Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Saved by the Bell: The College Years

"Cause we're standing at the edge of tomorrow . . .today, today, today."

Regrettably, the College Years did not last long. It's model seemed to be almost perfect. For years Saved by the Bell built up an incredibly loyal fan base of people who were with the show for 6 - 7 years of them being in junior high and high school. And, the fan base was getting older, and no matter how naive the new generations would be, the kids were just getting too old to be in high school. So, you class up the show a little bit, make it less ridiculous, get a higher production value and put it on in primetime where the loyal fanbase will watch the show, and maybe they could even get new viewers to watch, too.

And, you know what? They did. They cut AC Slater's hair and actually put him in hooded sweatshirts and dressed him like a human being. Zack Morris grew out his hair like a rebellious college lad. Screech was still goofy but became less of a caricature of a nerd and more of a character. They lived near girls in a dorm which was obviously the most unrealistic dorm set up of all time (a communal area that's as big as a mansion family room with full fridge and kitchen that they get to share with 3 decent looking girls), and a large RA played by the indomitable Bob Golic; their opening theme song was an actual (terrible) song, and they played music that wasn't just Peter Engel's synthesizer. There were some legitimately very good and entertaining episodes: When Dr. Laske had Zack do an assignment on what women actually want, was funny and interesting throughout. They had Kelly come back and get involved with Dr. Laske which was a masterstroke.

However, the problem was, with all of the realism and production value, Saved by the Bell stayed afraid to make "that leap" into real college life. In the high school Saved by the Bell, the world that was created was SO incredibly odd that nothing seemed out of place. Let's see, they f-around with the principle, spend all their time at some school affiliated burger-joint, are never in class, everyone in the school is either "the gang" or a nerd (and the occasional jock), and Zack Morris can stop time. Nothing about that place had any semblance of normalcy, so it's fine the students didn't drink, didn't get into trouble,didn't have any form of sex, had essentially zero pressures other than the occasional test or break-up. We could all accept that.

And, the thing is, I don't think they would have had to make it as racy as Animal House or even Fox's old show "Undeclared." But they needed more of an ackowledgement; or avoid the whole thing altogether. In the pilot episode, Bob Golic makes a bunch of hard-ass rules that there will be "no partying and no drinking" in his hall. So, of course, Zack throws a party right away. All of this is fine. Then while Zack is walking around the party, he sees a guy drinking a beer and STEALS IT AWAY FROM HIM and tells him not to drink. Now, honestly, some people in college don't have sex all the time, some people in college don't drink, not everyone wakes up in a pile of vomit; but NO ONE would throw a party and be mad that someone was drinking beer in college. I don't care if Betty Ford threw a goddamn party in college, no one's getting mad at someone for bringing beer to a party in college unless it would be advertised as a no beer party.

Then, in a later party, Zack throws a RAVE for chrissake. A rave. Now, I have never been to a rave. But here's what I know about them:
1) They play raver music (Paul Oakenfeld?)
2) Wear raver clothes (Baggy electric orange parachute pants?)
3) Do raver dances (glowsticks?)
4) Do raver drugs (ecstasy?)
Even in this episode is a kind of funny storyline about Screech getting some kids nitrous oxide from the chemistry lab (he actually accidentally gets them helium). It's not bad; Screech is trying to be cool and gets involved with some kids who are cool and like drugs. Fine, reasonable enough. There's even a nice scene where AC Slater steps up to these kids to protect Screech from taking a beating. However, Slater also goes upto him and tells him how how nitrous is dangerous or some shit from an after-school special. Slater . .YOU'RE AT A RAVE you're friend hosted. He should have said "You probably shouldn't steal from your lab cause you're on scholarship." Hey, College Years, you can't have a rave without raver kids and drugs and Zack can't host it.
I think, feasibly, College Years could have avoided these issues. But you can't have parties and raves and then moralize about them. It's far too akward. (Also, we all know Zack would have drank heavily. He would have essentially been his character from Dead Man on Campus. And, on second thought, didn't Van Wilder essentially steal Zack Morris' character from Dead Man on Campus does anyone care about this? Since they are both delightful movies I guess not.)

That was the fatal flaw of the College Years: this is why college aged kids tuned out. The students started to look and act a little more like real people, but they completely overlooked the aspect of beer in the American college experience. They even could have gotten away with this if they stayed away from the notion of parties all together. They could have danced around that issue and had Zack battling with the professor and the dean, having daytime schemes, injuring his knee, working in the hospital, Slater trying to cut weight for the wrestling team. I think there was actually enough material for a show that totally ignored drinking and drugs. But they walked a stupid line that gave college and high school aged students a glimpse of real life, but then perversed it into Saved by the Bell world.

- Anthony

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NFL: Part 2

Rookie of the Year:
Reggie Bush - In a rookie class that has had more immediate impact stars than any other (Devin Hester, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Marques Colston), Reggie Bush has been the one constant threat from the start of the year to the finish. I was watching some of the Saints first game at Slugger's in Chicago and caught some of the Saints game, and right away Reggie Bush was catching passes, picking up third downs, and drawing double teams. Though his stats aren't as impressive as Colston's, Colston rarely drew even the team's second best cornerback, and it's not exactly like the Saints offense has been powerless without him. Reggie has been there all year, and though his numbers are not spectacular - no other rookie has made such an impact.


For those of you who read Bill Simmons' columns on ESPN, we all know him as consistently good, occasionally awful, and every once in a while, utterly brilliant.


This article on Allen Iverson is so good, it makes me wonder sometimes why anyone else even tries to write.



As a tribute to the one of the best shows on television, here is part 1 of my NFL rundown:

MVP award: Frankly, I don't watch enough game film to consider the value of offensive lineman, and it's sure tough to figure out defensive value; so we're going to go ahead and limit this to offensive skill players.

1) LaDainian Tomlinson - For a while, everyone was arguing whether or not we should call Tomlinson "LT." Maybe we should start thinking of a new nickname for Lawrence Taylor instead. Watching him play has always been a joy, and the touchdown record is only a part of it. No one in history has had a better size, speed, vision, throwing, blocking combination than LT. He has officially entered the Faulk vs Sanders debate of best RB in my lifetime.

2) Drew Brees - 2008's Sportsman of the Year is in second place. Somewhere along the line, this guy has developed balls the size of watermelons and the ability to hit Devery Henderson in double coverage. So, I'll take the bait. I am somewhat lukewarm on him being in second on this ballot, because anyone who watches the Saints play know that Reggie Bush and Sean Payton are the stars of that team. But Brees directs all the moving parts of that expertly called offense with at least as much aplomb as Peyton Manning has this year.

3) Chad Johnson - He leads the AFC in receiving yards for the 4th straight year, and even the whole NFL. This is without getting any accurate balls thrown to him over the first 8 games of the season. He has made more unbelievable catches to keep drives alive against double coverage this year, including a 4th and 1 diving catch on a 33 yard pass at the end of the Panthers game to keep the Bengals season alive. If Carson had been healthy this year, he might be stalking Jerry Rice's magic 1800 yard number.

4) Vince Young - He really could be number one on this list. No player has meant more to his team this year than VY. Who knows how great he will become, but he has singlehandedly turned around a franchise which had been moribund of late.

5) Frank Gore - Why over LJ? Let's see, KC has had a top 5 rusher for the past 5 years whether it's Priest or LJ or whoever. Frank Gore was playing with a developing QB, a rookie tight end, Antonio Bryant as a top wideout.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Greasing and Grinding my Gears: Random thoughts since the Michigan OSU game.

Stuff that's Grinding my gears:

  • The Coaches Poll: Honestly, I don't think the coaches "screwed" Michigan at all. I think they changed their minds after Florida beat another good team. The worst thing about the Coaches Poll, is that there really isn't anyone in the world LESS qualified to rank teams than Division 1-A football coaches. Here is probably a normal day from a college football coach: Wake up, drink coffee, go over film, meet with coaches to draw up days' practices, meet with players, have 3 - 4 hour practice, watch film of practice, meet with coaches to watch more film, attend alumni/booster function, drink, go to sleep. Honestly, these guys have zero time to make any sort of educated decision on who is 1 - 5. To bitch that the coaches intentionally screwed Michigan is missing the point: they have no time to form an opinion. Secondly, COACHES ARE FRIENDS WITH OTHER COACHES AND OTHER PLAYERS!!!!! Honestly, if you're very best friend is Urban Meyer, you're going to vote for Florida; if you recruited and had a great relationship with a player from another team or used to coach him; YOU'RE GOING TO VOTE FOR HIM!! This is not an evil response; it's a natural human response. You have no real time to examine both teams' season, so you'll go with a relationship you have. It's very normal and very flawed.
  • Michigan fans bitching about the BCS/Urban Meyer: Urban Meyer was trying to do everything he could to have his players play for a national title. In a political system he behaved like a politician, and made himself look arrogant to do it. He was on a campaign because he believes, rightly or wrongly, the SEC is much much better than any other conference. The BCS has always sucked, Michigan's last two games were beating Ball State by 8 at home and losing to OSU. Lloyd handled the BCS questions with class and dignity - the way Lloyd handles most things. We cost OSU a number of shots at the title in the '90s, and they never got a rematch. Also, the absolute worst thing I've ever heard are Michigan fans saying they're ROOTING for OSU!!! What the hell? Seriously? Or, Michigan fans saying. "OSU is going to F-ing kill Florida." Like it or not, Florida is either the best or second best team OSU has faced this year and they're doing it on a neutral field. All of the idiots who are spending so much time saying how Florida is going to get rocked are setting up a perfect argument for the BCS if Florida wins: "Look we got it right." Me, I think Florida has a hell of a shot, and OSU could maybe blow out Florida. Neither result is a vindication for Michigan or the BCS. NEITHER! If we deserved to go; we deserved to go, no matter what happens in this game. Just get over it; buy a Florida t-shirt and root for the gators. If you really care about the national title more than the Michigan-OSU rivalry, only way we have a glimmer of hope at the title is to kill USC in the Rose Bowl. If you're still upset about losing to OSU -- fine; but get over complaining about a flawed system.
  • Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett: WHY HAVEN'T THE T-WOLVES TRADED FOR IVERSON YET?!?! They can put Foye, McCants, Mike James, Ricky Davis, and a first and second round pick in a deal, right? DO IT!! Trade anyone to get AI. There have never been two players more suited to play with one another. Both have huge hearts and are ultra competitive. Both make up for the other's weakness. KG can guard three positions solidly, rebound like a fiend, plays efficiently, doesn't take bad shots almost to a fault and sometimes turns invisible late in games on offense. AI can't rebound and can't really defend. But, immediately they have a player who will take the big shots at the end of game, and a guy who can get easy shots for the team's lesser role players. KG is a fine passer, but he can't attract three perimeter players like AI and drop something underneath for a Mark Blount slam like AI can. He gives the squad a legitimate playmaker that will make everyone else better. He can score and run a fast break. Would just be phenomenal move for the Wolves. And we really need them to play together so we can start evaluating their place in history - especially you, KG.
  • Living in Chicago/hearing about Rex Grossman: Good Lord there are a bunch of idiots talking about Rex in this goddamn city, and I've heard more explanations about his pitfalls than I could ever hope, too. When, in fact, the reason he is struggling is pretty clear: he's Jeff Blake. Rex threw a good deep ball early on, and Bernard Berrian was making plays he can't make consistently. You take away the deep ball, and he has to start making accurate throws 8 yards down the field that he can't make. He's short, and he's not mobile. And, if you're Chicago, you have to give Rex at least a game off, and let Griese complete shorter passes. If not, they're idiots.
  • Michael Irvin/Terrell Owens: Complaining about TO is as stupid as complaining about the BCS; the media's obsessed with him. You just have to deal with it. The problem is that people like Irvin are still calling TO a phenomenal playmaker or a top 5 receiver. Can we all please realize that he's 33 years old, and isn't the guy he was in his prime (which was the Super Bowl year with the Eagles). He was only mildly interesting when he was great (the Sharpie was funny. . what the hell else has he done?). Yet, ESPN keeps putting these interviews on TV. Everyone would take Chad, Tory, Reggie, Andre Johnson, and Steve Smith over him, right? Aren't there more?
  • The Office: The best show on television has had two mediocre episodes in a row.

- Anthony