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, 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)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Clash of the Cretins
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

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 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.