Saturday, February 28, 2009

Paul Harvey........good day

On Friday night I signed off my radio show on KABC at 7:00 and was followed by Paul Harvey News and Comment. It wasn’t actually Paul Harvey, it was someone filling in for him doing a woeful impression. But I drove away feeling very proud that I was on the same radio station as the great Paul Harvey.

Paul Harvey passed away on Saturday. He was only 90.

I’m sure there will be tributes galore the next few days. They will talk about his influence. For almost 60 years he broadcast on the ABC radio network. At one time he was heard on over 1200 radio stations. They’ll praise the uniqueness of his delivery. They’ll all end their pieces with … “And now you know the rest of the story” thinking that no one else thought of that.

But they’ll probably overlook the one attribute that I think was his real genius. Paul Harvey was the greatest salesman that ever lived. I used to listen to him every chance I got, not for the news, not for the profile of the guy who invented leotards, but for the commercials. He was absolutely spellbinding. He made every product sound like something you just had to have. He was so convincing even I went out and bought Bose speakers and arthritis medicine… and I don’t even have arthritis. (I did stop short of Amway products though.)

I must say I have a soft spot for pitchmen. At State Fairs I always make a beeline to the tent where guys in bad suits and worse toupees are selling car wax and miracle vacuum cleaners. I love hearing their spiels. There’s a genuine art to being persuasive. And I always think, these hawkers are good, but Paul Harvey could sell them a miracle vacuum cleaner, and they know it’s a piece of crap.

What was his secret?

He truly communicated. He talked right to YOU. In words you could understand. He looked straight into your eyes even on the radio. He spoke with conviction, enthusiasm, and all of his arguments made so much doggone sense. Someday I may get arthritis so I better have this stuff just in case.

He ended every broadcast with: “This is Paul Harvey”… and then a beat, “Good day.” Forevermore that beat will be a moment of silence for radio’s greatest newscaster and Madison Avenue’s greatest Mad Man.

You're only as good (or bad) as your last credit

According to I was the location manager on DANTE’S PEAK. This is news to me. I didn’t even see DANTE’S PEAK. Yet imdb has it listed and my agent is still pressing me for his commission. Nor was I the Environmental Production Advisor on FLIPPER although I was brought in to punch up his dialogue, and I was not the Location Manager on JURASSIC PARK even though I still write off Hawaiian trips and use Spielberg as a reference. I don’t know where imdb gets this information (I suspect my mother) but I’ve tried several times to get them to correct it but they won’t. So now when I get calls from other Location Managers (which I do) I just recommend our backyard for whatever they need. I’ve made a tidy sum on production rentals.

Worse are some credits they list that ARE true. How many directing assignments have I missed out on because potential employers saw I did multiple episodes of ASK HARRIET? Someone once said you’re only as good as your worst credit. We have shared credit on MANNEQUIN 2 for godsakes!

And then there are the credits imdb omitted that I am proud of. David and I created and produced a show on CBS in ’93 called BIG WAVE DAVE’S starring Adam Arkin. (Cancelled because they had to make room for the Faye Dunaway comedy and the Peter Scolari comedy. No, I’m not bitter). We wrote on the TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW, the TORTELLIS (okay, they were kind to skip that one), and we wrote and “guest starred” in episodes of OPEN ALL NIGHT THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES.

In the MARSHALL CHRONICLES (created by the brilliant Richard Rosenstock), my writing partner David and I played two gay guys at a wedding. This is a series that someone needs to find and put on YouTube.

OPEN ALL NIGHT was created by Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses (who did the BOB NEWHART SHOW and BUFFALO BILL). They asked us to write an episode. We saw that Jay was also going to be one of the series regulars so we asked if we could be in the show. They said, “Sure, what do we care?” So we wrote ourselves two fabulous parts. We were Sean & Evan, two swinging lawyers trying to pick up female mud wrestlers at a mace class. Tom & Jay didn’t change a word of our dialogue. All they did was add one little sentence in the stage direction:


For the entire week of production we were getting thrown around all over the stage. Landing on our backs, landing on our heads. We were black and blue with multiple concussions. I still have a bruise. Finally, after the dress rehearsal just before the filming, Jay came to us and said, “Uh listen boys, we’re going to cut the stunt”.

Not only do I want to see that credit on imdb, I want it listed FIRST!

Nipplegate II: Beyonce

So when Janet Jackson had her "wardrobe malfunction" at the Superbowl a few years ago it caused a huge stir. There was talk of suing CBS for millions of dollars for destroying the lives of America's impressionable youth who were unexpectedly subjected to the shocking sight of Janet Janet's nipple... for less than a second. Live shows were put on delay as a result and our hypocritical puritan nation was shaken to its very roots for months.

Meanwhile, last Sunday on the Oscars (a show seen by billions more people worldwide than the Superbowl) Beyonce exposed her nipple for a fraction of a second and the reaction? Nothing.

I think when you see this you'll agree -- American children were traumatized by the sight of Beyonce's nipple, and you're kicking yourself for deleting the Oscar telecast from your DVR menu.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Holy Cow!

Spring Training has begun. So to get you into the mood for baseball here's the irrepressible Harry Caray and his hilarious rant on Crackerjacks.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Everything you ever wanted to know about Marcia Strassman

It’s Friday question time. Leave yours in the comments section. I try to get to as many as I can.

Randall has some questions about end credits:

1. In recent years a lot of television stations have shrunk the end credits in order to show promos for their upcoming shows. Did the stations have to be union approval for this?

2. Some credits go by so fast I don't know how anybody can read them. Conversely, sometimes on talk shows the end credits will stop for a few seconds, apparently to highlight the name of a staff member or company that has provided a product. Are there any rules / restrictions that regulate how fast or slow credits can crawl?

3. Are stations that show movies or stripped television shows required by contract to show the credits in their entirety?

No, there are no restrictions, which is why networks and stations get away with it. Trust me, if there were union rules this deplorable practice would cease immediately. The trouble is, with there being so many more pressing issues for unions to deal with during contract negotiations this indignity gets lost in the shuffle. Not too many members are going to strike over this.

But it is a huge insult to the thousands of people who work tirelessly to make television shows as good as they are. And it’s bad enough these people have to share a card with thirty others and are up there for maybe a fraction of a second, but they’re expected to go that extra mile and really take pride in what they do while the networks can’t give them so much as a full screen. I say a network executive's name on his parking space should be as large as the smallest credit on his network. That would change things instantly.

From Zach Haldeman:

What is the typical relationship between writers and actors? Naturally the show runner gets to know the actors, but is Star #2 gonna be friends with Staff Writer #5, or even know Staff Writer #5?

Depends on the cast, depends on the staff. But usually the staff writers and the supporting cast tend to gravitate towards each other. Sometimes the cast members are a little intimidated by the show runner or the star of the show is a huge time and energy suck so these supporting players will cozy up to the lower tier writers to get their suggestions and concerns heard.

The ideal situation is when everyone in the cast and on the writing staff feel comfortable talking with each other. And that usually stems from show runners who are receptive to actors’ input and actors who view writers as colleagues not waiters.

And finally: D. McEwan has a M*A*S*H question.

In the movie, The Swamp had 4 residents, who were the primary characters: Hawkeye, Trapper, Frank Burns, and Duke Forrest, played by Tom Skerritt. Duke was as important a character as Hawkeye & Trapper John.

So why was Duke conspicuous by his utter absence from the TV series? I've been curious about this for over 30 years.

Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds felt the need to pare down the number of characters since they only had a half hour to work with. Duke was odd man out. In the original TV pilot there was also a Spearchucker but he too faded into the mist.

Another casualty of war was the lovely Marcia Strassman. She was a regular the first season as Nurse Cutler. She of course went on to play Kotter’s wife, Julie and had to look amused anytime Gabe Kaplan spoke.

Strassman is best known however for her hit record, “the Flower Children” in the late 60s.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Sunset Strip

Here are more of my reflections growing up a teenage in the 60s in Southern California...

If you were going to drive into the city from Woodland Hills it meant you were “going over the hill”. Whether it be Hollywood or Westwood or even San Diego – it was “over the hill”. And you never went “over the hill” unless you had a real purpose. You’d think we were living on the Ponderosa and had to pack saddlebacks to ride into town for vittles.

But there was a new attraction that the kids were buzzing about. The Sunset Strip. In the 40s and 50s this stretch of Sunset Blvd. between Beverly Hills and Hollywood was nightclub row. Sinatra played there. Sammy played there. Dino even had his own club. These hot spots featured dance floors and palm trees and exotic names like the Macambo, the Trocadero, Casa Manana, and Ciro’s. I was never actually in one of these nightclubs but there were several Looney Tunes that spoofed them so I had a pretty good idea of what went on there thanks to Bugs Bunny.

Now the clubs were starting to cater to young people. Whisky A Go Go led the charge. Some say it was because of the location, others say popular singer Johnny Rivers was the big draw but I contend it was the hot girls in mini skirts dancing in suspended cages that attracted the crowds. Rock groups would stagger down from Laurel Canyon to perform. The Byrds, the Doors (in matching suits), the Seeds, Buffalo Springfield, Love, and even the great Captain Beefheart performed in clubs like Gazzari’s, London Fog, and Pandora’s Box. They weren’t content to just do cover versions of popular songs or pale imitations of current styles. No sir. They examined their roots, experimented, challenged themselves to become artists in the true sense of the word. Their music was new and exciting and groundbreaking. God, the women these assholes must’ve gotten.

There were also a few clubs that catered to teenagers. They didn’t serve alcohol so you didn’t have to be 21. The downside was forfeiting the lucrative bar income. The upside was there were ten million teenagers under the age of 21. And club owners could still charge two bucks for a Coke. The Trip and It’s Boss were the two top teen clubs.

My 17 year old cousin Craig was visiting from Louisville. So for two weeks I had a chauffeur. One night we cruised down the Sunset Strip. We must’ve looked like the Clampett family gawking at all the activity. We were lucky and found a parking space only a mile up the hill from the strip, so we headed down to “check out the scene”. Who’s hipper than a fifteen year-old who still draws comics and a kid from Kentucky?

People were just hanging out, standing around, and many of them were smoking. I didn’t know what but the smell was weird and unlike anything I had experienced. You never forget your first second-hand smoke reefer.

The clubs were so crowded with such long lines that we decided to just bag it. Too much of a hassle. I’d just wait until the Looney Tunes cartoon.

Pandora’s Box was a teen club the size of an outhouse perched on a triangular traffic island on the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights. Crowds became too large and were snarling traffic at that large intersection. So cops tried to enforce a 10 p.m. curfew (good luck) and later just close the club. This resulted in a protest rally – a mob of mostly clean-cut teenagers and twentysomethings wearing pullover sweaters and miniskirts. Police broke it up, a riot resulted, and observer Stephen Stills wrote the song “For What It’s Worth” about the incident. A month later Sonny & Cher performed at Pandora’s Box but not without dire consequences. They were kicked off a Rose Parade float. It’s amazing Sonny Bono ever got elected to public office with that stain on his record.

I was not part of that riot. But I did buy the record.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CHEERS amnesia

In the spring of 1982 I got a call from James Burrows. He and the Charles Brothers were going to do a show for NBC that fall called CHEERS and wondered if we wanted to produce it. At first I thought, “A show about cheerleaders? YEAH!” then was told it was about a bar in Boston. Oh.

Still. We had never met the Charles Brothers but were huge admirers from their days at MTM and on TAXI. And Jimmy was (and is) television’s best comedy director. Plus, at the time we were in the middle of a development deal with Lorimar, a company known from producing DALLAS and no comedies (a fact we should have realized before taking the deal) and we used to joke that our current careers would make a perfect upcoming episode of IN SEARCH OF… starring Leonard Nimoy.

A meeting was set between us and Glen & Les Charles. That was at 11. At 2 my wife and I had an appointment for her to take a sonogram. She was pregnant and we had just learned there was a good chance it was twins. The sonogram would tell us for sure.

So we meet Glen & Les. They tell us about the show. At the time no one had been cast. There was just a first draft. Sam was still a former football player. They discussed their vision, how they like to work, how we would fit in, etc. We asked questions, they provided answers. The meeting lasted about an hour.

I went to the hospital. The sonogram was performed and we learned there were no twins. Just one boy (Matt, now blogmaster of DIRTYWATAH.COM and great kid). I was relieved. David then called with the good news that the Charles Brothers wanted us to come aboard. I said great and then something occurred to me. I said, “David, what happened in the meeting?” All through our time with the Charles Brothers all I could think of was how am I going to manage two babies, two car seats, two strollers? I literally have no recollection at all of what was discussed that day with Glen & Les. Fortunately I must’ve nodded at all the right times and never interrupted either of them by blurting out, “Shit!! When am I gonna sleep with two infants?”

But I was thrilled that we got the job. And then went home to read the script to see what I had agreed to. Boy, am I glad it was good.

By the way, the final season of CHEERS is out on DVD. It contains one of my favorite Levine & Isaacs' episodes, "Loathe and Marriage" and one of my favorite lines. Nick Tortelli: "Women! Ain't it enough we sleep with 'em?"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Netflix pick of the month: THE LAST SEDUCTION

Villains are far more interesting than heroes. Just ask Heath Ledger (if you could). Without Lex Luthor Superman is just another boring jock on steroids. Years ago Marie Osmond was touring in THE SOUND OF MUSIC and one reviewer said she was so sweet and sugary you found yourself rooting for the Nazis. Bad guys = Good movies.

There are villains you love to hate. And then there is Linda Fiorentino in THE LAST SEDUCTION. If I may coin a word, she is a VILF!

THE LAST SEDUCTION is a 1995 film noir treat, written by Steve Barancik and directed by John Dahl (who sadly has been relegated to television while Michael Bay continues to make features). Linda is the ultimate femme fatale, absconding her husband’s drug money (Bill Pullman as Ralph Bellamy) and disappearing into this small town where she turns Peter Berg into her boy toy for utter amusement. In true noir fashion she lures him into committing murder and the twists and turns come fast and furious.

And all the while you love her sultry voice, her chutzpah, smarts, and delicious wickedness. It’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY meets GOODBYE COLUMBUS.

Oh, and it’s one of the sexiest movies this side of first half of BODY HEAT before it dissolved into a jumbled mess.

THE LAST SEDUCTION and Linda should have been up for a gaggle of Academy Awards but due to a technicality (the movie played first on HBO) it wasn’t eligible. But it did win all kinds of Indie Spirit Awards, which everyone knows is far more prestigious.

THE LAST SEDUCTION. See it with someone you want to have sex with or kill.

My eleventh annual Oscars review

It was Bollywood’s big night. The Oscars! I got to watch them in Hawaii where they were tape delayed three hours. What a break! I went on line, saw who won, and made huge bets with guests around the pool at the Kapalua Ritz-Carlton. I made a fortune on Sean Penn alone!

The night was summed up perfectly by one of the idiot Red Carpet show hosts when he said, “This is what the Oscars is all about. All ages, all ethnicities, coming together to look their best.

KTLA morning news anchor, Jessica Holmes asked Kevin Kline: "At the Oscars, when you come, do people ask you dumb questions as you hop along?" Tawny Little, you may have finally met your match.

On to the show:

Hugh Jackman was sensational. Kudos to the producers for turning to an actual movie star to host instead of seeing who’s available from Comedy Central. Jackman was the best host since Billy Crystal and maybe even Johnny Carson (sorry, Ellen). More amazing than his enormous talent and charm was how he seemed so damn comfortable up there? How does he do that?

Those chandeliers over the audience were designed to give the Kodak Theater a more intimate nightclub feel. It makes me wonder how many high school productions of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA ended tragically when chandeliers crashed down on the first seven rows?

Actors of course, were in the front section, right up close. Other winners had to vault a little fence to get to the stage.

Hollywood loves SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE It’s the Best Picture of 2009. Of course a year ago that same Hollywood was ready to send it direct-to-video.

Kate Winslet finally won after six tries. THE TITANIC was not her fault!

Since when do they give out the Best Director award before Best Actor and Actress?

I’m sorry Robert Downey Jr. lost for Best Supporting Actor for his work in TROPIC THUNDER. He’d have more Oscars as an African-American than Will Smith.

How’d you like to be an animated movie going up against WALL-E? I bet the KUNG FU PANDA producers were seated in the balcony behind Kate Winslet’s dad.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman came as Sam Kinison.

For the acting categories it was nice to see former winners (especially my neighbor Eva Marie Saint, way to represent the hood) but did the nominees really need that additional overblown stroking? Every performance was “courageous”, “genius”, “inspiring”. Come on. Marisa Tomei looked good naked.

My favorite was Cuba Gooding Jr. saying, “Let’s talk about risks.” This is a guy who won an Oscar then went straight into SNOW DOGS and BOAT TRIP.

Michael Douglas is really starting to look like his old man. Now HE’S Spartacus.

As usual in Hollywood it’s all about marketing. THE READER: come for the sex, stay for the Holocaust.

Former Oscar winner and worst-Oscar-host-ever, Whoopi Goldberg was saying on THE VIEW a few weeks ago that each Oscar is numbered. Only a very few have ever won one in the “two hundred years of motion pictures”. I forget, when Lincoln was shot was he at a play or Clint Eastwood’s first film?

Sarah Jessica Parker is morphing into Carole King.

Many believe WALL-E should be the actual Best Picture of the Year. It showed just as much garbage as SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and although the sex wasn’t as good as THE READER, I’d still rather watch robots make love than Nazis.

Wow! Sophia Loren can still get into her prom dress.

Congrats to Simon Beaufoy for winning Best Adapted Screenplay for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. And all the SLUMDOG winners but I’m partial to the writer.

How did HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, a movie that was improvised even get nominated for Best Original Screenplay? And how could WALL-E, the most innovative script in years, not win?

Who designed Miley Cyrus’ gown? Her dad? Talk about the cake that got left out in the rain…

Did you notice that Tina Fey got a much bigger reception than Steve Martin? And when Jennifer Aniston was presenting they cut to Angelina Jolie at least three times? Meow.

Quick: Which of these Best Song nominees won? “Jai Ho” or “O Saya”? Dump this stupid category already. It’s become as relevant as Best Silent Picture.

Ben Stiller doing Joaquin Phoenix was very funny… for thirty seconds. After that, co-presenter Natalie Portman deserved combat pay.

I guess Judd Apatow now only makes movies for his personal friends to enjoy. That’s what YouTube is for, Judd, not the Oscars.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the evening was Queen Latifa singing “I’ll be Seeing You” over the “In Memoriam” tribute. It was beautiful and touching. I bet, like me, you watch and try to guess who’s going to be last? Paul Newman was perfect. One question though: where was Heath Ledger?

And the lowlight: Bill Maher. He’s the embarrassing cousin that’s never invited to any family function but shows up anyway.

Why do they have to tell us every year what Costume Designers do? Who thinks that Keira Knightley wore her own street clothes in THE DUCHESS?

Dustin Lance Black gave a lovely heartfelt acceptance speech on Gay rights. And it saved the show because Hollywood obviously couldn’t decide on what their “cause” would be this year. The need to go green? Oppressed diamond mine workers in Africa? What?? There was not even agreement on the color of ribbons this award season, that’s how bad it got.

Sean Penn’s plea for equal Gay rights was also appreciated although the message might have had more impact if he hadn’t started his speech with calling the audience “You commie homo-loving sons of guns”. And when Sean was thanking everyone in the world, he could have included his wife.

Seeing Tilda Swinton’s outfit all I could think of was “I can show you to your table now.”

Glad SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE beat BENJAMIN BUTTON for Best Editing. As my daughter, Annie says, “No movie over three hours should even be eligible to win Best Editing.”

BENJAMIN BUTTON did win “Best Make-Up”. They made Brad Pitt look younger. The real trick is to do that with Goldie Hawn.

Congratulations to Penelope Cruz. Even with subtitles she won. Expect to see Will Smith in the next seven Woody Allen movies until he gets his.

Mickey Rourke came dressed in no tie and cautionary tales. I’m guessing at 3:00 he realized he didn’t have anything to wear so he just beat the crap out of Tom Wolfe and took his suit. It brings new meaning to “who are you wearing?”

I guess we’ll never hear Mickey’s outrageous expletive-filled acceptance speech now that he lost. But Penn deserved the award. He really became another character. Mickey Rourke played Mickey Rourke without shampoo.

Freida Pinto of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was the most gorgeous woman in the room. And yet, when they kept cutting to shots of the cast they showed everyone but her. I don’t care that Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail finds Jack Black amusing. Show me Freida!!

Major crisis averted!!! Dani Janssen did not cancel her exclusive Oscar party. She wanted to when pal Clint Eastwood received no nominations (that’ll show ‘em!) but was convinced by close friends that this country, in its fragile state, couldn’t weather that much disappointment. By the way, you are not invited and never will be.

Whoever designed Jessica Biel’s gown also dreamed up Aretha Franklin’s hat at the Inauguration.

The Jerry Lewis tribute had the potential for trainwreck written all over it. He could have done one of his celebrated gay jokes, or wondered why THE READER was so honored while his Holocaust film about a circus clown imprisoned in a death camp, THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED was deemed unreleasable. But instead he gave a brief, sincere, and thoroughly classy speech.

Nicole Kidman is starting to look like Joel Grey.

Not a lot of surprises this year. Heath Ledger – who knew? But thanks to Hugh Jackman and a more streamlined presentation (no salutes to “Great Ice Skating Movies of the Past” or other vintage genres) this year’s Oscarcast was the best in recent memory. And with that big production number in the middle with Jackman and Beyonce, it qualifies for the best Tony Awards show in ages too.


Thanks to my daughter, Annie and her writing partner, Brock for their heads-up on the Red Carpet shows.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

It all started with the Oscars

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE had just beaten SAVING PRIVATE RYAN for film of the year. Steven Spielberg, who had already won Oscars for SCHINDLER’S LIST in every category except Best Animated Short was really pissed. And this was mere moments after he won another Oscar for directing SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (which was very well deserved, by the way). I thought it was a little ungracious. So I decided to write a humorous review of the ceremony, poke a bit of fun at Hollywood royalty, and email it to the hundred or so people in my address list.

The response was so positive that I did it again the following year. By then my list had grown to at least 104. I added the Emmys (talk about an easy target) and also goofy travelogues (I was getting tired of writing the same travel report ten times to ten friends).

Once I compiled enough of these I investigated getting them all published as a book. The idea was met with zero interest. But one kindly editor said, “These are very funny and if Dave Barry had written them I’d publish them tomorrow. But no one knows who the fuck you are.”

So how do I become more well-known? First thought was a publicist until I saw what they charged. Yikes! I wanted a little higher visibility; I didn’t want to be Tatiana so paying big money to get my name in the Long Beach Telegram a few times a year didn’t make sense. Nor did killing anybody or lying about my age and going on REAL WORLD.

Then my friend Howard suggested writing a blog. (This is beginning to sound like one of those old cigarette commercials. Then my priest said, “Hey, have you tried Viceroys?”)

A blog wouldn’t cost anything save for time. Who knows? It could lead to a big book deal, major speaking engagements, or taking over for Carson Daly (if not me than ANYBODY). Well, none of those things happened but the blog has been great fun to do. And it has gained some popularity – thanks in part to my annual Oscar review.

So tonight again I shall review the Academy Awards. I try to post them as soon as possible so if someone else has a similar observation it’s clear I didn’t steal it from him (he probably stole it from me). Unfortunately, here in Hawaii they are tape delayed. God forbid a tourist misses one precious hour of deadly sun exposure. So expect the review early Monday morning. It’s coming.

Just think, if Steven Spielberg had only clapped when SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE won none of this would have happened.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nobody photoshops Danica Patrick and gets away with it!

Okay, it’s one thing if you want to photoshop in some breasts for Keira Knightley for a stupid movie poster...
but now comes word that Sports Illustrated has photocopied out Danica Patrick’s tattoo for their swimsuit issue photo shoot. Thank God! I think you would have to agree that with that tattoo she no longer looks attractive at all. SI claims they did that because their swimsuit issue celebrates “natural” beauty. As such they do allow the models to keep their freckles.

Seems to me if they really want to celebrate natural beauty they’d airbrush out the swimsuits. I’m just sayin’.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why wasn't BECKER a bigger hit?

So for a delightful change, I'm answering a Friday question on Friday.

Monsterbeard asks:

I was looking at the credits for Becker the other day, which is full of some really talented sitcom writers, including yourself. Yet, despite all the pedigree, the show wasn't exactly a huge hit. Do you think it failed? And do you know why it wasn't as big of a hit as the writing credits would suggest?

Well, it did run for 129 episodes and is in syndication so it did a whole lot better than any of my shows. But BECKER should have been a bigger hit. The problem was that CBS, for whatever reason, never believed in the show. I don’t know why. Maybe it wasn’t sexy enough for them. But then why make it and order it in the first place?

BECKER always outperformed the network’s expectations. It did wildly better than a host of darlings that CBS put in that time slot (Monday 9:30). Then the network moved it, put it in an impossible slot to win and it still surprised everyone with its numbers. The reward for that? Cancellation. And the irony of course – CBS would KILL for BECKER’s numbers today.

Happily, once the show got into syndication people seemed to discover it. It’s hard to believe but a highly-rated show on CBS for five years was considered a best-kept secret. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, “Hey, I saw your name on this new show, BECKER. It’s really good.” NEW show??

Dave Hackel, the show’s creator, put together a tremendous staff of writers and directors. Matthew Weiner of MAD MEN for one. Andy Ackerman (director of SEINFELD) for another. And although you might not be as familiar with their names, here are a few of the other terrific BECKER writers who I would hire in a second: Ian Gurvitz, Michael Markowitz, Russ Woody, Steve Peterman, Gary Donzig, Kate Angelo, Liz Astrof, Bobby Gaylor, Dana Borkow Klein, Matt Ember, Anne Flett-Giordano, and Chuck Ranberg.

But the show must finally be catching on. Ted Danson says more people now stop him in an airport and mention BECKER than CHEERS.

If you’re up some morning at 2 channel surfing, check it out. It’s a damn good show.

What's your question?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Who says that AMERICAN IDOL stretched twelve one-minute performances into two endless hours? They NEEDED all that time just as I need all this space to review it.

But before we get to the contestants, I have to ask my co-reviewer/daughter, Annie, “What advice would you give the performers?”

I really think they have to perform their best and sing well. And look good. And be pretty. Back to you, Dad.

Thanks, Annie. And now my dog, Rex. It’s a big night for these kids, Rex. What should they keep in the back of their mind?

“Woof, woof woof, woof. Woof woof, woooooof woof wooooof.”

Good advice. And it gives the performers something to think about that never would have occurred to them.

Now the rules, and pay attention because they’re a little different this year. Every week for three weeks we’ll take nine hours to select the best three and then have a wild card show to select four more then have a sing-off with them and the La Mirada Dinner Theatre production of RENT. Then it'll be June and we can begin narrowing down the Top 10.

We’ll get to the actual performances right after this break.Link
This Monday will be my annual Oscar review right here on this blog.

Welcome back. The theme this week is any song from any era that ever charted on Billboard. In other words, the kids are restricted to every song ever made.

Jackie Tohn, who dressed like Minnie Mouse in leather, sang the only Elvis song people don’t know is an Elvis song. But she has great personality and should be a finalist. Then America met her parents, realized she's Jewish, and that cost her every vote from the south.

After the break, Ricky Braddy.

Starting February 25th I’ll be hosting Dodger Talk again every night on 790 KABC, home of McIntyre in the Morning and airwatch traffic with Captain Jorge to get you to work on time.

Ricky Braddy did a lovely version of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You”. But I still have no idea who he is. Neither does anybody else because the number to call to vote for him is 1-800-IDOLS-0?

But he too has lovely parents. They wore cute matching “Braddy Bunch” T-shirts and Ryan interviewed them for seven minutes. If you’d like to vote for them the number is 1-800-MOMDAD-2.

Alexis Grace was next. Her father had long hair. This is significant because he got more face time on Fox than Obama during his inauguration. Paula said to Alexis, “you have something so large inside you”. It was Paula’s first veiled penis reference of the night.

More in a moment but first, Ted Danson and Neil Patrick Harris were in the audience. Ted played Sam Malone on CHEERS and Becker on BECKER. Neil played Doogie Howser on DOOGIE HOWSER and currently plays Barney on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. Ted also appears in DAMAGES on FX. Not that I’m padding.

Brent Keith followed. After a screw up where they started running Stevie Wright’s video he sang “Hicktown” where he’ll be returning to. Now this break:

Every Friday I answer readers’ question on my blog. What’s yours?

Stevie Wright said her biggest influence was the Jonas Brothers so it’s no surprise she sang 19 year old songwriter extraordinaire, Taylor Swift. She was awful. We’ll never see her again. Stephen Wright has more charisma.

Anoop Desai sang “Angel of Mine” and was then taken into custody. Police question whether it was really him singing. (Note: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE reference. If you didn’t get this joke you will be lost Oscar night.)

Casey Carlson is cute but not cute enough to overcome her hideous rendition of Sting. I thought these people got weeded out. What the hell was Hollywood Week for anyway?

Michael Sarver – Best performance of the night from an oil rig worker. I see petroleum in his future.

Ann Marie Boskovich is next… after the break.

My book, IT’S GONE, NO WAIT A MINUTE!” is still available on Amazon for one cent. Get it now. Don’t wait for the price to go down.

Ann Marie Boskovich was the 247th contestant to sing “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman”. She came in 200th.

Stephen Fowler killed “Rock With You”. Jackie Tohn’s parents could have done it better.

Tatiana Del Toro – The Devil’s Daughter. Kills us to say it, but she was infuriatingly good.

And finally, Danny Gokey. Great singer, immensely likable, widower. He’s a shoo-in for the top five as long as he doesn’t sing Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” .

That’s our post for tonight. Remember my Oscar review on Monday. Woof woof.


I won't be reviewing the next few weeks because, well, who can devote the time?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Are you taking a meeting? READ THIS POST!!!

This is a short one but maybe the most valuable advice I have given since don't park in Jeff Zucker's space. When you are lucky enough to get a meeting with a producer or story editor or writer or agent or executive… always ALWAYS…

Now that we have such a thing, it is inexcusable to go into a meeting not knowing exactly who the person is and what he has done. Maybe there are articles where he’s quoted. You get a sense of his viewpoint, his interests. Imdb his credits. The more you know, the better prepared you are, the easier it will be to impress.

And the reverse is true. When someone blunders into a meeting unprepared, since we all know how easy it is to Google someone, right away that person is branded as a dolt – which he is.

And executives and producers?

Same for you.

If you’re meeting a writer or director, imdb him first. I wrote a spec screenplay a few years ago that resulted in a meeting with a young executive. He complimented me on the writing and wondered what I had been doing because this was an amazing first effort. He was a tad embarrassed when I told him I had written one or two things before that.

I’ll leave you with a great Hollywood story (or tall tale). I believe it was Billy Wilder who said it. Late in his illustrious career he took a meeting with a young executive who asked, “What have you done?” Wilder supposedly leaned in to him and said, “You first.”


Monday, February 16, 2009


Now begins the fun part of AMERICAN IDOL, when the 36 top contestants sing for America and get rejected by YOU.

Side note: Was there anything more boring than last Wednesday night’s show? Not one but two hours of watching anxious kids walk the grounds of Flava Flav’s mansion or wherever they hell they were to be told yay or nay by Simon and the Three Stooges.

To prepare you for the festivities ahead, my daughter Annie and I will provide all the information you need to go into these next rounds suitably prejudiced.

Before we start, it seems unfair that kids with recording contracts or starring roles in WICKED should be in competition with oil rig hard hat guys. Isn’t the idea to give people a chance who otherwise couldn’t meet Clive Davis if Clive ran them over with his car?

That said, here are some of this year’s candidates.

Adam Lambert – He’s from San Francisco. He’s in the LA production of WICKED, and people were shocked to hear he’s gay. Should do great on Andrew Lloyd Webber night, really bad on red neck country night.

Michael Sarver – Works on an oil rig. Has never heard of WICKED.

Alexis Grace – 21 with a kid. Hey, it worked for Fantasia. Hopes to get a recording contract and afford day care. Does great Celine Dion impression. Is that a good thing?

Tatiana Nicole Del Toro – Completely nuts. Easily the most annoying contestant ever. The only time I want to see Tatiana on Fox is when Jack Bauer is torturing her. And even if she tells him what he wants to know he still doesn’t stop.

Danny Gokey – Great singer. Wife died. He would have made it anyway.

Jorge Nunez – Sang in Spanish. Did I miss something? Is this Puerto Rico Idol?

Scott MacIntyre – Blind. That alone should put him in the top 5. As a bonus, he can actually sing!

Jackie Tohn – Didn’t bring down the house in Hollywood but brought down the screen in her New York audition. She says phrases like: “What up with the what-ups?” Gibberish to the rest of the world but Randy Jackson.

Nathaniel Marshall -- 18, mom’s in prison, cries a lot, sports multiple studs, wears headbands, bandanas, can snap his toes. Will either become AMERICAN IDOL or QUEEN FOR A DAY.

Nick Mitchell – Also known as “Norman Gentle”, a flamboyant diva bad lounge act. Always sings in this character. Still more genuine than Tatiana.

Taylor Vaifauna – (pictured above) 16, Polynesian, and of course is from Utah.

Anoop Desai – Slumdog Idol.

Matt Breitzke – Welder. Some contestants play their own instruments. He builds his own sets.

Kristen McNamara – Blonde, can yodel. Better hope there’s yodeling week. Otherwise, no chance.Bold
Jesse Langseth – We have no idea.

Ricky Brady – Same with this guy. Who the hell is he?

Pretty girl/sings pretty well – AnnaMarieBoskovichCaseyCarlsonKendallBeardMeganCorkreyMishavonnaHensonStevieWright

Pretty boy/sings pretty well – AlexWagnerTrugmanBrentKeithKaiKalamaKrisAllenMattGiraudVonSmith

May the least offensive, least derivative, best looking person who sleeps with Paula win.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hawaii so far

Happy President's Day. Thought I'd share some exotic photos I took with my iPhone. Here's Maui at night. There are so many artists and craftsmen on the island. Here's a jewelry stand featuring the best of local talent.

I forget. This is either a pig for tonight's luau or a glass blower.

A limbo contest. There were six of us taking pictures -- only of this girl.

This is from the Wailea Marriott. Maybe the worst room in Hawaii. It's right on the corridor leading from the lobby to all the rooms and the pool.

Makawao -- a charming cowboy town. It's where you can find western wear and of course, sushi.

The U.S. Synchronized Swimming Team. A lock for the gold.

More nature... the caverns and lagoons on Maui are breathtaking.

And even though this last picture doesn't give you a good sense of Hawaii I thought I'd include it anyway.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How to park your secretary

Many thanks to fellow writer Rob Long for his way-too-kind piece on this blog in his radio commentary, MARTINI SHOTS on NPR’s KCRW in Santa Monica. I’m still blushing. In addition to producing CHEERS when he was like nine, Rob has become one of the top sitcom writers in town (along with his partner, Dan Staley) and has also carved out a nice niche for himself as a pundit and author. His book on television, CONVERSATIONS WITH MY AGENT, is must reading.

In his feature on me he brought up an anecdote I had completely forgotten but was true and worth sharing here. So if I may paraphrase his story paraphrasing me:

Back in 1993 my partner and I had created a summer show for CBS called BIG WAVE DAVE’S. Rob and Dan were our producers. I think Rob was eleven then. We did the show for Paramount (and I can tell this story since no one involved is remotely still associated with the studio. In fact, this was probably four full regimes ago.)

Our line producer informed me that the studio refused to pay our secretary’s parking. The budget for each episode was over a million dollars. Weekly parking was $13. Above-the-line people (writers, directors, producers, actors) got to park on the lot for free. Below-the-line peons had to park in a structure across the street.

And don’t let the Hollywood address fool you. This was not a great neighborhood. I used to call the lot “Fort Paramount”. While working at WINGS on rewrite night we often watched drug deals go down across the street at the parking structure. An ice cream truck would arrive every night about 11 and we would say, “Cracky, the clown is here. Looks like he’s got some great shit tonight for the kiddies!”

So I was pissed. No one works harder and more hours than the writers’ secretary. It’s bad enough they had to park in a war zone. The least the studio could do was pay for their parking. (Note: we also made sure one of us walked them out to their cars, another little safety service the studio felt no obligation to perform).

I called the studio bean counter and raised hell. But it was studio policy. There was nothing he could do. I then asked what would constitute a legitimate production expense? He said research. “You mean like a book?” I said. He said, yes. “Fine,” I continued, “I just bought a book this week. It’s called HOW TO PARK YOUR SECRETARY and it cost thirteen bucks.”

That he approved.

So every week I would call with another essential research book I bought. Titles like THE IN’S AND OUT’S OF BUYING YOUR PA’S PIZZA and Rob’s favorite, A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR THE WEIRD GUY IN PROPS.

I should mention that none of the other major studios were any different. But that was then. Things have since changed.

Writers now have to park across the street.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What does love mean?

Happy Valentine's Day. It's also my birthday. Like Jack Benny (whose birthday was also February 14th) I'm 39 today. And a young 39 damn it!

To mark this day of amour I thought I'd share my least favorite romantic sequence in any movie. This is from LOVE STORY, the gold standard for over-the-top cringeworthy sentimentality. Keep in mind this film was not just a hit, it was a national sensation.

Our scene opens with Oliver (Ryan O'Neal) searching for Jenny (Ali McGraw)... and searching... and searching... and searching. But hang in there, because the pay off -- both the acting and the writing -- is so worth it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to write a romantic movie

Had the chance to see NIGHTS IN RODANTHE. Not the kind of movie I usually watch but I was trapped on a plane and it stars Diane Lane. Based on the few movies of this weepy… excuse me, “romantic” genre I have been bored enough on long flights to see, I have managed to glean the formula. So if you’re about to write one, follow these easy steps to chick flick success.

Start with an attractive couple. He can be in his 50s, she can be in her 40s but only if she looks like she’s in her 30s.

Opening scene – she catches her husband cheating. Big emotional trauma. He begs forgiveness and vows never to screw any of her sisters again. You must cast a handsome but boring actor who can play weak.

She needs time to think.

She goes to a picturesque setting like Tuscany or a charming bed & breakfast by the sea. A few scenes of her shopping for vegetables and arranging flowers in her room. A best friend advises she’s got to loosen up, live a little, and of course she finds that out of the question. Better to window shop for clocks to keep track of your youth slipping away.

She meets a man. Handsome but with baggage. Widower, never married, or wife went nuts and became a Scientologist. Now you write 20 pages of exposition -- she must be artistically inclined, he’s misunderstood, and they’re both mourning a dead relative who meant so much to them. This is the “getting to know you” section. Have them bumping into each other at cafes, him helping her lift firewood, sharing a love for Dinah Washington, laughing over something incredibly lame like her plastic fork breaks.

During this section do not concern yourself with the fact that the audience knows exactly where this is going. Toss in a scene where they argue about something as a mislead but don’t dwell on it because no one’s buying it.

A big cinematic event must now take place. Hurricanes are good. Cossacks if your film has a more historical bent. Danger! Danger! Something brings them together and they kiss. Music swells. You’re halfway home.

Now comes the “happy-in-love” section. Scenes in the sack, natch. But don’t forget the walks along the beach hand in hand as they gaze mooney-eyed at each other.

They must go to the inevitable local festival. Here they dance, they laugh, they eat local delicacies. Whole new worlds are opening up for this crazy couple. She’s having fun for the first time in ages. They go off and kiss in the moonlight. Return to the sack.

Then the post coital glow scene. Still in bed, cuddling, making plans that will never come true because the audience hasn’t cried enough yet.

Here’s where it gets murky. Now you must create some bogus issue to split them up. Something to snap them back into reality. Here’s where kids come in very handy. One goes to the hospital. Mom wasn’t there. Guilt! Guilt! (preferred dialogue: She: “What am I doing? I can’t just run off and do this.” He: “Hey, you’re entitled to your own happiness.”) Other love buzz kills – he has to fly to Peru, her kids want daddy back, he still has feelings for Sarah Palin.

This is followed by the separation sequence. Long solitary walks along the beach (with close ups of the waves crashing of course), wandering through the quaint town, not stopping to watch the village idiot wiggle his ears for money.

Lean heavy on voice overs. They can always exchange letters. No line is too cloying, no thought too overwrought. “When I met you it was like I stepped out of a dream.” “You’ve given me the courage to love.” I’m sure you can find something a little more heavy-handed, but that’s the general idea.

Now it’s time for one of them to die. This chestnut has been a staple since LOVE STORY. The survivor now has at least five scenes of crying, remembering the good times (flashbacks required), moping, not eating or sleeping, and of course Dinah Washington wailing some heart tugging dirge. You might cap this with another voice over – the last letter is always the knockout punch. Lay it on thick here. “I’m counting the hours until we can start our life together”.

There won’t be a dry seat in the house.

But finally time passes, the children and friends rally around, the survivor realizes that he or she became a much better, more understanding, compassionate, enlightened, and sympathetic person as a result of the now-corpse. Her art is better, he sees Sarah Palin for who she is. So let the healing begin. Reprise a song from the festival, a shared moment, the coming of spring. Something to elicit a smile. Once you get to that smile, you’re done. Slap a confusing title like NIGHTS IN RODANTHE (what the hell does that even mean?) on it and you’re ready to see what Diane Lane and Richard Gere have on their plates for the fall.

Now you may think I’m a cynic. I’m not. I love a good romance. Just not one by the numbers. But those are what sells. So get busy. We’re running out of charming little towns. You don’t want to be stuck with Pismo Beach.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Good actors

I’m doing my Friday question post a day early this week because tomorrow I want to do a Valentine’s Day related post (which happens to also be my birthday – thanks in advance for the presents).

Anonymous asks this after Tuesday’s post about Christian Bale:

Who are some of the stars that you have worked with who WEREN'T monsters? The ones filled with grace and dignity? Would love to see that list.

I’ve been incredibly blessed. It’s a long long list. And it’s not complete. I apologize to those other actors I’ve worked with who also deserve to be in this rollcall but whose names have just slipped my mind. I’m too lazy to alphabetize them so here they are in no particular order. My point is that there are many decent actors. There are ways of getting what you want without being a monster. If you're in the industry and have had occasion to work with actors who were menches please share who they are.

Ted Danson
Tom Hanks
Rita Wilson
John Candy
Michael Douglas
Nancy Travis
Alan Alda
Mike Ferrell
Harvey Firestein
Emma Thompson
Harry Connick Jr.
Harry Morgan
Shelley Long
Rhea Perlman
Nick Collasanto
Woody Harrelson
George Wendt
John Ratzenberger
Kirstie Alley
Kelsey Grammer
Steven Webber
Tony Shaloub
Tim Daly
Julie Benz
Crystal Bernard
Amy Yasbech
Adam Arkin
Jane Kaczmarek
Malcolm McDowell
Kurtwood Smith
Kevin Kilner
David Morse
Patrick Breen
Ed Asner
Jennifer Tilly
Wendie Malick
George Segal
David Hyde Pierce
Jon Tenney
Peri Gilpen
Laura Linney
Aaron Eckhart
John Mahoney
Jane Leeves
Patricia Heaton
Ray Romano
Doris Roberts
Peter Boyle
Brad Garrett
Tracey Ullman
Julie Kavner
Dan Castellaneta
Neil Patrick Harris
Yeardly Smith
Nancy Cartwright
Hank Azaria
Harry Shearer
Laura San Giacomo
Chip Zien
James Farentino
David Clennon
Matthew Letscher
John Astin
Katey Sagal
Tony Randall
William Christopher
Jaime Farr
Jane Seymour
Lisa Kudrow
Roz Chao
David Ogden Steirs
Alan Arbus
Loretta Swit
Gary Burghoff
Allison Janney
Paget Brewster
Marcia Wallace
Bob Newhart
John Cleese
Lisa Edelstein
David Spade
David Morse
Enrico Colantoni
Al Franken
Megyn Price
Miquel Ferrer
Kristen Chenowith
Robert Forthworth
Sanaa Latham
James Tolkin
Kat Denning
Jenna Elfman
Hattie Winston
Terry Ferrell
Alex Desert
Shawnee Smith
Beth Armstrong
Thomas Gibson
Willie Garsons
William Ragsdale
Sean O’Bryan
Mark Feuerstein
Bess Meyer
Nathan Lane
Joan Plowright
Joel Murray
Jack Coleman
Brenda Vaccarro
Tea Leoni
Gilbert Godfried
Mimi Kennedy
Alan Rachins
Susan Sullivan
Bob Elliott
Steve Landesburg
Victoria Jackson
Jon Lovitz
Rita Rudner
Avery Schreiber
Ryan Mitchell
Maggie Lawson
Harriet Harris
Lenny Clarke
…and Moose (Eddie on FRASIER)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Will Success Spoil Alex Rodriguez?

Alex Rodriguez, you took steroids? Ohmygod! I’m still reeling from Rock Hudson being gay. His kisses with Doris Day seemed so real. And those Most Valuable Player Awards you won in Texas, Alex -- those should have gone to fellow teammate Donnie Sadler?

Don’t think it’s a stretch that I’m comparing you to Hollywood heartthrob, Rock Hudson. You’re both performers. And you both have strong ties with sports. You’re a professional baseball player. Mr. Hudson was involved in a prostitution scandal involving members of the 1962 University of Kentucky football team.

You both were the subjects of some bizarre relationship rumors. Rock Hudson, urban legend has it, married Jim Nabors (the hunk who played Gomer Pyle). And you’re dating Madonna.

Speaking of which, I now have to wonder, do you need performance-enhancing drugs to satisfy her too? (Although no one would fault you for that one.)

Your organization said they would support you – something about your being part of the Yankees “family” (and them still owing you $270 million they can’t get out of, despite looking into it). Hollywood, likewise, rallied around Mr. Hudson. Modern Screen Magazine did not take back his “Most Popular Actor of 1954” award. He was allowed to continue his craft, albeit now on television. McMillan & Wife, starring he and Susan St. James, became a long running series, their only disagreement being who should play the wife? It is doubtful that the Yankees would farm you out to the Charleston Riverdogs. Again, it’s that family member and quarter-billion-dollar investment thing.

But I will say this: Rock Hudson’s fans were crushed -- not to mention Elizabeth Taylor (“At least when Eddie Fisher kisses me he’s not picturing Tab Hunter!”). And Alex, your fans will be shocked and deeply saddened – even the seven who never suspected this in the first place.

And you lied to America’s most respected journalist (and sweetheart), Katie Couric – not easy to do when that pit-bull just keeps pounding you and pounding you. Rock Hudson never actually lied. He just happened to frequent bath houses that didn’t appeal to women.

But you admitted your mistake. That took courage (and a leak from the union). And as you said on Monday’s ESPN interview with relentless muckraker, Peter Gammon (with coaching from your agent/humanitarian, Scott Boras), “the truth will set you free.” You claim that since 2004 (the year penalties were first implemented) you had a change of conscience and you’ve been clean. And this time we don’t have to just take your word. You graciously have provided us proof with your atrocious playoff numbers. So that’s a good start. Will the baseball world ever forgive you? Will your accomplishments on the field be forever diminished? Will Red Sox fans ever stop laughing? Time will tell, but for now, Alex, just hang in there. Send Katie an apology. And if you really believe the truth will set you free, you might want to take another cue from Rock Hudson. Come out of the closet.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Batman goes Batshit

Did you hear the tirade by Christian Bale? Apparently the director of photography had the audacity to cross his precious sight line during a scene from that actor-challenging TERMINATOR sequel and Bale went postal on the guy. Hear it here. Warning: The F word is uttered at least a thousand times in three minutes.

Of course what followed was the obligatory public apology. And soon we’ll see more damage control. He’ll guest on Ellen and bake a pie. He’ll join the Jonas Brothers on stage and sing “What I Go to School For”.

He’ll be charming and witty and self-deprecating. He’ll tell Oprah a heartbreaking story of going to a children’s hospital… or at least knowing someone who did who relayed the story. And all I can say is…


When an actor becomes an absolute monster, lashing out (usually at defenseless underlings) that’s because he IS a monster.

William Goldman once wrote that from the minute stars get up in the morning until the minute they go to sleep no one says ‘no’ to them. Imagine living your life like that. Everything you want some toady gets for you. You’re allowed to be a complete flaming asshole. All because Batman sold a lot of tickets.

And for every Christian Bale shit fit that hits the internet, there must be ten other out-of-control actor outbursts that don’t. This is not to say that every star is a nightmare. Some handle their fame with grace and humanity. But there are enough of these childish temper tantrums from spoiled inbred poodles to keep directors and producers and writers and directors of photography popping Lexipro like Pez tablets.

Whenever my writing partner, David and I have a pilot starring a star we sit them down and give the following speech: “We’re thrilled to be working with you, we will kill ourselves to make this the best possible show, one that you can be enormously proud of. We will work late nights, weekends, whatever it takes. But if you turn into a monster we’re in Hawaii.”

Today's post is coming to you from Wailea, Maui.

Update: A commenter wondered if I'm here because of a recent incident with a obnoxious star. No. I'm here on vacation. But let this be a message to all unruly stars -- I mean business!

The 2009 Grammy Awards

Technical difficulties solved and here's last night's Grammys review by Annie Levine & Brock Wilbur. Worth waiting for. Think "me" but hipper and in some cases funnier.
Here’s a short run-down of observations from the Grammy Awards last night. It would be longer, but in the four hours of broadcast, there wasn’t much worth of commentary. Hell, the red carpet was almost entirely film actors because no one has anything to say about music this year.

A few quick bits from the red carpet pre-show:

-Joey Fatone asked Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson why he’s trying to abandon “The Rock” and just be Dwayne Johnson. This question coming from “The Fat Guy in N’Sync”. The co-host asked The Rock how it feels to be a huge movie star. He reminded the audience that his new film, “Race to Witch Mountain”, opens soon.

-Rapper T.I. just arrived. He’s going to jail for a year, so this is his last public performance. It’s a lot like The Blues Brothers movie, except they were in trouble with the cops because they were on a mission from God to save an orphanage. T.I. situation is surprisingly similar: Busted by cops in a sting operation, where he was trying to purchase machine guns and silencers.

-Snoop Dogg says that now his “Father Hood” reality show is on the air, people approach him every day to ask for parenting advice. There’s no joke for this one. If you’ve seen him busted by his wife for going against her wishes and taking David Beckham out for Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles, then teaching his son a life lesson by letting him direct his own music video… There’s no joke for this one.

-Herbie Hancock says he was stunned by his win last year because “conventional wisdom said it was going to be Amy Winehouse or—“ (Interrupted) The interviewer says “Yeah, it’s that same magic that let Obama become the new President!” Am I wrong, or did the guy just say that Herbie Hancock is to Barack Obama as Amy Winehouse is to John McCain? Hopefully, the first of many Winehouse/McCain comparisons.


-We open with U2 premiering a new song. Since we don’t know the words, they put them on a big video screen behind them so the audience could sing along. Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds, since the new song has the same melody as R.E.M.’s “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”. Except this song is way better, cause it has lines like “I got gasoline / You got a submarine / I don’t want to talk about wars between nations”. He’s lying, he totally does. Also, when Bono began to move we were concerned that he had been in an accident. Turns out that’s just how Bono dances now.

-It’s worth noting that tonight the writers packed everyone full of set-killing jokes than brought everything to grinding halt. Dwayne Johnson (not The Rock) makes a joke in an opening monologue about how Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters is going to be drumming for Paul McCartney tonight, and how he cannot wait to see “The Beatle Fighters”. You know it’s bad when you sigh in relief during the ad breaks, watching previews for this week’s “The New Adventures of Old Christine”, where her foot gets stuck in a toilet! Now that’s comedy.

-We thought it couldn’t get quieter than that, but just afterwards Justin Timberlake introduces Al Green. He doesn’t just introduce him; he tells some stories about their hometown and how they shared a general store, which “was really general. I mean it. Just, random… you know… bait and tackle and gas… general store. Get it?” It was awkward for the crickets. He proceeded to duet with Al Green, who showed his appreciation by making several decent attempts with his hand gestures at knocking Timberlake off-stage.

-Carrie Underwood opted not wear a dress, because she apparently found a discount on drapes. Luckily, her Bedazzler pimped microphone distracted everyone from what she was wearing.

-Kid Rock’s “Rock n Roll Jesus” opens with a line about how sad it is that children are starving and soldiers are dying. Then the video screen behind him shows American flags juxtaposed with Kid Rock’s mug shot from his Oct 2007 arrest stemming from a disturbance at a Waffle House. He proceeded to sing “Amen” a lot. I…. what image is he trying to.... Once again, stunned. But it was good to see Kid Rock is still alive. I hadn’t heard a peep since his last music video where he wiped his ass with toilet paper that had the word “Radiohead” printed on every ply, thereby establishing himself as the dominant artist. Or a Jesus of Rock n Roll. Or whatever, who cares?

-Taylor Swift and Miley Cirus duet about how when you’re fifteen and a boy says he loves you, sometimes you believe him and give him everything. Taylor performs like a human being. Miley performs like Liza Minnelli, giving burst of unmotivated emotion and focusing her attention on random points in the room. It’s distracting, to say the least.

-John Mayer is sitting next to Ice Cube. I want to write a buddy cop movie for them sooooo badly.

-The Four Tops perform with guests Jamie Foxx, Smokey Robinson, and Ne-Yo. Okay, so the only Top left is Abdul (Duke) Fakir. It’s really good and Levi Stubbs will be missed, especially in future “Little Shop of Horrors” revivals.

-Stevie Wonder performs with the Jonas Brothers. I cannot imagine how frightening it must have been for Stevie, because those three brothers took turns sneaking up behind him and getting really close before shouting or almost hitting him with an instrument or inappropriately dancing on him. It just seemed wrong. And uncomfortable. And wrong.

-Blink 182 walked out and said that the reunion of Stevie Wonder and the Jonas Brothers inspired them to reunite Blink 182, and they’d be going on tour soon. There are, conceivably, audiences somewhere in the world who would’ve found this exciting. They were not in attendance at the Grammy Awards tonight. No applause.

-Coldplay won two awards. They wore stupid knock-off costumes from Sgt. Peppers. At their first award they used their speech to thank Paul McCartney for letting them rip off Sgt. Peppers. At their second award, they said they were thrilled to have so many awards, but they obviously didn’t have as many as Paul McCartney. I don’t know if Coldplay is aware, but Paul McCartney is not going to sleep with them.

-Coldplay performed two songs, which managed to stir almost no emotional reaction from the crowd. Maybe selecting the song where no one in the band plays an instrument while a pre-recorded orchestra performs wasn’t a great choice. Maybe Chris Martin shouldn’t have tried to compensate by dancing around stage like he was channeling a combination of Bozo the Clown and Bono the Guy Who Dances Like He’s Injured.

-Shortly after, Radiohead performed. Chris Martin’s wife Gwyneth Paltrow introduced them as the most influential band in the world. She’s not a musician, she doesn’t have a movie coming out… Someone decided the funniest thing they could do was force Gwyneth to awkwardly introduce her husband’s biggest rivals and compliment them in a way that belittles her husband. I was shocked they didn’t make her throw in something about how Thom Yorke of Radiohead was “the greatest lay in the U.K.”, but there’s always next year. Anyway, only 2/5 of Radiohead actually performed, along with the USC marching band. They performed “15 Step” and it was hauntingly good, demolishing all other performances that night.

-Except of course, for M.I.A., who performed on stage with a coalition of big name rap stars. This was notable, because M.I.A. is pregnant and was scheduled to deliver her child today. So to watch her rap and then dance back and forth across the stage, knowing that at any moment the bass frequency from the subwoofers might cause her water to break… ya, it was super punk-rawk.

-Robert Plant and Alison Krauss won album of the year. Yawn. Whatever.


-Dave Grohl plays drums for Paul McCartney on “I Saw Her Standing There”. We sat with baited breath, waiting to see if Grohl could live up to Ringo’s high standard. Lo and behold, he did. Victory!


-Singer Chris Brown and girlfriend Rihanna were both scheduled to perform. Neither made it to the ceremony, since earlier Brown attacked Rihanna, leaving her with visible facial bruising and bite marks (?) on her arms. He was arrested, then released on $50k bail at 9pm tonight. Can the two of them live up to Amy Winehouse’s high standard? Victory!