Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Goodbye, Cuddly Toy: Monkee Davy Jones Passed Away Today


This one really hurts.  As a Monkees fan from the very beginning -- and I do mean beginning, from the first show of The Monkees on NBC back in September of 1966 until today -- it was shocking to learn of the fatal heart attack of  Davy Jones, who died this morning in a Florida hospital at the too-young age of 66.  Davy was nominally the "cute one" of the Monkees, an almost-diminutive (he trained as a jockey) but super-talented Brit who prior to becoming part of what wags dubbed "The Pre-Fab Four" was an acclaimed performer on the Broadway stage and British TV.  Davy, along with Micky Dolenz -- he was the other show biz veteran in the group, starring in his own TV show as a youth -- was a performing dynamo and a consistently adorable presence whose accent made him even more delightful. 




It's always interesting to ask ladies of a certain age who was their favorite Monkee. I went for Micky who was the most traditionally comedic of the lads -- I've always gravitated towards the funny -- but I'm sure that most young girls set their sights on Davy.  I can easily imagine what a huge mountain all the Pee Chee folders of yesterday adorned with Davy's name in little hearts would make.  He was probably the ultimate teen idol -- sweet, enthusiastic and talented until the end -- and the hearts he won more than forty years ago never stopped loving him.  (Even a few years after the initial craze of Monkee Mania, Davy Jones was still a powerful force, famously setting Marcia Brady's heart aflutter on the "Getting Davy Jones" episode of The Brady Bunch in December of 1971; clips below.) 







Despite only having a two-year 58 episode run, The Monkees series has been a TV favorite for decades.  Syndication kept Monkee magic alive during the 1970s and early 1980s, then in 19
86 MTV scooped up the series and enabled a full-on revival of Monkee Mania thru marathons and special events.  Since that time the show has truly never left the air, always keeping faithful fans happy and constantly winning over more hearts, each new fan discovering the tremendous goodwill that emanated from Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith as The Monkees.



The Monkees, singly and together in various iterations, have continued to make their music for loyal followers, too.  Davy, particularly, had a full schedule of personal appearances all over this country and abroad, delighting audiences with his non-stop energy and genuine joie de vivre wherever he went. Fans lined up to hear him revisit his collection of hits such as "Daydream Believer," "She Hangs Out," "I Wanna Be Free," "When Love Comes Knockin' At Your Door," "Cuddly Toy," "Star Collector," "Valleri," "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" and also all the Monkees hits where he wasn't the lead singer.  (We highly recommend reading this thoughtful article from Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone for an appreciation of Davy's pop star status.)  Relax a while and revisit the marvelous music of The Monkees:























Davy Jones left us too soon.  There were still songs to be sung, audiences to be entertained, new memories to be made and old ones remembered.  The Flaming Nose TV Blog offers our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Davy Jones.  We will carry his enthusiasm with us always, and we will never forget how much we -- and the world -- loved this consummate entertainer. 



Friday, February 17, 2012

"Ancient Aliens" is Back -- Now on H2, Starting Tonight!


This is some wonderful fun for Friday nights!   History Channel's series Ancient Aliens is moving over to H2 (formerly History International) for its new 4th season, and that means one thing -- more Giorgio Tsoukalos!  If you've caught Giorgio on the series or on any of his other TV, radio or personal appearances, you know that he's one dynamic individual and the head cheerleader for the notion that extraterrestrials visited Earth long ago and left profound influences on the planet's progress.  This is the same theory expounded by Chariots of the Gods author Erich von Daniken for so many years, and Tsoukalos is a Daniken colleague.


I don't know whether I buy the theory or not, but I do know that you won't find anyone more entertaining or more enthusiastic in his beliefs, nor will you find anybody with a more spectacular hairdo than Giorgio.  He is simply, as he's been dubbed, Tsoukalicious!  The other Ancient Astronaut theorists who appear on Ancient Aliens are equally immersed in the subject and suitably persuasive, but Tsoukalos is something special.  He brings to his subject the same tremendous energy and passion that the late Steve Irwin brought to his various wildlife TV series, with the end result being immensely watchable television. 



Yikes! you may be thinking, enough of this pseudo-science, and I hear you.  At least, though, somebody watching Ancient Aliens will be getting a dose of archaeology along with the rest, and if it encourages people to delve into history and come up with their own opinions on the subject, that can't be a bad thing.  In a TV world where suburban housewives, gator-wrestlers, bridal consultants, Alaskan gold miners (and cops and truckers in a seemingly endless stream of workers from the 49th state), catfish-grabbers, tattoists, and everyone else can become a star in today's motley world of cable reality shows, I'm all for focusing on  folks who have a philosphy (even if it's outside the mainstream) and research their particular interest with zeal and dedication. 

Giorgio Tsoukalos serves as consultant and one of the producers on Ancient Aliens, as well as being the publisher of Legendary Times magazine and all-around go-to guy in the field.  The other great thing about Tsoukalos is that he and his astounding hair have become the subject of an internet meme which has been making the rounds.  It plays on his obsession with ancient aliens at the root of many Earth mysteries and his trademark near-melodramatic delivery, but I swear that you couldn't be bored listening to Tsoukalos expounding on the subject.  Instead, you will be hugely entertained and perhaps turn into a believer.  In any case, Ancient Aliens is a riveting hour of documentary-ish television, and highly recommended!  I think Giorgio Tsoukalos is hilarious (in the best possible sense of the word) and I hope you will, too. 


The newest season of Ancient Aliens airs on H2 (and frequently shows up on History, also) Fridays at 9pm, with frequent encores.  Check out the show website for more information.  You might like to watch a short clip of him from The Mo'Nique Show -- he's quite personable, check it out here

Here are a few of the photo memes of Giorgio, too:





Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our Classic TV Valentines

Here's a Happy Valentine's Day to all our nostalgic TV crushes -- not that we don't still love these guys!

In no particular order...


Rob Petrie, played by Dick Van Dyke, on The Dick Van Dyke Show

How could any young girls not fall in love with the hilarious, urbane, supremely silly and utterly adorable Rob Petrie?  Not only did he have a cool job -- TV comedy writer -- but he worked in a great office with smart entertaining colleagues...how is that not perfect?  Even if we couldn't be Mrs. Petrie, I think we'd have settled for being Sally Rogers, just to be near Rob.  Wouldn't you?



Adam Cartwright, played by Pernell Roberts, on Bonanza

Naturally, young girls watching the series were supposed to fall for the teen idol-ish Little Joe (Michael Landon), but there was something dangerous and sexy about Ben Cartwright's oldest son Adam.  Smart as a whip and back at the Ponderosa after going away to college, this often-brooding brother had a temper and wasn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with his dynamic father (Lorne Greene).  If Little Joe was the heartthrob and Hoss the safe older brother, Adam was the slightly wild card.  So wild that he left the series after a few years, but while he was there, he lent a seductive air to the Cartwright clan.



Diver Dan, played by Frank Freda, on Diver Dan

Can an actor in a diving suit playing on a fake underwater set with puppet fish really make little girls' hearts flutter?  Well, Diver Dan did!  Whether it was his understated heroics or his "do-they-or-don't-they" -- or maybe more accurately "could-they-even-do-it" -- relationship with the elusive and beautiful mermaid Miss Minerva, Diver Dan made afterschool afternoons more exciting!



Professor Roy Thornton, played by Russell Johnson, on Gilligan's Island

Wouldn't you like to be stranded on a desert island with the Professor?  Handsome and so very smart -- and not even just compared to Mr. Howell, the Skipper or Gilligan -- the Professor was also inventive, good-natured and not a bit of the aloof intellectual.  I still think he's the perfect companion for a coconut-tinged retreat, though of course you'd have plenty of competition, what with Ginger and Mary Ann also having an eye for Roy.  Who can blame them?



Dr. James Kildare, played by Richard Chamberlain, on Dr. Kildare

Chamberlain brought a huge dose of charisma into the corridors of Blair General Hospital and became a huge teen idol for his role as Dr. Kildare.  The show was intelligent and dramatic, beautifully produced, excellently acted -- by Chamberlain, his co-star Raymond Massey and a bevy of guest stars -- but mostly we all fell in love with the appealing Dr. Kildare.  Sure, Ben Casey was also a hit TV series at the time on a different network, but Casey (Vince Edwards) was gruff and grim, while Kildare was bright and inviting.  Maybe the older ladies went for Casey, but Kildare got the youth vote, and how.



Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffiths, on The Andy Griffiths Show

Even those of us who grew up far from small town America -- or maybe especially us -- were drawn to Sheriff'Taylor's soft-spoken and kind-hearted brand of law enforcement.  He also had the allure of being a widower, and in the show he had a couple of different steady girlfriends, including the equally likeable schoolteacher Helen Krump (Aneta Corsaut).  Who could begrudge Sheriff Taylor a little Mayberry-style lovin', right?  In truth he was probably more of a father figure than boyfriend, but his comforting male presence was a welcome feature of our childhoods and ever since.



Superman/Clark Kent, played by George Reeves, on The Adventures of Superman

That smile, that cape, the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound -- we're still in love with Superman!  The brawny All-American good looks and personality of George Reeves gave his super-portrayal an irresistible appeal that has never died.  Okay, so maybe we didn't want him for a boyfriend exactly, but if he wanted to drop by and take us for a flight around the world...well, that would have been okay with us. 



Dr. Zachary Smith and the Robot, played by Jonathan Harris and Dick Tufeld, on Lost in Space

Yeah...there's no denying these two were one of the most authentic Odd Couples ever on TV, but they were also hilarious and they could have easily been, if not our boyfriends exactly, maybe our funny best friends.  We sometimes think that's even better than romance, in case anybody needs to be told that.



Hercules, voiced by Jimmy Tapp, on The Mighty Hercules

Hercules, like Diver Dan and Clark Kent, was a shy guy with a big job, and little time for romance with the lovely damsel Helena who worshipped the Greek he-man.  For a crudely animated show with only a dozen or so episodes, the influence of The Mighty Hercules was huge in our childhood and mostly because Hercules himself was the epitome of a classic hero.  Even though it was unlikely that we would ever accompany him to Mount Olympus -- "Olympia!" he cried at the end of every segment as he ascended -- we loved to watch him vanquish evil and yet somehow never quite get the girl.



Mickey, played by Mickey Dolenz, on The Monkees

Davy Jones was the anointed "boyfriend-in-chief" of the pre-Fab Four, but if you were a young lady who loved the funny, then Mickey was your guy.  Unconventionally good-looking, slightly hyperactive, and a terrific singer to boot, Mickey was my Monkee of choice and I'm sticking to it!




Illya Kuriakin, played by David McCallum, on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Open Channel D!  The suave Russian Illya, Napoleon Solo's partner in spying, soon almost eclipsed his James Bond-ish co-agent in popularity and fan mail, not that Robert Vaughn was anything less than spectacular.  It's just that Illya was so...so...cute, dang it all!  From his fluffy blond hair to his delicate foreign accent, Illya was oh-so-seriously wonderful and most definitely won the hearts of the younger set. 



Artemus Gordon, played by Ross Martin, on The Wild Wild West

In this series, ladies who loved tight blue pants went for the ultra-suave uber-hero James West, played by Robert Conrad.  Those of us who liked our heroes a little more creative, a little funnier, a little more inventive, preferred Artemus Gordon, masterfully brought to life by actor Ross Martin.  If West almost always ended up with the girl, Artemus ended up with our hearts and our minds, a potent two-fer that made Mr. Gordon my personal choice for the most super secret agent. 

I've saved the best for last --


Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, on Star Trek

Who might have dreamed that a half-human alien hybrid from the fictional planet Vulcan could become one of the most desirable of TV boyfriends for millions of young girls?  Super smart -- there's that very cool intelligence attribute once again! -- ultra-competent, and nearly non-emotional, although Spock might have seemed an unlikely candidate for Valentine's pin-up boy, he's the logical choice.  Since the late 1960's Spock has made the search for extraterrestrial life a must; how else are Sarek and Amanda, Spock's Vulcan father and Earth mother, ever going to get together?  From the first moment we set eyes on him to his evidently farewell appearance as Spock in J.J. Abram's 2009 Trek franchise reboot feature, Mr. Spock has truly been one of the wonders of the TV universe.


We all have our favorites, and many newer faces have come in since these guys captured our hearts long ago, but you never forget your first love...er...loves.  A Happy Valentine's Day to all of the many unforgettable characters who have made us fall in love with them!


Monday, February 6, 2012

The Tony Neighborhood of NBC's "Smash"


I've missed a lot of the huge publicity blitz for NBC's tonight-premiering musical drama Smash, though from what I've read if you live in New York that would have been impossible.  One thing I truly don't quite get as a bragging point is the "Monday after the Super Bowl" line; do they really think that a song-filled soap opera about a Broadway musical is going to appeal to the same people who are watching the Super Bowl?  Sure, football gets you the big tent, but this seems a comically mismatched mating.  Of course, if I were NBC I'd also be milking every possible viewer connection I had, and for NBC that's not particularly easy these days.

Everything I've read is adamant about not glibly making Smash out to be "Glee for grown-ups", but you've got to start making comparisons someplace. There's no better show than the tune-filled, angst-laden teen musidrama to ease you into Smash territory; I'd reckon that fans of Glee should definitely tune into Smash.  They'll love the highly-wrought musical renditions, something that will also appeal to everybody who's watching The Voice, American Idol and The X Factor, too.  We're getting a pretty good base going as potential Smash viewers, and that's part of the challenge.  There's also a lot of talent on the bench, with names like Spielberg, musical whizzes Zadan and Meron and the like.  An impressive provenance doesn't hurt (but it doesn't guarantee a thing, either).



Who else will like Smash?  Lovers of fabulous melodrama like Desperate Housewives will get a kick out of it, and how about folks who adore the bitchy goings-on of the various Real Housewives of... franchise?  Definitely.  You've got a Will & Grace vibe going on with co-stars Debra Messing and Christian Borle, not only in an actual star crossover but in the gay-loves-gal friendship between the two tunesmiths.  (Borle is way more "Jack" than Will from W&G, though.)  Admirers of Thatcherian strength will go for Angelica Huston's strong-willed financial backer in a big way.  Which way one falls on the Ivy (Megan Hilty) vs. Karen (Katharine McPhee, from American Idol) question could become as heated as Republican vs. Democrat.  You've also got the bastardly British stage director (Jack Davenport, Coupling) to spread around some nasty Simon Cowell-esque vibes, plus this bloke is an over-confident and under-skilled ladies man, too, which is sort of fun. 

Certainly Smash has a lot going for it, but could it signal a turnaround for NBC's fortunes?  Wow.  That's a tall order.  The origins of Smash were at Showtime where now-NBC exec Robert Greenblatt once had it on his plate, and one wonders if it might have worked in the cable world better than on broadcast.  I don't think it's guaranteed SRO anywhere, but the stage has been set, the cast assembled, and the the musicians warming up; now it's up to the TV audience to decide if Smash has what it takes.



I'm on the fence on this one.  Smash seems more fairy tale to me than Once Upon a Time and a great deal more precious, not something I normally crave.  Aficionados of the very notion of quality series TV will probably feel an obligation to watch Smash, as I do.  I just hope I can learn to love it, too.

Smash premieres tonight and will air regularly on NBC at 10pm on Monday.  Check out the series website here.  You may want to read some opinions on the show here from TheWeek.com, or The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman's take, Mary McNamara from the L.A. Times, and many other reviews which you can easily find aggregated at Megacritic.com

Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don Cornelius of "Soul Train" - RIP

This morning at 4am Don Cornelius, the creator of the iconic music and dance series "Soul Train" apparently took his own life in Sherman Oaks, California. Health issues and a recent bitter divorce battle are getting the early blame for the suicide. It is difficult to understand the pain that one must suffer from in order to take their own life.

"Soul Train" (the title of which was narrated in a style that had the voiceover coming to a slow stop at a train station) ran for 22 years beginning back in 1971. At the time of its premiere I was a kid. As the decade progressed I would find myself watching Dick Clark's American Bandstand and then follow that up with Soul Train. Keep in mind, I came of age in Chicago and our winters were cold (well, not this year) and after our morning chores we would often spend early Saturday afternoons watching television. It was a simpler time and it is virtually impossible to describe our lifestyles to young people today. We actually played outside. We rode our bikes, we took long walks, we laid on the ground and watched the stars, we caught fireflies (with holes in the cans, so they could breathe), we built snowmen and igloos. We had no smart phones, no computers, no iPods, iPads or anything else that is deemed as technology. We had two television sets, two telephones (that were attached to the wall), four radios and a transistor (go and look it up).

After rolling out of bed on a Saturday in January, I would do my chores, watch a bad B movie (I loved "The Killer Shrews"), American Bandstand and Soul Train. If I have secluded a secret in my life it is that I love to dance and I dance often, but back in the 1970's I loved Led Zeppelin and the Eagles too. I rarely danced in public outside of the weddings that I seemingly went to on an almost monthly basis. To this day, I dance and I dance often. I will put on McFadden and Whitehead's "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" or "Stomp" by the Brothers Johnson and move to the groove.

I didn't want to miss "Soul Train." I had the opportunity to see some of the best acts of the era and watch some of the best dancing in all of television history. By and large, the dancers on "Soul Train" weren't professional dancers, so you thought "I could try that move."

My older sister was already out of the house living on her own at this point, but she'd find herself visiting the family house on Saturdays and we'd watch together. I have some wonderful memories of this innovative show. About six years ago, a friend of mine from ABC and I were having dinner at Giorgio Baldi's in Santa Monica and in walked Don Cornelius with some woman young enough to be his granddaughter. When you live and work in Los Angeles this sight is never particularly surprising, but I looked at him and thought I bet I am the only person in this room who recognizes him. As we were departing, I simply walked past his table (I certainly wasn't going to say anything to him, since the guy was eating dinner and my intensely private friend from ABC would have been embarrassed) and left the following note written on a napkin on the side of the table. It read "Thanks Mr. Cornelius. I loved Soul Traaaaaaaain!

Thanks for the music. Thanks for the peace, love and soul.

The clip below showcases some of the giants of the music industry that appeared on Soul Train. A truly stunning roster of talent.

Judith Tukich