Saturday, September 18, 2010

American Idol New Judges, A Freddie Mercury Bio-Pic and What's Jon Stewart Doing?

American Idol Scheduled To Idle Up The Judges Bench

Mark your calendars -- Wednesday, September 22 – is the date when Fox Broadcasting and the producers of “American Idol” will finally and officially announce who will be filling the judge’s chairs on the upcoming season of the most popular show in America today. The safe bet is that the new judges will be Arrowsmith’s lead singer Steven Tyler and actress/singer Jennifer Lopez, but they just might throw a curve ball and announce someone who know one knew of or someone not even on the list of prospective judges -- it could happen -- but mostly likely won’t.

Once the names of the new judges are announced – the next big question is how they might affect the show and will the audience feel comfortable with their choices. Who knows how to addition of Tyler and Lopez will be to the show and what they can add to mix. Personally, I’m comfortable with someone like Jennifer Lopez as a judge -- she’s actually someone who has had a hit record or two in this decade and can really give some input to the contestants on the show, but Tyler is another story.

In my opinion, Steven Tyler is too much of a rock n’ roll icon to muck it up as a judge on a televised singing competition every week. I can just imagine some contestant from some small farm town in Iowa belting out another lame version of Neil Diamond classic and Tyler -- who sings songs like “Love In A Elevator” and “Jenny’s Got A Gun” having to give this contestant some constructive criticism – it just doesn’t feel right to me. I’m sure he’s capable of giving this person some criticism, but just appearing on this show as a judge has got to do some serious damage to his rock n’ roll credibility in the future. Is it really worth destroying your rock n’ roll icon status just to get a weekly check from a television program?

Bohemian Borat

Robert DeNiro’s Tribecta company is part of the production team that will be putting the life of Queen’s rock n’ roll frontman, Freddie Mercury, on the silver screen soon and you will never believe you they have hired to protray him. Sacha Baron Cohen. If his nsame doesn’t ring a bell – maybe the names of two of the characters that he has protrayed on film will – Borat and Bruno.

The production company has secured the rights to the music of Queen and members of the band will be participating in the production – what is not known right now is whether or not they will be using the actual recording of Freddie Mercury in the soundtrack.

Mercury, along with Queen, were responsible for a string of hits – such as “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions”, “Radio Goo-Goo”, and “Best Friend”.

Mercury died in 1985 of complications from AIDS.

On a personal note – I got to see Queen perform at the Civic Center in Saginaw, Michigan in the late 70s. Believe it or not – they were the opening act for Bob Seger and it was one of those concerts where the opening act made you forget who the headliner of the show was and one of the reasons for that was the showmanship of Freddie Mercury – who with some fancy trickery from the people working the sound board – allowed Mercury to harmonize with himself on “Bohemian Rhaposdy”. I have seldom been blown away by a live performance like I was that night at the Saginaw Civc Center.

What A Difference A Year Makes

The new television season has begun and the ratings are slowly begining to trickle in. This Tuesday was the season premiere of my favorite show “Parenthood” and with it’s premiere comes some good and bad news. The good news is that they won the 10pm time period – the bad news is that their ratings were down from last season and even 17% down from Jay Leno’s first Tuesday night in the 10pm time slot last year.

And...then there’s the story of Donald Trump and the new season of “The Apprentice” – filled with real people who have no job fighting to be hired to be Donald Trump’s apprentice. Airing against repeats on the other networks – the two hour premiere episode was the lowest rated episode of “The Apprentice” ever – with the ratings 53% down from the last celebrity edision of the show and 63% down from the last time that “The Donald” did a non-celebrity verison of the program. To add insult to injury – Thursday night’s premiere of “The Apprentice” was down 44% from the Thursday debut of the Jay Leno Show at 10 last season.

And here’s more ratings news. This week Jay Leno’s ratings were the highest that they have been since he has returned to the 11:35pm time slot. I don’t know the ratings breakdown in age – but I do know that he is attracting an older audience that what Conan was getting.

And a couple of more things before I leave....

If you are one of those people who wondered when the NFL would hire an act for the Super Bowl half-time show that has had a hit in the last decade – you can quit wondering. After a string of evergreen rock n’ roll acts – the NFL has hired Black Eyes Peas as the half-time entertainment for the 2011 Super Bowl.

Fans of Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” – mark this date in your calendar – September 22, 2010. On that date – Jon Stewart will enter the “no spin zone” of Bill O’Reilly to promote “Earth (The Book)” written by Stewart and the writing staff of “The Daily Show”. O’Reilly will return Stewart’s visit to his Fox show by appearing on “The Daily Show” on September 27th. I don’t know if Stewart will be able to convince Papa Bear Bill O’Reilly to make an appearance at the Daily Show’s upcoming “Rally To Restore Sanity” in Washington, D.C. on October 30th..

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cider and Doughnuts -- It's Autumn In Michigan

(Photo courtesy of
It’s getting to be that time in Michigan.  The leaves on the trees are changing colors and it’s cool enough to turn off the central air and open the windows and let Mother Nature keep you cool with her cool summer breeze.  After a summer what seemed like non-stop ninety to ninety-five degree heat and humidity – these cool temperatures are a welcome relief and something of a reward from having to endure all that we had to this the summer. 

The cool temperatures aren’t the only reward that us Michigan folks get to enjoy right around this time every year and just thinking about it is enough to put a smile on your face.  What am I talking about?  It’s apple harvest time and there’s nothing like popping the wife and kids into the family sedan and going to an apple orchard for a gallon of freshly squeezed apply cider and a dozen or so of those apple cinnamon doughnuts with the sprinkled sugar that are greasy as all get out – but worth every delicious bite of them that you take.

The big box stores – Meijer, Wal-Mart and Kroger – try to capitalize on this time of year by offering apple cider and apple doughnuts from their bakery – but it’s just not the same.  For one thing – the apple cider that they usually offer has been pasteurized and distilled enough that by the time that they put it in the plastic gallon – you’d better off just going down their frozen food aisle and grabbing a can of frozen concentrated apple juice.  If you want really true apple cider – you have got to go to an apple orchard – there are no cutting corners here. And the apple cider doughnuts at the big box stores are same league as the jelly filled pastries that they masquerade as paczkis right before Fat Tuesday --- they’re about as close as Kool-Aid is to Coca-Cola…it might be tasty, but it’s not the real thing.

I’m a little choosy when it comes to apple orchards, too.  There are about six or so apple orchards in the area where I now live in Michigan and they are as varied as a Wal-Mart store is to some Mom and Pop grocery store or as Cedar Point is to a traveling amusement company.  When it comes to orchards – I prefer the orchard that is close to a Mom and Pop/fruit stand – farmer’s market kind of operation.  All you need is an area where there’s delicious apple cider that they squeeze and keep cold in a big cooler and they have got to have those apple cider doughnuts – fried before your eyes and served hot with a tall Styrofoam cup filled with cider.  If all the orchard has is just apples, apple cider and doughnuts – I’m there – looking for seconds and thirds.

There’s one apple orchard in this area that tries too damn hard.  They have classed the joint up to become a tourist destination for people visiting the area and when you class something up – you can expect to pay big ticket prices, too.  I go to an apple orchard for apple cider and donuts – I don’t go there for little knick-knacks and the kind of candy and trinkets that you can find a Cracker Barrel.  Give me cider, damn it! 

When my Mother was alive – I took her to this “fancy” apple orchard thinking that she might enjoy it, boy was I wrong.  When she came face-to-face with a caramel apple that was priced at nearly two bucks (and this was something like ten years ago), my Mom said, “I wouldn’t pay two dollars and I won’t let you pay two dollars for a god-damn caramel apple,” I knew then and there that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree between my Mother and me when it comes to how we choose our apple orchards. 

Most of my life I have lived in an urban area and I never thought that I would ever find myself living, as well as enjoying, life in a rural setting and it was about six or seven years ago that I knew that I have finally adjusted to living in a rural area – and it took an apple orchard in the area to make me realize that I had made the change.  An out of town friend of mine was visiting his sister in the area and I had him follow me to one of the apple orchards in the area.  After enjoying some cider and doughnuts, he needed directions on how to get back to Detroit and I surprised myself that I actually knew how he could hook up to M-25 and the freeway back home – because I had only been to this orchard once or twice myself – and I’m usually not that great with directions.  But, when I could tell him how to get back to Detroit from this orchard – I realized that I was finally comfortable with my new rural lifestyle. 

Well, I should be going and don’t be surprised if you see me enjoying a nice tall glass of apple cider over the next few weekends….because it’s that time of year in Michigan....let’s enjoy it while we can.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

It's Only TV: The Return of "Parenthood" on NBC and CNN Decides To Dumb Down After King's Departure

(The cast of "Parenthood")

DVR Alert!!!

This Saturday, if a bunch of yahoos aren’t burning copies of the Koran and pissing off Muslims around the world in the dumbest excuse to fight terrorism, I invite you to gather ‘round your television set for two hours of just plain good television.  NBC, in an effort to get more eyes to tune in to the season premiere on Tuesday, will be rerunning (or as they say, providing an “encore” showing) of two episodes from last season’s marginal Tuesday night hit “Parenthood”. 

There are very few television shows that I would get on a soapbox to praise and “Parenthood” is that rare show.  It’s amazing that I even like this show as much as I do, because it comes from Ron Howard’s Imagine company which can really pump out some bland movies and television shows – but “Parenthood” clicked with me the moment that I started to watch it.

Is “Parenthood” great TV?  Far from it – but it’s enjoyable television – and it’s one of those shows that you hate to see come to an end every week. 

“Parenthood” is basically a story of the Braverman family – who are far from being the perfect family – but they have enough going for them that you want to be a part of their family and share all of the heartaches, triumphs and accomplishments.  And as you watch the show, you just wish that your family was as cool as the Bravermans.

The only bad thing about “Parenthood” is that it is directly opposite of “The Good Wife” on CBS at 10pm on Tuesday nights.  If you don’t own a DVR – these two shows are enough to entice you to get off your ass and get one hooked up in your home.  Good TV on network television doesn’t come along often – so you have to be prepared to capture it when ever you can – because if you don’t – all you’re going to get is more shitty reality programming.

It’s official Piers Morgan is coming to CNN

(CNN Founder Ted Turner)
Ted Turner has got to be a little frustrated with some of the recent news coming out of the all news network that he created and sold to Time/Life.  The management at CNN can’t do anything right and are being slapped about mightily in ratings by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News.

When Campbell Brown announced that she was leaving CNN – who did CNN hire to replace her 8pm news program?  CNN is pairing former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, who resigned from elected office after news came out about how much he enjoyed “the whores”, and conservative columnist Kathleen Parker in an hour chat-fest similar to the old “Crossfire” debates CNN once aired.  Maybe Spitzer can work up a Dan Ackroyd impression from the old SNL sketches with Jane Curtan and respond to something Ms Parker said by saying, “Kathleen, you ignorant slut.”  If he did that – the show might be interesting to watch – but trust me – when this show debuts on CNN later this summer you’re going to be searching for a channel on your TV that’s airing a freshly painted wall drying.

And CNN has officially announced the worse kept secret in broadcasting – they have hired British TV personality/journalist Piers Morgan to replace Larry King come January.  Most people in this country are familiar with Morgan from his appearances on “Celebrity Apprentice” and as one of the judges on “America’s Got Talent” and he doesn’t exactly have one of the warmest personalities on television.  He can be arrogant , pushy and somewhat rude and I am of the opinion that Morgan will do or say something on the CNN show that will tarnish CNN’s image as a legitimate news outlet.

This one has me scratchin’ my head

I have a lot of respect for TNT and their programming choices.  I love “The Closer” and “Saving Grace” was one of my all-time favorite shows. Ray Romano’s TNT show “Men Of A Certain Age” (due to return to TNT in November) is television at its finest – so why in the hell would they order up a pilot for a remake of the old TV show “Dallas” – a show that hasn’t been on the air in nearly twenty years.  The CW network has learned the hard way that you can’t capture lightening in a bottle twice with their remake of “90210”…what makes TNT think that a remake of “Dallas” is going to set the world on fire? 

Well…that’s going to do it for now…until we meet again.....hand me the remote and remember – It’s Only TV.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I Remember: One Of The Loneliest Nights In My Life -- My Junior High School Prom

I remember….one of the loneliest night of my life…my ninth grade prom at Lowell Jr. High on the east side of Flint, Michigan.

I had a crush on a girl in junior high and I would have done anything to get this girl’s attention – but I don’t think she even knew I existed.  It might have helped if I hadn’t been so damn shy, but when your parents split up and your Mother remarries only to get another divorce and you live in five different houses – all in the span of some six years – shyness becomes the only defense you have to avoid getting hurt. 

I really never got involved in anything at school – because the way things were going – who knew how long I would be attending that school…that’s why I really didn’t have any friends until my high school years.  Sometime I felt like I was just “passing through” during those elementary and junior high school years and there was no need to me to get involved in anything that would make me feel like I was putting down some kind of roots….that was until the junior high school prom.

Her name was Barbara and not only was she cute, but she was also smart and one of the more popular girls in school.  At lunch time, Barbara was not at a loss for friends at her table in the cafeteria – where as I was usually the kid sitting alone with his carton of white milk that actually enjoyed the meatloaf that the cafeteria ladies slapped on your tray once a week.    I would admire Barbara from a distance day dreaming that she might actually like me and that guys would be envious of me because of Barbara “liking me”….but as I said….she didn’t even know that I existed.

I thought that I might finally have my “in” in trying to get to know Barbara when it was announced that a committee was being formed to organize the 9th grade prom.  I knew that Barbara was going to be involved in the prom, so I thought that I would throw my hat into the ring and do something to make the prom a big success, so I signed up and attended a meeting of the prom committee one night after school.  Why I should get involved in something like this was beyond me – here I was – a guy who never went to any of the junior high school dances during all my junior high years now getting involved in the prom – what was I thinking?  Hell…I can’t even dance!

While everybody on the prom committee decided on a theme and what they could do for decorations – I told them that I would work on publicity for the event – but not the normal type of publicity (crappy water colored painted posters posted throughout the school); I was going to take publicity for the junior high school prom to a new level….commercials (little did I know that writing commercials for radio stations would become my career when I got older).  I told them I would write the commercials….we could record them on one of the school’s 3M Wollensak reel-to-reel recorders and the principle could play a commercial every day during the morning p.a. announcements.  Everyone thought it was a great idea and they told me to go ahead and do it….and that’s just what I did.

I don’t remember exactly how many commercials I wrote and recorded – but I can remember producing the commercials one night after school in the same English classroom where I would read my copy of the Detroit Free Press while everyone else was reading “The Odyssey of Homer”.  The scripts for the prom commercials required some acting and the odds are pretty damn good that they were terrible – but it was junior high school – and the only reason that I was doing this anyway was to try and put the spotlight on myself and get Barbara to notice me.  Did it work?  Nope.

I was as invisible to Barbara on the night of the prom as I was before the prom.  I can remember my Mom buying me a brand new yellow banlon turtle neck shirt at K-Mart to wear to the prom and this chain with flat diamond shaped pieces of brown wood that my Mom actually thought was “love beads”.  In my Mom’s eyes – I was going to drive the girls’ wild at this prom – little did she know.

When I got to the prom – a couple of people made some comments about the “love beads” – which gave me a good reason to take them off and put them in my pocket – and that’s about the only thing anybody ever said to me that night.  While most of the people were dancing on the dance floor or playing bumper pool in the room off of the gym, I was either walking around the gym or sitting in the bleachers watching everything going on around me.  Barbara was there, as popular as ever, and when they weren’t praising her for how great the prom was she was dancing with a guy, who I later found out was her boyfriend.

I left the prom early that night.  The girl who I liked didn’t even know I existed despite all that I did to get her attention…plus…I can’t dance and was too shy to ask anyone to dance with me if I did, so I left.  I couldn’t go right home, because then I would have to answer all of the questions that my Mom would have about the prom and I couldn’t tell her the truth.  So, I walked around the softball fields that the junior high school shared with the elementary school – occasionally sitting on one of the benches near the softball diamonds and just stared at the stars in the sky 

There it was – my junior high school prom – (one of) the loneliest nights in my life. 

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Labor Day Means A Lot of Things: Jerry Lewis, TV Guide and The New Fall TV Season

When I was growing up on the East side of Flint, Michigan – Labor Day weekend meant three things and none of them were associated with the real reason for Labor Day.  Labor Day weekend signaled the end of summer and that meant having to go back to school and all of the “fun” associated with that. 

Labor Day weekend also meant having to endure another Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon – but back then there were actually real stars performing on the telethon.  It’s hard to get all excited about the Jerry Lewis telethon today when the talent is on par with a junior high school talent show – plus – anyone and everyone who watches the show today wonders how many more of these things Jerry can do before he takes the big dirt nap.  Hell, he’s barely on the show very much as it is – a few hour in the beginning…an hour or so in the middle….and an hour or so at the end.  (He’s got to be there at the end so we can see if he really blubbers it up during his rendition of “You Never Walk Alone”)  And let’s be honest with ourselves – is it really any fun watching the telethon these days without hearing Ed McMahon announcing some new numbers on the tote board?

And when I was growing up, the Labor Day weekend also signaled the beginning of a new television season and the most anticipated magazine of the year (before Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and puberty arrived in my life) was TV Guide’s New Television Season Preview Guide.  The preview guide issues of TV Guide were the biggest issues of the year with synopsis of all of the new shows and pictures of all of the stars appearing in them and if you loved TV Guide – this was the issue that you were waiting for all year long.

The Summer Preview Issue also gave you your first look at what the local television stations in your area had planned for their viewers – such as what new syndicated shows they purchased and how they scheduled them.  I mean, when you’re a kid – nothing pisses you off more than to discover that your favorite show was no longer on the schedule of your local TV station --- “How dare they cancel ‘Star Trek’ reruns so that they can show Dinah Shore’s talk show in the afternoon!  Those bastards!!!”

If you only read TV Guide once a year – the old Summer Season Preview Issue was the issue to read and to imagine all of the information was compiled all together in one magazine that you could buy at your corner grocery store for fifteen cents!  What a bargain!  The Guide itself, in its digest-size was a thing of beauty – with its glossy pages filled with stories about TV and TV personalities and then there was the listings section with the black or white TV channel numbers, TV show title, type of program and program length….now that was TV Guide.  When they switched to using a grid to show the evening’s television schedule is when TV Guide lost me and then they switched the format to make TV Guide look more like a magazine and they have jacked the price up to $3.99 an issue…what are they thinking!? 

And much like TV Guide is a thing of the past – there was more news coming out concerning television, or should I say, the video industry that’s kind of sad.  It won’t be too much longer before Blockbuster video stores become a thing of the past with the announcement that they are going to be closing about eight hundred more stores as they reorganize their one billion dollar debt. 

In all of the years that Blockbuster video has been open – I probably rented one movie from them and I think that I bought one of their used previewed movies.  It’s not that I didn’t like Blockbuster, but I was a bit loyal to my friend, the late Jack Hood, who owned Rainbow Video in Flint.   I think it would be safe to say that Jack Hood owned one of the first video stores in the Flint area and one of the reasons that it was one of the best places to go to rent a movie was because Jack and co-owner Gene Krusewski loved the movies.  When you went to Blockbuster or any one of the other chain video stores – the people behind the counter were interchangeable from the local McDonalds with kids working there just to make a buck and they could care less about the movies.  Jack and Gene appreciated their customers and loved talking about the movies and were able to turn that love into a business.  But the type of store that they operated has become a thing of the past – much in the same way Blockbuster will be in the months ahead – victim to cable TV pay-per-view, the dollar video kiosks, Netflix and video downloads from your home computer. 

Dumb TV Alert: 

I can watch some pretty dumb shit on TV and feel no remorse about it – but there is one level of dumb TV that I will not lower myself to and that’s having to watch “Dancing With The Stars”.  The producers of this show could resurrect Jesus Christ and have him compete on “Dancing With The Stars” and I will not watch it.  For one thing – it’s ballroom dancing…and the other thing…who in the hell are they fooling – some of the stars on this show would have a hard time convincing people in their own homes of their star status. and what does it say about your star status if they do choose you to be on this show.   

The producers of DWTS announced who the stars that will be competing in this season’s show and what a list: 
  • Singer Michael Bolton (I don’t think he could sell one of his CDs today on QVC – which should give you some indication of how his career has been going)
  • Former LA Laker forward Rick Fox
  • Comedian Margaret Cho (who is in the cast of Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva”)
  • Florence Henderson of “The Brady Bunch” fame and has been hosting a senior citizens talk show on one of the cable networks.
  • Jennifer Grey (who played “Baby” in “Dirty Dancing” and who’s career has been pretty much off the radar ever since she had a nose job)
  • “The Situation” from MTV’s “Jersey Shore

But the “star” that really caught all of the attention was none other that Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol (named after the city where ESPN is located in Connecticut).  What is this kid’s claim to fame?  She’s Sarah Palin’s kid…you remember…the one who got knocked up and was going to marry the father, but decided against it…and then they got back together again…announced that they were going to get married….and decided against it again.  And you have Bristol trying to be the poster child to tell all young girls about not having sex before marriage and how rough it is to be an unwed mother…blah blah blah.  Yup, this was the kid whose mother chastised Barack Obama for being a part of the “celebrity culture”…yet it sure does look like she and her Mama are profiting pretty well from it.  I hear a season of being a star on DWTS is worth something like $250,000 and Mama Palin doesn’t open her mouth unless she’s paid for it.

I have rambled enough…I think I’ll just wrap this thing up.  Enjoy the Labor Day weekend and until we meet again…remember…it’s only TV.