Saturday, May 31, 2008
From the moment it started it was clear that this episode was going to tidy things up. Okay, let's lay it out there, clean up the mess. Within the first few minutes the writers cleared up the confusing time frame of one of the key story lines. Before the first commercial we learned when (and why) Jack's descent into despair happens. More explanations followed, but as the puzzle pieces started flying into place, I realized the finale did a lot more than sew up loose ends. It literally "reset" the series much the same way "Desperate Housewives" did in its season finale two weeks ago (a new trend in serialzied television?). Next season, we can expect "Lost" to start fresh, builiding on a new set of story lines that will lead to what is sure to be a climactic conclusion when the series ends in a couple of years. It's sort of a metaphor that The Island itself was physically moved to a new location (kudos to the special effects team).
They've left plenty of questions to keep us coming back for more. We've learned The Survivors left behind on The Island face big "problems." Jack and Henry are on a mission to get the "Oceanic Six" to return to The Island. What of Desmond and Penny's future? Just where did The Island go? Have we really seen the last of Jin? And that final shot in the finale-how the heck did John Lock wind up in a seedy funeral home? Tune in next January.
Cook on VH1's "Best Week Ever" last night. Brilliant. Stay with it until the last few seconds. I see an SNL appearance on his CD promo tour this fall. Except he's ready to host AND be the musical guest. Appropriate that he would be on "The Best Week Ever" since the appearance proabably wrapped up just that for him!
By the way, the very best Cook interview can be seen on EW's Idolatry segment. Michael Slezak and Jessica Shaw have been on the AI beat for several seasons and they really know their subject. Conducted this week, they bring out the best in Cook, by keeping the questions smart and the tone playful. It's in 5 parts but the segments are all fairly short. Check out the Syesha interview as well.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Earth. Our planet. Do you see it there in the picture, the beautiful blue marble rising over the lonely gray plain of the moon? You've probably witnessed this iconic and magnificent image a thousand times. Here's a new twist and heads up on The Flaming Nose. June 8th, (next Sunday) 9pm eastern on The Discovery Channel, you'll be able to see this, and much of the Apollo space mission footage, digitally re-mastered and in HD for the first time.
Also...a last minute flag for all the late night US Flaming Nose fans (or early morning Global readers)...the Space Shuttle is set to take off tomorrow from Kennedy Space Center at 5:02PM eastern standard US. Check out the details at NASA. If you haven't seen it lately, their website is fantastic. God speed to the crew of mission STS-124 (pictured above) as they commence their journey to the space station.
Here's a little video taste of next week's Discovery Channel space mission special...zooming its way to you next Sunday in HD. I can tell you right now, they got the sound right. I've seen 3 NASA launches (Apollo and Space Shuttle) in person, and the only thing more beautiful than the sight of it, is the super sonic roar. Watch...and listen.
What better way to appreciate Korman's contributions to television comedy than by watching a few of his bits, starting with this sketch from The Danny Kaye Show.
And here's a bit from with Carol Burnett as they play "The Old Folks":
And here's Korman and Conway together in their famous "Dentist" sketch:
And a fan put together a nice montage set to the song "Put On a Happy Face" which highlights Korman's comic career:
The really bad thing about losing somebody like this is that you realize you've taken him for granted, probably all these years, assuming he'd always be around, making comedy for us to enjoy. At least we have DVDs and video (copious amounts of his material on YouTube, so far at least!) and those hours of Harvey Korman will be a legacy that will surely go on.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
And so we begin with the first part of the Alexander Courage tribute documentary:
And here is Part Two:
Here is Part Three:
And here is the Conclusion:
What an amazing career. Hollywood will certainly miss Alexander Courage.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Hagen also composed the themes and music scores for films and for many other series, including his Emmy-winning work on the truly cool I Spy (listen to music samples from the compilation album here!), the pert and still adorable theme for That Girl:
-- the hip and hilarious opening theme to The Dick Van Dyke Show:
-- and many others.
For a loving and truly complete look at Earle Hagen's amazing career, I highly recommend spending some time perusing the tremendous website EarleHagen.net. There's a nice article about his induction just last month into the NATAS Gold Circle for his long career in television here, and another great account of a 2004 night at the Hollywood Bowl featuring Hagen's music -- wish we all could have been there!
I will leave you with an unusual but completely heartfelt and adorable version of The Andy Griffith Show theme. I think you will love it, too.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Oh well. I hope my colleagues here liked it better than I did, though I'm hoping Part 2 will liven things up. I also was distinctly underwhelmed by the often clunky dialogue...man, I'm getting crabby in my old age. And don't even mention the commercials -- unbearable! Might want to wait for the DVD or watch it On Demand (if available) because it won't have commercials there, right? I must say I was saddened that (spoiler alert) the brave female fighter pilot who was supposed to drop the nuke on the infected town got all disintegrated, though. And I did like the whispered instructions that Viola Davis gave to her husband, that if she called and asked about his mother, to get the hell out of the continental United States. That was good and scary.
Monday, May 26, 2008
America is going.
I haven't even given you the good news about Recount, which is that the production is terrific. The cast is impressive -- Kevin Spacey, Dennis Leary, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Wilkinson,Laura Dern, Bob Balaban, John Hurt -- and you most certainly won't be bored.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Weekly, starting this coming Friday, they will be running new digitally-enhanced versions of the show, with two episodes at 8p and 8:40pm (with later repeats), and more encores on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings. To get us in the mood, they're running 15 episodes from 9am until 7pm tomorrow, Memorial Day Monday. You can take a look at the BBC America website for an episode schedule but trust me the line-up listed for tomorrow has very weird ep numbers which don't necessarily correspond to anything. (Ep info seems to be back on track for the subsequent airings). I recommend just settling in and watching the whole darn marathon; it'll all be good, of course.
If you're a Python fan you probably have your favorite fella, possibly informed a bit by what they've done in the years since the show. Palin seems incredibly sweet after all his good-natured travel adventure shows, Cleese rather curmudgeonly but then we don't mind our Brits to be a little snarky (Simon Cowell, anyone?), Jones is
similarly kind and an intellectual seeker, and Idle seems to be the Brit version of John Waters in his ability to bring a cult movie to musical theater success. Poor Graham Chapman is no longer with us, but what a hilarious presence he is in MPFC. After watching and re-watching Python all my adult life, I truly can't pick a favorite anymore. I love them all.
Anyway, they're back on BBC America! There are a lot of great Python segments on YouTube -- how to pick just one to highlight here...tough! After much deliberation I've decided to go with the delightful "Vocational Guidance Counselor" skit starring John Cleese and Michael Palin. Enjoy!
If you missed Jane's Nose-talgia post on Laugh-in from only last month, please take a look at it now, in honor of Mr. Martin and his lasting achievements.
AP has a nice article and biography on Dick Martin which is recommended reading, and I always find the pieces from the Museum of Broadcast Communications have a solid historical bent and they have a good piece on Laugh-in. In addition to their Laugh-in fame, Rowan and Martin had a red-hot career in traditional stand-up venues, of course, and as a second career Martin became a highly-skilled TV director. He was also a likeable actor who appeared on his own in movies like The Glass Bottom Boat (with Doris Day), and many TV series including a recurring role on The Lucy Show and guest shots on popular shows like The Love Boat, The Nanny, Diagnosis Murder and many others.
Dick Martin was a talented man whose many other achievements were no doubt somewhat overshadowed by the success and exceedingly long tail of his Laugh-in fame, but he was a true television and pop culture icon, and we salute him.
Sock it to 'em, Dick.
Friday, May 23, 2008
With all the excitement over our multiple American Idol posts and wonderful new FN blogger Judith, a milestone has slipped under the radar for this fledgling TV blog. According to the site meter, the Flaming Nose has had over 10,000 visitors from around the world since we were born a few months ago last November.
I'd like to say thank you to all of our global readers from such places as the UK, Canada, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Croatia. And thank you to our US fans, where we've had visitors from Tallahassee and Omaha and South Orange New Jersey. We hope you've enjoyed your visit, and you are always welcome back. Please leave a comment from time to time, and let us know how we're doing! Thanks too, and most of all, to the Flaming Nose bloggers for all their hard work and passion about TV.
The Flaming Nose tends to be a bit more positive than most TV blogs, because...well, we love media. There are minions of other niche posts that take a meaner point of view (all getting about a million times more traffic than we do) but that's OK. We're small. We're friendly. We will grow.
As a tribute to The Nose, I leave this lovely clip of Lucy, in a scene where Ricky sings the unforgettable I Love Lucy theme to our Muse. As long as TFN exists...we will never forget your birthday, Lucy!
Bad day to be human, but possibly a great day to be a television viewer if the promos we've seen so far are any indication. Premiering this Monday at 9pm (Memorial Day!) on A&E network, the Andromeda Strain is a two night blockbuster miniseries about one of our favorite Flaming Nose topics...."the end of the world".
Powerhouse, genius film making brothers (Bladerunner anybody?) Ridley Scott and Tony Scott are the producers of this re-purposed apocalyptic fairy tale about a very bad Level 5 Hot Zone disease unleashed upon the world. Since practically nobody will remember the 1971 original Andromeda Strain, they can expect a whole new crop of amazed eyeballs for this 21st century take on creepy ways to destroy humanity with a whimper and not a bang.
The cast looks B level, special effects look top notch. Writing and execution is anybody's guess. I'm tuning in because I love Ridley Scott, so if he did much more than wave his hand over the script in a Pope-like blessing, I'm thinking there might be some fun to be had.
My question is: whatever in the world did A&E have to do to get the Scott brothers on board for this effort? Maybe they are partial owners of A&E now? Or maybe they both knew that cable television in the summer is the coolest place to be outside of an air conditioned movie theater. Let's all watch and find out!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Judith comes to us from a career in TV -- like most of us here, as it turns out -- and a stupendous knowledge of classic TV! Her first post is particularly relevant and welcome here because it's about Lucy, our official oracle of knowledge and icon of lasting affection.
Welcome to the Nose, girlfriend!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
First, let me say American Idol redeemed itself after Tuesday night’s horrible show. I enjoyed Wednesday's finale more than any awards show or special in the past year or two. I will review the broadcast in another post. Now it’s time to reflect on Cook's landslide win.
Well, whadda ya know. American Idol really is a popularity contest. No shocker there. The big surprise (to some) is that David Cook turns out to be the one who's more popular! Cook shined Tuesday night but the judges and many in the media thought the A-game David Archuleta brought with him delivered a knockout. Turns out, one shining night does not make an American Idol. David Cook got the public’s votes (the ones that count) and the reason is simple: he’s just that good. No, great. Even Simon apologized to Cook just before the big win.
Let’s examine what happened. First, I’m not so sure David Archuleta even had the lock on teen and tween votes anymore. Cook is really popular among teenage girls and their boyfriends… and their parents… and even some grandparents.
Another factor is the type popularity that Cook enjoys. It’s based on his enormous and wide-ranging talent. Cook’s popularity is, however, heavily fortified by his charm and sex appeal. He earned the votes by coming on strong half way through the season, and then building to a crescendo. He turned in at least five performances that are among the best in American Idol history: “Hello” on the last night of the semi-finals, then “Eleanor Rigby,” “Billy Jean,” “Always Be My Baby,” and “Music of the Night” in the finals. An additional five performances were rock solid. Every single studio version of his performances are stellar. Few contestants in any season have had that kind of consistency.
I do want to make it clear that I think Archuleta’s voice is spectacular, and that Tuesday night he was at his best. I might even argue that his rendition of “Imagine” might be the single best performance of the season (I’ll even concede that both “Imagine” performances were tops). Beyond that, I can’t "imagine" his CDs and downloads having broader appeal than, say, Josh Grobin’s music. A definite market exists out there for Archie, but not in the world of pop or country, the music which dominates US charts and Americans’ tastes.
One final observation. I think Clive Davis made a mistake with his song choices Tuesday night. He got the songs right, but the Davids wrong! No one would have handed the Tuesdaay win to Archuleta if Cook got to sing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and Archuleta had to sing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Cook would have nailed it a la “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Music of the Night.” Archuleta would be forced from his “zone,” as Randy calls it. Maybe he would have pulled it off – the Archuleta we haven’t seen – but likely he would have fizzled. It’s a scenario that supports the reasons why David Cook won the whole enchilada. He is the whole enchilada.
I had my headline all ready..."You Vote, Fox Decides". After last night's love fest for David A. by all three judges I thought it was already over before it was over. But DAVID COOK WON!!!! For the first time in the 7 years since I started watching American Idol, an amazing talent that I rooted for from day one actually won. My faith in the taste of the American public is renewed. My faith in Fox is renewed too. What the heck, maybe it's not scripted after all! Plus, they put on an awesome, everything but the kitchen sink Grand Slam finale tonight night that was engaging from start to finish. I loved the David and David hero song duet. And Syesha singing with Seal! The comedy bits were clever too, especially Gladys Knight and the Pips, with Mega Stars; Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. But my heart really soared when they rolled out little Reynaldo LaPuz in his feathered white hat and cape to sing "I Am Your Brother" one more time with the USC Marching Band. It was touching and hilarious and wonderful.
Even the commercials rocked tonight. I want a green Ford Escape Hybrid real bad.
So I'm having a bit of a warm, rosy Cinderella feeling tonight for David Cook. Bravo to the mid-west rocker who made it all the way to the top. I knew he was the biggest star all along. And now, the long dark void until AI season 8 begins...
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Here are my thoughts right now. I'm about as annoyed as a TV show can make me. Tonight's show seemed downright scripted, and really made the last few weeks appear thoroughly planned out. The critics warned that the David vs. David showdown is what the producers wanted. Randy cooled off on Cook these past few weeks. Simon has gone from the voice of reason (and fully converted Cook supporter), to bailing on him tonight. Paula threw even handed love around. Come to think of it, she seemed the most honest; I think she really does love them both, nearly equally.
True, Archie performed flawlessly tonight. He brought his A-game. But it was still gooey and "more of the same" (especially with his "Imagine" reprise). What I still can't "imagine" is buying his records. To tell the truth, I enjoyed Usher's rather old fashioned performance tonight on Dancing with the Stars!
As for Cook, he rocked. He commanded the stage. He was in great voice, and he looked sexier than ever. No kidding, he looked downright handsome tonight.
All hope is not lost for Cook and his fans. The public just may not buy the judges' take on tonight. In fact, this season it's the judges who, more often than not (and as they would say), seem irrelevant. I think they're out of touch with America. And I still believe in my theory about cumulative voting. The Cook fans will vote for Cook based on his consistently brilliant performances week after week; the Archuleta fans will vote for Archuleta as they always do. I don't think AI has many swing voters left at this point. Cook has the larger group of fans, Archuleta has the expert tween texters/dialers. We'll find out tomorrow if Cook's bigger fan base is enough to pull him through.
Another early sign of Cook pulling this off: DialIdol.com has Cook as the clear winner, based on their busy signal software. They were right 91 percent of the time this season, and they've accurately predicted the finale winner every time. Click the link to their site... as of this writing they predict Cook the winner by a landslide.
Tomorrow: my thoughts on the whole boxing smackdown theme, what I think they should do to fix Idol, and of course, reaction to the outcome.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
Here's an important topic for a TV blog. Is television dying? Is it already dead? Since the end of the writer's strike, there has been a tsunami of negative press for broadcast television, all predicting its eminent demise. There's no doubt about it, the ratings are down for the big three (ABC, NBC, CBS). Only FOX has survived the viewer flight, due almost entirely to the strength of American Idol.
Many of the viewers who fled to other forms of media during the writer's strike are not coming back to traditional television. Ever. Here's why I, lover of TV since I was lulled to sleep by my first black and white Indian Head test pattern, think that might not necessarily be the end of the world.
- While viewers might not be watching TV as much on the traditional home set, they are flocking to streaming video of their favorite TV shows online
- Boxed set DVD sales of entire seasons of TV programs are flying off the shelves. Did you know that more DVD's are sold of TV programs than of all movies combined today?
- Time shifting behaviors (TiVo, DVR) have become mainstream. People are still watching, they are just doing it when it suits them. Today, appointment television means you have to put permanent hold on your digitally recorded episode so it does not get erased before you are ready to view.
It's all about the content folks. Great writing, compelling characters, and nobody is going anywhere. But the audience is a fickle beast. Tonight we watched the brilliance of NBC's "The Office" on regular TV. Tomorrow it might be streaming on the Internet. Or our mobile phones. Note to Marshall McLuhan.....the medium is no longer the message. It's just the pipeline. We never know what's going to come down the chute these days. Tonight, it was a flawless one hour comedy on the family living room TV set.
And by the way...NBC totally understands the online world. You can watch this Office season finale on their website if you missed it last night. And you can watch the promo for it, right here on The Flaming Nose, compliments of You Tube.
- First and foremost is his talent. A truly great vocalist, energizing performer, and as we're learning, accomplished songwriter and guitar player. Without that, we wouldn't know him, or care, right?
- Second, those good manners. He always says thank you. He's the first to offer a hand shake. He brought the flowers to his first music teacher and gave her a hug and a kiss. He demonstrated humility on his trip home. It all comes across as sincere to me.
- Third, his charm. Calm, cool and collected but with a slight smart alecky sense of humor. Confident but not cocky (he really dialed it back after that early exchange with Simon - being called arrogant clearly mortified him). All together it adds up to charm. Charm is sexy.
- Fourth, authentic family values. From what we've seen, he's a devoted brother, with parents who've clearly done a good job raising their kids.
- Fifth, he's smart. Our "word nerd" and forensics team competitor also knows how to present himself appropriately, which has served him well on AI. We have also seen him make great song and arrangement choices 90 percent of the time. He's a thinker and that's also sexy!
Anyway, we've got it here! Again!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Here's something that's sure to become a TV classic... or at least a local TV classic that has become the ultimate blooper making its way around the internet.
WARNING: this clip contains foul language, so if you're offended by swearing, don't click!
Longtime WNBC-TV New York anchors Sue Simmons and Chuck Scarlborough during a promo two nights ago. Simmons obviously didn't know - or remember - it was live (which means hundreds of thousands of viewers in the New York-New Jersey-Connectictut tri-state area unwittingly watched her drop the F-bomb).
My partner, funny guy that he is, wants Simmon's exclamation for a ring tone!
No surprises last night. Cook sizzled, Archuleta did his Archie thing, and Syesha got the shaft from the judges. My feelings about Cook really come down to this, and please don't mistake this for a criticism of HIM by any means. I'm critical of the situation. I'm done with the covers, I'm done with other people's choices, I'm done with abbreviated songs. Cook is so past this by now. I crave Cook "the professional artist" now. Six weeks ago Randy said Cook was ready to go make records. He was right and that's the problem. This AI thing isn't doing him any justice anymore. If you listen to Cook's studio versions (and I've downloaded them all) you'll hear the amazing recording artist he already has become. Thanks to YouTube, I've now had the pleasure of sampling pre-Idol Cook, including his self-produced solo album Analog Heart (it's a knockout), and audio clips of Axium songs. Cook, of course, was the band's leader, on guitar & lead vocals (plus he wrote many of the songs). "Callout," and his cover of Radiohead's "Creep," are simply amazing. He's just as gifted a songwriter as he is a singer and performer. See both videos below.
As for Syesha, the bias was clear. It was as if the judges and the producers conspired to make sure she goes home tonight. Between the judge's comments and the producers' song choice, she didn't stand a chance. I thought she's shined.
Archuleta has hit a brick wall. If you think he's got the votes because of all those teen and tween girls, you're wrong. Cook's fan base is too diverse and large to dismiss. America doesn't always reward the best of the bunch, but we do recognize EXCEPTIONAL talent (Springsteen, Streisand, Elton). Check out DIALIDOL's vote results & predictions from last night. Cook creamed Archie in terms of busy signal dialings. DialIdol has been spot-on this season. I don't think anyone can stop this tsunami that is Cook right now. And that's a good thing.
David Cook & Axium, audio of live performance of "Creep"
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Is there anything left that hasn't been said? Are there any more bad songs that haven't been sung? And at the end of the day...have the true American Idol fans figured out what they are going to do with their Tuesday nights after it's all over next week? Look to The Flaming Nose for hope and advice on this matter O All Ye AI Addicts. I will feature a top 10 list of things you can do to cut down on your withdrawal symptoms this weekend.
I am going to make my comments tonight mercifully brief, because I would very much like to go back to surfing the very cool Worldwide Telescope Astronomy site that our TFN blogger Lisa posted previously.
Two Episodes to Go, What's Happening, American Idol?
- David Cook should win. For once, someone truly talented on every level should actually win. For what it's worth, it doesn't matter if he wins or not. I am already mesmerized by his rendition of the "Switch Foot" song I Dare You to Move and will buy it and will listen to it 1000 times. Yeah, I'd like him to win. No, I don't think any REAL music fans care one way or another. He is awesome. Package him up. I'm ready to buy.
- Syesha was Robbed by the AI Judges. I don't get it. She sings her heart out. She's flawless. She commands the stage and gives the most confident, professional performances voice, body and soul. And still the judges (all of them?!!!?) dis her? This, I think, is a very weird disconnect from the audience. Note to AI producers...beware that the audience will very much think this show is scripted after these bizarre AI judge responses. I kept wondering why Syesha was so composed and happy through all the negative comments. My theory: She has already heard from the Obama campaign handlers, and no matter what...she will be singing at his Presidential Inauguration, if that is what will happen next January. Plus, if she hasn't been scooped up by any upcoming $$$$ Broadway show, I would be very surprised. This lady has a GREAT career ahead of her, no matter what.
- David A. and the Teen Vote: O.K. He's adorable. He voice is more silky than the back end of an Angora cat. His skin is as flawless as a Tahiti beach at dawn. But tonight onstage he was miles away from the kind of professional delivery we would expect from an AI champion.
Anyway, get on over to WorldWide Telescope, download the app, and start experimenting. Take some of the pre-made tours. (You need to download, start the program, then go back to the tour page and click, then it will download). For a fast one, I watched Earth @ Night, which shows the lights all over our planet. I can't wait to spend lots of time on this site, and I think many of you will feel the same!
I'm including here a talk by science educator Roy Gould and Microsoft's Curtis Wong, given at the recent TED conference, prior to the release of this exciting technology. It's a great overview and will get you worked up, I guarantee (and hope)!
Monday, May 12, 2008
Looking back, I realize that we've learned a lot, as this abbreviated fourth season comes to a close. All of the Oceanic survivors and "The Others" have had past encounters of some kind. There are "special" characters who have varying degrees of E.S.P. - primarily Desmond, Ben, John & Walt - for whom being a "Chosen One" has consequences (another line from last Thursday).
We also now know that the Island, or something that inhabits its very being (Jacob?), is alive. The human characters of this talented ensemble are not, and never have been, the stars of "Lost." They're the supporting actors. The Island is the true star and centerpiece of the show. Whether it's a protagonist, antagonist or anti-hero remains to be seen, but its very survival has become a paramount theme of the show and it's starting to drive the plot. Thank God something finally is!
One other observation. "Lost" has always existed in multiple time frames. The past two seasons have had three time frames: the present (the crash and months that followed), the past (flashbacks that reveal the characters' histories and common threads), and the very near future (the flash-forwards focusing on "The Oceanic Six"). That's about to change as the "near future" turns into the present next season (we're literally catching up to the "near future"). The one wildcard still out there is the hint of time displacement between the Island and the freighter. That has yet to play out.
Hopefully the writers will tighten up the show as it enters the home stretch. This season was moving toward a showdown between two groups who were NOT the original main characters- Ben (of 'The Others") versus Whidmore (the man behind "the freighter crew"). Last week the Island (through "Jacob") dominated the plot. That's good, because it seemed as if the series had taken an unexpected wrong turn when the whole Darma Initiative thing was reduced to a mere plot device by the end of season two. Please tie it all together and build to a climax Mr. Abrams!!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Today I had the honor of spending an hour with a former KTLA-TV colleague of mine, the amazing Mr. Stan Chambers. Stan has just had a terrific book published about his 60 years as a television news broadcaster in Los Angeles, and one of his first stops on the book signing tour was the Borders right here in Torrance, CA where yours truly lives. There was a very diverse crowd of about 75 people waiting for Stan today, and when he walked into the room everyone burst into applause. Young and old, thick and thin, and a United Nations cross section of every possible ethnicity had arrived at Borders to meet Stan the man. These LA folks clearly adore him and rightfully so. Stan Chambers, in addition to practically inventing television news, is also one of the finest, kindest gentlemen in the broadcast biz. The first thing he did at the book signing was walk down the row of seats as he shook the hand of every single person in attendance. Stan has always been a steadfast family man (he had 11 children!), and one of his grown daughters gave his introduction today. She told a few adorable anecdotes about what it was like to have a busy newsman as a father and her love for her Dad was abundantly apparent as she fought a few tears to get through her speech.
Stan spoke very eloquently at the book signing and the audience was enthralled. You don't have to be a broadcast history fanatic (like I am) to be fascinated by accounts of the early days of TV news in Los Angeles; from the story about little Kathy Fiscus who fell down a well in 1949 to the many floods, fires, riots and earthquakes that have riveted and rocked Los Angeles for 60 years. Stan also spoke reverently of Klaus Landsburg, the technical and creative genius who founded KTLA in 1947, as well as veteran Channel 5 news anchor Hal Fishman who just passed away last year.
All of these stories and more are in this wonderful book, so I urge everyone to seek out a copy. Everyone, that is, except for my fellow Nose founder and KTLA alumni Lisa. Because Mr. Chambers remembered Lisa, as the extraordinary Programming Director for KTLA back in the 80's. And he signed a book for her saying, "To Lisa: Here's a salute to those KTLA days we shared". It will soon be in the mail, speeding its way to her Canadian home.
Arguably, "Amok Time" is the best Star Trek episode ever created. I know this area is highly subjective and personal and will be prepared to accept heated dissent from hard core Trekkies, techies, nerds and assorted mouth breathers for why THEIR favorite episode of Star Trek is better. Here are my reasons to support "Amok Time":
In "Amok Time", Spock undergoes a biological change that causes him to become somewhat unhinged. In short, he is "in heat". On Vulcan, they call that "Pon Farr", and for Spock that means trouble. Every 7 years, Vulcans must return to their home planet to mate. Sort of like salmon going back to their stream to spawn. I was 11 years old when I first watched this Star Trek episode, and it helped contribute to my vast confusion and ignorance about all things related to sex education.
When Kirk finds out that Spock will actually die if he doesn't return, he diverts the Enterprise from its course and off they all go for a little Vulcan R&R. And from that excursion, we get the following unforgettable Star Trek moments.
#5 Reason for loving "Amok Time": We get to see the planet Vulcan and its culture. And what a weird, warlike tribal culture it is. It's hot on Vulcan. And the sky is red. The Star Trek set creators really did an excellent job creating an alien ambiance. One immediately sensed that "Dorothy wasn't in Kansas anymore", and neither were Kirk and crew.
#4 Reason for loving "Amok Time": T'Pring, Spock's intended wife and T'Pau, the powerful female leader of the whole planet. First of all, Huzzah for making Vulcan a matriarchal society. Second, I flip every time I hear the wonderful (almost Yiddish) sounding accent of the actress Celia Lovsky who plays T'Pau. When she sees that Spock has brought crew members to the ceremony on Vulcan, she raises one fabulous eyebrow and says, "Spock...is dis cedemony for outvorlda's?" T'Pring is also perfectly cast as Spock's emotionless, beautiful and flawlessly logical betrothed.
#3 Reason for loving "Amok Time": The fantastic fight scene between Kirk and Spock, which I'm posting below. Spock must fight to the death the opponent chosen by T'Pring. When she choses Kirk, Spock has no choice but to comply. The fight itself is perfectly choreographed and tremendously exciting. You can practically feel the hot breath of the combatants. Why do the technologically advanced Vulcans still fight with Medieval weapons like swords and hatchets? Don't know, don't care. This fight to the death is still exciting to watch, even though we all know the outcome.
#2 Reason: Early on in the episode we get to see Spock spin out of control in anger, as his Vulcan hormones get a grip on him. When he smashes his computer with his bare hands, it is shocking and strangely erotic.
#1 Reason: The ending of course. Spock returns to the Enterprise to be arrested. He thinks he has killed Captain Kirk in the Amok battle and is devastated because he has lost his best friend. Well thanks to that wiley Dr. McCoy, Kirk wasn't dead at all, just in a little drug induced coma. Kirk walks onto the Enterprise fit as a fiddle, and Spock, overcome with joy yells "Jim!". And then he smiles. When Spock smiles, we all have to stand and salute.
Here is a little taste of the fight scene. Wonderful!
Barbara Billingsley as June Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver
While everybody thinks they know what June Cleaver was about -- dishwashing in pearls and all that, those things are just the easy-to-mock fashion giggles from a bygone era. June Cleaver was well-informed -- you often saw her reading the newspaper. She came from an educated and well-off family -- remember her rich (but out-of-touch) Aunt Martha who wanted Beaver to wear short pants? Plus she had a wonderful husband in the calm, amused and amusing Ward Cleaver, anything but a martinet and a reflective father who, along with his wife June, always tried to act intelligently and reasonably in their childrearing. Just because June Cleaver was calm and supportive, she was no pushover. Leave it to Beaver is -- but you need to actually watch it to get this about it, and not just think you know the show -- a show with a definite sense of the absurd and (especially in the episodes before Beaver grows up, a bit awkwardly) it's genuinely hilarious. June Cleaver is a pop culture icon, and better even than that, she lives up to it. Here's a clip from a (typically stupid and barely informed) Good Morning America presentation at the time of the 50th anniversary of the show, but it's good to see most of the cast together again.
Barbara Bel Geddes as Ellie (Eleanor Southworth) Ewing on Dallas
I wasn't even a fan of the show, but occasionally liked to tune in to see this amazing actress, a veteran of stage and screen, plying
her trade magnificently and gracefully among the rest of the series' histrionics. Bel Geddes had such a unique voice, a lovely rich instrument that made you crave each word from her. Barbara Bel Geddes was true class, and the show was lucky to have had such a wonderful actress portraying its resident matriarch. Here's a clip from an episode where she's having a conversation with little John Ross, J.R. and Sue-Ellen's young son.
Harriet Nelson as Harriet Nelson on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
There was something extremely calming about Harriet Nelson. There was something extremely calming about her husband Ozzie too. In fact, the whole family was pretty darn calm, but that didn't stop America from taking to the benign but beguiling suburban appeal of this gently humorous series. Harriet obviously got the joke, her bemused smile showing us she was in on the whole thing, and also that she clearly and dearly loved her immensely creative and deceptively hilarious husband. (Jazzy, too. Did any 1950s sitcom have a cooler end theme than TAoOaH?)Her two sons were decent guys, on TV and in real life, and talented too, traits they clearly learned from their Mom and Pop. Here's a clip of Harriet and her beloved Ozzie singing "Catch a Falling Star" from an episode of the show.
Marion Ross as Marion Cunningham on Happy Days
Happy Days hasn't aged as well as some sitcoms, and it's pretty easy to see why if you watch an episode: those out-of-control studio audiences turned the tapings into an "ooh" and "aah" fest that effectively killed any chance of anything lasting and brilliant making it through. (If you don't believe me, catch an episode from the first two seasons when the show was a single-camera filmed show; what a difference. Check out the uncut "Haunted" and "The Howdy Doody Show" -- both are hilarious.) But still, Marion Ross was a funny and likable television mother, and a charming presence on the show. Fonzie was crazy about her -- remember when they took dancing lessons together? -- and she was one of the few characters to stand up to his bravado, as in the clip below. It would be impossible not to like Marion Cunningham.
June Lockhart as Dr. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space
I already know that I'll get no complaints about this favorite mom from my fellow Nose-ites. Could Judy, Penny and Will Robinson have wished for any better mother than this beautiful biochemist? As played by the TV veteran June Lockhart (who had already upped the TV mom bar by doing such a nice job as Jon Provost's mother on Lassie for several years) Maureen Robinson was a calm and steadying force, applying liberal doses of well-considered motherly advice to help the family through their out-of-this-world ordeal. Though once they were stranded in outer space some of her duties may have become more housewife-ish than scientific, we all knew that John Robinson had a wife who was both a loving companion and his intellectual equal. Here's a segment from a profile of June Lockhart aired in 1991:
Laura Linney as Abigail Adams on HBO's John Adams
Here's a new member of the great mother club. Laura Linney's portrayal of the loving, incisive, supportive and intense Abigail Adams was a highlight of the miniseries. It's particularly nice to be able to put a historical figure on this list, too. The true beauty of Linney's terrific performance is that it was based in fact, the real Abigail Adams being no less impressive than what we saw through those seven amazing episodes. How refreshing it was to see a woman, though living in a time that did not necessarily demand or encourage steep intellectual participation from females, take her deserved place as her husband's helpmate, sounding board and invaluable critic. Linney expertly delineated the indissolvable bond between her and John, along with the tremendous physical tasks expected of her as she often assumed the head of household role while her husband was away, and her ferocious and tender devotion to her children under all variety of circumstances. A wonderful performance all around! Here's a long promo for the miniseries, which will be repeating on HBO in June. (We keep promising our Top Ten John Adams moments, and we're working on them!)
Irene Ryan as Daisy "Granny" Moses on The Beverly Hillbillies
She was actually Jed Clampett's mother-in-law, but Granny ruled the roost as the cantankerous mountain matriarch who never did adjust to life among the rich folk. Completely hilarious, skilled in mysterious backwoods remedies and one of the most delightfully eccentric characters to ever grace television, Granny was the heart of the show. During the show's nine year run, which took the Clampetts from black and white to color, Irene Ryan was an audience favorite without peer. After the end of the show she went on Broadway in Pippin and though she died mid-run, postumously won the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role. Irene Ryan was a natural comedienne with a solid funny bone -- Bob Hope was crazy about her -- and a heart of gold: at her death she established a scholarship for acting students which continues today. The clip below is a wonderful tribute to Ryan set to her famous song from Pippin:
Sharon Gless as Debbie Novotny on Queer as Folk
Showtime's groundbreaking and immensely entertaining Queer as Folk was full of colorful characters, none more so than Debbie Novotny, diner waitress and mother of Hal Spark's comic lovin' Michael. As portrayed by Gless, who had earlier starred to much acclaim with Tyne Daly in Cagney and Lacey, Debbie was the super-proud parent of a gay son, unofficial den mother to all her customers and her son's friends, loyal sister to her ill brother, and a completely delightful and life-affirming part of the show. Sharon Gless' vibrant personality and let-it-all-hang-out performance made Debbie come to brilliant life. What a wonderful modern mother she was, a hard-working broad with a million dollar smile. The clip below is a tribute video which really captures her terrific portrayal:
Jane Wyatt as Amanda on Star Trek
How can one short guest role mean so much to us? In her role as Amanda, the human mother of Mr. Spock, Jane Wyatt made us long to learn more about Spock's mixed Vulcan-Terran heritage. We didn't doubt at all why Vulcan Sarek had decided to marry the brilliant and beautiful schoolteacher Amanda; how could he have resisted her gracious charms, even if it was, after all, illogical? Jane Wyatt had already established herself as mother extraordinaire on the gentle comedy Father Knows Best in the 1950s (she definitely gets an honorable mention here for that role), and turning up as Amanda added such a dimension to our favorite Vulcan's family background. When a serious health crisis threatened the life of her husband Sarek (magnificently played by Mark Lenard), Amanda had to implore her very logical son to remember his human half and come to his aid, as you see in the clip below. She's just wonderful in the role, and reprised Amanda in one of the original cast Star Trek theatrical films, too.
And then there's Maude. Bea Arthur's masterful turn as Tuckahoe's most outspoken and hilarious liberal was tailor-made for this larger-than-life talent. Despite all the saucy language on today's sitcoms, none can come close to the truly revolutionary exchange of thoughts and ideas that made Maude both an education and an unforgettable half-hour of comedy. It's finally coming out on DVD, so we can savor again her audacious bon mots and rip-roaring zest for life. Bea Arthur also went on to more hilarity in her equally flamboyant role as Dorothy in The Golden Girls, but I think Maude wins out. Her divorced daughter Carol (played by Adrienne Barbeau) lived with Maude and Arthur (the hang-dog-looking Bill Macy), and their very modern mother/daughter relationship was groundbreaking for television. And funny? Maude is still a very funny series, thanks to Norman Lear and his writers' timeless chops. Don't forget that Maude could pour on the charm when she wanted to -- remember the time she was all set to hate John Wayne when he came for a visit? Adorable! (The episode is on YouTube in three parts but the quality is really bad, but worth taking a look if you haven't seen it for a while.) The clip I've included here is what I said above -- groundbreaking -- as Carol and Maude discuss abortion. You can barely say the word in popular entertainment anymore...we are in dire times, indeed. Take a look here to see how far we've regressed:
So, that's my list. I left out far too many, but it's a start, anyway. Happy Mother's Day!
Friday, May 9, 2008
Sure, Gabriel Byrne can't sing, but that's certainly never been a prerequisite for playing Arthur -- ask Richard Burton or Richard Harris -- and I thought his "How to Handle a Woman" was quite good in spite of that. At least he's an actor, and I thought had a charming and possibly even genuine and situational befuddlement that worked for the character. Broadway's Marrin Mazzie plays Guinevere, and opera's Nathan Gunn is Lancelot and both are attractive and effective. The only way over-the-top choice was making Morderd into an exceedingly androgynous punk rocker of sorts, but it wasn't a deal-breaker (just completely out-of-place) and Bobby Steggert certainly went at it with plenty of verve. Stacey Keach is around as Merlin, Fran Drescher has a small role as Morgan Le Fay and Christopher Lloyd is a delightful Pellinore. One thing you will notice, too, is that Camelot has a much better first act than second, by a mile.
I'm a big fan of the trend toward minimally-produced musicals; who needs all that expensive staging and costumes and all that junk? If dispensing with some of the trappings could keep musical theater alive, pare it down, I say!
Check out the PBS website to find out when your local PBS station will be running the special! Many ran it on Thursday but some did not -- L.A. for one -- and there may be plays left in your market, too.
To close, from the "The English are just plain smarter and more interesting than Americans" file, I offer this clip of Nathan Gunn as astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the TV opera Man on the Moon which premiered on British TV in December 2006.