Archive for Entertainment
It was one of the coolest things I ever saw on television, and I was just a wee lad of four years old.
Oh, how I loved to watch the Batmobile in the Adam West-ravaged, 1960s TV series, “Batman,” leave the Bat Cave.
First, there was the firing of the ignition, which always included the stock shot of flames shooting from the Batmobile’s exhaust. That was cool, too.
But there was something about the black, souped-up 1955 Lincoln Futura zooming from the cave that captivated me.
That’s because there was this small guard rail that would flip down, enabling the Batmobile to pass through. THAT was the coolest thing.
Some things just grab us and don’t let go, particularly from our youth.
There was something about that guard rail flipping down that I thought was just so awesome in its simple auspiciousness.
That image comes to mind as I read that the Batmobile is going up for auction. It’ll happen on January 19, 2013, at the Barrett-Jackson auction house in Scottsdale, AZ.
The Batmobile is a 19-foot long, black work of art—maybe the coolest vehicle ever, something that Henry Ford could never have conceived in his wildest imagination.
So how much will it fetch in auction?
No one is saying, which is appropriate, because mystery has always been such a large part of the Batman character, from the comic books to the “Dark Knight” movies.
George Barris and his original Batmobile creation
The original Batmobile (there have been some replicas) was created by George Barris, a Los Angeles-based car customizer. I don’t know if Barris was given a blueprint, a clay model, or was just left to his own devices, but regardless, he created a masterpiece. The machine (it seems too small to call it a car) has been kept in marvelous condition over the years.
There was so much for a small boy to love about the Batmobile. The flaming exhaust, the bubble top, the siren, the wings, etc., all captivated. And, come on—it was 19 feet long!
Thanks to YouTube, here’s a 29-second clip of the boys racing to the Batmobile and leaving the cave. Watch for the guard rail flipping down just before the machine hits the highway!
I’m not sure which is more troubling—that Angus T. Jones has come out against his own show, “Two and a Half Men,” as being “filth,” or that it took the young man so many years to come to that conclusion.
Jones, 19, who has been part of the one-joke show for its entire nine-year run, blasted “Men” in a video recorded in October but that has just recently popped up on YouTube.
Appearing with a mostly shaved head and looking like either a hostage or a cult member, Jones says to the camera, “I’m on ‘Two and a Half Men’ and I don’t want to be on it…Please stop watching it and filling your head with filth,” Jones adds. “Do some research on the effects of television and your brain, and I promise you you’ll have a decision to make when it comes to television and especially with what you watch on television.”
Thanks for the advice, Angus, but I don’t think you need to do much research to come to the conclusion that “Men” is not exactly a TV show that is brimming with highbrow humor.
For nine years (the past two with Ashton Kutcher as Jon Cryer and Jones’ co-star; the first seven were with the manic Charlie Sheen), “Men” has managed to crank out episode after episode on a premise that would appear to have a short shelf life.
Jones plays Cryer’s son. Cryer is divorced and for the first seven years he shared an apartment with his boozing, womanizing brother Charlie (Sheen, in a real stretch). Cryer has a contentious relationship with his ex-wife, which, when Jones was younger, was played for laughs as Jones was the feuding ex-spouses’ pawn.
Kutcher joined the show two seasons ago as suicidal billionaire Walden Schmidt, who was saved from his death march into the Pacific Ocean because it was too cold. Schmidt then wound up at the late Charlie Harper’s home and taken in by Cryer’s character, Alan.
So where is all the “filth” (Jones’s word) that Angus T. Jones is talking about?
Well, pretty much everywhere.
Angus T. Jones
“Men” shoves sex in your face, plus juvenile bathroom humor; the hilarity of divorce when kids are involved; alcoholism; one-night stands; teen apathy; and other bad character traits of various guest stars and secondary players.
Other than that, it’s clean and wholesome fun.
Jones’s tirade would appear to be his way of ending his contract, though there has been no comment yet from Warner Brothers studios, the studio where “Men” is shot, about their child star’s outburst.
When a celebrity spouts off such religious righteousness, it is often an indicator that he/she is about to walk away from the business. But it’s far too early to determine whether Jones’ pious-filled beat down of “Men” is an indictment of just that show, or of the business in general.
Maybe we’ll see Jones turn up somewhere else on television, a medium not known for its dignity.
The kid is right about “Men,” of course. Even if he is a bit of a slow learner.
When I first started watching “Jeopardy,” the dollar values were $10-50 for the first round and $20-100 for Double Jeopardy. The answers were revealed by stagehands pulling cards backstage. The only lights were the ones illuminating the stage. Don Pardo was the show announcer. Art Fleming was the host, and he didn’t have all sorts of foreign words to over-pronounce. No one won trips or tens of thousands of dollars. The categories included such as “Potent Potables” and “Potpourri.”
But the game was still damned hard to play, and needed legitimate intellect in order to succeed. “Jeopardy” was never about spinning wheels or drawing cards or shouting “Big Money! Big Money!” or “No Whammies!” It was never about dumb luck or bouncing up and down on stage like a contestant on “Let’s Make a Deal.”
“Jeopardy” is the one game show that can make me feel intellectually bankrupt. Yet it’s that very feeling that draws me to it, like an insect to a porch light.
Not that I am an avid viewer. I don’t stop what I’m doing at 7:30 p.m. to flip on channel 4 to catch Alex Trebek, that crusty old Canadian, delight in pronouncing various languages’ words. But when I do happen to tune in, when the stars and the moon align properly, I find every episode to be challenging and fun.
There’s a small joy I take in every “Jeopardy” question I can correctly ask. Each one is a mini victory. I consider myself a pretty good trivia guy, but the stuff these “Jeopardy” people know isn’t trivia, it’s a bunch of mini college theses.
There hasn’t been an episode of “Jeopardy” yet, where I haven’t mused aloud, “How do these people know this stuff, anyway?”
How does one study for an appearance on the show? How do you bone up on subject matter that can range from 18th Century European Literature to the history of minerals?
Yet Merv Griffin’s creation (he came up with the idea of providing questions for answers, he said, while on a plane) has been featuring eggheads in six different decades now, all asking questions involving subject matter that I have no idea about how they have acquired the knowledge.
I’m a sucker for Final Jeopardy.
If I don’t see any other part of the show, I want to see Final Jeopardy. And not just because of the iconic music that’s played while the contestants scribble their questions.
It’s the ultimate challenge. They give you the category then take a commercial break, giving you the requisite two minutes to wonder what on Earth the answer could be. Then Trebek comes back and reads the answer. The music is cued and plays. Everyone—the contestants in the studio and those of us at home—have about 60 seconds to come up with the correct question.
There’s no better feeling of accomplishment than correctly identifying the Final Jeopardy question. It can more than make up for the previous 22 minutes of feeling like an idiot, which those eggheads make me feel like.
I caught the show last night, while at my mother’s house for Thanksgiving. As usual, I was correct a pathetically low percentage of the time. As usual, I felt like an intellectual midget.
And, as usual, I can’t wait to try it again.
The Sesame Street Muppets have become such a part of our social consciousness that I don’t think any of us really stop to think that the Muppets aren’t living, breathing creatures—we must remember that they’re puppets, controlled and voiced by living, breathing humans.
Humans, as in imperfect beings.
The face of Elmo, one of the more popular Muppets, was ripped off in a shocking and vile manner recently, revealing that its puppeteer, Kevin Clash, has been allegedly involved, in the past, with some hanky panky with at least one underage youth.
Two accusers came out against Clash, who is openly gay. The first recanted, saying that the relationship was consensual and legal (age-wise). But then a second accuser surfaced, and this one says that he and Clash became involved when the former was just 15 years old.
The second accuser has slapped Clash with a $5 million lawsuit, claiming he (the accuser) had only recently become aware of “adverse psychological and emotional effects.”
Kevin Clash and Elmo
Regardless of the credibility of the accusations, Clash has submitted his resignation. Elmo is in need of a new alter ego.
Sesame Workshop issued this statement regarding Clash’s resignation.
“Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from ‘Sesame Street.’ This is a sad day for ‘Sesame Street.’”
To Sesame Street’s credit, they were ready to welcome Clash back into the family once the first charge was recanted. Clash’s sexual orientation, thankfully, wasn’t enough to pull the plug on him as being Elmo’s puppeteer. But when the second charge came down, along with the accompanying lawsuit, SS felt like it had no choice but to call for Clash’s resignation.
It’s hard to argue with SS and Clash’s decision. The SS brand has been a part of American households and families for about 40 years. Why should they risk any additional bad press and scuttlebutt by bringing Clash back while there is all this legal stuff going on?
Besides, the mystique and aura of Sesame Street’s Muppets are based almost solely on the anonymity of the puppeteers. Yes, folks eventually found out that guys like Frank Oz and Jim Henson operated and voiced many of the original Muppets, but for the most part we aren’t visualizing humans behind the scenes when Kermit the Frog or Miss Piggy are doing their thing.
They’re not puppets, they’re Muppets, for crying out loud! They’re practically human.
The seedy story that is about to unfold about Kevin Clash (under-aged boys, meeting online, etc) is one that Sesame Street just as soon let play out somewhere else—anywhere else, other than behind Elmo’s back.
It looks to be the end of a 28-year ride for Clash as Elmo’s puppeteer, but it’s an ending that needs to happen.
The sooner the anonymity of Elmo’s puppeteer is returned, the better.
There’s an episode in one of my favorite TV comedy series of all time, Everybody Loves Raymond, where Ray Barone’s dad, Frank, chastises his son for ruining (accidentally) dad’s jazz album collection when Raymond was a youngster. Seems Ray moved the albums to make room for his new Hot Wheels car track, received for Christmas. Unfortunately, Raymond moved the albums next to the furnace. You can imagine what happened to them.
So Ray tries to make up for the lost music by replacing as many of the albums as he can, with CD versions. He professes to have visited a bunch of independent music stores in his effort to replace the albums.
Frank is skeptical of the discs and won’t even listen to them, which frustrates Raymond. Finally, Raymond basically forces his dad to listen to the discs by having them in a portable CD player, ready to go, when his parents return from a shopping trip. They enter the home, Raymond hits the remote button, and the jazz fills the house, loudly.
But still Frank isn’t happy. Raymond tries to convince his father of the discs’ grandeur by declaring that it’s like the band was right there, in the living room, thanks to the crystal clarity of the sound.
Still no sale. Frank gets belligerent (nothing out of character for him) and orders the music turned off. Raymond is incredulous; how can his dad NOT enjoy these discs?
The answer arrives a few minutes later, when Raymond’s brother Robert and his fiancee Amy arrive with some of the actual albums, purchased at a used music store. They are not CDs but vinyl, 33-1/3 RPM platters of jazz.
The album is played on the phonograph, with all of its crackling and hissing, and Frank is in heaven.
“Now THAT’S music!” he declares as the songs pop.
I know where he’s coming from.
CD technology is wonderful; digital is always best, in terms of cleanliness in sound. But I get what Frank Barone is enjoying—the music in its original form; static and crackle and hiss and all.
I started to collect 45s when I was as young as a pre-schooler. Actually, my mom would buy me the records, based on my likes. The Monkees were high on my list back then. The 45 collection grew as I became old enough to pick them out on my own at K-Mart, which sold them for 96 cents, in their plain white sleeves on hooks behind the cashier in the music department.
My first record player was plastic and the “stylus” was a clunky needle that was bigger than a pencil lead.
This record player is very similar to my first one, circa the late-1960s
In 1977 my parents bought me a brand new stereo system, and the phonograph was much more sophisticated and the stylus was diamond. Plus, you could stack the records/albums, and play hours of uninterrupted music.
The cracking and hissing was part of the deal. So was the occasional skip or crack that would cause the same four notes to play over and over until you moved the stylus.
I don’t know; there was something magical about turning on the record player and lowering the needle/stylus onto the vinyl platter and hearing that first crackle and hiss, moments before the song began.
You don’t get that with CDs. I’m not so sure that’s progress.
I know Frank Barone would agree with me.
The cake would hold 53 candles if it could, or if the recipient would allow it.
The say there’s a light on Broadway for every broken heart. In Marie Osmond’s case, there might be a candle on her birthday cake for every heartache.
Not literally, of course. Marie, the kewpie doll, only girl of the Osmond entertainment clan, turns 53 tomorrow. She hasn’t had 53 heartaches, though sometimes it has seemed like it.
An entertainer entertains. Period. It’s what they do. The show must go on and all that rot. Marie Osmond is a shining example of that adage.
It hasn’t always been easy to keep smiling and keep knocking them dead on stage for Osmond, who’s back on the airwaves with Marie, a variety show that debuted October 1 on the Hallmark Channel.
You can’t keep a good girl down.
You can say the odds were always with her. And you can also say that the odds were always against her. Depends on how you look at it.
For being the only girl among a gaggle of boys, in a family hellbent on putting on a show, can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because you have an “in.” Bad, because who wants a stinking girl around when the boys seem to be doing just fine? Plus, what if mom and dad had decided to protect their only daughter from the glare of show business?
But Marie was tossed into the fire, with all that testosterone around her. And she’s had to pick herself up a few times along the way. More than a few, actually.
There was the cancellation of the Donny and Marie Show in the late-1970s, at a time when she was told in a not-so-subtle way by show producers that she was getting chubby. She was all of 20 years old.
There was, along with brother Donny, a lull in her career that encompassed pretty much all of the 1980s and some of the ’90s, too. That lull included a marriage in 1982 and a divorce by 1985.
But it’s been in the last 15 years where Marie Osmond has felt the most pain. And has shown the most resiliency.
In 1997, she was divorced from second husband Brian Blosil after 11 years of marriage.
In 1999, she suffered severe postpartum depression. She would tell stories of driving along winding roads along the Pacific Coast, and fighting the urge to turn the vehicle toward the ocean.
The early-2000s saw a brief run on TV, again teaming with brother Donny in a talk show format. But the show went bust after a couple of years.
In 2009, Marie revealed that her oldest daughter, Jessica, was a lesbian. That wasn’t easy to deal with, as an avowed Mormon.
Then, the worst of all: son Michael committed suicide in February 2010 by leaping from the eighth floor of his apartment building in Los Angeles. This was getting ridiculous now. Michael’s death was the culmination of years of depression, which started as early as age 12.
But then, some brightness: Marie remarried first husband Stephen Craig in March 2011, wearing the same dress she donned in the 1982 original nuptial. You know how many women would kill to fit into the same dress they wore 29 years previous?
And now she’s back on TV with Marie, though it’s far too early to tell if that show will make it or not.
Maybe all that dollmaking and hawking was a way for Marie Osmond to escape the demons that were threatening to destroy her.
All this, while she was trying to be a wife and a mother to eight kids—three biological and five adopted.
Marie’s birthday is tomorrow. She might be the oldest 53-year-old in the world.
But you can’t keep her down, or from entertaining her fans. Good for her.
Clara Peller was a retired manicurist who found fame after the age of 80, in early 1984, when she barked out three words that became a national catch phrase. Then the phenomenon dovetailed into the 1984 presidential campaign, and Clara enjoyed a new wave of popularity.
You never know who will be plucked from obscurity or the recesses of our consciousness when it’s an election year.
In 1984 it was Peller, who famously and angrily asked, “Where’s the beef?’ in a Wendy’s commercial mocking competitors who rely on big buns and not-so-big hamburger patties.
It didn’t take long before we were all saying, “Where’s the beef?” in a variety of situations. It started on TV, of course, and then filtered its way to the water coolers and barber shops.
The commercial hit the airwaves in January, 1984 and a few months later it got a second jolt of awareness when, in the Democratic presidential primaries, Walter Mondale used the catch phrase as a way of attacking rival Gary Hart’s economic plan. Mondale didn’t feel that Hart was offering much in the way of details.
Wendy’s campaign with Peller didn’t just create a catch phrase; sales jumped 31% in the year after “Where’s the Beef?” first aired.
According to Wikipedia, Wendy’s senior vice president for communications, Denny Lynch, stated at the time that “with Clara we accomplished as much in five weeks as we did in 14½ years.”
Lyndon Johnson had his scare tactic ad against Barry Goldwater in 1964, juxtaposing a little girl pulling petals off a flower with the images of a countdown to a nuclear attack. Ronald Reagan had his “It’s Morning in America” campaign. Michael Dukakis battled the spectre of furloughed felon Willie Horton, who committed rape while on release in Massachusetts.
All those, plus Clara Peller and more, became iconic in their respective presidential campaigns.
Clara Peller, wondering where the beef is (1984)
Add Big Bird to the list.
It’s becoming apparent that the tall, gangly character from Sesame Street is going to be 2012′s pop culture icon thrust into presidential politics.
It’s been just one week since Mitt Romney brought Big Bird into the discussion, when he targeted in his debate with President Obama, PBS as a potential victim of a President Romney administration’s efforts to pay for his tax plan.
In this day and age, a week may as well be six months. For it only took a few days for Big Bird to enjoy a spate of popularity he hasn’t experienced in maybe decades, if at all.
Heck, it hasn’t been since 1976, when Mark “The Bird” Fidrych enthralled America pitching for the Tigers, that Big Bird has been mentioned this much in mainstream media.
Big Bird is doing the circuit now. “Saturday Night Live” came calling, and the Bird is making appearances here and there.
The president these days is quick to mention Big Bird in mocking Romney’s tax plan and how it is to be paid for.
Clara Peller died in August 1987, aged 85 and her 15 minutes of fame drained from the clock. She did make some other commercials for products like Prego spaghetti sauce, but nothing close in popularity to the “Where’s the Beef?” campaign.
Fortunately, Big Bird is immortal. Although after a few more weeks of the tall, yellow, feathered creature being shoved in our face, maybe that won’t seem like such a good thing.
The good news about Seth MacFarlane as the host of the Oscars telecast is that the producers can save a ton of money.
MacFarlane, he of many voices and characters, isn’t just one man. He’s his own talent pool. He’s an R-rated Mel Blanc.
It was announced Monday that MacFarlane, creator of the popular animated TV series “Family Guy,” and the source for many of the show’s voices, will host the 2013 Oscars telecast.
Who needs Steve Martin or Billy Crystal? They’re one trick ponies (or, one pony each, anyway), while MacFarlane will never run out of voices and characters, not even during Oscar’s sometimes interminable telecasts.
MacFarlane doesn’t just do voices. He does TV shows—as in he produces them. Besides “Family Guy,” MacFarlane has his fingers in the pies of “American Dad!” and “The Cleveland Show” (all animated).
The hiring of MacFarlane signals an attempt by Oscars producers to go after a younger, more hip demographic. MacFarlane, who recently hosted “Saturday Night Live,” can be seen on occasion on Comedy Central’s celebrity roasts—and he’s pretty funny. His humor is edgy and pushes the proverbial envelope on occasion.
And he appreciates the gig.
MacFarlane calls the Oscars hosting opportunity “the greatest call that I could have gotten in show business.” He was a presenter in 2012.
If you’re tilting your head and looking at the screen sideways, like a confused dog, Oscars co-producer Neil Meron feels you. He called MacFarlane “the most unbelievable, consummate host choice we could think of.”
Well, as far as unbelievable, maybe the ill-chosen Anne Hathaway and James Franco pairing of 2011 takes that cake.
It’s hard to say if the MacFarlane we will see on Oscar night will be a watered down version. Despite the seeming boldness of the pick, you never know if the producers will “chicken out” a little as the telecast grows nearer, and present a MacFarlane that is more suitable for audiences of all ages.
The Oscar audience, on TV, is still heavily populated with the 50+ crowd (might want to add a few pluses, actually), and MacFarlane and his shows are not necessarily an older person’s cup of tea.
That’s why Crystal was so popular; he played well with the older crowd. Steve Martin was transitional. Seth MacFarlane is an extreme.
Will it work? Well, the worst that can happen is that they don’t ask him back.
Actually, that’s not the worst that can happen. The producers ought not to ponder the worst. That could be a little scary.
The other day, I officially became my father.
It’s inevitable, they say. One day you’ll become your parents.
Pop culture is usually the killer.
My induction into the Crotchety Old Man Hall of Fame occurred a couple of nights ago.
I was in the kitchen and on the TV in the front room was a video of a performer having a tantrum on stage. I couldn’t see the video; I could only hear the audio.
“I’m not Justin Bieber!” the male voice screamed, followed by some bleeped out expletives.
“Who’s that?” I called out, because the audio clip was rather shocking.
Our 19-year-old daughter answered with what I thought was “Billy Joel.”
Now, knowing Joel’s occasional drinking and drug foibles, and his notorious temper, I thought that made sense. Joel’s melted down in the past—on stage and off.
“Billy Joel? Really?” I replied, a little knowing chuckle in my voice.
“BILLIE JOE, dad!”
Now I was confuzzled.
“Billy Joe? Who’s that?”
I could literally hear her eyes rolling.
“BILLIE JOE, dad! From Green Day.”
“I don’t know who that is?”
Heavy sigh, followed by, “You’ve never heard of Green Day?”
“I’ve heard of them, yes (barely), but I don’t know the names of the people in Green Day!”
She groaned. “Oh God, Dad.”
Apparently I should know who this is (psst—it’s Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day)
That capped a day in which when I got into the car, her radio station was on—95.5 FM.
“All this music sounds the same to me,” I told my wife, sincerely. The songs that played all did sound the same to me.
So you combine that comment with the “I thought you said Billy JOEL and who’s Billy JOE?” thing, and I have become my dad.
My father didn’t appreciate all of my kind of music, either, though we did intersect in our like for certain 1970s recording artists like Three Dog Night and Dave Mason.
That’s OK. I loved my dad to pieces, may he rest in peace. I don’t really mind becoming him.
Besides, our daughter’s lucky that I didn’t think she said Green BAY.
Now that’s more up my alley.
Oh, and I got her in the end. Referencing Joe’s meltdown, in which he demolished his guitar on stage, Nicole wondered aloud if I had ever seen that.
“Yeah—Pete Townshend of The Who used to do that regularly.”
She didn’t know who that was.
We have a DVR at home, as do many people nowadays, and I admit it is spoiling me rotten.
For the few of you who don’t know, the DVR enables you to, among other things, record your favorite shows and store them for viewing later. You can even categorize and file them, digitally, so your TV suddenly turns into a sort of computer hard drive.
The other thing the DVR does–and this is the spoiling part—is allow you to pause, rewind and fast forward shows you are currently watching, including live sporting events. So you turn into your own replay specialist.
We are DVR reliant at home. We only have one, connected to the big screen TV in the front room. And it gets a work out. Lots of pausing, like when nature calls or my wife needs to check on laundry when she’s watching something of note. The pausing can sometimes lead to fast forwarding, especially during commercials.
By the way, there’s nothing better than fast forwarding through a four-minute commercial jam. Nothing!
We also like to have someone else in the house see and hear something that they missed, especially now with political season in full swing. So there’s a lot of “Honey, you GOTTA see this!” and “Listen to THIS!”
Being a sports junkie, I’m constantly going back and forth with the rewind and play, reliving great moments by my Detroit sports teams, like the latest Miguel Cabrera moonshot.
But with only one DVR, that means when you’re in the bedrooms or in the basement watching the telly, you don’t have DVR capability. And that’s rotten.
Oh, how many times lately I’ve been watching TV on a non-DVR set and have longed to go back and relive something, or try to catch something I missed. But I can’t. The moment is gone forever (sort of).
Then I have the audacity to actually grumble that I can’t go “back in time.”
It gets worse.
I’m having DVR withdrawal in the car now, while listening to the radio.
Since I am nothing other than a very responsible driver who does nothing other than pay 100% attention to the road (don’t look at me like that), things get said on sports talk radio that I am only half listening to, but which perks my ears up like a rabbit’s.
I have found myself, lately, wanting to hit “rewind” on the radio! It’s almost instinctual now, because I do it so much while watching TV.
That’s a sign of someone who’s gotten spoiled by the DVR.
It hasn’t gotten so bad that I have had the urge to rewind people, but I’m afraid that’s next.
Then again, if I had that power, I’d also want to edit what they said. And frankly, I don’t have time for that. Especially during political season.