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.