‘Traveler’ makes you wonder how well you really know your friends

May 31, 2007

Who is Will Traveler?  That is the #1 question on the new ABC summer series Traveler, a high-action drama about three graduate students on a cross-country summer adventure before entering the working world.  But things quickly go awry in the first leg of the trip leaving two of the friends on the run and the third’s fate (and motives) in question.

TravelerJay Burchell, Tyler Fog and Will Traveler met two years ago when they became roommates in graduate school housing.  Now two years later, they’ve graduated and decided to go for one last hurrah — a cross-country road trip — before settling down into the real world and life after college.  They are traveling “east of our youth and west of our future.”

Soon-to-be lawyer Jay, played by Matthew Bomer (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:  The Begining, Tru Calling) comes from a blue collar background.  His mother works several jobs and his father was dishonorably discharged from the military under suspect circumstances.  The only one with a girlfriend, Jay is in charge of keeping the trio out of trouble.

On the other hand, Tyler, played by Logan Marshall-Green (The O.C., 24), comes from money — a lot of money.  After graduation he plans to work as a venture capitalist for his father, Carlton (William Sadler), a businessman with a shady reputation.   Tyler’s role on the trip is to cover major expenses.

We know the least about Will, played by Aaron Stanford (Pyro from the X-Men franchise).  He’s graduating as a chemical engineer.  And although he always has a camera, he’s never caught in front of one.  He’s responsible for planning this trio’s adventure, which could explain where it all went wrong.

Jay and Tyler after the explosionWhat started as an harmless prank in a New York City art museum ended with the museum exploding.  Since Jay and Tyler were running from the prank, they looked guilty and are now the prime suspects.  Will, initially presumed dead because Jay and Tyler last saw him in the building before it exploded, is missing. 

But Will’s apology on the cell phone right before the explosion, the fact that all his stuff has been cleared out of the hotel room and the missing car, make you wonder just who is Will Turner.  Did he bomb the building and set up his friends?  If so, why?  Or was Will just a pawn in a bigger plan?  We are treated to insights into the trio’s relationship through flashbacks that leave you questioning Will and his motives even more.  Was becoming roommates a coincidence or did Will arrange it?  What other circumstances did he manipulate?  How long has he been planning?

Now Jay and Tyler are on the run from the FBI while searching for Will and answers.  The pair receives help from Carlton and the mysterious porter (Billy Mayo).  But why are they helping this duo?  Is someone else behind this help?

I guess we’ll just have to wait until the next episode for more answers.  Overall, I think Traveler is a great way to fill the summer void. 

Traveler airs on ABC on Wednesdays at 10 p.m.  If you missed the first episodes, you can catch them on http://www.abc.com.


20 Freshman Shows that Deserved a Chance to Wrap Up their Stories

May 31, 2007

As I look at all the new series scheduled for the 2007-08 television schedule, I’m a little hesitant to get excited about any of them.  The networks seem less willing to give a new show a chance to find an audience before giving it the axe.  I’m still very bitter over the cancellation of Drive, can you tell?

Some shows are destined for failure even before they start despite a good premise or a captivating storyline because the networks put them in a lousy time slot, keep moving their time slot or run the episodes out of order.  Here are 20 series that never got a chance to wrap up their storylines before getting axed.  Some never even got the chance to finish their freshman season. 

  1. Firefly
  2. American Gothic
  3. Lone Gunman
  4. Harsh Realm
  5. Drive
  6. Reunion
  7. Nine
  8. Threshold
  9. Strange Luck
  10. John Doe
  11. Boomtown
  12. Freaks & Geeks
  13. Karen Cisco
  14. Touching Evil
  15. Jake 2.0
  16. Miss Match
  17. Keen Eddie
  18. Invasion
  19. Eyes
  20. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (I realize they are currently showing the last of the taped episodes, but I’m not convinced a real ending is in store.)

I’m not saying that all these series deserved a second season (most did), but at least their fans deserved a chance to see closure to these stories. 

The problem with single season shows is that if you didn’t see the show the first time, you have no idea what I’m talking about.  You won’t find these shows in reruns and, in most cases, you won’t find them on DVD.  For me, that’s the case with Jericho.  I understand that several are upset about its cancellation; however, I couldn’t include it on my list since I never saw it.

What shows would you have on your list?

Should mothers be paid to be better parents?

May 30, 2007

Would being paid for taking care of your children make you a better parent? New York City is hoping a monetary incentive will help some parents take their role more seriously.

In September, New York City will launch a two-to-three-year pilot program for 5,000 families.  Parents can earn to $5,000 per year in this program.  By doing “good parenting” activities such as taking your child to the doctor for his/her annual check up or attending meetings at your child’s school, parents will receive $40 to $100 a month.

I have mixed emotions about this concept.  While I agree that our current welfare system is flawed and that there are way too many people mooching off the system, I think (call me an optimistic) that there are legitimately some people who are down on their luck and just need a little extra help to get back on their feet.  For these people, I’m glad there is a system in place to help them.  I think this New York City program could be another resource for these people.

Here’s what I like about the program:

  • The $50 million program is entirely privately funded.  It doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything.
  • The recipients must do certain activities in order to receive funds.
  • Children in the program will reap some benefits — better health care, more attention to school and possibly a better home life.
  • Bonuses and incentives are indeed good motivators in the business world.
  • What I don’t like about the program:

  • The cash goes directly to the family, usually the mother or other female head of household (not sure why it goes to the females).  What’s to prevent the parents from then using this money for drugs or alcohol?  Why not earmark this money for school supplies, after school programs or health care expenses?
  • Would this system, like welfare, encourage recipients to have more children just as a way of earning money?
  • Will the parents truly become more involved in their children’s lives or will this involvement be limited to the few activities that earn them some money?
  • This program could set a precedent for government-funded programs.
  • Personally, I don’t think being paid would make me a better parent.  But I think I’m a fairly good parent now.  Plus, while money is always a concern, I’m not considered low income.  I think it’s an interesting experiment and I wish New York City luck.

    What do you think, should we pay moms and dads to be better parents?  Would a few extra bucks change your parenting style?

    What would you be willing to do to keep your child safe?

    May 29, 2007

    The thought of my children being stolen or getting lost and then hurt absolutely terrorizes me.  In fact, as the mother of twin toddlers, I have not gone to places with my children alone just because I thought it might be too crowded for me to keep track of two little ones that could disappear quickly in a throng of people.  A British professor might have the answer to ease parents concerns — an implant.

    Reading University Cybernetics Professor Kevin Warwick has developed an inch-long microchip that can be implanted in a child that can locate that child within a few meters.  Although the chip is not meant to track your child 24/7, it can be activated in an emergency to locate your child. 

    Apparently Warwick’s chip was ready for testing in 2002, but his volunteer backed out after intense media scrutiny.  Since then Warwick has not proceeded with developing the implant nationally due to backlash over the ethicalness of the project.

    But with an increase in children being snatched not just in public, but from their own homes, as was the case for Madeleine McCanne in Portugal, Warwick’s inbox is filling with requests from concerned parents wanting the implant for their children.

    Would you be willing to implant your child if it could keep them safe?

    I know that I couldn’t.  Heck, I can’t even implant my dog, or get him the tattoo, because I think it’s mean.  In fact, the whole idea of implants sounds too much like one of those sci fi movies where the government controls everyone’s moves.

    Yes, I’m probably over-reacting, but I think I have some valid concerns.  If my children have implants for me to track them, what prevents the government or some other governing organization from tracking them too?  Or worse yet, what guarantee do I have that some sex offender won’t hack the system and use the implant to target my child?  Not to mention that I’m not eager to insert anything foreign into my child’s body that isn’t medically necessary.  The presence of the implant alone could trigger a medical condition in my children.

    Don’t get me wrong, I want to protect my children.  I am very afraid that I’ll look away for a brief moment and my children will wander away and get hurt, or worse, someone will take them.  But I think I still have quite a few options towards protecting my children in public — taking another adult with me to crowded places, putting the children in a stroller/cart/wagon and simply holding hands.  At home, I rely on locked doors and windows and two very protective dogs.

    However, I am not opposed to some less intrusive means of being able to locate my kids. 

    When they are old enough, I plan for my children to have cell phones with GPS locators.  I am particularly impressed with Disney Mobile.

    I am interested in something that I can use to track my children if they are lost or abducted, not to keep tabs on them 24/7.  Some companies are offering wristbands or clothing.  I like this idea better than implants because I can put them on my children when I head to a very crowded public place (i.e. theme park), but they don’t need to wear daily.

    Globalpoint Technologies is now offering a wrist band called the Personal Companion that could be hidden under the child’s clothes.  Using a combination of GPS and mobile phone technology, the armband can be used to track your child within two meters.

    Similarly, Connect Software is offering daycares the ToddlerTag in clothing.  The ToddlerTag uses active Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to track a child.

    It’s true that both of these devices, along with cell phones and other similar tools can be discarded by the abductor before they can be used to locate a child.  However, I still prefer these devices to an intrusive implant.  And who’s to say an abductor wouldn’t cut out the implant or worse to disable it.

    I think all parents should be a little paranoid about the safety of their child.  Nevertheless, our children are still people and we must respect their rights.  Implants seem way too “big brother-ish” for my tastes.

    I know that good parenting and common sense might not be enough to keep my child safe.  But at this time, I’m satisfied to rely on these skills instead of crossing an ethical line with my children.

    However, I am interested in hearing what you as a parent think.  What lengths are you willing to go to to keep your child safe?

    Great Resource for Newbie Bloggers

    May 26, 2007

    Interested in starting a blog?  New to blogging in general?  Check out this little tutorial for more information.

    I’ve been blogging for two months now, but found this guide to be a great little tool in and of itself.  Unless you are real familiar with blogging, the terminology alone can be a little intimidating.  This tutorial lists a lot of the blogging jargon along with easy definitions.

    But more importantly, if you are thinking about starting a blog, it has a nice chart comparing the various blogging software so that you can find the one that fits your needs best.

    I currently use WordPress for my blog.  I did so because a friend recommended it, not because I had researched it.  However, I was lucky and Wordpess more than meets my blogging needs.  It’s simple and easy to use.  You don’t have to know HTML or be very technical to use it.

     I like that I can have a nice clean looking blog that is easy to use without having to do a lot of background work.  This feature allows me to concentrate on writing my posts.

    However, resource like this when I started would have been great.  I hope you find it useful too.

    Jordin sparkles as the 2007 American Idol

    May 24, 2007

    After 100,000 auditions in seven cities, 49 hours of television, 609 million votes and two hours of fluff, America finally learned that the 17-year-old from Glendale, Arizona with the golden voice is the 2007 American Idol.  Jordin Sparks now takes her place among the elite known as Idols.

    Jordin Sparks

    The two-hour finale of America Idol played out more like an awards show than a results show — complete with awards, acceptance speeches, guest performances, a celebrity audience and special presentations.  But somewhere among all the pageantry, we got to see a little bit of our finalists.

    Jordin sparkles as the 2007 American IdolJordin and Blake Lewis opened the show with a cute duet of the Beatle’s “I Saw Her Standing There.”  I’m guessing it’s no coincidence that the song is about a 17-year-old. 

    Blake also got a chance to do a little more beatboxing with rapper Doug E. Fresh and DJ Barry B.  Meanwhile Jordin sang a duo of “You’re All I Need to Get By” with Ruben Studdard.  She’s paired with the Idol winner from Season 2 . . . hmmm . . . more foreshadowing.

    I was very excited to see that they brought my favorite back for a number.  Melinda Doolittle went toe to toe with BeBe and CeCE Winans on “Hold Up the Light.”  Melinda formerly sang back up for the duo.  I’m glad to see she’s out front now.  Her performance was nothing less than stellar.

    On the contrary the one performance I could have done without was that of Sanjay Malakar.  Not only did he get his own tribute-like introduction, but he got to jam with Joe Perry from Aerosmith on “You Really Got Me.”  Is it possible that he actually sounds worse than when he competed?  Anyways he’s still earning points with the younger crowd as all the teens went wild when arrived. 

    The Awards

    In true award show fashion, American Idol gave out its own awards for those who “truly performed” — The Golden Idols.  Here are the winners:

    Best Presentation
    Margaret Fowler from Atlanta, Georgia beat out X-Centric and Isadora Furman for best presentation.  Dressed in a very yellow outfit, she molested Ryan Seacrest and recited poetry before accepting her award.

    Most Original Vocal
    Sholandric Stallworth edged out Nicholas Zitzman and Sandie Chavez with his rendition of “If Ever You’re in My Arms Again.”  After accepting his award, which he noted did not have his name on it, a pony-tailed Sholandric demonstrated his powerful voice by singing “Silent Night” without a microphone and was heard throughout the theatre.

    Best Buddies
    Pals Jonathan & Kenneth took on Amanda & Antonella and Simon & Ryan and won.  Kenneth forgave Simon for calling him a Bushbaby.  It’s a good think since American Idol sponsored a Bushbaby at the Milwaukee County Zoo in Kenneth’s honor and named it Simon.  The clips of Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest were probably one of the best parts of the show.

    The Performances

    The performances read like a who’s who of former Idols, finalists and previous mentors/guest judges.  We were treated to the following performances:

  • Gwen Stefani performed “4 in the Morning” from a live concert.  Stefani mentored the finalist earlier this season.
  • Kelly Clarkson, the very first American Idol, returned to the Kodak Theatre stage to sing her newest single “Never Again.”
  • The 2007 Top 6 guys performed a special arrangement by David Thomas of Take 6 with Smokey Robinson.  Robinson appeared on the second season of American Idol.
  • The 2007 Top 6 girls sang a medley with Gladys Knight who served as a guest judge in Season 2.
  • April mentor Tony Bennett returned to perform a song from his Duets CD.  I was honestly surprised to see Bennett given his recent comments about American Idol.  And judging from the look Simon gave Bennett he is definitely aware of Bennett’s opinion.
  • Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood returned with a beautiful “I’ll Stand By You.”
  • The African Children’s Choir, who first appeared during the “Idol Gives Back” show, gave an encore performance.  They were very cute.
  • Green Day sang John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” in their debut number on American Idol.
  • Taylor Hicks, last year’s Idol danced his way through the audience with his rendition of “Heaven Knows.”
  • Another newbie to the Idol stage, Bette Midler belted out “Wing Beneath My Wings” while Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul danced.
  • Clarkson and Perry jammed to American Idol’s tribute to Sergeant Pepper.  Hicks, Underwood, Studdard and the twelve finalists round out the collection of Beetles tunes in the final number.
  •  The Presentations

     After the final Ford music video, which was to “Time after Time,” Ryan gave Jordin and Blake each keys to a brand new Mustang.

    Chairman of the North American Division of BMG Clive Davis gave an update on past finalists and winners before presenting a special certified award representing six million albums sales to Carrie Underwood for her debut album.

    I think that about wraps up the finale and Season 7 of American Idol.  By the way, in case you missed the shameless promotion throughout the show the search is on for the next Great American Band and tickets are on sale for the summer tour of American Idol Live.

    Jordin wipes the floor with Blake on ‘American Idol’ finale

    May 23, 2007

    Going into the first half of the American Idol season finale, I thought the finale was going to be like comparing apples and oranges.  Songstress Jordin Sparks has the vocals while beatboxing Blake Lewis has won the crowd over with performances.  However, Jordin, as Simon Cowell put it, wiped the floor with Blake with the final song and, unless the voters are deaf, dumb and blind, sealed her victory.

    Jordin vs. Blake

    Blake won the coin toss last week and chose to sing first.    Each contestant sang three songs — their favorite from an earlier performance, a song they’ve not sang on the the show before and the winning song from the American Idol Songwriter contest.  The finale came down to this last song. 

    For his favorite, Blake chose his rendition of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.”  While the choice highlighted his beatboxing ability, it did nothing to make his vocals shine.  Although I still prefer Bon Jovi’s version, I think Blake had a better performance the first time he sang it.  It seemed like he was dancing around so much that he wasn’t connecting with his microphone.  Or maybe it was just that the acoustics are different in the Kodak Theatre.

    For his new song, Blake chose “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5.  While this choice ventured away from Blake’s beatboxing, it was still a safe song for him.  It didn’t challenge him.  Blake had a nice performance, but we saw nothing new from him with this song.

    On the other hand, Jordin chose something different from anything else she’s done for her new song with Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.”  It wasn’t her best performance, but it was still nice to see Jordin rock a little. 

    But Jordin really knows how to showcase her voice and that’s exactly what she did with her choice for her favorite song.  Jordin’s rendition of Martina McBride’s “A Broken Wing” was just as beautiful this time as when she sang it during country week.

    Now we are down to the winner of the American Idol Songwriter contest — “This is My Now.”   The song was written by Jeff Peabody and Scott Krippayne.  Scott wants to write “music that reflects life, resonates with people and touches the heart.”

    When I heard Blake sing this song I wondered why it won.  Obviously this song isn’t Blake’s cup of tea.  But it’s the first challenging song he’s had in a couple of weeks and he wasn’t up to task.  I’d like to comment more on his rendition, but to be honest all I could hear was the background singers.  I can only guess there was a reason they were drowning him out. 

    At this point I thought Blake had won the contest.  The judges made excuses for Blake after this performance saying that it just wasn’t his genre and that he should be judged on his first two performances alone.

    Then Jordin took the stage and it was a whole new ballgame.  “This is My Now” came alive as this beautiful song that was describing Jordin’s experience at that exact moment.  Not only did Jordin belt out this ballad flawlessly, she made you believe in the song.  If I had any doubt that Jordin could become had become a pop star, they were washed away with this single performance.  I think she should make this her first single.  Jordin blew away Blake hands down.  And now I know why “This is My Now” won.

    Now it’s all over except for the voting.

    The show was rounded out with file footage of the Idols’ journey this season and some background information.  The producers shamelessly promoted the next Great American Band and the American Idol Live Tour.  We learned how Paula Abdul broke her nose tripping over her down and Ryan Seacrest remarked that he was glad that the “bitch is okay.”  Of course, Paula spent the entire show talking a lot without actually saying anything.  We saw cameos of all the other finalists in the audience.  And finally we were bombarded with commercials for every Fox reality show out there.  The show closed with a performance of “Going Home” by Chris Daughtry’s band.

    Based on Tuesday’s performance, I think that Jordin should be crowned the next American Idol.  My heart still says Melinda Doolittle should be the winner, but since I have to choose between Jordin and Blake, I would have to go with Jordin.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Blake won.  Despite Randy Jackson reiterating the fact that this show is indeed a singing contest, it does boil down to popularity among the voting crowd (read teenagers who have time to spend four hours voting).

    Who do you think should be the next American Idol?