Saturday, February 28, 2015

Transparency of the Decade Award

Wow, kudos to Robert McChesney:

“At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.” 

“Our job is to make media reform part of our broader struggle for democracy, social justice, and, dare we say it, socialism.”

"[H]e admitted he is a socialist and said he was 'hesitant to say I’m not a Marxist.'”

Boy, does Obama need to call him to the White House and say, "C'mon, Bro, help me out here. This is how you say it."

And kudos to Fund for some pretty basic but nonetheless remarkable reporting.

This is of a piece with candidate Obama's statement that it might take 10 or 15 years to get to single payer.

Pareto, schmareto

"I'm the 56th most popular star!"

Definitely not safe for work. Related: Google scraps plan to block porn on Blogger

The End Of The Genesis Project

Wow, this is a big one. Leonard Ninoy is dead.  He had a long and varied career, but, of course, he'll be remembered for one role.

As a young actor, he appeared in numerous TV shows in the 50s and early 60s.  With vaguely "off" looks he often played exotic and sinister characters. Just by chance I turned on an episode of Daniel Boone yesterday from the mid-60s and there was Nimoy playing a nasty Indian brave.  In an age of widespread Westerns he played a lot of Indians.  He also appeared in an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with another guest star, William Shatner.

He could easily have been just another character actor, making a living yet barely known. But then he go the role of a lifetime.  Or, to put it better, he took a part and turned it into the role of a lifetime.  He was hired for the Star Trek pilot, which didn't fly.  Creator Gene Roddenberry was given the money to make a second pilot, and he had to decide who'd be in the new cast, and NBC would have liked him to get rid of the "weird" character, but Roddenberry stuck with Nimoy.  Even then NBC was nervous about Nimoy's satanic look and tried to downplay it--until he became the show's breakout character, even more popular than Captain Kirk, and NBC couldn't publicize him enough--to the chagrin of lead William Shatner.  He even became, against all odds, a sex symbol.

Still, that could have been that.  The original series was never that popular, and was canceled after three years of middling ratings.  Nimoy received three Emmy nominations for the role, but never won--losing to Eli Wallach, Milburn Stone and, for some reason, Werner Klemperer.

Nimoy's new fame put him on a higher track, and his next major role was as a regular on a real hit, Mission: Impossible.  Meanwhile, Star Trek was kept alive in syndication by a growing and fanatical fan base.  There was enough interest that an animated series using the voices of the original cast was on for one year.

Then, in 1977, Star Wars was a huge hit and Paramount, which owned Star Trek, realized there was money in sci-fi films.  So they made a huge Star Trek film--there was such pent up demand that it made money, but it was so bad (and so clueless--the audience didn't want to see new characters in charge of the Enterprise) it almost killed the franchise.  Luckily--thanks to director-write Nicholas Meyer and others (but not to Gene Roddenberry, who became a figurehead at this point), the second Trek movie, The Wrath Of Khan, though much lower in budget, was much higher in quality--many still consider it the best Trek in any medium--so the movies lived.  But not Spock, who died at the end. (Sorry for the spoiler).

But you can't keep a good half-Vulcan down, and he came back to life in the third film, The Search For Spock. It wasn't easy though--the producers had to let Nimoy direct.  He did a decent job, and an even better job on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which made the most money in the series.

All this led to a reflowering of the brand, and soon there were several Star Trek spinoffs on TV, and more than one new series of Star Trek moviesm  including the modern and highly successful reboot, which featured Nimoy, still the most popular figure in the Star Trek universe.

Meanwhile, Nimoy kept acting--theatre as well as movies and TV--and established a career as a director, helming the huge hit Three Men And A Baby.  He also had time to publish two volumes of an autobiography, I Am Not Spock in 1975, which apparently pissed off fans, and led to I Am Spock in 1995. (He also recorded some albums, but the main thing that can be said about them is he's a better singer than Shatner.)

In some ways, Star Trek fandom is a silly thing.  The original show was imaginative but crudely done. It's not worth building a religion around. (It's not Star Wars, after all.) And yet, with its unprecedented fandom, it brought happiness and a sense of community to millions, and that probably wouldn't have happened without Nimoy.  So while the man may be gone, it's good to know the love he spread will live long and prosper.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Seeing unicorns

Holy cow, a liberal able to think a thought.

I give him a star for "spectacularly unviable." May he someday apply it to Bushitler and Hitlery both.

Kernels Of Wisdom

This week's episode of Modern Family occurred entirely on a MacBook. A gimmick, but I thought it was pretty well done.  The plot has Claire connecting to everyone from O'Hare Airport, and one runner has Cam reminding her to pick up a canister of Garrett popcorn.

I've never had Garrett.  Never even heard of it.  But they didn't make it up for the show, it's real.  So I checked out the website to see what I'd been missing.  And the first screen that came up had this announcement:

In honor of Black History Month, we're donating 10% of all Tin sales to Black Ensemble Theatre.

A decent enough charity, if not high on my list.  And it's Garrett's money to do with as it will.  Or is it?  If I buy something there, isn't it my money they're handing out?  And if they're regularly donating to various causes, aren't prices higher than they'd be otherwise?

I understand some companies believe in civic-minded virtue, and, to be more cynical, public charity can make for good publicity.  Further, I bet high-end popcorn consumers don't fret too much about a little extra cost.  But couldn't I have a say? I don't mean putting a check on a list next to my preferred charity, but a choice where they don't give to charity at all and I get a discount.  I'll pocket the money and, if I feel like it, maybe I'll give it to charity.  Maybe I'll even give it to the Black Ensemble Theatre.  But let me decide.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nice little savings account ya got there. Shame if anything happened to it.

Germany Sells Five-Year Debt at Negative Yield

Plus some bonus useful advice: "“Obviously, this could be a positive or a very big negative. It depends on how corporates and sovereigns react.”

Obviously, you idiot. Buy low, sell high and you'll be fine.

Anno Domino

One of the greatest of the early rock and roll masters, it's Fats Domino's birthday.

Wigging Out

Josephine Wiggs turns 50 today.  Who's she?  A rock musician who, on bass, was one of the least known members of The Breeders.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Seems unlikely

The Left Regrets Making Scott Walker A Thing

I can see the attraction of the statement, but the article says nothing of the sort. It also assumes a fact not in evidence, that "the Left" is capable of such self reflection. Right now I think the Left is in full destroy mode (along with the Manhattan Media, but of course I repeat myself).

Now, if he is elected president, I'll believe it. Surely it will strike them then that in hindsight it didn't work out so well. But for now, I'm wondering if this poor writer has an editor, or any ability to separate an idea that attracted him from what is actually on the page.

He's also wrong that Walker is a "surprise" frontrunner. It's entirely predictable, not that he would be, but that any competent analyst would have put him high on the list of possibilities to be the frontrunner. Cruz would be a surprise, only insofar as he has been successfully demonized--more reason to think the Left would have no regrets at this point, because they have every reason to believe their methods work. Perry would be a surprise, but again only insofar as he has dug himself into a hole and is showing indications that he's perhaps not quite solid on conservative principles. Jindal has potential but doesn't seem able to close the deal, and the Paul line seems like it might need a third generation.

Carson, now *that* would be a surprise. For whatever reason, this is not a field where first time amateurs seem likely to succeed.

Other than that, the field is full of nuts like Huckabee and obvious false fronts, retreads of the McCain and Romney variety of apologists who think the thing to do is to apologize for being American. The Dems have that market covered, guys, and even if that happens to be your business model, don't make the mistake of thinking it's a worthwhile appeal. Those guys would have better success calling themselves Democrats and saying they're reaching across the aisle in collecting all their endorsements and fundraising from the usual corporatists.

Update: Let’s stipulate up front that Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is an odious politician whose ascension to the Presidency would be a disaster. Sure, why not. It's clearly necessary to all that follows, which boils down to "We hate conservatives because they believe Obama is an odious politician whose ascension to the presidency would be a disaster." (Grammar Nazi says "lower case," unless you are an actual fascist, in which case it's upper case, if you know what's good for you.)

Park It Here

Just a quick tribute to Parks And Recreation, which had its one-hour finale last night.  The whole final season, set in 2017, was close to a goof as it was, so it was fitting to see all the characters have their dreams come true even further in the future.

P&R stumbled out of the blocks, but eventually recovered and, indeed, kept improving.  In that way I'd compare it to Newhart, another show that was too straight at the beginning, but just kept piling up the eccentricities of its characters--and got rid of the boring ones--and, for that matter, making the people of the town weirder and weirder. Pawnee, Indiana is supposed to be a small town, but whatever sort of odd house or club or restaurant or store was needed for the plot always turned up.

The characters were essentially doing their own little routines, which was fine, but every now and then there was some real chemistry, such as the surprising connection between Andy and April (who started in completely different spheres--Andy, in fact, was Ann's original worthless boyfriend), and, above all, the center of the show, Leslie and Ron (certainly not Leslie and Ben).

So goodbye, Parks And Recreation--you've freed up thirty minutes in my weekly schedule, so I'm now free to find another sitcom.

A few random notes:

--alas, the death of 30-year-old producer Harris Wittels put a damper on things, especially, no doubt, for the cast and crew.

--what was that shot at the Wolverines?  Is there something going on here?

--seeing the future every time Leslie touched someone felt like it came out of Lost.

--the message was very pro-public work, which is fine--especially if we remember it came from people making a ton of money in the free market.

Let George Sing It

Happy birthday, George Harrison.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Apparently YouTube (yes, I'm linking to YouTube) will now play another video after you've seen the video you chose, unless you actively stop it.  And then another after that, and so on.  This is evil.  I just want to see the video I want, I don't need permanent videos for the rest of my life unless I turn them off.

PS  Okay, I turned off the autoplay.  It wasn't that hard, but I still don't like that it was on by default.  It's like that automatic U2 download that you had to give back. Hey, U2/YouTube--do I see a connection?

Cold Play

It's been cold and rainy the last few days in Hollywood (though I heard it never rains in Southern California, especially on the Oscars).  But I'll take that over good old Ann Arbor, where the weather was minus 7 yesterday.

I grew up in Detroit, and attended college in Ann Arbor, so I remember some cold days.  I specifically recall days when I had an early lab, and while walking over the bridge toward central campus having the wind whip through my body.  I'd think "this lab is only one credit--is this trip really necessary?"

I don't recall paying much attention to the specific temperatures, but I doubt it was ever minus 7 when I was in college.  Still, I do remember it being so cold that your snot would freeze when you breathed in.  That's a more important threshold than 0 or 32 degrees.

I've been living in Southern California for quite a while now. When I first moved here the lack of seasons seemed weird--I didn't even like it at first.  Alas, I have become a weather wimp, and I'm not sure if I could take those long winters.  I start to feel feel unsettled if I have to wear my sweater a few days in a row.

So for you folks still there in Ann Arbor and the like, here's to you.  Perhaps some day you'll feel nostalgia for the Great Freeze of '15.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oscar, schmoscar

Thank God that's over with. Happy to so see J.K. Simmons, and really happy they did him first.

Now let's talk about important things. Will "Agent Carter" be renewed? Based on the ColumbusGuy Likes It Meter (tm), the answer is presumably no. And, for a Marvel product without Robert Downey Jr, even ColumbusGal can watch it without projectile vomiting--high praise indeed.

Just started watching the undead series, "Awake," with Lucius Malfoy playing Angelino, and have really enjoyed the first couple of episodes. Happily this one was canceled long ago.

Registration is still open!

Tennessee Law Review to host Third Amendment symposium

Up The Academy

Quick review of the Oscars.  Went by painlessly enough, though Neil Patrick Harris is better at hosting the Tonys.  And that prediction stunt was lame--as magic, comedy or some unholy mix of the two.

Biggest Winner: Birdman.  They spread the wealth last night, but Birdman won a bunch, including three above-the-line awards, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay.  Second biggest winner was either Grand Budapest Hotel, which got four awards (all technical, and generally deserved) or Whiplash, the little film that could, that won three.

Biggest Loser: Boyhood. Up for a bunch of major awards, only managing a Best Supporting Actress. (Waiting 12 years to lose must be tough.). Second biggest loser is Michael Keaton--his film Birdman is winning awards right and left, but he can't even win the sentimental vote for Best Actor.

Biggest disappointment (to me): Butter Lamp, easily the best of the short live action films, lost to The Phone Call, the worst.

A few notes:

Two short films about crisis hotlines won Oscars--expect more, I guess.

Love it or hate it, Birdman is one of the most arty and experimental films ever to win the Best Picture Oscar.

A number of people hijacked the ceremony to make political speeches, demonstrating they're full-of-themselves boors. If only the audience would sit on their hands, rather than go "me too, I care!," we might make some progress.

It was nice to see Julie Andrews, but did we need a 50th anniversary Lady Gaga musical tribute to The Sound Of Music?  Cut that and the show comes in on time.

By Gad

Birthday boy Josh Gad might not look like you're average star, but when you think about it, he's carved out quite a career for himself.  He's done a lot of TV and movies, but I think the two roles he's best remembered for are in musicals--Broadway blockbuster The Book Of Mormon and Hollywood blockbuster Frozen.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Allocation of resources

“I can honestly say I haven’t spent five minutes studying John Kasich,” said Representative David Hiott.

No party affiliation, but I'd cross the aisle for that guy.

Update: Oops, I take it back. They were all Republicans. I should have known. What Democrat would want to balance a budget?

The Big Day

It's the day Hollywood waits for all year, the Oscars.

Let's look over the nominees.  There was a time I would predict the winners, but since it's so easy to find the odds on the internet, I will just talk about who I want to win.  I'll skip the categories where I haven't seen the majority of the nominees.

Best Picture
“American Sniper” Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan, Producers
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, Producers
“The Imitation Game” Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers
“Selma” Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
“The Theory of Everything” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers
“Whiplash” Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers

I don't think any of these films are good enough to deserve Best Picture. Of this group, guess I'd go, halfheartedly, with Boyhood.


Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”
Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher”
Supporting Actor

Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood”
Edward Norton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”
Robert Duvall in “The Judge”

Now we're talking.  Except for Robert Duvall, this is all worthy work.  I'd go with Edward Norton, though there's no denying Ruffalo and likely winner Simmons were amazing.


Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”

Weaker than usual.  I'd pick Julianne Moore, even if it is a disease-of-the-week sort of role.

Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in “Wild”
Keira Knightley in “The Imitation Game”
Emma Stone in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”
Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood”

Emma had her moments, but I'll go with Patricia Arquette.

Animated Feature
“Big Hero 6” Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
“The Boxtrolls” Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
“Song of the Sea” Tomm Moore and Paul Young
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

Haven't seen them all, but of those I have, Song Of The Sea is the winner.

Adapted Screenplay
“American Sniper” Written by Jason Hall
“The Imitation Game” Written by Graham Moore
“Inherent Vice” Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Theory of Everything” Screenplay by Anthony McCarten
“Whiplash” Written by Damien Chazelle

Not the most inspiring choices, and one, Inherent Vice, is particularly bad.  Guess I'll pick The Imitation Game--it's only slightly better than pedestrian, and is often the opposite of what actually happened, but it holds together and is sort of fun.

Original Screenplay
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
“Boyhood” Written by Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
“Nightcrawler” Written by Dan Gilroy

Boyhood and Birdman were interesting experiments, but not necessarily great writing.  Guess I'd go with Nightcrawler.

“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Emmanuel Lubezki
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Robert Yeoman
“Ida” Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
“Mr. Turner” Dick Pope
“Unbroken” Roger Deakins

Why is Ida here? Because it's in black and white?  Suppose I'd pick (the rather showy) Grand Budapest Hotel.

Costume Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Milena Canonero
“Inherent Vice” Mark Bridges
“Into the Woods” Colleen Atwood
“Maleficent” Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive
“Mr. Turner” Jacqueline Durran
 Grand Budapest again. (I like Mr. Turner, but it's once again second-best.)

“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Bennett Miller
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson
“The Imitation Game” Morten Tyldum

Birdman, if just for the exuberance with which it meets its technical challenges.

Film Editing
“American Sniper” Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach
“Boyhood” Sandra Adair
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Barney Pilling
“The Imitation Game” William Goldenberg
“Whiplash” Tom Cross

The Imitation Game.  If nothing else, it kept moving.

Foreign Language Film
“Ida” Poland
“Leviathan” Russia
“Tangerines” Estonia
“Timbuktu” Mauritania
“Wild Tales” Argentina


Makeup and Hairstyling
“Foxcatcher” Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
“Guardians of the Galaxy” Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Original Score
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Alexandre Desplat
“The Imitation Game” Alexandre Desplat
“Interstellar” Hans Zimmer
“Mr. Turner” Gary Yershon
“The Theory of Everything” Jóhann Jóhannsson

I really should listen to these again, since what I remember from the movies may not be their official scores.  But I'll go with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Once again, Mr. Turner second.

Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”
Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
“Glory” from “Selma”
Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
“Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me”
Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
“Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”
Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Did they nominate the wrong song from Begin Again?  Guess I'll go with "Everything Is Awesome."

Production Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“The Imitation Game” Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
“Interstellar” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
“Into the Woods” Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“Mr. Turner” Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Grand Budapest Hotel. (If this film hadn't come out I'd be giving all these technical awards to Mr. Turner.)

Animated Short Film
“The Bigger Picture” Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
“The Dam Keeper” Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
“Feast” Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
“Me and My Moulton” Torill Kove
“A Single Life” Joris Oprins

"Me And My Moulton," even if it doesn't have a strong ending.

Live Action Short Film
“Aya” Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
“Boogaloo and Graham” Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
“Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)” Hu Wei and Julien Féret
“Parvaneh” Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
“The Phone Call” Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

"Butter Lamp" is the easy winner.

Sound Editing
“American Sniper” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
“Interstellar” Richard King
“Unbroken” Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro


Sound Mixing
“American Sniper” John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
“Interstellar” Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
“Unbroken” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
“Whiplash” Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley


Visual Effects
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
“Guardians of the Galaxy” Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
“Interstellar” Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Interstellar, though Guardians Of The Galaxy is close.  (How come Edge Of Tomorrow didn't get any nominations?)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What is this, 'Girls'?

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said his office has received death threats since his controversial comments accusing President Barack Obama of not loving America.

Presumably this means he is getting death threats responding to his recent modest, not sure what to say, insights, I suppose, if you want to be charitable, or if you want to be blunt, trivial statements of the blindingly obvious. I have to believe he's been getting death threats for the past 30 years, at least.

Update: Dana Milbank is outraged by Republicans and thinks none of them should be president.

Rupert Grint must be pissed

Noted conservative Emma Watson is dating Prince Harry? No way!

A Word On Awards

This weekend everyone in Hollywood is talking about the Oscars.  Just the time for the Emmy people to slip in new rules.  Mind you, these are awards that do need some guidance, since you'll get what seem like very different nominees in the same category.  However, though the changes may clarify, that doesn't mean they make sense.

Here are the two biggest changes:

Series Nominees: The number of nominees in comedy and drama races has been increased to seven, due to the dramatic increase in series production.

Comedy vs. Drama: To clarify the difference between the “comedy” and “drama” series categories, series with episodes of 30 minutes or less are defined as a “comedy”; those with episodes of more than 30 minutes will be considered a “drama.”

Why increase the number of series nominated?  Even if there are more shows (and just how many more, considering broadcast TV and cable are filled with so many reality shows), why not keep standards high.  Five seems plenty.  Some years, it seems like too many.

The comedy versus drama thing is even sillier.  It true comedies are traditionally a half hour and dramas an hour, but so what?  You can reverse things. It should be up to the people submitting to decide what category.  (Hourlong series can submit as comedies, but two-thirds of an industry panel will have to okay it.)

Other changes:

Series vs. Limited Series: “Mini-Series” will be changed to “Limited Series” and defined as programs of two or more episodes with a total running time of at least 150 program minutes that tell a complete, non-recurring story, and do not have an ongoing storyline and/or main characters in subsequent seasons.  “Comedy” and “Drama” will continue to be defined as programs with a minimum of six episodes which have an ongoing storyline, theme and main characters presented under the same title and with continuity of production supervision. Producers may formally petition for review by the aforementioned industry panel to change category eligibility.

• Guest Actor: Only performers appearing in less than 50% of a program’s episodes are now eligible to submit in the Guest Actor category.

• Variety Series: The Variety Series category is now split into Outstanding Variety Talk, to be awarded during the Primetime Emmy telecast, and Outstanding Variety Sketch, to be included in the Creative Arts Emmy program.

These are mostly sensible clarifications.  However, why won't the best sketch show win on prime time?  And aren't there plenty of shows that are true hybrids--Jimmy Fallon is talk, but he also does plenty of comedy routines.  And what is something like John Oliver or the daily show?

The one change that no one is discussing--because it's my idea and no one else knows about it--is a rule about acting.  I'm tired of someone winning the same award year after year. Once an actor wins for a specific role in a specific category, that is the last time.  If they want another Emmy, either change categories or get in a new show.  Let others win for a change.  No one loses--winning once for your role means, forevermore, that's an Emmy-winning role, no more need be said.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Since I don't anticipate being anywhere near Santa Monica Place any time soon, I wonder, LAGuy, if you could get Clint Howard to fill in for me? Have him call me and I'll give him my card and the Columbus shipping address.


It's hard to believe there was a time when we didn't have The Odd Couple.  First there was the 1965 play, one of the funniest ever written.  Then there was the hit movie, followed by the TV series in the 70s starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.  There was an African-American TV version in the 80s, as well as a female version on Broadway, plus later movie and TV sequels, and stage revisions, but they don't matter--what mattered was Felix and Oscar were introduced and have held a place in our imaginations ever since.

And now we've got the new CBS Odd Couple, starring Matthew Perry as Oscar and Thomas Lennon as Felix.  The pilot was shown last night right after The Big Bang Theory, so I suspect a fair number of people watched.  Co-written by Perry, who also produces, it was a vague rehash of Neil Simon's original play--even using a few of his lines.  But that wasn't why it felt tired.

Part of it is the idea--the mismatched couple forced to live together--has been done so often it takes a lot to make it work.  Instead, we mostly get clichés here.  And Matthew Perry seemed tired.  Since achieving fame and fortune on Friends, he's tried several series--Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine and Go On--which all had potential but were canceled before they could truly develop.

And now here he is, three-time loser, trying to make it in a known property.  And, along with Lennon, he's got a talented cast, including Yvette Nicole Brown--she left Community for this?--Lindsay Sloane, Wendell Pierce, Leslie Bibb and Dave Foley (though I believe the last two only appear in the pilot).  Though they give it their best shot, the writing just isn't there.

I find the cast appealing enough that I may give it another shot, but unless it does a major turnaround, I don't think this'll last too long.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tough commerce decision

Man, oh, man, now I can't decide what to do. Sell my Amazon stock, or buy more of it?

(The Commerce Clause, by Felix Frankfurter)

Did all the other Guys get invitations too?

You had me at "positive body image for men" and "celebrate our diversity."

Wake Up Wakeling

Happy birthday, Dave Wakeling. Leader of The English Beat (known in England as The Beat), he's only one year away from 60.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

ISIS, 5-4

This is just too good to skip. Not only is it in the headline, it's right there in the body: A five-year effort to kill Obamacare is literally killing Americans.

Did you hear me?! Literally!! Right now! Do something!!

This blog needs a Howard Dean Scream button.  

How to Serve Man

Will these robots make chefs obsolete?

[Dining begins with ]a robot greeter . . . at [a] Haohai Robot Restaurant in Harbin, China. Diners are then seated at their table, place an order with a robot waiter, have their food prepared by a robot chef, and then pay as their (robot-cleared) dishes are being scrubbed by a robot dishwasher.

All I know is, when I went to Carrefour (more or less the equivalent of Walmart or Target) in Shanghai, labor costs were sufficiently low that they paid people to stand in the aisles holding linens or whatever the appropriate product was to engage customer.

Of course, I've seen quite a few stories about comely robots, mostly out of Japan, so I suppose these value added employees are at risk, too. I hope ColumbusGal isn't googling husband models . . .

Imitate This

Driving westward at the corner of Olympic and Sepulveda, a saw a billboard for The Imitation Game.  I was going to describe it, but I found a photo:

If you're having trouble reading it, it says "He saved millions of lives during World War 2./ Honor The Man./ Honor The Film./ The Imitation Game."

It's not a bad movie, but what sort of disgusting appeal to the Oscar voters is this?  Their job is to determine which film is the best artistically.  It's got nothing to do with whether Alan Turing deserves to be honored (even the imaginary Alan Turing of the film, very little like the real one).

The Academy is already too easily taken in by films with noble themes.  I wasn't rooting for the film, but now I may have to actively root against it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Rank And Smile

Speaking of Saturday Night Live, Rolling Stone magazine, which has been reporting on the show from the start, now has a piece ranking each cast member from top to bottom.  Quite a task, and, of course, I have many disagreements. I don't have time to go through every one, so I'll discuss some of the lower-ranked, and then list the top 25.

The lowest, at #141, is Robert Downey Jr.  He didn't make much of a splash and definitely deserves a low ranking, but I think RS put him here for name recognition/shock value.

Most of the bottom ten, including Jim Breuer, Victoria Jackson, Gilbert Gottfreid, Colin Quinn, Norm MacDonald and Randy Quaid, are ranked way too low.  Watching old shows, in fact, Jackson often comes across pretty well--there were other talented women on at the time, but she added a different note.  Maybe the magazine is punishing her for coming out as a conservative Christian.  Gilbert Gottfried was one of the best cast members in the early 80s--indeed, this part of the list should be made up mostly of his castmates.  Randy Quaid may come across as a nut today, but he was a solid performer in his year there.  And Norm MacDonald as the second-greatest news anchor the show ever had (they call him Dennis Miller without the jokes) should be in the top fifty.

They put Michael O'Donoghue at #113.  Okay, as a performer--compared to his work as a writer where he helped create the ethos of the show--he wasn't great, but they say his Mr. Mike character is dated when it's still a potent concept.

They put Danitra Vance at #100, and say she got shoddy treatment.  Maybe she did and maybe she didn't, but her work on the show wasn't much and they're giving her too much sympathy.

Present-day cast member Bobby Moynihan, one of a long line in the fat guy role, is actually pretty good, and should be ranked higher than #98.  And I'm not a big fan of Cheri Oteri or Chris Kattan, but is #94 and #95 fair?

They put A. Whitney Brown at #79 for his commentary.  I found him mostly annoying, and how he can be ranked above Norm MacDonald is bizarre.

Julia Sweeney at #76?  She's one of the better women in the history of the show, and she's in the bottom half?  She should be ranked higher than most of the women above her, such as Jenny Slate, who's at #75, or Gail Mathius at #74 (rather than the bottom ten where she belongs).

They also make excuses for Ellen Cleghorne, saying she got insubstantial roles, but I still think she's ranked too high at #69.

Brad Hall at #67.  He was maybe the most obnoxious guy ever on the show.  (Or as RS would put it if they understood, Chevy Chase without the talent.)

Kevin Nealon was there a long time, and was consistently mediocre.  #59 might be a bit high.

Paul Shaffer at #56?  No.

I don't think Lorne Michaels should be on this list, but if he is, it shouldn't be up there at #54.

Pamela Stephenson at #51? They call her a bright spot in a weak season, but she was the most forgettable member of her cast.

Darrell Hammond was in the Dan Aykroyd tradition of great utility player.  He deserves better than #49.  On the other hand, Tim Meadows is too high at #48.

Julia-Louis Dreyfus at #45?  Tell me she would have cracked the top #100 if she hadn't had such a memorable post-SNL career.

Vanessa Bayer has talent, but I've never quite cottoned to her.  #43 is too high.

Don Pardo is #38. Like Lorne Michaels, Rolling Stone is being cute listing him at all.

Some overrated names in the 30s, including Dennis Miller, Ana Gasteyer and Tim Kazurinsky.

Jan Hooks is #26. Not bad, but as one of the best women ever--I'd rank only Gilda Radner and Kristen Wiig higher--she deserves better.

Top 25:

25.  Jason Sudeikis
24.  Laraine Newman (I like Laraine, but she was one of the weaker players in the original cast, and this is probably too high)
23.  Fred Armisen
22.  Andy Samberg
21.  Chris Rock (sorry, but Chris Rock wasn't much on SNL--not a top 50 player)
20.  Al Franken (not important as a performer--maybe not even top 100)
19.  Jon Lovitz
18.  Maya Rudolph (what is she doing here?--get her out of the top 50)
17.  Adam Sandler
16.  Rachel Dratch (I've met Rachel and find her very talented, but she isn't a top 50 player)
15.  Chris Farley
14.  Kristen Wiig
13.  Bill Hader
12.  Will Ferrell
11.  Dana Carvey
10.  Chevy Chase (He was only on a year and a half, but it's hard to overstate his impact--maybe should be even higher)
9.  Gilda Radner
8.  Amy Poehler (way too high--probably somewhere between 25 and 50)
7.  Phil Hartman
6.  Bill Murray
5.  Dan Aykroyd
4.  Mike Myers
3.  Tina Fey (important as a writer, but not so much as a performer--good, but not top 20)
2.  Eddie Murhpy
1.  John Belushi

Monday, February 16, 2015

Athens of America

After having endured 4 major storms in 3 and half weeks (7 and a half feet- more than Chicago has ever had in an entire winter) interspersed with single/subzero temperatures, I have to admit I am proud to work in a city where the mayor is compelled to warn the citizens "it's probably not a good idea" to jump out of second story windows into the snow (apparently there are Youtube videos out there) .    He alerted us to the danger of upside-down  icicles and to "just think what that might mean."

Hunkering down.   I am getting really sick of local storm coverage.  Happy Presidents Day.

Mavis stands, Mavis speaks

ColumbusGal and I had the good fortune to see Mavis Staples last night, I believe she's 76 (a whippersnapper compared to Angela Lansbury's 89) and of course we loved it.

Mavis apologized for sitting down (you'd think by now she'd know to never apologize--hasn't Bill Clinton taught us anything?), noting she'd had two knee replacements.

Big deal. That put her in the mean of her audience which probably had an average of two knees and a hip.

C'est la vie. The only real glitch had to do with her repeatedly talking about being in Columbus. About half way through her set she said somebody had told her she was in New Albany, and so she apologized again.

New Albany is a mobile home park community established outside of Columbus about 30 years ago by Les Wexner, a developer known throughout California and the rest of the West Coast and surely all of the East Coast above D.C., and it's really taken off. They could even afford to build the pole barn for the performance. Good for Les.

The thing is, nobody in New Albany can be expected to dance or shout, and Mavis needed dancing and shouting. ColumbusGal obliged, almost solo, although there was a sweet young thing about four rows from the stage who let the spirit move her--and was promptly asked to step to the aisle.

We love you, Mavis, and your daddy too. Just don't ask us to witness too much.

Giving up

So Italy isn't keeping it up, so to speak. Such a shame. What would Sophia Loren have to say if she were still fertile?

I guess the robots won't need to turn us into nutritive paste. We'll be checking out right on schedule.

Sunday Night Long

I just finished watching the three-and-a-half hour 40th anniversary of SNL.  There were a lot of clips, musical performances, tributes and even original comedy material--well semi-original, using famous bits like celebrity Jeopardy! or Wayne's World or The Californians (really?).  It's hard to judge the show as a show, since it's more a monument to the show.

There really has never been anything like SNL.  There have been variety shows and talk shows, some that lasted a long time, but SNL is unique.  It started at a time when weekend late night TV was dead--NBC usually showed Johnny Carson repeats. (Ironically, the SNL would spread and take over NBC weekday late night?)  Furthermore, broadcast television--was there any other kind?--had barely responded to the cultural revolution of the 60s.  Saturday Night Live was a show for a new generation, but no one could have predicted it would inspire the generation after that, and the one after that.  In fact, creator Lorne Michaels left after five years, along with the last of the original cast, and many thought that would be it.  But the show continued, and Lorne returned (tail between his legs) five years later and has been at the helm ever since.

So, like any revolution, the revolutionary aspect eventually ended and the show became an institution.  And that's what we saw on Sunday night. It's astounding how many famous people have appeared on SNL, and have been made by SNL.  And since anyone who had anything to do with the show was invited, it needed to be as long as it was.  There were 80 names in the opening credits, and quite a few more in the clips.  We saw more big names on the show than are likely to be at the Oscars next week.

Comedy and bigness don't go that well together, and the anniversary opted more for bigness. And why not, every 40 years or so.  Two generation of comedy and music is worth celebrating.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Suck it, Limey!


Universal jurisdiction snags London's mayor: He sold his London house and guess what? The IRS taxed his capital gains.

Why, you ask? Because he holds two passports, US and British.

I have been told but do not know independently, that the U.S. is the only country to make such outrageous claims. Given that Spain and any number of countries, not to mention various Brussels institutions, regularly claim the right to prosecute such as Pinochet and He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken, I would expect more countries to get in on the action. (Perhaps the paperwork is too oppressive for them.)


I was recently looking at Dick Cavett's latest book Brief Encounters.  It sounded interesting--a guy who interviewed so many fascinating people telling us behind-the-scenes stories.  But it's not that.  Not really.

Instead, this is essentially a reprinting of web articles he wrote for The New York Times--pieces barely worth reading the first time.  Yes, he often writes about names he's known, but his maundering, precious style takes one-paragraph anecdotes and turns them into pages of nothing.

As an example, in a piece about Arthur Godfrey we get this paragraph on something tangential:

This dumbbell notion has been around since I learned to read and has the durability of the great pyramid at Giza.  Sure, there's plenty of schadenfreude (all four syllables, please) around, but it's not evil press monsters who, like those envying Greek gods, like to see the mighty tumble; it's us.  Envious us.

So he's gone off on a jag regarding something we barely care about, but makes sure to drop references to ancient Egypt and Greece, not to mention a German word he insists be pronounced properly--in our heads, I guess.

250 pages of this aren't worth it to get to the nuggets.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Petting the bear

"Human hospital workers have already begun giving the robots childlike monikers—naming them after fruit or Disney characters. Costumes matching the names may be on the way"

(Note to journalist: Might have been a good spot for a name.)

So exactly how long has it been necessary to say, "human" hospital worker?

I'd Rather Go To That Fish Place McDonald's

Domino's Pizza has changed its name to Domino's.  The company claims they're about so much more than pizza.  Or as they put it:

Not Just a Pizza Restaurant Anymore

In 2008 Domino's Pizza became the largest sandwich delivery restaurant overnight when we launched our line of toasty, oven baked sandwiches. In 2009 we added Penne Pasta and Chocolate Lava Crunch Cakes for dessert. In 2010, Domino's rolled out entirely new pizza recipes, including new sauce, crust and cheese. In 2011 Domino's continued to revamp the menu launching a new recipe for Wings and Boneless Chicken and added two new bread sides, Stuffed Cheesy Bread and Parmesan Bread Bites. Also, to stay true to our pizza restaurant roots, we expanded the pizza menu with a line of Domino's Artisan Pizzas™ using premium ingredients.


I rarely eat Domino's pizza--usually when I'm watching football with some friends and we want something decent, reasonable and fast.  I was vaguely aware they offered other items, but it never occurred to me to try them.  If I want a nice sandwich or pasta dish, I'm guessing I'd try some place else.

I don't really know how popular their non-pizza items are, and they can call themselves whatever they want, but sorry, I'll always think of it as a pizza place.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Margaret says a mouthful

Speaking of onesie guy, Margaret Carlson says it all here: "Stewart deserts his post"

Hm, military metaphor, what war would that be, Margaret? What unspeakable evil was he fighting? Not . . . no, not Sarah Palin! Kell Whore!

Because our work here is done

Why Are So Many Men Committing Suicide?

OnesieGuy can take it from here.

(Courtesy of the Blogfather.)

Karma Comedian

According to The Daily Mail, Shirley MacLaine suggests there may be a good reason those millions of Jews died in the Holocaust:

In her memoir, the 80-year-old, who won an Oscar for Terms Of Endearment, writes: ‘What if most Holocaust victims were balancing their karma from ages before, when they were Roman soldiers putting Christians to death, the Crusaders who murdered millions in the name of Christianity, soldiers with Hannibal, or those who stormed across the Near East with Alexander? The energy of killing is endless and will be experienced by the killer and the killee.’

I don't feel the need to express outrage since there are plenty already doing it, and besides, no one takes MacLaine seriously.

But plenty of people do take the idea of karma seriously. (By karma, I mean its popular understanding--I don't claim to have studied the concept.) And it's always presented serious problems, which MacLaine so successfully illustrates.

Because if the universe (or any other source) is dolling out punishments and rewards for what we do (let's not ask how this mechanism works), then that doesn't leave much room for human volition.  If someone is suffering, why should you care--she's just paying off her karmic debt.  Indeed, if you're sending someone to a death camp, why should you be judged harshly--it's just a debt being collected that has to be paid off one way or another.

With karma-accounting, you're in the position you're in for a reason, even though you're living without memories of what someone else (okay, it's you, but it might as well be someone else) did that's causing your situation.  And it's hard to hold anyone responsible for anything they do.  Why should any group suffer bad karma just because they were punishing people who were meant to be punished.  If they're responsible for doing what had to be done, then they'll be punished in the future and you'll get this endless loop.

MacLaine apparently doesn't have any trouble with this system.  I suppose her solution is everyone spread love, but even if it were that easy, I want to spend a few generations making sure the people who deserve it get it; I want to balance their karma--it's the loving thing to do.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shades of Metrics

Credibility-to-ease-of-penetration ratio

No, it doesn't involve Christian Grey, although I suppose there's no reason why it couldn't.

Bonus hint: Nor does it involve Bill Clinton, who'd zero the thing out from both directions.

Jon Gone

Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show.  He's done about as good a job as possible in the seat, and I suppose after seventeen years anyone would get antsy.  Truth is, though, it may have been better if he left about six years earlier.  The Obama presidency has not been a good time for left-leaning satire.

Here's the first paragraph from a Slate piece entitled "We Don't Need The Daily Show Anymore":

On last night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart led with a segment highlighting the way conservative pundits have praised the assertive military swagger of Jordan’s King Abdullah while slamming Obama’s military hesitancy in the face of ISIS. He rolled a montage of the same pundits in the past calling Obama pro-Muslim and characterizing him as a “tyrannical king.” Stewart’s juxtaposition was clever and damning. But on the subversive scale, it barely registered. After all, this is the same exact argument that has been the bones of the invaluable Daily Show for almost two decades. So it’s not that America no longer needs tough, smart, sarcastic voices speaking truth to power. But as Stewart bids farewell to the franchise he shaped into a cultural powerhouse, it’s finally time to retire The Daily Show for good.

I saw the piece referred to above.  Far from "clever and damning" it was lame.  The comic point was conservatives support King Abdullah's approach to ISIS over President Obama's, but have also criticized Obama for acting tyrannically.  Hypocrisy is a minor crime in any case (thus the weakness of so much satire), but I don't see any hypocrisy here.  No one is saying they want Obama to assume all political power, they just want him to fight against ISIS more aggressively.

The audience laughed on cue, but really, this is weak tea, similar to so much stuff Stewart has done over the years.  The real problem is that Stewart, unlike what Slate believes, is hardly a voice "speaking truth to power." He's more a partisan snickering with like-minded people at how stupid anyone is who disagrees with him.  And with Obama as President, it's even worse, since he's essentially become an apologist for power.

Stewart leaving is the end of an era.  But Slate is right, this sort of humor will continue.  Hard to say if that's a good thing.

PS  We should retire the phrase "speaking truth to power," since it's almost invariably used to describe people in a position of privilege criticizing their alleged inferiors.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Business model

I see possibilities.

"[T]he applicant pool will be inclusive of transwomen and of intersex individuals who live and identify as women at the time of application. Intersex individuals who do not identify as male are also eligible for admission.”

I don't know, though. Shouldn't a woman who identifies as male be able to file a discrimination suit here?

And for that matter, what about men who identify as men?

After Warren

When they talk about big names in the Great American Songbook, there's always Harry Warren.  But how many people remember Al Dubin, who wrote so many great lyrics with Harry?  We do, so let's hear some of those words from the man who died seventy years ago today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Masters of suspense

I've always felt that quotes are the most important piece of any story. Here's an excellent one from a story about Brian Williams:

"This is one of the toughest calls that I've ever seen," said Paul Levinson, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University. "On the one hand, the public is right to expect nothing but the truth from our reporters and our news anchors."

I guess he lost the other hand in the war.

The Seven Year Non-itch

Netflix advertisement: Jay Mohr's first special in more than seven years . . .

Released in 2012. Don't know how I missed it.

Steve Martin, Richard Prior, Bob Hope, Lily Tomlin, Louie CK, Seinfeld . . . plenty of people who might have done a special, but as funny as he may be, I can't see that Jay is one of them. (For that matter, is there really such a thing as a special any longer? Seems a bit of an anachronism.)

Take The Call

It's weird watching AMC's Better Call Saul.  It's a spinoff of Breaking Bad, a critically admired hit.  But whereas Breaking Bad was a totally new show with an unknown character that built its audience along the way, Better Call Saul starts with a beloved side-character from that show (thus the big ratings from the start), one whose future we already know.  So we sort of feel like we're in the same Albuquerque world of BB, but from a whole different perspective.

The show, created by BB producers Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, was originally promised as a comedy, but they thought about it and apparently decided to go with an hourlong drama featuring plenty of humorous moments--not unlike BB, in fact (though I doubt it'll ever get as dark).

Actually, the opening sequence in the pilot shows Saul's BB aftermath.  He's gone underground, now working as a Cinnabon manager in Omaha, sadly looking back at the old days when he was a hotshot ABQ lawyer.  I don't think this was smart.  Sure, it was a transition for the BB audience, but I never thought it made any sense that Saul had to hide anyway, and the less we think about his future the better.

Then we go back several years to some time before he met Walter White. Indeed, before he even calls himself Saul Goodman. He's just public defender Jimmy McGill, barely making ends meet.  His office and apartment are a small room in the back of a nail salon (which we'll see in BB--there are many references to BB, which makes the show an odd experience--I think Jimmy even drove by the White residence in the pilot).  Every now and then he runs into a parking ticket attendant who demands he get more validation--it's Mike, whom he'll hire as his fixer.  Mike has this job, presumably, because he's a cop who got in trouble and is now just scraping by, like Jimmy, but no matter why it's always good to see Jonathan Banks.

Then there's Jimmy's brother Chuck, played by Michael McKean. (Chuck was Richie Cunningham's older brother until he mysteriously disappeared--foreshadowing?)  He was a successful lawyer who helped build a multi-million dollar practice.  Now he lives alone due to a mental illness that makes him fear electromagnetism.  Jimmy wants to sue on his behalf for his share of the practice, but the brother won't have it--he believes he'll beat this thing.

So Jimmy, with few options, tries a scam--a shakedown featuring two skateboarders and a fake accident. But they miss the intended target--an embezzler who turned down Jimmy's services--instead stumbling upon the grandmother of Tuco.  Yes, good old psychotic Tuco (sort of a coincidence), who soon has the skateboarders and Jimmy tied up in the middle of the desert, like it's an episode of BB.  Jimmy talks his way out of it, but the skateboarders insulted family man Tuco's abuelita, and they must pay.  Ever the lawyer, Jimmy talks him down from murder to broken legs.  So this will be the tone--the humor of the con man lawyer with the deadly seriousness of BB?  I'm not sure if I bought it, but we'll see how it plays in future episodes.

The show isn't bad, but isn't Bad, either.  I loved Saul Goodman, but he seemed perfect as a supporting character, offering semi-legal solutions and comic relief when things got tough, not a lead.  And going into his past to see how he got this way, when we know how he ends up (though they may go back to Omaha for all we know) isn't quite as exciting as Walter's arc.  (Mike's arc might have been more interesting, but maybe too close to BB.)  Still, I'll watch. It's fun and my guess is it may get more compelling as it goes along.

PS  I always liked the clever titles of BB.  The first episode of BCS is "Uno."  The second is "Mijo."  It looks like each episode will be one word, two syllables, ending in "o." Not that clever, but at least they're trying.

PPS  I guess we knew Walter wasn't going to die in BB, but no one else was safe, and, in fact, many bought it.  But with Better Call Saul we know the fate of Saul, and Mike, too, so we know they'll get out of whatever problem they have.  And if we meet others we've seen, such as Huell, we know he'll be safe too.  On the other hand, if someone seems t hang around a lot and we haven't seen him before, not a good sign.

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