Category Archives: Entertainment

Step Back From the Line of Fire, Batman

Like, I think, most people, I first heard Junip’s mesmerizing song “Line of Fire” in the promo for the final episode of Breaking Bad:

Sometime afterward, I decided to check YouTube to see if there was an official video for the song. I found it here, but along the way I also found something far more entertaining in this fan mash-up from someone who realized that the song is a good fit for Batman’s story:

A Sad Gray Day in Geek City

It’s a gray, rainy day in Chicago and somehow that’s fitting my mood right now. Elisabeth Sladen (aka Sarah Jane Smith) died after a battle with cancer today.

As a kid I had a crush on Sarah Jane. Heck, I had a crush on her as an adult when I saw her again in the new Doctor Who series just a few years back. I understand an actress is not the character she plays, yet I can’t help feeling a loss even though I know little about Elisabeth Sladen. The character she portrayed was an intelligent, energetic and outgoing woman who could hold her own with various incarnations of The Doctor. It was hard not to admire her.

There’s Dancing and There’s Dancing

Hey, does everybody remember those viral dance videos from OK Go? They did them for songs like “A Million Ways” (the one in the back yard) and “Here It Goes Again” (the one with the treadmills). If not, you might want to follow those links to take a look (they won’t let me embed them).

Those are great fun, and I have a lot of respect for the amount of work OK Go puts into entertaining their fans…

But now take a look at the Nicholas Brothers in this scene from Stormy Weather:

Fred Astaire once called this “the greatest dance number ever filmed.”

I think if you wanted to do something like this today, you’d probably have to use CGI…

In Plain Sight – a review

This new summer series stars Mary McCormack (West Wing, Murder One) as a U.S. Federal Marshall for the witness protection program. Her personal life is almost non-existent because her job requires that she keep a low profile. Or at least that’s what she tells herself. As she slowly realizes the need for more in her life, she has to deal with her ditzy alcoholic mother and a cokehead slacker sister who are “temporarily” staying with her.

The show was a little slow to find its footing, but after a few episodes it (along with Mary McCormack) has really hit its stride. Lesley Ann Warren and Nichole Hiltz make likable, sympathetic characters out of people you really wouldn’t want staying at your house.

Her partner, Marshall Mann—yes, a Federal Marshall named Marshall. To this point, none of the characters in the show has pointed this out. The writers have just left it for the viewer to realize and chuckle at. I appreciate not being hit over the head with a gag. Anyway, Marshall has a wry sarcasm and sounds uncannily like Randal from the movie Clerks. It took me most of the first episode to place that voice. But it is Fred Weller playing this role, not Jeff Anderson.

I give In Plain Sight a grade of B. It airs Sunday nights on the USA Network Sundays at 10:00 pm / 9:00 pm Central.

Hollywood Is Calling

I can’t decide if this is kind of cool or kind of sad. Check out Hollywood Is Calling:

Now for the first time ever you can have a real celebrity make a live phone call to someone you know for just $19.95. You can also purchase an email video greeting card with a message from your favorite star for just $5. Whether it’s for a special occasion or just for the fun of it, there’s no better way to impress a client, sweetheart or a friend.


The emailed videos are pre-recorded, so that’s no big deal, but apparently the phone calls are the real thing from the real celebrity.

As you might guess, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are not on the list. It’s really a collection of people whose celebrity has faded or whose celebrity never shined brightly to begin with.

The FAQ puts it a little differently:

The vast majority of our celebrities are not motivated by financial reasons when it comes to this project. Their extraordinary achievements have made them tremendously popular all across the globe and they believe that our patented new service is a great way for them to stay in touch with their growing fan base. It’s also a lot of fun.

Uh, yeah, because Mary Badham (who played “Scout” in To Kill a Mockingbird) is such a rising star these days. Why, just last year she was in Our Very Own, her first movie credit since 1966. I don’t want to be mean to Ms. Badham, but who are they trying to kid?

(Before someone else brings it up, yes, I know that every one of these people is more famous than I am, and yes, if people would pay $19.95 for a 30-second phone call from me, I’d sign up too.)

The service makes clear in the FAQ that each call is automatically terminated after 30 seconds. I assume this is to protect the celebrity in question from being accused of being impolite. It’s not that Paige Brooks from Baywatch isn’t willing to wait 10 minutes for your brother to get out of the shower so she can wish him Happy Birthday. She’s love to spend her time that way for her share of the $19.95, but the evil computer is going to cut her off in 30 seconds, so she’s sorry it didn’t work out.

On the other hand, this company has broken new ground with this sort of retail-grade appearance management. For $300 you can get a 20-minute “telephone personal appearance” from Dwayne Hickman. That’s Dobie Gillis for God’s sake! You can also get calls from Butch Patrick (Eddie friggin’ Munster) and Lou Ferrigno (the one true Hulk).

Here’s a few of the other celebrities who are available:

  • Alex Michel (The Bachelor)
  • David Keith
  • Larry Holmes (World Heavyweight Boxing Champion)
  • Dennis Haskins (Mr. Belding on Saved By The Bell)
  • Joseph Gannascoli (Vito Spatafore on The Sopranos)
  • Dean Haglund (Langly, one of the Loan Gunmen, on X-Files)
  • Leon Spinks (World Heavyweight Boxing Champion)
  • Gary Jones (SGT Walter Harriman on Stargate SG-1)
  • The Barbi Twins
  • Russell Johnson (The Professor on Gilligan’s Island)
  • Richard Hatch (The original Apollo on the original Battlestar Gallactica)
  • Ron Palillo (Arnold Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter)
  • Jon Provost (Timmy on Lassie)
  • Tony Todd (Candyman)
  • Brandon Cruz (Eddie on The Courtship of Eddies Father)
  • Rick Searfoss (Space Shuttle Pilot and Commander)
  • John De Lancie (Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation)
  • Marta Kristen (Judy Robinson on Lost In Space)
  • David Naughton (the American Werewolf in London)
  • Mitch Ryder (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels)
  • Doug Fieger (from The Knack)
  • Linnea Quigley (queen of the B movies)
  • Leonard A. Lies (the Machete Zombie from Dawn of the Dead)
  • Lorenzo Lamas
  • Dr Elmo (“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”)
  • Martha Reeves (Martha Reeves And The Vandellas)
  • Lauren Chapin (from Father Knows Best)
  • Sybil Danning
  • Trina Parks (Thumper from Diamonds Are Forever)
  • Virginia Hey (Zhaan from Farscape, also the warrior woman from Road Warrior)
  • Olivier Gruner (actor and World Kickboxing Champion)
  • Erin Murphy (Tabitha from Bewitched)
  • Kato Kaelin [but of course!]
  • Todd Bridges
  • Andrea Thompson
  • Erin Gray
  • Sonny Landham (Billy in Predator)
  • Stu Charno (The serial killer from “Clyde Bruckmans Final Repose” on X-Files)
  • Gigi Edgley (Chiana from Farscape)
  • Kathy Garver (Cissy on Family Affair)
  • Larry Thomas (Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi)

None of those people are huge stars these days, but some of them are still getting work, and shouldn’t they have some money coming in from their old stuff?

I can’t help but think that there’s some kind of trick to this. I just can’t decide if we’re being tricked into buying this, or if these celebrities were tricked into signing up.

(Leave a comment if you’ve ever tried this and let me know if it’s real.)

Ultimately, I don’t get it.

It might be fun to have a huge star call me up—just to hear them say my name—but none of these people are that famous. I’m sure it would be fascinating to talk to some of these people about their work and their lives, but that would have to be a real conversation, perhaps over a nice dinner. A 30-second call does nothing for me.

Still, if Andrea Thompson is reading this, and you’re ever in town and willing to pose for a few photos, dinner is on me. The same goes for Virginia Hey, Rick Searfoss, and Linnea Quigley. I hope you like pizza.

Comic Genius / Comic Giants

While I was surfing for info on my last post on the TV show Rules of Engagement, I came across someone else’s review of the show. They referred to David Spade as a “comic genius”. Really?? David Spade?

Some might argue that the phrase comic genius is an oxymoron, but it got me to thinking about who I would consider a comic genius or as I prefer to call them – comic giants.

What constitutes a comic giant? Above all, laugh out loud, side-splittingly funny. That along with longevity, intelligence, ingenuity and versatility are some of the criteria. Longevity, however, is not enough in itself. There has to be a body of work that stands the test of time.

Most of my giants/geniuses wrote for a fifties comedy program called “Your Show of Shows”. Included in that bunch are Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein), Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show), Neil Simon (The Odd Couple), Woody Allen (Annie Hall), and Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H*).

Steve Allen pioneered the late night talk show and was the funniest to ever do it. David Letterman patterned much of his show after Steve Allen’s Tonight Show.

Would I include any comics that got their start more recently than five decades ago? There’s only one modern genius that immediately springs to mind and it is NOT David Spade. Steve Martin has proven time and again that he belongs in this group. From stand-up to movies, books, and columns in The New Yorker he has remained consistently funny through a long career.

I suppose I would also have to include Billy Crystal. Yeah, he disappointed me with City Slickers 2 and Forget Paris, but who hasn’t had their clunkers? Easily the best Oscar host of all time. That and When Harry Met Sally put him firmly in the giant category.

I’m sure you have your own list. Feel free to comment, but don’t waste your time trying to convince me to change mine.

COMING SOON: A guide to some of the works that made me include these people in my list and that I highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen them.