Monopoly at McDonalds No More!

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I don't play the lottery. Why? Because I'm sane and know that I would have to have a terminal case of the luck virus to ever win. But what has traditionally gotten me is the Monopoly game at McDonald's. In the past, I have rationalized it as such:

1. I have to eat anyway. Might as well eat at the place that might give me a million bucks.
2. Even though I'm buying things I usually wouldn't get and thus paying a bit more, this is offset by the fact that I'm usually winning free food for return trips.
3. If Nancy in Albuquerque can win, why can't I?

(Alright, maybe point 3 isn't very rational.)

Cut to this year. Yay, McDonald's is bringing back Monopoly again in the month of October! This is my year! And then it's nothing but headaches. The choice I have made (usually with my family) to eat at McDonald's over other better and potentially cheaper options has been made exclusively for Monopoly. So of course I am going to maximize the number of pieces I can possibly get.

Here are the problems:

1a. There is no clear listing of what food items come with pieces. In fact, the signage is confusing and misleading. On one trip,  my wife purchased the Southern Style Chicken sandwich based on the signage sort of indicating it came with pieces. It does not. The Big Mac does. The website shows a clear list of what comes with pieces, but I'm not looking at the website when I walk into the restaurant. I'm towing two kids, looking for an empty high chair, grabbing a stack of napkins so I can wipe down a table, and hoping the message for what items have pieces is clearer than a McDonald's picture menu.

1b. Not only is it not clear to customers, but it's not clear to the employees as well. My wife went through a drive-thru to order fries and asked "Which size comes with Monopoly pieces?" The employee answered that a medium had pieces so that's what my wife ordered. A medium does not come with pieces. On a second trip, we couldn't find signage so ask the employee what items have pieces. The employee responds that only the fries and drinks have pieces. This is clearly wrong as some sandwiches and McNuggets do as well.

2. In the past, you have been able to get a larger size value meal and get more pieces. I guess that's technically true now as well, but they're skimping on what they've given in the past. It used to be a value meal came with two pieces on the fries and two pieces on the drink for a total of four pieces. Then, if you ordered a larger value meal, you got a fry container with four pieces (and sometimes an extra item like a Best Buy bonus piece or something) and two on the drink for a total of six pieces. Now, it's two on the drink and none on the fries for the medium meal or four on the fries and none on the drink for the large meal.

Clearly I am obsessing over little issues here. So what if I only get four pieces instead of six? What does it matter? Well, I guess that's my point. What was a fun little game has lost its appeal (no pun intended). Clearly it's not worth it. So, why not just skip it all together and enjoy a better meal somewhere else? That's my plan, McDonald's. That's my plan.

Sherlock

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sherlockIn an astounding fit of timeliness, my wife and I watched the US premiere of Sherlock last night and I’m writing about it today  The BBC’s new take on Sherlock Holmes is being broadcast here on PBS through the descendent of Masterpiece Theatre. Set in modern day Britain, the series starts Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and the soon to be Bilbo Baggins, Martin Freeman, as Watson.

 

 

As I discussed previously, I’m somewhat picky in my tastes when it comes to Sherlock Holmes (and everything else really). So while I was curious, I had only moderate expectations going into the episode. Fortunately my expectations were met, exceeded, and then some. The writing was tight, there was good chemistry between the leads, and the translation to a modern setting not only worked by actually added something fresh to the story. Only the attempts to visually show Holmes’ thought process left me a bit cold. That minor quibble aside, “A Study in Pink” was a great premiere episode.

 

If you missed it, I highly recommend checking out the online video and parking yourself or your DVR in front of the TV next Sunday night.

Tales Never Told: The T.J. Hooker Reunion Movie

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Jeeg has written before of our love for T.J. Hooker. For this "Tale Never Told" we're going all the way back to March 13, 2000 when Jeeg sent me an e-mail noting that day was the 18th anniversary of T.J. Hooker's debut on ABC. He followed up that up with a simple statement:

We need to get back to LC.
[LC being the name of the fictional city T.J. Hooker lived and worked in.]

So, I did what I could for him and shot back an off the top of my head reunion movie pitch. Here's what I sent him back:

They ought to make at least one TJ Hooker reunion movie. The only one who wouldn't come back would be Heather Locklear and that's fine with me. It could be exactly like Star Trek II. TJ is training the young guys still, but he's not actually going out into the field anymore, he's got a desk job and a promotion. Corrigan gets captured by one of the villains from the original series and is tricked into leading the enemy right to the engineer behind LC's new subway system who also happens to be TJ's old flame. TJ joins Junior and his new rookie partner and track down this slimeball who is after TJ's woman. TJ, his woman, and Adrian's new partner get trapped in the subway tunnels and Adrian saves them. The villain gets a hold of one of the subway trains and drives it around the tunnels like a madman. TJ and most of the LC police force are stuck above ground driving or running and just trying to help people above ground who are impacted by the train of death. It looks like it could be the destruction of LC, but Adrian slips down a vent and takes control of another train and rams it into the villain and both trains are engulfed in flame. TJ makes it down just in time to say good-bye to his old friend. The end scene shows the opening ceremony/ribbon-cutting of the new Vince Ramano Subway System.
Of course, it's too late for this to happen now, and never really was in the cards to ever happen but it's still fun to ponder what became of some of our old friends.

(Nerd) Lunch Special: Mountain Dew Throwback

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Now with real hillbilly action! Back in early summer, CT expressed his disappointment in the new Mountain Dew flavors which were part of the Dewmocracy  campaign. Another gimmick from our friends at Pepsi is the Throwback line of vintage formulas. Mountain Dew Throwback replaces the extreme sports branding with original hillbilly styling and the high fructose corn syrup with sugar.

 

It took forever for Throwback products to show up on the shelves of my local mega-mart, but I grabbed a 12 pack of Dew as soon as they did. My curiosity has been building about old school formulas, given all the raves I have heard about Kosher Coke and Dublin Dr. Pepper. I was almost expecting some sort of transcendent pop (yes, that’s what we call it in Illinois) experience, but sadly I had my hopes set too high. The citrusy flavor of the Throwback seemed slightly muted compared to conventional Dew, but other than that I could not detect any difference. Both Dews are tasty, radioactive green, and go down smooth. Perhaps my palate has been ruined by growing up in the Midwest during the corn syrup era or perhaps this “real sugar” retro craze of overhyped. Either way, I’ll be saving the 50% price premium and sticking with the 21st century Dew that I grew up with.

Nerd Lunch SyFy Pitch Challenge #7: The Nerdist

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This is cheating because it's not scripted television, but this isn't exactly reality television either and I think it has potential.

I don't know how real the rumor was, but several years ago, I recall reading that Bruce Campbell had been approached about the [then] Sci-Fi Network to host a late night talk show. This was back when there was a huge explosions of talk shows and every channel had to have their own. As a Bruce Campbell fan, I would have loved it, but just as many of those shows faded away, I don't think "The Sci-Fi Bruce Campbell Show" would have lasted very long. Although he has a better chin than certain other talk show hosts.

We're in an interesting time now where content can be created by anyone. And if that 'anyone' happens to know some cool people and have lots of good connections, they can put together some great content in the form of podcasts and web videos. One such person who has been doing this for nearly a year now is Chris Hardwick. If you're not familiar with him, don't feel bad. I really wasn't either. He's probably a "That Guy" to you. Or maybe, you've heard of The Nerdist podcast and know exactly who I'm talking about.


With Conan on his way back to late night and a slew of established shows already going, SyFy would be fools to try to break into that genre of television with a conventional "sit behind a desk" format. They'd have to go with something unconventional and Chris Hardwick would be just the guy to do it. On his Nerdist podcast, he's had some great guests of high caliber, but he's also had some under-the-radar guests such as a sci-fi novelist or niche comedians.

The show could start out as specials or just weekly and then grow into a nightly schedule if it took off. A huge, self-proclaimed nerd, Hardwick would be the perfect host for this type of show on Syfy by being able to make Doctor Who or LOST references at the drop of a hat. He's got a long career of being on camera and brings with him a great deal of nerd cred making him the ideal host. Plus, he already has built-in nerdy sidekicks Jonah Ray and Matt Mira whom he has a great rapport with.

Nerd Lunch SyFy Pitch Challenge #6: Roswell Avenue

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Roswell Ave

Private investigator Rick Borden (Kevin Sorbo) was hit hard by the recession. Detective work dried up, his investigation business went under, and he had to apply for a job at Roswell Avenue Investigations. The agency is a relative unknown in Seattle and quirky, but it’s something to pay the bills. Rick thinks taking orders from a partner 20 years his junior, Grace Choi (Linda Park), will be his biggest problem, but he’s wrong.

 

Sorbo is READY!Roswell Avenue isn’t your run of the mill private detective agency. Along with a few other specialized agencies around the world, Roswell Avenue discreetly handles only a very special cases. Cases like

  • a werewolf who thinks his wife is cheating on him with the vampire down the street
  • Rasputin disappearing with a corporation’s latest subliminal advertising system
  • a con-artist leprechaun who poses as a foster child to steal money from wealthy parents
  • or a murder seemly committed by the Chinese god of thunder Lei Gong

 

Completing the staff at the Roswell Avenue office is Parker Mason (a twenty something unknown that looks suitably computer geeky), who manages the office and conducts case research. The head of Roswell Avenue Investigations, Andrew Tunney (Jeffrey Combs), gives case assignments and provides direction via videoconference/phone ala Charles Townsend. For recurring characters, it would be great to introduce Grace’s weird uncle (George Takei or Clyde Kusatsu) who is also in the business of supernatural investigating, Rick’s college aged kid or ex-wife to add some real world grounding, and an occasional detective from another agency branch (Katee Sackhoff would be first on my list).

 

It’s Simon & Simon meets The X-Files. Rick is an off the cuff investigator in the mode of a Jim Rockford or Thomas Magnum while Grace is by the book as she knows one wrong move can get you possessed by a demon or turned into stone. At the same time, Rick has to deal with a supernatural world he never knew existed and can hardly believe. How could he not have known about all this paranormal activity and why would Roswell Avenue choose to let him in on the secret?

Farewell, A-Team Creator

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Today's news took me by surprise and saddened me. What can be said about Stephen J. Cannell that every other obit out there hasn't already said? Probably nothing. Like almost all children of the 80s, some of his characters and creations formed the foundation of my own nerdom.

Longtime followers of this blog know of my love of The A-Team. In watching through the entire series a couple years back, I quickly noticed that a Stephen J. Cannell episode was always easy to spot almost right away. His writing was true to the characters and the scenarios he put them in were more interesting than the norm. It takes more than one man to make a TV series. Nothing can take away from what the cast and other crew contributed to that series, but it did have to start from somewhere, and that person was Stephen J. Cannell.

I told the other guys that I would take the writing duties of this tribute, but in looking at all he's done on IMDb, I can't claim to have seen a large percentage of his work. The A-Team, The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, The Commish, and random episodes of some of his other work. He's done so much, that I doubt there are many who have seen all of his work. And so much of what he did bucked the trends of the day and changed the face of television forever. He is a great influence to today's top writers.

Regardless of how much of his work I've seen, I do hold him in high regard. As someone who used to be an aspiring writer, I admired his work ethic and drive. He didn't take shortcuts. He got to where he was the right way, by working hard and producing quality entertainment. He overcame his shortcomings and lived a dream he had. He wrote about heroes and people that I could look up to. He himself was a person that could be looked up to. He reached out to his fans by giving them tips on how to write and encouraging them to strive to reach their goals to the same methods he used.

At age 69, I've seen some say that he died too young. I don't disagree, but he lived 69 good years doing the thing he loved most—writing. Good for him. Rest in peace, Mr. Cannell.

Nerd Lunch SyFy Pitch Challenge #5: Van Helsing, Bail Bondsman

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Hey, CT here. First off, I've got to tell you that I'm loving this series of posts. We decided to extend the invitation to a couple friends and this week-long series is going to spill over a bit into next week as a result. Last week I had the pleasure to join The Atomic Geeks on episode 84 of their podcast. Today, one of the Geeks have decided to return the favor and join in on PLee's . We welcome Christian Nielsen to submit his pitch...
Unbeknownst to many, the city of Detroit is the epicentre of all that is supernatural on the planet earth. Magic, demons, all things metaphysical and otherwise has woven its way through all levels of existence in the city but is only detectable by those "in the know." Lester Van Helsing is obviously one of these people.

Lester, although estranged from his family is definitely not lacking in experience in dealing with the supernatural. He has a long mysterious history of battling magical forces of evil and otherwise. Currently he works for a strange bail bonds office with his rookie partner Francis Stone. Lester & Frank make their living hunting down fugitives who have not honoured their "contracts", no questions asked.

So how do I explain this? It's essentially cop buddy show without the confines of being a cop. Lester & Frank are essentially bounty hunters and bounty hunters play by different rules. 

Lester of course plays the role of the hardened veteran. Just on the cusp of being past his prime. He lives on a houseboat, drives a pickup truck and plays his cards close to his chest. Always. He used to fight evil with his family but now he doesn't for some unknown reason. He's the typical gruff, sarcastic s.o.b with a heart of gold. Partnering up with a rookie for the first time in his career for some unknown reason. He's a bounty hunter now and ekes out his existence one bounty at a time. 

His partner John has a small amount of experience with criminal elements but is just being introduced to the secret world of Detroit. He's your typical act first, think later rookie. His partners last name is known to him and fills him with questions. Essentially Frank asks the questions we all want to ask. He fills in the blanks for the viewer on what exactly is going on in Detroit.

Some important secondary characters also play a big part of the show. The mysterious brothers who run the bail bonds office. The attractive librarian who helps with information from time to time. The police detective who has an inkling of what goes on behind the scenes As well as Lester's relatives who still maintain a presence in the city questioning Lester's tactics and loyalties.

The thing I like about this idea, despite the sheer volume of action, excitement and sarcastic wit, is the pertinent unanswered questions that travel from story to story. Why doesn't Lester work with his family anymore? What happened? Why does Lester take Frank on as his partner? What's the real story behind the bail bonds office and the brothers who run it? What is the real deal with these contracts and bounties? These are questions that eventually get answered leading to more questions and radical story changes.

I see this show as a combination of The Rockford Files, a good dose of Buffy and T.J. Hooker. Sarcastic comments, mystery, good action and Lester hanging on to the hood of a speeding car.


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