Sunday, November 30, 2014

Only in L.A. Part 2

Dying underarm hair.  When bright green hair just isn't enough.

Only in LA

My place is a mess after the Thanksgiving weekend.

One of those great Hollywood stories

I was a Story Editor on MASH and was invited to speak to a sitcom writing class at UCLA along with my friend Larry, who at the time was a Story Editor on RHODA. We talked about how to break into the business – the importance of writing great spec scripts. Do’s and don’ts. 

We stressed the need for hard work, really studying the shows, setting high standards for yourself. That was the path to a script assignment for one of our shows.

A friend of mine was in the class and overheard the following:

Two coeds talking. Near the end of our discussion one turned to the other.

COED #1: So what do you think, Ken or Larry?

COED #2 (after some consideration): I’ll fuck Larry. I’d rather get a RHODA.

Postscript: Neither of us got lucky that night. And she never got a RHODA. But it was nice to know the students really were taking our career advice seriously.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

One of the worst movies you'll ever see

And it was co-written by Robert Altman, no less. Thanks to blog contributor Hamid for turning me onto this 1956 gem. It stars Jerry Wallace (the singer of Primrose Lane). I defy you to last more than ten minutes. For your consideration this Oscar season -- "Corn's-A-Poppin'"

Friday, November 28, 2014

Nothing more needs to be said

Black Friday Questions

Here they are. And hey, if you’re one of those people who stood in line outside a store for three days to get $100 off on a TV I wanna hear from you.

Allan V starts us off:

I absolutely adored M*A*S*H, but what did you think about it running for 11 seasons? Was that about right, or should it have stopped sooner?

I think eleven years is too long for practically any series, even a classic one.  

Charles Emerson Losechester wonders:

How does a multi-camera show that's shot on film work? Specifically, on CHEERS. Are they making literally three different films with the multiple cameras, with massive splicing edits later on to keep the action continuous, or does it all go through some sort of main control panel where the camera changes happen on the fly?

We had four film cameras shooting continuously. Originally the editing was done on film. In later years the film was transferred to tape and all the editing was done off the tape. An editor could sync all four cameras and switch back and forth building his cut. Now everything is done digitally.

However, there is a cut of the show that is being built on the fly as the show is taping. This is for the studio audience to watch on the monitors. A special editor is hired to do this real-time edit. I’m actually amazed at how good some of these guys are.

From Powerhouse Salter:

Question about sitcom camera angles: What purpose is supposed to be served in a two-person dialogue scene when the camera is set up behind one of the actors and all we can see is the static back of his or her head? I mean, what's the point of no head movement whatsoever and not even a hint of profile to suggest that we're looking at the actual actor (or the actor's stand-in) and not at what might as well be a floor mop with a wig on it?

If I understand your question correctly, you’re referring to a close up of someone talking and the head and shoulder of the person he’s talking to. This is called an “Over.” When I shoot dual conversations I do two passes. On one I do singles and the other I do overs. “Overs” help the audience tie the two yakkers together. And they provide variety. You’re not just ping-ponging back and forth for four minutes. That gets very annoying.

VP81955 went to a recent taping of MOM and asks:

Ken, what's the longest lag time you've ever had between episode filming/taping and episode airing? Because the second-season debut of "Mom" was delayed a month, the episode that aired Thursday was its third of the season. Friday's filming was for episode 12, so it won't air until January.

Infinity. There are plenty of shows that are taped and NEVER air. There have been whole series that are in the can but never aired.

For the second season of ALMOST PERFECT, we shot ten episodes. The show as cancelled after only four had aired. The other six never made it to CBS. Fortunately, the series went into syndication twice – once on USA and once on Lifetime – so those episodes were eventually broadcast.

David and I have written episodes of JOE AND SONS, THE PRACTICE, and BRAM & ALICE that never aired.

Midseason shows are often filmed in the summer and early fall. Networks sometime delay their premiers to March, May, or even the summer.

The first six episodes of SEINFELD sat on the shelf for a year.

On the other hand, I’ve been in situations where we shoot a show one week and it airs the following week. Lots of late nights and overtime when that scenario arises.

What’s your Friday Question? And don’t over-eat this weekend.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

My Thanksgiving tradition

We all have our own cherished Thanksgiving traditions. Enjoying Grandma’s famous stuffing recipe (which oddly tastes a lot like Stove Top), the game of touch football on the lawn (they still talk about the year Uncle Ed’s stitches came loose), weird cousin Marla’s holiday decorations (festive paper turkeys with hatchets), everyone bringing their favorite dish, renewing the argument over whether cousin Marla should be hospitalized, etc. My fondest tradition was watching THE HOONEYMOONERS marathon on one of the local LA channels. The last few years it’s been discontinued but thanks to DVD’s, I now own all 39 classic episodes and can gleefully watch them again for the nine millionth time.  I assume Netflix or one of them also offers the show for streaming.

Produced in 1955 for one season only, THE HONEYMOONERS remains my favorite all-time sitcom. I don’t think there’s ever been a more inspired cast than Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, and Audrey Meadows. And Joyce Randolph was okay too.

I wonder what people in their 20’s would think of the show. Would it seem too retro? Would the black-and-white cause a disconnect? Would the comedy still hold up? I’d like to think it would. I’d like to think any generation would marvel at Art Carney demonstrating a golf swing, or Jackie Gleason learning to mambo.  Happily, my USC class seemed amused. 

If you’ve never seen THE HONEYMOONERS, or haven’t in a long time, I invite you to get the DVD collection or go on Netflix or Hulu and have your own Thanksgiving marathon. But JUST the classic 39 episodes. The collected sketches from Gleason’s variety show or the “lost episodes” don’t hold up. But those 39, for my money, are sitcom perfection. I’d be interested to hear what you think.

Some of my favorite episodes are:

The Golfer
Better Living Through TV (the one I show to my USC class)
Oh, my Aching Back
The $99,000 Answer
Young at Heart
Unconventional Behavior
Hello, Mom

I bet as you read this I’m watching one of them right now.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bill Cosby -- mentor?

Not to just pile on, but this is an article I wrote about Bill Cosby for this blog a couple of years ago that was picked up by Gawker recently, resulting in a lot of traffic.  So I thought I would share it again for my regular readers. 

I’ve always been a big fan of Bill Cosby. Loved his comedy albums as a kid, took my wife to Las Vegas to see his stand-up act (more like a sit-down act. He just sat in a chair, smoked a cigar, and held a giant audience in the palm of his hand), and admired THE COSBY SHOW (at least when it started). He was a true original and his comedy came out of reality. You laughed because you related.  He was also a damn good spokesman for Jello. So I respect his work. We’re clear on that, right?

Recently, WRITTEN BY, the WGA’s monthly magazine did an article where they referred to Bill Cosby as a writer’s mentor. I think they were being a little overly generous. I wouldn’t call him a mentor.

I’d call him an egotist who worked his writers as if they were pack mules.

I know. You say potato and I say potato.

There’s no question that there was much to be learned from Bill Cosby, and those writers who survived did take lessons that helped them in their future work. But what a cost.

The article explains how the process worked on THE COSBY SHOW. The staff worked out a very rough story area on Wednesday, then wrote an entire script over the weekend. Cosby would shit on it at the table reading on Monday. If there were lines he didn’t like he would read them in funny voices. Rather rude to the writers who killed themselves all weekend to service you. Then would come the hours of notes, Cosby would tear the whole script apart.  Often, with his big cigar, he would literally blow smoke into the writers' faces.  And then the staff went back to now write a completely new script and cough. Those rewrites, even in the article, were termed grueling.

And this went on week after week. Hundred hour weeks were common. Month after month. At least he didn't smoke $2 Tiparillos.

Oh, and did I mention, at the end, Cosby ad libbed stuff?  I’m sure it was funny but why put everybody through that just to ultimately do it yourself?

Talented showrunners would understandably bolt after a season or even a few weeks of this. One writer was so fried after she quit that she spent six months working at the Coney Island Aquarium.

Are there shows with long hours? Absolutely. Is it difficult to write for a comedian who has a very strong voice? You betcha. But you know that going in.

However, to have a star just arbitrarily toss out draft after draft and force his staff to write around the clock for seven months is unfair and highly disrespectful.

I don’t know why the staff bothered to do anything for the table draft. Why work hard crafting jokes and scenes and moments when everything's just going to be dismissed? Just write down the first thing that comes to your mind and head for the train. The fact that the staff didn’t do that (and never did that) says something about how admirable and professional they were.

Fact: Writers burn out. Fact: Writers do not do their best work at 4:00 AM after being in the room for fifteen hours. How would an actor like it if he were asked to strenuously rehearse every day from 7:00 AM until 11:00 PM and then an audience would be brought in and he'd be asked to perform NOISES OFF for two hours?

The fact that Cosby established this grueling schedule and maintained it shows, to me, a lack of consideration and compassion. Yes, the show was a smash hit, and he was the 800 pound gorilla, but I will never be convinced it would have been any worse had the writers not spent 70% of their time writing material that everyone knew was gong to get thrown out. I could however, make an argument that the shows would have been even better had the staff not been walking zombies.  And if some of the better writers had not quit.

But that’s the way they did it. A number of people made fortunes of money (including sweater manufacturers). And the show is a classic.

Call Cosby brilliant, call him the man who saved sitcoms, call him a game-changer, a visionary, a titan in the world of comedy. But mentor? I was fortunate that I had mentors who didn’t send me screaming to an aquarium.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A riot photo that is a riot

I teach a class Monday nights at USC, which is in downtown Los Angeles.  As a result of the Ferguson protests the campus was under lockdown.  No one was allowed to enter or leave.  Scary times with helicopters hovering overhead and lots of sirens and flashing blue lights.  But that doesn't mean you can't get hungry.   Here are students getting a pizza delivered during lockdown.  I had to take this photo.  I bet you won't see anything similar in the paper. 

The Macy's Parade

I have no desire to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I’ve been in New York several times during Thanksgiving and just my luck, every year it’s been cold. Maybe if they held it indoors one year… Perhaps down in the subway? Nah, it might be tough wedging Sponge Bob through a tunnel.

Brutal weather conditions aside, the parade is spectacular and organizers do an amazing job. It’s quite a spectacle and well worth seeing if you’re not a princess like me. But hey, I don’t go to football games in the winter either. Do fans realize these games are on television?  Or are they just looking for an excuse to use those flasks? 

In Manhattan in January I’ve been known to hail a cab to take me across the street.

I only attended the parade once. And that was because James L. Brooks had a condo along the parade route and had a bunch of people over for a viewing party. So I watched from the window while sipping my hot chocolate. Jim, and a few others were calling down to the passing celebrities. It helped that he actually knew these people.

More fun than going to the parade is watching them blow up the balloons the night before. I do recommend that. They do it near the Natural History Museum. Wear a sweater.

To me the Macy’s Parade is a TV event anyway, even when I’m in Manhattan. It signals the official beginning of the holiday season and gives us a chance to see all the “stars” of the midseason NBC shows that will be cancelled by every St. Paddy’s Day Parade. Al Roker will be interviewing these recycled sitcom actors and fawning all over them. Such excitement lay ahead when these new NBC shows premier. Remember GROWING UP FISHER? 1600 PENN? SMASH?

THE TODAY SHOW anchors always host. Matt Lauer pretends he’s really enjoying himself, but he has the same look as when they make him do the red carpet show for the Golden Globes. It must be the one day of the year Ann Curry is sitting by a cozy fire saying, "Ha ha bitches!" 

The advantage of viewing the parade on TV is you get to see the Broadway production numbers. My heart always goes out to those poor frozen kids in skimpy show outfits dancing and singing in 20 degree temperatures, sometimes being rained or snowed upon. Equity is such a strong union. Why isn’t there a rule that Broadway dancers are not allowed to perform if they can see their own breath? How many Rockettes blow out hamstrings?

And then the parade starts and I’m always wondering why certain celebrities got stuck on certain floats. “There’s Allison Janney on the foot care float.” Singers stop and lip sync the first chorus of their songs before they’re cut off by six Black Friday commercials. Balloons are the big attraction and Matt must act like he’s seeing the Snoopy balloon for the first time, even though he’s seen it thirty.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t enjoy a parade unless I’m also provided commentary. Instead of listening to a marching band I want to hear how many pancake breakfasts they held in order to finance this trip. I need to know how much helium is in Bullwinkle. And why is Allison Janney on that float shaped like a giant foot?

And then afterward, that big decision, that tough decision – football or the dog show?

Hope you have a great holiday season. And if you’re going to the parade, try to get a selfie with Kermit. Thanks. And again, wear a sweater.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Attention Cumberbitches!

And everyone else. There’s an awesome new movie coming out.  It's called THE IMITATION GAME and it's the best film I’ve seen so far this year (although in fairness, I’ve yet to see MOM’S NIGHT OUT). It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and open the 28th, hopefully in more than four theaters nationwide.

THE IMITATION GAME tells the true story of a British mathematician (guess who) who broke the code of the Nazi Enigma machine that essentially allowed us to defeat the Germans in World War II. So Cumberbatch is sort of the John Wayne of nerds. Also on hand are Keira Knightley (can I be a Knightleybitch?), and two Sunday night quality TV faves – the guy who plays Finn on THE GOOD WIFE and the guy who plays Tom on DOWNTON ABBEY.
The movie is thoroughly engrossing – the perfect blend of character study and thriller. For my money it’s way better that BEAUTIFUL MIND so I wonder if it will get the Oscar love I think it deserves. It’s also superior to THE KING’S SPEECH if you ask me (and it has a character who stutters).

The Weinstein Company produces it so it has a shot. But believe me, if it were directed by Spielberg there would be handsome glossy programs handed out at all industry screenings and we would be bludgeoned into making this the frontrunner. We would be told in no uncertain terms that it’s “important.” A smart, entertaining movie isn’t enough. And getting director Morten Tyldum to go on Charlie Rose is not a big whoop.

Whether THE IMITATION GAME is sexy enough for an ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY exclusive behind-the-scenes on-the-set profile (Cumberbatch’s stock has probably plummeted now that he’s engaged) or an ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT exclusive behind-the-scenes on-the-set featurette remains to be seen. But fortunately, Spielberg isn’t coming out with some three-hour epic starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Winston Churchill so there may be hope.

If you think encrypting a code with 159,000,000,000,000 possibilities is hard, just try making a riveting screenplay out of it. Kudos to Graham Moore. Cumberbatch and Knightley are worth listening to as well as looking at. And director Mortem Tyldum (sure to become a household name) turned what could have been a two-hour eye chart into a cinematic delight.

THE IMITATION GAME – all it needs is a catchy tagline. How about…?




Update:  A reader made an excellent point.  I write a wonderful review about a hero mathematician whose name has been ignored and then I never mentioned his name.  Alan Turing.    My extreme bad.   His name deserves to be over the title.   Alan Turing. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Hollywood Tradition -- My Thanksgiving Travel Tips

The Thanksgiving holiday is the peak travel weekend of the year (in America. The rest of the world could give a rat’s ass about Thanksgiving.) So as a public service, here again -- and with a few additions -- are some travel tips:

Leave for the airport NOW.

Bring no luggage. Wearing the same clothes for a week is a small price to pay. Plus, the airlines now charge you for check-in luggage AND blankets. Pretty soon pressurized air will also be extra.

Southwest has no reserved seating. Get in one of the latter groups boarding. You don’t want to be one of the first to sit then watch as fifty people glance at the empty seat next to you, then to you, and decide to sit somewhere else. Even in the last row.

If you have children under the age of five tell your relatives one has an earache and make everyone come to YOU.

Those people in the Stand-By line – those are the same people who think they can get rich selling Amway products, and the Tooth Fairy really exists. Don’t fly Stand-By unless you like sleeping in airport terminals for five days.

If you rent from Hertz plan on a two hour wait just to get your car. Unless you’re one of their “preferred” customers in which case allow only one hour.

When rental car companies recommend you use premium gasoline put in regular. It’s cheaper, it’ll run just fine, and it’s not your car.

Before you pull off the road to a Chuck E. Cheese for lunch, remember their namesake is a rat.

Air travelers: avoid O’Hare. Better to land in Dallas, even if your destination is Chicago.

If you’re dropping someone off at the airport don’t even think you’ll be able to stop. Have your travelers practice the tuck and roll from a moving car. The first couple of times they’ll bounce but by the fourth or fifth try they should have it down.

Watch the DVD of HOSTEL on your laptop. The bigger the screen, the better.

There’s more legroom in Exit rows. When the flight attendants ask if you are willing to help out in case of emergency just say yes. Like it’s going to make a big difference anyway if you crash.

There are NO bargains in the Sky Mall magazine.

When you’re stuck in St. Louis and all flights are grounded (and trust me, you WILL be), grab lunch at JBucks.

Never pay to see an in-flight movie starring Debra Messing.

Put a big strip of duct tape on your luggage so you’ll recognize it easily. And it makes a nice fashion statement.

If you’re flying with small children see if there’s such a thing as “Flintstones Valium”.

In-flight alcoholic beverages are expensive. Better to drink heavily at the airport before boarding.

And finally, watch PLANES, TRAINS, & AUTOMOBILES again and think of it as a “best” case scenario.

Happy trails to you all.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


... to everyone who honored my request and told me where you're from, how you found the blog, etc.   And also for all the kind things you said about me & my little blog.  Thanks for letting me into your life.    Oh... I need a photo.  Wait.   Okay, here ya go.

Mike Nichols & Elaine May

With the passing of Mike Nichols this week, the world lost a superstar talent. He'd won Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, everything. But many younger people might not know that in the late '50s/early '60s he and Elaine May were a comedy team. They both came out of an improv background in Chicago, and the scenes they did together just clicked in a magic way. As a comedy team they were a sensation. Number one selling albums, numerous TV appearances, and even a stint on Broadway.

So I thought today I would show some of their routines. They're dry, subtle, but very funny and very character based. Enjoy watching two budding geniuses.

Now the first one is from the 1959 Emmys and begins with Richard Nixon of all people. Stay with it though.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Questions

First off, so sorry to hear about the passing of Mike Nichols.  I never met him personally and don't know what I could add to all the other heartfelt tributes, but he was a giant.  There damn well better be a special salute at the Oscars next year.   Anyway, I'm back from Atlanta with some Friday Questions.  

Marianne gets us started.

I was watching Madam Secretary last night and I noticed that Bebe Neuwirth plays quite a similar character to that of Lilith. How difficult is it for actors to avoid falling victim to typecasting?

Actors can certainly get pigeonholed. It’s up to them to not accept those similar roles (if they can), or break out and play something different.

One of the reasons Ted Danson took the role of BECKER was that he would play such a different character from Sam Malone.

This is why you see a lot of known actors doing independent films. They don’t get paid much but they get to show off other sides of themselves.

On the other hand, there are actors who don’t mind playing essentially the same part over and over. They’re working.

When I was showrunning and an agent said a certain actor I was inquiring about didn’t do episodic television I always asked, “Who else is paying him $5,000 this week?” You’d be surprised how often that worked.

On a similar note, Michael wants to know:

Some supporting actors from TV shows disappear after their show ends while others continue to pop up in new shows in varying degrees. In your opinion, which factor is most important in determining this - talent, a good agent, simple luck?

All of the above. How identified they were with their character is also a factor. How versatile they can be comes into play (again, Ted Danson).

An actor’s TV-Q becomes a factor. That’s research that determines how well-known an actor is and more importantly, how popular they are. Yes, it is pretty heartless and cutthroat. Welcome to Glitter City.

But there are some TV actors that the public just loves. Dylan McDermott is one of those guys. You’ll notice he gets a series every year. Chris Noth is another. Julia Louis-Dreyfus also tops that list.

And then there are actors from hit shows that just cash in their winnings and walk away from the table. They do theatre, they paint, the move away and live happy lives. David Schramm from WINGS would be an example of that. He’s quite content not guesting on television shows. Yes, there is life after sitcoms.

Lou H. asks:

When a multi-camera sitcom episode needs to use multiple sets, is it still shot in sequence, with everybody moving from set to set, or are things optimized a bit so that, say, all the scenes on one set are shot in a single batch, even if that makes the story a bit harder for the studio audience to follow?

It’s shot in sequence so the audience can follow it. Yes, this causes delays due to costume changes, but if the audience can’t follow the story there’s really no point. And the time it takes for the cameras to roll from one set to another is maybe three minutes.

Single camera shows (shot like movies) will shoot out of sequence. They’ll film all the scenes in one location then move to the next. Not being an actor myself I’ve always felt that had to be difficult on actors – having to adjust their attitudes based on what the scene requires. “Okay, in this one you’re distraught.” “Now you’re hopeful.” I don’t know how they can just turn on and off emotions that quickly and still keep the whole piece in their heads. But that’s why they get the big bucks and their sex tapes go viral.

And finally, from Jim S:

How do you know if an actor has "it" that x factor that makes actor A better than actor B?

There is no formula.  It's just a sense you have.  If two actors are auditioning and you can't take your eyes off of one of them, that's a good sign.

In some cases you just "know."  They have an ease, a charisma, a presence.  Almost instantly you can tell.

On the other hand, some X-factor actors can go unnoticed.   George Clooney knocked around for years.  NBC once passed on Tom Cruise for a pilot.  Madonna also got turned down.   I helped out on a short-lived series in the '80s (doing punch up one day a week).  The actress who starred in the show was God awful.  I later learned she was chosen over Annette Bening.  

So the answer is:  you never know, but you do.

What’s your Friday Question? You know you have one.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thoughts on having a blog... for nine years now

It's hard to believe but this blog is now nine years old.   Over 3900 posts (okay some are reposts).   I began by writing something new every day to help build an audience and somehow kept doing it.  The amazing thing is that I didn't run out of things to talk about eight years ago.

So why do I still do it?

Well first off I think of this as stretching exercises for a writer.   My posts are never that long.  I don't want to write all day and you sure don't want to read all day.  But it keeps my mind active.

It's a nice chance to Pay It Forward.  I've been very lucky in my career and had awesome mentors along the way like Larry Gelbart, James Brooks, the Charles Brothers, Gene Reynolds, etc.  The least I can do is share some of this largesse with today's young writers.  

I get to plug my play, books, and whatever other ridiculous enterprise I'm hawking.  

I can write whatever the hell I want and never get network notes.  

I've made a lot of great new friends through the blog.

Every so often someone really cool like Aaron Sorkin or David Hyde Pierce agrees to be a guest blogger.  

And who doesn't want a venue to rant over things that piss you off?  

Still, it is time consuming, and I'll be honest, there are times it's a burden.   Coming up with interesting enough topics is sometimes very difficult.  I can''t tee off on 2 BROKE GIRLS every day. 

But for the most part it's been rewarding.   How long will I continue?  I don't know.  I'm surprised I've been doing it this long.  I mean, nine years?  Jesus.  I'm crossing into "get a life" country.   However, for the moment I shall continue polluting cyberspace on a daily basis.

On this occasion I turn to you guys.  I do this from time to time.  I'd love to hear from you -- especially you new readers.   Where are you from?  How long have you been reading?  How did you originally find my site?  How old are you (or at least in what demographic)?   What topics do you like or dislike?    And anything else you want to get off your chest.

Thanks for hanging in for nine years.  You're the reason I still do it.  Well, that and I'm sometimes bored.  But mostly you. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The weirdest example of stunt casting

Here’s a Friday Question that resulted in an entire post.

Joseph Scarbrough asks:

I see that occasionally, shows will do episodes where one of the characters actually has some kind of a connection with a real life celebrity (i.e. Felix Unger apparently was the one who discovered Richard Dawson, or Aunt Esther turns out to be B.B. King's old flame, etc.) What's the process for scripts like that? Do the writers just come up with these ideas? Are they mandated by the networks as rating boosters? Do the celebrity guest stars get any kind of say in how they're used in the script?

This is called stunt casting and networks love the concept because it spikes ratings. In almost all cases, the celebrity is approached before the script is written. Once he or she commits then the process of crafting the script begins.

A lot of times celebrities play themselves because they’re not great actors. And you’d be surprised how many of them are such bad thesps they can’t even play themselves. We also try not to give them punchlines. Don’t place the comedy burden on linebackers.

There are exceptions of course. My partner, David Isaacs, and I wrote the CHEERS episode starring Johnny Carson as himself. He was fantastic. And a very pleasant surprise was former Boston Celtic, Kevin McHale. This guy was a natural. He was so funny we not only gave him jokes; we brought him back for a second episode.

This is not a new practice, by the way. In the early ‘50’s I LOVE LUCY featured such guest stars as William Holden and Harpo Marx playing themselves.

The most bizarre case of a celebrity wanting to play himself was on FRASIER. The producers were looking for an actor to play Martin’s partner. Martin (FRASIER’S dad) had been a cop. Ben Gazzara, a fine actor, was approached to play the role. He said he would do it but only if he could play himself. The producers reminded him that the part was for a police officer in Seattle. Gazzara still insisted. So the reality was supposed to be that in between acting gigs, Ben Gazzara would head up to the Great Northwest and fight crime alongside Martin Crane. For reasons I can’t fathom, the producers were uncomfortable with that. They wound up going to another actor.

That said, if I was running BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, I might consider seeing if Daniel Day-Lewis could play himself as a member of the squad. Hey, he only does one or two movies a year. I’m sure he could get a leave of absence from the force every now and again to film LINCOLN. Fox needs help launching their comedies and this could just be the ticket. You know me, always looking to help. You’re welcome.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Short Attention Span Blogging

… or “I couldn’t think of a topic today.”

 People seem to be so polarized on BIRDMAN and NIGHTCRAWLER. They either love ‘em or hate ‘em; no in between. I dread/look forward to seeing them.

Networks are always looking for safe bets. What could be safer than a Bill Cosby family comedy? Oops, NBC.

Hollywood’s version of campaign stumping has begun. Potential Oscar contenders are schlepping to every film festival they can to hype their film. If you folks in Kalamazoo or Altoona want to meet Michael Keaton or Paul Thomas Anderson or Julianne Moore, start a film festival, screen their films (which you show anyway) and give them your “Outstanding Whatever” awards.

Paramount and AMC theatres have introduced a novel offer. You can buy tickets to see INTERSTELLER as many times as you want. Is this because the movie is so good or confusing?

Imagine how many BILLIONS Disney would have lost if it had made that offer last year with FROZEN. Although released last November, it still has made more money THIS year than all but four movies.

What was that goofy CBS “Hollywood Film Awards” show that aired a couple of weeks ago? How do you have a movie award show before most of the real Oscar contenders are released?

Keep an eye out for BIG EYES this Oscar season.

Best NFL announcer on national television: Ian Eagle.

Best NFL announcer on national radio: Dave Sims (pictured right).

Best national sportcasting newcomer: Kevin Burkhardt.

After yesterday’s post, a number of you have to asked to see the pre-show announcement I wrote for my play A OR B? Here ya go:

Welcome to the Falcon Theatre!

Please be advised that the taking of photographs or recordings of any type are strictly prohibited.

Please take a moment now to turn off all cellphones, tablets, blenders, power tools, Geiger counters, and leaf blowers.

If you think you may need a lozenge or hard candy during the show, please unwrap it now. The two loudest sounds on earth are sonic booms and crinkling candy wrappers.

The Falcon parking lot closes shortly after the show, so if you decide to go to any of the nearby establishments afterwards, either A – drive there, or B – walk there and then continue walking home.

Thank you for coming and enjoy A OR B?

Others asked if I’d post the actual script. I think that would hurt its chances for future productions, but I am exploring getting it published. If I’m successful I’ll point you to where you can then obtain it. When have I ever not shamelessly promoted something I've done?

Even Jack can't stand watching the Lakers.
Say what you will but Aaron Sorkin is a good sport.

Kathy Griffin is the next Joan Rivers.

Sorry to hear of the passing of former LA TIMES theater critic, Charles Champlin.  He was 88.  Champlin wrote for the TIMES for 26 years, back when they really had a theater section.

Giancarlo Stanton and the Miami Marlins are on the verge of a 13-year $325,000,000 deal. He’s a great kid, we go to the same dentist, but Jesus! Name me one mega 100+ million dollar deal that hasn’t been a complete disaster the last few years of the contract. From A-Rod to A-Pujos and every Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder in between.

But at least Stanton has an opt-out after 5 years because, y'know, you don't want to be tied down to a shitty deal like that if better ones become available. 

In Rodriquez’s contract with the Yankees he has a stipulation where they have to provide a tent for him to sell his merchandise at spring training. This is not a joke. There are stories of rock stars that demand bowls of only green M&M’s in their dressing rooms. I wonder if Alex had that too but the greenies he demanded weren’t M&M’s.

THE GOOD WIFE is having another banner year. Last Sunday’s episode where you saw how political campaign spots are really created should be shown in ever Poli-Sci class in America.

Best Actress who just hasn’t found a hit series yet: Kathryn Hahn.

Huffpost Headline: What Is Going On With Robert Pattinson's Hair?

I’m already sick of Feliz Navidad.

Off to Atlanta for a few days.  You just can't get Coca Cola anywhere else. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

25 things I learned by doing a play

My play closed last night at the Falcon Theatre. As you read this they’re probably taking my name down from the marquee. (At least they didn’t do that during the final curtain call.) 

It was an absolutely awesome experience and I can’t thank the staff of the Falcon, the crew, and my terrific cast (Jules Willcox & Jason Dechert) enough. Special thanks to my director, Andy Barnicle, and the Godfather, Garry Marshall.   (all pictured below with me.  Notice, how as the playwright, the light is shining out of my ears?)  

I’ve also enjoyed sharing the process with you dear blogniks. So as a wrap-up I thought I would post 25 things I learned from the experience.

The first thing you do is scope out where the local bars are.

As in every form of show business, casting is the most important decisions you will ever make. Everything else you can fix. 

At some point you have to lock the script, although if I had my way I would be rewriting after every single performance.

As the playwright, be ready to defend and justify every line and bit of punctuation in your script. Trust me, you will be asked. This, by the way, is a good thing.

Actors can see and function in the dark.  You must be part cat to be a theater actor. 

There’s no editing afterwards.

Things will go wrong. Zippers will break. A cue will be missed. But considering how many little things all have to happen with complete precision it’s a wonder that most of the time everything comes off as planned. Let me amend that: It’s a wonder that everything EVER comes off as planned.

I’m canceling my subscription to the Los Angeles Times. Not because they gave me a bad review. Because they never even bothered to review it in the first place. Better they should review New York plays than productions that take place in their own city.

Equity is a stronger union than the Longshoremen.

People laugh more on weekends.

Lighting, sound, set, and costume designers are not technicians. They’re wizards.

Actors are very aware of the audience. They see you sleeping in the third row.

Tech week is like binge-watching C-SPAN.

For a comedy, rewrite the pre-show “turn off your cellphone” announcement. Put some jokes in it. It helps get the audience into the mood and it’s nice to get a running start on laughs.

The stage manager is like an air traffic controller but under more pressure.

Listening to the actors and director talk, I realize I know shit about classical theater.

Green rooms are never green.

There are a lot of good actors out there that no one has ever heard of.

Staged readings are really helpful. Even when they suck. This from personal experience.

Use plastic glasses for props. Real glass breaks. And backstages are dark.

The one question everyone asked me when I greeted them at the theatre was: “Will there be an intermission?” The answer they were all looking for is YES.

Understudies have the most thankless job in theater.

There are a million details you never think about. Like somebody has to wash the wardrobe each day. God, my heart goes out to the guy who does that for CATS.

There is usually one skeesix in the audience who coughs through the entire second act.

Working in the theater is a labor of love. But not by choice.

Thanks so much to everybody who came out to see my play. Hopefully it will live again someday somewhere.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A funny sketch on network interference

From last night's SNL -- more truth than fiction.

Trying to solve a 30 year mystery

There was a 1973 movie called THE LAST OF SHEILA. It was a murder mystery written by, of all people, Stephen Sondheim and Tony Perkins. More surprising, Tony was not in the movie and Stephen didn’t do the music. Producers really need to check out writers’ resumes.

Anyway, it was an intricate whodunit very well received. I didn’t see it. I was too busy that year watching SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, THEATER OF BLOOD, and Oscar favorite HELL UP IN HARLEM.

A bunch of years later I saw that Channel 2 was going to play it at 11:30 that Saturday night. I had just purchased a VCR so set the timer. This was in the early days of VCR. They weighed as much as a Kia, tapes were ¾ inch not ½ inch, they only recorded at one speed, and maximum length of tape was two hours.

But that was no problem. The movie was scheduled from 11:30 – 1:30. So I taped it and the next night my wife and I watched the movie and enjoyed it very much.

Until the end.

Stations dump a lot of extra commercials in the middle of the night. Who cares if a show runs a little long?


Right at the part where they’re just about to reveal the killer – and the tape ends. AAAAAA!!

The next few days we frantically called around to friends asking if they saw the movie and remembered who did it? Nobody did. Like I said, it was a very complicated screenplay. Thank you Stevie and Norman Bates. We finally gave up.

Several years later we were on vacation at a resort on St. Thomas. It was a rather rustic resort. Little huts, no phones, no TV’s, not even Wifi. You walked around at night with flashlights. Your evening entertainment was finding your hut after leaving the dining hall. I bet every morning the sun would come up and three couples who had given up were sleeping on the beach.

So one day we saw they were having movie night and the featured film was THE LAST OF SHEILA. We were ecstatic. Finally we were going to learn the murderer.

So we’re the first two people in the Activity Room. Another four sauntered in and the film began. Only one problem.

The film was dubbed into Spanish.

Neither of us spoke Spanish. Nor did any of the other couples. So they left. We stayed and tried to decipher what was going on. Not a chance.

And then about nine years ago I was in New York at a play reading and there was Stephen Sondheim. He sat right next to my daughter Annie. During intermission I asked her to ask him who killed Sheila. She of course was mortified and refused. Curses! Thwarted again!

So my point: People ask me why I bother to maintain a blog, updating it every day, since it pays me nothing. Well, here’s one reason –

Who the fuck killed Sheila???!!!

Thank you.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Proof that the MASH crew worked with antiquated equipment

Aaron Sorkin parodies

Here's a pretty great one. From Seth Meyers.

And here's one I wrote back in 2006. IF AARON SORKIN WROTE A SHOW ABOUT BASEBALL. Little did I know that he eventually would (the screenplay for MONEYBALL). Yes, he's fun to spoof. But I never miss an episode of anything he writes. So I present it again... with affection.



You can’t get a good lobster in this town.

Last I checked we were in Kansas City.

4.6 billion pork ribs sold every year and 18.9 tons of beef consumed annually since 1997 –

They like their beef, what can I tell ya?

But you’d think just for variety’s sake.

I can still throw my curve.

For strikes?

I’m not throwing enough?

I’ve seen more lobsters.


It’s just that…

What? Kathy?

No. Cabs. There’s no cohesiveness on this team. After road games, 25 cabs for 25 players. There used to be a thing called “the greater good”, forgoing your needs for the betterment of the team and community who looks to us for their identity and self worth. When I’m trying to save a game I’m really trying to save a factory. If baseball is a metaphor for life, then responsibility is its first cousin simile. And Kathy.

That’s a “1” on your back and not a “2”.

I can’t help it. She knocks my sanitary socks off.


(in thick accent) Hey, Skip. You know where we could get a lobster around here?

Order a steak with butter sauce.


I only became a pitcher because of her.

Does she know that?

She knows that a human arm is not supposed to throw a baseball 100 miles per hour. And she knows that Jesus Christ could strike out Babe Ruth every at bat for ten years without so much as a rotator tear. But to answer your question – what was your question again?

Can you still throw your curve ball for strikes?

No. The other one.

Does Kathy know you became a pitcher for her?


Look up in the stands, guys. Not four black faces. Would Jackie Robinson even want to break into this game now? If this sport speaks to minorities now it speaks in Spanish. Afro-Americans make up less than 5% of the major leagues. Compare that to basketball, football, or even golf. Satchel Paige said, “don’t look back, something might be gaining on ya.” I just did. It’s now hockey.

Play a little closer to the line.


I think she knows.

But do you really know if she knows?


Then you know what you’ve got to do.


Throw strikes.

Right. Thanks.

And when you get home –


Tell her.

I’ll take her out for a lobster.

What do you mean, 25 cabs for 25 players?



Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Questions

Friday Questions wait for no man.

Michael leads off:

In articles about the new CBS streaming service, it is mentioned that CHEERS is included because it was a CBS show. Do you know if it was sold to NBC only after CBS decided not to air it on their own network?

No. CHEERS was originally produced by Paramount for NBC. Then Viacom bought Paramount. Then Viacom bought CBS. So essentially CBS now owns CHEERS. One day we’ll all be living in the United States of Google.

A.B. has a question about “A or B?”

I'm assuming you came up with the title for "A or B?" prior to "A to Z" getting picked up to series, right? Did you then ever consider changing the title of your play?

I came up with the title last December and had no knowledge of the show. I should see if Ben Queen wants to change the name of his sitcom. It might cause confusion in Toluca Lake.

But no, I never considered changing my title. 

Seriously, I chose it because it fits the play's theme and honestly, I wanted a title that starts with “A” so when it appears in the theater listings it’ll be one of the first ones people see.

And while we’re on the subject of A to Z, KevinM wonders:

In A to Z, they are titling each episode alphabetically: A is for Acquaintances, B is for B... etc. Which means each episode is kind of locked into place. You can't take 'M is for M...,' for example and broadcast it as the 8th episode. Have shows you've worked on had to switch episode order, and how did the writing rooms change the episodes to deal with the continuity problems?

There’s not much you can do once the shows are filmed and completed. It’s infuriating but networks will juggle around the air-dates with utter disregard to continuity. If they think a show is funnier or showcases a character they feel should get center stage that week they will adjust the show order to accommodate that. And if that means a character enters college this week and applies for college next week, they usually don’t care. So if NBC wants to air H before G they will.  And I'm sure their rationale is that NBC audiences can't alphabetize. 

From Barry Traylor

How can more than one new tv show every year be THE NUMBER ONE NEW SHOW OF THE FALL? I used caps as that always seems the way it sounds during a promotion.

The answer is that all that hype is bullshit. How many of these NUMBER ONE NEW SHOWS get cancelled two months later? And they never tell you in what category are they number one? If the category is number of terrible reviews then SELFIE might be the NUMBER ONE NEW SHOW.

Just once wouldn’t you love to hear a network herald a pilot as THE NUMBER THREE NEW SHOW?

Dusty queries:

I've heard that part of Dancin' Homer came Wild Bill and the Roar from 34 at Orioles games. Any truth to this?

None at all. I was not even aware of Wild Bill until after THE SIMPSONS episode aired. The inspiration for Dancin' Homer came from three years of announcing minor league baseball and watching idiots dance on dugout roofs.

What’s your FQ?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Do logic problems ruin a good movie?

Most of the time, I would say yes. It often takes you right out of the film if there’s something so implausible or ridiculous that you notice it at the time. This is especially true in mysteries or thrillers. Once you throw your hands up and say “this could never happen” you’re done. Or you say, “None of this would be happening if he just called her” you’re also done.

As a comedy writer, must of my time is spent working on story. Not jokes. Stories are what hold the audiences’ attention. And the backbone of storytelling is logic. Do the stories make sense? Would these characters really do that? Many times I’ll admit I come up with what I think would be a real cool story or scene and then think, “Okay, so how do I get to it? How do I justify it?” A cool scene is no good if the audience doesn’t buy it. And all too often it’s a bitch to find that justification that truly makes sense. Characters aren’t doing things just because we writers say they should.

Sometimes we’ll hit a point where there’s a small logic problem and we’ll try to determine if it’s small enough to be undetected. Going through four steps to justify it would detract from the narrative. So our choice is to either hope we get away with it or change it if we feel it’ll become apparent. Alfred Hitchcock had a great expression for these camouflaged logic lapses. “Ice box logic.” Someone sees a movie, enjoys it, and later that night goes down to the kitchen to get a snack and when he’s rummaging through the ice box (remember Hitchcock coined this many years ago when there were ice boxes) something occurs to him and he says, “Hey, wait a minute. Martha wasn’t at the train station. How could she know the train was going to be late?” But if it didn’t detract from his experience of watching the movie it’s livable. So there are times we’ll claim “ice box logic” when someone in the room points out a certain snag.

All that said, there are also movies where the logic flaws are blatant and major and audiences still don't care. THE BIG SLEEP from the ‘40s leaps to mind. Based on a Raymond Chandler novel, it’s a great old detective mystery with Bogart at his best donning the trench coat. But you can’t follow it. It’s impossible. William Faulkner did a pass, got so confused he called Chandler himself to explain certain moves. Chandler said he was happy to clear up any vague moments. Faulkner began laying out the issues. The conversation went something like this:

FAULKNER: Who killed Regan?

CHANDLER: That would be Geiger.

FAULKNER: But Geiger was already dead before Regan was killed.



CHANDLER: Hmmm. Then I don’t know. You're on your own.

Even Raymond Chandler couldn’t follow his own story. But Howard Hawks directed it with such speed and flair and you enjoy the movie immensely even though you are (literally) in the dark.

That’s kind of how I am with ORPHAN BLACK the second season. I just now assume everyone is a bad guy and kick back.

Another movie where no one seemed to be bothered by a story hole was John Hughes’ brilliant FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. Well… one person was bothered. My partner, David Isaacs. We were in the Fox commissary shortly after the movie was released having lunch with a producer. Matthew Broderick came into the room, spotted the producer, and came over to our table. He and the producer were friends. Matthew sat down to join us for a few minutes. David casually asked how he got on the float. Ferris, you’ll recall, somehow gets on a float during a big parade in Chicago and has an amazing production number lip-syncing “Twist & Shout.” Matthew got pissed. “What difference does it make?” he asked. David continued to dig a hole for himself by saying he didn’t understand how someone could just commandeer a float during a parade and get marching bands to fall in line, etc. This pissed off Matthew even more, who kept saying, “Who gives a shit? It worked.”

In this case, Matthew Broderick was right. I suppose you could justify it by saying his character was such an operator that he could pull off anything, but it didn’t matter. It was such an infectious feel-good sequence audiences were willing to overlook any logistical issues.

But as a writer, it’s a risky way to go. And my question is: As the actor, why didn’t Matthew Broderick ask that question? Or he did and got the same answer from John Hughes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My worst night in the theater since Lincoln

The run of my play, A OR B? at the Falcon Theatre ends on Sunday.  If you want to see it, this is your last chance.    Here's where you go for tickets.  Happily it's been very well received.   More than the laughs it’s getting, I’m most gratified that no one seems to be leaving at intermission.  This is a big deal for me. 

I think back to maybe my most uncomfortable night in the theater EVER. Thank God this wasn’t my play, but there’s always the fear that someday it might be.

This was years ago. Before I had kids. There is a large theater scene in LA – lots of small theaters (99 seats or less) in various pockets around town like West Hollywood, East Hollywood, and North Hollywood. Nothing south because there’s no South Hollywood. Once somebody does name a neighborhood that then theaters will follow.

Anyway, my wife and I used to love frequenting these small theaters and seeing new plays and musicals. Not all were great, but most were worthwhile. And there’s always something exciting about watching live actors perform. I was also producing TV at the time and was always on the lookout for new talent. From time to time I would hire actors for guest star roles after discovering them in one of these modest venues.

One day we noticed that a certain actress had written a comedy. I'm not going to mention her name.  We were fans of her on-camera work so decided to give it a try. It was held at a small 49-seat theater just off Melrose Ave.

This was a Saturday night and there were maybe fifteen of us in the audience. Not a good sign.  We all sat in the first three rows. The actress/playwright sat behind us in the fourth row.

The play was awful. Painful. Torturous. And this actress/playwright laughed uproariously at every lame thing the poor actors were saying. No one else even cracked a smile. We all just squirmed in our seats and wished we could have crawled underneath them.

When intermission came (what seemed like nine hours later), my wife and I bolted. We got in our car and drove past the theater. Everyone else was leaving as well. Couples were racing to their Hondas and hatchbacks. I suspect that when act two began the theater was empty except for the playwright. Now you wanna talk about a douche-chill moment. Can you imagine?

All playwrights would like standing ovations and Tony awards, but I’m quite content to see everyone returning to their seats after intermission.

Interestingly, there are a lot of plays now that don’t have intermissions. Generally they’re comedies and less that ninety-minutes. But theater owners encourage this because it eliminates people leaving at the act break. I chose not to go that route. And it’s not because I want to live dangerously. There’s something about live theater – once you hit forty-five minutes you somehow HAVE TO use the bathroom. You’ve seen the lines. You’ve been in the lines. I should’ve read the reviews of that actress/playwright’s play. When the nicest thing anyone could say about it was you were allowed to pee, you know you’re not headed to Broadway.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Open Letter to Current Showrunners

This is a serious request. I would love a current showrunner to challenge me. I would love to hear an opposing view. If you care to write I will post your response without touching a word. I make this offer not to be argumentative or stir up controversy. It’s that I really would like to understand your take.

Here’s my point: After a fairly long dry spell situation comedy has had a recent resurgence. Thanks in part to THE BIG BANG THEORY and MODERN FAMILY, networks have once again embraced the genre. Unfortunately, the new comedies are all doing horribly. Some are already cancelled. Others have had their production orders reduced drastically. Every week we read that this sitcom or that sitcom has hit all-time lows. A few have even dipped below a one share. A one share!  That is almost unimaginable.   Clearly, the audience is rejecting sitcoms in the form they’re currently in. Fox continues to cling to NEW GIRL and THE MINDY PROJECT despite dreadful ratings. CBS has the most success programming comedies but even their moderate hit shows plummet when removed from cushy time slots.

A hit comedy is a) a cash cow, and b) a rating juggernaut. You can seemingly rerun them forever because audiences will cheerfully watch episodes they’ve seen before, even multiple times. But if year after year everything fails, at some point the networks are going to say, “How long can we keep making Edsels?” 

My point of view: Not only are most of these shows not funny. They don’t even try to be funny. I’ve heard showrunners say they don’t want jokes or they don’t want the audience to suspect a joke is coming. I’ve ranted on this before. Showrunners somehow feel that doing jokes is selling out in some way. And I maintain that GOOD jokes result in laughs. And comedies need to be funny – certainly funnier.

I’ve maintained that irony and self-awareness and endless pop cultures and quirkiness do not substitute for laughs. And it’s not that I’m just lobbying for more one-liners and zingers. If you can get laughs by putting your characters in hilarious situations that’s great. But what I’ve seen repeatedly these days are tepid, soft, mild shows that go for smiles at best.

So again, I ask – what am I missing? Seriously. I’d say it was an age thing if these new comedies were getting big numbers with Millennials, but they’re not. And trust me, I’m not one of those disgruntled comedy writers sitting in a back booth at a deli saying, “That’s why experienced people like me should be running shows.” I don’t want to run a show. I really don’t. I want to watch and enjoy and laugh at your show.

So I would sincerely like to know your thinking. I invite any current showrunner to email me. Why don’t comedy writers want to write comedy anymore? I’d really like to know. Thanks much.

Monday, November 10, 2014

How aliens view earthlings

An alien aircraft has been discovered hovering over the earth. We’ve been able to intercept their communications back to their mother planet. Through complex mega-computers we’ve been able to translate their language. Turns out it’s very similar to Yiddish. The following is a recent communique detailing their impressions of us earthlings:

We recently have been able to access something called the internet. It is a shared data service that can only be accessed by fruit. We don’t know how they tap into these pieces of edible spheres  but specifically humans utilize apples for this purpose.

The internet is received in several ways, mostly through radio wave transmission. We were able to access it thanks to something called Verizon. There is another service – AT&T – but that one didn’t work.

All forms of information are available on things called websites. Based on volume of traffic we conclude the primary interest among all humans is pornography. In a country called the United States there seems to be a large allegiance to Fox News. Those same humans switch back and forth between Fox News and pornography.

Whereas we have libraries, earthlings obtain their reading material through a website called Amazon. Prices vary wildly. The smallest unit of United States currency is one cent and we found a book that only costs that amount. It’s called “It’s Gone! No, Wait a Minute” by Ken Levine. How terrible must it be to sell for the absolute minimum value possible? And it’s an autographed copy.

We were able to piece together a pretty accurate profile of the lifestyle of those citizens of the United States. There are websites where humans share captured video images of themselves. Two such heavily populated sites are Facebook and Instagram.

Here’s what we’ve concluded: Nobody works. Everybody is on vacation all the time. Everybody looks very flattering. No one’s hair is ever mussed. Everyone smiles all the time. They all seem to derive their life force not from water but from cocktails. Everyone is holding a cocktail in a strange container shaped like a funnel attached to a thin stem. Everyone has an obsession with small animals that are pleasing to the eye. The Fox News faithful share articles criticizing the United States leader.

Unlike our culture where we share complex ideas, on this planet they offer advice in the form of little inspirational sayings. Example: A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings. Always believe in yourself.

Each entry allows for feedback in the form of “likes.” If a reader approves an entry he may add his name to the “like” section. Based on the number of “likes” we conclude these broad simple generalizations really resonate with humans. The other thing, oddly enough, that humans appear to approve enthusiastically is death. We found many humans sharing that a loved one has passed away and numerous other humans register “likes.”

Humans find it important to document every meal with a captured video image. Apparently one cannot eat fried clams or boysenberry pie without letting the world know.

It is a good life these humans lead. Every night these humans go to concerts. Or restaurants. And it has always been thus. There is a feature called Throwback Thursday where humans share captured videos of themselves in the past – at concerts and restaurants. Interestingly, they always joke about their hair and appearance in those vintage images but they look just as foolish or worse today. Only their teeth is now whiter and the females seem to have larger breasts.

To sum up: We find earth a most inviting planet. We would like to remain here, even land and go on vacations and participate in pornography ourselves. Currency appears mandatory to survive on earth, and of course we have none. But we have come up with a solution. We have started something called a Kickstarter campaign. So far, in three days we’ve raised fifty-thousand dollars, all from Fox News faithful who would like us to take control of their government.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Let's see what's at the Sky Mall!

When I take my seat in an airplane the first thing I do is seek out the Sky Mall magazine. I am forever amazed by the ungodly prices they charge for bizarre hokey items. Who buys this crap? Here are some of the chotzkes in my most recent Sky Mall.   Warning:  This is a re-post from five years ago so the prices are probably higher and half these products are probably now banned. 

Vuzix iWear – Glasses that are supposed to simulate the big screen experience. $249. More if you want the iMax experience.

Gravity Defyer Shoes. Somewhat self-explanatory. $200. Or, for $4 you could tape Slinkys to your current footwear.

HairMax LaserComb – it’s a comb, it’s a laser. It’s the miracle answer to hair loss. Only $449! Perfect for that cue ball who spends thousands on a toupee that looks like a toilet seat.

X5 Hair Laser – See LaserComb but substitute metal ice pack. $299.

A Portable Alarm Clock for your iPhone. Uh, doesn’t the iPhone already have an alarm clock? $99.95.

Computer Speakers for your iPhone. Not to be confused with any speakers that are the same size and use the same plugs. $149.99.

Retractable Banner Pens – Okay, this you could really need. A thousand for only $950.

Hand Therapy Bars -- $59.

Water trappers -- $169. And they’re fade resistant!

Exclusive Microfibres Trellis Mat to protect high-traffic areas. Here’s the good news: it’s low profile so it will never obstruct your door. $149.

Ingeniously engineered EZ Bed that features an extra-plush mattress, a highly supportive frame, and new dual comfort zones. $299. Who buys a bed from a catalog? "I dunno, it sure seemed firmer in the picture."

Wolfgang Puck-designed toaster – otherwise known as a “toaster”. $99.50.

Cinema style Popcorn Maker – Who doesn’t crave seven tubs of popcorn while watching the National Geographic Channel? $199.

Electric Vortex Solo Heater – Nothing heats a room better than Vortex power. $169.

All-in-one Recycling System – patent pending. Perfect for the person who has compacted and non-compacted items. The idea Christmas gift! $299.

Personal Breathalyzer -- $199. Because expensive gadgets know when to say when.

Feature-laden solar emergency radio – Ideal for those sunny day emergencies. $80.

A Bill Sorter – for only 199 of them.

The Custom Keeper -- 25 cubic feet of storage -- A far better name than laundry hamper. $199. Pretty much everything is $199.

The world’s largest write-on map mural – Only $149. The house with cathedral ceilings at $2,000,000 is not included. But what a mural!

Voice activated R2-D2 – “makes any home feel like it has been transported to a galaxy far far away”. The ad goes on to say it features “distinctive happy and sad sounds faithfully mimicking the real thing… right down to his occasional bad mood." If you buy this (at only $169.95) you are too nerdy to live.

The Electric Tint Changing Ski Goggles – No changing goggles while hurtling down the diamond course. $249.95.

The Upside-Down Tomato Garden – $79.95.

The Hand Crank Two Way Radio – Think of all the money you’ll save on two dollar batteries! Only $99.95.

The only Digital Camera Swim Mask – And it’s waterproof! $99.95.

The Sleep Regulating Sun Lamp – It produces no harmful UV radiation so that’s a plus. $249.95

Adjustable Sheepskin Slippers – You wake up in the morning, it’s 20 degrees in the house, you want your feet to be comfy as you putter around the kitchen. $49.95.

The Motion Sickness Relief Wrist Band – It keeps time and reduces nausea! $139.95.

The Finger Drum Mousepad -- $39.95.

The Mind Spa – This comes with a Catwoman type mask and a control unit that combines soothing sounds and calming lights. $349. From SuckerBornEveryMinute Industries.

The Carbon Fiber Heated Vest --$149.95

The Continuously Freshening Feline Drinking Fountain – What cat would be caught dead drinking out of a bowl these days? $69.95. For an extra ten dollars they should throw in a cat.

The Million Germ Eliminating Travel Toothbrush Sanitizer – It uses “proven germicidal UV technology ". And it sanitizes a toothbrush in only seven minutes! $29.95.

The Foldaway Lateral Stepper – $99.95. Or you could just step from side to side yourself for free.

And finally…

The Children’s ATM Bank – No more breaking into piggy banks, kids! Get a debit card and go to town! $39.95.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Too Many Cooks -- too funny

This is from Adult Swim and if you haven't seen it yet you must check it out. Anyone who has ever watched '70s or '80s cheesy sitcoms will recognize these tropes... actually several genres are spoofed. Incredibly funny and well-done. The man behind it is Chris "Casper" Kelly. As it unfolds it becomes progressively weirder and there's a danger that theme song could become a permanent ear worm but for sheer brilliant parody you gotta make yourself an afterschool snack and watch TOO MANY COOKS. If nothing else, it's so well cast.