Summertime TV

So summertime 2010 is in full swing. There seems to be weekend festivals and family BBQs nearly every week. Toss in little league baseball games, ice cream cones, and latenight swims and most of our days and nights are full.

But thanks to cable or satellite DVRs, even when we are out and about, we won’t miss some pretty good television that is on during the summer months. Though some of the major networks offer some summer viewing choices, it’s also a time for the cable channels to make a name for themselves.

Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve found to be some pretty good TV when your summer schedule allows you to kick back and take in some relaxing, enteratining shows. On Mondays ABC offers another season of ‘The Bachelorette’ at 8pm. Down to the final few weeks, this show attempts to answer the burning question, “Will these attention-crazed twenty-somethings find true love or just another gig to keep them in the spotlight?” Let’s be serious, most of the contestants on this show appear that they would not have too hard of a time on the dating scene, that is if they could pull themselves away from their own mirrors long enough (ie: Jake and Vienna). Then at 9pm NBC has the ‘Last Comic Standing’; a mixture of hilarious stand-up and reality TV. Though this, like most of the summertime shows, will not change the world, it will put a smile on viewers’ faces.

Tuesday’s find the Fox network with a pretty entertaining show airing at 8pm. ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ stars world-reknown chef Gordon Ramsey auditioning cooking contestants in a frantic 60-minutes of food preparation, meal presentation and menu organization. Ramsey is known for his borderline rude and crude approach, and viewers have been known to scream back at him through the screen. Cable network, The Food Channel has introduced a new show for the Summer 2010 season in ‘Cupcake Wars’. This has contestants from around the US competing in an elimination-style program. Most of the contestants appear to either own their own bakery or catering service, thus guaranteeing that the quality on the show is always high. Through three rounds, the four starting contestants are narrowed to the final two, where they then are asked to not only make a themed cupcake but also display them for various banquets or extravaganzas.

Wednesdays are pretty slow when it comes to new TV programming for the summer. Cue the YES Network and Yankee Baseball! Other interesting programs that appear at various times and on alternating days are ‘Pawn Stars’ and ‘American Pickers’; both airing on the History Channel, yes, I said the History Channel. ‘Pawn Stars’ is a documentary-styled program set in Las Vegas with three generations of the Harrison family offering customers money for the varied and interesting items that they bring in for appraisal, pawn, or sale. ‘American Pickers’ stars Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz and follows the two friends and business partners as they scour the country for unwanted treasures in forgotten barns and family estates. And did I mention that these are found on the History Channel?

ABC has impressed most with its Thursday night summer line up. Police drama ‘Rookie Blue’ airs at 9pm, while Reality-based ‘Boston Med’ airs at 10pm. Both are good shows that may find a slot in the Fall based on their positive summer numbers. But wait, ABC Thursdays present my favorite mindless hour of viewing—-‘Wipeout’! Hosted by John Anderson (of ESPN) and John Henson (formerly of ‘Talk Soup’), with commentary by the very attractive Jill Wagner (known for her Lincoln-Mercury commercials), ‘Wipeout’ is a wacky competition derived from hugely popular Japanese competition shows consisting of everyday people doing bizarre physical feats.

Fridays and Saturdays really don’t offer much of new programming. I guess that’s a good time to go through your DVR menu. Sundays have ‘The Next Food Network Star’ airing at 9pm, followed by ‘Design Star’ at 10pm on HGTV. Both shows are competition, reality-based programs. ‘The Next Food Network Star’ has contestants performing the culinary best for snooty judges (Yes Bobby Flay, you comes across as snooty chef on this show), as they compete for their own show on The Food Network. On ‘Design Star’, contestants compete for their own show on HGTV by designing various rooms and spaces. Like on ‘Food Star’, contestants of ‘Design Star’ must answer to arrogant judges Vern Yip and Genevieve Gorder, and the always delightful and talented (and tall) Candice Olson. Both shows leave me asking myself, “Why do all chefs smoke, and doesn’t that do something to their tastebuds?” and “Why does ‘good design’ have to be quirky and bizarre?”

So there you have it. If your busy summer schedule finds you with some time to do nothing of importance, go ahead and microwave up some popcorn and check out any of the shows just mentioned or the cable classic picks of ‘House Hunters’ or ‘Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations’. Happy viewing!

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Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’ shines

It’s been one year since the entertainment world was turned on its head with the news of the passing of Michael Jackson. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Jackson did to music in the 80’s and 90’s what Elvis and the Beatles had done in decades prior. Though over the last ten years Jackson had been talked about more for his legal and financial problems than his musical releases, he was ready to entertain the world once again with a world tour entitled ‘This Is It’.

With the launching of the ‘This Is It’ World Tour in the spring of 2009 the paparazzi frenzy began and the atmosphere around the tour took the shape of the days of ‘Thriller’. Scheduled to kick off in the summer of 2009 in London, the ‘This Is It’ tour began creating its stage, auditioning dancers, and promoting a Michael Jackson that fans had missed for nearly ten years. There was talk of new songs, remixed classics, and a revitalized King of Pop.

Then on June 25, 2009 Michael Jackson passed away due to cardiac arrest in his California home. Jackson’s death sent those around him into shock. Many associated with the tour stated that they had seen a Michael Jackson that was determined to reinvent himself and give his fans what they had grown accustom to. Nearly two months following his death, The LA County coroner declared Jackson’s death as a homicide due to a number of prescription drugs found in the superstar’s body.

With Jackson gone, the circus that had surrounded him for so many years, known as his family and handlers, became like bees to honey. As attorneys postured for various clients, claiming to be heirs to Jackson’s estate, concert dates around the world were cancelled.

However, during weeks of rehearsals leading up to the impending concert schedule and ultimate death of Jackson cameras were rolling. They captured Jackson planning every detail of the concert and choreographing each step to each beat of each song. These minutes of video at the time of filming seemed to be just a way to capture Jackson in his element. Little did anyone know that these captured moments would be the final impression of the greatest entertainer of all-time. And Michael Jackson,unknowingly, did not disappoint.

In the spring of 2010 the 2-hour film “This Is It” hit theatres around the world. Though it became one of the most viewed concert films ever, it didn’t overwhelm the entertainment world. However, now with the first anniversary of Jackson’s death the film is being sold at video stores and being shown on the Starz cable movie channel to much acclaim. It was on a rainy evening a couple weeks ago that I was channel surfing and stumbled onto the movie. Not expecting a lot from the movie, I settled in and quickly found myself becoming emmersed in the show by Jackson’s meticulous work-ethic, and one-of-a-kind talent. “This Is It” is magnificent! It shows the King of Pop at his finest. It chronicles an entertainer in his true element. It shows the world that even with all the turmoil that surrounded the star, Michael Jackson was most at peace when he was on stage and performing like no one else.

“This Is It” not only contains all of Jackson’s hits from “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” to “Billie Jean”, but also a segment which he had planned to pay tribute to the hits of the Jackson Five. Interviews with concert promoters, choreographers, band and dance members of the tour, and personal friends of the 50-year old Jackson are also documented.

Without a doubt, “This Is It” will entertain even the slighest fan of Michael Jackson. And after watching the  nearly 120-minutes of Jackson at his finest, one will understand why Jackson’s music is being purchased at a rate we haven’t seen for over ten years. For more information on the DVD and Blu-Ray visit www.thisisitmovieondvd.com .

After not expecting to be wowed at the beginning of “This Is It”, I can’t speak about this documentary/concert footage enough. It  becomes obvious that on that fateful day in June 2009 the world not only lost a once-in-a -lifetime entertainer, but it lost one of the great humanitarians of his time, while being tormented by the ghouls of his own stardom. As one of his hits was titled, Michael Jackson was “Gone Too Soon”.