NBA Midseason Report 2010

Since COMCAST has neglected to shut down their free League Pass demo offering since January, I’ve watched my fair share of NBA in the new year and wished to pass along some thoughts, observations and predictions for the 2nd half of the 2009-2010 season.

Orlando Magic
Positionally, this team is where I expected them to be at the start of season – leading the SouthEast division and sitting 2nd in the Eastern Conference. The underlying truth is that it has been mostly an up and down first half. Off-season pickups of Barnes, Anderson and JWilliams have been a huge boost to the depth of the team which has had it’s share of injuries (Carter, Nelson, Pietrus) along the way. J.J. Redick has had spurts of turning the corner, however inconsistency has been his downfall.

The biggest problem in the 1st half has to be Vince Carter – a guy I had a problem supporting in Toronto and now his tendencies are becoming a crutch on the defending Eastern Conference champs. Lost is Hedo Turkoglu who was able to create his own shot, play off pick-and-rolls and hit the pressure shot in close games. Vince settles for long jumpers, falls victim to new injuries on a daily basis and cannot be trusted in pressure situations. He shot a pathetic 28.4% and averaged 8.7ppg in January and overall is averaging 6.6ppg less than his career average. Dunking has also been lost in the man’s repertoire, settling for low percentage shots instead.

The Magic need to feed the beast and play more inside with Dwight while also relying more of their offense around Rashard Lewis, who has the ability to hit big shots and is shooting 40% from 3pt range. Jameer’s health will also be a telling tale to see if they can knock out the Cavs again in the East this year.

Eastern Conference
1. Cleveland: potential addition of Amar’e could push the Cavs over the hump this year.
3. Atlanta: 4-0 vs. Boston however 0-5 vs. Cle/Orl gives an indication that the team is not there yet and destined for a 2nd round exit.
4. Boston: KG has clearly run out of fuel and there isn’t much left in Allen’s tank. I see a resiliant playoff run by the veterans but falling short of the Eastern Conference championship.
5. Toronto: teams that don’t play defence nor win on the road don’t usually go far in the playoffs. Trying to catch the #4 seed is the only potential road to success.

Western Conference
1. LA Lakers: if this team can beat Portland, San Antonio and Utah w/o Kobe, I think it’s time to re-evaluate Bryant’s work schedule for the 2nd half and make sure he is 100% healthy for the playoffs.
2. Denver: definitely a team that can give the Lakers a run for their money, playing exceptionally well against +.500 teams (20-10) and have KMart and Billups back in form for the 2nd half.
4. Dallas: a team that could give the Lakers a run if they were to meet in the 2nd round as they match up well with their bigs and have played them tough in 2/3 meetings this year.
5. San Antonio: this team should have retooled 2 years ago, instead are playing off aging vets Finley, Ratliff and Manu with newly signed RJ providing no help whatsover. This is not how I wanted to see Timmy’s swan song but the team is 11-19 vs. +.500 teams and is destined for a 1st round exit.
6. Oklahoma City: feel good story of the year, however anything outside a Jazz 1st round match-up is not going to end well.

Midseason awards
MVP: Lebron James – the definition of most valuable to his team, leading the league with the best record and sporting a flashy 30ppg-7reb-8ast stat set.
Defensive Player: Dwight Howard – easily the best rebounder in the game and is 0.5 blocks/game ahead of his closest competition.
Rookie: Tyreke Evans – Jennings may have the flash but this man has the game (20.3ppg on par with Durant in 2007).
Sixth Man: Jamal Crawford – has been a key ingredient to Atlanta’s hot start and can be lethal from 3pt range.
Most Improved: Kevin Durant – has improved point production by 4.4ppg while also increasing fg%, ft%, and rebounding numbers, but most importantly has elevated the Thunder to playoff status.
Coach: Nate McMillan – as long as the Blazers hang on to a playoff spot, this is Nate’s to lose having overcome injuries (Oden, Roy) in the competitive Western Conference.
All-NBA 1st Team: (F)Lebron-(F)Durant-(C)Dwight-(G)Kobe-(G)Paul
All-NBA 2nd Team: (F)Carmelo-(F)Bosh-(C)D.Lee-(G)Nash-(G)Wade
All-NBA 3rd Team: (F)Duncan-(F)Nowitzki-(C)Kaman-(G)D.Williams-(G)J.Johnson

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Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of the official launch and I can’t believe it has been 1 year already. The original intention for this web site was to allow my hosted hockey pool(s) to live on after Waterloo shut down my web space. I decided to take it another level and enter the world of blogging as means to express my thoughts on topical subjects (which ended up heavily gravitating towards TV and Sports). It’s been a great experience learning the various components involved in hosting your own site and also very enlightening to see that a random post debating the merits of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood would end up being my highest trafficked page. Thanks to all my Blog Rollers for assisted traffic and continued support. I took the time to reread all of my posts since inception and felt it would be fun to relay some pertinent numbers from the year that was (excludes Hockey pool numbers that generated consistent traffic in the playoff months)…

For starters, I quickly realized how lazy I have gotten since the first month of launch. The following graph depicts my posts per month decline over the course of the year:

New = 66.3%
Returning = 33.4%

Traffic Sources
Search Engines = 40.6%
Direct = 33.9%
Referring Sites = 25.5%

Search Engines
Google = 77.8%
Yahoo = 11.4%
Bing = 10.8%

Top Keywords
1. mukul joshi
2. kelly clarkson vs carrie underwood album sales
3. kelly clarkson vs carrie underwood

Top Referrals
1. Keith Lam
2. Matt Restivo
3. Dheerja Kaur

Top Page Views
1. Kelly Clarkson vs Carrie Underwood
2. ‘The Cleveland Show’ Pilot Episode
3. ‘The Office’ TV Schedule

Highest Avg. Time Spent
1. Best of Sports 2009
2. Kelly Clarkson vs Carrie Underwood
3. ‘Parks and Recreation’ Review

Top Traffic Days
1. July 16, 2009 (Emmy nominations announced)
2. September 28, 2009 (Cleveland Show pilot airs)
3. February 13, 2009 (initial launch)

Special thanks to Keith Lam, WordPress and Google (adsense/analytics) for providing the appropriate tools for site maintenance, and one final shout-out to for the early recognition of my ‘Parks and Recreation’ review.

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Best of Sports 2009

I heart sports, so it’s only natural for me to run an end-of-year segment highlighting the biggest stories in sports. While I’m not here to retell any specific story (that’s what the conveniently placed ESPN links are for), I thought it would be fun to count down the Top 10 greatest moments in the year that was 2009. As you will see later on, this is very much a personalized list and not necessarily the top stories of the year:

10. Kobe and Lebron light up the Garden (Feb 2009)

In a span of 2 nights, MSG saw records broken that not even the great Michael Jordan could accomplish. First, Kobe doused the Knicks dropping an arena record 61 points surpassing MJ’s best of 55. Two nights later, Lebron James performed an encore presentation, this time to a tune of a (game-time) triple double: 52 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds. An amazing display by the best in the game doing it big in the Mecca of basketball.

9. Syracuse works overtime (Mar 2009)

It seemed like a regular Thu night out with colleagues at a local eatery when little did I know, I would be watching history play out in the 2nd longest D1 college basketball game of all-time. 6 OT played out with Syracuse only taking the lead in the final extra period. UConn’s tough loss overshadowed West Virgina’s upset over Pittsburgh earlier on a night the Big East tournament brought the drama.

8. ARoid! (Feb 2009)

In a startling development a month before the 2009 MLB season, baseball’s golden boy Alex Rodriguez was outed for having taken performance enhancing drugs. This was yet another blow to MLB’s image as ARod was the guy most people believed was clean and the right man to surpass Barry Bond’s all-time homerun* record. While the drugs were admitted to only have been taken during the Texas years, fans will always question the 3 MVPs and integrity of any future accomplishments. For the record, ARod returned from a 1 month absence homering in his first at-bat of the season and finishing with an astounding 30 hr/100 RBI campaign having only played in 124 games.

7. Lightning Bolt (Aug 2009)

I don’t think I was the only one left wondering “what could have been” at the 2008 Summer Olympics when Usain Bolt strolled across the finish in a then world record time of 9.69 seconds. At the World Championships, Bolt ran a ridiculous 9.58 second 100m dash cementing his hold on the title, “World’s Fastest Man” and making 2nd and 3rd place times of 9.71 and 9.84 look amateur.

6. JJ four the win (Nov 2009)

I tend to follow NASCAR only because it is part of my job requirements, however I also am one who can appreciate domination within a sport. And I think that is the only word that can describe what Jimmie Johnson has done on Nextel/Sprint tracks since 2006 winning 4 consecutive championships including individual wins in 12 out of the past 40 Chase races. An accomplishment truly amazing considering how openly competitive the sport is and the fact that it had never been done before.

5. NL Cy Young fever (Nov 2009)

This year’s National League Cy Young race was perhaps the craziest I’ve ever seen. Three candidates each with their own merits: Chris Carpenter (ERA, WHIP), Tim Lincecum (Ks, CG) and Adam Wainwright (Wins, IP). Depending on who you ask (and believe me there was enough opinions around the office), each was deserved of the honor. In the end, the voting was separated by 10 points among the 3 candidates with Lincecum prevailing in one of the tightest races in history. To add to the crazy, Wainwright garnered the most 1st place votes yet finished 3rd, while one voter did not even place Carpenter on the ballot.

4. Roger passes Pistol Pete (July 2009)

My favorite tennis player growing up was Pete Sampras so some may question why I put Roger’s accomplishment on my top 10 list. The fact is, records are meant to be broken and I can’t think of a more suitable player than Roger Federer to dethrone Pete as the all-time Grand Slam champion. In a thrilling 5-set marathon, Roger beat Andy Roddick for his 15 career Grand Slam title. The script was written all too perfectly as the record was broken at Pete’s old stomping grounds in Wimbledon under the watchful eyes of greats Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and Sampras himself.

3. Stanley Cup encore (June 2009)

It had been 25 years since the NHL last saw a Stanley Cup rematch (NYI-EDM 1984) so history was at hand during this year’s final. Detriot’s attempt to become the first repeat winner since they themselves performed the feat in 1997-1998, was aborted by Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in one of the most closely matched finals I have ever seen. Pittsburgh was down 0-2 and 2-3 in the series before finishing off the Wings 2-1 in Game 7 giving the city their first Stanley Cup since Mario Lemieux led the way in 1991-1992.

2. A super Super Bowl (Feb 2009)

There are not too many Super Bowls that are competitive, let alone one that is decided in the last minute. Pittsburgh saw a 13 point 3rd quarter lead slip away before Santonio Holmes made a ridiculous catch for the win. Throw in the fact that the game included a 100 yard interception return, was the 3rd most watched telecast of all-time, included some funny commercial spots and was capped off by an entertaining post-game The Office episode and you got the total package.

1. Orlando’s magical run to the Finals (June 2009)

(I warned you this list would be biased) It had been awhile since one of my 4 major teams had come close to any major championship with the most recent being the 1995 NBA Finals when the Orlando Magic were swept by the Houston Rockets (damn you Nick Anderson). Back then, it was Shaq and Penny leading the way and offering hope. 14 years later, the Magic thanked me for my years of devotion by making a triumphant return to the Finals eventually losing to Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers in 5 games. Although the final result wasn’t what I had hoped for, it was great to have a team back in the national spotlight and competing for a championshp. It was an exciting road to the Finals having beat a resiliant Boston squad in 7 games and ousting LBJ and the Cavaliers in a thrilling 6 game set. While the Magic were displaced in 5 games in the Finals, 4 of the games were competitive with 2 of their losses coming in OT (hats off to the Lakers for winning the close ones). Perhaps the Magic were a big young for center stage however, it offered hope for years to come. Congrats on a “magical” year and here’s to seeing Orlando on next year’s Top 10 list (with a different ending).

Honorable Mention:

  • Dolphins resilient 2009 defense of the AFC East title
  • Mark Buehrle throws perfection with an assist from DeWayne Wise
  • Y.E. Yang comes from behind to trump Tiger at the PGA Championships
  • Siena-Ohio State 1st round thriller in March Madness
  • Serena Williams’ outburst at the U.S. Open Championship
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Fall TV Preview 2009

The Fall TV season officially kicks off Sept. 21 this year, a day after the Primetime Emmy Awards are announced, however a few shows are getting the jump early this week (most notably on NBC). There is a solid batch of comedy offerings on the TV lineup so I thought I’d drop some knowledge and premiere dates on shows I hope to follow in the 2009 season. (*spoiler alert: previews may include storyline/plot developments for the upcoming season)

Seinfeld Curb Reunion

Curb Your Enthusiasm (Premiere: Sun. Sept. 20 at 10 PM on HBO)
Probably the show I am most looking forward to with the much anticipated Seinfeld reunion scheduled as the primary plot line this season. Jerry, Jason, Julia and Michael will all reprise their roles in coordinating a reunion show within the show with Larry David who is attempting to woo back his TV wife, Cheryl Hines. While it may not be a reunion in its purest form, its probably the closest we will ever get to reuniting the Seinfeld Four on television. The storyline is intended to take up 5/10 episodes this year with the first coming on Oct. 3. Nostalgia should play a role to die-hard fans as much of the original set was recreated and episodes were shot in the original Seinfeld CBS Studio. It will be interesting to see if Michael’s racial outburst from 2006 will be discussed on the show and/or if some of the secondary characters from Seinfeld’s past will drop in for a visit. Curb originals Leon, Wanda Sykes, and Richard Lewis are all expected back for Season 7.

The Office (Premiere: Thu. Sept. 17 at 9 PM on NBC)
With a Jim-Pam baby on the way, I am struggling to class it as a “Jump the Shark” moment for the show. To add to that, the couple is planning a wedding ceremony in a 1 hour episode expected to air Oct. 8 (filmed in Niagara Falls). I have a strong feeling the writers have some tricks up their sleeve to discourage things from going exactly as planned. Other antics planned for this year include Michael presumably joining a Mob and Andy making moves on the new receptionist. While Amy Ryan has not officially signed on for any more episodes, I don’t think it would be far fetched to expect a Holly cameo later in the Spring.

How I Met Your Mother (Premiere: Mon. Sept. 20 at 8 PM on CBS)
I’m glad this show finally got a much deserved Emmy nod this year after 4 seasons in the books. This is probably one of the most underrated shows on TV but now looks to be gaining some steam with co-star Neil Patrick Harris hosting this year’s Emmy Awards on CBS (which should surely get some shameless promotion in the mix). This year will focus on the Barney-Robin relationship as well as Ted’s new gig as a teacher at Columbia University (where we were told he meets the titular mother). Canadian jokes are a staple to the show and I am looking forward to an upcoming episode titled “Duel Citizenship” in which Robin cannot let go of her Canadian identity.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Premiere: Thu. Sept. 17 at 10 PM on FX)
The gang from Paddy’s Bar is back at it for another round of politically incorrect comedy. While the show has lost some of its originality and luster from its earlier seasons, it is still is one of the funniest shows on TV (if you are not turned off by the outrageous shenanigans and touchy humor). This year, we are expected to see an intervention for Frank, the gang sneaking into the World Series and some appropriately timed economy based episodes touching on the Mortgage Crisis – which all sound like a hoot.

30 Rock (Premiere: Thu. Oct. 15 at 9:30 PM on NBC)
The show will premiere (after its now standard delay) in October which simply means less reruns later in the season. Fresh off a record 22 Emmy nominations, it is hard to understand why more people have not jumped aboard this show, which I believe has the best writing in the business. To help with the ratings, 30 Rock was recently picked up by Comedy Central to run in syndication starting in Fall 2010. This year is expected to feature a Page strike as well as a more prominent role for Jenna who will attempt to host her own talk show.

The Jay Leno Show (Premiere. Mon. Sept. 14 at 10 PM on NBC)
Probably the most anticipated show to premiere this Fall for media purposes. This will be an interesting experiment to see if comedy talk shows can replace usual drama slots at 10 PM in prime time. The show is being billed as a “Comedy Show” vs. a “Talk Show” and will feature Jay’s usual bits (“Headlines”, “Jay-Walking”) along with car racing (?) and a regular featuring of new comics, which should be fun. While not a big Leno fan myself, I am hoping to at least tune in for the start with Jerry Seinfeld scheduled as the premiere guest (probably a safe bet the Curb appearance might be promoted) along with Jay-Z/Rihanna/Kanye. Tom Cruise and Halle Berry are also expected to drop by during the first week.

Others to keep tabs on:

The Big Bang Theory (Premiere. Mon. Sept. 21 at 9:30 PM on CBS) – New prime slot following Two and a Half Men should surely bump ratings with featured story lines including a Penny-Lenord hookup and a Lewis Black guest appearance.

Thursday Night Live (Premiere: Thu. Sept. 17 at 8 PM on NBC) – TNL is back with Amy Poehler joining Seth Myers on the desk for a 6 episode run.

Saturday Night Live (Premiere: Sat. Sept. 26 at 11:30 PM on NBC) – Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson are out with 2 new females added to the cast. Megan Fox and U2 are scheduled to host the 35th season premiere.

Flash Forward (Premiere: Thu. Sept. 24 at 10 PM on ABC) – An interesting concept where the world briefly blacks out and each character catches a glimpse into the future. 1 of 2 dramas (along with Numb3rs) I intend on following this year.

Parks and Recreation (Premiere: Thu. Sept. 17 at 8:30 PM on NBC) – Leslie finds herself in a gay marriage debate over a penguin fiasco at the zoo.

Scrubs (Premiere: TBA on ABC) – The show shifts from Sacred Heart to the Dr. Cox/Turk show at a Medical school with JD/Elliot expected to make guest appearances later in the season.

The Cleveland Show (Premiere: Sun. Sept. 27 at 8:30 PM on FOX) – Newly added comedy to the Simpsons and Family Guy “Animation Domination”, read my full review here)

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‘The Cleveland Show’ Pilot Episode

The Cleveland Show

I was able to get my hands on an advanced screening of the pilot episode for ‘The Cleveland Show’, a spinoff of FOX’s animated series ‘Family Guy’, and thought I’d pass on a review of sorts (*Spoiler Alert: details of the plot may be discussed here).

From ‘Family Guy’ creator Seth MacFarlane, comes this new animated comedy that is set to debut in Fall 2009. FOX is prepared to back this project full fledge as it was announced recently that in addition to a 22 episode 1st season commitment, the network has already ordered 13 episodes for a 2nd season. A seemingly high vote of confidence for a show that has yet to air a single episode. I did get the pleasure of watching the pilot episode and while it is definitely a work in progress, overall I wasn’t too disappointed with the end product.

After another house disaster in Quahog, Cleveland Brown along with son Cleveland Jr. decide to head to LA to pursue a career in baseball recruiting. However, along the way they get sidetracked to Virginia where Cleveland meets up with an old high school flame (Donna) along with her 2 children (Roberta and Rallo). As the story goes, an opportunity opens up and Cleveland ends up getting together with Donna and starts a new life together in Stoolbend, Virginia. Here is an extended trailer preview:

At first glance, this series appears to basically be a copycat of ‘Family Guy’: 5-member household with 3 children, a maniacal little child, a wise-talking animal, fantasy flashbacks, and 3 eccentric friends. I wish the creators hadn’t gone so obviously down the same path and deviated a bit from the parent product. As we all know spin-offs tend to work better when the child product establishes its own identity and distances itself from the parent – ‘Frasier’ was probably the best example gaining its own merits coming out of the shadow of the previously successful ‘Cheers’. I’m hoping the show does not continue to play up too many black stereotypes like the sassy daughter character. None of the children in general are entirely flattering or intriguing as of yet and hoping there are plenty of developments here.

While many have already questioned why Cleveland of all people is getting the ‘Family Guy’ spin-off, its actually not too far fetched. Although the obvious choice may have been to go with a Stewie and Brian show, we’ve seen shows like ‘Joey’ fizzle out since the story lines have been over-saturated. I like how Seth went with a relatively underdeveloped character similar to Frasier of ‘Cheers’. The similarities from the latter are not too far off either – side character comes back home to start a new life, has a son, also an ex-wife back in his old digs. I do think the Bear and Holt are great side characters on the show and can offer some comedic variety.

It’ll be interesting to see how much integration this new show has with ‘Family Guy’. I’m hoping any character crossover is done in a limited fashion so as to distance itself but also keep original viewers interested. I’m a bit puzzled at why the show will start airing at 8:30 PM following ‘Simpsons’ and preceding ‘Family Guy’. It would seem to make more sense to group the show along with its predecessor in the same hour (which is the plan for FOX’s 2010 schedule). In any case, I have my doubts but I think the show has a chance to succeed if it can develop its own flavor. With ‘Family Guy’ also potentially in the running for a Best Comedy Series Emmy, it can hopefully build off the success. ‘The Cleveland Show’ is head above heels better than anything else FOX has attempted to fill the 8:30 and 9:30 slots in recent years – deadbeat comedies like ‘Quintuplets’, ‘The War At Home’, ‘American Dad’, and ‘Sit Down, Shut Up’ have been excruciating to watch. Being a sports buff, I actually would have preferred to see Cleveland pursue his dream in baseball recruiting with Joe Torre in LA but alas I’ll settle for whatever story lines lie ahead for the Browns in Virginia.

The following Season 1 air dates have tentatively been announced with the Series Premiere scheduled for release on Sunday, September 27, 2009 on FOX:

Date Time (ET) Description
Sun. Sept. 27 8:30 1.01 Pilot
Sun. Oct. 4 8:30 1.02 Old Friend and New Friend and Even a Job
Sun. Oct. 11 8:30 1.03 Da Doggone Daddy-Daughter Dinner Dance
Sun. Oct. 18 8:30 1.04 The One About Friends
Sun. Nov. 8 8:30 1.05 From Bed to Worse
Sun. Nov. 15 8:30 1.06 Fields of Streams

Also See: Parks and Recreation Review

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Happy Canada D- “eh”!

Oh Canada

July 1, 2009 marks the 142nd anniversary of Canada’s union as a nation. As many will gather at Parliament Hill in Ottawa to celebrate the occasion, I thought I’d take a moment to shout out to some notable Canadians in the world of Entertainment/Sports. Granted we all know Pamela Anderson, Jim Carrey and Wayne Gretzky are household Canadians, this Top 5 list highlights success from the past year.

Georges St. Pierre Georges St. Pierre – Montreal, Quebec
Georges exacted revenge on Matt Serra to become the undisputed Welterweight Champion in April 2008. St. Pierre later successfully defended his title against BJ Penn pummeling the American via TKO. Next up for Georges is Thiago Alves in July at UFC 100.
Sarah Chalke Sarah Chalke – Ottawa, Ontario
Sarah performed double duty this year maintaining her role as Dr. Elliot Reid on Scrubs while also dropping in occasionally at How I Met Your Mother as Stella, a potential Mother candidate. Chalke will continue to play a reoccurring role in the relaunch of Scrubs next year.
Nickelback Nickelback – Hanna, Alberta
Nickelback dropped their 6th album ‘Dark Horse’ in November 2008 and it has since remained in the Top 20 Billboard 200 for 31 consecutive weeks peaking at #2. The album was also certified 2x platinum in April. The group will be touring North America starting in July.
Justin Morneau Justin Morneau – New Westminister, BC
The 2006 MVP finished 2nd in voting behind Dustin Pedroia in the 2008 AL MVP race. The Silver Slugger hit 23 HR and added 129 RBI leading the Twins to a 1-game playoff against the White Sox for the AL Central eventually losing 1-0. Morneau currently ranks 2nd in RBI in the American League.
Will Arnett Will Arnett – Toronto, Ontario
Will has pretty much been everywhere this past year lending his voice in ‘Horton Hears a Who’, ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ and the upcoming ‘G-Force’. He also appeared in ‘Semi-Pro’ and earned an Emmy nomination guest starring as Devon Banks on 30 Rock.

Honorable Mention: Sidney Crosby (Stanley Cup Champion), Michael Cera (Year One), Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)

Bon Fete Canada!

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2009 Emmy Nominations

Check back Thursday July 16 at 8:35 AM EST for emmy nominations 2009!
Check back Sunday September 20 for all the emmy award winners 2009!

Also See: Fall TV Preview

Emmy Nominations 2009

The 61st annual Emmy awards take place on Sunday September 20, 2009 this year at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California and will be televised on CBS from 8-11 PM EST. Nominees will be announced by Chandra Wilson, Grey’s Anatomy and Jim Parsons, Big Bang Theory alongside Academy Chairman and CEO, John Shaffner. EW has learned that Neil Patrick Harris will be hosting this year’s ceremony which should be a great plug for the deeply underrated How I Met Your Mother.

This year, the voters are electing 6 nominees per category, an increase from the standard 5 in years past. June 26 is the deadline to return all nominating ballots to Ernst & Young for tabulation. If we’re lucky, there will be another leak of the Top 10 nominees in major categories similar to 2007 broken by

My predictive nominations may be slightly swayed by the shows I actually watch. Here nonetheless is my Top 3 predictions in the Comedy genre (in order of expected winner):
Best Comedy Series: 30 Rock, The Office, Entourage
Best Lead Actor (Comedy): Alec Baldwin 30 Rock, Steve Carrell The Office, Zachary Levi Chuck
Best Lead Actress (Comedy): Tina Fey 30 Rock, Julia Louis Dreyfus New Christine, Amy Poehler Parks and Recreation
Best Supporting Actor (Comedy): Neil Patrick Harris HIMYM, Jeremy Piven Entourage, Rainn Wilson The Office
Best Supporting Actress (Comedy): Holland Taylor Two and a Half Men, Jaime Pressly Earl, Cobie Smulders HIMYM

Alec Baldwin   Tina Fey   Steve Carrell

The actual list of Comedy nominees as announced by the Academy are as follows:

Best Comedy Series

  • Entourage, HBO
  • Family Guy, FOX
  • Flight of the Conchords, HBO
  • How I Met Your Mother, CBS
  • The Office, NBC
  • 30 Rock, NBC
  • Weeds, Showime

Best Lead Actor (Comedy)

  • Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords
  • Tony Shaloub, Monk
  • Steve Carrell, The Office
  • Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
  • Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men
  • Jim Parsons, Big Bang Theory

Best Lead Actress (Comedy)

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, New Adventures of Old Christine
  • Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
  • Sarah Silverman, Sarah Silverman Program
  • Tina Fey, 30 Rock
  • Toni Collette, United States of Tara
  • Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

Best Supporting Actor (Comedy)

  • Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
  • Kevin Dillon, Entourage
  • Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
  • Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock
  • Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock
  • Rainn Wilson, The Office

Best Supporting Actress (Comedy)

  • Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
  • Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
  • Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
  • Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds
  • Kristin Wiig, Saturday Night Live
  • Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty

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‘Friends’ The Movie – Numbers make cents


May 6 marks the 5 year anniversary of the ‘Friends’ series finale which ended a successful 10 seasons on NBC broadcast television. During its run, ‘Friends’ remained a Top 5 ranked show in every season except for the 1st (#8) even reaching #1 in 2002 (which also resulted in an Emmy win for Best Comedy Series). The show was never superior or acclaimed for its sharp writing (bested by ‘Frasier’) or fresh/edgy subject matter (bested by ‘Seinfeld’) during its run, however it was a magnet for the young demographic and a staple in pop culture circles due to its relevancy of topics and story lines.

Its hard to imagine it has been 5 years since the finale aired in 2004, where we saw Ross and Rachel take a another stab at their relationship, Monica and Chandler give birth to twins, Phoebe settle down with Mike and Joey off to California. It certainly tied up many of the loose ends that loyal fans would come to expect however by no means did it signify a complete sense of closure in the chapter of each one’s life. This is where I feel it should be a no-brainer to start moving forward on a motion picture opportunity for the series. In July 2008, a false report surfaced from the Daily Mail in the UK about a possible movie in the works, however those rumors had no validation and no further developments have come from that.

Sex and the City     The Simpsons

Justification for a ‘Friends’ movie can come simply by examining the recent success of the ‘Sex and the City’ television franchise which turned a loyal female following into $150 million domestic box office earnings. It doesn’t stop there as a sequel is currently in the works on target for 2010. This was a series that averaged 6-7 million viewers each week in its heyday and captured 10.6 million viewers in its Feb. 2004 series finale airing. That is the precedent which I use to evaluate potential success of a television series to movie adaptation. If you allow a standard ticket price of $10 to accrue for every series finale viewer, ‘Sex and the City’ was destined for a minimum of $10 x 10.6 = $106 million which immediately translates to a profit given the $65 million budget. This despite a 50% Rotten Tomatoes review. ‘The Simpsons’ also recently turned 8.6 average million viewers (2007) into a whopping $180 million box office take-in on a $75 million budget in 2007. Obviously there is a threshold for this theory to hold true and it would be naive to expect ‘Friends’, watched by 52.5 million in the 2004 series finale, to translate into $525 million. Given that the show has been off the air for 5 years, a more optimistic number would be to extrapolate the 25 million average viewers at the peak of show in 2002 into a minimum expectation of $250 million in box office results. I highly doubt Warner Brothers would be disappointed with that number.

Granted the budget for a ‘Friends’ movie would far exceed the $65 million for the ‘Sex & the City’ gang. Its no secret, the 6 ‘Friends’ actors were a bit more spoiled at the height of their success and they banded together to earn $1 million each per episode in the final season. There would not need to be much more theatrics or extra effects to continue the story lines of 6 New Yorkers, so even doubling the budget of the ‘City’ folks to $130 million would still translate into $120 million in profit. As mentioned, this is just the lowest expectation value. If one were to look at the current state of box office cinema, it should be noted that during these tough economic times, yearly box office numbers are up 15% from 2008 while 3 of the top 5 all-time Spring opening weekends took place in 2009. Heck, even the absurd comedy ‘Mall Cop’ reeled in $145 million this year. It is safe to say that during the recession, audiences are comfortable with the $10 ticket price and are allowing the big screen to fill their entertainment value. This is even more reason for an upbeat ‘Friends’ movie to get the ball rolling to Production.

Obviously a shows’ viewership alone cannot be used a measurement for potential box office success. Other factors that need to be taken into consideration include:

  • relevance in the pop culture medium
  • a young demographic following
  • a soapy/serialized show theme

This dissuades a highly ratings successful series like ‘CSI’ to think its television popularity could translate into box office success (unrecognizable talent/older demo/episode independent stories). ‘Friends’ on the other hand fits the bill on all three accounts and one can argue even more so than ‘Sex and the City’ or ‘Simpsons’ for that matter. ‘City’ appealed primarly to the older 25-55 female audience while the ‘Simpsons’ tends to hit the ceiling at the age 25 crowd. ‘Friends’ was highly successful due to its topical subjects and its appeal to the broad 12-49 age demographic (male and female) which leads me to believe there would be instant economic gratification for the producing studio on the big screen.

Jennifer Aniston

For the actors themselves, its hard to imagine why each one wouldn’t want to participate. None of the six have had any long-term success following their ‘Friends’ stint. Examining further,

  • Jennifer Aniston – had marginal success with ‘The Break-Up’ in 2006 and has yet to breakthrough the big screen actress market as many had expected
  • Courtney Cox – had limited success starring in the FX drama ‘Dirt’ however that only lasted 2 seasons
  • Lisa Kudrow – been involved in a few forgettable films in a supporting role
  • David Schwimmer – tried his hand in some directing projects as well as offering his voice in 2 semi successful ‘Madagascar’ animation movies
  • Matthew Perry – had a starring role in ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’ but was canceled on NBC after the 1st season
  • Matt LeBlanc – starred in the ‘Friends’ spinoff ‘Joey’ on NBC but was cancelled prematurely after 2 seasons due to declining tv ratings

Considering that even the critically acclaimed, ratings challenged television series, ‘Arrested Development’ is close to finalizing a movie production, it doesn’t make sense why the ‘Friends’ gang has yet to step up. ‘AD’ in its prime only averaged 6 million viewers (translating into a minimum $60 million return value) however it satisfies the three other requirements due to its cult following. It would be bold to think an ‘AD’ movie could net much more than $100 million at the box office, however the recent success of television to movie series has given everyone hope. While the they are still relatively young and relevant on the Hollywood radar, the ‘Friends’ cast needs to take us on one final visit to Central Perk.

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Habs 100 Season

Habs 100

The Montreal Canadiens’ 2009 NHL campaign was supposed to be a season of hope and an energized quest towards the 25th Stanley Cup in franchise history. Coming off a 47 win year which earned the Habs top honors in the Eastern Conference last year, there was plenty of buzz surrounding the monumental Centennial season for this storied franchise so rich in tradition. What it ended up turing out to be was a roller-coaster of highs and lows eventually culminating in an embarassing playoff sweep to one of their arch rivals. Here is a timeline of milestone events that occurred throughout the 2008-2009 season:

Oct 15, 2008 – Montreal celebrates a 4-3 shootout win over Boston in their home opener. Habs legends Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Guy Lafleaur and Yvan Cournoyer among others are in attendance helping unveil the new “Ring of Honor” in the upper bowl.

Nov 22, 2008 – Canadiens retire #33 of all-time great Patrick Roy in an uplifting ceremony prior to their game vs. Boston. Roy helped lead Montreal to 2 Stanley Cup championships (’86,’93) earning Conn Smythe honors in each run.

Patrick Roy

Dec 10, 2008 – Carey Price suffers a lower body injury in practice igniting the start of the Canadiens’ downfall. The Habs hold a 16-6-5 record at the time, good for 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

Jan 4, 2009 – Amid voting controversy, 4 Canadiens are elected to start on the Eastern Conference All-Star squad (Alexei Kovalev, Andrei Markov, Mike Komisarek, Carey Price) keeping Alexander Ovechkin among others off the starting roster.

Jan 25, 2009 – Montreal hosts the All-Star at the Bell Centre which features the return of Henri Richard and Dickie Moore among other Hab greats. The Eastern Conference wins 12-11 in a shootout with Canadiens’ forward Alexei Kovalev earning MVP honors scoring 2G, 1A and adding a shootout goal.

Alexei Kovalev

Feb 17, 2009 – Alexei Kovalev is sent home for 2 games having scored 1 goal in the previous 13 games of which the Canadiens lost 10. Kovalev returns 2 games later on Feb. 21 scoring 1G and adding 2A in a 5-3 win over Ottawa.

Feb 20, 2009 – The Kostitsynbrothers (Andre, Sergei) along with Roman Hamrilik are reported to be linked to organized crime in Montreal along with drug trafficking.

March 3, 2009 – Head coach Guy Carbonneau is fired less than 1 year after leading the team to the Eastern Conference’s top seed. General Manager Bob Gainey takes over coaching responsibilities for the 2nd time in 3 years (previously in 2006 after the Claude Julien firing).

March 4, 2009 – Amid rumors for Frenchman Vincent Lecavalier and with the club in desperate need of Forward support, the Canadiens stand pat at the trade deadline.

March 14, 2009 – Martin Brodeur ties long-time Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy’s all-time win mark of 551 in Montreal in a rousing display of affection from the home crowd. Brodeur goes on to break Roy’s record 3 days later in Chicago.

March 20. 2009 – Owner Gary Gillett considers selling the team he had purchased at $185 million 9 years ago.

April 9, 2009 – Grammy award winning singer and Quebec native, Celine Dion takes interest in buying the Canadiens in a joint bid. Forbes values the franchise at $335 million.

Celine Dion

April 9, 2009 – Montreal clinches a playoff spot earning a point in a 5-4 OT loss to Boston. The Habs finish the regular season going 0-7-1 agains the Bruins 1 year after going 7-0-1 against them.

April 22, 2009 – Canadiens are quickly dismissed in the 1st round of the playoffs in 4 games by the hated Boston Bruins setting a franchise record losing 8 straight postseason games dating back to last year’s loss to Philadelphia in the 2nd round.

In the end, the pressure from the 100th season along with high expectations from the Montreal faithful was too much to overcome. The Canadiens demonstrated how easily the mighty can fall from 1 to 8 in one season and Boston exacted revenge from the previous year to eliminate their arch rival. While I will be a Hab follower for life, I hope all the drama from this past year will have subsided by the time the 2009-2010 season rolls along and Carey Price regains the form that transformed him into elite company in 2008 prior to his injury.

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‘Parks and Recreation’ Review

Parks and Recreation

As with most comedies NBC throws out on Thursday nights, I decided to give ‘Parks and Recreation’ a shot and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. There had been plenty of hype around this show starting with early discussions that this would be an ‘Office’ spin-off involving Rashida Jones’ character. After that plan fizzled away, the creators of ‘The Office’ (U.S.) decided to go with this similarly setup mockumentary starring SNL alum Amy Poehler. As with most pilot episodes, there were highs and lows so here is my in-depth analysis after the first viewing.

Starting with what I liked, ‘Office’ creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur definitely left their mark in this episode with their similar brand of dry, sarcastic humor. It forced the viewer to pay close attention to the details of the happenings to ensure no joke was missed. I thought the pilot did a good job introducing each of the main characters, giving a sufficient background information but careful not to reveal too much, too soon. It allowed for potential back stories (Ron+Mark favor, Leslie+Mark romance) to be developed in further episodes. I like the prospect of Bobby Knight making a cameo appearance at some point in the series as well being Mark’s idol and all. My favorite character has to be Tom, played by Aziz Ansari. I think he plays the douchebag role fairly well (following his recent stint as an intern on ‘Scrubs’). The best line of the episode also came from him: “Committees cover our democracies with blood” as he rehashed Leslie’s memoir. Rashida Jones did a good job distancing her character from that of Karen on ‘The Office’ to ensure there is no confusion with the audience. April the intern is also a fresh face on the TV scene and I hope to see plenty more of her and Rashida’s boyfriend on the show (the latter appearing as a “guest star”).

Now the negatives, it got to a point where ‘Parks’ was almost too similar to ‘The Office’ to the extent where it became a copycat version. Amy Poehler’s Leslie character is basically the female Michael Scott and the bonehead stunt with her falling into the pit to make a point reminded me of Michael’s drive into the river because the literal GPS instructions. As we’ve seen on ‘The Office’, too much Michael-centered episodes do not bode well comedy wise and I hope ‘Parks’ does not oversaturate this series with Leslie’s shenanigans. Another item to note which may not jive with the general public is that there are limited likable characters on the show. I personally don’t have a problem with this, however I feel that it will be tough for the series to find an audience if the show focuses to much around the nonsense. ‘The Office’ had the Jim and Pam intrigue working for them which allowed for a more global fan base.

Ratings wise, depending on which metric you look at, ‘Parks and Recreation’ was a success and a failure. Following an all-new (and very funny) episode of ‘The Office’, ‘Parks’ retained 91% of the audience reaching 6.8 million viewers. It did score a 3.0 rating in the highly sought out 18-49 demographic which should please NBC execs. However to put things in closer perspective, a similar show on the NBC Thursday docket, ’30 Rock’ also ended up netting 6.8 million and a 3.1 in the demo in a timeslot which rivaled ratings stalwart ‘CSI’ over on CBS. The ’30 Rock’ pilot episode in 2006 was able to garner 8.1 million viewers and a 2.9 demo rating premiering without an ‘Office’ lead-in on a Wednesday night. The show has since gone on to win Best Comedy Emmys in each of its two seasons with rating numbers still struggling to keep up with ‘The Office’. This all makes me wonder how well ‘Parks’ will be able to hold up, not having the Emmy hype and with Amy Poehler being a poor man’s Tina Fey. I like how the show fits in the mold of comedy of the latter 2 shows however I feel like it will struggle without a regular ‘Office’ lead-in, having to follow the now out-of-place Thursday comedy ‘My Name is Earl’ at 8:30 PM on Thursdays.

Looking ahead, I’m going to continue supporting the show and hope it can develop its own flavor to distance itself from ‘The Office’. Similar to ‘The Office’s 1st season, ‘Parks and Recreation’ will roll out 6 new episodes in its premiere season with the NBC Thursday schedule looking like so:

Date Time (ET) Description
Thu. Apr. 9 8:30 1.01 Make My Pit a Park (Pilot)
Thu. Apr. 16 8:30 1.02 Canvassing
Thu. Apr. 23 8:30 1.03 The Reporter
Thu. Apr. 30 8:30 1.04 Boys’ Club
Thu. May 7 8:30 1.05 The Banquet
Thu. May 14 8:30 1.06 Rock Show

Follow episodes of ‘The Office’ here!

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