Sunday, January 29, 2012

RIP Dick Tufeld: Voice of the Lost in Space Robot

One of the most iconic voices from 1960's era television passed away this week. The Flaming Nose mourns Dick Tufeld, who was best known as the voice of the robot in the Irwin Allen series "Lost in Space". He left this earth at the age of 85, and we are all richer by at at least a dozen catch phrases for his work in television.

Lost in Space is one of the most beloved science fiction series ever, particularly for baby boomers who grew up appreciating its absurdist sensibility. Unlike Star Trek, which thanks to Gene Roddenbury had real science as the basis for many stories, Lost in Space was pure fun. It featured alien planets which were chock full of magicians, opera singers, giant talking carrots and sparkling green ladies wearing bowl hats. The first time I realized that the 4th wall was broken on my TV set as a child, was when I could clearly see that the mine field Irwin Allen had created on a God forsaken asteroid was constructed from colored plastic beach balls. Okey dokey, so the production budget was a little light for Lost in Space.

Of all the characters on Lost In Space, the most compassionate, caring and well... human, was the lovely robot. He was brave and sensistive and able to tolerate the most brutal hazing from his nemesis "Dr. Smith", who routinely referred to him as a "bubble headed booby". Thanks to the talent of Mr. Tufeld, we all believed in the robot when he would slump with sorrow or flail his retractable arms and bellow "Danger Will Robinson". Although I could identify best with the Robinson kids Will (Billy Mumy) and Penny (Angela Cartwright), the Robot was always my favorite.

Take a moment to remember a TV show from a kinder, gentler and definitely sillier age. His character may have said "that does not compute", but we all understand that the man who gave voice to the Robot will be missed.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Anthony Bourdain in The Layover

Anthony Bourdain, known as the globe trotting TV gourmet, is the best walker on the planet. He doesn't swagger, he doesn't stride...he ambles his way down the streets of cities in every corner of the planet. He is my Ambling Man, towering over most of the other folks no matter where he is, a friendly confident American at home in the world. Judging by the shouts of adoration from the minions who recognize him in even the most obscure locations, he is probably one of the best ambassadors this country has got.

Bourdain's latest TV series The Layover, has a slightly more frantic and condensed feel to it than his former Travel Channel show No Reservations. The new show gives him 24-48 hours in a city where he must use that limited time to eat, drink, explore and meet the local denizens. He does all of the above and more with great charm and cheerfulness. Even when the local fare is somewhat challenging, he is refreshingly honest (maybe a bit too honest) about the toll it takes on his digestive system.

So far I've watched A.B.'s adventures in Miami, Hong Kong, Montreal, Amsterdam and San Francisco. The latter was so compelling, I was inspired to take a train into my backyard city yesterday to visit one of the locations he featured in the episode, the historic Fairmont Hotel. Alas, the famous Tonga Room was closed at the time, I should have checked their website to see that it's only open for dinner! I did enjoy a lovely brief chat with the concierge about how exciting it was to have THE Anthony Bourdain at the hotel when they were filming.

Every episode of The Layover features the perfect mix that helps make any travel/food show a winner:
  • Fascinating and crazy local people: Bourdain seems to attract them wherever he goes. He seems to prefer offbeat individuals and it always adds great color to the episodes.
  • Wonderful trivia and history about the locations in a most palatable format.
  • Great looking food and drinks from restaurant venues both high (4 star) and low (gourmet food trucks and hot dog stands).

Anthony Bourdain does not try to hide his carnivorous side, so if you are a Vegan this series might not be for you. And his real life feud with Paula Deen the Butter Queen might be off-putting to those who are fond of down home food. However, I find his utter delight in trying new dishes and seeing new places to be captivating. M. Bourdain would make the perfect fun traveling companion, no matter what your gender. I nominate him as my #1 fantasy TV boyfriend, for his humor, daring and endearing NYC accent.

Here's a little taste of The Layover in Miami. Bon appetite!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hail to "Portlandia": Keep Portland Weird!

Thanks to my personal content editor (Tommy...the only son), I have been turned on to an exquisitely strange and awesome comedy sketch show on IFC called Portlandia. Every episode
starts with a few soothing strains of smooth jazz and a montage of the Pacific Northwest city that is known for coffee bars, indie rock and artist communities (and not much more). Frankly, Portland has never even remotely been on my radar screen, but it sure is now. If I turn up suddenly missing someday, it's because I packed my bags and cats to go be a cafe barista in Portland.

Portlandia stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein and is executive produced by Lorne Michaels. Every single episode is filmed on location in Portland. Fred and Carrie play a whole host of quirky, freaky, surreal characters, some of whom appear on a regular basis. Most irritating = the lesbian duo running a Women's bookstore. Most fascinating, a pair of Japanese Harajuku girls drinking coffee from microscopic cups. They've already spawned buckets of catch phases, including..."cacao", "put a bird on it" and "we can pickle that". Portlandia has also attracted a constellation of wonderful guest stars, including Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) who plays the mayor of Portland and Jeff Goldblum who was a joy as a crafty dude who specializes in vintage and modern art knots. It's like minimalist macrame. They also featured my favorite new band "The Decemberists" as a fake indie band called Echo Echo.

You can catch up with Season One on Netflix or On Demand if you have IFC. Season Two just premiered last Friday night on IFC at 10:30pm. Run as fast as you can to watch the best new comedy series on TV!

The dream of the 90's is alive in Portland!