Friday, June 29, 2007

TV Quarterly Report Part II - Curbed Enthusiasm for the New Season and A Trip Back to the 80s.

Now it’s time for Part II of our TV Quarterly Report…

The big TV news this week is that Isiah Washington claims he was fired from Grey's Anatomy due to racism against him. This comes after he used a gay slur, but in this post Imus PC era we live in.. such activity is a no no.. and coming on the heels of the downfall of the I-man... it was inevitable that Washington would go. You wonder if Al Sharpton will jump on the pro-Isiah bandwagon but the news stations are too busy covering the murdered pregnant woman, the dead wrestler and Paris Hilton to give Al the airtime. And by the way, this weekend, when WFAN celebrates its 20th anniversary.. there will be no I-man.. you can get an I-phone though. Anyone catch that Fox clip where the reporter covering the I-Phone had her microphone stolen during her live on air report?

Looking ahead to next season. none of the new shows have caught my attention except for the new one with Kelsey Grammer as a news anchorman and the remake of The Bionic Woman. I will hold off for now on my comments on the ABC News interview with Melanie McLiar... but did you ever see anything as bizarre as the last Price is Right with Bob Barker? Was that not the craziest piece of Americana? Bob downplayed his last episode.. saving only a few comments for the very end.. Meanwhile, the studio audience consisted of a bunch of un-showered over - exhausted over caffeinated goofballs who spent 5 days camping outside CBS so they could get a seat in the studio audience for Bob’s last show… As a viewer you could definitely feel the energy, excitement, and sense of anticipation of television history in the audience during the final episode.

One other thing.. The new HBO show “John from Cincinnati”… Helloooooooooooo who the heck cast Rebecca DeMornay as the grandmother of a teenager? Are you people crazy… she’s in her late 40s and looks like shes at least 10 years younger. The actor playing her grandson is 17 and the guy playing her son is only 10 years younger than she is.. And he looks even older than she does!

This past season I didn’t really jump in on too many new shows: I started watching The Nine.. but that died a quick death.. And other than Heroes and 1 vs. 100, no new shows really caught my attention. The only other network shows I watched this season other than the ones mentioned in Part I last month were Law and Order SVU and Desperate Housewives…. I also watched half the episodes during the final season of The Sopranos… and I love Entourage.. especially the toast that came at the end of the season finale… a Spanish phrase that has terrified me to take a vow of sobriety during wedding toasts out of fear I might repeat it to a Spanish speaking audience!

There is one other show on HBO I started watching this season - Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David. One thing I liked was how both CYE and Entourage have bizarre notions about how Jews spend Yom Kippur. Entourage was incredibly hysterical when the Reform guys involved in producing the movie Medellin smuggled their cell phones into their temple and conducted business, but the Orthodox guy refuses to be interrupted at his synagogue during the holiest day of the year. There were also some Yom Kippur shenanigans on CYE and of course the ultimate was from the Barry Levinson movie Liberty Heights… where the characters sneak out of synagogue during the High Holy Days and walk over to the nearby car dealership because that is the day that the next years models are going to be released. Of course the ultimate Yom Kippur scene was in “The Jazz Singer” when Neil Diamond unleashed a fantastic rendition of Kol Nidre.

I wasn’t so sure I would like CYE.. Prior to watching it I found an article online written in The Jersusalem Post by Arye Dworken called “Is Anything Worth a Laugh?” where he criticizes some of the CYE humor as being anti Jewish. Before I get to the article, I knew Dworken many many moons ago when he was a little pisher.. We went to the same synagogue where his dad was the Rabbi (and one of the best in my book; DAS from DAS blog bears an uncanny resemblance to him) and he was actually once my camper at the local day camp 25 years ago during the summer of ‘82.

My little pishers named themselves “The Pacmen”… no doubt after future NFL Troublemaker Pacman Jones, who wasn’t even born yet! There was another kid in my bunk who had a Rather Unusual First Name…. Flash forward to August 2004 - I was reading an article in the paper about the funeral for legendary WFAN Mets announcer Bob Murphy. There in the article was a quote from a Met fan attending the funeral… and it was the same kid –with the rather unusual first name! I almost fell out of my chair… I had totally forgotten about this kid, and the last I saw of him was the last day of camp.. What do you say to a little pisher on the last day of camp? Good luck in school and if you keep your knees straight, you’ll be the best kickball player in the 2nd grade!”

Well a couple of months after seeing his name in the paper… Trophy Wife and I were at my pal Steve’s house at a costume party and they are giving out little door prizes for the costumes. Would you believe the winner was… the same former camper?? It turns out he and Steve are buddies from college, and I’ve actually seen him a couple of times since then. I always make it a point to remind him to thank his mom for the generous tip and to keep his knees straight so his kickball skills will improve.

Meanwhile my other camper Mr. Dworken wrote an article that argues that the Jewish jokes on CYE hit too close to home. In his case he was most offended by the Orthodox wisecracks… In the real world each different group busts on the other in what I hope is a good natured way.. The Reform and Conservative scratch their heads at some of the Orthodox things. And some Orthodox make wisecracks about the non Orthodox. Even some of my Orthodox relatives have made comments that we attend a Conservative synagogue… even though I met my wife there!

There is one factual boo boo in this otherwise fine article. He starts off by referring to Larry David’s masterpiece Seinfeld.. And the infamous Yadda Yadda episode that had a dentist converting to Judaism so he could make Jewish jokes. In the article he refers to that episode as an “early classic episode”.. but yadda yadda which I think is the best Seinfeld episode ever, actually aired in the later seasons..

One of the CYE episodes mentioned by Dworken is one that I saw before I read his article, and to be honest I also thought it was a bit odd. Larry goes on a skiing trip with an Orthodox friend and his daughter.. Larry is just attempting to kiss up to the guy by acting like he is religious since the guy is in charge of a transplant program and his buddy needs a new kidney. Here is a clip…

At the ski lodge the daughter who is single covers her head.. Actually, only Orthodox married women cover their heads. Then there is another scene where she jumps off a stalled ski lift she is sharing with Larry because she cant be alone with him because its getting dark outside. She asks him to jump but his reply is a rendition of Are You Nuts that is a bit vulgar for this blog. But the jumping puzzles me; I am familiar with certain laws about single women being alone with a man.. But I don’t know that that only applies to night time.. I thought its daytime too. But then again, if you are stranded on a ski lift that’s an extenuating circumstance (as Larry argued) so Im sure its ok. Heck, last Passover, a family of chusids were stranded for several hours on the Roosevelt Island ferry after the holiday started and after they were rescued they were driven home... even though observant Jews don't drive on the first 2 and last 2 days of Passover.

Another episode he mentioned just aired again recently - the one where Larry attempts to carry on an affair with a Hasidic woman. I won’t debate here if a hasidic woman would commit adultery. But they really stretched it when they showed her smoking outside her front door on the Sabbath!!! There is no way you will ever ever ever see a Chasidic woman smoking publicly on The Sabbath! Maybe in the little private room where they hide the tv? Maybe there.. But never in public. That episode also featured a very corny debate between Colby from Survivor and a Holocaust survivor about who is really a survivor. Not one of the better episodes.. They should have stuck to the old Seinfeld shtick about spoiled people owning ponies.. (Where the very old lady says…”I had a pony!”)

I cant say that I disagree with Dworken.. although I’m not too insulted by David’s humor.. But it was an entertaining article. And frankly I have such a warped sense of humor that Curb Your Enthusiasm actually entertains me in the same way Seinfeld did.. a bunch of odd events leading to a finale that is usually quite amusing.. I can see where some people might be offended by some of the jokes.. And I can only imagine what some Orthodox wisenheimers would write in a script about Conservative/Reform/Reconstructionist Jews…I get more annoyed when TV and movies portray Jews and don’t get their facts straight! One glaring example is the mistake-a-lapooza movie “Keeping the Faith” which was filmed on The Upper West Side at Bnai Jeshurun aka BJ. Just the fact that a character exited the synagogue, made a right, walked down the block and arrived at a one way street drove me bonkers since everyone knows that when you walk out of BJ and make a right you end up on West End Avenue which is a freaking 2 way street!!.

On the last day of the summer of ‘82 when I told the kid with the unusual name to keep his knees straight for kickball.. I remember telling young Arye to keep reading books to help his growing vocabulary… His Larry David article ends when he criticizes a magazine for “suggesting that David represents the paradigmatic Jew”.

I don’t even know what the hell that means!

Now time for the Clip of the Week from Kean-a-scope Theater

This weekend WFAN marks its 20 year anniversary with a big reunion weekend featuring former hosts such as 80 something year old Bill Mazer! Russ Salzberg and Spencer Ross. The station makes a bazillion dollars in advertising revenue and picked a great time to premiere on AM Radio. Personality Radio was getting more popular on AM as music was defecting to FM… Howard Stern had recently been canned by WNBC.. WABC was looking for its niche as a right wing station with Bob Grant holding down the afternoons… and country station WHN was carrying the Mets whose fans brought in huge ratings starting with the 1984 Davey Johnson resurgence. (I called WHN one March snow day asking if they would be airing the Mets exhibition game. The DJ said it wasn’t gonna be on and asked me if I wanted to hear country music instead. My answer was verbatim what Larry David said to the girl in the ski lift!) The timing was perfect that July 1, 1987…. when Jim Lampley hosted that first talk show, and if you can find an aircheck of the first moments.. I was the third caller on the very first show! Lampley will host the 6pm - 7pm hour on Sunday Night.,..

As I have mentioned in the past I was an intern at WFAN in the Fall of 1988… a big time in their history as the station went from 1050 to the old WNBC spot at 66. At that point Imus was joining the station and WMCA import Chris Russo and midday host Mike Francesa were just discovering each other.. the launching pad for the stations long time anchors in morning and afternoon drive.. ... In November 1988, I taped an interview with last original host Steve Somers for a cable show produced through Montclair State College. You will also notice his reference to luggage as we continue the Melanie McGuire theme!! Since my usual hosting site (which has the Melanie McG song) has been down all week.. it is You Tube to the rescue!! Here is the clip...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"The Ballad of Melanie McGuire" Premiere: The New Hit Song of The Summer of '07

For those of you whose cable blacked out during the last minute of The Sopranos right after we learned that Meadow Soprano has the same parallel parking issues that I do… what you missed was Dr. Bob Hartley/Bob Newhart woke up in bed with a half read book about "Psychotherapy for Sociopaths", rolled over in bed, and said…”Wow honey.. Did I have the weirdest dream”… and there from under the covers wearing nothing but a leather teddy with S&M spikes emerged Dr. Melfi. Odd, don’t you think?

Well today is New music Tuesday and to coincide with that… we are releasing our recorded version of “The Ballad of Melanie McGuire” c2007. Check out the
Original April column for more background. You will see a link to a website that explains the song “Creeque Alley” by The Mamas and the Papas. The Ballad of Melanie McGuire c 2007 is the story of Melanie to the tune of that Mamas and Papas classic!

If you didn't click back to the April column... here is some background of the Melanie McGuire story excerpted from the archives.

She was convicted in April on charges that she barbarically murdered her husband by hacking him to bits and dumping him in a suitcase off the Chesapeake River. What really bugs me about this woman is her sheer narcissism that she thought she could just kill this poor guy and get away with it. She even had the audacity to cover her tracks by challenging EZ Pass charges that put her near the Chesapeake, and bizarre taxicab adventures explaining how she went to Atlantic City to move her husband's car as "a prank to annoy him". Does she really think she is so smart and the cops are so stupid? Constitutionally speaking she had the right to a strong defense, but does she really think her bigshot lawyer Joe Tacopina really believed she was innocent and didn't take on the case so he could get a ton of free publicity with Court TV face time?

I find it hard to believe that she acted alone, and after watching a ton of Law and Order reruns, it amazes me that her narcissism never allowed her accept the inevitable plea deal to give up an accomplice who must have helped her with the heavy chopping and the suitcase packing. Its incredibly arrogant that she wouldn’t take a plea and instead went with the Little Miss Innocent Defense - that the husband was mean to poor sweet Melanie.

For those of you who haven’t been following this sordid storyline.. Melanie McGuire has her own website soliciting money for what turned out to be her losing defense fund. According to the Melanie McGuire website, she started out life as Melanie Slate, growing up in Ridgewood, New Jersey. She graduated Middletown High School South in 1990, graduated Rutgers in 1994 and a Nursing School in 1997. Murder wasn’t the first of The Ten Commandments she opted to violate.. She started having an affair with her murdered husband while he was married to his first wife… and then started her little affair with her colleague Dr. Bradley Miller while she was 9 months pregnant.

In case you missed the trial… Melanie was accused of chopping up her husband,.. putting him in 3 suitcases and then hightailing it down the Turnpike where she dumped the suitcases off a bridge into the Chesapeake River. At the time, she was a nurse at a fertility clinic and having an affair with Fertility Doc Dr. Miller. Her trial was on Court TV and her lawyer was high profile defense att'y Joe Tacopina. She had originally reported the husband missing, shortly after they bought a new house in Warren County…. claiming he had a gambling problem and she told cops she thought he was at Trump's Taj Mahal casino. However she did admit she went down to AC.. found his car… (even though most people can't find a car in a mall parking lot; yet she found it in AC!) and moved it just to mess with his head. The cops also had a couple of ex boyfriends call her, and while secretly recording the conversations, tried to get the fellas to get Melanie to fess up. She also denied being on the highway when the suitcases were dumped… disputing EZ Pass records showing tolls paid by her. Is that the height of arrogance? Kill somebody and then order EZ Pass to remove the charges? I wonder if she haggled with the salesman when she bought those suitcases?

Thanks to the power of Google.. A lot of people meandered here for that April column.. Including the folks at the Melanie McGuire Bulletin Board at who got a kick of the song when we released the lyrics... How ironic that Google was the same website Melanie used to find ways to murder her husband! That just did not look good for her when her husband ended up dead. She also poisoned him with a forged prescription she picked up at Walgreens near my old condo, and stayed at a hotel right near the Walgreens! Employees for both those establishments testified during the trial.

And now before the grand premiere of "The Ballad of Melanie McGuire" c2007, its important to appreciate the sheer genius of the original Creeque Alley so in true Don Kirshner style - here it is!

And now without further ado… The Premiere of “The Ballad of Melanie McGuire”! sung by myself and Neil Fein… Neil’s the guy with the good voice…

Here is some background info: First of all Neil Fein is a musical genius… It was Neil’s brilliance that brought this song to life. He put a lot of work into creating its sound.. from learning the song all the way to figuring out a pitch that I could handle. If you read the background info about the song, you will note that Mama Cass had some problems hitting certain notes and it might seem that the others might have been jealous of her superior talent by creating a song that is actually very difficult to sing. We also invited one of my German relatives whose voice sounds uncannily like Dr. Ruth Westheimer to sing some background vocals…

For now we are just embedding it.. a video will be released soon along with an mp3. In order to get the timing just right I listened to my Mamas and Papas record (!) over and over again on my $250 Sharp SG-164 New Decorator Series stereo system. The song was written in the early days of the trial - but the lyrics weren't released until the jury came back with the verdict.. I had thought about changing the line that rhymes with "Mama Cass" to "She fought with EZ Pass", but decided it would take away from the songs edginess, and basically it would have sounded like a Puff The Magic Dragon-esque folk song. If Neil and I do the summer concert scene and do day camp shows at the Garden State Arts Center, obviously we will clean it up a bit! And I really don't intend to hurt anyone's feelings with this song... as I mentioned back on April 24th the damage was done when Melanie killed this poor guy... this song is the story of her incredibly cruelty.

And yes, Neil wore his fur hat during the recording… maybe not such a great idea since this is the week animal rights activist Bob Barker is stepping down after 35 years on The Price is Right!

Now time for The Clip of the Week: Since we started today with a Bob - (Newhart), we will conclude with a Bob - Bob Barker! This Friday is Bob Barker’s final day on The Price is Right. Since today we wrote about a column from April…. here is a clip with a woman named April who bears a bit of a resemblance to...Melanie McGuire… And take a wild guess what she tries to win!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Baseball Quarterly Report

Ooops... it seems like we are past the ¼ mark of the season and we’re late with the baseball quarterly report… .Sorry folks.. moving has a tendency to delay blogging, and these columns don't write themseslves! We will soon have Part II of the TV Quarterly Report… plus we’re behind on the Movie Club reviews… a new one is coming soon, and next week on this very blog we will have the world premiere of “The Ballad of Melanie McGuire” c 2007.

Before we get to today's topic.. I see that there is word that Isiah Washington has been canned from "Grey's Anatomy" because of gay slurs he tossed at a castmate. Washington can thank Al Sharpton for ABC's decision, after Sharpton demanded that Imus be fired for his nappy headed ho comment during the Imus fundraiser for kids with cancer. Imagine that.. taking money from Cancer Kids.. yet another example of the evilness of Al Sharpton. How could ABC keep Washington after Imus lost his job? Actually, most normal thinking people wouldn't have an issue if both men had kept their jobs. Also, keep in mind that many gay actors stay in the closet because it adversely affects their ability to get future acting roles, so Washington's "outing" could end up costing his now former co star millions of dollars.

Its been a great week in sports.. Jets coach Eric Mangini was on "The Sopranos" when Tony Soprano ran into him at a local eatery. (Can you imagine if Tony S. was a Met fan and the bullpen was at that restaurant?) Anaheim won the Stanley Cup… although ratings show that nobody was watching it… Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea for the NHL to move their playoff games from ESPN to the hard to find Versus network. Nothing is more exciting than a playoff OT hockey game! Also, the NBA Finals are underway and in Tennis… The French Open Final features Justine Henin Hardin who has paid tribute to the late 3 named Charles Nelson Reilly, by reverting to the more traditional two names of Justine Henin.. Although rumor has it she did so because she and her husband recently split.

As for baseball,. First we’ll take a look at the local teams.. And then we’ll take a look at the national baseball picture…

I must admit I am an odd baseball fan… I have a fantasy team so I root for odd situations to occur.. Yet my team sucks so I don’t pay too much attention to it… I’m a big Met fan.. And I don’t really like the Yankees.. But I don’t hate them as much as I did after the 2000 World Series. Of all the Yankees, the one I dislike the least is probably Alex Rodriguez.. As I have said before he is one Albert Pujols Sr, broken condom away from being the best player in baseball.

I don’t particularly like Barry Bonds. He used steroids before they were banned,… but that gray area is very hard to accept as he approaches the immortal Hank Aaron record of 755 homeruns. Watching A Rod and Bonds has led me to root for an odd combination of events. Imagine if Bonds somehow loses his ability to hit.. Kind of like the washed up player who made the comeback in the movie Mr. 3000, or George Foster when he came to the Mets…… I won’t root for the guy to get injured… but what happens if his 755th homerun comes the same day that A Rod breaks Bonds’ single season record? Wouldn’t it be the perfect punishment to his years of chemical enhancements that he breaks the Aaron record the same day his own record is broken? And which record would get more media attention? A Rod is on the Yankees.. And if Bonds record comes on one of those late night West Coast games in September.. Will anybody actually be awake in the eastern time zone to witness it? And who gets the headlines the next morning if the Bonds home run happens after the newspaper publishing deadlines?

As for the Mets… the hitters are getting bitten by the injury bug.. just as Carlos Delgado starts to wake up from his lengthy slumber.. But thankfully the pitching is really coming together. Even though they lost the 2006 pennant to St. Louis, Games 6 and 7 gave us a hint of the future since the outstanding performances of starters John Maine and Oliver Perez have continued into the 2007 season. The Mets made a couple of steals in the trades to acquire those pitchers.. Perez came over for Xavier Nady after Duaner Sanchez was injured in a taxicab crash in FL. Meanwhile, it was actually the decision to trade Ty Wigginton to Pittsburgh that got the ball rolling for Maine.. The Mets got Kris Benson and his nutty wife who they then sent to Baltimore before the 2006 season for the awful Jorge Julio who has since gone to Arizona to FL and to Colorado in a year and 2 months! Maine was a throw in in the Benson deal with Baltimore, and to top it all off,. Julio started his cross country legacy by being traded to Arizona for…. Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez… And there you have 3 of the Mets five starters!

Has any other first place team ever acquired 3/5 of their rotation with such one sided heists??

Looking back at my preseason predictions, I can see that I was as wrong as usual… Of the 6 contending NL teams I picked for the ‘07 season,… 4 look pretty solid.. I had picked the Phillies to win the division, but now it looks like they might take the wild card while the Mets win the division… a flip flop of my original pick. Then again.. The Phillies really had the Mets number this past week…. The Phillies have been shaky but much improved since their awful start and the Astros have been pretty bad in a very mediocre NL Central Division… The Brewers have been doing quite well with young Prince Fielder anchoring the infield.. Luckily all the other teams in the division have just been so awful that they may have a nice little run. However, I don’t think the Brewers are going to stay on top for much longer and if any other team in the mediocre division can rise to the top.. It really should be Houston since they have the most talent..,… even though the Astros fan may want to brace themselves for Carlos Lee’s annual 2nd half swoon.

Over in the West, my predictions of a 2 team race between LA and Arizona has been somewhat accurate even though San Diego is hanging in there, despite their old rotation. However Jake Peavy has been fantastic and the ageless Greg Maddux rolls on. . They have a great young superstar in Adrian Gonzales, and Trevor Hoffman is solid in the pen as usual.. taking the spotlight from Mariano Rivera after he became the first pitcher in baseball history to nail his 500th save.. But I don’t know long they can play with the big boys in the division. LA just got Jason Schmidt back; he twirled a 6 inning 1 hit masterpiece and that is a solid boost to the rotation.

Looking back at my original playoff predictions.. I probably have 2 of the 4 playoff teams right. NY and LA… although the Phillies and Astros both have a shot. And I seem to be on the money with the St. Louis Cardinals being the disappointment of the season. Not only did they lose most of last years rotation, but their ace Chris Carpenter has been injured and having a pitcher die in a drunk driving accident just a month after their manager was arrested in a very embarrassing DWI has made life very difficult for the defending World Champs.

Over in the AL.. the Red Sox fans are watching me eat my words.. as The Yankees are starting to think about catching Detroit for the Wild Card.. you gotta wonder how far this team will go with that pitching staff. Mike Mussina is a shadow of his former self.. Roger Clemens can’t possibly anchor a staff at his advanced age… and the revolving door of AAA pitchers who have been injured or knocked out early have just worn out an already weak bullpen.. And whatever happened to Mariano Rivera? The other surprise is how the Blue Jays have been such a disappointment… Closer BJ Ryan is out for the year and Gustavo Chacin is injured yet again…. He’s out indefinitely after 5 starts.. He only made 17 last year. The D’Rays and Orioles have been their usual losing selves… although not as bad as seasons past. The March Baseball Preview pegged the O’s bandwagon jumpers as the biggest AL disappointment of ’07.

The Central is as expected the best division in baseball. I picked the Chisox to win it with Cleveland as the Wild Card. As the Twins proved last year, you can’t count any of these teams out the way they tend to run off long winning streaks and I am far from ready to concede Chicago’s chances of making the playoffs. Cleveland has been kicking butt at home.. CC Sabathia has been amazing, and even though Cliff Lee has fallen off a bit as he recovers from injury. Fausto Carmona and Paul Byrd have picked up the slack. The Twins are getting by with young Boof Bonser joining perennial Cy Young winner Johan Santana in the rotation, and the team will only get better once catcher Joe Mauer gets back from the DL where he has been for the last month suffering from bleeding quadriceps. Ooooo.. Sounds icky.

The Angels are the team to beat in the West, as we predicted… The fans in Anaheim are hoping the Angels can be champs now that The Mighty Ducks have won the Stanley Cup! And notice how the Mariners are much improved so far this season?.. They were my pick for AL Surprise Team of 2007.

My 4 AL playoff teams were NY, Chicago, Cleveland and The Angels... It looks like 2 of those are pretty solid and I wouldn't be surprised if either the Chisox or Yankees made it as Wild Cards.. so I may have 3 out of 4 right. My pre-season pick of an Indians - Mets World Series? It still looks quite realistic.. But the Mets better root for the National League to win the All Star Game so Cleveland doesn’t get home field advantage… they have been virtually unbeatable at Jacobs Field… I’d rather see Game 1 of Pedro against CC Sabathia at Shea!

Next week: The World Premiere of "The Ballad of Melanie McGuire"... Wait till you hear how it came out!

Now time for the Clip of the Week,… next Friday is the grand finale of Bob Barker’s 50 year reign on daily TV… Here is a clip from The Price is Right in the early days.. It's incredible how expensive electronics were back then in the pre Best Buy days! In this clip from Dec. 1983, this woman hadn’t grasped the concept of a vcr! And listen out for Bob's sly little 60 Minutes wisecrack.