Wednesday, November 30, 2016

RIP Grant Tinker

Television has not just lost a giant, it lost its Babe Ruth. Grant Tinker has died at the age of 90. The man who presided over MTM Enterprises in its heyday and then turned NBC into the number one network was 90. No one in the history of television has done more to lift the quality and advance the medium than Grant Tinker. And that’s not even what made him great.

As for those accomplishments: At MTM he was responsible for THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, RHODA, PHYLLIS, HILL STREET BLUES, ST. ELSEWHERE. Taking over NBC, which was mired in last place, he brought the world CHEERS, COSBY, TAXI, FAMILY TIES, GOLDEN GIRLS, MIAMI VICE, HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN, and dozens of other hit shows. Come Emmy time NBC would usually sweep. Compare that to today when broadcast networks are almost shut out at Emmy time.

His famous dictum was: “First be best, then be first.”

And he practiced it. He brought class, sophistication, and humanity to everything he touched.

In the early ‘70s he was married to Mary Tyler Moore. Coming off the DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, she had a series commitment from CBS. Grant’s idea was to start an independent production company. MTM Enterprises was born. From there he produced other shows (such as THE BOB NEWHART SHOW) and built the company into a powerhouse.

But for me his greatest achievement was how much of a mensch he was. As a leader he was kind, thoughtful, smart, and treated everyone with respect. His philosophy was to hire the best people (like Allan Burns & James L. Brooks for THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW) and let them do their thing. Instead of injecting his own creative input (i.e. “notes”) he took on the role of protector – standing up for his writers against the networks, shielding them from unwanted interference. There’s no one like that today. Not even close.

MTM was Camelot for writers in the ‘70s. It’s where all TV writers wanted to work. When David Isaacs and I were starting out, MTM was our brass ring.

Happily, the first staff job we were offered was at MTM. It was for THE TONY RANDALL SHOW, produced by Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses (who had produced THE BOB NEWHART SHOW). We were hired at such a low level that we didn’t even have a title or on-screen credit. The only time we’d see our names on TV would be when we wrote episodes. But we didn’t care. We were at MTM.

Driving onto the lot that first day was one of the greatest days of my life. And it got better. Later that afternoon we went down to the stage for our first runthrough. Grant Tinker showed up, specifically to see us. He introduced himself, knew our names, welcomed us to MTM, and told us to call if there was anything we needed. Again, we were NOBODIES. Baby writers. We stood there in awe. That he would take the time and make the effort to do that astounds me to this day.

That same level of respect and protection was afforded all of us on CHEERS the first year of that show. Grant was running NBC by then. The ratings were dismal, but he didn’t care. He loved the show, believed in the show, and not only kept it on the air but left us all alone to do it our way. Ironic that his name was Tinker when tinkering was the last thing he ever did.

Whenever I would see him I felt I was in the presence of greatness. And I was always surprised he knew who I was.  Even after our tenth encounter.  This was like "the prettiest girl in school knew my name."   

There was a flap over a joke from an early CHEERS episode that David and I wrote. Some adoption agency took issue with an adoption joke we had written (a pretty funny one actually). The complaint somehow made its way all the way up to Grant. He called us personally to say don’t worry, he’d take care of it. Who does that? I mean, seriously, who does that???

Over the next few days you will read tribute after tribute. If it seems like the industry is praising a saint that’s because (in this one instance) it’s TRUE. Television and popular culture can never repay the debt owed to Grant Tinker. And for those of us lucky enough to work for him, it’s a loss of incalculable measure. He was a visionary, a father-figure, an inspiration, a leader in the true sense of the word, and like I said, a mensch.

He was the best. And he’ll always be first.

The great turkey drop and other memorable radio contests

Back in the heyday of radio, contests were a major part of a station’s programming. Especially when there were two competing rock stations (back in the days when the same company didn’t own every station in town). Some of these contests would wreak havoc in the community. Case in point: Treasure hunts.

The station would announce they’ve hidden a key that opens a vault containing a fortune somewhere in town. Listen to the station for clues. First person to find the key wins. The station would give clues to help you zero in on it.  So people were glued to their radios. 

What would happen unfortunately is that listeners in their zeal would literally dig up the town looking for that damn key. They’d dig up peoples’ backyards, government lawns, private property, public parks.  They'd bust sewer lines, gas lines, would dig up cemeteries.  A few even took jackhammers to streets. These treasure hunters would tear up their cities to win that key. Eventually, the government had to step in and ban these contests.

But there were others. You know the famous WKRP Thanksgiving turkey drop?  (You probably saw it last week during Thanksgiving.)   It was based on a true incident that happened to WQXI in Atlanta.

Many radio contests have gone awry. Back in the ‘60s, KFRC San Francisco was giving away a shiny new car. Their jocks were driving it around town. I think you had to guess the exact mileage, something like that. Anyway, KFRC jock Howard Clark totaled the car at Fisherman's Wharf. Oops.

Also, KFRC: They once had a “Location X” contest. They chose some super obscure town somewhere in the world, had a ten second sound byte of it, and listeners had to identify the town. The winner would receive a trip there. Clues would be given to narrow down the location. This was a fairly standard contest of the time. And by controlling how difficult or easy the clues were, the station could keep the contest going for several weeks.

So KFRC begins this contest at 6:00 one morning. They took contestants once an hour. The person on line either the second or third hour guessed it correctly. She had been to that town, and in the sound byte recognized a certain distinctive church bell. Oops again.

My favorite story involves my grandmother. She and my grandfather were living in Hemet, California, which is out the desert in Southern California. I was staying with them one time in the mid ‘60s, sitting at the kitchen table, listening to KFXM from San Bernardino. Meanwhile, my grandmother was in the kitchen making dinner.

At the time there was a hooded rapist who was terrorizing the “Inland Empire.” The station ran a public address announcement asking people to “help find the hooded rapist.”

My grandmother shook her head and said, “Such a contest!”

I so miss radio. And my grandmother.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

MOANA: My review

This may be the only review on the entire internet that pans MOANA. Oh well. At least you know I don’t just follow the pack.

First off – the obligatory disclaimer: I love animated movies. THE INCREDIBLES was exactly that. The TOY STORY series rocked. Hey, I loved THE LITTLE MERMAID and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. And even ALADDIN (both the Disney version and the one with Mr. Magoo). THE IRON GIANT is not to be missed. And the classic old Disney features are still thrilling even though mothers in those films get killed a lot.

So I went in to MOANA wanting to love it. At worst I thought it would be FROZEN with better weather. MOANA had songs by Lin-Manual Miranda, which alone is worth the price of admission. Hawaii is a favorite location of mine. I’m going there again this week (fair warning to the papayas). And Disney animation is just dazzling.

Happy to say all of that was in the film in abundance. The songs were clever (although not remotely memorable), Hawaii was depicted as lush and tropical and without Hertz Rental Car kiosks, and the animation was painstakingly beautiful.

But the story was just a rehash of every Disney animation trope. Plucky young girl protagonist. Father who doesn’t want her to leave the island. (“Ariel, don’t go to the surface.” “Belle, don’t leave the town.” “FROZEN-girl (I forgot her name), don’t leave the town.”)

Then it’s the adventure, bringing comic animal sidekicks (who do something at the end to save the day), meeting comic cohorts (who come back to aid the heroine and save the day), action sequences, heart-tugging scenes of homesickness, a magic spell, and once it’s lifted, flowers start to bloom where ice/rock/lava used to be. Everyone works through their issues, family breaches are all mended, the town/island/ocean/country is saved.  And anytime the heroine (who always has huge sized eyes) is reluctant or scared to move on to the next story beat there’s a big power ballad that propels her to do so. It’s very formula. “Let it go” already.

The story itself was confusing. Some demigod stole a magic stone, which created a lava monster, and a thousand years later coconuts weren’t growing right on an island so the heroine has to travel across the sea, bring the demigod to some place, and then do something with the magic rock. Huh? And the demigod has to do something too, but I forget what it is.  If I had trouble, I can imagine what the eight-year-olds in the audience were thinking. Along the way there are more rules that get thrown in, and the ending makes no sense whatsoever.

And the movie feels like two hours. Back when Uncle Walt was in charge he understood that 75 minutes was max. If this group was making SNOW WHITE today I’m sure there would be 30 drawfs. I was checking my watch an hour into the film. Even the animation, which is so extraordinary, loses its pizzazz after the seventh angry ocean sequence.

MOANA is making a shit-ton of money, and like I said, every critic has lavished it with praise. So take my review as the lone dissenting voice. Either that or some critics were afraid to say they didn’t like it for fear that they’d be in the minority or they'd no longer get fast passes at Disneyland. Lin-Manual Miranda will probably win an Oscar because (a) this is his year, and (b) what else is there in that category? There’s no Bond movie this year. But at the screening I attended, parents were taking their kids out of the theater throughout the entire film. Warning: There are a number of scenes that might scare the shit out of your little tyke. ( Either that or mom needed to use the bathroom and that was her excuse.)

I realize that most people don’t go to Disney animated movies to follow a great story or marvel in the advancements in the art of animation. They go because of the formulas. It’s reliable. They get songs, cute animals, a courageous heroine who is maybe voting age, pretty images, and it’s 90 fewer minutes parents have to entertain their kids. (I’m sure by the end of Christmas vacation parents will wish the movie were four hours.) But it bothers me that critics are comparing MOANA to the best of Disney. That it is not.

I also worry that when they do the inevitable Broadway stage musical of MOANA people in the first twenty rows are going to get soaked.

Monday, November 28, 2016


I'm re-posting this because it's always one of my most requested posts. And it's perfect for the upcoming holiday season.  

A holiday tradition is A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS and we pretty much have a Mad Man to thank for it. John Allen was a Don Draper at McCann-Erickson in the mid 60s. On behalf of Coca-Cola he was lobbying for Charlie Brown. It would be the first animated adaptation of Charles M. Schultz’s classic PEANUTS comic strip. But Allen had to really twist arms because in typical fashion, CBS hated it.

They thought the animation was awful, the story too thin and depressing, the jazz score inappropriate for kids, and of course wanted a laugh-track. I'm surprised they didn't require a laugh-track on THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

And CBS was especially opposed to Linus reciting the story of the birth of Christ from the Bible. What the hell is that doing in a Christmas Special?

Oh, and they didn’t like that children were doing the voices of the…uh, children. In other words, all the things that made it distinctive; all the things that made it great. One high-ranking CBS program executive/visionary said it was a “piece of shit”.

And CBS had a lot riding on this. It was going to pre-empt THE MUNSTERS and follow GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. The quality had to be top notch to join that pantheon of excellence.

But John Allen pushed and pushed and finally persuaded the reluctant program chief to air the special. A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS premiered 51 years ago this month.

And got a 50 share.

It won an Emmy and a Peabody and became an instant holiday classic. I guess children doing the voices of children did not result in a viewer revolt.

CBS began running the special every year (taking credit for it of course). And it achieved the almost unheard of feat of getting higher ratings year after year. By 1969 it was scoring a 53 share.

CBS continued to air the special until 2000. ABC then took over. Don't know what channel it's on this year, but I'm sure someone is playing it tonight.  Or you can go on Netflix or Hulu.  I bet it gets a 50 share on Netflix too. 


And thanks to John Allen.

Okay, you can start playing Christmas music now

Now that Thanksgiving is over and it's no longer August, it's okay for radio stations to start playing Christmas music.  (As if you've been waiting for my permission.)

There are number of stations that have switched to an All-Christmas music format.  They usually do gangbusters in the ratings.   I believe the trend began with a station or two in Phoenix.  KOST in Los Angeles picked it up and it filled their stockings with cash. 

Personally, I can't listen.  When I was in high school my part-time job was in a record store and of course during the Christmas rush I worked twelve hours a day.  And we played nothing but Christmas music.  I still can't hear Johnny Mathis without having Vietnam flashbacks.

But there are some Christmas songs I do like.  And it's always kind of refreshing to hear them again (SPORADICALLY!).  

I know it's schmaltzy but my favorite is "Merry Christmas Darling" by the Carpenters.  Sorry but it gets me every time.   And there's no cover version that even comes close to Karen. 

There's something nostalgic and heart-warming about hearing Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song."  (I love how many of the classic Christmas songs were written by Jews.)

Beyond that, I like a lot of the old early rock Christmas tunes.   The Phil Spector Christmas album (I wonder how he's doing in prison these days), "Little St. Nick" by the Beach Boys, and who doesn't love Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree?"    Of more recent vintage I love Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You."

And when I'm in a more traditional mood, I head right to Linda Eder's Christmas album.   If you're not familiar with her, Linda Eder is a spectacular singer.   Here's an example:

I don't even like that song, but I like her version.

Since I hear the same six Christmas songs over and over on the radio I can't imagine what a 24-hour Christmas music station must sound like.    Whereas news stations have "Traffic on the 4's", do Christmas stations have "Feliz Navidad on the 4's?"  How many times do they play Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" on that format?   Even if you're a fan of those stations, by December 23rd aren't you ready to arbitrarily just punch people?

But like I said, at least we're close to December.   So it doesn't bother me that Christmas music has returned to the airwaves.  It will bother me again however, when they're still being played in April.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

the James Bond movie you probably never saw

There's always a cable network that this month shows a James Bond marathon.  Usually six times.  Last year I caught ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. I don't think I had seen it since it first came out... in 1969. It’s pretty much the forgotten Bond film because it was the only one that starred George Lazenby. He had the misfortune of replacing Sean Connery and for good measure, was not an accomplished actor. He was more of a male model.

At the time he was skewered by the critics and public, and the movie essentially became the Fredo of the series.

But watching it again in retrospect, I have to say it was not that bad. In fact, it was way better than a lot of the later idiotic MOONRAKER and later Bond films. In one, Denise Richards plays a nuclear physicist for Crissakes!

Lazenby was not very good, and it was hard for me to really take him seriously since he looked like a more handsome Soupy Sales, but he sure wasn’t much worse than Timothy Dalton. He tried to have fun with the role, and so what if for one movie James Bond was a little goofy?

But the plot was pretty good. It stayed very true to Ian Fleming’s book and was a lot more realistic than later 007 adventures where he’s on the moon or taking Denise Richards seriously.

Telly Savalas supplied the necessary panache required for a Bond super villain. And also the necessary stupidity to tell Bond his world domination plan and save killing him for later instead of just putting a bullet in his head and going back to stroking his cat.

The Bond Girl was leggy Diana Rigg. And anyone who grew up watching THE AVENGERS in the ‘60s was already madly in love with her.   So this perpetual adolescent was way on board in this most-crucial category. 

The film also featured that great John Barry score with all those familiar kick-ass guitar instrumentals.  (Think about it -- when you go to a James Bond movie you NEVER come in late.  You're ALWAYS there for the beginning and that guitar lick.) 

But the best thing about ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE was that I hadn’t seen it in so long. I’ve probably seen every other Bond movie at least twice. Don’t you notice that when you come across a Bond marathon you always recognize the movie? You don’t always remember which one it is – you go “Oh yeah, the stupid Egypt one” or “the stupid Swiss Chalet” one -- but you watch the action sequence that you’ve seen already nine times. You try not to think how old that Bond girl is today, and you just resign yourself to whoever Bond is at that moment even if it’s not your favorite. (And by the way, although most people claim Sean Connery is their fave, there are a lot of folks who grew up on Roger Moore and prefer his interpretation. I can’t argue with that.) But it was great fun to watch sequences I hadn’t seen in decades. Even though some of the shots were adventures in bad blue screen -- the action, the James Bond theme, and the twenty guys after 007 all in matching uniforms shooting and missing at least 20,000 times (you’d think super villains could afford better marksmen… I mean, how much must those secret hilltop high-tech compounds that commision cost? Explosives alone have to be in the tens of thousands.) it still adds up to a real adrenaline jolt.

And then there’s the ending. I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t seen it or read the book, but suffice it to say this movie does not have your typical Bond in a raft with Carey Lowell wrap-up.

So look for the inevitable Bond marathon coming later this month (or this week). Because ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE stars George Lazenby it’s usually buried in the middle of night. But record it. You might be pleasantly surprised. And you can fast-forward through the miles and miles of commercials. Of all the gadgets that Q has invented, nothing comes close to the DVR.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Remembering Florence Henderson

Like everybody, I was so sad to hear that Florence Henderson passed away Thursday.  She was 82.   I didn't really know her personally.  We met briefly one time at Dodger Stadium when she sang the National Anthem.  (She was a terrific singer.  Did you know that before Carol Brady she was a big Broadway musical star?)   We shared the same birthday and I think that's what we talked about in our two minute conversation.  So I can't give any real first-person account.

However, my daughter Annie and her writing partner, Jon Emerson, wrote an episode of INSTANT MOM (starring Tia Mowry) in which Ms. Henderson was a guest star.  They got to spend the day with her.  I asked Jon if he would share their recollection with her and he graciously wrote this post for the blog.   As you'll see, it's a terrific profile of a special woman.  Thanks, Jon.
Jon is right above her, Annie to her left
Writing the Mother's Day episode of a show called Instant Mom comes with a lot of network pressure. We pitched a story and were told “more.” We dutifully added more and were again told “more.” We added dancing, too many balloons, a mud fight, and thirty-five hundred other bits and gags. “More.”

We pitched having Florence Henderson show up and never heard from them again.

The episode centered on Stephanie's (Tia Mowry) first Mother's Day with her new family. Stephanie is crushed when the kids ignore her, only to realize that she forgot her own mother, Maggie (Sheryl Lee Ralph). She hastily takes Maggie for a spa day, but ruins the whole thing by moping about being ignored. Maggie suggests that the kids ignored Stephanie because they have a “real” mother, prompting a huge fight. Stephanie starts to fear if there's any truth to that. Is being a stepmom somehow less valid than being a “real” mom?

It's a fairly heady premise, so we needed a fun way for Stephanie to work through her concerns. We thought, “What if she went into the sauna and Carol Brady was there to tell her off?” That quickly ballooned to having the sauna filled with classic sitcom mothers, many of which we were lucky enough to book. But Florence Henderson was always the top of our list.

We knew Florence Henderson for about four hours. She was modest, kind, sharp, and had a mouth to make David Mamet blanche. She came into the scene cold and nailed every joke. She was even nice to the writers.

Reading tributes written by people who really knew her only confirms what we felt at the time: if you met Florence Henderson, you met Florence Henderson. No pretense, no ego, no playing up to a character that will be indelibly linked with her name. Carol Brady wishes she could be her.

The mothers in the sauna ended up being Florence Henderson, Marion Ross, Jackée, Meredith Baxter, and Tempest Bledsoe (makes sense in the scene).

A few takes in, Florence and Marion started to get punchy. (When the show reached out to see if they'd be willing to do the episode, they each agreed on the condition that we call the other to come do it too. Let that melt your heart for a moment.)

Here now is our favorite memory of working on Instant Mom, transcribed from an outtake we asked to have burned on a DVD. A DVD we will now have bronzed. The first line was from the script. Florence takes it from there.
MARION ROSS: Once you do that, everybody knows you’ve jumped the shark.

FLORENCE HENDERSON: Jump the shark? What does that mean?

MARION: They wanted me to say “fuck the shark” but I said no.

FLORENCE: Because everybody in Hollywood’s already fucked the shark.

MARION: You’re going to be sorry when that’s on YouTube.

FLORENCE: I couldn’t care less... So, Tempest, what was Bill Cosby really like?

However you imagined Florence Henderson, she was more.

Thanks again to Jonathan Emerson for that marvelous profile.  

Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Questions

Black Friday Questions really, which are actually leftovers but spruced up.

Joseph Scarbrough has a question about anthologies.

If networks aren't willing to do anthology series because it cost too much to have new sets and new actors come in all the time... then, how is that any different from having new sets and actors on a regular weekly series? Like say if the main characters find themselves in a new diner, or at a hotel, or at a distant relative's house, and then all the guest actors? Isn't that kind of the same?

People generally tune into shows because they are familiar with and enjoy the characters. They like the continuity. Anthologies introduce new main characters each week.  So it's essentially a pilot a week.  And although there are swing sets (sets used only once) there are also primary sets that are used every week. These offset the cost of the new ones.

Plus, studios all have warehouses of sets. So a café you see on CSI can be dressed up differently and used on BONES.   They don't have to build them all from scratch.

But there are hybrids.   TIMELESS this season for one.  Same characters in different locations and periods of time.  QUANTUM LEAP was another.  In the ‘60s you had a couple of great ones like THE FUGITIVE and ROUTE 66. These had main stars who traveled to different towns each week and encountered Mickey Rooney or Yvonne Craig. But you watched because you cared about those series stars. (Only I watched because of Yvonne Craig.)

Mitchell Hundred asks:

As a writer/showrunner, how can you tell when a show has run its course?

When someone in the room suggests the talent show episode and you don’t automatically fire him.

Seriously though, for me, it's when the characters cease to surprise me. When there’s nothing any of them could say or do that I couldn’t predict in my sleep, then it’s time to go.

Well, actually, that’s when you negotiate a huge raise from the network and end the series a year later.

Freebie and The Bean (which was a fun movie from the ‘70s) wonders:

Do you think "marathon" showings of reruns help promote a show's popularity and ultimately its longevity?

Absolutely. A great example is WINGS. It was doing okay on NBC but when the USA network picked it up and aired it nineteen hours a day the ratings on NBC went way up. Same is true with LAW & ORDER and now NCIS.

Of course you have to have enough episodes to make this equation work. Hence, I don’t think we'll be able to resurrect BIG WAVE DAVE’S by showing the six episodes over and over again eleven times a day. Not that it isn’t worth a try.

And finally, from Chris:

Some shows (Seinfeld, Married...with Children, Night Court) ended every episode with the audience clapping whether there was a punchline there or not? How do you feel about doing that? It kind of makes it feel more like a live play.

I hate it because it’s very self-congratulatory. If something happens in the body of a show that results in a spontaneous round of applause then fine. But I hate applause at the end of a show and I hate applause when characters first enter. On my shows I always have the warm-up guy introduce the cast to the studio audience before the show. And I also have him introduce any notable guest stars unless their entrance is a big intended surprise. I furthermore dislike when characters comment on each other’s lines. “That’s hilarious!” “What a brilliant solution!”, etc. Ugh!  It's a pet peeve but I hate when shows toot their own horn.

What's your Friday Question?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Aretha Franklin is really Bleeding Gums Murphy

One of the bits David Isaacs and I wrote for THE SIMPSONS "Dancin' Homer" episode was a typical National Anthem at a sporting event that lasts forever. Here's the clip:

In today's Lions-Vikings game Aretha Franklin went ever longer. Note the graphic:

Happy (sitcom) Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. I look forward to the holiday, never writing about it. Every sitcom I’ve ever worked on, we’ve had the obligatory Thanksgiving episode. How many variations can you have on the big family dinner going awry? I think I’ve written the “turkey gets burned”, “relatives clash”, “nutty friends invited”, “can’t find a restaurant”, “kids break something”, “Guess who’s Coming to Dinner variation, “Meet the Parents variation”,“football gambler loses big”, “tofu turkey substitute”, “someone accidentally gets dragged seven blocks by the Mr. Potato Head balloon”, “mom’s a terrible cook”, “relative accidentally not invited”, “someone is allergic to something in the stuffing and has a funny seizure”, “power outage”, “thawing frozen turkey last minute”, “food fight”, and “the pilgrim re-enactment” episode fifteen times.

Hopefully, none of these things will happen to you this turkey day. And if they do, at least you’ll have your BLACKISH spec script halfway written.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks for reading this blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What I'm thankful for

Usually I do this and just provide a long list. It includes favorite restaurants, shows, apps, etc. But this year I just can’t do it. This year I feel so let down by my country that it’s hard to be in a celebratory frivolous holiday mood. It’s hard to be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy when I fear they’ll be taken away.

So I’ll just limit my thanks this year to people. And don’t worry; you’re on the list. I realize that by omitting burger joints and frequented websites this might read like an author’s book acknowledgements but so be it.

First and towering over everything -- my family, which grew this year. I have an amazing new son-in-law, Jonathan. Annie, you could not have made a better choice. And that’s from a father, and as everybody knows NO ONE is good enough for a father’s daughter.

Also, my first granddaughter, Rebecca. I know everyone says their grandchildren are the most beautiful and special in the world, but what can I say? In this case it’s true. And I’m thankful that she has the two most loving caring parents in the world, Matt & Kim. And the number one grandmother of all-time, "Ba Ba Debby" (who also owns that title in the wife department).   I look forward to many happy days playing with Becca… then handing her back.

I’m blessed with lots of friends. You are all special to me -- more special than you know. 

And this year, a shout-out to the cast and crew of my play. Collaborating with you for these last three months has not just been a joy but a salvation.

Finally, as promised, you blog readers. That fact that anyone gives a shit about what I think about anything still amazes me. But I am eternally grateful.

So this year I have fewer things to be thankful for but more thankful for the things I am thankful for.

Hopefully you have wonderful people in your life you’re thankful for too.

Two of my idols together at last

The Vin & the Boss.  How great is this photo???

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

RIP Joe Resnick

What a sad irony that on the day my play about baseball journalists closed in Los Angeles, one of the deans of the LA sportswriter scene, Joe Resnick, passed away from cancer. He was 62.

Newspaper reports of his death list his lengthy resume. For over three decades he covered the Dodgers, Angels, Kings, Lakers, Clippers, Ducks, UCLA, USC, the Olympics, Hollywood Park, and probably cricket tournaments somewhere. For all the words I’ve typed out over the years, he probably cranked out ten times more.

He wrote for the Associated Press but also freelanced for Fox Sports and many of the major newspapers around the country. If you ever read a sports section anywhere and there was an LA byline, chances are you’ve read Joe Resnick.

And yet, you probably have never heard of him. Such is the nature of working for AP. You don’t go on to become a columnist with a large following. You don’t get invited to be on ESPN daytime talkpaloozas. You don’t get your own show on HBO. You work in relative obscurity.

But for Joe Resnick, the work was its own reward. And that’s what the newspaper obits won’t tell you. It’s fair to say he worked 340 days a year. Maybe more. The only time off he would get would occasionally be in October if the Dodgers and Angels weren’t in the playoffs. Then he would have a two-week window before the NBA and NHL seasons began. On some days he would have a Dodger game in the afternoon then a Lakers or Kings playoff game at night.

And he loved every minute of it. Even though he bitched about every minute of it. Joe was that special combination of curmudgeon/wide eyed fan. He’d grumble about having to cover some event but when you’d say to him, why not just let someone else take the assignment, he’d always admit that he was looking forward to it.

He had a long list of things that annoyed him – editors who tampered with his work, athletes who gave unintelligible quotes, pitching changes, loud PA systems, fireworks shows when he was trying to write, and journalists who he felt didn’t show the job and sport the proper respect.

I worked closely with Joe for years when I was doing Dodger Talk. He was always the first person to arrive at the park and the last to leave. I would sign-off Dodger Talk 90 minutes after the game was over and Joe would still be banging out his story, double-checking obscure statistics that would give his account a unique perspective.

For three years I had dinner every night with Joe and fellow journalist Norm Peters at Dodger Stadium. He was Lou Grant only funnier. And a great storyteller. Joe would regale us for hours with stories of sports legends and events he witnessed firsthand.  Not only did he know ALL the sports greats -- they knew HIM. 

He also loved Mary Tyler Moore, '60s music, classic sitcoms, Canter’s pastrami sandwiches, a good laugh, and Vin Scully. The top photo is one I took of Joe and Vinny.

You know that “Lost CHEERS scene” – the scene David Isaacs and I wrote that was aired one time only before the 1983 Super Bowl and never seen again? Remember how a few years ago I unearthed maybe the only copy of it (and have since posted it on my blog every Super Bowl Sunday)? You can thank Joe Resnick. One day he was telling me that he videotaped every Super Bowl. I asked if he ever captured any of the pre-game coverage? He said only the last few minutes of it. I asked if he would go back and check 1983. Our scene aired just before the start of the game. Sure enough, Joe had it. I digitized it and the rest is blog tradition.
Joe never married. Joe had no kids. Covering sports was his entire life. Two weeks ago he received the Bob Hunter Award by the Los Angeles chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America for his meritorious coverage of baseball. A number of local sportswriters went to his apartment and presented him the award. He said it was one of the happiest days of his life.

No LA pressbox will ever be the same. He will be greatly missed. And any future production of my play, GOING GOING GONE will be dedicated to Joe Resnick.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Saying goodbye to GOING GOING GONE

Dennis Pearson, me, David Babich, Troy Metcalf, Annie Abrams, Emyli Gudmundson
This is a love letter to anyone who worked on my play. Or came to see my play (especially yesterday in the rain). 

After extending for two weeks, GOING GOING GONE ended its current run yesterday. It was a truly remarkable experience. We were getting SRO crowds almost every performance. And the only reason that we’re closing, if I’m being honest, is that the new Equity mandate goes into effect on December 14th and suddenly even a hit Equity-waiver show makes no sense financially. (That whole situation is a travesty and may kill small theatre in Los Angeles, but that’s for another post.)

Hopefully I can find more homes for the play, and if possible, I will try to use as many people from this current production as I can get.    After the final performance we had a little wrap party complete with a cake that misspelled GOING GOING GONE. 
There are enough horror stories about the theatre for me to appreciate that I had a charmed experience with GGG. No one had a meltdown, no one was injured in a Spiderman flying apparatus mishap, no one had to be replaced last second because they came down with scurvy or were deported.

Oh yes, we had our little bumps in the road. All live shows do. The night of our first preview the air conditioning went out. Several laughs suffered by people having heat strokes.

The play’s theme is our need to be remembered. At one point I have a discussion on being remembered for something other than your major accomplishment. My example was Arnold Palmer. World-class golfer but will best be remembered for the drink. I had two pages of great Arnold Palmer jokes. On the Sunday night of our tech rehearsal (only days away from opening), Mr. Palmer passed away. I suddenly had to scramble and write a whole new scene. I want to thank George Foreman for staying alive these last few months.

We had one very cool stunt where a foul ball destroyed one of the reporter’s laptop computers. A Rube Goldberg-like contraption was erected so the ball would be released on cue. Happy to say “most” of the time it worked. There were a couple of other minor technical glitches along the way, but hey, live is live.

Basically, everything went swimmingly. Our reviews, for the most part, were raves. There’s one critic who just hates everything I do, but who doesn’t have one of those? At least she’s not a relative.

I walked you through the rehearsal process with a series of posts on this blog so I won’t go into that again. But the hard work paid off. By the third week the actors really locked into their characters and settled into a nice groove. Most of the time they’re all on stage at once. The audience obviously focuses on whoever is talking, but I recently decided to watch the actors who weren’t talking. They were totally into the moment, reacting to what was being said, following the action of the field, doing their work-related tasks. I was as impressed with that as their performances.

I’m always fascinated by a live audience's reaction. Depending on the night, they could be raucous, somewhat subdued, or a mixture of the two. And lines that get big laughs one night get nothing the next while others that didn’t work the previous night go through the roof night two. On some nights certain straight lines get huge laughs. Don’t know why but I’ll take it.

Friday night audiences tended to be less boisterous. I think that’s because it’s the end of the week and they were tired. Saturday nights were usually the best, and Sunday matinees were a wild card. I had the best and worst audiences during Sunday matinees.

For one audience we had a nine-year-old and an eleven-year-old in the first row. Not sure they got all the jokes. I hope they didn’t get all the jokes. We also had some industry folks come and with luck that could mean some work for the actors. I think a couple have already gotten auditions based on casting people or producers seeing them in this play.

I asked the actors how they felt about the play closing. After months of rehearsal and memorization and really growing into their roles, what is it like when a show is over and you no longer get to play that character? Troy Metcalf said there had been shows he absolutely loathed. He hated everything about them. And yet, when they were over he said he was always “Mildly depressed.” So for shows like ours, he said the next few weeks would really be tough. The other actors agreed. Next weekend, when they don’t have our theatre to go to they said they’d really feel it.

Meanwhile, they started striking the set five minutes after the audience left.   Theatre is the ultimate pop up store.  

For me, it’s time to go to work to try to find it another home.

I am completely indebted to my amazing cast – Annie Abrams, Troy Metcalf, David Babich, and Dennis Pearson, along with our voice-over cast of Howard Hoffman, Harry S. Murphy, and Darlene Koldenhoven. My director, Andy Barnicle has now done two plays for me and I hope does every one I write in the future. I’ve said it before, I’m a director and I’d rather have him. Producer Racquel Lehrman put together a terrific team, stage manager Emyli Gudmundson somehow kept everything together, and Lucy Pollak sure got the word out. As all these strangers would fill the theatre every night I kept wondering, “How did these people even know about this?” And a special thanks to playwright extraordinaire, Wendy Graf, for being my LA Theatre Scene guru.

It’s very hard to say goodbye to dedicated, talented, lovely people you got to know and became very close to over a four month period. Hopefully, we can all stay in touch and even better, work together again on another production of GOING GOING GONE.

I was able to record a performance so I have that along with the memories and poster (which is too large to hang anywhere). On to the next production, wherever that may be. If you have a theater, call me.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A blog tradition: My Thanksgiving travel tips

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

Leave for the airport NOW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re flying on an airline that doesn’t have reserved seating never sit next to anyone who is already eating or reading Ann Coulter.

Before you fly to New York and have to negotiate JFK just remember – the parade is on TV. And it’s the same friggin' balloons as last year. The only difference is that the stars of NBC’s big new hit from last year, ARE YOU THERE, CHELSEA?, won’t be there (thank God).

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

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

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

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

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

Happy trails to you all.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Levine's Laws

I find these laws to be self evident…

There are more New York cab drivers who speak English than all the night nurses in all metropolitan hospitals combined.

Theatre audiences will always boo an Adam Sandler trailer yet he will keep getting movies.

There is not one mohel who doesn’t think he’s a comedian. There is not one mohel who is right.

If a waiter doesn’t write down your order he will get it wrong.

If you’re telling a joke in a restaurant the waiter will arrive and interrupt the minute you get to the punch line.

There will always be one young couple that brings a baby to a slasher movie.
A hostess in an empty restaurant will always lead you to the worst table.

In every article that mentions you, no matter how complimentary, there will always be one thing said or misquoted that will prevent you from forwarding it to your family.

The heavier and more cumbersome your carry-on luggage, the farther your gate will be from the terminal.

Networks will always say they want cutting edge new shows then pick up whatever pilot Sarah Chalke is in.

When a hostess tells you it’ll only be five more minutes, they just have to clear off some tables – it’ll be twenty.

The minute you begin eating on an airplane, turbulence will begin.

When a couple from the mainland gets married in Hawaii the marriage doesn’t last.

The screw up because the hospital forgot to bill the correct insurer will never ever ever be resolved.

Women will always claim the number one thing they’re looking for in a man is a sense of humor and then pick the best looking guy.

The driver in front of you is an idiot.

And of course, my most famous law...

The lead-off walk always comes around to score... unless it doesn't.   (I've never been proven wrong.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Questions

This is the closing weekend for GOING GOING GONE! It’s been a huge success and I thank everyone who came to see it. Now to your Friday Questions:

RyderDA starts us off:

Do you think it would be possible to resurrect something like THE DICK VAN DYKE show -- an incredibly funny and very successful sitcom from ~50 years ago -- on an "almost" word for word basis? Many -- not all -- of the stories, jokes and dialog are timeless.

No. Interestingly, I had a conversation with Bill Persky, one of the showrunners of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW on just this very subject.

We both agreed that times and society has changed so dramatically that the show would have to be totally re-imagined.

Laura and Rob would no longer sleep in separate beds for one thing. But housewife Laura getting a job was frowned upon in the MAD MEN early ‘60s.  Today she absolutely would have a life outside of the home. 

There would have to be diversity in the writers’ room. Sally Rogers’ end game might not be to find any decent guy to marry.

The ALAN BRADY SHOW that they wrote for would have to change. There are no more comic-hosted primetime variety shows. So what do they write? A late night show like Fallon or THE DAILY SHOW? Or a sitom?

I agree that many of the themes of the original DICK VAN DYKE SHOW are timeless and universal. And that’s one of the reasons why it still resonates today. But it’s also dated. 50+ years is a long time.

From AJ Thomas:

There was a TON of hype for NBC's THIS IS US. All of the reviews said the show was great, and quite possibly the best thing to ever grace the airwaves. Now, I don't know how many episodes were screened, but I can only imagine it being 1 or 2. Do you really think it is that possible for a show to be that good off of one episode?

Sure. It’s possible, but not always done. Plenty of examples can be cited: THE SOPRANOS pilot was extraordinary. So was the pilot for MAD MEN, THE GOOD WIFE, WEST WING, and ER. Hard to find better sitcom pilots than CHEERS, FRASIER, THE GOLDEN GIRLS, and MODERN FAMILY.

But most series do require time to find their groove and develop. You don’t always hit a home run the first time you swing. But however you arrive at a long-running series, it’s the end that counts.

k2001 asks:

One weird Friday question....I have noticed that MASH incorporates a lot of scenes of people driving in jeeps...there's a lot of scenes with people riding/driving in jeeps..long shots...close real reason...I was curious if that was padding for time...

No, not at all. If anything we were always too long. But we needed those shots to establish geography and also to give the show a little production value.

Remember, at the time, MASH was pretty much the only sitcom that was not filmed in front of a studio audience. So showing the scope of our show was just one more plus. Every other show was stuck in a living room. 

And finally, a question from an Anonymous source. Please leave a name.

I remember Peter Boyle doing a magnificent range of characters (a partial list- A Brando -Wild One, Human Fly circus character reminiscent of old Lancaster Hecht flics, and then Western hero at end) in "Steelyard Blues' and I never see this on reruns. ( Donald Sutherland Jane Fonda headliners )

Why do some films just disappear while others that are not as good seem to be on a constant play list?
What other obscure films would you recommend?

A lot depends on which company or studio owned them and who is distributing them. Lots of films from independent companies now long out of business are either just collecting dust or are part of distribution companies that either aren’t selling them or don’t even know they own them.  

When I hosted that Neil Simon festival on TCM I wanted them to show HEARTBREAK KID. They had to dig it up, and they told me that was the first time they had aired that movie. They didn’t even know about it until I mentioned it.

Some obscure movies I love: Peter Boyle starred in one called JOE. There’s a real fun comedy from the late ‘70s called BETWEEN THE LINES. The movie version of A THOUSAND CLOWNS is wonderful. Does GOODBYE COLUMBUS still air? If so, check that out. Also THE LAST SEDUCTION, DINER, THE STUNT MAN, RED ROCK WEST, MIDNIGHT RUN, and the twenty others I can’t think of right now but you should seek them out today anyway.

What is your Friday Question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Daytime filler TV

During the baseball playoffs, once we finally found FS1 (up near the Korean channel), we were bombarded with ads for the Skip Bayless-Shannon Sharpe show, yet another talking-heads sports debate smackathon. The daytime hours are filled with them. So-called experts analyzing the crap out of everything from LeBron James’ bathroom habits to Tom Brady’s dexterity assembling Ikea furniture. In an attempt to make the debate good television the participants generally scream at each other, taunt each other, and act like Raider fans.

A thousand hours a week are devoted on these various cable shows to which backup quarterback the Dallas Cowboys should call on first. They’re still arguing over last year’s NBA Finals. They almost get into fist fights over whether Corey Kluber should throw a slider on a 2-1 count.

It’s madness. And mind-numbing. And complete bullshit. These “experts” are wrong more often than they’re right. And even when they’re right, who cares? The instrument has not been devised that can measure my indifference over Ohio State’s road schedule.

And yet these ads proclaim these shows on FS1 (and ESPN) as must-see TV. There are 276 of these daytime cable sports talk shows. On a recent Monday (where they had the previous weekend of NFL to analyze along with that night’s MNF game, the baseball playoffs, and previewing the start of the NBA season) 269 of these shows were beaten in the ratings by GUNSMOKE on TV LAND. What does that tell you?

GUNSMOKE (a fifty-year-old Western) averaged 676,000 viewers. ESPN’s “First Take” drew 312,000 and FS1’s Skip Bayless’ show attracted a paltry 131,000. GUNSMOKE outranked the both of them combined.  America is skipping Bayless. 

Yes, I’m sure the sports smackdowns drew more younger viewers, but how many considering such low overall totals? And how much are these cable networks paying to produce these live shows and lock up these hosts while TV LAND probably shelled out pocket change for GUNSMOKE.

So the next time Fox airs an ad saying FS1 is the number one cable network (where the fuck do they get that?) and Skip Bayless is a major star, just remember, Matt Dillon is kicking his ass. THAT’S the Dallas Cowboy Skip needs to worry about.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My conspiracy theory

Why does every one hour drama now have to have a lurking conspiracy? It’s not enough that people pop into a Time Machine and hurdle through dimensions? There has to be the suggestion that some nefarious organization is pulling the strings?

Every show that has a government agency (even a made up one) now must have moles or is really a tool for some Ernst Blowfeld.

Good guys might actually be bad guys or maybe even really bad guys who belong to a secret organization intent on wreaking havoc or at least holding up traffic.

ORPHAN BLACK got so twisted in conspiracies and agendas that I eventually gave up.

This trend has gotten so out of hand that on a recent series space ants were plotting some conspiracy. We were asked to really wonder what ants were really up to.

When the X-FILES established a “don’t trust anybody” template it felt fresh. But that was twenty years ago. The idea of keeping the audience guessing was fun – for awhile.

But now every show does it. Every agent is a double or triple agent. Everyone who works for an organization with initials really works for an organization with different initials.

What they don’t realize is that the audience is numb to it all now. Writers might think it’s super cool to introduce all these diabolical clandestine conspiracies, but news flash – we no longer give a shit.

We’re no longer shocked that the Mr. Rogers character is a terrorist, or the PTA mom is buying that new dishwasher by sending secrets to North Korea. (Any organization with initials…) We don’t gasp at these shocking reveals; we yawn. “The big twist that everyone will be talking about” – no one will be talking about it.

Stop trying to fool us, surprise us, turn your show into THE USUAL SUSPECTS. It’s now a cliché. Putting real people into compelling situations and watching them struggle against the elements and themselves to overcome real problems might actually be enough to hold our attention. Try it. If nothing else, it’s different.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

American comedy vs. British comedy

A very interesting perspective on the difference between British comedy and American comedy from the always-wonderful Stephen Fry.

What do you think?

Although his take is a vast generalization, I think there’s a lot of truth to it. Especially the last part. American actors, by and large, don’t like really playing seriously flawed, damaged characters. He uses FRIENDS as an example. All of their flaws are cute flaws, quirky flaws, amusing flaws. They’re not major fuck ups. British comics are happy to play hopeless losers.

But here’s the key. Here’s what they understand. It’s all about comic dignity. These British misfits will go to any length to preserve their dignity, to try to fool the world into thinking they’re not colossal fuck-ups, and comic dignity is one of the great tropes of comedy.

No one wants to be embarrassed, no one wants to look like a fool, so people will go to extraordinary lengths to preserve their dignity. To me, that’s what makes Oliver Hardy so consistently hysterical.

My all-time favorite moment in BREAKING BAD (SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen it), is when Gus has half his face blown off, staggers into the hall, and of all things, adjusts his tie before dying. THAT was comic BRILLIANCE.

So there is a difference, but it behooves the smart American comedy writers and actors to study the British model and see what they can learn from them. Not that they invented these tropes, but they sure do them to perfection.

Monday, November 14, 2016


Thanks to all of you who responded to my request yesterday and checked in.   It was very heartening hearing from you.   I had no idea I had so many Canadian readers.  Or readers named "Jeff."   I greatly appreciate your feedback and support and for now will keep things as is.   And I have some ideas for new things for next year.  Stay tuned.  

Thanks again.  And for those who haven't yet checked in, please feel free to join the party.

My eleventh anniversary

This month will make it eleven years since I started this blog.   I've tried to maintain a new post a day (except for last week although some of you noted that technically it was a post) for all eleven years. 

I'll be honest with you, last week was very tough.  As blog moderator I blocked a lot of your comments (besides the usual idiot trolls who I just delete and don't even read).  Considering the emotional state you knew I was in, I didn't need gloating, I didn't need ugliness, I didn't need to be told to just suck it up.  We all go through shit in our lives and for the most part I spare you mine. That's not what you log on for and I get that.  You want to be entertained, you want my dubious advice, you want anything to distract you from work.  Thus I keep churning out the posts even when I'm dealing with the crap we call life. 

So when one time I announce that I'm really wrecked and people write in saying stop whining and go back to funny posts I get very cranky. 

There were several points last week when I seriously thought, "Fuck this!  What do I need this grief for? I'll just shut the blog down, walk away, and pick it back up again if and when I feel like it."   I decided ultimately not to do that, but I'm sort of at a crossroads here.

What I always do for these annual anniversary posts is ask you to take charge.  I'd love to know who is out there and why you're here?  Especially now.  So if I may, in the comments section could you please tell me who you are, where you're from, how old you are (you can round it off), how you found the blog, how long you've been reading it, how often you read it, and what you like and don't like about it?   You can be honest.  I know a lot of you don't like baseball posts but every so often I do them anyway.  And you'll notice I've done very few AMERICAN IDOL recaps lately.  But this feedback has helped me shape the content of the blog as I've tried to provide you with more of what you prefer.   This year it's going to help me decide how to go forward. 

So thanks in advance.  And thanks for being a part of a great eleven year run. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Looking for diversions?

Tired of hearing post-election coverage?  Want to take a break and listen to something else for the next few hours or four years?  If you want to travel back to a simpler time when we hated President Johnson and President Nixon (but LOVED the music), check out Best oldies station on the net.  Lots of songs you remember but haven't heard in ages. 

And for a more recent vintage of oldies, an irreverent station that really cooks, may I suggest

My playbill

Only two more weekends for my play, GOING GOING GONE currently running at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. Happy to say we’re completely sold out again this weekend.  Next weekend is the last of this engagement. 

So people are asking what’s next for it? I don’t really have an answer. I’m exploring possibilities (if you have a theater gimme a call), but obviously I’d love the play to go to Broadway. 

The trouble is, if I list that I am primarily a TV writer in my bio for the PLAYBILL it’s like putting a big target on my chest for New York theatre critics. So I thought I’d fudge, tailor it a tad for the Broadway theatre crowd. What do you think of this?
Ken is the adopted son of Stephen Sondheim. His godfather was Bob Fosse who he met while walking Gwen Verdon’s dog. He spent his formative years building the sets for LES MISERABLES. A Peace Corps stint followed where for two years he introduced the Broadway musical to poverty stricken villages throughout Cambodia.

Ken returned to New York where he walked Carol Channing’s husband. He became somewhat of a play doctor, coming in uncredited to save A CHORUS LINE, PROOF, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (originally titled: SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH WEEZY). WHOSE AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, AVENUE Q., AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (additional dialogue), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (talking Mamet out of the dance numbers), and THE ODD COUPLE (originally titled: TWO AND A HALF MEN).

An experimental work of his own played three nights in Chicago and four nights in Cleveland. It was called the 2016 WORLD SERIES.

He has never seen a television show, watched a movie, or read any book not written by John Simon or Frank Rich.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Because I just wanted to post something funny

This is a re-post from six years ago.  After this past surreal week I just wanted to post something funny.   No redeemable content whatsoever.  So I dug up one of my favorite humor pieces from the past -- my review of the 2010 AVN Awards Show.  These are the porn industry's equivalent of the Oscars. And believe it or not, they were aired on SHOWTIME. 

WARNING and SPOILER ALERT: What follows contains graphic language, sexual content, and winners of many major categories like “Best Anal."   In other words, I'm not taking the high road today.  I'm just doing whatever it takes to get some laughs.  I can't speak for you, but I NEED them today.  So journey back to 2010.  And by the way, everything I report here -- every quote, every movie title, every award category is transcribed verbatim.   And THAT'S what makes it funny.  
Is there anything more deliciously absurd than the AVN awards Juxtapose class and elegance with the porn industry and you have the most hilarious television event of the year!

The evening started gloriously with the red carpet show. Co-hosted by porn queens selected more for the way they hold the microphone versus what they say into it, Jessica Drake and Jesse Jane got the stars to really open up (as it were). We learned that Bree Olson got her screaming green gown at a wedding store in Indianapolis for two hundred bucks (Sarah Jessica Parker -- take note for next year's Oscars). We learned that female porn stars prefer working with Evan Stone because “He likes to have sex with women.”

Another popular male star among his thesps was Eric Everhard. Do you think Eric is his real name?

Also co-hosting was Dave Navarro, a guy who looked shockingly like the devil and left visible slime trails when he walked on the red carpet . In interviewing the “Burning Angel Crew”—four hard-looking tatted trollops in Army Surplus prom dresses – Davie paid them the ultimate compliment, “Damaged little tattoo girls are the hottest thing”.

One starlet was asked “Who are you wearing” and she said Ron Jeremy. I had to hit "pause", run upstairs and take a 90 minute shower.

Kristin Price was asked about her gown and said, “I got this at ‘I can’t pronounce it’.”

Sasha Grey, who also doubled as the “fashion expert” (an honor bestowed upon her because her gown didn’t look slept in) asked Tori Black what she was wearing and Tori answered, “A dress”. I guess when you wear one so rarely it’s a big deal. I guess when you wear anything so rarely it’s a big deal.

Pictured right are "fashion expert" Sasha Grey and Lucifer.

Dave Attel hosted the show, which is a desperate career call for help. And worse, Margaret Cho was a presenter. Not even a co-host; it was her, a male star, and a transsexual giving out some group sex award. And I thought it was sad when Margaret had that bad sitcom on ABC.

Kagney Linn Karter won Best New Starlet. Considering the lifespan of a porn career she could also win a Lifetime Achievement award at the same ceremony.

Sasha Grey was the big winner of the evening. "Best Anal" AND "Best Oral", thus displaying her versatility as an artist. Sasha had won Best Oral once before and in her acceptance speech admitted that, “I must be really talented in this.”

Porn princess McKenzie Lee handled backstage interviews. SHOWTIME went to no expense to produce this extravaganza. Sasha said to her, “I just won Best Oral Sex Scene and I can’t remember who the guy was.”

I'm not making any of this up. Honest.

Later, when Sasha won for "Best Anal" she proudly announced she never uses Vicodin.

Performing anal is not easy we learned from one of the presenters. It “requires the ability to abstain from food 24 hours before the scene.” Maybe that’s why anal isn’t for everybody.

There’s a Best Make-Up category. Why??

I did pretty well in the office pool this year. ASS WORSHIP 11 was money for me! I shouldn’t have bet on JON & KATE FUCK 8 but I did win with ANAL CAVITY 6. By the way, what didn’t they find in ANAL CAVITY 1-5??

Sunny Leone (pictured right) was the best dressed. Is there such a thing as a mini-formal? Her gown was so short you would know whether she had a Brazilian. That said, it was very tasteful. And it fit her great, although she did admit she had to double-tape her tits. Sam Rubin never gets that kind of great information out of the stars.

I love who gets thanked during AVN acceptance speeches. One platinum bimbo said, “Thanks to all the guys who DP’d me.” A male star saluted the fans. “You watch my movies. You jerk off…” A girl-on-girl winner, Tori Black to her co-star Lexi Belle: “Thank you for licking my box so nicely.” Tori went on to win another award and said, “I’d like to thank everybody who let me fuck them over the last couple of years.” When has Meryl Streep ever delivered an acceptance speech that poignant?

Several awards were not shown on television. So just to get you up to speed… “Best Specialty Release, Other Genre” – ASSES OF FACE DESTRUCTION 5, “Best Squirting Release” – SQUIRT GANGBANG 4, and “Clever Title of the Year” – WHO’S NAILIN’ PAYLIN’?,

One of the categories was “Best Anal Release”. Isn’t that maybe the worst name for an award ever??

But my favorite moment of the night came during the “Best Actor” award. One of the presenters said this (word for word): “There’s a thing called acting chops, which is different from fucking. True acting is when a man can blow his entire load all over a woman’s face and still remember his lines.”

Poetry. Sheer poetry.