Thursday, July 31, 2014

More Buck For The Bang

Though The Big Bang Theory is supposed to be in production already, there's been a delay as the five main actors--Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar--are still negotiating their contracts.  It's an interesting inversion of the norm.

For most actors, even working ones, getting any job is great, and they're not going to argue too much about the money--guild minimum, in fact, will usually do, unless they have a name and a quote.  But if lightning strikes, and they're on a hit, for the first time they have leverage (assuming it's not a big ensemble show where anyone could be killed off).  So instead of being thrilled to get anything, they're in the enviable position of saying we won't work unless we get what we want.

The Big Bang Theory is one of the biggest hits on TV, and after seven seasons is bigger than ever. CBS relies on this show.  It's also huge in syndication, where it can be caught numerous times a day.  Sort of funny for a concept I remember thinking was too quirky to last past season 1.

What sort of money are we talking about? The three leads, Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco, are already making $325,000 per episode, which would put them in the top 1% of income earners if they made that in a year.  They want that upped to as high as million per, plus some back end. That back end, meaning syndication, can be in the billions--that's where the producers make the big money.  The big three are wisely negotiating together--the show would take a huge hit if it lost any one of them, but losing all of them would mean there is no Big Bang.  (Though Variety has a slightly different story where the three have already been offered more than a million but Parsons is holding out for more while his two co-stars want parity. Is this correct, or is this being put out by management as a negotiating tool?  Either way, get your story straight guys.)

Helberg and Nayyar are on a different tier. I've heard they make $125,000 and $75,000 per episode, respectively. That Helberg gets more makes sense to me--he does a better job and is, I think, the more popular character.  But now they are negotiating together.  I don't know what they want, but, while I'm sure CBS and the show's producers want them back very much, they may realize that the show could arguably continue without them.  Or could it?  That's the fun of negotiation.

The two other regulars, Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik--both of whom joined the show in season 4--negotiated their deals last year.  They doubled their salaries to $60,000 per episode, and the number will eventually rise to $100,000.

The Big Bang Theory has been picked up for three more seasons. After that it may be over. Nothing lasts forever, and in TV, ever-rising salaries eventually guarantee a show isn't worth producing any more (except for The Simpsons). While the numbers are huge, I can understand the actors trying to make a killing.  There's no guarantee they'll ever be on a hit again.  There's not even any guarantee they'll get another job.

String Jam With SJ

Happy 55th, Stanley Jordan.  He can get more sound out a guitar than you get from some bands.





Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cause and effect

"Rub-on hormone gel can banish depression"

I suppose so, but where are they rubbing it?

Yessir Issur

I just read Kirk Douglas's autobiography The Ragman's Son.  A bit odd since it was published about 25 years ago--and sold well, I believe.  Born Issur Danielovich in 1916, son of two Russian Jews who had escaped the pogroms, he grew up poor in New York, along with his six sisters.  His dad drank a lot but wasn't emotionally demonstrative, and Kirk--a stage name, of course--never fully got over it.

He was a go-getter.  With a lot of moxie, he got into St. Lawrence University, and though poor and Jewish (in an age when anti-Semitism was rampant) he actually became a big man on campus.  He then went to New York and rose through the ranks on the stage, taking some time out to serve in the Navy during WWII.

He didn't think Hollywood was good for actors but couldn't resist its siren song.  In the 40s he became a successful supporting actor, appearing in high-quality projects like Out Of The Past and A Letter To Three Wives, before becoming a star as boxer Midge Kelly in a small, independent film called Champion.

Douglas always had an eye for the ladies, and once he became a celebrity it was anything goes.  Even when he was married (something he did twice) he was falling into bed with every beautiful woman around.  The most common topic in the book, after making movies, is his many affairs (especially how he chased the beautiful, teenage Piers Angeli).

Douglas, not unlike his pal and regular co-star Burt Lancaster, was a matinee idol who gave intense, athletic performances. Maybe he didn't have the depth and range of a Brando, but he was in a fair share of decent movies and kept stretching.  Like Lancaster, he formed a production company and had a lot of say on his projects.  One of his best stories is when he talked to John Wayne after the premiere of Lust For Life, where he played Van Gogh.  Wayne was disgusted--and maybe drunk--telling Douglas they needed to play tough guys, not queers.

Many of his films are conventional cowboy or action movies, not that well remembered.  But a lot of his titles were good enough that they're still remembered and revived--Young Man With A Horn, Detective Story, The Bad And The Beautiful, Gunfight At The O.K. Corral, The Vikings, Spartacus, Seven Days In May.  And others--often his favorites--were off the beaten path and not necessarily hits, like Ace In The Hole, Paths Of Glory and Lonely Are The Brave.

He generally played heroes, but was pretty good--maybe at his best--playing edgy characters, often heels.  He fought for good roles, and didn't settle when he though he could do better, which may be one reason he had a reputation for being difficult.

Even when he became a huge movie star he still wanted to prove himself on stage. So he bought the rights to Ken Kesey's book One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and commissioned a play.  He starred in it and brought it to Broadway. He claims the audiences loved it, but the critics were gunning for the Hollywood guy, and lambasted it. It ran for several months--Douglas's money kept it open--and after it closed he kept trying to set it up as a film.  Finally, about a decade later, his son Michael was able to set it up--but his dad was now too old for the part (at least his son believed so). Of course, the movie version was a gigantic hit and won multiple Oscars, which was a bittersweet thing for Kirk, who made money on the film, but saw it as the one that got away.

Alas, some time around 1970 his films got a lot less interesting, and though he kept working, he wasn't the star he'd been (though I'm a big fan of Brain De Palma's The Fury from 1978).  So the final chapters of the book aren't as interesting.  When he's not talking about movies I don't think much of, he's going on about world travels or health problems or gossip or political issues of the day which are now fairly dated. (Though this does lead to some interesting moments--such as when he hopes he helped OJ with financial advice, and when he notes Mia Farrow, who just had a son Satchel with Woody Allen, is the best judge of character he knows).

Douglas is still around, and has written a few books since.  But if you want a place to start, this is it.

PS.  I thought the book was well-written.  In fact, well-written enough that I wondered if he had a ghost writer. I saw no other name on the cover, or the title page. But then I saw a little note between the dedication and the table of contents where he thanked Linda Civitello for help in research and writing. I think we've found the culprit.

PA System

Happy birthday, Paul Anka.  He's been a top singer and songwriter since the 50s.










Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Professionals

So, federal judge Charlie Wilson thinks doctors have a First Amendment right to proselytize in the course of medical service.

Somehow I'm thinking he's not so solicitous of patients' First Amendment rights, or their Second.

In fact, I'd guess he'd find the First Amendment is actually reason to uphold Obamacare--you have a right to associate with the doctors and "insurance" "companies" the government tells you you do.

Merry Cantos

Happy birthday, Aarre Merikanto.  He was a Finnish composer who had an atonal style before he settled back into a more classical sound.


Emily's Lost

In her New Yorker review of The Strain and The Leftovers, Emily Nussbaum can't help but mention Lost--after all, these two new shows are produced, respectively, by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, the two men who ran the ABC hit.

Early on Nussbaum describes Lost as a show that "began with huge ambition and then took a late-season nosedive." I suppose that's fair, though it might give the impression it didn't end with huge ambition. In fact, the ambition was as big as ever at the end.  Some though too big--that was part of the problem. (Though there is a sizable minority that likes the ending.)

At the end of her piece, Nussbaum writes that Lost "was a mystery that never got solved, leaving many viewers furious." This is less fair. Lost, good or bad, answered most of the questions it raised. The big one it didn't get to is how did the Island get to be the way it was--in face, the show explicitly stated we shouldn't even try to ask this question--and many found that annoying. But what the Island was, always the central mystery, was essentially explained.  I'd say the main complaint fans had was the resolution to many of the mysteries weren't satisfying, not that they weren't solved at all.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Boom

So Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar. Can Dollar General be far behind?

What will the new name be? Dollar Dollar? Or Tree Family?

The Show's The Thing

Ethan Mordden is a busy guy. He's written numerous tomes on popular culture, including a book on the American Musical for every decade from the 20s through the 70s.  Which is why his latest, Anything Goes: A History Of The American Musical Theatre, seems superfluous.  He's already gone over this material and then some.

Still, it's nice to have something new from Mordden, and this whirlwind tour of 150+ years of musicals in under 350 pages has its moments.  As always, he knows his stuff, even if he's often quite subjective, occasionally putting down big names and fighting for forgotten classics.

As anyone who's read him already knows, he separates this history into four different eras.  There's the First Age, where prototypical musicals--operetta, burlesque, minstrel shows, etc.--were developed in the 19th century; the Second Age, where names like Cohan, Ziegfeld, Kern and Berlin created a form that would become so much more; the Third Age, about fifty years in the middle of the 20th century when the musical becomes a unique work of art as well as central to American entertainment; and finally the Fourth Age, after pop music has left Broadway behind, and the musical has become sometimes more intellectualized, sometimes more sung-through spectacle.  The divisions are reasonable, I suppose, though the problem is the Thrd Age has by far the most interesting songs and shows.

Overall, like much of Mordden's work, it's idiosyncratic enough that I'm not sure this would be a first-tier choice if you want a good overview of the subject.  And while he still has some good tales to tell, if you've read his earlier stuff, this seems too concentrated, with titles whizzing by in a page,or sometimes a sentence, that were given a more luxurious treatment when he had the time.  Still, if you like the subject, it's an enthusiastic work, better than a lot of the stuff out there.

Singer In The Hands Of An Angry Mood

Happy birthday, Jonathan Edwards, singer-songwriter from the 70s.  He had only one hit, but he's still working to this day.





Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wait Till The Lollipop Guild Hears About This

I saw MGM's Greatest Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit by Hugh Fordin in the local library and checked it out.  It was published in 1975 (though the paperback version I read was put out in 1996 by Da Capo Press) but I hadn't seen it before.  It's quite enjoyable, with plenty of illustrations and intriguing background tales of how Freed and his people made some of the greatest movie musicals ever.

In the first chapter dealing with how the Unit started, concentrating on The Wizard Of Oz, we get this regarding the Munchkins:

These 350 midgets--where did they come from? [....] they were the most deformed, unpleasant bunch of "adults" imaginable. [....] they were constantly underfoot.  This unholy assemblage of pimps, hookers and gamblers infested the Metro lot and all of the community.

Somehow, I don't think you'd see this sort of description today.  In fact, I'm surprised Fordin got away with it in the 70s.

Fuqua!

Happy birthday, Harvey Fuqua.  He was the founder of and singers in the great doo-wop group the Moonglows and also one of the early executives at Motown.









Saturday, July 26, 2014

It's Not The Translator Who's The Traitor

In The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik looks at the issue of translation. Many claim it's impossible to properly translate the sense of one language into another.  They go further--with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis--claiming that your language helps determine your worldview.

Gopnik (and John McWhorter, in his recent book The Language Hoax, which Gopnik discusses), will have none of it.  Yes, meanings can be subtle, but there's no insuperable gulf that prevents us from understanding others.  I tend to agree. But that's not why I'm writing this post.

Gopnik gets to Orwell, who so famously wrote about how those in power use language to fool the public and hide what they're doing.  That's when we get this from Gopnik:

...euphemism is a moral problem, not a cognitive one. When Dick Cheney calls torture “enhanced interrogation,” it doesn’t make us understand torture in a different way; it’s just a means for those who know they’re doing something wrong to find a phrase that doesn’t immediately acknowledge the wrongdoing. [....] Whatever name Cheney’s men gave torture, they knew what it was.

This isn't a linguistics argument so much as a political slam. It's certainly not a political argument, since Gopnik apparently believes his statement is so obviously true (or so unlikely to be debated by New Yorker readers) that he doesn't have to present any evidence.

What is or isn't torture--legally or morally--is a tricky enough issue.  But Gopnik's arrogance goes much further.  He apparently has direct access to minds of Dick Cheney and his men.

Here's some advice for Gopnik. If you're going to use politics for some intellectual example, try something that either praises George W. Bush or attacks Barack Obama.  Going against your instincts will prevent you from fooling yourself.

Standard Error

I was watching Masters Of Sex (which I've complained about before) with the CC on.  It said the song "Let's Fall In Love" was playing.  But I also had the sound on so knew that was wrong.

What we heard was Billie Holiday singing Cole Porter's "Let's Do It," sometimes called "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)."



"Let's Fall In Love," by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, is a completely different song.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Lucky Lucy

Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, directed by Luc Besson, opens today.  Don't know much about it, but the poster says "The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity.  Imagine what she could do with 100%." (One thing she could do is remember the plot of Limitless from 2011, which had the same premise.)

I've always been intrigued by this weird urban legend that we only use 10% of our brains. Though it makes no sense, I've been hearing it pretty much all my life.  I've even met a number of people who believe it.  And it keeps popping up in popular culture (where at least it can lead to a fun, if absurd, plot).

Considering there are pretty easy sources available (in addition to common sense) that refute this claim, I can only conclude that people are using less than 10% of the capacity of their computers.

Something Happening With Blane

It's the centennial of Ralph Blane, great American songwriter.









Thursday, July 24, 2014

Treading The Boards

Just read Derek Jacobi's memoir As Luck Would Have It.  Jacobi is one of the top British actors of our age, but he doesn't have quite the recognition of a contemporary like, say, Ian McKellen.  Probably because he never had a major film career.

His book is a whirlwind tour.  At a bit over 300 pages it reads quickly, divided into the "Seven Ages" of life, broken up into 46 chapters, each one divided into short sections.

He knew he wanted to be an actor at a young age and played major roles as a schoolboy.  He went to Cambridge where his talent was recognized and he soon was playing with Sir Laurence Olivier at the National Theatre in London.  He'd go on to be a leading man and make a worldwide reputation in the title role of the BBC series I, Claudius.  But he remained a man of the theatre.  As he puts it, "movies make you rich, TV makes you known, but theatre is really where it's at."

And when he was growing up, theatre meant Shakespeare.  Yes, he played many roles, some classical, some modern, but whenever your read British theatrical memoirs there's the Bard of Avon--they take in his words with their mother's milk.  Jacobi tells us about many productions, good and bad, and how he made his mark in certain roles, such as Hamlet, Benedick, Prospero, Malvolio and Lear.  He also got a lot of attention for his Cyrano, Uncle Vanya and Alan Turing in Breaking The Code.

He did appear in movies--Kenneth Branagh's Henry V and Hamlet, Dead Again, Gladiator, Gosford Park, The King's Speech and many others--but he never quite got that role that introduced him to the contemporary audience.

We meet all the big names along the way--Olivier, Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Dame Edith Evans, Peter O'Toole and many others. He also has a chapter where he mentions the political players he met (which includes a bit on his personal politics--without fail the most tiresome section in all such books).  Threaded through is stuff on his homosexuality, but though it played a central part in his life, he doesn't allow it to overwhelm the book.  In general, he comes across as an unassuming guy who is able to bring something special to his roles.

I've seen film of his work in the theatre, but I've never seen him live.  As great as he was in I, Claudius, I get the feeling that's the best way to see him.  Part of the magic of theatre is its evanescence, and while Jacobi has left a little of him behind in his book, I bet he's happiest he left so much behind on stage.

Les Then Lou

Happy birthday Les Reed.  He was a musician and arranger but best of all, a songwriter, with plenty of hits in Britain and some that also made it over here.







Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Breaches in the matrix

So last Saturday ColumbusGal and I visited good friends in Cincinnati who just bought a house, to help move some furniture and have a nice dinner in their newly remodeled kitchen with them and some other friends.

The conversation turned to buyer beware, and remarkable though it seems we couldn't remember the Latin (hard to believe but bear with me), and someone brought up the Brady Bunch episode--but we still couldn't remember it.

So Sunday, ColumbusGal is lounging around, like Peggy in Married with Children, eating bonbons and watching METV, and lo what comes up but an episode of the Brady Bunch, and guess which episode it is?

Go ahead, LAGuy, tell me that's recency bias.

Today I'm needing some utility blades and some orange juice so I walk up to the hardware store and handy mart, and on my way back, I notice a new food truck. We have a longstanding food truck nearby, one of the best in the city, but he works only Friday to Sunday. A bit worried about the interloper, and worried that I might waste away if I don't eat something, I buy a couple of sliders (pretty good) and pay with my bank card.

This is my only contact with them, and they accept payment on some Ipad or another device, and the first words out of the girl's mouth are, "I sent your receipt to your pajamaguy address." (Okay, she didn't say pajamaguy, but she gave a unique domain with which I am associated.)

So their only contact with me is my bank. So my bank gives out my email address? Pretty creepy. Facebook, of course. If I'm dumb enough to use that I get what I deserve. But my bank? (Unless Facebook bought my bank . . .)

Developing Story

Though it was made available on Netflix last year, I only just watched season 4 of Arrested Development.  The show, a critical hit that won several Emmys, including Best Comedy, was on Fox for three seasons previously from 2003 to 2006.  It was never a hit, but it had a strong cult following.

Including me.  So I was excited when I heard there'd be new shows.  And after watching it, I'm a bit surprised at the relatively tepid response from many critics. I thought it was great.

Perhaps this is due to the phenomenon that once something is deemed a classic, fans always say the latest episodes aren't as good as the old ones.  This is even truer after a show goes on a lengthy hiatus.  When John Cleese came back four years later with a second season of Fawlty Towers there were plenty of complaints it didn't compare, but if you come to the show fresh, the second season is the stronger one.

Not that I'm in favor of just any comeback.  Some shows are about a place and time, and the magic can never be recaptured.  Which makes AD4 all the more amazing.  First, everyone is back--all the original leads, not to mention numerous recurring characters (plus some new guest stars like Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, John Slattery, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Terry Crews, Tommy Tune and Isla Fisher, not to mention a reunion of the MST3K gang)--even though many of these people have gone on to movies or other hit shows.  Even more important, creator Mitch Hurwitz is behind it, along with other writers who made the original great, such as Jim Vallely and Richard Rosenstock.

The format is a bit different.  There are 15 episodes, but they tend to be longer than normal sitcom episodes--most are more than 30 minutes long, with no commercial breaks.  And the whole season deals with one basic story--a complicated, multi-part story, but one all the same.  What I think threw a lot of commentators was that each episode centers on just one character. Every one of the nine leads--Michael, Lindsay, Gob, George Michael, Maeby, Buster, Tobias, George Sr., and Lucille--gets at least one episode devoted to their travails.

This has a cumulative effect, as we go over the same events from different points of view, revealing more and more of the story each time.  In fact, the whole thing is almost bewilderingly complex.  It reminded me of nothing so much as the novel Catch-22, when you keep going back and forth, and returning to the same moments but with a different understanding each time.  It's also similar in that problem no one keep the entire plot in their brain at one time.

But forget that. Is the show funny?  Yes, very.  As funny as the original three seasons? Hmm. Maybe slightly less joke dense (though that may just be the halo effect), but still funnier than most of the shows out there right now.  (The original show was probably too joke-dense and just a little cold, which may explain why it never really caught on.)

I do have one big problem.  There are numerous schemes, generally regarding money or love, and every character is trying to accomplish something. But the season has no ending. I thought it was coming to some sort of climax--probably Cinco De Cuatro celebration where everyone gathers--but we're mostly left dangling.  With so little resolved, is Hurwitz planning another season?  Or a movie to tie it up?  Maybe, but I still think he should have done it all here.  Who knows if everyone can get together again?

PS  All the actors are in fighting trim.  The only oddity is Portia de Rossi, who looks like a different person.

How Do You Feel About Cleveland?

Happy birthday to Cleveland Duncan, one of the original Penguins, one of the first--and best--of the doo-wop groups.  He died  a couple years ago, but he knew his music was still being played.








Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Warren Submission

Submitted for your approval: at the National Journal they list Elizabeth Warren's eleven commandments of progressivism:

1. "We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we're willing to fight for it."

We certainly need regulation, but we've already got a mountain's worth.  It's just never enough for some people.   Of course, the bigger companies tend to love it--makes it tougher for the smaller guys to compete.  And every bit of regulation allows for people who know how to navigate the system a chance to make money without necessarily doing any hard work or anything of worth to society.

2. "We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth."

Vague, yet manages to be a non sequitur.

3. "We believe that the Internet shouldn't be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality."

I wish she'd said it shouldn't be rigged for anyone, but based on the other commandments, she seems to think the government's entire job is to do nothing but rig the system in her preferred direction.

4. "We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage."*

Sure, raising the minimum wage will mean the high rates of unemployment among young people getting their first stepping stone into the world of work will grow even higher, especially in the inner cities, but that's a small price to pay for a principle.  It'll mean that poorer people will have more trouble buying things they enjoy, but that's a small price to pay for principle. It'll mean businesses barely hanging on--and there are a lot of those--will have it tougher, but that's a small price to pay for principle.

And what a principle.  This means if I work for a year on a screenplay, I get paid for it.  If I spend 90 hours a week building a business for ten years that ultimately fails, the government should pay me a ton of money. Heck, if I dig a hole four hours a day and fill it four hours a day, I get fifteen buck an hour.  Sign me up.

5.  "We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them."

These commandments are getting pretty specific.

6.  "We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt."

I agree.  We need to force professors to teach for very little and not allow them to retire.  But at least they'll have something to do.  The administrators we'll just have to fire.

7.  "We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions."

And if that breaks us, we'll just print more money.  We'll also pass a law saying if you're tied to a rock and tossed in the ocean you're not allowed to drown.

8.  "We believe—I can't believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work."

She doesn't need to say it. It's the law, and anyone can sue for such illegal discrimination.  Why do I get the feeling she's talking about something else?

9.  "We believe that equal means equal, and that's true in marriage, it's true in the workplace, it's true in all of America."

Not entirely sure if I get this. So inside a marriage the man and woman are equal?  How can the government enforce that? (I know, she'll find a way.)

Or is she talking about same-sex marriage?  Would she include marriage to more than one person?  I support that so I'm happy to finally agree with Warren.

And at work am I equal to my boss? I already felt that, but I didn't realize government needed to get involved.

10.  "We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform."

So vague as to be meaningless.

11.   "And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!"

And I thought #5 was specific. Who would have guessed a tenet of progressivism deals with overturning a case from last month?

But she makes a good point.  Women have a right to their own bodies, which means companies have to pay for their birth control.  Is this the same logic that requires men to pay for their drinks?

Hey, I think we've found our next President.

Bonus tenet:  And the main tenet of conservatives' philosophy, according to Warren? "I got mine. The rest of you are on your own."

As opposed to her philosophy: I got mine and I got yours.

*I assume she's not including her unpaid interns.

What The Effinger?

It's the centennial of composer Cecil Effinger.  If you're gonna celebrate him at all, now is the time.





Monday, July 21, 2014

What does Rob Portman have to say about it?


Don't you mean 'President Perry'?

JG

James Garner has died. He was in quite a few movies, and even got an Oscar nomination, but I'll always think of him as one of the great TV stars.

In the mid-50s he was a handsome TV personality occasionally getting movie roles, such as his appearance in Sayonara, starring Marlon Brando.  But it was his work on the show Maverick, starting in 1957, that got him noticed.  Bret Maverick was a cowboy/gambler, making his way through the old West, doing the best he can, generally trying to avoid gunfights and other hassles.  It established Garner's persona as a relaxed charmer, just on the edge of being a con man.

He spent most of the 60s starring in movies, such as Boys Night Out, The Great Escape, The Americanization Of Emily, Mister Buddwing, Grand Prix and Support Your Local Sheriff--a mix of comedy, action and Westerns.

In 1971, he returned to the TV Western with the one-season-and-out Nichols--which famously killed off Garner's character at the start of the final episode.  A few years later, however, he had his biggest series hit--The Rockford Files. Jim Rockford, P.I. could barely make ends meet and didn't particularly like to fight, but somehow managed to solve the case before the final commercial.  If Garner is remembered for anything, I think it'll be this role.  He returned for several TV movies as Rockford years later. He'd also return as Bret Maverick.

He continued appearing in movies, and was memorable as King Marchand in Blake Edwards' elegant farce Victor/Victoria.  He also starred in the romantic comedy Murphy's Romance, for which he got that Oscar nomination.

In his last couple decades he shuttled between TV and film.  He had another failed series in the early 90s, Man Of The People (which I remember because one of the cast was my friend Taylor Nichols), and was one of the leads in the highly popular film Space Cowboys.

I still watch him on cable on a cowboy station where they show Maverick reruns.  Though you have to watch out, since there are a lot of episodes starring Bart Maverick and even Beau Maverick.  Trust me, you want Bret.

A Man Named Kim

Happy birthday, Kim Fowley, who turns 75 today.  He's a singer, producer and musician who worked on a lot of great records.  A small sampling:







Sunday, July 20, 2014

Married To The Worst

I caught two single-camera sitcoms that just debuted on FX, Married and You're The Worst.

Married, about a marriage with kids that's become somewhat tired, stars familiar faces Judy Greer and Nat Faxon.  Their sidekicks, also names if not quite as familiar, are Jenny Slate, Brett Gelman and John Hodgman.  The central plot of the pilot has Greer not willing to put out, so she tells her husband to go find someone else.  He actually gets with a gal who could be a mistress, but through complications never has sex with her.

That's pretty much it.  I like Greer but she didn't have too much to do except be the tired wife.  I'm not quite as thrilled by Faxon, but it was his episode, as we saw his adventures.  It feels like we've seen this sort of thing before, and seen it done better.  The wisecracks from the friends weren't much and the overall plot didn't add up to much.  It was a bit raunchier than we're used to on basic cable, with Faxon masturbating (under the sheets) within the first few minutes--but it's still not brave enough to let Faxon have sex outside his marriage.  I like Greer enough to give it another chance, but it better get smarter pretty quickly.

A bit better is You're The Worst, featuring actors I'm not familiar with.    Chris Geere is Jimmy and Aya Cash Gretchen. They meet at a wedding where he's telling off the bride whom he used to date, and she's stealing wedding gifts.  They're both awful, cynical people, so, of course, they have a wild night of sex.  But she stays till the morning and, through various complications, they realize, after hating each other, that there's a spark.

What's good about the show is there is that spark.  They've got chemistry, and even if they're cynical, they also have feelings. In addition, they're not stupid, plus they have interesting jobs--he's a writer and she's a publicist--that play a part in the show.  The sidekicks--Jimmy's mentally troubled roommate, and Gretchen's equally cynical girlfriend--didn't deliver too much. They may be needed as sounding boards, but they mostly slowed down the action.  I'd rather see the central couple, both at work and mixing together.

The show is even raunchier than Married--we see fairly explicit episodes, for instance, of cunnilingus and fellatio.  It's rated TV Mature, and I wouldn't be surprised if it got an R in a movie theatre.

You're The Worst isn't much, yet, but I'm willing to see how it develops.

PS  Both shows featured lead characters smoking.  These days this seems more daring than showing sex.

Good Lodgings

Happy 69th, John Lodge, bass guitarist and singer for the Moody Blues. He also wrote a lot of their best songs:







Saturday, July 19, 2014

Missing The Boom

Rounders is one of those films that has become a classic without ever being a hit.  When it was released in 1998, it only grossed $23 million.  A disappointment, especially as it featured Matt Damon in his first starring role after Good Will Hunting.  Since then, however, the movie's reputation has been growing, and is probably one of Damon's most famous and beloved titles.  I love the film and have posted about it before.

So it makes sense that there's talk of a sequel.  In fact, when last seen, Damon's Mike McDermott, poker prodigy, was leaving law school in New York for the warmer Vegas climate to see if he could make a living at cards.  All of the characters in the original are alive at the end, even Mike's horrible friend Worm (played by Edward Norton), who got him into so much trouble in the first place.  So anyone could come back. Or perhaps Mikey could meet a bunch of new players out West, including one played by Robert De Niro, as rumor has it (sort of like Edward G. Robinson as the wise old poker player against Steve McQueen in The Cincinnati Kid).

But while I support the idea (and I don't believe in just any sequel--I don't need to see any more adventures of the Dude from The Big Lebowski, another flop from 1998 that I love, and which has become a huge cult item), here's the irony: their timing is off once again. When the first movie was made, it was a few years before the poker boom made the game, and Texas Hold 'em, a ntional obsession.  If it had been released just a bit later, it might have gotten a lot more attention.

However, people are getting pokered out. It's not quite the draw it was in the first decade of this century.  Furthermore, there have been scandals that have made the game disreputable (even more disreputable, perhaps I should say).  So if there is another Rounders, and, let's say, it comes out in 2016, it seems to me they may have missed the boat yet again.  And if you know poker, you don't want to miss a boat.

Sock It To 'Em JP

It's the centennial of Josef Palenicek, the Czech pianist.  So let the celebrations commence.





Friday, July 18, 2014

Comics Squared

There are a number of books dealing with comic book history, but The Comic Book History Of Comics, by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, is, to my knowledge, the only one to tell the story as a comic itself.  It does seem fitting--it's a medium that can do anything, its supporters claim, so why not this?

Told in 224 pages, the story relates much that will be familiar to fans.  It starts with the beginning of the comic strip in 1896, followed by collections of strips published in book form.  Then come various trends--superheroes, romance, horror, moral panic and the Comics Code, underground comix, graphic novels, manga and so on, up until today. Along the way, there are all the big names (often Jewish boys, some of whom changed their names)--Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Will Eisner, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Harvey Kurtzman, R. Crumb, Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman and many others.

What might be a surprise is the book concentrates less on the artistry of these people and more on the business side.  There are times it read more like a labor history or even a tale of capitalism, as the creative people fight against management over payment and licensing, and everyone struggles to make a profit--some becoming millionaires, others going broke. There's also a fair amount written about copyright law.  I enjoyed this stuff, but I suppose some readers would prefer to know more about how Superman changed through the years.

The drawing is well-done, if not great, and gets the point across.  The storytelling is, at times, a bit disjointed (sometimes going into surprising areas, such as a discussion of pop art and how it appropriated comics), but it is covering a lot of ground in very few words.

The book ends with the tricky financial situation of comics since the direct store boom ended about a quarter century ago. As happens more than once, a market opens up in some genre or style, publishers respond, there's a glut and everything falls apart.  Right now the cost of a comic book is at an all-time high (even taking inflation into account) but the market isn't what it once was.  Actually, fans today tend to get their stuff over the internet and through other electronic means--and often from pirates.  Comics aren't going to die any time soon, but the market has changed so much it's hard to have any degree of confidence where things are going next.

But, as always, if someone can supply an entertaining mix of words and drawings, they'll find there's a market out there somewhere.

DD

Happy 75th, Dion DiMucci. He started as lead singers of Dion and the Belmonts before striking out on his own.










Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ain't No Mudd Club

Speaking of The Ramones, I just saw CBGB on cable. It opened and closed so quickly last year I didn't have a chance to catch it.  In fact, it was one of the biggest flops of the year, grossing only $40,000.  That is not a typo.  I guess that's what happens when you make a film about an era the mainstream audience doesn't care about, without any big names, that gets a thumbs down from critics.

The film isn't much, but it deserves a bit more respect.  It's about Hilly Kristal, founder of the great club CBGB.  He figured country was making a comeback--the name stood for Country, Blue Grass and Blues--so he opened up a cheap spot on the Bowery. But he was also looking for new bands that would play their own music (since you don't have to pay for those songs),, and was willing to give them a showcase.  CBGB became ground zero for the punk explosion, with groups such as Television, Blondie, Talking Head and The Ramones honing their craft and making their names.  It's very possible a lot of them wouldn't have made it without Kristal's support.

A pretty good story.  Okay, maybe the movie version, starring a game Alan Rickman as Kristal, fumbles it a bit, but it's still worth telling.  I admit it's strange to see the bands impersonated (though original recordings are used)--thus we get Malin Ackerman as Debbie Harry, Justin Bartha as Stiv Bators, Kyle Gallner as Lou Reed, Taylor Hawkins as Iggy Pop, Joel David Moore as Joey Ramone, Mickey Summer as Patti Smith, Jared Carter as David Byrne, Evan Alex Cole as Richard Hell and Keene McRae as Sting.  But I enjoyed it, even if it could have been more.

I remembering reading about CBGB years ago, so it was the first place I checked out on a trip to NY.  This was some time after the its heyday, of course, but it was the best I could manage. I was surprised at how cramped the place was, but that's how a lot of musical revolutions start.  Look at Sun Records, or Motown--surprisingly small as well.  It's as if they didn't know how big they'd get.

It was also quite a dirty place, and the bathroom--just like the movie has it--was not a place you'd want to stay in very long.

I suppose a documentary is a better place to start, but the film as least gives you an inkling of what an exciting era was about.  I'd like to say that someday someone will make a better film about this subject, but considering the gross, I think it'll be hard to get financing.

Born Carol Diahann

Diahann Carroll turns 79 today.  A great beauty and a great singer.






Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Only The Beginning

I saw a new biography of Norman Rockwell at the library so I checked it out.  It's by Deborah Solomon, a well known writer for The New York Times.  Like most Americans, I've seen a lot of Rockwell's art but know nothing about him.

In the introduction we get this:

The great subject of his work was American life [....] Doctors spend time with patients whether or not they have health insurance.[....] Citizens at town hall meetings stand up and speak their mind without getting booed or shouted down by gun-toting rageaholics.

So rather than simply introduce her subject, she sees even a homely description of Rockwell's America as a chance to take cheap shots related to modern political issues.  This may be the sort of stuff that got her patted on the head at the Times, but doesn't she want her book to be better than that?

Ms. Solomon, let's do a thought experiment.  Let's say someone else has written this book, and they're describing the America that Rockwell's work invokes.  Here are two of the sentences:

Doctors spend time with patients whether or not they've signed up for Obamacare.  Citizens at town hall meetings stand up and speak their mind without worrying that the IRS will audit them if they hold the wrong views.

Would you find these sentences helpful, or intrusive? And what would you think of such an author? Would you believe you could trust her as a reasonably objective biographer?  Just asking.

Coping With Copeland

Happy birthday Stewart Copeland, drummer for the Police. In the early days he was the main songwriter, but Sting soon took over.







Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jughead

I read Archie Comics when I was a kid. Found them very amusing.  One of the nice things about them was they had nothing to do with the real world.  Things have changed.

A while ago it was announced Archie would die.  Already I don't get it.  What is the purpose of killing off a beloved character, particularly one who doesn't fight crime? Back when I read it his biggest problems was fixing his jalopy so he could get to the malt shop on time, only to find he didn't have enough money to buy Veronica a sundae.

Apparently the Archie comics have become more politically aware, which almost ensures they're not worth reading.  So how will he die?  Global warming?  Texting while driving?  No, it's even worse--it's as if someone tried to come up with a plot that piles one politically correct cliché upon another, guaranteeing not even a sliver of intelligence or entertainment:

Archie will die protecting his gay friend from a gunshot.  But there's more--the gunman is attempting the assassination because he doesn't like Archie's friend's views on gun control.

We wanted to do something that was impactful that would really resonate with the world and bring home just how important Archie is to everyone,” Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO told the Associated Press.  “That's how we came up with the storyline of saving Kevin. He could have saved Betty. He could have saved Veronica. We get that, but metaphorically, by saving Kevin, a new Riverdale is born.”

Archie is dead. Long live Riverdale.

What's Big And Purple And Lives In The Ocean?

Happy 69th, Peter Lewis.  Yes, that Peter Lewis, the one you've never heard of.

Most bands from the psychedelic era are forgotten.  I'm not saying I'd want to listen to that sort of music all the time, but every now and then it's fun.  Nothing conjures up the late 60s more.  That's where a band like Moby Grape comes in.  They started strong but never quite made it.  And oh yes, Peter Lewis, almost forgot about him. He was a founding member, guitarist and singer for the band. He also wrote some of their best songs:








Monday, July 14, 2014

A Ford In Your Past

It's Gerald Ford's birthday today.  I saw the recent Ford biography by James Cannon in the library.  Maybe later.  I'm sure I won't need to go on a waiting list.  No matter how you feel about his politics, Ford has got to be one of the most boring Presidents in recent history.

Maybe I'm not being fair.  Maybe I should read the book and prepare to be surprised. But the title itself is actually what caught my notice: Gerald R. Ford: An Honorable Life.

Could you imagine a duller title? It's as if Cannon's warning us.

There Be Dragons

Let me recommend Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero's Abominable Science--an informative and fairly enjoyable book about cryptozoology.  Humans have always believed in fantastical animals, so it should be no surprise that legends like Bigfoot, the Yeti and the Loch Ness monster live on today.

It's not impossible for new species to be discovered. In fact, it happens all the time, sometimes even those made up of fairly large individuals.  But, as Loxton and Prothero explain, the evidence for most modern cryptids is weak, and doesn't tend to meet even minimal scientific standards.  And while you can't prove a negative, it sure would be nice to get a carcass.  Instead, you get tons of special pleading from "experts" on things that probably don't exist.

I suppose to a lot of people, it's exciting to believe in these animals.  And to a few others, this belief is lucrative.  So I expect we'll keep getting sightings.  But really, the world of science is pretty exciting itself, with the added advantage you get to check out animals that actually exist.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Goodbye Charlie

Jazz bassist Charlie Haden has died. He was a groundbreaking musician who came up in the free jazz movement.

First, a moment of Silence, followed by others.




Stoned

Kirby Stone died July 13, 1981, but his style of music died well before then.  He was the head of the Kirby Stone Four, one of the pre-rock and roll singing quartets that sound so odd today.





Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crumb Bummer

I'm surprised to learn all Crumbs Bake Shops have closed down.  The shops are mostly located out East, but there are a few here in the L.A. area, including one just around the corner on Larchmont Boulevard. They're a gourmet cupcake company, and apparently the craze--I didn't know there was a craze--is over.

Crumbs had signature cupcakes (which look quite tasty online)--apple cobbler, cookies and cream, pistachio, peanut butter cup, milk shake, red velvet and squiggle (which looks like a Hostess cupcake), to name a few.

I've actually never been inside one.  I don't really get cupcakes. If you're going to enjoy a pastry, why choose something so top-heavy? Eating it can be a messy experience, especially with all that icing on top. And spending four or five bucks on one cupcake seems like too much. Maybe that's why it's closing. (And as this is baked goods, I doubt it'd be worth attending a going out of business sale if anything is much more than a day old.)

PS  Looks like someone will be picking up Crumbs.  Marcus Lemonis (sounds like he should be living in ancient Rome), who hosts CNBC's The Profit, and is CEO of Camping World, along with Dippin' Dots owner Fischer Enterprises, will acquire the chain. So let the baking continue.

Tommy Boy

Sad news--Tommy Ramone has died.  He was the last of the original four.  They all died before their time.

His real name was Thomas Erdelyi--born Erdelyi Tamas--and he played drums on the band's first three albums.  He also produced their fourth--and their first four albums are their four best.  He'd go on to produce other fine bands, such as The Replacements, but he'll always be Tommy Ramone in our hearts.






Friday, July 11, 2014

The Other Brubeck

Most people don't know Dave Brubeck had a brother named Howard who also wrote jazz. I bet these days most people don't know Dave Brubeck.

Anyway, it's not bad.  Happy birthday, Howard.

Again?

The Emmy awards are out.  Some surprises, but often too few surprises--we're seeing the same tired picks, many of which were questionable to begin with.  Here are the major categories with my comments after:


Best Comedy Series
"The Big Bang Theory"
"Louis"
"Modern Family"
"Orange Is the New Black"
"Silicon Valley"
"Veep"
Some familiar names--Big Bang, Louie, Modern Family, Veep--and some newer stuff.  I'l glad Silicon Valley made it, even if it isn't as great as I wish it would be. I don't watch Orange.
Modern Family is like Mad Men a couple years ago--it's won four years straight.  Maybe it's time for some show to take it down, but I don't know which would do it.  Veep had its best year ever, but I'm not sure if that's good enough.  Louie got deeper, and worse, I think, so I hope it doesn't win.
No Girls.  Good call.  I don't see why it was ever nominated.  No Community.  As always, alas. No Parks And Recreation, which is sort of surprising. The biggest surprise is Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the best new sitcom, didn't make it.
Best Actress in a Comedy Series
Lena Dunham, "Girls"
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
Julia Louis Dreyfus, "Veep"
Melissa McCarthy, "Mike & Molly"
Amy Poehler, "Parks & Recreation"
Taylor Schilling, "Orange Is the New Black"
Lots of nominations for Orange. Not being a viewer, I don't know if it's because it's that good or that there's a lack of competition in women's categories.
Not the most inspiring crowd here.  Only Dreyfus and Poehler really deliver the comedic goods, and even then they're not the highlights of their shows.  I'm not sure who else they could pick, though some have suggested Anna Faris for Mom, which I rarely watch.  And how about Patricia Heaton for the always overlooked The Middle?
Best Actor in a Comedy Series
Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"
Ricky Gervais, "Derek"
Matt LeBlanc, "Episodes"
Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"
Louis C.K., "Louie"
William H. Macy, "Shameless"
Jim Parsons was certain (while co-star Johnny Galecki, and we can see, was not), but the rest I wonder about. I like Louis, though I didn't think he was in top form this season.  LeBlanc's also good, though I'm surprised anyone's paying attention to his show.  Don Cheadle is a charming actor but he's in a horrible show.  Don't really get Shameless.  And I don't watch Derek, though what little I've seen makes me wonder if Gervais is an Academy favorite.
I'm surprised Andy Samberg didn't make it, but apparently the industry doesn't like Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Supporting Actor, Comedy Series
Andre Braugher, "Brookiyn Nine-Nine"
Adam Driver, "Girls"
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, "Modern Family"
Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"
Fred Armisen, "Portlandia"
Tony Hale, "Veep"
Generally the best category, but I don't understand why so many names don't make it.  Braugher's good on his show, but he doesn't stand out to me (though his part is written that way)--part of his nod may be the TV community's recognition of his career. Speaking of Community, as usual, nothing.  Adam Driver is the most memorable character on Girls, but I don't know if it deserves anything.  Only two Modern Family nominations, instead of the normal three or four--clearly a show on the way down.  Especially surprised there's no Eric Stonestreet, who's already won twice.  I've never thought much of Portlandia, but regardless, is Armisen a supporting actor?
Other names passed up?  Where's Simon Helberg of Big Bang Theory?  Where's Nick Offerman of Parks And Recreation?  Where T. J. Miller of Silicon Valley?
Supporting Actress, Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik, "The Big Bang Theory"
Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"
Allison Janney, "Mom"
Kate Mulgrew, "Orange Is the New Black"
Kate McKinnon, "Saturday Night Live"
Anna Chlumsky, "Veep"
So they love Mayim, but not Kaley.  They love Julie but not Sofia.  Oh well, that's show biz.
It's always odd here when an SNL cast member gets nominated--you're comparing someone who played one character to someone who played 50.
Allison Janney got two nominations this year.  I think she's great, but I'm not sure she deserved either.
Best Drama Series
"Breaking Bad"
"Downton Abbey"
"Game of Thrones"
"House of Cards"
"Mad Men"
"True Detective"
We are living in a golden age of TV drama, as we can see by the excellent shows here.  I haven't seen House Of Cards (don't get any streaming shows yet) but four of the rest are great.  The only one I question is Downton Abbey--I think the nomination may be a reflex by now, but I think the show has gotten weaker each season.
Not too long ago Mad Men was the show to beat, but I'm almost surprised now it's still getting nominated.  Some question the omission of The Good Wife, The Americans, Homeland and even Boardwalk EmpireMasters Of Sex and The Walking Dead.  I don't watch Wife or Americans, but, though I like Homeland, it's not better than the good shows nominated.  There was a lot of money spent on Boardwalk Empire, but overall it was a big nothing, so goodbye.  Masters Of Sex has possibilities, but isn't there yet.  I don't watch Walking Dead.
The real question mark is True Detective. It was expected to put itself up for miniseries, where it would probably win, but it decided to go into the much tougher category of drama. If it wins, good call, but if it loses, they only have themselves to blame.  The show blew everyone away up till the end, when some found the finale wanting.
Best Actress in a Drama Series
Lizzy Caplan, "Masters of Sex"
Claire Danes, "Homeland"
Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey"
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Kerry Washington, "Scandal"
Robin Wright, "House of Cards"
Love to see LIzzy, even if she's not well-served by her show. And even if Homeland didn't have a great year, Claire Danes is still amazing  Why give a nod to Michelle Dockery--she's not really the lead, and she doesn't particularly stand out?
Some have noted no Elisabeth Moss, but were we really expecting it?  Some have noted no Keri Russell.  Many have noted no Tatiana Maslany, but I don't watch Orphan Black so I can't say..
Best Actor in a Drama Series
Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Jeff Daniels, "The Newsroom"
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
Woody Harrelson, "True Detective"
Matthew McConaughey, "True Detective"
Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards"
Lots of snubs, except there's only so much room.  Bryan Cranston always gets nominated (and usually wins).  Jon Hamm always gets nominated (and never wins--let's throw the guy a bone).  Everyone knew McConaughey would make it--I'd say he's the favorite here--but not everyone was expecting co-star Woody.  But what's Jeff Daniels doing here--he gives a game performance, but the show is awful.
Who's not here?  Damien Lewis, who shouldn't ever have been nominated but won for Homeland.  No Steve Buscemi--another wise omission.  No Liev Schrieber--fine by me.  No James Spader--don't really watch his hit show, but he's always fun, at least.  No Michael Sheen--a bit of a surprise, since he's the best thing on Masters Of Sex.  Some thing Matthew Rhys of The Americans should be here, but I don't watch the show.
Supporting Actor, Drama Series
Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad"
Jim Carter, "Downton Abbey"
Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"
Josh Charles, "The Good Wife"
Mandy Patinkin, "Homeland"
Jon Voight, "Ray Donovan"
Aaron Paul's became a regular, He may win yet again.  Jim Carter's okay, but aren't we over his show by now?  Peter Dinklage is great, but I think he's here to represent the whole cast.  I'd love to see Mandy Patinkin win for Homeland.  I don't think much of Ray Donovan, but Voight is probably the best thing on the show.
Supporting Actress, Drama Series
Anna Gunn, "Breaking Bad"
Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey"
Lena Headey, "Game of Thrones"
Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife"
Christina Hendricks, "Mad Men"
Joanne Froggatt, "Downton Abbey"
Like Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn's become a regular, though I'm not sure if this is, or should be, her year.  Of course Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey, but do we also need Joanne Froggatt?  It's nice to see Hendricks here, though she's always a bridesmaid.  I'm not sure about Headey.  GOT is my favorite show, but it wasn't a great year for her and even among the women I can name several character who are more interesting.

Best Miniseries or Movie
"American Horror Story: Coven"
"Bonnie & Clyde"
"Fargo"
"Luther"
"Treme"
"The White Queen"
Fargo looks to take it. If only True Detective had run here it might be interesting.  After all those year of ignoring The Wire, it's too bad the Academy is wasting nominations on Treme.
Best Actress Miniseries or Movie
Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story: Coven"
Sarah Paulson, "American Horror Story: Coven"
Helena Bonham Carter, "Burton and Taylor"
Minnie Driver, "Return to Zero"
Kristen Wiig, "The Spoils of Babylon"
Cicely Tyson, "The Trip Bountiful"
I'm surprised to see a name from the spoof The Spoils Of Babylon, but the Emmys have star envy, and anyone who's made it in movies gets special treatment.
Best Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Dancing on the Edge"
Martin Freeman, "Fargo"
Billy Bob Thornton, "Fargo"
Idris Elba, "Luther"
Mark Ruffalo, "The Normal Heart"
A double nomination for Fargo--wonder if they'll split the vote?  Or will Billy Bob take it anyway?
The Normal Heart was a lot of ranting as far as I could tell, but if the TV people thinks it's important I fear they may give it some Emmys.
Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
Martin Freeman, Sherlock: His Last Vow
Colin Hanks, Fargo
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Alfred Molina, Return to Zero
Jim Parsons, The Normal Heart
So Freeman and Parsons get two nominations.  And Freeman is up against his Fargo buddy Hanks (who didn't do much).  A lot of love--way too much--for The Normal Heart. And those guys are up against their costar Alfred Molina.
Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Frances Conroy, American Horror Story: Coven
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven
Angela Bassett, American Horror Story: Coven
Allison Tolman, Fargo




Ellen Burstyn, Flowers in the Attic
Julia Roberts, The Normal Heart

Looks like a gimme for Allison Tolman, who gave a breakthrough performance in Fargo.  Though there's always a bona fide movie star like Julia Roberts to watch out for.  And what's all this about big names in shows I don't watch?
Guest Actor in a Drama
Paul Giamatti, Downton Abbey
Dylan Baker, The Good Wife
Reg E. Cathey, House of Cards
Robert Morse, Mad Men
Beau Bridges, Masters of Sex
Joe Morton, Scandal

Another nod for DA?  And for a star name who didn't do much?  It'd be nice to see Robert Morse win. Beau Bridges doesn't have much of a part on MOS, though I guess closeted homosexuality in the 50s can be fun to play.
Guest Actress in a Drama
Margo Martindale, The Americans
Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones
Kate Mara, House of Cards
Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
Jane Fonda, The Newsroom
Kate Burton, Scandal

Rigg was a regular on GOT, so why the guest slot?  It'd be great to see her up against another great dame like Maggie Smith, since they're both playing the dowager countess role.

And here's the second nod for Janney, even if it's not much of a role.  Even weaker, but a bigger name, is Jane Fonda, doing a nothing part in a nothing show.
Guest Actor in a Comedy
Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory
Nathan Lane, Modern Family
Steve Buscemi, Portlandia
Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live
Louis C.K., Saturday Night Live
Gary Cole, Veep

Louis gets two acting nominations.  What's going on with the Academy?  Really far too many choices from SNL.  Newhart was fun, but is it just because we're so happy to see him back on a sitcom where he belongs?  And Gary Cole was good, but once again, more a regular than a guest--these categories are fairly arbitrary.
Guest Actress in a Comedy
Natasha Lyonne, Orange is the New Black
Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Laverne Cox, Orange is the New Black
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Joan Cusack, Shameless

Three Oranges, two SNLs and one Shameless.  And I'm not sure if any deserve to be here.
Outstanding Variety Series
The Colbert Report
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Real Time With Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

No one wants to say goodbye to Letterman. Or Ferguson, for that matter. An odd category, with all sorts of different shows competing.
Outstanding Reality Competition
The Amazing Race
Dancing With the Stars
So You Think You Can Dance
Project Runway
Top Chef
The Voice

I avoid Reality Shows, but I do see that American Idol is out of here.
Reality Host
Betty White, Betty White’s Off Their Rockers
Tom Bergeron, Dancing With the Stars
Jane Lynch, Hollywood Game Night
Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, Project Runway
Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance
Anthony Bourdain, The Taste

How do you even judge this?
Outstanding Reality Show (Structured)
Antiques Roadshow
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
MythBusters
Shark Tank
Undercover Boss
Who Do You Think You Are?

Hey, I actually watch some of these. Diners made it?  I wouldn't have guessed.
Outstanding Reality Show (Unstructured)
Alaska: The Last Frontier
Deadliest Catch
Flipping Out
Million Dollar Listing
Wahlburgers
Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan

I don't even understand what this category means.


Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series
Breaking Bad • Ozymandias • AMC • Sony Pictures Television

Breaking Bad • Felina • AMC • Sony Pictures Television
Vince Gilligan, Written by

Game Of Thrones • The Children • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions David Benioff, Written by D.B. Weiss, Written by
House Of Cards • Chapter 14 • Netflix • Donen/Fincher/Roth and Trigger Street Productions, Inc. in association with Media Rights Capital for Netflix Beau Willimon, Written by

True Detective • The Secret Fate Of All Of Life • HBO, Nic Pizzolatto, Written by
Two Breaking Bads, but not not a single Mad Men or Downton Abbey.

Writing for a Comedy Series
David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, “Episodes” (Showtime)
Louie • So Did The Fat Lady • FX Networks • Pig Newton, Inc. and FX Productions
Orange Is the New Black • I Wasn’t Ready (Pilot) • Netflix • Lionsgate Television for Netflix
Silicon Valley • Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Judgemental Films, Alec Berg, Altschuler Krinsky works, and 3 Arts Entertainment
Veep • Special Relationship • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Dundee Productions

Not the best Louie, but offered a fat girl a long monologue.  
 Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special
Fargo • The Crocodile’s Dilemma • FX Networks • MGM and FX Productions
Luther • BBC America • A BBC and BBC America co-production
The Normal Heart • HBO • HBO Films in association with Plan B Entertainment, Blumhouse and Ryan Murphy Productions
Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece) • PBS • Hartswood West for BBC/Cymru Wales in co-production with Masterpiece
Treme • …To Miss New Orleans • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Blown Deadline Productions

Fargo versus The Normal Heart might be interesting.

A few other notes:

Game Of Thrones got the most nominations with 19, though a lot of that is technical stuff, so I'm not sure if it counts. Other shows with more than 12 nominations:  Fargo, American Horror Story: Cover, Breaking Bad, The Normal Heart, Saturday Night Live, House Of Cards, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Downton Abbey, Sherlock: His Last Vow, True Detective, Modern Family and The Voice.

Looking at it by network, by far the most successful is HBO, which got 99 (so close).  Second place, with 47--less than half--is CBS.  NBC almost tied at 46 but then is FX at 45, well above ABC's 37.  PBS has 34 and Netflix--not even really on TV--has 31.  Fox has the lowest for any real network with 30 (and no Simpsons for best animated show).

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