Wednesday, September 30, 2015

This Date in History - September 30

Happy birthday, Angie Dickinson.  Why do I think she doesn't exactly look like this picture any more?

737:  BATTLE OF THE BAGGAGE - TURGESH DRIVE BACK AN UMAYYAD INVASION OF KHUTTAL AND CAPTURE THEIR BAGGAGE TRAIN.

The smart money is on the garment bag.

1541:  SPANISH CONQUISTADOR HERNANDO DE SOTO AND HIS FORCES ENTER TULA, WHICH IS PRESENT-DAY WESTERN ARKANSAS.

So Bill Clinton used to be governor of Tula?

1791:  THE NATIONAL CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY IN PARIS IS DISSOLVED.

Like an Alka Seltzer tablet.

1860:  BRITAIN'S FIRST TRAM SERVICE BEGINS IN BIRKENHEAD, MERSEYSIDE.

Lord have mersey.

1882:  THOMAS EDISON'S FIRST COMMERCIAL HYDROELECTRIC POWER PLANT BEGINS OPERATION IN WISCONSIN.  

This guy did it all.

1888:  JACK THE RIPPER KILLS HIS THIRD AND FOURTH VICTIMS.

On the same day.  Must have been a day/night doubleheader.

1903:  THE NEW GRESHAM SCHOOL IS OPENED BY SIR EVELYN WOOD.

How fast did you read that last line?

1921:  ACTRESS DEBORAH KERR IS BORN.

She died in 2007.  So, from here to eternity.

1924:  AUTHOR TRUMAN CAPOTE IS BORN.

Then his blood was warm.

1927:   BABE RUTH BECOMES THE FIRST BASEBALL PLAYER TO HIT 60 HOME RUNS IN ONE SEASON.

Steroids!  Steroids!!

1931:  ACTRESS ANGIE DICKINSON IS BORN.

Don't you really want to know what she was doing in that JFK White House?

1932:  BASEBALL STAR JOHNNY PODRES IS BORN.

Pitched the Brooklyn Dodgers to their first World Series win in 1955.

1935:  THE HOOVER DAM IS DEDICATED.

Dedicated to...holding back water.

1935:  SINGER JOHNNY MATHIS IS BORN.

My writing partner had a whole conversation with him in the super market.  A nice guy.

1938:  THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS UNANIMOUSLY OUTLAWS "INTENTIONAL BOMBINGS OF CIVILIAN POPULATIONS."

What?  No ruling about the designated hitter?

1939:  NBC BROADCASTS THE FIRST TELEVISED AMERICAN FOOTBALL GAME BETWEEN THE WAYNESBURG YELLOW JACKETS AND THE FORDHAM RAMS, WHO WON.

Wait???  My alma mater of Fordham???  How cool???  And they won??????!!!

1947:  PAKISTAN AND YEMEN JOIN THE UNITED NATIONS.

Make sure their dues checks don't bounce.

1947:  THE WORLD SERIES BETWEEN THE NY YANKEES AND THE BROOKLYN DODGERS IS TELEVISED FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Except my team won't win until...well, see above reference for Johnny Podres.

1954:  ACTOR BARRY WILLIAMS IS BORN.

Oh, Greg.

1955:  ACTOR JAMES DEAN DIES IN AN AUTO ACCIDENT.

This guy's career would have been phenomenal.

1962:  MEXICAN-AMERICAN LABOR LEADER CESAR CHAVEZ FOUNDS THE GROUP WHICH WOULD LATER BECOME THE UNITED FARM WORKERS.

Cesar, I love your ravine.

1962:  JAMES MEREDITH ENTERS THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI, DEFYING SEGREGATION.

First stop: the book store.

1965:  THE PILOT EPISODE OF THUNDERBIRDS AIRS IN ENGLAND FOR THE FIRST TIME.

A show about marionette pilots.  My writing partner's favorite show when he was a kid.

1968:  THE BOEING 747 IS ROLLED OUT AND SHOWN TO THE PUBLIC FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Oooh.  Aaah.

1972:  ROBERTO CLEMENTED RECORDS THE 3,000TH AND FINAL HIT OF HIS CAREER.

Off the Mets' Jon Matlack if I am not mistaken.

1982:  CYANIDE-LACED TYLENOL KILLS SEVEN PEOPLE IN CHICAGO.

Must have been the Extra Strength.

1977:  SINGER MARY FORD DIES.

Attached to that Les Paul guitar guy.

1978:  ACTOR EDGAR BERGEN DIES.

Eulogy by Charlie McCarthy.

1996:  THE US CONGRESS PASSES AN AMENDMENT THAT BANS THE POSSESSION OF FIREARMS FOR PEOPLE WHO WERE CONVICTED OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

Duh.

1998:  BASEBALL PITCHER DAN QUISENBERRY DIES.

Any comment from Count Chocula?

Dinner last night:  Leftover roast beef and potatoes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Not Your Grandmother's Lily Tomlin Movie

First off, let's all give a big "welcome back to the movies" to our old friend Lly Tomlin.   And, for her bravura performance as "Grandma," you can all expect a sure Best Actress Academy Award nomination this winter.  Well deserved.

But, indeed, the acting throughout this film directed and written by Paul Weitz is solid and spot-on.   There's a short supporting turn done by the craggy, but always welcome Sam Elliott that also might get some Oscar buzz and I'm all for that.   Hey, I'm hoping it happens just so he can take wife Katherine Ross to the red carpet.  And then I can...well...watch Katherine Ross.  But I digress...

"Grandma" is a funny and compelling film that is so compact in its storytelling that it's over in just about 80 minutes.   You know how you often go to the movies these days and come out saying "that was way too long."   This one is actually a bit too short.   And, as a result, it ultimately does itself a huge disservice.   As a matter of fact, it's also the main reason why it loses a half-star in my rating book.  I'll explain a little later.

Lily is, of course, Grandma.   One of those relics of university life during the late 60s.   Back then, she would have been wearing a frayed vest and tie-dyed bell bottoms.  Grandma is a lesbian and her long time companion has just died. Yet, while it's never really explained,  she once gave birth to a daughter who is now a high-powered executive played deliciously by Marcia Gay Harden.  In turn, the daughter had a child named Sage and that makes sense.   There needs to be a grandchild in a movie called "Grandma."

Sage shows unexpectedly one morning, pregnant by her lunkhead boyfriend and with a 545PM appointment at an abortion clinic.  The only problem is she needs $600 for the procedure.  There is a sense of urgency to have that abortion on that very day and this plot point is never fully explained.  But, it does provide impetus for Grandma and Sage to drive around town and try to dig up the necessary dough.   It also allows the producer to go the cheap route and have both actresses never once have a wardrobe change.  You think filmmakers don't look for ways to cut budget?  Think again.

So, like Thelma and Louise, Grandma and Sage have a series of misadventures on the road.   Some are hilarious.  Others are poignant.   All of them are very, very interesting.

But here's my rationale for the half-star demotion.   Nowhere in this relatively short movie do we hear any part of the abortion debate.   Hey, in America of 2015, it's still a vibrant and very polarizing discussion with both sides featuring a very viable and reasonable argument.  It never comes up once in "Grandma." When Sage announces she's pregnant and needing an abortion, it is accepted wholeheartedly by Grandma as if her grandchild was in need of a root canal.  It does come out in the exposition that Grandma also had an abortion in her youth.  What was the story behind that?   What impacted her decision then? How does it work into her reaction to Sage's decision?   You never know because it's never really addressed.

About two-thirds of the way in, there is an ideal situation where this could all be brought to the attention of the audience.  It's in that aforementioned scene with Sam Elliott.  In fact, the set up for the discussion is like a fast ball across the plate.

And the filmmakers swing and miss.

As a result, there is a major opportunity for drama which is completely and inexplicably ignored.  I'm not advocating one side of the debate or another.   But, personally, I would just simply like to have it acknowledged in some fashion.

Yep, "Grandma" could have been served better if it was five minutes longer.   And that would have gotten it back the half-star that I am removing from my very top rating.

LEN'S RATING:  Three-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Ravioli and meatballs.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 28, 2015

Game shows are always reliable for laughs...and stupid contestants.

Dinner last night:  Eye round roast beef, roasted baby potatoes and onions.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Yogi

A true era passed on this week as Yogi Berra said goodbye to us all.   On Facebook, he was lauded and mourned by Yankee fans one and all.

And so did I.  Because I knew him as a Met.  And part of the reason why I finally felt validated as a baseball fan.

I grew up in Yankee Land.   Every kid in my neighborhood rooted for the guys in the Bronx.  So did everybody in my family.  That included my father, who was allegedly as rabid a Yankee fan as you could find.  His cousin's husband owned season tickets to the House That Ruth Built and that would be the very first baseball game I would ever attend.   Home from school with an ear infection, they stuffed cotton in my ears and bought me a cap.  A Yankee hat. As I have written before, Mickey Mantle hit a home run that very first day.   

I really had no clue where I was or what I was seeing.  But the hot dog and the popcorn, served in a New York Yankee megaphone, were delicious.

But, a year later, I got German measles in April and was home sick from school all week.  I've told the story before.  I started to watch some team from Flushing called the New York Mets.   And it was love at first dropped ball.

I had a team all to myself.   That was the good news.   The bad news was that they stunk.   Loaded with has-beens and never-weres.  Managed by the Yankees' former head guy who allegedly had fallen asleep in the dugout multiple times during his tenure in the Bronx.

So, at least, my fandom with the Mets allowed me to get ridiculed for things other than my weight and my two front protruding teeth.  Kids can be so cruel.

"The Mets suck."

Agreed.

"They lose every game they play."

For the most part.

"And you're still fat."

Thank you very much.

But, the Mets were mine.   As bad as they were.  And, even, my dad wandered over to my side of the baseball tracks in NY.  But, as much as I loved them, they were damn tough to watch.

Yogi Berra had been a god with the Yankees.   The gang "up the block" loved him.  Not only was he a star but he was also of Italian descent just like most of them.  Plus he was not the most articulate guy around.   That also made him endearing.

After Yogi retired, he got to manage the Yankees one year and actually took them to the seventh game of the World Series which they ultimately lost.   And it cost Berra his job...a remarkable occurrence in these pre-George Steinbrenner days.  Before the furnaces were warming up for the winter, the Mets swooped him and hired Yogi Berra to be a player-coach.   You see the photo above where Met manager Casey Stengel is welcoming Yogi into the fold.

At my home on South 15th Avenue in Mount Vernon, New York, this news made this kid euphoric.   In the great scheme of things, it was relatively minor.   Indeed, Yogi really only played a few games with the Mets before retiring completely to be the first base coach.   But it was the very first time I felt validated as a baseball fan.   I had a little something to gloat about.   Their star was now part of "my family."

Funny how the simple act of the Mets hiring Yogi Berra could make me puff out my chest.

For that very reason, I was forever after a big fan of Yogi Berra.   And he actually was part of the further validation of my team and my fandom when the Mets inexplicably won their first World Series several years later.   And then, after the untimely death of their manager Gil Hodges, Berra took over the reins of the ball club.  

A season later, they got off to a horrible start.  The New York Post ran a poll to see whose fault it was for the team's performance.   Yogi was one of the possible culprits.   The fans ultimately didn't blame him.   And, with his steadfast leadership, they had a miraculous September and went to the World Series again.   One more time, Berra lost in the seventh game of the Fall Classic, but, like at the Oscars, it's an honor to get that far.

And I strutted around some more.

So, with all the tributes this week to Yogi Berra and heralding him as the true New York Yankee, I remember fondly his tenure with the New York Mets.   And the fact that he made me feel just a little bit taller.   And a little less fat.

Dinner last night:  Pepperoni pizza.

  


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - September 2015

This gem was playing in theaters fifty years ago this month.

Dinner last night:  Bacon, ham, and cheddar omelet.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Yes, We're Open












Dinner last night:  Chef's salad.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Worst Show Ever

I actually hate myself for printing today's blog entry title.  It was too easy.  An on-the-nose gag.  Unclever and totally predictable.

It's really fitting given the show I'm referring to.   Also unclever and totally predictable.  A complete waste of time.  And, given that I watched the first two episodes, those were two hours of my life that I will never ever get back.

In reality, it's all pretty disappointing.  I was ecstatic when I heard that Neil Patrick Harris was championing the return of the variety show format to television.  That genre is so missing and I still mourn the end of the Carol Burnett Show.  Might we be seeing something similar with Mr. NPH.  An ensemble cast.  Some musical numbers.  A few super-clever sketches that are much better written than the swill offered up by SNL.  Oh, and it's going to be live??  Whoo-ee.

Talk about a letdown.  "Best Time Ever" is hardly that.  Indeed, it's likely one of the biggest bombs in television history.   The format of the show seems to be lifted completely from You Tube.  Some pranks.  Cut-aways of embarrassing moments.  If Neil's got a cat, I'm surprised we've yet to see it chasing its tail.

Variety?  Hardly.  This show is nothing more than a combination of "Candid Camera," "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," "Beat the Clock," and"Name That Tune."  All shows I would rather watch in reruns than to be subjected to the first run entertainment provided by this trash can liner.  Harris announced this show over a year ago.   In twelve months, this is the best they could come up with?

Allegedly the show is live from New York.  But that is questionable as there are tons of pre-packaged segments.  Stuff shot around the country and, most notably, in Vegas.  On the second episode, Neil pulled a woman randomly from the audience for a chat.  But, as it turned out, the questions were all about her boyfriend at home.  Or, as we saw in the taped pieces, was competing on a variety of NBC reality shows.  Then he is jogging from their home in...wait for it...Las Vegas...to New York so he can show up on stage to propose.  Close-up on the ring and, more importantly, the Kay Jewelers logo on the box.  Five minutes of wasted air time just to get to that unabashed moment of product placement.  

Shameful.

But, wait, there's more.   Or, well, less.

Every week, there is a guest announcer who stands up in an isolation booth to banter with Harris.  So far, we've gotten Reese Witherspoon and the never-welcome-in-my-living-room Alec Baldwin.  Both have probably just fired their agents.

Another horrible segment had Neil Patrick Harris and some Jonas brother putting words in the mouth of Britney Spears as she interviewed candidates for a bodyguard job.  Seriously.  Of course, that's the equivalent of a ventriloquist act because Spears certainly qualifies as a...wait for it...dummy.

I had great hopes for this because I've always enjoyed Neil Patrick Harris' work.  Well, at least, as host of the Tony Awards.   Now that I think about it, all the other arenas he's branched out into have been less than stellar.  He bombed as the host of the Oscars.  He bombed as the host of the Emmys.  Indeed, it's time for folks to realize that Neil Patrick Harris can't do everything well.  In my book, he should basically confine his career to rehearsing a new Broadway musical comedy role every summer.  

I hear there's a new DVD box set of the old Carol Burnett Show.  Now that, my friends, is a variety show I want to see.  Again.

Dinner last night:  Pepperoni pizza at the Dodger game.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

This Date in History - September 23

Happy birthday, Julio Iglesias.  See you down by the school yard.

1122:  POPE CALLIXTUS II AND HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR HENRY V AGREE TO THE CONCORDAT OF WORMS.

The mention of worms?   Never good.

1215:  EMPEROR KUBLAI KHAN IS BORN.

Great, great grandfather to Chaka.

1409:  BATTLE OF KHERLEN, THE SECOND SIGNIFICANT VICTORY OVER MING CHINA BY THE MONGOLS SINCE 1368.

I read all about it in a blog.  Kherlen Speaks.

1641:  THE MERCHANT ROYAL, CARRYING A TREASURE WORTH OVER A BILLION US DOLLARS, IS LOST AT SEA.

A billion dollars dumped overboard.  The 1641 version of affordable health care.

1642:  THE FIRST COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES OCCUR AT HARVARD.

In September?   They have some kinks to work out.

1779:  THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION - JOHN PAUL JONES ON BOARD THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD WINS THE BATTLE OF FLAMBOROUGH HEAD.

Way to go, JP.

1780:  THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION - BRITISH MAJOR JOHN ANDRE IS ARRESTED AS A SPY BY AMERICAN SOLDIERS EXPOSING BENEDICT ARNOLD'S CHANGE OF SIDES.

What???  Benedict Arnold is a turncoat???

1806:  LEWIS AND CLARK RETURN TO ST. LOUIS AFTER EXPLORING THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST OF THE US.

Just in time for playoff baseball.

1845:  THE KNICKERBOCKERS BASEBALL CLUB, THE FIRST BASEBALL TEAM TO PLAY UNDER THE MODERN RULES, IS FOUNDED.

Wait.   Isn't there another team they would be playing?  

1869:  TYPHOID MARY IS BORN.

Mary, Typhoid as printed in the phone book.

1889:  NINTENDO KOPPAI IS FOUNDED TO PRODUCE AND MARKET THE PLAYING CARD GAME OF HANAFUDA.

Yes, that Nintendo.

1897:  ACTOR WALTER PIDGEON IS BORN.

Mr. Miniver.

1909:  THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, A NOVEL, IS FIRST PUBLISHED.

Boy, will this have some residuals??!!

1920:  ACTOR MICKEY ROONEY IS BORN.

He probably kept the same height all his life.

1927:  SINGER MIGHTY JOE YOUNG IS BORN.

Not the ape.

1930:  SINGER RAY CHARLES IS BORN.

Georgia on his mind.

1943:  WORLD WAR II - THE NAZI PUPPET STATE IN THE ITALIAN SOCIAL REPUBLIC IS FOUNDED.

Why do I think these weren't exactly Muppets?

1943:  SINGER JULIO IGLESIAS IS BORN.

My mother loved his records.  But whose mother didn't?

1945:  ACTOR PAUL PETERSEN IS BORN.

I traded e-mails with him on a project about ten years ago.  Nice guy.

1947:  ACTRESS MARY KAY PLACE IS BORN.

I've always thought she was very underrated as an actress.

1949:  SINGER BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN IS BORN.

Yes, gang, I am not a fan.  Never saw him in person.   Never wanted to.

1952:  RICHARD NIXON MAKES HIS FAMOUS CHECKERS SPEECH.

King me.

1962:  THE LINCOLN CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS OPENS IN NEW YORK CITY.

Funny because it still looks new.

1969:  THE CHICAGO EIGHT TRIAL OPENS IN CHICAGO.

The Chicago Nine were busy losing the NL East to the Mets at the same time.

1973:  JUAN PERON RETURNS TO POWER IN ARGENTINA.

Soon to be a musical in your town.

1974:  ACTOR CLIFF ARQUETTE DIES.

Charlie Weaver!

1981:  ACTOR CHIEF DAN GEORGE DIES.

I always get him mixed up with that other Indian who was crying about the garbage on the road.

1986:  JIM DESHAIES OF THE HOUSTON ASTROS SETS THE MAJOR LEAGUE RECORD BY STRIKING OUT THE FIRST EIGHT BATTERS OF THE GAME AGAINST THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS.

The Mets' Jacob deGrom will tie this record in 2014.

1987:  DANCER/DIRECTOR BOB FOSSE DIES.

And all that jazz.

1988:  JOSE CANSECO OF THE OAKLAND ATHLETICS BECOMES THE FIRST MEMBER OF THE 40-40 CLUB.

Yeah, but I still remember him most for the ball hitting him in the head and then bouncing over the wall.

1998:  ACTRESS MARY FRANN DIES.

The TV wife of Bob Newhart that nobody remembers.

1999:  CELEBRATE BISEXUALITY DAY IS FIRST OBSERVED IN THE US.

I can't make up my mind which joke to use.

2002:  THE FIRST PUBLIC VERSION OF THE WEB BROWSER MOZILLA FIREFOX IS RELEASED.

The most recent version messed up my laptop.

Dinner last night:  Leftover chicken sausage and macaroni salad.




Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Saul and Heshe Nosh Over the 2015 Emmys

It's been a while since we heard from our two grizzled Hollywood veterans Saul and Heshe.   But the Emmy Awards were on Sunday night and we decided to check in with them over lunch at their favorite Beverly Hills deli to get their take on this year's festivities.

"Oy."

"Oy on steroids."

"I don't understand television any more.   So many shows and nothing to watch."

"Not like the old days when all you need was a couple of good gag writers and Ann B. Davis."

"Schultzie!  I love her."

"She's dead."

"Yeah, well, who isn't?"

"Did you watch the Emmys?"

"I did.  And I'm even more confused now.  What, these are shows?   On television?"

"It's all on the World Wide Web now."

"Internet, feh.  I can't watch a show on the computer.  All I use it for is to get Cialis on the cheap."

"One of those drug websites?"

"WWW.PeckerPop.com."

"Oy."

"Vy iz mir."

"Who was that schmeckel who was the host of the show?  Andy Sambo?"

"Samberg.  Not Sambo.   That's the kid's story about turning the tigers into pancakes."

"Feh.  Never heard of either one of them.   Not funny.   Where was Sid Caesar?"

"Dead."

"Yeah, well, who isn't?"

"All these crazy show names.  Game of Thrones?"

"Never heard."

"VEEP."

"Never heard."

"Transparent."

"I think that's fagg-ila.  But I only heard."

"The business is so different."

"Bob Cummings.  Now that was a class act."

"He worked with Ann B. Davis."

"She's dead."

"I just heard that."

"Yeah, I told you two minutes ago."

"That was you?"

"You don't watch shows on the Zenith anymore.  Do you get Netflix?"

"That's for the prostate?"

"No.  It's a way to watch TV shows.  How about Hulu?"

"The guy on Star Trek?"

"Oy.  What about Amazon?"

"I saw that.   Mamie Van Doren was in that.  1957."

"You're out of touch."

"And, oh, those speeches!  Everybody thinks they're Abe Lincoln."

"You won an award, not a war.  Say 'thank you,' go down to the bar, and get fucking blind."

"I know what that Mad Man show was.  Advertising agency in the 1960s.  I dealt with those bastards all the time."

"Their actor won the Emmy.  Jon Hamm."

"Not a good last name for an actor."

"If Virginia Mayo married Jon Hamm, she's be Virginia Ham, hold the mayo."

"Now that's a sandwich.   This corned beef today?   A little fatty."

Dinner last night:  Chicken fried steak and salad.







Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 21, 2015

Stephen Colbert?  Phooey.  We still miss Johnny Carson and wonderfully spontaneous moments like this.

Dinner last night:  Chicken apple sausage, German potato salad, and macaroni salad.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Water Cooler Television

The Emmy Awards are tonight.   I'm not going.   But let's talk television anyway.

Noting today's title, it really doesn't exist anymore.  And that's sad.

I've been thinking about how we watch television today.  I just was one of the last people in America to sign up to Netflix Streaming.  I'm still working on Season Two of "House of Cards."  I just binge watched the first seven episodes of "Grace and Frankie" starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.  And, of course, I never saw the first two seasons of "Downton Abbey" several years back.   I caught up to all those episodes in the seven days that I was recuperating from arthroscopic knee surgery.   

Today, it's about convenience.  Television on your own time.  It's always there for you and viewers can watch as much or as little as they want in one sitting.

I kind of miss the way it used to be.

Back when, you had your favorite television shows.  They were on once a week and you locked yourself into a nightly schedule.  I've written before about waiting anxiously every September for the TV Guide Fall Preview edition. You'd use that to plot out the shows you wanted to watch and somehow build your homework assignments around them.  Talk about appointment television?   You had something to watch every single half-hour.  In the pre-VCR or DVR days, you were often challenged.  The second half of a favorite show might be on at the same time as your favorite sitcom on the other channel.  What to do? It was tough but you made your choices.

No more.

And also missing is the community event of watching a television show at the same time as the rest of the nation (okay, Pacific and Mountain times, you were a little behind some of us).  Except for those of us who would have to record their shows because, after all, Thursday night was for the bowling league, everybody got everything at the same time.

And, when a show got really, really hot, you talked about it the next day at the office.   Around the water cooler.   Can you believe that happened?   What's going to happen next?  How will our hero get out of this dilemma?

All of us were in the same TV boat and it was kind of fun.

Most of us found out who shot JR Ewing all at once.  Oh, sure, everybody kind of knew what was going to happen.  But, still, it was the talk of the nation on that November Friday night.

I remember being completely blown away by the final episode of "Newhart." That wasn't all that long ago but there was no such thing as "spoiler alerts" about the fact that Suzanne Pleshette would turn up in that series finale, which might be one of the top 10 most creative moments in television history.  I called a couple of my friends on the West Coast and, while not divulging the secret, told them not to miss the show when it aired there.   

And that's the other delicious part.  You never wanted to know in advance what was going to happen on your favorite show.  It was fun to be surprised.

Like when Michele Lee's character was suddenly shot in a "Knots Landing" season ending cliffhanger.

Like when you discovered that Peter White was the serial rapist on "St Elsewhere" and then was, out of the blue, shot in the groin by a nurse.

Or the final episode of the same show when we all learned that the series was nothing more than a vision from the mind of an autistic boy.

Or, back on "Dallas," when Victoria Principal opened up that shower door to find Patrick Duffy lathering up with some soap.

Or, even recently when everybody was seemingly watching the last episode of "The Sopranos" as one.  Thanks to Direct TV, we were viewing it on the East Coast feed.  My writing partner and I were taking it in together.  And when it faded to black suddenly, he screamed at me.

"Stop touching the remote!"

I hadn't done a thing.  He thought I had inadvertently switched channels.  We were confused.  So was everybody else.   We all talked about it for days and weeks.

You just don't enjoy that same spontaneity anymore.  When a new season of "House of Cards" is...gasp...uploaded, there are folks who watch all 13 episodes in a single weekend.  

Tell me.  Deep down.  Is that as much fun as waiting with bated breath for the very next installment?

I didn't think so.

When I can, I try to recreate the same mood as it used to be years ago.  When, for instance, "Downton Abbey" is airing, I'll watch it in real time.  The way it should be.  If there is a show I am watching on a prime time network, I will tape it but still start viewing it in real time about fifteen minutes in.  You zap through the commercials and ended up finishing the program just as it's ending.  

I look around the next day to find somebody to talk about what I saw the night before on "Madam Secretary" or "Nurse Jackie."  Invariably, I am disappointed.

"Don't tell me anything that happens.  I watch everything on Saturday afternoon."

Uh huh.   Well, water coolers still exist.  But mainly for...well...the water.

Dinner last night:  Beef lo mein from Century Dragon.






Saturday, September 19, 2015

Classic TV Theme of the Month - September 2015

It premiered fifty years ago this month.   God bless it.

Dinner last night:  Sausage and peppers sandwich at the Dodger game.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Your Weekend Movie Guide for September 2015

The things that stick with you.  I remember seeing this relic on TV when I was a kid.   The moment she rips the veil off the head of her husband, now a fly, gave me nightmares for weeks.  I can only imagine what it was like in a darkened theater.

These days, the really scary prospect is how some of the new movies even get made.  You know the drill, gang.   I'll sift through the LA Times movie pages and give you my gut reaction to what's polluting our cinemas.

Maybe we should all put something over our heads.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl:  And the Nazis came up the stairs.  Oh, wait.   Wrong teenage girl.

Shaun the Sheep Movie:  As opposed to Shaun the Sheep Broadway Drama?

Minions:  A cartoon perfect for the High Holy Days.

Ant-Man:  Raid!!!

The Second Mother:   Always gets the better jewelry from the first father.

The Man from UNCLE:   I hear it's so bad that Robert Vaughn and David McCallum want to sneak into the projection booth and destroy all copies.

Meet The Patels:   I'd rather not.

Learning to Drive:  Patricia Clarkson takes lessons from Ben Kingsley.  I wonder if Gandhi has fits of road rage.

Sleeping with Other People:   What you're doing if you see this film in a crowded theater.

Straight Outta Compton:  Reviewed here recently.   And surprise!  I sort of liked it.

We Are Your Friends:  Never trust a movie with characters who say that.

A Walk in the Woods:  Nick Nolte and Robert Redford hike through the woods. This film must be at least ten hours long.

The Visit:  The latest from M. Night Shymalian who continually proves that, with the "Sxith Sense," he really is a one-hit wonder.

She's Funny That Way:  A new comedy from Peter Bogdanovich.  For those three of you who have been anxiously waiting.

No Escape:   Never trust a movie with that title.

90 Minutes in Heaven:  A pastor goes to Heaven for a while.   How come you never see any movies where the character dies and go to Hell for a bit?

Mistress America:   Reviewed here recently.   Heed my advice.

Grandma:  Review coming.   Please be patient.   Your reading is important to us.

The Transporter Refueled:   That probably wasn't such a good idea.

American Ultra:   Sounds like a new brand of cigarette.

Steve Jobs - The Man in the Machine:  A documentary about some computer guy.

Pawn Sacrifice:   All about that chess player Bobby Fischer.  Checkmate.

About Ray:  A teenage transgender.   So, if they were still making those Gidget movies, would she have eventually become a boy?

Cooties:   Do you really want to see a movie with his title???

Sicario:  A lawless area near the US-Mexico border.   Donald Trump stars as the sheriff.

Some Kind of Hate:  I think Trump is in this, too.

Everest:   This looks interesting.  A drama about the 1996 expedition to climb the mountain.   Probably tons of CGI, though.

Black Mass:  Whitey Bulger works with the FBI in 1970s Boston.  Gee, I guess that affiliation was short-lived.

Captive:  A widow is held captive and tries to reason with her captor by using a Christian self-help book.  Seriously.

The Martial Arts Kid:   Paging Ralph Macchio.

Maze Runner - The Scorch Trials:  Good.  Another Maze Runner.   Whatever the hell that is.

Meru:  A documentary about climbing some mountain in the Himalayas. Gives you an interesting choice up against Everest.

Z for Zachariah:  ZZZZZZ for the whole movie.

War Room:  This is not the documentary from twenty years ago about the 1992 Bill Clinton Presidential campaign.   That said, I have no idea what it is.

Mission Impossible _ Rogue Nation:  Still hanging around.  The most fun I had at the movies this summer.

The Gift:  An old high school chum torments a married couple.  That's what you get when you have loose security settings on Facebook.

Dinner last night:  Chinese vegetable stir fry.




Thursday, September 17, 2015

Shot In Front of a Live Studio Audience

Well, it is what they call "Throwback Thursday."

Here's a vintage photo of the "I Love Lucy" studio audience.   They're the ones who invented the multi-camera process that sitcoms and viewers have thrived on for years.

Until recently.

It's been on my mind lately for a variety of reasons.   I just finished watching the first season of  Netflix' "Grace and Frankie" starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.   Over the thirteeen episodes, the show grew on me and I got some laughs.

And, when I was done, I realized that I will likely never watch an episode of it again.

I'm a huge fan of "The Middle," but I have never watched a single rerun.   The same with "Modern Family."   And "Sex In The City."

There's a pattern forming.

Ask me how many times I have watched multiple viewings of "Friends."  And "Seinfeld."   And "Cheers" and "Frasier" and "Dick Van Dyke."  I lost count how many times I have watched the entire series of "Everybody Loves Raymond."

And then there's "I Love Lucy," which I can virtually recite verbatim.

So what's the difference, folks?

Duh.

It's the live studio audience that makes repeated views easy to take.  The real, genuine laughter of people enhances a particular show and turns into a community event, no matter how many times you've watched Laura Petrie slide out of the closet on a pile of walnuts.  

If you look at the TV ratings of single-camera sitcom reruns to those shot in front of the giddy audience, you'll see that I am right.  The former does not score as well.   Heck, some of the Lucy escapades are over 60 years old and they are still making us laugh.  

A few years back, TV Land got into the act and started to produce new sitcoms that were proudly announced as being "shot in front of a live studio audience." Sadly, they got rid of most of them.  And I will counter that, ten years from now, folks will be laughing at "Hot in Cleveland" reruns while the likes of "Impastor" and "The Jim Gaffigan Show" gather dust on the tape shelves.

The genuine and organic laughter you hear also infuses energy into your life.   Of course, it also does the same when the show itself is being produced.  The actors feed off that give-and-take energy from those 200 spectators up on the bleachers.   I noticed that first hand when I got to hang around "Murphy Brown" for a while.

That show was indeed filmed in front of an audience.   But, there was one week where the special guest star had some sort of live audience phobia.  So they shot it scene by scene during the week to an empty house.   And you actually could see the difference in the performances of the regular cast.   They were just a little bit off.  

We don't get to experience the town hall of television comedy anymore.   It's all very different when you watch it and have to figure out all on your own when you're supposed to laugh.

Give me the live studio audience any day.   That would be my vote.   And, hopefully, I'll get to pull that lever some day.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just some Greek yogurt.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

This Date in History - September 16

Happy birthday to Ed Begley Jr., who co-starred in one of my favorite TV shows of all time, "St. Elsewhere."

307:  EMPEROR SEVERUS II IS CAPTURED AND IMPRISONED AT TRES TABERNAE.  HE IS LATER EXECUTED.

That's a little severus, don't you think?

1400:  OWAIN GLYNDWR IS DECLARED PRINCE OF WALES BY HIS FOLLOWERS.

Give that last name a vowel, please.

1620:  PILGRIMS SET SAIL FROM ENGLAND ON THE MAYFLOWER.

Trying to beat the Thanksgiving traffic.

1776:  THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION - THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS IS FOUGHT.

I hope they don't damage the Apollo Theater.

1810:  WITH THE GRITO DE DOLORES, FATHER MIGUEL HIDALGO BEGINS MEXICO'S FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE FROM SPAIN.

Grito de Dolores?   Does that come with guacamole?

1880:  THE CORNELL DAILY SUN PRINTS ITS FIRST ISSUE IN ITHACA, NEW YORK.  THE SUN IS THE NATION'S OLDEST, CONTINUOUSLY-INDEPENDENT COLLEGE DAILY.

As if college students are truly independent.

1908:  THE GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION IS FOUNDED.

Recall.

1914:  TV DIRECTOR ALLEN FUNT IS BORN.

Smile.

1919:  THE AMERICAN LEGION IS INCORPORATED.

Just what do they do besides march in your local Memorial Day parade?

1920:  A BOMB IN A HORSE WAGON EXPLODES IN FRONT OF THE JP MORGAN BUILDING IN NEW YORK CITY AND KILLS 38 WHILE INJURING 400.

Not exactly an improvement - years later, terrorists use children instead of horses.

1924:  ACTRESS LAUREN BACALL IS BORN.

You just know she was a bitch.

1927:  ACTOR PETER FALK IS BORN.

Just one more question...

1934:  ACTOR GEORGE CHAKIRIS IS BORN.

Take the Sharks over the Jets with the points.

1943:  WORLD WAR II - THE ALLIED INVASION OF ITALY CONCLUDES WHEN HEINRICH VON VIETINGHOFF, COMMANDER OF THE GERMAN TENTH ARMY, ORDERS HIS TROOPS TO WITHDRAW FROM SALERNO.

Mr. Vietinghoff to you.

1945:  WORLD WAR II - THE SURRENDER OF THE JAPANESE TROOPS IN HONG KONG IS ACCEPTED.

Who knows a notary public, please?

1949:  ACTOR ED BEGLEY JR. IS BORN.

In his honor, take the bus today.

1955:  THE MILITARY COUP TO UNSEAT PRESIDENT JUAN PERON OF ARGENTINA IS LAUNCHED AT MIDNIGHT.

Don't cry for me, yada yada yada.

1956: MAGICIAN DAVID COPPERFIELD IS BORN.

Presto.

1958:  BASEBALL STAR OREL HERSHISER IS BORN.

Great baseball announcer, but, boy, did I hate him back in 1988.

1959:  THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL PHOTOCOPIER, THE XEROX 914, IS INTRODUCED IN A LIVE TV DEMONSTRATION.

Somebody forgot to add paper.

1965:  ANIMATOR FRED QUIMBY DIES.

I created Gumby, damn it.

1966:  THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE OPENS AT LINCOLN CENTER IN NYC WITH THE WORLD PREMIERE OF SAMUEL BARBER'S "ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA."

What's the over/under that Tony Randall was in the audience that night?

1970:  KING HUSSEIN OF JORDAN DECLARES MILITARY RULE FOLLOWING THE HIJACKING OF FOUR CIVILIAN AIRLINES BY THE POPULAR FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE.

Just in case you thought those dirtbags in 2001 were all that original.

1980:  SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES JOIN THE UNITED NATIONS.

I think I saw them perform in Greenwich Village.

1992:  THE TRIAL OF THE DEPOSED PANAMANIAN DICTATOR MANUEL NORIEGA ENDS IN THE US WITH A 40-YEAR SENTENCE FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING AND MONEY LAUNDERING.

Forty years too short.

2009:  SINGER MARY TRAVERS DIES.

Peter, Paul, and Nobody.

2013:  A GUNMAN KILLS TWELVE PEOPLE AT THE NAVY YARD IN WASHINGTON, DC.

Just so you realize that this kind of workplace violence will always exist.

Dinner last night:  Leftover beef stew.