Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nose-talgia: Are TV Jingles a Dying Breed?

We started a rousing conversation about TV jingles on Facebook and thought it would be fun to bring the discussion over here (where it belongs) to The Flaming Nose. TV jingles and theme songs seem to have gone the way of all our favorite weird 60's items. They are floating around cyberspace along with wistful remnants of Colorforms, Slinkys, dusty Gumbys and Chatty Cathy dolls.

However, thanks to YouTube and the Internet, many of the catchy tunes that kept our toes tapping and our brains in a dizzy auditory loop, are still there to be enjoyed. Or endured.

Once of the most unforgettable ditties from the 60's was actually a TV and radio commercial for the unforgettable Palisades Amusement park. Any boomer who grew up in the Northeast remembers this place. It was on the cliffs of Jersey, just over the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan. For a delightful blast from the past, here's the tune that made you beg your parents for a (pre-Disneyland) trip to roller coaster heaven. I went to PAP as a kid, and I saw a real animal freak show. We were lured inside by a dwarf standing on a box. I remember being utterly transfixed by the two headed cow. One head ate 90% of the cow's food and the other small head chewed all day on a damp piece of straw. It was awesome.

I don't believe that TV theme songs and jingles are entirely dead. The opening sequence for the "Sopranos" on HBO, while not an original tune, certainly had a morbid and riveting attraction that one could never tire of, even after hundreds of viewings. Who could forget the pounding grind of the blues (woke up this morning...) and Tony's desolate drive through the industrial moonscape of Northern Jersey.

How about you? Any favorite TV theme songs or jingles to report? There are hundreds of them!

NoseGlam! 2010 Emmys Red Carpet Arrivals!

You certainly can't call The Flaming Nose a fashion blog, but these are multi-tasking times so we're going to share this slideshow of some TV gals and guys strutting their stuff last Sunday at the Emmy Awards, from The Orlando Sentinel.

2010 Emmys Red Carpet Arrivals - OrlandoSentinel.com

(In pic#26, it looks to me like the va-va-voom Christina Hendricks is channeling Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke, but it's all good!)

Who are your favorites? I'm thinking Sofia Vergara is just about perfect...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Post-Emmy Thoughts

A few unexpected wins -- mostly good ones -- and recognition for some terrific series and movies highlighted tonight's ceremony. For a complete list of the all the winners and nominees, visit the official Emmys site here.

Our favorite wins: though I'm not a watcher, tonight was good for ABC's Modern Family which appears to have pushed 30 Rock off the top of the mountain in comedy, winning Supporting Actor (Eric Stonestreet), Writing, and Outstanding Comedy Series. Fan favorite Glee brought the talented Jane Lynch a Supporting Actress win (and she was also so wonderful in Season One of Party Down on Starz), and a win for director Ryan Murphy. Though it didn't take the top prize, the show has firmly established itself as a cultural milestone of the moment, witness the very funny and long opening sketch which featured adorable appearances by Bette White, Tina Fey and Jon Hamm, as well as Glee castmembers and other TV names and others like Kate G. whose brief presence demonstrated the complete uselessness and vapidity of reality celebrities. White & Hamm also made a great presenting couple. Bette White can do no wrong!

Big yippee for Jim Parsons winning Best Actor in a Comedy in The Big Bang Theory, an award well-deserved and one that many thought would go again to Alec Baldwin, but as we said, 30 Rock is off the peak now. Edie Falco as Best Actress for the barely-a-comedy Nurse Jackie was still a great win, because she's so good and where do you put a show like NJ anyway? The three naturally funniest women nominated didn't win -- Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey -- but it's not about that. Falco is a terrific choice.

Another big hurray for Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul finally taking home the award for Supporting Actor in a Drama, in a category that seemed poised to go Lost's way. His performance as meth prince Jesse has been great since the show began, and he definitely deserved this one. We're also happy to see Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad take home his third acting award for the show; there simply is no one doing anything better than what's he's bringing to BB. It was a category filled with great work but he rules.

Nice to see a mini-sweep for HBO's intelligent and fascinating TV movie about autistic animal behavioral specialist Temple Grandin, with wins for Supporting Actress Julia Ormond, Supporting Actor David Straitharn (always good and really great in this TVM), director Mick Jackson, and of course Claire Danes in the title role. Also a nice take home for Al Pacino as Jack Kevorkian in HBO's You Don't Know Jack. Most impressive thrill of the night -- seeing Temple Grandin and Jack Kevorkian in the audience, and in Grandin's case also up on the stage. Good win also for HBO's The Pacific, though with only two nominees in the running it's not much of a horse race. Minis are out of style and too expensive, we surmise....

We were pleased again to see Mad Men take home Best Drama, though Breaking Bad would have been an equally good choice.

Upsets -- one good, one not-so-good -- were thankfully few. The Mad Men ladies and the rest of the nominees were shut out by the win of The Good Wife's Archie Panjabi, who quite frankly stated that the win would be good for her career, and it will, though the win was unexpected and it looks like the vote was split and she rose to the top. Nothing wrong with that, of course, as she's gotten great notices for her role in the series. Not so good for The Good Wife was favored Julianna Margulies losing to Kyra Sedgewick's cable cop in The Closer. Unhappy choice there and not a great acceptance speech either. It was the only award that really felt wrong and didn't seem to have the audience excitement, though if January Jones had won it would have been even worse.

Jimmy Fallon is talented and did a good job; celebrity presenters were a mixed bag, with Ricky Gervais of course coming out on top and the Twitter gimmick not working very well at all.

The show ended on time at the three hour mark, just perfectly to catch the encore of tonight's Mad Men (a great episode, by the way). A very good night for TV!

More Emmy Stuff -- from Jace Lacob of "Televisionary"

Check out terrific television columnist Jace Lacob's take on this year's Emmy Awards with his "2010 Emmys: Who Will Win" predictions here, on the web's The Daily Beast.

If you're a Mad Men fanatic, you'll also want to read his fascinating article from Friday -- "Mad Men's Ice Queen" all about Betty Draper and actress January Jones, and why the character is on many viewer's hate-her list. He takes a deep look at the comparison between Betty's appeal and that of the brainy voluptuous take-charge Joan, played by Christina Hendricks. I grant him all the points about Betty Draper, but I fall slightly into the "I don't think January Jones is such a great actress" camp. He also talks about the simply more contemporarily likable persona that Joan is, and of course that is in many ways thanks to Hendricks' terrific performance. Read the article, you'll like it!

Hey, I think Mad Men is pretty kabuki most of the time, so terribly inscrutable and a series of classy tableaus that maybe seems to be more meaningful than it is, but I sure love it! And don't forget that there IS a new episode of Mad Men on AMC tonight, Emmy Awards or no Emmy Awards!

More Emmy stuff coming up!

Let's Get Some Emmy Going On!

Starting with HBO's comedian and political gadfly Bill Maher of Real Time with Bill Maher with some "New Rules for Emmy" from The Hollywood Reporter, here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blood Dolphins on Animal Planet

If you care about dolphins, Animal Planet is running a three part series (Blood Dolphins) based on the Academy Award winning documentary, The Cove. Watch Ric O'Barry's mission to stop the ritual slaughter of these beautiful, intelligent animals in Japan.

It's impressive to see how immersed in animal rights and protection the Discovery owned Animal Planet channel has become. Always a destination for cute programs about cats, dogs and meercats, AP has become much more activist in its approach to educate viewers and preserve the environment

Programs such as Whale Wars, Pit Boss and now Blood Dolphins go a long way towards alerting people to the dangers these animals face. And the website linked above, offers suggestions on how people can help.

This will be the first time I've made a post on The Flaming Nose for a program I have not (and will not) watch. I care about dolphins too much, and I'm afraid I would be haunted forever if I viewed the terrible images of their murder in Japan. For the same reason, I never saw the movie The Cove, although I applaud its existence and the recognition it has brought to the world about this barbaric practice. I will not watch dolphins being clubbed to death, but I will help spread the word, so that more people can condemn, and hopefully eliminate another cetacean holocaust. Check the website link above for air times in your market. Beware of the video below, there are some violent scenes.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gervais & Merchant Present "An Idiot Abroad" with Karl Pilkington

If you're a fan of Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and their frequent partner-in-comedy Karl Pilkington, you're going to wish you lived in Britain right now. Those of you familiar with the trio's radio show (or the HBO animated series based on it) know how much fun these guys generated together, and now Gervais and Merchant have sent their friend around the world to make a travel docuseries for the Sky1 Channel entitled An Idiot Abroad.

I love Karl; he's got a wonderful sense of whimsy and absurdity -- listen to some of those radio shows and if you don't laugh at his contributions the most, I'd be surprised -- plus a hangdog non-extrovert persona that should prove a welcome contrast to the usual TV travelogues with their perky "I'm going to this resort for free so of course I'm loving it!" hosts.

As soon as we can figure out where we can watch these, we'll let you know!

"Little People, Big World" Has Its Final Season on TLC

According to TLC, the Roloff family's home life reality series is coming to an end. Check out The Hollywood Reporter columnist James Hibberd's column for all the details. Though I wasn't a die-hard viewer, I particularly enjoyed father Matt Roloff's sense of purpose and also his imaginative vision for their farm. Hard to believe they've made 200 episodes, isn't it? Though many probably tuned in at first purely from curiosity about this modern family of high-achieving little people, the Roloff's more than delivered the goods as a contemporary American household with problems both ordinary and extraordinary.

Roloffs, we'll miss you!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Still Mad About "Mad Men" on AMC?

We are, of course! Hope you've been keeping up with the stylish dilemmas of our favorite Manhattan ad men and women. All we can say is that Don Draper's armor is beginning to show some signs of stress, isn't it?

Mad Men airs on AMC Sunday nights at 10pm, following Rubicon.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

From "Rock Star: Supernova" to Ryan Star, Supernova

If there was an award for hardest working man in show biz, Ryan Star would certainly be a top contender. Over the past two years on tour, the 32 year old singer-songwriter opened for some big rock acts, including David Cook, Collective Soul, Rob Thomas and currently Thriving Ivory. In between he's headlined at some of the hottest clubs across the country. Last week his first major label album, 11:59, debuted at 31 on the Billboard 200 chart (#10 on BB's Top Rock Albums chart).

Star's rise to fame began as a standout contestant in the CBS reality show Rock Star: Supernova in the summer of 2006. Although he didn't win that competition, he caught the attention of the show's executive producer, Mark Burnett, who set up Star and the show's house band to record a live album, to help jump start his career. He returned to the show on week 11 (with the help of his fans through voting), to do an encore performance of the song "Back of Your Car." He was awarded a Honda CRV.

Star grew up in the Long Island, NY, town of Dix Hills. When he was 14 he formed his first band, Stage. When the band parted ways, Star went solo. A year before Rockstar: Supernova Ryan put out an album called "Songs From the Eye of An Elephant." It's a sensational collection of mostly stripped down piano and guitar backed vocals.

After Rock Star: Supernova Star signed with Atlantic Records and began working on 11:59. The label wanted to develop Ryan as an artist with a fanbase before releasing the ablum - a process that took nearly four years. During that time, several of the songs found life on television and in the movies. "Brand New Day" became the theme song for the Fox hit series Lie To Me, "Last Train Home" appeared on the soundtrack of the movie P.S. I Love You, and "This Could Be the Year" was used by HBO to promote the network's 2010 season. To get these songs to fans in 2009, Atlantic released an EP containing those three songs plus the hit radio single "Breathe" and ultimate up-tune "Right Now."

Since The Flaming Nose focuses on TV rather than music, I won't give a full review of 11:59, except to say that it is superb and I highly recommend it. If you like rock, pop-rock and rock ballads, with passionate vocals and brilliant lyrics, then this album is for you. The themes range from optimistic to sexy. And they are sung from the heart, with deep conviction. I highly recommend the deluxe version on itunes since it contains three additional tracks plus three music videos.

"Enjoy The Silence" cover from "Rock Star: Supernova"

"Breathe" live at 11:59 CD Release Show in NYC, 8/4/10

"Start A Fire" live at 11:59 CD Release show in NYC, 8/4/10

"Last Train Home" official music video

"Breathe" official music video
"Right Now" official music video

11:59 is available at all major retailers (Target, Best Buy, Walmart etc), on amazon.com and on itunes.

Ryan's website has an activie community forum and provides up-to-the-minute news and information about Ryan, his appearances and his tour. Tons of great photos too.

"The Comeback" Needs a Comeback

It's certainly not for everyone, but if there's one superb show that you probably missed a few years ago, this is it - and you need to get it on DVD.

"The Comeback" aired on HBO for one season in the summer of 2005. It stars Lisa Kudrow as has-been sitcom actress Valerie Cherish, who last stared in a four-season hit series called "I'm It" back in the late '80s/early '90s. She's stuck in that time - right down to her hair.

The series unfolds as Valerie auditions for a new NBC sitcom called "Room & Bored." Auditioning against her (and playing themselves) are 80s sitcom icons Marilu Henner and Kim Fields. Whoever lands the role will star in a companion NBC reality series that will air right after "Room & Bored," called "The Comeback."

Yep, you guessed it. "The Comeback" will chronicle the actress' return to prime time television, with cameras rolling on her 24/7 - at home, on the set of "Room & Bored," in the car, at meetings - everywhere. Of course Valerie lands the role.

Kudrow co-executive produced this series with Michael Patrick King, former executive producer of "Sex and the City." The two of them lend an air of true reality to this series that is sometimes hard to watch. Like "The Office," you will find yourself cringing. But like a slightly painful hang nail that you can't stop picking at, I found myself addicted to this hilarious series.

"The Comeback" is really two shows in one. Actually, almost three shows in one. Most if it is shot from the point of view of the reality show cameras. A few scenes are done with Valerie's home video camera that she uses for a daily vlog. But through those cameras you also get the sitcom "Room & Bored." In its entirety, you get the a true feel of what it's like to work in television, in today's Hollywood. The retooling of "Room & Bored," the politics of the business, and the endless cruel rejections that almost melt away with the rare triumphs. Most of all, you get a candid look at an actress' ego, and how it both protects her psyche and makes her kind of, well, absurd.

What makes this work so well is Kudrow. Valerie Cherish could so easily become a character who annoys the hell out of you. It wouldn't have been hard for you to really dislike her. Think "Fat Actress" or that horrible Paula Abdul reality show "Hey Paula." I kind of think "The Comeback" was modeled after "Hey Paula." Cherish's view of herself and her world is certainly skewed. She's stuck in a 20-year old "bubble." Yet somehow Kudrow's Cherish is not only likable, a few episodes in and you're really rooting for her. Sometimes she really comes through and just blows you away. You yell "right on Valerie" at your TV. You come to realize that, for the most part, she is competent and knows how to "play the game" in Hollywood. She's just stuck in time.

One of the true standouts in the cast is Robert Michael Morris as Mickey Deane, Valerie's hairdresser. Mickey goes fulltime with Valerie to get health insurance, and he goes everywhere with her. He's one-part hair stylist, one-part confidant, one-part BFF. As an effeminate man in his sixties who believes that his obvious homosexuality is a well-kept secret, Morris steals nearly every scene he's in.

I'm torn about this series lasting just one season. I certainly wanted more at its conclusion, yet I can't help but feel it ended perfectly, leaving us a limited edition series that "always leaves you wanting more" (tm Seinfeld).

Pick up "The Comeback" on DVD. Make sure you go several episodes before turning away. It WILL capture you around episode three.

Excellent clip in which Lisa Kudrow proves she's a woman of many characters - not just ditzy Phoebe Buffay and her sister Ursula.

Hot On Cable

Many people review a show right after the pilot premieres. With "Hot in Cleveland," I wanted to wait until the first season was winding down, because this series deserves consideration beyond that first uneven episode.

As a long-term employee of one of the "big 3 legacy" networks, it kind of pains me to say that a majority of the best original programming is now on cable networks. Sure, HBO & Showtime have had killer shows for years, but now middle-tier cable channels are stepping it up. AMC bowled us over with "Mad Men" and now TVLand has gone and done it with "Hot in Cleveland."

TVLand could not have picked a better series to debut as its first original program. I think chosing a sitcom that's recorded before a live studio audience - with four stand-out comic television actresses - was brilliant.

"Hot in Cleveland" isn't so much about great writing. The writing happens to be great NOT because of brilliant situations, plots or turns of phrases. The writing is perfect because the scripts are tailer-made for its stars to shine. It is Betty White, Jane Leeves, Wendy Malick and Valerie Bertinelli that make this show the gem that it is.

I have to say I didn't much care for the pilot. I sat there loving the three actresses on screen but wanting to laugh a lot more than I did. I had a sort of half-smile pasted on my face the whole time. Thank God I decided to give the second episode a try. Laughed my arse off. I think the show improved every single week as the actresses quickly took ownership of their roles, and the writers found a "rhythm."

Sometimes all it takes is a likeable cast (and you really do like all four of these women) with undeniable chemistry. In the seemingly dying genre of "live studio audience sitcom," I think this cast has the best chemistry since "Friends." I not only like these characters, I'd love to spend an evening having some beer and munchies with them at their favorite Cleveland bar.

The season one finale of "Hot in Cleveland" airs August 18, 10pm (9pm CT) on TVLand.

Episode 5 is a great expample of the series hitting its stride.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Belated R.I.P. to Producer David Wolper

We apologize for the delay in paying our respects to David L. Wolper, one of television's most accomplished producers, who passed away this last Wednesday. Wolper was a NYC kid who ended up attending USC in sunny Los Angeles, where he was bitten by the show business bug and ended up making television history. Anybody who grew up watching TV couldn't avoid being pleasantly influenced and entertained by Wolper's prodigious output.

In his early TV days he specialized in documentaries such as 1959's Race for Space, for which he had to cobble together an ad-hoc network of stations to air the special when the Big Three refused to run an independently-produced special, and which subsequently picked up an Oscar nomination. Many more followed throughout his long career -- docs about Hollywood, politics, history -- and Wolper was also busy trying his hand at features films like the daffy sightseeing comedy If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (even if people haven't seen it they seem to know the title), The Bridge at Remagen, the insect documentary The Hellstrom Chronicle, and a film that has become a bonafide classic, 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder.

More documentaries followed, and also more dramas, including the six-part Lincoln starring Hal Holbrook as the Man from Illinois, and the butt-kickin' private eye series featuring Teresa Graves as a stereotype-busting private eye in Get Christie Love!. Next came a batch of classic National Geographic specials which we all remember, including the one which introduced most of us to Jane Goodall, but it was in 1977 that Wolper indelibly changed television forever.

In 1977 David Wolper produced Roots, the epic 12-hour mini-series (one of the first, in fact Wolper basically birthed the form) taken from Alex Haley's best-selling novel. The young LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte brought home to all Americans the shame of slavery and opened the hearts and minds of everyone who watched. It was a television game-changer -- incredibly timely, amazingly entertaining, and yet searing and intelligent enough to truly affect the audience in a very real way. Unforgettable, Roots had an all-star cast consisting of well-liked TV names alongside lesser known talents, a combination that helped ensure big ratings yet never got in the way of the honest storytelling that is the heart of the production. Roots ended up getting a record 37 Emmy nominations and spawned a sequel.

So many other triumphs followed, including the stupendously popular and unforgettably steamy mini The Thorn Birds in 1983, which won veteran actress Barbara Stanwyck a much-deserved Emmy for her role opposite Richard Chamberlain, and introduced us to Australian newcomer Rachel Ward. The Civil War romance North and South followed -- cast also with veterans and new talent like young leading man Patrick Swayze -- and many other memorable productions (such as sequels to The Thorn Birds and North and South) including the astonishing Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Wolper could do anything.

But now he is gone, but most certainly not forgotten. His television work will live on, and what isn't on DVD now the studios holding it need to dig in and release it. We highly recommend that you read some of the wonderful articles that were written about David L. Wolper last week, including this remembrance from his long-time publicist Dale Olsen at The Huffington Post, this appreciation from Los Angeles Times TV critic Robert Lloyd, his interview at the Television Academy's Archive of American Television (which he helped found), this charming article by The Daily Breeze writer John Bogert about a day long ago when he spent a day with Wolper during his preparations for the 1984 Olympics, this excellent obituary from The Hollywood Reporter by Duane Byrge, and others that you can find online. (I have a thick commemorative publication from one of the trades from many years ago at my Nova Scotia house; I'll try to bring it back here and scan some material and post -- it was great and I've kept it all these years. Wolper also wrote his autobiography in 2002.)

David L. Wolper was a giant of television. The Flaming Nose salutes him and wishes his family and friends well at this difficult time.

Mr. Spock Goes All "Brahms" on Us!

How have we not talked about Star Trek here lately? I'm going to break the dry spell. Here's Spock sitting down at the piano in the third season episode "Requiem for Methuselah" and playing what he recognizes as a completely new Johannes Brahms waltz. (Viewers in the know realize that it was written by the immortal Mr. Flint, played by James Daly.) Kirk gets into the action by asking Mr. Flint's voluptuous ward Rayna (Louise Sorel) to dance. (Viewers in the know also realize that Rayna is actually not a woman after all, but...gasp!...an android!)

The faux Brahms waltz was written by Ivan Ditmars, longtime Hollywood musical director who might be best known as the musical director for Let's Make a Deal. His waltz is a delightful lilting composition that Star Trek fans will always remember fondly. A transcription of it was published in the long-ago Trek fanzine The Star Trek Songbook (yes, I have a copy!) and more recently was transcribed and is available on the Free-Scores sheet music website, thanks to Amanda!

So that's your Star Trek for the day! Carry on!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Creepy "Cropsey" on Investigation Discovery Tonight

Filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio used to hear all about the mysterious boogey man "Cropsey" during their separate childhoods growing up on Staten Island, and they turned their fascination with the NY area urban legend into the acclaimed documentary Cropsey, receiving its TV premiere tonight on the Investigation Discovery Channel. An audience and critical favorite on the film festival circuit, Cropsey looks into the gruesome 1987 murder of a young girl and the unsolved disappearances of three other children, the crimes ultimately pinned on a former resident of a facility for the mentally disabled which was the preferred locale for the scary Cropsey tales.

Here is the ID Channel's promo for their presentation, which starts at 9pm tonight:

Cropsey seems the perfect Friday the 13th fare, unfortunately all the more eerie and ultimately more affecting for being a true story with every element of a perfect urban legend -- frightening hermit, abusive mental institution, missing kids never found, abandoned public buildings -- that couldn't be put down. Much more than just an exploitative look at a cruel murder and its unsavory details, Cropsey is an unblinking look at our need to peek into the scary dark corners and explain them away, either with bravado or thru the law.

Here's the original theatrical trailer for Cropsey, twice as long as the TV promo:

Cropsey airs tonight beginning at 9pm on Investigation Discovery, nominally in two parts with the second part at 10pm but it's the whole movie, and repeats at midnight and 1am tonight, and also early tomorrow morning at 7am and 8am (yikes!). Investigation Discovery thrives somewhat under the radar, but they program an interesting collection of true crime docs, celebrity death investigations (I just watched one last night on the death of Princess Grace), and other crime-y stuff; do take this opportunity to acquaint yourself with them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

KTLA's Stan Chambers -- Happy Birthday and Happy Retirement!

The news is out -- KTLA's long time -- longest time -- news reporter Stan Chambers announced today that he's officially retiring after a career lasting almost 63 years. This is a good news, bad news situation; it's also Stan's birthday today -- Happy 87th, Stan! -- and while there's nothing but good in celebrating a great man's birthday, there's also a distinct sense of a door closing slowly on an era in TV news. Once upon a time, local news (at least in L.A.) was something more than just gossip, lightweight features, and bubble-brained anchors. KTLA was always something quite different, with the late anchor Hal Fishman handily defying the lightweight anchor stereotype, and with guys like Stan Chambers nosing around the streets of Los Angeles to give the local stories some grativas.

The Flaming Nose has many great memories of Stan Chambers -- some of worked at KTLA in the ol' days -- and to know Stan is to love him. And to respect him, most of all.

Stan's announcement today received a lot of coverage in industry publications and local newspapers, and it's easy to understand why. In a town where scandals reign and the biggest mouth may get the glory, Stan Chambers has been the epitome of class and professionalism his entire career. Many of us may aspire to such a descriptions, but few attain it. Stan Chambers has.

We're happy to read that he might be back for occasional stories on KTLA, but we also think that retirement will suit Stan Chambers. A man with such a zest for the next story or the happening that might happen tomorrow will have no trouble keeping involved with the city that loves him.

To read more about Stan's momentous announcement and to get a sense of the high esteem in which he's held by fellow journalists, read today's article by Cynthia Littleton in Variety ("Stan Chambers signs off from KTLA"), the L.A. Times story by Greg Braxton entitled "KTLA's Stan Chambers to announce retirement", the coverage on Business Wire (from a KTLA press release), and a nice interview and story on the Southern California Public Radio site by KPCC's Steve Julian and Mike Roe. Also check out the L.A. Observed site's article from yesterday by Kevin Roderick -- "Standing Ovation: Stan Chambers to retire". (On an almost related note, I found a great essay by Nathan Callahan about Stan Chamber's role in KTLA's coverage of a little-remembered 1951 murder in Southern California; read it here.)

Stan Chambers compleatists will want to watch the excellent four-hour interview with Stan at the Archive of American Television, from 1998, in which he discusses his career and his place in the world of Los Angeles newsgathering. We also hope that you've devoured his excellent autobiography from a couple of years ago "KTLA's News at Ten 60 Years with Stan Chambers"; Jane wrote about it here when it came out, and loved it!

Best of all is that KTLA is producing a one-hour special "Stan Chambers -- NEWSMAN" which will air on Monday, August 23rd at 8pm, with an encore on Sunday, September 5th at 11pm. This will be must-watch TV for all of us at The Flaming Nose, and we hope you'll tune in, too. Visit KTLA's site for more great info and photo features on Stan Chambers!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Happy Birthday to Sam Elliott!

We always like to give shout-outs to our favorites, and today's the birthday of Sam Elliott, the talented and oh-so-appealing actor whose been a staple of movies and TV for over forty years. In his younger days he was a staple on classic television series like Felony Squad, Land of the Giants, Mission:Impossible (he was a regular in the 5th season), Bracken's World, The Mod Squad and more, all the big ones. He easily transitioned to great TV movies and miniseries like The Sacketts, Wild Times, A Death in California, The Shadow Riders and so many others, often playing Western heroes with the dash befitting a movie star from the golden age, and sometimes stretching and playing villains with the same consummate skill and charisma.

He's also had a tremendous theatrical career, from the much-loved Lifeguard to his great turn as one of the Earp Brothers in Tombstone, and everything in between. We love Sam Elliott around here at The Flaming Nose, and wish him a very Happy Birthday!

We salute Sam with the trailer to a great TV movie Conagher he did in 1991 for TNT. I was there at the time and we always pleaded for a sequel, but it never happened. Too bad, because he was amazing and even better it co-starred his wonderful real-life wife and tremendous actress Katharine Ross. The trailer wrongly emphasizes all the fisticuffs and almost forgets to mention that there's a charming romance in there, but it's still good to see Sam Elliott up there in those captivating Western duds.

For a change of pace we're going to leave you with the trailer for the theatrical film Frogs from 1972, where Sam, along with Ray Milland and Adam Roarke, battles Mother Nature's minions gone mad!

Sam Elliott, you continue to rock our world!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Creepy Animal Shows (One Old, One New) Rule Summer TV!

Summer TV is teaming with shows about animals that bite!

Some, like the great White shark in this picture, can swallow you whole. Others, like the creepy, crawly parasites on the new Animal Planet show Monsters Inside of Me, are almost too tiny to see, but they can crawl in through your pores and grow like crazy until one day you just might give birth to a giant worm! Just like out of the movie Alien! C'est tres terrible!

Animal horrors large and small await the not faint of heart this summer. Shark Week is playing all week long on the Discovery Channel. Be sure to visit the website for a look at the wonderful live shark webcams. Shark Week has been returning to the airwaves for decades. It's as much a part of an American summer as hotdogs, Popsicles and the beach that you'll be too scared to visit after you watch it. And there's plenty of new footage this year too, for those who might think they're playing the same old stuff. I watched some wing nut drag a fake seal behind his floating sled while he lay on top of it with a camera. Of course a 3,000 pound Air Jaws in the South African sea launched himself about 8 feet into the air to bite the seal stuftie. The shark nearly landed on top of the photographer! It was awesome.

And check out the Animal Planet website for more on the parade of parasites from Monsters Inside of Me. Here you'll find captivating true life stories about flesh eating hookworms, tapeworms and amoebas that like to eat your brains.

When the weather is hot, it's nice to scare yourself silly with these cable reality shows.

Saying Goodbye to Mitch Miller, 1911 - 2010

The Flaming Nose is very sorry to hear today of the death, at age 99, of television choral conductor and music industry pioneer Mitch Miller, most famous in pop culture circles for his multi-year run (1961 - 1964) as the host of NBC's variety show Sing Along With Mitch.

Miller's goatee and his male chorus' cheerful and full-throated renditions of old favorites was a favorite around my house when I was growing up. My dad was a big Mitch Miller fan, and up until the end of his life he enjoyed listening to Miller's cassettes, even when he wasn't interested in hearing much of anything else. The combination of nostalgic songs and the good-hearted singing of them was irresistible and also comforting, and there's a part of that feeling still alive for many of us who've been fans over the years.

You might enjoy reading more about Mitch Miller's life other than as a TV empresario, too. He was crucial in the rise of the music producer as the driving force guiding the music industry's hit-making machine, and not without controversy for doing so. Wikipedia's entry on Mitch Miller is very interesting, and we also highly recommend Bruce Eder's fantastic write-up on the All Music Guide; it's amazing. The Mitch Miller obituary from The New York Times by Bruce Severo is full of great anecdotes, Yahoo has the Associated Press article available here, and The Los Angeles Times has Mitch Miller's obituary here, but the formatting appears to be messed up right now. (Also, the Library of Congress evidently has a large collection of 16mm Sing Along With Mitch episodes which are going into their permanent collection.)

Luckly for us there is a nice selection of clips from various Sing Along With Mitch shows available for viewing on YouTube, thanks to YT user dentelTV2's wonderful uploads. We'll start with Part 1 of a 4-part episode, and then you should look up more to watch at your leisure.

My father especially like Mitch Miller and the Gang singing "Heart of My Heart" --

Our condolences to the legendary Mitch Miller's family, friends and fans on this sad day.

Paying For Quality -- The Economics of "Mad Men"

As boosters of Mad Men, Breaking Bad and so many other terrific cable shows, we're always fascinated by the shaky economics that dog the business of making original series for cable. This very interesting article from Advertising Age -- "Drawing Little in Ad Revenue, How Does Mad Men Stay on the Air?" -- by Brian Steinberg will answer some of the questions that we ask ourselves. (Pictured above are Jon Hamm as Don Draper and Darren Pettie as the slimy and sadistic Lucky Strike honcho Lee Garner Jr. from last night's episode of MM.)

Though it's definitely true that cable networks have a dual revenue stream -- ads and also the subscriber fees paid to them by cable and satellite systems -- it's still undoubtedly a serious juggling act. At least we know that with AMC's Mad Men and Breaking Bad, the money isn't going to sports licensing fees. If you think it's expensive making good television series, you don't even want to think about what it takes to secure sports rights. We'll take Mad Men, thank you very much!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Rubicon" on AMC Tonight -- Will You Be There?

Nobody loves what AMC is doing these days more than we do. Breaking Bad is incredible television -- heartbreaking, brutal, with the best acting around -- and Mad Men continues in its 4th season to be the stylish icy delight that we all crave beyond reason. They're trying again, beginning tonight (except for an earlier sneak of the pilot) with Rubicon, an intricate drama set in the world of intelligence and counter-intelligence and counter-counter-intelligence.

Yikes. We love that the show is about a super-smart guy, Will Travers (played by James Badge Dale -- 24, The Black Donnellys,The Pacific), who knows everything, a super braniac who can find patterns where others see gibberish. Very appealing and we've got to support that, but Rubicon is beginning to sound like 24 without the chases and with lots of talk, if what we're hearing has merit. (I'm watching the pilot right now, and so far I'm not going to disagree.)

Nobody's more paranoid or conspiracy-minded than I am -- I'll listen to a good theory anytime -- but when the things Rubicon is being compared to are the extremely convoluted (but admittedly smart) movies like The Parallax View, or Three Days of the Condor, I've got to start freaking out a little. It's hard enough to keep track of clues and red herrings when you're on a magical island with smoke monsters, let alone on the drab streets of NYC we're seeing in Rubicon. I almost like the look of Rubicon -- it's like the brainy version of Rescue Me's gritty and hyper-masculine NYC (and Dale appeared on that show as a Gavin) -- but it'll grind you down.

Maybe it's just me, or maybe it was just snowing too much while they were filming the pilot, but Rubicon is really dark and understated, so much so that fine actors like Arliss Howard (Medium) and Miranda Richardson can't even register a spark. It's also the kind of series where a phone rings and the mysterious voice on the other end quotes a chess move, and then we see lots of chess boards in the subsequent scenes. Nothing against chess, but it's complicated and slow and if we're unlucky a metaphor for the entire show.

Maybe I'm reading this all wrong. Let's hope AMC has another winner with Rubicon, but so far I'm seeing it has neither the sexy veneer nor Baby Boomer-centric historical intrigue of Mad Men (which helps us get over the fact that often not much happens in the show), nor the X-ray accurate yet always unexpected twists of human nature of Breaking Bad.

Rubicon starts tonight on AMC at 8pm with two episodes, followed by Mad Men at 10pm. You really might want to visit AMC's Rubicon website for more insight and behind-the-scenes information, here.