Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen on TV

Most of us were dismayed to hear that the talented and unique Leslie Nielsen died this past weekend. Though his credits are full of interesting big screen titles like Forbidden Planet, The Reluctant Astronaut, and The Poseidon Adventure, it was 1980's Airplane! which forever cemented his image, at least for fans of a certain age, of Nielsen as a primarily comic actor. He hardly started out that way, though, breaking into live TV in the very early 1950s in a steady series of roles that never let up as he made appearances on every major drama showcase of the time. He had several years at MGM making movies, but at the end of the decade he was back in the medium that seemed to better know how to utilize his earnest presence.

His credit list is an A-List of every important television series from the 1960s on, in every genre -- Rawhide, Wagon Train, The Untouchables, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Route 66, The Fugitive, The Defenders, Daniel Boone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Peyton Place, Ben Casey, The Wild Wild West, Dr. Kildare, Bonanza, Run for Your Life, It Takes a Thief, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Gunsmoke, The Big Valley, The Virginian, The Bold Ones, Night Gallery, Medical Center, The Mod Squad, M*A*S*H, The Streets of San Francisco, The F.B.I., Barnaby Jones, Hawaii 5-O, Ironside, Kojak, The Rookies, Kung Fu, Cannon, Columbo, SWAT, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Vega$, Hotel, 227, Murder, She Wrote, Highway to Heaven, Father Dowling, Who's The Boss?, The Golden Girls, and many more. After his big screen success in Airplane!, Nielsen got his own comedy TV series in 1982 with Police Squad!, short-lived on TV but spawning three movie sequels as The Naked Gun.

From that time on it was hard to convince people that Nielsen had once been a dead serious dramatic actor, but it didn't really matter. He was making so many people laugh that it was a moot point. Always the proud Canadian (his older brother was a top Canuck politician), Nielsen made several appearances on the popular mid-90's Mountie comedy-adventure series Due South starring Paul Gross. (It was seen down here on CBS late-night for a while and then we picked it up for TNT where it ran nicely in afternoon for several seasons). Nielsen was able to both honor and poke gentle fun at his native land with his portrayal of Sgt. Buck Frobisher, a sure comic creation played with his characteristic absurdist grace.

And here's a cute TV commercial for the European mobile telephone company DutchTone (and there are others on YouTube for the same company):

Here's a bit of Leslie when he assumed the role of high-powered movie studio boss Bracken in the second season of the fascinating (but ultimately short-lived) series Bracken's World, circa 1969. Leslie Nielsen's scene with the wonderful Lois Nettleton begins about 1:30 into the clip. It's from the episode called "Nude Scene" about actors facing the dilemma of whether or not to do one together. The late great Steve Ignat also starred in this memorable episode.

Critic Tom Shales did a nice column in The Washington Post on Leslie Nielsen's television career, which you can (and should) read here. You should also read his comprehensive biography here; it will make you appreciate even more the productivity and longevity of this show business legend. If you're a Netflix subscriber, take a look at the wealth of offerings available to watch and enjoy.

Leslie Nielsen was able to survive, adapt, reinvent himself in different decades, and thrive -- sounds like a lesson that we can all learn from.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nosetalgia: The T-Day T-Zone Marathon

Listen Millennial boys and girls...and you will hear a television tale from long, long ago. Back when Woolly Mammoths still thundered across the plains, there was a time before iPhones, iPods, widgets and apps. If you wanted to watch TV, you had to get your big butt off the couch and turn it on by hand. And once it was on, there were only about 5 or 6 channels to watch. That's right, no Animal Planet, no ESPN, no Hallmark or G4 or Discovery. Incredibly, the world was still without DVD's and DVR's as well. It's possible we didn't even have microwaves back then, but it was soooooo many moons ago it's hard to recall.

You're probably thinking, what in God's name did we all do on Thanksgiving after the Macy's parade was over and the turkey was bubbling in the oven? Well most people watched football on TV and if you weren't a sports fan television was a vast desert. That is, until the Twilight Zone Marathon came along. Invented by industry titan and fellow Nose founder Lisa, the T-Zone marathon was at the forefront of alternative programming. An entire day of Twilight Zone episodes were programmed back to back on independent TV powerhouse KTLA (Los Angeles). It was wildly, amazingly, Nielsen ratingly successful. Finally, non-football followers had something to be thankful for on the national day of stuffing and pumpkin pie. Rod Serling's classic and iconic series was truly a feast for starving TV viewers.

I checked TV listings for tomorrow and could not find Twilight Zone playing anywhere on my Comcast system. I guess some good things have to live in the rosy glow of our memories. TV Land is doing a Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie marathon however, and I consider it an homage to our Nose founder Lisa.

Do you have a favorite Twilight Zone episode? A lot of people would choose the one pictured above, where a very young William Shatner thinks he sees a monster on the wing of a plane. Yes! There was once something a bit scarier than TSA pat downs or body scans! I'm partial to "A Stop at Willoughby", which always resonated personally after many years working in media and advertising. In it, an ad executive loses all his marbles from Madison Avenue stress, and finds a way to escape into a kinder, gentler time, compliments of....the Twilight Zone. I hope this post helps you recall a kinder, gentler time in television history. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 1963 -- Cronkite Was The Messenger

We never want to forget one of America's darkest days -- and one of televisions's most important -- when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Many of us were in school at the time and we all recall with a varying set of memories the shock and horror at hearing that our President had been shot. For CBS, it fell to newsman Walter Cronkite to deliver the announcement to Americans, or at least the housewives watching daytime television -- a soap opera -- at the moment the news came over the wire.

As soon as live news coverage started, it was Cronkite before the camera as the gravity of the day's events unfolded and the grim outcome was sealed in history.

Many years later Walter Cronkite reflected on the events of that day:

Of course, Walter Cronkite wasn't the only national journalist to cover the events of November 22, 1963. ABC and NBC also had live news coverage, but somehow it's Cronkite that we all seem to remember, no doubt because of his longevity in the business and his sterling reputation as a newman of incomparable insight, intelligence and integrity. We highly recommend a visit to the YouTube channel JKF1963Videos, where you will a collection of all three networks' coverage from that terrible day. (Thanks to channel creator Robbie from Minnesota for compiling and collecting this video in one place.) There are also many fascinating interviews with Cronkite where he reflects further on his experiences, and they are also highly recommended for students of history and television.

The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a defining moment in the history of television, and in the history of a nation.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

PBS Goes John Lennon Tonight and Monday

PBS takes a decided more youthful demo turn -- John Lennon instead of Lawrence Welk, though I guess he's pretty much disappeared from PBS fundraisers, replaced with baby boomer rock concerts, right? -- with two programs premiering over the next two nights.

Tonight, Masterpiece Theatre, which recently had such a brilliant trio of Sherlock Holmes under their Mystery! banner, goes Contemporary with Lennon Naked, a TV movie originally broadcast on BBC Four in the UK this past June. It covers the life of John Lennon from approximately 1967 - 1971, including his romance with Yoko Ono and other Beatle milestones. We're a little over two weeks away from the 30th anniversary of Lennon's murder, and with such a date looming, and with PBS' sterling reputation, you'd think that this might be as wonderful or special as was their Sherlock triple-pack, but alas it seems not. I'm not a Beatles ultra-aficionado (music in general isn't my bag, exactly) but the reviews are unanimously not overly favorable. However, it's John Lennon. At the very least Lennon Naked is a great curiosity piece, with Lennon played by Christopher Eccleston (2005's Doctor Who and also a short-time regular on Heroes) and Yoko Ono by Naoko Mori (from Torchwood).

Definitely more your thing if you're a serious John Lennon fan is Monday's American Masters documentary presentation LENNONYC, focusing on Lennon's time living in New York with Yoko and their son Sean. This is the one that's getting the great reviews, and there's no way you can beat a great documentary with a so-so TVM. Truth is always more wondrous than fiction, and LENNONYC appears to have done a fitting job in profiling the musical genius' pleasure at crafting a satisfying life for himself and his family in his adopted city of New York.

If you're a Beatles' fan it's inconceivable that you'd miss either one, of course. The 90-minute Lennon Naked on Masterpiece Contemporary preems tonight (Sunday) on your local PBS station at 9pm (probably, but check your local listings) and will encore as well as being available for online viewing starting next week.

LENNONYC on American Masters airs tomorrow (Monday) at 9pm (again probably, but always check your local listings) for two hours and will also encore. It's not currently listed as being available in its entirety online, but you should check the American Masters' video page for updates and other interesting clips.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nose-Talgia: "The Mighty Hercules"

I was inspired by a Facebook profile photo event -- change your pic to a favorite childhood cartoon -- to revisit The Mighty Hercules, an animated series which started in 1963 and utterly captured my imagination back then. Starting out with an exciting theme song sung by pop singer Johnny Nash, and featuring the exploits of mythological hero Hercules -- always one of my favorites -- The Mighty Hercules was plenty thrilling to a kid and we all loved it.

I was a nut for Greek mythology; I first got turned onto it from the entry in The Golden Book Encyclopedia set which was found on a many a baby boomer's library shelf. (I credit this set for starting my intense curiosity and lifelong love of mummies, volcanoes, and so many other things!) Haunting illustrations (especially on the covers -- yikes! Look at that Punch and Judy!) which tantalized the imagination -- like something from the Twilight Zone, hyper-real images from all of history -- made reading these an unforgettable experience! I remember the images for the mythology page so well -- Andromeda on a rock, Perseus holding Medusa's head (fostering my complete love for all things Medusa), and so many others.

Then along comes an amazing cartoon on weekday afternoons that ties right into my fascination with mythology! The Mighty Hercules had just enough characters straight out of mythology to satisfy my classical bent, and enough crazy powers to feed my science fiction/monster gent. Perfection! (The series was made by Trans Lux who also did Felix the Cat, so you might recognize some voices.) Here's the catchy theme song!

And here just a little taste of the excitement in every episode -- Hercules' girlfriend Helena gets stuck in some quicksand, thanks to the evil powers of chief baddie Daedalus. The little centaur who says everything twice is named Newton. He's annoying, but memorable. I must say Hercules looks mildly annoyed at the clingy Helena in the pic to the left here; it's been said more than once that The Mighty Hercules has a homoerotic frisson, but you can say that about most any muscle man-oriented entertainment. However I totally get where young gay boys' hearts might have gone pitter-patter over Hercules. Honestly, Herc falls into the pure hero type. I know he probably likes Helena just fine, but he's fighting evil...who has time for a girlfriend?

We're not the only ones who love The Mighty Hercules; there are some terrific places on the web with great TMH info: The Cartoon Scrapbook page, on the A Dispensable List of Comic Book Lists, Infinite Coolness has a great TMH article (scroll down to it), Toon Tracker, and others, including a great episode listing here on plus there are some full episodes on YouTube though it doesn't look like there is an official DVD release yet. Long overdue, that! Okay, the animation is primitive and it's hardly Disney, but the show was wonderful!

So, as Hercules used to say as he flew off up to Mt. Olympus...Olympia!!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tina Fey Wins the Mark Twain Award -- Watch It Now!

In case you missed Sunday night's broadcast on PBS of Tina Fey's Nov. 9th Kennedy Center ceremony for winning the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, you're in luck. In addition to encores on your local PBS affiliate, the entire show (well...what we got to see on the special, more on that below) is available for online viewing at the PBS website, here.

The show is jam-packed with the talented Tina's friends and colleagues, including Alec Baldwin, Betty White, Jon Hamm, Steve Martin and many of her Saturday Night Live castmates. The only controvery about the show is that due to time constraints about 20 minutes of the show had to be edited out, chief among them several biting comments about Sarah Palin's politics and how her views affect women. You can read The Washington Post review of the live event, specifically mentioning some of the remarks excised in the broadcast (though at the time they didn't know they were going to be cut out). Here's their report on the edited broadcast, too. The Hollywood Reporter also did a piece on the edits here.

Was this political censorship or just the unfortunate reality of broadcast television that everything has to fit into a specific time slot? Of course it's the latter, but it's the what that gets cut out that's interesting. To be honest, if I were PBS, I'd probably cut out the more clearly political stuff, too. Tina Fey's pals in the room may or may not have laughed -- there's little funny, actually, about the issues she was referring to -- but for a larger broadcast audience just keep in the laughs and try to get some viewers. Good for Tina for having her say at the ceremony, but I can see where PBS might have made the better television decision to snip where they did.

Watch the show. Tell us what you thought. We love Tina Fey, and like the other female Mark Twain Prize winners Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg, she is not only a funny lady in performance, but also in the brain. She's a lot more delightful than them, perhaps -- she's more delightful than most performers -- but no less a comic force to be reckoned with than any of the other past honorees. You can find a list and bios of the whole gang here.

(Hey, you guys do go and check out the links we all embed here, don't you? We rely on those outside sources to enrich our posts and you'll find much of interest at the other end of those clicks. Please follow them, but come back here, too!)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Night in Alaska -- Do You Want To Go To There?

A huge brouhaha is frothing out in America, and we don't know quite what to think about it. I'm sure you know what it is -- the premiere tonight of TLC's eight part series Sarah Palin's Alaska. "You Can See Sarah Palin's Alaska from Your Living Room" says the TLC website, in a funny riff on politician Palin's infamous remark about Russia during the 2008 Presidential campaign. Admit it, it's funny.

So what is Sarah Palin's Alaska? Is it a merely a travelogue of America's 49th state, a look at a wild and wooly lifestyle and terrain that is as exotic to most of us as the surface of the moon? Would producer Mark Burnett of Survivor fame have done this if Palin hadn't been able to turn her unsuccessful Vice Presidential run into a not-going-away-anytime-soon brush with full-fledged celebrity? It's clear that this effort revolves around Palin's public image, and that's where the kerfuffle lies.

Do you love her, or do you hate her?

If you love her, there'll be no missing this series, unless you just plain hate grizzly bears, salmon or the great outdoors. If Sarah's your gal, you'll 100% buy in to the image presented here, just another gun-toting housewife/ex-Governor living in Alaska, minding her own business, talking folksy, raising a brood of kids and embodying everything some Americans think is lacking in the rest of American women. You'll savor every word coming out of her mouth.

If you hate her, you'll think this is a blatant media manipulation, a paid political announcement where -- surprise! -- the politician is the one getting paid to appear. You'll think that this is the longest and most partisan commercial ever made for a woman who will certainly figure prominently in 2012's Presidential election. You'll put your fingers in your ears to avoid hearing her distinctive, simplistic delivery.

If you are a television network like TLC, you'll be thanking the stars that somebody like Sarah Palin came along. TLC -- one time known by their full name The Learning Channel, they're hardly that now -- is a network that thrives on celebrating American life's unusual nooks. TLC success stems from a multi-pronged slate, with sideshow-tinged series showcasing families with dozens of children (the product not of mere fecundity but a religious sect that promotes mega-childbearing), families of little people (TLC's on to a different series now that the Roloffs are done), Kate Gosselin and her big family (even as the marriage dissolved before our eyes), disturbing cases of hoarders who can't get out from under their own junk, tattoo artists, polygamous wives, child beauty queens (ala JonBenet Ramsey), mean people telling people that their wardrobe is ugly (What Not to Wear), and in possibly an amusing irony, a couple of shows that promote wedding gown sales and makeovers.

After the rich pageant of TLC family-oriented programming, can anybody think mating is glamorous? There are also a few cooking series, baking reality shows where cupcakes create blood feuds, and another one where women seem to be pretty smug about not knowing they were pregnant until they suddenly go into labor. These shows are not even all bad, or even mostly bad. They're all of a kind, though, and you can call it many things but it sure isn't Learning. P.T. Barnum knew exactly what he was doing, as does TLC. (I don't want you do think I hate all these shows; I think Michelle Duggar seems like a very sweet woman, and she has a delightful laugh. I like her.)

What this means, really, is that Sarah Palin has found a home, and a really good one, on TLC. What could be better than a woman who's a genuine attraction, love her or hate her? Palin's appeal is almost an amalgamation of TLC's programming philosophy -- and let's not pretend that there is really any philosophy at work other than trying to get ratings -- which seems to be attracting viewers by waving a crazy quilt of provocative lifestyles in front of the audience and hoping they'll, watch. Palin is perfect bait for this. Her followers will follow, her haters may avoid but maybe not before taking a peek at the woman behind the curtain, and TLC is the winner either way. I'm also frightened enough of the American voters at this point to say that Palin may personally come out a winner here, too, in just the way she's planning it. Would I petition TLC to not run the show? On what grounds? Annoying host? It's too late to put this genie back in the bottle; let her run and watch or don't watch. Me, I'm going with anything but Sarah Palin's Alaska, but that's me.

It's amusing (almost) that at just the point when the country is still digesting the bitter cuppa dispensed by Tea Party followers in the mid-term elections (and thanks again to all the folks who couldn't even be bothered to get out and vote -- see what happens??), that there's another Palin-related controversy brewing. Is the terpsichoreally-challenged (at least according to the Dancing With The Stars judges) Bristol Palin (with partner Mark Ballas) being saved from banishment from the show because of desperately-dialing fingers of the Tea Party? With right wing bloggers urging their readers to vote for Bristol, is it a tsunami of conservatives who'll help her dance to victory? Do you care? I don't, but at least I'm happy some billionaire hasn't rigged the system -- or has one? If it's just a bunch of evangelical kids dialing or texting, or old white men who don't know Medicare is a government program picking up the phone, that's cool. Silly, but cool. (You also might enjoy reading this article on the subject by Marisa Guthrie from The Hollywood Reporter, from Thursday.)

Pick your poison tonight. Dexter on Showtime -- getting really good, too! The Walking Dead on AMC -- also terrific! Boardwalk Empire on HBO -- still very interesting but getting more admiration than can't-miss-it vibes out there now. Great Migrations on Nat Geo! Or maybe even an ex-V.P. candidate showing the broadcast equivalent of home movies....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

More SCTV Goodness: My Favorite Count Floyd

After Dean's insanely great SCTV article yesterday, I was moved to find and post my favorite bit from the wonderful Joe Flaherty as cut-rate horror movie host Count Floyd -- The Blood Sucking Monkeys from West Mifflin, Pennsylvania!

I know what Dean means when he talks about how much SCTV makes you laugh -- this one is still as hilarious as the first time I ever saw it! Just a gem! I was going to use this as one of our Halloween TV picks a couple of weeks ago, but this is an even better occasion to highlight Flaherty's brilliant comedy creation!

Dean, thanks for putting a much-deserved spotlight on one of the most accomplished shows ever!

Friday, November 12, 2010

On Air: SCTV, and How It Remapped Our Smiles

Writing about Second City Television feels radically daunting to me. It's like writing a a review of the Bible, or telling you about the love of my life or something: it feels too big for me to handle. In fact it IS too big for me to handle, at least here on The Flaming Nose. But I'll try.

In 1977, when I was 11, I was friends with a kid named Juan Salazar. Juan was from Cuba, and when I'd hanging around his family's apartment, I was introduced to their then-unique (to me) mixture of Spanish and English. I found this aspect of Juan's life quite fascinating, and so I tuned in, once, to a Spanglish show on my Atlanta PBS outlet called Que Pasa, USA? As I watched this series (which I now find even more intriguing), I felt it cluing me into the Hispanic dialect and culture, and as a result, I was hoping to garner a deeper understanding of Juan's life (though his English was better than mine, and we had a preternatural connection through humor; no one in my life made me laugh harder than Juan Salazar, and wherever he is, I hope he feels the same about me). Anyway, I'd watch this sitcom every week, and I really enjoyed it, even if I couldn't get some of the jokes. One week, I stuck around afterwards to see what was on next, and what appeared blew my little mind.

It was a cheap dinky show, and it was called Second City Television, or SCTV for short. It spoofed all manner of media, and in a different way than did the then relatively new Saturday Night Live. For one thing, there were no audience members, no musical guests, no celebrities, no streams of whooping applause; it was only 30 minutes long and it'd come on (in my outlet at least) when the sun was still up. Many of the sets were slightly makeshift (sometimes there weren't even sets; there were just lit studio backgrounds). The costumes and makeup (by the incredibly talented Juul Haalmeyer and Christine Hart, respectively) were rich but definitely hitting a strange note of comedy-centric craft I'd never before witnessed. The sound was weird; SCTV had a laugh track unlike any out there--uber-phony, but somehow it was the one laugh track that really did make me laugh a little harder (I've read that the laugh track was sampled live from real audiences at the Second City Theater in Toronto). The on-screen titles and graphics were bizarre, seemingly hand-crafted. It all just totally overloaded me with exoticism and, thus, I couldn't immediately fathom its appeal, except to say that it made me laugh and FEEL complete rapture. Though the show was in English, I felt like it was being beamed to us from another world far away.

Well, I guess it was. SCTV was being broadcast from Toronto, Canada (and later was shot even further north, in Edmonton, Alberta, which made the comedy seem even more alien). Anyway, I didn't know any of this at the time. I just knew there was something peculiar about this show that I loved. Only problem was, when I would insist that my closest relations, my mom Lynn and dad Buddy, watch it with me while we ate dinner, I'd be the only one in the den laughing. I endured some pretty stony silences those days; my parents just didn't get it at all (the only thing more uncomfortable than being the only one in the room laughing is to be the only one in the room NOT laughing). Once again, like many time before and after, I fear, my parents were baffled by this weird little only child of theirs. And then, when I sojourned over to Juan's house to watch Que Pasa USA? I'd insist we'd watch SCTV right after it. But, somehow, he didn't get it, either. Neither did my cousin Greg, with whom I grew up and I watched Saturday Night Live with regularly during weekend sleepovers at his house. In fact, I knew not one person, big or pint-sized, who was watching this show. Not one...except for me.

And so it became my show. Mine, all mine. On Sundays, I'd wake up, watch an old movie on Atlanta's WTCG, or listen to Casey Kasem count down America's Top 40 on Z-93, and then by 7 pm, I'd retreat into my room for the main attraction, tuning in with my tiny black-and-white tube to glorify in this Canadian silliness that I was sure was intelligent and insightful (the night would be capped, by the way, with 96 Rock's Dr. Demento and the King Biscuit Flour Hour). One thing is for sure I knew right away about SCTV: I got a lot of the jokes. For instance, having long realized the Vegas-tinged phoniness of 70s TV talk shows, I really got a kick out of Joe Flaherty as the unctious gabfest host Sammy Maudlin, a long-running character who appeared here, in 1976, alongside John Candy as sidekick William B. Williams, Eugene Levy as funnyman Bobby Bittman, Catherine O'Hara as Trish Nutley--an early Lola Heatherton--and Andrea Martin doing a confused "Mother Teresa"

And then, later on in the show's run, there was this insane commercial for the home version of my favorite game show, the Hollywood Squares. Even to this day, the last shot of this bit gives me both goosebumps and guffaws--and even today, I can't really explain where the goosebumps come from. There's just a radical oddness about the piece that really tapped into not only a deep-seated fear of having my childhood home ripped apart for no reason at all, but also into my romance with all things wacky (also, the notion that we're supposed to buy the obvious miniature at the end as real was a new level of comedy for me). At any rate, this was a sensation I'd get accustomed to feeling while watching SCTV:

The premise of SCTV was simple: each episode was a "programming day" for Channel 109 out of an anonymous American city called Melonville. The shows being programmed on SCTV were fast-paced: an "episode" could go on for four minutes, and then it'd be on to the next thing. Watching it on PBS without any real commercials intruding, I think, was a real key to my liking SCTV so early on. The whole thing tapped into my love for and sometimes disgust with television's brilliance and inanity. And I liked that the whole thing seemed to be done by a bunch of amateurs. Just look at this early opening, which actually used a famous Spike Jones tune to back up shots of TV "professionals" who clearly have no idea what they're doing!

This cast rundown was the show's bedrock. None of them had yet ripened into movie stars; they all seemed like my weird uncles and aunts--the ones that made me laugh incessantly because they didn't have to deal with the consequences once they handed me back to my parents. Later, the SCTV cast projected a more celebrated image when this slightly more familiar opening began airing, complete with shots of the now-iconic falling TVs and Russ Little's incomparable theme playing in the background:

I think I first really, in my marrow, knew I was hopelessly in love with SCTV when this very skit first aired: The Leave It To Beaver 25th Anniversary Party. Beaver was a series that greeted me almost every day upon my arrival home after school. To savage it like just seemed How could you make cruel hay of such innocence? Portraying Ward as a greying drunk, Whitey (Harold Ramis) as a murder-minded chum, Eddie Haskell (Dave Thomas) as an enabling homosexual, and referring to those wild 1970s rumors of the Beaver being killed in Vietnam? (The whole bit, actually, seems to be about the mass confusion the latter urban myth about Jerry Mathers' wartime "death" evoked in the populace.) Hell, the SCTV writers even deigned, as became their custom, to spell the actors' names hilariously wrong--Hugh Bowmont (fanatically soused Joe Flaherty), Barbara Billingslee (adulterous Catherine O'Hara), Tony Dowe (genial pompadoured Eugene Levy), and Gerry Mathers (the only innocence still to be sullied, in John Candy) as The Beaver. Again, I got chills watching this, but laughed hard, particularly at something an 11-year-old would find hysterical: Joe Flaherty's sublime drunken stumbling...

Harold Ramis would be the first cast member to jump ship, noticeably disappearing after the show's first year to co-write the box office smash hit National Lampoon's Animal House. But the other cast members stayed with me, and for a long time. I got to be great friends with them. Eugene Levy would forever be in my heart as the harried, fake-mustachioed game show host Alex Trebel (again with the name screw-ups) in this, what is widely considered to be the perfect SCTV skit, High-Q. It was written, in a fit of delirious genius, by Catherine O'Hara, and remains the game show we all secretly wanna see happen. Just look at these faces, and listen to the sound, in this piece--they make the senses smirk:

My relationship with SCTV on my PBS stations (Channel 8 and 30 in Atlanta) continued unabated until the year 1980. By this time, I was well into my love of movies, having seen 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1978 and, upon which, having decided that the pursuit of either the making of or the talking about movies would be my lifelong chase. By this time, another PBS staple, Sneak Previews, with hosts Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, had become another obsession of mine. In between watching movies on my own, and seeing what these guys had to say about everything coming out in theaters around me, I'd become sincerely strung-out on movies. So when I saw this skit on my favorite TV show ever (SCTV had surpassed my former favorite TV show, All in the Family, by this time), I was apoplectic. Everything about it--from the slaying cheap-o effects with those improbably combined Starlost/Star Wars/Lost in Space/Star Trek models and the skewering of Robert Altman's lark Popeye--to the spoofing of the "Dog of the Week" feature on Sneak Previews (in which Siskel and Ebert had an actual dog on set barking to signify the segment's appearance--and I mention it now just to explain the now-obscure upcoming jokes)---everything about this skit touched me deeply, and made me love SCTV even more. Time and space themselves, now, could not tear this relationship asunder; for me, it was a perfect storm:

There was a time where SCTV became harder for me to see. In fact, it had vanished from my local station's lineup in late 1980, and I felt like my favorite cat had run off on me. Seriously, as I entered high school, I had become somewhat sallow in the show's absence. I had movies to keep me happy, but Saturday Night Live's original cast had departed, and the replacement cast wasn't doing it for me. Luckily, this was one of the best periods for cinema in my lifetime, so I kept busy. But something... something was missing. I perked up for a short while when, on Atlanta's CBS affiliate, the show reappeared as a late-night rival to Saturday Night Live. The cast had changed: Catherine O'Hara (an early crush) and John Candy (an early man-crush) were gone, replaced by the less funny Robin Duke and Tony Rosato. Still, there were golden moments. For instance, I had long been famous in high school for memorizing and performing K-Tel commercials in their entirety; and I'd recently been creeped out as a 13-year-old by Mike Nichols' 1966 film of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? As a result, I really dug this bit (and I even knew who Broderick Crawford was, too):

NBC returned my love to me full force, though, in 1981. With the dismal failure of the new Saturday Night Live's ratings, the network was searching for a possible replacement. So they granted SCTV a extra life, and when I found this out, ecstasy stands as a weak term for what I experienced. I was scaling the moons of Jupiter when NBC birthed SCTV Network 90, a massively-scaled 90-minute vehicle for this cast of characters (now with Catherine O'Hara and John Candy back in the fray). When I tuned in on that first September Friday in 1981, at the incredibly late 12:30 time slot (I never fell asleep, not once), I saw this indelible opening. How I still adore those glimpses into each actor's "life" as they are badgered by the network to sign their stinking contracts; it's the funniest opening ever for any TV show (Catherine O'Hara being caught as she cheats on a test cracks me up every time; so does that one little girl on the left giving a goodbye Girl Scout salute to the amazing Andrea Martin, another early crush of mine; and may I say, Dave Thomas' narration reigns supreme):

This new guise for SCTV ushered in a wholly different feel for the show. Most importantly, it slowed the pace down a bit, and I don't mean that in a bad way. After the show found its footing midway through its first season (still shooting in Edmonton, Alberta, by the way), it halfway eschewed the shorter skits and started concentrating on the behind-the-scenes doings at SCTV. Now we were totally in another world. Totally. To give you an idea: Matt Groening and James L. Brooks have said they were inspired by SCTV to create a little universe in The Simpsons' Springfield. This should give any novice a perspective on the show's influence.

I can't give a rundown of all the SCTV characters here. To do so would be madness. But I have to say the series, for me, was ultimately anchored by SCTV's Owner and President Guy Cabellero (Guy Guy!), played with supreme improv confidence by Joe Flaherty. Dressed in a natty panama suit, seated in a wheelchair he didn't need ("I use it for respect," he'd confess to his closest confidants), and slimy as all get out, Guy made no bones about it: he was in the TV business to make money, and would break everyone's balls to do so. He wore this goal as a badge of pride, and would admit it outright to the viewers, whom he fully expected to be on his side in exploiting them. In Guy's defense, I think his motto was that old producers bromide "Give the people what they want." Because he was strangely so honest with us, it was hard not to love Guy Cabellero.

SCTV Network 90 was, I think, a questionable ratings success--back then, before the 24-hour cable cycle was really born, who was up at 12:30 watching TV, and what outfit was really staking its guts on the concept? But it was an unqualified critical and industry success. In fact, the show achieved an absolutely unprecedented feat in television history. Yeah, in 1982, its writing staff (which included its entire cast, too) were nominated for four out of five Emmy nominations for Best Writing for A Variety Show (they won that year, of course, for their Moral Majority episode). But, incredibly, in 1983, the show was nominated again--for FIVE OUT OF FIVE NOMINATIONS. No TV show EVER has matched this feat (the episode that won was the amazing Energy Ball/Sweeps Week episode with the "Night of the Primetime Stars" throughline). This is outstanding. It's like...could you imagine the batshit shitstorm that would rain down in the media nowadays if Mad Men, as fantastic as it is, were nominated for five out of five of anything? Well, this happened in 1983. And it'll never occur, in any category of any award show, in any country, in any universe, ever again. It's a planetary alignment, or a Chicago Cubs pitcher delivering five no-hitters in a row. This is how great SCTV was and is. For me, this was that recognition I'd sought when I was that little kid, looking at SCTV alone in my room on a Panasonic black-and-white. If I coulda said boo-ya then to my not-with-it parents and friends, I would've.

I think a 10,000-page volume could be written about the SCTV characters, references, influence, and laffs. In fact, Dave Thomas penned an invaluable, detailed, well-illustrated, quote-heavy, annotated, but much shorter book in 1997 called SCTV: Behind The Scenes that is really the last inside word on the subject. But I'd love to see (or maybe write myself) a detailed appreciation of everything SCTV from a fan's perspective, noting everything that's funny, and why it's so, about the show. At any rate, the list of characters and impersonations the show offered up could go on forever, nearly. I won't even attempt to go over them all. If you're interested, the work has already been done for us on the Wikipedia or IMDB entries for John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Harold Ramis, Martin Short, Tony Rosato, Robin Duke, Mary Charlotte Wilcox, and John Hemphill. One and all, they're incredible. If I were to list their achievements on this show, you'd never be able to finish this post. However, I will go on to throw in some choice bits of comedy chow here, with my own comments on each. I'll make a deal with myself: I'll limit myself to ten inclusions (and this is my reward for doing this article, cause now I get to watch a lot of great SCTV to pick my faves):

(1) From SCTV Network 90, a musical and childlike interlude from the kids of Pre-Teen World, with the Recess Monkeys playing Chilliwack's one-hit-wonder "My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)" with accomplished musician Rick Moranis aping a novice (love that guitar solo). God, I love how Eugene Levy quits playing rhythm and reverts to the tamborine, and how great is John Candy, as the nervous telethon-host/drummer Stephan Sealy who can't speak/sing a line without swallowing in fear? Pre-Teen World was a spoof of things like the forgotten Zoom and Kid's World, and as a kid who loved these shows (even though I felt I was somehow ahead of them), I loved and related to this spoof so much.

(2) Okay, this made me cry my eyes out with laughter. A promo for Liberace's Christmas special, with Dave Thomas as an obviously gay Liberace (how did anyone NOT know?). The piece goes on a lot longer, with a great deal more features, but the end-all-be-all happens very early on, with the hilariously tense piano-off between Liberace and Rick Moranis' Elton John (whom I'm just now fully realizing owes a lot to Liberace with his wild costumes, perfectly mirrored here by series costume designer Juul Haalmeyer). When real-life football club owner Elton John realizes he's the loser here and resorts to rebounding a silvery soccer ball to the back of Liberace's head to win the day...well, as an Elton John fan then and now, I can't tell you how much this means to me. And I love Liberace, too. Jesus Kee-ryste, this skit slays me.

(3) The 5 Neat Guys. Yes, even in the 1970s, this kind of commercial existed on TV. As Rick Moranis details in Dave Thomas' book SCTV: Behind The Scenes: "Dave was the happy singer, and John was the comfortable, relaxed borderline retiree. Joe was a drunk. Eugene was damaged in some way. I think that I was the only one that didn't know, didn't have a beat. Except I felt very protected by all those guys. They were all taller, bigger. They knew what they were doing. I was the least neat guy and it didn't matter. It was all going to be okay and that's how I played the character. It was, boy, am I ever safe. That's really what was behind the voice. John and Joe didn't sing it. I double-tracked the middle. Gene went a third up and a third down. Dave did the really high and the really low voices. John just sat back and lip-synched. Joe could barely hold it together. I just beamed through the whole thing. I'm the happiest guy in the world."

(4) The Twilling's Tea ad, with Catherine O'Hara downright foolproof as Katherine Hepburn. Imagine being an actor asked to imitate another actor who was imitable, but whom no one had yet managed to imitate; it must have been frightening. Then again, O'Hara was in good hands with Haalmeyer's authentic threads, Christine Hart's convincing makeup, that huge high-backed leather chair that makes Hepburn seem deceptively small, and John Blanchard's fuzzy-focused camera. All the elements bond, but it's O'Hara who's obviously the heroine. In fact, she's a major reason the entire show works at all. Only two women in the cast, for the most part, and they covered it all when it came to the female roles, which is astounding. Though I know they had problems working in what was largely a boy's club, they can stand tall. O'Hara and Andrea Martin, they rock so, so sturdy.

(5) Andrea Martin's Station Manager Edith Prickley was always one of my favorite SCTV characters. Perpetually bedecked in leopard skins, and so forward with her love of the menfolk, she struck me as one of the more confident members of the SCTV universe. She was who she was, and no one was gonna steer her away from that, and really, she wanted you to be the same way. Nothing says this more than the segment which has Prickley as the host of a concert at the Melonville Baths (a reference to Bette Midler's beginnings as a bathhouse entertainer, complete with a version of Midler staple "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," which Prickley plays on the piano partially with her breasts). Here, we get, also, a regal Charlton Heston imitation from Joe Flaherty, who has Chuck reading from the diaries of Alexander Hamilton and dancing stiffly with Edith (while grasping the back of his neck and exclaiming "Damn!"). This spoof of The Dating Game is pretty dang good, too! 

(6) You know these guys. Bob and Doug McKenzie were developed as a part of SCTV early on when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation demanded that there be at least two minutes of Canada-specific material on each episode of all its shows. So Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas came up with these two hosers and the characters almost overtook the show, to the actors' embarrassment. Still, their ultimate popularity helped the ratings a lot, and boosted the show's media profile. They also provided the basis for some of the best episodes of SCTV Network 90 and, overexposed or not, added to the show's otherworldly quality.

(7) Garth and Gord and Fiona and Alice is a part of the extra-weird Canadian episode of SCTV. Surely, this is one of the strangest moments seen by American network television, and yes, it was produced for NBC exclusively. But this 4th season episode of SCTV Network 90 demanded its place as a love letter to the show's country of origin. As its centerpiece, this sketch is a send-up of one of the great Canadian films, Donald Shebib's 1970 grubby masterwork Goin' Down The Road . I won't bother to try to explain it all to you. It's better that it seem as bizarre to you as it did to me when I first saw it. But believe me, it's an accurate satire, even right down to including one of the movie's main actors, Jayne Eastwood, as one of the mopey ladies. This bit, too, gives me those wintery Canuck chills.

(8) No explanation necessary. The Merv Griffith Show. Merv Griffin. Andy Griffith. This puny locutional connection was enough for the SCTV team to work with. And this is another of their jewels. Eugene Levy continues beyond the comedy stratosphere with his portrayal of the post-stroke Howard McNear (the actor who played Floyd The Barber). And I love that Dave Thomas plays 70s impersonator Fred Travalena PLAYING Jim Nabors PLAYING Gomer Pyle. I could go on and on here, but you get the message. ("Riunite on Ice. It's the drink that Otis drinks.")

(9) Rick Moranis on Gerry Todd (from Dave Thomas' SCTV: Behind The Scenes): "I just structured a radio format for television. I wrote it up as a ten-minute sketch including my own songs. I did them as another middle-of-the-road radio station. I had worked at a radio station and there were these deejays who took great pride in being able to fill air time with inoffensive chatter. These guys had the ability to talk endlessly about nothing. They were middle-of-the-road in every way. Politically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually, they reflected popular opinion. They could talk about the weather for fifteen minutes. They loved it. If you said to them, "Well, it's four minutes to the top of the hour and I've only got a two-minute record." "No problem," they would say and they would fill the rest. I was on the other side of the glass from them. I was their audience. I alone was representing the hundreds of thousands of people who were listening to them. They would talk to me and I would pretend that they were saying something important. Meanwhile, I'm taking notes in my mind the whole time. And I developed the ability to talk endlessly about nothing, as I'm doing right now. That's how Gerry Todd was born."

(10) I apologize for the poor quality of the following clips, but I work with what I got, and believe me, if I could get this any other way, I would (and if you look at it the right way, the gimpy quality actually helps). This Sammy Maudlin skit, Maudlin of the Night, was done as part of the Cinemax run of the SCTV, and is, as such, unavailable on DVD. But it's one of the funniest things ever on SCTV. We've earlier, here, seen Sammy Maudlin's beginnings on SCTV and now we're here at his very painful, even more uncomfortable downfall. John Candy's William B. Williams has been fired, and Sammy's been forced to keep up with the times, to act a lot younger than he really is (complete with 80s mullet and threads), and to take on a load of "zanies" as his backups. I include this skit mainly as a tribute to my favorite cast member, Joe Flaherty, who astonished me over and over with his fearless physicality and veering improv timing (he always seemed to be making things up as he goes along, and in a dangerous way, especially as Sammy, Guy Cabellero, and horror movie host Count Floyd). This particular piece here is a spoof of Alan Thicke's long-ago talk show Thicke of the Night, and is rife with 80s auras. But why can't we see this masterpiece in a pristine quality?? See, this is what I mean by no one being able to get a handle, truly, on releasing, or even TALKING about, the FULL run of SCTV. Why can't a company just go right down from the first 1976 program from Canada to the last 1984 program on Cinemax? What kind of rights problems are involved? Would the entangled lawyers blow a gasket at the prospect? Or is there no money to be made for the effort? I have to guess probably a combo of both. Still, we have the internet, and with it, we have to be thankful for what's available. At any rate, the final gasp for Sammy Maudlin is one of SCTV's major triumphs, in my opinion (and now I can pay special tribute to Martin Short's manic, desperate Howie (Mandel) Souzloff, Andrea Martin's flashdancy Jennifer "Beal" and Eugene Levy's drunken Dr. Henry Kissinger). Also, I always shiver at the show's closing credits, with that final zoom in to what I assume is an illustrator's rendering of the original Second City site.

BONUS TRACK: A 60-second excerpt from a Canadian on-demand infomercial that includes Joe Flaherty as Guy Cabellero, indespensible SCTV makeup artist Christine Hart as...a makeup artist, and the surest property of laughter around: a fake dummy. SCTV's makers were masters of the use of fake dummies, and they knew when they needed the BIIIIIIIG laugh, the dummy was the answer. See what I mean here:

So...this post. Why did I do it? Why now? Well, this definitely classifies as burying the lead, because at long last, the internet has been gifted, via You Tube, with The Official SCTV Channel. Beautifully designed and detailed, the site finally tries to take on the bear that is SCTV. Even with Shout's astounding series of releases of the entire SCTV Network 90 run (four volumes at five discs a piece, extras aplenty), and its followup releases of SCTV: Best of the Early Years, and Christmas with SCTV, I don't think that any company out there has been able to get an entire handle on the show's complete history. It's incredibly broad and complicated. What can you expect from a show that went from Canada's Global Syndication, to the nation's CBC, to NBC, and ultimately to Cinemax, where it finally heaved its last barbs in 1984? With this, you can understand my consternation at even attempting an article like this.

But I was so happy to see The Official SCTV Channel on You Tube that I had to get out there and try to express my happiness at its existence. It's a little taste of what I felt way back when, like I've been telling you, I was searching for a sign of love for the show. Yeah, there are dedicated fans out there like komedykollector and chalomirof63 (both of whom are so enamored with the series that they've downloaded obviously worn-out VHS copies of skits to You Tube for fans out there hungering for more). But having an official channel like this proves that the show's stewards finally recognize that SCTV is really internet-friendly. It can work extremely well in little You Tubey bite-sizes.

At any rate, you can see here that even attempting a post like this was pure folly, really, on my part. I can't do the show justice. I can only do what I can, which is to confess a lifelong love to the reader; even if some people can't get all the show's jokes and references in full, I urge anyone who's never even heard of SCTV but knows of all these stars that've hailed from its halls to investigate further and thus open yourself up to a galaxy of joy.

Finally, I want to get even more personal, even a little goopy, here. I have to thank every single person involved with the show for giving me some of the happiest moments of my life. And I mean every single person. The directors (Milad Bessada, George Bloomfield, John Blanchard, and John Bell), the scads of writers (too many to mention here), and producers, and anybody who ever clapped a board or held a boom mike (Ghod, I'm thinking of the skit "Mr. Boom Microphone" now). The cast, I've lionized only in part. And ultimately we have to think of Second City producers Andrew Alexander and Bernard Sahlins, and Second City improv masters Del Close and Sheldon Patinkin, for sitting in a room together and brainstorming "Well, what if we did a TV show where each episode was just an average programming day for a little station in a town called Melonville?" The whole concept of what we now think of as laughter--and ask any comic out there about this--would not be the same without their idea. These people might have changed my life, and who cares about that? But, with this li'l notion called SCTV, these guys, and the writer/actors they trusted...they truly shook the goddamned, bonafide world.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

INTERNET SENSATION: Marcel The Shell With Shoes On

When I hear about something like Marcel The Shell With Shoes On (what a fantastic title), as I just have today, I feel both behind and in front of the times. Behind because this has become an "internet sensation" with nearly 1.5 million hits on You Tube. In front of, because I think it deserves many more hits, and it doesn't even have an entry on IMDB. It's directed and co-written by Dean Fleischer-Camp, and co-written and voiced by whom I suspect is an autuer of equal import, the recently ousted (and unbelievably cute) new/old Saturday Night Live appointee Jenny Slate (she quite understandably let a "fuckin'" slip out in a "frickin'" routine, but that didn't stop her from cruelly being cut from the cast--get a grip, NBC and FCC).

This uncommonly simple, utterly unique little (VERY little) movie is, I'm sure, the beginning of something larger. It charmed so many at the recent American Film Institute Festival that it won the Audience Award for Best Animated Short, instantly putting in qualification for the Best Animated Short Film award at the upcoming Oscars. I'd love to see it nominated. Sometimes, animation is not about the pyrotechnics involved in the movie's making, but about the feeling the results evoke (the editing and sound is magnificent, if you pay attention). This film conjures a powerful adoration for its feisty, diminutive subject, voiced without enhancement by Jenny Slate (who I imagine, at least, has this character in her mind for some time; either that, or it was thought of instantaneously, I imagine, in a very happy moment for Slate). The direction is superb (I really like Marcel's relationship with the interviewer), and the laughs are absolutely well earned; in fact, no feature this year has more joyful moments than you'll experience in Marcel The Shell With Shoes On. I want to see much more of Marcel, and so many others out there obviously want to as well. Wallace and Grommit won three Oscars for just the same reason. Mark my words: this isn't the last of this brave, lovely bit-player. By the way: I defy you to watch it only once.

John Slattery Alert for "30 Rock" Tonight!

After his terrific work this season as Roger Sterling on AMC's Mad Men -- and actually any of his work, come to think of it -- we're excited for tonight's episode of 30 Rock and guest star John Slattery as a congressional candidate. We already know how well 30 Rock treats Mad Men alumni -- Jon Hamm's wonderful appearances as Liz' pediatrician and sometime boyfriend Drew are plenty proof of that -- and we can't wait to see what the talented Slattery will do.

This season on Mad Men his Roger Sterling was alternately extremely amusing -- his snarky quips were often the highlights of an episode -- and nearly heartbreaking, as he confronted his dwindling power at the agency and various personal situations that showed him to be a basically very unhappy man. His performance was outstanding, and we look forward to this chance to see him get his total comic vibe going on 30 Rock, whose star and creator Tina Fey was recently awarded the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, in a ceremony that will be broadcast later this month. (More on that in a future post!).

NBC's 30 Rock needs a little love right now; the move by CBS to take The Big Bang Theory from Mondays and seed a new Thursday 8pm comedy hour has worked, even taking the admittedly sub-par sitcom $#*! My Dad Says to a happy ratings place. Consequently, NBC's Community and 30 Rock are taking a nosedive, and we're not pleased about that at all. It's hard to deny that 30 Rock is no longer at the top of the comedy pack, not in buzz at least, but it's still impossible to beat for smart and sassy laughs for adults with a deep sense of the absurd. We love it!

Thursdays are jam-packed with Flaming Nose Favorites-- Community, 30 Rock, The Office, Fox's Fringe, FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia -- and you better get your DVRs cranking -- it's almost 8pm on the East Coast!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Over 100,000 Visits to The Flaming Nose

Yesterday marked a milestone for The Flaming Nose TV blog. According to the Site Meter measurement widget, there have been over 100,000 visits to the Nose, and nearly 140,000 page views. Congrats, Flaming Nose!

*The Flaming Nose gets an average of nearly 400 page views per day, and about 260 visits.
*Over the past two months, The Flaming Nose has averaged approximately 6,000 visits per month.
*The top ranked post so far (by total page views) was "Blood Dolphins on Animal Planet", an article that covered the growing animal rights activism of AP and their series on the dolphin genocide taking place in Japan.
*Today alone, visitors came to The Flaming Nose from the following U.S. locations (among others):
--Conroe, Texas --Honolulu, Hawaii --St. Augustine, Florida --Tarrytown, NY --Las Vegas, Nevada --Mountain View, California (oops...that's me!)
*The Flaming Nose also has a substantial global readership. Today we have had visitors from
the following countries:
--South Africa --Kuwait --United Kingdom --The Ukraine --India --Poland --France --Spain --Canada --Ireland

Flaming Nose contributors Lisa, Judith, Jane and Scott would like to thank the world for stopping by to visit. We'll try to keep you coming back for more with our eclectic tastes in television content. Don't be shy about leaving comments, because we're always interested in what people have to say!

As they say in the TV Biz....stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Few More Demented Dives about Dexter

It's's cold...and more than one Flaming Nose blogger's thoughts have turned to Dexter. I have been following it closely this season, now that I finally have Showtime again, and it is as riveting as ever. At this time, I would like to piggy back onto Lisa's Dexter post to point out a few additional items that I've been obsessing over lately.

1) What's Up with all the Bad Luck for Women? The last time a series was more fraught with peril for female characters was when a pioneer lady married Ben Cartwright on Bonanza. All of his wives ended up six feet under, and the women of Dexter are (mostly) cannon fodder for serial killers or very, very unlucky in love. I don't mind the new guest character Lumen (Julia Stiles) but my favorite is, and has always been, Dexter's intrepid cop sister Debbie Morgan. She is one of the most refreshing and honest (and salty tongued) characters on TV. This season has her poised for yet another horrible heartbreak with fellow detective Joey Quinn. I always thought the two of them would make an interesting couple, but let's just say that so doesn't bode well. Lt. LaGuerta is also having problems with her hot headed new hubby Angel Batista. This season is making a really good case for avoiding romance in the work place.

2) The Most Important Meal of the Day. The other point I'd like to make, and I've wanted to do this for years, is that the opening credit sequence for Dexter is about as good as it gets. I'm sure the close up of Dexter shaving... the drops of blood... the fleshy pork chop filleted with a sharp knife, are all supposed to repel and fascinate. For me, the open (and I never get tired of it) only means one thing. Time to eat! Does anyone else get ravenous when they see what Dexter is going to have for breakfast? When he grinds that coffee (I'm sure it's a premium French Roast) and fries those eggs, I want to pick up a fork and dig right in along with him. And the blood oranges! Not an easy fruit to find, but boy are they yummy if they're available!

I love the carnival calliope music behind the breakfast open, and tried all week to write some appropriate lyrics to go along with it. Very hard to rhyme bloody hot sauce, eggs and thin white t-shirts, so I passed on that effort. Instead, I would like to offer two heartfelt Haiku poems, as homage to the Dexter series open, which I am putting below in case anyone needs to be reminded of its glory.

Haiku #1
Sizzling pork chop shot
Add the drops of Tabasco
Blood orange looks sweet.

Haiku #2
Tasty Dexter food
Crunchy meat and bright fried eggs
Don't forget to floss!