Wednesday, April 30, 2008

AMERICAN IDOL: Top 5 Hey hey Paula!

This was the greatest night of AMERICAN IDOL ever!!!

Paula Abdul actually critiqued Jason Castro’s second song EVEN BEFORE HE SANG IT! And she had SPECIFICS!! This proves two things: Paula Abdul’s brain is not as highly developed as a mollusk's. And two, the judges watch the dress rehearsal and in many cases formulate their spontaneous opinions beforehand.

But offering a DETAILED critique of a performance not yet given... in front of thirty million people? What a colossal embarrassment. And an instant television classic. Let’s face it, it’s finally time for AMERICAN IDOL’S producers to think about replacing her. I hear Miss South Carolina is available.

This was Neil Diamond night and my heart went out to the contestants. How can you possibly do a memorable performance when you have to sing lyrics like “And no one heard at all, not even the chair”?

I knew we were in for an evening of hilarity right off the bat when Ryan narrated that puff piece on Diamond and actually said, “One of his greatest successes came from the movie THE JAZZ SINGER”. I almost fell off the couch. The remake of THE JAZZ SINGER is a legendary Hollywood trainwreck. Neil Diamond, who has never acted, and was 39 at the time, played an adolescent. There’s a scene in which he sings in blackface. It was a movie that not only killed his feature career along with Lucie Arnaz’s. It almost finished off Sir Laurence Olivier’s as well. Yes, one of Mr. Diamond’s “greatest successes”.

As a mentor I thought he was good with the kids although some of his advice was less than helpful. He suggested that Brooke White change a lyric from “I’m New York City born” to “I’m Arizona born” since that’s where she hails from. So she did. But then the next line made no sense – “I’m lost between two shores”. What east coast ocean does Arizona border? Paula? Do you know that one?

Each contestant sang two numbers. One in the first half hour, one in the second (except for Jason Castro who in Paula’s mind sang two in the first half hour and can fly).

Jason did a passable version of “Forever in Blue Jeans” and slaughtered “September Morn”. Why is he wasting his time trying to be a professional singer when he has such a bright career ahead of him as Lisa Edelstein?

David Cook sang two Neil Diamond songs I never heard of. I think they were from Neil’s “Hot August Night—I’m wearing pirate shirts now” era.

Brooke White sang both of her songs in one take. And for the second she resorted to her Steinway crutch. My problem with Brooke now is that at any minute I expect her to have a complete breakdown. Do you want your next American Idol to be strapped to her bed for her own safety?

David Archuleta sang “Sweet Caroline” but as any Boston Red Sox fan KNOWS, you pause for the “oh oh oh’s” and “So good, so good, so good’s”. Otherwise, why on God's green earth would ANYBODY sing that song? Then he did “America” wisely choosing that one over “Crunchy Granola Suite”.

Syesha Mercado wore a hot purple dress this week. I hope it’s enough.

But no one will remember the performances. All anyone will be talking about is Paula Abdul and that incisive critique of a song that no one heard. Not even the chair.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No Forgetting PAULA Marshall...

You know it's pilot season when...

(from Wednesday's Hollywood Reporter:)

Jay Mohr, PAULA MARSHALL and Jaime King have been tapped to star in CBS' untitled Ed Yeager comedy pilot.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My boyfriend looks just like a movie star!

One of the staples of romcom is mistaken identity. Comedy comes from the confusion of someone either posing as someone else or someone believing somebody is somebody else. When you watch and hopefully enjoy these farces do you ever think to yourself, “Oh, this could never happen in real life”?

Well here’s one that really did happen. Just last Wednesday, in that always crazy kooky town of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A guy and his girlfriend were watching a porno movie at 10:30 in the morning in their house. (A far better alternative than THE VIEW). The girl, 20 year old Amanda Moya (pictured above) suddenly thought a certain porn actor who had just entered the scene was in fact her boyfriend. (Wouldn’t he have to resemble the actor in two ways? But I digress.)

She want bat-shit. This is the kind of "previous experience" she must have felt he was obliged to reveal before they moved in together...and had a kid.

Amanda grabbed a large kitchen knife and started chasing him around the house. The terrified look-alike called 911 on his cell as he dodged his knife-wielding beloved.

Wearing only shorts he bolted out of the house and ran down the street for his life, still on line with 911. Meanwhile Amanda followed, hell bent to go all Benihana on him.

He breathlessly told the dispatcher that Amanda had already stabbed him and bitten him on his chest. And then he offered, “She already has battery charges against her. She’s not even supposed to be around me.” (Quick reminder: they live together. And have a child.)

The 911 operator told him to get to a store while she called authorities. (How come you never see this high-speed chase on COPS?) Amanda, with thoughts I'm sure of becoming the next Lorena Bobbitt, remained in hot pursuit.

The victim tells the dispatcher that he sees the arriving cops. But he’s worried they'll just keep heading to his house. The dispatcher says, “Do they see your girlfriend?” He says, “Yes!” She says be sure to point her out. (A crazed woman waving the O.J.-weapon-of-choice isn’t enough to catch a policeman’s attention?)

Amanda was arrested and charged with aggravated assault & battery. Sometimes a happier ending than guy-gets-the-girl is cops-get-the girl.

Watch your local listings. Scheduled for next summer release: SLICE OF LOVE starring Lindsay Lohan, and introducing Rock Hard.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mosh pit roll call: Buffy, Muffy, Duffy, and Tippy...

How’d you like to be in the mosh pit during an AMERICAN IDOL taping? It’s easy! All you have to do is be a hot coed, get accepted to UCLA or USC, and join a sorority. And you thought all girls in Southern California were blond, beautiful, and swayed in unison.

The show’s producers recruit these sororities. They further orchestrate things by placing the most attractive girls in camera view, instructing them to clap with their hands over their heads (otherwise America doesn’t know they’re appreciative), and choreographing their swaying back and forth.

The New York Times recently blew the lid off this shocking story.

AMERICAN IDOL was accused or almost trying to script the audience’s reaction. How dare they?! But the truth is…


There is always a warm-up guy who instructs the audience to be lively, clap loudly, and in the case of a comedy, laugh like an blithering idiot whether you think something is funny or not. And then laugh again just as hard the second or third time when the scene is re-shot. I can think of a couple of shows where the audience members deserve more pay than the actors.

Some sitcoms tell the audience not to applaud when cast members enter scenes for the first time. It takes the viewer out of the "reality" of the story. Other shows encourage it. They want to send the message that you must be watching comic geniuses if they receive that kind of adoration. Watch an old episode of THE JEFFERSONS. The crowd goes bat-shit when neighbor Bentley enters a scene.

On CHEERS we also asked the audience not to go “Awwwwwww” during heartfelt moments or whoop (for any reason). Other series even add "Awwwww's" -- usually whenever there's a cute kid and a puppy in the same scene and comic savior Urkel is nowhere to be found.

Remember that tickets to television tapings are free. So if they ask that you laugh or don't boo when Jason Castro mangles "Itsy Bitsy Spider" it's a small price to pay. And when I was doing the warm-up for CHEERS I could kick myself that I didn't think of that sorority angle.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I've moved to LA. Now what??? Advice for writers

From time to time I get questions from aspiring writers who have thrown all their belongings into their car or rented truck and have made the big move to LA.

QUESTION: I will obviously have to take another job. The best jobs would seem to me to be production assistant (watching a show get made from the inside) and writers assistant (working with someone who knows what they're doing). How do I start looking for work in these areas?

ANSWER: First off, it helps to know somebody. ANYBODY. This is the automatic answer to any question involving industry employment. Don’t sleep with anyone to get one of these jobs. Having to get sandwiches for them is demoralizing enough. Short of a connection, write to every show and offer your services. Write to the production companies and networks too. Find out what writer/producers have development deals. They may need assistants. Do a little homework. Who went to your college? Who’s from your hometown? Who got drunk and sang “My Heart Will Go On” in a karaoke bar one night? Shows start staffing around the beginning of June. New ones are the best. You’re not competing with any returnees.

QUESTION: I'm working under the assumption that PA and WA jobs are entry level. Is this correct? What skills should I emphasize for these jobs?

ANSWER: You are correct. As entry as can be. The pay scale was set by the Triangle Shirt Factory in 1911. For Writers Assistant positions you must be very proficient in computers, can type like the wind, and can hold your tongue when you hear morons less talented than you pitch jokes that people on laughing gas wouldn’t chuckle at. For a Production Assistant -- have a car.

QUESTION: What does a writers resume look like?

ANSWER: There isn’t any standard format that I know of. I think Kinkos provides a few sample templates although they may insist you xerox a thousand copies before they’ll let you see them. It’s pretty basic. List pertinent information. What you’ve written, educational background, any awards, previous experience that might be impressive. Leave out hobbies and special skills. You’re not an actor. We don’t give a shit that you can fence, yodel, or ride a horse.

QUESTION: What other jobs might you recommend that might help me as a developing writer?

ANSWER: A script reader, providing coverage for a studio. Interning at a studio or network in their development or current departments. Mailroom in a talent agency (the Guantanamo prison of show biz). Personal assistant to a writer (if a writer can afford a personal assistant he’s probably somebody and helpless). Network page. Dialogue coach.

QUESTION: Where could I go to get an unbiased critique?

ANSWER: It’s not a question of whether the reader is unbiased. It’s whether he knows a good script from GIGLI. Writing instructors often are a good source. Or fellow writers whose opinions you trust. I’d avoid the folks who want to charge you to critique your script. They’re usually bad writers with gambling debts.

QUESTION: Are there any contests, competitions etc. that you consider legit? For example if you were considering hiring a new writer what contest could they have under their belt which might make you inclined to give them a thumbs up?

ANSWER: A Heisman Trophy. Actually, there’s no one contest that is the Pulitzer of specs. But any competition you win or place highly in is a plus… except maybe PROJECT GREENLIGHT. Winning the Diane Thomas Award from UCLA is pretty big stuff. You would certainly get agent consideration by acing one of these competitions. And whatever prize or bowling trophy you get is keen. If you win a playwrighting contest you might get the benefit of a reading or staged production of your work. That’s way more valuable than a plaque. But ultimately it’s your spec script that is going to sell you.

QUESTION: If I can’t get an entry level job in the industry what are the best jobs to get?

ANSWER: Assuming that while you work you’re going to continue writing specs you need a job that pays enough to live on (duh) and you don’t take home with you after your shift. If you’re writing with a partner you obviously have to coordinate your schedules. Get a gig at Starbucks so you can walk around and see what everyone else is writing. Work at an LAX parking toll booth. That way you only have to use .000001% of your brain. I taught idiots how to be disc jockeys at a Broadcasting School. What a jerk-off job that was. But I was done everyday at 6. And no weekends. The students needed that time to memorize how to announce weather forecasts.

QUESTION: There are sometimes ads looking for screenwriters. Is that something worth pursuing?

ANSWER: I say beware. Usually these are not WGA signatories which means you get screwed. The pay is crap, you have no rights or protection, you’ll work like a galley slave, and chances are the movie will never get made. I know it’s tempting and you’d rather get a job using your skills than putting on a straw hat and serving "cups of dirt" at TGI Fridays, but trust me, your writing time will be better spent crafting a spec, which, if it sells, will pay infinitely more than some laundry magnate’s pet project on the man who invented Sanforizing.

We all have to start somewhere. At times it’s confusing, exasperating, demeaning, and depressing. But when you make it you will look back nostalgically at that period as one of the best of your lives. And for me there’s the added glow that I contributed so much to radio.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I guarantee you will laugh at this scene!

I had the good fortune to direct this episode of FRASIER, called ROZ & THE SCHNOZ. It was brilliantly written by Jeffrey Richman.

The premise: Roz is pregnant and meets the father's parents (played to perfection by Kevin Kilner and Jordan Baker). She is horrified to learn they both have huge noses. Will her baby have one too? This is the dinner party scene when everyone arrives and gets their first look.

There are times when it appears the actors are about to lose it. Those moments are real. David and Jane especially.

It was a tricky scene to stage, finding different ways to do the reveal as each character entered. But at the end of the day I couldn't be happier with the results. I think this is one of those rare scenes where you can watch it over and over again and laugh every single time.

Enjoy. I know you will.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Guy is jilted and goes on vacation to tropical paradise. Once there, guy finds the woman who jilted him is staying right next door. Guy hooks up with another woman. Awkward scene as the two couples have dinner together. Guy fakes having loud wild sex to make the jilt-ee jealous.

These are scenes from FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL now playing in a theater near you.

They are also scenes from the two-part FRASIER episode “Adventures in Paradise” written by David Isaacs and me fourteen years ago (now playing on a cable channel near you).

That said, FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL had several funny Judd Apatow moments and even though the story was paper-thin and it looked like they filmed this “Hawaii” movie in Oxnard I still found it to be a very serviceable romcom (which by today's romcom yardstick is a rave).

The TV spoofs and the “opera” scenes alone are worth the price of (first-showing matinee) admission.

But one thing we didn’t do on FRASIER was have Kelsey Grammer show his willy.

Jason Segal showed his though in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. Several times. There are many euphemisms for penis. You can add one more -- Nakamora (regulars to this blog know what that means).

According to fifteen interviews I’ve read, producer Judd Apatow has taken it upon himself to shatter this long-standing taboo of full-frontal nudity. I guess every man’s gotta have his own sacred crusade. And that’s fine except in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL I didn’t find it funny. Apatow said that during test screenings the audiences just howled during those scenes. Huh? No one in my audience even laughed.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a good penis joke. The drawings in SUPERBAD were hilarious and how could comedy writing rooms generate humor and self loathing without them? But something happens when you actually see the Full Monty on the screen. The initial reaction tends to be jarring and often times that’s just enough to kill the funny. And when it comes to laughs, size really does matter.

In the movie we wrote, VOLUNTEERS, there’s a scene where Peace Corps supervisor/boy scout/CIA agent John (Tim Thomerson) gives volunteer Beth (Rita Wilson) a small gift to show his affection. We wanted the gift to be a little off-kilter to signal to her that this guy may be a little weird. We discovered that there were these small Burmese statues that had huge penises. The perfect gift from any psychopath.

My partner and I were on hand for some of the editing, watching on a small movieola. There’s a point in that scene where the director had inserted a close-up of the statue. We questioned the wisdom of that. He argued that the audience wouldn’t get the joke if they only saw the statue in a master. Later that week we had a test screening. When this GIANT close-up of a penis filled the entire screen the women in the audience gasped and shrieked. David and I had to leave the theatre we were laughing so hard. Needless to say, the close-up came out.

Did they need to be so explicit in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL? I don't know. Maybe I saw it with an audience of Quakers. For all I know Jason Segal's penis tested better than he did. (I'm sure it tested better than Kristen Bell.) What did you think?

If you loved it, maybe there's time to get Kelsey to do some re-shoots for the DVD re-release.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

KOMEDY KONTEST Semi-finalists

Again, congratulations to Doug McEwan, winner of the Komedy Kontest. Also congratulations to Steve Zeoli, cfang19, jbryant,and the always familiar z5CBuE8Z3PMf0Cc6FPnMApMnke0 for making the finals.

These are the other entries the judge liked and considered very seriously. Getting it down to five was a bitch. I’m sure I’m going to receive a few comments saying “this one” or “that one” was better than any of the five finalists but remember, this is all subjective. It’s the opinion of one person (granted, a highly regarded professional but still, just one person).
I post these to show that there were a lot of great entries. And again, my thanks to all who contributed.


Danny had such a fear of commitment that he….

…revealed on the third date his plans for a Star Wars/Start Trek/He-Man themed wedding (ladies choice)

… just had his 13th sex change operation.

…abandoned every blog comment before fini...

...began his prayers with "To whom it may concern..."

... had "Whatsername" tattooed on his bicep.

... changed his name to Undecided Voter and moved to a purple state.

… signed his love letters “anonymous”.

...only dated Alzheimer's patients.

...booked his honeymoon flight on American Airlines.

... would only watch new TV Series starring Jason Alexander.

…refused to take his parents' name.

…only dated fictional characters.

…was never married to the mob, they just kinda hung out together.

...was murdered by customers behind him at Baskin-Robbins.

…only dated women on death row.

…refuses to read "Us" Magazine.

...only eats waffles.

...spends every Tuesday night dialing 1-877-IDOLS-ALL.

…named his cat "we'll see how it goes"

... would say, "I'm seeing someone else" if he was stranded with a blond on a desert island.

…only yells “NO DEAL” at the T.V.

…never took the wheels off of his trailer house.

…could crash weddings to cure his hiccups.

...said "Runaway Bride" was his favorite movie.

...made his outgoing answering machine recording a break-up message.

…dated only the skinniest pale women in the crackhouse.

...stopped eating cereal because every box claimed "some settling may occur".

…keeps introducing Marcy as his first wife.

…was recently featured on the program "Switzerland's Most Wanted."

…broke up with his speed dates before the 8-minute buzzer.

... got married but still lives with his parents.


Professional comedy writer Lenny Ripps was given this same assignment. Here's his response. (Lenny was not the judge, by the way).

Danny had such a fear of commitment that his bathroom towels were labeled "His" and "Whores".


If AMERICAN IDOL is all about people trying to make a name for themselves by covering other artists’ work, then who better than Andrew Lloyd Webber to be this week’s celebrity mentor?

In general I thought this was one of the better weeks, which is usually the case when the contestants have to sing songs with real melodies. Okay, a lot of the notes were lifted from Giacomo Puccini but still, they were actual compositions (as opposed to last week’s screechfest).

Jason Castro didn’t know “Memory” was sung on stage by a cat. I guess the fact that it was from the musical CATS wasn’t enough of a clue for him. What a complete moron. He sang the song not as a cat but as roadkill. Could be going home this week to resume his career as a village idiot.

But Syesha Mercado – hubba hubba!! I’ve never been a fan before but zowie – the slinky red cocktail dress, the sultry moves – I loved her. She dirtys up well. Syesha sang “One Rock n’ Roll Too Many” and clearly she has a future in musical theatre. She’d be great as Dorothy in THE WIZ or Gary Coleman in AVENUE Q.

Brooke White’s schtick is that she makes every song so personal, which is why I laughed for five minutes when Sir Andew listened to her rehearse and said “she didn’t have a clue as to what she was singing about.” For the second time in the competition Brooke had a false start and had to begin again. It was one of the few reminders that this was live. But I fear it may cost her. America likes its spontaneity polished and rehearsed. She sang “You Must Love Me”. I think with Webber’s help she finally understood that the true meaning of this song is a desperate plea for votes.

David Archuleta sang “Think of Me” from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, making it his own – and by that I mean turning it into “Beauty and the Beast”. It’s a song normally sung by a woman but we may find out in ten years that it was.

I loved Carly Smithson’s version of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. The key to her staying in the competition is not letting her scary tattooed-covered skinhead husband get on camera. Remember, the kids are voting for AMERICAN IDOL not AMERICAN PSYCHO.

And finally, David Cook did a mesmerizing version of “Music of the Night” from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. He sang it pretty much like Michael Crawford but since no one who votes knows who the hell Michael Crawford is, or PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, or Andrew Lloyd Webber, or Puccini, or EVITA, or maybe even Jesus Christ (although that could just be Jason Castro), I’m sure they felt David’s version was original.

All in all, good performances and no one sang DON’T CRY FOR ME, ARGENTINA. I don't think I could ask for anything more...okay, maybe a Syesha wardrobe malfunction. But that's just me.

Below is the winner of the KOMEDY KONTEST. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


... Doug McEwan

... whose entry in the KOMEDY KONTEST received the most votes.


B...told his mother he "Wanted to see other moms."

Also kongrats to the other four finalists -- Steve Zeoli, cfang19, spike,and z5CBuE8Z3PMf0Cc6FPnMApMnke0. All the entries got a lot of votes. Even E.

A signed AfterMASH script is on its way to you Doug. Perfect for starting that AfterMASH shrine in your home.

Tomorrow I will post all the semi-finalist entries (along with a bonus). Thanks to everybody for participating. This has been a real fun experiment.

Rats jumping sinking ships for other sinking ships

The big industry story at the moment is the insane musical chairs going on between agents and big name agencies. Now that there are so few that it’s hard to merge, the next best thing is to poach each other.

So game on! It’s like Hollywood’s version of “Sadie Hawkins Day”.

Particularly vulnerable is UTA. Rumors abound that their star agents are defecting to other tenpercentaries. Other rumors say that no one is leaving. Anyone who believes those rumors also believes that David Spade can still open a movie.

So if you’re sending a script to an agent this week better play it safe. Make five copies and send it to him at CAA, William Morris, Endeavor, ICM, and UTA. And just for good measure, make five more and send them to CBS, NBC, Fox, HBO, and the New England Patriots (one reliable source says a UTA agent has been traded to the Pats for their third pick in today’s draft).

What this all means is this: Now when I call my agency not only will they not who I am, they won’t know who my agent is either.

I love this town!

Winner of the Komedy Kontest and my AMERICAN IDOL recap follows late tonight.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Me and my good buddy Jackie Chan

Last day to vote in the Komedy Kontest. And you don't have to be from Pennsylvania either.

When you think of Dodgers and "Jackie" only one name comes to mind.

Jackie Chan.

Recently Jackie Chan threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium. Beforehand I interviewed him briefly. It was supposed to be an intimate one-on-one. Instead it became a rather crazed sixty-on-one. A hundred Asian media people surrounded us with microphones and TV cameras. I was probably on Beijing Eyewitness News. Except, now that I think about it, my questions were rather bizarre. I imagine these reporters listening back to the interview going "Huh???" This was recorded down on the field and at one point security people moved us all, adding yet another element of goofiness.

This aired on our KABC Sunday night show followed by a brief discussion imaging how Jackie might fit into a baseball-themed movie. I came up with four possible titles.


He's a good guy. A real good sport (considering my questions). And I could easily see him as Lou Gehrig.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Names in scripts

Only two more days to vote in the Komedy Kontest. AMERICAN IDOL gets 30,000,000 votes a week. I'm hoping for twice that many. Okay...I'm hoping for a few hundred.
One of the hardest tasks in any script is coming up with names. They have to sound right, fit the character’s personality and ethnicity. Every writer has a different method for coming up with them. Woody Allen uses names that are as short as possible so he has less to type. For David and I, we tend to use either baseball player names or personal friends.

On MASH we had the added problem of all the patients that rotated in and out of the 4077th. For the seventh season we just used the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers roster. When you watch those shows you’ll find private Garvey, Cey, Russell, Sutton, Rau, Rhoden, etc. By the end of the season we were down to coaches, announcers (Scully), and even the owner, O’Malley. The year before we had an episode with four Marine patients. They were the then-Angels infield (Chalk, Grich, Remy, Solita). We once wrote a movie about a Club Med being held hostage and maturely used the entire 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates roster.

We also use the names of personal friends. For the “Dancin’ Homer” episode of THE SIMPSONS the minor league announcer (voiced by me) was named Dan Hoard (pictured left), my broadcasting partner in Syracuse. The major league spieler was Dave Glass, my partner in Tidewater (former San Francisco Giant announcer and now mayor of Petaluma.) The Capital City owner who fires Homer was “Dave Rosenfield”, my GM at Tidewater.

In the “Point of View” episode of MASH, the central patient is named “Bobby Rich”. Bobby is a radio personality who hired me in San Diego and is now in Tucson (pictured right). General “Dean Goss” is another former radio chum. For many years he was a morning man at KFRC in San Francisco. The blind patient Hawkeye befriended in “Out of Sight/Out of Mind” was “Tom Straw”, a friend from high school who became a TV writer himself (NIGHT COURT, GRACE UNDER FIRE, THE COSBY SHOW, CRAIG FERGUSON SHOW).

Radar’s girlfriend in “Goodbye Radar” was “Patty Haven”, my former girlfriend. In an earlier episode he was sweet on nurse “Linda Nugent”, a girl I was sweet on in high school. Radar had better luck than I did.

Maybe the happiest married couple I know is Bill & Sherry Grand. So naturally when we needed a couple on CHEERS with a marriage so bad the husband tried to end it in murder we gave them the names “Bill & Sherry Grand”.

Many other writers use this device as well. Scully from X-Files was named for Vin Scully. When she left the show he was replaced by Doggett. Jerry Doggett was Vin Scully’s broadcast partner on the Dodgers.

There was a writing team, Gloria Banta and Pat Nardo who wrote for MTM in the halcyon days. When the producers moved on to TAXI two characters were named Elaine Nardo and Tony Banta. I’m sure there are thousands of other examples. 24 has named various bad guys after network and studio executives.

One time this practice backfired on us. David and I were rewriting MANNEQUIN 2 (believe it or not, the first draft was not perfect). There was a security guard named Andy. We had to give him a last name and since we didn’t want to spend the entire afternoon coming up with one (okay…five minutes) we just used Ackerman. Andy Ackerman is a long time colleague and director (CHEERS, SEINFELD, BECKER, and every pilot that Jim Burrows doesn’t direct). Unfortunately, in later rewrites the character became even more of a complete idiot and the name Andy Ackerman stuck. Ooops. Thank God no one ever saw the movie! And we learned our lesson. Anytime we have a character now who’s going to be a goof we go right to the Clippers roster.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More Mary Tyler

Voting continues for the Komedy Kontest. The fate of an AfterMASH script might depend on YOU.

Thanks to all who liked the scene I posted a few weeks ago from the MARY pilot David and I wrote and unfortunately got on the air in 1985. Here's that post. For those who requested more, here’s another scene. For anyone writing a spec pilot it gives you an example of how to set up characters.

As a refresher, the premise was that Mary (as in Tyler Moore) was a high class fashion writer whose magazine folded. She winds up working at a sleazy Chicago tabloid. This is the scene right after she accepts the job. Tully is a legally blind copy editor. David Byrd plays him. Katey Segal plays Jo Tucker, a Fran Liebowitz type columnist, and John Astin is theatre critic Ed LaSalle.



This will be your desk.


What do I do for privacy?

Go home at night.

Who has the desk facing me?

Jo Tucker. Good luck.


You’ll need it.

Jo Tucker…isn’t he that nasty bitter man who writes the “Main Line Chicago” column?


Yes, I am.

You’re Jo Tucker?

Yes, and I don’t like being called bitter. I prefer…macho. So, you’re going to do the Help Line – solving problems for Chicagoland’s great unwashed. (THEN) You’re not going to keep little stuffed Care Bears on your desk, are you?

I’m only here until something better comes along. (TO HERSELF) Like a job in a limestone quarry.



No. I don’t smoke.

Might as well. You’re going to die sitting across from me.


Ed LaSalle.


(SHE DOESN’T) Hello…Mary Brenner.

Ed LaSalle.

Mary Brenner.

Just wanted to welcome you aboard, Mary Brenner. I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life. The Second City. The Windy City. The Big Shoulders. Hog Butcher to the World. Chi-town, my town. You’re going to love it here.

I’m from here.


(IMPATIENT) The theatre critic.

Oh. Of course.

You like theatre, Mary Brenner?

Yes, yes I do.

There’s a lot of great theatre in this town.


Never saw it.

Oh. How about “Dreamgirls”…?

Uh-uh. Mary Brenner, that’s all commercial pap. I cover the real theatre. Chicago’s theatre. Daring, experimental, the raw side of life. Emotions stripped bare. The refuse of the human condition that can be rated on a scale of one to ten. You know what’s the worst part of being a critic, Mary Brenner?


No. Most nights I have no one to accompany me. Are you married?


How come you aren’t wearing a wedding band, Mary Brenner?

Well, I’m not…technically married.

Then, it’s the Big D.

Well, yes.

(LEANS IN CLOSE) Good. Then, it looks like you are going to be (POINTEDLY) “steppin’ out with Ed LaSalle”.

Well…maybe. We’ll see.

Steppin’ out with Ed LaSalle.


Steppin’ Ou ---

That’s the name of his column.

Thank you. (TO ED) And a very clever name it is.

If you need any help in naming your column…

I know where to come, thanks.


I don’t suppose I could ask you –

Not if it would end world hunger. I like to smoke. Y’see, by nature I’m a very private person. I don’t care for people or things much, so I keep to myself… mostly in my apartment. It’s a rather dull existence. (HOLDING UP CIGARETTE) So these give me that chance to live life on the edge.

Have you ever tried cyclamates?


13 and out – which should be the name of our production company.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Here they are, the five finalists. The judge said it was verrrry hard narrowing them down and a good fifteen others just missed the cut. Congratulations to those who were nominated. My sincere thanks to everyone for playing. If you were nominated, please email me directly so I can get your contract information.

Now comes the voting. It's up to you Ameria...and the world. Simply leave a comment voting for A, B, C, D, E. This is the only time I'll accept anonymous comments. And please just confine your comments to voting. I don't need any "these all suck, mine was so much better" posts. Remember, this is all in the spirit of fun.

So now, here they are.


A... shouts his own name during sex.

B...told his mother he "Wanted to see other moms."

C...listed his actual salary on

D...was fired from the video store for stocking "Four Weddings and a Funeral" under "horror".

E...that he only dated Iraqi female suicide bombers.

The polls are open! Voting ends at 11:59 PM PDT on Tuesday night April 22. One vote per comment. Again, many thanks to all who participating. Remember, the prize is spectacular (a signed AfterMASH script) so take great care in your voting.

Addendum: Very interesting reaction to E. Most people think it's in poor taste. And a few have voted for it. It certainly is not politically correct. On the other hand, comedy is sometime very subversive, risky, and even offensive. So in a strange way I'm glad that E. is there. You don't have to vote for it (and clearly many of you are not) but I like that there's a wide range of styles and tones. If I had received 600 variations of the same line it wouldn't be any fun. This might be a great topic for debate in a later post.

Komedy Kontest update

The five finalists will be announced later tonight.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


As a kid I used to love animated movies. Of course, in those days that primarily meant Disney… with the occasional full-length Mr. Magoo. That all changed when I had kids. After THE LITTLE MERMAID seemed to revive the genre there was a glut of animated features and I schlepped my kids to see many a RAINBOW BRIGHT and LAST UNICORN. They better not say bad things about me to their therapists EVER!!

Now it takes Pixar, great reviews, or the assurance that Jerry Seinfeld will not be involved to get me in to see a ninety-minute cartoon.

There is one animated film I always heard was great but never got around to seeing. (Okay, I’ll be honest, I never made the effort.) Recently “Ken’s Damn Friend” was praising it, even offering to lend me the DVD. I noticed it was on HBO this week so I set my Tivo. All I can say is “Wow!”

If you haven’t seen THE IRON GIANT you’ve got to check it out. Released in 1999 by Warner Brothers, it was directed by Brad Bird (of THE INCREDIBLES and RATATOUILLE fame) and is as smart, funny, and poignant as his other brilliant features.

Set in 1957 at the height of the Cold War, paranoia, and bad black-and-white science fiction movie craze (scaring the shit out of kids for a total budget of $11.95 per film), THE IRON GIANT tells the deceptively simple story of a giant robot that lands on earth from outer space and is befriended by a little boy. It’s ET, meets SUPERMAN RETURNS meets THE TRANSFORMERS but without the treacle of the first, the Jesus theme of the second, and Michael Bay of the third. Along the way there are the usual great little Brad Bird attention-to-detail touches (like “Duck and Cover” films, the old Maypo cereal commercial, and the kid even looks like Howdy Doody).

You may be saying, “Well, if it’s so good why wasn’t it a big hit?” Because there’s something more frightening than Commies or aliens – the Warner Brothers marketing department. Instead of promoting this gem of a film, the WB marketing idiots put all their time, effort, and money into launching WILD WILD WEST (and we all know how terrific THAT film was).

THE IRON GIANT received a lot of awards, great reviews, even greater exit polls and quickly disappeared. Fortunately Brad Bird has been able to find other work.

So this is my NETFLIX PICK OF THE MONTH (a new feature I just decided to start as I’m typing this) – IRON GIANT. It brings new meaning to “heavy metal”.

Ken Lee

I think my judge now hates me. He/she is going through all the entries. A lot more than he/she thought. Hopes to have the finalists within the next few days. Stay tuned.

Hey, I discovered a song about ME. Some people have names that just lend themselves to song salutes. Sue, Linda, Gloria, Bill, Jim, Sloopy. But rarely are there tunes for "Ken". Until now! Presenting "Ken Lee" (I assume short for LeeVine). And what better time to present it than Mariah Carey week!

And speaking of AMERICAN IDOL (or BULGARIAN IDOL)...

What if these people auditioned for AMERICAN IDOL? How far do you think they’d get?

Bob Dylan
Joe Cocker
David Bowie
Lou Reed
Chris Montez
James Brown
Leonard Cohen
Carole King
Louis Armstrong
Harry Chapin
Natalie Merchant
Sonny Bono
Boy George
Ringo Starr
Neil Young
Jimi Hendrix
Barry Gibbs
Paul Simon
Nina Simone
Olivia Newton-John
Paula Abdul


I’m sure for most of the seven remaining contestants “Mariah Carey Week” was the AMERICAN IDOL equivalent of waterboarding. Good luck being compared to five-octave pop superstar Mariah Carey while having to sing those melody-free overwrought vocal obstacle courses that pass for her songs. Mariah Carey can’t even sing half of those songs herself anymore.

Mariah was there to promote her new album, E = MC2 (as if she had a fucking clue as to what that means). But it was nice to see her serve as mentor. People claim she’s a grand diva but I think they’d change their tune if they heard the terrific, down-to-earth advice she gave those kids based on her own experiences. Too bad those pearls weren’t included in the show. I guess it was due to time constraints but fortunately I happen to know what she said and will report it here.

David Archuleta sang “When You Believe”. Usually he claims every song he sings is deeply personal. I wonder how this one connects to his very soul since it’s from the soundtrack of “the Prince of Egypt” and is a song about the Jewish Passover. David wore leather pants this week. I felt like I was watching a Muppet Babies version of Jim Morrison.

Mariah’s advice: wherever you go insist there is a red carpet walkway with white candles.

Who among us can’t learn from that??

Carly Smithson oversang “Without You”. Yes, she has a big voice but the only time she’s going to sing in front of 40,000 people is when she does the National Anthem at a Padres game.

Mariah’s advice: If your high heels hurt you must insist on being carried. If someone suggests wearing comfortable slippers just say, “I can’t wear flat shoes. My feet repel them.”

I hope you’re taking notes.

Syesha Mercado did a song that could describe her fate this week – “Vanishing”. It was lyrics set to vocal warm-up exercises.

Mariah’s advice: Marry a rich music producer and ride his coattails to the top of the charts then dump him.

Poor Brooke White missed her sister’s wedding. If only it was this Saturday I think she could make it. Brooke was completely over matched singing “Hero”. Even her patented bag of tricks (piano, frizzy hair, barefoot) might not save her now.

Mariah’s advice: Insist of twenty humidifiers in your bedroom.

And the added benefit of that is no one will ever again know if you wet your bed.

Kristy Lee Cook sang “Forever”. Another forgettable performance by the Eve Harrington of this year’s batch.

Mariah’s advice: If you have to fly from LA to New York and your dog is too big to fit in a first class seat, have him driven 3,000 miles across the country in a rented stretch limousine.

That’s just common sense of course, but it bears repeating.

David Cook stole the show and possibly the season with his powerful and unique version of “Always Be My Baby”. And Paula gave him the ultimate compliment. She said, “That could be in a movie soundtrack.” No wonder David was so choked up he almost cried. A real movie soundtrack! Wow!!!

Mariah’s advice: If you stay in a hotel, always rent fifteen rooms.

That’s 300 humidifiers if you’re not keeping count.

And finally there was Jason Castro. Awful as usual. The guy just does not have the vocal chops. It was like when Marlon Brando had to sing in GUYS AND DOLLS. And yet, Simon loves him for some reason.

Mariah’s advice: Marry Simon and ride his coattails to the top of the charts then dump him.

Tonight Mariah is going to sing live – either on stage or on Randy’s shoulders depending on how her high heels feel.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Blogging can KILL!!

AMERICAN IDOL recap will appear late tonight.

Wow! Thanks to all of you who entered the Komedy Kontest. Over the next few days the judge will be going through all of the entries. It won’t be an easy job narrowing them to five because there were quite a few terrific ones. And a few that were a real cry for help. Keep checking for the announcement of finalists and your chance to vote. Thanks again, everybody. And no, David Isaacs is not the judge.

Every so often I’ll get a comment blasting me for misspelling, bad grammar, or just a general “you’re an idiot” accusation. That’s okay except you should know I’m tempting DEATH by writing this blog.

Recently a prominent technology blogger had a massive heart attack and died. Exhausted following multiple posts he just collapsed.

Considering there is now something like 20,000,000 bloggers I have to say I don’t like my odds.

Non-bloggers might not appreciate the crushing pressure we’re under to create content. Sure there are other professions that are stress-producing but let’s be realistic. Air traffic controllers get breaks during fog. Fire fighters have days when they’re just washing the truck. There is no rest for bloggers. Every day (or week or month) we must keep feeding the monster. New anecdotes, more advice, fresh tirades, pictures of kitties – it never stops!!!

And yet I shall continue. Call me courageous, fearless, even reckless. But I will never stand down from my comedy watch. And if the inevitable happens I hope readers will remember me for my bravery and dedication and not because I use too many commas.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sitcom room terms

Last day to entry Ken's Komedy Kontest. Go here. 11:59 PM PDT Monday is the deadline. A lot of GREAT ones so far. And may I just say -- some of you people are bizarre. Good luck. And now back to your regularly scheduled post.

You gotta know the lingo. Sitcom writing rooms have their own terms and expressions and if you ever plan on being in one (either by choice or force) you might want to know a few of them. This is the first in a series of posts explaining some of these terms. You’ll also be able to really impress the chicks Friday nights at Bennigan’s.

Callbacks -- Doing a joke based on something already mentioned in the scene.

Hey May – Supposedly from Carl Reiner and the old DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. It’s an act break so great that a husband yells to his wife in the kichen: “Hey, May, you gotta get in here!”

Swinging in on a rope -- A side character enters the screen, delivers a joke, then leaves. We used to do that a lot with Carla on CHEERS. Sam and Diane are having a discussion. She swings in, takes a shot at Diane, and keeps moving.

Button – Final joke of a scene.

Blow -- Same as button but sounds more “street”.

Pipe – Exposition. We had a character on ALMOST PERFECT whose basic function was to come into the room and deliver pipe. So we named her Piper.

Clam -- Overused joke.

Sheboygan – A joke too over-the-top.

B story -- A subplot. Often ensemble shows resort to these to give cast members not involved in the main story something to do in the show and keep them off the writers' backs.

Beats – events that occur in a scene.

House number -- Supposedly from the Norman Lear days. Pitching an idea or joke that’s more of an example than the actual pitch you intend to go in the script. You use it to preface your pitch. It’s a good disclaimer in case everyone in the room thinks it’s a stupid idea and you’re an idiot.

Savers -- Damage control jokes right after your real joke pitch dies a horrible death. It was Johnny Carson's best friend.

Captain Obvious -- Pointing out a problem that even the craft services guy could identify.

Grammar police -- Writers whose only contribution in rewrites is correcting grammar. You want to dangle their participle over a lake of snapping alligators.

Proofer’s Challenge – Some technicality you come across during a rewrite that’s not worth everyone’s time to settle. What food should be on the table? What was the year of that Superbowl? It’s left to the person proofing that night.

Throwing a bone -- Giving an actor a joke because he doesn’t have much to do in a scene or you don’t think he’s very good but have to service him anyway. Usually it's the actor the network forced you to take.

More terms in the next few weeks. But this should get you through the first drink at Bennigan’s.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Traci Lords Family Show

As you continue to enter Ken's Komedy Kontest (Friday's post) here's even more incentive. This is one of the many great perks of being a writer.

Several years ago my partner and I had a pilot deal with a studio. At the time we were told that the networks were looking for “out of the box” ideas and one popular trend was to take real life personalities and create fictional shows around them. (I guess this approach worked sooo well for Bette Midler’s BETTE.) But the more outrageous the personality the better. We said to the studio executives, yeah, but can any of these people act? Guess the network geniuses (now no longer in those jobs, by the way) didn’t think of that. But we said we were willing to at least explore this area.

A few days later they called and said, “Would we be interested in developing a show around Traci Lords?” We thought, really, she wants to do a sitcom? Isn’t that a big come-down from porn? But we were told she was serious so we said, sure, we’ll take a meeting. Why not? How often do we get to meet porn stars without paying?

We cooked up a series idea that would show Traci trying to make it as a legit actress having to deal with the added baggage of her questionable past. We would see her home life, work struggles, “colorful” former co-workers – your typical sitcom world. We would call the series THE TRACI LORDS FAMILY SHOW.

So off we went to meet her, knowing full well no network in their right mind would EVER put on a Traci Lords show. Try selling that to the red states affiliates.

We met her at her manager’s office and to answer the obvious first question – she still looked pretty great. Not smoking hot but she made the transition into legal age very nicely. However, one thing was painfully apparent after two minutes – she was seriously unfunny. And yet, that didn’t stop her from LECTURING us on comedy. As we sat there dumbfounded listening to her drone on and on about what’s funny and what’s not I thought to myself, this is truly the nadir of my career.

I will say, to our credit, that we were quiet, respectful, and at no time did either of us stop her and say, “Excuse me, dear, do we tell YOU how to give a golden shower?”

Alas, we didn’t do the project. I hear she found some other writers. I guess the show didn’t sell.

Oh well. I’m sure she’s now on to procedural drama, explaining forensics to the CSI gang.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Here's a sample of what you'll win...

Entries continue for Ken’s Komedy Kontest (for details click here or scroll down to yesterday’s post). Some pretty good ones. Can you beat them?

For more incentive, here is just a sample from the AfterMASH script YOU COULD WIN!!! Dated Judy 24, 1984, written by Ken Levine & David Isaacs, complete with hard-to-find red cover.
The episode is called “Trials”. Stateside Klinger is on trial for busting out of jail or something.


Potter is on the stand. The Prosecuting Attorney stands before him. He holds a piece of paper for reference.

Colonel Potter, you were the defendant’s company commander in Korea. Is that right?

And never a finer soldier served under me.

When did he first start wearing dresses?

Objection, Your Honor. We are trying Mr. Klinger on his current problems… Not his past ones.

JUDGE (to Potter)
He wore dresses?

Not all the time, Your Honor.

Objection overruled. Mr. Miller, I want to get to know this fellow.

Colonel Potter, this habit of wearing women’s clothing, you didn’t find it odd, or disturbing?

Well, at first I was a bit taken aback… especially the baby-dolls with the poodle slippers… but after some of the other things I saw in Korea, I was think’ about sportin’ a pinafore myself.

ANGLE ON MILDRED (Potter’s wife) and SOON-LEE (Klinger’s wife)

All those dresses I gave away to the church when I could have been helping our boys overseas.

It was an ugly war in so many ways.

According to his service records, during his tour of duty, Mr. Klinger applied to you for a Section eight – i.e., a mental discharge – fifty-seven times. Why was one never granted?

KLINGER’S LAWYER (turning to Klinger)
Fifty-seven times?

A hundred and four, counting Colonel Blake. I loved that man.

The boy wasn’t crazy.

No? Then what was trying to do?

He was just afraid. Besides, I wasn’t about to lose one of my best, most responsible corpsmen.

He once ate a jeep.

KLINGER (jumping up)
I object! That jeep was Army property. You can’t try me for that!

Sit him down.

PROSECUTOR (reading further)
…Picked up by M.P.’s in the Inchon River with a rubber raft that he claimed was going to take him across the Pacific to San Francisco.

A lesser man would have stolen that raft. He signed for it.

He tried to set himself on fire… walked around with an imaginary camel… wet his bed… played with dolls… sent pictures of himself dressed as Rita Hayworth to seven Generals…

You didn’t?!

MULCAHY (leaning in)
He still gets a single rose from General Meachum every Flag Day.

PROSECUTOR (reading on)
…Posed as Moses… a nun... the Statue of Liberty… tried to fly out of Korea on a hang glider made of bamboo poles and canvas?

They never let you forget.

Colonel Potter, didn’t you do anything to curb this unbelievable behavior?

Yes, I did

A moment of silence.


I promoted him.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ken's Komedy Kontest!!!

This is another one of my blog experiments. But one that could be very lucrative to YOU!!

In improv class this week Andy Goldberg came up with a great exercise. (Andy’s book on improv is the gold standard by the way.) He essentially gave us a MATCH GAME question. We then wrote out our answers and compared them. And I thought, “Hey, this would make a great contest!”

So here’s the challenge to you great comedy minds out there – I give you the first part of the sentence and you finish it. File your entries in the comments section. A noted Emmy winning comedy writer (not me) will pick the five finalists. (I won’t divulge who that is so that everyone who doesn’t qualify hates him/her.)

Once I announce the finalists, YOU will vote for the winner.

Enter as often as you like (within reason). They don't have to be Rated G but if the judge goes "Yikes" reading your entry you're pretty much dead. Oh, and this should go without saying but I'll say it anyway -- unless you leave a name your entry will be disqualified. "Anonymous" will not be the winner.

Deadline is 11:59 PM PDT Monday, April 14. That still gives you a day to fill out your taxes.

One final note: Please just enter the kontest and not comment on those who have. As is the case with writers rooms, writers need the freedom to pitch anything without fear of being ridiculed. And sometimes the most off-the-wall pitch is the one that hits a home run. So I have deleted a number of these non-pitches and will continue to if more appear. Come on, people. This is all in the spirit of fun.

"And what do I win?" you say, and "It better be good." Don't worry. It IS. As you know this is a BIG money blog. So I hope you’re sitting down because the winner of Ken’s Komedy Kontest will receive ...(drumroll)

A personally autographed collector’s edition script from AfterMASH!!!!! In mint condition!!!!

I know. How does he do it??

So now, with that amazing prize up for grabs, here is the sentence.

Danny had such a fear of commitment that he __________________ .

Good luck laugh meisters.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Mariah Carey is destroying the world

Oh no!

First the war, then the stock market plummets, Global Warming is shown to be real, the housing market collapses, unemployment skyrockets, and yet none of that has prepared us for the tragedy that has rocked this planet to its very core. It’s hard to even write these words without breaking down but…

Mariah Carey now has more number one singles than Elvis Presley.

The unspeakable horror!! Oh the humanity!!

At what point do we just say we can’t go on? At what point do we stop believing in God?

No matter what hardship we had to endure -- from terrorism to Ellen’s little doggie being recalled – at least we had Elvis. My father, who lived through the Depression and Chevy Chase talk show said he never thought he’d see the day.

When gas prices went to $4.00 a gallon and my children were inconsolable I took their hands and said, “Kids, it’s okay. The King has 17 number ones. No one will ever surpass him.”

Now what do I tell them?

Oh…if only…

If only “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck”, “Now and Then There’s a Fool Such as I”, “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, and “Return To Sender” hadn’t finished at number two. I blame myself. I could have bought “Return To Sender” but no, I had to give that money to Jerry's kids. Now and then there IS such a fool as I.

Radio is also at fault. Stations never gave his masterpiece “Rock-A-Hula Baby” the exposure it deserved. There’s no reason that song shouldn’t be the number one song of ALL-TIME. Or at least the official state song of Hawaii or Colorado.

And why penalize Elvis for stretching himself artistically, for challenging his audience? “Do The Clam” will live on long after “Rhapsody in Blue” fades into the mist of time.

Mariah Carey?! Who is this eighteen-year upstart? So her highest octave is two octaves higher than a normal soprano? Can she sing while doing judo moves? I think not.


And how many Mariah Carey impersonators have you seen (with the exception of at least four on AMERICAN IDOL every season)?

We need the healing to begin. We as Americans need to reach down deep and draw upon that resilience that has always served us through such dire times. But we can’t do it ourselves. The psychic damage is far too great. A couple of things need to happen.

For the sake of this country and – oh let’s just say it – mankind, Mariah Carey has to retire. Sorry. She’ll find other work. She can always host a VH-1 reality show or learn a trade at the DeVry Institute.

And RCA records needs to re-release a few Elvis songs. If everyone in the United States buys copies of “Rubberneckin’”, “Kiss Me Quick”, and “Old Shep” Elvis Presley can reclaim his rightful crown (of being number three behind the Beatles and Bing Crosby) and order can once again be restored to the universe.

Can we do it? It's up to you.

Thank you and viva Las Vegas!

AMERICAN IDOL: Top 8 "Dream rainbows and believe in striving"

While Syesha Mercado was screeching out some faux inspirational song that strung together every I believe/Catch a shooting star/There’s time for every soul to fly/Reach within your heart/Strive to be the very best/Anything is Possible” bullshit cliché (and every one of those lyrics actually WAS in that song), Doug Davis, a young pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks took the mound and pitched the game of his life…knowing that in two days he will undergo surgery for thyroid cancer.

THAT’S inspirational. THAT’S real.

AMERICAN IDOL’S “Inspirational Music Night” was manufactured hokum – trumping up your emotions so you’ll be all primed and ready to give to AMERICAN IDOL GIVES BACK, their big charity oozfest.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s all for a good charity and it’s commendable that they’re doing it. But there’s an element of inflated importance and grandstanding that just gives me the vibe that AMERICAN IDOL is doing this more for themselves and their image than for the charity itself.

I will not be watching the show this evening. I watched it last year. It was like freebasing the Jerry Lewis telethon.

Nor will I watch the results show. Last year they didn’t eliminate anybody. How could they? What is American going to say – “Your song was the least inspirational. You’ve got to go”? Of course not. So now the show that is 90% filler normally will be 100% filler. There will be the zippy Ford commercial, the Up With People production number with the kids (probably singing “Climb Every Mountain” while Paula cries uncontrollably), probing questions from the viewers (“David Archuleta, I’m getting my braces off in a year. Will you wait for me?”), and finally the recaps – endless recaps (Tuesday’s show, Wednesday’s show, last year’s show, the first half of this show).

But I did watch the Tuesday performance show. I’m not an overly sentimental slug as you know but I must admit I was moved to boredom.

I know I'm being snarky but does it seem to you that the performances are just not that good this year? There are always things to goof on but in the past those were mixed with some fantastic performances. Now the judges are fawning over Jason Castro. We've lowered the bar to the point where only a limbo champion could go under it.

Michael Johns sang “Dream On”. Most inspirational songs are not angrily shouted at you. Okay, okay, I’ll dream on. Don’t hurt me!

Syesha belted the crap out of the aforementioned “I Believe”. Actual lyrics I forgot to mention included “I believe in the impossible/It’s in the eyes of every child/Have you ever reached a rainbow’s end?”…and the obligatory “I’ve waited all my life for this moment to arrive”.

Jason Castro did the Iz version of “Over the Rainbow”. The judges LOVED it. What am I missing? To me it was like watching Tiny Tim.

Kristy Lee Cook sang “Anyway”. She said it was a deeply personal song to her. I guess because any way she can win this contest she’s going to go for it. God bless the U.S.A.

With David Cook’s new hairstyle he's starting to morph into Joey Heatherton. He did “Innocent” and had “Give Back” written on his hand. Carly Smithson wanted to do the same thing but her tattoo artist was on vacation.

Carly sang Queen’s “Show Must Go On”. I forget why she said this was inspirational.

David Archuleta did a lovely job of “Angels” although the producers didn’t do him any favors making him give a video introduction. Somehow, life lessons from a 17 year old don't have the same impact.

Brooke White got the pimp spot. Her Carole King song this week was “You’ve Got a Friend”. But the genius of Brooke is that she picks the right Carole King composition. She could just as easily have chosen “Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby (Oh No)”, “Happy Being Fat”, “Let’s Turkey Trot”,or “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)”.

I don’t care who gets the least number of votes this week. I do care however that Doug Davis pulls through his operation this Thursday and has a complete and speedy recovery.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The last CHEERS: Film at 11

My weekly (weakly?) AMERICAN IDOL recap will follow in a few hours. I have to host Dodger Talk then will come home, watch and review the show. I understand tonight is inspirational music night so I damn well better be inspired.

In the meantime, as an addendum to my post last week about the final night at CHEERS, I found this local news feature on it. See for yourself what it was like.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The five mysteries of CHEERS

TV Squad did a post Monday looking for answers to the five greatest mysteries of CHEERS. So as an insider I thought I’d take a crack at them.

What did Vera Peterson look like?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so for Norm I think her looks changed depending on the number of beers. I know that’s kind of a coy answer so I’ll just say if you’ve seen Maris Crane, she’s her twin but not as thin. People wonder if Norm really did love Vera. The answer is yes. You tell me a wife who’d let her husband spend his life in a bar. In one of the Bar Wars episodes I remember my partner and I had a joke where you went to Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern and off stage you hear “Afternoon everybody!” and everyone yells out “Vera!” but it got cut.

What exactly was Rebecca’s job?

Once Sam got the bar back he kept her on as a manager. Her chief job responsibility: sleep with Sam at some point. On numerous occasions when we were having a tough time coming up with a Rebecca line someone would say, “Wouldn’t Sam need another bartender more than a manager? Let him fire her and we won’t have to come up with this joke.” In truth, she did the accounting and ordered the liquor freeing Sam up to cut thousands of lemons an hour.

Why did Cliff wear white socks with everything?

It was a fashion statement. Not a good one but a statement nonetheless. Honestly, his fellow bar mates were just thrilled he changed them everyday.

When did Frasier have any time to see patients?

Usually in the morning before the bar opened. It’s the college courses he also taught that required a lot of juggling. But he wouldn’t be the first tenured professor who couldn’t stand up.

When did CHEERS close?

The standard 2 a.m. That gave Cliff a good two hours sleep before reporting to the post office. And Carla usually put her kids to bed at 2:30 a.m. so that schedule worked out perfectly.

I hope this solves the mysteries and I have fooled you into thinking I actually do know the answers to these questions.

There were some other CHEERS mysteries that I discussed about a year in this post.

Hopefully though, we made the show entertaining and funny enough that these inconsistencies didn’t bother you until the advent of the internet.