Monday, July 31, 2006

Louie Louie

Thanks to Dan and Steve, the Pawtucket Red Sox radio crew for inviting back to do a couple of guest innings Monday night, despite the fact that I was even more horseshit on the air than my appearance Saturday night.

But the experience has made me nostalgic for the three years I broadcast in the minors for Syracuse and Tidewater. So many characters but none more outrageous than the announcer for Louisville (who was replaced by a guy named Joe Buck). This guy, we’ll call him “Louie” had a big booming voice and a style that only can be described as carnival barker. Having crossed into middle age, Louie was still a big skirt chaser, although in those days he generally wound up getting girls in big skirts.

One day Louisville is in Des Moines. He meets some woman at the hotel and they arrange to rendezvous in the lobby at 11 PM after that night’s game.

Unfortunately, the game drags on.

The visiting broadcast booth is right next to the main area of the press box with an open window between the two. Reporters can easily hear the visiting broadcasters.

It’s 10:40. Going into the 8th. The game has at least a half hour to go, then there’s wrapping up the broadcast, shutting down the equipment, and getting back to the hotel. No way will Louie make his 11:00 tryst.

As the two teams are changing sides and the pitcher is making his warm up tosses, the reporters start to hear play-by-play coming from Louie’s booth.

“Bottom of the 8th, Jones up, swings at the first pitch. Fly ball to right. Krellman makes the catch. One out. Next up is Smith. He swings at the first pitch and hits a grounder the first. Two quick outs…” etc.

Louis begins MAKING UP the play-by-play. Sure enough, “his” game is over in ten speedy minutes and he’s out the door. Louie belongs in the “Chutzpah Hall of Fame” for that one stunt alone.

But there were many others. Among them: getting thrown out of a game by an umpire for ragging on him from the press box, getting thrown out of an NBA game and costing his team a technical foul when he did same thing during his brief tenure as the San Antonio Spurs announcer, getting fired from the Minnesota Twins for illegally promoting a drag strip nightly on the broadcast he had ties with, getting canned from a Cleveland sportstalk station for accusing a team of “Jewing down” a player’s agent, and last I heard he was doing TV weather in a small Midwestern town and was arrested for fondling some woman’s breast in a carwash.

As a writer, if you were to put Louie in a script your producer would throw it right back in your face saying he was waaaaay too implausible. And he’d be right…except in minor league baseball. Guys like Louie made all the nine hour bus rides, make up doubleheaders, and dinners at Shoneys worth it.

Can't get no...

This is one of those “please indulge me” posts.

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

Here’s the set up: Barry (picture Jason Alexander) and Jimmy Lizard (picture Steve Martin) were DJ’s together in Bakersfield 25 years ago. Barry left town and the industry and finds himself aimless and depressed. Lizard remained a jock in Bakersfield, playing the same goddamn ten oldies all these years but has a much better attitude about the world…even though he’s now in the hospital battling Leukemia. Barry comes to visit and they have a heart-to-heart.


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


We all spend most of our lives doing stupid shit.

(after a long beat)
That's it?

That's it.

So what's the point?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


They sit quietly for a beat. Then:

So who are they?


Those select women you want to nail.

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

Lizard lies back and smiles, almost picturing them.

Cameron Diaz and Halle Berry.

Alright! Two of the very best.

Catherine Zeta-Jones...

There's more?

Ann Coulter, Jennifer Garner, Linda in accounting...

Linda in accounting?

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

Okay, I think I got it.

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

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

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Saturday night in Pawtucket

Spent the night in lovely Pawtucket, Rhode Island watching the AAA Pawsox do battle with the dreaded Buffalo Bisons. Arrived back home in East Haddam, Ct. just in time for the power to go back on – 30 hours after it had gone off.

The Pawtucket announcer is Dan Hoard, who was my partner when I broadcast for Syracuse in 1988. (Quick trivia note: when David Isaacs and I wrote the episode of THE SIMPSONS where Homer becomes a minor league mascot, I played the voice of the team announcer and gave him the name Dan Hoard.)

Dan and his current partner, Steve Hyder, graciously invited me to sit in and do some play-by-play. Proud to say that even though I hadn’t announced an inning in well over a year I was still in mid-season minor league form. I screwed up a home run call and a strike out.

There’s nothing like minor league baseball and being back at McCoy Stadium. As an added touch of class, after the game they invited Boy and Girl Scout troops to pitch tents in the outfield and camp out all night while on the Diamondvision Board they showed THE ROOKIE. The whole experience made me nostalgic for my days in the bushes and some of the characters I encountered. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of these tales.

One of my favorites was on a Syracuse Chiefs broadcast the year after I had left to call games for rival Tidewater. The Chiefs were in Omaha playing the Royals. My replacement was on the air. He had this habit of looking down at his statistics and occasionally missing things. A batter, Nick Capra just got hit by a pitch. This announcer looked down at his stats to give some arcane statistic. When he looked back up at the field this is what he said, “Ohmygod! There’s a CRAZED MADMAN running out onto the field!!! No, wait. It’s the Omaha trainer.”

I don’t feel so bad about my blown home run call. If nothing else, it gave me a chance to plug the title of my book – “It’s Gone!…No, Wait a Minute.”

the power is out

We had a thunderstorm yesterday at 4:30 and power went out. It's still out. So no post today but what a wonderful chance to browse through my archives. Hopefully, if I can get the hamster hooked up there'll be a post tomorrow.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Overwriting and why it's bad to write more than you need to make the same point

When reading a spec, one of the most common traps I see young writers falling into is overwriting. “Marshall’s Brother” (see yesterday’s post) may be rotten it’s economical. (I’m proud to say it’s well crafted shit.)

When I receive a spec the first thing I always do is check its length. If I get a hernia lifting it, that’s not good. A comedy screenplay should be no more than 120 pages and that’s stretching it. Sitcoms vary depending on the rhythm and format of the show. But if you write a spec EARL and it’s 50 pages, I can tell you sight unseen it’s waaaay too long. WINGS scripts (multi-camera) generally topped out in the low 40’s. When I was consulting on the show we had a writer who routinely turned in 65 page drafts. His rationale was that he gave us choices. We could whittle it down to the best 42 pages. Fine and dandy except THAT’S HIS JOB!!! If you can’t tell your story in the allotted time then maybe you’re not telling the story right. Or there’s too much story and that has to be addressed.

The only thing worse than a TV script of screenplay that’s overwritten is a stage play. Plays have no length requirement so the playwright has free reign to torture us long into next month. When a two character piece about what to pack for a vacation is longer than NICHOLAS NICKLEBY that should be a clue.

And then there’s the dialogue.

This may sound obvious but worth stating anyway: Always remember that actors have to perform your script.

Soooo many times I’ll see full page speeches with sentences so long and complicated that no human being on earth could ever deliver them. And certainly not in one breath. Read your script out loud. If you need CPR by the end of a speech, rethink. Dialogue has to sound natural, conversational. And rarely do we speak in big whoppin’ speeches.

When writing a TV spec, writers often go overboard on character quirks. They’ll hear Frasier utter something a little flowery and think that every word out of his mouth has to be Noel Coward. In fairness, shows themselves get caught up in that trap. On MASH the tendency to give every line a spin evolved into absurdity. In a later season (after I had left the series) Potter once said to Klinger, “It was curiosity that KO’d the feline.” WTF?? Who would ever say that? And why?

There is a tendency to want to impress by working in all kinds of complex themes and philosophies – show how you’re the next Paddy Chayefsky. In truth, it’s your inexperience not intellect that’s being put on display. If long intricate theories and complicated Byzantine ideas are your cup of tea, write a book.

More often than not these long speeches have characters express in detail their emotions and attitudes. Not only is it taxing to listen to this balloon juice it also gives the actor nothing to play. Might as well go on to the next scene. Sometimes a look or a gesture can say volumes more a two page speech that James Joyce would find too convoluted.

Whenever my partner, David and I go back to polish a draft we thin out the big speeches. If the speech is 14 lines we make it 11, if it’s 11 lines we make it 9. There are ALWAYS trims.

Same is true in stage direction. A reader sees a big block of stage direction I GUARANTEE he will not read it. You could describe a sex act in detail and he’ll flip the page.

As a rule it’s better to underwrite than overwrite. We have an expression. We like “open pages”. Much more white than type. This may sound obvious too but: You don’t get paid by the word.

Go back through your script. I bet you could lose two pages. (Probably page 8 and one other.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My worst script

In 1993 my writing partner, David Isaacs and I did a short run series for CBS called BIG WAVE DAVE’S starring Adam Arkin and David Morse. It ran that summer, got 19 shares, kept 100% of MURPHY BROWN’S audience and was cancelled. At the time CBS had starring vehicles in the wings for Peter Scolari, Bronson Pinchot, and the always hilarious Faye Dunaway so they didn’t need us.

We were given a production order of six with three back-up scripts. We assigned the first two back-ups to our staff and planned on writing the third ourselves. When the show was cancelled we put in to CBS to get paid for the additional scripts. They said fine, but we had to turn in the completed scripts. Gulp! That was fine for the first two scripts because the writers already had drafts. But all David and I had was a title, “Marshall’s Brother” (Arkin was Marshall).

We normally write scripts by dictating them to our assistant. (Lots of advantages to this rather weird method which I can discuss in a future post.) Having done this for so long we can usually write a half hour episode in three to five days. We called our assistant into the office and told her we were going to write a script before lunch. It was 11:30.

We had one ground rule. Anything pitched had to go into the script. There was no going back, not even to clean up a sentence. We came up with the idea that Marshall’s brother (Bill) had a hearing problem. Okay, we’re not proud of it, we know it’s not very PC, but this script was never to be produced, and we had a lunch reservation. A few weeks ago I shared some of our best scenes. Here’s one of our all-time worst.


Hey, Bill.


I said hi.



Can’t understand you.


Oh. Hello to you. How you feeling?



I’m fine!!

Where’s Karen?

In the back.


In the back.

In the sack?

No. The back room.

Why is she sleeping so late?

She’s not in bed.

She hurt her head?


And so on for 42 of the most rotten pages in comedy writing history.

We finished the script in about 17 minutes, turned it in, got paid, but deep in my heart I know – one day, thousands of years from now, long after some global thermonuclear disaster, someone will discover this vault, open it, and the only thing left of my work, my one lasting legacy, will be the “Marshall’s Brother” episode of BIG WAVE DAVE’S.

I wish now we had taken our time and finished it in 23 minutes.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Can the canned laughter

A reader, Rob, asked what I thought of the dreaded “laugh track”. The MASH DVD’s give you option to watch with or without. Which would be my recommendation?

Definitely: watch without the laugh track.

The only major disagreement the show ever had with CBS was over the laugh track. The “Eye” insisted upon it. I would always say, “where are all these people who are laughing at the chopper pad? Are they in bleachers just off camera? Are they under Hot Lips’ bed when she and Frank are having a private moment? Are they hiding in the still in the Swamp?”

The only concession the network made was that we could eliminate the laugh track during OR scenes. Great for us since as MASH fans all know, our big block comedy scenes were always during operating sessions.

Network thinking about laugh tracks is this: When you see a comedy movie in a theatre you are surrounded by people laughing. The laugh track helps recreate that communal experience when you’re sitting in your home alone. For fifty years networks have stuck by this theory despite not one shred of evidence to suggest it is valid.

Finally, now, networks are beginning to come around. Audiences have loudly stated they want new rhythms in sitcoms. They’ve also said they hate laugh tracks. And since some of the recent better comedies (like SCRUBS and the OFFICE) don’t use one and are embraced, networks are relaxing their yuck box choke hold.

Personally, I think a lot of credit should go to HBO. Their comedies (like SEX IN THE CITY) didn’t employ laugh tracks, and what do you know? Audiences were able to recognize that they were watching comedies all on their own. Networks tend not to be ahead of the curve.

For multi-camera shows there are actual live studio audiences laughing at the material. (On CHEERS we had to announce at the top of the show that we “were filmed in front of a live studio audience” because the public didn’t believe our laughs were real…although they were.)

The problem comes when you do multiple takes or pick-ups? How do you blend one performance with another? The answer is “sweetening”, adding a little laugh track to smooth out the transitions. The danger is to sweeten a little too much or embellish laughs that weren’t as big as the producers hoped.

And they’re not fooling anybody.

You know what’s funny and if a laugh track is orgasmic over a bad joke it’s not going to fool you into laughing yourself. Instead, it’s going to make you think the show is bogus. Laugh tracks are one of the reasons multi-camera shows are now an endangered species.

One final note: On CHEERS and FRASIER we used recorded laughs from our own shows. Not so with other series. A lot of the laughs you hear were recorded fifty years ago. Many of the people you hear laughing are now dead.

Talk about leaving a legacy. Grandma may now be a distant memory but she’s still with us, every week, laughing at Jim Belushi.

What's on my desk?

A question for writers that has been circulating the blogosphere recently is “what’s on your desk?” Since I’m in Connecticut I will have to answer by memory.

My iMac desktop computer (the half egg shell model with the monitor on a Pixar type neck, that was so cool until the new model and now it’s passé).

Mouse on a UCLA mouse pad.

External Hard Drive (back up EVERYTHING, people).


Froggy Gremlin childhood toy.

Bob Hope in Dodger uniform bobblehead. (which makes as much sense as Odalis Perez in a Dodger uniform.)

Cup o’ pens.

Fathers Day cards.

Family photos.

A Gary Larson FAR SIDE card showing the BEWITCHED writing staff brainstorming in the fourth season. Brilliant notions like: “What if Endora casts a spell on Darren?”

Allstate accident report I was supposed to fill out in 2003.

Plastic Bob’s Big Boy (I’m a Bob’s Big Boy fanatic and can never figure out why that checkered jumpsuit look didn’t catch on.)

Five old drafts of my musical, with practically every page dog eared.

XM radio program guide.

A hard bound copy of GREAT PRETENDERS: MY STRANGE LOVE AFFAIR WITH ‘50’s POP MUSIC by Karen Schoemer. (Fun reading. I recommend it.)

My SPORTS ILLUSTRATED 2006 swimsuit model desk calendar. I can’t wait for another Michelle Alves week.

A spec pilot from my rabbi.

A spindle of CD’s that includes albums from Frank Zappa and Joanie Sommers.

Dodger Stadium and Pauley Pavilion replica paperweights.

Lucite encased picture of me with AfterMASH writing staff (that includes Larry Gelbart).

Vintage typewriter from 1890 with the carriage return arm on the right side. Still easier to write on than using FINAL DRAFT.

93/KHJ Boss Radio mike flag.

Box of brads and paper clips.

My bobblehead collection which includes Harry Caray, Speedy Alka-Seltzer, and Jesus Christ.

Emmy consideration Linda Eder interviews horse lovers ANIMAL PLANET DVD.

And -- Oh God – I think there’s still a sandwich.

Monday, July 24, 2006


NO SPOILER ALERT. You can read this review and still blissfully know nothing.

I loved the original CLERKS. CHASING AMY is one of my favorite movies of all time. And I don’t care what the critics say, I thought MALLRATS was a fun flick. Kevin Smith is “the man”. So I was so excited to see CLERKS 2 I braved getting lost and drove fifteen miles searching for some sticky floored Cineplex in Moodus or Old Lyme (actual home of Lyme Disease) or one of those Connecticut towns nearby.

I didn’t love it. And it’s been bugging me ever since.

There were a lot of funny runs, it built to a well structured block comedy scene, there were a few lovely character moments, even a pearl of vintage Kevin Smith twisted wisdom here and there. So why was I disappointed?

The raunchy humor? No, I laughed at a lot of that.

I think the ultimate answer is this: It’s one thing to see goofball foul mouthed sex crazed slackers at 18, but if they’re still doing that shit after 30 it’s just plain sad. They ARE losers. Yes, I know there are a gazillion of these townies in real life who are stuck in this predicament but it’s not fun to watch.

The same would be true of Romy & Michele. I adored ROMY & MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION but would you really want to see those girls acting like that at 40? (We’ll know first hand when the clock catches up with Jessica Simpson.) When ABC came to R&M writer/creator Robin Schiff to do a sequel she wisely chose to do a prequel instead.

Age appropriateness (if there is such a term) is a common problem in comedy, where laughs are so character specific. One reason why I think it was time for CHEERS to go was that Sam Malone’s adolescent tom catting was starting to get real icky. The Fonz in middle age would not be a pretty sight.

Some comic personas age well. Jack Benny’s miser character was timeless. But Bob Hope putting on a Beatles wig and chasing Ann Jillian around at 60 was pathetic. And if Woody Allen thinks that even for one nanosecond we buy that Tea Leoni could be his ex-wife then it’s time for the Woodman to move to that gated Leisure World community in West Palm Beach, Florida.

I still believe in Kevin Smith. His last few movies have missed the mark but there’s that potential for greatness. You see glimmers of it even in his duds (well, maybe not JERSEY GIRL, that was just plain awful). All I ask is that he learns from Dante and Randall and moves on himself.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Please come to Boston

Still here in Connecticut turning the 60’s PROJECT into a masterpiece worthy of summer theatre. Near Boston, so for my weekend post, here’s a travelogue from 1 BWSC (Before World Series Championship).


Just got back from visiting Matt in Boston. It looked like I had picked the perfect weekend. The Red Sox were five outs away from going to the World Series that was to begin at fabled Fenway on Saturday. The town was abuzz. Something to be proud of besides boasting a Dunkin Donuts on every corner. Unfortunately, Red Sox manager Grady Little left Pedro Martinez in the game too long and he gave up a bunch of hits and runs and well... it was Charlie Brown and Lucy holding the football for the hundredth straight sad sack Red Sox season. So no joy in Mudville. All New Englanders want to kill Grady Little. And considering the way they drive, this is not an idle threat.

The local newspapers were oh so kind and forgiving. One showed a picture of Little conferring with Pedro on the mound with the caption: "Jessica Simpson could manage this team better".

Even the gala annual "Head of the Charles" rowing competition did little to ease the pain. Hundreds of rowing crews compete down the Charles while seven people watch from the river banks. It's quite a spectacle. And now I know how Red Sox fans feel. My favorite team, Frankfurter Rudergesellschaft Germania got their butts kicked by the Garda Siochana Boat Club. I say check the oars for cork!!

A number of these teams were staying at my hotel. They weren't hard to spot. Men and women with Popeye arms. Many flew from great distances. But so what? These are the only people who actually feel there's enough legroom in coach.

Just before leaving for Boston I checked out their weather on the internet. Highs in the mid 70's, lows in the high 50's. I unpacked all my winter gear. The temperature didn't hit 50 once the entire weekend. I blame Grady Little! Everyone was all bundled up in heavy coats and parkas except for one schmuck in a "Becker" fleece.

It was great spending the weekend with Matt. He's a senior at Tufts this year and doing great. Stopped by the house he's sharing with three sloths. The good news is he got the front bedroom this year. The bad news is the local police department set up a portable radar speed check right in front of his house. So anytime a car passes by at night it's like he has a 24 second clock glowing in his window.

Friday night we were taken to dinner by my radio pal Dale Dorman and his new bride. Dale is doing mornings on the oldies station now. Imagine getting up every day at 4 so you can play "Pretty Woman" and "Rescue Me" for the nine gazillionth time? I say just record one show and play it back every day for the next five years. No one will know.

We went to Legal Seafood. I had a giant lobster. For dessert I wanted pound cake but all they had left were two-and-a-half and three pounds.

If you want to hear someone blurt out "What the fuck??!!" go to any newsstand in Boston and ask if they carry the Hollywood Reporter.

There ARE Dunkin Donut shops on every corner. Kinda like Phoenix with Radio Shacks.

Huge sign on the expressway near Fenway: "IS YOUR GUN LOADED? 1 OUT OF 5 PEOPLE IN MASSACHUSETTS HAVE AT LEAST 1 GUN." Yikes. Their cars aren't weapons enough? I'd hate to be Grady Little driving by that sign.

On Saturday our travels included the Quincy Market. There we ran across the new second Cheers bar. This one, they claim, is set up exactly like the one on TV. Maybe if you've never seen the show. The bar is square and two or three of the pictures on the back wall are the same. Otherwise, the bar on It's All Relative looks more like the real Cheers. A lifesize poster of Shelley Long beckons diners to stop by the gift shop before they leave. And there they can purchase Cheers ANYTHING. A can of "Norm Nuts". A water bottle for twelve bucks. T-shirts and sweatshirts galore. Cheers Bloody Mary mix. Cheers underwear. I asked if they had Sam Malone condoms and they didn't get the joke. Nor did they laugh when I inquired about Diane Chambers Xanex.

There are way more men than women who sport pony tails in Boston.

The only real bargain in town this weekend was those "Cowboy Up" Red Sox shirts.

Spotted at the Harvard Yard Pizzeria Uno -- a big banner that read: "Now Serving Breakfast" with two Samuel Adams logos on either side of it.

Late breaking news: the Drummoyne Rowing Company edged Ulmer RC Donau. A lot of money changed hands.

Travel tip: Sheratons have the best little hair conditioners. I must've pocketed seven of them. They looked great going through the X-Ray at the airport.

Blue Laws still exist in Massachusetts. Liquor stores are not open on Sunday....EXCEPT for one Sunday-- Superbowl Sunday (true story).

Thanks to Matt for showing me a great weekend. And to answer your next question -- no, his gun is not loaded.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


This is another blog experiment. Let’s see if it works. July 31st is the trading deadline in Major League Baseball. Rumors are swirling. Many are unfounded. Some have emanated from the internet and blogs. So let me add one just for fun and see if it spreads.

Here’s the trade: From a very “reliable” source (me).

The Astros will trade Roger Clemens to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez (wth Boston assuming most of Manny’s salary).

Pass it on. Copy and paste. Get ye to a chat room. My goal is to see this on ESPN by Wednesday night.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The kiss of death for Eddie LeBec

Had a question about Jay Thomas who played Eddie LeBec on CHEERS (okay, I’ve had it for awhile but am just now getting to it.) I first met Jay when he was a disc jockey on 99X in New York back in the 70’s. I occasionally would fly in and do fill-in shows. Even spent some time at his loft, which I remember being ridiculously expensive for what amounted to a walk-in closet with the world’s highest ceiling. No room and murder to heat. He eventually moved out to LA and was a very successful morning man on Power 106.

His first big acting break came on MORK & MINDY. He became a regular towards the end of that series’ run.

Quick aside: Years later Pam Dawber got her own sitcom, MY SISTER SAM and the joke was that CBS executives watched an episode of Robin Williams & Pam on MORK & MINDY and said, “Wow!! We gotta get the girl!”

David Isaacs and I wrote the two-parter on CHEERS that introduced the character of Eddie LeBec. Actually, it started as just a single episode but as the story expanded it became clear we needed more time to tell it.

We read a number of people for the role and I thought of Jay. Beyond that there was no favoritism. The other producers were mostly unfamiliar with his work. He came in and auditioned like everyone else and won the role.

He was terrific in the episodes, he and Rhea made a very cute couple and so he was brought back periodically as her boyfriend. It also gave us a story arc for Carla. Finally we decided to marry them.

A few episodes of recurring bliss and then one day on Jay’s radio show a caller asked him what it was like to be on CHEERS? He said something to the effect of “It’s brutal. I have to kiss Rhea Perlman.” Well, guess who happened to be listening.

Jay Thomas was never seen on CHEERS again. To explain his departure we decided to just kill him, which led to one of my favorite episodes that David and I wrote, “Death Takes a Holiday on Ice”. First off, we needed a funny demise. Eddie, by then, was working as a penguin in an ice show so we arrived at a Zamboni machine accident. (We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to use the name Zamboni but the company loved it.)

Then we needed (a) some comic spin for the story, and (b) something to discredit Eddie so the audience would ultimately be glad he was out of Carla’s life. The answer was at the funeral Carla learned that he was a polygamist, and had a second wife (who looked just like Carla). It was BIG LOVE going for big laughs. The episode earned us an Emmy nomination (and Emmy loss…I wonder if Jay Thomas was on the blue ribbon committee???)

One final note: We used an actor in one scene to bring in some news. He was on screen for maybe two minutes. As far as we know it was his first job. It was Thomas Hayden Church. Former CHEERS producers Casey, Lee, & Angell were impressed and cast him in the new series they were developing – WINGS. He since went on to snag an Oscar nomination for SIDEWAYS and is one of the villains in next year’s SPIDERMAN 3. I’m sure if he had won an Oscar, David and I would be the first two people he thanked. In fact, he should have run on stage and thanked us whether he won or not. Ingrate!!

Jay Thomas went on to star in LOVE AND WAR with the always hilarious Susan Dey and appeared in many TV episodes and movies. He’s now back on the radio, where hopefully he’s smart enough to not take anymore calls.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hot town, summer in the city

It’s travelogue time again. Here’s last week’s New York portion of my east coast summer:

Summer travel is now officially an ordeal. Security checks at major airports are not only nightmares but I feel even less safe. If only, instead of that jerk hiding a knife in his shoe in Paris it was a woman who concealed a knife in her bra. Then we men could keep our shoes on and all women would have to take off their bras.

I’m in Manhattan twelve hours a brownstone blows up fifteen blocks from me. A disgruntled husband, a doctor from Translyvania, who was so angry having to give up the building to his wife in a divorce settlement that he blew it up. Hours before he left his ex a message that read “You will go from gold digger to rubbish digger…I always told you: ‘I will leave the house if I’m dead.’” New York’s finest is still looking for other suspects.

Headline in the NY DAILY NEWS: DR. DOOM!!!

Next day’s headline in the NY POST: “HONEY, I BLEW UP THE HOME!”


Snatches of cellphone conversations overheard while walking the streets on the Upper East Side:

MAN: “I dunno, then give him Novacaine.”

SOMEWHAT DISTRAUGHT 30 YEAR OLD WOMAN: He peed on me! (I hope that was her dog or baby)

LITTLE MIDDLE AGED LADY: “Well, it’s not my concrete.”

WOMAN: “You don’t fuck the landlord. EVERYONE knows that!”


If you run out of mayonnaise I found the place to go – Gentiles Fine Food on Madison at 79th.

The theatre scene includes SLEEPING BEAUTY, TARZAN, and LION KING. I’m holding out for THE MIGHTY DUCKS: THE MUSICAL.

Stopped in at the Museum of Modern Art. This was new behavior: people taking cellphone snapshots of the paintings…and then moving on to another gallery…without stopping to even LOOK at the paintings. I guess the way to really appreciate Monet’s mural length Water Lilies is on a four inch screen.

I couldn’t walk a block without encountering scaffolding. And yet I never saw a single worker.

On Wednesday the weather was hot, muggy, stifling, and stagnant. People were going down into the subway for relief.

Pedestrians do not have the right of way. If you’re in the crosswalk when the light turns green you are pavement pizza.

The new Apple store across from what-once-was the Plaza Hotel is a marvel to behold. From the street all you see is an enormous stunning glass cube encasing the white Apple logo. The actual store (open 24 hours because when you have a craving for a new ipod you have to have it right NOW) is below ground and has become quite the singles pick-up scene. You can meet somebody, excuse yourself for a second, and quickly check him out on MySpace.

Saw SPRING AWAKENING, a powerful, very erotic, and disturbing look at puberty and sexuality. It goes without saying it was a musical. It’s set in 1890 Germany so naturally everyone ends up either dead or miserable.

In utter contrast, the next day I saw HAIRSPRAY, which dealt with the issue of winning a TV dance contest. One of our stars from the 60’s PROJECT, Andrew Rannells, was one of the leads. He was neat-o keen-o as was pop icon, Darlene Love. They’ve now had so many cast changes that they’re one move away from Mike Ditka playing the Harvey Firestein role.

New Broadway policy: ticket holders stand in a long line while their purses and bags are checked. In the case of MAMA MIA they’re not worried terrorists will plant a bomb. Their concern is that discriminating theatre goers will.

Upper West Side: Hookers -- $40.
Upper East Side: Tuna tartare appetizers -- $40.

At least that’s what it cost at Nellos on Madison Avenue. At that outrageous price they should throw in the hooker…and a ticket to HAIRSPRAY.

When you need a cab in Manhattan there are either a thousand of them available or none. Mostly none.

Best bargain and some of the best Italian food in NY: Ralph’s at 56th and 9th. As my friend Howard, who tipped me to it, said: “50’s atmosphere, 60’s portions, 70’s prices”. Molto bene and ring-a-ding-ding!

More NY POST: In a recent edition Christie Brinkley’s affair with a teenager was the top headline. The Israeli War got second billing.

Player endorsements is one thing, but during a recent Mets telecast on Channel 11, David Wright of the Amazins’, in uniform, was pitch man for a miracle worker revival show, the kind where people throw down their crutches and walk. If this guy is so good how come Pedro Martinez is still on the Disabled List?

I miss WCBS-FM. JERSEY BOYS wins the Tony for Best Musical yet not one New York radio station will play the Four Seasons.

On to the Goodspeed Theatre, hoping what they say isn’t true – that there’s a broken heart for every street lamp in Chester, Connecticut.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Celebrity blogs

Among the other 27,000,000 blogs I have to compete with are a number of “Celebrity” blogs. Of those, very few are actually written by the celebrities themselves, updated more than twice since the Pleistocene Era, or feature anything other than PR pap. There are exceptions. Kevin Smith’s blog is the real deal, wonderfully candid and funny. And a few like Dave Barry’s are worth your attention.

But William Shatner’s blog? Here are a few of his entries:

July 06 -- I’m thrilled to pieces about being nominated for the third time. (referring to his Emmy nomination)

June 30 – My new Priceline commercial is appearing on line before it appears on TV.

January 20 – As some of you may have heard by now, has bought a kidney stone of mine for $75,000.


Melanie Griffiths’s website is just plain creepy. It chronicles her romance and rehab, accompanied by music that Norma Desmond would find too over-the-top. She also writes letters to her inner self. Many not delivered because no one’s home.

Latest entry in Gwen Stefani’s journal: “We're back. Sorry it has been so long. We'll start updating the site more often.” It’s dated May 2.

From Pamela Anderson comes this: “I don't know if you all have heard.....if you've been watching the news you probably have.....but I'm a big supporter of PETA.”

If you go to Barbra Streisand’s blog it tells you how to order her latest TV special. In fairness, Bab’s website also has statement essays that are pompous enough to suggest they’re really from her. The picture on her home page pre-dates the creation of the internet.

Asia Carrere used to be a hot porn star. Here’s a recent entry in her journal: “The day started out so crappy but ended up okay. I took Cathy swimming at the lake, where we met a nice mommy with a son the same age as Cathy.” (It gets boring after that but picks up later with) – “When I got home my next door neighbor offered to mow my lawn.” Excuse me, Asia, but I want to know your views on our nation’s morality and butt plugs!

Al Roker’s journal is mostly pictures of Al and celebrities he ambushed while they appeared on the TODAY SHOW.

Rosie O’Donnell’s offers her poetry. GAAAA!


I love celebrity blogs. I find it hilarious that they could post such items and actually think people care. Maybe instead of writing a blog they should perhaps, even just once, READ a blog.

And my inner self agrees.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the Pasadena Rogues Parade

Hello from East Haddam, Connecticut, where it's lovely and charming and I think I saw Kenneth Lay coming out of the liquor store.

It’s that time of year again – the Television Critics Association’s Press Tour. TV critics from all around the country converge at a swank hotel in Pasadena for close to a month to meet the producers and stars of all the new Fall shows and all the big executives of major and cable networks. And along the way, Hollywood courts their favor by staging lavish parties for them – the cost of the shrimp alone at any one of these affairs is more than the critics combined salary for five years. And watching these rumpled freeloaders loading up their plates on buffet lines, you think they’d died and gone to Sizzlers Salad Bar heaven.

In fairness, they have a grueling task. You know those scams where you’re given “free golf weekends” and all you have to do is attend one seminar pitching you time-share vacation condos? Imagine having to sit through 200 seminars, seven or eight a day for a month. There are not enough open bars, elaborate buffets, and promotional t-shirts in the world that would make that worth it. Hell, just having to sit through all the pilots is enough to qualify one for combat pay.

These critics are subjected to an endless stream of producers and “stars” hosting sessions, trying to convince these ink stained wretches why their God awful CSI rip-off (the twist is the forensic expert can hear voices coming from the evidence), dwarf bowling reality show, or new Paula Marshall sitcom is the next big thing.

And for the producers themselves, having been in that position several times, it’s a mind numbing experience. You sit on a stage looking out at all these world weary zombies who don’t have the slightest interest in you or what you have to say. In truth, they’ve heard it before, probably six times already that day. I always felt like I was playing tennis against a blanket.

The only lively session I ever had was for ALMOST PERFECT. A critic asked one of our stars, Kevin Kilner, what jobs he had before becoming an actor. Kevin mentioned he worked in a chicken slaughterhouse and told how they slaughtered chickens. Suddenly, all the critics perked up. So starved for ANYTHING to talk about besides “what gave you the inspiration for this series?” chicken slaughtering became the topic for the next twenty minutes. We had won them over!

To make their task somewhat easier, these critics seem to glom onto one issue that they make that year’s theme, one question they can beat to death. “Are sitcoms dead?” “Why are there not enough minorities in network casts?” “Is profanity necessary?” Usually these topics spring from a comment one of the network presidents say during their session. So as this year’s TCA free-food-fest begins be on the lookout for that hot button topic. Certainly a candidate would be Katie Couric.

If you ask me the whole thing is an exercise in futility and waste. No one wants to be there. No one benefits from it (except the critics getting lavishly fed and drunk). Shows don’t get good reviews as a result. Critics don’t get enough days off to see Disneyland. I think television would be much better served if the sponsoring networks discontinued the annual TCA convention and used that money to hire more and better writers to produce better television shows – shows that would be well received even if they didn’t come attached with cocktail parties and goody bags.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean

Since it’s setting boxoffice records, any review of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST is utterly meaningless. I should write such a flawed Home Run. But since I paid actual money to see this swashnumbing affair I feel compelled to at least vent.

NO SPOILER ALERT – I saw the movie and still don’t know what was going on.

First off, the first PIRATES was leagues better (20,000 leagues better). Johnny Depp’s character was so fresh and fun. This time he was Greg Germann in raccoon eye make up.

For all the hair raising chase scenes and special effects I couldn’t be more bored. A half hour into the picture I was praying someone would flash a CAPITOL ONE card and all the pirates would go away.

Have they already exhausted their villains to the point where Jack Sparrow now has to battle the Swamp Thing?

In one sequence he’s chased by Zulu warriors. Excuse me but what Carribbean island is THAT supposed to be?

But my big problem was this – what the fuck was going on?? There’s this ship of slime pirates, and then a map, and a bad guy from the last movie gets hired on the ship, and Keira Knightley is stowing away on another ship, and then some Voodoo lady who’s been eating licorice offers cryptic advice, and there’s a dice game that makes no sense, and Keira’s dress is floating in the water and that is supposed to mean something, and Orlando Bloom’s clothes never get dirty, and they capture a little monkey for some reason, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon visits Jack one night, and Jonathon Pryce complains about wearing a wig, and it’s real important Jack keeps a jar of dirt, and there’s a three-way sword fight between Jack, Orlando Bloom and the bad guy from the last movie where they’re all accusing each other of things more confusing than any BIG SLEEP plot point, then they cut back to the George Washington looking guy who I hadn’t seen in a half an hour and completely forgot about and he’s …I dunno where, plotting something, I dunno what…and Jack’s palm gets black then it goes away then it comes back again, and he makes a deal with Octopus Beard Guy to do something in three days – I have no idea what -- or he has to give over 99 souls – not sure how one does that, and gorgeous Keira Knightley is forced to wear a pirate hat, and there’s a magic compass that always points to Disneyworld or something, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon turns out to be Orlando Bloom’s father and has a starfish attached to his face that he never thinks to remove, and cannon balls blast through Jack’s ship but it somehow never leaks, and many of our characters get caught in this giant runaway wooden wheel that looks like a prop from last year’s Reward Challenge on SURVIVOR, and there seems to be a rum shortage, and Jack does something good so Keira Knightley hand cuffs him, and Octopus Beard Guy can sometimes grow to the size of Catalina, and for all his slime no one on his ship slips while walking on the deck, and there are Red Coats for some reason, and letters of transit or a pardon in a leather case, and after all that NOTHING IS RESOLVED.


If only the movie was six minutes and the ride took two and a half hours.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

How I'm spending my summer far

Week one of rehearsal for the 60’s PROJECT is over. Here’s more info on the show from (Sorry I don't know how to hyperlink.)

This first week the principles learned their songs. It’s amazing. Most of these kids are Broadway veterans already and they can all sing, dance, read music, and I’m sure when we get up to Connecticut – drink and party.

Meanwhile, my co-writer, Ms. Brenner and I did one last polish of the script before the whole company converges on Monday. After all these months, I can’t wait to actually see and hear it on its feet. But I think the script is ready – and by that I mean “there’s nothing in there that we can’t fix.”

More than any project I’ve ever worked on, a musical is the ultimate collaborative effort. The music, choreography, script, direction, performances, design, visual effects, sound all has to come together. And more than that, the theater’s air conditioning needs to work. I’m sure the next three weeks of rehearsal will be hectic and hopefully not live up to the great Larry Gelbart line – “if Hitler’s still alive I hope he’s out of town with a musical.”

Talk to you from East Haddam, Connecticut.

Tomorrow: my review of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN II.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Emmys are only eight weeks away!

Have you been gripped with Emmy fever yet? Are you even aware that the nominations have been announced? I will be reviewing this year’s extravaganza on August 27th. For my weekend post, here is last year’s review:


You know the Emmys are no longer a big deal when…

…they’re time delayed three hours to the only city that cares.

…The NY TIMES Arts & Leisure section today made absolutely no mention of them.

…No one watched last year’s comedy of the year even AFTER it won.

…WILL & GRACE receives even one nomination.

…Jerry Bruckheimer has won a ton of them.

…Donald Trump is a musical guest.

….And there are more shots of Les Moonves than Jennifer Garner .

Nevertheless, I’m filing my seventh annual bitchy Emmy Awards show review.

Let me be the first to say it because I’m sure a lot of other people will think of it too. LOST WON.

Everybody wore magnolias so they could acknowledge Hurricane Katrina since the television community is deeply concerned. Well, it turned out not everybody wore the magnolias. Maybe half. There’s only so much sacrifice you can ask of Hollywood.

Host Ellen DeGeneres said we now need to laugh. Fine. Then be funny!

Who better to review the outstanding TV season than Black Eyed Peas? I loved the shots of utter bewilderment by the celebrities in the audience. And maybe fear? I couldn’t tell.

And of course Earth, Wind, and Fiber to quote Ellen DeGeneres’ opening joke.

I always wondered what the image of a “cake left out in the rain” would look like. Seems it’s Marcia Cross’ dress.

Felicity Huffman so outclasses those other DESPERATE HOUSEWIFE hens that she’s not in the same show.

The best acting Teri Hatcher has ever done was holding her smile when Felicity won. I bet Ms. H will be a real beaut on the set tomorrow. Picture James Cagney learning his mother died in the prison scene of WHITE HEAT. Then double it.

So much for DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES sweeping the awards. I’m thrilled that an actual comedy won for Best Comedy. RAYMOND was deserving.

I’m always glad when Brad Garrett wins. His speeches are the funniest of any winner on any awards show. And he thanks the writers. I love this man.

Mitch Hurwitz didn’t thank the other writers of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT even though the script that won for best writing was actually written by the entire staff. Nice.

Originally, the Academy was going to have the writer’s acceptance speeches pre taped, that’s how little regard they had for them. More time for Ellen DeGeneres’ lame bathroom bit.

Sorry that Jeremy Piven lost. He certainly deserved it. I imagine the academy didn’t even want someone PLAYING agent/satan Ari Emmanual to be honored.

Did Eva Longoria steal her gown from the King Tut exhibit?

The hat trick for Alan Alda. This year he lost an Oscar, Tony, and now an Emmy. Maybe his new book can lose a Pulitzer.

William Shatner won an Emmy for playing himself.

“Emmy Idol”??? Was there a writers’ strike I didn’t know about? Because that’s the kind of hilarious idea that insurance actuaries come up with. It was embarrassing…even for the Emmys.

Donald Trump’s singing number was maybe the nadir of the 57 year history of the Emmy awards. And he won “Emmy Idol”. Again, thank you, Red States.

Hugh Jackman is what Craig Ferguson tries to be.

Excellence in television was put into perspective when a YES, DEAR promo appeared on the Awards show.

Wish the Blue Man Group would have sung “Green Acres”.

Glad THE AMAZING RACE won but is there a bigger stiff host than “Phil”? How unbelievably bad were the guys he beat out in auditions?

When Blythe Danner won for HUFF, 99% of America said “What’s HUFF?”

Blythe Danner was the first winner to acknowledge New Orleans. And even better, to protest the war. I officially take back all the things I said about her doing FOLLIES.

Blythe was nominated three times. I’m sorry she only won once. With more acceptance speeches she might have gotten around to how incompetent Bush is and how the public is being raped by the oil companies.

The next winner to acknowledge New Orleans was director Stephen Hopkins…an hour and a half later.

But some people wore magnolias. Well…a few. But they were big. You could really see ‘em.

Debra MESSsing’s hairstyle looked better on Bobby Rydell.

Wow, Paul Newman and I now have the same award.

Doesn’t Jane Alexander play a Roosevelt every year? Next year she’ll win for the Roosevelt Grier story.

Kristen Bell singing FAME made us forget Irene Cara.

I just love that someone named Bucky Gunts won.

I hope Doris Roberts bringing her grandchildren on stage doesn’t start a trend. Next year James Spader might bring up a hundred cats.

Interesting that David Letterman introduced the wonderful Johnny Carson tribute and not Jay Leno who is the host of the TONIGHT SHOW.

Best line of the night: Doris Roberts “I’ve been drunk since the wrap party”.

Next year can the FAMILY GUY host the show and be all the presenters?

Even the seat fillers were bored. Lots of empty seats and people are PAID to occupy them.

Instead of having a CSI actor mangle the theme for the JEFFERSONS, why not use the actual singer, who gets no recognition and can actually sing?

I’m especially thrilled that David Shore won for writing HOUSE since I was on the blue ribbon committee and that was my choice. The writing was as brilliant as any Tony award winning play.

If Halle Berry had worn that blue dress in CATWOMAN more than seven people might have gone to see it. They still would have hated it but at least they’d be in the theatre.

I hope Halle had a driver tonight. Losing and going to parties serving lots of alcohol? No pedestrian is safe.

All winners should lose their acceptance speeches down their jumpers like S. Epatha Merkerson. Finally some spontaneity and genuine emotion…and laughs.

Were the gowns just better this year or was it that they were worn by the casts of GREY’S ANATOMY and THE O.C.?

When you watch the “In Memoriam” feature don’t you always wonder who’s going to be last? Whose death was greater than the other deaths?

The tribute to the news anchors was elegant and very moving. But I’m surprised that since the telecast was on CBS that Julie Chen wasn’t included.

Offstage announcer: “In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Academy invites you to go to CBS.COM where you can see bios of all the new SURVIVOR contestants.”

Patricia Arquette looked like Burt Lahr, the cowardly lion in WIZARD OF OZ. What was with that hair? I did like her dress falling off though.

Nice of Channel 2 in LA to show her standing with her Emmy in a promo – before she actually won it on the show.

The shocker was Frances Conroy not winning for SIX FEET UNDER.

How did James Spader beat Hugh Laurie and Ian McShane? How could that happen?

James Spader is getting so large he’s becoming William Shatner.

And finally, what flower can we give everybody to remember the poor men and women on the DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES crew who will be destroyed and ravaged by Hurricane Teri?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Feedback from yesterday

First of all, thanks to all those of you who participated in the punch line exercise. Some great jokes pitched and also some jokes that fell into traps I’ll discuss.

A number of people commented on Julie W.’s, which were all fabulous. In case you missed them:

EARL: Raylene, it's good to see you, but if you didn't get your braces off yet, I gotta pass.

CURB: Hi. Charlie Sheen's place is actually two doors down. Both Mediterraneans, though. Understandable mistake - happens all the time. (as she starts to get up) You know what? Why don't you take the sheets with you? They're Italian. Very soft. (beat) And the pillowcases. (beat) And the pillows.

KING: Is my wife under the covers with you oh dear God please say yes.

FAMILY: This reminds me of the time Richard Gere paid me a thousand dollars to spend the weekend with him in a fancy hotel suite.
cut to:
Richard Gere and Peter (dressed as Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman") in the lobby of the Regent Beverly Wilshire. Richard opens a jewelry box. Peter reaches in delicately to take the necklace. Richard snaps the box closed on his hand. But instead of laughing adorably like Julia did... PETER: "Ow! What the hell? You son of a bitch, that hurt!" RICHARD: "I'm sorry. I... I thought it would be cute. PETER: "Well, it was not, Richard. It was not."

There were other equally good lines contributed too. But all of Julie’s were fresh, funny, within the contexts of those shows, and generally had offbeat unexpected spins.

Here are a few of the traps. I point these out only to identify them so they can be avoided in the future, especially in specs.

I purposely used a hooker in the set up to establish a possible taste trap. With a sexual reference you need to deftly be funny without going over the line. Mentions of 69 and Chlamydia cross that line. If you think a reader might say “Yikes!” when he reads a joke, lose it. Same with the Jewish and ethnic jokes. There’s a fine line between outrageous and inappropriate, even for an out-there show like FAMILY GUY. One contributor pitched a Holocaust joke that NO show would EVER do. Come on. Use your better judgement.

Some people went for the obvious character traits. Earl and his list for example. If it’s the first thing you think of, stop, take a moment, and see if there is something fresher.

Some were too long. One contributor even acknowledged it. The shorter, the better.

Name mentions in general can be a trap. They date the show. That’s one of the problems with MURPHY BROWN in syndication. Willard Scott jokes and Dan Quayle jokes don’t hold up.

There were a number of jokes pitched that quite frankly I didn’t even get. Either they were convoluted or illogical or just weird. If you write a spec, have some friends read it before sending it out. If there are jokes they don’t understand don’t explain them to them. Replace them with clearer jokes.

Did you notice how much easier it was to come up with jokes for Earl and Larry rather than Doug? That’s because Earl and Larry and better defined comic characters, with very well conceived personas. Doug is sort of just, well…a guy. When creating your characters keep that in mind. Peter is easy to write for also because he’s a cartoon and not constrained by reality. But sometimes too much freedom can be worse than too little. There’s a danger of being too silly, too outrageous, too forced.

Again, thanks to all who participated. And you’re welcome to keep participating. And watch these four shows to see if they lift any of the lines pitched.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

We need a line for Earl, Larry, Doug, or Peter

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

But it gave me an idea.

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

This could either be a lot of fun or a colossal bust. Submit your entries in the comments section.

And just to make it more interesting, I’ll give you essentially the same set up for four different style shows. It’s not just writing jokes, it’s about tailoring to the characters and style of the show. Do as many or few of the shows as you want.

So here goes:


Earl enters his bedroom to find a hooker in his bed. Earl says?????


Larry enters his bedroom to find a hooker in his bed. Larry says?????


Doug enters his bedroom to find a hooker in his bed. Doug says????


Peter enters his bedroom to find a hooker in his bed. Peter says????

Have fun. Be funny.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My All-Star game review

It figured that Fox started the broadcast by showing girls in a hot tub. Nothing says “Play Ball” better than wet bikinis.

The best part of the “Mid Summer’s Classic” was being able to see a game at glorious PNC Stadium without the Pirates playing.

You have to feel sorry for the National League. This is now like kicking your dog.

Not to second guess NL skipper, Phil “I look like one of the inmates on PRISON BREAK” Garner, but he had the tying run on second with two outs and sent Carlos Lee, a .290 hitter to the plate while Normar Garciaparra, who has the league's leading average and after the 7th is batting over .400 is left sitting on the bench.

There’s a new nerd statistic called WPA (Winning Performance After) which measures how clutch each player’s performance is to his team. Nomar Garciaparra’s is through the roof. Guess who has one of the lowest in all of baseball. Yep. All-Star A-Rod.

Would anyone like to guess what color Tim McCarver’s hair is? He gave his usual performance of telling us nothing but the obvious in the most overstated way while mis-identifying or mispronouncing every player he named.

The American League team should have just been named “the Chicago White Sox and Friends”. I think every member of the Palehose made the All-Star squad except Jeff Nelson.

Why would anyone in their right mind keep score of an All-Star game? And that goes for the announcers.

I know we’re supposed to care who wins because of home field advantage in the World Series (yeah, those Tampa Ray Devil Rays and Kansas City Royals were really playing their hearts out for that prize) but truthfully, I couldn’t give a shit. Plus, I’m still so thrilled France lost the World Cup that nothing else matters.

It was fun seeing the two Yankees on the left side of the infield and two Red Sox on the right. And Big Papi played a damn good first base.

For the protection of the American public, Fox was allowed to televise the game in HD only because Randy Johnson wasn’t in it.

How come Los Angeles hasn’t hosted the All-Star game since 1980? Lasorda is no longer managing. It’s safe to come back!

Nice job by Brad Penny, throwing at 98 miles an hour. With the Dodgers he throws one pitch over 86, hurts his side and is out for the year.

Searing question by Jeannie Zelasko to David Wright’s father upon learning David was once in a food fight: “Was it colorful?” I'm sure they're grooming her for Fox News.

Just when you thought Fox coverage couldn’t get any more repugnant than that insipid animated baseball, they unveil the “Shoulders, knees, and toes” nursery rhyme. KIDS AREN’T WATCHING!! The game is on at 10 at night. Commercials are for FLOMAX to shrink enlarged prostates. Treat fans with at least a modicum of respect.

The Future’s Game is a great idea. It really gives you a preview of the big league stars of tomorrow. But why hold it on the Sunday before the All-Star game when no one is watching and it’s competing with a full slate of ML games? Wouldn’t it be better to play it on Wednesday when there is absolutely NO major sports going on?

If they wanted to make the Home Run Derby really count for something they should award the winner a year’s bye on steroid testing.

David Ortiz said the Home Run Derby would never mess up his swing because, in his own eloquent words, “I swing out of my butt all the time”.

Great not to see Barry Bonds although I always enjoy the hostile reception he receives. And he’s probably hated more in Pittsburgh than anywhere else.

Congratulations to AL skipper, Ozzie Guillan for going the entire All-Star week without calling anyone a fag. And kudos to Joe Buck for not asking what he thought of the Tony Awards.

On my best day I will never be as good a baseball announcer as Joe Buck on his worst day. Another excellent job. And his work in those Holiday Inn commercials proves he’s a better comic actor than anyone on a Fox comedy.

I love that there was a tribute to Roberto Clemente BUT NOT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FRIGGIN’ GAME!! And has commissioner Bud Selig EVER washed his hair? I especially enjoyed when he got his foot caught in the mic cord. Had he taken a header, THAT would have been the time to play “Shoulders, knees, and toes”.

The game was pretty boring until the 9th inning. Normally I love a pitching duel but not in an All-Star game.

Great clutch hit by the All-Star most people never heard of – Michael Young. Maybe that’s because he’s on the Texas Rangers and when was the last time a Texas Rangers’ game was on national television? I think when they were in the playoffs a few years ago but even then I can’t be sure.

The MVP Award looked like the crystals Lex Luthor stole out of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

Now that the American League has home field advantage yet again, I think to make the World Series the least bit competitive the American League would have to win 4 of 7 to become champions and the National League would have to win 2.

See you next summer in…I dunno, I’m assuming any park but Dodger Stadium.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A writer's tragedy

From comes this story that is the screenwriter’s version of the Darwin Awards. Apparently some guy wrote three screenplays (with the delightful titles of COLOR OF TULIP, BLOOD ON ICE, and – keeping with the theme – BLOOD ON SEVEN HILLS). He claims that at one point he was in negotiations to sell the screenplays for $2.7 million. But the talks went nowhere. So he ended up with nothing. Ohh??? There’s no middle ground between $2.7 and nothing?? But that’s not the point.

He later signed up for DSL and the technician installing it “cleaned up some unused items on his desktop” which included -- oh no! - the screenplays.


Data recovery was only partially successful in retrieving them. So the guy sued, claiming the screenplays were worth MILLIONS. He lost. And the jury felt he was also at fault FOR NOT MAKING A BACKUP OF SUCH “VALUABLE” FILES!


I also question why the skeesix didn’t have a single printed copy. How did he submit them to these potential million dollar buyers? Did he make them come over to his house and read off his screen?

Always backup your scripts. I do it every time I finish a writing session. I also backup my hard drive weekly, and sometimes email the working draft to myself just to be triple sure.

Nothing’s going to stop me from breaking the bank when I sell my latest screenplay -- BLOOD ON MAPQUEST DIRECTIONS TO PISMO BEACH.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

MASH spinoff flipout

This is one of my favorite MASH pranks. I wish I had pulled it.

In those days we never had to get story approval from the network. All they asked is that we provide one or two sentence log lines for each episode (like what you’d see in TV Guide). Often we’d be tardy and eventually send them seven or eight at a time, usually after the fact.

In the 8th season, John Rappaport was one of the producers. CBS hounded him for the story synopses and he eventually complied. For one he wrote “Hawkeye is distraught when he learns of the stateside death of his good friend, Trapper.”

The network went nuts. They frantically called and said, “You can’t do that story!” Feigning innocence, John asked “why not?” “Because we have a show premiering in September called TRAPPER JOHN, M.D.” they said. John shrugged and asked why it was his problem. The network rep insisted they can’t do that episode. John said, “But we’ve already shot it.” The network almost exploded. Finally, to prevent any heart attacks, John revealed it was just a joke.

That story could never happen today because most networks demand that show runners send them not just the log lines but full detailed outlines to be approved. I just keep thinking back to the days when there was little or no network interference and it seems to me those shows turned out sort of okay. Good enough for there to be a TVLand. I fear the comedy shows of today will have to rerun years from now on TVLandMine.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Since I'm in a New York frame of mind...heading there Sunday, here's one of my Gotham travelogues from trips gone by.

There's an organization called the "Fifth Night Theatre" that stages screenplay readings at the Nuyorican Cafe in the East Village. If selected they provide a casting director, press release, cassette recording, and that theatre that no one can pronounce. I submitted a spec movie I had written called SATISFACTION and it was selected. On Tuesday, May 4h it was performed. Thus my recent trip to Gotham.

Stayed at the Regal Royal which is a fabulous hotel. Every room is a suite. Which was particularly nice because it rained the entire trip. Since the Mariners were in town over the following weekend I decided to stay. I'd much rather spend a ridiculous amount of money for a hotel room for four days than have to drive once to Anaheim.

My partner David flew in for the reading. My agents did not. One of the reasons for doing this was to attract potential buyers. And agents can be helpful to that end. (although in general I consider them "Entertainment Terrorists"). They wanted to come but one of their more important clients needed his laundry picked up they had to stay in LA and do that instead. But they did send me a nice note saying that the agency wished me good luck. That's earning their 10%.

I went to the Cafe for rehearsal. The cab deposited me at 236 E. 3rd Street. Okay, I wasn't expecting Broadway but this was a SLUM. A lot of important movie executives are going to come down here on a Tuesday night in the rain. I was early and no one was around. I went from hoping my reading would be successful to hoping I'd get out of there alive. Finally people started arriving and I got my first look at the Nuyorican Cafe (pronounced: Calf-ay). It was this dive beatnik club. Tiny stage, small wooden tables and chairs. And of course, in a neighborhood that NY Guardian Angels are afraid to enter.

My cast started arriving promptly around 2 or 2:30. Some I knew. Chip Zien, who was on ALMOST PERFECT, Lisa LoCicero who should be having the career Paula Marshall is having, and Dan Ingram. This movie is about radio and I was told I needed someone to read the stage directions. When asked whom I wanted I immediately blurted out Dan Ingram. For 40 years he's been a NY institution, 20 of those years on WABC. His timing and humor is truly brilliant. Dan agreed to participate and I am honored.

The rest of the cast was....alright. It's odd to meet them the day of the performance. Some were better than others. A few were just awful. None were whom I would have picked. One I had to gently give this note after an acting choice he made: "No. Anything but THAT". We rehearsed that afternoon, I took them all out to dinner, and then the guests began filing in. Several friends. My sister-in-law and her husband, assorted lower level movie execs from lower level independent studios, and assorted members of the general public (like there's no other entertainment in New York City that they'd want to see THIS??). As they took their seats a sudden wave of fear engulfed me. What if my movie is horrible? I've been to bad table readings. It's the worst 20 minutes of your life. Like having your teeth drilled while inside an MRI tube. And that's just 20 minutes! My movie is two hours. Thoughts flooded my head. What do I need this humiliation for? I'm not getting paid for this? What if Lisa LoCicero gets a better offer in the middle of the show?

The evening began with a short film. It was supposed to be funny but was ghastly. Imagine Pat Summeral doing a warm up. Now I was really panicked.

The actors took the stage, Dan began reading, and suddenly I heard laughter. I was in the clear. Thanks primarily to Dan and Chip the reading went extremely well. I had a drink with my cast and celebrated by going back to the room and rewriting until 9 a.m.

As for the movie execs, they all said get a great bankable cast and they would make the movie. I said "But how do I get a cast if I can't tell them I have a studio committed to making the movie?" They smiled and left.

I'm happy to report that only two people walked out in the middle. My relatives.

The rest of the week was a blur. Highlights included a Peter Lugar steak with the Mariners broadcast crew, lunch with Neil Sedaka, and Thursday morning from 10:15 to 10:26 when it didn't rain.

If you know of a bankable cast please email me back.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Emmy chads

I’m on my way to New York this weekend to begin rehearsals for the musical I co-wrote, the 60’s PROJECT that premieres August 10th at the Goodspeed Theatre somewhere in Connecticut. Weekday daily posts will continue. I assume there will be internet access in Connecticut. This weekend’s rant continues on the theme of the Emmys.


Lots of articles in the last couple of days about the nominees (such as they are) and the new voting method that created this mess. If it’s any comfort, the Television Academy’s voting procedures have ALWAYS been screwy.

Years ago, blue ribbon panels selected the winners among the five finalists. A small group of volunteers would give up a weekend to gather in a hotel meeting room, screen all the entries, then vote. (Can you imagine drawing the Mini-series category – five seven-hour epics? That’s the kind of sentence you want to give to the Enron defendants. I bet the Mini-series that was shortest always won.)

One year we wrote an episode of CHEERS that was nominated. As it turned out, we had two friends on the blue ribbon committee. Both called after they had voted and said we had definitely won. Our show got more laughs, more buzz, everyone was talking about it. They also questioned why a WONDER YEARS was a nominee because it was more dramatic than comedic.

For the first time I actually prepared a speech. And rented a tuxedo that fit.

We lost….

,,,to the WONDER YEARS.

And it was the first category of the night so we had to sit through the next three agonizing hours of musical tributes to local disaster coverage, and Rosie O'Donnell.

Now, in fairness, THE WONDER YEARS might’ve been a terrific script but it wasn’t a comedy.

The next day I received numerous calls from irate people I had never met saying they were on the blue ribbon panel and something happened. We were robbed. We should demand a recount or audit. But of course, what would be the point of that? Uncover some shenanigans and make them take the Emmy away from the WONDER YEARS writer and give it to us? There was nothing we could do. We were Al Gore.

A year or so later there was some talk about adding a “Dramedy” category because it seemed unfair that funny shows had to compete with heartstring shows. Hmmmm? Wonder why that popped up all of a sudden? Nothing ever came of it.

But for any of these industry award shows I’m always suspicious because none of these Academies are ever held accountable for their results. And since the REAL creativity in Hollywood is what they can do with numbers (FORREST GUMP is supposedly still in the red, don’tcha know), it’s little wonder that the awards are as bogus as the industry bookkeeping.

Maybe the winners should all thank Karl Rove.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

My Emmy Vice

This year’s Emmy nominations have been announced. Some random initial thoughts:

How can LOST win last year, have an even better season this year and not even be nominated for Best Drama?

Same with last year’s winners James Spader, Felicity Huffman, and Patricia Arquette (okay, her I get).

I love that DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES was not nominated for either Best Comedy or Best Drama. Maybe Best Sophomore Disappointment? And none of the divas were nominated either (although Felicity Huffman should have been). Expect Teri Hatcher to terrorize her domestic staff and go on a sixty day tantrum.

After the scene where Tommy rapes his wife, say goodbye to ANY Emmys for Denis Leary and RESCUE ME. That’s jumping an entire school of sharks.

And I guess the bloom is off the rose for NIP/TUCK (now so weird it’s entered Bjork country) and THE SHIELD. But Forrest Whittaker deserved not just a nomination but to win.

James Gandolfini was not nominated for Best Actor in a Drama but Chris Meloni was???

Alfre Woodard is the Meryl Streep of the TV Academy. If she were in a mini-series about Little Eva she’d be nominated.

How come PRISON BREAK’S Tea Bag wasn’t recognized by the Academy?

And what a piss poor year for comedy. The nominees are:

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT – No one watched. And not nearly as good as it’s been in the past. This is like the All-Star balloting when fans select players who are hitting .205 or on the Disabled List yet get votes anyway based solely on reputation. If it loses (which it will) can we FINALLY stop hearing about AD? Please? Pleeeeeease?

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM – Most uneven, worst season ever. I suspect I’ll get some angry comments but I stand by that statement. Other than scalping tickets for High Holiday services I didn’t laugh once this year. And in seasons past I was often in stitches.

THE OFFICE – Should be the winner. More smiles than laughs but that still puts it way ahead of the field. And what a concept? Cast the show with FUNNY people. Not Paula Marshall.

SCRUBS -- Glad to see the Academy recognizing this show even though NBC obviously doesn’t. Seen better days. And now there’s a better version – it’s called GREY’S ANATOMY.

TWO AND A HALF MEN -- Best of the retro multi-camera old-familiar-rhythm sweetened laugh track sitcoms but that’s like saying Shasta is the best of the fake colas.

Interesting what comedies were NOT nominated: WILL & GRACE (now if they could just rescind all the times it WAS nominated), MY NAME IS EARL (great pilot then 23 faint carbons of it), EVERYONE HATES CHRIS (they’ll blame being on UPN but that’s not why), ENTOURAGE (there must be too many former Ari Emmanuel clients now in the Academy), and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (the Emperor’s new sitcom).

For Best Animated Series: Good luck to FOSTER’S HOME FOR IMAGINERY FRIENDS going against FAMILY GUY and the SIMPSONS.

This has to be the first year since 1947 that James Burrows didn’t get the obligatory directing nomination just for entering. Although he did deserve an acting nomination for his role in THE COMEBACK.

Most of the actors and actresses nominated for “Best Guest Stars” were playing themselves. They should just call the award “Best Stunt Casting”.

Most absurd nomination (maybe EVER): Stockard Channing for OUT OF PRACTICE, playing Kelsey Grammer on crack. Were voters confusing funny with scary???

Larry David was nominated but I thought he played himself better in other years.

Cheryl Hines for Best Actress in a COMEDY? Larry David’s REAL wife is funnier. Bill Clinton’s real wife is funnier.

There should also be a new category for “Best Packaging in For Consideration DVD’s.” Each year they get more and more elaborate. I was relieved when the 24 DVD didn’t come in a nerve gas canister.

And finally, I hope THE DAILY SHOW wins for everything, even in categories it’s not nominated for.

Good luck to all the nominees (except Stockard Channing). I’ll be reviewing the Emmys on August 27th. And if you think I’m bitchy now…

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

the CHEERS names not everyone knows

One CHEERS question I’m often asked is “who are those guys? meaning the other barflies. Here a few of the more notable ones.

Al Rosen -- the old rummy. He was really a championship TV wrestler back in the 50’s. The first line he was ever given was a one word punch line. “Sinatra!” From then on he was known as MAN WHO SAID SINATRA. That was his official character name. Al sometimes needed two or three takes to get his line right but it was always worth it. In one episode we wrote (“the Big Kiss Off”), he was supposed to come out of the back and deliver a joke. The first two takes he went up on the line. The third take he was perfect and got a big laugh. One problem though. In the first two takes he enters holding a drink. In the third he doesn’t but is holding his hand as if he DID have a drink in it. It looks totally bizarre, but we went with it because he got the line right.

The older gentleman always referred to as Phil -- that’s Phil Perlman, Rhea’s dad. Once we started giving him lines he listed himself in the credits as Philip Perlman.

Tom Babson wound up becoming a semi-regular. Cliff was always ragging on him for attending law school. Tom at various times was listed as “Tom”, “Tom Babson”, “Tom Ballard”, “Customer #1”, and “Barney”. But you may know him from KNOTS LANDING where he played “Man”.

In the later years, “Paul” also became a semi regular. He’s Paul Willson, a gifted comic actor and one of the greatest improv artists I have EVER seen. I put him up there with Robin Williams. I feel bad for Paul because we finally built an episode around him but it was the second to the last one of the series. He pops up on a lot of shows. Always funny.

One of the great sports columnists of all-time, Alan Malamud, sat at the bar for eight or nine shows. Local LA sportscaster, Steve Bailey, had a drink from time to time, as well.

I show up in only one scene in one episode, the last Bar Wars.

All of the customers hoped that their parts would expand and become a series regulars as what happened with John Ratzenberger and George Wendt. It was never to be.

And then there’s the bar patron who was supposed to be a series regular and wound up as just an extra. In the pilot from time to time you see an old woman in the background. This was “Mrs. Littlefield”, a colorful politically opinionated spinster. She had a number of lines in the pilot. But the show was long, her character didn’t really score, and her part was cut. All that remains are a few shots of her here and there.

And finally, in a few episodes my father plays an extra. You’ll see him hitting on 25 year old women. My idea. Mom was thrilled.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Radio daze

Thanks again to Elayne Boosler, Rebekah (our producer), and Jeff, (our spark chaser) for making the last two days on the radio such a pleasure. And to the very trusting Stephanie Miller who’s worked so hard to build a large national audience only to leave it to me.

I’ve always loved radio yet hated how transient it is. Like anyone who’s been on the air for more than five minutes, I’ve been fired repeatedly. And today, as I look back nostalgically on my checkered radio career, I am reminded of these events:

I was fired from KSEA in San Diego in 1974 six days before Christmas when the station changed formats and blew out the whole staff. Our promotion at the time: “Christmas the way it was meant to be.”

I was fired from K100 in Los Angeles in 1974. The program director really let me down easy. He called me into his office, didn’t even bother closing the door, and said, “We’re making some changes, babe, and you’re one of ‘em.” Nice.

I was fired from KMEN in San Bernardino in 1973. At first they didn’t want to. It’s not that they wanted me to stay, they wanted me to quit. That way they wouldn’t have to pay any unemployment insurance. So they demoted me to the all-night show. I told the program director to just fire me. Nope, he said. Show up at midnight. Which I did. We were a high energy top 40 station. At 12:30 I said on the air, “Y’know, a lot of stations are playing albums these days. They’re really the cool thing. So I’d like to play an album.” I then played the FIDDLER ON THE ROOF album (Yiddish version) in its entirety. It took the program director fifteen minutes to drive to the station to fire me…and finish my six hour shift.

When KYA San Francisco gave me the heave-ho (new station owners, new direction) they did so while I was on active duty with the reserves. That’s illegal. I almost had to call the Adjutant General’s office to get my severance. When the station manager learned he had to pay me he became enraged and yelled, “I know your type. You’re the type that likes to hang around the coffee machine!” Huh??? What??? He was soon relieved of coffee machine privileges himself.

I did weekends on top 40 Los Angeles powerhouse, KFI, in the early 80’s. In that case I quit the station to devote my fulltime energy to CHEERS. Two years later another disc jockey appeared on that station calling himself Ken Levine. Since the station went to the expense of making a Ken Levine jingle they decided to just re-use the name. I called AFTRA (announcers’ toothless union) and was told there was nothing they could do. For almost a year someone else was on the radio as me. If only he had taken my place in the Army and on the MARY show, too.

And finally, I was doing Saturday nights on TenQ in Los Angeles in 1978 while serving as head writer on MASH. After a truly fun year our program director got the boot. He called me at home to say he didn’t know if any other changes were forthcoming but “I should be okay because I had that MASH thing to hold me over.” Right, thank God for MASH to keep me afloat until my next four hour a week at minimum union wage job came through.

Interestingly, the only way I was able to get respect in radio was to get out of it. Once I was writing for television, suddenly all the bits and jokes I told on the air that resulted in memos to “shut up and just play the music!” were replaced with “hilarious! Just keep doing what you’re doing!” EXACT same jokes and bits.

But all the craziness was worth it for the good times. When I was at K100, I followed one of my disc jockey idols, the Real Don Steele. He had dominated the LA market in the 60’s as one of the KHJ Boss Jocks. Now he was on this insignificant little FM, working his own control board, battling equipment failures, headphones feeding back, low ratings, etc.. He once said to me, “Beaver (yes, that was my air name back then – Beaver Cleaver), do you ever wonder why I, the Real Don Steele, would be sitting in this shithole?” He gazed out the window at the Hollywood skyline and said, “Because when it was good, it was REALLY good.”

And these last two mornings it was just that.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Happy 4th of July!!

I’ll be celebrating by getting up at 4 in the morning again to go on the radio (co-hosting the Stephanie Miller show with Elayne Boosler). But it will be worth it if I can keep even one person from going out and buying home fireworks.

How many fingers and eyebrows do we have to lose? How many trailer parks have to burn down before people learn?

What parent in his right mind with children would set off something called a 12 inch “strike force missile”? Or a “Mad Dog”, “Bazooka Bear”, “Titanium Cracker”, “Dragon’s Wrath”, “Big Mama Jama”, “Brutal Force”,“Nuke Power”, “Pull String Grenade”, “Assorted Color Ammo Smoke”, “Caliber Blast”, “Car Bomb”, “Big Earthquake”, “Jumboshell Fountain”, “Pyrogyro”, “Cracker Jack in a Box”, “Deadly Fire”, “Battle of New Orleans”, “Pay Back”, “Mucho Grande – small” (isn’t that an oxymoron?), “Air Raid”, or of course the ever popular “So X*@! Good”?

Explain to me where these are “safe and SANE”.

Better to go to a city park, ballpark, or Steven Spielberg’s house. Enter a 5K race, cheer on a parade and pray that the grand marshall is someone more impressive than Bob Sagett.

Have a wonderful day. Display your flag proudly. And celebrate the greatness that was America – 1776 to 2000.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


If you want to hear me and Elayne Boosler co-host the Stephanie Miller Show on Mon and Tues and there's no affiliate in your area, you can listen by going to At some point I'll be giving my review of SUPERMAN RETURNS. It'll sound a little bit like this:


The first three hours of SUPERMAN RETURNS were pretty good. The last two were unnecessary.

In this version Superman had two secret identities – Clark Kent and Jesus Christ. We got the analogy.

It was very exciting and well made but I couldn’t stop thinking -- $250 million dollars, nine or ten scripts, four or five directors for THIS??

They should have gotten Brad Bird to write this. Everything SUPERMAN RETURNS did wrong he did right in THE INCREDIBLES.

This was the graceful Superman. The Man of Steel and Ballet.

Kate Bosworth was the stupidest Lois Lane EVER (which is saying something considering Margot Kidder wandered through people’s backyards for days not knowing who she was). As I’m sure you’re aware from all the articles, Superman returns after a five year absence. And amazingly, so does Clark Kent…on the same day. Yet ace reporter Lois Lane sees absolutely no connection. (Sidebar: If you’re dumb enough to buy Teri Hatcher’s book you realize you’re getting life lessons from Lois Lane?)

When you can finally buy the DVD of this (probably on Thursday) it might be fun to play the drinking game every time Lois hits her head against something.

Maybe the world didn’t miss Superman for the five years he was gone because we have Jack Bauer.

The flying effects were great. But it’s still wrong to not have that whistling wind whoosh when Superman streaks across the sky.

I missed Gene Hackman.

Brandon Routh makes Dean Cain look edgy.

George Reeves is the Sean Connery of Supermen.

Director Bryan Singer said there was an in-depth discussion during pre-production on the size of the hero’s “package”. My question to Mr. Singer: On this movie or all your movies? And the pilot of HOUSE?

Why would ANYONE want to live in Metroplis? Jesus. A day doesn’t go by when there’s not at least one disaster. That town would break FEMA in a month. And the citizens must now be used to them because no one ever heads for cover, no one ever panics, people continue dining at sidewalk cafes even though a car or airplane is hurtling right for them. (Sidebar #2: If Superman landed a plane in Wrigley Field during a Cubs game that Harry Caray was calling here’s how it would have sounded:

HARRY: Time called for a moment, there seems to be a hot dog wrapper on the field.

STEVE STONE: No, Harry, that’s a jumbo jetliner.

HARRY: Holy cow! Well, while the groundscrew removes it, why not head to the kitchen and pop the top off an ice cold Budweiser? You sure that’s not just the tarp, Steve?

STEVE STONE: No, Harry. It’s a plane.

Every article I’ve read about the movie stresses the love story and the emotionally troubled Superman – all wonderful values to have in a film. But the truth is this: Us Superman fans don’t give a shit about that. Just get to the action.

Why doesn’t anyone ever call the Child Protection Agency and blow the whistle on Joan Crawford-worthy mom, Lois Lane? She puts her kid in harm’s way every fifteen minutes.

Even a dead Marlon Brando is better than most live actors today.

I love that Noel Neill and Jack Larson (Lois & Jimmy from the TV series) had cameos. And my neighbor, Eva Marie Saint (although she had nothing to do).

If Kevin Spacey really wanted to kill Superman he would force him to watch BEYOND THE SEA.

For a flashback segment (which wasn’t needed at all) they spent untold millions to build a whole farm and cornfield in Australia when they just as easily could have used any fifteen minutes from SMALLVILLE.

The most exciting five minutes of the night was the SPIDERMAN 3 trailer.




If Superman were really wheeled into a hospital he’d be stopped at the door and asked to provide proof of health insurance.

Lois Lane gets into the hospital to see Superman but his mother has to stand outside with the crowd?

In the hospital, they can’t hang up Superman’s suit. They just have to drape it over a chair? Was Superman in a Kaiser hospital?

When Lois sees all those wigs I thought she had stumbled into Carl Reiner’s bathroom.

You’d think Superman would be smart enough to put a lock on his Fortress of Solitude. If not Lex Luther, there has to at least be Jehovah’s Witnesses stopping by.

When Superman lands back on earth at the beginning of the movie, did he arrive in a spaceship again? Where did he get it? And why did he need it? Is Kansas a no-fly zone?

With those crystals I thought initially that Lex Luthor’s insidious plan to achieve world domination involved opening a New Age store.

I guess this movie disproves the theory that you can’t tug on Superman’s cape. Even Mr. Rogers would have gone medieval if Lex tortured him the way he did Superman.

The last twenty minutes totally petered out. And I’m sorry, I don’t care what his moral code is, if Superman doesn’t KILL Lex Luthor, and by that I mean rip out his entrails, smash him against a wall, set him on fire, and slit his throat with a razor sharp 45 of Mack the Knife then the movie doesn’t have a satisfying ending.

But SPIDERMAN 3 looks REALLY cool!!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

In the news...

Some things I might be talking about with Elayne Boosler when we host the Stephanie Miller show Monday and Tuesday morning (consult your local listings and Sirius satellite radio):

At the Institute of Food Technologists (with home office probably in the corner booth of a Sizzler’s) on Tuesday, Professor Charles Bamforth presented objective scientific evidence that beer is much healthier than wine. Bamforth is Anheuser-Busch endowed Professor of Brewing Science at the University of California. Where does Norm Peterson get a job like that?

At the erotica convention recently in Los Angeles (the only convention where nobody registers using their real name) Pastor Craig Gross, who runs an anti-pornography ministry handed out “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” bibles. He’d like to see them in hotels but how much reading are you going to be doing when you only have the room for an hour?

Meanwhile, several Los Angeles city officials are outraged and embarrassed because Hooters is planning a bikini contest to raise money for spaying pets. “Hooters for Neuters” is what they’re calling it. So it’s okay to hold an erotica convention in the LA convention center but a fund raiser for a good cause is undignified. If it makes the city officials feel any better there are a lot of 40 year old men who still live with their mothers who think “Hooters for Neuters” is a night saluting them.

A research study has concluded that holding a cellphone to your head while being struck with lightening can cause serious injury. But at least the last sound you hear is your favorite itune.

And a Korean company has invented a cellphone with a breathalyzer, so you can check to see if you’re drunk before the cop does. Here’s how it works: users blow into a small spot on the phone, and if they’ve had too much to drink the phone issues a warning and dispenses hot coffee out of another small spot on the phone. Plus, the LP4100 model has this nifty feature: it also allows you to set up the phone so on certain nights and after a certain time it will block you from calling certain people in your address book. (e.g. ex-girlfriend, ex-boyfriend, Marine recruiter, QVC, me.). And if you fail the blood alcohol test the only call it will let you make is to your wife.

Sometime in October the US population will reach 300,000,000. Still, no one will be watching the CW.

According to “experts” – if you are a woman and you’re wearing a bra, you are probably wearing the wrong size. Who are these “experts” and where do I apply? Apparently this is such a serious problem that Oprah has devoted two shows to it, going so far as to have dramatic “bra interventions”. What joke could I possibly make that’s as absurd as that??

The average American breast has grown from size 34D to 36C. Of course Pamela Anderson alone has shifted the national average.