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Dec. 9, 2005 | 6 a.m. PT

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Five-link Friday

We'll get to your "Reunion" scenarios next week, so you're welcome to keep sending them in. In the meantime, how about another five-link Friday?

Joy to the world! The Lord has gum! Misheard Christmas carol lyrics, from Snopes.com

Remember the great mock movie trailer that turned "The Shining" into a family comedy? Now there's another one that does the reverse for the comedy "Big," making it sound like a suspense-filled scary flick.

Still working on the Virgin Digital band quiz ? OK, so we've established that this photo is not complete. No one has sent in a photo that is marked up with all of the proper band names, but numerous lists abound.  Reader Heidi sent in a link to this bulletin board, and if you scroll down, at least one reader lists 74 bands from the photo.

Get a sneak peek at the new commemorative stamps due out in 2006. Stamp topics will include DC comics superheroes, actress Hattie McDaniel, favorite children's book animals, Ben Franklin, Sugar Ray Robinson, Disney romantic animal couples, Judy Garland, motorcycles and more. Scroll down on the page to see images of the stamps.

The movie "Brokeback Mountain" is certainly making the news these days -- even the comic strip "Boondocks" features a running gag where Grandpa heads off to see what he thinks is a manly cowboy movie, not realizing it's about two cowboys who fall in love. The movie is based on a short story by Annie Proulx that ran in the New Yorker, and you can now read the story online.

Dec. 8, 2005 | 6 a.m. PT

Create your own ‘Reunion’ ending

I knew it couldn't last. My latest guilty-pleasure TV show, FOX's "Reunion," was canceled recently, and now it's looking like the show's murder mystery just might get abandoned in midstream. Executive producer Jon Feldman has released a statement saying "Because the events of Samantha's murder are partially reliant on characters we haven't yet met — and events we haven't yet seen — there is no way to solve the mystery of her murder without being able to complete the full arc of our story through the present day. I greatly regret that this question along with many others that the series has posed will remain unsolved, and I am deeply grateful for the support of viewers who share this regret."

Well, thanks a LOT, FOX! "Reunion" was hardly Emmyworthy, and it was stuck on Thursday, as if it even had a chance against "CSI" and "The Apprentice." But I liked it nonetheless. The concept, that 6 high-school pals have a lasting friendship starting in the 1980s and carrying through until one is murdered 20 years later, was kind of intriguing. Think "Friends" if it weren't funny and if, in the end, Ross empties a loaded gun into Monica. (Now why didn't NBC think of that?)

With the exception of "American Dreams" alum Will Estes and Matthew St. Patrick from "Six Feet Under," the actors were earnest if faceless. (I dubbed Craig and Samantha Poor Man's Tom Cruise and Poor Man's Rebecca Gayheart.) The plots were soapy to the core, and Estes was in the heart of most of them. He had a secret daughter, went to jail for a crime he didn't commit, fought in the first Gulf War, and eventually became a priest.

Requisite digression: It hasn't been a good year for "Dreams" alums. Not only did Estes' "Reunion" get canceled, but so did "Hot Properties," starring Estes' TV mom from "Dreams," Gail O'Grady. (Although my friend the "Nip/Tuck" watcher informs me that Brittany Snow, who starred as Meg on "Dreams," has been showing up as a white supremacist on that show.

Anyway, "Reunion" reportedly has several more episodes, two now and two early next year, with the last one airing Feb. 2 and covering 1996, if I do my math right.

Even though there weren't enough "Reunion" fans to keep the show alive, I'd like to invite those of you were are out there to send in a paragraph about who you think killed Samantha, and why. One note: Lots and lots of people have been predicting that the killer would have been Sam's secret daughter, Amy (whose nanny was Sam's best friend Carla, conveniently enough). If that's what you think, that's fine, send it in, but you've got to defend it.

I'll give you my version right now: Carla kills Sam, and here's why. Carla (a.k.a. Poor Man's Claire Danes) was always Sam's little lapdog — not as pretty as Sam, not as adored by the boys as Sam. She did Sam's dirty work, even taking the nanny job so she could keep an eye on Amy for Sam. She even got beat up by Amy's adoptive father (who was briefly Carla's boyfriend). Carla's also harbored a not-so-secret crush on Aaron, a.k.a. Poor Man's Matthew Broderick, which led to a brief fling. But let's say that Carla wanted more, and by the time she realized it, Sam had divorced cheating Craig (Poor Man's Tom Cruise) and, since Amy's real father, Will (Estes) took the Roman collar and is thus out of the dating picture, say she turned to Aaron. That might just push Carla over the edge enough to blast her.

Agree? Disagree? Got a better ending? Send it in, and we'll see if we can't outwrite FOX. Which judging by the craptacular "The War at Home," just cannot be too difficult.

Dec. 7, 2005 | 12 p.m. PT

Beat the band (quiz)

Several of you wrote in after Five-link Friday linked to the Virgin Digital band-name quiz, which asked you to find band names hidden in a picture, desperate for answers.

Jen in Oregon obliged, sending in this link to the photo with many band names marked. Sure, you figured out that the queen and the prince were dueling with Sex Pistols, but did you also mark down both Queen and Prince as two additional answers? Yeah, me neither. Hope this soothes some of your frantic minds.

Update: Many of you have since commented that the photo as posted is missing a section — bands you've named as missing include the Pet Shop Boys, Cake, and more. If anyone has a similar version that is complete, go ahead and send it in. I like Jen's version because it actually indicates where each band is represented, whereas most versions on the Web just give lists.

Dec. 2, 2005 | 9:30 a.m. PT

Five-link Friday:  Find the band names

This week's Five-link Friday is going to have to hold until next Wednesday, because I'm taking a couple of days off early next week.

One final note on the Jello Fluff craziness : Virna , you may call a Jello dish Ambrosia salad, but the other readers who wrote in are universally firm in saying that Ambrosia salad, at least at their tables, does not contain Jello. Says Patty: "Jello Fluff and Ambrosia are two different things — Ambrosia is the dessert with the mandarin oranges, some kind of fruit (sometimes just peaches, sometimes fruit cocktail), mini marshmallows, coconut, and sour cream."

Who knew Jello was such a rich topic? Wait, don't answer that. Here are the latest random linkage:

Virgin Digital says there are 72 band names hidden in this picture. Note: At least one part of the image is not for children. I know at least one office that has posted this on the wall next to a blank sheet of paper with 72 numbered lines so employees in need of a mental break can fill in a few lines at a time.

Remember Richard Scarry's Word Book? Some of the words and phrases have been tweaked between versions, and one parent has cataloged the differences. Looks like they tried to be more politically correct with the animals’ jobs, changed a “pretty stewardess” and a “handsome pilot” to a “flight attendant” and “pilot,” and best of all, took a “beautiful screaming lady” waiting to be rescued from a fire and renamed her simply “cat in danger.” What is up with that? We miss the "beautiful screaming lady," though two of those three words were questionable anyway.

How cool would it be to be able to blow colored soap bubbles instead of the clear, but iridescent, ones we have now? Someone is working on it, but the colors keep staining. (Via Hit or Miss.)

One of my favorite pop-culture sites, X-Entertainment, has rolled out an Advent calendar: Each day, return for another holiday-themed pop-culture essay. Don't miss Matt's take on the Original Fruity Pebbles Christmas (Dec. 1 in the calendar).

Now I know I could just sit at my own desk and crumple up paper and shoot it at the wastebasket myself, but somehow, this online version is more fun. Wheeee!

Remember, send in your favorite sites for an upcoming Five-link Friday, and thanks! See you Wednesday!

Nov. 29, 2005 | 9:45 a.m. PT

Jello Fluff madness

Remember this pre-Thanksgiving post from Amy , seeking a recipe for something she called Jello Fluff? While this really isn't a recipe column, and I'm no Heloise, I couldn't resist sharing some of your helpful and/or goofy and/or tasty responses. Note that I haven't tested any of these, and thus can't attest to their fluffiness or lack thereof.

Seems the general rule is if you have a box of Jello and a carton of Cool Whip, you're golden. Some folks like to get fancy with cottage cheese (!), pudding, or fruit added. The words "pistachio pudding" were also mentioned more than I think I've ever seen previously in my life.

The official Jell-o site (they hyphenate Jell-o, which just looks weird to me) falls down on the job, offering only a recipe for "Creamy Yogurt Fluff," which features sugar-free Jell-o and nonfat yogurt. Sorry, that sounds way too healthy for something with the word "fluff" in the title.

All this Jello talk reminds me of the "Married With Children" episode where Kelly and Peg Bundy took a cooking class together. For their final project, Peg got stuck with something fancy, like crown roast of pork. Kelly had to make Jello. She sat with the box in front of her for hours, then finally tore it open, found the Jello was inside yet another bag, and burst into tears. Then she read the instructions and found even more reason to cry, wailing "WHERE am I going to get TAP WATER at this time of night?"

So for all the Kelly Bundys out there, and for Amy, Test Pattern's readers present...the many forms of Jello Fluff.

JELLO + COOL WHIP
“Recipe for Jello “fluff” (we call it mousse): Make one pkg of any flavor jello according to package directions. Allow to set until halfway gelled but still a bit runny. Mix in a cup of Cool Whip using low speed on your mixer. Return to the refrigerator and allow to finish gelling. It’s quite good!”    --Anonymous

“Amy, Jello fluff is super easy. Make a package of Jello let it set until it is almost firm and mix in a container of Cool Whip. If you feel “festive” you can make strawberry jello and put strawberries in with the cool whip. Have fun making it.”    --Jennifer

“How to make Jello Fluff- Perpare a box of Jello according to directions. When it is cool but not solid, stir in a carton of Cool Whip, then place in the fridge for a few more hours. My mother used to make this all the time, and I still make it with whipped cream instead of the cool whip.”    --Judy

“To answer Amy- Jello fluff is awesome and soo easy to make. Its just a big tub of cool whip and a big box of jello mixed together. That’s it. We add chopped fruit like apples, grapes, madarin oranges, pineapple chunks. Its great! Funny thing is- I discovered it when we went to my husband’s grandmother’s house one year....and she lives in a trailer!”    --Audrey

THE COTTAGE CHEESE CONTINGENT
“Seems that jello whatever is pretty common. We call it Jello Salad around here. Our recipe if you’d like to print it. One container of Cool Whip One 16oz container of cottage cheese One box of fruit jello Toss in matching fruit. (Ex: orange jello and mandarin oranges.”    --Missy

“Jello Fluff—We call it Masterpiece Salad in our family. Don’t know where this stuff got started but it just isn’t a holiday without it. Here goes: 1 large carton small curd cottage cheese 1 small (flat) can crushed pineaple 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained 1 small package orange jello Mix all this stuff together Fold in one 8 ounce container plain cool whip Chill. I didn’t make it one year and my 9-year old step-granddaughter cried til I ran all over town looking for an open grocery store to get the stuff to make it. She’s 16 now and I’m going to teach her to make it herself this year.”    --Dorothy

“Jello Fluff!!! Cottage Cheese, Cool Whip, Orange Jello, Mandarin Oranges, Crushed Pinapple and Marshmallows (optional). Drain the fruit. Mix dry jello, cottage cheese and fruit then add cool whip and marshmallows just before serving. ENJOY!”    --Karrie

“I know what you mean about the jello fluff. I don’t recall the recipe for that, but our family made cottage cheese fluff. Take any color jello you like, stir a box into a carton of cottage cheese. Actually, fairly tasty. This list brought back a lot of memories of other times...hahaha!...we used to eat fruitcake, too!”    --J

THE PUDDING POSSE
“Just to help Amy here is the Jello Fluff recipe and we really do call it Fluff.. 1 small box Jello (flavor to match the fruit) 1 small box vanilla Jello pudding (lemon is good too) 1 small box tapioca pudding 3 cups water 32 oz Cool whip (regular, not flavored) 2 cups fruit or pie filling (cherry is favorite, but oranges bananas and coconut ain’t bad) Combine all three Jello packs with water, boil til very thick. Here’s the trick FOLD in the fruit and then the Cool Whip. Chill for 3 hours.”    --Claudia

“Here is a recipe for Fluff for that poor girl. Use a 20 oz can of pineapple, put that in a bowl and add a large box (or 2 small) french vanilla instant pudding (or vanilla). Mix. Add a can of lemon pie filling. Mix. Then fold in 12 oz tub of Cool Whip (16 oz if you need to stretch the recipe). Refrigerate overnight (but 2 hours should do it).”    --Denise

“Here is my grandmother’s recipe for Fluff (but I’ve seen like 20 other recipes) for Amy (and anyone else) 1 large tub Cool Whip 1 can pineapple chunks, drained 1 jar maraschino cherries, drained 1 package pistachio pudding (MUST be instant pudding) 1 package chopped walnuts - optional Put Cool Whip into mixing bowl; mix in pistachio pudding, until powder is gone and Cool Whip is pale green. Add pineapple and cherries, and sprinkle nuts on top. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving! I made this once for a family picnic, and my sister was AMAZED that I had mastered our grandmother’s recipe. When I told her how to make it, she looked devastated - I felt like I had somehow ruined the magic!”    --Sarah

GENERAL COMMENTS
“The Jello Fluff is called Ambrosia salad, remember from Edward Scissorhands?”    --Virna
[Editor's Note: I thought Ambrosia salad was just fruit and Cool Whip, no Jello?]

“Exactly what was the ratio of jello-related to non-jello-related weird Thanksgiving items ? I noticed a trend...”    --Missy

Nov. 28, 2005 | 9:30 a.m. PT

TV shows never say die

Warning: If you don't want spoilers for last night's 'Desperate Housewives,' stop reading now.)

In the old days, when a TV show killed off a character, he or she was dead, and stayed dead. These days, however, prime-time shows are borrowing a page from soap operas. You just never know if someone is dead, or in a coma, or if they've been replaced in the coffin by a wax dummy. Which makes it all the more confusing when the characters are really, truly, supposed to be dead.

Take "Desperate Housewives." In the first season finale, viewers saw Bree's husband, Rex, in the hospital, thanks to creepy pharmacist George messing with his prescriptions.  Rex thought Bree had poisoned him, yet wrote her a note forgiving her in his last scene. Later, a doctor was seen calling Bree at home to deliver the bad news: Rex had died in the hospital.

But "Desperate Housewives" had been playing cat-and-mouse with its viewers all season. Baby Dana turned out to be Zach, leading many to question whether the child in question was male or female. There were hints that there was another child who died. Unanswered questions flew fast and furious. Add to that the fact that Rex died off-screen, and that he himself was a doctor (who presumably could convince his colleague to lie for him), and viewers immediately started brewing up conspiracy theories about how Rex wasn't really dead, he was just lying low, hoping to trip up Bree into confessing.

Turns out that Rex was meant to be unquestionably dead all along. Show creator Marc Cherry even said later that he had to cut out a scene that would have made that plotline clear. But even after a scene this season in which Rex's body was shown in his coffin, some fans were still wary.

This week, creepy pharmacist George lured Bree up to his hotel room by telling her he was committing suicide by taking pills. It seemed clear he wanted her to stop him, and few viewers who'd seen George in action could believe he'd off himself without a fight. Yet he really did take the pills, and they certainly did seem to make him sleepy. When Bree came to his room, she didn't call 911 as she claimed and as he seemed to want, and viewers' last glimpse of George was of him on the bed, possibly unconscious, possibly dead .

The Associated Press immediately sent a story after the episode proclaiming George dead. But the AP is operating under the old rules of television, in which what you see is what you get. That hasn't been true on many shows for some time.

"Housewives" and its ABC sibling "Lost" are masters of the "is-he-dead, maybe-he's-not" plot move. "Lost" hottie Boone certainly seemed to give up the ghost after his bloody fall, but on a tropical island that features at least one polar bear, viewers can be forgiven for thinking anything can happen. Recently, Boone's stepsister Shannon took a gunshot straight to the chest. That would be tough to recover from even if she were shot in the lobby of the Mayo Clinic, but on an island with only rudimentary medical care, she certainly seemed a goner. Yet "Lost" fans by necessity subscribe to the "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" school of thought. Internet bulletin boards filled up with theories about how Shannon was only injured, not dead. Hey, if Bobby Ewing could spend so much time in the shower, who knows what can happen on Mystery Island?

For the record, I'm going to go ahead and assume that creepy George has creeped his last. Sure, there's a whole delicious alleyway of plots if he is still alive — he could secretly stalk Bree, or haunt her, still in love with her and yet wanting to punish her for not saving his life. Yet if he is dead, there's another juicy closet full of plots on that side as well — someone like Bree is bound to punish herself for letting a man die, even if said man murdered her husband. Yet smart viewers these days, veterans of shows where the just-too-easy plot gets jerked out from under them at the last minute, can be forgiven for thinking "never say die."

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