Even the Vice President of McDonalds sometimes needs a dress

2010 January 29

By request, let’s check in with last night’s Project Runway

Team challenges are always a complete disaster on any reality show, and Project Runway is particularly good at finding situations that are stressful enough to make lots of contestants break down. Add to this an oddly high budget for materials ($500), a classic eleventh-hour requirement to make a second look, and the dubious condition that they base the new look on another group’s work, and it almost didn’t matter that the challenge itself (essentially: make a really great, fancy outfit) was pretty bland.

Where does that leave us?

project runway 703 1

Oh dear, Ping. Michael Kors was right – your model does look like she’s the Statue of Liberty, but he neglected to mention that in this incarnation, the Statue of Liberty is being swaddled in the special-order table linens for a Goth wedding. (Or, I suppose, a Halloween party). You were forgiven once, but it is impossible to accept two completely awful, poorly fitting outfits in a row, and even worse when there are actually three awful, poorly fitting outfits. Do you see what that other model, the unexpected eleventh-hour outfit model, is wearing? Her sunglasses are by far the most exciting things about her. The sunglasses, that is, and her smirk of schadenfreude.

Anthony admonishes his partner; their Vice President of McDonald's dress

Anthony admonishes his partner; their Vice President of McDonalds' dress

Aside from the Farewell to Ping tour, this episode was clearly built as a vehicle for Anthony, whose Southern Belle flamboyance was in full display. You’ve got to love a contestant who’s self-aware enough to mock his own dress as looking like a design made for the “Vice President of McDonald’s,” but my favorite moment was when he chided his partner for bickering in front of Tim Gunn. “Stop actin’ up in front of company, now, come on,” he stage-whispered.

I guess it looks a little like a butterfly. Or a superhero cape?

I guess it looks a little like a butterfly. Or a superhero cape?

While I will admit that the top of Anthony’s dress does resemble chicken feathers, it seems no more “costumey” than the look that won, Mila’s oddly fitting penguin coat. It is cool, and graphic, and certainly looks more carefully made than anything else on the runway, but perhaps I just lack sufficient understanding of how you could wear it and not look like a Wacky Art Teacher Who Usually Wears Kaftans But Has Traded Them In For A More Menswear Look.

In any event, at least we can all be reassured that while Ping may be leaving, we won’t be left with a complete dearth of innovation (read: craziness) in her absence.

****

Just as a reminder, the last episode of Dollhouse is airing tonight. Despite my mixed feelings about the show, it is reliably fascinating, and as I am especially looking forward to tonight’s episode, there will definitely be a Dollhouse post on Monday.

****

And just because it’s Friday, here’s what famed detective Hercule Poirot looks like when re-imagined as a character in a Japanese animated Miss Marple/Poirot crossover television show. You’re welcome.

Screen shot 2010-01-28 at 1.36.26 PM

Lost Ahoy!

2010 January 28
tags: ,
by kvanaren

Like the rest of the television world, I am gearing up for the premiere of Lost’s last season, beginning next week Tuesday. My own Lost viewing tradition over the past several seasons has been to watch it with a few people who tend to have a different perspective than I do about what they want out of the show, which I’ve always enjoyed. In continuation of that, I will be pleased to bring you weekly blog posts on Lost, featuring the viewpoints of both a lit PhD as well as several chemists. They have not yet agreed to let their opinions appear here, but sometimes I feed them while we watch, so I bet they’ll be amenable.

In preparation for the last season, several interviews with Lost producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have begun appearing around the web, including this first part of a two-part interview with Jace Lacob of televisionary. The whole thing is a good read, but there were two quotes in particular I found intriguing.

Carlton Cuse: I think that how people perceive the show has a lot to do with… the way in which they watch the show. It’s our belief that [viewers] who were in it strictly for the answers got fed up and jumped ship a long time ago… I think the people who have stayed with the show are people who really appreciate the idea that the journey is more important then the destination.

That’s not to negate the fact that we hope that the destination will be satisfying. But I think that our intent is to have made the entire ride an enjoyable one.

This may sound like bad news to a few people I watch with, who I think fall a little bit into a category of people who Carlton Cuse feels would have already abandoned the show. They want answers! I mean, I want answers.

But the more interesting thing here is that Cuse is focused on a particular aspect of his show that keeps people coming back, and it’s not as simple as withholding information. The experience of watching each week and following characters through the story is far more important than figuring out the smoke monster. Part of this has to be the nature of making a television show, which Cuse and Lindelof discuss elsewhere in the interview – there are so many unknown variables that it’s impossible to know what you’ll be able to say three years from now, or whether you’ll even be on the air. Maintaining suspense is all well and good, but it’s never going to be enough.

Cuse: We like to believe that we’ve sort of opened the door for certain types of shows that were not welcome on network television before Lost. It has led to the networks taking gambles with heavily serialized shows, and also genre shows. I mean, basically, there was no science fiction on the networks prior to Lost.

Obviously, this point about the presence of science fiction on network television can be debated, and Lindelof quickly jumps in to mention The X-Files. The idea that Lost has made room for “heavily serialized” shows is a more complicated and problematic claim. Certainly it’s been a huge presence on network television, and Lost made it eminently clear that there is some audience for demanding, multi-plot, long-arc shows. Still, that it has “opened the door” for more network shows in the same mold is a harder case to make. No one has been able to capitalize on a show quite like Lost, and when it leaves this May, its absence will leave a big empty hole, not a proliferation of rich, complicated, narratively innovative programming.

I do think, though, that Lost has played a more important role in the larger television landscape. There may not be a great deal of like-minded network shows, but SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica, HBO’s True Blood, Big Love, AMC’s Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Showtime’s Dexter – they’re complicated shows that have The Sopranos and The West Wing in their DNA, but Lost is in there, too.

It’s too early to start writing Lost’s legacy, but I’m happy to be reminded of how strange and different it felt at first, and whatever else Cuse and Lindelof think I’m actually in it for, I want to know what happens.

Pros and Cons

2010 January 27
tags:
by kvanaren

Damages returned this week for its third season, and my feelings about it fall in the range of “that’s pretty cool, I guess” to “meh.”  Like most shows, there are things to enjoy and other things to dislike, but where some shows just have one particular character or plotline that mars its overall appeal, Damages is like a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans – maybe you pull out strawberry shortcake, or maybe you pull out a nice orange juice and toothpaste combo, and your chances are even either way. I’m just as likely to be disgusted as I am entertained by Damages, so I’m going to use this post to try and sort myself out.

Pro: Interesting, complicated multi-plot setup based on multiple storylines set at different times. This can make the show absorbing and addictive.

Con: Ridiculously over-the-top leaping between timelines, which can make the show disjointed and incoherent. You think the time travel on Lost is bad? These are each of the title cards from just the first episode of season three:

Okay, this is only six of them, and I left out at least two. *Spoiler alert* - they both said "6 Months Later."

Okay, this is only six of them, and I left out at least two. *Spoiler alert* - they both said "6 Months Later."

Pro: Huge, talented cast, which in season three includes Glenn Close and Rose Byrne, as well as Lily Tomlin (yay!)

Con: Cast is great, characters are not very subtle. Because the plot is based on betrayals and obscured motives, everyone flips rapidly back and forth between being evil and then actually being innocent. This makes them less like rich, well-rounded characters and more like repeatedly tossed coins (and….flip! she’s evil again.)

Glenn Close and Lily Tomlin in Damages. Lily's character is good so far, but look at that screenshot! She'll turn evil eventually.

Glenn Close and Lily Tomlin in Damages. Lily's character is good so far, but look at that screenshot! She'll turn evil eventually.

Pro: Plot is unpredictable, complex and seems to be planned well in advance, which means pieces that show up in the beginning tie together well by the end.

Con: While the actual content of the plot is hard to predict, its rhythms are not. As soon as you think you know something for certain, something will happen to undo that knowledge. As soon as somebody’s allegiances change, they’re going to get killed. Newly introduced minor character? Yeah, he’s a spy/assassin/FBI agent/illegitimate son/drug kingpin.

Why is everyone so monochromatic and glowy six months from now?

Why is everyone so monochromatic and glowy six months from now?

Pro: Damages has a distinct visual style, making it extremely recognizable and helping it seem more like a unified whole.

Con: The visual style, for the most part, manages to be an unlikely combination of monotone grey-ness and overexposed bright spots, which means everything looks like it was bleached and then shot with a shaky camera.

See what I mean about this show? It’s like Janus. Or Two-Face. Or that comedy/tragedy mask. So while I may tune into Damages this season, I doubt I’ll blog much about it, unless Lily Tomlin is just so awesome that she overwhelms the show’s many negatives. And I wouldn’t put it past her.

All I'm Askin'

2010 January 26
by kvanaren

I got a little sidetracked today. I meant to wake up and write a long, fascinating piece about how great Chuck was last night and the evolving heroism of the main character etc. etc., and then I was going to read five hundred pages of David Copperfield. I got sidetracked. By fonts. What I’m saying is, in lieu of a long Chuck blog post, you get a short, absurdly serious close reading of one particular moment from last night’s episode.

Morgan Grimes: Assistant Manager

Morgan Grimes: Assistant Manager

Chuck opened last night with Morgan walking into the Buy More, uncomfortable in his position as Assistant Manager and at war with his underlings. He pulls out an oven mitt to avoid being shocked by the electrified doorknob and he turns down the coffee he knows is laced with laxative, but he sits down on a chair covered with super glue. And he does it all to the tune of that classic self-righteous anthem, “Respect.”

Respect – Aretha Franklin

Here’s the thing. “Respect” is universally known as an Aretha Franklin song, irrevocably tied up in feminist politics and African American civil rights, belted by ladies everywhere in reference to their jobs, their relationships, and their whole outlook on life. It’s less well known, but the original of that song was actually done by Otis Redding, written and recorded in 1965, two years before Aretha got a hold of it. It’s a great song, but Otis’s cries for “respect” sound distinctly less like an appeal for fair treatment in the eyes of the law and much more like a beleaguered man demanding that his wife stop hen-pecking. He’s not really asking for “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” he’s asking for “a little respect, when I come home.”

Respect – Otis Redding

For the opening scene last night, Morgan walks into the Buy More to the tune of “Respect,” but he kicks it Otis style. It’s a great choice. Aretha’s version would have sounded absurd – it would have been complete auditory overkill for the situation, while also making Morgan look more foolish than necessary. The sound of Aretha’s voice coupled with the visual of Morgan Grime’s adorable oblivious face would have punctured the fiction the moment he stepped through the door. Even better, our cultural associations with Aretha’s cover now reflect back on the Otis version, which gives his “Respect” all the frustrated meaning without any of the clichéd “sock it to me”s.

The whole episode was great. That opening scene was awesome.

Caprica

2010 January 25
by kvanaren

This weekend, Syfy premiered Caprica, their new spinoff/prequel to (the incredible, fascinating, philosophical, mythological, much-missed) Battlestar Galactica. While Battlestar was a space opera, focusing on the last remnants of humanity and their search for a new home, Caprica rewinds several decades in the past, a time before Cylons were independently intelligent and looked like blonde Canadian super models.

Proto Cylons on Caprica

Proto Cylons on Caprica

As with most spinoffs, Caprica starts off burdened by its predecessor, and it’s difficult to separate the experience of this first episode from its resonances with what we already know about the Battlestar universe. Visual and verbal cues constantly recall the earlier show. The robots that guard buildings have scanning red eyes, characters swear by shouting “Gods!” and “frak,” and we even get a very young William Adama, tying us to the story’s known future. Also like Battlestar, Caprica instantly tackles contemporary problems, especially focusing on terrorism, religious extremism, and virtual worlds.

It’s a double-edged sword. Every adaptation must cope with its original, bringing something new without completely erasing whatever was attractive enough to warrant an adaptation in the first place. Sequels and prequels have it a little easier – they can assume the original’s thematic and atmospheric content without needing to tell the same story, which gives the writers room for more experimentation and development. Still, the pleasure and frustration of returning to a fiction that is both familiar and new is as problematic for Caprica as it is any adaptation.

Urban settings - Caprica City

Urban settings - Caprica City

Someone grunts “frak” under his breath and you thrill with recognition, but even the basic move from militaristic space ships to planet-based, urban settings changes the whole tone. I’m hoping this will shift a little as the series develops out of this first episode, but the fact that many of the main characters are teenagers is surprisingly disorienting. It’s also an essentially different type of story – where Battlestar started from a very science fiction, distant-future foundation and then become something much more recognizable, Caprica begins in a place very close to our reality. Virtual worlds and artificial intelligences are developing but nascent technologies. (Kids these days, they get into all sorts of crazy technology.) Religion and race are powerful political entities, but they get shushed out of polite conversation.

Baby William Adama - you've gotta wonder what will happen to make him look like Edward James Olmos

Baby William Adama - you've gotta wonder what will happen to make him look like Edward James Olmos

Part of what made Battlestar Galactica so remarkable is that it was an adaptation itself, and it was forced to take on the cornball, pulp science fiction of its original. Battlestar dealt with the silliness head on by reinterpreting the premise with deep seriousness and completely rethinking the show’s themes, storylines, and dramatic possibilities. I certainly want Caprica to succeed, but it has yet to fully articulate itself outside the shadow of its original, and its ratings indicate its appeal as a prequel isn’t an obvious sell. If it’s going to work, Caprica needs to have moments where the audience forgets it’s watching a prequel to Battlestar and accepts it as a show for its own sake. I really want this show to work, but so far all I see is the impending robot apocalypse. C’mon, Caprica. Make me forget.

Project Runway Season Seven – *Fingers Crossed*

2010 January 22
by kvanaren

Last week Project Runway returned for its seventh season, and although I did not blog about it then, I have been watching in the hopes that season seven will wash away the memory of tragically bad season six. The problems with season six have been amply complained about all over the internet, and one of the primary issues was that the designers were all incredibly boring. Not only were their personal conflicts and workroom bickering not enough to sustain an entertaining reality show, the designs themselves were consistently unimaginative and bland. I dress blandly enough at home, you know? I don’t watch a show about fashion to see my own (neutral toned, cardigan based) clothing choices mirrored back to me. Contestants aside, last season was also plagued by shifts in location and judging that seriously impaired the overall impact of the show. It’s surprising, but the move to LA seemed to be a major player in the (less exciting) settings and (less edgy) style. Less surprising was the effect of inconsistent guest judges – without the firm and reliable voices of Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, winners and losers felt more arbitrary, a judge’s personality had a huge impact on the feedback, and no one knew what to expect from week to week.

All that said (and wow, that was a really long first paragraph), I’m happy to cautiously report that season seven is looking promising. Everyone is back in New York, happily holed up in the familiar Parsons workroom, and Michael Kors and Nina Garcia have been on both of the first two episodes (as well as appearing in the preview for next week). Even better, the designers seem much more willing to experiment and be innovative. It’s difficult to tell what the major players and behind-the-scenes rivalries will be when there are still so many contestants, but I’m hopeful. It’s already looking good when the judges choose not to kick off a contestant, Ping, who sends her model down the runway with her bare buttocks in full view. No seriously – the model wore an ill-fitting skirt with an enormous slit in the back, the better to view her completely uncovered rear-end. And after some deliberation, the judges chose to keep Ping and send home Pamela, whose dress was merely boring and badly made.

Here we see Heidi craning her neck for a better view of the poor model’s naked behind.

project runway 702 1

Oh Michael Kors. I missed you and your….woah woah, did you always have a horrifying claw hand like that? Did you have to literally claw your way back onto the show? Are you going to skewer the contestants with your razor sharp talons? Is there some new claws in your Project Runway contract? (Covers face in shame.)

project runway 702 2

We say goodbye to the standard strapless minidress so that we can have another week with Burlap McShowyBottom. You’ve started off so well, Project Runway. Keep the fire alive.

project runway 702 3

Human Target, in brief

2010 January 21

I was thinking maybe I should start trying to write really short blog entries. Here it goes.

***

Mark Valley as Christopher Chance on Fox's Human Target

Mark Valley as Christopher Chance on Fox's Human Target

There’s a new show on Fox called Human Target about a guy named Christopher Chance who works as bodyguard for clients in serious danger. It’s part Burn Notice, part 24 – each episode tells a standalone story, but I have a feeling the main character’s background and private life will eventually get thrown in the mix. A lot of things blow up, or get set on fire, or get shot at, and it’s quite entertaining to watch Chance care very little for his own safety. His handler/partner is a guy named Winston, who used to be on Pushing Daisies and who plays essentially the same character here, complete with pleasant curmudgeonly attitude and humorous straight-man role. The show can be reasonably well summed up in an exchange from the first episode: after Chance takes a bullet for his client, he strips off his shirt to reveal a bulletproof vest underneath. “You’re wearing a vest?” his client exclaims, “where’s my vest?!” “I’m your vest,” Chance answers. It’s fluffy, and it’s not breaking any new televised ground, but for my money it’s more entertaining than Law and Order. The acting is good, the premise is effective, and the characters are agreeably intriguing. Plus, as I mentioned before, a lot of stuff blows up, and that’s always fun.

***

Not bad, right? With a second paragraph, I might mention its surprisingly lush musical score, (done by Bear McCreary, late of Battlestar Galactica musical fame) the high quality talent they’ve lined up for the first few episodes (Tricia Helfer!), or the amusing cast of minor character nerds who supply all the technical support. Possibly also its entertaining opening credit sequence, which was done by the same company that made the credits for Chuck and Mad Men. But I don’t think you miss a whole lot without it.

***

Oh yes, this also happened today. The two-week long implosion had to end sometime, but it sure has been fun watching Conan O’Brien burn every possible NBC bridge he can name.

Show Unexpected (Okay, that is a super lame title, but I'm leaving it)

2010 January 20
by kvanaren

I have taken plenty of opportunities to rag on The CW in the past. It’s right up there with ABC Family on the list of Networks That Frequently Make Stupid Shows. Vampire Diaries, Melrose Place, The Beautiful Life…these are not shows that inspire confidence, and although I understand the arguments out there regarding the possible insane brilliance of Gossip Girl, it’s just not really my cup of tea. So, without any of my usual research or preparatory reading, I sat down to watch Life Unexpected, a new CW show that I fully expected to be less entertaining than waiting in the security line at an airport.

I watched the pilot episode. Despite the many-tabbed browser window I’d set up full of other things to read and work on while the episode went on the background, I watched it with my almost completely undivided attention. (Okay, okay, I looked up a few recipes for pumpkin muffins. Regardless.)You could have knocked me down with a feather.

It was actually pretty good. Sure, there are some problems, most notably in the overall plausibility of the entire set-up, but the key point here is that none of its problems actually impinged too greatly on an otherwise positive viewing experience. I am italicizing due to my shock.

Cate, Lux and Baze (You may recognize Cate from Roswell fame, and Baze had a recurring role on Mad Men)

Cate, Lux and Baze (You may recognize Cate from Roswell fame, and Baze had a recurring role on Mad Men)

The premise of Life Unexpected is a straightforward wacky family plot, with the pilot episode establishing the key characters and relationships with brisk efficiency: Lux, an oddly named sixteen-year-old, has spent her life in the foster care system and is choosing to apply for emancipation to live on her own. In order to do that, she must find her birth parents, which she does with surprising ease, and Lux quickly discovers that her parents are members of the thirtyish, delayed-adulthood, commitment-phobic set, who haven’t seen each other since high school. Her father, Baze, is a bar-owner, while her mother Cate is a talk radio host. In an unsurprising turn two-thirds of the way through the pilot, a judge awards Baze and Cate custody of their biological daughter, and wacky family making ensues.

Baze and Lux bond over Christian the Lion

Baze and Lux bond over Christian the Lion

It sounds like it could be awful, right? It should be far too treacley moralizing, or built on sarcastic barbs about teen pregnancy, or full of absurd, heartwarming hugging scenes like the final act in every episode of Full House. It is pretty sweet, full of finger-picking guitar themes and an especially adorable birthday scene at the end. But the pilot manages to walk a miraculous line, life unexpected 2making it surprisingly funny, sad, and likeable. The biggest risk is Lux, the abandoned daughter, whose name and character description leave her open to brash, cynical self-deprecation about foster care, but who manages instead to be warm and forgiving while still obviously in need of help. Lux’s parents, too, are appealingly flawed without crossing the line into pitiable. The most moving segments in the pilot are the moments when Cate realizes how hard her daughter’s life has been, and her face falls as she tries to come to terms with her guilt and shock.

Alan Sepinwall has a great piece about Life Unexpected’s interesting heritage as a WB-esque show, and its obvious forerunners – Gilmore Girls, Everwood, Felicity. He worries that his appreciation for the show comes largely out of a sense of nostalgia for that type of programming rather than pleasure in the show itself. I understand his concerns, but at this point I hardly care why I like it as much as I do. It’s so refreshing to watch a CW show full of people who actually want to be happy, with thirty-something characters that look like they’re thirty and high-schoolers who don’t look like twenty-eight year-olds. So come on, Life Unexpected. You have a stupid name, but if you continue to be good, I promise not to hold it against you.

Chuck vs. Operation Awesome

2010 January 19
by kvanaren

Last night’s episode of Chuck was a relief on several fronts. For one, they let the whole Chuck/Sarah relationship drama thing cool down a bit, which is going to be crucial if they want to continue to give that relationship meaning. What little emphasis did fall onto Chuck and Sarah was diluted through the larger issues of family involvement in the spy world, so it was nice to hear Sarah speak up for maintaining contact with the outside world. Even better, she spoke in favor of relationships not just as a part of her ongoing thing with Chuck, but out of her own interest. Sarah’s always been a reasonably well-sketched character, but she can fall into some boring character development grooves that have more to do with Chuck than with herself. It’s always good to see her work a little outside his plotline.

New improved Chuck, who is pretty badass

New improved Chuck, who is pretty badass

Aside from the downgrade in the Chuck/Sarah Emergency Alert Level, the episode was a good example of how Chuck’s new intersect powers will be working, which is to say, only some of the time, and not very conveniently. Zachary Levi has had a whole different aura these first few episodes, which I think may be related to a slightly shorter haircut and whatever extra training they’ve been putting him through to make the fight scenes look better. His neck’s a little more defined. He seems tanner. And that’s fine – it’s entirely appropriate that Chuck would seem different after some actual CIA training and a fancy new intersect. Even so, Chuck now looks a lot more like the real spy he’s trying to become, so it looks slightly incongruous when he falls down on the job. He’s got to go all the way to ridiculous kung-fu hand gestures before we realize the intersect’s not going to kick in, and that tension is interesting and suspenseful. Before intersect 2.0, Chuck was incompetent and you just waited for Sarah and Casey to come busting in and save him. Now, you’re not sure what to expect, and his failures are more frustrating and emotionally meaningful.

Captain Awesome and Lester as Tyler Durden

Captain Awesome and Lester as Tyler Durden

This episode also made several moves toward minor character development, as well as introduced Agent Shaw into the mix. Captain Awesome has always been one of my favorites, and in addition to being a hilariously terrible liar, also served as an important audience stand-in: his awe at Chuck’s sweet tranq gun abilities was a good reminder to the viewers of how far Chuck has come from his Nerd Herd beginnings. The whole Fight Club plotline was also fun, and while Morgan makes a fictionally fruitful and worthwhile Ass Man, the highlight for me was absolutely Lester as Tyler Durden. Something about the sunglasses and the rolled up sleeves totally sold me about that role, and I almost wanted to see some creepy liposuction soap production scenes.

Brandon Routh as mysterious, dramatically be-ringed Agent Shaw

Brandon Routh as mysterious, dramatically be-ringed Agent Shaw

Lastly, of course, Agent Shaw, who seems to be the catalyst for this season’s big arc forward into the Ring conspiracy and whatever else may come. I’m not sure how long Brandon Routh is contracted to be on Chuck, but at the moment, I think it’s a good idea to have some shakeup in the main team members. The ending shot of the wedding band was pretty over-the-top dramatic, but I can live with it as long as it doesn’t become a habit. Next week: Stone Cold Steve Austin! More Superman-related alumni casting! Chuck’s first solo mission!

I'd like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press

2010 January 18
by kvanaren

Last night’s Golden Globes were the usual awards ceremony mixed bag, with highlights like Robert Downey Jr.’s wacky acceptance speech for Sherlock Holmes (which is quite enjoyable, by the way, and actually doesn’t stray as far from Conan Doyle as one might initially think, but that’s a whole other blog post) and low moments like several of Ricky Gervais’ jokes that didn’t land well. (The worst was Paul McCartney, who had a full-on, hand-to-mouth look of horror when Gervais noted that McCartney must be trying to save money after spending so much of it last year).

I know, you really care, don’t you? Yeah. It’s hard to work up much enthusiasm for a room full of wealthy movie stars congratulating themselves on their work, and it’s even more awkward when they all put on Haitian flag lapel pins and chide each other about charitable donations. Still, as Matthew Weiner reminded the audience in his speech, it’s great that the Hollywood Foreign Press gives awards for outstanding television, even if the reasoning behind who wins can be a little opaque.

So, a few of the night’s better moments:

Speaking of Matt Weiner, Mad Men won best television drama, an obvious and worthy decision for that category. Glee won for best musical or comedy television, and although I feel like the award is premature for that show, I’m happy an expensive hour-long program is getting some love.

Of course there were several references to the problems at NBC, especially because NBC was the network hosting the whole shebang. My favorite was Julianna Margulies, who won best actress in a television drama for The Good Wife and thanked CBS for “believing in the 10pm drama.” Hulu doesn’t have that clip, though, so instead you get Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks cracking on NBC.

As mentioned above, Robert Downey Jr. has a nice handle on the appropriate tone, content and entertainment value of an acceptance speech.

And finally, the best Ricky Gervais moment was every bit as cruel as the flopped Paul McCartney joke, but because it was making fun of Mel Gibson, no one seemed to mind.