Saturday, February 28, 2009

Happy Birthday to John Turturro!

Born on February 28, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York, John Turturro is an extraordinary character actor who has had more television AND film roles than you can shake a stick at. He's won an Emmy playing Ambrose Monk, the agoraphobic brother of Adrian Monk on the hit show "Monk" from USA network. He's played Billy Martin on the NY Yankees themed series, "The Bronx is Burning". Because of his distinctive (some might say peculiar) looks, Mr. Turturro (whose name means "turtle dove" in Italian) is usually unforgettable in the many quirky roles he has embodied. I actually find his overbite charming. Although he has appeared in countless dark comedies and is a highly skilled comic actor, I find the pathos of his "everyman" portrayals to be the most memorable and sometimes even heartbreaking moments of his long career.

John Turturro has had many successful alliances with auteur directors such as Spike Lee (Summer of Sam, Do the Right Thing) and the Coen Brothers (O Brother Where Art Thou, The Big Lebowski and Barton Fink). He also played Herbie Stemple, the brainy patsy in "Quiz Show", the movie about the 1950's TV quiz show scandals.

Since his filmography is longer than the New Jersey turnpike, it's very odd that I could not find many video examples of Mr. Turturro to post here. I settled on a trailer for "Barton Fink", which is my favorite Turturro role of all time. It's a pitch black and pitch perfect performance about a Hollywood screenwriter discovering that writer's block can be, quite literally, hell. The look of dread on his face as he stares at the blank page in the typewriter when the ideas just won't come is sublime. His fixation on a piece of curling wallpaper in an ancient Hollywood hotel room is the ultimate portrayal of claustrophobia and pending insanity. John Tuturro is the master of quirky, fidgety, anxious and eccentric. The only other actor that comes even close in this category is Steve Buscemi, but I prefer Turturro because he is less menacing and ultimately more empathetic.

Happy Birthday John Turturro! We look forward to more of your wonderful characters and hope you will return as Ambrose Monk on "Monk's" final season this summer!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Taking Chance"on HBO

I hope that you've been able to catch the superb HBO original film Taking Chance, which premiered last Saturday night. It's a quiet, moving and sober tale -- based on a true story -- about Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, USMC, who accompanied the body of fallen Marine Lance Corporal Chance Phelps from Iraq back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming, in 2004.

Kevin Bacon gives a tight and intelligent performance as Strobl, who originally wrote in his journal about his experiences escorting Phelps' remains. Later, when his writings became public, the article was widely circulated around the internet and read by myriads of people who were stirred by Chance Phelps' journey home.

HBO has done a wonderful job in transferring it to the screen, and I highly recommend visiting their extensive website for Taking Chance to read the whole story behind this important movie.
Taking Chance airs many more times over the next few weeks; check the front page of the movie's website to go to the entire schedule.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

American Idol Posts--Love Them, Hate Them or....

...just surrender to that bizarre annual passage into the AI time of year. It's the Godzilla of all reality shows, and it is about to take a large bite out of your viewing time (if you are so inclined), in its 8th season on the air. American Idol on Fox television is about to wind down its very tiresome audition period and unveil the FINAL TWELVE contestants who will vie for the top honors. Last year's winner was the talented rocker David Cook. This year is still up for grabs. So far the crop looks very blah indeed. Something or someone will have to cut through the dread of our society's current economic dive and bring us a hero. Will it be Mr. Adam Lambert? (pictured here). If he were a sandwich he'd be Mick Jagger on two slices of La Cage Aux Folles with a smear of Fall Out boy. On a hard roll with honey mustard, (hold the onions), to go. Are you ready America?

Tune in next week on Fox network for American Idol to see the final 12 contestants. I'm not in love with the new 4 judge panel, but hey...that's what DVR is for. AI is still bringing in the highest ratings of any show on television this season (by a landslide) so no matter how this program thing remains the same. American viewers can't get enough of it. I will be your Flaming Nose emissary into deepest and darkest pockets of the phenomenon, starting next week. Gird your loins, plug your ears, open your hearts...and let the Octo Season of American Idol begin!

Happy Birthday to Karen Grassle!

Welcome to a new feature around here, something we've been wanting to do for a while -- birthday salutes to some of our favorite television performers! Today we've got a great one, to the lovely and talented Karen Grassle, probably best known and certainly much beloved for her role as Caroline Ingalls on Michael Landon's immortal Little House on the Prairie Series, from the 1970s. Karen was born on February 25, 1944 (some sources say 1942) in Berkeley, California, and after extensive theatrical training and appearances she was one of nearly fifty actresses who read for the part of Mrs. Ingalls.

Lucky for us all, she got the part and along with the entire cast helped put Walnut Grove into the hearts of audiences everywhere. Producer/star Michael Landon certainly knew what he was doing with Little House on the Prairie; the show holds up beautifully today and I daresay we'll probably never see a show as humane, inspirational, and charming as this one.

While the show's primary strength and appeal lay in its excellence as an ensemble vehicle, Karen Grassle had several episodes which showcased her individual virtuosity, most impressively so in "A Matter of Faith" from the show's second season. Caroline Ingalls' leg is scratched by a rusty nail, she is left alone when the rest of the family goes off on a short trip, she develops a virulent infection, and amidst hallucinations and intense agony she fights desperately for her life. It's completely harrowing, a riveting piece of acting on Grassle's part, and you can find highlights of the episode on YouTube, starting here.

Another excellent and slightly different side of Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls is seen in the fourth season episode "The Handyman" when the very appealling Gil Gerard guest stars as an itinerant laborer who is hired by Caroline to fix some things while Charles is away on business. Though Caroline's devotion to her husband is never in question, there's a frisson of attraction between the two and it's quite intriguing. The whole episode is on YouTube, beginning here.

Though it's a little histrionic, here's an interesting clip to look at, from the episode "The Bully Boys". Town roughnecks have manhandled and scared Caroline, and Charles doesn't like it one little bit.

Since Little House on the Prairie, Karen Grassle has been active on television, in the theatre in many capacities, and you may have seen her current commercials for Premier Bathrooms, who make those nifty safe bathtubs. (Little House currently airs on the Hallmark Channel.)

A big Flaming Nose Happy Birthday to one of television's favorite actresses, Karen Grassle!

(This photo is from the episode "At the End of the Rainbow" when Laura thinks she's found gold and dreams of her family all fancied up and driving around in a white carriage. Gorgeous, isn't she?)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good News! Andy Richter to Team Up with Conan O'Brien Again!

As Conan O'Brien prepares to make his June 2009 debut as host of NBC's Tonight Show, moving into the 11:30pm hour from his 12:30am timeslot -- his final Late Night with Conan O'Brien aired last Friday -- there might even more reason to celebrate than the mere passing of the crown to Conan.

From the days of yore when brilliant comic minds like Steve Allen and Jack Parr helmed the show, to Johnny Carson's long reign, to the current Jay Leno (, the Tonight Show has had a long history of inspired hilarity, and Conan's inventive mind is closer to the early style of Allen and Parr. He is more than perfect to inherit the throne.

Conan's co-host from the beginning of his own show was hilarious Andy Richter, the comedian/actor who embarked on a solo career after leaving LTwCO'B, and his departure from Conan's realm was a sad day indeed. (Andy was the final guest on the last Conan Late Night, also.)

The big news buzzing around is that Richter will be back with Conan as his announcer/side-kick on the Tonight Show! These two guys had an incredible chemistry together, and we can't think of a more delightful reason to tune in this June. Here's a little video from a reunion interview the fellows did a few years ago.

Andy Richter will be always be a darling around here for his immortal comic performance in the cult favorite film Cabin Boy, starring Chris Elliott, plus he's starred in several series, most notably Andy Richter Controls the Universe for Fox, and made lots of guest appearances, including as "The Sad Dad" on The New Adventures of Old Christine.

Going back to his Conan days, you'll enjoy this 1999 parody of a Barbara Walters special, with Richter sitting in for Monica Lewinsky as he confesses his dalliance with Bill Clinton.

Conan O'Brien + Andy Richter = Comic Perfection! June can't come fast enough!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mickey Rourke on Barbara Walters' Special

We're all agreed here that Rourke wuz robbed last night at the Oscars, but he displays remarkable charm, insight and empathy here in his segment from the Barbara Walters Oscar-night special. She's unbearable -- and her producers goofed when they had her sneering in her intro at his appearance in "91/2 Weeks"; it is notorious, perhaps, but not a bad film...there's a difference -- and I can't stand her. However, it's fascinating listening to him as he gives her back more than she deserves with her fawning and frankly annoying pseudo-psychoanalysis that she thinks she's so good at. Hate her. But he totally rocks! In case you missed it, take a look at his graceful persona.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Finally, An Oscar Promo to Post!

The hype is huge on this year's event, mostly because the line-up, presenters and other details of the telecast have been under complete secrecy. The Academy is promising something new and amazing, which means that either it will be terrific or beyond horrible. We don't have too many more hours to go until we find out!

What about the choice of Hugh Jackman to be host? Evidently his singing and dancing skills will be on tap in the re-imagined ceremony, which again could lead to either wonderment or wincing.

Our fingers are crossed that it turns out to be genuinely inspiring and entertaining. I don't want to have to watch it through my fingers if it's too bad to gaze upon directly!

I hope you noticed that our lovely Meez mascot Miss Flaming Nose on our sidebar is all decked out for her walk down the Red Carpet! Isn't she gorgeous? If you haven't gone and made your own Meez avatar, I recommend going in and having a little fun there!

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Season of "Real Time with Bill Maher" Begins Tonight on HBO

He should have plenty to talk about!

(Don't fail to notice the time change to 10pm from his previous 11pm start time!)

Mickey Rourke Loses Beloved Dog Loki

The Flaming Nose offers our most sincere condolences to actor Mickey Rourke on the death of his 17-year-old Chihuahua Loki this past Monday night. A little while back we posted the PETA video of Rourke talking about his dogs Loki and Jaws, and we were touched by his Golden Globes speech where he thanked his canine companions for their support over the years.

We are rooting for Mickey to take home the Best Actor Oscar on Sunday night, and he's also a guest on Barbara Walter's pre- (or post, depending on your time zone) Oscar special.

Good luck, Mickey! You are the man.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dean's super-reliable 2009 Academy Award picks

Okay, so the 2009 Academy Awards are upon us, due to splash down Sunday night on ABC, starting at 8 pm ET. This is the most talked-about Oscar show in decades, not because of the nominees (which, let's face it, shed light on the fact that it wasn't such a good year for movies), but because of the show itself, which producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark (of Dreamgirls fame) assure us is going to be one of the most creatively-mounted Oscar ceremonies of recent times. Aside from the tantilizing prospect of having longtime Tony Awards host Hugh Jackman as the show's leading man, most other aspects of Sunday's event have been kept under tight wraps--they're even trying to dispense with the red carpet (which, rightfully, they see as taking away a lot of the show's moxie--used to be you had to watch the whole show to see what the stars were wearing and such; in recent years, the red carpet arrivals seem to have taken away much of this suspence--though I must say, I couldn't care less what everybody's attired in).

Anyway, before the Oscar ceremony touches down, I thought I'd post on The Nose my predictions, award-wise, for what's going to happen on Sunday. So, without further ado...

Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
THE WINNER is, of course, going to be Heath Ledger, the only extraordinary aspect of the overrated Dark Knight. Totally well-deserved!BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicki Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
THE WINNER? I once thought that Penelope Cruz had the heat in this category, but I find myself leaning more and more towards Viola Davis for her powerhouse, one-scene performance in Doubt. I have a soft spot for memorable one-scene performances, so of course I'd go with Davis, who's extraordinary in the film. But also: there has never been a film to win four acting nominations without at least taking one home. As Hoffman is going to lose to Ledger in Supporting Actor, and Streep's Best Actress chances appear to be in jeopardy, that leaves either Davis or the wonderful Amy Adams as probable takers of this award. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
THE WINNER? Though Penn has taken a lot of hardware home for his role in Milk, it's becoming clearer and clearer that that Mickey Rourke is gonna take the gold for The Wrestler. It's just too committed a performance, and plus he's a sentimental favorite. That's a combo that can't be beat. This is the most suspenseful award of the night, by far, as a result. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader
THE WINNER? This is a tough category to call, but I'd say the odds are with Kate Winslet for The Reader. Though a Streep spoiler wouldn't surprise me at all, I don't see the Academy allowing Winslet to lose her seventh nomination. Plus, with she delivered TWO noteworthy performances this year, which they DO take into account, no matter what anybody says.BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Finscher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Gus Van Sant, Milk
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
THE WINNER: the always-reliable Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire.

Milk, Dustin Lance Black
Wall-E, original story by Pete Docter & Andrew Stanton; screenplay by Jim Reardon & Andrew Stanton
Frozen River, Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky, Mike Leigh
In Bruges, Martin McDonagh
THE WINNER? The battle here's between Black's blah Milk and Pixar's snappy Wall-E. Hard to say, but I'm landing tentatively on the Milk side. But I'm really rooting for any of the other three--particularly Mike Leigh--to sneak in there somehow.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Screenplay by Eric Roth; Screen Story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan
The Reader, David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy
THE WINNER: Beaufoy's capable work on Slumdog Millionaire

Kung Fu Panda
THE WINNER: Do I have to say it? Okay, Wall-E, though Kung Fu Panda took all the Annies (the animated Oscars) home!

The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany)
The Class (France)
Waltz with Bashir (Israel)
Departures (Japan)
Revanche (Austria)
THE WINNER: the haunting Waltz with Bashir

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire
THE WINNER will be Slumdog Millionaire, of course, which is sort of amazing and brave, considering it's a movie that was dumped by Warner Brothers, and just barely survived being given a mere direct-to-video release. Just goes to show you what a little enthusiastic film festival support can do for a little movie like that.The other winners will be:
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Slumdog Millionaire
ART DIRECTION: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
SOUND (mixing): Slumdog Millionaire
SOUND EFFECTS (editing): Wall-E
FILM EDITING: Slumdog Millionaire
MAKEUP: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
VISUAL EFFECTS: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
SCORE: Slumdog Millionaire
SONG: "Down to Earth" from Wall-E
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Conscience of Nhem En
ANIMATED SHORT: Lavatory Love Story

I usually get 3/4 of these right. But we'll see how I do on February 22nd (that is, if miffed Dark Knight fans bedecked in sinister Joker makeup don't burn the Kodak Theater to cinders). Oh, and a big congrats to Jerry Lewis, winner of the night's Honorary Award (though it's being given to him more for his humanitarianism rather than his movie work, I prefer to look at it as an award for both). Anyway, it should be great to see Jerry on the show! Have fun, kids!

"Being Erica" Premieres on SoapNet Tonight

SoapNet reaches beyond the northern border to snatch the rather delightful series Being Erica off Canada's CBC network. Canada's already had one series successfully cross over -- the law enforcement drama Flashpoint on CBS -- and SoapNet seems like a nice spot for Being Erica (though Lifetime might have been a better fit, with their emphasis on original drama).

Being Erica, starring Erin Karpluk (The L Word, Bionic Woman, Wyvern), is the slightly supernatural story of Erica, a thirty-something "over-educated and underachieving" woman who meets a mysterious therapist. The unhappy Erica is given the chance to go back in time and re-do some of her regrets. You might want to think of Being Erica as kind of a Quantum Leap/Twice in a Lifetime hybrid, with a heroine that's likeable as well as slightly quirky but not abrasive.

I've seen several episodes and have enjoyed them. If you are in the mood for something other than a crime series where every woman ends up raped or kidnapped, Being Erica is a worthy alternative.

Here's the promo for the series, re-voiced for U.S. audiences with an annoying female announcer, but you can't have everything!

Check out the Being Erica site on SoapNet's website, and you might also like to look at the original Being Erica information on the CBC. I know that Canadians can watch whole episodes of the show there; not sure if U.S. viewers are blocked (as Canadians are usually blocked from most U.S. sites.)

Being Erica premieres on SoapNet tonight (Thursday) at 10pm Eastern time, with encores Saturday afternoons at 2p and 3pm, and Sundays at 5am and 8p and 9p.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Academy Awards Reminder...Four Days and Counting!

Don't forget the Academy Awards this Sunday on ABC---reminder #2! Not like anyone could possibly forget, but we have actively started the countdown to OSCAR DAY this Sunday. Here's a little video of Bruce Springsteen singing "The Wrestler". Mickey Rourke stars in The Wrestler and he has been nominated for Best Actor.

I invite other Flaming Nose bloggers to post Oscar reminders featuring their favorites too!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Let the Oscar Countdown Begin!

Less than a week left until my favorite "live" television event of the year! The 81st annual Academy Awards telecast will take place on Sunday, February 22nd on ABC starting at 5pm Pacific. It will be hosted by Hugh Jackman this year, an odd, but interesting choice which may lead to a more serious Oscar telecast than past events where comedians and quipsters have held the helm.

In anticipation of the upcoming special, which is so highly revered by many of our Flaming Nose bloggers, it is practically a religious holiday, I have decided to post pictures from a few "classic" Oscar telecast moments. We love movies and we love celebrities, but at the end of the day this event is truly about the increasingly rare glory of live television. It's the TV equivalent of a "loose cannon" . The possibility that anything bizarre, crazy or even naughty can happen makes this special simultaneously exciting and "cringe-worthy". Who will wear a crazy dress like that one Cher sported back in the 70's? Or Bjork's glorious swan outfit! Who will say something appalling like Sally Fields, "You like me! You really, really like me!"? Who will send an emissary to pick up the statue like Marlon Brando did with Sacheen Littlefeather, who claimed to be an Apache. Turns out she wasn't any kind of Native American. I think she might have been of Italian American descent. Which actually makes more sense because Mr. Brando was winning for The Godfather!

Sometimes it's the smaller strange moments that stand out in our pantheon of Oscar favorite's. In 1986, the fabulous Geraldine Page won best actress for A Trip to Bountiful. She had a very erratic hairdo which made Lisa and I comment that it looked like the cats had been playing with her hair before she came on stage.

The Oscar's used to be a lot more clever when spontaneous weirdness prevailed. The pinnacle of Oscar wit was David Niven's response to a streaker where he noted without batting an eye that the gentleman had gone a long way to display his "shortcomings".

I have been trying to find a video of these wonderful moments to post here but every single one of them has had the embed disabled. So if you want to relive past Oscar moments, visit ABC's Oscar Time Line. There are many terrific pictures and videos on this website, as well as a "pick the winner" contest.

So ladies and gents, get your ballots filled out, make sure the bean dip and the chips are ready...we are just a mere 6 days away from that glorious annual moment when we'll hear the magic words: "May I have the envelope please"! Hooray!

"Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor" -- Flight of the Conchords

A pulsating and hilarious song from last night's ep of Flight of the Conchords on HBO!

Did you like the episode? I loved seeing Jemaine getting involved with a crude Aussie gal who stole his wallet (which he kept denying had happened) and locked him in her apartment. More of the insanely amusing New Zealand vs. Australian conflict, much talk about mocking of accents -- Jemaine called the Aussie accent an "evil version" of theirs.

I also loved the scene where Jemaine jumped into a hansom cab and demanded to be taken home, dramatically adding "and do not delay!" to his request -- and of course had to get out when he remembered that the cab only goes around Central Park.

Overall a very good episode! Seeing the boys getting sexually involved is completely entertaining. "Did you use protection?" "Yes, but only on my penis."

Very elaborate musical sequences, too, and we only hope that their very ambitious quality standards don't make it too daunting a prospect to continue the show past this second season, as has been rumored. We need Flight of the Conchords!

Nose-talgia: 1960s Variety, Danny Kaye-style

For an example of the kind of classic TV variety show entertainment that used to be a staple of U.S. television, here's a jazzy clip from The Danny Kaye Show, circa 1963 or so. I think you'll enjoy it!

Of course, variety isn't dead today, it's just morphed into something actually not even particularly different. Today's American Idol is just Ted Mack's Amateur Hour writ large, after all!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New "Flight of the Conchords" on HBO Tonight!

Here's a preview for tonight's Flight of the Conchords episode "Unnatural Love" --

Though you don't get any of the pertinent plot points from the promo, the episode's about Jemaine cozying up to an Australian girl. Perish the thought! FotC has been riffing on the NewZealand/Australian rivalry (our Jane wonders, as we do, is there really one?) for the last little while, always amusingly.

Can't wait for this!

HBO, 10pm, following Big Love, which has been especially excellent lately!

Watch them both!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Beauty and the Beast" Marathon on Chiller Network

To celebrate Valentine's Day, the ultimate holiday for romantics, the Chiller TV network -- I know I get it on DirecTV, not sure what the coverage is overall -- is running a marathon of episodes from the fan favorite ultra-cult series Beauty and the Beast all day today, Saturday. The series starred the intelligent and lovely Linda Hamilton (did you know she has an identical twin sister?) and Ron Perlman, whose unusual looks have always added an interesting dimension to his roles, never more perfectly so than in BatB. The series oozes romance, with the doomed relationship between socialite lawyer Catherine Chandler and underground leonine hero Vincent infusing the fantastic goings-on with a palpable sense of longing and desire.

Sure it's a bit of a corny thing, but I liked it at the time of its original run -- 1987 - 1990 -- and it's still pretty entertaining. Certainly a better legacy from the time than Dynasty or the like!

I hope you're been enjoying Ron Perlman in his bigscreen interpretation of Hell Boy -- he's terrific!

Update: Feb. 15th: I used the word "corny" above, and it's not accurate. After watching BatB for a huge portion of yesterday, the show isn't corny at all. It's amazingly heartfelt. I had forgotten that. Heartfelt isn't corny at all. I think the older you get, the more you appreciate things that wear their hearts on their sleeve, as Beauty and the Beast does. How did a show that unusual ever get on the air? Rather amazing, wasn't it?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Our Other Hero -- Jon Hamm!

Take a break from your Lincoln contemplation tonight to tune into what promises to be a tremendous episode of 30Rock entitled St. Valentine's Day, especially tremendous if you're a big fan of Jon Hamm, as we are.

In a continuation of last week's story, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) hooks up with her new neighbor Dr. Drew, played by Mad Men's versatile Jon Hamm. Despite accidentally dosing him with roofies, stealing his mail and faking a lost dog, they go out on their first date, only Liz doesn't realize it's Valentine's Day. Sounds embarrassing and wonderful, doesn't it?

Don't miss it! Tonight on NBC, 9:30pm, right after The Office!

P.S.: For you romantic 30Rock fans out there, be sure to check out the ecards that you can send out!

Another Incredible Lincoln Special on PBS!

I highly recommend PBS' Looking for Lincoln, in which African American historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. visits various Lincoln sites and consults other Lincoln historians in an effort to reconcile his views about the 16th President. It's a fascinating journey as Gates investigates the circumstances behind the Emancipation Proclamation, and the inconsistencies in Lincoln's own views. I'd say the takeaway is that Lincoln was a 19th Century man, with all the most common views of the time, but with the great gift of being able to imagine something else and knowing what the moral right was on the issue of slavery. Lincoln scholar and author Doris Kearns Goodwin offers particularly humane insights to the question at hand; she's wonderful.

The program is absolutely intriguing and you can also watch it online at PBS' excellent website for the show. I was pleased to learn that there have been over 14,000 books written about Lincoln, far more than any other President or American historical figure. He deserves them all.

Happy 200th to America's Most Memorable President!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hooray for Stump...the Winner of Westminster

"Stump", a 10 year old Sussex Spaniel, won Best in Show tonight at the Westminster Dog show on USA network. The oldest dog to ever win this distinguished title, Stump is an inspiration to everyone who is long on years (and Stump's case) but always young at heart.

Stump competed against other gorgeous dogs that included a Standard Poodle, a Giant Schnauzer, a Scottish Terrier and a black herding dog with long dreadlocks that looked sort of like a sheep.

Special cheers for the sponsor Pedigree, which advertised a charitable website where people can give money to help shelter dogs. Go and donate so someday every dog can have a loving home!

"Friends" from Sunday's "Flight of the Conchords" on HBO

A low-key but charming episode of HBO's Flight of the Conchords this week. Here's the closing song "Friends" which captures the theme of the episode.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Big Day for Abe Lincoln Coming Up!

In honor of the 200th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth on February 12th of this year, there are several Lincoln-oriented docs set to air in the next week or so.

First up tonight should be a good one on PBS' American Experience -- The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, starting at 9pm. I love Abraham Lincoln, but I also am completely fascinated by John Wilkes Booth, a misguided soul if ever there was one. Neither a lunatic nor a fool, Booth was probably a racist, though, and this more than anything might have played a huge part in his obsession to eliminate Lincoln.

A truly great dramatic account of the tragic juxtaposition of these two men has yet to be produced, and perhaps will never be. But a great documentary can elucidate the circumstances, and I'm hoping tonight's production will add another level of understanding to this nation-rending event that surely changed the course of American history in ways we cannot underestimate.

PBS has a good website for tonight's program, completely with a transcript. It looks like you can watch it online, too, so if you miss it tonight you haven't really missed it at all! Highly recommended!

133rd Westminster Dog Show on USA Tonight

Uh oh. Here's one of those nights where you have to get the DVR box warmed up and ready to roll. Lisa has already pointed out a fabulous night of science and critter related programming on Nat Geo. But tonight is also the 133rd annual Westminster Dog Show, live from Madison Square Garden in NY on USA network (8pm).

This is the Mother of All Dog Shows, and if you've never tuned in, it's just quirky and weird enough to offer grand entertainment to folks that might not go all weak in the knees when they see a huge fluffy Samoyed or a perky Corgi.

As wonderful as it is to see the dogs, and try to pick the winner, it is sometimesjust as fun to watch the dog handling humans as they trot alongside their canine pals. Film maker Christopher Guest recognized the vast potential for humor in this environment when he made the satire "Best in Show".

They are going to do something a little strange tonight from a scheduling perspective, so be forewarned if you are setting a DVR to record. The first hour of the show will be on USA and the second from 9-10pm will switch to CNBC. Tomorrow night's final telecast of the dog show will be on USA entirely.

May the best tail wagger win!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

National Geographic Channel Gets "Morphed" Tonight!

The always fascinating National Geographic Channel -- NatGeo to its fans like us -- premieres a new series tonight at 8pm. Morphed is a look at the evolution of earth creatures from their more primitive ancestors into the animals we know today. Three episodes air tonight, at 8p, 9p, and 10p, and all of them look terrific.

At 8pm, it's From Dinosaur to Turkey, detailing the change from T-Rex to Thanksgiving platter.

At 9pm, When Whales Had Legs is an engrossing look at the conversion from land to sea of one of Earth's most awesome creatures.

At 10pm, Before There Were Bears -- well, there were still fairly formidable four-legged predators with really big teeth, trust me.

And don't even wait until 8pm to tune in. At 7pm, Nat Geo's Wild has The Whale That Exploded, about a huge whale that was being trucked through the city into Tainan University in Taiwan, and guess what? They aren't kidding. It exploded, spewing whale innards and the accompanying stench all over the street. This is a must-see. It's a big-city nightmare and let's be happy Television isn't Smellovision yet.

As always, Nat Geo has some intriguing web content to back up their top-notch television, including a morphing gadget on the great site for the series itself.

Here's a little preview video out of When Whales Had Legs, and you'll certainly want to see the rest tonight!

Friday, February 6, 2009

So, Was There Anything You Didn't Like About Last Night's "30 Rock"?


It was a delight from start to finish, with idiotic ex-Wall Street investment guys running wild as Liz Lemon's new interns, wearing out Tracy Jordan and passing out roofies; Jack Donaghy meeting his double, a Mexican soap opera actor; and most of all, Liz getting all stalky over her new neighbor, played to perfection by Jon Hamm.

"He looks like a cartoon pilot."

"And I then will put my mouth on his mouth!"

Even as we love Liz, it's hilarious and horrifying to see what lengths she will go to in order to get next to her pediatrican-philanthropist-dog lover-Netflix customer-all the pay movie channels subscriber-baker-golfer possible ideal man.

As we predicted, Fey and Hamm were attractive and credible together. Hamm's around for two more episodes, so we'll have more of their sexy-silly antics. I'm convinced that Hamm can do anything acting-wise, and with such grace and charm that he's got to be the perfect example of the ideal 21st Century leading man. (At the movies he didn't get nearly enough screen time in the recent remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, but he was brave and stalwart there, too.)

Alec Baldwin was terrific in his double-role homage which nicely referenced The Patty Duke Show, and they got the ambience of Mexican telenovelas down to a T.

Can't wait for next week, can you?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"30 Rock" -- Liz Meets Her New Neighbor

Okay, here's finally some footage to post. Still can't find a proper promo!

And by the way, I really hate how YouTube videos now have a huge ugly title on them. Ick! Not helpful and certainly not attractive! At least change the font, huh?

But on a more pleasant note, here's a link to a site with several really adorable stills from tonight's episode guest-starring Jon Hamm. I'm just telling you -- Fey and Hamm are perfect together onscreen! Be sure you enlarge the stills to get a good look at them!


30 Rock airs at 9:30pm tonight on NBC!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Not Too Early to be Talking About Jon Hamm on Tomorrow's "30 Rock"!

I can't seem to post the promo yet, but there's a nice interview with Flaming Nose favorite Jon Hamm available on YouTube, on the occasion of his guest role on 30 Rock tomorrow night. I was wondering if anything had come of the talk about him guesting as a love interest for Tina Fey's Liz Lemon, and now it's almost here!

At the risk of sounding like a crazy fan, oohhh...they're gonna look so cute together!

Great Monster on "Fringe" Last Night!

Be sure to watch last night's episode of Fox's Fringe if you're a fan of good spiky monsters! The episode, entitled "Transformation", starts out with a shocking metamorphosis -- ala The Fly with a tooth coming out, with goo -- and then it goes crazy from there!

The episode can be found a few places, including (for now) YouTube. Seek and ye shall find it!