December 15, 2013

"Blood vs. Water", Sweat, and Tears: Tyson Apostol, Sole Survivor

Another Survivor finale has come and gone, and with it, a season with far less familial drama than promised, yet far more fascinating than I expected.

I wasn't looking forward to this season. But that's because I expected it to be a month-long "loved-one visit" episode. It wasn't that at all. By my tally, "blood" only really came up against "water" twice this season: when Rupert took Laura's place on Redemption, and when Ciera voted out her mother. There weren't any other points of choice in the game where it was either family or tribe. It was primarily every man for himself. And really, when the points of choice did arise, it was really more Blood vs. $1 million, wasn't it? Now, I don't know if it was odd or inevitable that no pair of "loved ones" were found among the final three - or even the final four or five - but fewer chances for those tough decisions made this season a lot more like seasons past than I expected.

Though it wasn't hard to be less emotion-laden than last season's final tribal, I still was surprised poor Monica faced so much criticism. Cut the nice lady a break! (She does win my worst-secret keeper award, though. Honestly, does she have to answer every single question Jeff asks at tribal council?) And don't forget that everything you say at tribal is a double-edged sword. For example, you want to tell them you made a big move worth a million dollars, but you don't want telling them that you were the mastermind behind their demise to ultimately hurt you.

Aras asked the best jury question I've ever heard. Although, I suspect Tyson's win was sealed before Gervase and Monica admitted to Aras that he was the one who should win. And he was. There was no question that he played a better game than the two he sat beside. With the exception of Ciera, he probably played a better game than anyone sitting on the jury either. Tyson was right to credit Monica's hand in his win. Monica's continuous (though uninventive) loyalty to her alliance with the coconut bandits kept Tyson in the game far longer than he may have deserved, particularly since it was Monica who possessed the challenge prowess. Then again, Tyson knew how to win the necklace when he had to. I believe that his tearful breakdown over his lovely girlfriend Rachel was authentic, and it balanced out his confidence in his own gameplay quite nicely. His final remarks were well-constructed. He would have convinced me to vote for him.

While this season was no Caramoan, it did prove that the creators of Survivor know how to put together a show that's still interesting after 27 seasons. Even with the same players, it's a new game every time.

Coming this February - Survivor: Braun vs. Brains vs. Beauty. Here's hoping that's 1 part NFL, 1 part Jeopardy and 1 part America's Next Top Model. Seriously. I'd like to see Brad Culpepper play against Ken Jennings and Tyra Banks. ;)

December 11, 2013

The Sound of Music Live! Review

When I heard that NBC was planning a live performance of The Sound of Music, I was like: 

And now that I've seen the whole special, had countless conversations with friends and on social media about it, and read some of the myriad scathing reviews, I'm exhausted. I feel like this:

Now, despite the gifs above, it's obviously not fair to compare NBC's "Live!" special to the classic movie. Rather, the Carrie Underwood fronted performance was true to the script of the original stage play. So to those of you complaining about added or missing songs, ease off a little. (And besides, did you really want to hear Carrie attempt "I Have Confidence"? Didn't think so.) 

That said, I'm not going to write anything more here about the acting or the singing, because all that needs to be said about those things has been said elsewhere. Instead, I want to respond to all my fellow musical theatre aficionados. 

Some are asking why NBC would even attempt this bound-to-fail endeavor. Others are just glad that live musical theatre was presented to a wider audience.

The Sound of Music Live! garnered harsh criticism before it even aired. And it begs the question why the network and producers would even try something that was sure to pale in comparison to the well-known and beloved movie. The answer is obvious - NBC, floundering as it is, needed the viewership boost. And when Wal-Mart sponsorship money is what you're after, quality falls by the wayside. So while there were aspects of the show that were very good, they were overshadowed by the very bad. Like the microphone problems, mismatched cast, and the obvious fact that the actors couldn't see the orchestra conductor (several songs contained blatant timing errors.) And when you want to get viewers, of course you'll cast the country superstar instead of a seasoned, tested Broadway performer. (Personally, I would have liked to see Megan Hilty cast alongside her fellow Smash alum Christian Borle. But she wouldn't have brought the viewers NBC needed.)

So no, I can't say I'm glad this is how NBC chose to present musical theatre to the public at large. Did we want to give the nation the impression that this is what theatre is? Did this special remotely do justice to the live musical theatre experience? Of course not. And that's because, aside from all the problems heretofore mentioned, a "live" production on television removes something that sets live theatre apart: the audience in the room. Stage plays and musicals are written to be complemented by the energy of a live audience. When you take that away, of course you are left with something stiff.

So stop blaming Carrie Underwood. And stop blaming "all those songs they added and changed." (They didn't.) The Sound of Music Live! faltered first and foremost because of its format. Everything else fell apart afterward. This isn't to say that televised musical theatre can't be well done. Check out the post in which I write about Live from Lincoln Center's production of Carousel to read about and watch Rodgers and Hammerstein done right. (And take note of the seats filled in the room.)

It doesn't matter how many viewers tuned in. The Sound of Music Live! was still missing an audience. 

December 5, 2013

Survivor: "Rustle Feathers" Review

Last night's tribal council tiebreaker was so unusual, I'm still working through what happened in my head. And Jeff Probst is still tweeting clarifications this morning.

The real winner in the episode was the editing. Who in the audience had ANY idea that votes would be cast for Monica? That Ciera would make that seemingly 360-degree turn? None. Or at least, none who didn't watch any of the promos. As the episode progressed, all the confessionals wherein Ciera claimed sole allegiance to Tyson were highlighted, and any where she may have swayed were omitted.

Poor Tyson. He was playing a heck of a game until his cocky attitude at tribal (and around camp) began to lose him any jury votes he may otherwise have received. I can't help but sympathize with him, because I get annoyed when people mis-quote common idioms, too. I really can't blame him for correcting all the "rustling" of feathers that was happening last night. And poor Katie! The tribe didn't even speak and she was sent packing. Ciera, though. Ciera may have just won this whole thing. If she can stay in the game long enough for her big move to have meant anything. (You Malcolm fans out there know what I'm talkin'bout.) In my opinion, her fate will also depend on whether her mother stays out of the game from now on, too.

Here's what I'm really wondering. At this point, doesn't it sort of behoove any of the remaining players to go to the end with Tyson? I mean, he won't get any votes from the jury, if their facial expressions are any indication. And with a hidden idol in his pocket… er… shorts, Tyson doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon anyway. Hang in there Hayden and Ciera. You're the forces to be reckoned with now.