Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jane Pauley: Mainy

Speaking of the 'Today Show', I always loved Jane Pauley. She was a co-host during the 70's and 80's. I never watched it much after she left. She was classy, brainy and great looking. And, as I recall, she didn't cry like a baby on her last day like Ann Curry did.

Jane went out like a champ, congratulated her replacement, Deborah Norville, and even presented her with an alarm clock, telling her, 'You'll need this.'

Norville, by the way, was a ratings disaster and was gone within a few years after numerous attempts at reshuffling co-hosts and downsizing her role on the show.

I miss ya, Jane. Thanks for making those cold, gray and drizzly Portland mornings a little more bearable back in the day.

Ann Curry Leaving Today

My main memory of Ann Curry is when she and the rest of the 'Today Show' cast were playing Trivial Pursuit. They were out on the crowded New York street and placed behind 'Jeopardy' type podiums. The usual crowd of screaming 'fans' were there, waving signs and hoping to get their faces on TV for the folks back home.

As I recall, the questions were mostly in the 'pop culture' category. You know, stuff about 'Gilligan's Island', 'Star Trek' and rock music. I don't remember who else was playing except for Al Roker who seemed to be answering most of the questions without any problem.

Curry, on the other hand, was unable to answer a single question. Humiliated and embarrassed in front of her 'fans', she became increasingly hysterical. At some point she screamed 'It's just trivia!'.

I remember thinking, 'Yeah, and someday, Ms. Curry, you'll be one of the questions.'

For instance: 'Name the Today Show anchor who made a tearful on-air goodbye after being fired due to bad ratings.'

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why Americans Don't Like Watching Soccer

It's the same reason they aren't crazy about hockey. It has to do with the 'Action versus Scoring' ratio. That is, for some reason, Americans like sports where the amount of 'action' and the amount of 'scoring' are similiar.

For example, baseball has low scoring and very little action.
Basketball has high scoring and lots of action.
And most interestingly, football is somewhere in the middle. It has a moderate amount of action and a moderate amount scoring. I think this last fact really proves my point. It's no coincidence that football, the most popular sport in America, also happens to have the most balanced scoring verus action ratio.
Hockey and soccer, on the other hand, have a lot of action and very little scoring. And for some reason, the American psyche and character doesn't have the patience to watch a couple hours of a particular sport to see a final score of 1-0. Unless of course, it's baseball, where there is a lot of down time and the viewer can gauge when to pay attention and when not to.
Obviously, there are other factors. Some say it's because we're not exposed to it enough or that we didn't grow up playing it. But Americans have had plenty of time to embrace soccer. Millions have been spent in the attempt to get fans interested in local teams. It's been going on for decades. And we have a generation of adults who grew up playing it. But how many Americans have actually played football? Not many. I never did.

And yes, there are A LOT of people who enjoy watching soccer and I'm glad they like it. But the numbers pale compared to the NFL, MLB and NBA.

As to why it is so popular elsewhere in the world is a whole other discussion.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Beatles Go-To Guy: Victor Spinetti

Victor Spinetti died the other day. Ironically, it was June 18th, 2012, which was also Paul McCartney's birthday.

The Beatles loved Spinetti. He was the heavy in two of their films, A Hard Day's Night and Help!, and played a hyper drill instructor in their TV film, 'Magical Mystery Tour'.

The most interesting and complex character was the 'TV Director' (he didn't have a proper name) in A Hard Day's Night. He's a nervous, insecure ego-maniac, who The Beatles dismiss and cut-down to size. Wrapped in a hideous fuzzy sweater that is as wiry and uncomfortable as the character.

But his role in Help! is actually funnier than the TV Director. His mad scientist, 'Dr. Foot', is a loony opportunist, willing to do anything to 'rule the world'.

And whereas the TV Director is confined to a television studio, Foot is all over the movie as he follows the Beatles around the world in his attempt to get his hands on Ringo's magic ring.

My only complaint about his role as the Drill Instructor in 'Magical Mystery Tour' is that it's too short. His ad-libbing with a life sized plastic cow is the show's funniest moment.

The Beatles worked with Spinetti on other projects, too. He appeared on one of their Fan Club Christmas records and co-wrote a play based on one of Lennon's books.

But his greatest role may have been as a major player in the real Beatles' story. As one of those rare humans allowed into the most exclusive inner circle of the 1960s.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

'Bonanza The Lost Episodes' On Encore!

Rumor has it that starting July 2nd, The Encore Western channel will start showing 'Bonanza: The Lost Episodes'.

Not that they were ever really 'lost'. They have been shown on various cable channels over the years, but it has been a while. And they aren't available on DVD either. These episodes mostly cover the second half of 'Bonanza's' thirteen year run.

There's no Adam (Pernell Roberts left by then) which is a drag because he's my favorite character. But some of the shows are excellent. Check it out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

'Yellow Submarine' at the Castro

Went to see the re-mastered Yellow Submarine at the Castro theater in San Francisco last weekend. The Castro is one of those great old movie palaces that has somehow survived. I always enjoy going there and wonder why I don't go more often.

Anyhoo, I'm standing in line for the Sunday afternoon showing surrounded by a mix of kids and adults. Lots of grandparents/grandkids/Beatles indoctrination going on.

Some old guy (i.e., my age), all alone, says to no one in particular, 'I just want to sit away from all of these kids!'. So I say to him, 'Yeah, God forbid you have to sit next to a kid while you watch a cartoon.'

Later, I saw him a half a dozen rows in front of me. Suddenly, two adults and a child sit a few seats away from the Meanie. An actual family at a family friendly movie. The nerve. I could tell by his body language (couldn't see his face) that he was annoyed. He was recoiling from them. That is, recoil as much as you can in those small old movie theater seats.

What did he expect? He goes to a kids' movie on a Sunday afternoon (there were other weekday/evening shows he could have attended instead) and sits in the best spot (tenth row center), and then gets mad when other people (and children!) sit near him.

Guess he didn't get the message of the movie. All you need is love, Meanie. A lousy time is guaranteed for you!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Why Do Some People Hate Sports?

I've never understood the hatred some folks have for professional sports. And it's always people who love films and music and other types of entertainment. They are not simply disinterested in sports, but actually hate them and feel they are somehow evil. They would be ecstatic if their local pro team ceased to exist.

I find this odd on a number of levels. One, is that there are plenty of things in the category of 'entertainment' that I'm disinterested in, like opera or the Renaissance Fair, but I don't hate them or want them to go away. I even dislike certain sports, like soccer and NASCAR racing. But I just don't give them a lot of thought, at least not on an emotional level.

Two, is that sports offer the greatest drama, which is something a film buff should appreciate. Unlike a film or play where the actors and even members of the audience know what's going to happen, nobody knows how a sporting event will unfold. Just ask anybody who's lost money on a game.

And three, people who hate sports are often the same people who admire the talent of an actor or artist. But hitting a curveball or throwing a perfect pass under pressure is an even rarer talent than being a top notch musician.

I think the reason is the whole 'freaks vs. jocks' thing that goes back to childhood. At some point, these folks began to associate sports with the mean gym teacher or the jock that bullied them at school. But there are bad people everywhere. Sports doesn't have a corner on the market. And I've heard plenty of stories of how thoughtless and cruel people in show business can be. But it doesn't make me hate movies and television.

Another thing that bugs the heck out of me is when sports comes up in a conversation and the person I'm talking to says, 'I like to play sports, but I don't like watching them.' Okay, first off, I don't get the connection. It's like saying, 'I don't like reading books, but I like to write'. It's apples and oranges. And second, it's a jab at sports fans and insinuates they are couch potatoes who never do anything athletic and get their ya-ya's out by watching others do it.

But enough. I have to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals and my bowl of chips. Over and out.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

RIchard Dawson Was Cool

I always dug Dawson who died yesterday June 2, 2012.  Newkirk was always my favorite 'Hero' on an otherwise mediocre show. Probably for no other reason than he was British in an era when everything British was interesting, and that I liked his blue uniform.

He was great on 'Match Game'. The smartest and best player. I never liked 'Family Feud' as much as 'Match Game', but I did enjoy Dawson as host. He was funny and seemed like a decent guy and he would occasionally tell personal and funny little stories.

I remember when the show first premiered that I thought it was odd to have an Englishman hosting a show with a name, music and set design derived from American hillbilly culture. But 'The Feud' quickly became Dawson's show and the whole 'hillybilly' theme was something I never much thought about.

Another thing I admire about him is that as he got old, he went away. He stepped aside and didn't keep hanging around like Regis Philbin did until 'they' finally told him enough is enough.

I'd like to think that Dawson wanted us to remember him as that tan and handsome TV star.

He did do some extensive interviews for the Archive of American Television. He's old but sharp. Check it out pilgrim.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

'You Never Give Me Your Money' By Peter Doggett

It was the subtitle, 'The Beatles After The Break-Up', that attracted me to this great book. Doggett does a wonderful job of explaining the musical, legal and financial dramas of the final years of The Beatles, right up to the present (the book came out in October 2011). This is an extremely well researched Beatles book, and I've read most of them.

Not only does Doggett really understand the facts, but he also has a great sense of and understanding of their music. He mentions in the Acknowledgments that Ram would be his choice as the album to take to the proverbial desert island. Nice choice. I agree that Ram is an overlooked masterpiece. It's the Pet Sounds of the 1970's.

Check out this great book. It's endlessly informative and entertaining.

Friday, June 01, 2012


I never liked 'The Cosby Show' with all those smart-alecky kids. But I did love 'The Bill Cosby Show', his first sitcom from the early 70's where he played a high school teacher.

It was an interesting show. One of the first to not have a laugh-track. And Cosby was able to attract some fab guest stars like Henry Fonda, 'Moms' Mabley, Cicely Tyson and Dick Van Dyke.

Cosby's character, Chet Kincaid, with his groovy bachelor pad, was one of my heroes. But the greatest thing about the show was the theme song, 'Hikky-Burr', by Quincy Jones and sung by Cosby.

There's a recorded version on Jones' Smackwater Jack album, but the TV version is better. Cosby lays back a bit on the record. I assume he didn't want to hog the spotlight from Quincy's great band.

Here's a clip with the theme. The teaser features another one of those super guest stars I was talking about, Don Knotts.