Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cusack family is featured in High Fidelity


John Cusack and his sister Joan Cusack both star in High Fidelity, a 2000 movie based on the novel by Nick Hornby.

A few years ago in 2000, I remember vividly when the record-store-based movie High Fidelity was being promoted in interviews with John Cusack and his older sister Joan.  John, who I first remembered playing a teenager in the movie Sixteen Candles, helped to write and co-produce the movie, which is based closely on the 1995 book of the same name by Nick Hornby. John cast three other members of his talented family: his older sister Joan, who I also first saw in Sixteen Candles, his younger sister Susie, and their father Richard "Dick" Cusack.

The movie is showing tonight, Dec. 2, Monday Dec. 3, and on Tuesday Dec. 4 on television on  Sundance and AMC, the American Movie Channel network. Times are listed below.

I immediately went out to see the movie as soon as it was released, and I consider it to be one of the best of the year 2000, along with other fine music-filled and interesting artsy movies such as Almost Famous, O Brother Where Art Thou, and Billy Elliott. The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe, along with numerous other honors. Writers John Cusack, Steve Pink, Scott Rosenberg, and D.V. DeVincentis were nominated for a BAFTA award for best adapted screenplay, and Jack Black won a Blockbuster Entertainment award for best supporting actor in a comedy/romance.

John Cusack took on the title role of Rob Gordon, a vintage collectible record store owner in Chicago, who's live-in girlfriend Laura (played by Iben Hjejle) is fed up and finally leaving him. His older sister, Joan, is cast in the role of Liz, a mutually supportive friend and confident.

Throughout the movie, Rob counts down his top five past relationship breakups, evaluating what went wrong and why he's once again, alone. He calls up each of his old girlfriends, arranges to meet with them, then rehashes the past, looking for clues pointing to why his romances always seem to fail.

There's Caroline Fortis (played by Natasha Gregson Wagner), who was his first kiss in junior high school, but she kissed a different boy a few days later much to the dismay of Rob. Then, there was Penny Hardwick (played by Joelle Carter) who dated him in high school, but would never put out. One of his lost loves was Charlie Nicholson (played by Catherine Zeta Jones), who he dated in college. Gorgeous, popular, and seemingly out of his reach, Rob was mesmerized by the very idea of being Charlie's boyfriend. Then, there is the beautiful and mysterious singer Marie de Salle (played by Lisa Bonet), who he goes to see perform. There are a few missteps and stark awakenings along Rob's journey of self-discovery. For instance, past girlfriend Sarah Kendrew (played by Lili Taylor) has now become unbalanced and is struggling to keep her sanity while on prescriptive medications.

Paralleling the plot are scenes in the record store where the two employees, Dick (played by Todd Louiso) and Barry (played by Jack Black), count down the top five songs of various made-up categories, such as: Monday songs, songs to play at a funeral, first songs on first albums, and songs to make love to. Rare and unusual tidbits of music trivia, much of it from the original novel, are sprinkled throughout the script, and we even get to see a surprise cameo by Bruce Springsteen, as himself, who gives advice on breaking up in his song, "Bobby Jean." Music by local Chicago bands is featured throughout. Even Jack Black performs.

Other famous actors make appearances in minor roles: Tim Robbins is a zen-like neighbor named Ian and Sara Gilbert is Anaugh, a record store patron. Luke Perry is a dinner party guest. Margaret Travolta, John Travolta's sister, provides an amazingly realistic and humorous portrayal as Rob's mother.

In the end of the movie, we come to the conclusion that Rob Gordon's perception of his failed past relationships is perhaps the only major part of his behavior which is in error. It turns out that not all the girlfriends left him, he has forgotten that he broke up with some of them as well. Some are perhaps better left alone as he rediscovers why they simply weren't right for him. In all cases, we find that like many men, he has failed to communicate his feelings properly. Throughout this process, he learns to open up and bare his soul, which leads to a realistic, yet somewhat happy ending.


Dick Cusack as the minister at Laura's father's funeral.

Susie Cusack (at right) plays a dinner guest at Charlie's (Catherine Zeta Jones) dinner party.

Notes on the Cusack family

The two other Cusacks are cast in minor roles. During a later scene in the movie, Patriarch Richard "Dick" Cusack plays the role of the minister at Laura's father's funeral. Sibling Susie Cusack is cast as a party guest at Charlie's dinner party.

There are two other Cusack siblings in the business who do not appear in the movie: Ann and Bill, who are equally talented. Ann Cusack, like Joan and John, is quite busy, having recently wrapped up her regularly appearing role as Susan Grant in the Grey's Anatomy spin-off show, "Private Practice." She is currently guest starring on several television shows.

Their mother, Nancy Cusack, though not in the business, is a former mathematics teacher and political activist, a passion held by her children.

Sadly, patriarch Dick Cusack passed away only three years after the release of this movie in 2003 due to pancreatic cancer. He has left behind a legacy in their hometown of Evanston Illinois, where he worked to preserve a school and turn it into the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, where his own children trained to be come actors.

High Fidelty is airing:
  • Sunday Dec 2 at 10 PM on Sundance
  • (channel 179 or 374 on Brighthouse in Orlando)
  • Monday Dec 3 at 7 PM on Sundance
  • Tuesday, Dec 4 at 3 AM on AMC
  • (channels 48 or 1355 HD on Brighthouse in Orlando)
  • Tuesday, Dec 4 at 9:15 AM on AMC


Friday, October 5, 2012

The Vanilla Ice Project:
Rockin' Renovation



Today, three hours of the first ever episodes of the DIY network's The Vanilla Ice Project are re-airing starting with Season 1 Episode 1, "Nice Nice Landscaping," at 1 PM on HGTV. More re-airings of shows from Season 2 will air on Monday, November 19 on the DIY network. Season 3 is set to launch in January of 2013.

The TV show begins by renovating and restoring a 7,000 sq ft house in Palm Beach, FL that rapper star and rock vocalist Vanilla Ice bought as a short sale after it had been abandoned and stripped by it's former owner.

Vanilla Ice, also known by his real name of Robert Van Winkle, or "Rob," to his work crew, said he had been doing home repair for 10 years before launching the show. Hands-on home renovation is a hobby he enjoys. 

Ice's first venture into real estate investment began in the early 1990s by accident, when he purchased three homes with the 20 million dollars he earned from the 1990 hit song, "Ice Ice Baby," the first hip hop song to hit the Billboard top 40. He toured the world for three years, returned to his homes in LA, Greenwich Village, NYC, and Snowbird, Utah, only to decide he didn't really want to live in any of them. "Sell 'em," he said. 

After making a tidy profit of hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said, "It can't be this easy," in an interview with DIY network ( article dated October 7, 2010 DIY network ).  It was. The real estate market was experiencing a boom.

In the early 1990s, Ice eventually settled on Star Island in Miami Beach, purchasing a 14-room home where he discovered that life after fame can be quite lonely. At first, he paid others to redecorate, but the party-themed atmosphere soon grew old. He got married to girlfriend Laura Giaritta in 1997, settled down, and started a family. He had two daughters, Dusti and Keelee. Customizing and redecorating his own home to suit his growing family's needs grew into a passion that led to purchasing other homes in need of some TLC. The hobby grew into a business, and Ice found himself doing something he truly loves: home renovation. 

Rather than build new homes that just sit vacant, and resell only after they appreciate, Ice decided instead, to turn someone else's discarded houses into dream homes. In today's buyers' market, he can buy distressed houses at a lower price as well as afford quality workers to assist him. After working his magic to create beautiful homes from tear-downs, he can then re-sell the house at a decent profit. 

In the real estate market, that's known as "flipping." However, there are good flippers who truly renovate a home, and bad flippers who only do cosmetic repairs while hiding the true problems. Rob "Vanilla Ice" Van Winkle is a good flipper.


The Vanilla Ice Project TV schedule
Listings courtesy TV Guide. Synopsis courtesy DIY network.

Friday, October 5
HGTV 61, HGTVD 1250 Orlando

1 PM Nice, Nice Landscaping S1 E1
Rapper Vanilla Ice renovates a home in Palm Beach, Fla., in this series. First up: improving the landscape with palm trees and LED lighting suitable for a concert venue.
Original Air Date: Oct 14, 2010

1:30 Party Pool S1 E2
Vanilla Ice replaces an old pool and lays a new patio, enhancing the space with tiki torches and a fire bowl. Original Air Date: Oct 14, 2010

2 PM The Master Sweet S1 E3
Vanilla Ice installs a spa in the master bathroom. Original Air Date: Oct 21, 2010

2:30 A Tasty New Kitchen S1 E4
Customized cabinets are made for Vanilla Ice's kitchen while he searches for countertops. Original Air Date: Oct 28, 2010

3 PM Living Room Rescue S1 E6
A faux coral fireplace and a new bar are added to the living room in the mansion. Original Air Date: Nov 11, 2010

3:30 Rapping It Up S1 E11
Vanilla Ice and his crew put the finishing touches on the mansion and hire a staging expert to prepare it for sale. Original Air Date: Jan 1, 2011


Monday, November 19, 2012
DIY Network

1:00 pm Upstairs Reality Check S2 E6
Rob's daughters, Dusti and Keelee, help make over the upstairs bedrooms (under his supervision). Original Air Date: Feb 18, 2012

1:30 pm The Master Hideaway S2 E7
Vanilla Ice and his team design and build a master suite that features ceiling frescoes and a spa-like bathroom. Original Air Date: Feb 25, 2012

2:00 pm The Ice House Retreat Suite S2 E8
Vanilla Ice and his crew build a guest suite that features sleek white marble, a Murphy bed and a spa bathroom. Original Air Date: Mar 3, 2012

2:30 pm Baby Got Back Yard S2 E9
A backyard makeover, complete with a zip line and a fire pole, as well as high-end landscaping and a state-of-the-art sprinkler system. Original Air Date: Mar 10, 2012

3:00 pm The Ultimate Garage Getaway S2 E10
Vanilla Ice and his crew transform an old garage into a refuge for auto aficionados. They install a car lift and hurricane-proof doors, and add some rock-star bling to complete the look. Original Air Date: Mar 17, 2012

3:30 pm Elevator up to the Mega Den S2 E11
The project: renovate an unused second-floor loft and turn it into a gaming room. Included: a glass elevator that opens directly into the gaming room. Original Air Date: Mar 24, 2012

4:00 pm Boom-Boom Screening Room S2 E12
Vanilla Ice and his team turn a dated, oversized room into a high-tech theater room with an elaborate sound system. Original Air Date: Mar 31, 2012

4:30 pm Punch List Olympics S2 E13
In the Season 2 finale, Vanilla Ice and his crew hurry to finish their work on the mansion as the open house approaches. Original Air Date: Apr 7, 2012




Sunday, July 8, 2012

Little Boxes on the Hillside,
Little Boxes Made of Ticky Tacky




Showtime's hit TV show Weeds features the opening theme song, "Little Boxes," a cutesy folksy song originally written and recorded by Malvina Reynolds in 1962. Reynolds wrote the song during a trip with her family through Daly City, California as a social commentary on the shoddily built, conformist track housing she saw from the road. The lyrics refer to the homes being built of "ticky tacky," a reference to cheap construction. The song was then recorded by Pete Seeger who ultimately made the song famous.

Season 1 in 2005, the Weeds show featured songwriter Reynolds' original version. However, seasons 2 and 3, featured unique renditions by famous recording artists. A few of the performers have included Elvis Costello, Regina Specktor, Billy Bob Thornton, The Shins, Randy Newman, Linkin Park, and The Decemberists. The covers were unfortunately abandoned during seasons 4 through 7. Now in its final season 8, the show is reintroducing guest artists to remake the theme.

Episode 1 "Messy," which aired on Sunday July 1, debuted a new opener with a whiteboard cartoon created by Idea Rocket Animation, depicting a timeline of the shows plot over the last seven seasons. [ Link to the new animation. ] Company creative director William Gadea explains the process artist Robert Kopecky employed to create the cartoon opener in an interview with Studio Daily.

This Sunday, July 8, Episode 2, "A Beam of Sunshine," will feature recording artist and Sing-Off judge, Ben Folds. You can find the show on Showtime at 10 and 11 PM EDT on Sunday, July 8. The show repeats throughout the week at various times. [ Ben Folds' cover of Little Boxes Weeds intro ]

Folds is currently working on the production of his first CD made with Ben Folds Five in over 12 years via an online pledge campaign. His last CD of newly unreleased material, Lonely Avenue, which he cowrote with book author Nick Hornby, featured a similar animation of the song "From Above" by Simpsons director and animator Julius Preite and designer Justin Owens.

Covers by various artists

Here are some of the versions of the series theme song performed on the show. I starred some of my favorites. Just for fun, try playing these for a friend and don't tell them who is performing them, then see if they can guess who it is.

Thanks to youtuber joeblowaz for taking the time to post the intros from Seasons 2 and 3. A special note: Watch out for the odd little pop-up video ads in the upper right hand corner on some postings. They contain an audio track which can ruin your listening experience.

Original song

Here is the original song as performed by Malvina Reynolds, "Little Boxes."

Season 2 of Weeds Opening Theme: Little Boxes

Season 2 Episode 1 - Elvis Costello
Season 2 Episode 2 - Death Cab for Cutie
Season 2 Episode 3 - Engelbert Humperdinck **
Season 2 Episode 4 - McGarrigle Sisters (French version)
Season 2 Episode 5 - Maestro Charles Barnett (symphonic version)
Season 2 Episode 6 - Aiden Hawken
Season 2 Episode 7 - Ozomatli
Season 2 Episode 8 - The Submarines
Season 2 Episode 9 - Tim DeLaughter
Season 2 Episode 10 - Regina Spektor **
Season 2 Episode 11 - Jenny Lewis with Johnathan Rice **

Season 3 of Weeds Opening Theme: Little Boxes

Season 3 Episode 01 - Randy Newman
Season 3 Episode 02 - Angelique Kidjo (Afropop Carribean) **
Season 3 Episode 03 - Kinky (disco Spanish)
Season 3 Episode 04 - Donovan
Season 3 Episode 05 - Billy Bob Thornton **
Season 3 Episode 06 - The Shins
Season 3 Episode 07 - The Individuals
Season 3 Episode 08 - Man Man **
Season 3 Episode 09 - Joan Baez
Season 3 Episode 10 - The Decemberists
Season 3 Episode 11 - Michael Franti
Season 3 Episode 12 - Persephone's Bees (Russian and English) **
Season 3 Episode 13 - Laurie Berkner Band
Season 3 Episode 14 - Linkin Park
Season 3 Episode 15 - Pete Seeger

Season 8 of Weeds Opening Theme: Little Boxes
To be updated throughout the year

Season 8 Episode 01 - Malvina Reynolds with new cartoon intro by Idea Rocket Animation **
Season 8 Episode 02 - Ben Folds **
Season 8 Episode 03 - Cast member Kevin Nealon (Doug) with Steve Martin yelling and screaming while playing banjo
Season 8 Episode 04 - Mariachi El Bronx **
Season 8 Episode 05 - The Mountain Goats
Season 8 Episode 06 - Bomb the Music Industry!
Season 8 Episode 07 - The Womenfolk **
Season 8 Episode 08 - The Thermals
Season 8 Episode 09 - Dierks Bentley **
Season 8 Episode 10 - Cast member Hunter Parrish (Silas)
Season 8 Episode 11 - Aimee Mann **
Season 8 Episode 12 - Cut Chemist
Season 8 Episode 13 - Malvina Reynolds (Series finale)

Never used theme covers:

After Season 3 ended, the show temporarily ceased using other performers to cover the theme song. However, these versions were already recorded and can be found on youtube. In fact, you can find numerous independent recordings of the theme by fans and lesser known artists, perhaps hopeful that their versions would be chosen.

Rise Against
The Crackheads
Mayer Hawthorne / Haircut

Props used on Weeds:

As long as we're on the subject of "Weed," here is another youtube video I ran across while scrounging around for the opening theme song posts. This video from Season 4 features the creation of the magnificent fake marijuana props for the show, using ingredients such as Mexican spices, parsley, and kosher salt attached to dowels with hot glue.
Video: The Weed Wranglers.



20 21 22 23 24

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Power of Bieber


On Friday morning, June 15, 2012, Justin Bieber performed on the Rockefeller Plaza outside the NBC Today show studios. Before the concert, he sat down with Matt Lauer to discuss his tour.

Longtime Today show host Matt Lauer confessed that Bieber had convinced him to sign up for twitter, something he said he swore he'd never do. During the interview, Lauer asked the 18-year-old pop star to prove his influence by helping him gain followers, "I want to find out the power of Bieber. I'm gonna do a little test here... I want you to tell your 23 million followers to follow me."

After first promoting the release of his new album Believe on June 19th. Bieber finally complied, tweeting from @justinbieber at 8:18 that morning:
    "Everyone follow my man @mlauer

Matt Lauer had quietly signed up for twitter the day before, but said he had "zero followers." Lauer said that NBC's director of digital news operations, Ryan Osborne would streak in the studio if he can gain over 750,000 followers by Tuesday, June 19.

I found Lauer's account before the Bieber blitz and clicked to follow his tweets, taking this screen shot showing 85 followers. Joining right before me were: Amanda Wright @adwritght10, Susan @savedbygraceto, Carrie Mitchell @MonsterPuma, and Lauren Boudreau @LBoudreauu.


"We're going to see the power of Justin Bieber by Tuesday," said Lauer.

Within three minutes, while Bieber typed away, Lauer announced: "We have 9,000 already, okay? And this has been going on for three minutes... Ryan, start taking your clothes off."

Within five minutes, Matt Lauer had 30,753 followers and was trending.

Only one day later, on Saturday, June 16, @mLauer had over 131,000 followers. Today, he has nearly 140,000. Although he won't reach the 750,000 mark he had hoped for, it's still quite impressive.

Will Matt Lauer remember me, having been one of the first 100 to follow him on twitter? Nah, probably not. It's fun trivia, though, just another story for tvgrrrrl's files.

Bieber will be back on NBC on Wednesday and Thursday nights, June 20th and 21st, for his All Around the World tour TV special airing at 8 p.m. each night. (NBC can be found on channels 4 and 1020 in Orlando on Brighthouse Cable.)



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Who shot J.R.? Dream Season, Priscilla Presley, and more Dallas folklore


Season 3 of Dallas included cast: Gary Ewing (Ted Shackleford), Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), Pamela Barnes Ewing (Victoria Principal), patriarch Jock Ewing (Jim Davis), J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray), matriarch Miss Ellie Ewing (Barbara Bel Geddes), and first grandchild, Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton).

Do you know who shot JR? Did you remember that Season 8 of Dallas was mostly just a bad dream? Did you wonder if Priscilla Presley could actually act when you found out she had been cast? And did you remember that Lucy had an affair with Ray Krebbs, who was later discovered to be her half uncle?

These are just a few of the scandals revealed on the hit television series Dallas, which ran from 1978 to 1991. I was too young to understand it when it first aired, but caught it in reruns. Unlike daytime soap operas, the plot on Dallas moved quite fast, airing once a week, keeping viewers spellbound by shocking them with the cruel and conniving behavior of the Ewings, a mega rich Texas oil family.

The show is re-airing tonight on TNT in a newly produced series, picking up where it left off, and reviving the old fabulous characters of J.R., original heir to the South Fork family ranch and the Ewing oil well fortune, his ex-wife Sue Ellen, and his brother Bobby.

The same hallmark Dallas soundtrack is also being used, much to my delight.  Hear the Dallas theme soundtrack here. It's catchy!

New characters in the form of offspring who have grown up, new wives and husbands, and others have been added to inject new life into the series. I hope they walk with a swagger, emitting the same air of nasty confidence which only extreme wealth can foster. I hope that the bad guys are just as ruthless, selfish, and lawbreaking so that I can cheer when their innocent victims, the good guys, muster the strength to fight back and win in the end.

The show will air from 9 p.m. to 11:13 p.m tonight with two back-to-back episodes on TNT, channel 11 or 1237 HD on Brighthouse cable here in Orlando. The show will re-air tonight at 11:14 p.m., Friday night at 10:30 p.m., and Saturday morning at 11 a.m.

If you didn't watch Dallas the first time around, here is the plot in a nutshell: 

Jock Ewing (Jim Davis) marries Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), who chooses him over her other beau, Digger Barnes (David Wayne and later Keenan Wynn). Jock Ewing and Digger Barnes become business partners, then have a disagreement over oil rights where Jock ultimately cheats Digger out of the oil, setting the field for a huge Ewing-Barnes rivalry.

The Ewings have three children: J.R. (Larry Hagman), Gary (David Ackroyd and later Ted Shackelford), and Bobby (Patrick Duffy). As the eldest son, J.R. runs the farm and oil company like a ruthless bastard, steam-rolling over anyone who gets in his way. Youngest son Bobby is more interested in loving life, doing good, and caring for others.

Digger Barnes marries Rebecca Blake and has two children: Pam (Victoria Principal) and Cliff (Ken Kercheval).

In the first episode, Pamela Barnes and Bobby Ewing, children of the two rival families, elope in Romeo and Juliet fashion. Bobby brings Pam home to the Southfork ranch where he resides with his father Jock, mother Miss Ellie, siblings Gary and J.R. and his wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), and niece Lucy (Charlene Tilton), who is the daughter of his brother Gary. Lucy is so boy crazy that she sleeps with farmhand, Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly).

The show stews in scandal. There are murders, shootings, affairs, lawsuits, and conniving criminal business deals. It's over-the-top fantasy, filled with the glitz and glam of designer fashions and fancy sports cars owned by people residing in sprawling mega mansions and downtown Dallas condos. I owe the success of the show to the fact that in the real world, the economy in 1978 had tanked, and everyone needed an escape, a mythical place to live in their minds as far detached from reality as possible, while still representing the very real American dream of becoming absurdly rich and successful.

Priscilla Presley was added during Season 7 as Bobby's first love, Jenna Wade.

And, to answer those questions:
Do you know who shot JR at the end of Season 3? 
We find out at the beginning of Season 4 that Kristin (Mary Crosby), J.R.'s mistress who is also Sue Ellen's sister pulled the trigger.

What about Season 8, otherwise known as the "Dream Season?"
Bobby and Pamela, divorced for two years, decide to remarry, only to have their dreams tragically end after he is killed in a car accident saving Pam's life. At the beginning of Season 9, we find that Bobby's death was all just a bad bad dream which Pam had been having, earning that year the nickname, the "Dream Season."

Could Priscilla Presley act?
Yes, Elvis Presley's widow Priscilla could act, and quite well in fact. She played Jenna Wade, the mother of Bobby's son Lucas Wade, and was introduced in episode 138, then appeared on the show from 1983 until 1988. After her time on Dallas, she continued acting in various roles on TV shows and movies until the year 2000.

Lucy slept with her uncle?
At the beginning of the series, Lucy and ranch hand Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly) have a steamy sordid affair. It was later revealed that Krebbs was actually her father's half-brother, Jock's illegitimate son, making him her half-uncle.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bonnaroo TV blasting broadcasts via youtube


Donald Glover, who plays Troy on Community, performs at Bonnaroo as his rap act, Childish Gambino, on the "little screen" of youtube, which is livecasting the festival.

Were you unable to make it to Manchester, TN to the Bonnaroo music and arts festival this year? No worries. It's being "live" cast online via youtube. Unlike other live feeds I've seen, this one is a huge improvement. I began watching Friday evening just to see how it was working out, and the picture, though high definition, stuttered annoyingly despite my high speed internet connection. The problems appear to have been fixed. Rebroadcasts, which have been airing each morning and during downtimes, are TV perfect.

In order to stagger performances and give the viewers at home a steady feed of entertainment, some shows seem to be captured in near real time with a safely padded, room-for-editing, 30 minute delay, while others are shown hours or days later, such as the heavily bearded acoustic Trampled by Turtles, who played Friday and Saturday, but are being broadcast live today at 4:00 p.m. EDT.

Bonnaroo's trailer aptly advertised: "Sounds. Stages. Sights. Get down on the farm, without being on the farm."

Airings are pretty spectacular – definitely one of the best live music broadcasts I've ever seen, and youtube-upload-worthy for future watches. The sound is perfect. The camera angles are great. The picture is crystal clear. All that's missing are the smells, and I can do without that.

Broadcasting Bonnaroo acts live on youtube will most likely have the same effect on the festival that MTV’s Spring Break had on Daytona Beach in the late ’80s.

There is a legend here in Florida of epic Woodstock proportion of the day the film crews came to town beginning in March of 1986, with big stars in tow, drawing in mega crowds of sweaty coeds from all over the country. For four years, we kids would do anything to get our parents to let us go to the free beach concerts. I got to see the Beastie Boys live, something I'll never forget.

At Bonnaroo, performers are able to strut their stuff live, proving they are not just smoke and mirrors while crowds of festival goers vie for camera time from the front row waving hi to Mom back home. I get to sit in the comfort of my air-conditioned apartment and watch online on hi-def, blowing up the picture mega huge, with my Bose speakers blasting the beautifully crystal clear music. It's like I'm there, but without all the dusty dirt, long lines for the honey pots, greasy hair and stench. Win! Win!

Two channels broadcast each day, on the appropriately named Channel 1 and Channel 2.  I'm sure next year, they'll come up with much more creative names for these, but hopefully not as confusing as "This Tent," "That Tent," and "The Other Tent," just a few examples of real Bonnaroo stage names. Both channel feeds are found here:

Bonnaroo Music Fest on Youtube

Unlike television which is subject to panels of censors, youtube appears to be self-regulated, meaning that swear words can fly freely.

I caught Community TV star, Donald Glover, performing as Childish Gambino in an uncensored rebroadcast this morning. I have to give props to the guy -- he can energize a crowd, displaying sing-a-long lyrics on a big screen, exciting the crowd into clapping in time, then moving them with sad and heart broken lyrics.

Later today on Channel 2 at 6 p.m. EDT is Sing-Off TV show judge Ben Folds, reunited with his fabulous lineup from the late '90s: Ben Folds Five.  Dr. Folds promises to stand on his piano, whip out his wide lens and photograph people flipping him off.  Sounds like he’s a gluten for punishment.

Should be fun. Catch it if you can. Check out the uploaded videos on the Bonnaroo youtube channel as well.



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Save The Sing-Off petition reaches landmark halfway point

Yesterday marked a landmark victory for the fan-based movement to #SaveTheSingOff. The grassroots campaign reached 25,167 signatures by midnight, eastern time, Monday, June 4, just over halfway of its goal of 50,000 signatures. The fan-based group formed on Monday, May 14, just three short weeks ago. The online petition was created by Dan St. John of Lawrence, Kansas, to gather enough signatures to gain the attention of network executives at NBC. The halfway point now being reached, the movement is gaining even more momentum.


The Sing-Off television show, which aired on NBC for three seasons from 2009 to 2011 and features several a cappella groups vying for a Sony recording contract, was not renewed for a full season this coming fall.  Fans are hoping to bring The Sing-Off back in Season 4 as a five or six day post-season run in December, the slot in which it originally ran during both Season 1 in 2009 and Season 2 in 2010.

After higher than expected ratings in 2010, NBC gambled and ran the show for a full season on Monday nights from 8 to 10 p.m. in Season 3 in 2011. However, the show was head-to-head against staunchly established competition: How I Met Your Mother and Two and A Half Men on CBS, and Dancing with the Stars on ABC, so that the 2011 ratings were less than stellar.

By showing that viewers care, the petition should light a fire under NBC execs to possibly bring the show back in December 2012.

The Sing-Off is hosted by the dashing Nick Lachey, and judged by the ever intelligent panel of Dr. Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, and Sara Bareilles.

I want to issue a huge congratulations to the wonderful grass roots campaign to #SaveTheSingOff. I especially want to acknowledge Dan St. John for his ceaseless promotion on both twitter and facebook.

Well done, Dan! Well done!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fan petition to Save The Sing-Off
reaches 20,000 signatures

This morning at 7:40 a.m., I was given the rare treat of being able to watch the number of signatures on the petition to Save The Sing-Off television show flip from 19,999 to 20,004.  The number had crept to just under 16,000 signatures on Friday, then surged over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The show, which has aired each fall for three consecutive seasons from 2009 to 2011 and features several a cappella groups competing for a Sony recording contract, is currently on the cutting room floor of the NBC scheduling room. The show is hosted by Nick Lachey and judged by performers Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, and Sara Bareilles. Because The Sing-Off enjoyed high ratings during the post-season five-day run in December 2010, the show was extended to run the full season in the fall of 2011. Unfortunately, it did not fair as well and struggled for viewership against hit shows such as How I Met Your Mother, Dancing with the Stars, House, and Ashton Kutcher's debut on Two and a Half Men.

The show will sadly not run the full season this fall on NBC. Whether or not NBC will pick it up for a short December run in 2012 is still a big question mark. Industry insider @mcbc noted on twitter:
    "...that holiday thing is looking increasing unlikely. 10/90, 5/95 at best. And it would only be a reunion."
Undaunted, Sing-Off fans are not giving up! Here are just a few of the efforts currently in place:

Petition
The petition, started by Dan St. John of Lawrence, Kansas, now boasts over 20,100 signatures:
Sign the petition.

Twitter trend campaign
Fans are continuing to post #SaveTheSingOff on twitter.

Videos by Sing-Off competitors:

X-Factors from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois:
Cover of Eric Hutchinson's "You Don't Have to Believe Me" with an introduction and plea.

Members of Fannin Eleven from Wisconsin:
Cover of "Break Even" by the Script with a testimonial of the joy they experienced while on the show.

Pentatonix, Season 3 winner, from Arlington Texas;
Cover of Beyonce's "End of Time" with a request to sign the petition at the end.



Thursday, May 24, 2012

@TVGrrrrl is finally on twitter
#SaveTheSingOff #ImADamVP

After years of swearing I'd never have my own twitter account, I finally broke down and signed up last week under none other than, "@tvgrrrrl" (that's 4 R's in case you accidentally find the one with 3 R's – not me.)

Anyone living in Orlando knows that the number one way we all communicate around this part of the country is via person to person texting on our beautifully personalized androids and iphones. To reach the masses, Facebook is followed in Florida. Myspace here seems dominated by people looking to cheat and diehards who signed up a dozen years ago and refuse to admit that no one reads their page anymore. Twitter? I don't really know anyone who's on twitter who isn't also throwing the same posts into their Facebook account. So, it seemed silly to bother.


#SaveTheSingOff

Then, a grassroots campaign was launched by fans to SaveTheSingOff – that's The Sing-Off television show which aired on NBC from 2009 to 2011, hosted by Nick Lachey, and judged by Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman and Sara Bareilles. It is sadly absent from NBC's 2012 fall schedule and fans are rallying to save it, starting a petition (sign here), websites, and a twitter hashtag trending campaign for #SaveTheSingOff.

I feel a personal investment in the show, having watched from day one. My eyes glued to the set each episode, I shunned friends' invites to go clubbing and instead, made them watch with me, moving work schedules when needed, and even skipping class and faking the flu one December (shhh – don't tell). I was so thankful when Brighthouse Cable made shows available for on-demand-viewing, that I watched the show almost exclusively on channel 304 last season.  

I blogged about The Sing-Off from the beginning. Over a thousand people read my articles, and I think of each and every one of those readers as a gift. It makes all the time spent researching and fact gathering worthwhile. 

The whole reason I started this twitter account was to tweet the hashtag: #SaveTheSingOff

However, now that I'm here, follow me if that's your thing. Send me your thoughts on what you're watching on the boob tube. I love the weird and wacky off channels, love writing about what no one else is writing about, all those lower viewership shows on cable which are passed over by the mainstream media. 


#ImADamVP


I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention that Sing-Off judge Ben Folds (That's Dr. Folds to you and me) is launching his own CD with Ben Folds Five, sans a record label, using only a pledgemusic account where fans can prepurchase everything from CDs for $15, t-shirts for $27, vinyl for $25, and other goodies. That's akin to airing your own television show on youtube, without a network. Will it work? It seems to be picking up steam. 

Today, at 3 p.m. EST, BFF will be hawking more wares: actual handwritten lyrics "sealed with a kiss" from each of the gorgeous members of the band: Robert, Darren, and Ben. Oh, swoon! There are only 30 copies being sold for $400 apiece. For $2,500, twenty people can also have their own name added to the song, "Do It Anyway." I'm guessing without The Sing-Off paycheck, Ben Folds might need to raise a few extra bucks to cover the costs of putting out this project on his own. Judging from the success to date with 224% of the project funded and nearly 5,000 pledgers, I don't think this is an issue. His daring experiment appears to have paid off.

Go to this website and see how you do: Pledge Music. Should go fast.

If you're on twitter, send the link around about Dr. Fold's new project and add the hashtag: #ImaDamVp


#OnceUponAnotherTime


I must also mention that the angelic Sara Bareilles has just released a wonderful new EP, "Once Upon Another Time." The EP was produced and recorded at Ben Folds' Nashville studio. I've only heard snippets here and there, but it sounds simply lovely. Who else can solo a cappella and sound that phenomenal? The 5-song EP is available here on Amazon.com as an mp3 download for only $5 (okay $4.99, whatever). The EP has received the notoriously esteemed label of "Explicit Lyrics," due to her "Sweet As Whole" song (get it?). Bless her little heart. 

The song, Beautiful Girl is only found on the B-side of her vinyl record single, Stay. I was only able to find it from collectors for $30 apiece, so good luck on that one.

The songs are so wonderful, I'll bet we'll all most likely be hearing them on future television soundtracks.



Monday, May 21, 2012

Nielsen ratings signal doom for Sing Off
as fans rally to save Season 4

Street Corner Symphony, a former competitor of The Sing-Off, is just one of the many groups and individuals who have have helped to spearhead the #SaveTheSingOff campaign by creating a website as well as Facebook and twitter pages.

On Sunday May 13 around 2 p.m., the news broke on @mcbc's twitter page that The Sing-Off television show featuring a cappella singing groups competing for a record contract was not on NBC's upcoming fall schedule, where it had run for three seasons.
    For #acappella people ... BREAKING ... #TheSingOff not on the NBC fall schedule. A two-hour #Voice takes its place.
A minute later, it was revealed that the show also would not enter midseason:
    Also, #TheSingOff is not slated for a midseason run. Looks to be effectively canceled.
For a normal television show, not appearing on a regular schedule is the kiss of death. Not so for The Sing-Off, which began as a post-season filler, airing as a 2-hour 4-day show in December 2009 and returning in the same slot for 5 days in 2010 for a second season, happily resulting in unexpectedly high ratings. Confident that a cappella was on a roll, NBC extended the run in Season 3, giving The Sing-Off its very own primetime slot on Monday nights from 8 to 10 p.m. Sadly, ratings suffered and the show has not been renewed. Though currently not slated to run at all, it is a logical transition for the show to return to its roots as a short post-season 5-to-6 episode series, running during December when musical holiday specials are quite popular.

Sure enough, an hour later, @mcbc tweeted:
    Text from a NBC bud ... OH "#TheSingOff may return for a brief post-Thanksgiving run. Happy Mother's Day." #acappella

Fans formulate a #SaveTheSingOff campaign

By noon on Monday, May 14, word began to spread like wildfire amidst the tightly knit a cappella community.

Nick Lachey was the first to make note of the situation, tweeting from his @NickSLachey account that he was disappointed:
    obviously bummed to hear that #singoff is not going to come back to @nbc this year. thanks to everyone who made the show so much fun to do!!
Just after 2 p.m., Sara D. (@wtrfallprincess), a fan and Straight No Chaser a cappella blogger, posted on her twitter account:
    Save @TheSingOff!!! Bring it back, @NBC! #SaveTheSingOff
thereby creating the twitter hashtag, #SaveTheSingOff, which took off like wildfire, and was retweeted dozens of times.

Judge Shawn Stockman picked up the hashtag, retweeting it around 6 p.m. that night, quickly followed by judge Ben Folds, then host Nick Lachey, and new judge Sara Barielles around 9 p.m. Fans retweeted hundreds of times, causing the hashtag to trend in both Seattle, WA and Athens, GA that Monday night.

That evening, members of Street Corner Symphony announced that they had purchased the domain: savethesingoff.com and launched a simple website, also creating Facebook and twitter accounts for SaveTheSingOff.

By 7 p.m, fan Dan St. John had launched a petition via ipetitions.com and publicized it on both his twitter (@spicepirate00) and Facebook Sing-Off fan pages. [ Click here to sign the online petition. ]

And so began an all out multi-media social network grassroots campaign to "Save The Sing Off!"


It all comes down to numbers

Why so much fuss over yet another musical competition TV show? Don't we have enough of those out there already?

Sigh…

The Sing-Off is unique in that competitors must perform a cappella, meaning "without accompaniment." No instruments or tracks are used. Choral pedals, autotune, lip-syncing and other fakery are prohibited. Performers must stand alone on their own merits, singing into microphones on stage.

All that being said, networks like NBC are really only interested in the bottom line of dollar signs, not feeling groovy about presenting vocal music in its purest form. They want to sell commercial time for top dollar, and to do that, they need high-rating hits.

According to the Nielsen ratings, the industry standard for monitoring TV viewership, the two-hour Sing-Off only drew between 3.89 and 6.43 million viewers to watch NBC each hour on Monday nights from September 19 through December 5, 2011, unfortunately placing it last behind all of the other major networks of ABC, CBS, and FOX, winning out only over the CW.

It's no wonder. It was pitted against top ranked Dancing with the Stars (14.71 to 20.04 million viewers) on ABC and the powerblock of How I Met Your Mother (7.99 to 11.70 million viewers) and Two and I Half Men on CBS, which was enjoying a field day of increased ratings (9.69 to 27.76 million viewers) after everyone tuned in to see how Ashton Kutcher would do replacing the off-kilter-gone-bonkers Charlie Sheen. When the season premiere of House aired on FOX at 9 p.m. on Oct. 3 (5.85 to 9.77 million viewers), The Sing-Off did not stand a chance. [ Nielsen ratings published daily by: zap2it.com ]

On October 10, only four shows into the season, The Playboy Club, which had been scheduled to run on NBC after The Sing-Off and might draw viewers who tune in early, was replaced with an even lower rating Prime Suspect due to public criticism that The Playboy Club television show was too racy. The problem wasn't the show – it was a great, well-written and artfully produced drama, and less sexually charged than many daytime soap operas. I suspect that the campaign against The Playboy Club was probably spearheaded by the competition: Castle on ABC and a revamping of Hawaii Five-O on CBS, each used to taking the lion's share of viewers. Prime Suspect and Rock Center, which replaced Prime Suspect and debuted on October 31 on NBC, both also failed to garner many viewers.

Next fall, NBC will take a gamble and move their hit show The Voice to Mondays, paired with a new show, Revolution. Fortunately for them, Dr. House is on his way out, but I still wish them luck -- they'll need it. [Schedule grid by Entertainment Weekly.]


Who is this Nielsen and why doesn't he like my favorite shows?

The Nielsen ratings, which were first utilized by the television industry in 1950 when Milton Berle ruled the roost on the Texaco Star Theater, are kind of a bunch of hooey when you think about it, and should probably not be given so much gravity given the manner in which data is currently extrapolated. First, Nielsen only samples "about 20,000" households out of the 114 million TV viewing households across the United States. That's a mere .0175 percent, one in 5,700 households. These numbers are then multiplied by that area's population, with the assumption that if John Q Smith's family is watching Survivor on Wednesday night, so is everyone living in their 5700 neighbors' homes. [ source: The Nielsen Company Marketing video: Nielsen Ratings 101: Designing the Sample ]

The late Arthur C. Nielsen, Jr. defended the model:
    "I try to explain how sampling works. Next time you have to go to the doctor and he wants to take a little blood, tell 'em you don't believe in sampling. Take it all."
However, even Nielsen recognizes that households, unlike blood, are not homogenous. Juan Mendizabal, SVP Field operations of Nielsen explains:
    "No two homes are alike. That's why we have to have such a comprehensive training program,"
[ source: The Nielsen Company marketing video: Nielsen Ratings 101: Introduction video ]

Within the United States, Nielsen measures television audiences in 210 local markets [ source: Nielsen's December 31, 2011 annual report ] consisting of large metropolitan population centers [ list of local markets published by zap2it ]. This suggests that individuals living in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas are not being properly represented. It's unclear who is and who is not being tracked. For instance, is Chapel Hill, NC monitored? It is a major college town with a huge transient student population, but only a small number of permanent residents. What about the many vacation resorts, such as Disney World here in Orlando? I personally catch up on a lot of TV while relaxing on vacation.

In order to increase the sample pool, Nielsen also sends out approximately 2 million weekly paper diaries during sweeps months to be kept by people living in smaller areas (I actually was once the recipient of one of these). However, these figures are not shown on the daily ratings charts, because the paper diaries must be filled out, mailed in, and then processed. Only figures from the electronic monitoring devices installed in the 20,000 households nationwide are tabulated in the daily ratings published each morning after a show airs.

Though Nielsen now enlists modern high tech equipment to analyze viewership on all forms of media including televisions, on-demand, online, and personal handheld devices for up to three days after a show first airs, Nielsen is still only able to sample a tiny portion of the actual viewing audience – about half of those with electronic meters, or 10,000 households. One wonders why, with all the latest digital technology available, they don't simply work out a deal with the cable and satellite providers who are now capable of monitoring the viewership of their own customers. [ source: The Nielsen Company marketing video: Nielsen Cross-Platform Homes - Extended Screen Ratings ]

It is also questionable how many students are being monitored. With a show like The Sing-Off, featuring primarily college and university a cappella groups, I imagine that students are a huge percentage of their viewership and that this group is being underrepresented by the Nielsen ratings.

In addition, Nielsen's extrapolated ratings are not audited by an external source – no one really knows how accurate they are.


The Sing-Off "Shing-ed" 
in the short season

In previous Seasons 1 and 2 during 2009 and 2010, The Sing-Off was a post-season filler airing in December primarily against reruns and holiday specials being shown on other major networks. Ratings were much higher and grew from one year to the next. The fast pace of seeing the show unfold in two to three weeks time seemed to keep viewers interested enough to tune in each day the show aired.

In its debut in 2009, the two-hour 8 to 10 p.m. show ran on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday December 14 through 16, culminating in a Monday finale on December 21 the following week. Hourly ratings ranged from 6.31 to 7.43 million viewers and fans voiced that they were pleased with the new technical singing terms they were learning, such as 'Shing,' jokingly coined by Judge Ben Folds. This placed NBC in a respectable second place behind CBS in the Nielsen ratings.

In 2010, The Sing-Off moved to Monday and Wednesday and ran for two-and-a-half weeks, from December 6 to December 20. The show had gained momentum over the previous year with a dedicated fan following. Ratings improved, with a low at a respectable 6.67 million viewers and a soaring high of 9.66 million viewers per hour. The show usually placed second behind CBS, though it did fall to third behind ABC during one episode. However, it actually ranked in first place during its finale on December 20. It was the little show that could!


Why Season 3 failed

Although The Sing-Off could have effectively warranted eleven 2-hour episodes (plus a holiday special), the Season 3 format didn't really work for me. In my opinion, there were a few flaws in the production arrangement which made it less interesting than it had seemed in the faster paced shorter runs in previous seasons.

Although I found the show to be quite entertaining, Pat Fish wrote in The Morton Report, "Time (is) better spent watching paint dry."

Even Judge Ben Folds himself noted in his Sing-Off blog, that certain musically advanced groups, such as Afro Blue, might seem over-the-heads of the general public and felt the need to spice up his critique a bit with more colorfully descriptive dialog to keep them from appearing "boring."

The problem wasn't Afro Blue. Their fan following, who had sat quietly by, watching with approval week after week as their favorite group was pushed through to the next round, suddenly made their vast numbers heard when they protested vehemently after Afro Blue was eliminated by the panel of three judges. The ensuing controversy consisting of hundreds of Facebook and twitter posts showed that not only were people watching, they were thoroughly invested. Until then, it had seemed as if the show was being shown in a vacuum.

The problem was that fans were not allowed to vote for their own favorites early on, the way fans vote on shows such as FOX network's American Idol, thereby empowering them and giving them a voice, as well as an incentive to tune in over the long course of the season. Who wants to watch a show week after week, witnessing helplessly as your favorites are kicked out, group by group? American Idol producers understand this concept: let the people vote.

Another problem was the bracket system where competing groups were initially split into two brackets like an ACC basketball tournament, where nearly all of my personal favorite groups were stuck in the same bracket, forced to weed each other out seemingly unfairly.

Producer Deke Sharon, who does an excellent job with The Sing-Off for the most part, seems to have missed the boat on this one, saying in an interview in Pitchpipe in October 2011:
    "I don't think it much matters. Yes, some groups would have perhaps lasted longer if they had different groups in their bracket, but I never view this as a competition."
Not a competition? Really?

I could also have done without the color-coordinated competitor attire – truly less than cool, with few exceptions, save perhaps The Dartmouth Aires' Where's-Waldo-ish striped sweaters and wacky neon colored socks – Now, that was cute!

One improvement in Season 3 was the addition of a season capper: a holiday special. It was a nice touch and would be a great way to extend the short season to 6 days, adding to the format followed in Season 2, which lasted 5 days and culminated in a winner finale show.


Hope for Season 4

It's still possible that The Sing-Off may run in Season 4 – it isn't technically cancelled by NBC and was simply missing from a list of cancelled, renewed, and new shows published.

Judge Ben Folds explains in a note he posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday night.
    "The Sing-Off is obviously not in the fall lineup on NBC. That's all we really know."
Unlike American Idol, or The Voice, The Sing-Off is about teamwork. Contestants must perform as groups with a minimum of five members and many are choral groups hailing from universities and colleges. If your school is represented, you know that's a built in audience of a few thousand college-aged kids who are going to be tuned in, watching your sponsors' fabulous commercials.

The show, owned by Sony, still has the opportunity to shop around for another network, or even take their chances that they may be invited back to NBC after Thanksgiving once again. However, unlike other shows, The Sing-Off is schedule dependent and must be filmed in the summer when college students are on break. All three judges: Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, and Sara Bareilles, are actively touring musicians and cleared their calendars for what they hoped would be another few weeks of filming.

Fans have suggested that the producers market The Sing-Off to Bravo or PBS. I disagree.

I believe FOX is the ideal network for The Sing-Off, specializing in wholesome family entertainment. FOX is also extremely savvy in marketing. They took a gamble with a little cartoon called The Simpsons pulled from the Tracey Ullman show, and we all know how that worked out. They also gambled with American Idol, which has netted the network the top spot of every single show on television for six years running. They are experts at scheduling, understanding that not every show is a hit, but jockeying the position of winner shows against little competition to allow them to grow and flourish, while placing less popular shows on the schedule where they have little hopes of drawing away viewers from the competition.

The week I was a "Nielsen family," what show did I record I watched the most on my viewer diary? None other than FOX's American Idol.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To everything, there is a Season:
Tweet #savethesingoff


Fans are urged to tweet: #SaveTheSingOff today to attempt to trend it on twitter.

This week of Season finales has drawn an unclear line in the sand between cancellations and new opportunities, unexpectedly intertwining the fates of three of my favorite shows: Live! with Kelly, The Sing-Off, and Two and a Half Men.

LIVE! with Kelly

Ever since Regis Philbin left the cohost position of the LIVE! with Regis and Kelly show on November 18, 2011, TV viewers have enjoyed watching a parade of short-term fill-in guest hosts, everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Kim Kardashian, and Apolo Anton Ohno to Jim Parsons. The suggestion is that at some point, a permanent host will be chosen from those who have appeared. Facebookers are urged to "like" their favorite hosts on the show's webpage.

I watched a similar parade of female guest hosts test the waters after Kathy Lee left the show in 2000 and a female cohost position was vacated, and I knew instantly that Kelly Ripa was the clearly perfect choice to fill her shoes the moment she appeared. Peppy, silly, comfortable, and wiling to put up with a curmudgeon like Regis, she was the perfect complement. I had watched her debut on "All My Children" and thought this was a much better fit for her. The show has since won a slew of Daytime Emmys and other awards.

Now Regis has left, and the search is on. I have my own personal favorites.


Alec Baldwin, who appeared on Leap Day, February 29, was one of my top picks. He handled the position with panache, taking the good with the bad, not squirming when a slimy giant bullfrog was brought out on stage to leap for Leap Day (he failed to leap and merely sat), interviewing with knowledge and confidence, and even acting out a steamy improv romantic scene with Kelly to illustrate the over-the-top acting required in soap operas. Baldwin is currently a primary player on 30 Rock, but I wonder if he could perhaps be enticed to join Live! instead.

Michael Bublé, who appeared before Christmas on December 15th and 16th also was a huge favorite of mine, though one would not think that a grammy-award winning crooner who's used to singing to entertain could do such a lovely job. He was open and revealing, talking naturally as if he were sitting around chatting with good friends. He made fun of himself, impersonated others while recounting stories, was a willing model during a high tech gift feature, and was truly entertaining during the full show. I apparently am not the only one who's a fan -- he has 1311 likes, more than any other guest host. Perhaps while starting a family, he would be willing to settle down in NYC for a few years and cohost the show.

Finding the next Regis has been a challenge. Kelly is the *nice* one, so adding another pleasantly upbeat host creates an imbalance at the helm. No, Regis's replacement will have to be a little bit mean, have a humongous ego so as to not cower when interviewing the really huge stars, a healthy dose of arrogance combined with an open revealing self-criticism, a ton of previous star knowledge, and a huge heaping helping of true snarkiness. 

For this reason, although I do love his fun attitude, Nick Lachey is not a good fit. He desperately wants the job, and has even gone so far as serenading Kelly proposing that she choose him to be the next co-host …

The Sing-Off

Nick Lachey currently hosts The Sing-Off, an a cappella singing group competition show, featuring groups performing in their pure form, without autotune, choral pedals, or musical instruments. Groups compete and are intelligently judged by Sara Bareilles, Shawn Stockman, and Ben Folds. Sadly, the show is in danger of being cancelled. 

It's not the show's fault that it did not do as well last year during Season 3 as it had in previous years. Last year, the show ran a full fall season, and although I did manage to watch every single episode without fail, I actually enjoyed the show much more in Seasons 1 and 2 when it ran as an off-season filler over the holidays. However, I loved the way it culminated with a Holiday Special in December during Season 3, where Christmasy songs were the ideal fit for pure choral arrangements.

The Sing-Off was also pitted head-to-head against Two and Half Men, debuting the exact same day that Ashton Kutcher was taking over the role of Charlie Sheen after his sensational interview where he claimed to have "tiger blood" and "Adonis DNA" and was fired from the show. I would imagine that even some of the upper management of NBC was tuned to CBS every Monday night at 9 PM out of mere curiosity, instead of watching their own broadcast of the Sing-Off. 

However, host Nick Lachey should relax, because Sing-Off fans, led by a campaign to trend #savethesingoff on twitter today are going to most likely bring the show back for another run. Started by a fan and retweeted by heavy-tweeters @BenFolds, @SaraBareilles, @ShawnStockman, and @NickSLachey, the show has launched a campaign today to bring the show back for Season 4. It's a bit ironic that the Sing-Off is using twitter to achieve this task, since Ashton Kutcher himself is known as the one who made twitter a popular social networking tool in April 2009, by inspiring others to sign up for the service and "follow him" so that he could become the first person to have more than a million followers.

Ben Folds himself has just successfully funded his own new album release for Ben Folds Five, solely utilizing the social media sites of Facebook and twitter to get out the word to pre-purchase Cds, vinyl, and tour t-shirts in the form of pledges. 

Two and a Half Men Spin-Off?

The season finale of Two and a Half Men marked the graduation of Alan's (Jon Cryer)  son, Jake (Angus T. Jones), who had been living rent-free along with his dad, first with Charlie (Charlie Sheen), then Walden (Ashton Kutcher) after Charlie's unexpected death when he fell in front of a subway train in Paris.

Jake and his good friend Eldridge (Graham Patrick Martin) are then required to either go to college or get a job. They choose the latter, and Alan gets them both a job at Walden's new business, Electric Suitcase, Inc., where they promptly burn the place down their first night at work by infecting the system with a virus they accidentally acquire while downloading porn. 

Faced with a 24-hour deadline, Warren and Eldridge look for another new job and end up enlisting in the army so they can "be all you can be." The show ends with the cast of family and friends crying as they leave for boot camp.

This opens up a whole new realm of opportunities for the network and actors, especially if the two friends are placed in a pilot of their own, a la Gomer Pyle, which itself was a spin-off of Mayberry RFD, a show based on the real life town of Mount Airy, NC, a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Winston-Salem, from whence Ben Folds was born and raised. 

If such a show is spun off, I would hope that CBS would film it on real North Carolina dirt, not astroturf. Perhaps their fictional lives would have them join an a cappella army choir  and appear on Live! with Kelly. Oh, the irony!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Time to hit the books! Community is back!

On a rare occasion when I stayed home to watch TV due to heavy rain storms hitting Central Florida, I caught Saturday Night Live and was greeted by a surprise commercial:

Community is back! Yay!

The sitcom, which airs on NBC, had been temporarily cancelled for three and a half months, but will return tonight, Thursday, March 15 at 8 PM.

I’m not trying to brag, but I told you so. Some shows are too good, fans too persistent, and too popular with advertisers to be expelled so easily.

Joel Mchale, who plays the lead character, Jeff Winger, explained how he was overwhelmed by the support, “One of the big reasons we’re coming back is because of the fans and their devotion to the show. It’s been great… With the flash mobs, the petitions, all the online support, the way it’s exploded on facebook and twitter, they should be their own army, because they could conquer any country at this point.”

Fans organized “occupy” chants, such as one outside NBC’s offices at 30 Rockefeller Center in NYC where they sang, “Oh, Christmas Troy,” and chanted, “Six seasons and a movie,” while donning fake “evil Abed” black goatee cut outs, the symbol of the “Save Community” movement. A small group met in Chicago. Fans in LA came out sporting signs, chanting, “Go Greendale,” and singing songs from the show, surprisingly well, I might add. All were filmed and posted on youtube.

An online petition garnered nearly 95,000 signatures.

A “tweet-the-advertiser” campaign was organized and fans were urged to contact advertisers such as Hallmark, Geico, Sprint, and Sony on twitter, asking them to help save the show. Other advertisers, such as Yoplait Yogurt, Dunkin Donuts, Poptarts, Old Navy, Macy’s, Toyota, and Orlando-based Olive Garden were contacted by fans via email.

“We’re the Pu-Pu platter of comedy,” said Gillian Jacobs, who plays Britta on the show.

Whoever’s been making the cut-or-keep decisions at NBC really needs their head examined. First it was the Playboy Club, then Community. I think even I could do a better job planning out the NBC primetime weekly schedule. I mean, really… the show is slotted at 8 PM against CBS’s Big Bang Theory, one of my other favorites, as well as FOX’s American Idol. What do you expect? Swap it with “30 Rock” or “Up All Night” after the Office, when continuing-adult-education students are home from night school, then see how it does. The last show, which aired in December, was watched by “only” 4.2 million viewers, while Big Bang was watched by 13.2 million. I believe the two cater to the same intelligent geek demographic and should not be pitted against each other. Both will do better in complementary time slots.

Fortunately, NBC succumbed to fan and advertiser pressure and has agreed to air the rest of the season of Community, which the cast and crew continued to film on a wing and a prayer, promising to make each show the best and most creative they possibly could. Beginning tonight, Thursday, the Ides of March, we will see the first of the remaining twelve episodes as the students of Glendale Community College return from their winter break and launch into a new semester of higher education.

If you’re into fun novelty items, you can also get a special 20% off discount off all Community merchandise by entering the code word: KRUMPING into the provided box until midnight tonight. I personally have my eye on a Troy and Abed mug.

Star Joel McHale is humbly appreciative, “It’s been just terrific. And I wish I could French kiss each and every one of them, man, woman, and child.”


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Psych returns tonight
with a Leap into Adventure

Private eyes Gus Guster and Shawn Spencer own psych Psychic Detective Agency.

Psych, one of my personal favorite television shows, is premiering its one hour mid-season-6-opener tonight, Wednesday, February 29, 2012 (Leap Day) on the USA network at 10 PM EST, after a break over the winter holidays.

In tonight’s episode, “Indiana Shawn and the Temple of the Kinda Crappy, Rusty Old Dagger,” Shawn and Gus go on a hunt for a mysterious treasure – their only clue, an ancient dagger. It’s a bit of a fast paced, quick action episode, filled with drama and mayhem, funerals and art museums, old villains such as Despereaux (played by Cary Elwes), and a vapid new villainess portrayed by Madchen Amick, all set against an over-the-top Indiana Jones-esque sound track in a beautiful lush estate.

If you’ve never seen the show, be prepared to laugh. It’s a bit of a hoot.

Former childhood best friends, private eyes Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Burton ‘Gus’ Guster (Dule Hill) own their own ‘psych’ psychic detective agency solving difficult crimes and mysteries in the Santa Barbara, CA area.

Though Shawn pretends to be psychic, he isn’t really.

There’s nothing “magical” about how they work – it’s all based on science. Shawn, the son of retired police officer, now consultant, Henry Spencer (played by Corbin Bernsen) has inherited the unique and special gift of an eidetic memory, otherwise known as a photographic memory. Think of it as being able to play the tape of your life through your head, remembering fine specific details – smells, movements, tastes, and touches – some details you perhaps missed the first time through. By doing so, many of life’s greatest mysteries can therefore be solved. It’s a rare gift, but does exist in the real world to varying degrees.

Officer Henry Spencer, recognizing this trait early on in his son Shawn, drilled him incessantly as a child, teaching him to learn to pay attention and pick up details most of us would overlook, thereby improving his natural ability of excellent memory recall.

Add partner Gus Guster and his own peculiar traits and habits, combined with his endless knowledge of seemingly useless pharmacology chemistry and game trivia, and you have a recipe for a realistically quirky comedy.

Shawn and Gus are a riot. They are nerdy, good-looking intellectuals who play off each other, make stupid immature jokes, and argue back and forth over the most inane details.

It’s so insanely ridiculous, it’s funny.

Be sure to watch some of the previous episodes airing each Wednesday morning on USA.

“In for a Penny,” Season 6, Episode 7 introduces William Shatner as police detective Juliet O’Hara’s (Maggie Lawson) long estranged criminal mastermind father. He is so believable in this role, you will forget all of the other characters he’s ever played. Season 6 will bring him back again in new episodes, but I sincerely hope that Season 7 will add him in as a regularly appearing character. This role fits him like a glove.





Monday, February 20, 2012

Is Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice perpetrating fraud?

Performer Wyclef Jean wrote and sang a song for Team Forte during their first challenge, after donating $15,000 to the Wayuu Taya Foundation.

I set aside some time last night to watch the season premiere of Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice which aired from 9 PM to 11 PM on NBC on Sunday night. The show is great on many levels: It affords some lesser known celebrities more exposure and introduces the TV viewing audience to a few very worthy charities, reminding us how important it is to give what we can, when we can. However, the first challenge left a sour taste in my mouth as money raised for one charity was turned over to another.

At the start of the show, the eighteen contestants were divided into two groups of nine men and nine women. Each group chose a team name — "Unanimous" for the men, "Forte" for the women — then participated in their first challenge, selling heros for heroes — making and selling hero sandwiches to raise money for each team leaders' favorite charity.

Patricia Velasquez, known for her acting roles on movies such as The Mummy, eagerly volunteered to be the first team leader for Team Forte, so that she could begin raising money for a charity that is particularly near and dear to her, the Wayuu Taya Foundation, which serves indigenous peoples of Latin America.

In her bio, Velasquez says that she herself is Wayuu Indian. "I was one of those kids who grew up really poor, but was able to get out, because I got a chance. I got an opportunity."

At the time she started her charity exactly ten years ago, she says that one child within the Latin indigenous populations was dying each day. She constructed a school for thirty children where she could then use the school as a vehicle to provide them with food and medical care and now serves a thousand poverty-stricken children.

"Right now, I'm here because I have almost 500 kids that are literally sleeping under the trees waiting for me to finish a school. To build it, to finish it. And if I have a school, I can get two meals a day for them and medical attention. I can't turn them back. I have to build a school."

Velasquez led her team impressively, placing each of her nine members where they could do the most good for the team, some cutting up vegetables and slicing meat, some assembling sandwiches, some outside corralling donors inside, and some entertaining and hobnobbing with their guests.

A personal friend of Velasquez, Performer Wyclef Jean, came in to the cafe with his guitar to sing songs for the crowd, telling Velasquez, "I'm going to donate $15,000... for the kids. Because we could have been one of them. We are one of them." Wyclef himself is a native of Haiti and the son of a Nazarene pastor who moved to Brooklyn with his family when he was nine-years-old.

Through the generous donations of several good friends, Team Forte raised an impressive $126,962, for the Wayuu Taya Foundation, or so they thought.

However, Team Unanimous, led by American Chopper star Paul Teutul, Sr. also worked hard and called in favors from friends, inevitably winning the challenge and raising an even more impressive $332,120 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, primarily through the generous donation of one particular donor, restauranteer Carlos Urbaneja, who wrote a check for $305,000. The rest of the $27,120 was raised in the same manner that Team Forte raised their money for charity, through a few donations, big and small. In addition, the men's team also earned $35,000 from Rachel Ray who chose their sandwich to be superior in taste and presentation, earning them a total of $367,120.

Game over. Team Unanimous won fair and square and it was clear that one member of Team Forte would go home. Model and business entrepreneur Cheryl Tiegs admitted that this type of competition was not her cup of tea, and she left of her own accord.

However, in an odd maneuver, which I believe left a lot of us scratching our heads, Trump awarded the money raised by Team Forte, all $126,962 to Team Unanimous' charity, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, bringing their total to $494,120 and the money raised for the Wayuu Taya Foundation became, well... zero.

Broadway star Aubrey O'Day attempted to plead with Mr. Trump, asking him to turn over the donation that they raised for the Wayuu Taya Foundation to that charity. However, Trump cut her off, saying "No no, because I know what you're gonna say... and you really do have to give it to Paul, and also a great charity, Make-A-Wish."

However, is this even legal?

I believe it is neither ethical, nor legal, to raise money for one charity, then turn that money over to another. In fact, I believe this may technically be fraud.

Charitable giving is highly regulated by the IRS in order to prevent just anyone from claiming to be a non-profit. The percentage of a gift which becomes tax deductible varies by the type of charity. It is even on tape, that the donors believed that they were giving their money to the Wayuu Taya Foundation, and yet, their money has instead been turned over to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Even Make-A-Wish would probably find it difficult to accept a donation under such a premise. The cold hard cruel rules of the corporate world, which robs from Peter to pay Paul, cannot be applied here -- it is simply not correct.

The Trump Foundation itself should make good. They should pony up the missing money, all $126,962 to the Wayuu Taya Foundation, at no penalty to Make-A-Wish, nor toward Velasquez, nor toward any of the celebrity contestants, nor towards the NBC network.

It is the right thing to do. It is the ethical and legal thing to do.