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Sunday, September 30, 2007
It's the play I just can't escape...
"When you see a slob get a good steady job, you can bet that he's doing it for some doll..."

In case you don't instantly recognize that line, it's from Guys and Dolls...or as I call it, the play I just can't escape no matter how hard I try.

I saw a production of it last evening at from the local theater group in Smyrna. Over the past few years, I've been to a good number of their productions and have enjoyed all of them. They're all extremely well done and I'm always impressed by the variety of productions they choose and perform.

After going to most of the plays last year, I decided this year to indulge in a season ticket. I'll admit a big part of it is to have a reservation for the last show of the year, You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, which they did a few years ago to sold-out shows.

When I saw the first production was Guys and Dolls, I chuckled to myself. It seems that for the past ten years, this is a play I just can't escape.

My freshman year at UT, I found the Wesley Foundation and every year, the Wesley Foundation puts on a spring production. My freshman year, that production was Guys and Dolls. I wanted to be involved in working on the play somehow but wasn't comfortable being on stage since I'm self-conscious about singing in front of a large group of people--even as part of the "moving scenery" that's needed for the play. Luckily, the director found a role for me--stage manager. So, I got to see Guys and Dolls a lot...as to know most of the play backward and forwards. Not just for my responsibilities as stage manager, but also because you see and hear it rehearsed and then performed so many times, you just start randomly throwing out lines about cheesecake and strudel to anyone who comes by. You get funny looks, but then I'm used to those by now.

I've got a lot of fond memories of that production. Barry, my best-friend, was the director and he did a fantastic job. It was those hours of working together and getting to know each other that were the first steps to a friendship that I see lasting for the rest of our lives.

As I watched last night, I kept flashing back to the people I knew at Wesley in their roles. Barry's wife (fiancee at the time), L was Sister Sarah and there were a few other people in various roles. I have to admit that I still "hear" those people at Wesley's interpretation of lines and characters when I see the play. And I've seen it a few times since. I know Barry did a production of it at Oak Ridge Playhouse and I went to see it there--I believe I went on the "free" dress rehearsal night when family and friends were invited. My ex hadn't seen it and when it came through where we were living, I got her tickets for us to go...and behaved myself, by not reciting the entire play along with the actors.

And then, I saw it last night...and took a long trip down memory lane. Of course, I enjoyed the peformance this time around but it's hard to see, for example, someone playing Sky Masterson and not hear Bob McLeary's take on the role. (If you're out there Bob and this brings you by...howdy). Or anyone else from those Wesley Foundation days I've lost track of....howdy. :)

posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/30/2007 11:28:00 AM | |
Saturday, September 29, 2007
TV Round-Up
Bionic Woman: Pilot
Based on the strength of the creative staff behind the show, I was really, really looking forward to seeing Bionic Woman.

That said, I was kind of worried that NBC might be hyping it too much--ratcheting up my expectations to such a height that virtually no show could live up to them.

After one episode, all I have to say is, "So far, so good."

I don't recall much about the 70s version of the show. I do know it was a spin-off of Six Million Dollar Man and that it had Lindsay Wagner...but that's about it. Oh and that it was kind of campy. So, I guess you could say I'm coming into this one fresh.

Now, I'll admit--the first chance I had to download and watch the pilot, I took it. And when I saw it, I have to admit I liked...especially the second-half when it gave off the Buffy-vibe (I was having flashbacks of Buffy and Faith battling as we watched Jamie battle the evil Bionic Woman played by Katie Sackoff...and in a good way). It's interesting that the show would remind me of Buffy. It's certainly playing off some of the same themes--woman leading an ordinary life one day is suddenly given powers and has to learn how to use them in order to "save the world." On Buffy, we battled the supernatural forces and here...well, I guess we'll wait and see. The interesting part is that we have the dark Bionic Woman introduced early and it should be interesting to see how that give and take develops. I'm glad they signed Katie Sackoff to a recurring role status--the scenes with her character just had a lot more pop and tension.

I will admit, some of the elements of the show were a bit forced...the whole sister angle, not sure where that's going. But I'm willing to give the show a chance based on what I've seen here. The first episode is good and I can't wait for the second.

Smallville: Bizarro
The good thing about the season premiere is that, for once, Smallville doesn't feel the need to wrap up everything with a nice, neat bow. It does deal with Bizarro Clark, though I fully expect he'll be back later this year (though I'm still waiting for Brainiac to return as well....so take my prediction with a grain of salt) and Chloe comes back to life. Of course, the show has to go to great lengths to make Lois dumber than a box of rocks and just accept that weird stuff happens and not question it any more. But I keep recalling my pledge to turn off my brain and just go with it, and that seems to be helping a lot.

Meanwhile, Lana is alive...though how she escaped and/or knew her car was wired to blow up, I'm not sure. Unless she did it to frame Lex, but that's giving the girl a lot more credit that I think she should be given.

Family Guy: The Star Wars parody

Robot Chicken's was better.

And while I liked the one joke about hyper-space looking like the opening credits of Tom Baker Dr Who, the rest of the show was too scattershot. And, typical Family Guy, jokes are allowed to run too long, until all the funny is sucked out of the gag.

The Office: Fun Run
I read an interview where the production team behind The Office said they were looking at the hour-long episodes to open the season as a feature film and not just two episodes jammed together. And having seen this week's episode, I think they took that thought too far. Like most comedies these days, they had some good jokes that were stretched too thin over the running time of the episode.

Don't get me wrong--there were times in this episode I was on the floor laughing. But it also felt like, at times, we were stretchings things a bit. That said, it was still funnier than Caveman will ever be on its best day.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/29/2007 04:30:00 PM | |
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
TV Round-Up
At last, the first TV Round-Up of the fall season.....

Chuck: Pilot
Saw this one early thank to the wonder of the Internet and I have to admit, I liked it. Yes, the first half was a bit slow as we set up Chuck's world and the situation, but the last half of it was a lot of fun. Of course, being the Firefly fan that I am, any time you employ a former Firefly actor, I'm contractually obligated to tune in (well, except for Desparate Housewives...cause even my fandom for Nathan Fillion doesn't go THAT far). Adam Baldwin was great in this episode and I hope the poor guy gets a series that runs a full season or more. Meanwhile, I will admit the solution on how to difuse the bomb was a bit obvious based on the first few minutes of the episode (anyone else not shocked that Chuck downloaded the virus to kill the computer?), but overall it was a fun show and one I'm willing to give a chance.

Heroes: Four Months Later
Can we say "product placement" boys and girls? Nissan sponsors the limited commerical interruption of the first hour of the second season only to have the obligatory, "Here, have a cool Nissan" scene dropped in as Claire gets her new-car from HRG. Which when that's the most memorable and exciting part of the first half of the show, you know something is seriously wrong.

Maybe I'm not you average Heroes fan, but I find it a bit absurd that the first ten or so minutes of last year's season finale and this year's season premiere are nothing more than "summing up what we've already seen." I'm guessing most people on the planet have heard of this show by now and know the basic premise--what with the unrelented promotion of the show all summer long. So, to have this re-cap....kind of a waste of valuable screen time in my book.

And then, the rest of the first half is kind of a "let's catch up on where we've all been for four months." Only done in the least interesting way possible....seriously, could someone send over a copy of every Buffy season premiere ever done to show how you interestingly and quickly cover a time-gap without boring the audience to tears? Or maybe Heroes should beg Joss Whedon to come write for the show....cause damn that would be awesome.

Anyway, after the plodding first half, things pick up a bit--and you can pretty much identify that point as "When George Takai shows up." Things start to get interesting and we see what the threat for this year will be--the past is catching on the original members of the Company. Interesting to see that someone inside is intent on taking out original members while HRG, Parkman and Mohinder seem to want to expose and bring down the company. (On a related note, how does HRG afford a nice house in LA and a new car for Claire working at the equivalent of Kinko's?!?) I]m going to call it right now that the evil person skulking about is a Patrelli--either Momma or the much-referenced-but-never-seen Papa Patrelli. And it's a shame they had to kill of George Takai's character since he was one of my (few) favorites on the show. But with Hiro in the past and able to jump around in time, maybe we'll see him again.

Oh and one last thing--I think the effect of coming with a killer cliffhanger every week are showing. Last year that was the show's big strength...this year they're 0 for 1...that first one was not exactly compelling, jaw dropping or edge of your seat.

Reaper: Pilot
Get over the fact that it's on CW and just watch this show. I believe the pilot re-airs tonight and tomorrow. So you really need to do yourself a favor and watch or tape it in one of the showings. Well, maybe not watch tonight becuase you really need to check out the series-premiere of Bionic Woman, which is awesome...

But back to Reaper.

Basic premise: Slacker-guy works at this show's equivalent of Home Depot with his best friend and the cute-girl he's got a crush on (and she may like him as well). On his 21st b'day, weird stuff starts happening and he finds out his parents sold his soul to the devil, whose come to collect. Only he's not on the one-way ticket to hell....seems hell is overcrowded and souls are escaping. Our hero is tasked with being Satan's bounty-hunter and, well, it goes from there.

I have this odd feeling this show will suffer the same fate Buffy did in terms of trying to recruit fans--people scoffing at the premise. But that said, once you accept the premise, this show is a huge amount of fun. The scene where our two slacker buddies sit and wait for the Dust Buster given to them by Satan to recapture the first lost soul to recharge was a riot. And this show is full of funny moments like that. And Ray Wise as Satan....hysterical.

A great cast, good writing and the first episode is directed byKevin Smith. Definitely worth a look and I think I'll be keeping up with this one for the few first weeks of the season.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/26/2007 11:00:00 AM | |
Monday, September 24, 2007
Star Trek: TNG Top 10: #1: The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1
What "City on the Edge of Forever" was to classic Trek, "The Best of Both Worlds" is to Next Generation. It's that one episode that transcends the series and the franchise as a whole. The first part is one of those classic hours of television in which every element, every nuance and every last detail is, quite simply, perfect.

All that and it features the greatest season-ending cliffhanger in television history. Three simple words, "Mr. Worf, fire" and then the music builds to a crescendo as it goes to black and says "To Be Continued..."

If you were a Star Trek fan in June of 1990 when this first aired, you probably vividly recall where you were when you first saw this epiosde and the cliffhanger in question. I know I do...

I spent a lot of time in the summer of 1990 watching and re-watching this episode, trying to figure out just how in the hell they'd get out of this one. I had a paper route and at least once a week while folding papers, I'd rewind the tape, watching this one again, looking for clues, details, elements, something that would tell me how the cliffhanger would be resolved. I'd sit down with my list of episodes from season three, mapping out how long until the season-premiere came and then lamenting--dammit, it just wasn't soon enough. I think the word you're looking for here is obsession. But you know, when an episode is this good, you can almost overlook that.

Had it just been the cliffhanger to end part one, this one might have been top five...definitely top ten. But it's the way everything came together in such a great way that pushed this up as not only the best hour of Next Generation to ever grace the airwaves, but also one of the top five hours of television of all-time.

Written by executive producer Michael Piller, "The Best of Both Worlds, Part One" has it all. The Enterprise is sent out to a planet that has clearly been attacked and destroyed by the Borg, indicating the Borg have reached Federation space. Commander Elizabeth Shelby is brought in to verify this. Turns out Shelby is something of a Borg expert--and also on the fast-tract to comand. She's the new rising star of Starfleet and has her eyes firmly set on Riker's job. Seems Riker's been offered his own command--the third time now in the three years of the series. But he's torn. He pushed himself hard to get to the Enterprise, but now that he's here, he likes where he is. He still has his ambitions, but to put his career is not longer the single motivating force in his life. Because of this, he comes into conflict with Shelby and is accused of "playing it safe."

The character story for Riker reflects where writer Michael Piller was at the time. He'd risen to the second-in-command of Next Generation and appeared ready to head out and run his own show. But he was happy with his role on the Next Gen staff and wanted to stay, but he realized there was a bright pool of talent coming in behind him. I'm guessing Ron Moore and company weren't doing end-runs around Piller to Rick Berman's office, but you can see how Piller might have felt he was a crossroads of his career. Thankfully for Star Trek fans, he decided to stay and keep working on Trek, crafting the next few seasons and seeing the creation of the best modern Trek, Deep Space Nine.

In between the Riker/Shelby conflicts, we discover the Borg are coming. The Enterprise receives a distress call and heads out to investigate..and are met by the Borg. The Borg hail the Enterprise and demand Picard surrender to them. Confused by their sudden interest in Picard, the ship fights back and then goes to hide in a nearby nebula. Picard figures that by keeping the Borg occupied looking for him, it will give Starfleet time to get a force together to take on the Borg ship. Meanwhile, the crew tries to come up with ways to defend themselves and the ship against the Borg.

The Borg eventually tire of waiting and force the Enterprise out of hiding. The Enterprise tries to draw them away from Federation space at full warp, but the Borg overtake the ship. They beam on board and take Picard hostage. Riker is now in command and pursuit of the Borg ship begins...and they're on a path that will lead them into the heart of Federation space.

Meanwhile, Geordi, Sheby and the engineering staff are working against time on a weapon that will use the deflector dish to channel energy through it and possibly destroy or disable the Borg ship. Only problem--it will require all the Enterprise's power to do it. They have to get the ship out of warp.

An away team, lead by Shelby beams over to the Borg ship to try and get the ship out of warp (the Borg ignore things that aren't perceived as a threat) and maybe rescue Picard. They take out a few energy nodes, dropping the ship from warp. Geordi readies the weapon. The away team encounters resistance after taking out a few energy nodes...and in the midst of battle, sees Picard. Except he's been transformed by the Borg. The away team beams back and heads to the bridge.

The weapon is ready. This is their shot as the Borg ship is repairing and ready to head back to warp. Shelby argues they can sabotage the ship again if they need to but they should wait and try to get Picard back. Riker says there is no time and tells Geordi to be prepare to fire. The Borg ship hails and Picard appears on screen--he's now Locutus of Borg. He's been assimiliated and tells the crew they will be as well.

All eyes are on Riker...the music swells and Riker says three little words, "Mr. Worf, fire."

And that's it for a long, long, long hot summer. (I've included a video of the final three minutes of part one here for you to re-live the greatness that is this episode).



Every single thing about this episode is perfect. Performances are A-plus. The Borg are still menacing and scary. When the Enterprise heads to answer the distress call and we see the Borg ship appear on screen, it's a chilling moment. Battle sequences are great, the personal conflicts are superb and the quiet scene of Picard touring the ship before heading into battle was a clear signal they might just kill off the captain of the Enterprise. And then, the musical score....it's perfect. It is memorable, it sets the mood and it's sweeping. I'd put it on par with some of the work of the great John Williams for how well it captures the mood of this episode. The build up to a crescendo at episode's end....just fantastic.

And then, as I've said before--that cliffhanger.

The interesting thing was writer Michael Piller wrote part one and had no idea how part two would go. So while Trek fans spent all summer wondering if Picard would die or if Q might somehow intervene to save the crew, Piller apparently had no more idea than we did how it would all end.

And that explains "Part Two" which is good and paired with part one it's a great two-hour television movie. But after a summer of speculation, wonder and worry, it could never compare. In subsequent viewings, it's gone up a lot in my estimation and the "sleep" subroutine to shutdown the Borg doesn't feel as much like a cheat as it did on the first viewing. But still, "Part Two" isn't quite the nirvana that "Part One" is. It does have some great moments, such as the Enterprise seeing the destroyed remnants of the fleet at Wolf 359 (we'll later see the battle in the premiere of Deep Space Nine) and we do rescue Picard. We also have a nicely done little plan by Riker to play on Picard's knowledge that is being used by the Borg.

But you know, for four months in the summer of 1990, Next Generation owned me. This episode owned me....and it's part of that fuels my fondness. And then, all the other parts that came together to make what may be the perfect episode of Star Trek--not just Next Generation but the franchise as a whole. It's an episode that when I surf past and it's on, I will watch from wherever I wander in....reciting dialogue as it goes. I've lost count of how many times I've seen this one...but you know, thinking about it for this list, I'm ready to see it all over again.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/24/2007 10:20:00 AM | |
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Star Trek: TNG's Top Ten #2: Yesterday's Enterprise
With "Yesterday's Enterprise" I knew Next Generation had arrived. Back in my teen years, I watched and enjoyed Star Trek and, at times, it seemed like I was in a kind of a minority.

And then, "Yesterday's Enterprise" came along.

The week after it aired, people were coming up to me, asking me I'd seen that really cool episode of Star Trek that aired over the weekend...you know that one with the other Enterprise and the other time line?

Next Generation had a buzz about it, not just among the Trek fans, but among regular TV watchers. And it was cool to admit you watched and liked Star Trek...well, at least the Next Generation.

For me, this signalled a point where Next Generation "arrived." It was in the midst of the third season, which I think was the turning point for the show. It was in the third season that Next Generation came into its own, found its storytelling voice, began to use its history to tell richer stories and began to take some storytelling risks.

"Yesterday's Enterprise" is among the most successful. It came about from executive producer Michael Piller's desire to find and encourage new talent. The concept for this one came in as a spec script by a couple of free-lance writers. Piller liked the idea, had someone on staff re-write it and tweak it a bit and we're left with one of the best episodes not only of Next Generation but, perhaps of all of Star Trek.

The Enterprise is exploring a rift when suddenly a ship comes through. In the wink of an eye, reality changes. The Federation is at war with the Klingon Empire and Tasha Yar is still alive. The ship that has come through is the NCC-1701 C, a previous Enterprise. The ship was on it way to its destruction, trying to defend a Klingon outpost. Since it went forward in time, it never arrived and instead of the Klingons being impressed by the gesture by the Federation (the ship is destroyed and all hands lost), relations continue to deteriorate and war breaks out. The time line we see is dark and bleak. We find out the Federation is losing and on the brink of falling to the Klingons.

It's hard to really encapsulate this episode in just words--it's one of those you have to see. Visually, the story is a stunning one, with the usually bright bridge shot in shadows and ten forward well lit. Seeing our familiar characters in this new universe, with vestiges of the characters we knew in there, but instead having to live in this set of circumstances is superb. And then the Trek ideal that one person can make a difference...to see that holds true here, even under the most beak of circumstances....it's all superbly done.

Add to it that you've got action, some great performances and a good musical score and you've got one of the best episodes in the Trek canon. It also set up a lot of things for later seasons when the Tasha Yar from this timeline goes back in time to have a meaningful death. It's no wonder everyone who saw it was buzzing about it...it's one of the great hours of Star Trek.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/23/2007 04:47:00 PM | |
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Saturday Thoughts
  • Kentucky defeated Arkansas tonight by a wide margin. Kentucky is undefeated in football?!? :::Checks Revelation::: Yep, the apocalypse is upon us.
  • Kind of annoyed that Ole Miss could give Florida a better game than the Vols could last week. Of course, they had guys who could stretch the field in the passing game and we don't have that big threat yet. That helps. Keeps the defense a bit more honest.
  • Found out FOX 17 is showing the Redskins vs Giants game tomorrow, which means I'll be able to see all my favorite teams play this weekend. That's good news.
  • Watched UT take on Arkansas State at the new local sports bar. Overall, it's good to see the passing offense stretch the field and roll up some big yards as well as see special teams play better. Running wise, we did better but not great...it's going to take a solid run game to defeat UGA in a few weeks...and I want to defeat UGA. Defensively we made some good plays in spots but overall, the tackling is still poor and letting their guy average over 10 yards per rush is not going to get it done in the SEC.
  • File this one under "Why Big Orange Michael" is still single. So, at halftime went to the men's room to relieve myself. Came back and found people huddled around my table...a couple of guys of various ages and a cute girl. "We're guarding your table for you, man," one of the guys says. I invite them to sit use the two chairs at the table...I'm not using them. So, they're all thanking me and the cute girl sits down with me. "Are you a UT fan?" she asks. "Yes, I am," I tell her. "Want to hear a UT joke?" she asks. She then tells me an amusing joke I won't repeat here but let's just say it's not exactly complimentary to the Vols. I laugh slightly and then we all get introduced. Her name is Erika and she's got some friends who are guys...they're out celebrating one guy named Todd's b'day. After getting all the names and offering mine, I smile and joke, "Wow, lots of names to remember and I suck at remembering names." And which point Erika replies, "Well, I think I'm kind of hurt by that" and yours truly never really recovers from the foot in mouth disease. Shame really, because from what I gather this was a bunch of random friends with the token female along in her...and she'd been pretty flirty up to that point. Oh well...chalk it up to "Why I'm single" I guess.
  • Signs you are too big a UT fan. You see an attractive woman come into the sports bar, think she's cute and then see she's got a Bama shirt on and think "Well, maybe not that cute..."


posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/22/2007 09:44:00 PM | |

Star Trek: TNG's Top Ten #3: Q Who?
The first two years of Next Generation were a stop-and-start attempt to create an adversary that would rival the Klingons on the original series. In case you don't recall, the series tried to make the Ferengi a fearsome adversary, only to have that fall flat on its face the first time we saw them. (The Ferengi were later redeemed the superlative work of the writers and actors on Deep Space Nine).

Midway through the much derided (some deserved, most undeserved) second season, Next Generation hit upon their equivalent of the Klingons....the Borg.

I can vividly recall seeing "Q Who" for the first time back in season two. I'd been at a con the weekend "Q Who" first aired. I lived near Washington D.C. at the time and the con was abuzz with fans from Baltimore who'd seen this episode a day or two earlier. Word was spreading on how incredible this episode was and there were viewing parties planned to see it again or to watch it for the first time. After a full day of Trek overload, I went home and quickly rewound the tape on the episode and sat there....amazed.

And here all these years later, the episode still holds up incredibly well.

Q shows up, wanting to become part of the Enterprise crew. He wants to offer his services as a guide for all the unknowns still waiting for humanity. Picard says no thanks, that humanity will face whatever it has to face on its own terms. Q senses a challenge and flings the ship across the universe. Picard and company start to explore and figure out how to get back home when a huge cube-shaped ship shows up. A battle between the two ships develops with the Enterprise barely able to hold its own.

The new adversary is the Borg, a race that is built upon assimilating the technological and biological uniqueness of various races as its own. They operate on a collective mentality and just because you damage one area of their ship, that won't necessarily disable them. They also have the ability to adapt on the fly, meaning that your defenses have to change in order to stop them...and it's only a matter of time until they adapt.

At this point, the Borg are lethal, scary and virtually unstoppable. The tension in the episode is palatable as the crew faces a race against time to get home and not be assimiliated by the Borg. Sprinkle in doses of Q coming in and out, goading Picard about turning down his (Q's) offers of help and you've got a heck of an episode. And it ends on a bleak note--after Picard says he needs Q help to take them back home and Q grants the request, Picard realizes that the Borg know of the Federation and will not be coming....

What's to love about this episode? Just about everything. The direction is great--it's dark and mysterious at times. Everyone is in fine form. Even Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan suddenly becomes interesting as we find out her race has some history with Q and the Borg. (Alas, we never fully find out the depths and reasons for the mistrust between Guinan and Q, which is about the only negative I can throw at this episode).

It's easy now years later to forget how incredibly scary, unstoppable and just plain amazing the Borg were in their first two appearances in the Trek universe. This is before we humanized them with Hugh, got to know one with Seven of Nine and, generally, defanged them to the point that a single ship (Voyager) could easily take them out. The Borg were scary, dark and villainous..how could you not love them? Their first three episodes are things of beauty and some of the best episodes Next Generation did.

And, again, a top ten episode with Q....

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/22/2007 03:25:00 PM | |

Fairweather fans
Seems Big Orange nation has a bunch of Kenny Chesneys out there.

Yes, I'll admit I was embarrassed, upset and annoyed at the results of last week's game. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that getting off to 1-2 start to the football season wasn't a bit of a stumble for the Volunteer football team.

But what annoys me more than the losing record and being out of the top 25 is all these fair-weather fans out there. It's sure fun to jump on board the Vol bandwagon when we're doing well, but make a slip or two and you can't wait to jump off and start hurling tomatoes at the team and coaching staff. Now, I realize that in the past few years, the coaching staff has had some issues and if you look at it statistically, it's not exactly painting a rosy picture.

That said, despite the relatively bad place the team appears to be in now, I'm still a Vol fan. I've still got my orange and white shirt on today, I still love the team and if I could make it to the game in Neyland tonight, I'd be there, proudly. But instead, it seems some of you who have tickets are willing to let them go, not attend the game and just stay home--which makes me wonder something. Were you really fans to begin with? Or were you just showing up to the games to be seen and because it's easy to pull for a winner? Well, right now it's the time when the true fans are showing themselves and all I can say to you bandwagon jumpers is good riddance and please don't jump back on when we start winning again.

It's a long season and we've only lost one SEC game. You are all panicking too early. Get over it, find some other team and root for them. As for me, I'll be pulling for the Vols, come hell or highwater. Good and bad, thick and thin...see that 's what being a REAL fan is all about.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/22/2007 10:21:00 AM | |
Friday, September 21, 2007
Star Trek: TNG's Top Ten #4: Tapestry
Another late season episode in the top ten and another episode written by Ron Moore.

Q took the fifth season of Next Generation off for some reason but returned with two episodes in the sixth season. And while the first one featuring a woman who was the daughter of a Q and manifesting powers was interesting, it was no where as rich and compelling as this story or other Q-centered episodes.

Interestingly, this one features Q, but I'd not necessarily say it's Q-centered. In many ways, it feels like an episode of Quantum Leap with Picard in the Sam Beckett role and Q in the role of Al.

The story begins with Picard on the table in sickbay. Crusher is working on his heart, which as we learned in season two was replaced with a mechanical heart due to a bar-fight Picard got into as a Starfleet cadet. Now, years later, he's dying because of a blast to his chest that has played havoc with it. Picard appears in an all-white area, where Q is waiting for him. Q announces that Picard has died and tells him why. Q then shows the fight with a Nuassican and we see Picard get stabbed. Interestingly, as this happens, Picard laughs...

We'll learn why later.

Q offers Picard a chance--to go back and change history. To play things safe and possibly survive or avoid the attack in the future that led him here. Picard agrees and is sent back.

The story unfolds and we see Picard attempt to make up for what he sees as the errors of youth. He takes the safe route, avoids the fight, alienates his friends and ends up....well, as a lower ranked officer in the sciences department on the Enterprise. Picard figures out that by not taking chances, he never got on the command track and never became the man he was..the man he likes being. Even if he dies from this wound, he's lived a fuller life with the mechanical heart than he did by avoiding the fight. Yes, he has some regrets but he also has a lot of things that make for a rich, full life.

At various points in the story, Q appears to debate Picard, goad him on and help influence his decisions. The give and take between Patrick Stewart and John DeLancie is wonderful as always and Stewart is able to bring alive Picard in all of his various life stages. DeLancie also does a great job of shifting from the humorous to the dangerous side of Q at the drop of a hat. The teaser ends with the line, "Welcome to the after-life, Jean-Luc...you're dead" and is played with such ease, turning to menace. Also, you have to love the directoral choice to play the entire first act against a white background with Q garbed in white and claiming to be a higher power or even a god.

It's interesting to see writer Ron Moore takes various little elements from the show and put them together--the most notable being the story of the fight and Picard's mechanical heart that was a throw-away story in season two. And to then take that and give us a character study on the man who would become the captain of the Enterprise..it's fascinating.

In the end, Q gives Picard another chance to go back and live his life exactly the same way again....he gets in the fight and as he's stabbed, he laughs, knowing his timeline has been restored. And it's that little detail that comes back in the final act that seals this one as not just a good episode, but a great one.

Great script, good direction and fine performances make this one of the most entertaining and interesting episodes of Next Generation.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/21/2007 07:20:00 PM | |
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Write your own punchline
Galactica 1980 is coming to DVD later this year.

The packaging advertises it as "The final season of the original Battlestar Galactica."

Let me put it this way--when it first aired and I was six, I thought it was lame....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/20/2007 11:13:00 AM | |
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Star Trek: TNG Top Ten #5: Darmok


"Darmok and Gilad at Tenagra."

If you've seen this episode, you'll understand what that means.

Here's an episode that asks an interesting question--what if in our exploration of the universe, we encountered a alien race who we could easily understand the words they used but couldn't fanthom the meaning of them? Could these two sides be brought together and eventually learn to communicate?

The Enterprise is headed toward a planet where a ship from the Tamarian people is orbiting, sending out a signal. The Federation has encountered the Tamarians before, but communication between the two has been next to impossible. There is a great deal of speculation among the crew members about the Tamarian language and their intentions.

Picard is hopeful that maybe their encounter might yield some clues and lead to an opening of communication between the Federation and the Tamrians.

The Enterprise arrives at the planet and Picard and the Tamarian captain are transported to the surface. The Tamarain ship begins to emit a particle field that inhibits the transporters and doesn't take kindly to a shuttlecraft attempt to rescue the captain. The two sides--both in orbit and on the ground--suffer from a lack of ability to communicate. Meanwhile, on the planet, the Tamarian captain and Picard are pitted against some kind of energy creature in a type of combat.

As the episode unfolds, Picard and the crew discover the Tamarians communicate by metaphor. Their communication system is done by citing a story or reference and expecting the other side to understand it. Not exactly an easy system to learn, but by trial and error and some coaxing by the Tamarian captain, Picard eventually figures out the point of what the Tamarians are trying to do and is able to avert a near war between the Federation and the Tamarians over the misunderstanding.

The idea of an alien race that communicates in metaphors is a fascinating one and the way the episode unfolds is interesting. It allows for Picard to misunderstand the purpose at first and the frustration both captains feel at trying to figure out what's going on is palatable as the episode unfolds. The scenes of the two trying to meet in the middle and understand each other are nicely done and the Tamarian captain is superbly played by Paul Winfield.

This is one of those episodes that strikes a good balance between the central mystery, character moments and a good showcase for the actors involved (mainly Winfield and Patrick Stewart). It's interesting that this episodes comes from season five and between this and "The Inner Light" we get book ends of great shows that really showcase Picard and Patrick Stewart's portryal of him.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/19/2007 11:29:00 AM | |
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Star Trek: TNG Top Ten #6: The Inner Light
"The Inner Light" is one of those episodes that separates Next Generation from the original series. (And I mean that in a good way).

An alien artifact connects with Captain Picard, causing him to live out the lifetime of an ordinary man from a long-dead civilization. In the course of about an hour out of his life, Picard is given a lifetime of experience and memories from a civilization that knew they were dying and wanted to find a way to preserve their history.

It's not a story that has a lot of action and suspense, though the script does try at points when we cut back to Picard, unconcious on the bridge. Instead, it's a quiet, well told story of a lifetime on love, memories and allowing a civilizatin to live on through the memories downloaded to Picard.

It's an acting showcase for Patrick Stewart, who always did well in his portrayal of Picard. But here he gets to not only showcase Picard, but the man whose life he's living. We watch him age and even though early on he's not sure what's happening, trying to find a way back to the future, we see the slow acceptance of what is happenign. The make-up artists do a nice job of aging Picard through the various stages in life and the ending where he realizes what's happening and why, when all the various players in his life appear again is one of those quiet, lump in your throat type of moments.

About the only complaint you can lodge with this episode is that for having this profound experience, it shows little or no lingering affects on Picard. Yes, he occasionally pulls out the flute he learned to play during his lifetime on the world, but you'd sort of hope this might have some bigger change beyond the "hey, I can play a cool new instrument."

So that keeps it from being in the top five, but it's still a strong episode and if you like to see a great actor at work, it's a must-see.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/18/2007 11:33:00 AM | |
Monday, September 17, 2007
Star Trek: TNG Top Ten #7: Relics
In its seven seasons, the TNG crew met a lot of the original crew of the starship Enterprise. The series launched with a cameo by Leonard McCoy and went five years with rumors every year that Leonard Nimoy would once again don the Vulcan ears to play Spock. (He finally did in season five to help promote Star Trek VI).

And, of course, the two captains of the Enterprise teamed up on the big-screen in Generations.

But the best done cross-over from the original series to Next Generation was the sixth season appearance of Scotty.

Written by Ronald D. Moore, "Relics" is a fun little episode that firmly has its eye on the past while looking toward the future. The Enterprise crew finds Scotty trapped in a cycling transporter beam. The ship he was on was doomed and Scotty did what he could to survive. At first, Scotty assumes Kirk has come to rescue him, only to find out a few more years have passed.

Scotty is welcomed into the new era of Next Generation, but soon finds himself out of step and behind the times. His knowledge is nice, but it's all a bit out of date. Scotty has stood still while the universe has aged around him. His friends are all gone and he's feeling a bit out of place.

Of all the appearances of original crew members on TNG, this is the most poignoint. And James Doohan plays Scotty to the hilt here, showing off some nuances to the characters that he didn't always get to show on the original series. Scotty's struggle to find a way to make a difference and be relevant in the new century is nicely done. The great give and take that Scotty has with Geordi LaForge is one of the episodes real treats and shows they can do a good Geordi episode every once in a while.

And it includes one of my favorite exchanges from Next Generation.

Geordi: "Yeah, well, I told the captain I will have this analysis done in an hour."
Scotty: "How long will it really take?"
Geordi: "An hour."
Scotty: "Oh, You didn't tell him how long it would REALLY take, did you?"
Geordi: "But of course I did."
Scotty: "Oh, laddie. You got a lot to learn if you want the people to think of you as a miracle worker."

Just like "All Good Things..." was able to win points for paying tribute to Next Generation, "Relics" wins points for paying tribute to not only Next Generation, but the entire history and tradition of Star Trek. It hits all the right notes and you can tell that Ron Moore was a fan of the original show.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/17/2007 11:20:00 AM | |

An open letter to Kenny Chesney
Dear Kenny,

Can I call you Kenny?

Now, I know that Saturday afternoon was a pretty embarrassing time to be a fan of the University of Tennessee, but for you to jump ship on the team that you've allegedly "been a big fan of" for so long was just shameful. Maybe you've forgotten the events of about nine years ago when you had a little regional hit called "Touchdown Tenneessee" that honored the legacy of John Ward, the voice of the Vols. (On a side note, I'm pretty much doubting anyone will be recording such a song for Bob Kesling when he retires...it'll be pretty much a few rousing choruses of "Ding Dong, Kesling's Gone."). Maybe the intervening years of the rumors about your sexuality and that three-month marriage to the girl from Jerry McGuire have rattled your brain or maybe your hat is just too tight.

I don't know what it could be, but to watch you abandon the Vols on national television was a disgrace. So, Tim Teabow and some of the Florida players have been to a few show and danced on stage with you...if you were a true Vol fan, you'd have had them escorted out by security and broke into a few dozen chorues of Rocky Top and maybe that little "Touchdown Tennessee" song you were championing so much a few years ago. But no, instead you turn on the Vols and pledge some loyalty to Florida.

So, Kenny...I hate to tell you this, but I'm done with you. If I had any of your CDs, I'd have burned them. I won't be buying a ticket to a concert, I won't buy any of your CDs, I won't even download any of yours song off iTunes. Heck, I'd not even illegally download any of your music using those file sharing services you musicians hate so much. If I hear one of your songs on the radio, I'll switch off and if (heaven forbid) I see one of your videos on CMT flipping past, I'll keep on going.

Back where I come from, we're loyal to our team through good and bad. I'm guessing you don't know how forever feels and that your tractor is too sexy for the Vols.

Good riddance,
Big Orange Michael

posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/17/2007 09:19:00 AM | |
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Star Trek: TNG Top Ten #8: All Good Things

Next Generation ran for seven seasons in first-run syndication and, honestly, could have run for at least two or three more had Parmaount and the cast and crew wanted to do that. But with the potential movie market, DS9 up and running and the desire to start a foruth network built on a new Star Trek show, the creators and Paramount decided seven seasons and 176 episodes would be enough for the crew of the NCC-1701D.
So, we knew pretty early that the seventh season of Next Generation would be the last. And while the season itself was, overall, pretty lackluster, there were still a few gems to be found (Lower Decks, Parallels, The Pegasus). But all season, you sort of got this feeling that the cast and crew were saving something special for that final episode of Next Generation. The two-hour series finale would get a lot of media hype and it would probably garner a few extra viewers who were curious to see what the hype was about and how the series would end.
The writing duo of Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga were given the opportunity to write the final episode. Now, say what you will about the later Braga episodes and his merits as a producer, but when he and Moore worked together, their stories were, for the most part, pretty good. Moore had a great respect for the history and legacy of Star Trek, but wasn't necessarily so bound by it that he was constricted by it. And Braga seems to be good at coming up with technobabble and strange rifts/nebulas, etc. for the crew to investigate and drive that aspect of the story. (Recall also, these two wrote the first two TNG feature films).
I'd have to say that "All Good Things..." is the finest work these two produced as a writing team.
The two-hour story finds Picard moving between three different time periods. He is sent back seven years to the launch of the Enterprise, is existing in the current time line and sent forward into the future so we can see one possible way the crew might end up. The big mystery is why is Picard moving through time so. What's causing this?
Well, it would have been impossible in the seventh season of Next Generation to NOT know what was behind it before hand. The media widely reported that John DeLancie would be back as Q for the finale of Next Generation. And that could easily have made the first hour or so of "All Good Things..." a waiting game--waiting for Q to show up and the plot to really begin. But the script avoids that, giving us a first hour that, despite knowing who is behind all of this, sets up an intriguing mystery. By the time Q shows up (about 45 or so minutes into the story), we're less interested in who is behind it as to why these events are unfolding.
And that's where "All Good Things..." succeeds so well. Turns out humanity is still on trial and has been since Q's test in "Encounter at Farpoint." Now this does a lot of good things....for one, it makes up for the almost transparent nature of the test in "Farpoint" but it also casts the last seven years in an interesting new light. And while the trial doesn't descend into an X-Files like, let's rehash everything we've known until now for an hour, it does put an interetsing new spin on the last seven years we've watched unfold. And it also gives a lot of explanation into Q's interest in Picard and the crew of the Enterprise as a whole.
Of course, there's the obligatory weird space thing that is disrupting things, but where "All Good Things..." earns extra points is the characters. Moore and Braga bring back Tasha Yar, Colm Meany is allowed to sit on the bridge again and we get a few moments with all our old favorites. Histories are dropped (in the future) that allow the fans to speculate on just where and how the characters end up where they do, but you never feel like the story is halting to give us an information dump of character backstory. Instead, it's well woven into the story.
And then, of course, there's the final contest with the best nemesis Next Generation had, Q. John DeLancie was the best thing about the lackluster pilot for Next Generation and the best overall villain Next Generation had. It was a pleasure to watch Patrick Stewart and John DeLancie chew scenery together and their verbal sparring was superb. There's a reason fans kept demanding Q return again and again...and why the producers kept bringing him back. But the thing is--even the worst Q story had at least one or two memorable lines delivered by DeLancie or some Q moment that made them worth seeing. And, honestly, there weren't really any out and out BAD Q stories.
So, bringing back Q was a nice idea. And it worked. The show honoroed its legacy with the story and didn't end the adventures, so much as turn the next page in the story. The final scene with Picard joining the senior staff's weekly poker game is a nice touch and a truly fitting end to the adventures of the Next Generation on television.
"All Good Things..." is an example of how to have a satisfying ending to a classic television show. A lot of shows could study it and learn a few things when it comes to ending on a high note...

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/16/2007 08:48:00 PM | |
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Star Trek: TNG's Top Ten #9: Family

A lot of times Star Trek is accused of being too "self contained." And while that can be a valid criticism, every once in a while an episode comes along that challenges that assumption.

And while TNG didn't have a "arc" per se along the lines of other shows like Battlestar Galactica, one thing it did well was build interesting character arcs.

And that's where "Family" comes in.

"Family" was the first episode to air after "Best of Both Worlds, Part 2" to start the fourth season. And where I'd argue TNG dropped the ball by not having a lot of follow-up on the fact that most of Starfleet was wiped out by the Borg and what that might mean to the Romulans or other enemies taking advantage of that military opportunity, the show did take a chance to slow down and examine the effects of what happened on the characters.

Specifically what the kidnap and transformation into Locutus of Borg did to Picard. The horror of what happened wasn't something that could easily be glossed over and the next week have Picard out there exploring the universe as if nothing had happened. And that's the strength of this episode--it allows us to see the captain as fallible and human. Picard tries to put on a brave front to the crew, but we can tell what's happened has scarred him on a psychological level. While the Enterprise is being repaired, Picard heads home to France to spend time with his family, including his estranged brother (one major theme of TNG is how most families don't really seem to get along all that well.) The battle of wills between brothers culminates in a fight out in the fields of grapes, where Picard finally breaks down and weeps at what has happened to him.

This might not seem revolutionary, but in terms of the Trek universe it was a big moment. Yes, we'd seen that Picard had flaws up to this point, but to have the fearless captain of the Enterprise broken down and weeping as he's covered in mud...kind of a watershed moment for the character and the show. And it's interesting that Picard breaks down with his brother and not in front of the crew--an interesting element that harkens back all the way to TOS days when Spock warned Kirk that in order to maintain command, he (Kirk) cannot appear weak to the crew.

What you get is a story with no alien weirdness, no technobabble and very little, if any sci-fi elements. Beyond a fist-fight in the grape fields, there's really no action to this one. But yet, it's one of the best and most profoundly well done episodes of TNG in the canon. It was a necessary episode and one that the series would have felt incomplete without.

It's interesting that watching the extras for season four, how Ron Moore talks about how he and the writing staff had to fight for this episode to get it on the air. It was a bold experiment and I'm glad they fought hard and that it's part of the Trek canon.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/15/2007 10:48:00 AM | |

It's UT vs Florida day!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Big Orange Michael's Score Prediction: UT 31, Florida 28

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/15/2007 08:13:00 AM | |
Friday, September 14, 2007
Star Trek: TNG's Top Ten #10: The Survivors
My favorite season of Next Generation will always be the third season. (Kind of ironic since the third season of the original series is not well regarded by most Trek fans).

Third season is when Michael Pillar really arrived on the scene and became the Gene Coon of Next Generation. Pillar took the characters and the universe created by Gene Roddenberry and turned it into something special. There was a greater emphasis on character driven stories and really digging into who and what these people were in the 21st Century. The show tackled issues of the day, but it did it in a far less preachy and obvious way (as opposed to some of the early episodes where the moral is about as subtle as a two-by-four to the head)

To tell you how much I enjoy the third season, it was the only one I paid the huge asking price for when it first came out on DVD for the box-set. (I've since filled in my collection when Paramount dropped the price on the sets and they went from outrageous to just eye-brow raising in price.) I know that there are other seasons that are more consistent, but there's just a lot of things I love about season three.

The tonal shift starts in season two, but it comes roaring out of the gate full force in season three. And after a string of episodes that gave us the new style to start the season along came this episode, "The Survivors."

The premise is an intriguing one.

The Enterprise answers a distress call from Rana IV and upon arriving finds the entire planet has been wiped out--except for one small area of land. An away team is sent down and meets Kevin and Rishon Uxbridge, an older couple who can't explain why the other 11,000 inhabitants were killed and they weren't. And they refuse to leave their home.

The crew suspects there is some connection between Kevin and the aliens, but can't figure out what it might be. Troi is also suffering from hearing the music of a music box the Uxbridges own in her head...and it's shielding her from being able to read the couple. As the episode unfolds, Troi is slowly driven mad by the inability to shut off the music in her head.

An alien ship returns, attacks the Enterprise and is fought off. Picard beams down to inform the Uxbridges he won't leave while they're alive. Alien ship shows back up, more powerful and destroys the Unxbridges. The Enterprise leaves...but then doubles back to find the house and the area fully restored.

Picard and the crew figure out that yes, Kevin is connected to the aliens attacking, but not in the way they think. He's the last of a race of powerful telepathic aliens who married the human Rishon. The colony was attacked and when Rishon died, in his rage Kevin destroyed all the aliens--as in every alien in the universe. He is ridden with guilt over what he's done and has tried to create an illusion for himself of the life he and Rishon shared together.

So, why did this one make my top ten?

Honestly, it has a good storytelling balance. We have a few good space battles, an intriguing premise and an interesting mystery for the crew to solve. We have the central morality that makes Star Trek different from a lot of other shows and we've got some great performances all around by the regular and guest cast. It's all wrapped up in a satisfying package that is one of the more fulfilling and complete episodes of Next Generation.

It's also one of the best stories from the consistent start to season three. And season three only continues to get better from here. So factor in some nostalgia from seeing it and enjoying it so much the first time and it's easy to see why it's one of my favorites...

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/14/2007 11:27:00 AM | |
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Star Trek: The Next Generation: 20 Years

2007 is a big year. It's the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Frankly, it's hard for me to believe that it's been 20 years since "Encounter at Farpoint" first hit the syndicated airwaves. I think a lot of has to do with the fact that I remember the build-up to that first episode and sitting down to watch the two-hour premire in late September 2007.

Boy, do I recall being really excited about the premiere. And the new Enterprise could separate into two parts...man, that was awesome!

So, just as I did for classic Star Trek, I'll be counting down my ten favorite episodes of Next Generation, starting tomorrow. But this time, I'll be joined in the countdown by my good friend Barry from Inn of the Last Home. I'm not sure if he'll do the daily countdown with me or just post his top ten list on the big day Next Generation premiered (well, it's the official day according to my Trek calendar....the problem here is Next Gen was syndicated so there wasn't one day where the show premiered all across the country. It was kind of staggered. But hey....you do what you can).

As Barry and I were discussing our lists back and forth, we came up with a lot of great episodes we'd enjoyed. And while I have come up with a top ten, there were a few that garnered an honorable mention.

11001001 - Probably the first "great" episode of Next Generation. The Enterprise has pulled into a starbase for repairs and a bit of R&R. A group of aliens called the Bynars work to upgrade the ship's computers and simulate a warp-core meltdown to evacuate the ship. All except Picard and Riker who are hanging out down on the holodeck in a New Orleans jazz club with an attractive female named Minuet. (She's a distraction to keep Riker busy while the Bynars hijack the ship). I've always enjoyed this one and as Next Gen struggled to find its storytelling voice in the first season or so, this is one of the earliest installments that shows the promise that will later bear fruit in season three. It's also an episode that is referenced back to in the "mess with Riker's mind" episode (really weren't all Riker episodes after season three that way?) "Future Imperfect."

Heart of Glory - A first-season episode where you can see the brilliance that is to come teased a bit here. One of the strongest character arcs in modern Trek was that of Worf. And that storyline begins here where the Enterprise finds a wrecked freigher in space with a trio of Klingons aboard. As the episode progresses, we learn a bit more about the Klingon culture and their system of battle and honor as well as a bit more of Worf's backstory (it will get better fleshed out once Ron Moore arrives on the writing staff). The big thing that kept this one out of my top ten is the first act or so which is nothing more than "wow, let's all look through Geordi's visor" and while it was fun the first time, it's a bit tedious on repeat viewings.

Measure of a Man - A second-season episode that is probably in most fan's top tens. I like it and the story is compelling, but it just barely missed my list. It's the one with the legal trial to decide if Data is a sentient life form with rights or merely property of Starfleet. A compelling episode with some great performances, especially by Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart. My only big criticism is the script forces Riker to be the prosecution in the case, which seems a bit forced.

Deja Q - The Enterprise is trying to keep an asteroid from crashing into a planet and wreaking havoc when Q shows up on the bridge, naked and powerless. Seems Next Gen's best nemesis has hacked off the Q-Continuum and been stripped of his powers. This is one of those episodes that goes from laugh out loud funny one moment to being poignoint the next. Q quickly realizes that every one he's tormented in the universe is going to want a piece of him now and requests sanctuary aboard the Enterprise. This one has some of the best laugh out loud jokes in the history of Next Gen, including Q's reaction to falling asleep, his first chococlate sundae and Worf's response on his Q can prove he's mortal ("Die.") But as I said, it switches gears effectively between the humor and the seriousness as Data laments that Q has become in disgrace what Data aspires to be most. There are more Q-centered episodes on my top ten list and I'll get more into the genius that is John DeLancie in this role then....

Sins of the Father- Next Gen didn't really have a long-term story arc like most modern sci-fi shows....unless you count the story of Worf and the Klingon soap opera. At least twice a year, we'd get a storyline examining the political struggles of the Klingon Empire and they were, for the most part, written by some guy named Ron Moore. The first one here finds Worf taking dishonor to protect the Empire and prevent civil war. This will have major ramifications for the rest of the series and really all of the modern Trek shows. The next installment, Reunion, is just as good, if not better. It brings in a lot of plot threads to one compelling story and it keeps twisting and turning in unexpected ways. The final scene as Picard reprimands Worf for what he's done is superb.

Lower Decks - The final season of Next Gen brings us an episode that looks at what it's like to serve on the Enterprise if you're not one of the regulars. A fascinating look at the characters from those under their command. Part of the reason I like this one so much is that it breaks the mold of Enterprise shows up, some wacky phenomeon is going on and there's a character story for one of the main crew of the show. Seven years in, this one is a refreshing and well done change of pace.

So, there you go....the honorable mentions. Tomorrow, the top ten countdown begins....

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/13/2007 10:26:00 AM | |
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
TV Round-Up: Damages
Last week, I broke my rule of not watching previews for fear of them giving away too much or amping up my expectations to such a high level that no episode could ever live up to them.

And the later reason may have been the reason that I found this week's episode of Damages to just be, well, OK.

We're seven episodes in and the show seems to be taking the route of The X-Files when it comes to giving us answers about this huge conspiracy that's going on. We've got a whole lot of questions about what's happened, what is happening and who is playing who and where the true loyalties of many of these characters lie.

And the preview for this week promised us some big, earth-shattering events that would start to provide some of those answers...

The thing is--outside of the last five or so minutes, we really didn't cover any new ground. The only big revelation in the first fifty minutes was that Ellen was staying at Patty's apartment because of a fight she'd had with David. Other than that, nothing really new.

There were some interesting twists and upping the ante in the last five minutes. The fact that Tate Donovan's character is apparently selling out Ellen isn't that huge a twist or shock. We've seen how loyal the character is to Patty repeatedly throughout the series.

Anyway, I just have to say I came away kind of disappointed. I wanted more...I expected more. And I don't feel like I got the promised answers from the preview seemed to indicate would be there.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/12/2007 07:51:00 PM | |

Yet another letter to ESPN
Dear ESPN,

I realize that soccer is a big deal in other parts of the world, but I don't live in those other parts of the world. Having two soccer games on in the morning when at least one of your networks should be showing SportsCenter is ludicrious. I want my highlights of sports that actual are on the radar of the average sports fan in the United States and not your desparate attempt to try and make me care about a sport that, quite frankly, is as interesting as watching paint dry when it's on broadcast television. Frankly, I find it a slap in the fact to those of us in the central time zone who might want to watch the beginning of SportsCenter as we head out the door in the early hours to have soccer forced upon us.

Thank you,
Big Orange Michael

P.S. If you could put duct tape on Lee Corso's mouth, I'd also appreciate that...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/12/2007 09:16:00 AM | |
Monday, September 10, 2007
Watching the Vols game
The UT game was only available on pay-per-view this weekend and while I love the Vols, the thought of paying for the cable box plus an additional thirty plus bucks to watch the game at home, alone didn't sound that exciting to me. (Though I'm sure had I purchased the game, I'd have become immediately very popular among my UT friends). And even though I had several opportunities to purchase tickets at a good price to go, I wasn't able to go due to other commitments this weekend and not wanting to call my best friend the day of the game and impose upon he and his family's hospitality.

So, instead of purchase the game at home or going to God's House (Neyland Stadium), I decided to catch the game at a sports bar.

And wouldn't you know it? One has just opened up in Smyrna!

The new sports bar is called Sullivan's and it's off Sam Ridley. I don't know the exact road name, but it's the same shopping center as the new steak-house and the Sir Pizza. (It's right behind the Bob Parks building on Sam Ridley).

I stopped in Saturday afternoon and was informed yes, the game would be on. When I first walked in, I was impressed by Sullivan's. They have a good number of HD flat-panel TVs evenly distributed throught the bar. From where I sat Saturday evening, I could have at least two in my line of sight at all times, which in a sports-bar is a good thing. They also had a couple of pool tables and some dart boards. But I wasn't there to play games, I was there to watch the UT game.

Now, when I arrived, the game was supposed to start in about two minutes, but there were some issues with the feed. At one point, the manager told me that the game wouldn't be seen due to a paperwork snaffu on DirectTV's part and gave us the opportunity to go elsewhere. At this point, a few of the UT fans left, though I stayed. Why you ask? Well, I'd already ordered by burger and had a frosty adult beverage. I stayed, figuring I'd eat my food, watch the other games and then either go home and listen to the game on the radio or find somewhere else to hang out after half-time.

But I will give the management credit--they didn't let stop them. They were able to get the game about the start of the second quarter--or as I call it, when UT stopped playing around and got serious about playing some football. As a UT fan, I appreciate the extra mile the staff and management went to to get the game as promised. Definite points in the favor of Sullivans.

That said, getting my food took forever. Which at the time it seemed like a bad thing, but in the end was good. It kept me there long enough so that I could see the game. So, a negative turned into a positive.

The bar got progressively more crowded as the night went along. It's 21 and up only, so smoking is permited. My food was good, the service was nice and the prices were very reasonable. I noticed they have a ladies' night on Tuesday, karoke at various times during the week and the NFL Sunday Ticket package on Sundays.

So, if you're looking for a place to hang out and see your favorite team out of market, this might be somewhere to consider. I know if I don't get tickets to the game in two weeks, I'll be there again to watch the Vols.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/10/2007 09:45:00 AM | |

You know, when it's not directed at my school...
You know, when Steve Spurrier isn't tossing his little barbs at UT, they can actually be pretty funny.

Oh wait....

Part of this is probably because these comments are directed at Georgia. That makes then funny. Well, funnier.

"It wasn't like they (Georgia) were some big, powerful team," Spurrier
said on his television show Sunday. "They've actually lost five in a row to Eastern Division opponents. Kentucky and Vandy beat 'em last year."


Mark this down...this may be the first time I've ever had anything nice to say about Steve Spurrier. I'd better go lie down...I suddenly don't feel very well...

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/10/2007 08:20:00 AM | |
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Good weekend!
Vols defeat Southern Miss, 39-19.
Titans defeat Jacksonville 13-10
Redskins defeat Miami, 16-13 in OT.

I got to see some or all of all three games.

Good weekend.

Hail to the Redskins!
Go Titans
GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/09/2007 03:55:00 PM | |
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Austin loves Vince Young
I find it telling that the Austin CBS affiliate has chosen to carry the Titans vs Jags game Sunday instead of the home team feed of the Texas vs. whoever the Texas will lose to this week.

I think it just shows that the people of Austin realize that no matter how much promise the Texas show on paper and in the pre-season, they're still the Texans.

And yes, I'm happy the NFL kicks-off the regular season this evening. Pre-season is nice, but it's just so much more fun to watch when the games actually count.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/06/2007 09:53:00 AM | |

Well, I found it amusing...
Tip of the hat to Tarabelle!

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/06/2007 09:25:00 AM | |
Monday, September 03, 2007
A Day with Thomas the Tank Engine

DCP_3640
Originally uploaded by bigorangemichael
When I was little, I used to love trains.

To get to my Granny's house, you had to pass over train tracks. And my Granny (who thought I could do no wrong, mind you) knew of my love of trains. So, she called the rail companies to find out what time the train would pass by her railroad crossing so she could take me up to see the train. According to the story, she called a couple of times, causing the rail company to freak out a bit and have extra security on the train when it passed by.

Close to thirty plus years later, we have another train enthusiast in the family--my nephew. He loves trains and he spends hours playing "tracks" with his own model train sets. He really likes it when I get to come over and help him assemble the various pieces into a super cool train set layout.

He also loves Thomas the Tank Engine. A few weeks ago, I saw a sign at the Y saying Thomas would be in town for two weekends in September. I e-mailed my sister about it and she decided my nephew would love to go--and that Uncle Michael and he should go. She agreed to purchase our tickets and yesterday we headed to Nashville's Railway Museum for an afternoon with Thomas the Tank Engine.

And we did get to ride in a train, pulled by Thomas. We backed up from just off of downtown to LP Field and then back. I think my nephew had visions of Thomas going a bit faster because at one point he asked me why Thomas was going slow. The ride there and back took about 25 minutes, which was the best part of the day. And why do you ask? Because that part of the trip was air-conditioned.

My nephew had a great time on the train. He also had a great time hearing stories about Thomas, visiting the petting zoo and playing in the Thomas marketing play area. And, of course, he got several items to commemorate his ride on Thomas.

I'll admit that after the first ten minutes, the Thomas music playing on the train got to be a bit much, but watching my nephew have so much fun, it really didn't bother me that much. We had a great afternoon out on the trains. And he was made an official engineer for Thomas (he's holding his certificate in the picture) so in case Thomas needed an emergency conductor, he can step in and run Thomas.

I know he may not remember the afternoon when he's older in the way I can't recall much about the infamous trip to see the train with my Granny. But what I do know is how much my Granny (and the rest of my family for that matter) loved and loves me. And I am sure as he grows up and looks back on these pictures of the day, that the story of Uncle Michael and his nephew going to see Thomas will continue to grow and live on, letting him know he's loved and that his Uncle Michael would do anything for him. Just the same way I knew my Granny would do anything for me.

Of course, the only big downside...his sister was none too happy about her brother getting to have a big adventure with her uncle without her.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/03/2007 03:17:00 PM | |
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Could Brent Musburger just go ahead and retire?
One of the worst things (I mean, besides losing) about the UT vs Cal game last night was that we were stuck with Brent Musburger calling the game.

I'm still not over the fact that a few years ago, he couldn't consistently mis-pronounce Casey Clausen's last name.

Then, last night we were stuck with him again. He may be the worst announcer in all of college football (OK, outside of Todd Blackledge). If I'd heard Brent tell us one more time he couldn't wait to talk to Les Miles next week about the PAC-10, I was going to get in my car, drive to Berkley, go up into the booth and go, "For the love of Pete, Brent! We get the point! You've made it six times already in this drive!"

Thinking back, I've had to endure Brent calling games since the 80's when he called NFL games for CBS. That's twenty plus years....

Time to put Brent out to pasture, I think!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/02/2007 11:23:00 AM | |
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Game day countown - It's football time in Tennessee!

It's great...to be...a Tennessee Vol!

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/01/2007 11:24:00 AM | |
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