Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Comedy King on Encore Tonight

Here at the Flaming Nose, we don't try to hide our love for television. It's blatant, bigger than life and impossible to ignore. No wonder we also love legendary comic Jerry Lewis...for he is all of the above and more. Listen to what the great JL says about our beloved medium: "I love my industry. I love what it does. I don't allow people in my family to use the term TV. That's stupid. It's 'television'. It's a miracle. It's entitled to that respect."

Tonight, Encore TV will feature a wonderful special about Jerry Lewis called "Method to the Madness" by Gregg Barson. Luminaries such as Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino all talk about their connection with the comedy great.

My first encounter with Jerry Lewis took place when I was 12 years old. I saw The Nutty Professor and was transfixed by his transformation from the buck toothed nebish professor, to the arctic cool of lounge singer Buddy Love. It had a deep, possibly damaging, impact on my budding psychological development, when I realized I didn't like the nice professor. I liked the bad guy. Which must be why one of my favorite Jerry Lewis moments was when he played himself in The King of Comedy (with Robert DeNiro), and flashed those icy eyes that chilled me to the bone. Although I love his old comedy movies, I wish Mr. Lewis had taken more serious roles over the years, as I think he had a unique skill for communicating menace. It's probably too late now, as the 85 year old comedian, movie star, inventor and philanthropist simmers down to enjoy the twilight phase of this life.

A big fuss and many jokes have been made over how the French revere Jerry Lewis. In fact, in March 2006, the French Minister of Culture awarded Lewis the Légion d'Honneur, calling him the "French people's favorite clown".

I must be French too, then or je ne sais quoi. For I have spent a life time enthralled by his humor and take no prisoners personality. If you're a Jerry fan too, tonight's documentary on Encore will be a special treat.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Louis CK Honored by Time Magazine

By now many of you may have heard that the annual Time Magazine "Person of the Year" is a nod to all the people world wide who have effected change through protest movements. Governments were toppled in the middle east and here in the U.S. the Occupy Wall Street movement has gained momentum in just a few months time.

This issue of Time Magazine also honors many others who made a difference in 2011, and one of them is our very own beloved Louis CK. Actually, the Flaming Nose has been pointing out for over a year that Louis CK is the most brilliant comedian and his television show is light years ahead of anything we've ever seen on TV.

We are so happy to see that Time Magazine agrees, by selecting him as one of their "People Who Mattered" in 2011. He's in very good company. Other winners include singer Adele, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, billionaire Warren Buffet and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Very cool Louis! Congratulations from the Flaming Nose!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hawaii 5-0's Brian Yang On the Busy Life of an Actor

Brian Yang is an international man of acting. One week he might be on location as character Charlie Fong for the CBS reboot of Hawaii Five-0 (now in its second season) and the next he’s home in NY or back in the Bay Area working on indie film projects for his production company 408 Films. Oh, and then there are his acting gigs in Hong Kong and mainland China. The man is in the air more than he is on the ground. I want Brian’s frequent flier miles.

Glamorous? Yes. Exhausting? Beyond. I wondered what it was like to lead such a peripatetic, exciting life, and Brian was kind enough to spend an hour on the phone with me from his home in NYC, breaking it down.

JANE COLLINS: What’s it like to work in paradise? Is Hawaii Five-0 filmed mostly on location?

BRIAN YANG: “A typical day on the set starts at about 5am. The island is still asleep and it’s dark. It’s all shot on the island of Oahu. The environment they create for you is very comfortable. The crew, many of whom are locals, are just amazingly giving and kind. As an actor, my job is actually pretty simple. Get to set, be prepared, execute. I'm pretty much in and out. But the crew folk are there from dawn until (often) late at night. I have so much respect for what they do. I just feel totally blessed to be a part of this very successful franchise. My favorite part is to be able to work on a network show set in the greatest state in this country. For me Hawaii is a home away from home.”

JKC: What’s up with your character, Charlie Fong?

BY:I just take it episode to episode. The writers do what they do and each episode is its own little journey. I come in to help the team along when necessary. It's fun. Each time, I get something different. I guess for both the audience, and myself, we're kept on our toes. I was on the Warner Bros. lot not long ago and found out that the Charlie Fong character is actually based on a lab scientist who appeared on the original series!"

Brian plays a forensic scientist who works for the Hawaii police department on the successful CBS TV series Hawaii Five-0. Courtesy of CBS]

JKC: Tell us about your roots. Did you always want to be an actor?

BY: “I was born in Ohio, which makes me a huge Ohio State fan, even though I went to Cal. We moved to the south Bay area (Silicon Valley) when I was about 6 years old. In my family (and culture), acting was not a profession we were encouraged to go into, but in a way, you could attribute my finding this path to my Mom. She put my photo in a Macy’s Back-To-School contest when I was in high school. Somehow I got picked to go around Nor Cal for an ad campaign and from there I was exposed to the world of agents, commercials, and television and, from there, there was no turning back. Thanks, Mom!”

[Brian went to college at the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated with a degree in Biology in 1996. Image Courtesy of CBS.]

JKC: What do you consider to be your greatest challenge as an Asian American actor?

BY: “I think in general the industry is getting better. After I graduated I made my way down to L.A. I thought 'I’m going to give Hollywood a shot.' I remember learning very quickly, many of the Asian American actors would complain about the stereotypical roles and lack of positive portrayals of Asians on screen. I subscribed to that (way of thinking) at the time. So part of the reason I moved to the East coast and decided to stay there was that I didn’t want to be another disgruntled Asian actor.

Long story short, I moved to the East coast and it was a different playground. I found things that were much more interesting, like independent film. I found pockets of theater and advertising (commercials). In New York, the landscape there forces you to think outside of the box. It's hard to be "just an actor." In Hollywood, things have moved forward over the past 10 years, but we're far from being "there", wherever there is. With age, comes patience. I can only choose my own route or path. So I choose to keep my base in NY. But I've also been doing film and commercial work in Asia”. (I ask if he speaks Mandarin.) “I do but I don’t sound fluent. What I’ve found is everything I’ve done in Asia is in English. The world is shrinking and English is the universal language. They have a lot of programming that needs English. They want an Asian face with a western sensibility. I’ve shot commercials in Hong Kong, but mainland China is where a lot of work is happening. It's an interesting time to be in this business right now.”

“I think it is getting better in Hollywood but there are still too few opportunities there. This Saturday I’m heading an event in L.A. for CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacific Entertainers). It's their 20th anniversary and they are a good marker that proves that Hollywood is moving towards a more colorful landscape. Good things are happening. It’s all very encouraging. But there are still struggles and challenges that we are going to face.”

JKC: What other projects are you working on right now?

BY: “I actually also work as a producer. I have a film production company called 408 Films. We are on our 6th project right now. We shot two films in Hong Kong (Fog and SuperCapitalist) and a romantic comedy in L.A called The People I've Slept With. All are indie film projects. We just finished principal photography on Nightdreamblues. It’s about three childhood friends who reunite when they are in their 30’s. Over the course of an evening, they each reveal their secrets. It’s a cathartic journey. It’s sort of like Breakfast Club and The Big Chill with an Asian-American cast. Rex Lee (Entourage, Suburgatory) is in it and we are fortunate to have him. We are hoping it will be released in 2012.

What’s really interesting is that this is a very male piece but we worked with a female director (Nadine Truong, AFI graduate) who put her own spin on it. I’m very passionate about this project and can’t stop Tweeting about it. Right now we’ve put out a call for indie music for the film. Please follow us!”

JKC: What advice do you have for BlogHer’s readers who might be interested in an entertainment career?

BY: “Take it seriously, you have to train. It’s no different from any industry. Go to school for it, start at the bottom. Most of us don’t have a father that works at Fox (studios). You have to make it happen. It’s creating your own roles, in indie film or on YouTube. Write something or shoot something and act in it yourself. I don’t want to make it seem easy, it’s not that easy. You have to have the thickest skin, willing to be rejected 9 times out of 10. But if there is nothing on this planet you’d rather do, jump in with two feet. Every moment should be spent doing something to further your career. And even when you arrive or “get there”, you still have to look at the career like a journey. You’ll have good moments. You always have to keep the fires burning. You have to be kind to everyone you meet because people collaborate on many levels.”

Thanks for the words of wisdom, Brian. We’ll see you on the air (Hawaii Five-0) and look for you in the air, next time we’re at an airport in NY, LA or SF.

Visit Brian's Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

All Aboard for Hell on Wheels!

Has anybody had a chance to sample the new AMC original series on Sunday nights, Hell on Wheels? I've watched the first two episodes and I am throwing my cow girl hat into the ring for this show. It's about the push to build a transcontinental railroad after the Civil War. As much as I love the western genre, I never quite "got" Deadwood on HBO. I found the constant and relentless use of the word "cocksucker" in every episode to be both tiresome and distracting. Being basic cable, AMC doesn't have the option to make the language in the series so...colorful. Instead, they've concentrated on showing the Wild West as the utterly filthy place it surely must have been. Filthy as toothpaste and really bad teeth. Filthy as in no Tide detergent or washing machines and pants so dirty you can practically smell them through the TV screen. It's the west as a terribly exciting and odoriferous Hell.

The storyline is fairly straight forward, although with an interesting twist on who we normally root for. The main character (Cullen Bohannon, played by Anson Mount) is a former Confederate soldier and slave owner who's trying to get a job out west. Boo...hiss...right? But he turns out to be the nicest guy ever to all the emancipated slaves working on the railroad and even helps save one of them from the evil RR foreman who hates the black workers so much he calls them by the "N" word. Is that even allowed on TV in a historical context? Cullen reminds me the late great British actor Oliver Reed. He has that same baleful and menacing blue-eyed stare. As a devout Yankee, I normally don't go for southern boys or their silly accents, but he pretty much had me at hello.

Other characters include Elam Ferguson (Common), a smart emancipated slave who is forming a fast friendship with our hero Cullen, and Doc Durant (Colm Meaney) as a corrupt, greedy railroad contractor and Bad Guy #1. He's a bit of a stereotype, although it would have been worse if they had given him a long waxy mustache to twirl. If Doc showed up at one of those Occupy camps today, he would have a hard time making friends.

Female characters are sparse except for Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott), a fetching blond who is trying to survive in the most trying circumstances after her husband is killed in an Indian raid. Sunday's episode featured Lily in a scene so excruciating and graphic, I found it nearly unwatchable. She used a fat dirty needle to stitch up her own gaping chest wound. Whilst we looked on. That's about as hard core pioneer spirit as you're ever going to get on the small screen.

Other interesting characters include a couple of enterprising brothers from Ireland (Sean and Mickey McGinnes). They're trying to make a buck on the frontier by showing silent movies in a tent. God bless them. Keep heading west to Hollywood, boys!

Other than westward, I'm not quite sure where this series is heading yet. But I like what I've seen so far, so I'm along for the ride. What about the rest of you folks out there in TV Blog-land? Has anyone seen it?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Something Uplifting For Your Sunday Evening on gmc!

It gives me great pleasure to pass along, on behalf of one of my former bosses, news of some perfect family programming tonight on gmc.  gmc used to be called "Gospel Music Channel" when it started in 2004, but a re-branding in early 2010 broadened the scope somewhat but didn't change the channel's mission to provide uplifting entertainment for its broad and loyal fan base.  There's still lots of music on gmc, but also a nice selection of family-friendly and immensely-watchable-for-anyone series such as Early Edition, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Doc, and Sue Thomas FBEye (about which Judith wrote a terrific post a while back when she interviewed series producer Joan Considine; definitely check it out!).

Tonight gmc proudly presents the very recent feature film The 5th Quarter, the dramatic true story of a Georgia family whose terrible personal loss ultimately brought their family back together and also inspired countless others in their community and beyond.  It's a story that nobody wants to live out for themselves, but watching it we can thankfully glean the message without having to feel the pain, or at least only a tiny sliver of it. 

We can all relate to the anguish of losing a family member -- there must be nothing like a sudden death to roil the senses -- but what comes after is the thing that everybody has to experience for themselves.  What the Abbate family did was go forward in several different ways, and you'll see how they did it in this thoughtful film.  The cast is impressive -- Aidan Quinn, Andie MacDowell, Ryan Merriman -- and though it did have a theatrical release, The 5th Quarter will probably feel best on TV.  It's in the great tradition of timeless TV movies such as Brian's Song and the acclaimed series Friday Night Lights; The 5th Quarter should find a very appreciative audience tonight. 

You've probably already figured out that football plays a part in the movie, and it's an element that helps The 5th Quarter reach out even further in its appeal. 

For more information on the movie, you should visit the official website of The 5th Quarter.  You can learn more about the Abbate family at their Luke Abbate 5th Quarter Foundation site, where you can also find out and help with the continuing good works going on in his name.  You should also get acquainted with gmc at their channel website; there's a lot going on there.

The 5th Quarter premieres on gmc tonight at 7pm with an encore at 9pm, following a nice selection of football-oriented movies such as Rudy beginning at 2pm.

P.S.:  You might enjoy watching the official theatrical trailer for The 5th Quarter, which is a bit longer than the new gmc promo.

You also might enjoy the song "Live and Breathe" from The 5th Quarter, sung by Stacy Earle who also stars in the movie.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

More on Our Favorite Physicist, the Fascinating Dr. Brian Greene!

We're going to keep talking about physics and Dr. Brian Greene until everybody is watching his new NOVA 4-part series The Fabric of the Cosmos, airing in November every Wednesday (and other times) on PBS!  In addition to our long article the other day (click here), we have just been alerted to a wonderful video that comes to us specially and highly recommended!  We wanted to be sure to share it with everyone as further proof that Dr. Brian Greene and everything he does is fascinating, appealing, and you don't want to miss it!

Release your Inner Egghead with Dr. Brian Greene and The Fabric of the Cosmos, on PBS!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

R.I.P. Andy Rooney, 1919 - 2011

The passing of Andy Rooney was perhaps not unexpected after his retirement from 60 Minutes just over a month ago, but it's still a shock.  Dean wrote a wonderful tribute to him here on The Flaming Nose at that time, with many great clips and a sincere appreciation and understanding of Rooney's immense contributions to TV journalism, humor, and truth-telling most of all.  Please go back and check out Dean's remarkable post by clicking on this sentence.

You will also want to read some of the many well-written and comprehensive obituaries that are showing up as the news spreads of Rooney's passing.  As a writer he had a long-lived and varied career, and managed to become a genuine household name when he began appearing on 60 Minutes back in 1978.  His usually cranky, frequently hilarious, and sometimes controversial takes on modern society and popular culture put him into great historical company; Rooney would fit right into a line-up alongside comic commentators like Mark Twain, Will Rogers, H.L. Mencken and Robert Benchley from the fairly distant past.  All combined a gift for gab with a keen mind and a wry take on modern life that hit a nerve with viewers and readers.  Andy Rooney certainly did that, too.

CBS News and 60 Minutes covered his life and death here, The New York Times featured this obituary today, The Huffington Post reported his passing in this article, CNN published this obituary, show business trade paper The Hollywood Reporter posted this article today, and you also might want to check out his entry on Wikipedia.  

Too many passings of too many good men with long television histories lately...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Explore "The Fabric of the Cosmos" with NOVA on PBS Tonight!

It's our contention here at The Flaming Nose that PBS doesn't get enough credit anymore for all the great programming they continue to provide for viewers.  The niche (or not-so-niche) cable networks get all the coverage, all the buzz, and most of the time for doing the same kind of projects to what PBS has been offering throughout its whole history.  Cooking shows -- they invented and perfected the genre -- brilliant nature shows, fascinating science productions, terrific adult name it, PBS did it first and they haven't stopped.  They sometimes just seem to be flying under the radar these days, and it's a shame.

We love PBS and we want to shout it out that their always-excellent weekly science series NOVA gives us a terrific November four-parter beginning tonight.  The quartet of episodes of The Fabric of the Cosmos will take us into the mesmerizing world of modern physics, and it promises to be quite a journey.  Based on the book of the same name by popular physicist (and those words don't go together very often!) Brian Greene -- author of The Hidden Reality and The Elegant Universe, and one of the head cheerleaders for the mysterious String Theory in physics -- The Fabric of the Cosmos is truly a show that only PBS would broadcast.  It's important, it's intelligent, it's demanding; much as I love Science Channel, Smithsonian, Nat Geo and a few others filled with documentaries, this kind of real science is in short supply on TV.  Despite several cable networks with programming mission statements that might include some science, we're more likely to find programs about Bigfoot, or travel documentaries, or extreme fishing shows, or rocket-building competitions.  It's not that we don't like those things, it's just that they're not quite science.

But The Fabric of the Cosmos is.  Even if physics isn't your thing, it can't be bad for you to just watch and try to absorb the concepts.  You're not going to find a more amiable host for your journey anywhere.  Brian Greene has an impish demeanor that is the polar opposite of intimidating, as you can see when he was interviewed by David Letterman about six years ago.  Be sure to listen for Greene's goofy giggle around 6:45 into the segment; it's adorable!

And what other real scientist could stand up to a heckling from The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon (Emmy Award-winner Jim Parsons) during a guest appearance on that top sitcom? 

Not only is Brian Greene a best-selling author and a professor (read his full bio here), he's also a tireless advocate of science in general, whether as the co-founder with his journalist-wife Tracy of New York's annual World Science Festival, or a speaker at the TED conference.  (For a taste of his public speaking prowess, click to watch his nearly hour-and-twenty-minute appearance at the Museum of Science in Boston -- you will love it, and you also will like his radio interview from Canada's CBC radio series Current.) 

We'll share this cogent short video with him speaking to the importance of science as the basis of rational thought and decision-making; boy, is this ever relevant, as we careen into superstition and denial on a regular basis...

The Fabric of the Cosmos begins tonight with "What is Space?" and continues over the next four weeks with "The Illusion of Time," "Quantum Leap," and finally "Universe or Multiverse?".  Here are several overviews of the series and then a promo for tonight's installment.

We urge you to partake of this amazing opportunity to learn, be amazed and intellectually entertained by television, with NOVA and The Fabric of the Cosmos beginning tonight, in NOVA's new Wednesday 9pm slot .  Check out the PBS website for more information and be sure to check your local PBS outlet for specific programming times. 

Gil Cates - Rest in Peace

This is the second time in a week I have walked my way over to the site to write a tribute piece. This time I memorialize a man I had the extreme good fortune to have worked with over the years. Gilbert Cates, producer of 14 Academy Awards telecasts died suddenly yesterday at UCLA. Gil had been a professor at the University for many years, but he was also a prolific producer and director.

He honed and mastered his art and craft in films, television and live theater. He was elected to serve two terms as President of the Directors Guild of America. He famously chose Billy Crystal to host the Academy Awards. Crystal's second turn as Oscar host in 1991 was so memorable it won Gil Cates an Emmy. He also was wise enough to choose Steve Martin, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart as Oscar hosts over the course of his lengthy helm with the broadcast for the Academy Awards. He produced several Ford's Theater presentations for ABC. I managed to attend a few of these specials and at times you just stopped and watched Gil at work. No drama was ever attached to anything he did, even though he was a masterful creator of drama.

I had the pleasure to work with Gil Cates over the course of my career at the ABC Television Network. I never saw him stressed out. He was an exercise in humility and calm. He possessed a wonderful sense of humor and a strong sense of fairness. You just liked him.

I enjoyed a couple of lunches with him over the years and he was one of those people you hated to break away from. He didn't have a pretentious bone in his body. Gil wasn't capable of shafting someone. A trait in the business of show that has harmed many.

Thank you Gil Cates for providing us with some of the best Oscar broadcasts in the long history of the Motion Picture Academy, but more importantly, thank you for teaching me a few things along the way in life. All good things were learned from Gil Cates.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Daniel Burke - Rest in Peace

Even though I was a relatively (well, when I started I was a total inconsequential cog) inconsequential cog in the wheel at ABC, I had the good fortune to have a couple of brief encounters with the "big guys" of Cap Cities/ABC (Dan Burke and Tom Murphy). One of them has died at the age of 82. Dan Burke was a sophisticated, elegant and downright regal gentleman. I was honored that he knew of my existence, but there were a few moments in those years I was downright humbled to have him engage in conversation with me. Don't ask me why I would be humbled, but I was rarely impressed and he was an impressive man.

I have three vivid and memorable moments of sharing in ever so brief "chats" with Mr. Burke. We discussed books during two of those short chats and baseball in the third. I've been a voracious reader all of my life and I am being completely honest when I say that the greatest moment in my life, outside of personal moments, was the night the Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005.

It's interesting to reflect upon your own thoughts and memories of people you encountered along the path of life. I had no direct business dealings with these men of significant power at the company, but as peripheral as they are in the pages of my own life (and I was beyond peripheral in their lives - I am quite sure neither Burke or Murphy would ever remember me beyond those moments)I have intensely fond and warm thoughts of both of them.

I didn't even know Mr. Burke had passed until late this afternoon. I was attending a conference for most of the day and I saw nor heard one item of news. I was sharing a late lunch/early dinner with a fellow former ABCer and he informed me of the death. I suddenly was transported to a significantly younger version of me and thinking of the innocence of my early stages at ABC.

I encountered Mr. Burke's brother while serving as hostess for a charitable event at the company and he was determined to fix me up with a family member. I had one date with a Burke relative and it was a dud. I was so not his type and he was so not my type that near the end of an intensely awkward lunch I looked at him and laughed. I literally laughed out loud. He then looked at me and laughed right back. We both knew what the other one was thinking. Open and honest. I went back to work and never thought of him again. Of course, had it worked I would be retired and donating my waking hours to volunteering at the local animal shelter!!! Well, I did think of him today, but he only popped into my head because I thought of Dan Burke. I wouldn't recognize the one-time date in a crowd of one, but I have Mr. Burke's face embedded in the pathways of a long ago line of memory.

When I returned home tonight I read two bios on his death (while watching the Rangers and the Cardinals in Game 6 of the World Series) and the official obituary bios are cold and faceless.

He was a man with a dignified air and I trust a tremendous amount of integrity. Clearly, he had superb business skills, but more importantly, he led a full and respectable life. I always remember the 1994 Northridge quake and how Murphy and Burke authorized financial assistance to some employees who had been burdened down by the quake. It's a long story, but I remember thinking they were thoughtful and giving people.

Since I'm watching a baseball game I'll end on a change-up - Mr. Murphy borrowed my copy of "No Ordinary Time" and he never returned it. He's a multimillionaire and that is one of my favorite books of all time. I liked Mr. Murphy a great deal. I sat next to him at a Lakers game one night many, many years ago. I reminded him about the book. I still never got it back, but I did receive a note of thanks when I sat him next to Angie Dickinson at a dinner honoring another ABC exec back in November of '95. I was told by another ABC exec that she was a "great broad" and that's a quote. I most likely wouldn't have let anyone call someone a great broad (well, maybe I'd let Sinatra say it) without a disapproving look on my face, but this man was old enough to be my dad and in many ways he was like a dad, so I figured if Angie were a great broad she'd be an intriguing person to sit next to at a boring fundraiser (even though Bruce Hornsby played "The Valley Road" that night).

In a nutshell, these two men always seemed to be decent and loyal people.

Mr. Daniel Burke. I do indeed hope you will rest in peace.

Beavis and Butt-Head are Back!

If there's anything that we need today -- badly! -- it's the silly, sour, kinda sad and often very sage P.O.V. of MTV's legendary animated duo Beavis and Butt-Head, Mike Judge's brilliant series that debuted on the network back in 1993.  Lucky for us, they're back in a new series, starting tonight at 10pm, back on the network that made them famous, and the other way around, too.  It was a perfect give-and-take, the crazy antics of B and B on the crazy network that wasn't afraid to have some fun and take a chance with a new filmmaker's scabrous and yet somehow adorable creation. (Mike Judge, of course, went on to create Fox's longtime hit animated series King of the Hill, among other successes.)

Beavis and Butt-Head was a cultural phenomenom, screamingly hilarious and willing to skewer the very pop culture product and audience that took the series to the heights during its nearly five year run. Like a lot of seemingly stupid comedy, it entertains on a variety of levels, not all of them as facile as you'd  imagine.  In between the utterly anarchic antics of the excitable Beavis and the more phlegmatic Butt-Head, there's a lot of insight, pain and frustration, and not all of it caused by blue balls, either.  

If the original show was a real world, now almost twenty years later one could only imagine both of them in their early thirties, probably meth addicts, wearing wife-beater t-shirts and somehow being politically conservative Republicans dead set against raising taxes on the rich.  That's how a lot of marginally illiterate, culturally disadvantaged/disinterested and economically-downtrodden Americans end up, and not by accident.  Surely poor Beavis -- even with the help of his dynamic alter-ego Cornholio -- and Butt-Head wouldn't have been able to figure a way out of their socioeconomic morass; actually, what you'd be looking at would be a really grungy episode of Cops, in all its lower-middle-class glory. 

But we don't have to face that ugly reality with this new Beavis and Butt-Head.  They're back all right, but time has stood still, and they're still the same goofy, nihilistic teens, endlessly amused by double-entendres and entertally hoping for a little sex.  They'll be doing their riffs not on music videos like in the old days (because music videos hardly exist anymore), but instead on MTV's line-up of pathetically appealing (or should that be pathetic and appealing?) reality shows like Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant, and boy, do they deserve some skewering, too. 

I'm a big fan of Beavis and Butt-Head, for all the highs and lows of the characters and their situation.  These kids are surviving the best they can, as they sit on their dingy couch, in a living room with cracked plaster walls, trying to make it through school, uninspired, unloved -- maybe deservedly so -- doomed not by anything specific they've done wrong but by a society that simply doesn't have room for most of the unexceptionals, and especially not for kids like them.  Beavis and Butt-Head is either a funny tragedy or an ultimately sad comedy, but luckily it is hilarious and these are unforgettable characters.  Take them for what they are, and thank goodness that MTV knew enough to approach Mike Judge to bring them back

Viva Cornholio!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

DWTS: Lucky Remaining 7 Trip the Light Fantastic

A glittering gaggle of singing nuns from the musical "Sister Act" kicked off this week's Dancing with the Stars episode, as the final 7 remaining contestants danced to songs from Broadway shows. Is there anything more delightful than a bunch of sparkling nuns whooping it up on stage? It certainly set the bar pretty high last night. Maybe too high, as this particular episode lacked some of the "wow" moments that have had tongues wagging around the water cooler in past weeks. Do people still huddle around a water cooler at work anymore? Probably not. Maybe they are standing around a microwave, heating their Lean Cuisines and weeping because nobody is allowed to go out to lunch anymore.

Nancy Grace skipped along fetchingly to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from "Spamalot". She faced the judges to get her highest score ever, even while sporting some bright red lipstick on her teeth and nose. Hey! This is live television folks. Well, sort least for the viewers on the East Coast. There has already been a visible wardrobe malfunction this season and (no easy way to say this) audible moment which most pundits agree might have been flatulence. That's the kind of thing that keeps bloggers in business ladies and gentlemen. I would also like to say at this time that I am transfixed by Nancy Grace's dancing partner Tristan. He has a charming Irish lilt and steely command when he is forced to lift Ms. Grace's ample sequined form off the ball room floor.

Rob Kardashian danced to a song from "Jersey Boys" last night and David Arquette did a quickstep from "Grease". Both did an OK job, but were not particularly memorable.

Hope Solo tried a number from "Rent" and Chaz Bono looked dashing as the Phantom from "Phantom of the Opera". Both received abyssmal scores from the judges. They really have it in for Hope. I don't see why, she's not that bad. However, she didn't really do anything to distinguish herself and I fear that tonight she might have to go back to being a soccer superstar with gazillion dollar endorsements. It's so sad.

As usual both J.R. ("Chicago") and Ricki Lake (Guys and Dolls..."Luck be a Lady Tonight") were at the top of the leader board getting 9's and 10's from the judges. J.R. practically floated across the stage, he's a modern day Kelly or Astaire. I love how he makes movement seem so effortless. Ricki was captured doing an excellent Norma Desmond impression, which I am featuring here.

The show ended as it started, with plenty of sizzle. All seven couples danced a group routine to "Money Makes the World Go Round" from Cabaret. My beloved witty Carson returned to offer bon mots during their rehearsal. There was no shortage of enthusiasm, as Monopoly money was flung about the stage with wild abandon. I'm taking it as a nod of endorsement to the brave men and women who are Occupying Wall Street!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The New Season Death Knell Tolls On!

We hope you're been checking out lots of the new shows this season, but there are a few that won't be so easy to track down anymore.  There are a handful of already-dead, some that the networks had high hopes for, and some that were probably destined for the goodbye-pile from the start.  Let's take a look at the casualties so far, in reverse order of cancellation:

The latest to fall is ABC's redo of Charlie's Angels, which faltered on Thursday nights and couldn't muster enough babe-a-liciousness to survive.  Goes to show that hype and pretty girls aren't enough to breathe life into any old retread, even one with a politically-correct mixture of feminine pulchritude on display and a sexed-up Latino playing Bosley.  It even sounds bad, doesn't it?

NBC let go its remake of the snide British comedy Free Agents starring Hank Azaria.  Its late airdate was October 5th, but don't despair if you liked it -- you can watch the original Britcom on BBC America, and there's nothing like the original! 

The CW cancelled Mario Lopez's comedy reality show H8R pretty fast out of the gate; last airdate was also October 5th.

CBS cut the cord on the much touted sitcom How to Be a Gentleman after two Thursday airings, then decided to run out the episodes on Saturday night, replacing Rules of Engagement which slipped happily into HtBaG's vacated 8:30pm slot after The Big Bang Theory.  Even the Saturday slot was sunk by the cancelled series, and now it's out of there, too.  The flop of How to Be a Gentleman was a bit of a shock, mostly because of its cushy timeslot -- though last season's disappointment $#*! My Dad Says also got no boost at all from TBBT -- and a good cast, including the appealing Kevin Dillon, Dave Foley, and Rhys Darby.  I think the problem was lead actor David Hornsby, who lacked the charisma to carry a show as a lead (but is a talented performer, though maybe not as a lead).  Overall the show didn't live up to its cast and seemed lackluster and stilted.  You just never know!

NBC also quickly pulled the plug on its controversial -- at least to conservative TV activist groups -- period drama The Playboy Club.   Three episodes was all it took for NBC to find out that there no future for their bunnies, proving...duh...that there is no inherent desire on the part of TV audiences for 1.) evocations of the Mad Men-era   2.) a show that is sold with the promise of sex but is on a broadcast network so there won't be any.  Groups who disliked its glorification of Hefner's mature and hedonistic lifestyle must be basking self-righteously in the warmth of their book-burning bonfires at the demise of The Playboy Club, though it was the ratings and not their prudish rants that sunk the show.  So far ABC is hanging in with their Mad Men-esque series Pan Am, but it feels unlikely that it'll make it for a full-season pick-up, and we're quite certain that it won't last for a second season.  The series is at best a curiosity and kudos to ABC for keeping it on this long, actually.

Undoubtedly more cancellations to come; any of your favorites hanging on for dear life?  What would you be sorry to see get the ax?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A New Liberace TV Biopic in the Works with Michael Douglas & Matt Damon!

The news out today that Michael Douglas and Matt Damon will star (as the charismatic pianist and his boyfriend) in an HBO Liberace biopic entitled Behind the Candelabra, to be directed by Steven Soderbergh (Contagion, Ocean's Eleven, Traffic, Erin Brockovich), brings to mind the pair of dueling Liberace TV movies from back in 1988.

Liberace died on February 4th, 1987, after a glorious and multifaceted career, and also after a struggle with AIDS (never publicly acknowledged by Liberace, though) and earlier notoriety from a palimony suit brought by his young male companion Scott Thorson.  It took a year and a half before both ABC and CBS each brought out their own TV Movies.  In a terrific example of TV timing -- though I suppose we should be amazed that they didn't schedule them head-to-head against each other -- ABC's Liberace aired on Sunday, October 2, 1988, to be followed exactly a week later by the CBS TVM Liberace: Behind the Music.

ABC's version starred veteran actor and familiar TV face Andrew Robinson (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Cobra, Dirty Harry, Ryan's Hope) as Liberace, with Rue McClanahan (Maude, The Golden Girls) as Liberace's sainted mother Frances, and John Rubenstein (Crazy Like a Fox, Family, Angel, Desperate Housewives and many more) as Liberace's business associate.  This version was more discreet about Liberace's private life and only hinted at his gay lifestyle, instead portraying his struggle to maintain a private life more in general terms and not just concerning his sexuality.  Robinson was terrific as Liberace, too.

Here's a scene from the movie, and you can see a promo on YouTube by clicking here.

Liberace: Behind the Music, the CBS take on the subject, starred Canadian actor Victor Garber as Liberace. Garber, now well-known for his roles in Alias and especially in the blockbuster film Titanic, wasn't anything close to a household name at the time this telefilm was made.  Of course, theatergoers knew him for his Tony-nominated presence on Broadway in many prestigious productions (including in the original cast of Sweeney Todd), and he had also starred in the movie version of his breakout musical Godspell in 1972 and did many other supporting roles on TV, but his big stardom was to come later.  Well-respected actress Maureen Stapleton (Cocoon, The Money Pit, Reds, Queen of the Stardust Ballroom, Plaza Suite, Airport) co-starred as Frances Liberace, and veteran Canadian character actor Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13, Nixon, Dick, Frasier) appeared as Liberace's business manager.

Here's the promo for the movie, and then a scene:

Garber also got kudos for his impressive and sensitive work as Liberace, and this movie was more open about his sexual orientation which gives it an edge in the realism department, though it's still a typical TV biopic.  Obviously the Soderbergh project will deal with the older Liberace if Michael Douglas is playing him, and even though Scott Thorson was only in his early twenties during their affair, Matt Damon may be good enough to pull off that age difference...but he is over 40 now, so it could be a stretch.  Still, this could be a terrific TVM and in any case it's going to be fascinating and unusual.  Producer Jerry Weintraub spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the project, and you can read the interesting article by clicking here.

If the news of this project has piqued your own interest in Liberace (as it has mine), you should take a look at a few good websites, particularly the excellent Bob's World of Liberace; The Liberace Foundation and Museum; this very detailed account of Liberace's starring movie role in 1953's Sincerely Yours, and of course Wikipedia's concise bio of Liberace. Liberace was a consummate entertainer with a unique sense of style and personal flair that set him apart from everyone else of his era.  We're really looking forward to Behind the Candelabra when it shows up on HBO!  Hurry up!

Dancing with the Stars Movie Night

Dancing with the Stars had a movie theme last night. It gave us a
happy ending for some and a box office disaster for others (Nancy Grace and Chynna Phillips both crashed and burned).

I didn't do a post last week, but would like to catch up by saying BOTH of my predictions for "getting the boot" came true. Elisabetta the Italian supermodel and Kristin the blond blah are both gone with the wind.

Last week's theme was highly emotional, with the stars selecting songs that meant something personal from their past. I cried like a baby over JR's beautiful tribute to the men and women in uniform. His dance was heartbreaking and beautiful.

The bottom of the leader barrel for me this week was Chynna, who is usually so accomplished. She forgot her moves to "Mission Impossible" and by the time she faced a tongue lashing from the snippy judges, even her false eyelashes were askew. At the high end for scores...Ricki Lake got two perfect 10's and a 9 to become the top rated of the night. I'm not sure I understand why she got those scores, but the judges all seem to favor her, she's definitely the teacher's pet. JR turned in another wonderful performance, dancing to the theme from the "Pink Panther".
He's so rhythmic and light on his feet. Loved the funny swaying butt panther move too. Inexplicably,
the boring girl judge (Carrie Ann) marked JR down for adding humor to the dance (EXCUSE me...but The Pink Panther movie was a comedy!).

Who will go home tonight? The most likely suspects are Carson and Chaz. Neither one has much of a chance for pulling it out of the fire for the long run. I think Carson is the most vulnerable, even though the audience loves him for his humor and zaniness. He wore a charming blond mustache and feathered pirate hat for his

"Pirates of the Caribbean" dance. But last night's moment of triumph and drama was for Chaz. As his mom (Cher!!!) cried and cheered in the audience, he danced to the theme for "Rocky", even racing up the stairs at the end like Stallone in the iconic scene from the movie. I sure hope he chews a baby aspirin every day, because his heart got a workout last night for sure.

The mirror ball giveth and the mirror ball taketh away. I fear we may be saying hasta la vista to the blond pirate before the day is done.

Sorry no video this time. The iron fists have removed from YouTube. All the more reason to tune in and check it out yourself!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

American Horror Story on fX

It's creepy and it's spooky...and altogether kooky. But unlike the Addams Family, this new macabre drama on fX is short on humor and crazier than a bag full of bats.

The main character is a haunted house with a very troubled past. This Victorian fixer upper has been the venue for some nasty stuff, including the murders of two little red haired juvenile delinquents and a stylish gay couple who left behind some cool leather outfits in the attic.

The show takes place in Southern California, the least likely place for a scary old home unless you count the ride at Disneyland or the equally fake Magic Castle in the Hollywood Hills. A new family moves in and of course they are escaping their own dark past which includes (yawn) infidelity and a more interesting and sad stillbirth.

The cast is astonishingly good for TV. Connie Britton plays Vivian the mom, with Dylan McDermott as the family patriarch who is also a therapist. The amazing Francis Conroy (Six Feet Under) plays a maid with a mesmerizing lazy eye. Violet is the teenage daughter (by law every new TV show must have a teenage daughter) who is already being bullied to death at her L.A. gulag of a high school. Her new friend is a troubled boy named Evan who gets my vote as the most likely kid to go full out Columbine for the new television season.
After only one episode, American Horror already has a breakout character (Constance) played by Jessica Lange. How is it possible that they snagged a two time Oscar winner for this cable television drama? Lange is absolutely terrific as the fading actress and menacing mom from next door. She's a drama queen with a Downs syndrome daughter and a Tennessee Williams southern drawl. Rounding out the cast is Denis O'Hare, who has been so compelling as the evil vampire king on True Blood. Here he plays Larry the ex-con and arsonist with his own secrets to hide about the haunted house.

I would watch this program every week for Jessica Lange alone, but there is so much more to like about it. There hasn't been a really interesting murder/horror series on TV since Twin Peaks, and I am so ready for this one to be a winner. Having grown up in a 200 year old haunted house myself, I can say they never really lose their drafty appeal. And anyway, Halloween is coming, so it's a great time to give it a try. American Horror Story is on fX, Wednesday nights at 10pm.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Farewell Steve Jobs

An outpouring of grief is covering the web, as the wizard of Silicon Valley Steve Jobs passes from this world. The best quote I read all night was from someone I don't even know on Facebook. "Thank you for changing the world and putting it in the palm of my hand".

The Flaming Nose recognizes tech and creative genius Steve Jobs, who changed the world with Pixar (movies), iPod and iTunes (music), and personal communication/information (Macs, iPhones and iPads). As a Star Trek fan, I've spent my whole life waiting for the sparkly futuristic world of tricorders and communicators. Steve Job's products made me feel like we had already arrived.

Below you'll find what is widely recognized as one of the greatest television commercials of all time. The 1984 Apple advertisement is directed by Ridley Scott ("Bladerunner") Sci-Fi movie auteur. It aired once during the Super Bowl, blew everyone's mind and went on to win buckets of awards. Although we ran this spot on the Nose a few years back, it seemed like a good time to put it up again. See the Apple 1984 posted below.

Rest in peace Steve Jobs. Because of you, I can carry television in my pocket.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy 50th Anniversary to "The Dick Van Dyke Show"!

The Flaming Nose TV Blog is super-pleased to be participating with The Thrilling Days of Yesteryear and their terrific The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon, on today's 50th Anniversary of the classic sitcom.  Blogs and writers from all over the net are adding their contributions as tribute to this great show, and we're going to spotlight one of our favorite episodes -- "I'd Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head at All", an episode coming near the end of the show's third season (out of the total five). 

Ever since men starting noticing male pattern baldness -- sometime past Neanderthal times, as they seem to have had plenty of hair all over -- it's been an ongoing anxiety for a lot of guys.  Maybe today it's even hard to imagine what all the fuss is about, since bald is distinctly beautiful these days, but also since "The Hair Club for Men" is still in business, the "yikes" factor must be alive and well at least for some fellas.  Star Dick Van Dyke's casual remarks wondering about his own hair status inspired writers Bill Persky and Sam Denoff to pen this memorable episode, a half-hour firmly rooted (har-har) in both everyday life and also wildly imaginative at the same time. 

Maybe we'll just go through the basics of the episode -- though you really need to watch it to fully absorb all the comic moments -- to whet your appetite.  It's fun looking at screengrabs, too!

After Rob finds a lot of hairs in the sink, he thinks he's going bald and Laura tries to reassure him.

Rob goes into work and Buddy and Sally also try to talk Rob out of his fixation, and they use the argument that lots of men are more attractive bald.

Mel Cooley arrives -- "Well, you just lost your argument..."

Buddy gives Rob the name of Irwin the Barber who has a great reputation as a hair loss specialist.
He starts to look over Rob's head of hair.

He assesses the "elastic-ness" of Rob's hair, among other tests.

After careful consideration, Irwin makes his diagnosis.
"Good roots -- lousy papilla."

"So that's the whole story on a nutshell."  Irwin recommends a course of treatment -- his own formula with several "ingrediments"...

Olive Oil and Vinegar. "So who's to say what's silly? Irwin asks.

"When I put it on my hair -- do I comb it or toss it?"

Once Home, Rob does some exercises to bring blood to his head.

And Laura helps him arrange his towel around his smelly hair...

...which of course is cumbersome and he looks like a nut. After a night's sleep, he wakes up.

And underneath the towel he is completely bald!

"I did tell you not to use that stuff..."

Rob tries to figure out if he is dreaming, or if Laura is dreaming.

"Did you shave my head as a joke?...I know what it is...severe shock!"
"What kind of a shock did you have?" she asks innocently.
"You don't call going bald a shock??!"

"You go to Irwin and get your money back..."

"Honey, is this really a dream?"
"Of course it's a dream, darling. Now you go to Irwin and get your money back."
"Yeah. I'm gonna go get my hair back!"

He gets some new stuff from Irwin, with "the miracle ingrediment P.S. 138"
"What is it?"

"Tastes good and is good for you!"

"Hiya Baldy, we've been waiting for you!"

"It's not a dream!"
"It is, too!"
"If it was a dream you wouldn't have gone to all the trouble to come down here in your jammies!"

"Rob, I told you I was going to knit you a toupee and I did! It's Mohair!"

"Right...'cos you got no-mo-hair!"

"What's the matter" Is it all messed up?"

Rob: "Lettuce?!"
Sally: "Well, if you use salad dressing you can't expect to grow meatloaf!"

"Now you'll have to sleep with your head in the refrigerator!"

"Where's my hair???"

"Rob, thanks for your hair!"

"Darling, you're having a bad dream."

"And this is the second time I've wakened in it!"
"Well, it's no wonder, you slept with that silly turban on. That would give anyone a nightmare."
"That's just what you said in the dream!"
"Rob, come on, let's take that turban off and wash your hair..."

Yep. He's bald again and Laura faints.

"Honey, wake up, you're having a nightmare..."
"Am I awake?"
"Well, sure you are."
"Are you?"
"Sure. I'm awake."

"Rob...don't ever take off that towel."

"Because under it, you're either bald or you have a head of lettuce!"

"Oh, Rob!"

"That beautiful brown helmet!"

"You were worried about me losing my hair and I go to the doctor once and looks what happens!"
"Ohhh, Rob...oohhh Rob!"

"I guess I could use a good night's sleep, too!"

"I'd Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head at All" is part of that delectable selection of episodes from The Dick Van Dyke Show with dreams featuring prominently.  It's a terrific device for allowing crazy situations that otherwise would have strained the credulity of a series that was very much realistic while still being uproariously funny.  The humor in 'I'd Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head at All" stands up to the test of time -- fifty years (almost) of time, and that's impressive.  The Dick Van Dyke Show feels as contemporary as it did five decades ago, and it's that timeless excellence that makes watching the show a pleasure today, and will continue to make it work even more decades from now.  If we've piqued your appetite to watch this episode, check it out on Hulu or Netflix!  A special shout-out, of course, to actor Ned Glass who played Irwin the barber -- the acting veteran of hundreds and hundreds of roles was a particular delight here.
Congratulations on 50 great years to The Dick Van Dyke Show, and thanks to The Thrilling Days of Yesteryear for coming up with the great idea for this blogathon!