Sunday, December 30, 2007

30 Rock is a Rock-Solid Comedy

NBC's Thursday night primetime lineup is moving closer to its glory days in the 1980s which was branded as "Must See TV" with shows like The Cosby Show, Family Ties and Cheers. Former Saturday Night Live head writer and weekend update host Tina Fey has created the witty, edgy, quirky comedy, 30 Rock. Sandwiched between My Name is Earl at 8pm and The Office at 9pm, the show is a behind-the-scenes look at an SNL-type of program. Fey plays Liz Lemon, and is joined by cast members Alec Baldwin, Judah Friedlander and fellow SNL alum Tracy Morgan. The current American Express commercial is a takeoff on her 30 Rock alter ego. Various other SNL players guest star occassionally. Recently The Sopranos' Edie Falco guested as Alec Baldwin's love interest. 30 Rock came out at the same time as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was another NBC show based around an SNL-type of show. It was created by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin. Studio 60, although excellent, did not last, perhaps due to its time slot opposite CBS' juggernaut, CSI:Miami. Maybe people did not watch it due to confusing it with 30 Rock. My Name is Earl, along with 30 Rock, provide a powerful 1-2 punch for the peacock network. Advertisers like airing spots on Thurdays since it is just before the weekend, when lots of people spend their disposable income, and TV viewing on Friday and Saturday tends to be low. The only concern I would have with 30 Rock lies in its marketability in syndication. The fictional show that the program is based around is taped at 30 Rockefeller Center, the home of NBC, and there are many references to NBC during the show. So, will non-NBC stations want to air this program in syndication?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Late Night TV Shows from the Past

Johnny Carson and David Letterman have 30 and 25 years of late night TV under their belts respectively, but many late night shows do not last. A successful late night host needs a mixture of wit, creativity and drive, and some who have been successful in other arenas end up flopping when it comes to the world of late night TV.

Possibly the biggest flop was former Saturday Night Live star Chevy Chase. He had success in sketch comedy and film but his stint as a late night host was a disaster. His show debuted on the Fox network in 1993 and ran for a dismal 5 weeks. In the wake of Johnny Carson retiring, this and other shows tried to pick up viewers who wanted to see something new.

Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak tried his hand at hosting a talk show on CBS in 1989-90. The show lasted 15 months, which seemed like an eternity compared to Chevy's run. Ironically, Chase's show and Sajak's had the same bandleader, Tom Scott. Sajak's announcer and sidekick was Dan Miller. The duo had worked together at WSMV-TV, Nashville's NBC affiliate. Chevy Chase was Pat Sajak's first guest. The show was originally 90 minutes long, but was later shortened to 60, after receiving poor ratings. For a clip, click here.

Basketball legend Magic Johnson hosted a show called The Magic Hour which proved to be anything but. If only his talk show skills matched his athleticism. The show was syndicated on a station-by-station basis and ran for 8 weeks in 1998. Magic seemed uncomfortable on the air and he did not put much work into the show. Click here for a clip.

Most people know Alan Thicke from the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains, where he was dad to Kirk Cameron and Tracy Gold. But he also had a syndicated late night show in 1983-84 called Thicke of the Night. He was well known in his home country of Canada where he had hosted a daytime show. He was also known as a songwriter, penning the theme songs for Different Strokes and The Facts of Life. It was not possible for the show to continue since it consistently was beat by Johnny Carson.

Arsenio Hall had much more success than the personalities named above with his late night syndicated show. It ran from 1989 to 1994 and won 6 Emmy awards. A big moment for the show was when presidential candidate Bill Clinton appeared playing his sax with the band in 1992. Check out the final episode opening here.

For many years NBC had a 30 minute show at 1:35 am called Later. From 1988 to 1992 NBC had the killer late night lineup of Carson, Letterman and Costas. It was hosted by Bob Costas from 1988-94 and later Greg Kinnear from 1994-99 I believe, then Cynthia Garrett hosted for about a year. Kinnear was best known for hosting Talk Soup on E! from 1991-95. That time slot is now occupied by Carson Daly who started Last Call in 2001. It was a fantastic venue for the great interviewing skills of Bob Costas. When he did it there was no studio audience, no band, no monologue, and it was an intimate 30 minute interview with one guest. It was never as engaging after Costas left.

From 1980-82, ABC had a late night sketch comedy show called Fridays. It featured Larry David (writer for Seinfeld and actor/writer on Curb Your Enthusiasm), Michael Richards (Seinfeld's Kramer), and Andy Kaufman from Taxi guest hosted. Like NBC's Saturday Night Live, the program was 90 minutes and aired live in front of a studio audience. The first guest host was George Carlin, who had been the first guest host on SNL in 1975. The show's downfall was when ABC decided to air Nightline 5 nights a week and Fridays was moved to midnight instead of 11:30.

In 1995 CBS decided to launch a show after David Letterman, appropriately titled the Late Late Show. The program is produced by Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants. Tom Snyder was the host from 1995 to 1999. He had been best known for hosting the Tomorrow Show, on NBC following Johnny Carson. CBS recruited Comedy Central's Daily Show host Craig Kilborn to host from 1999 to 2004. From 2004 to the present Craig Ferguson has been the host. Ferguson was formerly with The Drew Carey Show.

With the shakeup involving Jay Leno leaving the Tonight Show and turning it over to Conan O'Brien coming up in 2009, it will be interesting to see what changes occur in late night. Will Leno go to ABC, Fox or CBS? Will he bump Jimmy Kimmel to a later time slot? I can't imagine Leno taking a 12:35 slot. Will Fox start up a Monday-Friday late night show? All they have now is 2 Saturday shows, Mad TV and Talk Show with Spike Feresten, a former Seinfeld writer who also worked on Bee Movie.

*Some information came from

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Biggest Loser

I used to like NBC's reality show The Biggest Loser, but lately it has gone downhill quickly. It has contestants trying to lose the most weight helped by 3 different trainers, Bob, Jillian and Kim. Previous seasons were hosted by Caroline Rhea from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but the new host this year is Allison Sweeney from the soap Days of Our Lives. The problem with the show is that there is too much teasing of upcoming segments and recapping of previous segments. Also most episodes are 90 minutes and they seem to be stretching to fill the time. The first third of the show is some type of a physical challenge, next is the weigh-in to see who has lost the most, and the third part is the elimination round. There is very little nutrition advice, and if there is it is presented as some type of product placement. Having more exercise and diet tips would be good since these would be applicable to those who are watching. The weigh in and elimination rounds are too long, with overly dramatic music and too many concerned reaction shots of the contestants. The show is motivational to some degree for those who want to lose weight, but it could be so much better if a few changes were made.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

25 or 6 to 4 - reloaded- Chicago - 1974

This footage is from a TV special shot at a Colorado ranch. Check out the candid shots of the band members on the ranch, some are pretty funny.

Chicago, a One of a Kind Band

I have always liked the group Chicago, so I have decided to write a bit about their past and their music. Their popularity has waned since the 70s and 80s, but they still tour, although not with many of the original members. They have been around for 40 years, which is impressive in this day and age of so many flash in the pan groups. They became known for romantic ballads, especially with lead singer Peter Cetera, but they had some outstanding up tempo songs too. The are unique due to their use of horns, which included saxophone, trombone and trumpet. In the 70s Chicago was the leading group for US singles according to Billboard magazine. Their first album was titled for the original name of the group, Chicago Transit Authority. Early on, some songs were sung by Terry Kath and some were performed by Peter Cetera. In 1978, Terry Kath died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was under the influence of alcohol when it happened. Chicago 17 was a landmark album for the 1980s. It included the hit singles "You're the Inspiration", "Hard Habit to Break", "Stay the Night" and "Along Comes a Woman". The band became frustrated with Cetera's ballads and he left the group in 1985 and embarked on a successful solo career. Chicago has toured with The Beach Boys, Huey Lewis and the News, and Earth, Wind and Fire, and 40 years later they still have a large fan base. In 2006 they released their 30th album. Here is a link to their official website.

Reality TV Ad Nauseum!

With the looming writer's strike, we may see more reality television and/or reruns. Some reality shows are good, such as The Amazing Race, but too many networks have jumped on the bandwagon and the format has become watered down. It seems like ever since Survivor became a runaway hit, everyone and their brother has a reality show. It used to be that reality shows would only feature non-celebrities, but now has-been celebrities like Scott Baio and Danny Bonaduce are resurrecting their careers. MTV and VH1 seem to be the worst offenders when it comes to giving shows to former celebrities. They have done this with Celebrity Fit Club, The Surreal Life, Hogan Knows Best, Rock of Love with Bret Michaels, Breaking Bonaduce, Flavor of Love with Flavor Flav, and Scott Baio is 45 and Single. If it were not for the popularity of reality shows, maybe the only place you could find these "stars" would be flipping burgers at the local fast food joint. Hogan Knows Best and Rock of Love featured 2 guys past their prime who never remove bandanas due to their balding heads. Hogan's show is not so much about the former wrestler, but about his overprotective attitude toward his daughter and how desperate they are to make her the next singing sensation. Be careful what you wish for Hulk, she might end up as the next Britney. Rock of Love is about a bunch of women vying to be the main squeeze of a rocker whose career peaked 20 years ago. Some people have one reality show evolve into another. Flavor Flav and former wife of Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, kindled a romance on The Surreal Life, which turned into their own show called Strange Love. The twosome broke up, Flav needed to find a woman, and the wheels were in motion at VH1 to cook up another show for him. Flavor of Love was born, where the premise of the show was to find a girlfriend for the former Public Enemy member. That was a hit, and it spawned a spin off for one of the contestants nicknamed New York. Now she has the second season of her show called I Love New York. There is another one called Shot at Love with Tila Tequila on VH1 where model Tila has to choose from a variety of suitors. Shows like this are trainwreck TV, but they get good ratings. Why do people watch them? For the same reason that people follow the trials and tribulations of people like Britney, Lindsay and Paris. It's uncomfortable, but yet they cannot look away. Maybe it makes people feel better about themselves to see the rich and famous screw up and have problems just like everyone else. It's sad, but our society seems to be drawn to people with issues, and meantime the people who are doing good in this world seem to be ignored.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Top 100 Talk Radio Hosts

Talkers magazine came out with what they call their "Heavy Hundred" which is a list of the top 100 radio hosts. The top 10 are:

1. Rush Limbaugh
2. Sean Hannity
3. Michael Savage
4. Dr. Laura Schlessinger
5. Ed Schultz
6. Opie and Anthony
7. Laura Ingraham
8. Mike Gallagher
9. Neal Boortz
10. Glenn Beck

The rest of the list can be found here

Some of my favorites are lower on the list, such as Jerry Doyle, Dave Ramsey, Lionel, John and Jeff, and George Noory. Bob and Tom are not on the list, but they should be. Ron and Fez are not listed either, but I think that their show is the best thing on XM Satellite Radio. I like comedy radio or radio with middle of the road politics rather than the extreme right programs like Rush Or Hannity.

My top 10 would be;

1. Ron and Fez
2. Bob and Tom
3. Opie and Anthony
4. Dave Ramsey
5. Jerry Doyle
6. George Noory
7. Bruce Williams
8. John and Jeff
9. Neal Boortz

Friday, October 05, 2007

No End in Sight

This is a great documentary by writer/director Charles Ferguson about the quagmire in Iraq. Some might think that this is another Michael Moore-type film with a left wing agenda but it is not. It seemed to be a non partisan view of a war started for all the wrong reasons. It tells about the incidents that have happened, especially starting after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, and why we are still involved in this battle. Some of the key things that are revealed have to do with inadequate US troop levels and the dismantling of the Iraqi military. Many of the former Iraqi soldiers have become the insurgents that are fighting against the American troops. The movie also tells of the arrogance of the Bush administration and how it was made up of primarily people with no combat experience. Those with experience, like Colin Powell, and other top military officials, were often ignored. Saddam Hussein and Iraq were not involved in 9-11, and there were no weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless the invasion happened, but the big wigs who were behind launching the war did not anticipate it would be this difficult or take this long. There was widespread looting of Baghdad and priceless artifacts in museums were destroyed since there were inadeqate US troop levels to keep this from happening. There is a civil war going on there now between differing religious factions and whether we stay or go would not change that. The only criticism I would have of this film is that it did not cover the reasoning behind going to war and the ulterior motives of those in charge. It is no coincidence that Dick Cheney used to run Halliburton and they received the contract to oversee the Iraqi oil fields. The Bush family are key members of the Carlyle Group, which invests heavily in defense stocks which flourish during war time. No End in Sight is a must see film for everyone to see since many are oblivious to what is really happening. Toward the end it gives a staggering tally of the war costing our country well over one trillion dollars. It paints a bleak, but realistic portrait of a war started for all the wrong reasons by ignorant, selfish, greedy people who don't have a clue. It is a shame the American soldiers, who are truly heroes, are dying, and being damaged physically and/or mentally for this cause. Iraq is the Vietnam of the 21st century.

Friday, September 28, 2007

100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time

From 2003, here is the list from Rolling Stone magazine. See if you agree. I would put Eddie Van Halen much higher than number 70. Also I would have put Alex Lifeson from Rush on the list. Feel free to comment on this post and say who would be on your list.

Here are their top 10-

1Jimi Hendrix
2 Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band
3 B.B. King
4 Eric Clapton
5 Robert Johnson
6 Chuck Berry
7 Stevie Ray Vaughan
8 Ry Cooder
9 Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin
10 Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones

Television's Richest Personalities

According to Forbes magazine, here are the top 10 earners from June 2006 to June 2007. I don't think that you will be surprised who tops the list.

1. Oprah Winfrey - $260 million
2. Jerry Seinfeld - $60 million
3. Simon Cowell - $45 million
4. David Letterman - $40 million
5. Donald Trump - $32 million
6. Jay Leno - $32 million
7. Dr. Phil McGraw - $30 million
8. "Judge" Judy Sheindlin - $30 million
9. George Lopez - $26 million
10. Kiefer Sutherland - $22 million

Obviously I am in the minority, but I have never seen the appeal of Oprah's show. I watched it a couple weeks ago because David Letterman was the guest but I can count the number of times I have watched Oprah's show from beginning to end on two hands. Jerry Seinfeld has not been on TV for years, but he gets huge residuals from syndication. He also does stand up gigs around the country. His animated film, Bee Movie, comes out later this year. Simon Cowell makes money from American Idol of course, but he also stars on British TV shows and gets a share of earnings from American Idol performers. Letterman gets paid big bucks from CBS, but also gets residuals from reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, which his company, Worldwide Pants, produced. Trump is on the list for The Apprentice, and Leno for The Tonight Show. Oprah pal Dr. Phil's show is still going strong and his $30 million is nothing to sneeze at. Some might not realize how lucrative being a TV judge can be. Judge Judy lives in New York and flies in her own private jet to Los Angeles to tape her show. George Lopez earned big bucks from syndication and stand up. Kiefer Sutherland rounds out the top 10 making $22 million for his Fox show 24. That's almost $2 million per month. I think I could live on that, how about you?

Take the TV Myths Quiz! See if You Can Beat My Score!

I found a cool quiz about television myths. Some are true, some are false. Here's one of the questions-The boy who portrayed Mikey in TV commercials for Life cereal died when his stomach exploded after he consumed Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola, true or false? Take the quiz and see how you do. I got 13 out of 14 correct, so I still retain my crown as "show biz wiz"! Here's the link,

Quiz courtesy of

Friday, September 21, 2007

Jeff Daniels Stays True to His Michigan Roots

Most actors with the successful resume of Jeff Daniels would live in Los Angeles, but not him. He lives in his hometown of Chelsea Michigan and is the owner of the Purple Rose Theatre. This was named after the Woody Allen film he was in called The Purple Rose of Cairo. The website for this is He also appeared in Allen's Radio Days. He has been married to his high school sweetheart since 1979. If he had not become an actor he probably would have gone into the family business, Chelsea Lumber Company, which provided all of the building supplies for his theatre. He has released an album of songs he has written, including one titled "If William Shatner Can, I Can Too". His salary for the 1994 comedy with Jim Carrey, Dumb and Dumber was $750,000. His 2001 deer hunting film Escanaba in da Moonlight was shot in the upper peninsula town and the next year Super Sucker was shot in Jackson, Michigan. He was the writer and director for both of these movies. He has had success in comedies, dramas and family films. Here are some of his other notable films;

1983 Terms of Endearment
1985 The Purple Rose of Cairo
1986 Something Wild
1987 Radio Days
1990 Arachnophobia
1994 Dumb and Dumber
1996 Fly Away Home
1996 Two Days in the Valley
1998 Pleasantville
2005 The Squid and the Whale
2005 Because of Winn-Dixie
2005 Good Night and Good Luck
2006 RV

Back in 1980 he had a role in the TV series Hawaii Five-O.

*Information for this entry came from

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Book Review: The Skills to Pay the Bills, The Story of the Beastie Boys

This book, by Alan Light, tells the story of this groundbreaking rap group. It has interviews with the group and various friends and associates. The Beasties were a punk group at first but then the teamed up with Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons who formed Def Jam records. The label also included Run DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and 3rd Bass. The group put out their first record, Polly Wog Stew in 1982 but did not achieve success until Licensed to Ill came out in 1986. They opened for Madonna and they acquired a loyal following.

Michael Diamond (drums), Adam Yauch (bass), and Adam Horovitz (guitar), are three New York natives of Jewish heritage who play their own instruments and share a quirky sense of humor that is evident in their videos. They sample clips from various groups and their DJ is Mixmaster Mike. I will post some of their best videos on this blog. They have some funny videos directed by Spike Jonze and their appearances on Letterman have been top notch. They have released 13 albums over 25 years and it is impressive how they have stood the test of time.

1982 Polly Wog Stew (punk rock EP)
1986 Licensed to Ill (breakthrough with Def Jam and Rick Rubin/Russell Simmons)
1989 Paul's Boutique (teamed up with Dust Brothers)
1992 Check Your Head (first Grand Royal label release)
1994 Ill Communication
1994 Some Old Bullsh#@
1995 Aglio E Olio (EP)
1996 The In Sound from Way Out (instrumental)
1998 Hello Nasty
1999 The Sounds of Science (greatest hits, last Grand Royal release)
2004 To the 5 Boroughs
2005 Solid Gold Hits (greatest hits)
2007 The Mix Up (instrumental)

For more info check out

Friday, August 24, 2007

Book Review: David Letterman:On Stage and Off

This book came out in 1994, just as Letterman was getting used to his new CBS Late Show and his new surroundings in The Ed Sullivan Theatre. It was written by Rosemarie Lennon and it covers a variety of topics, from Dave's childhood in Indianapolis to his battle with Jay Leno to be the successor to Johnny Carson. It chronicles Dave's time as a broadcast student at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He worked in radio and TV in Indiana and then moved to Los Angeles. He wanted to be a writer but ended up primarily doing stand up at The Comedy Store. He was discovered by a talent agent for The Tonight Show and was invited to be on the program. He was a big hit with Johnny and filled in guest hosting the show on a regular basis. In 1982 after a failed morning show for NBC, the peacock network launched Late Night with David Letterman, which aired until 1993. Letterman wanted to take over for Johnny, and Carson thought that Dave was the man for the job, but the suits at NBC chose Leno. CBS gave Letterman a $14 million per year contract and renovated The Ed Sullivan Theatre to be his new home. The theatre is in the heart of the midtown/Broadway district where Dave can do his man on the street antics that he did at NBC. The CBS headquarters are in a less vibrant part of town and Dave wanted to be in a neighborhood where he could find comedy opportunities. He has made Rupert Jee and his Hello Deli famous. The book covers Dave's failed marriage, and his long relationship with Merrill Markoe, who was instrumental in writing much of Dave's comedy material. Lennon's work discusses Letterman's pessimistic streak, and also the stalker who showed up at his Connecticut home repeatedly.

I'm a big fan of late night television, from pioneers like Johnny Carson and Tom Snyder, to David Letterman and Conan O'Brien. Anyone who enjoys late night TV should check out this book since it gives many insights into how the business works. After 25 years in late night television, Letterman is still going strong.

David Letterman will appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show on Monday, September 10. It should be interesting to see what they talk about. Oprah's appearance yielded big ratings for The Late Show.

Broadcast TV Ratings for the Week of August 6-12, 2007

According to Entertainment Weekly's Neilsen stats, America's Got Talent was the winner for this week with 10.8 million viewers. Numbers are down for TV viewing in the summer, and these are not American Idol numbers, but the Jerry Springer hosted talent show finished #1. Unscripted reality or game shows are cheap to produce and they have been showing up on all of the networks. The networks are hoping to invent another American Idol-type phenomenon.CBS's Power of Ten game show on Tuesday, hosted by Drew Carey was #4. The Wednesday airing of Carey's show was #17. Drew Carey will take over The Price is Right for Bob Barker this fall. Of the top 20 shows, CBS had 13 of them, including 60 Minutes, all three CSI shows, Without a Trace, Two and a Half Men, and Big Brother Sunday and Thursday editions. NBC had 4 shows in the top 20. Fox had 2 on the charts and ABC had no shows in the top 20. Even though NBC's The Singing Bee and Don't Forget the Lyrics on Fox are basically the same show, both did well, finishing #6 and #10 respectively.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hairspray Hits a Home Run

The 2007 revival of John Waters' 1988 film Hairspray is a feel good movie with lots of toe-tapping musical numbers. It stars up and comer Nikki Blonsky in the role played by Ricki Lake in the original movie. It also stars Christopher Walken as Blonsky's dad and John Travolta in drag as Blonsky's mom. The story takes place in 1962 Baltimore and deals with issues of race and acceptance of all people. Blonsky's character, Tracy Turnblad longs to dance on a local American Bandstand-type of Baltimore TV show. She faces discrimination due to being overweight but she gets on the show due to her great attitude and dance skills. Other stars include Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Jerry Stiller and Amanda Bynes. John Waters and Ricki Lake have cameo appearances. Anyone who is a fan of Broadway shows, great music or fun films needs to check this out. You will leave the theatre smiling.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The King of Kong:A Fistful of Quarters

I am looking forward to this movie, The King of Kong. It is about two guys who battle to be the world champion of Donkey Kong. It will be released August 17 in limited theatres. I don't know if it will ever get a wide release, so it may be one we'll have to wait to see on DVD. I first heard about it on a show about video games on Spike TV. In the 80s Donkey Kong was one of my favorite arcade games, so this movie will be a must see. You can find out more here from the official website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The art of Rob Gonsalves

At an art gallery recently I discovered that I loved the work of artist Rob Gonsalves. His style of work is called magic realism, and is reminiscient of Dali or Escher. If you glance at the paintings quickly you might not notice the subtle messages. His paintings are imagination brought to life, where one object morphs into another. I especially love "Bedtime Aviation", where quilts on a bed become acres of lush green landscape a young girl soars above.

The art of Josh Agle, aka Shag

I found a book at the library featuring the work of an artist named Josh Agle. He goes by the nickname of Shag, which comes from the last 2 letters of his first name and the first 2 letters of his last name. I love his work since it conveys a hip, 1960s style with humorous touches and a flair for the unique.

Musical Musings

I have written here before about my favorite country artist, Travis Tritt. On August 21st he will release his new CD titled "The Storm". Appropriately, this is his first CD with Category 5 records, which is also the label of Sammy Kershaw and George Jones. The new Tritt album is co-produced by American Idol judge Randy Jackson. Learn more about it at this website.

I had the priviledge of seeing the bluegrass group The Grascals at a local festival a few weeks ago. Anyone who enjoys this type of music will appreciate their top notch musicianship. I first saw them last year at the Grand Ole Opry. Their self-titled debut CD was released in 2005 and their follow up, "Long List of Heartaches" came out last year. Dolly Parton called their first CD "One of the greatest albums I've ever listened to". Here is a link to their website. One of their best videos, for "Me and John and Paul" can be seen here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

From Sixteen Candles to Sweet Charity

I'm not afraid to say it-I love Broadway musicals. A lot of guys would not admit that, but I enjoy the top-notch performers, and I like to see musicals whenever possible. I live a long way from New York, but luckily a local venue in my town has Broadway musicals several times per year. I have a lot of admiration for performers who have the guts and talent to work in the field of musical theatre. I know that the competition is cut throat. Some of my favorite Broadway musicals are Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Little Shop of Horrors, Annie, and the one I saw most recently, Sweet Charity. I saw the touring production of Sweet Charity starring Molly Ringwald, best known for 1980s movies like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. She was not the best singer or the best dancer on stage, but due to her name recognition, she was the star. The show is based on a Neil Simon book and it featured songs such as Big Spender and If My Friends Could See Me Now. Ringwald plays Charity Hope Valentine, an idealistic young woman looking for mister right, who works as a dance hostess in the Fandango Ballroom. The show is packed with great singing and dancing, quirky characters and it has funny and touching moments that made it a real treat that I would recommend checking out. In past performances the title role had been played by Christina Applegate from Married with Children.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Reign Over Me

Adam Sandler gives a great performance in Reign Over Me, where he plays a man devastated by losing his wife and kids on 9-11. Don Cheadle spots Sandler on the streets of New York and recognizes him as his old roommate from dental school. Sandler's character has shut himself off from the world and stays in his apartment, obsessed with video games, movies and music. He does not work and he has no contact with friends or family. He wears headphones all the time to shut everyone out and to escape his painful past. The Cheadle/Sandler friendship is rekindled and the movie takes many twists and turns. In the end it is about the power of friendship and the importance of facing life head-on, no matter how difficult it may be. Sandler's isolation is reminiscent of DeNiro's Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. Cheadle is married with a family in the film, and he covets the freedom that Sandler has, but yet he sees his pain and loneliness as well. This film is a refreshing change of pace for Sandler who is a decent actor, but he has done too many childish, un-creative films like Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, Mr. Deeds or Little Nicky. Reign Over Me along with Punch Drunk Love show that he can do more than play a sophomoric goofball. A serious role like this that challenged him will be good for his career, and it should open up doors for future roles. Reign Over Me also features Jada Pinkett Smith, Robert Klein and Liv Tyler. The title comes from a song by The Who, and I wish they had used the original in the film instead of the Pearl Jam cover version.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Sweet Sounds of Music and Lyrics

If you are a fan of light hearted romantic comedies like The Wedding Singer or You've got Mail, check out Music and Lyrics. It stars Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond), and Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock From the Sun).

It is similar to The Wedding Singer since it has many references to 1980s music and culture, it stars Drew Barrymore, and it's a sweet feel good romantic comedy.

Hugh Grant plays a washed up singer who peaked in the 80s. He was in a Wham-like group called Pop and is stuck singing his hits at amusement parks and high school reunions. Barrymore was hired to care for Grant's plants in the film, but she ends up teaming up with him as a lyricist. They are writing a song for a Christina Aguilera-type young singer whose career is on fire.

It's a refreshing, funny movie with quirky characters. You will leave the theatre smiling and humming the tunes. It won't win any Academy Awards, but it's a delightful film that I would recommend.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

XM/Sirius merger will happen, probably, eventually...

Hopefully an XM/Sirius merger will make the 2 weak companies strong enough to turn a profit. In 2005 XM lost $863 million and Sirius lost $667 million. Since 2001 both companies have accumulated more subscribers, with 7.6 million for XM and 6 million for Sirius at the end of 2006. So the 2 combined would have 13.6 million listeners, and enemies Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony would work for the same employer. At $13 per month per subscriber, that is $169 million coming in per month. Hopefully the consolidation of facilities will work to their advantage, but there are many hurdles to overcome. XM is currently based out of Washington DC and Sirius has a home base of New York. They would need to produce a new receiver that could pick up all programming from the new combined service. The merger would give the new company a monopoly on the satellite radio market. Having no competition would be a bad thing in my mind, since they could raise subscription costs and they have no adversary to drive them to be better and attract the best programming. We have seen how a monopoly in the cable TV industry or the phone industry can detrimental. If there is no alternative, customer service is often poor. I think we will see more and more commercials on satellite radio unless they can attract more subscribers. The money has to come from somewhere. I would love to see the union be successful since I enjoy my XM and am also a shareholder. Regulatory agencies need to approve the merger still, but a timeline of when we will hear both services on one receiver is still unknown.

A favorite group of mine, Van Halen, was supposed to reunite with David Lee Roth and tour this summer. But as of this writing I have heard that the tour has been postponed. The lineup was to include Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfgang on bass in place of Michael Anthony. Anthony has been with the group since the beginning in the 70s, but he (and Roth), must have done something to upset Eddie and Alex Van Halen. David Lee Roth has worked as a New York paramedic and had a failed radio career, and was replaced by Opie and Anthony. Believe it or not he also did a bluegrass CD last year which had versions of Van Halen songs.

CBS started out the February sweeps period strong with the Super Bowl, which was viewed by a staggering 93.2 million viewers. American Idol is still strong for Fox, drawing 33.7 million viewers on Tuesday and 31.8 million viewers for Super Bowl week. Fox has other hits with House, 24, and Bones pulling in good numbers. CBS has done well with CSI, NCIS, Numbers, Criminal Minds, Shark, and 2 and 1/2 Men. Hits for NBC include Deal or No Deal, Heroes and ER. Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty are winners for ABC. The Grammys were watched by 20.1 million people on CBS, finishing 6th for that week.

*Some material from Entertainment Weekly and Associated Press.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

An "old fogey" watches the Grammys

At age 37 I don't feel that old, but watching the Grammys made me feel ancient. I liked the reunion of the Police, and the tribute to the Eagles, and it was good to see The Dixie Chicks win several awards. But beyond that I could care less. I have no interest whatsoever in Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige or Gnarls Barkley. Grammys are given out for all types of music but only the most commercial artists are showcased on the program. Many people probably do not realize that awards are given out for jazz, classical and bluegrass music. You can have the music of today. I'll stick to the classics like Van Halen, Rush, Chicago, The Who, Led Zeppelin and others.

In her death Anna Nicole Smith has received more publicity than she ever received in her living years. It seems like after death celebrities are often glamorized ad nauseum. Shows like ET, The Insider, Access Hollywood and Extra have treated the story like it's the biggest development of the century. It may sound greusome, but they are probably glad that such an event happened during the all-important February sweeps period. Even "legitimate" news sources like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC have jumped on the bandwagon with endless tabloid type coverage. Smith's idol was Marilyn Monroe, and she died in her 30s, just like her. I'll bet that drugs had something to do with the death of Anna Nicole. Smith had an unhappy life, growing up with no father and with an estranged mother in poverty. She no doubt turned to her former elderly husband not only as a father figure but as a source of unlimited riches that she figured would fill the void of unhappiness. It did not, and neither did the drugs. Things like money, alcohol or drugs may mask feelings of emptiness temporarily, but they will cause more problems in the long run every time.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Political Commentary Regarding Iraq and the Direction of our Country

What are we doing in Iraq? The war has cost $363 BILLION DOLLARS at the time of this writing! The national debt is $8.7 TRILLION DOLLARS! What if you or I handled our personal finances the way our government handles theirs? Saddam Hussein was not behind 9-11. The people on the planes on 9-11 were Saudis. But the Bush family is close with the Saudi royal family and the Bin Laden family as well. We would not invade Saudi Arabia and Bush does not need to "find" Osama. He knows where he is. Weapons of mass destruction were not found. The Iraq war has become a quagmire that is the Vietnam of the 21st century. Bring the troops home and stop the killing! Remember almost 4 years ago (over 1400 days have passed), when Bush landed on the aircraft carrier with the banner behind him that declared "Mission accomplished"? What a dope! If it was accomplished then why are the troops still there? I am not anti-soldier in the least. Those in the military are America's heroes and they risk their lives for this country. The bravery and honor of our military is unparalleled. My dad was a pilot in the air force, my brother was in the army, and my other brother was in the air force for 20 years. I just hate to see American soldiers dying for an unjust cause. Over 3,000 have been killed and countless others have been maimed and/or they are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. It breaks my heart to think of all of the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, daughters and sons who have lost family members fighting in this unjust war. You may have seen the bumper sticker that says "I love my country but I fear my government." That's the way I feel. This is the best country in the world, but I have problems with the leadership. What gives us the right to go into another country, demolish it, and build it back up again the way we see fit? You say that Iraq is an evil empire and we are "spreading democracy"? There are evil empires all over the world led by brutal dictators just like Saddam was. Are we going to invade every country that does not agree with us? That's a long list-including Iran, Syria, North Korea, China, Cuba, and many more. People in Africa, Central and South America are struggling due to immoral leaders also. We have enough issues here at home without sending our young people around the world to die in a senseless war. Who made the United States the watchdog of the world? We're not even the biggest country. China and India have over 1 billion people. I wonder if the Katrina response would have been more effective if we had our military here instead of abroad. Let's focus on issues here and keep our noses out of the business of others. You don't see our neighbors to the north, Canada invading other countries and forcing them to think the way that they think. Do you think that our president would be leading this country if his father had not been there before him? Not a chance, he obviously does not have the intellect. Besides, he's just a figurehead, there are others behind the scenes who are really making the decisions. We have not been told the truth about 9-11, the meetings of the elite at Bohemian Grove in California every summer, the Skull and Bones club at Yale, the United Nations'agenda 21, and many other topics. This is not a republican vs. democrat issue. Whoever is in charge will take us toward the ultimate goal of an Orwellian new world order/one world government in which freedom will perish. The fear of terrorism has been a handy excuse for the current administration to erode our civil liberties.

Also for an eye-opening documentary on what really happened on 9-11, check out the video titled "Loose Change 2nd Edition." It is about 90 minutes long and it is something that all Americans should see. This is NOT "conspiracy theory" stuff. As you will see in the movie the claims made are factual. Not enough people know about what is really happening, and people need to open their eyes. The link is

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Humiliation TV" is all the Rage!

I saw a story on the CBS Evening News that caught my attention. They said that more people watch American Idol than the viewership of the State of the Union address on ABC, CBS and NBC combined. Isn't that a sad commentary on our society? I'm not a fan of our boneheaded, corrupt, war mongering leader, but nevertheless, caring about the direction of our country should be more important than finding out who will be the next Ruben Studdard. Everywhere you look there are shows where people humiliate themselves in exchange for their 15 minutes of fame. People are exploited on shows like American Idol, with its many tone deaf contestants who are under the delusion that they will be the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. Some shows like Celebrity Fit Club or The Biggest Loser exploit the overweight. And then you have shows which take has-been, washed-up "celebrities" and they put them in wacky situations to entertain the public. Just look at Armed and Famous, Flavor of Love and The Surreal Life. Don't forget the self destructing celebrities on shows like Breaking Bonaduce or Shooting Sizemore. The worse they act, the more people watch.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

St. Elsewhere and Other Happenings in the World of Entertainment

One of the best shows ever, St. Elsewhere, is now available on DVD. The show aired from 1982 to 1988 and featured fascinating characters and insightful storylines. It was nominated for 60 Emmy awards, winning 13. The show took place at a Boston hospital called St Eligius. The public called it St. Elsewhere since it was a facility that received no respect and was always in the shadow of the rival hospital, Boston General. Patients would rather be taken elsewhere. The show was a big break for actors like Howie Mandel, Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon, Ed Begley, Jr. and William Daniels. The voice of KITT, the car on Knight Rider with David Hasselhoff, was voiced by Daniels, who played the cranky surgeon with a severe Napoleon complex. I always enjoyed the senior staff of the hospital, including Dr. Craig , Dr. Westphall and Dr. Auschlander. The program was distributed by MTM, Mary Tyler Moore's company. One of the producers was Bruce Paltrow, the late father of Gwyneth.

A woman has died from water intoxication after participating in a water drinking contest on a Sacramento radio station. She was trying to win a Nintendo Wii video game console for her son. Ten employees were fired and homicide detectives have been investigating. Manslaughter charges may be filed. One of the sidekicks on the show brought up the dangers of drinking too much water, but they proceeded with the contest anyway. The thing that's creepy is that this type of contest takes place at stations all the time. I heard clips of the show on Opie and Anthony's show on XM. O&A had said they have done similar stunts in the past. Around Christmas they did an egg nog drinking contest. Ron and Fez, also on XM, did a show featuring an eating contest many years ago when they were in Florida. Vince (Don Vito) Margera, from the TV show Viva La Bam, was in the eating contest and ended up in a hospital in a coma.

The Today Show will add a 4th hour starting in September. Matt Lauer and Merideth Viera will not be involved. The 3rd hour is hosted by Al Roker and Ann Curry but it is unknown at this time whether or not they will host the additional hour. The CBS Evening News is still in 3rd place with former Today host Katie Couric at the helm. She has admitted that the job is more challenging than she had anticipated. One has to wonder if she regrets leaving Today.

Just when everyone thought that the main broadcast networks were floundering due to all of the competition from cable, DVDs and internet sites like You Tube, American Idol premieres its new season with monster ratings. 37.3 million people watched the show on Tuesday, which was 5% higher than last year's first episode. Expect to see many A.I. clones on other networks. Paula Abdul recently appeared on a Seattle TV news program appearing under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. She blames it on technical difficulties, but supposedly she takes lots of pain killers due to previous injuries. Idol judge Randy Jackson is producing a new CD with Travis Tritt, for Category 5 records. It is scheduled for release this summer.

*Some material from and