Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Breaking Bad" -- Don't Miss It Tonight!

We sincerely hope that you caught last Sunday night's season return of AMC's searing drama Breaking Bad. There's nothing like it on TV -- brutal, compelling, heartbreaking, incisive, unsentimental, and Breaking Bad also looks like nothing else on TV. It's breathtakingly beautiful, even when what we're seeing is astoundingly evil.

I want to share some of the amazing images from last week's episode No Mas, and they were doozies. From the first few moments -- my favorite set piece of the whole episode -- when we saw the completely weird sight of a parade of villagers crawling in the dirt towards a desert shrine, and then throughout the rest of the entire show, we saw a series of eye-catching images that were unique and unforgettable. Behold!

The men from the fancy car join the snaking postulants as they head for the shrine.

These guys mean business...and they're after Walt, as we see here.

They change into migrant garb and leave the keys to their car on the horns of a goat.

After making it across the border, the badasses burn up a truckload of fellow immigrants and set off to find Walt, wearing the boots which identify them as dangerous hombres.

Walt's brother-in-law (Dean Norris) thinks Walt's joking when he tells him there's half a million in cash in his duffel bag.

Jesse (Aaron Paul) tries to get it together in rehab after his girlfriend dies of an overdose and her air traffic controller father causes a mid-air collision.

Walt meets with his drug contact, the impeccable and respectable chicken restaurant entrepreneur, played masterfully by Giancarlo Esposito.

Walt's homelife is ruined, with his family separated from him, and his son miserable.

Walt tries to put some perspective on the airplane tragedy, to an unreceptive school assembly.

And then there's just the incredible face of Bryan Cranston, saying so much in his Emmy-winning performance as Walter White.

Don't miss tonight's episode of Breaking Bad, on AMC! The show is astounding, clearly the most ambitious series on TV right now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Edie Falco is Back as "Nurse Jackie" Tonight on Showtime

As if Bryan Cranston's unbelievable portrayal of Walt White on last night's season premiere of AMC's Breaking Bad weren't astounding enough to leave you speechless, you're getting another chance to be blown away by the best acting on TV. Edie Falco returns tonight for the second season opener of her amazing Showtime series Nurse Jackie, at 10pm.

Officially dubbed a "comedy" though really far from it, Nurse Jackie is the story of a dedicated and unconventional nurse who also happens to be addicted to pills, a devoted mother to her two daughters, a loving wife to her terrific husband, and a passionate mistress to her hospital paramour. In the hands of another actress -- well, you can't imagine anyone but Edie Falco playing the role, she's stunning and totally worth the price of admission. The rest of the cast is also terrific -- Peter Facinelli as a cocky young medico, Eve Best as Jackie's acerbic doctor best friend, Merritt Wever as Jackie's protege Zoey, to name a few.

If for no other reason than to watch one of our most accomplished actresses simply tear up the small screen, alternately amusing, moving and fearless, watch Nurse Jackie. Even if you didn't watch the previous season, watch Nurse Jackie. Edie Falco is really that good.

(Be sure to check out the Showtime Nurse Jackie website for lots of background info and a quartet of NJ-themed games to help you waste whatever time you aren't already wasting playing Farmville on Facebook, like we all are around here.)

Nurse Jackie, tonight on Showtime, 10pm.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

George Takei Terrific in New TV Commercial -- for a TV

If you haven't yet seen this amusing commercial for Sharp Electronics' new LED television system, you can take care of that right now. The spot stars classic Star Trek star George Takei -- the iconic Mr. Sulu -- as a white-coated scientist. It's delightful and here it is.

As you know if you've visited us before, The Flaming Nose is all over Star Trek, any time!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Breaking Bad is Back and It's All Good

Heads up for the return of one of the most harrowing and intriguing series on television. Season three of Breaking Bad commences Sunday night at 10pm on AMC.

Bryan Cranston (two time Best Actor Emmy award winner) stars as Walter White; mild mannered high school chemistry teacher and cancer victim by day...meth amphetamine cooker and dealer by night. It's the biggest double life on TV, only Showtime's lovable serial killer Dexter comes close to the duplicity.

When we last saw Walter he was getting fellow meth entrepreneur Jesse (played by the remarkable young actor Aaron Paul) into rehab for heroin addiction. Jesse got hooked with his artist girlfriend Jane, who overdosed in a horrible moment that underscored how depraved Walter has become. He could have saved the girl as she choked on her own vomit, but in a scene that seemed to last for hours (it was probably only 20 seconds), he just watched her die. Breaking Bad is filled with shocking moments, most of which are set against the baked and barren vista of New Mexico. It's not every day you see a TV show that features a severed human head glued to the top of a desert tortoise as it ambles through the tumble weeds. And the final minutes of last season's finale were both appalling and surreal, as a passenger jet exploded over Albuquerque, raining body parts and stuffed animals over the suburban landscape below. It was Walter's fault, of course, but in a way that was entirely unexpected.

What makes this bleak story bearable is some of the most superb acting and writing on TV. Breaking Bad, along with the riveting Mad Men series, has put AMC on the map as one of the most creative networks on television. They are giving HBO a run for their money, and that's saying a lot.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fess Parker Was a Man, Was Big Man

Television icons are a dying breed these days. Earlier this week Peter Graves left us, and now we hear of the death of Fess Parker, one of TV's most reliable heroes, an actor whose fame came from portraying some of America's brawniest historical characters with two-fisted aplomb.

Fess Parker started out in Hollywood at the beginning of the 1950s in an assortment of small roles in film and TV. Walt Disney, looking for a he-man to star as pioneer soldier and adventurer Davy Crockett in an upcoming project, spotted Parker in a small role in the giant ant movie Them! (1954), and signed him up. He starred in several incredibly popular segments of the Disneyland weekly series as Crockett in 1955 (with Buddy Ebsen as his sidekick), creating a craze for coonskin caps and making him the idol of youngsters all over the country, and beyond.

Disney compiled some of the episodes into theatrical releases, as seen here. (This one will possibly be a revelation of sort for visitors to Disneyland who always wondered what the heck the Mike Fink Keel Boats were all about!)

Parker also was an accomplished singer whose rendition of the Crockett theme song sold plenty of records in the series' heyday. In this amusing clip he sings "Old Betsy" with Ebsen on the Disneyland episode commemorating the opening of Disneyland.

Just as 1950s childhood idol George "Superman" Reeves found it hard to break away from his kiddie-fueled fame, so did Parker find it difficult to recreate his Crockett-mania in other roles after Disney stopped making the series. He kept busy with many roles in film and television, including a short-lived TV version of the James Stewart classic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in the 1962 season, a really great casting fit that somehow didn't work well enough for a second season.

Finally in 1964 Fess Parker met up with another frontier character who was larger-than-life enough to fit Parker's qualifications. NBC's Daniel Boone ran for six successful seasons, and armed with a catchy theme song that most of us can still easily recall today, it captured the imagination of Americans and titillated their appreciation for history. The series co-starred the lovely Patricia Blair as Boone's wife Rebecca, young Darby Hinton as his son Israel, and of course singer Ed Ames as Boone's Native America friend Mingo (in the first four seasons), an unlikely and un-PC bit of casting that nevertheless was a key component in the show's early success.

Daniel Boone went off network in 1970, but of course was a staple in syndication for many years and gathered new fans everywhere it ran. (Check out this excellent Daniel Boone fansite for more info on the series.) Parker tried his hand at a sitcom in 1974, a kind of "My Three Daughters" idea, but it didn't take. Felicitously, Parker had a wonderful second career for the past couple of decades as a successful winemaker with his own Santa Ynez, California winery, a satisfying change of profession that made his transition away from Hollywood a graceful one.

Let's hope that Mr. Parker's passing brings his Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone television work back into the spotlight, where it belongs. (Not to sound like an old lady, but I can't help thinking that if a few more kids watched Boone and his family having their frontier adventures, maybe they wouldn't need to watch so much of that damned anime stuff. You know's impossible not to sound like an old lady and make a statement like that, isn't it? Oh, well.)

Fess Parker was an important part of TV history, and The Flaming Nose salutes his contribution to the medium and offers our condolences to his family and friends. And to his fans, naturally... (We highly recommend the wonderful Fess Parker article on the always fascinating TV Party website.)

Here's another cute clip, from 1978, on a special honoring the 25th Anniversary of the Disney TV show, with Parker and Ebsen singing and dancing. Very sweet!)

Fess Parker, 1924 - 2010.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Still up? Then St. Patrick prescribes some Dave Allen fer ye

I had a fortuitous St. Patrick's Day, somehow. First, this morning, I unthinkingly put on a deep blue shirt and rushed out of the house, only later realizing that said blouse was given to me by two good Irish buddies, one of whom works at the Dublin Zoo and thusly delivered to me a cool-ass shirt from its gift shop. I thought, "Weird. Danny must have whispered to me from across the ocean to wear my only even vaguely piece of Irish clothing today." And now, a while ago, I found myself at home, gabbing with an old friend on Facebook, and the name of the great Irish comic Dave Allen snuck into the chat. Another intervention of fate. So I knew I had to get on the Nose and dig up some Dave Allen pieces. Given his name, Mr. Dennis Day was a perfect previous post for the lighted hours of St. Patrick's Day. But for the night owls who still might be up celebrating, or for those who might be nursing a blitzkrieged noggin come morning, no addendum or remedy is better than a few brash laughs.

On his 1971-79 show Dave Allen at Large, the man would always hold court from a high stool, a smoke always lit and withering away into the air, and a highball glass filled with a brown liquid that you were sure was scotch and water but which was actually ginger beer. Nattily dressed, Allen would be on stage energetically recounting the sort of sodden tales you might hear bandied in any number of Dublin bars. These would segue into skits that were great, but always you were waiting to see Allen on stage again. He was just that mesmerizing. I spent a few summers in the mid-1970s at my grandmother's house, and she and I would get together with my Uncle Jeff, and we'd howl for ninety minutes at Dave Allen at Large, then at You Bet Your Life, and finally at The New Soupy Sales Show. This was a trifecta that made me fall in l'amour fou with television. The night's fun would always begin with a cold opening, followed by Alan Hawkshaw's smashing theme song, "Blarney Stoned."

And then, more jokes hit, like this corker:

Allen (born O'Mohoney) was a staunch atheist, having had some trying experiences with the Catholic Church early in life. So he'd sock it to the clergy on a regular basis. This, of course, did not endear him to the Catholics, which might explain why the Brits readily embraced him.
And finally, Allen had had an accident in his twenties that was often plainly visible. This is one of the many ways he explained it away.

The man had a TV career that spanned from the early 60s to the mid 80s, and he peacefully passed away to the spirit world in 2005. And with that, we at the Nose hope you had a happy St. Paddy's. And that Dave Allen found his place in the hereafter--if there IS a hereafter...

Irishman Mr. Dennis Day on St. Patrick's Day

Well, sure an' we'd be missing a parfect opportunity on this fine day to present that wonderful tenor Mr. Dennis Day in a lovely liting tune, titled "An Irishman Will Steal Your Heart Away". You remember the pleasing Mr. Day was appearing on The Jack Benny Show on radio at the time, doncha'?

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Dennis Day....

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Milton Berle: By Himself

There's nothing timely about this, except to say that it was just posted on You Tube today. But I wanted to direct all Nosers to this very strange, beautiful, classic clip of good ol' Uncle Milty, from the long-gone Buick Berle Hour on NBC. You've never really seen the comic like this, all down-in-the-mouth 'n' sad 'cuz everyone else is having all the fun, and slinking backstage as he sings "I'm By Myself" over the soundtrack. It's an agile, noiry look behind the scenes, predating Saturday Night Live's reflexive jaunts into Lorne Michaels' office by 25 years. Plus, it takes a positively David-Lynch-by-way-of-Vincente-Minnelli turn at about the four minute mark that makes you wonder if, the next day, NBC execs were scratching their heads, wondering if Milton had gone around the bend from all that dress-wearin'. At any rate, this is total TV-centric fun, so I hadda post it here.

Mike Tyson and a Show About Pigeons

The Flaming Nose has never been shy about tackling some of the stranger fare out there in TV land. It would be difficult to find a program more off the beaten path than this snippet, compliments of Entertainment Weekly, that Mr. Tyson will begin filming a reality program for Animal Planet on pigeon racing this spring. Tyson has apparently been involved with the pigeon sport his whole life, and he says he is honored to be a part of this monumental show.

Mike Tyson, once the undefeated world heavyweight champion, has had some extremely challenging public relations issues over the years, including domestic violence and there was that time he bit off the ear of an opponent. However, he has never been mean to dogs and is clearly a bird lover, and so therefore worthy of some guarded measure of rehabilitation. Also, he was pretty funny in last summer's hit comedy, "The Hangover".

The Nose has covered some very big events over the past few weeks, including the Academy Awards, the new HBO series The Pacific and the recent death of Mission Impossible star Peter Graves. This is a reminder that no TV effort is too small (or too weird) for the Nose posters to remark upon!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Remembering Peter Graves

The Flaming Nose is sad to hear of the death tonight of Peter Graves, one of the most iconic of television personalities. Those of us who thrilled to his adventures as Jim Phelps on Mission: Impossible will never forget his cool determination as he received his orders via dissolving reel-to-reel tape recordings each week. Graves became most famous and an outstanding pop culture god for his role as Phelps, but of course he had been a working actor since 1942, appearing in many motion pictures of all kinds, but eventually settling into a more successful career primarily in television.

Several series preceded his fame in Mission: Impossible, including the family horse drama Fury as the father to young Bobby Diamond, the Australian-set Western Whiplash, and the WW II military legal drama Court Martial, opposite Bradford Dillman. He was also a frequent guest star of nearly every popular series of the time before landing the role of Jim Phelps in the second season of M:I, replacing the departing team leader played by Steven Hill.
There was never a more smoothly-oiled machine than those early years with the Impossible Missions Force, when Barbara Bain, Martin Landau, Greg Rollins and Peter Lupus merged into the coolest ensemble cast on television, thanks in part to Lalo Schifrin's theme, probably the best ever written for TV. Graves continued to work in features throughout the series' 1967 - 1973 run, but television was his forte, his likeable, low-key charm and grace best suited to the small screen, and he knew it.

In later years, Peter Graves' presence as host of the A&E Network series Biography pretty much created that network and propelled the program to such popularity that the series was spun off into an entire network of its own. (I'm not forgetting about Jack Perkins, who actually hosted more segments than Graves and is also responsible for Biography's great success.) We can't forget his hilarious big-screen turn as the airline captain in 1980's Airplane, a change-of-pace for him that gained him new fans and showed off his versatility and good humor about himself.

Graves received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last October, and more importantly had continued working and had a reputation as one of Hollywood's good guys, a modest and a devoted family man. Peter Graves will live on as the dauntless leader of the Mission: Impossible force as long as people are watching television, which basically makes him immortal, doesn't it? I think he can handle that last mission, don't you?

We'll leave you with one version of the unforgettable Mission: Impossible opening credits, and then the trailer for one of my all-time favorite monster movies of the 1950s, the giant cicada SF thriller Beginning of the End from 1957. Snicker if you will -- though you shouldn't -- but this is a creepy insect invasion movie that certainly had a lasting and wonderful effect on me!

R.I.P. Peter Graves, 1926 - 2010.

Back to WW II in "The Pacific" on HBO Tonight

Prepare to be shocked and awed. HBO follows up their acclaimed 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers with The Pacific, the new production from the company headed up by big-names Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. This time they're doing for the Pacific theater of war what they did for the battlefields of Europe last time out. The ten-part miniseries unfolds beginning tonight at 9pm, and it's clearly a do-not-miss event.

The Pacific follows four Marines through their time in the field, and the characters are based closely on real Marines: Leckie (played by the intense James Badge Dale), Basilone (played by the interesting Jon Ceda), Sledge (played by Joe Mazzello, who was the little boy in Jurassic Park!), and Phillips (played by Ashton Holmes). Their lives and missions bring them together in historic wartime locales that most of us know only about from history books -- Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa -- and neither they -- nor we the viewers -- will ever be quite the same again.

From the looks of the comments on the HBO Message Boards for the program, many Americans feel it's high time this important part of WW II history, and the men and women who endured it, were honored with this miniseries. I'm certain many of us will wish our fathers were still alive to see this amazing story that they lived through brought to life like this. I know I do.

In many ways this part of the War has always seemed more real to me, perhaps because my dad Harry (that handsome swabby to the left) was in the Navy on the West Coast in Long Beach, CA, during the war, and also because I've always loved the movies about the Pacific theater. (So Proudly We Hail, anyone? Or Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison? Or even South Pacific...)

We're going to post a selection of trailers for The Pacific here so you can get a good overview of what's in store for you. They are terrific, and will surely get you securely settled in front of your TV come 9pm for tonight's premiere. We also highly recommend that you check out HBO's website for The Pacific, as well as join their Facebook fan page, if that's your thing. You also might like to visit Marines of the Pacific's website, where you can find more info on the real men behind the miniseries.

The Pacific will undoubtedly be the most powerful programs on TV this season, and you've just got to watch it. It's the history of your country and the men who defended it, and we owe it to them to watch. Thanks, Hanks, Spielberg, et al...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Just Savoring Martin and Baldwin a Little Longer

We loved Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin so much this year in their dual-hosting of the Academy Awards. They were adorable from start to finish, and though we've read some criticism -- citing stiffness (we didn't see it) and lack of chemistry (no way!) -- we have nothing but praise for their performances. In contrast to so many past Oscar ceremonies, the jokes written for them were smart and managed to combine both verbal and visual humor, something not usually in evidence.

We're going to post their opening here, then their hilarious Paranormal Activity parody. (There are a couple versions still on YouTube; this one has their lead-in dialogue, too.) Either you love this kind of stuff, or you hate it. We love it! And of course we led off with the photo of the intrepid duo backstage in their twin Snuggie. Completely adorable and so, so funny! A great sight gag in the classic tradition. Hope and Crosby would have worn one in a Road movie if they had been around then.

Are Martin and Baldwin now our national comedy icons? Not difficult to imagine for Steve Martin, who of course has been an unbelievable performing sensation since his stand-up days in the 1970s, and lately settled into a more comfortable and less raucous career as a comedic actor. (Let's not forget, however, his brilliant turn in director Herbert Ross' under-appreciated masterpiece Pennies from Heaven, from 1981. What a terrific performance in an amazing movie.)

Baldwin has now settled perfectly into his new comedic persona, thanks to the wonderfully talented Tina Fey -- our Lucy, and more -- and his role on NBC's 30 Rock. This is no time to forget that he is a terrific dramatic actor, too, in a career which has been going strong for over twenty-five years. (Remember him in the outrageous Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire! from 1988, playing Jimmy Swaggart? He was amazing. I just caught him in Lymelife, and he's charming, brutal and utterly charismatic. Or how about his Emmy-nominated Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire from 1995, opposite Jessica Lange? Shockingly, this doesn't seem to be on U.S. DVD -- not good!) Baldwin is obviously a talented, complicated and mesmerizing individual, and we wouldn't want it any other way.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Missing Farrah Fawcett on the Oscars

Post-Academy Awards on Sunday night, I've been reading several comments about the omission of Farrah Fawcett from the "In Memoriam" section of the show. No doubt the Academy made a mistake. Though Fawcett, who died last June after a long battle with cancer, made her fame primarily in television, she did appear in a number of films -- Logan's Run, Saturn 3 and others -- the Academy thought enough of her to invite her to present on three occasions.

In 1978 she presented for "Best Film Editing", in 1980 she was on again for "Best Visual Effects" (of course an obvious nod to her looks), and back again for her last presentation job again for "Best Film Editing". To not include her in the memorial section was not a good decision and actually makes her omission overshadow the importance of some of those who were included.

Another Academy memorial miss was the great Bea Arthur, who though clearly primarily a television performer and a true legend, had also been a presenter on the Academy Awards on 1973 for the "Short Subjects" category and made a few films (at right, in Mame). It seems as though if they decided to put Michael Jackson in there, who primarily achieved his fame in music and a few movie roles, then they could have squeezed Farrah and Bea in there. Woulda...coulda...shoulda.

The fact that there are complaints about these omissions shows that it could have been done better. If it's that they have to cut the list down for time, expand it. Better to have more names and faster than leave someone out. This is their last hurrah, after all. And if they had appeared on a past Academy Award telecast, of course they should make the cut.

I will be writing soon about Farrah's groundbreaking television movie The Burning Bed very soon. I just re-watched it, and it still works.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

How are you liking Martin and Baldwin so far?

I think they're doing a terrific job. Spunky, mocking, self-mocking -- and actually funny. And how about Neil Patrick Harris' opening number? Also very funny...I loved the line about dropping the soap.

Wins so far: Waltz, good choice. Up, good. John Hughes tribute now. Sweet.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Oscars This Sunday Night on ABC!

We hope you're getting ready for the annual Academy Award fest tomorrow night! Even if you haven't seen all the movies or don't care about awards, there's something special about this night. Are you an Avatar-ist or a Basterd, or simply Precious? Tune in Sunday night to find out how the Academy feels.

We're hoping for big -- and funny -- things from Oscar co-hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, who should bring a dose of intelligent absurdity to the proceedings. These guys are both as intellectually gifted as they are artistically able. We can only hope that their presence means the Oscar producers will be eliminating most of the lame unfunny quips and substituting something worthy of the hosting duo.

Be sure to visit Flaming Nose contributor Dean's wonderful movie blog Filmicablity for his Oscar picks. There's nobody who knows more about movies than Dean, and though you might not agree with all his picks, you know he's got excellent reasons for each one of them.

ABC has a jam-packed Oscar website with everything except a countdown widget -- how did they miss that one??? -- so give them a visit if you feel like exploring behind the scenes.