Saturday, January 31, 2009
Actually, you might want to skip this year if that's the only reason you watch. The best/worst thing I've heard so far about tomorrow's event is that NBC has sold a spot to the direct response advertiser Cash4Gold. Yikes! How desperate can you get? Nothing like selling grandma's gold fillings for a few bucks...well, I guess you're supposed to sell jewelry, that's bad enough. (The New Yorker had an interesting article on the jewelry sell-off resulting from the Madoff scandal, as a matter of fact, the other week. It's available online here.)
Even more depressing is that the spot stars Ed McMahon and M.C. Hammer. Geez, the economy really is in the toilet, isn't it? And pop culture, too, by the looks of it.
A little more heartening is a nice photo feature in today's L.A. Times online detailing the programs that have aired in the valuable post-Super Bowl timeslot on the various networks. It's an amusing mixed-bag of hits and misses, and it'll bring back some memories.
I'm posting the Cash4Gold commercial -- not the one in the Super Bowl, thank goodness! -- just because it's pretty bad.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Today is the 23rd anniversary of the Challenger disaster. I remember this day vividly and the image will always be deeply embedded in my soul, heart and mind. I'm sure many of you remember this heartbreaking moment in our historical drama that is the United States of America. Lives were taken. Taken from families, friendships and the millions of excited schoolchildren watching a deeply loved teacher go away forever. Well, go away from this life forever.
As a Chicago to the core citizen I was still dancing in bliss with the victory of my beloved Bears in the Super Bowl. In the city of big shoulders we were still doing the Super Bowl Shuffle when another type of dream literally died.
This post is in memory of all of my own beloved teachers. I was fortunate and blessed to have gone to some wonderful private schools. These schools were among the finest in the area and I am sure my teachers weren't paid nearly enough as they taught and attempted to inspire a group of kids coming of age in the 1970's. Thankfully, I still keep in touch with several of them. May God bless each of them this day and every day.
To the families of the Challenger crew from that fateful morning, please know that many of us still send our thoughts and more importantly our prayers your way.
"They touched the face of God." President Ronald Reagan
"A Million Old Soldiers Will Fade Away, but a Dream Goes on Forever." Todd Rundgren, 1974
"See, I will not forget you for I have carved you in the palms of my hands." Book of Isaiah, Chapter 51
You would have thought it would be a field day for a television lover, but mostly it was just a bunch of salesmen -- some great or at least nice human beings, some who should have been selling used cars -- hawking their programs. I always had more sympathy for the small distributors who were selling maybe one little movie package, instead of the bulwarks of the majors who'd trot out the stars of their shows to goose up the buyers and sad to say there would be long lines of industry professionals lined up to get their pictures taken with the overpaid performers. Ugh. Have some dignity, will ya?
My favorite memories of past NATPEs are idiosyncratic -- meeting Jesse "The Body" Ventura at the WWF booth and having a great conversation with this charismatic and articulate personality who went on to a successful political career; seeing Austin Power's amazing Verne Troyer ("Mini Me") who is, among many things, an actual wonder; being in a roomful of folks and having O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran, who was hawking a talk show of his own, pop in and be introduced, to a rather chilly reception -- there was no love in that room for how he got Simpson off. What else...? Meeting Prince Andrew who was also shilling for a documentary he produced. I believe I said "Hi there!", sans the royalty salutation.
Oh, and a wonderfully intimate session/discussion with veteran producer Aaron Spelling, where the small room was crowded with attendees who obviously loved and admired Spelling and television -- the kind of people there were never enough of at the convention. We were rapt as he passionately and charmingly discussed his long and successful career, from Charlie's Angels to Fantasy Island to Melrose Place to Starsky & Hutch and beyond. Spelling was a man with an incredible eye for talent, and his obvious enthusiasm for what he did was delightful and inspirational. Spelling personified everything that those of us who loved TV and made it our career believed in, and he was a rare and wonderful part of television history. What a treat it was to see him speak.
But mostly I fondly remember the ridiculous pranks my colleague and I used to play. Nothing too horrible, and far too little than the event deserved, with all the pomposity and egos contained within, but we'd go to the convention prepared with ream of papers printed up with either fake movie packages or mysterious posters -- the word "SUBMIT" along with a grainy photo of somebody like Shemp Howard or Rondo Hatton, for instance, or the deliberately cryptic image to the right -- which we'd gleefully distribute anywhere we could. We'd slip our material into displays, leave them in phone kiosks, put them on leaflet tables, anywhere we could, and leave giggling like mad schoolgirls. Our favorite "get" was when somebody was being interviewed in front of the Playboy booth, and we had put one of our posters in a prominent place where you could clearly see it. Ah, victory! (I hope I haven't compromised my former cohort who is still employed in the industry, but what the heck...)
Oh, I almost forgot about the time when the talk of the convention was when several distributors got taken to jail for groping some entertainers in a strip club. A real classy bunch, some of those guys, eh?
Over my long career I met very few people in television distribution who seemed to love or even understand the programming they represented. That is the sad truth of TV -- between the people who produce, who probably do love their programs, and the audience who sometimes also falls in love with the programs, is a vast sea of accountants, salespeople, marketers and others whose job it is to ram this stuff down the throats of the viewers and make the profit. I usually left NATPE with the feeling that I hated the industry and the people in it, to tell the truth.
But hey, if you are interested, some of the NATPE panels will be available on live internet feed from Stickam.com.
So much for the memories of a cranky ex-exec! :-)
Monday, January 26, 2009
By the way, is it just me or is FOTC sort of a 21st Century post modern spawn of the old TV classic, The Monkees? Think about it and discuss amongst yourselves. I think there is a strand of Monkee's DNA pulsating somewhere inside of FOTC's hereditary background.
If that volcano pic didn't do the trick, this might warm us up! Here's one of the greatest television show opening theme sequences of all time, from the classic cop drama Hawaii 5-0! What a show!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
We are thrilled to consider that President O perhaps also loves our favorite astronaut movie, The Right Stuff"! We also weirdly wonder if Mr. President is a Sci Fi movie fan, and whether he worries that he will have to fight aliens or incoming comets. Because in movies where we are about to be invaded by aliens or wiped out by a comet, the American president is almost always an African American.
Nothing like that on tonight's special, just a great tour of the most high tech plane on the planet. Come and enjoy!
HBO also brings us Season 3 of the suburban polygamy drama Big Love, starring Bill Paxton as the husband of three lusty wives each with unique problems and several of his kids. It's never less than fascinating, veering from near soap opera to a masculine business-oriented story to teenage concerns and back again. You don't often get the chance to see terrific actresses like Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and all the others of that calibre, and the entire cast is filled with unusual faces and unique talents who don't look or act like standard Hollywood issue talent. Bill Paxton manages to be sympathetic, beleagured, sexy and pious all at the same time, and he's the force that keeps his family -- and this show -- together.
Showtime last week premiered its much-touted and much-previewed Spielberg-produced, and Juno's Diablo Cody-written half-hour comedy (I think it's a comedy...not sure really) The United States of Tara, about a suburban housewife with multiple personality disorder. I think star Toni Collette can do no wrong, but screenwriter Cody bugs me so I confess to a bit of a negative bias against this, try as I might to be open to its charms. I totally get the crazy thrill of watching Collette veer between her various personas, including a prim homemaker, a loutish redneck male, and a sexy firecracker of a teen girl, plus her own likable artistic self. It's a terrific tour-de-force of trick acting and I'm sure that soon we'll be made more interested in how Tara's family -- a husband played by John Corbett who is the poster boy for a sexy but caring hetero male (Northern Exposure, Sex and the City), her sensitive son (loves to cook) and her rebellious daughter -- manage to come to terms with her unusual predicament. On one hand I want to like this because of Toni Collette, and on the other I want to hate it because of Ms. Cody. I will at least give it a go, though, whichever way the chips eventually fall.
Showtime also brings on the announced last season of its hot lesbian-centric melodrama The L Word, with as attractive a female cast as you'll find anywhere -- Jennifer Beales, Pam Grier, Mia Kirschner, Katherine Moennig, Rachel Shelley, Laurel Holloman, et al -- and they are all talented actresses, too. If you haven't been with this series since the beginning it may seem impenetrable (no particular pun intended), but you could always watch older episodes on the LOGO network or just plunge right in and figure things out as you go along. I've been following it on and off and have liked all of the episodes I've ever seen. So follow this one to the finale and you will no doubt be hooked.
It's actually shocking how quickly television produces, offers and eats up new material these days. We are surely in an age of incredible television choice, and you almost have to wonder how long can it last. We have learned to be content with seasons of only 12 episodes for shows on anything but the broadcast networks -- what a burden for them to bear! -- and no sooner are we through with being astounded at one success than we crave another. It's all about the economics, of course, and at this point we're all going to have to concede that cable and pay networks seem to have the advantage, including the ability to play with limits of taste and language that the broadcast nets don't, and probably shouldn't, go beyond. But still we have Lost, 24, House, Fringe...how do they do it?
Enjoy this boom while it lasts! Will advertisers be able to keep paying for the commercials that keep the commercial nets afloat? Will we only be able to see expensive shows on nets which can rely on constant subscriber fees? I don't know, but I surely thank goodness for every minute of great television out there!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
No matter if you are befuddled like I am or completely up-to-date on the goings-on on the Island and beyond, tonight's Lost event is a genuine thrill, television-style. After yesterday's incredible Inauguration coverage, we're back to earth again, but boy, what a ride we're going to have!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
A lovely rendition and a treat for all Americans.
As Obama and his family watched and occasionally did a little enthusiastic seat dancing (probably to keep warm, it looked like it was about 22 degrees in DC yesterday) rockers such as Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and U2 kept the crowd of thousands enthralled. They also had the Naval choir, the Marine band and wonderful actors including Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks and Forest Whitaker reading stirring words from America's founding fathers. And if film and music celebrities were not your thing, they even had Tiger Woods on stage, relating a powerful memory about his father's devotion to the military.
Tribute must be given to HBO, which offered the special multiple times yesterday to all cable homes, whether they subscribed to HBO or not. If you don't have cable, you can still watch the entire patriotic special on the HBO website, it is streaming continuously.
Favorite moments for me included a very out of character, non-country
performance from Garth Brooks, who had the enormous crowd dancing and singing along to the old soul stomper, "Shout". When the camera cut to the President-Elect he was bopping in time to the music and singing along himself...I think he rather liked Mr. Brook's rendition!
Beyonce' brought the house down towards the end with a stunning version of "America the Beautiful". Her voice has improved so much over the past few years and it has never sounded better than it did yesterday, floating over the huge crowd clustered around the reflecting pool, with the Washington monument in the distance.
Bono and U2 played "In the Name of Love", their tribute to Martin Luther King, and joked about the incongruity of "four Irish lads" being present at such an historic American event. They also sang "City of Blinding Lights" and mentioned that Obama had adopted that song for his campaign, proving that either he or his handlers have impeccable taste.
Just before the end, the crowd went completely silent, as an animal expert brought a huge live American Bald Eagle on the stage. The magnificent bird flapped his wings and stared fiercely at the new President. I was crying like a baby at this point, animal lover that I am.
The two hour program wrapped up with about a billion pounds of stars on the stage, singing a joyful, spirited version of "This Land is Your Land". It was absolutely glorious. Go watch the whole show on the HBO website, or take a look at some highlights on this video below. No matter what your political persuasion, or where you are in the world...you'll feel pretty good about the USA after this program.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Now THAT's going to make the next season of Dexter really interesting!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Last week's episode guest-starring the droll Peter Dinklage was wonderful, and we loved the introduction of Salma Hayek as Jack's mother's straight-talking Puerto Rican practical nurse. Salma as Elisa turned up in last night's hilarious episode Flu Shot, and the passionate, dramatic and often absurd circumstances of the budding romance between she and Jack were adorable.
One of my major favorite moments was when Jack (Alec Baldwin) offered one of the coveted flu shots to Jack McBrayer's Kenneth the page, who bravely refused, explaining "It would be an honor to die at my post and be given the traditional burial of a Parcell man – wrapped in the Confederate flag, fried and fed to dogs." Made me laugh out loud, as did so much of this episode. Could Tina Fey be any more delightfully unique? Her little flu shot dance for the creepy company doc was unforgettable.
Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and the entire 30 Rock cast and crew are on an insane roll, and this is a great time to recommend the show to anyone you know who hasn't caught onto it yet. There is something for everybody in the show, from broad slapstick to witty dialogue, all performed by an ensemble company that's obviously thriving under the increased attention the show is getting these days.
What a show! Spread the word! 30 Rock on NBC is the best comedy on television -- pass it on!
(I hope you've noticed the Hulu widget on our sidebar here with 30 Rock clips! Good place to go for a quick fix!)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
We empathize with Ms. Jones, as one of our correspondents will be undergoing a similar procedure in the near future, and we have friends of The Flaming Nose who have also been through the experience. We wish her well!
Cherry Jones is one of the chief pleasures of the just-started new season of 24! Send her good thoughts as you watch her dynamic portrayal of the U.S. President!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Let's begin with the judges, as that's the only stark change going into this new season. After 7 years with the same cast, AI introduced a fourth judge by adding Kara Dioguari, a successful song writer who almost no one on the planet has ever heard of. This is really risky business. I've mentioned in past AI posts that the judges in this series are characters, and each one plays a role. Paula is the sweet comic relief, Simon is the terrifying voice of reason and Randy is "everyman"; the guy sitting at home who is in stitches when they're bad and enthralled when the hapless contestants hit one out of the park. After tonight's episode, I have no idea if Kara will carve a niche for herself. She had one moment where it seemed like she might bring a layer of snarky dark laughs to the show when she questioned whether the tattoo "Sexual Chocolate" was spelled right on a contestant's back. But if her destiny is to be AI's "mean girl", I think it will throw this delicate dance of Hollywood dreams and dark reality off balance. Simon has plenty of mean, there's no room for more nasty. They've already got dumb, smart, funny, every-dude and scary. Kara should just sit there quietly and field text messages on her Blackberry. Perhaps that will turn on the Internet generation the producers surely hoped to attract by her addition.
The contestants tonight did not have the "wow" factor of past early episodes. There were some nice voices, some interesting voices. They brought the freak factor down several notches in this opener; no chicken suits or mentally disabled, although the low voiced black guy was on the fringe of bizarre. The tongue pierced lady who sang the Heart song and the thin eyed girl who sang "Dock on the Bay" were both really talented; I'll be watching for them in Hollywood. The blind guy at the end was good and very nice looking, but he didn't raise goosebumps with his vocal abilities. I'll be eager to see how he performs when he is playing the piano, which is probably his comfort zone.
One of the best bits of the night was the montage of contestants along with the entire Phoenix stadium of hopefuls singing "Dead or Alive". Very nice editing. The crowd actually sounded pretty good; better than most of the individual contestants.
And so it begins. In the words of the late great James Brown, "I Feel Good". I thought perhaps the new downsized, crappy economy might make AI seem too frivolous this season. But I guess we need dreams more than ever now. It's nice to have you back American Idol. Here's Scott the young blind guy singing a Billy Joel song. He's going to Hollywood!
This year some changes are in store and it will be super interesting to see if they click with the audience. They've added a new judge (Songwriter Kara Dioguardi...not exactly a household name, but neither was Simon Cowell ten years ago).
I've noticed quite a bit of buzz on the Internet already, so I imagine that tonight's episode will do great in the ratings, if only out of curiosity and a strong desire for ANYTHING new to watch on TV. Check it out, dawgs...tonight on your Fox affiliate at 8pm.
Monday, January 12, 2009
We also liked the always cheeky Ricky Gervais chiding the audience and then congratulating Kate Winslet on her win for The Reader, reminding her that during her guest shot on his hilarious series Extras he had touted the advisability of appearing in a Holocaust-themed movie, award-wise. (If you haven't seen this episode, watch it. It's insanely great.)
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The Globes are worth watching for a variety of reasons this year. As always, it's the first major award program of the season, and it sets the tone and often acts as a harbinger for predicting other winners at the Academy Awards and Emmy's later on. Second, this marks the return of the real Golden Globes ceremony, since last year's was a big bust due to the writer's strike.
Finally, and this is all important for me, my beloved entertainment industry idol Steven Spielberg will be receiving the Cecil B. Demille award this evening, and I would like to hear what he has to say when he accepts it. I just watched a repeat of "Jaws" this weekend for about the 237th time, and it still feels as fresh as the first time I saw it, many many moons ago. This is the only fish on the planet that never goes bad.
There are many Flaming Nose favorites nominated for Globes tonight, so be sure to tune in to catch all the excitement!
Much of the action this season takes place in Washington D.C., and it's probably safe to say the nation's capitol has captured the attention of America -- and the world -- more so the past few months than in a long time, and in a good way. Should work well for 24's relevance.
24 premieres on Fox tonight at 8pm for two hours, and continues tomorrow Monday for another two hours at 8pm also. The show lands in its regular Monday 9pm slot -- after House -- next week.
All we can say is "Go, Jack, Go!"!