Psych - USA Network
I hate this show. Shawn Spencer (James Roday, pictured middle above), the pretend psychic, is obnoxiously cocky and every episode is the same exact scenario but with a different crime setting, kind of like a recurring Saturday Night Live character who does the same shtick but against different backgrounds. I just can't believe the other characters buy his act and I can't believe the viewers don't get tired of it. But then again, I detest arrogant smart-aleck men.
Spencer was trained as an expert observer by his cop father, Henry Spencer (Corbin Bernsen, pictured above left). The oh-so-sly "wax-on-wax-off" wisdom passed down from father to son show up in flashbacks such as little Shawn wanting the toy prize in a box of cereal, but sadly resigning himself to eat the whole darn box. Lo and behold, the father flips the box upside down and now the prize is on top. That makes him smarter than the poor real-life cops Spencer tortures? Apparently it qualifies him to pretend to be a psychic private investigator, but he really just pays attention to obvious clues, like unbuttoned shirts or what have you, that anyone with two eyes can plainly see. Except for the bumbling police, that is. Tedious.
Dulé Hill (pictured above right) plays Spencer's weary, stereotypically comic-relief partner Gus, who keeps saying this is the last time he'll put up with their extreme antics, but you know it's not true. They've got a show to sell. Just not to me. Great shows get axed ("Arrested Development"), but this one gets to stay. I even strongly prefer the universally panned "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", also nixed.
James Roday - Shawn Spencer (21 episodes, 2006-2007)
Dulé Hill ... Burton 'Gus' Guster
Timothy Omundson ... Carlton Lassiter
Corbin Bernsen ... Henry Spencer
Maggie Lawson ... Juliet O'Hara
Kirsten Nelson ... Karen Vick
Liam James ... Young Shawn
Sage Brocklebank ... Buzz McNab
Mel Damski (3 episodes, 2006-2007)
Michael Zinberg (3 episodes, 2006-2007)
John Landis (2 episodes, 2007)
Tim Matheson (2 episodes, 2007)
Steve Franks (21 episodes, 2006-2007)
Andy Berman (5 episodes, 2006-2007)
Kerry Lenhart (2 episodes, 2006-2007)
Anupam Nigam (2 episodes, 2006-2007)
John J. Sakmar (2 episodes, 2006-2007)
Douglas Steinberg (2 episodes, 2006-2007)
James Roday (2 episodes, 2007)
Saturday Night Live - The Complete First Season Read more!
Psych - USA Network
Monk - USA Network
"Monk" is in its sixth and possibly weaker season, but Tony Shalhoub is still amazing as the multi-neurotic former Detective Adrian Monk. Never having recovered from his wife's murder, Monk lives in isolated fear of everything, venturing forth to brilliantly solve every crime and inspiring loyalty among his peeps, even while driving them all crazy.
Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard) is Monk's current and very patient assistant ever since his previous employee, Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram from "There's-no-crying-in-baseball 'A League of Their Own'"), supposedly quit and moved away, though in real life there were rumors of a contract dispute. Ted Levine finally sheds his creepy serial killer from "Silence of the Lambs" as Captain Leland Stottlemeyer, Monk's loyal friend and supervisor and a man of integrity and dignity. His assistant Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) is less dignified and often the bumbling comic relief. John Tuturro is Monk's brother Adrian, and is even more reclusive and odd than Adrian himself. Monk's father Jack (Dan Hedaya) even makes an appearance to bond briefly with his son in an especially touching episode. Of special note is guest star Tim Bagley as Harold Krenshaw, Monk's rival and nemesis as fellow neurosis patient. A delightful comedian from the famous Groundlings troupe and years on "Will and Grace", his facial expressions enhance all of his scenes with Shalhoub. Then there's Monk's quietly steadfast therapist Dr. Kroger (Stanley Kamel). It's a great cast overall.
Monk is an intriguing character and well worth watching. Hopefully, season seven will step up the pace a bit (the writers do seem a bit tired and less sharp this time around). Sometimes the murderer is painfully clear and you can see what's coming a mile away. But the show is not so much plot based as it is more character based. Shalhoub gives us a fresh look at dysfunction and while the show is mostly a comedy, his performance is still dimensional enough to make him quite vulnerably human and that's why we keep tuning in.
Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) Former police detective
Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard) Assistant to Adrian Monk
Julie Teeger (Emmy Clarke) Student, daughter of Natalie Teeger
Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) SFPD Police captain
Lieutenant Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) SFPD Police lieutenant
Dr. Charles Kroger (Stanley Kamel) Adrian Monk's psychiatrist
Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram) Former Assistant to Adrian Monk
Ambrose Monk (John Tuturro) Brother to Adrian Monk
Jack Monk (Dan Hedaya) Father to Adrian and Ambrose Monk
Series Directed by:
Randall Zisk (23 episodes, 2002-2007)
Jerry Levine (11 episodes, 2003-2006)
Andre Belgrader (6 episodes, 2004-2007)
Anthony R. Palmieri (3 episodes, 2005-2007)
Ron Underwood (2 episodes, 2003)
Stephen Surjik (2 episodes, 2006)
Wendey Stanzler (2 episodes, 2007)
Michael W. Watkins (2 episodes, 2007)
Adam Arkin (1 episode, 2002)
Jefery Levy (1 episode, 2006)
Andy Breckman (30 episodes, 2002-2007)
Daniel Dratch (10 episodes, 2003-2006)
Joe Toplyn (6 episodes, 2004-2007)
David Breckman (4 episodes, 2006-2007)
Tom Scharpling (4 episodes, 2006)
Lee Goldberg (3 episodes, 2003-2006)
Daniel Gaeta (3 episodes, 2006-2007)
Peter Wolk (3 episodes, 2006-2007)
Nell Scovell (2 episodes, 2005)
Jonathan Collier (2 episodes, 2006-2007)
Jack Bernstein (2 episodes, 2006)
Hy Conrad (2 episodes, 2006)
Michael Angeli (1 episode, 2003)
William Rabkin (1 episode, 2006)
The First One:
Monk - Season One Read more!
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
a kate west review
directed by Brianna Lee Johnson
a Tall Blonde Productions and Hollywood Forever Production
at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038
running June 22 - July 29, 2007, most Fridays and Saturdays
contact http://shakespeareinthecemetery.com/; tix $20; free parking
Primarily the resting place of a host of late celebrities, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery also houses an outdoor summer film hot spot (http://www.cinespia.org). And now apparently it also offers up Shakespeare in the Park, or rather, in the Cemetery, the latest production being "Hamlet". "Hamlet", of course, is the famous Shakespearean play in which the late Danish King's son Hamlet spends five acts agonizing over how to avenge his father's death and rescue his mother from the clutches of her new husband, Hamlet's uncle, the cowardly villain responsible for murdering his father. For the two people who haven't seen or read about it, everyone ends up dead in the end and then the new order takes over and cleans up the town. And there are a lot of fun duels, scorned love and family angst in between.
In this production, Director Brianna Lee Johnson sets up the outdoor scene with some pre-show vignettes of Danish life in 1300 A.D. Various actors weave in and around the set, (complete with a stone pond), and although slightly annoying in its seeming aimlessness, it fits in more or less with the park atmosphere. The play finally opens (late) with the royal guards (Stephen Steelman, John Pick, etc.) establishing that the late King's ghost has been appearing mysteriously about Elsinore. After the play's initial build up, the subsequent appearance of the Ghost (Derek Long) is slightly disappointing, as the actor is a bit stiff, so to speak. In fact, the majority of the actors rush their lines, paying little heed to the subtle nuances of the Bard's poetic language.
A blond and earnest Dean Chekvala plays Hamlet, heir to the Denmark throne. He's not terrible, but suffers from the same superficiality as the rest of the cast, giving equal measure to each line and not delving into context. Also, it is often difficult to hear him, due to his tendency to rush. The plot unfolds fairly quickly; Hamlet swears vengeance on his uncle and tortures his long-suffering love, Ophelia (Sarah Utterback, of television's "Grey's Anatomy"). She also merely skims the surface of the role, indicating rather than portraying genuine emotion, especially in the "Get thee to a Nunnery" scene where Hamlet cruelly spurns her. Granted, that particular night, three raccoons came out of hiding and played in the pond, right in the front of the action, so the audience was distracted. Without animals, however, the actors still don't fully hold our attention.
Hamlet decides to begin acting mad, in order to confuse his family, begging the age old question of whether or not he's faking or actually becomes mad. The famous "To Be or Not To Be" speech supposedly conveys his unwillingness to take action and his frank reflections of death, but again, Chekvala rushes it, so it is virtually missed. The evil uncle, Claudius (York Griffith, also stiff), conspires with his new wife Gertrude (played with uninspiring shallowness by Katherine Brandt, also co-producer) to discover Hamlet's true character motivations. Things escalate until Hamlet is finally spurned to action, but kills the wrong man, murdering Polonious, his sweetheart's bumbling innocent old father.
To sum up briefly, Laertes (Zach Alden) returns from school abroad to avenge his sister's suicide and father's murder, Gertrude repents her hasty marriage much too late, Claudius is finally murdered, Gertrude poisoned and Laertes stabbed, after confessing the poison conspiracy to Hamlet, who naturally dies soon after.
Apparently her first foray into Bardland, the director really needed to push her actors more, especially since they expend so much energy projecting outdoors that all subtlety is lost. The sole actor who understands Shakespearean language at all is Sean Sellars, who plays Polonius, father to Ophelia and Laertes. His is a multi-dimensional, researched character, which provided much-needed, although brief comic relief. It is puzzling as to why Johnson cast a younger actor made up to look older, rather than just an older actor, however Sellars makes the part his own, and is a definite audience pleaser.
This must remain an unofficial review, however, since this reviewer did not stay past intermission. It may have very well turned into brilliance in the end, but it is highly doubtful. Although, there was a real pond for Ophelia to drown in and a real crypt for the actors to be backlit against. The actors did have a nice procession to it in the beginning. They had already demonstrated focusing action off to the side wall and elsewhere on the lawn. The Players who come in to act out Hamlet's pre-planned accusations, for instance, played against that wall, but then it was a bit difficult to look behind you and then back to the front of the stage. Everything seemed too far apart for comfort. But that was the least of the production's problems.
Hamlet (Folger Shakespeare Library)
Grey's Anatomy - The Complete First Season Read more!
The Simpsons Movie
a kate west favorite
It's only been a couple of decades in the making, but The Simpsons Movie is finally here! My brother and I have pretty much every episode memorized, between the two of us, so this is big deal for me. So much of my daily vocabulary is thanks to them. Mmmmm! D'oh! Woo-hoo! Mmh-mmh-mmh? (how does one spell that, anyway?) Excellent! Hah-hah! And HA! I'm a fan, in the very fanatic sense of the word. I even went to a Kwik-E-Mart early one Saturday morning to try a squishee. And the next day I had a pink doughnut. Mmmmm. Sometimes I'm mercilessly drawn to pop culture consumerism. I designed a Simpsons character for Kate West. See?
Anyway, I had great fun at the movie. It's one big long episode, really, but that's the fun of The Simpsons. We love them and want to see them in their element, with Homer doing something colossally stupid, this time on pretty much a national scale. He ruins the environment in Springfield, causing the evil government, run by Arnold Schwarzenegger (NOT Rainier Wolfcastle), to put a dome over the town. His family escapes through a sinkhole before the town can lynch him and they end up in Alaska, of all places. The main voice actors are featured, and I'm sure many people will complain about not seeing enough of their favorites, but the movie runs under two hours, so they can't fit everyone in. It's nice to see Bart appreciating Flanders, for once, and to see Marge being open and emotional with Homer. (You know all will be forgiven in the end, right?) The regular scenes are morphed into bigger emotional arcs, fit for the big screen. Fun sight gags and satirical references (you'll love "Spider-Pig" - so gloriously dumb), and of course you have to stay for the end credits. Well, I didn't, but that's not your problem.
Voice Actors in the Movie:
Julie Kavner as Marge
Nancy Cartwright as Bart/Maggie/Ralph/Nelson/Todd Flanders/TV Daughter/Woman on Phone
Yeardley Smith as Lisa
Harry Shearer as Scratchy/Mr. Burns/Rev. Lovejoy/Ned Flanders/Lenny/Skull/President Arnold Schwarzenegger/Kent Brockman/Principal Skinner/Dr. Hibbert/Smithers/Toll Booth Man/Guard/Otto/Kang
Hank Azaria as Professor Frink/Comic Book Guy/Moe/Chief Wiggum/Lou/Carl/Cletus/Bumblebee Man/Male EPA Worker/Dome Depot Announcer/Kissing Cop/Carnival Barker/Counter Man/Apu/Drederick Tatum/Sea Captain/EPA Passenger/Robot/Dr. Nick
Marcia Wallace as Mrs. Krabappel
Billie Joe Armstrong as Himself
Tre Cool as Himself (Green Day) (voice) (as Frank Edwin Wright III)
Mike Dirnt as Himself (voice) (as Michael Pritchard)
Tress MacNeille as Sweet Old Lady/Colin/Mrs. Skinner/Nelson's Mother/Pig/Cat Lady/Female EPA Worker/G.P.S. Woman/Cookie Kwan/Lindsey Naegle/TV Son/Medicine Woman/Girl on Phone
Pamela Hayden as Milhouse/Rod Flanders
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony
Albert Brooks as Russ Cargill (voice) (as A. Brooks)
Russi Taylor as Martin
James L. Brooks (screenplay) &
Matt Groening (screenplay) &
Al Jean (screenplay) &
Ian Maxtone-Graham (screenplay) &
George Meyer (screenplay) &
David Mirkin (screenplay) &
Mike Reiss (screenplay) &
Mike Scully (screenplay) &
Matt Selman (screenplay) &
John Swartzwelder (screenplay) &
Jon Vitti (screenplay)
Joel Cohen (consultant writer) &
John Frink (consultant writer) &
Tim Long (consultant writer) &
Worth seeing for Simpsons fans. And if you are one of the remaining holdouts and have never seens a Simpsons episode, you may as well start with this:
The Simpsons - The Complete First Season
www.simpsonizeme.com Read more!
a kate west review
music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; book by George Furth
direction & musical staging b y John Doyle
at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th Street, New York, NY
contact (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250 OR Telecharge.com or http://www.companyonbroadway.com/tickets.htm; running through June 2007
The latest Broadway revival is Stephen Sondheim's "Company", featuring actors becoming their own orchestra, playing various musical instruments on stage. This may seem innovative at first, until one realizes that the actors in last year's "Sweeney Todd" revival (another Sondheim musical) also played instruments in a daring new modern take. A bit of a disappointing revelation.
Raúl Esparaza is Robert, a declared bachelor constantly bombarded by well-meaning friends trying to set him up on dates to put an end to what they perceive as his loneliness. He gets conflicting advice, however, as some of the longer-term relationships suffer from a bit of malaise and envious friends consider him lucky to be single. Women drift in and out of his life, while Robert wrestles with the idea of getting married, finally deciding that it's enough to live life ("Being Alive"). Esparaza is quite a gifted performer, but even he cannot rise above the slightly tedious material.
Barbara Walsh, Keith Buterbaugh, Matt Castle, Robert Cunningham, Angel Desai, Jane Pfitsch (in this particular performance), Amy Justman, Heather Laws, Fred Rose, Bruce Sabath and Elizabeth Stanley are among the strong ensemble that tries to help Robert figure out his life. There are also many lyrically moving pieces to aid him, including "The Ladies Who Lunch" (the deep toned Barbara Walsh), "Another Hundred People" (feisty Angel Desai) and lighter, quirkier pieces like "Getting Married Today" in which the company performs a wedding, alternating between doubt and delight. However, in general, the idea that relationships are difficult is not new.
Also, David Gallo's minimalist black and white plastic set design does not really do anything to promote the story, other than provide a mood gimmick, similar to the actors playing instruments. The latter, while showcasing versatility (actors really can sing, dance and push a cello at the same time), does not add any kind of dimension either. Also, the drinks are pretend, but the cigarettes are real. Huh?
Well directed by John Doyle, "Company" is beautifully musical as are most Sondheim pieces, but rather light on interesting plot. A character study from several points of view, it's overall feeling of depression does not inspire any new revelations on the dating world. Dating is hard, relationships harder, but presumably worth it in the end. Not particularly worth the $100 Broadway ticket, expect for die-hard Sondheim fans, determined to see every work in every era, no matter from what decade.
Company (2006 Broadway Revival Cast) Read more!