Saturday, November 28, 2009

"QI" Will This Be The Next "Top Gear" To Be Imported To America?

Mary McNamara reviews something in the Los Angeles Times you can't even watch here in the US. But through a search of You Tube, Mary finds the next "Top Gear" for the endlessly curious US audience.

"QI," a comedy quiz show hosted by the redoubtable Stephen Fry (one of three or four living people who can accurately be described as redoubtable) is in its seventh season in Britain. As of yet, Americans must content themselves with watching broken bits via YouTube, though there were recent reports that Fry may be moving to Los Angeles, and one can only hope he'll bring "QI" with him, if only in reruns."
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 2000 Year Old Man On DVD

"The genius of "The 2000 Year Old Man," besides the quick wit of the two men, was that, by its very nature, it transcended the expiration date of most social-riff comedy. Brooks brought a modern Jewish sensibility to all manner of historical events and figures. (A decision, the two men say, that was somewhat reckless in the '50s and early '60s, when even using a Yiddish accent was frowned upon as denigrating Jews.) Jesus was a thin lad who "came into the store" but never bought anything. Churchill extended the war because he told everyone to defeat "the Nar-zis" and the troops stopped fighting the Germans and started looking for Narzis. Helen of Troy's sister Janice was not pretty but had a body that could "launch a few canoes," and the Spanish Inquisition was bad news for the 2,000-year-old man, who ran a yarmulke shop at the time, because it destroyed thousands of yarmulkes "and the Jews under them."
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Monday, November 23, 2009


Click to view.

Sometimes television reviews make political news when the name "Palin" is involved. From the New York Times Caucus Blog, a mention of Mary McNamara's review of the Oprah Winfrey-Sarah Palin interview.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Sarah Palin On Oprah Winfrey: The Subtext

Most of the cable news and internet analysis of the Sarah Palin - Oprah Winfrey interview has come with a full measure of the political baggage of the writers, but Mary McNamara of The Los Angeles Times looks at the interview as a synergy -- two powerful women talking -- and score is being kept.

"The two were quite fascinating to watch together, steel-spined divas treating each other with a graciousness Jane Austen would appreciate -- Winfrey called Palin’s book “interesting;” Palin thanked Winfrey for being an inspiration to her. In a clip available on the "Oprah" show's website, the two had a bonding moment over "journaling" -- both are practitioners and Palin's lifelong habit is one of the reasons she believed she could write a book. Both women have created “regular-folk” brands that belie their actual socioeconomic status, and no one knows better than Winfrey the power an individual can have over culture and policy.

Which may explain why, though Winfrey ended the interview by asking Palin if a talk show were in her future (a question Palin adroitly did not answer), she began the show by addressing the rumor (long forgotten, it must be said, by pretty much everyone) that she Winfrey had snubbed Palin during the campaign by not asking her to appear on her show. (After endorsing Obama, she had no political candidates as guests.)

Palin, bless her heart, looked Winfrey straight in the eye and said she had no idea that this was even part of the media conversation. “No offense to you,” Palin said with a winning smile, “but it wasn’t the center of the universe.”

Which certainly marks a milestone of some sort."

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

WW II In HD Is The Real Apocolypse Then

Tonight on The History Channel a five-part history of World War Two from remastered war footage in HD. How does this change our perception of the last great war?

"Both tout new, never-seen-before footage that has been digitally refurbished, often colorized and, in the case of "WWII in HD," presented in high-definition. I know film purists are supposed to eschew such tinkerings, but for the most part the various refurbs are almost disturbingly effective. Hitler never looked so human, Allied and Axis soldiers alike appear woefully young and grubby, and you've never seen a battleship blown up until you've seen it in HD."

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

What The World Needs Now...Is More Comedians With Talk Shows

There is no doubt about it the new talk shows with comedian hosts are just what television needs now...though Sykes is FUNNY.

While Sykes has taken a more jaded approach to the whole thing, sighing in interviews that she wasn't sure she was up to doing another network show with all its impossible variables, Lopez touted his first show as proof of a new America, in which any little boy or girl can grow up to be president or a talk show host. (Ellen DeGeneres even showed up to gravely intone that everyone should be represented on television. Really, Ellen? Everyone?)

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Monday, November 9, 2009

"Platinum Babies": Timing Is Everything

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.

"Platinum Babies" debuts on WeTV tonight, after apparently spending years lost in some time-continuum wormhole. How else to explain the strangely dated premise: When rich people have babies, they hire people to help them spend a lot of money on cribs and strollers and things!

Tented by the questionable news of a celebrity baby boom (I'd need to check census records, but I'm fairly certain celebrities have been having babies since the invention of celebrity), "Platinum Babies" is really just another excuse to wallow in high-end consumerism -- $100,000 on gift bags! Gucci baby shoes! -- in a way that both envies and derides it.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

"The People v. Leo Frank" PBS Sunday

Documentary revisits the case of a Jew lynched in Georgia. In 1913 the many forces of post Civil War came into play in the trial of a Northern Jew accused of a heinous murder in a Southern town. Mary McNamara reviews for the Los Angeles Times.

"The People v. Leo Frank" is an artful autopsy of tragedy. A girl was murdered, a man was murdered and men became monsters. Frank's behavior was just as damning as his religion; Conley's personal attorney, who stepped forward so yet another black man would not be wrongfully accused, realized too late that his client was a liar, and a community, justifiably incensed by the rape and murder of a child, allowed itself to be whipped into regional and anti-Semitic hysteria.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oscar Hosts Are Show Biz Insiders

Mary McNamara in her Critic's Notebook in The Los Angeles Times clearly wanted Tina Fey to host the Oscars (and we agree that we want to see Tina Fey in Everything!) or at least Neil Patrick Harris, but the combination of Martin and Baldwin just might be the ticket.

"Where Hugh Jackman brought a no-holds-barred theatricality to this year's broadcast, Martin and Baldwin will, one imagines, go more for deft patter and a been-around-the-block industry sophistication. Certainly, they are men of elastic talents who have proved themselves on the requisite stage, screen and television. Martin created the template for the modern stand-up-turned-serious-movie-star, while Baldwin's career morphed from handsome young romantic lead to handsome older master of comedy. Both look quite splendid in a tux and both, I am certain, could participate in a dance number if it is required."

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Steve Martin And Alec Baldwin To Jointly Host Academy Awards

After early reports that Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. had passed on doing the "joint" hosting, the older pair and SNL record holders of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will host together. Hey, does anybody realize that David Letterman hosted one of the shows with the biggest audience in Oscar history? Sphere: Related Content

"V": Some Plots Never Get Old

Some ideas are too good to leave alone and in bringing back V ABC has a sleek and flashy version which is sure to please. Mary McNamara's review in The Los Angeles Times:

"It's impossible to tiptoe around the main plot device of ABC’s “V” -- those aliens may be smart and purty but they're up to no good -- because it is, of course, a remake of the 1983 miniseries. And even if it weren't, writers Kenneth Johnson and Scott Peters have infused the pilot with as many sly sci-fi references as CG special effects.

Which are pretty terrific, as is the pilot in general. Although fans of the first "V" may find themselves longing for Richard Herd's Supreme Commander in his jaunty jumpsuit and funky glasses, this "V" is not only sleeker, faster and more visually gripping, it promises to be thematically more compelling."

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Oscar Season Now In Trade Paperback $14.00

The classic mystery novel and today’s paparazzi coincide in this engaging, insider’s look at Hollywood in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards.

She is one of the very few reporters allowed to witness pre-telecast rehearsals and for years has covered Oscar night from the celebrity side of the red carpet and backstage during the show.

A recent recipient of an L.A. Press Club and American Association of Features Editors Awards for her industry coverage, she has interviewed innumerable stars and directors, and used her experience to craft this deliciously entertaining whodunit.

Wide audience: This novel will fascinate the many readers captivated by Hollywood and the celebrity lifestyle, while also appealing to mystery devotees and fans of smart, entertaining women’s fiction. It’s equal parts Jackie Collins, Michael Tolkin, and Sue Grafton.