Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Warning: I'm feeling snarky today

So here are some random topics...

Now that the MODERN FAMILY adults have gotten a pay raise, the kids want to negotiate pay hikes as well.  I'm not making this up.  Did they not see how hard it was to replace Lilly? Have they not noticed that on MAD MEN every year there’s a different Bobby Draper? Ray & Debra Barone had kids too. How often did you see them? If Haley is shipped off to college she’s back to doing Olive Garden commercials. At what point does this become silly?

At one time you tuned into the Olympics and there was Jim McKay. Now it’s Ryan Seacrest. That’s like saying once we had Brando, now we have Rob Schneider.

I don’t care what anybody says. I love THE NEWSROOM. This week’s was terrific. If we're not going to see Olivia Munn naked at least we get to hear her speak Japanese.  And Sam Waterston finally blew a gasket. For ten years I was waiting for him to do that on LAW & ORDER. Just once I wanted to see him grab Tovah Feldshuh by the neck and swing her around the courtroom like a rag doll.

In 1995 Jeff Greenstein & Jeff Strauss had a sitcom on Fox called PARTNERS. Here’s the premise: two architects are partners. One of them gets engaged, which strains their relationship. They also have an off-beat secretary and the pilot was directed by James Burrows. Now CBS has a sitcom premiering in the fall from David Kohan & Max Mutchnick (WILL & GRACE) called PARTNERS. Here’s the premise: two architects are partners. One of them gets engaged, which strains their relationship. They also have an off-beat secretary and the pilot was directed by James Burrows. If you look real hard you might see similarities. When Jeff Greenstein cried foul Kohan & Mutchnick were baffled and claimed they’re two very different shows. I’m interested to see how this plays out because I have a pilot I’m developing about a straight girl living with a gay guy and they each have a kooky friend. What do you think of WILL & GRACE as the title?

THIS JUST IN:  My book is now available in Audiobook form!  I narrate it myself.  Here's where you go to order.   Imagine me sitting next to you on a 7 hour & 23 minute car ride to Bakersfield.  I'm very excited about it and hope you will be too.  Even if you bought the book, it's different listening to it.  I correct all the typos.  


At the CBS session with TV critics, new daytime talk show host, Jeff “Wanna know what you’re playin’ for?” Probst said this: “If you’re looking for Jerry (Springer) or Maury (Povich), this isn’t your show. We aren’t looking for people fighting onstage or paternity testing. If you’re looking for something new, that’s where we are.” He goes on to say his role model is Phil Donahue. Phil’s daytime yak show ran from 1967-1996. What could be newer than that?

I will say this: as much as I love THE NEWSROOM, I can’t imagine watching it in closed-captions.

More book news:  I'm planning some book signings for THE ME GENERATION… BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE ‘60s). You peeps in LA and Seattle – any interest in coming out for something like that? I’ll read, I’ll sign, I’ll explain the Infield Fly Rule. For updates, reviews (got a bunch of really nice ones), photos, and insane videos just visit my website – megenerationbook.com. And please buy the book! There’s no guarantee the public will watch a show called WILL & GRACE.

At 38 Ichiro lowers the average age of the Yankee line-up.

Based on how AMERICAN HORROR STORY finagled its way into Emmy nominations, NBC should enter their Olympic coverage as a mini-series next year.

Why I prefer the Summer Olympics to the Winter Olympics:
Ever have dreams of being a sportscaster? The Houston Astros are looking for a young radio reporter who would be a regular part of the broadcast, interviewing players, and filing reports. The contest is open to everybody willing to live in Houston. Here’s where you go to sign up.

Have you heard the great news? Bristol Palin is going back on DANCING WITH THE STARS! The last time she was on, a man in Wisconsin was so angry he shot his television set. I fear for his microwave. Not only is Bristol a Clydesdale on the dance floor, this time she’ll be competing against four former winners. As if ABC cares. By the way, Bristol’s qualification for being considered a star (besides being the daughter of attention monger Sarah): she’s a paid speaker for teen abstinence. I can’t tell you how many young girls from Ohio get off the bus every day in Hollywood with stars in their eyes and dreams of becoming the next paid speaker for teen abstinence.

The acquisition of Hanley Ramirez will really help the Dodgers… until he turns into Manny Ramirez.

And they wonder why STEP UP REVOLUTION was such a boxoffice flop this weekend. They left in a scene where the dancers break into a party wearing body vests and gas masks and use gas grenades to threaten the guests. Now you might say, how could they be so fucking stupid in light of Aurora? Hey, they did pull the scene from the TV ad.

For all the people in Great Britain who thought it was just fine that the Olympics Lid Lifter was geared just for them and who cares if the rest of the world is left out? --  The Brentwood Cheesecake Factory on San Vicente is closing in September.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Receiving a Television Critics Award

Just as swallows return to San Juan Capistrano every March, television critics flock to Los Angeles every July for their bi-annual convention. For several weeks they’re trapped in the Beverly Hilton Hotel as networks parade out their newest shows, stars, and showrunners for panel discussions. Last year the producers of HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN went on for an hour about how great their show was. I can only imagine the balloon juice at the WHITNEY session.

Between these thinly disguised sales pitches and cocktail parties put on by networks hoping to secure good reviews for providing crab puffs are the TCA Awards. These are given out based on quality not popularity so there is rarely any overlap between them and the People’s Choice Awards.

CHEERS won the Heritage Award this year and I was honored to accept on behalf of the show along with casting director, Jeff Greenberg. I was a little disappointed the Heritage Award didn’t go to BIG WAVE DAVE’S but I was able to put aside my deep hurt and appear chipper.

The ceremony was held in the Grand Ballroom. It’s where they stage the GOLDEN GLOBES and the far more prestigious any-other-award shows. The TCA Awards were not televised. NBC opted for the Olympics instead. But that made the evening a little more intimate and the comments a bit more freewheeling.

The night started off with a cocktail reception and a number of food stations. One was carving roast beef for sandwiches on little rolls. I asked the server (slicer? What do you call those people?) to cut the bun and as he did his knife snapped in half. How tough is a bun if it can break a carving knife?

My wife and I hob-nobbed with a gaggle of critics. Over the years and over the internet I’ve become friends with quite a few. I think we bonded years ago with our shared love for MAD MEN and hate for KATH AND KIM.

The cast of BREAKING BAD was there. Reunited with Aaron Paul who had been in a failed pilot of ours. Kat Dennings was in that same doomed project. We’re like the Broadway Danny Rose of television.

Rarely am I awed by celebrities but Claire Danes was in the room. For my money, she’s the next Meryl Streep. I sooo love her in HOMELAND. I was too nervous to go up and tell her I’ve watched that scene where she’s given electro-shock at least a half dozen times.

The ceremony was about to begin. We all repaired to the main ballroom where we sat at large tables. Just like the Golden Globes except that instead of George Clooney sitting there, you had the TV critic from Kalamazoo. We shared a table with the producers of LOUIE. Louis CK was not in attendance. He was picking up his kid from camp in Albany. But it was great to get the inside scoop on just how Louie puts that show together. Very impressive. 

Bryan Cranston was the host. He did a monologue that got off to a rough start with a Whitney Houston joke. But along the way there were some funny lines, and what can I say? That guy can do no wrong… save for maybe the Whitney Houston zingers.

The winners are listed below. LOUIE won twice and Claire Danes thanked her writers. (Later I met one of them.  Meredith Stiehm who penned the extraordinary “Weekend” episode of HOMELAND. With all due respect to MAD MEN that deserved an Emmy nom.)

Jeff Greenberg and I accepted the award for CHEERS. Several of my jokes went over well and at one point I made Claire Danes laugh really hard so I can die now.

More cocktails and schmoozing.  A yummy-looking dessert table was set out, but I did not indulge.  After the bun incident I worried that I'd have a creme brulee and chip a tooth. 

Still, a good time was had by all. Thanks again to the TCA for having me participate, Claire Danes for laughing, and congratulations to all the winners. Hopefully next year BIG WAVE DAVE’S will get the recognition it deserves, but I’m not holding my breath.

Here’s the list of very worthy winners:

Program of the Year: Game of Thrones
Best Drama Series: Breaking Bad
Best New Program: Homeland
Best Miniseries/Movie: Downton Abbey
Individual Achievement in Drama: Claire Danes
Individual Achievement in Comedy: Louis C.K.
Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming: So You Think You Can Dance
Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming: Switched at Birth
Heritage Award: Big Wave Dave's (I can dream)
Career Achievement: David Letterman

Sunday, July 29, 2012

More Olympic Controversy

As the stories begin emerging, it is more and more apparent that we Star Spangled Americans were treated to a distorted view of the Opening Ceremonies. Based on your comments, it seems the rest of the world didn’t have Paula Abdul babbling throughout the spectacle like we did thanks to NBC. And the rest of the world didn’t see a selectively edited version.

Word now surfaces that there was a section devoted to people who had died, and not only did NBC not air it – they replaced it with an insipid Ryan Seacrest interview. Set aside for a moment that Ryan Seacrest has no business being there in the first place. I’m sure his only exposure to sports is playing Marco Polo in the pool with the Kardashian sisters. But why should NBC decide which parts of the ceremony we see and which we don’t? I can even understand if it’s a time issue but they spent the first half hour showing us filler bullshit. And we must’ve watched David Beckham riding in a boat for ten minutes.

And it gets worse.  When asked to account for this, NBC Sports spokesman Greg Hughes actually defended their decision. "Our program is tailored for the U.S. television audience," he said. "It's a credit to (ceremony director) Danny Boyle that it required so little editing."

A credit to Danny Boyle?!  Really?  A credit?! That’s maybe the greatest “You look fabulous for a fat girl” left handed compliment ever.

I wonder just what NBC’s thought process was to edited out that segment. It was too much of a downer?  They had a promo for new Matthew Perry sitcom scheduled and it just wouldn’t fit? Meredith made a joke over it?  Ryan Seacrest had it in his ridiculous mega-deal? It was a compromise – half the executives wanted to cut Paul McCartney instead?

Here's a link to that section.  (Thanks Sam Simon for finding it.)

Is there any way we in America could watch the Closing Ceremony from Denmark’s feed? Or Costa Rica’s? (Thanks to reader Kathleen, apparently there is.  Here's that link.)

One thing is for sure, and as an Oscar-winning director, Danny Boyle should know this: Never direct anything without first getting the final cut.


Yes, this is a re-post.  It's my review of the DARK KNIGHT from August, 2008.  Like I said earlier, I thought the latest one was okay but not as much fun as the previous two.   But the second film inspired me to write this: 
Why would anyone live in Gotham City? Jesus! You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting six mob bosses. And then there’s the town’s super psycho villain – they couldn’t find someone a little more aesthetically pleasing? Children watch those televised truck chases too, y’know. And Juneau appears to have more daytime in the winter than Gotham City. Does it get dark everyday at noon?

The skyline is harsh and impersonal. All that’s missing are smokestacks and an American Girl Place Experience.

No wonder a suped-up roadster/tank can get around in relative ease and drive at 100 mph through heavily populated city streets. Until Allstate offers “explosion insurance”, who wants to drive at night there?

Not that I feel sorry for the citizens. They have this superhero who seems to save them from annihilation every few weeks and he’s less popular than Andruw Jones with Dodger fans. What does a bat have to do to get some love in that kooky town?

And how stupid are these criminals? Why not just move their operations to Scottsdale. Let’s see how well Batman and Spiderman fly around when the tallest building is a four story Holiday Inn.

I don’t know what’s a worse job – Police Commissioner of Gotham City or President of their Tourist Bureau. Note to summer sight-seers: stay off the ferries.

Quick aside: Wouldn’t you love to see AMERICAN IDOL open auditions in Gotham City? Paula would be mistaken for the Joker.

I used to think the Joker was a brilliant mastermind until I realized a number of his fiendish plots were a direct lift from SAW.

DARK KNIGHT was a fun ride and Heath Ledger steals the movie (and everything else). But is it just me? I’m reaching the superhero saturation point. I’ve sympathized enough with tortured reluctant caped crusaders. And these movies all seem to turn on the heroes’ inability to kill the mass murderer psychopath villain because of some “code”. That doesn’t seem real. Oh… wait. We’re talking about guys who wear spandex suits and can fly – strike that last objection.

DARK KNIGHT is worth seeing but please Hollywood, no more comic books. The only character left is Bazooka Joe.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Olympics Opening Ceremony: Review

First, some disclaimers.

I have no idea what I would have done had I been given the assignment to create the Opening Ceremonies.

Danny Boyle, who did have that herculean task, is one of my favorite film directors.  

The logistics must have been an unbelievable nightmare. Just coordinating all the dancers, costumes, sets, molten steel, LED screens, special effects, etc. was a miraculous feat in itself.

The TV coverage was amazing. A gazillion cameras. I can’t imagine directing that show – live yet.

I was looking forward to this.  I went into the show wanting to be moved, wanting to be awed, hoping to be overcome by emotion,  dazzled by the spectacle – and if you were I am happy for you and somewhat envious.

All that said…

I thought the Opening Ceremonies were the world’s longest graduation ceremony combined with the most overblown Orange Bowl Halftime Show ever.

I’m sorry. I was soooo exhausted after four-and-a-half hours of being bombarded by pomp & circumstance, and costumes, and running commentary that by the show’s end I felt like I had run the marathon.

I did however, love the faces of the young athletes. I know how hard and long they’ve trained for this and what an extraordinary accomplishment it is for them just to be there. I could feel their pride and was thrilled for each and every one of them, regardless of country, politics, or quality of their foreign films. But Jesus, there were over 200 of these countries. By Italy I was spent.

The show was seen around the world, and depending upon where you are the coverage might’ve been quite different. I can only speak for NBC and the U.S. feed.

Now NBC paid more for the rights to these games than the national budget of probably 136 of the competing nations, so it’s understandable that they'd want to squeeze in as many commercials as they could. So the program began at 7:30 with the first half hour being nothing but filler. Bob Costas talking to Tom Brokaw about security. Long filmed pieces about London. Zzzzzzzz.  Noted sports authority, Ryan Seacrest interviewing athletes. I was sure he was going to ask one, “So what are you going to sing for us tonight?”

Then the ceremony began hosted by Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera. If NBC loves Savannah Guthrie so much how come she didn’t co-host instead of Viera? Matt was his usual smooth polished self. Meredith was a ditz. Every five minutes she was saying, “I didn’t know that.” Well, you’re the commentator. You’re supposed to know!

If you’ve taped the show and haven’t seen it yet, here’s a fun drinking game: Take a swig every time someone says, “This is a moment he/she will always remember.” You’ll be smashed in an hour.

The presentation began with a bloated history of Great Britain complete with children’s choirs, Kenneth Branaugh doing a dramatic reading from THE TEMPEST, Brigadoon mountain, and my favorite – a salute to smoke stacks. Everything all night long was symbolic. Everything “represented” something. So what do you think giant poles rising to the sky might possibly represent?

I thought the burning Olympic Rings hovering over the stadium was a cool effect, marred however by the NBC logo in the corner of the screen. At least they didn't also have a crawl that read "WHITNEY MOVES TO FRIDAY."

Funny bit with Daniel Craig as James Bond supposedly fetching the Queen and then the Queen making her entrance via parachute. But that was the last laugh I got from the entire evening – including the tepid Rowan Atkinson bit.

I did love the subtle message Great Britain sent to the United States by doing an entire production number on the value of National Health Care. Otherwise, I don’t know why the bit was there. Billed as a salute to Children’s Literature, we saw thousands of children jumping on beds. Who cares? And at one point villains of Children’s Literature appeared – Captain Hook, the Queen of Hearts, Cruella de Vil. Knowing NBC, I was surprised they didn’t slip in the monsters from GRIMM.

Then came four decades of British music along with a boy-meets-girl scenario surrounded by dancers that felt like a half hour Dr. Pepper commercial.

Once it was time for the Parade of Athletes, NBC mercifully replaced Meredith Viera with Bob Costas. He and Matt tried their darndest to find interesting things to say about each passing country but after awhile everything blended to where I thought they said kids from Jordan speak Korean.

Finally the torch was lit. Thank you NBC for just showing us the last two miles of someone running with it and not the entire 12,000. I know that was tempting. Think of all the extra Matt Perry GO ON promos you could have shown!

And what better way to end this overly-long show than by having Sir Paul McCartney sing the longest Beatles song they ever recorded, HEY JUDE? As he was singing, I was thinking – a week ago Ringo Starr performed at Humphreys, an outdoor lawn venue in San Diego. Meanwhile, Paul McCartney sings at the Olympics Opening Ceremony for one billion people.

Let the games begin… already.

What did you think? I’d be especially interested in hearing from readers in other countries. What was your coverage like? Whoever your co-host for the Opening Ceremony was, we’ll trade you Meredith Viera for her.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The MODERN FAMILY cast holdout

This is a Friday Question I've received so often this week that I want to devote the entire post to it.

Among those asking was Rock Golf.

It sounds like the cast (at least the adults) on Modern Family are working together (well, actually NOT working together) in an effort to renegotiate their contracts (and did I use enough parentheses in this sentence?).

What are your thoughts? As a showrunner, what effect does this have on planning? Do they get support from the writers?

First off, I have no dog in this race. I feel bad for the producers and writers because of the inconvenience. Under the best of conditions, when things are going swimmingly, it’s still a bitch to knock out a good product every week, much less Emmy-winning quality. If this holdout stretches, then showrunners will have to scramble.   There's the possibility of missing air-dates.  Some scripts might have to be rewritten.  It sucks.

But in this case, that's not going to happen.  This will be settled soon, maybe even by the time you read this. 

Some backstory: When an actor signs on for a pilot he agrees to a seven-year contract. There are salary increases built in but they’re usually 4-6%. In a previous post I explained just how hard it is to even get hired in a pilot. (You can find that post here.) And if you are the lucky one, you have to sign your life away.

Two questions you might be asking:

Why seven years? So actors can’t do what the MODERN FAMILY cast is doing.

Isn’t signing a seven year contract a good thing because it means security? No because it’s not a guaranteed seven years. If the show gets cancelled that’s it. If the studio, producers, or network wants to replace you, or kill you (a favorite of TV dramas) they can. You however, can’t just say after year three you want a big raise because the show is making billions or you're tired of being a Klingon.

Not so fair, is it? And this is on top of committing seven years to producers you don’t know in most cases. They could be assholes. They could be insane. Or they could be great guys but they’re replaced in two years and the new producers are assholes.

There’s also the danger that playing one role for seven years could typecast you and ten years from now your career consists of appearing at the Nostalgia Show at the Burbank Marriott signing pictures of yourself next to the table where the robot from LOST IN SPACE is signing way more photos than you are.

So I’m torn. On the one hand, I do see their beef. On the other, there’s something to be said for the integrity of signing a contract and living up to it. Maybe I just spent too much time with John Wooden.

But here’s what the MF actors did: Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, and Ed O’Neill filed suit against 20th to void their contracts. That’s pretty unprecedented. Partly, they did that for protection. They didn’t show up for the first table reading of the season on Tuesday and the studio could sue them for breach of contract. “Out of good faith”, the cast did appear yesterday for the table reading.  And that olive branch re-opened the negotiations.

Hollywood fact:  Deals get done when the studios and networks feel they need them to get done.   If there's no imperative negotiations can take months or years.  If it behooves the studio or network to close the deal the negotiations can take ten minutes.   The MODERN FAMILY cast had been renegotiating for months.  Now suddenly, the studio presidents and top agents and lawyers found time in their busy schedules to meet yesterday afternoon. 

And something else you should know: Studios are making horrible deals these days. Why? Because they can. If an actor doesn’t agree with the studio's offer for the pilot, there are fifty others who will. Same for writers’ deals. The money is way less than even ten years ago. It used to be your agent could negotiate with the studio. Today the studio says “these are the terms and you have until 5:00 to agree to them, or we move on.” There are enough out-of-work writers that studios can get away with that now. And unlike the actors, writers have no leverage should the show become a smash hit. If actors don’t show up there’s no show. If writers pull that stunt there are seven new writers in the room tomorrow. The public isn’t going to know. But they sure will when they tune in MODERN FAMILY and it’s just Haley and Lilly.

The FRIENDS cast used this ploy and ultimately got a nice settlement. That’s what will happen here too. There will be some compromise. The cast won’t get what they’re asking for but they’ll receive a nice hike – way more than 6%. Everyone will kiss and hug and by the Emmys it’ll be one fucking lovefest.

(Note to the cast of WHITNEY: Don’t you be getting any ideas now.)

Meanwhile, 20th will go to ABC to try to get them to offset the salary increases.  Everyone will cry poor, and everyone will make gazillions.

So what do I ultimately think?  Like I said, this will be resolved soon if not already. I wish the actors well.     Hey, it’s not my money.

I'll be discussing this topic along with several others and plugging my book on the John Phillips Show on 790 KABC in Los Angeles and KABC.COM from 11-noon PDT. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Because you asked for it

Since Friday Questions are so popular I thought I’d sneak in a bonus day. So here are Thursday Friday Questions.

Stephen starts us off:

What do you do with live studio audiences for new shows? I don't mean the pilot, but those first 4 or 5 (or more if it's debuting at midseason) episodes before the show premieres. How do you get them up to speed so that they understand the character humor? For example, was the live studio audience for episode 3 of Cheers made aware prior to taping of the circumstances that put Diane in the bar two episodes earlier?

A timely question since new shows are beginning to go into production right now. Usually, you’ll assemble a ten minute version of the pilot and screen it for the audience during the warm-up. And if there are key story elements the audience needs to know the warm-up guy will brief them.

But yes, certain jokes are not going to work because the audience doesn’t know the references. Yet, on the air, they might, and ultimately you're making the show for the television audience, not studio audience. 

A case in point was the Norm entrances. They bombed continuously until the series started to air. But we kept telling George Wendt not to worry about it. The audience didn’t know it was a running bit. Flash-forward to season eleven:  the minute George enters and says, "Afternoon, everybody" the place goes absolutely bonkers. 

A bigger problem is filling the bleachers with people who would watch this show anyway. Often groups have to be herded in. Imagine a busload of 90-year-old codgers filling the seats at WHITNEY. Or a group of high schoolers in the audience of HOT IN CLEVELAND.

Eventually, fans of a show will write in for tickets so by the end of the first season you can stack the house with ringers.

Mike has a question about the CHEERS spin-off, THE TORTELLIS.

Having never seen an episode, I was wondering: why do you think the show failed? Nick was one of my favorite recurring characters on Cheers. He lifted every episode he guested in. Do you think, though, he was best seen in small doses, and a whole show built around him was too much? Just what do you think happened here?

I may have told this story before, but David and I wrote an episode of THE TORTELLIS. We met with the Charles Brothers one afternoon to break a story. We spent all day trying to come up with an episode. Nothing seemed interesting. Finally, we decided to table the discussion until the next day. I asked Glen Charles, “What number episode is this?” He said, “Four.” And I said, “Four? We can’t come up with episode four? You are in shit shape with this show.”

And in truth they were. There was no real theme or premise. It was just a collection of characters living in Las Vegas. Add to that Nick & Loretta were fairly two-dimensional (funny as hell but two-dimensional) so it was hard to build a show around them. Compare that to spinning-off a far more fleshed-out and real character like Frasier Crane.

I remember there was a married couple who were writers on THE TORTELLIS. One day they got into an argument over a script they were writing for the show and it escalated to the point where they got divorced. They may have even come to blows. Over THE TORTELLIS. That’s when you know you’ve got a show in trouble.

From Artie:

I've been writing professionally in another creative medium for a couple years now, and thinking about trying my hand at writing for TV. One of the skills I've developed is the ability to fix or improve already existing work of other writers.

I hear about people in Hollywood who primarily work as "script doctors," and it seems like that tends to be part of a career as a more generative writer. My question is: Is that the kind of role that someone can legitimately use as an entry point?

Not to be blunt, but no. You don’t get script doctor jobs (“creative consultants”) until you’re a proven writer in your chosen genre. And unfortunately, those jobs are almost non-existent in today’s economy even for seasoned writers. Gone are the days a scribe could command a handsome fee for coming in one or two nights a week. Sigh.

But if editing is your gift I would suggest you explore entering the executive ranks. Networks and studios are filled with people who will graciously give script notes, whether they know shit or not. If you are truly good at fixing existing scripts you would be a real asset.

Johnny Walker asks:

How long do you spend a day (or week, if you don't work on it every day) on your blog? It's amazing to me that you keep coming up with fresh content!

Thanks.  It probably averages to an hour or so a day. Sometimes I’ll be inspired and bang out a couple posts at one sitting. Other times one post will take me all afternoon and then I'll still throw it away because it sucks. The hard part is coming up with topics. Once I latch onto a good topic I can write fairly quickly.  Sometimes. Occasionally.  Once last spring. 

And finally, from Susannahfromhungray:

Do you know if the character of Frasier's agent, Bebe Glazer, was named after Bebe Neuwirth?

I do know and the answer is no.

More questions tomorrow. If you have one, leave it in the comments section. I’ll try to get to as many as I can. Thanks.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The REAL Newsroom

This has been a fun week. I’ve been making the rounds promoting my book. This morning I was on KRTH 101 radio with Gary Bryan in Los Angeles and 12 other radio stations around the country. A list is provided at the end of this post.

But part of the fun of this marketing blitz is sharing the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of these personal appearances. And it’s good stuff to know when you go out to sell your book.

Yesterday I made my first television appearance. I was on the Channel 9 2:00 News in L.A. My segment was a delightful respite between horrific psychos stories and grisly freeway accidents.

Channel 9 is one of two TV stations CBS owns. Their facilities are on the CBS Radford lot in Studio City. I have a long history with that dream factory. It was the home of MTM Enterprises and my partner, David Isaacs and I got our first staff job there on THE TONY RANDALL SHOW. You never forget your first lot.

We were so thrilled to be there. At the time I drove a crappy Nova and David drove an even crappier Chevy Vega. One of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW producers saw him drive in one day and yelled out, “Better cars are coming!”

We later did our Mary Tyler Moore series there on the same stage she did her good series on. But I’m proud to say some classic episodes of television were written in our very office. Not by us. After we had moved out Larry David wrote all the SEINFELD episodes there.

When things got too crazy on that MARY show we would chill out on Gilligan’s Island. How many industrial parks feature that?

I directed numerous episodes on that lot. JUST SHOOT ME, STARK RAVING MAD, and of course CONRAD BLOOM. At the time I was doing BLOOM the CBS Big Brother house was there and they were in the middle of production. The contestants were supposed to be completely cut off from the world so I would walk by, hear them in the backyard, and yell out things like “Ohmygod! President Bush is leaving his wife for Paula Zahn?” Yes, I'm still 14. 

Where the Big Brother house was now stands the sprawling Channel 2 and Channel 9 complex. My publicist Sharon and I arrived at 1:45. We were led into the newsroom. It was just like the Aaron Sorkin show except five times as many desks and no one talked fast. Most of the desks were empty. I guess psychos tend to take late lunches so not much was happening.

Bumped into anchor Sandra Mitchell coming out of the restroom. She couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming. We shook hands, both apologizing that our hands were wet. She asked about my name pronunciation, which really impressed me. Didn’t she have enough to worry about with the massacre update, Jennifer Hudson family murder sentencing, and guy who set someone’s face on fire to concern herself with little me? I’m a big Sandra Mitchell fan.

Passed by the control room. No Emily Mortimer screaming in the anchors’ ears. And yet the newscast seemed to go on. I don’t know how.

Watched the program from the producer’s office – not easy to do without Lexapro. Finally it was time for the interview. We entered the studio and I was taken aback. I’ve been on many local news sets (and thrown off many news sets), but I had never seen anything like this before. Here’s a photo. What’s missing?
That’s right. People. No cameramen. No floor director. No make up guy. Just the two on-air anchors. No wonder we found a parking spot.

Sandra teased my segment along with a preview of an avalanche then threw it to commercial break. At this point six guys named Dave would usually swarm around me attaching my microphone. Not this time. Suzie (who was just as gracious and friendly as Sandra) put it on herself. If that would have happened twenty years ago 30,000 union workers would have gone out on strike. It’s a different world.

The interview came off pretty well. You can judge for yourself. They showed the book cover a lot so that’s the main thing.   Sandra and Susie were very complimentary.   I did have a few jokes.  But as I left I worried that I might have been too frivolous for a hard newscast.  Then I bumped into the next guest for a Channel 2 or 9 newscast --  Dodger-Elvis. Not sure what he’s going to discuss but I can only assume it’s the Middle-East.

My thanks to Sandra, Suzie, and everyone at Channel 9. Below is the interview. And as promised, these were the stations that interviewed me this morning:  WAOR South Bend, KWNG Minneapolis/St. Paul, WTDW Detroit, WMJI Cleveland, KLPX Tucson, WRTA Altoona, KTRS St. Louis, WBAL Baltimore (my old Orioles stomping ground), WVSL Scranton, WDUN Atlanta, WXKR Toledo, and KRED Eureka, CA.  By the last six I had no idea what I was saying.  

More info, photos, and cool videos on my website – www.megenerationbook.com.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Saw the new Batman movie.  Loved the last one with Heath Ledger.  This one was okay but disappointing.  Sorry fanboys.  The villain wasn't fun and you couldn't understand him. Batman may save the day, but for my money, Anne Hathaway saved the movie.  She was a treat.

But instead of doing a long review (I'm sure there are now thousands of them on line), I thought I'd do a Batman post with a different spin -- why I've always loved Batman. 

My affection for the Caped Crusade dates way back to when I was a kid. I loved the Batman comic books. Most kids preferred Superman, but I had my issues. In the back of Superman comic books there would be an ad for Palisades Amusement Park, along with a discount coupon for admission. But I lived in Los Angeles and there was no Palisades Park here. I remember thinkin’, “Superman’s fucking with me. There’s no amusement park by that name. What kind of superhero fucks with a ten year old kid?” And if there wasn’t a Palisades Park, how did I know there was a real Fortress of Solitude?  The whole myth is a house of cards.

But Batman never advertised anything that didn’t exist. Sure, you could shoot your eye out with that Daisy rifle but it was real.

Most people who prefer Batman over Superman do so because Batman was mortal. Thwarting crime is less easy I’ve observed when you can’t fly and bullets don’t bounce off your chest.

That’s a valid justification, but it’s not my deciding factor.

What I loved about Batman is that he had a secret cave. This killed me as a kid. Imagine a secret passageway in your house that led to a cave fully stocked with the latest high-tech equipment and the world’s coolest car ever.

Your best friend has a secret. He just got the Prince Fielder baseball card. Yeah, well, big whoop. You have a fuckin’ CAVE!

Mom is looking for you. It’s time to take a shower and go to bed. But she can’t find you. Why? Because you’re in your secluded CAVE, which by the way, is fully air conditioned – not like the rest of the house.

Of course, as a kid, you don’t think these things through. Yes, it’s a secret cave but Bruce Wayne had to hire some construction company to build it. How long does it take to dig a cave? How many people? Steam shovels? Dump trucks? Are we to believe they all came and went unnoticed? For months?  And that none of them said anything?   What happens when the next guy wants a cave?  You can't say you have experience in that area? 

And how do you even approach the contractor and keep the cat in the bag? “I want the cave to be large enough to house a car, control panels, and hooks where maybe I can hang costumes."  What's the contractor thinking?   Either Mr. Wayne is obviously Batman or he’s just one sick fuck (especially when he see Robin, hanging around). Plus, just dealing with the contractors – the Penguin and Riddler are probably more honest.

I guess you could be cagey. You could tell him that you’re looking to build a wine cellar... that's the size of a football field – and while he’s down there could he also put in a gasoline pump?

What about city and state permits? 

Still, none of that mattered when I was a kid, and none of that matters now. Batman has a cave – it’s a necessary job expense. And I can still dream of having one too. Hi-tech control panels, a custom plane that can fly between skyscrapers (hope he doesn't clip Spider Man along the way), decent closet space. The only thing is – I bet I won’t be able to get phone reception or WiFi. Note to Batman: Go after AT&T next.

Warning: I will be on TV today

I'll be appearing on the Channel 9 2:00 News today in Los Angeles to talk about my book, THE ME GENERATION... BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60s).  The last time I was on Channel 9 it was KHJ-TV and I appeared on the Ninth Street West dance show.   Unlike that appearance, I will not be wearing my Bar Mitzvah suit this afternoon.  But I know a lot of you have held off buying the book until you see me on television so there goes that excuse.   Here's where you go.  Thanks.   Today's real post follows shortly. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

My thoughts on the Ichiro trade

... since I've gotten like fifty emails and texts. 

It’s always tough to say goodbye to a Hall-of-Famer but I think today’s trade of Ichiro to the Yankees for two young prospects is a deal that benefits both clubs. That short rightfield porch in Yankee Stadium beckons and Ichiro is definitely an upgrade over what the Pinstripes had.

And for the Mariners, youth must be served. They have a number of good young players like Casper Wells, Michael Saunders, and Mike Carp who need playing time to blossom. This opens up a big spot.

That said, I’ll miss Ichiro’s goofy outfits on the road (what was he thinking with those pointy hats and checkerboard suits with polka dot ties?) and line drive base hits on the field.

Baseball people talk about 5 Tool Players – those rare individuals who can hit for average, hit for power, have speed, play good defense, and have a great arm. And then there are those very select few who are 6 Tool Players. In addition to the other five and they can play well in New York. Ichiro is used to media attention. He should have no problem in Gotham.

So best of luck to Ichiro… after Wednesday when the Yankees are no longer playing the Mariners.

The Ringo Starr Concert: 50 Greys In Shades

Hey, those old guys can still play!  Was fortunate enough to see the Ringo Starr All-Starr Band’s final concert Saturday night at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

Ringo, looking trim in his sunglasses, was surrounded by some mainstays of classic rock radio – Steve Lukathier of Toto, Gregg Rolie of Santana and Journey, Todd Rundgren (also in sunglasses), Richard Page of Mister Mister (also also in sunglasses), Mark Rivera (Billy Joel’s sideman for three decades, three marriages, and two rehabs) and dynamite drummer Greg Bissonette. You know you’ve got an All-Star band when Ringo Starr is the back-up drummer.

I have to give these gentlemen props. They all qualify for Early Bird Dinner Specials, a few are probably eligible for Medicare, this was the last stop on a grueling two month cross-country schedule, and yet they rocked the house for two straight hours. A lot of times you get to the end of a tour and the musicians are on auto-pilot. They half-ass their set or screw with the songs because they’re sick of singing them. (I went to a Bob Dylan concert and he was so checked-out that I didn’t realize he was singing “Like a Rolling Stone” until halfway through it.) Not so with these pros. They gave it their all, playing with passion and joy reserved for musicians half their age and on twice the stimulants,

In many ways it was a “greatest hits” concert. Each performer got some spotlight time. Richard Page can still really sing, especially on “Broken Wings.” The Santana song, “Black Magic Woman” got the house on its feet, but the number that really killed was Toto’s “Africa.”

Ringo sang his big Beatles hits like “Yellow Submarine” and “Boys” along with “Photograph” and “It Don’t Come Easy” from his solo period. He also did a couple of numbers from his new album and the crowd politely sat through them.

As a surprise treat, Joe Walsh came out and did “Rocky Mountain Way.” Imagine Sid Caesar wailing on a Fender.

I’m guessing it’s because this was L.A. and the final stop of the tour but what a finale! Everyone sang “With a Little Help From My Friends” and they were joined by (among others) Micky Dolenz, Matt Sorum, Peter Frampton, Edgar Winter, Ringo’s lawyer, and some guy in a white suit who parked right next to us in the lot. See who you recognize (besides Ringo’s attorney).
Star gazing (or Starr gazing) in the crowd: I saw Ringo’s wife, Barbara Bach. She looked amazing. And Sally Kellerman. There may have been other celebrities but those were the ones I saw.

Unfortunately, the woman who sat in front of me almost ruined my evening. What a piece of work. She had to be in her late 50’s if she was a day. And yet she was stuffed into this tight tight skirt, bra harnessing silicone bazooms, a bare midriff exposing a gut that hung over her skirt, bleached blond hair, high heels – she must have thought she looked super hot. What she really looked like was a fullback in drag. I would have felt sorry for her if she wasn’t such a bitch with a capital C.

She stood the entire time. Even when everyone else in the Greek was seated. When I asked her to kindly sit down she snapped back at me, “This is a concert! You can’t tell someone to sit down in a concert!” Oh really? That’s concert etiquette? It’s okay to be rude and inconsiderate? Eventually the people behind me (and then behind them) started yelling at her to sit the fuck down. I guess they didn’t get the concert etiquette guidelines memo either.  Granny Bimbo then started yelling at all of them. Seriously, her ass alone blocked five people’s view. Happy to say she finally did sit down – during “Africa” when everyone else in the venue was standing up.

But all in all, a great night. And worth it just for historical purposes. Ringo is now 72. I saw Sinatra when he was in his early 70s at the Universal Amphitheater. He couldn’t hit half the notes and the toupee was obvious from outer space. But it was Sinatra. Ringo is a Beatle. You figure, “At his worst, how bad could he sing ‘Yellow Submarine’?” The fact that he sang it great, had energy to burn, played drums or sang for two hours, and assembled a knockout band – you’ve got to give him credit. 72 is the new 42… although someone needs to tell that woman that 59 is not the new 19.

And now for something completely different:

You know how much I love improv. Well, WENDY GOLDMAN and ROBIN SCHIFF, Groundlings alumni and accomplished writers in tv and film, are teaching a a weekend workshop, IMPROV FOR WRITING. August 10-12th. Location: Culver City, CA. Get back in touch with the playful part of your creativity. You don't need to know anything, prepare anything, or do anything other than show up and be open. No homework, either -- hey, it's summer. For details, contact: improvforwriting@gmail. com

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My favorite Disneyland story

Here's another excerpt from my book, THE ME GENERATION... BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60s).   Check out my website.  It's loaded with photos and videos, and here's the best part -- If you want to buy the book, you can!   Seriously!  It's for sale!  

But for now it's 1964.  We take a family trip to the Magic Kingdom.  

My other grandmother, Nana Pearl, surprised me later that summer by saying, “Fuck!” You don’t expect to hear your dear sweet old world, refined grandmother scream, “FUCK!!!” And at Disneyland no less.

The family made a sojourn to the Magic Kingdom and took Nana Pearl with us. At the time she was probably in her mid-60s. No one knew the ages of their Jewish grandparents back then. They all came over from Europe or Russia and no one arrived with accurate documentation. If Cher had entered the country via Ellis Island she’d claim to be 36 today.

But Nana Pearl was a kick. Always full of life. Your basic strudel-baking furniture-cleaning grandmother but game for anything…except…

Thrill rides.

So at Disneyland she was not interested in any roller coasters. We found ourselves at the Matterhorn bobsleds and of course Corey and I wanted to go. My father suggested Nana Pearl join us. He told her it was just a nice lazy boat ride. Dad has a mischievous streak in him. Either that or he was getting back at her for grounding him one weekend in 1939. Anyway, Nana Pearl agrees to go.

I’m in the back of the bobsled and Nana Pearl is in my lap. The sled slowly ascends up the center of the mountain. About halfway up she figures it out. That is when, for the first time ever, my grandmother dropped the F-bomb.

The bobsled begins hurtling down the mountain and all the while she is yelling, “I’m going to KILL him! If I ever get off of this damn thing I’m going to fucking KILL Clifford!” I didn’t help matters by laughing hysterically.

I think she chased him through three Lands.

My favorite Disneyland ride at the time wasn’t a ride at all. It was the Monsanto House of the Future. You just walked through this ultra modern house made entirely of plastic. A plastic house might sound ridiculous but when they finally closed the exhibit in 1967 and tried to demolish it, the wrecking ball just bounced right off of it. The one day demolition took two weeks.

Among the House of the Future’s visionary features – an oven that cooked food within seconds not hours, a TV that hung like a framed picture on the wall, telephones that allowed you to see the other party, and the most unbelievable wonder of all – a toothbrush that was electric! You would just push a button and the bristles rotated all by themselves! I’m sorry, this was beyond science fiction.

Like all kids, and probably adults too in 1964, we thought that by the year 2000 we’d all be living like the Jetsons. We’d all be flying around in space ships that folded into briefcases and even brushing our teeth without having to move our hands up and down.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My thoughts on yesterday

It’s obviously impossible to write anything humorous today in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado shootings yesterday. My heart goes out to all the friends and families of the victims. When I was in Denver earlier this year I met a young man who was a student of Columbine and there that fateful day. He recounted the whole ghastly tale. It’s one thing to watch the news coverage and its snippets of people who were on the scene, and it’s another to hear a first-person detailed account of just what it was like to actually be in that massacre.

We talked about the aftermath. He lost several close friends. It’s taken him years to move on. Not that he still isn't haunted by the tragedy, but he’s able to channel his energies and cope. Many of his friends were not so lucky. You just hear about the number of dead or wounded. But the collateral damage to those also present is enormous and permanent.

For the rest of us, now comes the period of grief and trying to make sense of it. The theories will be voiced. Violence of the movies will be blamed. The easy accessibility of firearms (a gun store is even one of the radio sponsors of the Colorado Rockies). Video games will be accused. I’m sure Rush Limbaugh will pin this on Obama. But the truth of course is that there is no way to make sense of it. There never is.

But then there’s this.

On Friday morning, even after the shooting, Warner Brothers was pairing THE DARK KNIGHT RISES with a trailer for a movie called GANGSTER SQUAD. In the trailer there’s a scene of someone in a movie theater shooting people with a machine gun. What the fuck? Why wasn’t that pulled IMMEDIATELY? Deadline Hollywood’s Nikki Finke called Warner Brothers to complain; was told “there would be a meeting about it”, and only then was it pulled. A meeting?  They needed a meeting?  They needed a consensus?   If Ms. Finke didn’t call would that trailer have been shown all day? Did Warner Brothers NEED to be called out before yanking this trailer? I’m just mystified.

Then you go to the CNN website and as part of their coverage they present a timeline for the worst U.S. mass shootings.   Are we comparing them now?   Meanwhile, on GOOD MORNING AMERICA yesterday the shooter was erroneously linked to the Tea Party.  Again, what the fuck?!

At a certain point I stopped watching the coverage.  There may be new details that I'm not aware of at this moment.  But I don't care.  Because it seems the more I learn the angrier I get.  So I'll just process it myself this weekend.  And send out prayers and my best wishes to all concerned... which means all of us.

Friday, July 20, 2012

One of my proudest achievements on CHEERS

It’s Friday Question Day (a feature you guys still seem to like).  I'll try to sneak in a few extra question days in the next few weeks. 

Mike asks:

Has a crew member ever suggesting a plot is horrible?

No, but they never had to. They had the actors for that.

We had a writers assistant who we dearly loved named Lana. The way David and I wrote was that we dictated the script to Lana. There were times we’d pitch something and she’d say, “No. Really.” Other times she’d respond to one of our hilarious jokes by saying, “Okay, now come up with something we can use.” She was always right, damn her!

Breadbaker wonders:

When you write a blog post, do you consider how many comments you might get on it? And have you ever been really surprised one way or the other?

Unless I specifically ask for comments (like I did Wednesday), I never handicap how many comments I may get. Some posts naturally invite a lot of participation while others don’t. More important is what the comments are. I’m lucky in that I receive a lot of really interesting, insightful, and funny observations from my readers. I’d rather get three of those than a hundred from idiots.

What surprises me sometimes though is that a thread will develop from an innocuous frothy little post that results in an angry political or theological argument. And then commenters will attack each other and it gets ugly. Guys, this is a humor blog!

GC from France has a first-year CHEERS question:

My favorite sitcom episode is "Diane's perfect date" written by the Maestro (David Lloyd), and you produced it. Is there something, anything, that you can share with us about writing this episode?

This was the first script I worked on with David Lloyd. The process was we’d bring the writer in and together (me, my partner David, and the Charles Brothers) would work out the story. Along the way we pitched lots of joke suggestions. The writer would furiously scribble down all the notes (pages and pages of them), go home, try to make sense of them all, and come back in a few days with a written outline.

David Lloyd never took notes. Not one.  He just sat back, relaxed, and participated in the spitballing.  As he left I thought, “We’ll be lucky to get back 15% of what was pitched.”

Three days later the outline arrived and unbelievably, it was all there. Every bit of it. How he retained hours of haphazard story and joke pitches is beyond me. And he did this every time.

Most of what you saw on the screen for that episode came straight from David’s draft. I did make one contribution though. Calling the murderer/date Andy Andy was my idea. Thank you. Thank you for the applause.

From jcs:

According to several articles I read Louis C.K. is getting paid very little for producing "Louie" on FX. In exchange he seems to enjoy a lot more creative control than other showrunners.
Do you think that we will see similar deals in the near future?

No. Networks like to be in charge. In special cases they will relinquish this control, but the results better be there – either in numbers or critical acclaim or both.

And finally, from ScottyB:

I cringe whenever childbirth comes up in a sitcom. (Woman screams incessantly, blames husband, begs for drugs too late, etc. etc.) It's been beaten to death a zillion times, yet, you'd figure *someone* in all these years would have a different take on it. SO -- if you were a screenwriter right now or a script consultant, how would you tackle this one?

I did tackle that exact problem along with my partner, David Isaacs. And I think we came up with a novel take. This was from an episode of our 1993 series BIG WAVE DAVE’S. You can check it out here. 

What's your question? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My reaction to todays Emmy nominations

The 2012 Emmy nominations are out! Here are the Best Comedy nominees:



Thoughts: When the Academy isn’t crazy about a show that gets a lot of buzz they toss it a bone or two (acting noms, writing noms, best lighting noms). Such is the case with LOUIE. Louis C.K. got an acting and directing nomination and his stand-up show got recognized but no big prize. Personally, I thought his screener DVD hurt him. There were better, funnier episodes he could have submitted. The first one he offered opens with him waiting at a subway platform. There’s a violinist playing furiously for five minutes and a homeless guy showering by pouring bottled water on himself. This goes on endlessly. Then the subway arrives. We see the refuge of New York City. On a seat there is some disgusting sludge. People stare at it. Louie finally gets us, takes off his jacket, and mopes up the disgusting mess. If you’re a LOUIE fan, I’m fan this was all rollicking. But if you’re not, or you’ve heard good things but were sampling the show for the first time, I think by the seven-minute mark you were done.

The Academy doesn’t like COMMUNITY.  It just doesn’t. Don’t yell at me, COMMUNITY fans. I’m only the messenger. It got one token writing nomination.

I’m not a fan of VEEP but at least it aggressively tries to make you laugh. GIRLS is a drama to me – very well-done and at times engrossing and even provocative but essentially a drama. Still, it’s clear, Lena is this year’s Emmy darling.

THE OFFICE is now Willie Mays playing for the Mets.

PARKS AND REC deserved a nomination.  And they had a particularly good season this year. 

My guess is MODERN FAMILY will win again.


This is really the battle of the Titans. There are so many good dramas out there that THE GOOD WIFE, JUSTIFIED, WALKING DEAD, THE KILLING, SONS OF ANARCHY, and DEXTER didn’t even make the first cut. There should be a category for “Best Drama Other Than the Best Drama.”

(Note to procedurals like CSI: NEW YORK – don’t even bother sending screeners. With this field, who are you kidding?)

I’m disappointed but not surprised that SONS OF ANARCHY got shut out. For whatever reason the Academy just dismisses this show. On the other hand, creator-Kurt Sutter’s rants are always highly entertaining.

Too many voters hated the season ending of THE KILLING. THE GOOD WIFE’S move to Sunday night I think hurt its chances. Being in a bad time slot on a crowded night slowed its momentum. Fans of the show (like me) love it and will follow it anywhere (well, our DVR’s will), but it didn’t attract any new fans or positive buzz.

Ultimately, it'll be a two horse race between MAD MEN and HOMELAND with BREAKING BAD as the long shot. My pick: HOMELAND by a nose.

The big question in Drama this year is who will Jon Hamm lose to?

AMERICAN HORROR STORY got a whopping 17 nominations. I didn’t see that coming. Jimmy Kimmell was finally shown some Emmy love. Long overdue. THE VOICE squeezed out AMERICAN IDOL in the Reality Show category. IDOL is clearly on its last legs. Don’t be surprised if they ask me to be a judge.

Jeff Probst, who usually wins for Best Reality Show Host wasn’t even nominated. And poor Kyra Sedgwick. It’s her last year, she’s a previous winner and she didn’t get a nom. Hugh Laurie, always the bridesmaid, this year didn’t even get that. Here’s what will happen. He’ll do a guest spot on a show next year, be on camera for six minutes, and for that he’ll finally win an Emmy. John Slattery and Tim Olyphant were victims of the numbers game but both had Emmy-worthy years.

GLEE is over. Stick a pitch-fork in it.

But to me, the biggest shocker – not just this year but any year – is that HEMINGWAY AND GELLHORN got nominated for Best Miniseries or Movie. (See my review)  And it gets worse. Nicole Kidman received a Best Actress nod. HEMINGWAY AND GELLHORN was the Worst Miniseries or Movie since BRITNEY AND KEVIN (CHAOTIC). No wait, HEMINGWAY was worse. I’m not just shaking my head. I’m beginning to question the Laws of Gravity.

As always, I will be reviewing the Emmys and will probably have an Emmy post or two before then. Probably to bash HEMINGWAY again. Please let me wake up and discover this was just a dream. Congratulations to all the Emmy nominees.

While you’re here, check out the post scheduled for today. I slaved for 45 minutes on it.

Should Pole Dancing be an Olympic sport?

In anticipation of the Olympics (or perhaps upstaging them), this evening in London the two-night World Pole Sport Championships begins. Organizers and aficionados of this most impressive athletic skill are SERIOUSLY trying to get Pole Dancing included as an Olympic event.

And I say it’s about time! Whenever I’ve been in a strip club (dragged there by friends of course), I watch these young ladies flying around these poles and think: why isn’t this in my living room? Recently I watched some of AMERICA’S GOT TALENT (dragged there by friends of course) and they had a group of people who did light shows and a (what’s the correct term?) little person who could belt out big notes off key. This is talent?

Meanwhile, these girls, in relative obscurity out by the airport, twist themselves in unimaginable pretzel positions… while on a pole… without the benefit of any clothing. I’d like to see Mary Lou Retton do that (or at least a girl who looks like Mary Lou Retton).

And pole dancing is not an activity exclusive to the United States. No sir.  Writhing naked on a pole while “In Those Jeans, Pony” blares transcends all boundaries and cultures.

In order to qualify as an Olympic sport you must form an international organization (in this case: the International Pole Sports Federation) that holds world championships (hence tonight’s titanic struggle). Next you draft a petition, which is currently being circulated. I’m waiting until I get a free lap dance before I sign.

And another big hurdle has been cleared. Olympic athletes can now be professionals. I could see the Pole Dance competitors collecting the dollar bills thrown onto the stage and all being disqualified, but that is not the case any longer.

There are not many Olympic sports that housewives can enter. So that’s another plus.

And I should add that Pole Dancing is not just for women. There are a lot of Magic Mikes who are interested as well. And a studio called Little Spinners is actually offering classes for kids as young as three. I’m not making this us. (There’s no joke I could possibly come up with for this that I wouldn’t hate myself for.)

So should Pole Dancing be an Olympic sport? Hey they have one event currently in the Winter Olympics where you ski and shoot a rifle. And of course there’s Ping Pong (excuse me – Table Tennis). Why not shaking your moneymaker for your nation?

Good luck tonight to all the competitors. May you win the gold medal or at least get promoted to the night shift.


Thanks so much to everyone who answered yesterday's post.  If you haven't yet, please do.  When I started this blog I never dreamed I'd have readers from all over the world.  I figured my zip code and maybe one adjacent.   But I'm thrilled you're here and hope the level of content will keep you here.

Next up is actually meeting you all, and I'm working on that.   Thanks again.  And a special thanks to those who bought my book.  It really is my passion project so I greatly appreciate your support.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Who's out there???

I haven’t done this in close to a year. But today I want to hear from YOU. It’s nice for me to know who is out there and what you like or don’t like. So I’m asking you – especially you new readers and lurkers – if you wouldn’t mind going to the comments section, telling me where you’re from, how long you’ve been here, how you found it, and any thoughts on the content, yay or nay.

Which topics do you enjoy? Which turn you off? Based on your previous feedback I’ve made Friday Questions a regular feature, and you’ll notice I no longer bash George W. Bush.

In the past I’ve written about TV research. My problem is that networks use it as the gospel and make all key decisions on creative projects based solely on test results. You’d think after research said that THE PLAYBOY CLUB and HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN would both be embraced by viewers the networks would get the message (but that’s another story). Still, if you use research for input it can be a very useful tool. In this case, it’s my blog. I don’t have to gear my content based exclusively on research. So there will still be some baseball-related posts. But as a source of feedback it’s very helpful.

When I started this blog, almost seven years ago, I had no idea what to write. So I decided to try a lot of different things and see what stuck. What stuck was writing a lot of different things. Quite honestly, I’m amazed I haven’t run out of ideas (unless I have and just don't realize it). And there’s the fear that someday I will (if I haven't already).  Thank God  there’s always an Adam Corolla to pop up and say something stupid.

But I want to thank you for your readership. I’ve made a lot of great new friends and got a lot of shit off my chest as a result of this forum. For now I’ll continue to post something new every day and spare you banner ads. If you want to support this blog buy my book.

And keep coming back.  It's great to have you.  Okay, now it’s your turn.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"New Choice!"

There was another great exercise for comedy writers in Andy Goldberg’s improv class last Wednesday. This one was called “New Choice!” Two people would do a scene and periodically someone would say something and Andy would interrupt with “New Choice!” The performer then had to devise an alternate line. If Andy wasn’t satisfied he’d again bark “New Choice!” Sometimes it would take two or three lines before the scene was allowed to proceed.


Me and Fred are in a Costco.

Fred: What are you here to buy?
Me: Cheerios.
Andy: New choice!
Me: 300 rolls of toilet paper.
Andy: New choice!
Me: A case of Trojans and a dozen oysters.

Later in the scene:

Fred: I don’t have cash. Do you take American Express?
Andy: New choice!
Fred: Do you take the Diner’s Club card?
Andy: New choice!
Fred: Do you take second-party Group-ons?

You get the idea.

Why is this such a good exercise?

When writing a script, it’s human nature to come up with a joke and want to just go with it. But more times than not you’re settling. You need to be tough on yourself. Write down the original joke for reference then say “New choice!” And don’t restrict yourself. You’re not limited to the number of choices. Come up with a crazy choice or two; let your imagination really run wild. Who knows? From time to time you might stumble onto something truly brilliant that you never would have thought of otherwise. But the point is, get in the habit of looking for alternatives.

Now that may sound obvious, but just wait. It’ll be the end of the day, you’re tired, or you’re behind schedule and all of a sudden you’re rationalizing that “Cheerios” is the best, funniest reason why anyone would ever shop at Costco.

Improv class in general is a great training ground for young comedy writers. It teaches you spontaneity.

New choice!

It teaches you character development.

New choice!

It forces you to challenge yourself.

New choice!

It’s a helluva lotta fun!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: To Rome With Love

How many movies does a writer/director have to make before he no longer has to follow any rules of logic or good storytelling? How many movies until he’s allowed to just recycle elements from his other movies and no one cares? Whatever that number is Woody Allen obviously has passed it. And that’s fine, for what it is. But not fine when he’s still considered a genius and if he should through sheer volume turn out something even halfway decent he’s showed with award nominations.

Which brings me to FROM ROME WITH LOVE. I’ve lost track. I think it’s Allen’s 284th film.

First the good news: It’s amusing in spots. It looks pretty. Penelope Cruz’s dress. Judy Davis. Alec Baldwin. Woody Allen is in it but doesn’t play Allison Pill’s love interest.

Now for the bad news: It’s a slapdash series of vignettes. Most are one-joke premises that get replayed over and over. The payoffs all fizzle. And several are confusing.

At this point I should say SPOILER ALERT. But truthfully, what follows is a SPOILER HELPFUL BRIEFING. This may save you some time trying to figure out things when no attempt has been made to explain them.

These vignettes all seemingly start at the same time. But some unfold over the course of one day and others stretch over a week and I guess months. Yet Woody keeps cutting back and forth between them.  Huh? There’s no continuity whatsoever. But that’s only a problem if you’re a filmmaker that cares whether your audience is tracking your story. I guess after you’ve made 43 movies you no longer have to concern yourself with that.

Alec Baldwin essentially has the role Bogart had in PLAY IT AGAIN SAM. I think once you’ve made 26 movies you are allowed to rehash old ideas instead of trying to conceive new ones. In the same way that the ghost of Bogart advised Woody Allen, Alec advises Jesse Eisenberg (who, by the way, plays the same smug character in every movie). Except Alec’s not always a ghost. Sometimes he’s real. And sometimes only Jesse can hear him while other times Ellen Page can hear him as well.  Huh?  Don’t bother trying to figure that out. After 37 movies the filmmaker doesn’t have to establish and follow any rules.

Roberto Benigni plays an average schmoe who walks out of his house one morning and is mobbed by the paparazzi. He can’t understand why. Neither can the audience. You keep waiting for it to be explained. Is he being mistaken for someone else? Every time they cut to another scene of him being mobbed (and there are like seven or eight of them – all the exact same) you’re trying to decipher just why. Don’t bother. It seems that once you make 41 movies you no longer have to justify any behavior or explain anything to the audience.

People aren’t laughing because they’re confused. Not important.

At what point do Academy members and WGA members stop rewarding Woody Allen for sloppy filmmaking? How many movies until he reaches that number?

I’m sure Woody Allen is laughing at all the voters. He obviously knows better. He knows when he’s cutting corners.

So if I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this picture despite some good moments, it’s because I’m the one who’s supposed to be laughing at Woody Allen comedies, not him.