Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's the TV season of the nerds

Writers are always asking networks what they’re looking for each development season. This is a typical conversation I imagine from last fall.

Nerds are in this year. We want to do nerds. Move away from the handsome golden boy types.


But make sure you also include a smoking hot chick.


Because who the fuck wants to look at nerds? Creepy, weird, ugly little freaks.

So why do you want to do shows about them?

Zeitgeist. Why do we do anything? Those Judd Apatow movies are killing at the boxoffice. Please God, let torture porn run its course.

Y’know, you had Judd Apatow doing shows for you and you canceled him.

I know! Why didn’t he tell us who the fuck he was then? How are we supposed to know?

So what’s the point of the hot chicks?

They like the nerds, find them endearing, attractive.


Who the fuck cares? They just do. There’s only so much ugly we can tolerate on any given show. Have you ever watched television?

O-kay. Then what if the beautiful woman likes them because they’re smart and she appreciates intelligence?

Ughh! How you gonna get laughs out of that? No, if we’re going to do nerds we gotta make ass-fun of them.

Apatow doesn’t do that.

His gargoyles can swear. We don’t have that luxury. See, the fun is these socially retarded geeks say the most inappropriate things to her. Like, for instance, hot chick says “So what did you guys do today?” and one of the nerds says, “We masturbated for money.” Big laugh.

Wouldn’t the girl be repulsed?

Well, in real life, yeah. Hell, she’d spray them with mace.

But what does she do here?

Just accepts it and moves on. Maybe finds it endearing. “Oh-those-wacky-nerds” kind of thing.

But that doesn’t make sense.

Do you want to get on the air or not? Comedy is not exactly king.

Okay. Then what if I do a drama? A drama with nerds.

Let me check the numbers on NUM3ERS…yeah, okay, that could work.

So it has to be a procedural show?

God no. The Zeitgeist has passed. We're practically at CSI: DES MOINES. No, it's Superheroes this year.

You want a nerd who’s also a superhero?

Ooooh, I like that. But he can’t have powers that conflict with any of our other superpowers.

So that leaves what, he can open a checking account without standing in line?

What if he’s super-smart? You can’t do that with a cheerleader. Super-super-super smart. Like he knows everything that’s in every computer in the world. Yeah. There’s this program and it gets incorporated into his brain. No wonder the smoking hot chick finds him a catch.

There’s a smoking hot chick in this one too?

More so than ever. You won’t have the gold of masturbation jokes to fall back on.

So I guess there’s this experiment or operation and a chip gets inserted into his brain.

Conflict. There’s a BIONIC WOMAN remake being developed. That’s how she gets her super shit. The trick with that show is finding a chick who's kick-ass but not turn-off scary. The answer is probably British.

So how does our super nerd get this program?

I know. He just stares into the computer screen when it’s being run. Maybe thousands of pictures. They fly into his brain somehow.


Yep. That’ll work.

What’ll work? What are you talking about?

Do that. Make him an everyman. Cast him with a cute guy who can look a little nerdy. In this case it's okay to go Jewish, just not too Jewish. Give him an Apatow friendly job – whatever the 40 year old virgin did, throw in a hot blond so America has a reason to watch, maybe add some funny idiot friends, an action scene or two, and I think you got a sale.

Okay. Just so I know, if I wanted to take a year off, what do you think will be the zeitgeist next season?

SURVIVOR with kids.

You’ll have your nerd script in two weeks.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I can't get no...

This is one of those “please indulge me” posts. Like most scriptwriters, I’ve got a drawer full of unproduced screenplays. But now I also have a blog. So if I can’t sell these scripts I can at least occasionally share some of my favorite scenes. Here’s one from a movie I originally wrote in the late 90’s, and have been rewriting ever since. It’s a bittersweet comedy called SATISFACTION and it’s set in the exotic world of Bakersfield radio. (I know what you’re thinking – with that topic and locale how could it NOT sell??? I wonder the same thing.)

Here’s the set up: Barry (picture Jason Alexander) and Jimmy Lizard (picture Steve Martin) were DJ’s together in Bakersfield 30 years ago. Barry left town and the industry and finds himself aimless and depressed. Lizard remained a jock in Bakersfield, playing the same goddamn ten oldies all these years but has a much better attitude about the world…even though he’s now in the hospital battling Leukemia. Barry comes to visit and they have a heart-to-heart.

Y'know, Barry, you lie in bed all day facing your own mortality and listening to oldies, and you start to do a lot of thinking. Stuff you never even worried about before. The existence of God, the meaning of life, that sort of crap. And hopefully you come to some conclusion, something that gives your world a little order. And I'm happy to say I have reached just such a conclusion.


We all spend most of our lives doing stupid shit.

(after a long beat)
That's it?

That's it.

So what's the point?

There's no point. It's just a conclusion. If you take the time we use to do something productive versus the time we spend chasing some girl who doesn't exist or watching "the Amazing Race" the ratio is probably 10-1 Race. Why we're programmed like that? I don't know. I was kinda hopin' being on my deathbed would make me smarter.

C'mon, man, you're not on your deathbed.

Yeah, I know. Just trying to evoke a little sympathy. When I really do go I want it to be at home. On my death futon.

So the point here is to do more with your life. Cut down on the stupid shit.

No, that's not it. Because the stupid shit seems to account for all the fun in life.
But you want a point? Here's a point. Do what makes you happy. I've used my one precious existence to be a fucking disc jockey in Bakerspatch for 32 years, and you know what? I've had a blast. I'm never going to achieve great deeds, or leave a lasting legacy, or even bang those few select women I've always longed for, but Christ, how many of us do? The odds gotta be worse than Leukemia. So you might as well dig on the stupid shit.

(with a smile and nod)
Okay. That's good. Real good.

Maybe the most important words ever written are on that billboard outside of town. "Sun, fun, stay, play".


They sit quietly for a beat. Then:

So who are they?


Those select women you want to nail.

Well, that's a little personal, but...

Lizard lies back and smiles, almost picturing them.

Jessica Alba and Halle Berry.

Alright! Two of the very best.

Jennifer Love Hewitt..

There's more?

Ann Coulter, Jenna Fischer, Linda in accounting...

Linda in accounting?

Bob Harlow's wife, Bonnie Bernstein from ESPN, Cousin Ruth, both Gilmore Girls...

Okay, I think I got it.

Ellen DeGeneres just to see if I can, Sister Mary from church...

And Lizard continues what is sure to be a long long list.

This is an experiment

I'm trying to see if I can post audio on my blog so I'm throwing something on as a test. Several people have asked what I sounded like in my insane disc jockey days. So here is an aircheck of me (Beaver Cleaver) on KTNQ (TEN Q) Los Angeles from 1977. Now you know why I went into TV writing.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The beauty of live TV

Eva Nazemson, hosting a Swedish call-in show, throws up live on the air and keeps going. Talk about a trooper. In case you don't speak Swedish, she blames the hurling on "menstrual cramps". Now THIS is how Katie Couric could get more viewers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Random musings

Now that we have a blitz of advertising for the new fall shows, boy are those casts good looking. No one I ever hung out with in high school could remotely get hired on one of those shows. And I'm supposed to care about these beautiful people?

Yes, you can still see real human beings on TV but it’s gonna cost ya. You have to subscribe to the premium cable channels.

If a network were casting THE SOPRANOS Tony would be played by Dylan McDermott, Carmella by Heather Locklear, and Paulie “Walnuts” by John O’Hurley.

I was thrilled that MAD MEN got a second season pick up. If only it wasn’t on AMC, the movie channel that has more commercials in the middle of movies than local TV.

I was without power for five hours Saturday. I called the Department of Water & Power and an automatic message suggested I check with their website for any outage updates. How am I going to get on the damn internet when I don’t have power??

And along those lines, why do some parking structure elevators have buttons in Braille? How many blind people drive in Beverly Hills?

Expanded MLB rosters are not fair to contending teams. My solution: you can have 40 men on your roster instead of 25 but every game you can only designate three of the new players as eligible for that game.

After all the hoopla, is anybody watching TELL ME YOU LOVE ME anymore? Even with the graphic sex? They just aired episode three.

Rod Stewart wore his British Knighthood medal at a California café while out to breakfast recently. All right! All bets are off. Writers -- you are now allowed to wear your Emmys around your neck at Fuddruckers.

I’m officially off the PRISON BREAK train. Even after suffering through last year’s plot twists, which were less plausible than a Mr. Magoo cartoon. The new prison is just too grimy and depressing. It’s hard to be in that environment. I felt like I was back at CAA.

Best idea I’ve heard in months: Up in Silicon Valley there is a fantasy football league where the point is to put together the WORST possible team. You get points for interceptions and fumbles and lose them for TDs. If I were in that league I’d have to name my team the Rams. Or Fighting Irish.

My teleseminar has been filled. Thanks to the 150 of you who chose to participate. And yes, it's still free. If you want to post a question for me just use the link contained in the confirmation e-mail I sent you. The two areas I'm most expert are screenwriting and speed dating.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch CAVEMAN. How was it? And this is the only time it’s okay to comment as Anonymous. Believe me, I understand.

THE BIG BANG THEORY -- Lenny & Squiggy join Mensa.

What team, if any, will be stupid enough to sign Barry Bonds next year? Or Milton Bradley?

Time slot is everything. Last week ACCORDING TO JIM was on at 8:30 and finished 87th. But it was also on at 8:00 and finished 85th.

Jessica Biel is in talks to play Wonder Woman in Warner Bros.' all-star superhero film JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. I’ve always loved Wonder Woman. She was able to save so much time by never changing her outfit when switching back to her secret identity. She could go from superhero to Santa Monica Blvd. Prostitute just by adding heels.

The Bionic Woman


That’s how NBC should have promo’d THE BIONIC WOMAN premiere. Their target audience must be those two nerds on THE BIG BANG THEORY. Another slugline could be…

“Wouldn’t it be great if your new imaginary girlfriend could also beat up that mean dude at the bus stop who calls you a spaz?

I have no idea why a woman would want to watch this show. Oh, I’m sure the network will say women will identify with the character, and ultimately it’s a story of self realization and personal growth but who are they kidding? It’s hot chicks in the rain catfighting. It’s the video game guys play when their moms won’t let them watch Cinemax After Dark.

Michelle Ryan is no Lindsay Wagner (pictured: right) . Lindsay was cuter, Lindsay was sweeter, and could do more cool things. I’d like to see Michelle Ryan sell Fords.

But the big problem with Michelle Ryan is that she’s not even as hot or as interesting as the other Bionic Woman in the series. Katee Sackhoff (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, pictured: below) as the rogue B.W. steals the show.

Change the title of the series to NOT THAT BIONIC WOMAN, THIS ONE.

Otherwise, this was just your standard dreary noir-action show, complete with the washed out colors, the secret high tech and concrete government compound (the Soprano Cement Company must’ve won the bid on ALIAS, 24, and now this project), and mysterious Miguel Ferrer type no-nonsense officious riddle-speaking head of the organization, played this time by Miguel Ferrer himself.

There’s only one thing missing – FUN. Unless your idea of a rip roaring good time is CHILDREN OF MEN you’re going to feel let down by this BIONIC WOMAN. I’m sorry. Give me Lindsay Wagner running in slow motion or even demonstarting how much more trunk space I’d get in a Taurus.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

CBS comedy promos

I saw a number of on-air promos for CBS’s Monday night comedy block. Based on the content and what they were clearly selling, I thought back to the golden age of CBS comedy and wondered what a typical promo for their Saturday night line-up would be like were those shows on the Big Eye today.


Saturday is a night of laughs on CBS. First, on ALL IN THE FAMILY, not everything is Bunker-dory…

Archie in his chair. A concerned Michael is holding the front of his pants out and staring down at his crotch. Gloria enters.

Michael, what are you doing?

There’s something wrong with the Meathead’s meat head.


It’s all red.


Let me see.

She peers down his pants.

That’s just my lipstick.

Oh Jeeez!




And then… on a very special MASH…

Father Mulcahy talking to off-stage reporter.

When the doctors are operating and it’s cold, like it is now, here today, sometimes the doctors will warm their hands over the body. Can anyone look at that and not say…Wow, we have the HOTTEST PATIENTS IN KOREA!? Wooooooo!! Suit up!!




Then on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW Rhoda gives Mary advice on how to get through those cold Minneapolis nights.

Mary and Rhoda.

Mair, we gotta get you laid.



You know I live vicariously through you, and at the moment I’m very horny.


Rhoda, that’s terrible.

I don’t need to hear the details. Just – you were in bed, you did it. Actually, those probably are the details. I’ll add “had an orgasm” for myself.




And finally, what happens when Bob starts a sexual addiction group on the BOB NEWHART SHOW?

Bob leading the group.

Your wife has a vagina, right, Dr. Hartley?


Well…uh, yes…yes, sh-she does.

What does it look like?


Can you describe it? Peterson’s never seen one.


He hasn’t. Well, uh…(CALLING) Carol, could you come in here for a ..a…minute?




Big CBS LOGO against a white backdrop behind Klinger, who wears just bra and panties and is waving to the camera with a shit-eatin’ grin.

That’s this Saturday on CBS, the “Tiffany Network”!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Your punch lines, my feeback

Thanks to everyone who participated in the “YOU fill-in the punchline” contest-without-a-prize. Some thoughts about them…

But first, my announcement. I’ve been looking for a way to meet my readers – not easy to do since you’re spread out around the world. But I found a way to at least connect by phone. Next Tuesday, October 2nd from 4-5 P.D.T. I’m going to hold a teleseminar. It’s absolutely free, will accommodate the first 150 people, and did I mention it’s free? I’ll be answering your questions about writing – the kind of stuff I’ll be doing in print today, talking about specs, getting agents, tips, whatever you want.

Here’s how to sign up.

Just go to this website and register. Couldn’t be easier (I’m told).

It’s a way to talk about this goofy business informally, conversationally, and a way for me to better get to know you guys. And no salesman will call.

Update: We're already half full so if you want to participate please sign up. Thanks.

Now to the contest.

Most comedies are room written these days. So this type of challenge is what you’d face all day every day. It’s obviously easier when there are other people to bounce your ideas off of, and much more fun, but learning the skill of pitching just the right joke for specific situations is something you’ll need to know.

You guys pitched some GREAT entries, really funny, really original. Some not so great but that’s what I’m here for.

Remember the reality of your show. Peter can wake up in the Twilight Zone, Liz can’t. Earl can do voice-over, Larry can’t.

Beware of inside jokes. One had Liz saying, “Lorne, where’s the Emmy?” She’d have to break character to do that. We call this a “Room joke”. Usually there are five room jokes, and twenty disgusting sexual jokes pitched for every real one that goes into the script.

Follow instructions. After saying I wasn’t looking for scenes a few people still submitted scenes. When you’re in a rewrite room and the showrunner lays out what he’s not looking for and you pitch that, how happy do you think he’s going to be? Especially if it’s after midnight. And the Chinese food from six hours ago is sitting in his stomach like a cannonball.

There were some jokes pitched that frankly I just didn’t get. I had no idea what they meant. Not a clue for a couple of them.

Making pop references can be tricky. On the one hand they can really make a show sound hip and fresh, on the other, if the reference is too obscure you lose the audience. The exception to this is what we call “one percenters”. We know only a few people will get the reference but we don’t care and it’s not a big joke, more like a little aside. BACK TO YOU last week had a line blasting a “Mr. Robert Broder”. Bob Broder is a big TV agent. Fifteen people in America got that joke, but those of us who did loved it.

Then there’s the matter of taste problems. Yes, you can stretch the boundaries more today, especially on FAMILY GUY and CURB but there’s still a point where the audience goes “Yikes!” It’s a judgment call. In the room someone would pitch something reprehensible and we’d say, “Fine and then add the stage direction ‘the audience leaps over the railing and stones the writers’.” What if you have a joke and you’re not sure whether it’s crossed that line? Lose it. Err on the side of crowd control.

I loved how many of you realized that there wasn’t just a laugh in the line itself but also where the bed was. Earl winding up in a store window. Liz in a twin bed, Larry in a hammock, Liz on the Staten Island Ferry. Many of you found really hilarious places to put Peter. But you can do that within the FAMILY GUY world. There’s much more freedom in animation.

I’ll bet for most of you it was much easier coming up with lines for FAMILY GUY than 30 ROCK, right? You don’t have to worry about that pesky little thing called “reality”. But that’s why I would rather not read a spec animated script. I want to see if a writer can be funny when the situations and characters are real. FAMILY GUY not only allows you to actually use “room jokes”, they encourage them.

Many of the best pitches really dealt with getting underneath the characters. Larry worried about the sheets (that’s so Larry), overworked Liz saying, “If I’d been kidnapped it probably means I can sleep in”. Another Liz line I appreciated: “I’ll be your self-confidence challenged….whorish wake up call this morning.” I could hear her saying that. Larry would be more repulsed by his surroundings than Earl. Liz would be more philosophical than Larry. A lot of your pitches reflected the specifics of the characters. Good goin’.

Take caution with the Earl voice-overs. Some of them were very lonnnnnnng. Remember, the actor is on screen during all of this – doing what? A few sentences will suffice.

Along the way you guys had some great lines and observations. “Tequila is like the transporters in Star Trek minus all the accuracy”. Any number of stand-out quips.

And my favorite lines were the one that surprised me, that had a twist. All of the versions of “I knew I shouldn’t eat/drink _______ on an empty stomach” were the more expected approach. But Larry waking up in a hotel room and saying, “Yess!!” or Larry waking up next to a transvestite with a prosthetic leg and calling his wife to say, “I think I’m in New York” made me laugh. I didn’t see those punch lines coming.

All in all I would say this exercise was a rousing success. Thanks again to all who participated. I might do this again more often if the interest is there. And maybe I’ll even come up with a prize. Let me see if there’s anything I can re-gift from WINGS.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hollyweirdness continues...

Great job on the punchlines from yesterday. Since a number of you only read this blog on the weekdays (translation: goofing off at work... and I love you for it), I'm going to give you all one more day to enter. Tomorrow I will comment on the entries and talk a little bit about the process of writing jokes. So put on your funny boots and have at it.

Also tomorrow, a somewhat big, certainly not major but still fairly large announcement.

Meanwhile, for today....

People think of Hollywood as just this superficial tourist trap. Not so. There is much high end culture to be found in Hollywood. Museums even. Allow me to point out two of the classiest:

The Frederick's of Hollywood Lingerie Museum and Celebrity Lingerie Hall of Fame

And ….

The Psychiatry -- An Industry of Death – museum.

At the Museum of Lingerie you can see Natalie Wood’s bra from BOB AND CAROL AND TED AND ALICE, Fabio’s sleeveless undershirt, and assorted sordid underwear from Cher, Joan Collins, Madonna, and (this scares me) Rosie O’Donnell. Sorry: no panties from Britney Spears since she doesn’t wear any. And to elevate its stature even more (as if that's possible), there are two framed edicts signed by former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley announcing that Frederick's Lingerie Museum is "one of Hollywood's most popular tourist attractions."

It’s probably more popular than….

The Psychiatry museum of death. This fair and balanced exhibit is funded by (surprise surprise) Scientology. And at it’s opening event on December 17, 2005 these Hollywood nutcases attended the ceremony: Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley, Danny Masterson, Giovanni Ribisi, Leah Remini, Catherine Bell, and Anne Archer. Name me one of them who couldn’t use a good 5000-volt jolt of electro-shock (7000 for Ms. Remini).

I’m not sure what the actual cautionary exhibits are. Loonies suffocated while being rounded up in those big nets? Freudians falling off couches and landing on their heads? Waiting rooms with asbestos ceilings? Being forced to try on Rosie O’Donnell’s underwear?

I think it’s fair to say that anyone who attends the Psychiatry museum of death not only needs psychiatry but institutionalization for many many years – like say 40.

So for tourists I say, you don’t need to see these freak shows when you visit Tinsel Town. Instead, get over to a legitimate attraction – Soap Plant/Wacko on Hollywood Blvd. Here you can buy such nifty souvenirs such as inflatable palm trees, a voice changer, tiki ware, and books like “101 Uses for Tampon Applicators” (not a joke). There’s also an art gallery upstairs.

I’m telling you, who needs the Louvre?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

YOU fill in the punch line

It’s time for the second annual “YOU fill in the punch line” exercise.

The NEW YORKER has a contest where readers are invited to submit captions to cartoons. I’ve entered this several times, have never been chosen as a finalist and usually think the captions they do select are as lame as Bazooka Bubblegum comics.

But it gave me an idea.

As a grand experiment, about a year ago I instituted a comedy writers’ punch line contest. Except I have nothing to give away and therefore don’t want to pick a winner. But I will offer some feedback to the entries.

Based on how much fun this proved to be and the quality of the entries I decided to go forth on my other hair-brained idea, the Sitcom Room seminar.

So here’s how it works: I’ll give you essentially the same set-up for four different style shows. It’s not just writing jokes, it’s about tailoring to the characters and style of the show. Do as many or few of the shows as you want. Submit your entries in the comments section.



Earl wakes up and realizes he’s not in his own bed. He says?????


Larry wakes up and realizes he’s not in his own bed. He says?????


Liz wakes up and realizes she’s not in her own bed. She says????


Peter wakes up and realizes he’s not in his own bed. He says????

Have fun. Be funny.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Genius, Beatle, Boss Jock -- John Lennon

How'd you like to turn on the radio one morning and find that John Lennon is the disc jockey? KHJ radio listeners in Los Angeles had that bizarre experience one day in 1974. And it turns out he was damn good! Which should come as no surprise to anybody.

Here's a rare sample of that morning's broadcast. I think it's too late to call in your requests however.

Coming tomorrow: the second annual "YOU fill in the punch line" exercise. Funny up!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Veteran sitcom writers (i.e. over 25) are looking at the producers of BACK TO YOU as if they’re Davy Crockett & bunch holding down the Alamo. They’re the last protectors of the multi-camera format. As if it’s not hard enough to do a good show anyway.

I say count the laughs, not the number of cameras.

I really liked BACK TO YOU. Yes, I know most of the people involved, and yes it isn’t groundbreaking, but so what? It made me laugh. It was a pleasure watching Kelsey Grammer and Patty Heaton together. They’re a master class in comic acting and timing.

Trust me, you have no idea. There are so many painfully mediocre actors out there (many forced upon showrunners by the networks). Not reacting to anyone else in the scene, stepping on laughs, crunching jokes, zero physical skills, and even in a few cases sneaking quick peeks to see if they’re on their mark. I watch shows, I spot these people and cringe. And some of them are household names. Many writing staffs spend 3/4 of their time just trying to hide these enemies of comedy. So to have the privilege of seeing two of the very best perform at their prime, that’s sure worth 22 minutes of my week.

And here’s where BACK TO YOU really won me over: There’s a point where Chuck (Kelsey) and Kelly (Patty) are about to go on-air live and Chuck learns he has a daughter by Kelly from one wild night. Two seconds later he launches into a pre-written commentary on coming back to Pittsburgh. And now, everything he says has a double meaning, “I left a part of me here”…”I was like a lone Allegany warrior, separated from his tribe, riding bareback and unprotected”, etc. I thought, that’s damn clever writing. Worthy of tuxedo shows (my expression for Emmy recognized shows).

And the fact that it has a very retro feel to it ironically makes it stand out. Why can’t audiences enjoy THE OFFICE and BACK TO YOU?

I haven’t seen any future episodes and like I said yesterday, the real key to a show’s success is how it evolves. But I’m rooting for it.

And they won’t have to hold down the Alamo very much longer. Reinforcements are on the way. Networks are developing a lot more multi-camera shows for next season.

Maybe they figured out, after the twentieth bad expensive “edgy” KNIGHTS OF PROSPERITY that when you look through the history of television, with very few exceptions (MASH being one), the classic sitcoms we still enjoy today were all multi-camera. I LOVE LUCY, THE HONEYMOONERS, PHIL SILVERS SHOW, DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, ALL IN THE FAMILY, MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, TAXI, ODD COUPLE, COSBY, CHEERS, FRASIER, FRIENDS, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, even SEINFELD -- all multi-camera. Count the laughs.

And by the way, not everyone died in the Battle of the Alamo. A few went on to write features.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

30 ROCK rocks!

Disclaimer before I share my thoughts on 30 ROCK:

I love Tina Fey.

On-camera/off-camera, with glasses/without glasses.

I always knew she was a terrific comedy writer and sexy (two compliments that are rarely used in the same sentence) but I never knew she was such a great showrunner. 30 ROCK, under her guidance, has grown tremendously since its debut.

Instead of giving Bonnie Hunt series after series, they should have given one to Tina Fey long ago.

Creating a show is almost the easy part. Sifting through the volumes of notes and suggestions from networks, studios, critics, “helpful” friends, research, talk shows, panhandlers, and worst of all – bloggers, Tina had to maintain her vision, identify the real problems, and find inventive fresh solutions. All the while starring in the damn thing. (What’s really tough is when the problem is YOUR character but happily, that’s not been the case.)

I don’t agree with those who felt 30 ROCK winning the Best Comedy Emmy was an upset. It’s smart, funny, and one of the few comedies that strives to be an actual comedy. It’s not “sitcomish”, it’s not a “dramady”, it’s not an improv “slice-of-life” that stumbles onto amusing things now and then. It aggressively wants to make you laugh. It employs funny people doing funny things. It eschews the tired rhythms of multi-camera sitcoms, and takes chances – Some lunacy, some social and political satire, and unpredictability.

But good jokes mean nada if there’s not good storytelling and 30 ROCK does a terrific job of juggling up to three subplots an episode and having them all come together at the end. It’s similar to what we did on MASH except without the weekly sucking chest wound.

And 30 ROCK has a breakout character – Alec Baldwin as Jack. He’s a revelation. I’m still shocked he didn’t win the Emmy. Watch. It’s going to come out that the Blue Ribbon Committee consisted of Kim Bassinger, William Baldwin, and Stephen Baldwin.

I understand that Tina is going to give the jokes “more room to breathe” this season. I think that’s a good call. Some very good jokes don't land because they go by too fast or are not really heard. That's one of the traps of single-camera comedy. Things can get lost.

My one big concern for the show is Tracy Morgan. I like him. But I know a lot of people don't. It's hard to really have a home run series when a sizable portion of your audience dislikes a character. However, if he were to be used more sparingly in situations where he could really score I think his fans would be fine and many of his detractors would be won over. Of course, try selling that to the actor. Another marvelous perk of being a showrunner.

And my last note – a quibble really – is that I think Tina shortchanges her own character. It's lovely that she's so generous, allowing other cast members to shine but she herself is not only very funny but also grounds the series. It’s evolving from a cartoon into a character-driven comedy set in a heightened world and Liz Lemon is the fulcrum. Let’s see more from that young lass!

Hopefully the Emmy win will bring more viewers to this very deserving show. And the network that revels in superheroes realizes that their greatest one is Tina Fey – with or without glasses.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pop culture potpouri

I can’t pick up a paper or turn on the TV without seeing another Jodie Foster interview for her latest movie, THE BRAVE ONE (playing soon on an airplane 30,000 feet above you). Who’s her publicist? I’d like to get a fraction of that hype for The Sitcom Room (Notice that shameless plug? But go to it!).

Jodie gasses on and on trying to justify this standard cry vengeance movie. It’s a statement about society, a cautionary tale, a condemnation of violence. Bullshit. It’s DEATH WISH. It’s Charles Bronson. It’s the same story. What new social message are we getting from THE BRAVE ONE that we didn’t get from DEATH WISH or even DEATH WISH II thirty years ago? Come on, Jodie. They’re not going to make you give back your Oscar because you get to shoot people. Cop to it. You had fun. You thought of all those drivers who cut you off. Having to do nude scenes for Dennis Hopper. This film was worth five years of therapy.

From fellow blogger Douglas McEwan (webmaster of Tallulah Morehead’s fabulous site) comes this item from “the Age”, an Australian newspaper:

Dame Edna auctions late husband's prostate

A glass urn purporting to contain the "used" prostate of Dame Edna Everage's late husband has been put up for sale on eBay, with a starting price of $100.

Comedian Barry Humphries' alter ego Dame Edna surprised guests at a
Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) fund-raising dinner last week when she donated Norm Stoddard Everage's prostate as an auction prize.

It sold for $7,000.

Spain apparently is considering adding lyrics to its National Anthem. Get out those pads, kids!

Reason #298,739,092 why I hate Dr. Phil. According to people were there and witnessed it – Dr. Phil screamed off-air obscenities at some poor young Wichita TV interviewer for asking her own questions instead of the ones the publicist had prepared. The direct quote from Dr. Phi was: “Katie Couric asked those questions but YOU couldn’t?!”

Remember when the networks’ premiere week was a big deal? All summer you couldn’t wait to see the new shows. Does anybody give a shit anymore? Now what we’re excited about is the release of DVDs of last year’s shows.

You know it’s the new TV season when Chi McBride, Tim Daly, Jimmy Smits, and Kim Raver have new series. But where’s Peter MacNichol? Has the earth gone off its axis?

With the new season upon us, it’s time for the TV critics to weigh in with their reviews. May I recommend three of the best? Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, Alan Sepinwall of the Newark Star-Ledger (who writes more than any nine people), and the always hilarious TV GAL, Melanie McFarland of the Seattle P.I.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON is an extraordinary documentary about the U.S. astronauts who went to the moon. Come celebrate the last major thing this country did right.

Good luck tonight to Kelsey, Patty, Chris, Steve, Jimmy and all the other talented people involved with BACK TO YOU.

Funniest animated series I’ve seen in years is CLONE HIGH. It ran on MTV briefly in 2002 and the DVD is available in Canada. The premise centers on a secret government cloning experiment. All the clones are now teenagers together in a high school. Main characters are nerd Abe Lincoln, girl crazed Mahatma Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, and JFK. Supporting cast includes Vincent Van Gogh, Julius Caesar, Walt Disney, and Jesus Christ. So tasteless that MTV pulled it after only a few episodes. Could there be a greater endorsement?

Tomorrow: my thoughts on 30 ROCK.

From Aaron Barnhart’s TV Barn site comes this sick but made-me-laugh headline on the death of one of the original MATCH GAME panelists:


Monday, September 17, 2007

More Emmy thoughts before they start the "get off" music

The Chabad telethon still rules! Sunday’s Emmycast was the second lowest rated in history. And that’s with Joely Fisher practically wearing tassels on her breasts.

I’m surprised many pundits claimed that 30 ROCK was an upset. Not to me. It was funny. It was fresh. And when given the same assignment – Tina Fey proved to be a better writer than Aaron Sorkin.

Actors who star in procedural dramas should be eligible for “Best Exposition” acting awards. Half of what they do is explain technical lab gogglydigook to each other even though they're the only ones on the planet who know it. And the truth is, with a show like CSI you don’t really give a crap whether Gil Grissom finds love, you wanna know who did it and whether the French’s low calorie mustard stain or distinctive Ethiopian Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco gave away the murderer.

I’ve only been to Emmy telecasts so I can’t compare them with other self congrat love fests. But they are thunderously boring to attend. After one hour, a horrible production number led by Donald Trump, the Academy’s salute to Kathy Lee Gifford, and three interminable acceptance speeches half the audience is in the lobby.

Yes, they are hard to produce but the key is a great host. If you have someone who brings it all together you’re more than halfway home. Sunday night’s show seemed very disjointed.

The Golden Globes have better audiences because they can drink, Oscars have better audiences because the awards mean more, the Tonys have real entertainment, and the MTV awards has Britney Spears morphing into the later-years Elvis.

But if you think Sunday’s Emmycast was bad, in 1980 there was an actor’s strike so the host was local Channel 4 news anchor, Kelly Lange. The only actors who appeared were Powers Booth, who broke the picket line to collect his statuette, and some actress flown in from China who was going to be featured in SHOGUN. I sat in the audience that night and the highlight of the evening was losing so I could leave.

The booth announcer Sunday night was Rebecca Riedy. That truly is a thankless job and you’re only recognized if you screw up, which is bound to happen on a live broadcast sometime. When Rebecca mispronounced Katherine Heigl’s name, it wasn’t necessarily her fault. Someone might have given her that wrong pronunciation. In any event, it’s worth taking a moment to salute two of the best booth announcers – Randy Thomas and Neilson Ross. And other than that one mistake Rebecca did a damn fine job.

If you’re familiar with FAMILY GUY, the opening number was a hoot. If you’re not, it was just some smug cartoon characters taking cheap shots at television. To me the fun of that number was the cutaways to Jeremy Piven and other audience members clearly not laughing.

This is Greg Daniels of THE OFFICE. There are probably two million blogs and websites with Emmy coverage. I bet mine is the ONLY one on the entire internet to feature a picture of a writer.

I know I was harsh on the Academy for giving James Gandolfini’s Emmy to James Spader. So let’s say Gandolfini was not even in the mix. Then I would say it was a travesty James Spader beat Hugh Laurie for the Best Actor award.

Ricky Gervais is a BRILLIANT comic actor. But I’ll never be convinced his win wasn’t just a make-up for not recognizing his work on the original OFFICE.

Word is leaking out that this years American League Cy Young Award winner will be Helen Mirren.

Lots of people are blasting Fox for using the show to pimp their schedule, lowlighted by that horrid Wayne Brady SO YOU THINK YOU CAN REMEMBER LYRICS BETTER THAN A FIFTH GRADER (or whatever the hell his show is called) parody. But the truth is EVERY network does that when it’s their turn. If Sunday’s show were on CBS the children from KID NATION would be voicing the ROOTS tribute.

If you’re going to use THE JERSEY BOYS for a tribute at least use the original cast. These guys were impersonating the JERSEY BOYS impersonating the Four Seasons. Or use film clips of other actors impersonating THE SOPRANOS during the songs.

When you watched the IN MEMORIAM piece, how many times did you say, “I didn’t know he/she was dead”?

Don’t you wish Anne Heche had won an award and Ellen DeGeneres had to present it to her?

Considering the dismal ratings and reviews, my guess is Ryan Seacrest will not be asked back. My vote is for Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to host but knowing the Academy it will be Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

My bitchy 2007 Emmy review

James Spader over James Gandolfini??? Sally Field over Edie Falco? Ricky Gervais over Alec Baldwin?? Thomas Hayden Church over anybody???

What was the Television Academy thinking?? Were they just trying to stir up controversy in a desperate attempt to out rate last week’s Chabad Telethon? Were the results tabulated in Florida? Were the voters simply on peyote as most Americans suspect?

Trust me, if O.J. knew how easy it was to steal an Emmy he and his gunmen would be on stage thanking their parole officers.

Ryan Seacrest hosted the show. Also the red carpet show, the post-Emmys party show, the Channel 11 news, and the Chargers-Patriots halftime show on NBC.

How painful was his opening monologue? First of all, why the hell was he even DOING an opening monologue? Ryan, you introduce people. That’s your gift. You don’t try to be funny. You don’t wear silly costumes. You give out phone numbers. You tell people when to vote.

For examples of really funny see Lewis Black. His rant on the idiocy of television executives and screen clutter was brilliant, hilarious, and I’m sure the message that every television executive took from it is “let’s never hire him.”

I want to know what the censors cut out. They did it so artfully, by the way, just cutting the sound and showing an ugly black disco ball. I’m guessing they bleeped Ray Romano for suggesting that his screen wife Patty Heaton was now banging Kelsey Grammer and since they disco-balled Katherine Heigl when she stood to get her award I imagine she mouthed an objectionable word. Fox has to be very careful not to offend lip readers.

Red carpet hosts, Joan & Melissa Rivers have gone from E! to the TV GUIDE Channel to this year where they’re blogging. Next step down is “two cranks in a bar.” Expect that by 2009.

I do still wish they were on the red carpet however. Wouldn’t you love to see it? In addition to their stupid questions, now they’d be asking the celebrities to type in their answers.

The event was held at the cavernous Shrine auditorium. Capacity: Everyone who ever watched HAPPY HOUR.

They used a theater-in-the-round stage. I kept expecting a presenter to say, “Okay, now let’s play…the WEAKEST LINK!”

Gee, the montage of late night host one-liners took an odd turn. They went from a flurry of President Bush is an idiot jokes right into a somber tribute to Tom Snyder.

I felt sorry for the booth announcer. Not only did Katherine Heigl correct the pronunciation of her name on the air, the announcer couldn’t talk back. She couldn’t say, “This is Ms. Hy-GEL’S’s first win, an upset because there are many people who feel she ruined GREY’S ANATOMY this season.”

Okay, I’m extra bitchy this year. But James Spader????

How come Jon Cryer is considered a supporting actor when his character is represented in the title of the show?

One of my favorite moments was the big dance number with Glenn Close and the black-robed judges from DAMAGES. Oh wait … that was Jon Voight and the rabbis on the Chabad telethon. I’m so confused.

Al Gore is the only man who’s won an Oscar and now an Emmy and they’re both considered consolation prizes.

You could tell Robert Duvall won for a cowboy movie. Even while standing he looked like he was riding a horse.

The best acceptance speech wasn’t even aired. It was Elaine Stritch’s from a week ago. “I’m a recovering alcoholic, a brittle diabetic and I’ve got laryngitis – but I just won an Emmy!”

AMERICAN IDOL “Gives Back” resulted in AMERICAN IDOL “Gets Back”. They finally won an Emmy. Next year look for the very special TWO AND A HALF MEN “Gives Back” episode.

The ROOTS tribute on its 30th anniversary was lovely.

When was the last time you actually WATCHED a mini-series? For me, I’d have to say ROOTS.

On the other hand, the JERSEY BOYS tribute to THE SOPRANOS really didn’t need footage of Adriana being shot and other violent scenes during the touching love song, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”.

This may be the last year of HBO’s dominance at the Emmys but more recognition is in their future. They should be scoring quite a few AVN porn awards next January with TELL ME YOU LOVE ME. Michelle Borth should beat out Connie Lingis for “Best Actress in an Oral Sex Scene” and the pilot script should triumph over “Lawrence of Her Labia”.

But let’s get back to the Emmys where class and dignity reigns. The song of the year was “Dick in the Box” beating out “Everything Comes Down to Poo.”

Fox completely ignored Kathy Griffin’s acceptance speech from a week ago when she said Jesus had nothing to do with her win. She was wrong. Jesus has EVERYTHING to do with who gets recognized. Proof is that Debra Messing was nominated. Again! For acting!

It’s not fair that producers who have to turn out 22 or 24 hour episodes of drama a year must compete with producers who complete 13 episodes in a year and a half.

Has Helen Mirren ever NOT won? If there’s a nuclear attack I want to be under Helen Mirren.

Nominating Minnie Driver and not Eddie Izzard for THE RICHES is like nominating Pam Dawber and not Robin Williams for MORK & MINDY.

The people in the first ten rows you don’t recognize are called “seat fillers”. When the seat fillers have to go to the bathroom they’re replaced by the “nominated writers”.

It would be easier for Jack Bauer to disarm a dirty bomb, find Osama bin Laden, end world hunger, and build an Ikea baby crib than to repeat as an Emmy winner after this dismal season of 24.

Can ANYONE remember last year's Movie of Week winner? And that includes the winners themselves?

Choreographer Louis van Amstel must feel great. Out of the four nominees for Outstanding Choreography he is the only one who DIDN’T win.

Brad Garrett always tells two jokes too many.

Michael C. Hall from DEXTER deserved to win. And if he’d been nominated I’m sure he would have. Jesus apparently doesn’t shell out the $14.95 a month for SHOWTIME.

Bill Maher is now Emmy’s biggest single loser with 19 defeats. I’m sure Republicans and Angela Lansbury are thrilled. New Rule: Only Arianna Huffington can be on the Blue Ribbon Committees.

Every time Sally Field wins an award I wind up saying the same thing, “Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!!!” Play the “get off” music the second her name is announced.

Steve Carell’s acceptance speech was so great I only wish he had won.

I was happy for America Ferrara, Greg Daniels, Tony Bennett, Tony Bennett, Terry O’Quinn (although I’d be happier for Michael Emerson), Robert Duvall, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, and Tony Bennett.

I was THRILLED for Tina Fey and 30 ROCK. Not that the Emmys mean anything, especially now that James Spader has beaten out James Gandolfini, but hopefully this win will bring more viewers to this very deserving and funny comedy.

And it’s hard to argue with THE SOPRANOS taking Best Drama. Although, considering the way the Academy voted this year, I’m shocked it wasn’t beaten out by KIDNAPPED.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Happy birthday, Cliff Levine

September 16th marks my father’s 80 birthday. How can this be? He’s not that old. He still attends classes at UCLA, plays golf, does volunteer work, travels, surfs the net, and watches 24 (although he thinks it’s gotten really bad). He has a natural curiosity and zest for life that makes him far younger than his years. And when he was young, he had a maturity far greater than his years. He was a parent in his early 20’s. I think back to myself at that age and I was a complete idiot. Feeding a plant was too much responsibility. Yet he raised a family.

I could spend three paragraphs telling you about his career – for years he was the sales manager of KABC radio in Los Angeles and then the General Manager of WLS radio in Chicago. He broke sales records, mentored many of today’s broadcasting titans, yada yada. But more important, his colleagues and co-workers loved him. He was (and is) collaborative, respectful, creative, positive, and fair. All the admirable qualities politicians say they have but of course not a single one does.

If you're looking for a role model, he's your guy. In the market for an idol? Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood combined can't touch him.

Tonight there’s a big party in his honor. I tried to get my agency to pay for it and just write it off as an Emmy party but they said no. Like NOW suddenly they develop integrity.

This has been an especially tough year and I hope, being surrounded by family and dear friends, will make for a truly joyous night. We celebrate you, dad. Happy birthday!!!!!

My Emmy review will be posted tomorrow. Probably a few hours later than usual. There will be liquor at this party.

Friday, September 14, 2007

An inspired practical joke

First a word from our sponsor -- me... and then today's post. Video testimonials from the first Sitcom Room are now on line and available here. I look like a dork on this thing but the other people come off cool.

Just a couple of slots remain open for Sitcom Room II. Details here. Thanks.

And now back to your regularly scheduled blog.

After writing all those Bar Wars practical jokes episodes of CHEERS, no one loves a good practical joke war more than me. I found a real one recently that is truly great. Two guys from have been going at it for about a year now.

In this installment, one of them goes to Yankee Stadium with his girlfriend and is in for quite a shock.

Watch it here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Will the real Ken Levine please stand up?

I’m the other Ken Levine.

There’s the Ken Levine who is a big video game designer. He’s a giant in the industry. I probably get twenty people a day logging on here thinking I’m him. Sorry. I’m not. I don’t even own a video game.

Then, according to imdb, I was the location manager on JURASSIC PARK and FLIPPER. I don’t know who that Ken Levine was but I still get Christmas cards from dolphins.

I mention all of this to set the record straight because there is a Ken Levine impostor. I know what you’re thinking – why would anyone in their right mind want to impersonate me?

Because there was a jingle.

In the early 80’s I was pulling a weekend shift as a disc jockey on KFI Los Angeles. (CHEERS had just started and who knew if it was going to last?) The station commissioned a new jingle package and one sang “Ken Levine KFI 6-40”. Next to an Emmy there is no greater honor than having your own jock jingle.

A few years after I left they hired a new guy and since they already had this nifty paid-for jingle they insisted he use the name Ken Levine.

So now I’m getting people saying they heard me on the radio. I listened to him and well, he was me with a lobotomy. I called the station manager to protest. He said, “Tough shit. Call the union” and hung up on me. Nice.

I then did call the union. That station would be sorry they ever messed with me! The AFTRA official told me there was nothing they could do. What?? As a radio performer the only thing you have to identify yourself is your name. He shrugged. I said you can’t register with SAG as Paul Newman. You can’t join the WGA as Neil Simon. Still, they were powerless. Talk about a toothless union.

For the next year I had to endure friends saying, “I heard you on KFI. What happened? You used to be funny.”

And then a few years later the station went to a talk format and I did a couple of fill-in shifts. They wondered if maybe I shouldn’t use another name because they recently had a guy named Ken Levine.


I managed to keep the name and if anyone else tries to use it I will cause a shock wave. Wait a minute, that’s one of the games created by the other me. Jesus, now even I’m confused.

3:10 to Yuma

No spoiler alert necessary since I’m not revealing anything you won’t learn from the trailer.

Westerns are always fun. And they’re proof that you can make good action movies without cool cars. If you like the genre, you should enjoy 3:10 TO YUMA provided you can get past the one rather large conceit that everyone moves heaven and earth to bring this outlaw to justice and don’t seem to mind that about a hundred other people get killed senselessly along the way. It would be wrong to just shoot the son of a bitch, but killing other folks in service of this story is fine and dandy. But like I said, get past that and you’re golden.

And it’s the same question you ask in any James Bond movie. Instead of putting him in some elaborate water tank with sharks and piranha and pollution from the East River, why doesn’t Ernst Blowfeld or Dr. No just take out a gun and blow his brains out? And after the third time he escapes from the death ray device, the contracting chamber with walls of spikes, and the giant custom-built Cuisinart you’d think the Super Villains (who we’re told are the most brilliant minds in the world) would get the idea that perhaps a pistol and one bullet might just do the trick. But I digress…

Russell Crowe was the whole movie. You rarely see a vicious outlaw who is insouciant. Christian Bale was the young James Brolin, very serviceable in the thankless good guy role. Everyone else played stereotypes. The marshal and his deputies said, “shucks,” “if he’s out there we’re gonna git him”, and “don’t know where you come from mister but in this town we uphold the law”. And the gang members were all Bruce Dern (pictured right). Ben Foster, (Crowe’s second-in-command) wanted to add depth to his character so along with Dern he added a touch of Dennis Hopper.

For my money the Bruce Dern deranged cowboy is the easiest character any actor can play. You just scrunch up your face, look crazed, adopt a bad Western accent and say in your most craven breathless voice: “Can I touch her titties now, pa? Can I? Can I? Can I?”

The sets and scenery seemed realistic, although how would anyone who’s alive today know? (Wait. Keith Richards might know.) They only said “Fuck” five or six times, not 54,892,843 like a typical hour of DEADWOOD so I worry that the dialog wasn’t authentic.

But the conditions seemed realistic enough that I thought, if I lived back during those times I don’t think I’d care to make my home in the Old West. There seemed to be, at least for me, a discernible. lack of creature comforts. I understand that if you live in Arizona in 1870 it’s going to be hot and there’s no air conditioning but God forbid one of these cowboys wore shorts? Or built an overhang so that in one three-foot patch in the entire state there was shade?

So all the while I’m watching this movie I’m thinking, “these settlers couldn’t travel three more days and end up in LA?” There were beaches back then, nice weather, and the neighborhoods were much safer. If anyone acted up they had Zorro. But I digress again…

Bottom line, if you like horse operas you’ll like this movie. And the other good news is that 3:10 TO YUMA isn’t its running time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Our assistant speaks!

In response to my post about how David Isaacs and I work, several people wondered if our assistant, Lana could share her point of view. She graciously obliged. Personally I think she was waaaaay too kind. At one point she calls us “geniuses”. Please substitute “two notches above hack”. She also left out the part where we’d be pitching “hilarious” stuff, I would turn to her say, “Okay, what have we got?” And she’d say, “Nothing!” Or she’d delicately announce, “America’s not laughing, boys.” One of my other favorites was, “How do your wives put up with you guys?”

I also asked Lana to provide a picture of herself. This is what she sent, claiming it was her passport photo.

Lana would sometimes pitch better jokes than ours (which we would then use of course). We decided a way to give her credit was to name a character in an episode of ALMOST PERFECT after her. At the first runthrough one of cast members said, “Can we give her a better name? I mean, Lana Lewis is really a dumb name. Can’t you come up with anything better?” We then introduced him to Lana Lewis, who was standing right next to us. The name stayed in. And we’ve used it in a couple of other places as well. If you’re currently producing a show and need a name, we highly recommend Lana Lewis. Anyway, here’s her all-too-kind report:

"Some bloggers posted that they'd like to hear a few words from Ken and David's Writers Asst. That would be me; and I'd love to.

What I am great at is being able to keep pen to paper while laughing hysterically and then later being able to actually read it. Best of all, I get paid for this! I love working with these guys. Ken and David can not only create full-circle storylines, but also fill them with laughs, big laughs. In my experience I've seen a lot of writers who can write story and others who can pitch jokes; but Ken and David do both exceptionally well. Most entertaining are the pitches that don't make it into the script for one reason or another-issues like character, storyline or just that they were (my words) "too much for the network suits". Despite the Hollywood stereotype of the difficult and monstrous Producer, these comic geniuses can Executive Produce a show that everyone (and I mean everyone) loves to be a part of. They never have trouble crewing up.

What is our typical day? Aren't any really, ...It's kind of like "Seinfeld": not about anything, but stuff just happens. Hey, I think we should do a show about us. We've certainly got enough material. Oh, wait a minute... two male writers and Sally/Lana... that would be "The Dick Van Dyke Show". Yeah, well, worked once...

Lana Lewis

By the way, I keep Ken and David's discarded jokes. They're $10 each or 10 for $75."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tell Me You Love Me


There is a new must-see show on HBO called TELL ME YOU LOVE ME.

The Cheap Thrills Club, of course, is all of us men who are happy in our relationships yet enjoy the occasional late night cable adult fare and other forms of acceptable behavior like ogling women who wouldn’t go to bed with us even if we were single, younger, and had Steve Jobs’ money. It’s a pathetic club but the newsletters are informative and we give twelve dollar a year to charity.

If you watch REAL SEX on HBO and actually sit through those horrible flabby hippie couples learning intimacy segments or the feature on Tupperware sex toys you are a member of the Cheap Thrills Club. If you signed up for SHOWTIME specifically to get CALIFORNICATION you’re not just in the club, you’re eligible for an intervention.

Club staples are CINEMAX AFTER DARK, that Nevada brothel show on HBO, the SI swimsuit issue, and Soledad O’Brien on CNN.

And now comes TELL ME YOU LOVE YOU. No spoiler alert necessary because (a) nothing happens, and (b) what do you care anyway?

This show is getting big hype and it’s not because audiences are clamoring to see dreary relationships and marriages that are in big trouble. They have that at home. No, folks are tuning in for the sex.

And it was good sex. Not enough of course. There are scenes where people are talking – blah blah they’re not happy – blah blah they have issues. Don’t need ‘em. The way you really learn about people, who they are, and what they believe in is to watch them masturbate. Therapy session scenes are boring and sketchy. We don’t want a character “telling” us her problems, we want to discover them ourselves watching her receive the most realistic simulated sex ever on cable. If we can freeze frame the picture and say, “Doesn’t that look like the space craft and lunar module have actually docked?” then we as an audience can get a deeper understanding into the true nature and uniqueness of her character.

However, there were some things about the show I must say did take me out of the moment. Watching Sonya Walger get laid I kept thinking, “Oh no! That’s Penny from LOST! How could she do that to Desmond?” And, “Who cares if she gets pregnant? Is she behind that new group of invaders to the island?”

Also distracting: Sonya’s gynecologist had an examining room with a view. Seems to me a lot of men in the high rise across the way would be spending a good part of the work day peering through binoculars.

But I’ll be back next week. The Cheap Thrills Club might even hold weekly meetings to coincide with airings. TELL ME YOU LOVE ME has everything its sad membership could want – hot sex, super attractive people unhappy and disillusioned (boo hoo, Calvin Klein models), and decent lighting. Now if they could just get Soledad O’Brien to guest as a former nun who is horny and longing to catch up on all the time she’s missed.

Tomorrow: Our assistant Lana shares her version of working with us.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

High School Musical 3

How’s this for the plot of the upcoming HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3? A nude picture of Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) is discovered by evil-bitch-future-CAA-agent, Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and her weasel brother-future-network-director-of-comedy, Ryan (Lucas Grabeel). Song: “You Learn a Lot About People by Going Through Their Purse”.

Sharpay is very aroused by the naked photo. Ryan is not. Both realize they’re gay. They’re relieved and break off their own budding romance. They sing a big duet: “Incest & Peppermint”.

Stick with me here.

Sharpay also ends her affair with Troy’s dad, the basketball coach realizing it’s wrong to sleep with an older man, much less a teacher when she’s now into quail. And she’s not even in his class.

Ryan joins the basketball team. Shower room production number: “Get’cha Game in the Head”. He’s a good player but tends to get holding calls, even while opponents are shooting free throws,

Meanwhile, Troy (Zac Efron) is on vacation at the one ski lodge that has an indoor basketball court ('Dennis Rodman’s Alpine Inn') and meets fellow vacationer, Jordan Sparkes (fresh off her American Idol tour even though it’s been over for months). They sing a duet together on karaoke night. “In Ten Years We’ll Be Playing Branson.”

Still not over the incredibly insane coincidence that after meeting Gabriella similarly in a ski lodge and a week later, out of all the high schools and cities in the world she could have transferred to, she transferred to his, Troy is shocked when Jordan transfers there as well. They sing a duet about it: “Tweeners Are Too Dumb to Care”.

Sharpay (named after a French felt pen) befriends Gabriella and invites her up to her room where she proudly shows off her extensive headless Barbie collection. Hoping to entice the dark young beauty, Sharpay casually leaves around a few nude photos of herself but Gabriella is creeped out because the shots also include her nude brother, Ryan.

Now Gabriella, Jordan, and Ryan want to star in the high school musical with Troy. Sharpay wants to star with Gabriella, or even Jordan. Ryan wants to star with Troy, his dad, or the back-up center with the soulful eyes. Jordan wants to star in CHICAGO on Broadway.

Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed), the Drama teacher, is still in hot water with the school board since last year's musical was PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and the chandelier that hovers over the audience during the opening number snapped killing eleven people. This year no ninth graders are on the tech crew.

Gabriella finally rejects Sharpay’s advances in an emotional number called “Why Would I Want a Strap-on When I Can Have the Real Thing?

Sharpay decides to exact revenge and releases the nude photo of Gabriella on the internet. But her plan backfires when not a single boy in the entire school is the least bit aroused.

Big final dance number as every student in East High gets scholarships to Emerson College and Troy learns that Sharpay is his new stepmother.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Presenting Levine's Laws

Listeners of my Seattle Mariners broadcasts are familiar with Levine's Law. It is, simply stated:

The lead off walk will always come around to score...unless it doesn't.

I have NEVER been proven wrong. But it's not my only law. Here are a few others. I imagine you have some too and you're welcome to share them.

Parking toll attendants at LAX are the slowest and dimmest people on the planet. They make postal clerk look like an Indy 500 pit crew.

No pregnant woman looks good in a bikini.

There are more New York cab drivers who speak English than all the night nurses in all metropolitan hospitals combined.

There is not one mohel who doesn’t think he’s a comedian. There is not one mohel who is right.

If a waiter doesn’t write down your order he will get it wrong.

If you’re telling a joke in a restaurant the waiter will arrive and interrupt the minute you get to the punch line.

There will always be one young couple that brings a baby to a slasher movie.

A hostess in an empty restaurant will always lead you to the worst table.

In every article that mentions you, no matter how complimentary the article, there will always be one thing said or misquoted that will prevent you from Xeroxing and sending it to your family.

The heavier and more cumbersome your carry-on luggage, the farther your gate will be from the terminal.

Networks will always say they want cutting edge new shows then pick up whatever pilot Paula Marshall is in.

When a hostess tells you it’ll only be five more minutes, they just have to clear off some tables – it’ll be twenty.

The minute you begin eating on an airplane, turbulence will begin.

When a couple from the mainland gets married in Hawaii the marriage doesn’t last.

Theatre audiences will always boo a Rob Schneider trailer yet he will keep getting movies.

Nine out of ten tourists at Disneyland are overweight. Ten out of ten if they stay two days.

The screw up because the hospital forgot to bill the correct insurer will never ever ever be resolved.

Women will always claim the number one thing they’re looking for in a man is a sense of humor and then pick the best looking guy.

The driver in front of you is an idiot.

Tomorrow: The nude photo of Vanessa Anne Hudgens that is making the rounds on the internet has inspired me to come up with the perfect storyline for HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3.