Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: On Sunday Night TV

Hey busy-people, you know how you let your DVR box overflow with recorded episodes? Some just sit there and percolate. Some go unwatched and unloved. A few programs (HOUSE on FOX for me) are so stressful you have to save them to watch on the weekend when you have more strength. And perhaps a cocktail.

Then...there are the programs you love so much you have to watch them in real time. No tiVo shenanigans for these gems. The moment they are available, you're in front of the set, focused and ready to roll. Heck, if they have'll even watch the commercials.

I find it very odd that the two series that fall into this "must see" category for me couldn't possibly have less in common. On Sunday nights at 8pm on HBO, there is the absolutely delightful No. 1 Ladies Detective agency. I wrote about it a few weeks ago when it premiered, hoping that it would live up to my immense expectations for HBO prime. It has actually surpassed them. The characters are so wonderful you want to invite them all for dinner. The South African music is fantastic (I will download from iTunes), and the photography of wild and suburban
Botswana so mesmerizing and colorful, I would book a flight there in a heartbeat if I had the cash (or time) to actually go on a vacation. Jill Scott is amazing as main character Precious Ramotswe and Anika Noni Rose is hilarious as the tightly wound over achieving assistant Detective Grace Makutsi. Both are American actors, but their accents are spot-on and melodic. Rounding out the perfect cast are JLB the mechanic who pines for Precious but is too shy to admit it; and more comic relief from BK the hairdresser, who helps the ladies solve a case from time to time. I am transported when I watch this program. It's an hour that will make you forget your worries. And I would really like to know where MME Ramotswe gets her earrings, they match her fabulous outfits every week.

On the opposite side of the television spectrum is the Ultra Dark one hour dramedy, "Breaking Bad", Sunday nights on AMC at 10pm. Starring Bryan Cranston as Walter White, the mild mannered high school chemistry teacher with a brain tumor who Jeckyll and Hyde's into a blood thirsty Meth cooker and Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, his hapless and hopeless (but increasingly sympathetic) young side kick. This series has some of the best writing on television. Leave it to AMC to come up with another brilliant drama...isn't it enough that they won barrels of awards with Mad Men? Breaking Bad is just as riveting. Yet it is also seeded with unexpected jolts of shocking violence. Two weeks ago, Mexican drug lord "Tortuga" met an unusual demise. I don't believe I've ever seen this one on TV before. The picture above tells the story. But not the entire'll have to watch the episode to see a twist that will make your jaw drop.

This week's episode "Better Call Saul" introduces a new character who is without question the sleaziest, foulest, and most relentlessly funny lawyer you will ever see on the small screen. Frankly, you won't even see a more crooked lawyer on the big screen. Saul is an ambulance chaser with a wide clientele he has culled from running thousands of commercials in late night TV. Here's a little taste of Saul from episode 8. Saul tries to get a cut of Walt's burgeoning drug business. Referencing The Godfather, Saul offers to play Tom Hagen to Walt's Vito Corleone. "I'm no Vito Corleone," Walt says. "No s___," Saul replies. "Right now, you're Fredo."

The producers of "Breaking Bad" pay very close attention to details, from the dusty sun lit streets of Albuquerque, to the opening credits where the letters from each character's name are highlighted to form elements from the Periodic Table. Mine would be Co, by the way. Cobalt. A hard, brittle metal whose name is taken from the German word Kobald, which means evil spirit or goblin. Sounds like a pretty good description of "Breaking Bad".

Mr. Television Marc Berman's Excellent Mid-Season Broadcast TV Update

In case you weren't around yesterday afternoon to catch it live, you can still watch and listen to Mediaweek's Marc Berman's presentation online, and I highly recommend it. As television aficionados and more, Flaming Nose readers will love Marc's informed and entertaining insights into what's going on with the networks schedules. It's absolutely fascinating stuff!

You will have to register to view the presentation, but it's quick and worth it. Presented by Nielsen Business Media webcasts, and hosted by Elliot Markowitz, Marc Berman's Midseason 2009 Broadcast Television Update is an extension of Marc's excellent daily The Programming Insider analysis and email from MediaWeek. If you're not already receiving Marc's newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning, you don't know what you're missing. You can go to MediaWeek, click on newsletters, and sign yourself up!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I love Susan Boyle

While I don't think for a minute that my strongly insistent emotions for Susan Boyle can rise to the heights achieved by my Flaming Nose comrade Scott over his love for American Idol champion David Cook, I do have to impose some limits here. I think the worldwide sensation that is Susan Boyle deserves even more true love. Susan is, for sure, so far, the most beautifully unlikely entertainment sensation of the Internet age. I have to admit, I stayed away from watching her performance, because anything that could be this widely embraced struck me as suspicious. But I have now watched her showing on Britain's Got Talent numerous times--as have millions of Internet users around the world--and her showing brings me to tears every time. Her appearance on the program is nothing less than the stuff of mythology; it combines music, performance, television direction, and human emotion into a brilliant synthesis.

I could go on and on about the ridiculously lovely--just as she is--Susan Boyle, but I'll keep it to: She's a jaw-dropping phenomenon. I am now desperately looking forward to experiencing this amazing lady's yet-to-be-seen career as a singer, and think it could go untold places. She is, indeed, perhaps the world's heir to Julie Andrews--a singular presence! Here's her interview with Larry King, with show judge Piers Morgan as a guest, too. GOOOOOOOOO, SUUUUSAANNN!!!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Viral Video Moment: Dog and Elephant BFFs!

Having a tough week? Economy got you down? Has your life turned into one big Stress Sandwich on a hard roll with lettuce and mayo to go? Take a deep breath and and watch this wonderful video. I have a sister who (along with me) is obsessed with inter species animal friendships. We collect them. The moose that fell in love with a cow. The baby hippo orphan that was adopted by a giant sea turtle. And for some strange reason cats and horses are just plain nuts for each other.

I think this (see video) is one of the best. An elephant and her best buddy...a stray dog. Guaranteed to make you feel pretty gooey.'s better than Prozac!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Head Case" - Cable's Creative Psyche

20 years ago HBO and Showtime begin showing us we no longer needed to rely on the four major broadcast networks to satisfy the bulk of our entertainment needs.
For a few bucks a month, we could get perfect reception AND great programming by subscribing to cable.

Two years ago, AMC became the first non-premium cable channel to really give HBO & Showtime a run for its money with "Mad Men." Now comes Starz, a premium channel that's come up with what very well might be the best show that you're not watching. Unless you're like my partner and me - TV junkies who simply must have the entire premium cable package (sans sports & Spanish TV) to satisfy our TV needs.

"Head Case" is one of a growing list of shows that has you sitting there entirely uncomfortable, and sometimes with your jaw dropping in a combination of amazement and disgust (see The Office, Parks & Recreation, The Comeback). I admit, these shows can be like a hang nail. They can hurt, but you just can't stop pulling at it. That's why I'm not sure I even love "Head Case," and yet I cannot stop watching it.

Alexandra Wentworth (pictured above) and Steve Landesberg star as Los Angeles psychologists who share a "practice to the stars." You guessed it; that means a parade of celebrity guest stars playing themselves. Sometimes they poke fun at themselves, but most of the the time they play it straight and let Wentworth's character go off on a tangent of delusional hilarity, supporting the notion that some of the craziest people in the world are the not the patients, but rather the shrinks.

"Head Case" has something else going for it. The show relies heavily on improvisation. I believe it's scripted, but the actors frequently get into character on ad lib riffs, rather than executing lines. This gives the show the feel of a Christopher Guest movie such as "Best In Show" or "For Your Consideration."

Celebrity guest stars playing themesleves have included Rosanna Arquette, Andy Dick, Lea Thompson, Richard Kind, James Denton, David Alan Grier, Christopher Lloyd, Jonathan Silverman, Cindy Margolis and Jeff Goldblum, Tori Spelling, and Hugh Hefner... and a whole lot more.

"Head Case" premieres new episodes Wednesdays' at 10pm on Starz, with repeats throughout the week. Check your local cable or satellite provider for On Demand episodes. Below are two clips - one with guest star Geri Halliwell and another with one of Wentworth's tour de force scenes.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Only Contest Left: Adam Lambert vs. Susan Boyle

I'm going to cut to the chase here. Everyone knows that Adam will win (and deserves to win) American Idol. And everyone knows and hopes that Susan Boyle will win (and deserves to win) Britain's Got Talent (Holy smoke, over 100+ million video views and counting!)

Why don't we just agree to have a final televised performance with the two of them right now? Actually, that should happen even if they don't win their respective contests. Yeah, they don't seem to have much in common...(other than that they are both show tune geniuses) and they are of different demographics (so what, young and old alike adore both of them). One has crazy frizzy natural hair and one has processed black Fall Out Boy indie rock hair. Never mind all that. Adam and Susan would make for a great pair on television because they have (are we allowed to say it?)...talent. Oh yes...raw, pulsating, unexpected, make you stop before you leave the TV set for the bathroom talent. The camera loves Adam's young movie star looks and stage moves, as much as it loves Susan's genuine frumpy "never been kissed" middle aged cat lady vibes. What do they have in common? They can both sing like there's no tomorrow. And make us believe in something less dreary than the drudgery of the day.

Simon Cowell, are you listening? Bring them together for us. It's time for a global moment, can you make it happen?

I'm Back... and have so much to say....

Hi!  Remember me?  I'm a little person who used to write things here.  But then David Cook came along and swept me into his universe and I became a junkie on  OK, I'm still addicted, but I can no longer resist the pull of The Flaming Nose.

I just can't sit idly by without commending Lisa & Jane for their amazing Star Trekification of this site!  Bravo and kudos gals!  

I also must weigh in on Grey Gardens.  I loved it.  This is a true "actors movie." The directing and cinematography were solid.  I'm sure the editing was superb. But what I remember is the acting.  I was completely engrossed by the performances of Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.  Perhaps more so by Jessical Lange - an actress whose understated but convincing performances have impressed me for years.  Nice job by Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jackie O. As for the documentary, that was more about the oddity of it all.  The movie did what movies need to do:  draw you in, make you empathize with the characters, and finish it off with a touch of sentimentality.   I did find one thing lacking in the movie.  They brushed over the women's descent into pack-rat wack-jobs.  We know why it happened.  We see how it happened.  But the transition from the daughter's dejected return from NYC to Grey Gardens to the cloistered life was abrupt.  It worked, but it could have worked better.  Like I said, this movie was all about the acting, and that was enough for me to give it an A-.

Ok, that's it for now.  I never did my summary of fantastic reality TV from the past year (with special props to Top Chef, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, Project Runway and America Idol).  I'll have to get working on that.   It's too late for a 2008 yearender!  (*hides head in shame and slinks away).

I will jump in weekly on American Idol 8 for the rest of the season, and I still feel compelled to bring you updates from last season's fantastic winner.  David Cook is in the middle of his sold out, triumphant Declaration Tour, and I've already been to 2 shows in Atlantic City.  Going to a 3rd one in Del Mar in June.  I will provide youtube clips to some of his best performances, and introduce you to his band (which will be getting a name this summer).  He is one of last year's biggest TV stars, and so he holds a place here on The Flaming Nose.  And in my heart!  And for you Trek fans, David's lead guitarist Neal Tiemann is a HUGE Star Trek fan (especially TNG); he even has a nice tattoo of Worf on his bicep!  That practically makes him kin!  Want to see? Click Worf tattoo

Sunday, April 19, 2009

100% "Grey" Coverage in HBO Film

I hope you caught HBO's Grey Gardens movie last night; Jane previewed it here last week so we all had a head's up. Starring two splendid actresses -- Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore -- and perennial solid male lead Ken Howard, plus Jeanne Trippelhorne as Jackie O, HBO's Grey Gardens told the story behind the famous filmmaking Maysles Brothers' documentary of the same name from 1975. Awash in eccentricities, the kind that seemingly can only be indulged in safely by the upper class, Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie found themselves bound together by necessity, familiarity, convenience, maternal psychology, and love, of course, ending up living in an ramshackle but once elegant Hamptons manse surrounded by oodles of cats and even more memories. (Above left, Drew Barrymore as Edie Beale.)

The Beale's predicament engenders speculation, awe, freakish ogling and hopefully much empathy. In order to fully appreciate HBO's achievement in bringing their story to life as a fairly typical -- not to say run-of-the-mill, though -- TV Movie, the Maysles' doc must be part of your viewing. What the Maysles' captured on film is the real deal; HBO's movie is part almost exact re-creation of scenes from the documentary, plus backstory from the ladies' heyday and other additional material. (Right, the real Edie Beale.)

I always pull back a little from full-on bravos when actors are portraying real people who have been so thoroughly examined onscreen already, and when the new versions are based, visually and every other way, on what's already there. Is "acting" the same as "acting like"? There was a huge amount of pure impersonation in HBO's Grey Gardens, and of course that's an achievement in itself, but not the same as creating a role from whole cloth. Great aging makeup, we admit, and wow, the costumes look just like in the documentary. (The Broadway musical of the same name about the Beales had the identical set of advantages.)

HBO Canada is playing the Maysles' Grey Gardens doc in tandem with the new movie, and last night I watched them back-to-back. Of course in the HBO film we get the chance to see Lange as Edie I and Barrymore as Edie II go back in time and portray the exuberant Beales in all their early eccentric glory and that's a treat, but I'm not sure seeing them as the older mom and daughter duo is quite as authentic a thrill as watching the real pair in the documentary.

I'm not sure exactly what we artistically gain by the movie treatment of Grey Gardens, other than the chance for two actresses to go toe-to-toe playing out obtuse family dynamics and getting to stretch their acting muscles while aging onscreen. Not that HBO's Grey Gardens wasn't excellent, but I think perhaps the original truth was stranger and more dear than the Hollywoodized truth as essayed by Lange and Barrymore.

But these are minor carps. You won't be seeing something like this as a big screen movie, so relish that Barrymore and Lange wanted to bring this to television.

Grey Gardens reprises many times on HBO and HBO Canada this month.

Random Thoughts About Spock

Let's just "free-associate" about Spock for a few moments here, shall we?

  • What if Spock and Lucy had mated? What kind of other worldly spawn would result? I think the last post (thank you Lisa) comes up with a pretty good approximation.
  • What exactly is the juxtaposition between Vulcans and cats? A few weeks ago, Lisa posted a delightful video of two cars sparring to the awesome music of the Kirk-Spock fight in "Amok Time". It seemed quite logical to watch cats fight to this iconic music. And posted above is a scene from the original Star Trek where Spock seems smitten by a cat. Odd, because he didn't have the same affinity for Tribbles, and everyone else on the Enterprise went bonkers for Tribbles
  • Has there ever, in the history of television, been a more compelling "Bromance" than the relationship between Spock and Kirk? Were these dudes BFF's or what?
  • Retail Trek opportunity alert! Walmart now has action figures from the upcoming movie on May 8th for around $6.00 apiece. I, of course, had to purchase the Spock doll, to be used as a computer God on my home office desk. He comes with an adorable detachable hand; you can have either a normal hand or a "Vulcan Salute" hand. I'm posting a picture here....enjoy!
  • What is your favorite original Star Trek catchphrase?
  1. Live long and prosper
  2. He's dead, Jim!
  3. I am responsible for the lives of 357 crew people
  4. Beam me up, Scotty
And as the approaching movie release date (May 8th, in case you've been in a coma) looms near...let the hysteria continue!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fascinating "Star Trek" Content at Addicting!

If you've got a few minutes to spare and want to test your reflexes, short term memory, basic math skills and several other abilities, click on over to the Addicting Games website where you can play the new Star Trek Academy Trainer!

Lots of different phases and it's pretty fun -- and not as easy as you might hope!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Viral Video Moment--Britain's Singing Sensation: Susan Boyle

The web is on fire with this snippet from Britain's Got Talent in the UK. A somewhat dowdy and decidedly plump, 47 year old lady by the name of Susan Boyle took to the stage in a recent episode. Amidst the usual sniggers and rolling of eyes, she proceeded perform the vocal equivalent of Babe Ruth knocking a homer out of the park. The crowd went wild, they practically did the wave. I've never seen Simon Cowell so happy or engaged.

Unfortunately, all of the videos I could find have the embed disabled. Please click on the link above to see Ms. Boyle singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. It's magic.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

HBO Goes "Gothic" with Grey Gardens

Next Saturday, HBO Films will premier a delicious treat with "Grey Gardens", April 18th at 8pm. Based on the true story of Big Edie and Little Edie Beale, Grey Gardens stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. They are perfectly cast to play the mother and daughter socialites who descend into poverty, eccentricity and a major feral cat infestation. could happen to anybody!

Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale was the aunt of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. She was raised in upper crust splendor, married well and harbored a burning desire to be an opera singer. In her final days, she resided within a crumbling East Hampton mansion with her equally addled daughter, in what the genteel are fond of calling, "greatly reduced circumstances". It's that phase of her life, and of course the connection to Jackie O, that makes this story so odd and compelling.

A 1975 documentary about Big and Little Edie (Maysles brothers) has become a cult classic over the years, but never received a broad following. HBO films seeks to remedy that oversight with this latest original effort.

Grey Gardens has everything the Flaming Nose bloggers love in a made-for-television movie; mega-stars, old money and madness. And, of course, lots and lots of cats. Can't wait for next Saturday, this one will be a delight!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter from The Flaming Nose

Easter is very under served by television. Christmas has countless classic specials, but Easter goes mostly unloved by the small screen. After an exhausting online search, I found this video set to Handel's "Messiah" . Beautiful shots of our universe, to remind us...(depending on your religious persuasion) of the Glory of God. Or the small miracle of humanity.

Happy Easter Everyone!

Why Do We Love the Bad Boys of TV?

It occurred to me the other day that many of the most popular male characters on television today are so relentlessly unlikeable, they never would have had a chance in a prime time show 20 or 30 years ago. They are bad to the bone, and yet we love them; just look at all the Emmy awards, critical acclaim and sky high ratings these guys deliver.

In fact, our love affair with the bad guys is so prevalent on TV today, it's difficult to find a central character in a series who isn't terrible, or at the very least hopelessly flawed and unforgiven.

Ground zero for popular evil-doers is Tony Soprano, loving mafia patriarch and homicidal maniac. Poor Tony is now floating around a diner in New Jersey forever, but we have many naughty spawns to keep us entertained. The Nose bloggers have made no secret of their love for Showtime's Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a serial killer who carves up his victims with no more thought than what you would give to buttering a slice of toast for breakfast. Then we have AMC's Walter White (Bryan Cranston) on Breaking Bad. Every one's favorite high school chemistry teacher is secretly cooking crank in a Winnebago, and urging one of his former students to murder the drug thugs who get in his way.

Less murderous, but just as mean in his own anhedonic way is Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) on Fox. This pill popping Vicodin addict never met a patient or co-worker that he liked, but we tolerate his inhumane behavior because of his brilliant diagnostic talents. He has the bedside manner of Godzilla. I just hate him. I'd rather see Dr. Mengele if I woke up in the emergency room, but I'll never miss an episode.

Now we also have the very troubled Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) on fX, returning for a fifth season of Rescue Me. He's usually drunk or high, he cheats on wives and girl friends and he hates his dead father with a passion. He is the embodiment of anger (I think that's why we love him, everybody is so angry these days) and when he isn't boiling over with existential rage, he's jumping into flaming buildings to save complete strangers.

Is there any main male character out there who isn't bad? Don Draper on Mad Men (adulterer), Homer Simpson (donut glutton and screw-up), Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock (selfish TV Titan without a soul).

I remember hearing once that the original pilot for All in the Family had one of the lowest research testing scores in the history of television. People just couldn't believe that Archie Bunker could say such awful things. But good old Archie was really a marshmallow, underneath his bigoted barbs. Today's bad boys would eat him alive!

Let's Just Put Up All the New Scenes from "Trek"!

Here's Chris Pine as Kirk and Karl Urban as McCoy meeting for the first time!

And here Kirk meets up with Uhura, played by the lovely Zoe Saldana --

It's good seeing sexy vibes coming from the movie -- I get where some folks might be thinking this is too "90210" for Trek, but I think it's wonderful! From what I've seen I like Pine as Kirk, and Urban looks like a great McCoy, and same for Quinto as Spock, who certainly has the perfect look and we'll see if he captures the mystique (something that maybe only matters to us old time fans -- he can create his own mystique, of course).

Can't wait for this!

Spock-Kirk Confrontation from the new "Star Trek"!

Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine and Simon Pegg in a terrific scene from the upcoming Star Trek movie!

Looking good!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Amy Poehler in "Parks and Recreation" Premieres Tonight on NBC!

Saturday Night Live's ace comedienne Amy Poehler (and new mama) gets her own series tonight, as the producers of The Office bring us Parks and Recreation starring Ms. P as a local government official in Indiana. Shot in the same mockumentary style as The Office, PandA aims to poke fun at the bureaucracy of small-town politics and the people who thrive on it. (Pictured below, Amy and Nick Offerman, who plays her boss.)

Poehler's character Leslie Knope is a striver, an idealist, and surrounded by co-workers in various stages of disinterest and corruption. Ms. Poehler's bright presence will be another feather in NBC's Thursday night cap, and now we've got two of the funniest women -- Amy and Tina Fey -- on television on the same night, and the same network. Can't beat that.

With a premise sounding a little like The Office combined with the movies Election and Legally Blonde -- cute female protagonist takes on all comers -- Parks and Recreation is a show we're rooting for to become another bright spot on NBC 's already terrific Thursday night.

Parks and Recreation
premieres tonight at 8:30pm on NBC. Be sure to check out NBC's website for more information and extra features on the show.

Heads Up for "The Essentials" on TCM

If there is anything the Flaming Nose bloggers love as much as television, it would have to be the movies. Especially classic movies that stand the test of time. In March 2009, TCM started a wonderful new series called The Essentials, airing Saturday nights at 8pm.

The Essentials is hosted by a perfect pairing of Robert Osborne (legendary Hollywood Reporter movie critic and columnist) and Alec Baldwin (Emmy award winning comedic star of NBC's "30 Rock" and accomplished actor with his own mile long filmography). Robert Osborne has long provided sophisticated and witty background for TCM movies. Adding Alec Baldwin's unabashed passion and humor to the classic movie hosting team is inspired.

This Saturday on April 11th, The Essentials will feature lesser known 1942 Hitchcock gem, "Saboteur". Upcoming titles will include Butch Cassidy, Funny Girl and the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty. Surely these are pictures that most film fans have seen countless times, but there will be fun hearing the banter and fresh perspectives from Osborne and Baldwin.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Don't Forget -- "Rescue Me" Season Five Premieres Tonight on FX!

As Jane reminded us here earlier, FX Network's prickly dramedy Rescue Me returns for its fifth season tonight, with a full order of 22 episodes on tap for us. Rescue Me tends to make every other drama seem a little anemic, don't you think, and it's Denis Leary's sexy and searing portrayal of troubled firefighter Tommy Gavin that sets this one on fire.

Here's an early review from today's New York Times -- can't wait to see Michael J. Fox in this exciting and often daring series!

Rescue Me airs at Tuesdays at 10pm on FX. Visit the Rescue Me website for great extras and more info.

Early Reviews of "Star Trek" Coming In!

Sure, the world premiere may have taken place in Sydney, Australia yesterday, but fans in Austin, Texas also scored an unexpected and wonderful preview of the new Star Trek movie last night, too. Courtesy of the web-famous Ain't It Cool News folks, Leonard Nimoy, the writers and producer Damon Linehof showed up to sneak the movie for a select audience. There are several terrific accounts of the evening alredy posted, one here by Neil Miller who is a self-professed Trek fan, another here by Cole Abaius who isn't. Harry of AICN has a rave review here, and Quint of AICN gives his two cents here. Here's another aggregation of reviews posted at /Film by Peter Sciretta.

After reading these, I don't think our enthusiasm and excitement for the new movie is misplaced!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Nat Geo Channel Tells Tough Stories

This is a good week for the Nat Geo Channel. The new season of the harrowing Locked Up Abroad started this past Wednesday, and the first episode "Cuzco" replays tonight at 6pm. We all know there are plenty of real-life characters on TV these days who don't deserve much sympathy -- spoiled brides-to-be, snippety would-be fashion models, the real housewives of just about anywhere -- and you might be tempted to put the hapless folks from Locked Up Abroad into that category. They often appearing to be traveling headlong into obvious trouble with messy druggy lifestyles, and maybe it's hard to drum up much concern for them.

But's got to be horrible, and even worse, some of these folks are completely innocent and yet they've gotten into the most dire predicaments in grungy prisons in hot sweaty countries with dicey legal standards. Locked Up Abroad should at the very least serve as an object lesson for everybody contemplating being a drug mule for fun and profit. Just say no. Visit the LUA site on the Nat Geo website for more information and if you've got a creepy story of your own, they'd like to hear it.

Tonight Nat Geo premieres a timely documentary under their Explorer label: Inside Guantanamo takes us into the infamous prison where 9/11-related detainees are been held. With the recent announcement by Pres. Obama that he intends to close Gitmo, the disposition of the 200 men (are they all men?) is a global issue. Regardless of your politics, the ethical and legal questions raised by Guantanamo are myriad, and this special might help answer some questions for all of us.

It clearly won't be an easy two hours to watch, but it needs to be seen. Nat Geo has provided a detailed companion website for Inside Guantanamo, and it deserves a visit. A panel discussion with the filmmakers, history of the prison, and many other relevant pieces of background info are provided. Inside Guantanamo airs tonight at 9pm Eastern, with a repeat at midnight, and also a couple of plays on this coming Wednesday 4/8 at 8pm with a new Locked Up Abroad directly following. Don't miss it.

The Flaming Nose salutes Nat Geo for being a terrific channel, with a programming mandate that's always intelligent and consistently fascinating.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"ER" Gets a Big Goodbye from Fans

Congrats to NBC for their impressive final episode of the long-running medical series ER, which aired last night. Somewhere over 16 million viewers tuned in for the episode, which brought back former series star Noah Wyle to offer a sentimental wrap-up to the popular show which has lasted for fifteen seasons.

It's always feels like an important milestone when a long-lived series ends, and ER has a lot to be proud of, including being NBC's top drama for many years and proving once again that medical dramas never lose their fascination for audiences. If I may confess, I've never been a fan of the current crop of soap opera doctor shows, and I'm afraid that ER never was my cup of tea, but congrats for a job long and well done, NBC and ER!

As for lists putting it as one of TV's best series ever...well, the people making those lists often have very short memories and usually don't like to go beyond their own viewing lifetimes. In terms of medical dramas, I'd put the very adult Ben Casey from the 1960s right up there, and even The Bold Ones from NBC's own nearly-distant past. There's no shortage of good medical shows to choose from. I'd say ER ranks about with Medical Center, and that's a compliment, by the way.

Unfortunately, like many super-popular soapy dramas, the prospect for continued cultural relevance is probably very low. Shows like ER don't repeat worth a darn -- ask me how thrilled I was when as head of Programming at the network-which-must-not-be-named the show was foisted on us as an inter-company buy, and for a pretty penny, and nobody but us programming people knew it wasn't going to work for us. Sure, we were the grumpy ones, but we were right. Soon the expensive show was being run off in morning slots, where it still plays, I believe. Trust me on this, "Important" dramas don't work in reruns. Never. Ever. That doesn't mean you don't make them, or even run them, but don't look for a long tail in syndication life or ratings commensurate to their network fame.

So it's goodbye to ER, at least in first-run. For those of you who missed the episode and want to watch it on television like a real viewer, it's repeating this Saturday night at 8pm. Check out NBC on the web for a very elaborate and well-done site on the show.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Previously Unseen "Star Trek" Footage Found in Vault!

Eureka, Star Trek fans! It's the Holy Grail for Trekkies! Several short test reels for Star Trek: The Original Series have been uncovered inside Paramount's film storage vaults. From notes found in the film cans, plus screenings of the footage, Trekperts at the studio have determined that these were individual promotional scenes made to be shown to NBC-TV execs and affiliates during network meetings. In all cases they do not correspond to any full episodes of ST:TOS, so these are true rarities. Paramount has released a selection of photos and short descriptions of the material, with a full release scheduled for later in the year after further restoration:

McCoy, Vampire Hunter: Dr. McCoy beams down to a Victorian England-era planet where his medical training makes him the townspeople's perfect choice to deal with a dangerous predator who is terrorizing the village.

Prisoner Kirk: Capt. Kirk is captured by Klingons and is sent to a brutal detainee camp, but only he and Spock know that he is on an secret mission to rescue of one of the Federation's greatest space scientists who is facing immiment execution there.

Without Reservation: The crew of the Enterprise is challenged and disturbed by the free love/no clothing philosophy of the imperiled space colonists they have been sent to rescue from a disintegrating planet.

Chez Sickbay: Desperately craving Southern home cooking, Dr. McCoy breaks regulation and starts a successful cafe on the ship, and must decide whether to leave the Enterprise to embark on a career as a roving chef or remain a doctor.

Voice of the Vulcan: After a near-fatal bout with a dangerous fever, Spock discovers that he is able to sing and is pressed into service in the upcoming Federation Talent Show.

The Flaming Nose can't wait for the full release of this exciting new addition to the Star Trek legacy!