be said?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Texas A&M at Oklahoma

The Aggies lost again last night, this time on the road in Norman, OK by a score of 42-14 the game just like I did last week since I couldn't watch live, and I promptly deleted it unwatched on Sunday morning, just like I did last week. I have no interest in breaking down the problems with the . I Tivo'dAggies right now; there are just too many. Thankfully, Roxanne and I hosted a murder mystery party last night and had great fun, otherwise it would have been a pretty miserable Saturday night in front of the TV. The silver lining to this cloud is that Fran will likely only be coaching two more games for the Aggies after which we can all move on from what has turned out to be a five year mistake. Sad but true.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Strike Is On

The Writers Guild of America voted to strike starting on Monday due to a breakdown with studios over negotiating the royalties writers receive from DVD and internet sales of TV shows and movies. The strike has been looming for months and threatened the fall TV schedule as well as spring and summer movies. Depending upon how quickly the strike is resolved, the TV season may be very short as most shows are only a few weeks ahead on production of completed scripts. Once those run out, it will be re-runs, reality shows and game shows for the duration. On top of that, late night talk shows will likely go into re-runs immediately as they are written an produced on the fly.

Although I don't watch too much TV, there are a few shows that I follow and will be disappointed if they go on a long unscheduled hiatus. Number one in my mind is The Office which has been pretty funny so far this season and has a lot of potentially good story lines developing. Of course my favorite currently airing show is LOST, but it is on a long scheduled hiatus right now while new episodes are being filmed in Hawaii. Rumor had it that only 6 or 7 of the 16 episodes slated for this season would be finished if a strike was called, but according to the LOST Blog, scripts for 14 of the episodes are done. If that is true, then LOST could end up being the only show to be airing new episodes in the spring.