Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - Don't Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out

I was watching a re-run of The Bonnie Hunt Show today. This is a rarity for me because I stopped watching it a while ago. Hunt is a funny, fantastic lady, but her chats about reality show stars and what happened on The Hills or The Bachelor just left me bored. So, off it went from my DVR recording schedule. (Update: Sadly, it's been canceled.)

However, the one thing I find common ground with Bonnie (besides her being funny) is her love for dogs. Today she showed a feel good video of the day: A soldier back from Iraq being welcomed home by his pooch.

As crappy 2009 leaves to buy a pack of cigarettes and a loaf of bread, here's an uplifting moment:

Here's hoping 2010 is much better to mankind and animals everywhere.







Sunday, December 27, 2009

Retro Stuff: Sessions at West 54th


Television is filled with music showcases. Spectacle with Elvis Costello currently airing on the Sundance Channel, is a sensational look at the sounds and minds of artists, hosted by an artist. Soundstage runs on Paladia and brings established stars such as Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty, to name a few, to the TV platform. Austin City Limits, the grand daddy of alt country and rock stage presentation has been in production since the mid 1970's. Yet, there was one show that snuggled close to my heart: Sessions at West 54th. Produced from 1997 through 2000 in the heart of New York City at a recording facility on the west side, it was inspired by Los Angeles NPR radio KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic and featured it's host Chris Douridas.

What made this particular show stand out for me was the gritty intimacy as audiences were introduced to a wide variety of musical styles. You could feel the New York dirt and beat seep through the studio doors as local guests such as Lou Reed or Suzanne Vega each graced the cameras on a given week, mixing their cool sounds alongside mavens of world music or country or punk from far and wide. There were also up close and personal interviews.

Douridas left the show as host after season one. The second and final third series were hosted by David Byrne and John Hiatt respectively - both having performed on Sessions the first year.

I've missed Sessions at West 54th. There is a DVD compilation available, but it doesn't have all the unique and terrific performances aired. There is a small selection available on YouTube as well. Here is a sampling of some memorable moments.

Suzanne Vega: Caramel



Los Amigos Invisibles: Dime



Emmy Lou Harris with Buddy Miller: Wrecking Ball




Tori Amos: Take To The Sky



A bonus Tori Amos performance: Cooling

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Patti Smith: Dream of Life

Patti Smith: Dream of Life will air on PBS' POV series starting December 30th - Smith's 63rd birthday. Eleven years in the making, film maker Steven Sebring documented her loves, her losses and her art. It promises to be an epic look into her incredible life.



New York Times (Arts and Culture/Television): A Legend as Muse: Patti Smith Fills the Role

The Real Housewives of Late Night: Finale

There are tears on Christmas Eve. The finale of The Real Housewives of Late Night aired on Fallon last night. Please say it's not over! Just when Renee Biddle finally uttered a coherent word and Yvonne offered Denise the sandwich of peace!



Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ronna and Beverly: Watch This Show, Or Feel the Wrath of Jewish Guilt.

I'm a little late for this but I don't care.

Listen to me. You have to watch Ronna and Beverly on Showtime or online or else I'm going to go all meshugenah up in here. These two broads from Boston are the Semitic Ab Fab. They are hilarious, obnoxious and incredibly Jewy.

Ronna and Beverly were created and performed by Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin, who bring these polished Hebrew dames to the stages at UCB-NY and UCB-LA, much to the happiness of loving audiences whose word of mouth created a buzz.

After cultivating a fan base, Denbo and Chaffin decided to pitch their show as a television series. Showtime gave them a shot to produce a pilot, but didn't have much interest, until one day the powers that be decided to air the episode, which it did - this past Monday night. (I know! I told you I was late. Check listings. It's bound to be repeated.) Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks, The Office) directed the episode.

There is plenty of online chatter about this show because comedy nerds like me want to see it picked up for series. So please - if anyone is reading this - please watch Ronna and Beverly on Showtime. Even if you've missed it, go to their site and watch their videos, then write about it, call Showtime - anything.

Look! Even Jon Hamm visits them! How great is that?

Now you have to watch this show.

Here is some online reviews:

The Mediaite: Second Chance for TV Pilot (Rachel Sklar)

The Comic's Comic: Showtime Gives Ronna and Beverly a Shot At Midnight (Sean McCarthy)

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Office: Secret Santa, Producer's Cut: The One Where Jesus Heckles Santa


The Office Christmas episode entitled "Secret Santa" aired a few weeks ago. It was a decent installment from the people who create the Dunder Mifflin crew. It was also strange that no deleted scenes were up on the NBC site.

It turns out there was a producer's cut in the works, now available at NBC.com and Hulu.com for viewing. It's a healthy 29 minute version with unseen scenes that allow the episode to breathe and allow for some hilarious, if not classic moments to bubble. There is more Jim in charge. Some Jim and Pam smooching under the mistletoe. Madge the lady warehouse employee is back with a hankering for lasagna, and Michael's rant about not being the official Santa (thus turning into Santa to damn everyone) was pretty funny rather than annoying, thanks to the incredible talent of Steve Carell, who is allowed more time to be the funny man we all know and love.

Producer's cuts seem to show how damaging commercial breaks can be for The Office. Perhaps it's due to the mockumentary standard, where there are silences and a real life flow to the pace that get diffused by a "word from your sponsor". In most programs and film, scenes need to be deleted because they are superfluous or do not add anything to a story. However, in the case of The Office, most omitted scenes shown post air on the network web site prove they are almost essential in allowing the story lines and characterizations to flourish. That is why producer's editions are so satisfying. Scenes scissored out of the original airing, are seamlessly edited in, and voila! The episode oozes with back story, emotion, physical comedy (see Carell shaking off a sleepy leg) and more honesty.

I don't want to bellyache over advertisers simply doing business. After all, they pay the bills. Yet, it's not hard to see how the quality of a show can sometimes suffer due to the network's edict to shoe horn about 10 minutes of advertisements in a half hour time slot. Sadly, until someone finds a better way to deal with ad revenue on network television, we will continue to see shows spliced and diced within an inch of their creative lives in order to make more room to sell more stuff.

The Office "Secret Santa" Producer's Cut:

Brittany Murphy

With rumor and speculation swirling around the media about her life and death, amongst all the roles she played, I like to remember Brittany Murphy before the Hollywood grind apparently got to her. This is my favorite role by her - the goofy Tai in Clueless.



32 is way too young. Rest in peace.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What Up With That?

Lorne Michaels and Seth Meyers answered my SNL Christmas wish, and put on What Up With That last night. Mike Tyson and Jack McBrayer this time. I die when I see these. Jason Sudeikis rules, and the absurdity of it all is tremendous. Keenan Thompson has become one of my most favorite cast members ever. Here's the dress rehearsal which has funnier dancing from Samberg and Tyson than the live show.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jon Hamm to Host SNL Soon and Comedy Death Ray Christmas Goodies

Photo courtesy of Seth Ornick

Remember how I gushed about Jon Hamm's terrific hosting job on SNL last year? That it was only the first in many invites back to studio 8H because he was rocking funny? Well, as predicted, he's been asked back for another stint as guest of honor. He mentioned on Comedy Death Ray Radio's podcast yesterday he will indeed be hosting the show in 2010. The date wasn't mentioned, but I'm sure it will be officially announced soon.

Update: Jon Hamm will be hosting SNL on January 30th with musical guest Michael Buble.

Speaking of Comedy Death Ray (aka CDR) and Jon Hamm, comedians Scott Auckerman and BJ Porter brought together a crew of alternative comedy friends last Tuesday night for a night of music and hilarious bullshit at Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles, all in the name of charity. (Just some background: Comedy Death Ray is a weekly improv/sketch show at UCB-LA. It's also a weekly podcast that streams on Fridays at 103.1.com and on iTunes. Go to ucbcomedy.com to view some videos of the stage show.)

Tuesday's show was the special CDR Nativity Christmas Pageant, presenting a steroid induced line up of funny people I would have killed a few animals to have seen in person. (Alas, I was in New York City - where nothing seems to really happen anymore.) Guests included performances by Tenacious D, Maria Bamford, Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Nick Kroll, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, Aziz Ansari, Doug Benson, Paul F. Tomkins, Mad Men guys Hamm/ Michael Gladis, plus James Adomian and many more. Proceeds from ticket sales and online auction (where you could bid on a chance to perform at an Asssscat, be a guest on Zach's Between Two Ferns, or win a ticket to the show) went toward the LA Food Bank. They raised $19,000 + for the cause.

Hilarious moments from the event can be found on flickr taken by super fan and photographer extraordinaire "Liezl", as she in known on aspecialthing.com.

Fun bonus video! The Comedy Death Ray crew came together to record their own version of the 1984 Bob Geldof ego trip and feel good charity anthem "Do They Know It's Christmas". It's funny, and very cool since the spoof is in the spirit of giving. If you know and love these guys, watch this.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The 67th Annual Golden Globe Nominations 2010

The shiny balls of celebratory delight we see this time of year are not only the tree ornaments you got from Target at 80% off last year. There's another set of balls in town. The Golden Globes. That's right. It's awards season, ushered in this morning with nomination announcements. Time for the Hollywood Foreign Press to put on their tuxes and gowns, don their large cocktail rings and spray on their pungent cologne to mingle in the air of self congratulatory revelry.

The usual shows such as 30 Rock, The Office and Entourage were nominated with cast such as Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell in the mix for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. Nice to see freshman comedy Modern Family get the nod against the veterans. A giant shout out goes to the fabulous Jane Lynch for her nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her work on Glee.

As for Drama, shows such as Dexter, House, and Mad Men return as nominated for best series. There are some sighs out there for Lost's snub. I'm rolling my eyes over True Blood's nomination. Is this vampire bullshit ever going to end, or is it here to stay and bare it's stupid sexy teeth at us until we're all brain dead?

Edie Falco was righteously nominated for her lead role in Nurse, up against Toni Collette as the mom with personality disorder and a bad case of over acting in The United States of Tara. If she takes home the award over Falco, I will eat the soap in my bathroom out of madness.

The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards will air on January 17th on NBC. Ricky Gervais will host.

Cue Gervais promo:



For more on the 2010 Golden Globes, go to the HFPA site. A list of television winners follows below:

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. BIG LOVE (HBO)
Anima Sola and Playtone in association with HBO Entertainment
b. DEXTER (SHOWTIME)
Showtime Presents, John Goldwyn Productions, The Colleton Company, Clyde
Phillips Productions
c. HOUSE (FOX)
Universal Media Studios in association with Heel and Toe Films, Shore Z
Productions and Bad Hat Harry
d. MAD MEN (AMC)
AMC
e. TRUE BLOOD (HBO)
Your Face Goes Here Entertainment in association with HBO Entertainment

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES –
DRAMA
a. GLENN CLOSE DAMAGES
b. JANUARY JONES MAD MEN
c. JULIANNA MARGULIES THE GOOD WIFE
d. ANNA PAQUIN TRUE BLOOD
e. KYRA SEDGWICK THE CLOSER
17. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. SIMON BAKER THE MENTALIST
b. MICHAEL C. HALL DEXTER
c. JON HAMM MAD MEN
d. HUGH LAURIE HOUSE
e. BILL PAXTON BIG LOVE

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. 30 ROCK (NBC)
Universal Media Studios in association with Broadway Video and Little
Stranger Inc.
b. ENTOURAGE (HBO)
Leverage and Closest to the Hole Productions in association with HBO
Entertainment
c. GLEE (FOX)
Twentieth Century Fox Television
d. MODERN FAMILY (ABC)
Twentieth Century Fox Television
e. THE OFFICE (NBC)
Universal Media Studios, Deedle Dee Productions, Reveille LLC

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES –
COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. TONI COLLETTE UNITED STATES OF TARA
b. COURTENEY COX COUGAR TOWN
c. EDIE FALCO NURSE JACKIE
d. TINA FEY 30 ROCK
e. LEA MICHELE GLEE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES –
COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. ALEC BALDWIN 30 ROCK
b. STEVE CARELL THE OFFICE
c. DAVID DUCHOVNY CALIFORNICATION
d. THOMAS JANE HUNG
e. MATTHEW MORRISON GLEE

BEST MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (LIFETIME TELEVISION)
Sony Pictures Television
b. GREY GARDENS (HBO)
Specialty Films and Locomotive in association with HBO Films
c. INTO THE STORM (HBO)
Scott Free and Rainmark Films Production in association with the BBC and HBO
Films
d. LITTLE DORRIT (PBS)
Masterpiece/BBC Co-production
e. TAKING CHANCE (HBO)
Motion Picture Corporation of America and Civil Dawn Pictures in association
with HBO Films

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION
PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. JOAN ALLEN GEORGIA O'KEEFFE
b. DREW BARRYMORE GREY GARDENS
c. JESSICA LANGE GREY GARDENS
d. ANNA PAQUIN THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA
SENDLER
e. SIGOURNEY WEAVER PRAYERS FOR BOBBY

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION
PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. KEVIN BACON TAKING CHANCE
b. KENNETH BRANAGH WALLANDER: ONE STEP BEHIND
c. CHIWETEL EJIOFOR ENDGAME
d. BRENDAN GLEESON INTO THE STORM
e. JEREMY IRONS GEORGIA O'KEEFFE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A
SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. JANE ADAMS HUNG
b. ROSE BYRNE DAMAGES
c. JANE LYNCH GLEE
d. JANET McTEER INTO THE STORM
e. CHLOƋ SEVIGNY BIG LOVE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES,
MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. MICHAEL EMERSON LOST
b. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
c. WILLIAM HURT DAMAGES
d. JOHN LITHGOW DEXTER
e. JEREMY PIVEN ENTOURAGE

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Real Housewives of Late Night

If you've been watching Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, then you've come across their running series, The Real Housewives of Late Night. This is super seriously funny. If you have about 15 minutes, watch the two episodes below - or just go to www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com for more.



Friday, December 11, 2009

Flight of the Conchords - No More on HBO

That's right, Bret, laugh away. You've only broken my weary heart. Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie have announced that they will not pursue a season three of their beloved HBO series Flight of the Conchords. Fine. Okay, be that way. But don't think I'm going to come running back to you when you decide to woo me back with an HBO one off special. I'll be with another show.

Well, I'm kidding, of course; however, I'm sure the Flight of the Conchord fan contingency is feeling a wee bit similar to this sentiment. Of course I'd love to see more seasons, but it's smart to let it end when it did. The program showed how the ficitional version of Bret and Jemaine tried to make it in America; yet, it was a rough ride with no record deals nor fans nor money in sight. The season (now series) finale had the boys broke and so behind in rent, that even the lovable landlord Eugene couldn't let them stay. A musical on their lives, created to produce some money, sucked hilariously and snagged the attention of the INS, who noticed their visas expired. The last scene of the final episode revealed they were back in New Zealand, making their own brand of rhythm off fences and sheep. Even Murray was riding the tractors, smiling and singing away all the weight of trying and failing to make the boys famous. It was obvious they were back where they belong. Mel had a nice ending too. She reclaimed her marriage mojo with her sweet and always suffering hubby Doug. It was a perfect ending to a second season, indicating that the guys were most likely going to leave it there.

Just like Ricky Gervais did with his own The Office, sometimes you just have to know when a show should end before the quality wanes. Another season of Bret and Jemaine forcing more story lines and writing songs (two very difficult things to do and do well), would have diluted the excellence they've maintained in two jammed packed seasons. After all, how long can a starving band from New Zealand last in New York City with all these odds against them? How long can Mel cling to her ideal vision of these boys as gods and ignore her husband? It shows McKenzie and Clement's integrity to respect the work enough to not be persuaded by the big bucks of Hollywood and beat a good thing to death all for the love of fame.

Yep. I'm at peace with this decision. Besides, we will always have the DVDs and the music.

Source: NYTimes Arts Beat

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Time at 30 Rock

Yeah, there's a giant tree with pretty Swavorsky crystal lights, crowds of holiday makers blocking sidwalks and an ice rink overflowing with enough skaters to form a sizable Olympic team, but Rockefeller Plaza at Christmas time means one thing to me... 30 Rock's Christmas episode! Raise our happy fists of Christmas cheer! Don be now our black eyes of playful drunken parties that got out of hand! It's Christmas in the land of Liz Lemon!


Tina Fey plays continuity to a tee by actually growing out Liz's strange haircut from last week. Julianne Moore guest stars as Jack's high school crush. Cheyenne Jackson returns as the new cast member. Lemon wants to buy Donaghy a Christmas present that doesn't include "bath salts in a mug"...


...and Kenneth tries to initiate a Secret Santa gift swap that freaks everyone out. God bless our egg nog... one and all!

30 Rock's Scott Adsit joined his improv partner Christina Gausas last night at Upright Citizens Brigade for their fantastic show. I haven't been to UCB in a month or so, nor have I seen them in a while, so I'm still buzzing about it. I Tumbled about it over yonder.

FX Renews The League

Good news for the comedy series The League. FX has just picked up another season of the football fantasy bro-com with 13 episodes ordered. I'm thrilled for the cast, especially Scheer and Kroll whom I worship at the alter of alternative comedy. Season one's finale airs tonight at 10:30am.

Source: Broadcasting & Cable

Previous post dated October 29th, 2009.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jon Stewart's Plea to Gretchen Carlson

Stewart never hesitates to call out Fox News' way of dumbing down the news with talking points that speak to the faction of Americans who believe a Bachelor Degree from an Ivy League school is a whole bunch of bunk-a-roo. Looks like the network is trying to dumb down the image of their talk show hosts as well.

Fox's Gretchen Carlson went to a whole bunch of classy schools, like Oxford (in England) and plays classical violin, but she had to go look up big words to describe them on air. Why that highfalutin' hussy. How dare she know what a dictionary is!

Over to you, Jon...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gretchen Carlson Dumbs Down
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Monday, December 7, 2009

SNL

Saturday Night Live has always been a roller coaster of uneven comedy. To be fair, writing comedy on a crunched deadline isn't easy. My hat always goes off to the writers of this show - whether they fail or score.

SNL has been solid the past few weeks. (Could it be due to the fact that the terrific Jessi Klein is now on the writing staff?). One particular sketch that floored me with it's sublime absurdism was the Potato Chip/NASA bit. Sudeikis, Lively and Forte ruled in a give and take of hilarious performance and surreal circumstance.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Steven Seagal: Lawman. Perhaps The Best Show EVER!

I cannot come down from my high. A&E premiered Steven Seagal: Lawman last night, and it was glorious. GLORIOUS. Seagal, as it turns out, is not only a really bad actor who appeared in action films that exploited his laborious martial arts moves, but he's been the Deputy Sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana for the past 20 years without telling us! Surprises are fun!

We lucky viewers are brought on a journey with Seagal as he and his cop partners prowl the bad ass neighborhoods using his knowledge of zen archery, spiritualism and all forms of karate to apprehend the scuzz balls of the streets. He comes with pointers on preparedness for seeking out bad guys, the kind of lessons one can learn by watching the films Shaft, Kung Fu or a Starsky and Hutch episode. He educates the mostly overweight cops of this parish by instilling the same neck holds and flips Tiger Schulman classrooms teach 4th graders everyday. He's a master marksman who preps a failing cop to hold a gun properly, to which the goofy officer gaffaws and awww schucks Steven with gratitude. This humility pleases the master. It pleases him very much.

There's a whole cast of star struck characters who enter and join the admiration for Seagal. The drunk lady who spilled out of a bar to hail the police (yes...like a cab) loved him. Even the yappy guy she complained about, who was three sheets to the wind and creeping everyone out, was mesmerized. His face was pixelated to protect his identity, but you could tell. Everyone was flipping wigs over Seagal and the surrealism of it all.

However, the one person who loves Steven the most is Steven. His ego is as bloated as his body. His lack of self awareness is as limited as his sluggish, whale-like moves. Yeah, he can shoot the tip off a match or a Q-Tip, but he's not sharp enough to know that he comes off, not as the master of martial arts and mind power, but as a self centered never-was with an ego bigger than Louisiana itself. Sad, because Buddists don't believe in ego and meditate to avoid this behavior. But so what? If he doesn't care, why should we?

As Seagal himself has said, this show is not a joke, which makes it hilarious.

Alan Sipenwall of The Star Ledger wrote a great review about this show and the ego known at Seagal.

Watch a peak of Steven Seagal: Lawman.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rashida Likes Stuffin' - The Turkey Kind...

Parks and Recreation is awesome, everybody. It gets better each week, funnier, cooler, solid. Not only is Amy Poehler soaring in her role as Leslie Knope, but the whole cast has gelled, making the show a hilarious ensemble sitcom.

I've been cheering for Rashida Jones to luck out with a great show since Karen Filipelli was dumped like a sack of left over cold cuts near an NYC fountain by Jim a few years ago on The Office. She now portrays Ann, a nurse, and best friend of Leslie, who has two dudes who dig her. Yeah. TWO! Take that Halpert. Jones totally scored in a great role.

Rashida can also sing and is a great sport. Here's a little ditty she sang about her favorite Thanksgiving food on Jimmy Fallon last week.

Baldwin

Times Talks is a series of conversations with various movers and shakers of entertainment, technology, politics plus a bajillion other various fields of interest. It's sponsored by the New York Times and held in our wonderous Times Center auditorium. It's lush and all, but I usually associate it with our bi-monthly All Hands Meetings and various company gatherings that give me suppressed anxiety attacks. I just don't like sitting still for meetings. I can sit through comedy and improv like I'm in my living room, but meetings at work make me want to go to the bathroom. However...

30 Rock's Alec Baldwin will be joining New York Times book critic Janet Maslin tomorrow at the Times Center for an evening of interesting chat. I will be there to watch how "the sparks will fly" with my friend Marie who adores Baldwin. She has serious night dreams about him. She is determined to meet him and have drinks and kick start an email friendship that will span decades of camaraderie and trips into Manhattan to drink scotch and nibble dinner with Alec. It is my duty to make sure she doesn't end up with a restricting order placed on her head. This is going to be so much better than a PowerPoint presentation.

And Now A Word From A Sponsor...



Life continues to hit me in the face. I've been too busy to write. And when I have some down time, I'm so fried that all I want to do is stare into Twitter and Facebook hoping to find something funny. Here's a Target Christmas spot that stars the hilarious Maria Bamford to fill the void.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thinking of Joseph Gordon-Levitt...

on SNL the other night. He cut a rug with an homage to Donald O'Connor's famous "Make 'Em Laugh" routine from the movie Singing in the Rain. Felt like reliving it on this Thanksgiving Eve.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Very Poehler Thanksgiving

Ansari and Woliner Snag a Deal with Apatow

Judd Apatow has signed on Human Giant's Aziz Ansari and Jason Woliner to write and direct (and in Aziz's case, star) in three films they pitched for the comedy producer, wizard and grand master flash of bromance films.
Source: Variety

Monday, November 23, 2009

Larry, You Four Eyed Fuck!


I've been laying low lately due to a death in the family. So it's been hard to sit and write at the moment; however, there are some wonderful waves of television comedy that have brighten a pretty dark time for me right now.

Curb Your Enthusiasm concluded it's seventh season last night with the actual Seinfeld reunion show. This was indeed phenomenal, and was brilliantly handled in such a way that it felt like these characters never left our lives. We picked up right where we left off.

And of course, there is Susie Essman, who is basically my television idol. There is not one fat fucko in this world who will escape her awesome, diabolical wrath.

Jezebel compiled 7 seasons of Susie into one video. I'm unable to embed it here, so here's the link. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Twitter Account Gets CBS Sitcom Deal

The news that a popular Twitter account called "Shit My Father Says" snagged a CBS sitcom proves the internet is harvesting new ideas for television prime time. The Twitter account was created by 28 year old Justin Halpern who moved in with his parents, and quotes crap his dad says. It's truly hilarious. But, I can't help but feel depressed about how instant opportunity is being given to someone whose output doesn't rely on talent and hard work but just a dumb idea. So does that mean ideas from legit writers and comedians are being shoved aside for concepts that arise from the popularity stemming from internet buzz? Sadness.

This is alright on one level. Sometimes incredibly funny, talented writers take video camera in hand and produce their own shows for YouTube viewers. Take Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone, for instance. They are two funny guys who gained success by creating video shorts that eventually caught the attention of Lorne Michaels. Also, Funnyordie.com harbors a hot bed of funny writers and performers - some famous, some not - creating comedy shorts on their own individual platform that have stirred interest from HBO earlier this year when it entered into a partnership with FOD, kicking off a series for the cable network.

However, in the pithy world of micro blogging, where Halpern's father's morsels of bizarre comments are only added once every few days on Twitter, what substance can be hulled from such low maintenance work? Why not give Paul F Tomkins a television deal? His tweets are funny and he actually has a career making people laugh. What about Rob Huebel? His tweets are consistent, creative and popular. His account could easily spawn a sitcom about a guy who tweets his bizarre thoughts to the Twitterverse. I'm not saying it should happen. I'm just saying. (But I'd like to see it happen.)

Meanwhile, Halpern gets a sweet deal that many other writers and performers would kill for. What does Justin's dad think of all this?


Maybe his dad should get the sitcom.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mad Men: Shut The Door. Have a Seat.

Does anyone know what I can do about the rug burn on my chin? For the past three Sunday nights my jaw has dropped to the floor at the remarkable output from Mad Men. First, Don Draper's true identity is discovered by Betty whereby massive emotional baggage crashed on the Ossining household. The following week gave us Betty confronting Don about a divorce. Now this: a sensational season finale to top all Mad Men toppers for the past three years.

It was a heist in Oceans 11 proportions, paced with exhilarating precision and quick thinking. It gathered the all stars of expertise to join forces against McCann's take over, adding a big fuck you to PPL who started the whole mess. At the center of it all was Don Draper, flashing back to his father's own uprising against the man. Hopefully he won't get kicked in the face by a horse. Foreshadowing? I hope not. With the final nail on his marriage's coffin, it appears as though a new chapter has been opened for Draper, one of liberation from the facade life he created for himself - ripped from the very ads he creates.

"Good morning, Sterling Cooper Draper and Pryce..."

So what does a group of ad men do when they're under contract with SC? Why, get Lane Pryce to fire you, then foster a mastermind plan to round up confidants, tell everyone the carpets are being cleaned over the weekend, and then use that said weekend to steal away clients and create their own agency of course! This where the Draper effect flourished. The flashes of his father, the desperation of the Depression all gave Don the wherewithal and gumption to rise above the injustice of business. Perhaps Connie Hilton opened the door, it only took the final push by PPL to spur him into action. It was as beautiful as seeing the fabulous Joan Holloway walk through the door. Ah...Joan and Roger. How lovely they looked together when he told her he couldn't read her handwriting.

The cherry on top for me was seeing the downtrodden Lane Pryce be a player in the plans, along with a big "Thank You! Merry Christmas!" thrown in for good measure. I'm thrilled he's going to be sticking around; however, his homesick wife might not feel the same.

After a few seasons of watching Don be a total hard ass to his staff, it was fine sight to see him have to tactifully make his plea to get everyone one his side. Pete Campbell has been looked over for years, seeking Don's fatherly approval like Don sought paternal guidance from Conrad Hilton. Pete, fed up with work and home "sick" so he could attend an interview at Ogilvy, was finally in the driver's seat. For Don, it was time for retribution, chilling out his superior hold over Campbell, and letting him take on the big role he's wanted for years.

And then there's Peggy Olsen.

"What if I say no. You'll never speak to me again"

"No. I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you."

Don and Peggy. Two people cut from the same emotional cloth. Good for Peggy in standing her ground when Don "told" her to join their side. Why should she? Her talents could be cherished elsewhere, but the fact is - they need each other. Don knows this. Peggy, perhaps not. It was a revelation to see Don's act of contrition in her home. Their interchange was remarkable. It's easy to know that someone is and extension of you, but it's easier to take for granted that the person is an individual who might not want to go in the same direction. Don had to learn this fast, or else he was going to lose one of the best ad persons around. In turn, Peggy's relationship has now changed. She is finally on level of respect and common ground.

Meanwhile, Christmas is in the air, and Betty's off to Reno for a quickie divorce. She is not going to find her life boat in Henry Francis. Once he starts to treat her like the china doll who can't think like an adult, that old case of ennui will return. Yet, she did built herself a nice safety net didn't she? It will be interesting to see how Betty's psyche will survive this turmultuous decade. Other women longed for independence, yet Mrs. Draper longs for a man to save her - a trait that is not so unheard of for women of her social status and generation. Although Don is no saint by any means, it was a relief to watch this marriage end. Tied to the ice princess, he was stuck living a dream he may not have envisaged. Sadly, their kids will probably be emotionally screwed, and I can see a teenaged Sally rebelling against her mother as her little brother drops out and joins a commune somewhere. Still, the scene with the children was heart breaking.

It was also good to see Roger and Don back at the bar throwing back a few once again. Two old buddies who fought a couple of battles, especially amongst themselves, joined together for the war. Roger dropping the Henry Francis bomb didn't even ruin it.

What a superb episode. Riveting, emotionally satisfying, there was not one wasted scene. They'll be an Emmy for writing on this finale. But I'm getting ahead of myself. It's going to be hard to wait until next summer when Mad Men returns for season four.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New York Comedy Festival

The New York Comedy Festival started this week with a bevvy of hot tickets around the city. From Ricky Gervais to Tracy Morgan, Bill Maher to Mike Birgilia, this town is humming with more comedy than the meat packing district has she-males.

Since I don't have all the money in the world to attend each and every event (Gervais at Carnegie Hall this evening is a bit over my budget), I will be partaking in a few fun gigs. I missed out the two Upright Citizen Brigade shows arranged for the festival (they're sold out), but I'll be sitting in on some interesting panels at The Paley Center this weekend with creators and writers of comedies such as The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Rescue Me, Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. Then it's Saturday night at Town Hall laughing it out with Patton Oswalt (or Patt-ta-tooie, as Doug Benson calls him).

I'll have a full report when all is said and done. Meanwhile, it's not too late to jump on the comedy festival bus... Here's the events schedule.

40 Years of Sesame Street and It's Global Reach

Sesame Street begins it's 40th season this week on PBS. Generations have sung the alphabet with Kermit, counted to 10 with The Count, and was informed that an episode was brought to you by the letter "Q". However, "The Street", as it's slickly known, has reached around the world for more than thirty five years, starting with the first two co-productions. In 1972, Sesamestrasse, the german language version premiered and still airs on Germany's NDR. Plaza Sesamo, the spanish language co-pro premiered that same year and currently airs on TeleFutura.

I worked at Sesame Workshop in Sales and Co-Production for about five years, back when they were celebrating their 30th anniversary. Languishing in the world of sales and co-production in the Latin American and Asian Regions, I witnessed some fascinating workshops attended by producers and Muppeteers from Russia, Poland, Pakistan, Israel, Mexico, Australia, Japan, and China. Creative worked their magic to learn, study and devise ways to create local versions of Sesame Street. Capturing the same joyful Muppets, tailoring a deep curriculum, preparing local live action films, and brainstorming the neighborhood (i.e a street, or barrio) that would be the center of the show is all hard work. In addition, local psychologists and teachers were also included to maintain local customs and specific educational needs. So you had a mix of professionals spinning an incredible format to maintain the sensibilities and mores their nation's children.

Israel's Rechov Sumsum. Instead of a giant bird, they had a giant porcupine. A little scary.

Producers of war torn countries also incorporated local conflict in the mix. Alim Sim Sim, the Egyptian co-production of Sesame Street focuses on girl's education due to the vast difference between male and female literacy in the region. Rechov Sumsum, the Israeli production (created by the super wonderful Dr. Lewis Bernstein) and Shara'a Simsim, the Palestinian version, combined shows to create a co-pro to encourage peace and understanding among children in each territory caught in the cross fire of middle eastern unrest. (Sadly, this experiment didn't work, and both co-productions now air separately). There was a hope to create a co-production in Ireland that would encourage peace and understanding among Catholic and Protestant children; however, as far I know...that never came to be.

In addition to international sales of the domestic catalog, distributed with episodes dubbed in the local language, Sesame Street has reached not only children in the USA for many generations, but stretched it's arms across the world.

Congratulations to Sesame Street and to the people who have brought it to you all these years.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Daily Show: NY Vs.Philly: Who Has the Worst Fans? (Hint...Philly)

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Yeah, I'm going to give this one to Philly. New York will win the world series, and Philly wins biggest douche fans who make Manchester United football louts look like Disney characters on a field day. Congrats, Philly!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mad Men: The Grown Ups

Last night's episode "The Grown Ups" was another ripping installment of Mad Men. The youthful era of Camelot screeched to a halt. The bright, young president JFK was brutally murdered. Now, it's back to the same, white haired old guy - LBJ - to take over the White House. Time for the adults to take charge. A sense of innocence now lost. It made for an explosive episode with plenty of jaw drop worthy scenes that almost out did last week's Don Draper bomb.

A stunning moment occurred when Draper came through the office, hearing a cacophony of ringing phones as the news broke on TV in Harry's office. Then - they all fell silent. It felt like the crescendo in an orchestral piece, almost the same blend of noise that swirls in The Beatles' "A Day in the Life"...and when the last crash of craziness builds into an abrupt stop, it as if the smoke clears and you've awoken from a dream. That's what happened last night. Everyone from Pete Campbell, Betty and Don Draper, and Roger Sterling stirred from their boozy slumber at the death of Kennedy. And as history has shown, the age of innocence was over.

Some fans of the show are not enamored with Pete Campbell. I find him compelling. A young, privileged punk seeking approval from Don and shimmering with a sense of entitlement (not to mention inappropriate sexual behavior toward German nannies) has been learning enough life lessons and is starting to question the establishment that has held him back. Trudy's final support of him getting ready to leave Sterling Cooper was a fine moment, not to mention that gorgeous luminous blue dress she wore when preparing to go the wedding. Mad Men wardrobe department... Bravo.

Roger. Oh, Roger you silly man going through your mid-life crisis with your child bride, your awesome ex-wife Mona, and your whiny daughter. Of course you're going to call the beautiful, strong Joan Holloway in despair over Kennedy and the botched wedding. She's your whipped cream with a dollop of strawberry jam - the red head that knows life goes on despite the tragedies. Of course, she's "the one". I almost felt sorry for Sterling at his daughter's ruined reception. But of course, life goes on. Yet, maybe life - or in this case - the wedding, should have been canceled.

I can't help it. I know he always brings the bad news to our American Sterling-Cooper-ites, chipping away at those old glory days one sip of tea at a time, but I really like Lane Pryce. You know he doesn't want to be a bother, but he has a job to do. He's quite sympathetic, and well, perhaps the fact he loves America and feels liberated being away from Blighty makes me all soppy for him. Yes, he gave Ken Cosgrove the promotion and Pete the shaft, but it had that "so sorry...so very sorry" air about it.

I cannot stand Henry Francis. Is it the casting? Is it my shallow self wanting Betty Draper to fall for someone who is just as good looking as Don? There is no real chemistry between them. They hardly know each other. Will she leave Don, a man she never really knew, for another man she doesn't really know? This lady is just in love with that fantasy...the romantic tragedy of it all.


Don's biggest fear has now come true. Betty doesn't love him as Dick Whitman. She hates his lies and his infidelities. She hates being treated like one of the children as she cries for Kennedy, and most likely her marriage. "Take a pill and lie down" isn't what she wanted to hear. So, after her little "drive" to White Plains for her tete-a-tete with Henry, Betty came back and told Don what he didn't want to hear.

Mad Men resumes in two weeks with the season three finale "Shut the Door. Have a Seat". The show's season finales thus far have been pretty sensational. After these last two explosive weeks, there is no telling what Matt Weiner has in store to raise the stakes.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Upright Citizens Brigade


Over the years, The Upright Citizens Brigade has developed a talent pool for TV and film producers looking for new faces. Many an alumni have been plucked up for television and film. Jenny Slate (SNL), Bobby Moynihan (SNL), Donald Glover (Community) and Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Rec) are just a small example of UCB people who were performing at the theater as regulars recently as last year and have moved on to Hollywood projects; yet, they continue to be part of the UCB community.

I've just completed Improv 101 at Upright Citizens Brigade myself. It was not only a major blast to learn the basics of long form Improv (aka The Harold) created by Del Close, but it was a profound practice in trust, concentration and the weird, magic creation of scenes that are collectively produced, on the spot, by different imaginations. The result is usually hilarious, or not. But that's the beauty of the process. It's not a practice of telling jokes, but the job of working at "the top of your intelligence". You create a truthful situation, and humor can be produced organically as each member of a team builds and heightens a scene to bizarre levels.

UCB's training center devotes itself to perpetuating Close's teachings in a comfortable, non-intimidating way. It has been my refuge from the drugeries of life, and I can't wait to continue to the next level of work. In fact, I plan on going as far as a can in the UCB firmament. Who knows? And that's the beauty of it.

Some of the UCB trainees who could be the next familiar face on television were featured in NYTimes this weekend. No, I'm not one of them (I guess they weren't there the days I was slamming against walls at the Training Center.) Still...it's a nice display of people holding the Improv flame: Clown College, The Manhattan College.

Here are some videos of UCB performances like Asssscat and MySpace (now Facebook) that have inspired me to sign up for training. The videos might not load up on this site using Firefox. If they don't, just click on the titles to go to original site. Or - to watch more UCB comedy, go over to www.ucbcomedy.com


Asssscat


MySpace: Dreaming of Sharks


MySpace: Picture Time

Kumail Nanjiani


So many funny people who started out in New York have departed for the warm climes and glamour of LA. Luckily, we still have some talented funny people to enjoy here in NYC like Kumail Nanjiani. Sadly, I wonder how long it will take for him to make the same west coast transfer. Hopefully, we can keep him.

Nice article in NYTimes. "It's Not a Bad Time to be Funny in the City""

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Office: Koi Pond ..."Message Received, Little Soy Bean"



The cold open of last night's Koi Pond installment of The Office, made me shout a "what the what-ie WHAT?" at the vision of Michael Scott in full "Dick in a Box" regalia. Very funny. And weird-ish. Ok, so children are more media savvy today and can handle the "dick" implication in his outfit, but was it a tad...inappropriate, perhaps? That's Michael for you. Thank Thor there were no fire eating jugglers involved.

Really Jim? "Face" book? It will never measure up to 2005's "Three Hole Punch Jim". And Pam. Weird wig? Frumpy dress and slippers? She probably dressed up as "Michael's Mom" in an act of vengeance.

It's always nice to be reminded of why Michael is a big giant baby in the adult world. We've been given glimpses into his lonesome childhood. Little Michael was alone. He hung out with the lunch lady. Kids did nasty things to him. So, when he fell in the koi pond on the way to a meeting, it was just a matter of time before the rest of the gang figured it out, and set out to tear him a new a-hole in his already bruised and wedgie'd heart. Put that together with sweet Andy's delight in pretending that he and Pam were mistaken for a married couple with a "little soy bean" on the way, and you have a storyline with the message of loneliness written all over it. If it weren't so expensive, and if the show was scored, "Eleanor Rigby" would song of the episode.

It was nice to see Jim try to stand up for himself by trying to convince Michael he could fly solo in a meeting, but once again there is a modicum of passive aggressive behavior in Halpert. Stepping back to let Michael fall in the pond? Not cool, Jim. However, as the deleted scene above can illustrate, Michael and two feet of water do not mix...and it's hilarious.

The silliness and un-likability of some secondary characters has weakened any emotional attachment for the viewer. Oscar's snark is getting way out of hand, and they've ramped up Angela's hypocritical judgmental comments so far up the decibel scale that she's down right hateful.

Although the element of loneliness in Michael and Andy struck a warm chord, the execution of the episode didn't hit all the right notes; yet, it was a nice attempt reveal human issues for Nard Dog and Scott that remind you of their spirit rather than being the cartoon figures they tend to turn into.

Last Night's Daily Show

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The League on FX

I once joined a Fantasy Baseball team. I didn't know what the hell I was doing, lost big time, and never joined again. But knowing plenty of Football Fantasy League "widows" out there, I can attest to visiting many a home where husband will be pacing the hallways with a bluetooth, talking out rosters while two TVs are going at the same time. It's like they're brokering on the floor of the Stock Exchange. This is serious business. It's also a little scary.

FX has captured this insanity in the new series The League which beings tonight at 10:30pm and will continue to air on Thursdays at that time. It's produced by Jeff Schaffer (Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiam) and Jackie Marcus Schaffer (Disturbia). It stars two of my favorite comedians Paul Scheer and Nick Kroll. Also starring is Jon Lajoie, Stephen Rannazzisi and Mark Duplass.

NYTimes.com: Playing Fantasy Football and Wallowing in Real-Life Raunch Off the Imaginary Field

Monday, October 26, 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm

The beauty of the recent season of Curb is seeing David and Seinfeld together. They genuinely enjoy each others jokes, and it's a treat to see how they crack each other up while interacting.

What I had a problem with in last night's episode "Bare Midriff" was how some of the famous exasperating scenarios are becoming more staged to build up to a laugh. For instance, regarding the writer's assistant with the bare gut. First off, perhaps I'm just a kiss ass, but if I were in her shoes, I wouldn't be getting all pissy with Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. (And I wouldn't have that flabby tummy, much less show it. There is something to be said for core workouts). Second, in seasons past, I think that this would have been handled differently. The assistant would have taken the suggestion of covering up her big belly with a dose of hurt, but then go home and complain to someone. It would get around to Larry making him have to confront her and set everything straight, only to ruin it.

Also, I can't imagine the LAPD would actually take a call about stolen paper napkins seriously, so the basis of that reality kind of kills it for me. When Larry was pulled aside by the cop because of napkins, it felt like an obvious and easy way to make him miss that appointment with the assistant and her mother's co-signing at the bank.

Despite these criticisms (and who am I to do this, really? Larry David is a genius), this comedy is one of the best shows I hardly write about.

Mad Men: The Gypsy and the Hobo

"You know I know what's in there" uttered Betty to Don. The truth about the past finally came to a head in last night's mesmerizing and jaw dropping episode of Mad Men entitled "The Gypsy and the Hobo". After Betty made her bare bones knowledge of Don's sketchy past known, Draper's soul left his body. Within one minute he went from being the handsome, self assured executive with a mistress waiting in the car, to a man who has aged twenty years, bent, crushed, gaunt and clumsy. If Draper wasn't such a disagreeable man of late, there would be more sympathy; yet, it was hard not to muster some pity toward the man who tried to be someone else.

Past lives also revealed themselves in old flames, such as the case of Roger Sterling, whose encounter with a former girlfriend tested his own will. He and Anabelle frolicked as young lovers on the streets of Paris before the war, eating in cemeteries and being crazy kids before Hitler started gunning down innocent people. But, she left him for another man all those years ago. Now she's back, with her dog food company, known for killing horses for their meat, trying to change an old image, yet not letting go of the old company/family name. Roger knew how to let go because he knew that she wasn't the one. Whether his young wife Jane is "the one" he's referring to, well - that is up for discussion. I think the red headed beauty Joan was his one true love.

And Joan. The jack of all trades, pillar of strength in a pair of nylons, a stifled force known as Joan Holloway-Harris, is living in the embers of some girlish dream that went all wrong. After all, you work as a secretary, kick some executive butt (and occasionally, sleep with one whose name is on the company wall) hoping to one day marry a doctor who will take you away from all this. She dreamed of the big house, the successful surgeon husband and children. Now, she has an apartment, a job in a department store, and a husband who is a lousy doctor and whines. Cut to vase hitting her rapist husband's head and voila...he decides to become an Army surgeon. Not only will Joan be taken care of, but he'll be off at basic training for six weeks. I can already see it: He'll be shipped off to 'Nam, leaving her to find her independence. Me thinks if Dr. McRapist does come back from the war in one piece, he's going to find a very different Joan. But that's years away.

This episode dug deep into the past and shattered facades. This is what good television is all about.

Ricky Gervais to Host Golden Globes


Ricky Gervais will be hosting the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards on NBC on January 17th. He's the first official host of the ceremony since 1995. Really? They actually ran that show without an official host? I hadn't noticed. Nevertheless, having seen Gervais appear as a presenter in other awards shows, this should be fun.

Source: Variety

Here's a nice Gervais moment: