Thursday, June 30, 2005

Check out Ernest Borgnine. "A 90-Second Story"

Ernest Borgnine as Lt. Cdr. Quinton McHale

NOTE: this story was originally written for the
STORY SALON’S evening of 90-second stories June 29th 2005.

My wife Donna and I were grocery shopping at the old Hugh's market on Ventura & Coldwater Canyon in Studio City CA. We were heading to the checkout line. Donna, as always, has to go back to get one more thing. I reached the checkout line at the same time as McHale's Navy’s PT 73 commander, Ernest Borgnine.

Mr. Borgnine was gracious and asked me to go first. I responded with, "No Mr. Borgnine. By the time my wife comes back with the one more thing she went back for, you will be halfway to your car. So Ernest Borgnine is unloading his cart and starts pointing the prices on each item. "This is a good deal on ground round", "Hey 3 for a dollar", "Have you ever tried this?" Only in Hollywood.

With Mr. Borgnine's groceries bagged and ready to go, Donna shows up with the one more thing. Mr. Borgnine, my wife Donna. Donna, Ernest Borgnine. Mr. Borgnine says, "Nice to meet you," and leaves.

Donna asked, "What were we talking about with Ernest Borgnine?" I answered, "You".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Comedy Grievances "The PODCAST".

CHILD OF TELEVISION: Comedy Grievances was originally posted on Friday, March 18, 2005.

The PODCAST was recorded Friday June 24, at "Laugh Lines hosted by Dan Farren" as part of the ongoing shows at the STORY SALON. "Laugh Lines" is an evening where comedians tell stories about comedy.

To quote Theodore White, "A joke is like a frog. If you want, you can dissect it to see how the parts fit together and understand what makes it all work. But the frog tends to die in the process".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Blake vs. Potter (Click PODCAST)

Television has brought us many great debates and I'm not talking about the ones on C-SPAN. I am talking about private citizens gathered together to discuss important issues like:
Who was the better Darren on "Bewitched"? Dick York or Dick Sargent?

Who would you rather be with on "Gilligan's Island"? Ginger (Tina Louise) or Mary Ann (Dawn Wells)?

Who was the better Enterprise Captain? James T. Kirk (William Shatner on "Star Trek") or Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart on "Star Trek: The Next Generation").

These are the issues that men have dedicated countless hours (and beers) debating, and many times these debates ended in an impasse or last call. With many of these debates, I stand firm on my position, Dick York, Mary Ann and Capt. Kirk. Some of my positions are based solely on my opinion (Dick York and Capt. Kirk), while others (Mary Ann) are based on facts that I can present: Ginger represents the girls you have fun with, while Mary Ann represents the girls you marry. Inevitably I come up with a firm point of view except on one topic.

Who was the better commanding officer of the 4077 "M*A*S*H"? Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) or Col. Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan)?

At this point I get a bad case of writers block. I don't have a simple answer to the question. I get up from my desk and pace. I then go to the kitchen and do the dishes. Then I make coffee for the tomorrow morning. Then I take out the garbage. My wife likes it when I have writer’s block because it is the only time she can get me to do any household chores. And I have just spent a whole paragraph avoiding the question.

So why can I not give a simple answer to the question? Now I keep hearing William Shatner saying, "It's just a TV show!" Let me break it down.

There is one school of thought that says that M*A*S*H* "Jumped The Shark" when Col. Blake died. That the show shifted from it's original premise set by the movie with Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould that shows Army doctors who need to go crazy in order to keep from going insane. This same school of thought feels that after Henry Blake died the show was no longer as funny as it was before and became more self-righteous and preachy. Some of these people may have been turned off by what they felt was Alan Alda's liberal agenda.

Another school of thought is that the show improved with age and that they were able to evolve from Army doctors who get drunk and pull practical jokes to experimenting with new and creative forms of storytelling.

When we look at 11 seasons and over 250 episodes, the most talked about episodes are the ones that show what we now call out of the box thinking. There was the black and white episode where the characters are being interviewed by reporter Clete Roberts, the episode shot from the point of view of a patient, or the episode that takes place over the course of a year. These episodes all took place after the death of Henry Blake.

At this point in my writing I start to look for any distraction and discus the issue with a friend, who subscribes to the first school of thought, and found out that our views are not that different. My fried feels that the show "Jumped the Shark" when Frank Burns (Larry Linville) left the show while I feel that the show "Jumped the Shark" shortly thereafter when Hawkeye and Hot Lips (Loretta Swit) did it (another one of the more talked about episodes). That period in the show's history marked the end of any internal conflict amongst the ensemble, an element that was an important staple in the show.

I tend to favor the second school of thought but I appreciate and respect what the first school of thought has to offer as well. I also don't think that we can simply link the shows paradigm shift with the change of command at the 4077. Although the movie and the TV series were set during the Korean conflict, the movie and the early seasons of the series served as a metaphor for the Vietnam War. This included jokes directed at then VP Richard Nixon. By the time Mike Farrell and Harry Morgan replaced Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson, the Vietnam war was over, Nixon was out of the White house and M*A*S*H* shifted their focus from doctors rebelling against the army to the challenges of practicing medicine in a war zone. Sadly Henry's death while reminding us that there is a war going on also signaled that the party was over. Some of the irreverence, that subscribers of the first school of thought loved about the show, may not have died with Henry but died around the same time as Henry.

Still I have not answered the question. Who do I think was the better commanding officer of the 4077 M*A*S*H*? Lt. Col. Henry Blake or Col. Sherman Potter? It's a cop out to simply say that M*A*S*H* became a different show after the change of command thus being able to end the debate in a tie. So the best way to answer the question is to say, that even though Col. Potter was a more competent Military leader, I would have rather served under Col. Blake. I also want to add that I am grateful that I have never had to serve under either type of leader in a war zone. I have nothing but the utmost respect and gratitude to those who have. And I am sorry that there is nothing comparable to M*A*S*H* on the air today because we could certainly use it now.

To quote Lt. Col. Henry Blake, "Look, all I know is what they taught me at command school. There are certain rules about a war and rule number one is young men die. And rule number two is doctors can't change rule number one."

To quote Col. Sherman Potter, "There's a time to step in and a time to back off. Pull the reins too tight and the horse will buck. You had good people under you. You should of let them go through the paces. You know this is pretty good. Someone should be writing this down."
Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

PS: I prefer Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) over Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley) on "Cheers", Curly Howard was a funnier stooge than Shemp Howard and "Underdog" can kick Mighty Mouse's Ass in a fight because he’s a dog for God sake.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

You're not dreaming... You're in Puerto Rico. (Click PODCAST)

The Coqui

Even thought I make my home in Hollywood California my heart does belong to my birthplace, Puerto Rico. Every time I have a chance to visit the place where I was born and where my Father's family comes from it overwhelms me.

So what does this have to do with Television? Well recently you have been seeing ads from the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (You're not dreaming... You're in Puerto Rico.) They show the island's beauty, but with all due respect to the people who produce the ads, they don't do the island justice. The ads do not capture the people on the island. The ad's show them as very attractive people and, that’s true but there is a hospitality that I have never seen anywhere else.

I took a long weekend to Puerto Rico and so I could celebrate my sister's major milestone birthday with my family. The night before the big party, I was with my father who wanted to watch the Cotto fight on HBO. We did not have HBO where we were staying so we went to a neighborhood sports bar, and they did not have HBO either. While walking back home we saw some guys who had just set up a TV in the parking lot of their apartment complex. They had fed extension cords and a coaxial cable from the upstairs apartment window to the parking lot below. The fight was just starting and my dad asked if we could watch the fight with them. They not only invited us in to watch the fight, they poured us a drink, gave us some snacks, and gave us the best seats in the parking lot. That's the part of my Puerto Rico that I want you to know about. These are the nicest people that you could ever meet. You will receive that same treatment whether you are Boricua like me returning home or, visiting there for the first time.

To quote the ad "You're not dreaming... You're in Puerto Rico."

PS: The next day we had a blast celebrating my sister’s birthday.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A quick note to the “PTC”. RE: That Paris Hilton hamburger ad. (Click PODCAST)

Once again as I said before, "When I started writing this column, it wasn’t to be an anti "Parents Television Council" forum".
CHILD OF TELEVISION: My message to "The Parents Television Council".
CHILD OF TELEVISION: Another message to "The Parents Television Council". RE: Crossing Jordan
CHILD OF TELEVISION: And another message to "The Parents Television Council". RE: TIME Magazine "The Decency Police"
CHILD OF TELEVISION: And still another message to "The Parents Television Council". RE: The V-Chip and the TV Ratings System.

If you are not familiar with the Carl's Jr. commercial in question, click the link and come back.

After extensive study of this ad I have come to the conclusion that Paris Hilton is having a 3-way with a car and a burger. This leaves me with a very important decision make, whether to spend $6.00 on a burger or not.

I would like to make some other pragmatic observations.

  1. I'd still rather see Paris Hilton wash a car than Ronald Mc Donald, Jack (from Jack in the box), or Dan the "Del Taco" guy.
  2. The guy in the "Burger King" mask is more traumatizing to children, potentially appearing in their nightmares, than a woman washing a car while eating a $6.00 burger.
  3. The more your group goes on TV to chastise Carl's Jr. and Hardees the more free publicity you give them.

Your organization on the web site PTC Calls Paris Hilton Ad for Carl’s Jr./Hardees Ultimate Example of Corporate Irresponsibility describes this commercial saying, "This is the ultimate example of corporate irresponsibility". Really? Does the name ENRON mean anything to you people? But lets just keep the discussion to the fast food industry. I encourage you to close shop for a day and rent the Academy Award nominated documentary "Super Size Me" and seriously reevaluate your priorities. Then if you still think "This is the ultimate example of corporate irresponsibility", then I say move over Burger King, because the PTC is the new "Home of the Whopper".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa