Back in the early days of television, mothers were portrayed as pearl-wearing masters of the kitchen, content to spend their time at home waiting patiently for their husband and children to return from their days at work and school respectively. Even a former starlet like Donna Reed became desexualized in TV's perfect suburban world.
Eventually, however, moms got the chance to be sexy. And before too long, teen boys were wondering about the strange feelings that they were having for Shirley Jones' pop singing Mrs. Partridge, or Florence Henderson's Carol Brady. The hotness of the actresses that have played mothers since on television is truly stunning. Who are the sexy women that have launched thousands of MILF fantasies? Take a look.
GALLERY: The Sexiest Moms in TV History
The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Why hello there, Community episode we've all been waiting for: It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. As a loyal fan with a "Troy and Abed in the Morning" mug currently warming my frigid-as-usual hands, even I had my doubts when this very special show's most recent offerings were … tepid, at best. And after a fall that boasted one of the greatest half hours of comedy I've ever witnessed -- I'm talking, of course, about "Remedial Chaos Theory" -- some (Err, Chevy Chase) began to wonder if Dan Harmon's recent writing would ever top the early days of Greendale glory.
For me, tonight put those doubts to rest. Community is a show that prides itself on its one-of-a-kind "special episodes" — from the paintball to the Dungeons and Dragons to the spoof on a traditional television "bottle episode" — the show is often at its best when it's taking on genres and generally pushing the crazytown envelope. And boy, did "Pillows and Blankets" deliver.
The basic set-up was a war between two beloved best friends, presented in the style of a Ken Burns PBS documentary. Everyone, of course, took on a traditional war-doc role: Troy and Abed were the respective feuding leaders of Blanketsburg and Pillowtown, Annie became the Florence Nightingale of Greendale (focusing mainly on testicular injuries), and Shirley let loose as a merciless pillow-killer. Jeff, of course, flip-flopped to serve his own agenda, Pierce stayed Pierce, and Britta hilariously tried to be a Tim Hetherington-esque war documentarian. Oops — Britta'd it.
When we left Troy and Abed last week, the battle had just begun — the first shot had been fired by Lord knows who (Starburns), and the cracks in their formerly solid friendship had begun to form. And when we re-entered Greendale tonight, the scene was more Walking Dead than Animal House: Abandoned halls and flying feathers suggested that irreparable damage had already been done. (This opener actually reminded me of the similarly post-apocalyptic world Jeff woke to after the first paintball cornucopia in "Modern Warfare.")
"It was awesome," Troy mused to the narrator. "But also, it wasn't?" Yes, we could tell right away that it wasn't — Dean Pelton had enlisted a typically ambivalent Jeffrey's help to bring the former BFFs together, but even the ultimate peace offering (an invisible friendship hat) couldn't mend their fences. Diplomacy simply wasn't on the table today — Troy and Abed insisted on their respective "All Tomatoes" (ultimatums) being met in a timely matter. They were two Cersei Lannisters, without a reasonable Tyrion to make sense of it all.
So the two men returned to their fort(resses), for what should have been a night of peaceful cease-fire. Instead, the residents of Pillowtown were invaded by a gang of feverish Blanketsburgers, in a frenetic scene that I hope will be mirrored in the upcoming film World War Z. Great book. You guys should read it.
And the battle raged on — of course, Britta Hetherington tried to heroically capture all of the action, but unfortunately, "Just because something is in black and white, doesn't mean it's good." (Does anyone else think that Britta has finally found her stride as the insufferable liberal arts student that everybody hates? Is it bad that my brother and my cousins call me Britta? No?)
Jeff tried to use the escalating situation to his own advantage, providing anti-violence, anti-Braveheart speeches to both sides in a poorly disguised "Ferris Buellerian attempt to delay schoolwork." He got away with it in the eyes of the wartorn masses, but not with the only one who ever seemed to matter: The age-inappropriate Annie Edison, who started ignoring his text messages as a sign of disappointed defiance. "Your words don't mean anything," she said when they finally met in person. "They're just things you say to get what you want." When he defended his actions, she replied with "Maybe you should just shut up," making her my official soul sister of the week. Hey, manipulative liars: MAYBE YOU SHOULD JUST SHUT UP.
Finally, the battle hit way too close to emotional friendship home for Troy and Abed (And for us, their devoted viewers) when Abed sent out a devastating email to his entire team, selfishly highlighting Troy's weaknesses: "Loud noises, the color red, smooth jazz, shiny things, food smells, music boxes, bell bottoms, boobs, barking dogs, and anyone saying 'Look over there!'" Sadly, it got worse: "He's insecure about his level of intelligence. His greatest vulnerability of all is his emotional frailty. It's incredibly easy to make him cry, and he's incredibly ashamed of that fact."
Now, I know the commonly accepted diagnoses for Abed is Asperger's Syndrome (Which greatly hinders one's social skills), but coming from a recapper with Asperger's in the family, that was way harsh, Tai. Troy responded with an equally hurtful, friendship-slandering text message, and it started to seem as if John Goodman's Vice Dean had finally won -- the greatest friendship Greendale had ever seen was soon to be no more, leaving Troy with no choice but to accept his fate as a legendary Air Conditioning Repairman. The roomies even agreed that the loser of the pillowfight would move out of the apartment, giving up all rights to the Dreamatorium.
But at the end of the day, Jeff — of all people — was able to bring the duo back together. After a battle that the Guinness World Records guy called "the world's biggest mistake," the rest of the campus retreated, leaving Troy and Abed to hit each other with pillows all by their lonesome. Jeff realized that their inability to pull themselves away from each other meant that the friendship still had a chance, so he again offered the magical friendship hats they had rejected once before. "You left the magical friendship hats at the Dean's office," Abed said with a smirk. Troy shook his head in a sign of amused solidarity, then eagerly accepted his peace token once Jeff returned with the previously abandoned hats. They did the secret handshake, and off to the Dreamatorium they went (I assume).
In an equally sentimental turn, Annie told the camera crew that she was proud of Jeff for leaving for an extended amount of time to make Troy and Abed believe that he had actually gone all the way to the Dean's office to retrieve the hats. A Jeff voiceover and some found footage proved that Jeff actually DID enter the Dean's office, and he handled those hats with utmost care. For the first time ever, Jeff was playing along.
All in all, a fantastic episode. Harmon and co. not only provided a thrilling documentary that should be shown on PBS -- they packed an emotional punch and advanced Jeff's character in a way that didn't seem forced or cheesy. They did NOT Britta this one.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
'Community' recap: Troy and Abed Go To War'Community' Feud: Is Chevy Chase Leaving the Show? Chevy Chase's 'Community' Boss Apologizes For His "Unclassy Move"
Four times a year – in February, May, July, and November – television networks make sure to churn out their best quality episodes with shock, cliffhangers, or some good old fashioned stunt casting. We see all this in the name of Nielson TV ratings research diaries to better show advertisers what they are paying for and what they want to be paying for. To the average viewer, it just means the possibility of a cast’s family vacation, or weird dream-sequence episode (like the time Roseanne fantasized about murdering her entire family just so she could have more time to herself on Season 2 Roseanne). It could mean particularly violent on-goings during some of your favorite shows, such as Zeljko Ivanek dropping by for a guest appearance on House in which he holds the entire hospital hostage so that he can get treatment. And it’s all in the name of Nielsen.
Founded in the 1920s by market analyst, Arthur Nielsen, the Nielsen Media Research company expanded from radio to television in the 1950s. In 1954, Nielsen mailed ratings booklets to households across the country and asked viewers to record everything they watched for a week. Obviously, computers take over the task of recording viewership now, but the concept of sweeps is still the same. Often times, plotlines are forsaken for wild-eyed programming that will hopefully ensnare more viewers; remember E.R.’s live episode in 1997 or Ellen DeGeneres coming out of the closet on “The Puppy Episode” of Ellen during May sweeps?
So the question remains, who will join the ranks of some of November TV’s most memorable - or infamous - episodes like The Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough at Last,” Married…with Children’s “A Period Piece,” Family Guy’s “Stewie Kills Lois,” or How I Met Your Mother’s “Slap Bet?”
Glee Sexes Things Up
Fox already got heavy fire from concerned parents for its sweeps episode of Glee, titled ”The First Time,” which featured Kurt and Blaine and Rachel and Finn's first times - no, not all together, then the angry viewers might actually have a gripe. But as per usual on Glee, the controversy wasn't much to sneeze at, safe sex is stressed throughout the episode and the scenes involving the couples’ first times were more touching (no pun intended) than Skinemax. As for the episode itself? It was actually not all that different from the usual disjointed, odd-ball, quirky hour of Gleekdom. I actually thought it was more controversial for a musical show like this one to barely feature West Side Story, which was the play the kids were performing.
Guest Stars As Far As The Eye Can See
Guest stars galore showed up for Modern Family's November 2 show, “Treehouse.” The tried and true stunt casting of high profile stars has worked for MF before (see: Edward Norton, Matt Dillon), and this episode was no different. Leslie Mann stops by as a hot girl Cam is trying to pick up at a bar, thanks to a dare from Mitchell. Meanwhile, Jay's highly fashionable friend, Shorty (Chazz Palminteri) shows up with Jennifer Tilly (who never gets enough credit) as his girlfriend, Darlene. Gloria is jealous of all to the things Shorty and Darlene do as a couple and makes Jay step it up for a night of salsa dancing. Modern Family is consistently the best comedy on television (it did win back-to-back Emmys for Best Comedy, after all), and “Treehouse” succeeded at what a great sweeps episode, or any episode can and should be. And with Jay high on placebo ecstasy, the series showed the world (again) why Ed O'Neil deserves an Emmy. The episode saw world of Modern Family expanded with more great, kooky characters, and we really need to see more of Shorty and Darlene.
Over at our favorite fledgling Peacock, Nov. 19’s Saturday Night Live looks to really bring out the sweeps magic with host Jason Segel and musical guest Florence and the Machine. Recapping So You Think You Can Dance over the summer gave me an appreciation for the British pop band and their hit, “Cosmic Love.” The band is heading to Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center to perform its new single, “Shake it Out.” More importantly, SNL is being hosted by the most reliably funny man in recent comedy history for the first time! Segel has impressed plenty of comedy fans since Freaks and Geeks and his brand of humor and physical comedy continues to be infectious. For the first time in a long time, I will actually be watching Saturday Night Live.
Thursday, November 24, for the first time in a long time (that's twice now in one column), a brand-new Peanuts special is coming to TV. “Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown” comes to Fox and as the name suggests, the special will focus on Linus and his addiction to the world's most famous security blanket. There are TV specials galore as well during sweeps week to try and grab as many ratings as possible. Joining Snoopy and pals will be everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving Day parade, an all–new Ice Age special. Perhaps the oddest Thanksgiving special ever will be this year when Katie Couric interviews Lady Gaga as part of A Very Gaga Thanksgiving. This girl won’t be happy until she has invaded every facet of pop culture, will she?
Fox also saw Justin Long drop by New Girl as a music teacher Jess is crushing on; Jess invites him over for Turkey-Day dinner in these week's episode. After the adorkable New Girl, the Six-Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors, and Mrs. Partridge, Shirley Jones, played Burt's wealthy parents on Raising Hope. Greg Garcia, creator of Raising Hope has always looked to the past for great guest stars (Burt Reynolds on My Name Is Earl comes to mind), and it's great to see the tradition continue.
Other guest-stars on our favorite shows are 70s sexpot, Morgan Fairchild on Bones; reclusive stand-up comic, Norm MacDonald on The Middle; Queen of Mean, Lisa Lampenelli, on Whitney; comic book and fantasy author Neil Gaiman and actor Andy Garcia on The Simpsons; and Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, gets animated on American Dad.
Gearing Up For Finales
Sometimes shows don't rely on guest-stars for sweeps, instead they take the time as an opportunity to build drama for season finales. Case in point: last week's Sons of Anarchy, which was the culmination of many things that have been building all season and the commencement of tearing everything down as the show draws close to its sure-to-be shattering season finale. Another trope of sweeps is the extended episode, which the Sons had this past week: 90 minutes of high octane instead of the usual 60.
This next episode isn’t a finale, but a farewell. In a strange way, the Regis Philbin’s farewell episode on Nov. 18 might garner the most ratings of any of these shows. After all, he’s been a talk show fixture since 1964 when he took over the Westinghouse Tonight Show hosting duties when Steve Allen left. Since 1985, Philbin and his very vanilla, but still entertaining antics, has been a part of many a couch potatoes morning. Despite most of us having day jobs, Live! with Regis and Kelly still enjoys high ratings. If you’re not satisfied with Regis’ leaving and its possibility for high ratings, then check out Live! with Kelly on Nov. 21 – 23 when Jerry Seinfeld takes on guest hosting responsibilities; leave it to Seinfeld to earn the most anticipated guest star slot of the season without being on any primetime shows. Three days of Seinfeld in the morning not good enough of you? How about Nov. 28 – Dec. 2 which will see an entire week of NPH joining Ripa in the morning.
Even though we get some fun, and often times odd, TV from it, are these Nielsen Sweeps even necessary anymore? There are at least five different ways to watch our favorite shows and I don’t think I’ve seen a commercial in months thanks to Netflix, DVR, and my iPad. Then again, sweeps have always been a big waste of time unless you have a Nielsen box or you’re a Don Draper-style (M)ad-man. I suppose as long as it keeps stirring up good TV like last night’s hysterical New Girl episode or the past two weeks of That 70’s (Two and a Half) Men Show , then keep the good times rolling. After all, the ratings-grabbing episodes are there for just that, to get ratings. As for me, thanks to Segel hosting SNL, I’ll be watching that show for the first time in about ten years, which means they count me down for a rating notch.
Do you think sweeps month is still relevant? Do you even care or did you ever? Are you happy with some of the more outrageous antics of our favorite TV characters during sweeps months? Sound off in the comments.