the Buzz for October 1st, 2010



Now this is more like it: as is typical of this time of year, the last three weeks of September 2010 have been positively bustling with activity, the primary point of interest of which is the latest full-season DVD release of the program that gets my whole-hearted vote as the most hilarious sitcom in television history.
Get comfy — this might just be the longest record store report in the Buzz’s history (so long, in fact, it took me all three weeks to get the damned thing written!) — and dig in:


Of the series’ seven seasons (which originally aired from 1987-1993), number three remains the strongest and most satisfying in my never-to-be-humble opinion (an opinion that was reinforced, incidentally, when I re-watched them all in their original running order on DVD last spring). But you should not at all read into that statement that
The Complete Fourth Season of that classic CBS situation comedy Designing Women — which, full disclosure and all, I am ecstatic to be watching as I type this — is entirely devoid of perks and charms. Quite the contrary: among this sterling new four-disc collection of twenty-eight episodes (including a special one-hour show celebrating the birth of Charlene’s daughter, and a hilarious hour-long clip reel retrospective, a slightly longer version of which was shown during a 1990 Museum of Television and Radio event honoring the series), you’ll find some of the most uproariously funny installments Women ever turned in — including my all-time favorite episode (“Oh, What a Feeling,” which finds Julia and the gang racing the clock to purchase a van before midnight) as well as “Julia Gets Her Head Stuck in a Fence” (a rip-roaring broad comic showcase for the peerless Dixie Carter), “Nightmare from Hee Haw” (which entangles the women and their beaus with a toothless band of backwoods Georgia hillbillies), and “La Place Sans Souci” (where the gals find themselves in a vicious mud fight while supposedly relaxing at a spa) — not to mention enough sight gags and comic bits — Bernice’s Christmas tree skirt, Suzanne’s mink coat (which she gets trapped in after spraining her arm), and the hilarious revelation that Bill Clinton, Fred Smith, and Sam Walton are all friends of Charlene’s — to keep you in stitches for months.
(Also new on the TV-on-DVD front:

  • season four of Tina Fey’s masterful farce 30 Rock

  • the terrific third season of ABC’s underappreciated
    Grey’s Anatomy spinoff Private Practice

  • season three of what is currently television’s
    top-rated situation comedy, The Big Bang Theory

  • and, finally, the monstrously successful, Emmy-winning debut season
    of prime-time’s most undeniable cultural phenom, Glee.)

In a massive departure from his day job as the leader of Snow Patrol, Gary Lightbody has recruited something of an indie-rock all-star team for his new side project, Tired Pony: drummer Richard Colburn (of Belle and Sebastian fame), guitarist Peter Buck (a founding member of R.E.M.), and special guests M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel (better known, at least musically, as She & Him) and Tom Smith (of Editors) help Lightbody bring to life the band’s debut outing, The Place We Ran From. Lightbody’s stated goal with Tired Pony was to make a very American record, something more organic in the vein of Wilco (as opposed to Snow Patrol’s typical angst-packed anthemic bombast, which can be wonderful and wearying in equal doses), and one cursory listen reveals that, on that count, Place is a smashing success: enveloped by the natural light of loose, lovely instrumentation, Gary’s voice morphs into a tender, curious, achingly brilliant beacon.
Lend this your ears; I strongly doubt you’ll walk away disappointed.




cast of Glee — “Toxic” (from Toxic [Glee Cast Version]) — Toxic

Despite my level best efforts over the past five-plus years to change his mind, A thinks television is crass and evil, and has painfully little use for it. (As a child of television and a lifelong fan, this breaks my heart into about thirty-four pieces, but given that we share a gorgeous home which has inside its walls a total of three working flat-screens and a large-screen console, I have nobly managed to navigate past his reticence and get on with my own fandom.) There is, of course, one notable exception to his credo: all action — and I do mean all — grinds to a screeching halt in this house whenever Fox’s demented sophomore smash Glee is on. I’m not sure if it’s the program’s indiscriminate use of song or its brightness-drenched color palette that turns him on so (and I invite him to explicate further in this post’s comments, if he’s so inclined), but I know that I’ve never seen him get so excited about a silly television series — and believe me, I have exposed this man to the medium’s best of the best over the half-decade I’ve known him! — as he does about this one. Personally, even though I can generally take or leave individual episodes of the series, I understand completely why the show is such a sensation — by and large, Glee is a fun, frothy hour of pure escapism, punctuated both by moments of wrenchingly acute emotional power, and of snidely presented, thoroughly over-the-top situations and scenarios, each oddly juxtaposed against the other (sometimes in the same scene!) — and I’m man enough to admit that there are occasions — as in this week’s Britney-centric hour, which found the characters fantasizing about walking a mile in Ms. Spears’ shoes — where the work these people are turning in is so blistering, and so crazily creative, that even my old, cold heart starts to sing.