Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tony Figueroa on TV CONFIDENTIALwith Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte (Feb. 24, 2009)

Singer/actress Sally Kellerman joins Ed and Frankie in the first hour as they discuss her new CD, Sally, her music career, her collaborations with Robert Altman (including the iconic motion picture M*A*S*H), and her other movie and TV roles, including Loving Couples, A Little Romance, Back to School, Slither, Serial, Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins, Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Centennial.

Then Tony Figueroa joins Ed and Frankie in the second hour as they remember Jack Paar's influence on late night television, then look back at the famous "Miracle on Ice" gold medal hockey game from the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: Steve Martin's King Tut (April 22, 1978)

Here is another "Mental Sorbet" that we could use to momentarily forget about those things that leave a bad taste in our mouths.

Steve Martin: I'd like to talk seriously just for a moment. One of the great art exhibitions ever to tour the United States is the Treasures of Tutankhamen - or King Tut. But I think it's a national disgrace the way we have commercialized it with trinkets and toys, T-shirts and posters. And three months ago I was up in the woods, and I wrote a song. I tried to use the ancient modalities and melodies. I'd like to do it for you right now. Maybe we can all learn something.

(King Tut.)

Now when he was a young man, he never thought he'd see

People stand in line to see the boy king.

(King Tut)

How'd you get so funky?

(Funky Tut)

Did you do the monkey?

(Born in Arizona, moved to BabyloniaKing Tut)

Now if I'd known they'd line up just to see himI'd have taken all my money and bought me a museum.

(King Tut)

Buried with a donkey.

(King Tut)

He's my favorite honky

(Born in Arizona, moved to BabyloniaKing Tut)

(Tut! Tut!)

Dancing by the Nile!

(Disco Tut! Tut!)

The ladies love his style!

(Boss Tut! Tut!)

Walkin' for a mile.

(Rockin' Tut! Tut!)

He ate a crocodile.

(Oooooh, wah-ooooh)

He gave his life for tourism.

(saxophonist solo)

Golden Idols! He's an Egyptian!

Now when I die, now don't think I'm a nutDon't want no fancy funeral, just one like old King Tut!(King Tut)

He could have won a Grammy.

(King Tut)

Buried in his jammies.

(Born in Arizona, moved to BabyloniaBorn in Arizona)

Got a condo made o' stone-a

(King Tut)

Thirty-One years later and it stills holds up
Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Sunday, February 22, 2009

This week in Television History: The "Miracle on Ice" February 22nd, 1980

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

I had Sherman set the WABAC machine to February 22, 1980 when the U.S. men's ice hockey team, led by coach Herb Brooks, defeated the Soviet Union team, 4 - 3. The event was forever known as the "Miracle on Ice". The Soviet Union team, who were considered to be the best international hockey team in the world, they entered the Olympic tournament as heavy favorites, having won every ice hockey gold medal since 1964, and all but one gold medal since 1956. On February 9th, the American and Soviet teams met for an exhibition match at Madison Square Garden in order to practice for the upcoming competition. The Soviet Union won (10-3) so the odds were in favor of the Russians. The day before the match, columnist Dave Anderson wrote in the New York Times, "Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle, as did the American squad in 1960, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments". The game ended with Al Michaels delivering the most famous call in Hockey history, "Eleven seconds, you've got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk...five seconds left in the game... Do you believe in miracles? YES!!!"

Two days later on February 24th, 1980 the U.S. Hockey Team won its "Do you believe in miracles?" gold medal during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games beating Finland (4-2) in their final medal round game. The Soviet Union took the Silver Medal by beating Sweden in their final game. Sweden took home the Bronze Medal, with Finland finishing fourth.

On a personal note February 24th 1980 was the day my baby sister Laura was born. I mention this here because people her age and younger don’t truly appreciate the historical significance of these event and what was happening in the world at that time.

  • Though the Olympic Games are supposed to be an arena free of politics the Soviet and American teams were long time rivals due to the Cold War.
  • President Jimmy Carter was considering a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, to be held in Moscow out of protest to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. President Carter eventually confirmed the boycott on March 21, 1980.
  • At the same time there was another international drama playing out. Despite President Carter’s initial refusal to admit the Shah of Iran into the United States, on October 22, 1979, he finally granted the Shah entry and temporary asylum for the duration of his cancer treatment. In response to the Shah's entry into the U.S., Iranian militants seized the American embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981.

The "Miracle on Ice" was a shot in the country’s morale during a time of great uncertainty.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was February 22nd, 1980.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
Photo of Tony with baby sister Laura

Friday, February 13, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: Joaquin Phoenix's Bizarre Letterman Appearance (February 11, 2009)

Here is another "Mental Sorbet" that we could use to momentarily forget about those things that leave a bad taste in our mouths.

I'll let this one speak for itself.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Never Judge a Show by its Pilot: Trust Me.

Well, it's been a while since I wrote a "Never Judge a Show by its Pilot" segment. We had a lackluster fall (FALL 2007 Part II) where the only interesting on TV then was the Election 2008 coverage. It is not my intention to make that statement political, I'm just saying that the election coverage was the only thing that I wanted to watch live as it happened. Everything else could be programmed on my DVR and watched at a later time. Ask yourselves dear readers "Are there any scripted shows that you just have to watch when they are being broadcast?" Now before I go further on this tangent, let us foccuss on the show in question.

First Impressions of Trust Me:
If you told me a few years ago that TNT was going to do a drama about the fast pace world of advertising, I would ask, "Why?" Advertising is something that characters like Darrin Stephens (Bewitchd) or Jamie Buchman (Mad About You) did, but those shows were not based around that world. I can not think of one successful TV show that centered on the world of advertising except Mad Men. Speaking of Mad Men... If you told me a few years ago that AMC was going to do a 1960's era drama about the fast pace world of advertising, I would ask, "Why? I keep hearing from network television industry professionals that nobody wants to see a peroid piece on TV". Nice to see the cable channels think outside the box. It seems that the cable channels are becoming the home to scripted dramas and the networks will be the home to sitcoms and other stuff. Trust Me is a drama that stars two talented actors who are known for comedy Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) and Tom Cavanagh (Ed) and was created by the team that brought you The Closer (a crime drama) and Nip/Tuck (a medical drama). With all that I am expecting smart humor, drama, sex/T&A and action. Where Mad Men’s key ingredient is nostalgia, TNT is claiming that the friendship of the two main characters Mason McGuire (McCormack) and Conner (Cavanagh) will draw an audience. The TNT web site says, "Their yin-yang relationship is put to the test when Mason is named a creative director of the agency, making him Conner's boss. The series follows the changing dynamics between the two friends, who are better together than they are apart". Let me watch the show and see if it lives up to the hype.

I watched the pilot and I found the the show to be very diferent from Mad Men. The show did have elements that remended me of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip except I really liked Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (CHILD OF TELEVISION: Never Judge a Show by its Pilot: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). The pilot does center on Mason being named a creative director of the agency after the current creative director Stu Hoffman (Jason O'Mara) dies of a heart attack. Both Mason and Connor have trouble adjusting to the new pecking order. The episode ends with Mason creating a cell phone ad campaign on the spot with Connor sending the tag line "What can you do with one hand?" via text message. The characters are smart, they have humor but I see did not any drama, sex/T&A or action. The chemestry between Eric McCormack and Tom Cavanagh was great. In fact I'd say that the entire cast did the best they could with the material they had. Like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip we see the behind the scenes operations of an industry that most Americans don't identify with or care about. After all how can they feel any sympathy for people whose job it is to get working people in this economy to buy stuff that they don't need and can't afford? The show is a perfect example why there has never been any successful TV shows that center on the world of advertising except Mad Men. Perhaps the idea for this show was hatched when our economy was diferent. Perhaps I'm overthinking all of this. Perhaps I should never judge a show by its pilot.

I watched the next episode. The big crisis here is that a focus group thought that the tag line "What can you do with one hand?" was about masturbation and the team has to come up with a new tag line by the end of the day. Their deadline gets moved before the team was ready and when Mason calls Connor who is having sex. Connor comes up with the tag line "Do Thumb Thing" (Sounds like "Do Something" with a lisp). Mason later realises that Connor subconsiously stole "Do Thumb Thing" from an egotistical 26-year-old perspective employee's portfolio. Our heroes now have to infultrate a focus group and make them hate the new tag line. The premise reminds me of an episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip that centered on an alleged-stolen joke.

Even though this type of TV drama is escapist the audience still has to connect with the characters and the plot. They need be able to cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys. I can’t see that the viewers will have any emotional investment in the show. I’m starting to think that TNT doesn’t really know drama. I have an idea on how to save this show. Heres the pitch. We keep the talented cast, change the format to a half hour sitcom, add a Larry Tate type character (I like Larry Miller) and have Tina Fey write and produce.

To quote the tag-line from a cell phone campaign in the pilot, "What can you do with one hand?" My answer is give the show a thumbs down.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This week in Television History: The "Water Closet" joke February 10th 1960

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

Listen to my commentary @ TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte

I had Sherman set the WABAC machine to February 10th, 1960 when Jack Paar told the following joke on The Tonight Show.

"An English lady, while visiting Switzerland, was looking for a room, and she asked the schoolmaster if he could recommend any to her. He took her to see several rooms, and when everything was settled, the lady returned to her home to make the final preparations to move. When she arrived home, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she had not seen a "W.C." around the place. So she immediately wrote a note to the schoolmaster asking him if there were a "W.C." around. The schoolmaster was a very poor student of English, so he asked the parish priest if he could help in the matter. Together they tired to discover the meaning of the letters "W.C.," and the only solution they could find for the letters was letters was a Wayside Chapel. The schoolmaster then wrote to the English lady the following note:

Dear Madam,
I take great pleasure in informing you that the W.C. is situated nine miles from the house you occupy, in the center of a beautiful grove of pine trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people and it is open on Sunday and Thursday only. As there are a great number of people and they are expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early: although there is plenty of standing room as a rule. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good number of people bring their lunch and make a day of it. While others who can afford to go by car arrive just in time. I would especially recommend that your ladyship go on Thursday when there is a musical accompaniment. It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C. and it was there that she met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat ordinarily occupied by one. It was wonderful to see the expression on their faces. The newest attraction is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings every time a person enters. A bazaar is to be held to provide plush seats for all the people, since they feel it is a long felt need. My wife is rather delicate, so she can't attend regularly. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you if you wish, where you will be seen by all. For the children, there is a special time and place so that they will not disturb the elders. Hoping to have been of service to you, I remain,

The Schoolmaster."

The NBC censors thought the joke was dirty and cut it from the February 10th, 1960 broadcast and replaced that section of the show with news coverage. All of this was done without consulting Paar.

When Paar discovered that his four-minute story had been cut, he retaliated by walking off in the of the February 11th show during the opening monologue saying, "I've been up thirty hours without an ounce of sleep wrestling with my conscience all day. I've made a decision about what I'm going to do. I'm leaving The Tonight Show. There must be a better way to make a living than this, a way of entertaining people without being constantly involved in some form of controversy. I love NBC, and they've been wonderful to me. But they let me down."

Paar walked offstage, leaving his announcer Hugh Downs to finish the show for him.

Paar returned to the show on March 7th, looked right into the camera and said, "As I was saying before I was interrupted. When I walked off, I said there must be a better way of making a living. Well I've looked and there isn't. Be it ever so humble, there is no place like Radio City. Leaving the show was a childish and perhaps emotional thing. I have been guilty of such action in the past and will perhaps be again. I'm totally unable to hide what I feel. It is not an asset in show business. But I shall do the best I can to amuse and entertain you and let other people speak freely, as I have in the past."

TV Trivia
Leave It to Beaver Season: 1 Episode: 2 titled Captain Jack First Aired: 10/11/1957
This episode marks the first time a toilet was ever shown on network TV. Even then, the censors would only allow the tank portion to be shown.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was" February 10th 1960

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: Letterman apologises to Bill Hicks' mom (January 30, 2009)

Here is another "Mental Sorbet" that we could use to momentarily forget about those things that leave a bad taste in our mouths.

Rest in peace Bill

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa