Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Kennedy Center Honors-At Last an Award Show We Can Love

We have done a lot of complaining about the poor quality of Award Show programs this past year. Both the Academy Awards and the Emmy's were disappointing. And even the MTV Video Awards suffered from that psycho comic from the UK.

Last night, CBS aired the Kennedy Center Honors, and it was magnificent. It made me remember what I love about Award programs when they are done right.

The first step to success is to nominate the right people! This year's 2008 honorees could not possibly have been more diverse and worthy. A choreographer (Twyla Tharp) a couple of classic rock legends (Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry from The Who), an accomplished actor (Morgan Freeman) a country singer (George Jones) and a star so Super Nova she defies categorization (La Barbra Streisand). The entire show was, to coin a phrase associated with the latter, "like buttah".

A great deal of thought also went into the performers and announcers, who were all top notch and in many cases, legends of their own. BB King performed, and both Clint Eastwood and Denzel Washington gave terrific homage to Mr. Freeman. The rock Gods from the Who, both praised for coming to the rescue of NYC after 9-11, were introduced by an unusually humble Jack Black and serenaded by a choir of NY police and firemen who performed Teenaged Wasteland! Lily Tomlin introduced Twyla Tharpe and a magnificent example of her dance genius was performed to a Frank Sinatra trilogy. Country superstars Brad Paisley, Randy Travis and Garth Brooks all sang songs to country legend George Jones. The latter was introduced by the first lady, Laura Bush.

Of course, they saved the greatest pop Diva of all time for last. La Barbra was introduced by a very charming Queen Latifah, and sung to by the gorgeous Beyonce who did a lovely version of "People". My only complaint is that every shot of Ms. Streisand in the balcony had James Brolin sitting so close that he appeared to literally be perched on her shoulder.

It was a grand, grand night. You can click on the link above to see some of it streaming on the CBS web site. Sorry I could not find any video to post here, the only good stuff out there in cyberspace has been disabled.

Happy New Year everyone! May your 2009 be happy and healthy and filled with great TV!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Salon's Grim View of the 2008 TV Season's tv columnist Heather Havrilevsky has a well-reasoned and quite harsh assessment of the state of television in 2008 on their site -- "The year the small screen fell flat"-- citing her dismay at the near-demise of what we all thought was another golden age of television.

I think she's a bit tough on TrueBlood, for example, which as we followed it here found its legs as it went along, starting out a bit shaky but finally zipped-up into something pretty nifty and we'd say deserving of its Golden Globe nod as Best Drama, which HH disparages. It's goofier than producer Alan Ball's Six Feet Under, of course, but has a verve and a vibrant ensemble cast who keep the admittedly out-there vampire plotlines consistently entertaining and immersive. I know we're all looking forward to its second season. (I do admit that you can get a little depressed going onto the HBO message boards for the show and finding it populated by vamp-lit cultists who are a little too fanatical in their devotion, but at The Flaming Nose we tend to understand loving television in a big way, most of the time.)

Definitely read the Salon article for some well-reasoned television criticism. I think she's right about Fringe, which seems to not quite to have lived up to its hype as the next amazing spooky drama, but maybe there's hope yet for it. I still believe there are more interesting shows to watch now than in a very long time, but great shows which have underperformed and been cancelled have always been with us, and shows which have outlasted their welcome and still survive have always been part of the TV landscape, too. It's not exactly a meritocracy.

I'm always amazed when there's ANYTHING on that becomes appointment television for me, and I'd say we're doing pretty good so far this year -- Mad Men, Dexter, TrueBlood -- and there are certainly others we've liked here which are now in hiatus and will return soon. Read the article and decide for yourself! Thanks, Salon, for great television writing!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


A Charlie Brown Christmas, based of course on Charles Schulz's masterful comic strip, was made for CBS in 1965. It has been repeated every Xmas for over 40 years (now you can see it each year on ABC), and it must surely rank as one of the most watched (and treasured) examples of animation art ever produced. It is completely unlike anything I've ever seen, and is utterly successful in setting a mood all its very own. There are two elements, initially, that set it apart: the beautifully evocative score by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi and his trio; and the indescribable vocal performances by the mostly amateur kids Schulz and producer/animator Bill Melendez chose to represent these characters. Incredibly, both elements were originally nixed by the CBS executives, who not only felt that adults should have been cast in these roles and the eventually-million-selling score was too boppy for the mainstream, but that the whole piece would be better sullied up with a laugh track (they even wanted to nix any references to the Bible!). This shows how incredibly goofy and unfeeling these execs were, because it's the SOUND of A Charlie Brown Christmas that really grabs our hearts.

Originally sponsored by Coca-Cola (who ironically tried to fit in a few now-deleted product placements in its first airings), this half-hour piece follows Charlie Brown as he battles a holiday depression brought on by the commercialization of Christmas. Visiting Lucy's psychiatric stand, he's cajoled into being the director of the kids' Christmas play (the way his face lights up when Lucy suggests this is pure joy). Charlie Brown arrives on stage as Schroeder and the gang are dancing madly about. (The dances each of these eight kids are doing have become complete cultural touchstones; these are some terrific moves!)

Charlie Brown struggles to get his cast's attention, but when it becomes clear that they're not getting anywhere near discovering the true meaning of Christmas, it's determined that what the play needs is a big Christmas tree as the stage's centerpiece. It's here that Charlie sets out with Linus to find the perfect tree. But instead of getting a big pink artificial tree at the local lot (as Lucy suggests), Charlie Brown falls in love with an anemic-looking baby tree with barely enough branches on it to hang one ornament on ("Gee, do they still make wooden Christmas trees?" Linus exclaims). It's this little tree that becomes the symbol for what Christmas is all about: love.

Even after seeing it hundreds of times, I decided to pop in my old 1985 VHS copy of the special in this Christmas morning. Being a lifelong fan of Charles Schulz's work, I knew I would enjoy watching A Charlie Brown Christmas again. But I was surprised at how many times I laughed out loud during the piece. Most of these laughs come from Snoopy, who's first seen in the body of the special sitting atop his doghouse, reading the paper and literally eating bones one by one. I treasure the way he imitates on stage a sheep, a cow, a penguin, a vulture, and finally a fussbudgeting Lucy. And when he's caught dancing atop Schroeder's piano, the music abruptly stops and, as he's being stared down by Schroeder and Lucy, the dog turns red and sheepishly slinks away. I'm telling you, this is comedy.

Child actor Peter Robbins played Charlie Brown all throughout the 1960s, up until the comic strip's big-screen outing A Boy Named Charlie Brown. His impassioned, strangely gravelly delivery IS the way Charlie Brown is supposed to sound, and unfortunately, when Robbins quit doing the voice in 1969, he had so embodied the role that none of his replacements could measure up. Ditto Chris Shea (brother of actor Eric Shea, most famous for being the kid in 1972's The Poseidon Adventure). Shea's lispy personification of Linus Van Pelt has precisely the intelligence, humor and warmth this classic character deserve. I swear, when Linus takes the stage ("Lights, please!") and quotes from the King James Bible, his words echoing through a quiet, cavernous gosh, I tear up every time. This surely must be the most effective use of the Bible's verses ever in pop culture:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.'"

The stunning silence after this moment passes is utter sublimity. Blanket in tow, Linus approaches his depressed friend and sagely says "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." (Amazingly, the CBS execs even wanted to delete this scene, because they felt no one would sit still for a Bible lesson. But Charles Schulz stood firm: "If we don't say it, who will?")

I could go on and on about the merits of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yes, its animation and sound are choppy, but charmingly so. I suspect that, for the rest of my life, I will rarely let a Yuletide go by without watching it at least once. That there are millions and millions who agree with me surely must be the highest praise that can be bestowed upon it. Winner of the 1966 Emmy for animation and a prestigious Peabody Award to boot, it's a masterpiece if ever there was one.

Nose-talgia: Superman and the Little Girl

This isn't about the holidays, but it's a delightful clip that will make us all feel like kids again!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Favorite Christmas TV Special

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer premiered on network TV December 6, 1964, which makes it 44 years old. And yet its message seems as fresh and relevant as ever. Directed by Kizo Nagashima and Larry Roemer, this claymation classic continues to delight kids and grown-ups year after year.

How prescient the makers of Rudolph were to make a holiday special where the primary theme was tolerance (of differences) and power to the individual. Rudolph with his (flaming red nose!) and Hermey the wannabe dentist elf, are at first shunned by their peers, but ultimately persevere and hailed as the hero's of Christmas Eve.

Rudolph has something for everyone. I always found the story compelling, even gripping. There's the family drama between Rudolph and his good ole boy Dad, Donner. There's the beautiful romance between Rudolph and the gorgeous Clarice. For a cliff hanger (literally), you can't beat Bumble, the abominable snowman monster, and for comic relief, we have the irrepressible Yukon Cornelius. But at its core, Rudolph is a buddy piece, with Hermey the dentist and Rudolph off on a winter road trip and excellent adventure.

The most recognizable voice in this Christmas charmer is Burl Ives, who sings and narrates as Sam the Snowman. His "Holly Jolly Christmas" is at least as much of a holiday classic as Rudolph is.

Well it's Christmas Eve folks, and I'd like to wish all our loyal readers around the world a peaceful and happy holiday. I'm off to watch Rudolph again, as I always manage to miss it when it airs, but thankfully now have the DVD.

Tina Fey also Gets AP's "Entertainer of the Year" Nod!

As if getting a Nosy Award from The Flaming Nose isn't terrific enough, Tina Fey has also been named 2008's "Entertainer of the Year" from The Associated Press. When so many other female celebrities seem to be making headlines solely for their dissipated antics or marital woes, Tina Fey's on top because of her nimble brain -- imagine that!

Check out the press release announcement from AP here, and be sure also to visit the Vanity Fair site to read the article on Ms. Fey that Jane mentioned in her previous post.

There's another article of interest to us on the Vanity Fair site, too -- an interview with Dexter showrunner Clyde Phillips containing some fascinating insights into the process of writing the show. You will enjoy reading it!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 Year End "Nosy" Awards Are In!

Jane's 2008 "Nosy" Award picks are in. There were so many great TV moments out there this year, it's hard to know where to begin. Who can top a year where some of the most riveting drama came not from scripted television series, but from coverage of the presidential election and the recent noir flavored news on the demise of the American economy. Well thank God we actually had some great fictional and documentary TV to take a break from everyday angst, or the hyperventilation would never end!In today's post I will give the Nosy Awards for scripted series; later on we'll have a special post for Non-Fiction.

Best Comedy Actress: Tiny Fey
There is no one else in contemporary television better suited to wear the crown of our dear muse Lucille Ball, than Tina Fey. She is a brilliant physical comedian, an accomplished writer, and an impersonator so dead-on she becomes the doppelganger of her subject. She is also a gorgeous actress (as was our Lucy). For proof, check out the current issue of Vanity Fair. Liz Lemon, you are immortal. I wonder how many minions of earnest women comedy writers will be drawn to TV because of you.

Best Comedy Actor: Alec Baldwin
His role as Jack Donaghy, the obsessed television honcho, is the best work he's done in years. He's hilarious, nuanced, occasionally touching, and never for a second dull. We want to see so much more of the electricity between Jack and Liz Lemon as the season progresses. There is surely a spark between the two.

Best Comedy: 30 Rock
Sorry to go all full sweep with the Rock, but it's truly the most deserving. From the exciting retro opening music, the shots of Rockefeller Center to the brilliant ensemble cast and writing. I love everything about this show...the TV biz insider jokes, the fantasy flashbacks. It's loopy and fast paced and very, very funny. Why this show is not on the Top Ten Nielsen rating list is beyond my imagination. I kept hoping this was the year. I've never had this bad of a disconnect between my tastes and that of the American public! :(

Best Drama Actor: Jon Hamm
Tough, tough decision here, as there was a ton of great work this season. Michael C. Hall is always amazing as Dexter, and I'm keeping my eye on newcomer Stephen Moyer, the smoldering vampire on HBO's True Blood. But Jon Hamm is the pinnacle, with his portrayal of Advertising exec Don Draper. Here is the miracle Jon Hamm has accomplished; his character is a morally ambiguous fraud who cheats on his wife and has stolen the identity of a dead war hero. Not the stuff most TV heros are made of. But at the end of the day, Jon Hamm keeps us rooting for Don, who has evolved over the past two seasons into a much more likable human being. He's fiercely loyal to the good men and women at Sterling-Cooper and ruthless to his evil co-workers. He's gentle with his children and kind to the real Mrs. Draper, a simple decent lady with a crippled foot. And--as Lisa has pointed out in previous posts, Jon Hamm the actor is quite funny too.

Best Drama Actress: January Jones
Her character Betty Draper is not particularly likable, and has fallen into a deep well of despair this season. Also, she's an awful Mom. Did anybody else want to call the child protective services when she locked her daughter in a dark closet as punishment? But from her stunning 1960's couture to her sub-zero treatment of Don when he confirmed his latest affair, she has been riveting. She is the consummate blond beauty, as perfect as a country club ice sculpture on the outside and as nutty as barrel full of Planters inside her desperate mind. She even makes smoking seem pristine and cool that's acting!

Best Drama Series: Mad Men
A perfect sweep again, but I could not go any other way. Again, the competition was tough. Dexter, True Blood, House, Fringe and Monk all offered excellent viewing choices across broadcast and cable TV. But Mad Men was appointment television for me. I could not miss an episode, in fact I watched most of them multiple times this season. I will say this of Mad Men...any given one hour episode is superior to most of the feature films that you'll see in the theater today. It is beautifully written, shot, and performed. It is a television treasure.

Congratulations Nosy Award Winners! More later on in the week as we award the non-fiction programs!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reflecting on "Dexter"

With this season's final episode of Dexter now just about a week in the past, I'd like to say that I agree with Jane on her previous post about the episode. Not our favorite season, but good in many ways, with the always terrific work of the ensemble cast chief among the pleasures. They are all superb. I'd also like to comment on a few of my favorite scenes in the finale.

I loved the way Dexter talked Ramon out of his head and back into the world, in that jailhouse conversation. It was a humane act from Dexter, and Ramon really wasn't such a bad guy after all. It was Miguel who had poisoned the whole Prado family, it seems.

The father flashbacks with the tie-knotting lesson -- very simple and yet moving. If we thought that we weren't going to be seeing lots of James Remar in the past season, we were wrong. Dexter's frequent conversations with his late Dad were psychological delights, and if we read our signs correctly, Debra will now be finding out secrets about her father in next season.

I loved LaGuerta making the cupcake ritual that she shared with her murdered attorney friend Ellen Wolfe her own, and sharing the ganache-frosted treats with her new detective Debra. LaGuerta symbolically and literally closed the file on her ex-lover Miguel Prado and his poisonous deeds, and has moved on. A nice female bonding moment for both LaGuerta and Debra, who have been at odds in the past, but only because they both are tough-minded cops with similar ambition. I loved Debra making the joke -- how being in a dress made her feel like a transvestite -- to Dexter when she visited him in as he finished dressing for the wedding. Avoiding the usual sentimental drivel, she was as sharp-witted as always and also shared Dad's tie-knotting ritual with Dexter, and the affection between these two is a terrific portrayal of the sibling bond.

I also was amused by the many romantic hook-ups this season, with even Masuka finding a girlfriend in the savvy adult entertainment consultant Tammy. The humanization of Masuka from a strictly-creepy lech into someone more conventionally likable hasn't made him lose any of his edge, and you don't have to feel that he is so clueless anymore. That's good. Angel seems to have found a worthy love match in the tough but devoted Lt. Barbara Gianna. Now that Debra has embraced the laidback and appealing Anton, her love life is in good shape, too.

Probably the least interesting match of all is Dexter and Rita, but the existence of a first mystery marriage for her might bring interesting repercussions in the future. I'm not sure how much Dexter will play with the conventional new baby plotline -- how much can you do with that? -- and here's hoping that the next season is as surprising and ultimately as satisfying as this one was...or even more so, perhaps.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"I Love Lucy" in Color!

I just had to share this neat vid from YouTube, which is home movie footage taken by an audience member at a 1951 taping of I Love Lucy! It's amazing!

For the whole story of behind the footage, visit its YouTube page!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cat Dancers: The Strangest HBO Documentary Ever

If you like TV programs about Ebola, chimeras, comets, tsunamis and wild animals that bite, you might consider giving Cat Dancers (HBO) a gander. If you watch Meerkat Manor, Air Jaws, old Judy Garland movies and Oprah only when conjoined twins are making an appearance, then Jane's special algorithm for determining what you might like to watch based on your past viewing choices says, "run don't walk" to Cat Dancers on HBO. If you have ever once searched the web for information on "Plushies" (people who dress up like stuffed animals) trust me, this one's for you. It's very special.

Cat Dancers tells the story of Ron and Joy Holiday, and their lover Chuck Lizza. Their menage- a-trois would be weird enough, but the happy threesome went on to form one of the world's first exotic tiger entertainment acts. That's right, before Sigfried and Roy, there were the Cat Dancers. And without being too much of a spoiler, let's just say both acts experienced similar tragic grand finales.

Most of the film is narrated by Ron Holiday, an enthusiastic but oddly emotionless fellow given to wearing wigs, eyeliner and ballet tights. He was married for over 40 years to Joy and they had a very successful adagio dance team that performed at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. Joy Holiday is a cheerful busty blond who once wanted to be a nun. Chuck, their paramour, was a young man who once worked for the circus. Together they formed the "Cat Dancers" and they performed for 14 years with leopards, panthers and a white tiger hybrid named Jupiter.

Don't read the whole story on the HBO site unless you want to know how this odd documentary ends. I'm not going to reveal it here, because I've been haunted by it for days. It's disturbing on so many levels. As an animal rights activist, I can't endorse the idea of big cats being used as circus performers. If my own little cats Bob and CNN can't stand to be cooped up in a house all day, I can't imagine how bored and unhappy big cats must feel being in a cage.

Nevertheless, if your tastes in TV gravitate to the extremely unusual, then I can't recommend Cat Dancers enough.

Cat Dancers debuted on Dec 15th, 2008 at 8pm on HBO. Check your guide for repeat air dates, or see HBO on Demand.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dexter Season Finale: Get Him to the Church on Time

The third year of Showtime's DEXTER has now ended, with neither a bang or a whimper. I can't say that it was my favorite season so far, as Dexter's baby and pending marriage B story was never something I approved of. But "Dexter" at 75% of wonderful is still 3 times better than any other crime drama out there in television land.

The final episode had a few surprises, a sprinkle of thrills and even some sappy sweet stuff that left me a little misty eyed. Dexter gave us a glimpse of his compassionate side by sparing Miguel's alcoholic brother Ramon. He showed a rare action-adventure persona by escaping from the evil "Skinner" and dispatching him with a very physical and un-Dexterlike snap of the neck. But the best frames for Michael C. Hall's formidable acting chops were the flashbacks with dear old Dad...who reminded him of why life is worth living. And how to loop his necktie. Hall, whose character is so capable of unblinking, almost cheerful murder, can also make us care, when he remembers the good times with his equally demented father. I can't think of another actor capable of such a crazy balancing act.

Ultimately, it's that balance that makes us return to this program season after season. There are a few law abiding professions in this country which require people to kill. Navy Seals, special forces soldiers, CIA operatives and sometimes even the cop in your neighborhood. They all terminate bad guys when they have to. So does our Dexter. He just hasn't been given the legal sanction to do so. There's an old might be southern, or maybe cowboy..."that man was so bad, he just needed killing". Dexter fulfills the frontier desire for justice, but he does it in such a calm, suburban, 21st century way, it somehow makes it palatable for our contemporary souls. Not enough to make us comfortable. Just enough to make us keep watching. And in tonight's finale, just when his schmaltzy pastel colored Miami wedding threatened to subvert the very core of what makes this program so appealing...the balance shifted again. We watch as the camera moves in to highlight a few drops of blood from our hero's recent broken hand, falling like red tears onto the back of Rita's wedding gown. It was really creepy. I loved it.

Adios, dear Dexter. And until we meet again, please take care of your sister. Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) was for me the most compelling and tragic character of the season. She was edgy, bone thin and often supremely annoying. But her romance with Anton was unexpected and spot-on lovely. Best of all, this flawed, but brilliant detective got her shield. And that's a happy season ending that felt just right.

Cities of the Underworld

While we wait in breathless anticipation for the final episode of Showtime's "DEXTER" tonight, I'd like to give a vigorous nod to a little gem that I've wanted to write about for quite a while. It's called "Cities of the Underworld" (History Channel, Mondays at 9pm).

When I was about 9 years old, I lived in a suburb a half hour outside of New York City. I'll never forget the first time my mom brought me out of our bland Leave it To Beaver landscape into NYC. It was like "Oz" for me, and I fell in love at first sight. The soaring buildings! The honking taxis! Even the smell was electric and appealing, a mixture of Chock Full of Nuts coffee, gasoline and steam. But one of my best memories was of the underground shopping center beneath the Empire State Building. It seemed to go on for blocks and blocks, a whole city underneath the magical metropolis of New York.

If you've ever wondered what lies beneath, "Cities of the Underworld" will captivate you. The most appropriately named host Don Wildman will lead you there, whether it's under NYC's Grand Central Station (pictured) or ancient Rome or even Sin City itself (Las Vegas), which I would have thought to be too new and sandy to have an underworld. Turns out, the relentless heat of the desert makes building part of the city underground practical and more energy efficient.

I've watched many episodes where Don squeezes himself into impossibly tight spots. He's been wedged into narrow caves under ancient druid enclaves , or lowered into appalling sewers far below the streets of London, where Jack the Ripper himself may have escaped from his dreadful deeds. Through it all, Mr. Wildman maintains an absolutely correct tone of enthusiasm and amazement. He's fearless in places that would reduce most folks to claustrophobic hysteria.

Like many cable shows, "Cities" is repeated endlessly, so it won't be hard to stumble across it on the History Channel. It's worth searching high (or low in this case) to find a few dark places where most people never travel.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Anticipating "Dexter" Finale Tomorrow Night

It's been a good season for Showtime's Dexter, overall. Not my favorite -- I don't feel quite the edge-of-my-seat excitement like last year -- but it's been good. Especially effective has been the vibrant performance of actor Jimmy Smits as Miguel Prado, his overwhelming charisma -- even as he became a menace to Dexter and a monster in his own right -- making him an irresistible character. Just in case we don't think people like Prado really exist, I think of that kind of enormous ego and sense of invulnerability when I see Illinois Gov. Blagojevich and the mess he got himself into. Different levels of monstrosity, but cut from the same kind of cloth, surely!

So the season ends tomorrow night with "Do You Take Dexter Morgan?". Miguel has already met his fate at the hands of Dexter, but the remaining Prado, Ramon, was tipped off to Dexter (played brilliantly, as always, by Michael C. Hall) and will no doubt be exacting revenge for his brother's demise. I will miss Smits in the episode, of course, but we also have The Skinner to contend with. There are plenty of juicy loose ends to sew up yet!

Don't forget to watch tomorrow night at 9pm on Showtime!

Friday, December 12, 2008

"The Wall Street Journal" Loves CBS' "The Big Bang Theory"-- and so do we!

Well, weird that it had to come from a business newspaper, but it's at least great to see an extremely positive article about a Flaming Nose favorite series, CBS' Monday night comedy The Big Bang Theory! You can and should read the whole article online at The Wall Street Journal -- it's written by John Jurgensen and it's entitled "A Nerdy Comedy's Winning Formula". We've loved the show here since its premiere in Fall 2007, and TBBT continues to be an adorable and hilarious half-hour that hasn't gone stale yet.

In some ways The Big Bang Theory felt like a two-word, one-joke show -- nerd physicists -- but the characters have been lovingly crafted and are human as well as brainiacs. Actors Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar have managed to simulate the dynamics of a real friendship, and the beautiful girl outsider, played by Kelly Cuoco, is every bit as funny as they are. I defy you not to get several good laughs from every episode. If you're a science fiction fan in any way, then you will particularly love the show. The riffs on various esoteric SF concepts and characters are always...may I say...super funny! The amusing actress Sara Rue has been around for the last few episodes as Leonard's new M.D. love interest, and that's yet another incentive to check out the show. She's always great.

I love the show and I hope that if you don't already watch it, you'll tune in and see what you've been missing. Hey, it's got the WSJ Seal of Approval now, right?

The Big Bang Theory airs at 8pm on Monday nights, on CBS.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Golden Globe Nominations are Out!

Nominations for the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards are out, and there are few surprises. Many of the Flaming Nose favorites are there (John Adams, Dexter, 30 Rock, Mad Men) and we will have a chance to cheer for them this year, as the good old Globes will be telecast in all their glory on NBC at 8pm, January 11th, 2009. Recall that last year the Writer's Strike virtually eliminated the traditional, champagne soaked ceremony.

After the debacle of this year's Emmy Awards which featured, appallingly, the multi-headed reality host gimmick, we are really looking forward to a nice, normal, glitzy award show. Following are the nominees, and may the best program/actor/actress win!

Best Television Series, Drama"Dexter" (Showtime)"House" (Fox)"In Treatment" (HBO)"Mad Men" (AMC)"True Blood" (HBO)

Actor, TV DramaGabriel Byrne, "In Treatment"Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"Hugh Laurie, "House"Jonathan Rhys Meyers, "The Tudors"

Actress, TV DramaSally Field, "Brothers & Sisters"Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: SVU"January Jones, "Mad Men"Anna Paquin, "True Blood"Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"

Best Television Series, Comedy"30 Rock" (NBC)"Californication" (Showtime)"Entourage" (HBO)"The Office" (NBC)"Weeds" (Showtime)

Actor, TV Musical Or ComedyAlec Baldwin, "30 Rock"Steve Carell, "The Office"Kevin Connolly, "Entourage"David Duchovny, "Californication"Tony Shalhoub, "Monk"

Actress, TV Musical Or ComedyChristina Applegate, "Samantha Who?"America Ferrera, "Ugly Betty"Tina Fey, "30 Rock"Debra Messing, "The Starter Wife"Mary-Louise Parker, "Weeds"

Miniseries Or Motion Picture Made For Television"Cranford" "Bernard & Doris" "John Adams" "A Raisin In The Sun" "Recount"

Actress, Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made For TelevisionJudi Dench, "Cranford" Catherine Keener, "An American Crime" Laura Linney, "John Adams" Shirley Maclaine, "Coco Chanel"Susan Sarandon, "Bernard And Doris"

Actor, Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made For TelevisionRalph Fiennes, "Bernard And Doris" Paul Giamatti, "John Adams" Kevin Spacey, "Recount" Kiefer Sutherland, "24: Redemption" Tom Wilkinson, "Recount"

Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries Or Motion Picture Made For Television Eileen Atkins, "Cranford"Laura Dern, "Recount"Melissa George, "In Treatment"Rachel Griffiths, "Brothers & Sisters"Dianne Wiest, "In Treatment."

Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries Or Motion Picture Made For Television Neil Patrick Harris, "How I Met Your Mother" Denis Leary, "Recount" Jeremy Piven, "Entourage" Blair Underwood, "In Treatment" Tom Wilkinson, "John Adams"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Summer Heights High in the Dead of TV Winter

As the Sunday night Flaming Nose favorites flame out with their respective season ends, it is heartening that one bizarre series still has a few episodes left to go. Summer Heights High (Sundays at 10:30p on HBO) is like a half hour Christopher Guest movie with an Aussie accent. It follows the trials and tribulations of two Australian public school students (Ja'mie and Jonah) and one extra flamboyant Drama teacher (Mr. G) all played admirably by comedian Chris Lilley. Of the three, Jonah the Polynesian delinquent is the most believable and sympathetic. He's disruptive, profane and often hilarious as he plots new ways to wreck havoc and amuse his motley crew of budding gangsters. Mr. G, the bitchy and self absorbed Drama teacher is a "Waiting for Guffman" clone, who is developing a high school musical that features pole dancing teens. He is generally accompanied by his adored chihuahua Celine and a Down syndrome student who's innocent affection for Mr. G. is not returned. Least believable (from appearance alone) is Ja'mie, the stuck up transfer student and self described "hot girl" from a private school. Ja'mie towers over her entourage, all of whom seem oblivious to the fact that she looks like a Green Bay Packer in drag. Filling in the cast are assorted teachers, administrators and hapless students. It's cold comfort to see that political correctness and bureaucracy have infected the academic environment Down Under with the same mindless vigor that ails our own US public schools.

True Blood and Entourage are gone already and Dexter has but one final episode to go (watch for our comments after next Sunday). Give Summer Heights a gander, it's an interesting diversion until Flight of the Conchords returns to HBO on Sunday nights.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

In Canada, We're Saying Goodbye to "Trailer Park Boys" Tonight

All across Canada, fans of the innovative, original, hilarious and gloriously profane series Trailer Park Boys will be saying a fond farewell to the series, which comes to an end on the Showcase network tonight. The recent decision made by the producers to end the series evidently caught many folks by surprise, including the stars of the show who learned of the cancellation only a day before the news went out on the TPB website. I'm a huge fan of the series, especially some of the earlier seasons, and though in the U.S. it was briefly on BBC America (and completely bleeped for language, therefore hardly watchable) and now fans can seek it out online, it's really a north of the border phenom. I wrote about it four years ago on my original TV blog, and the show has never let me down.

Trailer Park Boys is uniquely Canadian, and particularly Nova Scotian, as it's filmed in and around Halifax and the stars are fairly local boys. The best way to get acquainted with the Ricky (Robb Wells), Julian (John Paul Tremblay) and Bubbles (Mike Smith), if you're not already, is to watch the series. You can read about it, but until you experience for yourself the almost inexplicably effective blend of profanity, lawlessness, friendship, sentimentality, poverty, ingenuity and community that makes up Trailer Park Boys, you'll never understand why this show is so incredibly special. There's NOTHING like it on U.S. TV, and I can't imagine anything like it ever making it there. O Canada!

The Trailer Park Boys are a part of what makes Canada so great, and we look forward to at least another TPB movie, and honestly, this bunch of memorable characters is simply too special to put down easily. I suspect they will return, and of course the entire talented group of performers who brought the Sunnyvale Trailer Park to life will go on to other things, but they should know, and I'm sure do, that they made history with Trailer Park Boys, and are in our hearts forevever.

I'm going to link to one of my favorite episodes from the show here, entitled "If You Love Something, Set It Free" in which a mountain lion plays havoc with the boys latest pot crop and Bubbles, inveterate cat lover, takes the big kitty under his wing. It's from the show's amazing 4th season, which also contained the incredibly insane episode "Conky" where Bubbles comes under the power of his evil childhood hand puppet which has been recovered from a swamp. You must watch both of them! I'll say it again...there's nothing like this on U.S. TV. (There are lots of TPB episodes on Google Video, so check them out!)
I just have to include some video here, so here's a compilation of some of the endearing Bubbles' best moments, from a fan on YouTube:

Trailer Park Boys, you were one of the first things I fell in love with in Nova Scotia!

(Check out all the TPB websites linked in this article for more on this truly one-of-a-kind television experience! They also have a Christmas Show which you should watch at holiday time!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Roger Corman's "Cyclops" on Sci Fi This Saturday Night!

I'm always up for a good monster, and the Sci Fi Channel loves them, too. Most of their original movies seem to have a CGI beast or two lurking about, and this week legendary movie producer Roger Corman brings us Cyclops -- ferocious, one-eyed and a cannibal, to boot! Cyclops -- "The Rise of the the Fall of Rome" so sayeth the ads, stars Eric Roberts as Emperor Tiberius, Kevin Stapleton as Marcus, a Roman soldier, and Swedish beauty Frida Farrell as an alluring barbarian warrioress.

Cyclops looks to be, if not quite the quality of HBO's Rome exactly, a toga-filled romp with a monster who looks pretty scary. (I shudder to think what he's packing in that loincloth -- talk about formidable!)

I am going to recommend this one on the basis of nothing else except my firm belief that you can't have too many monsters!

Here's an extended trailer -- I hope it's not ALL the good parts!:

And here's a shorter promo --

Cyclops premieres on the Sci Fi Channel this coming Saturday, December 5th, at 9pm!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Version of "Star Trek" Trailer -- With a Little Spock

And when we say Spock, we mean the one and only Leonard Nimoy!

Can't wait to see this next year!!!

Dexter Goes a Little Crazy -- A Great Moment from Last Week's "Dexter" Episode

About Last Night -- Wherein Dexter discovers that Miguel has been playing him, but good.

With HBO's TrueBlood finished until new episodes appear next summer, we can now concentrate fully on the last three episodes of Showtime's Dexter. This season has a been a good one for our serial killer, with a bravura and chilling performance by Jimmy Smits as Dex's confidante and co-conspirator. We've learned that Smits' Miguel Prado has gone rogue, throwing off Dexter's Code to murder his professional enemy, defense lawyer Ellen Wolfe, played with great verve by Anne Ramsay. Seeing her dead at the bottom of the open grave was a grim moment, and especially so for Lt. LaGuerta who had become Ellen's close friend (and though I think they were both supposed to be straight, I felt they might have tumbled into bed at some point, or was I just reading too much into their girl talk?). LaGuerta also took it on the chin last season when her good friend and ex-partner/lover Doakes was murdered by the evil Lila. Lauren Velez as LaGuerta has been especially superb in these last few episodes.

As we've said before, we're not so wild about the whiny wedding planning obsession of Dexter's girlfriend Rita, but we were on the edge of our seat as Deborah and Quinn (Desmond Harrington) raced to save her new boyfriend/informant Anton (David Ramsey) from more torture at the hands of The Skinner. We love that Angel finally has a girlfriend, too, the tough but appealing Lt. Gianna played by Kristin Dattilo. Is she going to be too street-wise for Angel? I don't think he was too thrilled to discover that she hit it off with Masuka, sharing bizarre sex practice information with the enthusiastically pervy forensic investigator.

Considering that we're only three episodes away from the conclusion of this season, it doesn't feel like Dexter's been quite as viscerally involving or richly-plotted as the first and second years of the show, but there have been other pleasures. This season has been more domestic, more emotional, very different but still very compelling and getting more so, thanks so much to Smits' excellent work and his excellent chemistry with Michael C. Hall. Were Smits not so much fun to watch as he sinks further into his mania, with Dexter desperately trying to keep him in check, this season might have been a bit of a let-down. But it's not, not even close.

Don't miss tomorrow night's Dexter episode on Showtime!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from The Flaming Nose!

May Your Turkey Experience Be More Pleasant Than Mr. Bean's!