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: (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.)