Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don't call it a comeback...

...I've been here for YEARS!!

That's right...this is actual new material on the old Stuff of Legend blog today. The last few months have been very....well..."interesting" doesn't really seem to cover it, but I guess it will have to do. Not going to get into it, other than to say that I don't have to be nearly as careful about voicing my appreciation of my favorite television hotties anymore...no strings attached, baby!

So, I have TONS of stuff to get to, obviously. Lots of stuff happened while I was away that I started to blog about, but just couldn't work up the energy or motivation. Let's just pretend that I made my usual really cool and witty remarks about everything that has happened in the sports and pop culture worlds over the last three months or so and MOVE FORWARD.

Let's get the sports stuff out of the way first, so that my sports-only "audience" (yeah, right...as if I still have an audience at this point) can check out once we get to what is really going to be the bulk of this post...

- The Braves pitching staff has been absolutely ridiculous to this point...in a good way.

Second in the majors with a team ERA of 2.94. First in the majors in strikeouts. First in batting average against (a paltry .218). First in WHIP at 1.09.

Those are numbers that even the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz pitching staffs would be proud of. Top to bottom, this is the best staff in baseball. Philly probably has better starters, but their bullpen can't even touch ours.

But, much like some of those '90s teams, the offense has been inconsistent, and really needs to get rolling if we want to stay in contention for the division. As good as our pitching staff is, it is unrealistic to expect the kind of dominance we are seeing right now to last all season...they will have rough patches when they need the offense to carry them.

To me, the key is three guys:

Dan Uggla: .202 avg, .664 OPS,
Jason Heyward: .219 avg, .749 OPS
Freddie Freeman: .226 avg, .678 OPS

We need to get at least two of these guys going on a consistent basis if we want the offense to stay on track. I don't worry so much about Uggla...he's a proven performer who has a long history of starting slow and then heating up as the weather does. Heyward and Freeman, however, concern me, only because they don't have a proven track record. Heyward can't seem to stay healthy, and his numbers since his hot start last year are Francoueresque. Freeman is obviously going through the majors for the first time, so we have no idea what to really expect.

And, of course, those two guys were also the SI cover boys. Coincidence? (yeah, probably)

- I loved the Falcons move to get Julio Jones. Yes, we gave up a lot. Yes, I would have rather drafted A.J. But to me, this move says that our front office thinks we are ready to win NOW. The guys we would have gotten with the picks we traded away might have been nice for the future (although it could be the case that Dimitroff et. al. saw this draft as extremely top-heavy), but when you have a window to compete for a Super Bowl, you better take advantage of it.

Two more thoughts: 1) the future picks should all be even lower than our pick this year, if the move pays off. Yes, that's an IF...this was a gamble, and all gambles have risks. 2) Who's to say we don't make other deals that get some of those future picks back?

As for A.J....I would love to have him. But I can pretty confidently guarantee that we called Cincy with the same offer we made the Browns. It takes two to make a trade.

My one qualm with the pick...Julio, as good as I think he will be (and I thought he was the second best WR in this draft, but would have been the best in the draft in most years), is still going to start next season as your #2 WR behind Roddy White. And we are paying him #6 pick money. That's a lot of money to pay your 2nd WR, no matter what the new CBA ends up doing to rookie salaries.

- The Hawks. Whatever. I knew after the offseason that we had before the year started that this organization is not aiming for anything other than an occasional appearance in the second round. Larry Drew and Joe Johnson are not the foundation on which championships are built.

We got lucky in the first round that we drew an opponent that was actually more dysfunctional than us. In the second round, it came down to the fact that Chicago has a superstar, and the Hawks only have someone who makes superstar money.

Next year, we likely lose Crawford, and we don't have money to go get a difference maker because we gave it all to Joe Johnson.


- I guess the biggest news to come out of Dawg Nation in the last couple of months is the apparent shakeup in the backfield.

I wish Washaun Ealey well, and will always remember him for the night that he and Caleb RAN THIS STATE. But I will also remember him for wasted potential and an apparent bad attitude that was even more apparent to those who followed him on social media. I think he was given multiple chances to get his act together and chose not to...at which point, it's best for the team that he move on, no matter how much it hurts to lose your top rusher.

Now we anxiously await news on Caleb King's eligibility. Yes, I think Isaiah Crowell is a real talent, maybe a game-changing talent...but I thought the same thing about some other highly recruited guys who never panned out, as well. Plus I just don't like the idea of going into the season with two guys who have never carried the ball in an actual game as your top two tailbacks, with the number three guy being an undersized back that Coach Bobo is apparently trying to murder (stop running him up the middle!!).

As usual at this time of the year, I am really excited about the upcoming season. The defense should almost certainly improve, both because of experience in the system and some upgraded personnel along the d-line. Aaron Murray should be one of the top QBs in the SEC, as long as he gets time to throw and his receivers don't let him down.

Should be more to come as we get closer to fall practice...which is only a few (well, a dozen or so) weeks away!

OK...that concludes the sports-related portion of our programming. From here on out, it's a mishmash of pop culture stuff and other random observations, so if you aren't interested in that, no hard feelings...come on back next time (promise it won't be three months).

- This week is Upfronts Week for the networks, which is when they all announce their fall schedules, introducing their new shows and confirming the demise of others. This is also the week that my phone dies around lunchtime, due to the fact that all of the TV critics and bloggers that I follow on Twitter are all tweeting the same news at the same time. I received 25 Twitter messages just while typing that last sentence.

This is also the week when I wish I could go back and be a television writer. One that could actually get paid for the mountain of words that are about to spill out all over this page.

I am legitimately fascinated by things like network strategy...what new shows get greenlit, what gets cancelled and why, putting together a nightly primetime schedule and things like lead-ins, synergies between shows, etc. I'm a geek for several things, but this type of stuff is probably where I geek out the hardest.

I am especially intrigued to see how the networks are adjusting their strategies to deal with the brand new paradigms that they are now facing. It hasn't been too long ago that a "hit" TV show drew 20-30 million viewers a week. Now, with cable stations providing TONS more original programming, some of which is considered to be much higher quality than the typical network show, plus the rapid increase of either "timeslot shifting" (people DVR a show and then watch it whenever they want) or alternative means of watching television (OnDemand, DVD/Netflix, Hulu, etc) networks can't DREAM of hitting those types of numbers, with extremely rare exception (Super Bowl, etc). In my opinion, where this has hurt the most is in the development of new shows. Quick, tell me what the big break out network hits have been in the last two years....and by "hits" I'm talking about shows that actually draw numbers that win time slots.


OK, time's up...I came up with Glee, Dancing With the Stars, The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Apprentice, and what seems like a dozen CSI, NCIS, L&O type spinoffs. MAYBE The Mentalist? It's almost all reality show drivel or boring procedurals (all opinions in this blog are mine, obviously...if you enjoy those shows, more power to you, and congratulations...you have LOTS of choices).

Now let's look at the world of cable...for a cable channel, a "hit" doesn't necessarily mean "ratings", especially for the pay cable channels. It's all about brand prestige, reputation, and (for the pay channels) subscriptions. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. Boardwalk Empire. True Blood. Walking Dead. Justified. Dexter. I could go on, but you get my point...and that's without even mentioning shows like Sons of Anarchy, or Damages, or Weeds, or Nurse Jackie, or United States of Tara....all shows that, while they may not draw big numbers, all enhance the reputation and brand recognition of their networks.

So...what's the difference? First of all, the obvious...cable networks can get away with things content-wise that broadcast networks can't. That is a definite advantage.

But that can't be all of it. Seriously...what does Mad Men and Breaking Bad show or do that you can't get away with on network television? It's not anything that would really be missed, and it's not why the show works.

I think a big part of it is that cable networks go into it knowing that they are never going to pull the ratings that would typically be expected of a network show, which relieves some of the pressure to yank shows off the air if they aren't pulling huge numbers. True Blood is a great example...when it premiered on HBO, it got less-than -respectable ratings, and in a network environment (assuming that it was a show that had network type content), probably would have been pulled from the schedule almost immediately. Instead, it was left on the air, the buzz ramped up (even if the quality didn't), and it is now HBO's biggest hit.

I don't know what the answer is for the broadcast networks...they somehow have to find a way to sell advertising and make money, and for now their only real way of doing that is using a ridiculously antiquated Nielsen system. I foresee a future where ALL television is web based..NBC won't be a "channel", it will be a website. All of their content will be on the website, and you go and choose whatever you want to watch and it comes straight to your television. That is not something that we are years away from, at least not from a technology standpoint. We HAVE the TECHNOLOGY. What we don't have is a way of monetizing it that works for everybody...the networks, the consumer, the advertisers, the production staffs and writers, etc.

I just hope they figure it out soon...I'm tired of every new network show I start to get into being yanked off the air before it has time to find its feet, with The Chicago Code being the latest example (and Lord, Shawn Ryan deserved better after Terriers). Broadcast networks, in my opinion, have to come up with a new definition of what a "successful" show is...we can't keep using the same parameters in a completely new environment.

This isn't to say that there isn't quality programming currently on network television...but a lot of what I consider quality (Parks and Rec, Community, Chuck, Fringe, Cougar Town, etc) aren't ratings hits by any stretch of the imagination, and seem to live on the cancellation bubble, while stuff like The Voice, Biggest Loser, The Apprentice, etc. always seems to do huge numbers.

So I am very thankful that some of my favorite shows have been granted a reprieve. Looking at the numbers, it's really hard to fathom why the networks have chosen so save some, while others have gone by the wayside...but I'm glad for it anyway.

OK, I promise the rest of the bullet points will be shorter.

- Speaking of upfronts, this is the trailer from the new show that I am most excited about...believe it or not, it's from NBC (I KNOW, RIGHT?!?)

Looks pretty awesome, right? Which means that it will probably be cancelled by the time this post is actually published.

- Is there a way to tell a new girl at work that you find her REALLY attractive? I mean, without coming off like a total creep?

- Guess I should say something about American Idol. Basically, I give up. I said months ago that Scotty McReery was going to win the whole thing...based on my master thesis on American Idol Demographics (I should TOTALLY HAVE WRITTEN THAT), he has the Country Vote, the Teenybopper Vote, and the Grandmother Vote. Those are probably the three most powerful voting blocs in the American Idol Universe, so he is systematically destroying everybody in his path. I would be willing to bet that if they actually released the voting totals, he would be winning every single week. By TONS. Even before he broke out the "Vote for me or the terrorists win!!" strategy last week.

And, gah...he makes me want to punch him in the neck every time he performs.

The show has really missed both Simon and the different genre nights...without those two factors forcing contestants out of their comfort zones, everybody just does the same exact thing every....single...week. And the judges have been atrocious...the problem with praising EVERYTHING that everybody does is that it causes your praise to mean nothing. That was why it was always such a big deal when Simon gave positive feedback...you knew that if he was praising it, that praise was earned.

Anyway...I'm definitely watching out of habit (maybe even obligation) at this point. And no matter what I say, I will probably be right back there every single season until it gets cancelled and puts both me and the show out of our misery.

- Best five comedies currently on TV (either airing or just finished their season), in order: Parks and Recreation, Community, Cougar Town, Raising Hope, Bob's Burgers.

Just missed the cut: Modern Family (too inconsistent, but when it's on its game there are few better), The Office (WAY too up and down this season, and the Will Ferrell thing was a disaster), Archer (been off the air too long to qualify, but no show delivers more laughs per second).

What do you think? Let me know in the comments....next time out I will do dramas.

- So I have one question about the Fringe season finale...if it was 15 years in the future, how come everybody looked the same as they do now? I'm not counting the 4 gray hairs that Peter had. Take it from someone who knows...15 years does a LOT more damage to a head of hair than that.

Yep, that was the one question...everything else made perfect sense.

- Right now, the album I am most likely to be listening to on repeat is Manchester Orchestra's "Mean Everything to Nothing." Nothing but quality, start to finish.

And trust me, I love everything on Adele's "21", but I can't listen to it on repeat unless I want to throw myself off a cliff, only to have Superman swoop down and catch me, and then drop me from HIGHER. (tm Louie C.K.).

- I think I am officially done with How I Met Your Mother after last night. This whole season has been borderline awful (hated everything about the Zoey storyline), but I stuck with it, in large part because I felt like we were promised in the season premiere that by the time we got to that wedding, we would be getting ANSWERS. Instead, all we got was more mysteries...who is Barney marrying, and (most of all), why is this wedding so important to Ted? It was strongly hinted in the premiere that this is when he meets the mother, and maybe it is...but we are certainly no closer to knowing now than we were 22 episodes ago.

Look, I understand how hypocritical this is of someone who to this day will defend LOST with my dying breath...but the time for mysteries is over. They need to move the story FORWARD. In what way has the story moved forward this season? Marshall and Lily are pregnant (a storyline that you knew had to happen eventually), and Barney is marrying...somebody. And we still have no clue who the mother is.

It's time. And, no, I disagree with those who say that once you meet the mother the show is over. The story of a relationship doesn't end when you meet...there could still be LOTS of story to tell after that, with the mother just being another character on the show, that would HAVE to be more interesting than the water-treading that is going on now.

- I am now two thirds of the way through the Hunger Games trilogy...it's very interesting, gripping, exciting stuff. Definitely written for a younger audience, but the plot is tight enough that we older teenagers can still enjoy it. I would certainly recommend it to any parents with young adult readers...I bought my 13 year old a copy this weekend and can't wait to talk about it with her.

- I apologize to all two of you out there who were looking forward to detailed recaps of Game of Thrones. First of all, I never really could decide on a format...do I write it with readers in mind, or non-readers? There is no way I have time to do both...it would be really hard to recap it from a non-reader perspective, having read the entire series multiple times, but I know that out of what little audience I have, the majority would be non-readers.

And then...well, life got in the way and rendered the whole decision moot.

The series has been fantastic...the look is amazing, the acting is superb (and, yes, I would still want to adopt Maisie Williams if it wasn't so obvious that she must have parents far more superb and amazing than I could ever hope to be). My only real issue with the show to this point is the editing...we seem to move REALLY quickly between scenes, which I think hinders the viewer's ability to fully consume what he's just seen. This is probably due to having SO MUCH to fit in to each episode...which then makes me nervous about next season, when they will supposedly have the same number of episodes to tell tons more story.

But that's a worry for next season...for now, I am really enjoying the show. And what's better, several friends of mine who aren't fans of the book are loving it as well, which means that the writers and producers really are doing a fantastic job.

There have been several scenes, especially in the last episode, that never actually happened in the book. Since I am trying to view the show as a separate entity from the books as much as I can, I can safely say that I have really loved every single one of them, and feel like they have added even more depth to even some of the main characters than they might have had without these additional scenes.

Bravo all around, really...and for those of you who are watching and have not read the books, buckle your seatbelts. You ain't seen nothing yet.

By the way, if you're going to comment on Game of Thrones at all, please...no spoilers for non-readers. Thanks.

OK...I think that's enough for now. Even though I haven't even mentioned The Killing (liking it until last week...at which point I loved it), Chuck (perfect finale, and leads up to what I think can be a really cool final season), Firefly (watching it for the first time as it's being re-run on the Science Channel - is it too late to start a campaign to get it renewed?), or Deadwood (the one season I haven't seen, S3, just popped up OnDemand - all I can say, in the spirit of the show, is $%!@, &$*@, and %&!@#!).

Ahhh...it's good to be back.


Jonathan said...

Welcome Back! Good Read. I agree with you regarding the trailer for "Awake" that show looks great - could be the next replacement for LOST. Looking forward to future reading.

Anonymous said...

Good to have you back-always a good read.

Scott said...

Hey, thanks for reading, and especially thanks for the feedback!

Jonathan - Awake is definitely the most intriguing show I've seen coming out of the upfronts. I hesitate to put any show in the same category as LOST...those are some mighty big shoes to fill! :)

I have two concerns about the show: First, most shows that have tried to fill that LOST role have gotten it backwards...LOST didn't start out as a sci-fi, high concept show. It started with an interesting story and GREAT characters, and then filled in the sci-fi elements as they went along. Most of the shows who have tried to follow in their footsteps have focused on the "high concept" part, and forgot that you have to have things happening to characters that the audience actually gives a crap about. There are several examples, the best one being FlashForward. Great concept, horrible execution. Hopefully, "Awake" won't follow the same path.

The other concern is a similar one that I had for Kyle Killen's last show, LoneStar. This is a very interesting premise, but is it one that can be sustained for even one entire season, much less multiple seasons?

I am definitely looking forward to it...it looks awesome, and kudos to NBC for actually taking a chance on something that is trying to be something other than just the same old TV.