Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shing!!!

The Beelzebubs (or Bubs) end their rendition of "Sail Away" with a fun, Titanic-like finish.

When I first heard about Sing-off, I thought to myself, this show will never make it. Surprisingly, I love it. Not only am I extremely entertained and delighted by each of the a capella group performances, I'm also learning something in the process about how to improve my own singing technique.

TVgrrrrl (aka Jenny Penny), when she isn't blogging, is also singing in a band, or should I say "shinging," a term coined by Ben Folds when evaluating one of the a cappella group's performances on Tuesday night's show. "Shing" was the actual word the backup singers were singing, but the term picked up new life as the sound the backup singers make behind the lead singer to sound like instruments.

The three judges, Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men, and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, are incredibly insightful, positive, and intelligent in their evaluations. While I am blissfully entertained, the judges are pinning down specifics of why one group sounds so good and why one group doesn't. Together, they point out the finer details, such as: subtle pitch mismatches, impressive vocal rises, dynamic arrangements, vocal intensity issues, and so on. The lessons a singer can learn from watching this show are good enough to put on a University accredited online education program.

Three groups, BYU Noteworthy, Face, and Solo have been eliminated to date. Remaining in the competition are: Maxx Factor, SoCals, Voices of Lee, and my two favorites, Nota and Beelzebubs.

Nick Lachey of 98 degrees hosts the show.

Sing-Off will air the last of three two-hour, taped competition episodes tonight on NBC from 8PM to 10PM. The live finale will air on Monday, Dec. 21. You can also catch the show online on NBC.com.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Sights Set on Sing-Off

NOTA from Puerto Rico will be competing with seven other groups.

Tonight, Tvgrrrrl will have her TV set locked onto NBC to see Sing-off, the first ever a capella singing group competition from 8 PM to 10 PM (Channel 4 here in Orlando on Brighthouse Cable). I’ve always been a fan of great musical talent and this show strips down the competition to focus solely on the performers’ own God-given talents.

The show is hosted by Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees; and judged by Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men, and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls. All are renowned for their impressive live vocal group harmonies.

While American Idol showcases the Michael Jordans of singing – the superstars whose belting voices scale the ranges of melody accompanied by anything from a lone guitar to a full symphony orchestra – Sing-off will celebrate the team players who together as a group, create magic solely through the harmony, arrangements, and expert manipulation of their God given instruments – their own voices. Judge Shawn Stockman says, “It’s just you and your voice… the whole focus is on you and you alone, no drummers behind you, no guitars, no pyro, no anything. This is pure, raw talent at its finest.”

Eight singing groups from all walks of life and all ages have been chosen to compete:

Beelzebubs – Medford, MA – All male, 12 member former Tufts University graduates who have fun acting out and performing popular songs. (Their rendition of Life Would Suck Without You on youtube)

Maxx Factor – Baltimore, MD – An award winning Sweet Adelines quartet (Their rendition of Little Patch of Heaven on youtube)

Solo – Omaha, NE – Six member coed group of Omaha residents who face difficult challenges in their everyday lives. (I was unable to find a website or video sample of their work.)

Voices of Lee – Cleveland, TN – Religious based coed singing group with 10 members featuring flawless harmonies, professionally coached by Danny Murray. (Their rendition of All Rise on youtube, audio with still photo.)

SoCals – Los Angeles, CA – An eight-member coed subset of both current and past members of the official University of Southern California singing group, the USC SoCal VoCals. (Should be similar to this SoCal VoCals rendition of Footloose on youtube)

BYU Noteworthy – Provo, UT – A talented group of nine women from Brigham Young University. (Their rendition of Signed Sealed Delivered on youtube)

Nota – San Juan, PR – Six men who first began singing together in college. (Their rendition of Billy Jean on youtube)

Face – Boulder, CO – A professional a capella group of six men with a ton of awards already under their belts. (A promo video on their website.)


Unlike American Idol, Sing-off doesn’t pretend that the competitors haven’t already become successful in their own right. Some of the groups are already award-winning artists with huge followings. However, the winning group will get an even bigger prize: a recording contract with Epic Records/Sony Music.

Judge Nicole Scherzinger says, “What’s so wonderful about a capella singing in groups like these, is it’s all about just having a unity and one with the group – a blend – and listening to each other and not just to yourself. If they just have faith in each other and stick through it, they are going to do amazing.”

Judge Ben Folds, known for being one of the hardest working singer songwriters in the music industry, has worked for years to perfect his singing harmonies: “I feel like my job is to help them get to the next show… to help them get to the next step, and not to necessarily tear them down. You can’t move along unless you know what your problems are and so I consider that my job.”

Viewers will be able to cast their votes for their favorite band on Wednesday, Dec. 16 after the last of the three taped competition shows airs. The finale will air live on Monday, Dec. 21 at 8 PM. If you, like TVgrrrrl, have a schedule conflict and will miss one of the three competition shows, you can also watch replays of full episodes online on NBC.com.

At this point, my money is on NOTA. No Face. No, wait a minute, SoCals... But, Noteworthy is awesome, too. Oh, don't forget Beelzebubs... and the list goes on. Guess we'll see what the judges have to say!





above birthday cream day eggs from girl happy ice jungle karma love marmalade nice over
perfect que roses sea time under vampire werewolf xylophone zoo

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

South Park Roasts Kanye “Gay Fish” West


If you saw South Park last night on Comedy Central, you probably thought that four, yes 4, episodes of "You're a Gay Fish" was a mistake. I know I did and found myself repeatedly switching back and forth between Comedy Central (66 on Brighthouse in Orlando) and several other channels while I tried to figure out what was happening.

"Someone programmed it and it's stuck," said my friend.

"They probably went out for pizza and will get back to work, just in time to get fired," I replied.

"I doubt anyone at Comedy Central is paying attention. They must be watching baseball."

Not so, my dear friends!

It turns out that the whole "run four of the same South Park episode in a row" was a very cleverly devised strategy aimed at embarrassing our dear friend, Kanye West, in retaliation for his rude stage-crashing behavior at the MTV VMA awards on Sunday night (see Monday's blog below).

Touché! I say! Touché...

The Comedy Central website made note of the show's four-peat Kanye roast in a tiny little mention in the "Central Updates" section. Click on it and you'll be led to an ingenious, Kanye West Apology Generator, devised by fellow blogger, Andrew Ti at www.community.atom.com, which will help Kanye out next time he loses control and puts his foot in his mouth.

The South Park episode begins with Jimmy writing a new, "You like fishsticks?" joke for his comedy routine. The joke is passed around and eventually ends up on the air, where Kanye West takes it a bit too personally and makes a public statement that he is neither gay, nor a fish. The episode ends with Kanye finally admitting to being a gay fish, diving into a lake, and singing to a few colorfully gilled snappers, marlins, salmon, yellow fin, trout, and bass. "I wanted to be free, with other creatures like me, and now I got my wish, 'cause I know that I'm a gay fish." From the South Park website, you can hear the entire song (click on the speaker to listen) or see a snippet of the video. It's all in good taste (snicker, okay, not really), but quite funny.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Drama fills MTV’s Video Music Awards

Last night’s annual MTV VMAs (Video Music Awards) were filled with outrageous drama as star after star attempted to outdo each other in shocking the audience.

Best new artist, Lady Gaga, appeared to bleed all over her white gown as she performed, Paparazzi, which won best art direction. She later returned dressed in red lace from face to thigh to accept her moonman. Jack Black paid homage to the devil while wearing a muscle suit and carrying a plastic anvil. Pink did aerial acrobatics while suspended several feet above the stage.

But perhaps the most shocking event was when Kanye West jumped on stage and grabbed the microphone from best female video award winner, Taylor Swift, while she was giving her acceptance speech. West proclaimed, “Taylor, I’m really happy for you, and I’m gonna let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.”

I’m shocked by the number of inappropriate public outbursts on live television this week: First, Republican Joe Wilson rudely shouted, “You lie!” during Barack Obama’s health care reform speech on Sept. 9; Tennis star Serena Williams viciously threatened a line judge with, "If I could, I would take this (blanking) ball and shove it down your (blanking) throat," during a semifinal match at the US Open on Saturday, Sept. 12; and West’s embarrassing outburst marks the third this week. Wilson’s outburst cost him the respect of American voters; Williams’ outburst cost her a win and a $10,000 fine; and West’s outburst cost him his front row seat as he was ejected from the theater.

I actually don’t like Beyonce’s Single Ladies video. Maybe it’s my sourness over current politics that makes me prefer the colorful, sweet, storyline in Taylor Swift’s You Belong with Me video. Maybe it’s Beyonce’s crudely sexual, odd dance movements that make me too uncomfortable to enjoy the video (Even Britney Spears' Womanizer video is more tasteful). Maybe it’s the way the producers stretched the film to make Beyonce look unnaturally thin.

On the other hand, I did find Beyonce’s own good-natured parody of her Single Ladies video on Saturday Night Live with Justin Timberlake completely hilarious. Now, that was bey-rilliant and I would give her every award in the book for that fabulously entertaining performance. (found here on youtube – the baby intro is very short.)

In the end, West’s efforts were a foolish waste of words. Beyonce’s Single Ladies video won three awards, including the highest prize, “Video of the Year.” After receiving the coveted award, Beyonce courteously invited Taylor Swift to take the stage and finish her “best female video award” acceptance speech.

A complete list of award winners are found on MTV’s website.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

King of the Hill Loses Crown


The final episode of King of the Hill will air on FOX from 8 to 9 PM tonight.

I will watch with sadness and utter disappointment while mourning the loss of one of my favorite television staples. While some TV shows seem to go on forever from season to season into obscurity, only to fade out in hyped fanfair, King of the Hill has been a crowd favorite since the first episode aired on January 12, 1997.

The Hill family, though animated, appears more “real” than many sitcom families portrayed on television today. Situated in Arlen, Texas, Hank, Peggy, and Bobby Hill live together in a typical average ranch style suburban home in a typical average redneck middle class neighborhood. Hank Hill, a mild mannered propane salesman, is frequently taken advantage of when his calm demeanor is mistaken as a sign of weakness. Peggy Hill, his wife, is an ignorant and egotistical self-righteous individual who prefers to drive with her brights on, failing to dim them to oncoming traffic. Bobby Hill is their unfortunate prodigy, who’s dreams of someday becoming a stand-up comic are frequently stifled by his unworldly parents.

The show opens with a distinct original cow punk song by The Refreshments. While Hank Hill, his buddies: bugman Dale Gribble, heart throb mumbler Boomhauer, and slightly neurotic barber Bill Dauterive, stand outside the fence and drink cheap American beers, Hill’s wife Peggy, their son Bobby, and Peggy’s niece Luanne, move an old couch to the curb and change a flat tire without help from any of the men. It isn’t until Peggy brings Hank the customary “bag of trash to take out,” a man’s job, that the buddies disappear and leave Hank to do his dirty work.

Why is FOX ending the show?

It’s all about airtime. FOX needs to sacrifice King of the Hill to make room for two new animated shows they will launch on Sundays, The Cleveland Show, and Sit Down, Shut Up. (according to TV Series Finale)

I must admit, that I rarely watched King of the Hill on Sunday nights in its timeslot at 8:30 PM after the Simpson’s. I’m usually still out and about until 9 PM, enjoying a last hoorah before the end of the weekend. Instead, I prefer to watch the show in reruns, primarily on Adult Swim, which will continue to air the show every night at 10 PM (channel 36 on Brighthouse in Orlando, same as Cartoon Network).


Thursday, August 20, 2009

One Day You’re In, and Then You’re Out…And Back In Again!


After sitting on pins and needles over legal negotiations, Project Runway, the hit fashion design reality show, has left the NBC owned Bravo TV network and is now back on the air on the Lifetime TV network, which is co-owned by Hearst Corp. and the Walt Disney Company. Season 6 will premiere tonight at 9 PM on Lifetime (Channel 40 in Orlando on Brighthouse Cable) in a 2-1/2 hour blitz of 3 new introductory shows.

The first, at 9 PM, will be a “reunion” challenge featuring past contestants.

The second, at 10 PM, will be the official season premiere which will introduce this year’s contestants in their sunny new location of Los Angeles. If you miss it, don't fret, for it will re-air at 11:30 PM tonight and ten more times this week (check the schedules).

The third show, at 11 PM, will finally sew up the mystery of who the models are. It’s about time. Though technically also in competition amongst each other for a spread in a fashion magazine, viewers have previously only had a glimpse into their lives.

Project Runway is a fabulous show and I highly recommend it for everyone who has had the slightest fascination with fashion. I thought myself to be quite competent, even a little creative, as I modified Simplicity and McCall’s patterns to create my own cute little dresses in high school. However, these guys blow me out of the water. Without patterns, and armed with a pair of scissors, a tape measure, and gorgeous designer fabric, these super talented designers of all ages (24 to 50), construct fabulous couture fashions within only a day or two.

Contestants are advised by the serious, but ever fabulous, Mr. Tim Gunn, the Paula Abdul of Project Runway – caring and compassionate and everyone’s biggest cheerleader. Gunn will circle the work room, giving fatherly advice to designers, kindly voicing, “I’m concerned,” “Make it work,” and the approving, “Carry on.” Gunn’s day job is chief creative officer for Liz Claiborne – now there’s a boss I’d like to have.

The show is hosted and judged by the incredibly gorgeous and talented Heidi Klum, whose brains are an equal match for her beauty.

Returning are our other two favorite judges: fashion designer Michael Kors; and fashion maven Nina Garcia, the current fashion director for Hearst Corp.’s Marie Claire magazine.

On the fringe, the Bravo TV network is smartly rerunning seasons 1 through 5 in order to capitalize on all the current buzz. I have to warn you, once you start watching, you’ll be hooked!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Mad Men Needs a Stronger Cage

Role reversal: Office manager Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) stands over copywriter Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss).

The season premiere of Mad Men, a satirical, but historically accurate view into the world of the early 1960s old school, male-dominated advertising business, aired last night, Sunday at 10 PM, on AMC (Channel 48 on Brighthouse Cable, Central Florida). The “star” (if you can name just one) of Mad Men, Jon Hamm, who plays ad executive Don Draper, has traveled the TV talk show junket, promoting the show to exhaustion. I thought I’d watch it to see what all the hype is about.

Now in Season 3, the series has won a multitude of accolades, everything from SAG awards (Screen Actors Guild) to Golden Globes, to the more obscure, Golden Nymph award at the Monte-Carlo TV Festival. A full list is on IMDb.com.

I’ve seen Season 1 and 2 reruns off and on while flicking through channels during lazy weekends, where I’ve been mesmerized by the show’s cleverly animated and professionally scored intro. However, I’ve never watched the show in it’s regular timeslot. Now, I am making an effort.

My favorite characters are the working women: I commiserate with Miss Peggy Olson, played by Elisabeth Moss, who as a soft spoken woman, asks, but gets little respect despite her esteemed position as a copywriter. However, I also admire the moxy of office manager, Miss Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks, who understands that although she may be a glorified secretary, she wields a great deal of power in the very male-dominated office.

The Season 3 opener, “Out of Town,” opened just-plain-strange, with Don Draper falling into a dream-like reverie about pioneer childbirth, while heating up a glass of warm milk for his pregnant wife. The opener was reminiscent of Twin Peaks, which after an award winning Season 1, lost it’s footing in the dreamy, meandering and very strange, Season 2 – not a good thing.

All quirkiness aside, my biggest criticism of the show is that it truly is a soap opera, not a series at all. Not only do you have to watch each and every show to keep up, the episodes themselves are not self-contained and the one-time viewer feels as if they are sitting in the waiting room of a busy office while witnessing a small snippet of an on-going drama. A really successful long running show will have two storylines: the plot of that particular episode which is 100 percent self-contained and fully explained; and the on-going plot which ropes viewers in and makes them want to watch the show again next week to see what happens. Daytime soap operas can succeed without doing this, with daily airings during worker lunch breaks and when students don’t have classes. However, a true nighttime soap opera has to have a much more seductive draw than the middle aged exploits of Mad Men.

I am happy to see the super talented Colin Hanks as the believable Father Gill (so believable, I didn’t even recognize him), and secretly hope that his character leaves the priesthood to marry the very nice and well-deserving Peggy Olson. The last series I watched Hanks in was Roswell, which gained a huge following during Season 1, but lost its way in Season 3 when the writers forgot that the show was supposed to be a weekly TV series, not just a quirky, sci-fi soap opera.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Monk Season 8 Premieres Tonight

One of my favorite television shows of all time, Monk, is beginning it’s 8th and final season tonight at 9 PM on USA.

Sob! Can’t they make it an even 10 seasons? Mr. Monk would like that, he really would!

I began watching Monk during season 4 after my husband’s very particular metro-sexual boss would not shut up about the show during a theater premiere. I had to see it – at least once. That was enough to get me hooked and I promptly went out and bought seasons 1, 2, and 3 on DVD so that I could catch up on the story line.

Afflicted with psychologically debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), Monk’s keen observation skills give him the edge to solve the most unsolvable crimes. Actor Tony Shalhoub adds his own unique flair in portraying Monk’s bizarre cleaning, classifying, cutting, and counting behavior, which provides much needed humorous comic relief to the show. His current assistant, Natalie Teeger (played by Traylor Howard), hands him wipes on cue, moves things he won’t touch, and does the dirty job of touching dollar bills. Monk is employed as a consultant with the San Francisco Police Department where he reports to the gruff, but loveable, Captain Stottlemeyer (played by Ted Levine), and the talented, but quirky, Lieutenant Randall Disher (played by Jason Gray-Stanford).

Monk himself used to be a police detective, but lost his job after a nervous breakdown when his beloved wife, Trudy, was tragically blown up in a parking garage by a hit man. My guess is that the end of this final season will bring to fruition the three things Mr. Monk longs for: solving Trudy’s murder; getting his badge back; and falling in love again.

The show experienced real-life tragedy when cast member, Stanley Kamel, who played Mr. Monk’s frustrated therapist, Dr. Charles Kroger, died of a heart attack in April 2008. Rather than sweep the event under the rug, the show’s producers chose to conscientiously and seriously portray the feelings of displacement a patient suffers when they lose their therapist. Monk found a new doctor, Dr. Neven Bell (played by actor Hector Elizondo), who helped him deal with his painful loss.

You can enjoy your own Monk marathon today from 6 AM to 5 PM on USA, channel 39 in the Orlando area. Reruns also air frequently on Sleuth, channel 154 (check the schedule).

The season premier, “Mr. Monk’s Favorite Show,” will air at the following times on USA:
Friday 8/7 at 9 PM
Friday 8/7 at midnight
Saturday 8/8 at 11 AM
Tuesday 8/11 at 1 AM
Tuesday 8/11 at 11 PM



Thursday, August 6, 2009

Boycott Idol, if Paula doesn’t get a raise!

On Wednesday, several news sources reported the details of why host Paula Abdul has decided to quit the hit FOX television marvel, American Idol. At first, it seemed that her demands for more money seemed unreasonable. However, it’s only fair that she be paid at least a decent percentage of what her male cohort, Simon Cowell, is paid. If Paula doesn't get offered a decent raise, I for one, plan to boycott the show when it airs next January.

Here's the salary breakdown:

Simon Cowell - $36 million per year
(according to the New York Post, Oct. 13, 2008 article)

Ryan Seacrest - $10 million per year,
plus a $15 million upfront bonus for licensing usage over the next 3 years, for $45 million total over 3 years.
(according to the New York Times, July 13, 2009 article)

Paula Abdul – formerly $2 million per year,
(plus $1.5 for show related expenses, such as hair, makeup, clothes, stylist, transportation, and security, which I don't feel can be counted as salary).
Offered $5 million per year (according to the New York Times, August 5, 2009 article).
Asked for $20 million (according to radaronline.com, July 20, 2009 article).

Randy Jackson – estimated at $2 million per year.
(popdirt.com stated on August 22, 2003 that he and cohost Paula Abdul were both vying for a raise to $1.5 million each that year. Since Paula is now making $2 million, I have to assume Randy is making the same).

Kara DioGuardi – estimated at $2 million per year.

There are only two people on Idol who cannot be replaced: Paula and Simon. The two offer a colorful Yin and Yang of critiquing Idol hopefuls -- one spiritually positive, one sarcastically negative.

I can take or leave Ryan and Randy. Though both are talented and likable, I could easily imagine either being replaced.

Kara makes a miserable host – she talks far too much and leaves no time for Simon. Plus, she repeatedly echoes the ugly truths about the music industry that we don't really want to hear: that producers prefer the young, charming, pretty people, who are the "complete package." Who cares about looks when you’re listening to music?


Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Emmys: Why It Really Is Such An Honor Just To Be Nominated!

It’s Emmy time again and the nominations were announced today. A list can be found on the official website.

Unlike other awards, the Emmys are special. They aren’t based on ratings, DVD sales, or the number of soap boxes sold during the commercials. Instead, the winners are chosen by their peers, the members of “the Academy.” So, even if your show is going to be cancelled because some network idiot scheduled it in the time slot against American Idol and no one watches it, you can still walk away with an Emmy. Hooray!

Who is “the Academy?” The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is made up of over 15,000 professionals who create the shows you see aired on television. It is composed of not only actors, writers, directors and producers; but also of hair and makeup specialists, composers, camera operators, animators, editors, set designers, sound engineers, costumers, stunt people, even commercial writers and actors, publicists, and agents (how did they get in there?)

There’s even a category for Interactive Media, which this blog is sadly, not... Oh, well!

But, if you think that you can just sit back on your laurels and get an Emmy, you’re wrong. Just like winning the biggest pumpkin award in the county fair, you have to pay an entry fee and submit your entry. Sorry! No one’s going to come out into your field and measure your pumpkin.

Someone (maybe you?) must fill out the entry forms in person or online and pay the fee in order to apply for one of the 83 possible awards. Samples, such as DVDs, tapes, or artwork must be included. Entry fees cost anywhere from $200 to $900 for each entry.

However, the good news is that if you join the Academy and pay the measly $160 membership, the fee can be waived. Plus, then you get to go to the awards ceremony and hover in the nose bleed seats for hours! Whoo Hoo!

In order to join the Academy, you must be credited for work you’ve done in the TV business (even as a volunteer). A full list of requirements is up for interpretation on the Academy’s website at: www.emmys.tv

Every member of the Academy gets the chance to vote for their favorites among the vast pool of entrants, which is why, in this particular case, getting nominated is such an honor.

However, only a panel of volunteer judges made up of Academy members will pick the actual winners.

The Emmys will be presented on Sunday, September 20 and will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, who is currently starring on, How I Met Your Mother on CBS.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Will Good Orlando Magic Juju Wear Off on Idol Contestants?


FOX television’s American Idol is holding their 9th season auditions in Orlando this year at Amway Arena, the home of the NBA Basketball team, the Orlando Magic. Over the next two days, hopeful Idol contestants can register for a chance to audition in front of the show’s producers on Thursday, July 9. Of those, a few will be chosen to perform later this summer in front of Idol’s Fabulous Four: judges Simon Cowell (sigh!), Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and Kara DioGuardi McCuddy (recently married, Kara McCuddy has a nice ring to it and is easier to spell).

In a city built up by Disney, “where dreams really do come true,” and where the Cinderella team, the Orlando Magic surprised many critics by making it all the way to the NBA finals this year, could Orlando, maybe even Amway Arena itself, actually be truly “magical?”

Although talent is the first requirement, luck does play a part in getting to audition live in front of the famous Idol judges. You have to stand out – have a magnetic personality, be cute or gorgeous, dress outrageously, or sing phenomenally for the producers as they survey the crowd.

Sadly, TVgrrrrl is too old to audition this year (over 28). Boo hoo! I wouldn’t make the cut, anyway (As Simon says, I’m “too ordinary”). But, it would be fun to just “be there” amidst all the excitement at Amway Arena.

If you are planning to stand in line for a ticket, there’s no magic which will protect you from the sun and the heat – bring your sunscreen, lots of bottled water (no coolers allowed within a certain area), a hat, a folding chair, a fold-up poncho to stay dry during our wacky 10 minute rain storms; or even better -- a close friend or family member to put up an awning over the sidewalk and watch your cooler and stuff when it’s your turn to go inside. Don’t forget to read the FAQ’s, rules and release form online before showing up.

For the best juju, practice lots of “magic” songs, such as:
Abracadabra -- Steve Miller
A Kind of Magic – Queen
Black Magic Woman – Fleetwood Mac
Blue Magic – Jay-Z
Do You Believe in Magic -- The Lovin’ Spoonful
Every Little Thing She Does is Magic – The Police
It’s Magic -- The Fender’s
Magic Man – Heart
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
Magic – The Cars
Magic – Pilot
Strange Magic -- ELO
That Old Black Magic – Johnny Mercer
This Magic Moment – The Drifters
When You Wish Upon a Star -- Jiminy Cricket
You Can Do Magic -- America

In your down time, you can also visit the American Idol Experience at Walt Disney World. If I were a betting girl, I’d go there when the judges visit later this summer – you never know, they might just show up for a TV promo!

Read the TV Guy column (no relation) online at Orlando Sentinel.com and see photos of competitors waiting outside, by Joe Burbank.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Only Billy Mays Could Sell Me Orange Glow

The majority of American TV viewers will say that they absolutely abhor “infomercials,” those annoying two to sixty minute long commercials disguised as informative television shows. However, there was something about Billy Mays that made me want to stop and listen.

Maybe it was the gravelly tone of his voice; the excitement of his presentation; his loveable, huggable, teddy-bear appearance; or perhaps the convincing demonstrations that made me not only listen to what Mays had to say, but actually buy some of the products he hawked.

Yes, it’s true. I have spent many a dime on CLR here in Florida where hard water mineral deposits coat shower enclosures. The product is now so popular, the manufacturers no longer need to hire Mays to sell it. A list of his current commercial / infomercial products can be found on Surf Til You Drop, including: the Awesome Auger, Big City Slider, Fix It, Flies Away, Hercules Hook, Impact Gel, Mighty Mendit, Mighty Putty, Oxiclean Products (Oxiclean, Orange Glow, and Kaboom), Samurai Shark, Simoniz Liquid Diamond, Steam Buddy, Tool Bandit, What Odor?, and Zorbeez. I have to admit that while I am willing to try the products he sells, I prefer to buy them in person in a store, rather than online or by phone, so I can easily return the item if it is defective.

Although Mays tragically passed away on June 28 in Tampa, FL, he is living in perpetuity on his television ads, many of which are still airing to this day. It’s as if nothing has changed and I like it that way. It’s ironic that while other iconic legends who have recently passed away are being remembered in past tense for their sensationalistic exploits (such as Michael Jackson), we can pay homage to Mays in the present in a positive light by keeping him alive doing what he does so very well – selling stuff.

Sadly, rumor has it that his family requested that his Mighty Putty commercial advertisement spots be pulled, according to a Reality TV World article by Christopher Rocchio. I think that would be a shame, not seeing Mays everyday. You wouldn’t pull Michael Jackson songs off the radio or Farah Fawcett movies off TV, would you? No, you’d relish every replay with fond memories…

Fortunately, the infomercials will resume next week after Mays funeral, which is being held in Pennsylvania on Friday, July 3rd, according to an article by Eric Deggans in the Saint Petersburg Times.

Me, I’m thinking of maybe trying some Oxi Clean.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Were You a Farrah Girl?

Farrah Fawcett, the actress who starred as female detective Jill Monroe on the hit TV show, Charlie’s Angels, had a significant impact on my life and the lives of all women everywhere.

It was the hair – the iconic Farrah Fawcett feathered hairdo.

Farrah’s hair had such a huge impact on women, that while doing research for what I thought would be a quirky, but original and entertaining little blog, I discovered that I’d been beaten to the punch! In fact, 5712 blogs showed up this morning containing the word string, “farrah fawcett hair,” even one on ABC!

No television star since, not even Jennifer Aniston of Friends, has had such an effect on young women changing their looks. After Charlie’s Angels debuted in 1976, women everywhere began to grow their hair long, bleach it blond, cut it at an angle, and curl it back from their faces. I have photos of my older sisters attempting the look. While too young to see the show when it originally aired during prime time on ABC, I watched reruns after school and begged my parents for the look-alike Barbee doll. A few years later in the 1980s, a well-meaning mother of one of my friends, also a beautician, cut and attempted to style my long hair like Farrah’s. It was a disaster because my hair curled the wrong way (in, instead of out). I was too young to get a perm, so I ended up pinning it back with hair clips until it grew back out.

Farrah Fawcett made a huge imprint on American culture by breaking the stereotype, that yes, a beautiful woman can be intelligent, strong, and serious. Her 1984 made-for-TV movie, “The Burning Bed,” had a significant impact on how I would later view relationships with men. A list of her many television appearances can be found on imdb.com.

I haven’t yet seen her latest works, “A Wing and a Prayer” on seeking cancer treatments, and “Farrah’s Story,” on her unfortunate relapse and acceptance of her disease. A wonderful description by Michael Ventre is posted on msnbc.com. I admire Fawcett’s courage for her willingness to go public during such a traumatic experience. It will be difficult to watch the film since I know the ending.

Sadly, Fawcett lost her battle with cancer yesterday.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Don’t Miss the NBA Draft --
A Reality Show With
More Drama than a Soap Opera

Darrell Arthur didn't take his draft pick disappointment lying down. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)

Last year, despite my grumbling, my husband convinced me that we should watch the NBA Basketball Draft. I assumed it would be more boring than watching golf or tennis. Boy, was I surprised! Talk about drama!

Tonight, the draft will air at 7 PM EST, ESPN (Channel 29 on Brighthouse in Orlando), broadcast live from Madison Square Garden.

Whether you like basketball or not, the draft offers a peak into the world of the celebrations and bitter disappointments of the hopeful soon-to-be-rich-and-famous of the athletic world. Dressed in their Sunday best and surrounded by loving and proud, mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, uncles and aunts, are the players who believe themselves to be the best of the very best.

The 30 NBA teams will get to pick in an order based on their season record, with the worst teams picking first and the best teams picking last in an attempt to even the playing field. The actual order is determined by a complex lottery. (An explanation is on Wikipedia. Here’s the 2009 draft pick team order on the NBA website.) Teams can also sell and trade away their “picks” as is the case with the Orlando Magic, who traded their picks to the Oklahoma Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. No one knows in advance what exactly will happen.

Although most players have an idea of their potential value, some will sadly be passed over. It can be gut wrenching. Last year, I watched as Darrell Arthur, a 20-year old who had just won the NCAA championship at the University of Kansas, got passed over time and time again. He was expected to be picked first or second. But, Round 1 was almost over and Arthur still had no team. Arthur’s family had come to celebrate with him and were now consoling each other in tears. Everyone at home, watching on TV, was rooting for Arthur. “Why won’t they pick him?” we all wondered.

Sports commentators hypothesized that he was rumored to have a health condition. It would be risky for a team to pick up a player who ends up too unhealthy to play – they would still be required to pay him over the length of his contract.

Arthur was finally picked 27th by the Charlotte Hornets on behalf of the Portland Trailblazers (God Bless team owner, Paul Allen), but then traded away. He’s now a healthy power forward for the Memphis Grizzlies. With Memphis having one of the most dismal records this year, they get the number 2 pick for two rounds, plus one of Orlando’s picks. Surprise, surprise, Arthur could be on a playoff winning team next year.

Some players drop out before the draft rather than face public humiliation. Others take the gamble that they could be picked just to fill up a roster.

From your armchair, you’ll find yourself yelling, “Pick Ty! Pick Jeff!” from your favorite college teams. When another player is chosen, you’ll yell, “No, not him, you idiot!” and throw Cheetos at the screen.

Here’s a great list of who’s who in the draft compiled by Chad Ford of ESPN.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Good Morning America! --
You’re Missing a Great Opportunity to Broadcast Live From Orlando!

The NBA Basketball Finals are being held in Orlando this year, thanks to an incredibly talented Orlando Magic basketball team. The City of Orlando, in typical “O-town" entertainment-style has rolled out the blue magic carpets and spared no expense welcoming all of the wonderful NBA fans and reporters with blue and white balloons, banners, manicured gardens, clean streets, fresh paint, free Lymmo buses, and comfortable outdoor seating. Except for the time zone (and no volcanos), you’d think you were in Waikiki!

TVgrrrrl, thanks to a cleverly-worded sign and an ambitious ABC roving camera crew, managed to get herself and her posse of friends on ABC TV last night as the Magic beat the Lakers 108 to 104! How very cool!

However, the ABC presence stops there. Where is the Good Morning America crew? Back at home in NY, safely shielded behind the sterile blue windows of their studio on Broadway with a subdued “live” studio audience standing like statues in the background. Ah, snore… No wonder the show always lags behind NBC’s “Today Show” in ratings. (According to Nielsen, on May 14, 2009 the Today Show marked it’s 700th week as network television’s most popular morning show. Do the math – that’s over 13 years!)

Why isn’t Good Morning America here in Orlando broadcasting live from Amway Arena during the NBA finals? Or perhaps from the quaint brick-lined restaurant and business district, perhaps in the Orange County Historical Museum park at Central and Magnolia? Or on Lake Eola? Or perhaps from outside their own affiliate studios at WFTV Channel 9 in downtown Orlando?

Or, here’s a thought – Disney World?

ABC is owned by Disney. It’s not like they’d have to get permission and pay stiff royalties. It’s the same company. Even their websites show the melding of their identities. (ABC TV, Walt Disney World)

While ABC is broadcasting for the NBA, they might want to look around and think about possibly setting up permanent shop in Orlando. Strategically located on the opposite end of the United States, but still in the eastern time zone, Orlando, a city built around Disney World, is a major entertainment destination, a family-friendly city, and a regular stop on celebrity tours. The cost of living is lower than New York City, so employees can live quite comfortably on lower salaries. ABC Disney already owns several buildings where the network could build their sets. Despite all the bad publicity about hurricanes in Florida, the city of Orlando is actually in the center of the state, far from the coast, and 98 feet above sea level. Yes, it can get quite hot in the summer, but mornings are usually cool and you simply can’t beat our balmy winters and moderate weather 8 months out of the year.

I suppose that at one time, it would have been next to impossible to base a major television network, much less a morning show, in a city other than New York. However, due to improved technology, television shows can now broadcast from the ends of the earth – literally.

Rather than continuously compete for viewership and a live, vivacious audience in densely network-populated New York, why not break the mold and move to Orlando? O-town welcomes you!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Conan Completely Hilarious

For his debut as NBC’s Tonight Show’s newest host, the Conan O’Brien team pulled out all the stops to ensure that Conan’s premiere would be one of the funniest shows ever on television.

The fun began after a somber homage to NBC’s peacock logo, which marked this incredible landmark transition from host number 4, Jay Leno, to host number 5 Conan O’Brien in the 55 years since the show has aired in 1954.

Conan, nervously getting ready for his big debut, suddenly realizes that he forgot to check off one of his big To Do’s: Move to LA. Whoops! After failing to hail a cab, Conan runs west across the continent: through the streets of New York City, through Amish country, through a Chicago Cubs game on Wrigley Field, swims across the Mississippi River, and only stops for a short moment to visit a Victorian Doll Museum where a doll has real corn silk for hair (any idea where this museum is?), before finally arriving at the studio only to discover that he has left the keys on his desk back in Manhattan. Whew! No problem: I’ll just bulldoze down the door.

Most of the jokes were completely funny, and only a taco joke fell flat. (I have to imagine that this joke was an inside reference to Cosita Taco where the staffers like to order lunch). Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was given an unexpected cameo, a film clip grabbed where she simply said, “hello,” which I have to imagine even her own staff was unaware would be aired.

Will Ferrell marked his first guest and serenaded the audience with a surprisingly good rendition of “Never Can Say Goodbye.”

Seattle based Pearl Jam closed the show in raucous style, typical of Conan’s edgier former time slot.

I have to admit, I really didn’t watch Leno much and instead watched Letterman on CBS. First, Leno’s opening monologue of political jokes seemed a bit too right wing. Second, the show sometimes seemed a bit… well, boring? However, I always changed the channel back to NBC to watch Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Now that I’m older and it’s harder for me to stay up late, it’s only fitting that O’Brien move into the 11:30 PM slot.

The new “Conan” website offers an extremely easy to read schedule. There are also numerous other features, blogs, photos, and recap videos (the volume could be louder) available for the high-tech generation viewer.

This is not my father’s “Tonight Show.” This Tonight Show belongs to my generation.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A TV addicts paradise –
The NBC Experience Store

After appearing in the audience on The Today Show, we wandered over to the NBC Experience Store soon after it opened at 8 AM. The store is located to the north of West 49th Street on Rockefeller Plaza. Rockefeller Center is also a stop on the Subway where it exits into an underground mall. The Center also offers tours, ice skating (in winter), a restaurant, and art gallery.

All I can say is, “WOW!”

The store is huge at 20,000 square feet and is lit up with lights and neon. Greeting us were two extremely helpful sales people who knew the entire inventory by heart. Lauren and Bobby both gave us the tour of everything we can buy that’s “NBC TV," from past shows such as Friends, to current shows such as Psych, House, Law and Order, Friday Night Lights and The Biggest Loser. It even carries soon to be cancelled show collectibles from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (soon to be with Conan O'brien), Late Night with Conan O'brien (now with Jimmy Fallon), and Monk, which is sadly ending this summer.

I was on a hunt for spoons for a friend who collects them. Sadly, no spoons…

However, we were able to walk out with tons of other booty. A huge fan of The Office, my friend bought a Dunder Mifflin “World's Best Boss” mug for his boss and a Michael mug for himself. I bought a Dwight t-shirt (Drop Beats, not Bombs), Dunder Mifflin bag, and shot glass for a friend who was turning 21. I got a pretty NBC peacock pin for my mom, who collects pins. A few shirts and magnets made my shopping trip complete.

Only $130 dollars later, we were happy TV addicts! There was so much to buy, we could have easily spent much more.

The store also carries a huge assortment of candy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Getting on the TODAY show –
Easy as hot dogs

One of my biggest goals while visiting New York City was to stand outside in the audience on NBC’s Today show and hopefully get on TV. I didn’t have very high hopes, but boy was it easy!

Arriving around 7:30 AM, my friend and I entered the gate on the south side of Rockefeller Plaza just off West 48th Street. Greeting us were two very nice people offering free hotdogs, which we declined (it was 7:30 AM after all). We were also happy to accept free “birthday” t-shirts from volunteers with the American Cancer Society. Before entering the gate, security checked my purse, searched our pockets, and read my sign to make sure it was appropriate for morning TV viewing audiences. Then, they whisked us in – it all happened in about a minute flat.

Once inside the narrow fenced area (which looks four times bigger on TV), we had a few choices. We could walk all the way around so that we would be beside the big windows – the ones you see when they broadcast from inside. However, there were already quite a few people there. It was Fleet Week and the audience was filled with handsome tall sailors all dressed in white. Being vertically challenged, I decided to hang out close to the gate where only a few people were standing. That way, we could see!

While we all watched Ann Curry interview Brad Pitt via satellite, Al Roker made his way around the audience, shaking hands and meeting with the crowd. Poised to start at any moment, Roker then exercised his voice in preparation for a weather segment, saying and screaming funny words. At 7:40 AM, Roker set up shop in front of a guy with a buffalo hat, where he gave today’s weather forecast. Since the crowd was so small in that area, I had no trouble holding up and proudly displaying my Orlando Magic sign during the whole weather segment.

Wow! We were on TV within only ten minutes! Time for coffee!

We hung out in Dean & DeLuca where we were able to sit at a window table beside the plaza and see the show from a slightly elevated position. By 8 AM, the crowd began to grow significantly as more and more people showed up, hoping to be seen on the show during the broadcast for their time zone.

My only regret – not meeting Lenny!

Monday, May 18, 2009

TVgrrrrl off to New York City!

I'm off to New York City for a few days where I will attempt to see some live tapings of television shows. I already tried to get Letterman tickets for May way back in February, but heard absolutely nothing back from the show. I'll visit some of the morning shows (Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show), incognito of course, and report back next week to let you know how it was. Same bat time! Same bat channel!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Katy Does Idol

Last night, American Idol viewers were treated to a Vegas show-like performance by none other than Katy Perry, who chose the occasion to introduce the world to her new single, “Waking Up in Vegas.” Perry made it clear who she was routing for this Idol Season – her female elvis costume, complete with cape, was embroidered in lipstick red with the name, “Adam Lambert.”

The complete video was released only about a week ago and can currently be seen on YouTube (TV on demand!) at: Waking Up in Vegas.

NOTE: I was going to tell my readers to catch the video on my favorite video music station, MTV or VH1, but then I remembered that neither station, even the alternate versions of them, show many real music videos anymore. Such a shame! However, the MTV website does not disappoint. Catch a really, super cool documentary on the complexities of making the “Waking Up in Vegas” video at: MTV.com. (Note: scroll down to the window below the article, the one with the arrow.) In it, you'll hear about the cute guy in the video, the Bob Mackie dress, Perry's wigs, her favorite outfit, and how she was able to pull off cameos by some famous and impressive Vegas icons.

By the end of American Idol, Perry's gamble paid off and Adam Lambert was chosen to be one of the two finalists after Danny Gokey (sniff!) didn’t earn enough votes. Kris Allen, who’s voice I’ve ironically compared to Katy Perry, was the other finalist.

As I’ve said before and will many times again, it doesn’t matter who wins at this point. This isn’t the last we’ll see of Gokey, or any of the other fantastic Idol competitors this season. As a matter of fact, I'll make a prediction now that this will be the most successful "after idol" group of contestants the show has ever featured.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

American Idol Recap

This week, we learned some extremely disappointing news. Simon Cowell confessed to Oprah Winfrey during the airing of her Monday show that this was indeed his last scheduled season as a judge on the Fox hit TV show, American Idol. However, after much prodding from Winfrey, he agreed to "leave the door open."

I would be extremely disappointed if Cowell were not on the show voicing his expert opinions each week. He is by far one of the most interesting judges, making articulate and fascinating comparisons of singing performances to horror movies, animal sounds, and every day living. (Paul Abdul is a close second with her colorful wit and interesting insights). To be honest, I could do without either Kara DioGuardi or Randy Jackson. Sometimes it seems they duplicate each other. Maybe one of them should go, instead.

But, back to tonight's competition...

Each performer was given two opportunities to sing. The first song was picked by a judge. The second was picked by the contestant.

01 — Danny Gokey — Dance Little Sister 5 Stars

I was making dinner, so I didn't get to actually SEE Danny dance. Dioguardi and Cowell both said it was awkward. However, Abdul, who chose the song for him (originally performed by Terence Trent D'Arby), said she thought he did an excellent job with his choreography.

I could hear Gokey singing while I worked in the kitchen, and his vocal performance was so incredibly controlled and flawless, but super high energy, that I ran out to write down 5 stars for him. When I buy the CD, I want it to sound good. I could care less what the performers look like. If they do dance funny, that just makes the concert more interesting.

02 — Kris Allen — Too Late to Apologize — 3 stars

Jackson and Dioguardi chose this dark and moody Timbaland song for Kris Allen, one of my favorite songs of this century. Allen sat at the piano, his voice a bit shaky as he sang the slow beginning of the song. However, once he got into the more intense portions, it was great. I have to guess that the emotional quavering of his voice which has seemed to develop during the competition will soon be his trademark.

The only thing odd about this song was that this was the first time I've ever heard a judge judge a judge (what a tongue twister!). Dioguardi said she didn't like Allen's arrangement and choice of instrument, and Cowell slapped back at her that she was responsible for helping Allen put the song together. So much drama! What will we do without you, Cowell?

03 — Adam Lambert — One — 4 stars

Adam Lambert's voice was purely melodic as he launched into the emotional beginning of his rendition of One, by U2. However, the song was a bit rocky as he picked up the tempo and transitioned into his powerhouse vocals. Once Lambert belted out the lyrics, the performance was emotionally stirring.

04 — Danny Gokey — You Are So Beautiful — 5 stars

Billy Preston would have been proud to hear Danny Gokey's interesting minor key arrangement of "You Are So Beautiful," which added an unusual atmosphere to the song. Gokey has the ability to sing well at any tempo or intensity. The raspy tone of his voice melds with his perfect pitch. The overall result was romantic and powerful. Abdul said it best, "You left all of us breathless."

05 — Kris Allen — Heartless — 5 stars

Kris Allen chose to sing Kanye West's Heartless. As he pounded out the song on accoustic guitar, I was reminded of solo performances I've seen by Richard Thompson. Allen carried the song alone without additional accompaniment, the interesting nuances and tonal characters of his voice creating a moving rendition. I think he may go down in history as one of the most successful Idol finalists, after the show is over, once he has a chance to do what he wants to do. 

06 — Adam Lambert — Crying — 4 stars

For Adam Lambert's personal pick, he chose Crying by Aerosmith. During the quiet beginning of the song, his voice was so clear and melodic, that the tone was intensely beautiful. Once again, the transition in intensity from ballad to rock was a bit unbearable. (I assume it's due to lack of time to prepare). However, once he began to scream (and he can scream in tune and it even sounds good!), Lambert was able to rope in the crowd.

My biggest criticism: the background vocals were far, far too loud. This is a strategy used by many performers to help them compensate for their inability to always reach the high notes. However, Lambert doesn't need "bulking up." Since this was his arrangement, I have to call him on it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why “The Biggest Loser”
is Such a Loser Show

NBC’s Biggest Loser finale is about to air tomorrow. This is one TV viewer who refuses to watch!

Like the majority of women in America, I’m constantly watching my weight. Perhaps it’s that northern European, famine-surviving, sturdy stock running through my genes, or maybe mom simply fed me way, way too much formula as a kid to keep me quiet. Whatever the reason, staying thin is a constant battle. So, when NBC decided to air the show “The Biggest Loser” in 2004, where 12 men and women compete to lose weight, I tuned in to witness the heart warming successes and cheer on the contestants.

However, by the end of Season 1, it was clear that the deck was stacked against the women:

  1. Scientifically, it’s much easier for men to lose weight than women because women have significantly lower metabolisms.
  2. Mathematically, men can eat more calories per day than women. However, to lose a pound, both have to cut or burn the same 3500 calories from their regular diet. Since men eat more, they can cut more per day and lose weight faster.
  3. Medically, one out of every 10 women suffers from inherited hormonal disorders which cause obesity and make it nearly impossible to lose weight.
  4. Casting – The producers cast thinner women than men on average. It’s no secret that the more out of shape and overweight you are, the faster you will lose weight once you start a weight loss plan.

Other aspects of the show have bothered me. Why should contestants be eliminated each week? Shouldn’t they all continue to receive great training and supervision until the end and then get weighed and measured? Shouldn’t they all win the same great prizes just for sticking with the program and bearing their bodies and souls on national TV.

Despite more recent attempts in the latest seasons to even the playing field by considering body mass index; percentages; body fat losses; and even pitting families and couples against each other; it’s still a loser show to me. I’ll consider watching it again if it’s women vs. women and contestants are not eliminated. (That’s not to say someone shouldn't be ejected for bad behavior.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

American Idol recap

Watching American Idol last night made me realize just how much I love rocking out to old '70s music. I missed out on Zeppelin and Skynyrd the first time around. I'm now ready for a rock and roll revival and I think this year's crop of Idol contestants show real aptitude. Slash from Guns N Roses gave his advice to each of the contestants.

At this point, who really cares who wins, anyway? I love all four of the final contestants -- so much, I didn't even vote. How do you pick the best from such an array of talent?

What was truly odd were the duets -- if you can call them that -- where the contestants had to pair up. I thought the duets were entertaining, though a little over the top.  I couldn't possibly judge a person based on how well they work with others. Isn't that on work performance reviews? Not talent shows? Anyway... 

01 — Adam Lambert — A Whole Lot of Love 5 Stars

Back in 2007 when Blake Lewis was getting close to winning American Idol, he told his friends, and his friends told their friends, and so on not to vote for him. He didn't want to win because he was worried he might get forced to sign a recording contract where he had to sing Barry Manilow songs.

Fortunately for Adam Lambert, if he wins this competition (and well he could), last night's performance solidified a spot for himself in the world of rock and roll. Kara Dioguardi said, "You got the vocals for it. It's your thing. Go at it!"

02 — Allison Iraheta — Cry Baby — 5 stars

This was the absolute perfect song for Allison Iraheta to showcase her amazing rocker voice. Her voice displayed soft feminine emotion mixed with rough, rocking excitement. I loved the performance. She is reminding me more and more of Tina Turner every week.

At the end of the performance, it was nice to see Iraheta defend her choice of songs. The girl's got moxie!

03 — Kris Allen — Come Together — 5 stars

Wow! Wow! Wow! I've been pretty bored with Allen's soft ballads all season. I was never a boy band fan and couldn't bear to listen to N Sync. So, when I felt that this year's finalists were being handpicked by the judges to be the next components of a new boy band, I automatically developed a dislike for anyone who fit the mold -- including Kris Allen.

However, by being forced to sing a rock and roll song, I heard a unique tonal character in Allen's voice that I'd never heard before. It's hard to explain, but I suppose you could consider his voice to be the male equivalent of Katy Perry's (listen to the ballads on her CD). His voice cracks and wanders in all the right places. 

04 — Danny Gokey — Dream On — 2 stars

Ugh! Rock and roll is not Gokey's forte. This is my favorite Aerosmith song and I've heard better renditions at our local karaoke biker bar. The beginning was off time and odd. The middle was great. The scream at the end sounded like he'd fallen off a building. Gokey would have done better singing Eric Clapton or the Who.

However, I still think he'll make it to the finals. Gokey was my favorite from day one. He has a huge following of fans and there's no doubt they are going to vote him through. Idol needs a good Christian rock ballad singer.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Remington Steele – A 1980’s snapshot in time

Before Pierce Brosnan played James Bond, before Doris Roberts played the nosy mother on Everybody Loves Raymond, there was Remington Steele,
a tantalizing and kitschy private investigator show full of glamour and romance.

The show is currently being re-run on American Life Television Network. I discovered it one day when I was home sick, and now the TiVo is programmed to pick it up every weekday. Here in Central Florida, it airs at 10 AM and again at 6 PM on Bright House cable channel 152. (For some odd reason, TV guide doesn't list the channel.)

The baseline story is complicated, but fortunately, the show’s writers repeatedly revisit the tale of how the Remington Steele detective agency was formed: Private investigator, Laura Holt (played by Stephanie Zimbalist), starts an agency and can’t get clients because she is a woman. She creates a “fake” male boss by stealing the name of her gun, a Remington, and adds the name “steel” with an “e” for flavor. After much success under her imaginary “boss,” a.k.a Remington Steele, she meets a con artist (Pierce Brosnan) who agrees to play the roll of Remington Steele to help her solve a case. The two work well together and the con artist permanently assumes the identity of Remington Steele. Season 2 brings in the colorful and delightful Doris Roberts as Mildred Krebs, a former IRS auditor, who acts as secretary, but eventually works her way into the roll of a private investigator herself. (See trailer)

What makes the show really work and gives it lasting quality is that each character, despite their good looks and poise, has a quirky personality of their very own. Over the course of the show, we wonder who Remington really is (does he even know, himself?). Remington frequently quotes and compares cases they are investigating to vintage movies from the 30s, 40s, and 50s (What’s really cool, is you can now watch those movies on TCM, so you have an inkling what he’s talking about.) Mildred Krebs is always surprising us with her seemingly unending abilities and skills. Laura Holt, the “straight man,” constantly brings the team back to reality by discussing budgets and timelines, while holding back from throwing herself at a constantly beckoning Remington. She finally gives in to Remington in season 4.

I love watching the show and relishing all the 1980s kitsch. It’s not just the high necked silk blouses, shoulder pads, big hair, and giant earrings worn by Laura. Mildred uses an old IBM computer. The printer is a noisy dot matrix printer, complete with fan fold paper fed onto a roll (do you remember those?). Cell phones? Yeah, right, No. Old designer hand held models I would kill to have (but I don’t have a land line. Hmm.) Last week, Remington ordered a giant “top-of-the-line” new-technology disk movie player, a competitor to VCRs which came in a box bigger than a microwave, along with a giant TV, the kind that takes up half the living room.

The show also has a huge list of guest stars from a “who’s who” from the TV and soap opera world. In order of appearance: Annie Potts, Sharon Stone, Jenny O’Hara, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Stephanie Zimbalist’s father), Delta Burke, Richard Backus, Michael Durrell, Judith Light, Barry Jenner, Susan Ruttan, John Larroquette, Billie Bird, Nancy Stafford, K Callan, Mary Beth Evans, Jean Smart, Geena Davis, Harry Groener, Peter Jurasik, Jennifer Tilly, Vincent Schiavelli, and Barbara Babcock, just to name a few.

Numerous actor careers were launched in part by Remington Steele, including: Paul Reiser, Randy Oglesby, Faith Prince, Miguel Sandoval, Patricia Wettig, and Joan McMurtrey.

You can see the entire list on IMDb.

Ah, my heart throbs for Pierce Brosnan – who is constantly gorgeous in designer suits and tuxedos. He is nearly always clean shaven, which makes me wonder: Why didn’t they let him shave as James Bond? Didn’t that hurt the leading ladies who kissed him?

Remington Steele originally ran for 5 seasons from 1982 to 1987. American Life is currently running season 4. (I hope they go back to season 1 when it runs out.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

American Idol recap

All week long, I waited in eager anticipation to see tonight's American Idol. Disco Night! How very, very cool. What will they do? I thought.

Imagine my disappointment when a few of the performers didn't follow directions and wimped out, turning a classic up tempo, heavy driving bass-drum dance-beat into a non-recognizable, passe ballad. Hmpf! For that reason, I removed stars from some of the  performances. There's probably no harder genre than disco and I have to give credit to everyone who tried it.

01 — Lil Rounds — I'm Every Woman 2 Stars

If Rounds hadn't been pitchy, pitchy, pitchy, I would have easily given her four stars for her performance of this Chaka Khan song.  It's really hard to go on first and bring the tempo from zero to sixty in one second flat. But Rounds did an excellent job of warming up the crowd. 

02 — Kris Allen — She Works Hard for the Money — 4 stars

Allen chose to ignore the disco theme, and instead created a more moving rendition on guitar of this "woman-power" song sung by vocal powerhouse, Donna Summer. I really liked his creative arrangement, the funky beat, and the tropical sound, which reminded me of Gloria Estefan. I think maybe Allen has found his niche.

03 — Danny Gokey — September — 5 stars

When Gokey hits the stage, one can't help but feel that they are watching a professional performer. Smooth, smooth, smooth. The arrangement of this Earth, Wind, and Fire classic was good, especially in the way he enlisted the help of the incredibly talented backup singers. Great job!

04 — Allison Iraheta — Hot Stuff — 5 stars

Iraheta's performance was both strange and bizarre, but in a really good way. This was one time when her intense vocals worked well for her as she built from a soft and soulful verse into an intense, rock/disco chorus. Wearing six inch heals and a strangely shredded sequined ensemble, she got my attention. The drama was perfect. Her voice was perfect. The tempo was perfect. Fabulous!

05 — Adam Lambert — If I Can't Have You — 4 stars

When you think "disco," most people think "Saturday Night Fever." Lambert picked his song from this album, but did it straight, wearing a black suit, tie and white shirt.  He ignored the disco genre and sang the song as a ballad, proving that he can be a fabulous singer without all the bells and whistles. Sometimes, Lambert reminds me of Elvis. Tonight, he reminded me of Robert Smith of "The Cure." Whenever you see Lambert perform, you know you're watching something really, really special.

06 — Matt Giraud — Staying Alive — 3 stars

Giraud proved that not only can he dance and sing in tune and on time (have you ever tried that? It's impossible!), but that he can sing anything, even disco! It was energetic and I should have loved it, but... Unfortunately, it was lacking a certain something, which I haven't been able to put my finger on. Simon suggested that the performance "came over as a bit desperate." Maybe that's what it was lacking - confidence?

07 — Anoop Desai — Dim All the Lights — 3 stars

In an effort to showcase his sexy voice, Desai slowed down the tempo on this Donna Summer hit. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me. Singing "Gonna dance the night away" to a slow tempo sounded a bit loungey. I think this was a missed opportunity. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

You've come a long way, baby

If you caught Live with Regis and Kelly on Friday, you would have been pleasantly surprised to see Kelly Ripa's real life hubby, Mark Consuelos, filling in for Regis on his day off. Consuelos doesn't fill in very often, so this was a real treat. (He was absent from Oprah's Friday Live panel filmed in Chicago where he is a regular, possibly to make the Regis and Kelly show filmed in NYC.) Consuelos and Ripa met and fell in love while both acting on All My Children.

The two engaged in a playful banter that lasted a full 12 minutes, which I have to guess was lengthened to account for the missing American Idol reject interview, usually scheduled around this time. The two told stories about everything from a traumatic bicycle accident which Ripa suffered as a child, to tales of Consuelos' obsessive compulsion to clean, and funny tidbits about eating Chinese food with the kids. I was enthralled and captivated. The dialog was magic.

The two did not disappoint when it came time to interview their first guest, Drew Barrymore, and discuss common and everyday dilemmas: Do we get on Facebook? Do we read papers in print or online?

I first began watching Kelly Ripa on All My Children where she played Adam Chandler's illegitimate, long lost daughter, Hayley. At the time, a whole slew of younger characters had been added to the cast. Every day, I would rush home from school to watch the latest episode to find out what Hayley, Kendall, (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Charlie (Robert Duncan McNeill), and Julie (Lauren Holly) were up to. I cringed when Ripa's character Hayley was attracted to Alec McIntyre, who seemed twice her age. Soon after, I stopped watching the show because my school schedule conflicted.

Imagine my surprise when many years later, Ripa was chosen to cohost the Regis show after Kathy Lee Gifford left for greener pastures. I'd watched a few shows where she filled in and thought she did a fabulous job.

Hosting an interview show has got to be the most difficult job in the acting world. For most of the segment, you have no script and yet you have to look intelligent on live camera. You have to rely on your staff to do background research for interviews so you don't come off looking like an unprepared idiot. The camera moves around and you have to look for the light. You never know where the interview will go next, so you have to roll with the punches. It's truly an art and an amazing skill which few people have.

Ripa and Consuelos, who met while playing opposite love interests on All My Children, make a fabulous hosting pair. Someday when Regis is ready to try something new (maybe become the fifth judge on American Idol), I hope Consuelos will take over permanently.