Tom's year-ending two cents on the Olive Garden, UA football, TV and other things

Things we learned this year:

· Apparently, you can fool most of the people all of the time.

· Major League Baseball fans are boobs, and not the good (non-saline-enhanced) kind.

· Ashlee Simpson is the least talented person to appear on Saturday Night Live since Dallas co-star Charlene Tilton hosted the show in the early 1980s.

· TV sitcoms really do stink, with the exception of Arrested Development, which is often more weird than funny, but at least it tries.

· Republicans who voted for George W. Bush aren't necessarily racist, but they sure can't tell Arabs apart.

· Certain people should not be allowed to name their own children. I'm talking about, of course, Hollywood celebrities.

After Gwyneth Paltrow slapped the unfortunate name "Apple" on her kid, Julia Roberts trumped her by naming her poor twins "Phinnaeus" and "Hazel." All the money in the world isn't going to keep those kids from getting their asses kicked.

· Tucson is a basketball-crazy town. Standing room-only crowds flocked to the Jewish Community Center in the dead of summer to watch some really raggedy hoop action involving UA players, alumni, some pros and even a few high school kids. Current Wildcat Chris Rodgers put on a couple scoring exhibitions, but Tucsonans will have to wait until next year to see him throw his first-ever pass. The guy would rather pass a kidney stone than a basketball.

· Pima County District Attorney Barbara LaWall had some very bad and/or very dumb people working for her, and now the citizens of Pima County are going to have to pay a lot of money to the grieving family of a good man whose life might have been saved had only the aforementioned people had a brain or a conscience. This is turning out to be the most shocking story of this, or any, year.

· Contrary to popular belief, the University of Arizona softball team does NOT automatically get to go to the NCAA championships every year. Once every couple decades, UA Coach Mike Candrea takes a leave of absence to coach the U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal, and the UA loses a shocker in the regional tournament (which it is hosting), thus missing the nationals. Watch out! According to our calculations, this might happen again as early as 2020.

· While it might appear that prime-time TV will soon be nothing but spinoffs of CSI and Law & Order, along with so-called "reality" shows, there are a few dramas on that are as good as anything in the history of the medium. As a lifelong TV junkie, I have to say that, along with 24, The Shield and Alias, which are all coming back in January, new shows Rescue Me, Lost and House are dazzlingly good.

Of the three, Lost has the highest profile, as well as the highest ratings. Rescue Me is on FX cable in the summer and fall and has limited appeal, but it's great. Denis Leary is spectacular as a New York City fireman with a drinking problem, an ex-wife, a teenage daughter who he hopes is a lesbian so she won't get pregnant, and a huge assortment of troubles, including the fact that he sees some of the dead people that he was unable to rescue, including his cousin/best friend, who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and with whose wife he is having a really messy affair.

The writing is Emmy-worthy and cable-saucy. When a young fireman poses for the charity calendar and gets deluged with offers of sex, he mentions that the calendar is "like a license to mint p*ssy." Another fireman, passing by, hears the end of the sentence and mutters, "Mint p*ssy? That's got to be the worst Ben & Jerry's flavor ever!"

And House has to be seen to be believed. It's on Fox on Tuesdays, and it features a doctor who hates people but likes to solve medical mysteries. He ridicules his patients and pops Vicodin for a staph-shriveled leg. It's scandalously funny.

Oh yeah, Jerry Seinfeld did a funny bit on "reality" shows: "Why do they call it 'reality' TV? How many people do you know who hang upside down from bungee cords, eating bull anuses?"

· The Weekly wants Olive Garden to get out of town. God help me, and may I be granted forgiveness by my mother, who came from Italy and went through Ellis Island, but I really like those breadsticks and the salad.

I've never actually had an entrée there, but I have had what they call minestrone during Lent a couple times, and it wasn't horrible. And while we're at it, my wife and kids have eaten at On the Border and Taco Bell.

· The UA Wildcats might not be the best football team in the Pac-10, but judging by the bookend victories with which the 2004 season started and ended, they're certainly the best in the state of Arizona.

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