Monday, January 18, 2016

Farewell Glenn Frey of the Eagles 1948-2016

My heart broke 60 minutes ago. I learned Glenn Frey had died. Glenn Frey was a founding member of the Eagles. The Eagles were one of the biggest selling music acts in recorded history.  My emotional attachment to the Eagles was a long running event in my personal life.

I literally can hear his voice. His gentle, tender voice serenading me with a "Peaceful Easy Feeling," a "Tequila Sunrise,"a "New Kid in Town" and breaking out the chops with "Heartache Tonight." I flashed back to a time when I was yet to enter high school when the happy strains of "Take it Easy" belted itself from my transistor radio. The other element about the Eagles was that they were the downright hottest and best-looking group of rock stars to ever make up one band. My teen-aged girl self had mad crushes on the whole group of them.

At a certain point in life, every time an artist dies, particularly those public figures who became famous during your own coming of age period dies, you feel the stick of your own mortality poking you in the ribs. It's not the same as sadness with most of these deaths, but with an Eagle it is genuine sadness. I loved these guys.

That stick poking me in the ribs right now belongs to the cultural moments of my life. When these folks start dying, they take a part of us with them. Glenn Frey wasn't old enough to be my dad, so yes, at the moment I am thinking about the concept of death. Famous people define eras and generations. Actors, elected officials, athletes, writers, entrepreneurs, but nothing hits quite like the death of musicians/singers/songwriters. I know exactly where I was when John Lennon died. I watched television for days on end when Michael Jackson died. I will certainly remember being at home on this date for many years to come. I called my sister and then my brother. They were the only two people I called. I practically yelled into the phone - Glenn Frey is dead.

The death of a musician is notable in our lives. Their music transcends generations. We think of people when we hear a song. We think of ourselves when we hear a song. Musicians aren't like movie stars or television stars. The emotional attachment to the actors of the world isn't as powerful. Most films or episodes of television programs are seen once. Even if you really love a film, maybe you sit through it a few times, but how many freaking times do you listen to a beloved song? I've listened to the Eagles' Greatest Hits literally thousands of times.

I came of age to the music of the Eagles. I cried to their music. I crushed out on a couple of guys to their music (some of them didn't crush back, but who cares, I still have the music). The words and music he wrote comforted me and energized me as I cleaned my entire house. I listened to their music as I drove by myself from Chicago to Los Angeles to forge a career. Having them in the car with me was like having a good friend on a road trip.

Their music made a deep impact on my heart. Glenn Frey was only 67 years old. He wasn't old.

I suspect as the great classic rock stars continue on in their own aging process, our hearts will be saddened quite a bit over the next ten years or so.

These men and women were like friends. I rarely, if ever, see most of the people I grew up with or came of age with, but I'm still listening to the music of my youth. The music is a life companion. Next to faith, family and a few close friends, nothing means more.

It's gonna be a heartache tonight. Farewell Glenn Frey and thank you for every single verse and chorus you ever wrote.

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2016  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Six Feet Under Finally Gets a "Good Send-off"

There's a custom in every culture that compels people to give those who have departed this life a decent memorial.  It's called a "good send-off" by some Irish Americans, and depending on your religion and level of devotion to the deceased, it can include a lavish funeral, a raucous wake or a costly marble monument.  A good send off can ease the pain of the survivors and help usher those we have lost into the next world. 

It's been ten years since my beloved favorite TV series went to that great dusty DVD bin in the sky.  Ten Years.  And in all that time I have never once written a memorial post or given homage.  Not so much as a brief one line nod, status update or tweet.  I've written over 300 posts about television over the years, but  I failed to use the Flaming Nose to give Six Feet Under a good send-off because I was afraid I couldn't do it justice. Now, when I watch old episodes on HBO, I'm haunted by the ghosts of this series for my failure to act.  Here then, is my final re-cap for one of the best TV series ever created.  I'm ready now. And I'd like to continue to watch the repeats without guilt.

Six Feet Under accomplished two things that are as rare as rain in Southern California.  It brought an extraordinary level of dark humor to the verboten topic of death.  And it humanized life in Los Angeles by creating characters who were the antithesis of the bubble headed blonds on the SNL skit The Californians.  Six Feet showed us that the people of Los Angeles are more than freeway interchanges, hair color or the beach.  It got that underneath the relentlessly sunny skies, things could be dark and terrifying and violent. That people could go crazy from grief.  But also, that at the end of the day, the people in the City of Angels are also artistic, complex and immensely kind.  And this city, perched at the edge of a continent, continuously changing and renewed, trapped by concrete and trampled by a billion actually beautiful.  It took a genius like Alan Ball to show us what no other television series would dare to see.

There are dozens of dark humor sayings designed to keep a freak-out level of fear away from conversations about death.  "There's a toe tag in everyone's future".  "No one here gets out alive".  "You can't take it with you".  "May you be in heaven a minute before the devil knows your dead".  Over 63 episodes and four years (2001-2005), Six Feet Under gave us wit and wisdom about death, through the eyes of the amazing Fisher family and their funeral parlor in the heart of L.A. Each episode started with a "cold open" showing some random citizen of Los Angeles. meeting their demise, often in a horrifying way.  In the pilot episode, the unlucky victim is Nathaniel Fisher (Richard Jenkins), who thankfully stays around as a sardonic ghost for the remainder of the series.  He offers his unflinching "tell it like it is" take on life from the great beyond, to befuddled family members who mostly ignore but occasionally heed his advice.

Following are my "Best Moment" lists for the cold opens, the cast and the individual episodes.  For anybody out there who has never watched Six Feet Under and who wants to binge...sorry, there will be some spoilers.

Best Six Feet Opening Deaths

  • A devout fundamentalist Christian is at a stop light, when a mesh covered truckload of helium filled life size blow-up sex dolls (only in L.A.) breaks loose and the naked dolls go floating into the sky.  Church lady sees this and thinks it's the "rapture".  She goes running into traffic and boom, that's it for her.
  • An older woman on a cell phone walks into her back yard and is struck by falling debris from an aircraft.
  • A guy's car runs off the road in one of the many remote canyons in this sprawling metropolis, and he dies in the crash.  But his car and body aren't discovered for many years (not likely to happen in a city like New York ladies and gents.)
  • A runner on a path in Griffith Park is devoured by a mountain lion.
Most of the opens were based on real life events, by the way.  There is no shortage of creative ways to kick the bucket in Los Angeles.

Favorite characters (all of them really...not one actor on this series ever hit a false note and that includes the guest stars)

  • Ruth Fisher (Francis Conroy):  The matriarch.  Emotional, slightly addled, fiercely in love with her children.  Also one of the most beautiful middle aged actresses ever on TV.
  • Nathaniel Fisher (Richard Jenkins):  Funny, real, the "voice of reason" dispensing advice from the spirit world.  Nobody will ever say "buddy boy" better than he.
  • Nate Fisher: Eldest son, California organic through and through.  Both compassionate and cruel, he was the most human of them all.  Also sexy as hell in that So Cal boy kind of way.
  • David Fisher: (Michael C. Hall) Ground breaking gay character along with his partner Keith (Mathew St. Patrick).  Tightly wound, and at turns hilarious or heart breaking. The fantasy scene in the final episode where he plays a stoned surfer in the back of a van shows the immense acting chops that this actor brought to some of his roles post Six Feet in "Dexter".
  • Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose):  The most extraordinary depiction of a high school and college age young person ever to grace the air waves.  Gorgeous without being cookie cutter beautiful, appealing on every level.  Her "high as a kite" scenes (yes, recreational drugs formed an important sub-text in this series, it wasn't all just about formaldehyde) were funny and terrifying.  I sometimes fantasize that Alan Ball based Claire on a beloved younger red haired sister in real life.
  • "Rico" Diaz (Freddy Rodriguez): The only funeral parlor partner not related to the Fishers, Rico brought a sense of reality to a program set in L.A.  His struggle for acceptance, problems with his wife, passionate love for his kids.  Rodriguez is a wonderful actor and his normalcy meshed perfectly with the off the charts weird of the Fishers.  Los Angeles is and always has been remarkably diverse, and Rico's presence (along with St. Patrick) kept Six Feet from being about another lily white privileged family.  
  • Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffith):  Brilliant, witty, over privileged, polarizing sex addict Brenda.  Only her brother Billy (Jeremy Sisto) could ever really understand her thanks to their childhood escapades in a best selling children's book.  Love her or hate her, this series would not be as compelling without Ms. Chenowith. Brenda the monster and Brenda the savior made every episode she was in a roller coaster.
  • Lisa Fisher (Lili Taylor):  The most passive-aggressive character ever created for TV. See the daughter and peanut butter allergy scene as proof.  Poor Nate, that he would have to be married to both Lisa and Brenda in one series.  No wonder he would take off running from time to time.
  • George Sibley (James Cromwell): Superb character actor Cromwell played Ruth's second husband as a scientist with mental health issues and a penchant for building bomb shelters in the basement.  He has an amazing scene with Jeremy Sisto at a family party in one episode.  They share a beer on the front steps and commiserate being the craziest among a family of crazies.
  • Amazing guest stars:  Patricia Clarkson as Ruth's artistic hippie sister Sarah, Kathy Bates as Ruth's friend Bettina, Peter Macdissi as Claire's bi-sexual driven "Euro-trash" Cal Arts professor, Joanna Cassidy as the psychiatrist mother of Brenda and Billy. Six Feet Under had the finest acting this side of a Woody Allen movie.  

Best Moments 

  • Ruth Fisher is getting married again and her rebellious daughter Claire is the only one to acknowledge and support her mom before the ceremony.  She gives Ruth the customary "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue".
  • Ruth, her sister Sarah and a few of their pals sing a beautiful a Capella version of "Calling all Angels" around the kitchen table as they memorialize a lost friend.
  • Nate discovered how his first wife Lisa really died while at the home of Lisa's sister.
  • Nate gives his organic, all-natural wife Lisa the "green burial" she always wanted.  In this heart wrenching moment, it looks like he has placed the grave on the hill under the tree that forms the opening credits logo for the series.
  • David Fisher is car jacked and terrorized by a maniac in a hoodie on the mean streets of L.A.
  • Brenda and Billy Chenowith join their brilliant and bat shit crazy mom in a Century City high rise after their father has passed.  His ashes end up being tossed from the window so he can end up on the streets he frequented and loved.  Probably the most "L.A" moment in a series that was chock full of them.
  • The entire episode for the series finale ("Everyone's Waiting") which is widely considered one of the best "send offs" for a series in television history.  And if you can watch it without shredding at least one box of tissues, You Are Not Human.  The Sia song "Breath Me" is worth a bucket of tears all by itself.

Before I lay this series to rest, I have to give a final shout-out to the magnificent and always spot-on fusion of popular music and fantasy fueled show tunes that formed a core component of the show.  When everyone flipped their wig this year over Mad Men's fantasy dance and death scene for founder Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) all I could think was that Six Feet Under did it ten years earlier and in nearly every episode with better music.  If you're planning to binge watch Six Feet Under again (and I surely hope you do), please also take the time to download some of the music and soundtracks which include artists such as Nina Simone, Phoenix, Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead, Coldplay and the earlier mentioned Sia.

Farewell Six Feet Under.  You are gone but never forgotten.  Thank you Alan Ball.  Can you please stop haunting me now?

Monday, December 28, 2015

BBC ONE FAILS AND BIG-TIME INDEED! Television Review: And Then There Were None...Airing on Lifetime TV

The following review is my opinion. We attempt to be positive on this site, but honesty must come first. There are a couple of spoilers listed here.

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's most famous of stories, And Then There Were None is absolutely dismal. It's just bloody awful. If you need to sleep and counting sheep isn't working for you, I would highly recommend a viewing of And Then There Were None. Attempt to watch this on a long flight and you will be out cold quite quickly.

One, why is anyone attempting to adapt this story again? If you are going to bring it back as a revival you need to do more than adding a character taking a snort of coke and placing someone else in a towel. Yes, you can keep re-adapting Shakespeare plays, but Agatha Christie is not Shakespeare. No more than John Grisham can be equated with John Steinbeck.

And Then There Were None premiered over the weekend. It will not air in the U.S. until March, but Americans need not wait with any zeal, since this will arrive on our shores with a thud of silence. The new production provides no suspense and it is bland on all levels.

The setting takes place in 1939 and a group of shady and not so shady characters all arrive on an isolated island only to be hood-winked by the inviting party. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? I'm not being sarcastic. It sounds interesting.

A relatively well-equipped group of actors slog through this meandering and passionless three hours. The usually reliable Miranda Richardson and Sam Neill are killed off relatively quickly, so we don't get to see them beyond episode two. The always respectable Charles Dance and Toby Stephens are predictably good in what they have to deal with, but this is why they work so much. They are good, no matter the material.

The menacing warning to this shifty crowd comes via an old phonograph player. All of these people are responsible for the deaths of at least one human being and they will all die - soon. Well, not all of them. Perhaps, their deaths don't come soon enough. The faster they go, the quicker we can get out of our boredom.

After the murders of a couple of members of this disengaged group of people we have characters worrying about the timing of eggs and whether they will be eating breakfast or not. They manage to find time to knit and even lay out in the sun. For no apparent reason we have two grown men climbing up and down rocks making small-talk; and the youngest of the two women insists on making coffee and tea. Oh yes, that's something to be concerned with.Would you not be doing something other than staying in that house?

The first character killed off is the most interesting character in the entire cast. The young Douglas Booth as Anthony Marston loses his life shortly after he snorts up cocaine, although the dope had nothing to do with it. He was poisoned. Gasp. Why on earth would you dump the smart-ass, spoiled jerk right out of the box? Bollocks.

Aidan Turner who was so good in the near glorious Poldark turns in a performance without any depth of character. I sure hope his range isn't as limited as this telefilm provokes us into thinking. What's worse? He strips down again. How many times is he going to get nearly naked? Outside of The Hobbit he has gotten nearly naked in everything he's ever been in. The scene where he walks around in a towel is gratuitously over the top. It's not steamy, or sexy; and it is laughable. I could see this as a Saturday Night Live satire piece. As a matter of fact, if he were known in the States, this would be a segment on SNL.

Lest one think I don't like Aidan Turner, please see our site's (I loved it and him in it) review of Poldark. It is here:

The Flaming Nose: Masterpiece Theatre Presents the BBC One Series Poldark - The Review

Some of the technical credits deserve kudos. The design of the overall series is quite admirable (Sophie Becher/Production Designer, James Morrall and Keith Slote/Art Directors and Charlie Lynam/Set Decoration). Several continuity issues prove problematic to those of us who are observant.

Avoid And Then There Were None. It is dull, disappointing and pointless.  

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Television isn't quite what it used to be. That eight word sentence is a massive understatement. As The Flaming Nose celebrates the relative innocence of our beloved historic remnants of the programs of the past we acknowledge the world changed quickly and what is now television looks nothing like the past.

Television today is the medium. The music industry was altered twenty years ago by Napster. The now illegal streaming giant gave way to an entire group of people who wanted their music given for free. Today, there are a handful of people who make music that goes wide. Notably, Adele, Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift and a small group of other songwriters and singers, but the music industry as we once knew no longer exists.

The film industry is so different from the past that it too is nearly unrecognizable. Today, there are sci-fi and fantasy blockbusters and some small-fry independent films that are seen by 500,000 people or so. Seriously, no one sees some of these films that rise to the level of award season enders. Most of these independent films look like television of old. It is television that has risen to be the cream of the crop. The industry hasn't produced a legitimate movie star since Leonardo DiCaprio. Who can open a film today? The finest content out there is now on television. Whether you view it traditionally or non-traditionally doesn't matter. Television is the place to be - for writers, producers and actors.

Television was once a near laughable mainstream giant, but not anymore. The pop culture sensations of our time are primarily on television. In recent years, we were all anticipating the upcoming episodes of The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Vikings, Black Sails, Game of Thrones and Outlander, just to name a few.

This past October, I happened to catch Poldark on PBS. It was a fluke I discovered it. I had never heard of it before I caught a glimpse of the period piece. As soon as I saw the 18th century redcoats I stopped and got hooked. Of course, Poldark comes to the states via BBC One, but Masterpiece Theatre provides the program months after the U.K. airings. Big problem: I now have to wait until late 2016 or early 2017 to see season two of Poldark.

Shortly after I got hooked on Poldark I found myself engaged in season one of the Starz original series Outlander. Outlander also features those men in red coats from the 18th century. So grateful for George Washington and his ragtag militia members. Poldark is light and fluffy next to Outlander. Outlander is violent. Watch a man get flogged - not once, but twice; and then later watch that same man get brutally raped in a graphic scene. Captain Randall (played notoriously and brilliantly by Tobias Menzies) rapes Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan deserves to win awards for the various emotions he goes through in this horrific sequence).

There are also multiple near soft-porn scenes with lots of nudity. Some people will be thrilled, but I must ask why we have to witness our two leads naked so much. Violence, nudity and of course the "F" bomb leaks out. Research indicates the "F" bomb was not invented yet, so clearly our Scots and Brits wouldn't be using the term. Now before you think I don't like the series, wait, there's much to love.

Outlander is shot on location in Scotland. The costume design, cinematography, editing, writing and directing are all superbly done and the series makes the average feature film look cheap.

The acting is superb, particularly by the three lead actors. Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser and most notably Tobias Menzies as Frank Randall. Menzies proves to be the creepiest, most evil bad guy to appear in any format in years and years. He is perfect. He deserves to win every acting award he qualifies for. Balfe and Heughan are gorgeous people; and they are also, and more importantly, gifted actors.

All of the actors in this series are standouts. Also, how much do you love to hear characters speaking in Gaelic from time to time.  The Scottish heritage language mesmerizes (brief scenes using this language, so don't fear, since they are speaking English).

What I appreciate most about this series is the two leads offer a genuine love story which you rarely see in today's content. The characters of Claire and Jamie fall deeper and deeper in love as the story proceeds. It's a beautifully written love saga for the ages.

Outlander season two returns to Starz in April, 2016. The series explodes onto the screen with the trauma of life in the Scottish highlands of the 18th century. This is television at its finest.

On to France...

The lead actor of Outlander (Sam Heughan) made the list of The 100 Hottest, Most Handsome actors of all-time. The list is here:

Read On Read Now: The 100 Most Handsome, Hottest, Sexiest Actors of ...: After the six months of work on the 100 most beautiful actresses of all-time list it seemed daunting to do all of this again. The world is ...

                                                   Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2015