Friday, August 26, 2005


STORY SALON presents
an evening of stories presented by
Donna Allen-Figueroa
& Tony Figueroa
Friday, August 26th, 8:15pm
at the Coffee Fix
12508 Moorpark St
(Across from Studio City Library)
Studio City

My Odeo Channel (odeo/be4f2d9049030aa6)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The people at the Cable Company shouldn’t use the words people say on Cable. (Click PODCAST)

As a Child of Television I have a big pet peeve with my cable company. Make that many pet peeves. For starters, they change about every two years. As soon as one company promises me something, that company gets bought out by different company who doesn’t want to honor the prior company’s agreement. Once while upgrading my cable box the cable guy (who showed up sometime between 9 AM and 5 PM), broke an antique rocking chair then ran out of the house faster than the high-speed modem that their Tele-marketers keep trying to sell me every other day at dinnertime. I’ll see an ad for a new cable channel like the "Door Knob" channel. In the ad they will say, "If you don’t currently get the "Door Knob" channel, call your cable operator and say I want the "Door Knob" channel". I called my cable operator and said, "I want the "Door Knob" channel". I could tell that cable company sales rep had reached her saturation point and is about to go postal. But at least they never called me "Bitch Dog".

Last week I saw Keith Olbermann (Countdown with Keith Olbermann) interview an Illinois woman, LaChania Govan, who tried to report a problem with her Broadband service, she had called several times only to be put on hold, disconnected, and transferred to the Spanish language operator. After she had complained over and over again about the poor service, she discovered that someone at her cable company, Comcast, had replaced her name on her August bill with the phrase "Bitch Dog". Ironically Ms. Govan works in customer service. Comcast has responded by firing the two employees responsible, and issued a public apology.

I have worked many customer service jobs in my life and have seen coworkers fired for a lot less. Understand I am a member of three unions (Screen Actors Guild, AFTRA and IATSE) and have worked for many years as a shop steward and have advocated workers rights. Even though I can not condone someone changing Ms. Govan’s name to "Bitch Dog" on her bill, I can only imagine Cable Company Support Reps take a lot of abuse from subscribers. I think that Comcast should investigate working conditions of their support reps before someone replaces the phrase "Going Postal" with "Going Cable". After all they know where we live.

To quote Comcast spokeswoman Patricia Andrews-Keenan, "We only use the actual customers names on the bill".

Gee, I wonder whom LaChania Govan made the cable payment check out to.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Confessions of a Toon Head. (Click PODCAST)

As I mentioned in CHILD OF TELEVISION: O Brothers, Where Art Thou? that, "I love cartoons (In fact I’m surprised that I have not dedicated a column just to animation)". When I started to piece together this week's column I kept tangenting off to another Toon topic. I quickly realized that I had enough material for several columns. So let me start this one by repeating that I love cartoons especially the classic Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies, the old Paramount black & white Popeye cartoons and the classic MGM Tom & Jerry series that I grew watching on TV. My all time favorite cartoon is still Rabbit Seasoning (1952) where Daffy Duck says the famous line, "Pronoun trouble". These cartoons have stood the test of time. I can watch them as an adult and enjoy them on a totally different level than when I was a kid. We forget that these classic cartoons were written for adults to be seen in movie theaters and knowing that the kids would love them unconditionally. To fully appreciate the humor in some of these cartoons you must understand the time peroid in which they were made. For example when watching Rabbit Hood (1949) it helps to know who Errol Flynn was, then again cultural literacy is required to fully appreciate any art form.

About sixteen years ago I was talking to a friend and fellow Toon Head about our favorite cartoons. During this time many of the cartoons we liked as kids were being re-edited to remove some of the more violent (like the use of easily assessable sticks of dynamite) or raciest (Bugs & Elmer in Black Face) content. Sometimes the cartoon would come off looking like a bunch of set-ups with no punch line. We both felt that the stations should show the cartoon in its entirety or not show it at all if they were deemed inappropriate for younger viewers (we were yet not using the term Politically Correct). We started to talk about some of the cartoons from the World War II era that were on longer being aired. These cartoons after all were appropriate for us when we were kids. I remembered one cartoon where Bugs Bunny goes battles Hermann Georing Herr Meets Hare (1945). And another where Popeye and Bluto put their differences aside to fight the enemy Seein' Red, White 'n' Blue (1943). There was version of the 3 Pigs where the third pig is Sgt. Pork called Blitz Wolf (1942). There were a few other titles that I omitted so not to offend.

My friend found a video titled Bugs and Daffy: The Wartime Cartoons. The tape features 11 cartoons (Including "Herr meets Hare") from Warner Bros. directors Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, and Chuck Jones. Leonard Maltin narrates in between the cartoons providing the proper historical perspective.

I later found Toons At War (Featuring "Seein' Red, White 'n' Blue" and "Blitz Wolf"). The tape is not of the best quality but contains some very hard to find titles, the titles on their own could be considered offensive.

Later on I would find Cartoon Crazys Goes to War featuring cartoons that are a must for any WWII cartoon collectors including one featuring the Man Of Steel "Superman - Eleventh Hour (1942)", and three "Private SNAFU" cartoons Spies (1943), Booby Traps (1944), and Snafuperman (1944).

Although I never saw these cartoons on TV as a child, Walt Disney Treasures - On the Front Lines is also a must for WWII cartoon collectors. This DVD set features what was believed to be lost, Victory Through Air Power (1943).

I do agree that these cartoons are no longer appropriate for small children, just like I don’t think small children should see "The Amos 'n Andy Show" (1951) or movies like The Birth of a Nation (1915). I do believe that these classics cartoon, TV shows and Movies need to be preserved and even shown to high school students as part of their social studies class. In the last few years while I’m trying to add these cartoons to my own personal collection there have been others who seem to feel that these cartoons should never be seen by anyone anywhere. In the late 1990s there were a series of Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies cartoons released on Laser Disk (remember those?). On the disk that highlighted the 1940s there were some of the war time cartoons. Anti-defamation groups protested claiming saying that they were offended that these cartoons were being sold to children. I’m more offended by the narrow-minded point of view that all cartoons are "Kid Friendly". Ever hear of Fritz the Cat (1972)? If the retailers stuck everything animated in the children’s section, then shame on them. In 2001 the Cartoon Network had planed to show some of Bugs Bunny’s wartime cartoon as part of their "June Bugs" marathon celebrating Bugs’ birthday. Even though the wartime cartoons were going to be shown in the late night hours, the cable network later decided to remove the cartoons from their lineup so not to offend. The Cartoon Network was able to show Peace on Earth (1939). This cartoon looks like the supporting cast of Bambi (1942) were in a scene from All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Two baby squirrels ask their grandfather, "what are men" when he comes in singing "peace on earth, goodwill to men". Their Grandpa tells them the story of man's last war with graphic detail. This short was nominated for the 1939 Nobel Peace Prize. Several of the animators who worked on this cartoon were veterans of the First World War, and had experienced combat similar to that depicted in the film. Ironically, they would be working on wartime propaganda cartoons two years later. Video: MGM Cartoon Christmas-Peace on (1936).

Peace on Earth

To quote Leonard Maltin from Bugs and Daffy: The Wartime Cartoons, "If we couldn't blitz Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini out of existence, well at least we could laugh at their expense. Make them look ridiculous which the animators found very easy to do. And if these lampoons seem broad or heavy handed at times, remember most American moviegoers had a big stake in this war. Loved ones and friends who were fighting overseas. It must have helped to be able to tweak the nose of the bad guy every now and then".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, August 11, 2005

You Are Better Than That. (Click PODCAST)

I don't watch to many comedians on TV anymore. It's funny (if I can even use that term) because it was TV that introduced me to stand up comedy in the first place. I was inspired by Robin Williams on Mork & Mindy, Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live and every comedian who ever appeared on the Mike Douglas or Dinah Shore Show (Johnny Carson was past my bedtime). Today I see way to many comedians go for cheap laughs or punch lines that I can see coming from a mile away. I hear the set-up and I either blurt the punch line out loud (with 90% accuracy) or I'll visualize a landing crew guiding the joke into the terminal of comedic brilliance only to see it crash and burn on the tarmac of the lowest common denominator. When I started doing stand-up and went for a cheap or easy laugh, there was always one of the old timers who would pull me aside and say, "What the hell were you doing on stage? That's beneath you. You are better than that".

My favorite comedians to watch are the ones who do topical or political humor. Some of my favorite political comedians on TV currently include Bill Maher, John Stewart and Lewis Black. I was listening recently to a 1968 interview with Johnny Carson on comedy. Johnny Carson On Comedy CD - AUDIO ONLY He spoke of comedians who did political humor and warned that there is a fine line between doing topical comedy and a being a social commentator. That’s when you stop being funny. At the time Mr. Carson was referring to Mort Sahl who's comedy shifted after the assassination of J.F.K. I brought the subject up to a group of friends and other names came up in the conversation like Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, Tommy Smothers and Janeane Garofalo. The most talked about comedian was one of my favorite comedians for years, Dennis Miller. Whether it was his "Weekend Update" on SNL, His short lived "The Dennis Miller Show", and especially "Dennis Miller Live" on HBO. He took ranting to an art form, and his Emmys were well deserved. In my humble opinion the secret to his success was his pragmatism. He told everybody they were full of crap. With Dennis no one was safe not even the people he liked. To me proof that he was on the right track was when I would hear conservatives say that he was too liberal and liberals say that he was too conservative. Another thing I liked about Dennis is that he valued free speech and enjoyed engaging in a dialogue even with people who disagreed with him. All successful comedians have a point of view and most comedy is based in truth (or what is believed to be true). Now I don't mean to get off on a Rant here, but what happened to you Dennis? When he started his short lived CNBC show he decided not to do any jokes at the expense of the president and chose to present a Republican point of view. He like the comedians of the 1960s were changed by the events of their times. Some comedians loose their comedic edge while others like George Carlin achieve brilliance.

I’ve said it before. On 9/11, and I hate to bring up that date, but on 9/11 we were grieving, we were scared and we were angry. I've dealt with grief in the past but there was always someone there to help keep my emotions in check and made sure I never lost my sense of humor. But on 9/11 not only were 3000 people killed, but those responsible tried to demoralize us, kill our spirit and our sense of humor (they have no sense of humor themselves). Comedians did face an incredible challenge trying to find what could be joked about while knowing that America needed to laugh again. But if comedians say anything that is mocking or criticizing the current administration they could be considered treasonous or just down right Un-American. Lets not forget that our country was founded by longhaired, hemp smoking revolutionaries who were sick and tired of the status quo. Our sense of humor is not dead, it’s just in a chokehold, and its time to break out of it. The great comedians know that with comedy comes risk and danger. The comedians from the 1960s knew this, and some paid a great price thus paving the way for today’s comedians explore new forms of comedy. I encourage today’s comedians not to go for a cheap or easy laugh. Take a risk... but remember to be funny because, you are better than that.

To quote Dennis Miller, "Of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Friday, August 05, 2005

Another Quick Note to "The Parents Television Council". RE: Robert Novak

Dear PTC,

I saw Robert Novak use profanity describing bovine excrement on the air. CNN Daily News Clips :Novak Swears, Walks Off Set I immediately went to your site expecting to read a tirade from someone and found nothing. I think you should go after Robert Novak with the same zeal you had when you went after Paris Hilton.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Waiting for the fall. (Click PODCAST)

What does this "Child of Television" do during summer? Well strangely enough I haven’t been spending a lot of my time watching summer reruns. In the past summers had been that time I could give a show a second chance, but this summer it seems that I have better things to do than to watch TV. Contrary to popular belief I do not watch that much more TV than the average American. I have a day job, a real job that exploits my knowledge of Television but won’t let me watch TV on the clock. As I say in my Pre-ramble, "I read books, and not just the ones that Oprah tells me to". At the start of every summer I give myself a reading list, then I kick myself when I don’t get through all of the books that I want to have read by labor day. I have a stack of DVDs just staring at me, taunting me and I’m kicking myself because I haven’t gotten through all the DVDs that I had planed to watch by Labor Day (At the top of that stack is the Till Death Us Do Part Collection the British series that inspired All in the Family. When I’m done watching that I'll go find a copy of Steptoe and Son the British series that inspired Sanford and Son).

I do spend a great deal of my time writing. When I’m not at home in front of my computer, you may see me around town taking notes on my PDA. Not only do I write articles for my CHILD OF TELEVISION Blog and Podcast (where many of the articles will later get posted at I sometimes post my two cents on Amanda Toering’s SpeakSpeak News Blog. I am always working on what I am sure will be the next great Sit-Com Pilot (I just started number four). About every other week or so I write and perform an original story at the STORY SALON on Wednesday nights (Listen to last Wednesday’s story The Fluffer Story.mp3). In fact my wife Donna and I are doing an evening of story telling on Friday, August 26 at the Coffee Fix 12508 Moorpark St Across from Studio City Library in Studio City, CA.

When I’m doing stuff around the house I always have the TV on. It’s my idea of multitasking. This Summer I find that the dial is usually set to TV Land or another cable channel that shows classic TV shows. For some reason I can see the "Walnut" episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, the "Tribble" episode of STAR TREK, or the "Sammy Davis Jr." episode of All in the Family over and over and over again. I can’t say the same for many of the shows that are currently on the air. There were shows this past season that really liked watching but just didn’t care to see them again in reruns. I always hear that topical shows don’t have any longevity, but how do you explain All in the Family’s success 35 years later. I think I can sum it up in three words, QUALITY, INTELIGENCE and RISK. Can the networks sum it up? Feel free to use as many words as you need.

To quote Alfred Hitchcock, "You needn’t stand there staring. We’re not going to show you any more. In fact, I’m not even going to tell you what happened. Televisions audiences are becoming entirely too dependent".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa