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...

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