Cinema Varitek: July 2009 Archives

The.Pen.Logo.jpg Each week (or so), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. He also reviewed MLB Network's six-episode reality show The Pen, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, which aired Sundays on the MLB Network. Previous installments: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5.

In the final episode of The Pen, we all learned what the show could have been. I know he was a starter at the beginning of the season, but The Pen really should have been The Chan Ho Show.

The producers gave a couple of the bullpen guys cameras to document what they did over the All-Star Break. Yes, the final episode of The Pen was pretty much exclusively about the break. Turns out the baseball highlights were necessary to carry the show, because absolutely nothing happened in this final one.

But back to Chan Ho Park. He took the camera, and put on a comedy spectacular.

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But he also had a message for Brad Lidge (oddly, not really even present in this episode).

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Look, we all know The Pen was kind of a doomed idea from the start, and the producers did a yeoman's job at times with the material. But they really blew it here. Clearly, Chan Ho Park should have been given a chance to do his stand-up.

But as you can see, not all reliever cams are created equal.

The.Pen.Logo.jpg Each week (or so), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. He's also reviewing MLB Network's six-episode reality show The Pen, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, airing Sundays at 8 p.m. on MLB Network. Previous installments: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4.

Sadness grips the land. There is only one episode remaining of The Pen, the smash hit reality competition that has everyone talking. While we are excited for the finale, we are also sad that this incredible masterpiece of television history will have no new episodes after Sunday.

Hmm, no, that's not right. The Pen isn't a super-hit like American Idol or Dance Your Ass Off, it's a show about the Phillies' bullpen that I have somehow forced myself to get locked in to watching. Something other than sadness has me gripped.

The penultimate episode of The Pen was probably the most interesting yet, mainly because we learned about the game routines of J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge. (This was probably Episode #1 material, but who's asking? Wait: I am.) Romero and Lidge spend most of the early parts of the game chilling in the clubhouse sitting in desk chairs lounging in luxury.

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It's settled: I need to become a major league baseball reliever. I figure with today's performance enhancing drugs and the lack of mandatory PED testing for all Americans, that I've never really played the sport won't hurt me. I'm going to have to get LASIK twice to get my vision better than 20/20, Tiger Woods-style, and I'm totally writing it into my contract that they have to get me an Aeron chair for the locker room.

Speaking of performance-enhancing drugs, we learned in this week's episode that Chad Durbin just wastes Red Bull willy-nilly! That stuff's like $3.59 a can!

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There are a few other possibilities, I guess. He could be pouring several cans of Red Bull into a larger can, or he could be saying, "We don't need this Red Bull anymore, we've got five-hour energy shots!"

mathnet.title.jpg Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. And he also does TV sometimes, like when he doesn't think he has the attention span for a whole movie. This week in Cinema Varitek: "The Problem of the Missing Baseball," the pilot episode of Mathnet, starring Joe Howard and Beverly Leech, written by David D. Connell and Jim Thurman and directed by Charles S. Dubin.

One of my favorite shows as a kid was Square One TV, the educational math show broadcast daily on PBS in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the end of each program was a short segment of Mathnet, a Dragnet parody where detectives' knowledge of mathematics helped them solve crimes. This was a trend in the 80s; you no doubt also remember the game and show Carmen Sandiego, where you could solve crimes with your knowledge of geography and flags.

The show followed detectives George Frankly and Kate Monday in the Mathnet division of the Los Angeles Police Department. Yes, during the 1980s L.A. apparently had a division dedicated to solving crimes (usually non-violent small ones) with mathematics! Later, the NYPD would adopt the same tactic with George and Pat Tuesday. While DARE may get more press, I think Mathnet is Darryl Gates' real success story in policing. (He gets a "Special Thanks" in the credits here.)

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In the interest of journalism, I recently watched "The Problem of the Missing Baseball," a math/crime hybrid that this website says is the show's pilot. I didn't remember this episode from my childhood, but the plot was familiar; the episode opens with a group of kids looking for their missing baseball signed by Babe Ruth. They had been playing, uhm, sandlot baseball with it and it went missing after a home run. If they don't get it before the kid's father gets home, he's going to get it!

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Of course, in The Sandlot, LAPD officers do not investigate the missing baseball.

The.Pen.Logo.jpg Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. He's also reviewing MLB Network's six-episode reality show The Pen, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, airing Sundays at 8 p.m. on MLB Network. Previous installments: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3.

Hey, The Pen is back! After a break last week to show Bob Costas' interview with Cal Ripken Jr. (the only MLB Network programming less exciting than The Pen), the Phillies' bullpen gets its time in the spotlight again. And what do we get?

Hot hot Brad Lidge texting action!

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Okay, maybe that's not so exciting. We also get a shot of Chase Utley doing his best Richard Nixon impression, which is a little more exciting.

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Surprised at this development? Don't be. Utley has been a Nixon fan for years, as seen in this photo.

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Baseball.Bugs.logo.jpg Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. This week in Cinema Varitek: Baseball Bugs, a 1946 cartoon starring Bugs Bunny. Almost all voices by Mel Blanc. Written by Michael Maltese and directed by Friz Freleng. These reviews usually contain spoilers, but if you can't guess who wins when Bugs Bunny takes on an entire team in a baseball game... well, yikes.

I love cartoons. I grew up watching the Ninja Turtles eat pizza, Garfield eat lasagna and Heathcliff eat... I dunno, garbage, maybe. (Didn't he live in a garbage dump -- or was that some supporting character?) I still love The Simpsons; the recent HD episodes look fantastic. I sat through all four Futurama movies, even that horrid second one. I was also a daily watcher of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show.

Growing up, of course, there were also great classic cartoons that would run on UHF stations (sometimes during The Bozo Show). Like you (probably), one of my favorites was the classic Looney Toons short where Bugs Bunny strikes out the side on one pitch. I recently came across the short, Baseball Bugs, and since it has been taken down from YouTube, I think it's only right to review it here. While I cannot expect to match U.S.S. Mariner's sabermetric review of the game, I will do my best. (NB to Glenn Stout: This review of Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch is the best sports article of the year. Maybe ever. And I'm pretty hard on myself, usually.)

Baseball Bugs opens with the Gas-House Gorillas defeating the Tea Totallers at the Polo Grounds. Let this be a lesson to you, kids: If you abstain from alcohol and tobacco, you will totally suck at baseball. I particularly liked one of the opening shots from the grandstand:

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You don't see fans toss their hats and beers into the air anymore, since their 59Fifty hats cost like $29.95 and their beers even more (at least at Fenway).