Monday, March 31, 2008

The Monday Funnies on CBS -- Big Bang and Old Christine

I'm going to keep blogging about this terrific show until somebody watches, I swear it! CBS' charming and very amusing comedy The Big Bang Theory is in the middle of its batch of new episodes, so now is a great time to catch with the antics of the talented cast on this under-appreciated show.

There are no precocious children and no cantankerous oldsters in this one, just a vivacious cast playing adorable and impossibly vain brainiacs, plus one cute girl to stir things up. If you like jokes about Star Trek, 2001, physics, unrequited lust, the string theory, superheroes...served up with a generous ladling of loopy absurdity, The Big Bang Theory is your show. I haven't seen an episode yet that didn't deserve genuine chuckles, and though the description of tonight's ep sounds like it comes straight from the land of Leave it to Beaver (in other words, it's simplicity itself) -- The Pancake Batter Anomaly: When Sheldon comes down with the flu, the rest of the gang wisely avoids him -- I can't wait to see what the fellas dish out. Really, just give this show a try. It's a clever mix of physical and intellectual comedy -- a little bit Marx Brothers, a little bit particle accelerator -- and it's a delight. The Big Bang Theory airs straight up at 8pm.

A delight also, is The New Adventures of Old Christine, airing at 9:30pm on CBS. The big hoo-ha about tonight's new episode is that it reunites Seinfeld stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander, in a guest appearance as Christine's gynecologist, in a tale about Christine's descent into perimenopause. We'll see if the old magic is still there, and expect plenty of double and triple entendres -- the show is pretty smutty, but that's all right (it's usually pretty funny material), and it's not as inappropriate or crass as Two and a Half Men, let's say. (I haven't fallen for How I Met Your Mother, but that's clearly another Monday night fave for CBS. Good for them!)

I also have to put in a good word for Fox's New Amsterdam, which is hanging in there and is certainly the best romantic drama about an immortal man since...well, CBS' Moonlight on Friday nights. New Amsterdam has an appealing leading man in Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and you movie fans might be interested to learn that writer/producer Allan Loeb was also w/p for Things We Lost in the Fire which is out on DVD and PPV now. (I can recommend the movie for an absolutely wonderful performance by Benicio Del Toro. Can't wait to see him as the Wolfman!)

So your dance card is full tonight. And if you're going to watch Dancing with the Stars or The Bachelor instead, please just don't tell me about it....

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The National Geographic Channel

Ever play that game where you have to decide what to bring to a deserted island if you could only bring one thing? Well if I could only bring one TV channel and HBO didn't exist, it would definitely have to be The National Geographic channel, which is now called "Nat Geo" by its serious and urgent sounding announcers.

Nat Geo is everything a factoid geek could possibly love about television. From the heartwarming but useful "Dog Whisperer" to the terror of great white sharks and fire ants, this channel is a non-stop feast for the eyes and brain. It's also chock full of human oddity stories (don't miss the Foot Binding special...riveting and horrifying). When there is nothing on TV, which, oddly enough in the land of 500 channels, is often...I automatically go to Nat Geo on demand. Yesterday I watched a fascinating special called China Mummies, about a lost band of 3,000 year old Caucasian mummies found in the heart of a Chinese desert. How did they get there? DNA testing will give us a clue. Did you know that NG on Demand now features videos of World Music? It's exquisitely weird. I found a video of a Swedish rapper called Kommer Ifan. Apparently he's really big in Sweden.

Nat Geo also regularly features excellent miniseries, including the Global Warming thriller "Six Degrees that Could Change the World", previously reviewed by our Lisa Nose blogger.

If you can't get enough of nature and nose piercing documentaries, (which for me is about 95% of the time) Nat Geo is the place to be!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Nose-talgia: TNT's "100% Weird"

Well, this is a blast from my own past, as head of programming for the TNT network back in the day. One of the best movie franchises my programming cohort and I created was the late-night 100% Weird, which featured crazy movies and cult favorites. This was the rather insane opening, featuring clips from one of my fave weird movies The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (that lovely lady with the groovy glasses is actress/singer Mary Healy), and other films, of course. 100% Weird is of course no more; cable TV now is mostly just "100% Corporate" which is much scarier and infinitely less interesting, in my opinion. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Well, It May Not Be TV, Exactly, But...

Wow! Amazing story in the NY Times today, about a phonautogram, a visual sound recording made on an early phonatograph, which researchers recently decoded and were able to play. The most incredible thing about this recording is that it's from 1860!

I'm not even going to try to explain this amazing development, but do read the article and marvel at how modern scientific and computer technology enabled the world to hear again the voice of someone living nearly a hundred and fifty years ago. You can actually listen to some of the recording, too.

If this kind of a story isn't enough to get your imagination going, nothing is! I think it's just astonishingly neat!

For more information on the phonaugraph and other early recording devices, check out this nice primer on Wikipedia, which I find is a great place to start research on almost anything!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

American Idol Top Ten-The Touristas Begin

Well I certainly wish I had put money on a Vegas bookie for David Cook to be the winner for American Idol 2008 (as I had predicted) a few weeks ago. Now it's too late. After tonight, in the words of the immortal Randy Jackson, "that performance tonight on that joint you just did...dude, you might be the one to win the whole lot". David Cook was the final performance of the final ten on tonight's episode of American Idol. His captivating, powerful, and (thank God) couldn't be more different from the original version of "Billie Jean" blew the socks off of anyone who had been on the stage before him. The judges were all appropriately ferklemp, if I may use and misspell a fine Yiddish word meaning at an emotional loss for appropriate words.
I have located the video so please take a look (above) and judge for yourself. This mid-west rocker has it all. In fact, he has more than many of the past AI winners, since his singular sound, commanding stage presence and complete composure in the face of absolutely anything has put him light years ahead of the pack. I'm not sure what he should do next. Maybe U2 has an opening. He has already won this year's contest as far as I'm concerned.

As for the rest:

Ramiele:Always hard to be first out of the box, but "Hearts Alone" was not a noteworthy choice for this contestant. Big voice, terrible camping shorts and spiked boots outfit. 2 Stars on the Jane-o-Meter

Jason Castro: "Fragile" was too fragile and he should have started this Sting classic in a higher key. Weak vocals, but who cares? He will have a huge TV or movie career afterwards if he wants one, the camera loves him. 2.5 stars on the meter.

Syesha: Probably one of her best performances, but I'm going on record that if she gets voted off tomorrow it is because America will not tolerate one more week of hearing her baby cry impression. Great vocals though, 3.5 on the JOM.

Chikezie: You have to love this guy....and his Nigerian mother. The judges thought he needed more energy tonight (they were right), but I'm here to tell you that he is one of the few AI in the Top Ten that stands the "close your eyes" test. If you just listen to the Chik...and imagine how he would sound as a download or CD, he passes the test big time. This guy has the best pipes in the whole competition. Nobody can beat his voice. I give him a 3.5 for vocals, a bit less for total performance.

Brooke White: I think she is a disaster. I thought this was the worst arrangement of a Sting/Police song (Every Breath you Take) that I have ever heard. I think the judges have all been bewitched by her long blond hair and enormous white teeth. Maybe somebody can clue me in, but I say two thumbs down and only 2 stars on the meter.

Michael Johns: I really hoped I could have loved this performance as much as I wanted too. Looked great doing a Queen/Freddy Mercury medley, but it just made me wish that the unforgettable Freddy was still alive. A reluctant 2.75.

Carly Smithson: If I write what I really think, all my Irish ancestors will roll over in their graves. Hated the song "Total Eclipse of the Heart" too. Her tattoos are nice. Not even something I can rate anymore, I'm outside of the loop on Carly.

David Archuleta: Conventional wisdom sure has taken a beating these past few months hasn't it? David is the front runner, right up there with Obama and Hilary. Well...maybe. Nothing is certain and this performance is proof. An unknown song (even the judges couldn't place it) and a mild rendition makes David's rising sun sink faster than the Titanic. But he's so young and adorable, it feels like kicking a puppy just to mention it.

Kristi Lee Cook: What are the odds that two top 10 finalists are unrelated Cooks? It's like a headline writer's wet dream if they make it beyond tonight. And one of them certainly will. I'm betting that both will, because I've been a Kristi fan from the beginning. Her rendition of "God Bless the USA!" was lovely, if not inspired (as Simon hinted). There are plenty in the country world that could have given it more passion, but Kristi did a fine job.

Last Airing for "Jericho" Tonight on CBS

Well, it was bound to happen. The fanatically-followed but low-rated CBS show Jericho will air its last episode tonight at 10pm on the network, so bid it a fond farewell. The series was officially cancelled last Friday, and as we discussed on The Nose a week or so ago, you could see this one coming a mile away.

Still, it's always unfortunate and sad when a passionately-loved show bite the dust, but as I always say, it's probably amazing it got on the air in the first place. You can't say CBS didn't try, right? The show's bound to stay alive in reruns and on DVD, and probably fervid fan fiction. Good for Jericho; you weren't a hit, but you became a favorite. Bye for now....

Monday, March 24, 2008

"South Park" Goes Online...Way Online!

For those of you out there who are mega South Park fans, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have given you a big present, their new South Park website, which is chock full of generous offerings. The most important and impressive? Every episode of South Park is online for your viewing pleasure. Now that's a beautiful thing and should totally add to the alleged but possibly imaginary internet traffic jams that, according to some sources, threaten to bring the corporate economy to its knees.

Right. I especially loved the report the other week that -- horrors! -- the most surfing by office employees was done between like 11a and 1pm...which, if I recall from my office days, used to be considered part of the lunch hour? Which suggests that people are hanging in their cubicles and watching online stuff instead of going out and driving and polluting the atmosphere. Maybe they're even buying sandwiches from the probably horrible in-house cafeteria. Sounds like a win for The Man to me. Keeping employees inside and available...gee, isn't that worth a little bandwidth, huh? Lighten up, share the wealth; Parker and Stone seem to be. Thanks, guys!

Anyway, give the site a visit. Geez, I really wish I was a super fan of the show, though perhaps I'll wend my way through the eps and fall in love, belatedly yet thoroughly. You can also make an avatar of yourself (or anyone, of course) which is amusing and a terrific time-waster, too.

Go forth and watch online video!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Nose-talgia: Caution: Easter Bunny Crossing

Once again Bonanza turns up as our TV holiday greeting, this time from a March 1970 episode entitled Caution: Easter Bunny Crossing. I can't find any links to video for it, but at least we've got a cute photo of Hoss in his bunny suit!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Nose-talgia Visits The Twilight Zone!

And not Twilight Zone in general, one T-Zone episode in particular is what I'd like to focus on in this Nose-talgia piece. I'm speaking of A Stop At Willoughby, in my opinion one of the best episodes of an exceptionally brilliant television series.

Who can ever forget the pure joy of staying home sick from school and being able to watch a Twilight Zone repeat in the middle of the day. You hear the frantic, almost psychotic music, followed by Rod Serling's flat, ironic, Binghamton New York monotone. "There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone." Wow. One doesn't experience writing that pretty on TV anymore, unless it's HBO.

Brief digression before my Willoughby swoon to mention that fellow Blogger Lisa was part of a genius programming team that invented the Thanksgiving Day Twilight Zone Marathon on LA's indie TV station KTLA. It was to counter program the endless football games, and was an instant ratings winner.

And now for my favorite T-Zone episode, "A Stop At Willoughby", which I've seen something like two or three hundred times. It never gets old, in fact it was quite prescient for the early sixties in predicting the frantic, type A environment of the advertising and media industry that still exists today. Gart Williams is a 38 year old advertising executive who is becoming unhinged at a very rapid pace. His wife is a brass blond shrew, his boss is a spit slinging screamer and his co-workers are gargoyles. The pressure is on at work to land a new account and Gart is failing faster than he can say please pass the Alka Seltzer. In one memorable scene, that I have personally lived through dozens of times in real life (as a media ad exec), the boss bellows, "Push Push Push, Williams!!! Push Push Push". You can practically smell his hot fetid breath through the TV screen.

Every day Gart takes the train home from this nightmare work environment, but there is no rest for the weary there, because his wife is a steel edged social climbing bitch. He'd get more warmth and sympathy from the Frigidaire.

But one night Gart falls asleep on the train and when he wakes up there is a special surprise outside his window. It's Willoughby...a little town stuck in the year 1880...somewhere in The Twilight Zone. In Willoughby it is always summer, and a band plays in the park. Strangers tip their hats and kids play in the grass. Think of the hottest, thirstiest moment you have ever had. Willoughby is the glass of lemonade.

Of course, Gart is transfixed by Willoughby. Of course, when he asks the conductor about the stop, he is met with a blank stare.

One day the work, the wife, the whole mess that makes up Gart's stressed out 20th century life proves too much for him and when the train stops he strolls right off into the sunny streets of Willoughby. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've watched that scene and wanted to go along with him.

The final scene of the episode raises classic T-Zone goose bumps. The train has stopped and the conductor is standing outside in the snow with a couple of policemen. We see Gart's body being loaded into an ambulance, and when the doors to the emergency vehicle close, there is one word painted onto the exterior: "Willoughby".

Nice. I have it on DVD. Think I'll go watch it again, for the 301st time.

Two Favorites Get a Nod at Royal Television Society Awards

Huzzahs are in order for HBO's charming comedy series -- and Flaming Nose favorite -- Flight of the Conchords, which just won the International Award at the prestigious Royal Television Society Programme Awards in London. FotC, which airs on BBC 4 in Britain, was up against Ugly Betty and Heroes. Flight of the Conchords is, the RTS said, “…warm, fabulous, and one of the most surprising, fresh and original TV comedies to arrive in a long time.” We couldn't agree more.

It's sort of interesting because just this week, as HBO Entertainment prez Carolyn Strauss stepped down from her post, presumably because of lackluster ratings for HBO series post-Sopranos, Flight of the Conchords was mentioned in the litany of not-quite-spectacular performers for the network. Don't lose this gem, HBO. If the Brits think it's great, trust definitely is. (FoTC is still airing here and there around the various HBO channels and OnDemand, of course.)

Also coming away with a big prize was probably the most amazing comedy show you've never watched, The Mighty Boosh, which I posted about here a while ago. The Boosh just finished up its third season across the pond, and won in the Situation Comedy and Comedy Drama category. As the RTS said about this completely unique show -- “…beautifully constructed and layered… and oozes originality on so many levels. It is a fresh and invigorating piece of high-concept comedy that has captured the imagination of its target [audience].” Indeed.

Of course, you won't find the brilliant Boosh airing on U.S. TV anywhere. It's obviously much more crucial for BBC America to run replays of the very American Dancing with the Stars show and endless reality programs. I guess we should be grateful that they stuck to their mandate closely enough to bring Torchwood over here.

I don't know how you're going to see much of Boosh around these parts, since the available DVDs are non-US format (which isn't an insurmountable problem, of course) and the usual reliable slightly off-the-radar sources seem to be dropping like flies lately. However, YouTube still has a few things up, including (and you better pounce on this one fast) my very favorite episode of the show entitled Tundra. Part one is here, and part two can be found here, and part three here. Watch it while you can -- I wouldn't expect this will be up there long! (You might also be able to find some material from their live stage show which toured last year and is also out on DVD. Can you imagine any U.S. sitcom troupe touring? Gotta love those brilliant Brits!) Of course, if we were in Britain now, tomorrow night March 22nd we'd be watching a whole night of Boosh on BBC 3 with The Mighty Boosh - A Journey Through Time and Space, where they're running a new documentary, six of the favorite episodes of creators/stars Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding (including Tundra), plus a live Boosh party with the stars of the show. Oh, to be in England....

I'm embedding here the terrific "Tundra Rap" song from the episode, which captures some of the energy and charisma of this tremendous show.

Again, congratulations to two shows which make me so happy to be in love with television!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nose-talgia: Happy Birthday, Ozzie Nelson!

To honor the birthday of the late, great Ozzie Nelson, who was born on this date in 1906 (and died in 1975), we present this clip (actually a neat Kodak commercial) from his sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet which starred Ozzie and his real-life family -- his wife Harriet, and his two boys David and Ricky. The show, a true TV classic, aired on 1952 - 1966, and of course in reruns for many years thereafter. Ozzie Nelson was one of those relaxed performers who made it all look pretty darn easy, but he was a man of many talents, starting out as a swingin' bandleader and soon becoming a subtle and extremely likeable comic actor on radio and TV. He's adorable, and we think you'll like seeing this eternal paternal figure again. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Good Buzz for ABC's "Miss Guided" -- Tonight

ABC's giving its new comedy Miss Guided a nice introductory spot tonight after Dancing with the Stars -- sure, it's at 10:30pm, and not anything close to where it will normally be airing, which is Thursdays at 8pm, but it's better than nothing, right?

I've watched a few clips and it seems bright and peppy and star Judy Greer seems the same. The premise is a high school nerd comes back to her high school to work as a guidance counselor, which is as good a storyline as any. The show has a large line-up of producers, including actor Ashton Kutcher who shows up in at least one episode.

I know I'm not making this sound too great, but the clip was cute and TV seems to be a haven right now for female comedic talent. Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Wanda's good to be a funny girl these days, and Judy Greer, who's done TV time on Arrested Development and others, and in movies like 27 Dresses, has a cute way about her and an attractive mobile face that puts everything over just right.

For heaven's sakes, if you're watching Dancing with the Stars you've simply GOT to hang around for Miss Guided and give Ms. Greer a chance to shine! If you're not watching DwtS, it's going to take a mighty will to change the channel, but give this amusing little show a chance and then check it out again on Thursday. Also, check out the show's website here!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Nose-talgia: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the least we can do is present a photo from one of the most adorable Bonanza episodes ever called Hoss and the Leprechauns, where he discovers a pot of gold and a passel of little people in green (wearing costumes from the 1956 Danny Kaye movie The Court Jester, btw). It's one of the jolliest Bonanza episodes and features the wonderful Dan Blocker in one of his most charming performances. The whole episode is on YouTube here, but it's in Spanish, though you'll still get the essence of the episode -- it's not exactly Shakespeare and you'll figure out the story pretty easily -- and hear the hilarious musical score featuring excerpts from Mendelsohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". At the very least, click on the YouTube link above and watch the first few minutes, to hear David Rose's theme music for Hoss which perfectly captures the gentle giant's amiable personality. (Interestingly enough, Hoss and the Leprechauns originally aired on Dec. 22, 1963, not near St. Patrick's Day at all, although it was always my St. Paddy's treat for viewers when I programmed KTLA back in the day).

The Nose also tried to find a good version of the famous Saturday Night Live John Belushi bit "The Luck of the Irish" -- not too much luck, but the whole transcript is here and a rather shakily-recorded off-TV video of it is here. Better than nothing, that's for sure!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

HBO's John Adams is Riveting: Join or Die

If it is true that an HBO miniseries about America's Revolutionary War does not make people race to their television sets, then that will be a terrible shame. HBO has tackled a topic that many think might mystify or bore today's youth obsessed TV audience. The outcome is extremely relevant and compelling. The first two episodes of this multi-part miniseries were magnificently filmed, and the cast and writing were (as we would expect from HBO films) Emmy Award winning caliber. Kudos also to the shock and awe special effects which do much to refute the "history is boring" stereotype. Paul Giamatti brings John Adams to life, not as an iconic and dusty founding father, but as a real man who loved his wife, found farming and manure fascinating, and worried incessantly over the world changing decisions that he helped forge in 1776.

Unlike most folks in America today, I have a bit of an advantage in believing this era of history was quite real and fraught with hardship. I grew up in rural upstate NY, and our house was built before the Revolutionary war. Every time my sisters and I played in the woods behind our property, we'd climb over stone fences built by the continental soldiers to hold back the British troops. Across the street from our home, was an ancient cemetery in an overgrown green field. Many of the headstones marked the final resting place for soldiers that had died fighting for independence over 200 years ago. It puts an entirely different spin on history when you grow up with the ghosts of the past walking in your midst.

Hopefully the extreme realism that HBO brings to the John Adams miniseries will help bring this era to life for a generation that dearly needs reminding of the sacrifices that were made by the Americans that came before us. If you don't think things have changed for the better, try to watch the Small Pox scene without losing your dinner. But if you think things have changed utterly, watch the Continental Congress debate endlessly, whether to fight for liberty....or offer diplomacy to the British. The enemy has changed, but it is still a familiar debate with US Presidential candidates in 2008.

At the end of part two, the Declaration of Independence is heard by Americans for the very first time. It is still poetic and powerful in its simplicity today. We hold these truths to be self evident. Tune in for John Adams and watch history unfold like you've never seen it before.

"John Adams" on HBO

HBO tackles a daring subject tonight, one that makes TV audiences gasp and recoil -- The Revolutionary War. Is there anything that strikes more fear into the hearts of viewers than a tri-corner hat and tight white leggings on men? I don't think so, but HBO is giving it the old college-history-class try with their multi-part adaptation of David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of early American patriot John Adams.

Even if history isn't your cup of tea, you can't deny that HBO has really stacked the deck here, offering two of the very most interesting actors working today as the leads: Paul Giamatti plays John Adams, and Laura Linney is his wife Abigail. Who doesn't like either of these terrifically talented and understated actors? Both seem the very essence of honesty in their work, and that's a touch that could help bring two iconic historical figures to life. Let's hope so, anyway. The supporting cast is equally as good, featuring Danny Huston (and if you haven't caught his recent exciting monster movie 30 Days of Night I highly recommend it!), Stephen Dillane, David Morse, Sarah Polley, Tom Wilkinson (remember him in the wonderful HBO movie Normal where he had a sex-change?), and Rufus Sewell, he of the slightly-crazy eye and slick intelligence.

I haven't read anything negative about the show at all, and I especially liked The New Yorker's fascinating review written by Harvard history professor Jill Lepore. It's obviously a given that John Adams is well-made television -- HBO doesn't do anything less -- so the real issue is whether or not this is well-made history. Well worth a reading of her review (which thankfully is available online to those of you who aren't TNY subscribers, though you might think about becoming one -- what a great magazine!) for the low-down on the real story behind the miniseries' characters.

I also recommend the review from Variety, because they have a distinctly different and practical point-of-view, namely, how will it play in Peoria? I share some of their fear that the subject matter itself is the special's worst enemy, but it's not always about ratings -- nor should it be --and watching something like John Adams will certainly do us all a lot of good.

In trying to think of an American Revolution TV show that worked, I recall that A & E's George Washington meets the Delaware River movie The Crossing starring Jeff Daniels as Gen. Washington was a terrific undertaking, and Barry Bostwick as Washington in a pair of movies back in the mid-1980s (so long ago, that's scary!) with Patty Duke as Martha also worked well, critically, at least. And of course there's 1776 for those of you who want your Founding Fathers singing a bit, too. Not to mention a rather disturbing little Revolutionary tale I saw last night, in fact, on the Masters of Horror series, entitled "The Washingtonians" about how George and his cronies were all cannibals. All righty, then.

So, take your medicine: watch John Adams and wonder what these early American minds would make of the current political scene in the United States. I have to confess I haven't figured out the scheduling of the seven parts of John Adams -- I only know for sure that Part 1 and Part 2 premiere tonight at 8pm, although I believe the next segment preems next Sunday and so on through subsequent Sundays. That's what I call a slow burn....

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Link TV -- You Must Watch This Channel

You might not like everything on this channel -- in fact, you absolutely won't -- but especially in this election year you must watch Link TV.

This weekend they're featuring the devastating documentary Orwells Rolls in his Grave, which documents the sorry state of the media in America. Controlled, captured and undoubtedly corrupted, this will open your eyes and make you insane, if you have any sense of the importance of the free flow of information. Link TV calls it a "wake-up call" to America, and no matter what your political ideology -- and I sincerely hope that's true, but I have to say I think it's sadly and horrifyingly not -- you should be ashamed of what's happened to the voice of the people in America. (It's running again tonight at 7pm and tomorrow at 8am.)

Goodness knows I've seen a bit of the media from the inside, as have several of our TFN correspondents, and I've always thought that the only motive was profit (except back in the old days when we actually cared about public service programs, but that was also in some ways because we were mandated to, which argues for regulation, big time, in my opinion), but something different is up these days. Something much worse, and with devastating implications for the upcoming election.
It's nothing less than corporate censorship of the news we're getting, but do most people even notice? Much is made of the fact that political news today isn't about politics and ideas, it's about politicians, and gossip. If you need any more proof of that, take a look at the Spitzer coverage of the past week. And if you're getting a kick out of that, imagine how much those Wall Street robbers he prosecuted -- and rightfully -- are loving his downfall. But of course dallying with a prostitute is so much juicier and so much more heinous than some financial scandal, isn't it? Something's dead wrong here.

As I'm just watching Link TV right now, they're talking about something that's been making me nuts for the past week or so as I've watched CNN. Evidently the Clean Coal folks are all over that network, running, incessantly, a ridiculous commercial using that mindless woo-hoo rock anthem "Celebration" as its theme music. Unbelievable...I can see using it to commemorate some guy getting a boner with Viagra, but to give props to the coal industry? It should make America's collective head blow up, seeing stuff like that, but obviously it's not. So I guess give a big high five to that little lump of profit for a dirty energy source and go shopping, or something. That's all Americans are supposed to do, anyway.

I'm obviously freaking out a little over this stuff, but unless we all freak out a little we're just going to let it all happen to us. You've got to care, and you've got to get informed, and you've got to insist that things are fair. Some people don't mind the idea of controlling a country via deceit, and unless you don't mind either, you better get involved now. It's probably already too late, though, but if you don't, you're part of the problem.

Friday, March 14, 2008

My Favorite Paragraph of the Week, Complete with Monkeys!

Apropos of exactly nothing, I read a paragraph this week that had everything, and I mean everything -- monkeys, leopard suits, alarm shouts, and a disrobing scientist -- that you could want in a paragraph. Here it is:

"To study alarm-calling behavior, I once dressed up as a leopard and approached a group of sooty mangabeys," recalled psychologist and primatologist Klaus Zuberb├╝hler at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. "The monkeys detected me, got very agitated, alarm-called at high rates, and a number of males approached in the low canopy ... aggressively displaying their large canines. At this point I was glad to be able to change species (by taking off my costume) and reveal myself. They looked at me with puzzlement, and then ran away silently. It felt good to be a human!"

I mean...sooty mangabeys! It doesn't get better than this! This amazing account is from the article "Monkeys Shout Complex Thoughts" and you can read the whole thing on their great website, plus you can subscribe and get their daily newsletter. Plus I agree with Zuberbuhler -- it feels great to be a human when you can read something wonderful like that paragraph!

Fighting the Battle of "Jericho"

As reported here on March 9th, CBS' Jericho is in trouble. Numbers are down -- and this week was no exception -- and fans seem to be girding up for another cancellation. The New York Times had a good article earlier in the week, and as TFN surmised, it doesn't look good for the phoenix-like show, which rose from the ashes only to...fall back down into them, it seems.

Of course, this has nothing to do with the merits of the show, how great it might or might not be -- probably certainly is, in this case -- but it's all about contemporary television. The quick meteoric rise is the trajectory of choice, especially if the vehicle is an expensive and ambitious hour-long drama.

I know CBS could keep this going, but what would they have at the end of it? Does Jericho have the legs to go 50 episodes? And then what do you have? 100 million dollars spent on a broken series? Even I don't like the math of that. How you make that up in the aftermarket? Too bad nobody much does exciting miniseries anymore...perhaps eight hours might have served Jericho's tale better.

And I'm speaking as somebody who isn't a regular viewer, which says something in itself. Normally I'd probably be all over this series -- is there something in amiss in the TV landscape that is keeping vibrant action drama down? Didn't seem to be a problem for Fox and The Sarah Connor it that CBS seems an unlikely place for a show like this? On another network, might this have found an audience? I believe that viewers watch programs not networks, but perhaps that rule isn't always accurate in today's TV world.

I've always loved (and counted on, when I was programming) the support and devotion of rabid fans (and I've been a crazy devotee of countless shows) to get a show noticed, but you've got to have that real life momentum and critical mass, otherwise it's just a cult. And you can't run a business like that, no matter how cruel or idiotic or suit-y it sounds. I'd hate to be CBS right now, probably having to face the Jericho fans with bad news.

Hey, maybe everything will turn out all right! Go, Jericho! You're fighting the good fight!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nose-talgia: SCTV does "Andy Griffith"

As a comic corollary to Jane's wonderful Nose-talgia post about The Andy Griffith Show, there's a wonderful SCTV take on it, with their "Merv Griffith Show" segment, found here on YouTube, with Rick Moranis as talkshow host Merv Griffin in the Andy role. Note particularly the great Eugene Levy doing a marvelous Floyd, and Merv's larger-than-life rear end! The Mayberry skit starts about 1 minute or so into the clip, after a commercial parody. (Loving SCTV practically goes hand-in-hand with loving television; the whole premise of the show is a struggling TV network and the shows it broadcasts.)


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

American Idol Final 12: The Best AI Episode Ever

Two Midwest Rockers and a Cali Local Dude Show Us that the Beatles Live Forever!

The final 12 contestants took the stage tonight, for one of the best American Idol episodes that I have seen across all seasons. Each one had to give their rendition of a Lennon-McCartney Beatles song, (no pressure there). All twelve contestants were born after the last Beatles song single (Let It Be) was released in 1970. How did they do?

The midwest rockers, David Cook and Amanda Overmeyer both brought the house down with original, riveting and unexpected renditions. But the biggest surprise of all was Inglewood, Cali local dude Chekezie, who I have been rooting for from day one. He surprised everyone with the most amazing and twisty Beatles song take of the night. Here's the recap, along with Jane's Nose-o-meter score which is entirely subjective and capricious and calculated by the amount of goosebumps I get for each performance multiplied by song choice and stage performance and then divided by the number and quality of the glasses of chardonnay I've consumed while viewing. You do the math:

Syesha- 3 Stars: She sang "Got to Get You Into My Life" and was pitch perfect and gorgeous out of the gate, but did nothing to stand out. It's hard to be first.
Chekezie-4 stars!: Different, thrilling, original take on "She's a Woman". He started country/bluegrass (how wonderful for a Beatles song!) and he rocked it out and owned the stage for the rest of the number. His joy is palpable. We love him. I'm heading to iTunes for a download.
Ramiele-3 stars. A sweet and heartbreaking but too slow version of "In My Life". This song can bring people to their knees, but Ramiele needs to bring more to her stage performance. I adore her and hope she can put more on the stage next week. Mabuhay, Ramiele, we are rooting for you!
Jason Castro-3.5 stars. Jason has been one of my front runners from the beginning. There is no doubt in my mind he's making it to the top 5. He is amazing to look at. The camera loves him. He is original and talented and the total package for TV, Film or an American Idol. I don't think there is any doubt that he'll be a huge star in media, no matter what. But his falsetto version of "If I fell In Love" did not work for me tonight.
Carly-3 stars. I'll say it up front, I just don't get it. Everyone loves her, and her performances are technically perfect. But I just don't feel the passion ever. She sang "Come Together". I'd rather listen to her talk because the Irish accent is lovely. Maybe she should try singing in the accent.
David Cook-4++++ stars. He's the new front runner. Long shot gamblers, find your Vegas bookie now, because this is the dark horse to beat. I knew this mid-west rocker had it all from the beginning. He's a phenomenal, talented once in a lifetime baritone like Jim Morrison, in fact I wish he had sung the Doors song in the early part of the competition and not Michael Johns. "Eleanor Rigby" is my favorite Beatles song ever. I've probably listened to it 1000 times in my life. David Cook's rendition tonight was as good and as weirdly sad and powerful as the original. I'm heading straight to iTunes right after I write this blog to download it. And I am making David's video the feature tonight on the Nose for all to see. Absolutely brilliant. Note to AI producers...please get DC one of those $500 Hollywood haircuts soon, because he is going all the way and you know you're going to want him to look his best when he gets there.
Brooke White: 3.0 stars: Sang a teary version of "Let it Be" and played the piano. I hate it when I don't agree with Simon, but I just don't feel the love here. Too overwrought, forgot words and squeaky.
David Hernandez: 2.5 stars: It is probably not a good idea to try and put an Elvis twist on a Beatles song (I Saw Her Standing There), whether it's on national TV or in a karaoke bar. David has a great voice, but this was his weakest night. I don't care about the stripper thing either, Diablo Cody won an Academy Award for writing "Juno" and she was an "exotic dancer" too, so who cares.
Amanda Overmeyer: 4++ stars. She owns the stage, she has the most riveting personality, and exciting performances in the competition. I would never want to take a bathroom break when she is on the stage. Absolutely the opposite of boring. Amanda is the Midwest rocker queen to beat and she brought the house down with "You Can't do That". She's awesome. She keeps us coming back for more. And she has one of those rare, distinctive voices that you can't get out of your head. If you close your eyes, you know immediately..., that's Amanda. She should change her name to MANDA. She rocks.
Michael Johns: 2.75 stars. What can you say about an off night and a bad song choice? This guy has always looked powerful enough to knock one out of the park. Lennon's dreamy "Across the Universe" did not showcase his talent at all. Still hoping for more next week...
Kristy Lee: 2.5 stars. What happened? I have loved her voice from the beginning, but this was a disaster. If she wanted to do a country song from the Beatles songbook, why not "Rocky Racoon?" Jeez, it was painful to see this rendition of "Eight Days a Week". I feel really sad, and hope she gets another chance. And I really want her to get that horse back!
David Archuleta-The Kid: 2.0 stars, lowest rating of the night: Here is living proof that conventional wisdom (whether political, or entertainment) is not always rock steady. David was the kid to beat 2 weeks ago after his rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine". Now, a few weeks later, he has weathered the flu and is fighting back. Tonight was a major off night for the kid, as he forgot the words and otherwise tortured "We Can Work it Out". Is it a FOX ploy? If it is, this kid is the greatest actor ever. No matter what, we will all be on the edge of our seats until tomorrow...

Great, great night for American Idol. Thank you, Fox TV. It may be only Tuesday, but you made us feel like it's the weekend already with this show.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Nose-Talgia Visits The Andy Griffith Show

I was going to write about a new one hour program on broadcast TV tonight, but I barely made it through the first 30 minutes. Rarely have I seen such top notch actors talk-talk-talk about nothing while the camera circled the characters endlessly like a doomed spy satellite orbiting the earth. After 20 minutes of program and 10 minutes of commercials where all the action, drama and plot development was in the advertising, I threw in the towel. Life is far too short to watch new programming that is so dull I have to read Entertainment Weekly while I'm watching just to feel entertained.

Instead, I shall feature a few words about The Andy Griffith Show as my first passionate post for our Nose-Talgia sub-blog. Andy, Opie, Barney and the whole gang still cavort in Mayberry on TV Land, and you can watch whole shows on demand on their website by clicking on either of the links above.

The small town antics of the citizens of Mayberry aired from 1960 through 1968. It was television's first "dramedy", a dreamy tone poem about a sheriff in the deep south who was so kind and reasonable (Andy Griffith), he never had to fire his gun; a deputy so wired and hysterical (Don Knotts as Barney Fife) he wasn't allowed to keep a bullet in his gun; and an adorable freckle faced, red haired kid (Ron Howard as Opie) who grew up to be a very fine award winning Hollywood director.

The Andy Griffith show leaned more towards sweetness than knee slappers, and half the time it didn't even seem to have a laugh track, which was unheard of for a comedy in the early 60's. Even so, Don Knotts won the Emmy five times for his jittery but endearing portrayal as Barney the hapless deputy. Many episodes took on serious topics; the loneliness of Aunt Bee when she felt she had worn out her welcome. The confusion of Opie when he wanted to write a history report about a battle with native Americans, but discovered there were two sides to every story. Who among us, in these times where it seems like society has run amok, wouldn't long for a town where Floyd the barber trims hair and Otis the town drunk lets himself in and out of jail each time he goes on a bender. A few notes of the whistled theme song (The Fishin' Hole" :Music by Earle Hagen) is better than a time machine for transporting a frazzled 21st century soul back to small town America before Peyton Place reminded us that even that milieu had its dark secrets.

Take of your shoes and set a spell. (Yeah, I know that line is from another 1960's comedy, but it works well here). The embedded video above has snippets from several episodes for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

100 Reasons to Watch "Jericho" Video

Well, I must say I'm almost convinced after watching this --

As one might have expected, Jericho, after its much-vaunted, fan-backed return from the dead, is still moribund. The ratings haven't been what CBS was hoping for, but it still seems to be on the schedule for now.

Clearly the show has much to love, so why aren't people watching? Honestly, I think the fans were lucky to have gotten what they did. Shows as weird/interesting/different/intelligent as Jericho aren't often successful, a few notable exceptions notwithstanding.

Let's hope that the video wins a few people over. Though of course there's the problem now of being able to catch up at this late date, and Jericho seems like one of those shows where a foundation has been built and woe to us who try to join in the middle. In any case, good luck to Jericho and it's a cute video!

You can find out lots about the show at the CBS Jericho website, as well as watch full episodes from this season, full episodes from last season and a whole lot more -- clearly CBS is doing the right thing and giving viewers everything they might need to get into the show. Good work with Jericho, CBS, but you're still blowing it by not having full episodes of The New Adventures of Old Christine!)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Nose-talgia: "The Patty Duke Show"

Girls growing up in the early 1960s were crazy about The Patty Duke Show, the energetic sitcom starring the immensely talented Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke as a pair of identical cousins. Patty Lane was American, peppy and adorable, and Cathy Lane, her cuz, was Scottish, proper and lovely. The show premiered on ABC in September of 1963 and ran for 104 episodes over three seasons. (Back then, when they made a season, they really made a season -- over 30 episodes/year!). With a nod to The Parent Trap and any number of movies and TV shows with a lookalike theme, The Patty Duke Show was a funny and memorable part of 1960s television. Unfortunately, it's rarely aired today anywhere and isn't out on DVD yet, but we can hope!

We offer the opening sequence, with the completely catchy theme song, for your enjoyment!

National Geographic’s “AFTERMATH: POPULATION ZERO” on Sunday

Put this one in the “great channels think alike category”: this coming Sunday, March 9th, National Geographic Channel premieres their new special AFTERMATH: POPULATION ZERO, which is exactly the same premise as History Channel’s excellent Life After People special from this past January. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. It’s an irresistible notion -- what might happen to the Earth after all the people have disappeared -- and if Nat Geo’s offering is anything like LAP, it will be tremendously entertaining, educational and utterly fascinating television. Do expect to see some of the same things -- the Eiffel Tower crumbles, Lady Liberty tosses her torch -- but who's complaining?

Like the previous special, AFTERMATCH: POPULATION ZERO assumes that humanity has simply vanished. Poof! No decaying bodies left behind, no corpses for hungry animal survivors to dine on -- the people are just gone, ala the Rapture or some other entertaining fiction. It’s certainly an amusing way of dealing with the implications of a more probable wipe-out, such as plague or some other biological/environmental disaster that would likely affect other species as well. Not that it wouldn’t be a terrific premise in itself, but then you wouldn’t have all the exciting confrontations between newly-liberated wild animals and domestic pets who’ve toughened up to make it on their own, or eagles nesting in office buildings, or other similarly quixotic juxtapositions.

National Geographic has a pretty website for AFTERMATH: POPULATION ZERO, including a neat animated time-line with different points of interest that you might enjoy playing with. Be sure you click on "Experience the Aftermath" on the page. There are also samples of the show and other clips that you can explore. Not much text there, but plenty of video.

You know by now that The Flaming Nose is full of apocalyptic groupies, and I’m sure we’ll all be tuning in on Sunday night for our latest dose of doom! We couldn’t be more excited about it!

AFTERMATH: POPULATION ZERO premieres Sunday, March 9th at 8P et/pt, and repeats again at midnight, plus check the schedule for additional plays.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

All in for Peter Outerbridge and "ReGenesis"

Okay, his name may not be totally familiar to you, but Peter Outerbridge is a terrific Canadian actor, one of my favorites. I bring him up because the fourth season (and final, evidently) of his amazing TV series ReGenesis has just started on Canada's The Movie Network. It's the perfect blend of science fiction and science fact, a show where it's okay to use big words and intelligent speculation is encouraged. The morality and ethics of modern science are constantly up front, and it's also incredibly cool, to boot. The cast is filled with terrific actors and actresses in intriguing roles, including a wonderful portrayal of a brilliant scientist with Asperger Syndrome and one who's gay and it's just part of the character without being preachy or weird or stereotypical in any way. This is a show that assumes and appreciates that the audience has the maturity to understand the way it is, in science, in life, and everything else.

The earlier seasons of ReGenesis are running here and there in the U.S. also (I believe that KCAL in L.A. has the rights) and I heartily recommend trying to catch them. Episodes have centered around fascinating scientific/medical issues such as Mad Cow, AIDs, the Spanish Flu episode of 1918, cloning, human growth hormone, Gulf War Syndrome, Acid Rain, and many other completely compelling biological disasters. You'll be hard-pressed to find a smarter show on television, or one that's more exciting, and it's completely without the use of murdered women to goose up the ratings. That in itself is refreshing.

I also bring up the talented Mr. Outerbridge because he co-starred in one of the very best episodes of The New Outer Limits, and lucky for all of us it's running tomorrow on The Sci Fi Channel. Entitled The New Breed, it stars Richard Thomas as a scientist experimenting with invasive nano technology, and Peter is his friend who, facing a terminal cancer diagnosis, agrees to become a guinea pig for him. It's an unforgettable episode, alternatively horrifying and heartbreaking, and definitely my favorite segment of TNOL.
It's running tomorrow morning -- Friday March 7th -- at 11am Eastern time, and is followed by another great episode called The Message, with Marlee Matlin as a deaf woman who tunes into a distress call from an alien vessel approaching Earth, and only Larry Drake, as one of her neighbors, believes her. It's another top-notch episode and very moving and exciting. And for even more, the remake of the classic TOL episode I, Robot airs next, at 1pm Eastern, with Leonard Nimoy in the role of the attorney who defends robot creation Adam Link from charges of murder. Though the robot isn't nearly as appealing or cute as it was in the original episode, in which Nimoy played a sympathetic reporter, it's still good seeing Nimoy in anything. So your Friday afternoon's all sewed up, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How To Find American Idol If You Miss It

I worked 12 hours straight yesterday (14 if you count the commute) and just didn't have the energy to do my usual Tuesday night Idol thing. I figured I would watch my tivo'ed version of AI boys night the next day, but someone forgot to put permanent hold on it and about a billion episodes of the Simpsons and Anthony Bourdain bumped it off the queue. So after watching American Idol girls tonight (loved Kristy Lee's country version of a Journey song...think Amanda Overmeyer is great because she is just so original and weird...bored with everyone else), I went on a little Internet journey of my own to find the missing night of American Idol guy performances.

First stop was iTunes, as they promise us every week that the performances are posted there, for 99 cents each. Liars! Some of the songs were there but they did not have all my favorites, it was a very incomplete list. They did have Chikezie's newest blues number up there and it sounded awesome. They also had (this is so adorable) the entire 7 minute Reynaldo video posted for free. See my previous blog for details on the amazing Reynaldo. Now you can have Reynaldo and his "Brother's Forever" song on your iPod.

Next stop-American Idol website. Great still photos, lovely Coke commercial, no songs or videos from last night.

Final stop--YouTube. Bingo! Every single song from last night's American Idol episode is posted as a video. Most of them have close to 30,000 views just 24 hours later. I watched Michael Johns sing "Don't You Forget About Me". It was a tiny bit forgettable, but I still love him. Popular front runner David Archuletta sang, "Another Day in Paradise". He was just OK, dawg, because he is sick with that Hot Zone flu that's going around. The flu is really wiping out a lot of AI contestants this year. The best performance was Jason Castro singing the excellent, celestial song, "Hallelujah". He is so talented, and has a great look with the blond dreads and I think he is going all the way. I have posted the video here for everyone to see and hear and enjoy.

Did You Catch "New Amsterdam"?

I was more than a little bit intrigued by Fox's new drama New Amsterdam which premiered last night after American Idol. There will be another episode on tomorrow night (Thursday), and then the show moves into its regular slot next Monday at 9pm.

Starring suave Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as John Amsterdam, it's a supernatural-themed drama (sort of in the same vein as CBS' Moonlight) about a New York police detective with a big secret -- he's immortal. Sentenced to eternal life by an olde world Native American girl, he's on the lookout for his one true love, the attainment of which will allow him to join the ranks of the rest of us with an expiration date and finally shuffle off this mortal coil.

Coster-Waldau is definitely appealling, and we'll see how the producers try to figure out whether they want this to be a police show or a show about a man who lives forever. I've read some squawking that there's too much police work in it, but hang in and maybe it will find a balance. Though New Amsterdam's premise is endlessly cool, Fox seems to be waffling a bit on its committment to the show -- cutting down the episode count, burning off a couple of episodes this week before the actual premiere on Monday, but then can hardly argue with an American Idol lead-in. I'm sure the producers aren't complaining.

If you missed yesterday's pilot, tune in tomorrow for the second episode at 9pm after AI. Now, either it's too early or Fox is messing up, but the show doesn't seem to be among the ones available for online viewing at the moment. Hope this changes!

Check out the New Amsterdam website for more information!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

American Viral Video, "I Am Your Brother"

Here is a story that is haunting, uplifting and weirdly hilarious all at once. It also crosses media from television to Internet, which makes it especially cool to me. A few weeks back American Idol was in the thick of its annual cross country auditions. This is where the truly talented and the seriously strange meet in large stadiums across the US, to be either knighted or ridiculed by the Three Wise Pundits; Randy, Paula and Simon. Into this maelstrom steps a gentleman known as Reynaldo Lapuz. Mr Lapuz is a diminuative, cheerful Filipino fellow, dressed in white with a feathered hat and a floor length furry cape. On his hat he has taped a note that says "Simon". Right off the bat, our three judges are transfixed. Reynaldo sings an original composition for his audition called "Brothers Forever". It is at once awful, yet terribly addictive. As a singer, on a scale of 1 to 10, Rey is a 3.5. His song is Karaoke meets campfire, a plaintive plea for friendliness and brotherhood. In the course of his audition, all hell breaks loose, with both Randy and Paula hopping on stage to dance and sing along and Simon collapsing in genuine roll on the floor laughter.
It is really funny and I've posted the video here on the Nose (below).

But wait...there's more! The video of our hero Reynaldo, ended up on YouTube shortly after the American Idol episode aired. It has spawned HUNDREDS of copy-cat response videos from around the world, and each is more precious than the next. There are Filipino families singing along, there are folk rockers with guitars (quite beautiful renditions!), there are animated versions., even one "Brothers Forever" with Claymation dolls. All give tribute to Reynaldo Lapuz, the unlikely hero who did not get to go to Hollywood, but who has gone wildly viral on YouTube and the Internet with his heartfelt plea for world peace.

I did not find out about this gem on my own, but was forced to watch it by my son, who shares a similar quirky sense of humor and has a birthday coming this week. Thanks for the great tip, Tom...and Happy Birthday!

Joe Lewis-Legacy of an American Hero on HBO

Earlier this week contestants on American Idol were asked to share something about themselves that the audience didn't know. If that question was put to me, I would probably say most people don't know that I am a heavy weight boxing fan. Not a typical past time for a white suburban mom from Southern California, but there you have it. I also love boxing movies (Raging Bull, Rocky, The Great White Hope and even Million Dollar Baby) and old footage of important historical boxing bouts.

So given all of that, it is probably no surprise that I found HBO's current documentary on boxing champ Joe Lewis (Joe Louis-America's Hero Betrayed) especially compelling.

Joe Lewis is probably not a sports hero well known among today's celebrity obsessed youth, but in the 30's and 40's he was one of the best known public figures in the nation. He became the first African American heavy weight boxing champion and as such went on to defeat Max Schmeling, the darling of Hitler's Germany and "supposed" example of Aryan supremacy. He was not only the hero of black America, but quite possibly the first sports figure of color to become a bona fide hero for all Americans, transcending race altogether during a time when African Americans were routinely denied equal rights.

This special features moving testimony from poet Maya Angelou, actor and comedian Bill Cosby and recording industry mogul Berry Gordy. Even NY politician Charles Rangel chimes in. Best of all, it is chock full of details that one may not have heard about Joe Lewis before. Did anyone know that he became a professional golfer after he retired from boxing and helped desegregate the PGA?

The tragic side of Joe Lewis's life was also explored. He left a highly lucrative boxing career during WWII to join the Army (getting paid 21 dollars a week) and traveled around the world entertaining the troops. Nevertheless, he was hounded relentlessly by the IRS for back taxes his entire life. In his later years, he took a job at Ceasar's Palace greeting customers. Quite a step down for the former champion of the world, but he never complained. He also endured the verbal poison arrows of up and coming champ Muhammad Ali in the 1960's, who called him an "Uncle Tom". Through it all, life long friend Frank Sinatra proved steadfast, even helping with medical costs towards the end when Lewis had a stroke.

Joe Lewis died in 1981 and was buried in Arlington National cemetery, per special order signed by President Reagan. For more stories about the "Brown Bomber", check out this excellent HBO sports documentary, or go visit Joe Lewis: The Official Website.