Monday, August 30, 2010

On DVD: Justice League: Starcrossed (2003)

This served as the series finale to Justice League, while at the same time setting the stage for the follow-up, Justice League Unlimited.

The plot centers on Thanagarian Shayera Hol, aka Hawkgirl (Maria Canals). It turns out that in the DC Animated Universe, she came to Earth as a spy for her native planet. Now, a Thanagarian strike force has come to Earth, claiming that they're here to protect us from an invasion by their ancient enemies, the Gordanians. However, they're really using Earth as an avenue by which they can attack the Gordanian homeworld, which would destroy Earth in the process. The Thanagarian commander, it happens, is Shayera's "betrothed", as she was promised to him per native custom long ago. Of course, that's news to Green Lantern John Stewart (Phil LaMarr, ex-MadTV), who has been dating Shayera for some time.

Batman (Kevin Conroy), suspicious from the start, alerts his teammates to the Thanagarians' real plans, but all that does is put Earth under Thanagarian martial law, forcing the Leaguers underground and using their civilian identities. Without spoiling too much, suffice to say, the plot is foiled.

Justice League Unlimited (2004) picked up plot threads from "Starcrossed", including a very unlikely hook-up. The series has long since ceased production, as WB & Cartoon Network have moved on.

Rating: A-.

 Edit: 4/11/14: Here's a sample clip:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Michael Enright

Enright is the drunken fellow who attacked a NYC cab driver earlier this week for the simple reason that the driver is a Muslim. Said cabby has already stated that they never once discussed the controversy surrounding the proposed development of a Muslim mosque near "Ground Zero", but of course the tabloids fanned the flames by making such implications after Enright's attack had taken place. It would be too easy to give the tabloid editors weasel ears as well, but that's been done already.

Not all Muslims hate us, but you'd have a hard time convincing residents of New York City of that. It is my understanding that the Muslim Quran (Koran) preaches peace, not hate. Unfortunately, there are those, such as Osama bin Laden, who have personal grudges against the US, who are stoking the fires of hate and subverting the teachings of the Quran to suit their twisted agenda of misplaced anger and distrust.

And what has happened to Michael Enright since his arrest on Tuesday? At last check, he was sent to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. He had served in the Middle East and returned home from his deployment, but his rage is fueled not so much by disillusionment from serving our country overseas, but alcohol. He bought into the belief that all Muslims hate us, which is wrong. Let us pray that he gets the help he needs to heal mind, body, & spirit.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Dunce Cap Award: John McEnroe

John McEnroe was a big name in tennis back in the 70's & 80's, but known more for throwing tantrums on the court than winning championships. In recent years, McEnroe has mellowed some, but remains as outspoken as ever. Unfortunately, his mouth has gotten him in trouble again.

With the US Open starting on Monday, McEnroe, in a conference call on Friday, made some ill-advised remarks about the women's game, according to an article that appeared in today's New York Daily News. What earns McEnroe the dunce cap is that his broadcast partner, and one-time mixed doubles partner, Mary Carillo, was in on the call with him. That should make for some interesting dynamics in the booth when coverage begins on ESPN on Monday.

You see, McEnroe believes that today's female players don't have the toughness to endure a heavy schedule of tournaments. Watch. By tomorrow, he'll claim his remarks were taken out of context. Either that, or some enterprising soul will try to arrange a battle of the sexes exhibition match to exploit the situation to its maximum degree, a la Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King way back in 1973. Fact of the matter is, McEnroe was out of line here, not just with a mouth fault, if you will, but not having enough sense to check his opinions at the door.

Friday, August 27, 2010

MyNetwork TV just won't die

People started tolling the last rites for MyNetwork TV a year ago, when the network forsook original programming, save for WWE Friday Night Smackdown, in favor of off-network repeats and movies. With Smackdown leaving for cable's SyFy after the Sept. 24 episode, MNTV is preparing for life without original programming. For starters, they've reached a deal with USA, home of Monday Night Raw, to acquire reruns of two of their series, Burn Notice, which replaces the former CBS series, The Unit, on Wednesdays, and Monk, which will replace Smackdown as of October 1. There won't be any more movies, either, it seems, as repeats of CBS' Without a Trace, which currently has reruns airing on Ion, will air Thursdays. Tuesdays remain game night, with the newly syndicated Don't Forget the Lyrics, a former Fox series, replacing Deal or No Deal. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? will return.

The fact that MNTV even has this schedule in place speaks volumes of the desperation of network suits to keep it on the air, rather than turn over the night time block to affiliates. The local affiliate in my market buries a lot of quality, off-network programming in late night for whatever reason, and would probably have welcomed independent status, IMPO. People are still counting the days until MNTV finally taps out. And that day is coming.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hey! I have a new blog!

After reviewing old cartoons the last few days, I decided, now was the time to do a blog devoted to those memories of my childhood. Hence, the debut of the Saturday Morning Archives, which is up right now at http://saturdaymorningarchives.blogspot.com. Check it out! You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In theatres: The Expendables (2010)

In a year that has already seen similarly themed movies based on comic books ("The Losers") and an iconic 1980's TV show ("The A-Team"), Sylvester Stallone's "The Expendables" may in fact be the best of the three.

Barney Ross (Stallone, who also directed) is hired by an enigmatic government operative known only as "Mr. Church" (Bruce Willis, "Die Hard") to bring down the dictator of a small country. Said dictator, though, is actually fronting for an ex-CIA agent named Monroe (Eric Roberts), who's built up a sizeable nest egg. Monroe's bodyguard, if you will, Paine (Steve Austin, "The Condemned") does little more than stand around and look mean until the final, climatic battle sequence, which includes Paine throwing down separately with Ross and with the oddly named Toll Road (former UFC champ Randy Couture). With Austin & Couture, you know you're going to get some wrestling moves thrown in for good measure, and at one point, Ross actually has a vertical cross-armbreaker applied on Paine.

There's also a brilliant fight scene between Yin Yang (Jet Li) and turncoat Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren, "Rocky IV"), and a great sequence on a neighborhood basketball court in which Lee Christmas (Jason Statham, "The Transporter") snaps open a phat can of whoop-ass on a half dozen weekend warriors, if you will, all in the name of avenging an ex-girlfriend (Charisma Carpenter, ex-Angel) who was beaten by her current flame after Lee came home to visit. And, yet, there are people who want to see martial arts legends Chuck Norris and/or Jean Claude Van Damme in a sequel? Do you really need them when you have Li & Statham, who previously worked together in "War" a couple of years back? I don't think so. Christmas is also proficient with knives.

But perhaps one of the best scenes in the movie came very, very early, with a meeting of 80's action icons Stallone, Willis, & Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a church, of all places. The mind boggles. Being the only one in the theatre for a matinee today, I had a hard time holding back the laughter at some of the classic one-liners. None of them from Stallone, of course.

The way the movie was promoted, you were led to believe that Stallone, Willis, Austin, Couture, Li, Statham, & Lundgren were all on the same side. Not entirely so. Toss in Mickey Rourke as a former teammate turned tattoo artist, hot off his villainous turn in "Iron Man 2" just 3 months ago, and Terry Crews (ex-Everybody Hates Chris), who is also currently in the comedy, "Lottery Ticket", and you understand exactly why some fanboys were marking this release on their calendars.

If memory serves me correctly, this was also one of the last films Brittany Murphy (ex-King of the Hill) worked on before her passing earlier this year. However, either her role was recast, or it was edited out of the film altogether, as there was no sign of her that I could detect.

Will there be a sequel? Based on the fact that "Expendables" has been #1 at the box office the last two weeks, I'd say it's possible, but let's remember, too, that Stallone, in particular, is a little longer in the tooth than his co-stars, and if a sequel is going to get done, it'd have to be very soon.

Grade: A.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp (1970)

The spy craze of the 60's was nearing its end. The satirical Get Smart had ended, and the dramatic It Takes a Thief was entering its final season in 1970. Mission: Impossible would roll on for a few more years, of course, but now there was a spy satire tailored for the whole family.

Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp was an amalgam of music, blackout skits (a la Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), and adventure when ABC made it the centerpiece of its 1970-71 Saturday morning lineup. Originally a 1-hour show, Link also had room for some Warner Bros. animated shorts that didn't quite fit in with the Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour over on CBS. Those cartoons were eliminated when Link was trimmed to a half-hour for its 2nd and final season the next year.

Lancelot Link, a Humphrey Bogart soundalike (voiced by Dayton Allen), was a top agent for APE, a simian analog for Smart's CONTROL, but Link was no Maxwell Smart by any means. CHUMP, the analog for KAOS, had one glaring problem. Too many chiefs running the show, in particular, Baron Von Butcher (Bernie Kopell, using his Conrad Siegfried voice from Smart), whose schemes always fell apart. Link was also the lead singer for the simian rock group, the Evolution Revolution (music producer Steve Hoffman, who'd worked with the Grass Roots, among others, provided Link's singing voice and sang the show's theme song), featured in one segment each week, introduced by an Ed Sullivan parody, Ed Simian (Dayton Allen again). Malachi Throne left Thief after 2 seasons to serve as narrator for the Link episodes.

Lancelot Link enjoyed a brief revival a few years back when Nickelodeon acquired the rights to the series, albeit in its 30-minute form, and it was last seen on TV Land back in 1999 when that network experimented with a block paying homage to the Saturday classics of the past, specifically the 70's. No one's really sure what happened to the chimps used on the show after production ended, but TBS tried to recapture the spirit of the series with 2003's prime time entry, The Chimp Channel, a short-lived sitcom that satirized the television industry. Channel was tuned out, unfortunately, after a handful of episodes, never to be seen again.

Could Lancelot Link live again, as the series marks its 40th anniversary in 2010? Only if Lance, Mata Hairi, Baron Von Butcher, and the rest are in CGI form. Hollywood seems to have turned its back on concepts like Link after Chimp Channel failed.

Rating: A-.

Edit: 7/18/14: Here's the intro:


"An old fashioned night at the ballpark", 2010 style

The Tri-City Valleycats, contending for their first division title in the NY-Penn League in 4 years, decided to do something novel on Saturday night for their game against the Aberdeen Ironbirds. They went old-school.

On a normal night, the PA system is blaring with the latest in country, pop, hard rock, and hip hop. Valleycats shortstop Ben Orloff, for example, normally has Kenny Chesney's latest hit, "Summertime", playing when he comes to bat. After the 5th inning, the grounds crew will rake the infield, then groove to the beat of Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA", from last year. None of that was on Saturday's playlist.

Instead, the Valleycats opted for an organist playing in the PA booth between innings, and the usual promotions, such as the "Mayors Race", which has 3 'Cats staffers wearing papier mache masks of Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian and his Albany & Schenectady counterparts, Gerald Jennings & Brian Stratton, respectively, were given the night off. Lou Gehrig's famous retirement speech and Abbott & Costello's legendary "Who's On First?" routine were shown on the video screen. "Who's On First?" is still funny even today, by the way. They even pulled out a decades old ad for Purina Dog Chow that probably hasn't seen the light of day since the 50's. The PA announcer explained how the word "fan" came to be in sports parlance (originated in England). They also ran an interview with Willie Mays culled from some cable sports show of recent vintage. While the on-field promotions were suspended for one night, they still gave away t-shirts by having staffers walk the concourse and throw the shirts down into the bleachers.

At the end of the night, the crowd went home happy, as Tri-City defeated Aberdeen, 4-3, on a bases loaded wild pitch in the bottom of the 9th. With two weeks left in the season, including today's game vs. Aberdeen, the 'Cats are in position for their first playoff berth since reaching the league championship series vs. Staten Island in 2006. The Stedler division leaders, the Vermont Lake Monsters, are on the verge of a total collapse, but, as we've all learned over the years, nothing is ever certain until the final out is recorded.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You can learn a lot from a troll.......

Google's newsgroups are littered with "trolls", self-serving online pranksters whose primary mission is to irritate as many people as possible for their own amusement. They act childish, and have no remorse for their actions. One troll, however, actually opened a doorway of knowledge in pointing out a recent television trend, which is the real reason for this post.

The troll in question, whom we'll call "Lester", mockingly took umbrage over the recent decision of Fremantle Media, the current rights holder to the Goodson-Todman family of game shows, to appoint actor-comedian-radio personality Steve Harvey as the incoming host of Family Feud, beginning next month, succeeding John O'Hurley (ex-Seinfeld). Harvey currently has a morning radio gig in New York, with Feud being his first TV gig since the end of his self-titled sitcom on the WB. We'll all find out together if he has the chops to be a top-of-the-line game show host.

Fellow entertainer Wayne Brady has made that transition, and fairly easily at that. In the last decade, Brady has gone from being part of Drew Carey's repertory company on Whose Line is it Anyway? to hosting his own ABC variety show, a 2-year run with a syndicated talk show, and was the original host of Fox's Don't Forget the Lyrics, which returns in syndication next month with singer Mark McGrath replacing Brady, who has gone on to the revival of another cherished game show, Let's Make a Deal. In landing the Deal gig, Brady became the first African-American to host a network game show in nearly 20 years, the last one being sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, who hosted something called Caesar's Challenge for NBC around the early 90's. Harvey becomes the 2nd, and there's another one on the way.

Actress-comedienne Sherri Shepherd, part of the roundtable on ABC's The View, is reportedly in line to take over GSN's revival of the Chuck Barris classic, The Newlywed Game, taking over for singer Carnie Wilson, who is leaving after 2 years. The irony here is that the ribald, often risque content of Newlywed presents a challenge for Shepherd, who is also a born-again Christian. "Lester" wasn't aware of this development when it was raised a couple of weeks back, although he did acknowledge that Carnie was leaving the show.

What prompted "Lester"'s rant is the common thread of African-Americans being hired to host classic game shows. He used the "N" word to describe Brady & Harvey, but as I noted at the start, "Lester", at his core, is a troll. Even when he's trying to spur some actually serious discussion, no one wants to pay him any attention because of his stale routines, which include asking what game show a recently deceased star will host, or claiming that someone had "an accident" or allegedly drank "boar semen", and claim it actually happened without having any evidence to support his claims. Instead of flooding the newsgroups with his juvenile writing, "Lester" should find something a little more rewarding for his talents. I hear that tabloids like The Globe are hiring..........

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Co-Weasels of the Week: Francisco Rodriguez & Taryn Terrell-Galloway

The common link betwen this week's weasels is domestic violence, which got both of them in trouble with their respective employers.

Taryn Terrell-Galloway is known to WWE fans as "Tiffany", who has transitioned from being a figurehead executive to a "Diva" (female wrestler in WWE parlance). Taryn was arrested on Sunday after a heated dispute with wrestler-husband Drew Galloway (ring name: Drew McIntyre). WWE suspended Taryn indefinitely, and her absence from Tuesday's taping of Friday Night Smackdown fueled speculation that her contract may be terminated, leaving Drew to be the family breadwinner all by himself. It's just too bad for "Tiffany" that the aggression she allegedly used on Drew wasn't used often enough in the ring when she needed it the most.

Meanwhile, Francisco Rodriguez, aka "K-Rod", found himself in handcuffs on Wednesday after the Mets' 6-2 loss to Colorado. Rodriguez went after his prospective father-in-law. Police sources claim that the father-in-law chastised K-Rod, telling him to "stop acting like a baby", which set off the mercurial closer, who has had 3 other incidents since joining the Mets last year. It has also been reported that K-Rod also had similar issues while with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, with whom he won a World Series title in 2002 as a rookie. The Mets reportedly plan to enroll Rodriguez in an anger management course, after having suspended him for Thursday & Friday's games. Oh, by the way, the Mets won both of those games, giving the overworked bullpen a mini-vacation.

Anger management might be needed for the Galloways, too, either on the advice of a judge, a marriage counselor, or Vince McMahon, or all three. It may be the only thing that saves Tiffany's job.

David L. Wolper (1928-2010)

He was one of the most prolific television producers of the 60's & 70's. It can also be said that David L. Wolper, who passed away on Tuesday at 82, was the father of the television miniseries.

Wolper worked mostly in television, but did have a few feature films on his resume, most prominently "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" (1971). Television viewers will remember him for the Emmy award winning, groundbreaking 1977 miniseries, Roots, its sequel, Roots: The Next Generation (1979), the National Geographic series of specials, the sitcoms Welcome Back, Kotter & Chico and The Man, and the documentary series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, which was run periodically on ABC during the 60's & 7o's, often narrated by another television legend, Rod Serling (Night Gallery, Twilight Zone). Wolper also earned acclaim for the 1964 special, The Selling of the President 1960.

Today, you don't see the kind of programs that Wolper was known for, except maybe for PBS and certain cable networks. The broadcast networks just don't see money (ad revenue, that is) in documentary specials anymore. Rest in peace, David.

The Dunce Cap Award: James Dolan

On Monday, I wrote about how Dolan, demonstrating a total lack of understanding of NBA rules & regulations, had hired former Knicks Coach-President Isiah Thomas as a "consultant". The NBA was ready to shoot that idea down, as I had suspected they would, and on Wednesday, Thomas opted to rescind his new deal, the better to protect Dolan & the Knicks from any possible penalties that NBA Commissioner David Stern might've wanted to impose. While Thomas, wisely, chose to take the high road, Dolan insisted on going in the opposite direction, publicly stating that he'd still call on Thomas for advice on an unofficial basis. All that says to me is that Dolan, constantly ripped by NYC sports writers as the worst of the city's sports owners, just doesn't care about the league's by-laws. It's all about what he wants for his team, putting himself ahead of the interests of the team and its fanbase. In that regard, Dolan falls into line with WWE Chairman-CEO Vince McMahon, who also doesn't have clue one about putting the best interests of the company and its fans ahead of his own selfish interests. Dolan clearly deserves a dunce cap, not just for now, but perhaps permanently, given his rap sheet.

Running a close second would be Dina Lohan, mother of actress-singer Lindsay Lohan. Appearing Friday on NBC's Today, Dina seemed to "misremember" the number of times her eldest daughter has been in rehab (currently on her 4th stint), and told Matt Lauer it'd been twice. Given all of Lindsay's legal troubles over the last few years, you'd think that Mama would get off the high horse, send the media away, and let Lindsay settle her issues in private. But, no. She had to bring a camera crew from Entertainment Tonight to one rehab center, feeding the beast, if you will, knowing that there are millions of people with some remote interest in her daughter's well-being. Problem is, going into rehab is supposed to mean being away from the public eye. Instead, Dina is the prototypical, stereotypical stage parent, living vicariously through her famous offspring and, in her case, sharing the spotlight to the point of obsession, but at the same time oblivious to the daunting prospect of killing Lindsay's career for good.

Back in the day on Match Game, Gene Rayburn would have questions about "Dumb Dora" or "Dumb Donald". Today, "Dumb Dina" sounds more appropriate, don't you think?

Monday, August 9, 2010

An idiot with power is a dangerous thing

James Dolan, chairman of Cablevision, the 2nd largest cable provider in New York, also owns the New York Rangers (NHL) & Knicks (NBA) and their home arena, Madison Square Garden. However, if you believe the press in New York, Dolan has also inherited some of the late George Steinbrenner's old, bad habits.

Consider the plight of Knicks President Don Walsh, for example. Walsh, who built the Indiana Pacers into a playoff contender during the 90's, was hired in 2008 to replace Isaiah Thomas after the former All-Star resigned in disgrace over accusations of sexual harassment, now has to look over his shoulder now that Thomas, while still head coach at Florida International, has been brought back by Dolan to serve as a consultant. What? Has Dolan been watching Friday Night Smackdown lately?

For those who don't follow the WWE's secondary show, former GM Vickie Guerrero was rehired by Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon last fall to act as a "consultant" to GM Theodore Long, knowing that if anything were to happen to Long, Mrs. Guerrero would take over. Even the slightest amount of power is abused. As the old saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Dolan being the big kahuna with both the Knicks & the Rangers illustrates this point to a tee.

While the Rangers have been a playoff contender every season, though not always advancing to the playoffs, the Knicks have been on the outside looking in. During Thomas' disastrous run as GM & Coach, he & Dolan overspent on veteran free agents, leaving the Knicks unable to sign more quality players that could've helped the team. Thomas was, in every respect, the public face of the team while Dolan tried to forge a second career as a musician, playing in a garage band that few might actually have heard of. His dismissal in 2008 stained the reputation of a once-proud superstar who helped Detroit to 2 NBA titles in the early 90's. As was discussed earlier today on ESPN's Around the Horn, Thomas might actually be in violation of NBA guidelines just by keeping his college job. Dolan doesn't seem to care, much less understand. He wanted Walsh to hire Thomas as a GM. Walsh refused, but settled on making Thomas a consultant instead. Hmmmmm. Wasn't Brutus a consultant to Julius Caesar before the Ides of March?

Bottom line is, Dolan is setting Walsh up to fail, so he can elevate Thomas into the President's office and rubber stamp everything Dolan wants done. The Knicks are better off if someone comes along with a megabucks deal to buy the team, along with the Garden and the Rangers, away from the clueless martinet currently signing their paychecks. You know that if/when Dolan does pull the trigger to fire Walsh, he'll use the failure to bring LeBron James to New York as one of his many excuses. You know it, I know it, and you better believe Walsh and the New York press knows it. Making Dolan a Weasel of the Week would be too easy. Giving him a lifetime membership at the Jabroni Athletic Club makes more sense. If he actually spends time in a gym and gets to know his players and understands exactly what the team really needs, he might actually get somewhere. Like, sometime next decade.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Super President (1967)

In the wake of Batman's runaway success, it seemed just about anyone could become a superhero in the mid-60's. DePatie-Freleng, after creating the comedy super-team The Super 6 a year earlier, went to another extreme with Super President in 1967.

In the real world, Lyndon B. Johnson was our President at that time, but no one could envision him in spandex for obvious reasons. Hence, our fictional President in this series was James Norcross, who, according to the narrative at the start of the show, was given super powers in a cosmic storm, enabling him to shift his molecular structure into steel, rubber, "or whatever the need requires". The prolific Paul Frees, the voice behind Boris Badenov (Rocky & His Friends) and numerous other characters, voiced Norcross, and also read the narrative. The stories were short, about 5-7 minutes each, which was normal back in those days.

And, as with most cartoons of the period, there was a back-up feature, Spy Shadow, in support of Super President. Shadow's protagonist, secret agent Richard Vance, was given the ability to summon his own shadow as a separate entity. Yeah, it sounds pretty lame now, but in 1967, logic didn't figure into a lot of television programs. It was all about letting your imagination run wild. Ted Cassidy (ex-The Addams Family), who, like Frees, was also doing voice work for Hanna-Barbera at the same time, voiced Vance and his Shadow, using his more natural speaking voice for Vance, the same voice that would later recite the opening narration to the live-action Incredible Hulk (1978-82).

Like Super 6, Super President was a ratings failure for NBC, and there are those that will claim that President is one of the worst cartoons ever because of its flimsy premise. Believe me, there have been worse to come down the pike in the 43 years since. Could it be redone today? Under the right circumstances, and with a creative team that has a better understanding of how to convey the story, maybe, but realistically it probably is well served remaining in the vaults, never to return. I pitched an idea on a message board on http://www.toonzone.org/ a while back that would solve the problem of a Presidential superhero in this day & age, but that's all it is right now, an idea. Which is how they all get started, for better or worse.

Super President merits a grade of C-.

Edit, 12/13/17: Here's the intro:

The Dunce Cap Award: Caroline Giuliani

A politician's daughter would be the last person, you'd think, to resort to a petty crime like shoplifting. However, that's exactly what Caroline Giuliani, daughter of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, did the other day. She may have decided a five finger discount would be easier than spending beaucoup bucks on expensive items that she deemed needed to be had ASAP, but she should've known better than to pull the job in NYC, where her father is still revered as a hero, rallying the city after 9/11. Of course, it was big news when she got pinched. What was she thinking?

Unsurprisingly, psychologists contacted by the city's tabloid newspapers claimed that Ms. Giuliani was desperate for attention. Oh? Seems to me she left her brains at home when she decided to take up petty thievery. Worse, her brother, Andrew, when interviewed by the New York Daily News, sided with his sis, as if he was condoning her actions. Andrew'd been in a bit of hot water himself while in college (he went to Duke and was kicked off their golf team), demonstrating that the apples did fall far from the tree in the Giuliani family.

Well, just for kicks, we'll give Andrew a Dunce Cap as well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mitch Miller (1911-2010)

I read this morning of the passing of music icon Mitch Miller at 99. Remembered largely for his 1961-64 NBC series, Sing Along With Mitch, spun off from a series of albums under the same name, Miller was also an influential record producer at first Mercury, and later, Columbia. His distaste for rock music, however, prevented Columbia from signing some of the bigger stars of the early years of rock, including Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly.

Miller and his chorale are perhaps best known for their renditions of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and the theme from "Bridge Over the River Kwai". However, Miller alienated artists like Rosemary Clooney & Frank Sinatra by insisting on them recording "novelty" songs, which prompted both singers to leave Columbia. Miller discovered Aretha Franklin, only to lose her when she signed with Atlantic, which offered the "Queen of Soul" greater artistic freedom. Miller's last known television appearances came in the mid-90's in a pair of specials for PBS, which probably will bring those shows back during the next pledge drive.

One of the hallmarks of Sing Along With Mitch was the use of a bouncing ball accompanying the lyrics so the audience could follow the song. This practice had previously been used in cartoons, among other places, and it can be said that Miller may have been one of the fathers of karaoke, which challenges barroom singers to try to sing without looking back at the screen to read the lyrics.

Rest in peace, Mitch.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Has "American Idol" jumped the shark?

2 months after American Idol ended its 9th season, after Simon Cowell had bade farewell to the Fox franchise (he'll bring his British series, X Factor, to the US next year), 2 more judges have decided to follow Cowell out the door.

Kara DioGuardi, who joined the series in 2009, is leaving after 2 seasons, according to published reports. This news comes on the heels of talk show hostess Ellen DeGeneres announcing that she was stepping down after just 1 season. Ellen, you'll recall, was brought in to fill the chair vacated by Paula Abdul. Apparently, Ellen didn't feel quite as comfortable as she (and Idol fans & producers) had originally thought, offering constructive criticism to the contestants. Part of her deal with Idol enabled Ellen to obtain exclusive interviews with ousted contestants on her talk show, and while she might still get to do interviews with Idol contestants, she won't have any inside information next season.

Now, there are 2, possibly 3, chairs to fill alongside Randy Jackson for Idol's 10th anniversary season in 2011. Ticket sales on the annual Idol concert tour have dropped dramatically, leading to cancellations in some cities, though the show did go on as planned in Albany a couple of weeks back. This is part of the backlash over the critical perception that the 2010 season was, in some people's minds, the weakest, as they apparently don't see long-term success for this year's winner, Lee DeWyse. Of course, part of the problem with the concert tour is that the tickets have been overpriced. Always have been, but that's a story for another day.

So the question remains. Has American Idol jumped the shark? If it did, it was probably when Paula Abdul left after 8 seasons, and not after this season. Now, the speculation will start anew as to who will not only fill Simon's chair, but Ellen's and maybe Kara's, because there's no guarantee they'll stay with 4 judges. They may go back to 3, as they had for the first 7 seasons. By January, we'll know for sure.

Weasels of the Week: Next Era Wrestling & Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi

You had to know that, inevitably, the cast of MTV's Jersey Shore would have a case where their sudden fame had gone to their heads. The New York Daily News reports today that Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi unleashed a profane tirade against the police after she'd been arrested on disorderly conduct charges on Friday in Seaside Heights, NJ. Ms. Polizzi was already three sheets to the wind from boozing all morning, and there was a photo showing her lying face down on the beach. While being fingerprinted and booked, Little Ms. Snookums thought that being a TV star might let her off the hook. Sorry, missy, that's not the way the game is played. The way the story's been told in the papers, "Snooki" is making Lindsay Lohan look like a Girl Scout by comparison with her diva behavior. There was a report that certain of the cast members, presumably including "Snooki", were asking $100 for people to have their pictures taken with them. Success, then, has spoiled these kids.

Add to that the recent revelation that most of the Jersey Shore kids are actually from New York, creating tension between NJ Governor Christie and NY's embattled Governor Paterson, and it creates the perception that the 2nd year "reality" show isn't quite as real, an accusation leveled at another MTV series, The Hills, which just ended its run, as it's supposed to be.

Meanwhile, while "Snooki" was getting her card punched into the Hall of Shame, the honchos at Next Era Wrestling in Rochester demonstrated a blatant lack of class and professionalism, leading to the cancellation of a house show in Troy that was supposed to take place last night.

I reported before how the show was originally booked for July 10, then moved back for unknown reasons. On Friday, I walked into the Boys & Girls Club, looking to buy a ticket for the show. I was then informed that Next Era never sent any tickets to the Club to be sold, nor did they pay a deposit on renting the building for the show! The promotional poster had been taken down, and the Club, which was going to be short-staffed if they went ahead with the show, reached the conclusion that it wasn't going to happen at all. Next Era never did any follow-up work, not even calling the Club to confirm the date, not buying air time on local radio or televsion. The poster didn't advertise anyone that the casual local fan might know from either WWE or TNA, though Colin Delaney, who spent six months with WWE in 2008-9, is listed on their talent roster according to the Next Era website. Someone dropped the ball, and it wasn't the Boys & Girls Club!

Suffice it to say, by comparison, In Your Face Wrestling, out of Ballston Spa, has been able to buy air time on Friday Night Smackdown to promote their shows, but they know they aren't quite ready to take their talent on the road just yet. Just the same, they're letting people know they're out there, something Next Era just couldn't do.

A pseudo-reality TV star goes on a drunken rampage and demands the police release her because she's a celebrity. A small-time wrestling promotion books a show at a upstate Boys & Girls Club, then seemingly forgets about it, leaving potential customers----and the Club---in the lurch. Equally offensive enough to merit both getting the weasel ears.