Archive for Television
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.
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.
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.
“The only thing worse than being talked about, is NOT being talked about.”
Maybe not in NBC’s case today.
I’m sure the Peacock Network would be delighted if no one was talking about them, in light of this morning’s monumentally stupid decision to blow off a national moment of silence so an interview with Kris Jenner could go on, uninterrupted.
The moment of silence was recognized at 8:46 a.m. today to commemorate the moment the first plane hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
But NBC, during the “Today Show,” didn’t bother to keep quiet at 8:46. For that’s when Jenner was talking about breast implants, or some such fluff.
NBC blew it. Whether it was an oversight or not, the network has enough egg on its face to make the world’s biggest omelet.
How could “Today,” a TV institution since the early-1950s, make such an egregious error?
And don’t you let NBC off the hook here. No excuses. No explanations that start with, “Well, you know…”
This was one of the most insensitive, ignorant, outlandish blunders in television history. Period.
What’s worse, the network has been standing behind its cockamamie decision.
“The Today show dedicated a considerable amount of time to September 11th coverage this morning throughout the entire show,” a spokesperson told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column.
So there, I guess.
Kris Jenner, not observing the moment of silence
While the interview subject was the very irrelevant Kris Jenner, the gaffe wouldn’t have been any more excusable, really, if NBC was talking to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. You cut away to the moment of silence. A snot-nosed producer just out of college could have made that call correctly.
Yet somehow NBC was asleep at the switch.
What a way for relatively new co-host Savannah Guthrie, who was interviewing Jenner at the time, to be associated with her new gig.
And it’s not like the moment of silence is new. It has been going on ever since 2002, the one-year anniversary of the terror attacks. No one slipped one past NBC this morning.
One viewer Tweeted, “The Today Show chose to continue their interview with Kris Jenner rather than participate in a 9.11 moment of silence. DISGUSTING.”
Couldn’t agree more.
Time was, Michael Strahan was spending Sundays trying to sack quarterbacks and planting them into the turf.
Now he’ll spend weekday mornings trying to sack the talk show competition.
If the folks who produce Kelly Ripa’s weekday gab fest were looking for a drastic change from the retired Regis Philbin as co-host, they couldn’t have picked one further from the Regis spectrum by tabbing Strahan, the former New York Giants defensive lineman.
Strahan couldn’t look more different than Regis, number one. Strahan is 40 and black, and huge. Regis was 79 when he retired, is white, and is far from a big man.
Strahan has been honing his skills as an on-air personality for the past several years as one of the talking heads on Fox NFL Sunday, partnering with Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson and Curt Menefee.
Now Strahan takes the seat next to Ripa, who has been in search of a permanent co-host for over a year.
Apparently show execs liked the chemistry between Ripa and Strahan, and if that show is about anything, it’s about synergy between co-hosts.
Guests come on and are interviewed, but the chats are breezy and the questions softball in nature, which is fine. There are plenty of other places to see guests get grilled and squirm.
The new show is called Live! With Kelly and Michael.
Ripa and her new co-host
No doubt Ripa had to approve the new co-host, and her stamp for Strahan may strike some as surprising, but on Fox’s football show, Strahan was probably the most “real” of his counterparts—certainly the only one without some sort of shtick or gimmick—unless you want to count his gap-toothed smile, which has also worked for a certain late-night TV host.
Strahan is a “what you see is what you get” kind of a guy—a big, smiling teddy bear on camera, and since the show’s audience is overwhelmingly female, that plays well with viewers.
Ripa reportedly auditioned 59 people for the job that Strahan landed. He debuted today, and Ripa instantly brought Strahan’s size to the fore as he walked onto the set.
“It’s so nice to have a co-host literally sweep you off your feet,” Ripa said on the air. “I know that he can bench press me if he wanted to.”
If size matters, Michael Strahan will do just fine.
No offense, Reege!
Late night television options used to consist of a movie, something on UHF and “The Tonight Show.”
The air space after the local news was ruled with an iron fist by one Johnny Carson. ABC made a run at Johnny when it debuted “Nightline” in 1980 with Ted Koppel (a show born from the Iran hostage crisis), but Johnny was the unquestioned No. 1 when it came to TV around the witching hour.
Johnny was 36 when he took over “Tonight” in 1962. For comparison sake, Jimmy Fallon is 37 years old.
But Johnny got better and more dominant with age, just like a strong whiskey. He moved easily into his 50s and 60s, his hair getting grayer but his appeal not. His viewers got gray with him, and maybe that was part of it, too.
Joey Bishop made a run at Johnny in the late-1960s on ABC but even Rat Packer Bishop wasn’t much of a threat. Then Johnny moved the show from New York to California in the early-1970s and his already impressive guest list got even better, as the big-time movie stars were now even more accessible. Some would drive themselves to the NBC studios in Burbank to chat with Carson, then drive home.
David Letterman joined the fray in 1982 and finally there became a viable option to Carson’s old school blend of straight man, cheesy sketches and quirky guests like “the potato chip lady.”
Today, the late night TV pie is sliced so thin, into so many pieces, that it’s not a slam dunk anymore that “Tonight” (hosted by 62-year-old Jay Leno for almost 20 years now) will pull in big viewership nightly.
The vulnerability of “Tonight” was underlined recently when news broke that the show, which has been on the air in various forms for about 60 years, was making staff cuts.
Layoffs on the “Tonight Show”? Believe it.
Leno is only signed to host “Tonight” thru September 2013
About 20 people lost their jobs, and Leno’s $26 million annual salary took a 10-percent cut. According to the Detroit News article, it was only the second time in the show’s 58-year history that layoffs happened.
“Tonight” draws about 3.7 million viewers nightly, but before the sloppy, ham-handed switch to Conan O’Brien and then back to Leno a couple years back, those numbers were over 5 million viewers.
The late night audience is a younger breed, and they like Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” and they like Jimmy Kimmel, whose show will be shifted 30 minutes earlier, to the 11:35 p.m. slot to compete directly with Leno and Letterman.
Here’s more bottom lining for you: cable networks gobble up nearly 84 percent of the $5.6 billion late night TV market, according to research firm Kantar Media. The cause and effect is that the over-the-air networks are losing market share—over 5 percent last year alone.
NBC has prided itself on being a leader with television’s wake up and go-to-sleep viewers, with “The Today Show” and “Tonight” ruling the roost for decades. And NBC was a pioneer of sorts when it introduced programs like “The Midnight Special” on Saturday nights and “Tomorrow” with Tom Snyder weeknights at 1:00 a.m., after Carson.
Well, this isn’t 1966 anymore. Or 1996, for that matter.
Leno’s contract expires in September 2013. NBC may have a decision to make at that point.
(in honor of the passing of actor Ernest Borgnine the other day at age 95, here is a piece I wrote about him on October 14, 2010)
The Importance of Being Ernest
Ernie Borgnine was never an attractive man, unless you’re one of those who like creatures that are so ugly that they’re cute, like a koala bear.
Yet here Borgnine is, 93 and still we see his mug on the big screen.
Borgnine is one of those actors who was always old. “McHale’s Navy” debuted almost 50 years ago and Ernie looked old then.
It’s been 55 years since Borgnine made his mark in the film “Marty,” in which he played the title character, a warm-hearted butcher who was also a shameless mama’s boy. The film was an adaptation of the great teleplay by Paddy Chayefsky and earned Borgnine the Academy Award for Best Actor—beating out the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Cagney and Spencer Tracy, no less.
From then, Borgnine made a living in film playing rough-and-tumble characters in movies like “The Dirty Dozen,” “Ice Station Zebra,” “The Flight of the Phoenix,” and “The Vikings.”
Never more rough-and-tumble was he than in Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” in 1969, where he famously played Dutch, one of the bunch.
Kids of my generation were likely introduced to Borgnine by watching “McHale’s Navy,” a TV comedy (1962-66) that featured an all-star ensemble cast, with Borgnine playing gruff Lt. Commander Quinton McHale. The role earned Borgnine an Emmy nomination.
Fun fact: “McHale’s Navy” started as a one-hour serious episode called “Seven Against the Sea” for the “Alcoa Premiere.”
Borgnine also played legendary football coach Vince Lombardi in a TV movie, and Ernie was likely the only actor available who didn’t require makeup artists to recreate Lombardi’s gapped front teeth.
Borgnine was also married VERY briefly—we’re talking about one month—to singer Ethel Merman, which I didn’t know until I looked it up.
Why all the love for Ernie Borgnine today? Two reasons.
Number one, Borgnine is in the new film “RED,” starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and the still stunning Helen Mirren. The movie opens on October 15.
Second, the Screen Actors Guild announced in August that it will be honoring Ernie on January 30, 2011 during the Academy Awards Show with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
I’d say he’s due. After all, as recently as 2009 Borgnine was still earning award nominations; he was recognized for a guest appearance on “ER” with an Emmy nomination. He was 92.
Borgnine is still feisty. Tired of being asked about the key to his longevity, Borgnine said during a TV interview recently that he stays young by masturbating twice daily. You heard me.
“I answered that question one time on Fox News,” Borgnine told WENN. “This fella kept bothering me all morning: ‘What do you do to keep yourself so worked up?’ Finally, I got sick and got tired and I forgot that I was miked. I reached over and replied, ‘I masturbate a lot!’
“I’ll tell ya, everybody dropped on the floor. They couldn’t believe it: ‘At 93, what the hell?’ Listen, hey who cares?”
But seriously, folks, Borgnine does have a secret, sort of, for still doing it seven years shy of 100.
“I keep active but I’m the laziest man in the world,” he says. “If I don’t have to move I don’t move. I also gave up meat about 35 years ago.”
Ernie Borgnine, a national treasure who’ll finally get his props in January.
I know I’ll be watching.