Friday, May 28, 2010

Nosetalgia Says Goodbye to Art Linkletter and Gary Coleman

Within a matter of days, two classic television stars have passed. One at the venerable age of 97 (Reality TV pioneer Art Linkletter) and the other at a relatively young 42 (former child actor Gary Coleman). At first glance it would appear that these two actors had very little in common. Mr. Linkletter was a TV star from the 50's and 60's. His gentle comedy programs (House Party and Kids say the Darndest Things) were pioneer efforts to show how entertaining regular people (but especially children) could be when they talk about their lives.

Gary Coleman is most associated with the TV sitcom Diff'rent Folks, which ran for 6 seasons in the 70's. He played one of two African American kids adopted by a rich white guy (I guess that was a pioneer effort too...hello Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock). His spunky demeanor and comic timing turned him into a huge star, and he spawned the catch phrase "Whatchu talkin' about Willis?"

Both of these celebrities provided TV audiences with countless laughs, and both had experienced personal moments of extraordinary sorrow. Art Linkletter lost a daughter to suicide in 1969. She jumped from a 6 story window in Hollywood, most likely under the influence of LSD. Gary Coleman suffered from severe kidney disease for most of his life (it contributed to his stunted growth...even as an adult he was only 4'8"). He also suffered from depression and like most of the child stars from Diff'rent Strokes, had a difficult time navigating through life after the series ended. I remember seeing Mr. Coleman with his mom at a supermarket in Hollywood, during the height of the series. He seemed to have a very contentious relationship with his parents, even then.

One very long life and one short. Both both were giants in their time and contributed greatly to the vast archives of TV comedy. This clip of Art Linkletter with kids will still make you laugh, even 50 years after it first aired.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Disney Scrubbing SoapNet

Not that I'm a soap opera fan, but I don't like seeing any network that airs programming for grown-ups being chucked aside for yet another kids channel. SoapNet was good for actual soaps, some replays of newer series, including Canada's entertaining Being Erica, and they used to run some classics series and soaps, including the still-playing Ryans Hope, the only soap I ever followed (for a while at least).

Check out this article from The Hollywood Reporter for more information on the unfortunate changeover.

Disney dumping SoapNet to make way for kids net -- The Live Feed THR

Also here's another account of the change at TV Week, plus a link to the Disney press release.

I guess kids are never supposed to go outside and play anymore. Hey, I love TV more than most people, but one would think that children ought to actually leave the house occasionally and get some sun and interact with real human beings. Too many kids-targeted networks already!

Between the kids networks and the paid programming, sometimes there just isn't much left for the rest of us!

As always, there's only one explanation for this: Follow The Money.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Oceanic Air Flight 815, You're Cleared to Land

I'm not really qualified to do a post for the final episode of one of the most examined TV programs of all time. There are people who have made a career out of figuring it out. There are Lost geeks, Lost maniacs and mathematicians who use it to write formulas. There are clubs, groups, and 3,892,302 fans on Facebook. Here I sit at 8:23pm Pacific watching "Lost" on Demand because I was too exhausted from worrying about a very sick pet to stay up for the live event on ABC last night. I'm not ashamed of that, but I do feel really, really bad that I've been AWOL from watching the series entirely for the past two seasons because I was so busy and had a new job and....ah heck there's no excuse, I just didn't see it. And now that I'm watching the miraculous series finale, I know I'm going to have a great summer catching up with all the episodes I missed.

It makes no sense for me to do an actual recap, since I'm going to get it all wrong anyway. Basically there are a bunch of people who crash land on a mysterious island that looks a lot like Hawaii. They've been there about 6 years. Some of them get married, some of them have kids. There's a yellow dog and a Volkswagen bus. There's a button that has to be pressed or the world will blow up, and a monster made out of smoke. A mysterious hatch, mind control and and the Dharma initiative are all very important. Don't blink about halfway through the second season. Sawyer looks awesome in a torn wet t-shirt. When the music plays you want to cry; doesn't matter if it's the first season or the grand finale. Everybody who you thought was dead isn't dead. But everybody dies. All characters are both on and off the island at the same time. Some are good, some are evil. The good forgive the bad. The island was a way station, a post crash purgatory.... I figured as much when I saw the beautiful interfaith stained glass window in the chapel right before the end.

For an incredibly complex series, Lost's final episode framed the most basic truth of human experience. Love one another. Help one another. We're on this flight together until it ends. A lofty message for any television show, but one that Lost pulled off with unprecedented originality. It will be missed.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Deadline | Hollywood" on "The Big Bang Theory"

You know we're big fans of The Big Bang Theory around here. Here's an interesting notion from Nellie Andreeva over at the "Deadline Hollywood" website, in light of CBS' decision to move the show to Thursdays at 8pm next season. I personally hate 8pm slots -- too early! -- but she's got a good point:

Is 'Big Bang Theory' The Next 'Friends'?

Our analysis of the announced Fall Network schedules will be published soon here, btw.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Beautiful Shelter Dog Spot from Pedigree

This is something we all need to see.

If it doesn't load for you, visit here to watch it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More "TrueBlood" Posters from HBO!

Sorry for the delay in posting the last couple of HBO promotional posters for the new season of TrueBlood! They're pretty nifty.

Here's Poster #6 -- "Please Do Not Feed the Shapeshifters"

Here's Poster #7 -- "Vamp Stamp"

And here's the very newest, #8 -- "Bewere"

Don't forget, TrueBlood returns to HBO on Sunday, June 13th, at 9pm!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Avatar: I Think I "See" You Now That You're on The Small Screen

When is a blockbuster movie better on TV than in the theater? AVATAR confession time: I rented it on PPV yesterday as soon as it was available, even after all my boring and bitter complaints over how it didn't deserve the deluge of Academy Award nominations. Now I have to change my tune a bit, having watched it at home on HDTV. Somehow, away from the jostling crowds, the teenage hoards and the dense oily fumes of movie was actually enjoyable. Also, I think I might not be physiologically capable of "getting" the movie theater 3-D experience. The bulky glasses and fuzzy visuals give me a headache. I could care less about monsters bursting through the screen, give me crisp and crystal clear any day of the week.

Watching Avatar at home with a pause button also helped me focus more on some witty lines that I missed at the Santa Clara AMC mega-complex. Like Sigourney Weaver's scientist character (Grace) warning hero Jake not to play with the swirling tentacles on his new N'avi body or he'll "go blind". Later we learn that these Pandorean extension cords have some sort of sexual function. Funny.

The best part of Avatar for me, no matter what screen size is delivering it, has always been the total immersion into a dreamy alien world. Yeah it's a mishmash of a plot (Dances with Wolves meets Fern Gully) packed with wretched stereotypes (vile racist military and money obsessed Americans...oops, I mean Earthlings). But the visuals are absolutely stunning, and they pass by at breathtaking speed. Watching the parade on TV gives one a chance to pause, rewind, and watch that thundering herd of four eyed hammer-head rhinos again. Or the florescent helicopter lizards! Or the fabulous red leather pterodactyl horse! The alien flowers and animals are utterly captivating and anyone who doesn't lose themselves in this magic world of floating mountains and blue skinned cat people probably doesn't like Science Fiction much at all. Or, has a major problem with the writing. In which case I suggest that you still watch it, just turn the sound down.

Now that the hysteria over the billion dollar global box office return has subsided, it might be time to take a second look. Or first for the 12 people who have not ever seen it. And anyway, Cameron's ex (Katheryn Bigelow) won Best Director and Picture for The Hurt Locker at the Oscars (hooray!), so relax and enjoy the ride. At home. On TV. And make your own popcorn, there's a recession going on!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

136th Annual Kentucky Derby

Ragin' Cajun Calvin Borel made history at Churchill Downs in Kentucky today. He won his third Kentucky Derby in the past 4 years, the first jockey to achieve such an amazing feat. On a soggy track with mud flying everywhere, he rode beautiful black Super Saver to victory. I was rooting for the filly Devil May Care, but she was challenged by the messy track. All the horses were covered in mud by the end. Thankfully there were no injuries for equines or humans this year.

As always, it was a delight to watch the pre-show on NBC, with plenty of shots of the big hats, the mint juleps and back stories for all the horses and their owners. It's a good thing the lead up to the race is fun and interesting, because the event itself is over in 2 minutes. The rain didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits as the crowd stood and sang Steven Foster's "Old Kentucky Home". As if on cue, the sun came out and the horses marched to the gate.

Hooray for the Run for the Roses. Laissez les bon temps roulez M. Borel. Well run!

Churchill and Daleks and Who, Oh My!

Hope you've been loving -- as we have -- Matt Smith's wonderful performance as the latest incarnation of Doctor Who, as seen on BBC America, et al. He's doing a tremendous job in keeping the excitement level high, the humor crisp and contemporary, and the sense of intelligence palpable, bristling and inspirational. There simply is no other show that so well combines good old fashioned Saturday afternoon serial-esque thrills and chills, out-of-this-world science fiction wonders, a crazy, unique and often hilarious P.O.V., and yet manages to always leave this viewer, at least, with a feeling that the world is an all right place, indeed. Not many things can give you that, I'll wager. Fun and philosophy, imagine that...

Tonight in "Victory of the Daleks" the Doctor and his spunky companion Amy Pond find themselves in WW II-era Britain, complete with Winston Churchill and the return of one of the best DW villains ever. I can't say enough good things about the Doctor, and if you haven't checked it him yet, I urge you to wait no longer.

Doctor Who airs tonight on BBC America at 8pm, with several encores. Don't miss it!

Signs of Life in Jurassic Park

If you hear some noise coming from Jurassic Park (Broadcast Television) these days, the sound is probably raucous laughter. We are living in a wonderful modern age of comedy and Modern Family on ABC (Wednesday nights at 9pm) is the latest example of excellence. It must be added to the pantheon of great, smart, hilarious comedy that NBC has revived on Thursday nights with Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock.

I thought I'd be the last one on the planet to admit it, but lately comedy on Broadcast TV is every bit as good as what I've been touting on HBO. Better, actually, because right now there are no comedies playing on the "It's Not TV" network.

Modern Family is about the many colorful flavors American families come in, circa 2010. There is the traditional family: Dad is Phil, played by fetching Ty Burrell, Mom (Claire) played by Julie Bowen, is quite possibly the only genuinely funny pretty blond on TV. They have three kids that manage to do quirky without being annoying. There is also a lovely gay couple (Cameron) Eric Stonestreet and (Mitchel) Jesse Ferguson. They're raising an adopted baby girl. Finally there is the multi-ethnic, multi-generational family with Ed O'Neill as the middle aged Jay, who is married to hot stuff Charo-like Gloria (Sofia Vergara). Gloria's son, the chubby, adorable, genius kid (Manny) is wonderfully portrayed by Rico Rodriguez. He is the most appealing character on a show chock full of great characters and infused with some of the wittiest writing on television today. Visit the Modern Family website and click on "Bios" to get some of the best lines from recent episodes. Manny says things like, "Her name is Whitney. I met her in the online book club. We both like vampire fiction and the romance of eternal life."

This week's episode featured a guest appearance by the always funny Fred Willard, who played Phil's visiting Dad. Never in the history of TV, have a father and son duo looked and acted more as if they might actually be related to each other. The B-story had Cameron sitting in as the drummer for a teenage Emo band (funniest segments of the night for my money) and the C-story had my darling Manny scared to death by a slasher movie that the clueless Jay brought him to after a dental appointment.

I must give full credit to my sister Leslie for turning me on to this gem. Sometimes word of mouth advertising really is the most effective! Now listen to this blogger and go check out Modern Family. Here's a little taste in the video below.