Thursday, February 23, 2017

Shows We're Watching (and Not Watching) Part 2

In Part 2 of our series, we'll cover the currently running or recently ended shows that we hung with for a season or more but then eventually dropped like an unused gym membership. In most cases, I'm the one who consciously or subconsciously ended the relationships with these shows. Not because the FGW doesn't have equal say because she does, however, she tends to forget what we we've been watching as recently as yesterday. Probably because she's a mom and a therapist* which means that she has the needs and problems of no less than ten people consuming her thoughts at all times. I don't want to say I intentionally take advantage of this but let's just say that if I "forget" about a show, it magically disappears from our radar like a fishing boat in the Bermuda Triangle.

To spice-up this section, I've added grades because who doesn't love grades when you're on the dispensing side of them? I even went so far as to get the FGW's opinion so we'd have the benefit of the male/female perspective. You'll notice that she's an easier grader but, for the most part, we rate these shows about the same. I would attribute this to a couple of things: 


(1) The FGW plays the part of the woman extremely well (mom, wife, daughter, etc.) but make no mistake, she is basically a dude at heart** so she enjoys watching Liev Schreiber take batting practice on some poor bastard's ribs just as much as she enjoys watching Giuliana Rancic working the red carpet*** at the Oscars; and

We'll get to this maniac in Part 3.
(2) We've been together so damn long that our tastes have almost fully merged which is great for picking shows to watch but a pain in the ass when she's constantly asking to share my dinner at a restaurant or worse, ordering the same thing. Seriously, who spends fifteen minutes waffling between the salmon and the sea bass only to order the prime rib at the last minute? I already ordered the prime rib! I don't want the other person at the table eating the same damn thing as me. Then it's just like eating at home and, let's be honest, once you hit a certain age, eating at home sucks (unless it's alone in front of the TV with a killer sandwich, potato chips and a Coke).

So without further tossing of this introductory word salad, here is a list of quality shows to which we handed a nice pen and said . . .

IT'S NOT YOU IT'S ME!

Orange is the New Black (FGR: B- . . . FGW: B)

I can't remember exactly when we checked-out on OITNB. I guess it was earlier than I thought because I just scrolled through a few episodes from the second season and don't remember any of them (not a good sign). It's a clever show. Well written and acted with a deft touch on the dark comedy but, from the minute Piper walked into jail for what was supposed to be a somewhat brief stay, she started doing stupid shit that would only serve to make that stay last longer. Maybe the point of the show is that jail does that to you but all I saw was an irrational fool repeatedly acting against her own self-interests. Also, nearly every non-incarcerated character is written as a bottom dwelling piece of shit to make the inmates (who are almost all victims of circumstance) more likeable. That gets old as does the fact that the main characters are in prison day after day and season after season. I don't do well with confinement and don't really want to watch a show about it. There's a reason most prison movies end with an escape.


Silicon Valley (FGR: B . . . FGW: B)

I kept expecting this show to make me laugh more and laugh harder. Especially every scene with T.J. Miller who is a really funny mutherfucker and essentially plays a version of himself. It definitely had its moments but too often I was trying to convince myself that it was funnier than I actually thought it was. It also turns-out that I'm just not that interested in the whole tech start-up venture capitalist world. Probably because I'm too simple to understand it. It didn't help that this show didn't seem to register one iota with the FGW (who gave it a "B" anyway) and I think she was just watching it because she thought I liked it. (I hope she never expects me to return the favor).

Masters of Sex (FGR: B . . . FGW: B+)

Caplan is also great and,
as we learned from True
Blood
, she isn't exactly modest.
I'd highly recommend the first season and, since it's historical fiction, you can pretty much check-out after you get the gist without the fear of missing something later (as far as I know). I'll give Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan credit because I'm not sure this show makes it to a second season without them. In fact, there may not be a better actor than Sheen currently doing a regular T.V. gig (he's awesome in The Queen, Frost/Nixon and especially The Damned United). At some point after you get past all of the 1950's sexual taboos and shenanigans, Masters of Sex seems to just keep turning in smaller and smaller circles like a zamboni with a passed-out driver.

Episodes (FGR: B . . . FGW: B)

Matt LeBlanc finally found his post-Friends footing by playing himself in a comedy that's funnier than you would expect. In fact, I'd go so far as to call the first season laugh out loud funny as two sophisticated British writers are forced to craft a Hollywood sitcom around Joey in his later years. Unfortunately, that shtick kind of wears-off leaving LeBlanc to carry the show which he does well for awhile but then that wears-off too.

House of Cards (FGR: B+ . . . FGW: B)

We're still soldiering through House of Cards . . . but barely. We hit it once every two months only to be reminded of how dark, hollow and pessimistic it's become. Almost as if it was trying to predict some kind of political apocalypse. I was kind of surprised when I saw that it's only had four seasons because I was getting ready to write that they should've wrapped it up after Season 5 because I was sure we were on like Season 7. When you start counting down seasons of a show like they're hours left on a temple pounding flight home from a three day bender in Vegas, it's time to stop watching.

Orphan Black (FGR: B+ . . . FGW: A-)

Like so many shows on this list, Orphan Black crushed season one. It also had a couple of other things going for it. Namely that it (a) was about modern cloning which was uniquely cool and (b) stars Tatiany Maslany who plays about a half dozen different versions of her cloned self and is really damn good at it. The problem with a show so clearly conceived by guys on acid is that, when the trip is over and they look at the crazy story they created, they think "holy shit where am I supposed to go from here?" The answer in Orphan Black was to just keep adding characters, conspiracy theories and more clones until you stopped asking "which one is that?" because you didn't care anymore.

Mr. Robot (FGR: A- . . . FGW: B+)

"Step into my office . . .
 cause you're fuckin' fired!"
We haven't given-up on Mr. Robot because it's main fault was getting caught-up in the jet wash of some of the preferred shows we'll discuss in Part 3. In fact, forget we mentioned it in Part 2 when it belongs in Part 3. Shit. Part 3's the key number here. Think about it. 3 little pigs. 3 times a lady. 3, man, that's the number. 3 chipmunks twirlin' on a branch, eatin' lots of sunflowers on my uncle's ranch. You know that old children's tale from the sea. It's like we're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly brie time baby. (I couldn't come up with a real ending).

Footnotes

* Yes I am married to a therapist. I know right?  

** I mean this as a compliment so hopefully it will be taken that way. One of my favorite things about my wife is when she calls-out other women for being overly emotional, catty and/or generally full of crap. She has that rare gift of being able to call people on their bullshit in such a way that they seem to like her more after she does it. I seem to have the opposite gift.

*** "Working the red carpet" is what we in the writing business like to call a double entendre and that's as far as I'm going with that. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

T.V. Shows We're Watching (and Not Watching) Part 1

"I like to watch TV." - Chance the gardener a/k/a Chauncey Gardner*

I'm with you Chauncey but I'll take it one step further. I love to watch TV. Always have going back to Happy Days, M*A*S*H and The Rockford Files in the 70's; Cheers, The A-Team and L.A. Law in the 80's; Seinfeld, The X-Files and Party of Five (Guilty!) in the 90's; and The Sopranos, The Wire and Curb Your Enthusiasm in the 2000's. I could've listed at least forty more, especially in the 2000's when television made a generational leap to greatness. Fuck it. Let's list a few more that started in that 1999 - 2009 era: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Shield, Arrested Development, Dexter, The Office, 30 Rock, The West Wing, Weeds, 24, Californication, Lost and Friday Night Lights. And those are just the ones I watched on a regular basis (apologies to Six Feet Under but I can barely walk into a funeral home much less endure a show about one).


How am I able to watch so much TV while raising three kids, holding down a job, playing golf, periodically drinking to excess and generally just living the dream? There are two keys to making this work: (1) My wife (the "FGW") shares my love of quality television and is always up for a good binge session,** and (2) we're not afraid to go deep into a Tuesday night like a couple of junkies to get it done.

"Don't you even think about
not cuing up the next episode!"
This got ugly for us as new parents when we got hold of the DVD set for the first season of 24 because you cannot physically watch that show one episode at a time so it eventually turns into a casino like experience where all sense of time is lost. Not to mention, when you do actually go to bed at 1:30 a.m., you're wired on TV crack and convinced that someone is in your driveway wiring a bomb into the CD player of your Honda Accord because they think you overheard something at work that could undermine their assassination plot. We were frittering away sleep at a time when it was a more valuable commodity than one of our kidneys.

Little did we know that it would actually be harder to find the time now than it was ten years ago because, as the FGW noted the other day, we have emerged from what is sometimes called the parental "sweet spot" which is that fleeting period during which your kids both respect your authority and are capable of performing everyday tasks like getting in and out of a car, swimming unsupervised and, most importantly, flying solo missions in the bathroom from takeoff to landing (even if they do leave skid marks and jet fuel all over the runway). As it relates to watching hours upon hours of television, the sweet spot is money because your kids actually go to bed at a reasonable hour instead of milling around your house all night like fucking pickpockets at a bus station.

I don't know if anyone has come-up with a name for what follows the sweet spot but might I propose the "shit spot?" When you're in the shit spot, your job description as a parent suddenly becomes the following: (1) driving your kids, (2) telling your kids to get off their phones, (3) driving your kids, (4) feeding your kids (because the law makes you), (5) driving your kids, (6) yelling at your kids to get in the car and finally (7) driving your kids. At first you don't realize that you're in the shit spot and then one night you find yourself setting the alarm for midnight so you can wake-up, fall off the couch and go pick-up your kid at a party while thinking to yourself "I used to go to parties." 

All of that driving, yelling and cooking takes away from quality TV time but that's just part of the problem. Now that you've got the potential for pre-teen kids to wander into the room at any moment, you don't really want the image of King Joffrey using a naked prostitute for crossbow target practice or the sound of Vice President Meyers telling someone "that's like trying to use a croissant as a fucking dildo!" emanating from your set. So now the viewing window has been shrunk down to about one hour per night from 9:45 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. Sometimes we'll tack-on another hour so we can watch season 2, episode 7 of whatever. It's always a bad idea but that doesn't stop us from doing it about once a week because goddammit we work hard and we deserve to screw ourselves out of an extra hour of sleep so we can watch a show through half a cracked eyelid that we could just as easily watch tomorrow.

How do you make an unwatchable 
show about rock and roll starring 
Olivia Wilde? They found a way.
So part of the purpose of this exercise is to solicit advice on what we should be watching because we don't have time to fuck around with a whole season or multiple seasons of some crap show like Vinyl when we could be spending that time watching something awesome that initially flew under our radar like Friday Night Lights. So feel free to email or tweet recommendations to fgr@fantasygolfreport.com and @fantasygolfrep. Or even better, leave a comment below if you're one of the Silicon Valley computer programming geniuses who can figure-out how do it. (That is not a sarcastic slight but an acknowledgement that I don't know how to post comments on my own website).  

As has become the case lately, this was going to be a single entry but then it ballooned into a goddamn tome so we're going to limit Part 1 to the shows we (and by "we" I mean "I") have no interest in watching regardless of how critically acclaimed and/or popular they are. In no particular order and based on zero to limited knowledge of what these shows are about, here we go.  

HAVEN'T SEEN IT . . . DON'T WANNA SEE IT!

The Walking Dead

We're just too late to the party on this. If I’m going to go back in time to binge watch a show that’s eight seasons in, it better be getting Breaking Bad level love and it seems like The Walking Dead has more of a narrow cult following like Doctor Who or My Little Pony. Speaking of cult followings, zombies and vampires are not a selling point for me (unless a horny Sookie Stackhouse is prominently involved).

Transparent

One of the most consistent gauges of whether I think a comedy show will be funny is whether or not its lead actor has won the emmy. This dates back to the early 90's when they started giving it to John Lithgow for 3rd Rock from the Sun over Michael J. Fox (Spin City), Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) and Gary Shandling (The Larry Sanders Show). Lithgow was and is a great actor but that show was such a fucking lightweight enterprise which leads me to . . .   

Since then, they've given it to Tony Shalhoub for Monk (over Jason Bateman for Arrested Development), Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory (over Steve Carell for The Office) and Jon Cryer for Two and a Half Men (over Larry David for Curb Your Enthusiasm and Louis C.K. for Louie). No way anyone should've beaten Bateman and The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men are low-brow crap so I now just assume that whomever hands-out these awards has shitty taste in comedy which makes Jeffrey Tambor's two Emmys for Transparent a deal-breaker.

The Good Place

I just looked at Ted Danson's IMDB page and apparently he's been cashing a lot of checks since the role of Sam Malone took him from bit player to television icon. Good on him but I'm not tainting my memories of Cheers by watching him play anyone else. I could live with his role in Curb Your Enthusiasm because he was playing himself and it meant we got to see more of sneaky hot Mary Steenburgen but that's where I draw the line. Jon Hamm is doomed to the same fate. (I'm sure he's crushed).

Girls

I have no idea what this show is about but I think it's angst ridden women living in New York. I don't need a show about angst ridden women. I already get so much of that through Facebook that the FGR is starting to sound like it's being written by an angst ridden woman. Not to mention, Girls strikes me as a more brooding version of Sex in the City, a show that I used to watch intermittently for brief periods only to realize that its target audience did not include me or anyone else with a hairy butt.

Shameless

Nice try. Still not interested.
I'm a big William H. Macy fan and Emmy Rossum has certainly made her fair share of appearances in the FGR but this show just looks kind of dirty to me, and not in the good way. I'm okay watching people live in filth when they're riding around on horses, eating wild boar from a spit and bathing only when they stumble onto natural water supplies but, for a show set in modern times, I'm going to need you to take a shower and put on a clean shirt.

This is Us

The title alone annoys me and I just read the following plot description: "Each week is a tender look at what makes and breaks a family, both with heart wrenching confessions, touching speeches and well-crafted humor." Here's a tender two word review. Fuck that.

We'll be back after this brief commercial break to start running down the list of shows about which I've formulated strong opinions by actually watching. Stay tuned (see what I did there?).

Footnote

* Not to get movie preachy but, if you've never seen Being There starring Peter Sellers, then you really should. Sellers is of course famous for playing Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies but he's at his best in Being There and Dr. Strangelove, both of which might be more relevant today than they were at the time they were released considering that the former is about a simple man who stumbles into a position of political influence despite the fact that he knows nothing beyond what he sees on television and the latter is about an unhinged general who orders a nuclear strike on Russia. Shit. Now I don't remember them being that funny.      


** Either she enjoys it or she just accepts that watching TV is one of the rare circumstances where I actually seem to be enjoying life so she goes along with it. This just in. I can be difficult. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The FGR Rankings Update

(Warning: It's about to get very golfy). Way back at the start of April in the year 2012, Luke Donald was deemed the best golfer on the planet according to the impenetrable formula used by the World Golf Rankings ("WGR"). And Donald's reign wasn't just a one week anomaly as he had topped the WGR for the better part of a year. We here at the FGR had a couple of problems with that. Most notably, the following: 

(1) Donald had never won a major and, despite a couple of top fives, had never really contended for one as he was the king of crapping the bed on Saturday and then firing a pressure free Sunday 65 that would backdoor him a high finish. In a sport where greatness is measured by majors, how could he be considered great if he hadn't won one? There's a reason Colin Montgomerie is never mentioned among the best of all-time and it's not just because he was a prick (though that may have something to do with it); and


That was back in the good old days when
the FGR would have great pictures every
week without needing some lame excuse.
(2) In April of 2012, there was another player who had won the previous U.S. Open by 8 strokes, finished tied for 3rd in three other majors and had just beaten Tiger Woods by two at the Honda Classic. We watched him and thought "that fucking guy is way better than Luke Donald!" 

So we came-up with our own ranking formula based on majors and other tournaments with loaded fields that confirmed our theory that Player "B" was the best in the world. Since then, he has won three more majors, two World Golf Championship events and the FedEx Cup. During that same stretch, Luke Donald has won one European Tour event back in May of 2012 and fallen to 94th in the WGR. So as you can see, we here at the FGR and we here alone predicted that one day Rory McIlroy would be better than Luke Donald. No applause necessary. Really. Don't make it awkward.

We should really stop mocking the WGR for the whole Luke Donald thing because it's been irrelevant for years (to the extent it ever was relevant) and also because golf was suffering through a serious talent recession in 2011-12. Tiger's mini-comeback was just getting underway, we hadn't had a repeat major winner since Padraig Harrington in 2008 and the guys who were winning them included Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Y.E. Yang and Keegan Bradley. It had been so long since we'd seen great golf that we kind of forgot what it looked like. Before we knew it, it was midnight at the Cheesecake Factory and we were doing shots of sambuca as we stared across the bar at Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Steve Stricker thinking, "they're kinda hot."     

As we enter 2017, we're facing the opposite problem if you call having too many great golfers a problem. You could easily make the best player in the world case for five different guys and that wouldn't include Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas who might be playing the best golf right now. So with that in mind, and with no other topic presenting itself as I woke-up every hour last night with a sinus headache that made my head feel like a pinata in the Baltimore Orioles* clubhouse, we've decided to drag-out the old FGR rankings formula to determine who really is the best player in the game today. 


The formula is pretty basic. You get points for top ten finishes in majors, WGC events and The Players over the past two years as follows (we have very little respect for The Players as a tournament but the field is A+ and it appears to have finally grown-out of its Tim Clark/Stephen Ames/Fred Funk phase so we'll throw it a bone):



Majors
WGC Events
Players
1st
40
20
10
2nd
20
10
6
3rd
18
9
5
4th
16
8
4
5th
14
7
3
6th
12
6
2
7th
10
5
1
8th
8
4
1
9th
6
3
1
10th
4
2
1

You also get two points if you win a PGA Tour or European Tour event with a decent field (sorry Barracuda Championship) and you get points for finishing top five in the most recent FedEx Cup or Race to Dubai. One more thing. Recent success is rewarded so you get a 10 point bonus if you won the most recent major, an 8 point bonus for the second most recent, etc. and points from over twelve months ago are depreciated by 25%. One more last thing. There is the "Darren Clarke Rule" which states that you have to have at least three top tens in qualifying events over the last two years or two top tens AND a win in another tournament to be eligible. Jimmy Walker . . . you're on notice!  


So with all of that crammed into a spreadsheet, here is the FGR top 20 compared to the WGR top 20:


FGR Top 20

WGR Top 20

1
Johnson, D.
151
Day
9.98
2
Spieth
123
McIlroy
9.31
3
Day
117
Johnson, D.
9.11
4
Willett
79
Stenson
8.79
5
McIlroy
74
Matsuyama
8.70
6
Stenson
73
Spieth
8.59
7
Grace
63
Scott
5.87
8
Walker
56
Thomas
5.54
9
Oosthuizen
49
Garcia
5.36
10
Rose
47
Reed
5.15
11
Johnson, Z.
47
Noren
5.14
12
Scott
46
Rose
4.72
13
Garcia
44
Willett
4.70
14
Holmes
44
Fowler
4.65
15
Koepka
41
Watson, B.
4.56
16
Casey
40
Casey
4.24
17
Lowry
39
Grace
4.03
18
Matsuyama
39
Knox
3.98
19
Mickelson
35
Hatton
3.96
20
Furyk
34
Koepka
3.94

Now you can look at our rankings and question "Danny Willett over Rory McIlroy?" and "Matsuyama ranked 18th?" and "Louis Oosthuizen ranked at all?" We're responding that (1) Willett is the defending Masters champion and has had a bunch of other top tens in big events whereas McIlroy hasn't won a major since 2014 and has been in a deeper slump than most people realize, (2) a bunch of Matsuyama's world ranking points have been accumulated in tournaments with lesser fields and unsanctioned events like the Hero World Challenge** and (3) Oosthuizen finished runner-up at the 2016 Match Play, the 2015 U.S. Open and the 2015 British Open so eat it.

We'd fire back at the WGR with "Matsuyama over Spieth? Hideki's last eight major finishes are T4th, Cut, Cut, T7th, T37th, T18th, T18th and 5th and Spieth's are T13th, T30th, T37th, T2nd, 2nd, T4th, Win and Win?" And then we'd hit them with "Patrick Reed who's next top ten in a major will be his first at No. 10?" And as they're still reeling from that, we drop the hammer with "Alex Noren, who has only even qualified for four of the last eight majors, missing the cut twice and finishing T46th and T49th in the other two is the 11th best player in the world? Seriously? Do you get bonus points for wearing Hugo Boss and looking like an extra from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?" (GET 'EM A BODY BAG YEAH!!!)

Now all we get is this 
bullshit self-righteous angst.
Get over yourself already.
In the end it really comes down to this. Do you want to rank golfers based on week to week performances against journeyman fields using a formula where Brendan Steele's win at the Safeway Open (38.0 ranking points) against zero top ten players is worth roughly the same as J.B. Holmes' 3rd place finish at the British Open (40.0 ranking points) against pretty much every player in the top 50? Well you go right ahead but when you wake-up tomorrow morning at the Motel 6 as the meat in an Alex Noren/Patrick Reed sandwich, don't blame us because you snuck-out of the Cheesecake Factory before we could stop you. 

Footnote

* Your 2016 MLB team home run leader behind Chris Davis, Manny Machadew and Mark Trumbew hon!!!

** Under the WGR formula, Matsuyama received more ranking points for winning the Hero World Challenge (46.0) than Jim Furyk, Shane Lowry and Scott Piercy did for finishing 2nd at the U.S. Open (43.33). That's just fucking stupid and I could pretty much rest my case on that alone.   

Email the FGR at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com and follow us on Twitter at @FantasyGolfRep.