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.