Thursday, May 29, 2008

Harvey Korman, RIP

....from Ape Comments written after the first TV Land Awards...

for a long time I’ve been wanting to see
Harvey Korman get the recognition he so rightly deserves. I’ve long been miffed about the fact that Tim Conway overshadows Harvey Korman on every reunion of The Carol Burnett Show. Conway even shared the nomination with Harvey Korman in this ‘Second Banana’ category. They are not quite equals in the comedy chops department, however. Tim Conway, although hilarious in his own right, has essentially a smaller bag of tricks. Basically, a bag of baboonery. How many times can he fall up the stairs or mug with absurd idiocy? His Mr. Tudball is the exception that proves the rule: a truly different and defined character. Many of the rest of Conway’s characters are just too similar. They pack a big punch but are basically annoying dolts. Korman, on the other hand, has long been under appreciated for his comedic deftness. His range of emotions and characters span from debonair snob to rural twit to everyday Joe to impersonations of classic movie characters from Little Foxes to Gone with the Wind where he does a very funny Clark Gable. His characters range from upper-class British thespian to the low-brow Ed in the Eunice sketches. Every characterization is flawless. Classic Carol Burnett episodes, of course, include the Conway/Korman crack-up bloopers, but Korman’s stealth art of comedy can be seen in almost every Carol Burnett Show sketch. He didn’t over use the same ole same ole bag of mugs. Tim Conway makes me laugh, no doubt, but Korman was simply more versatile. And he appeared in Mel Brooks movies to boot (see High Anxiety, Blazing Saddles).

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Friday, May 23, 2008

American Idol - David vs David

So, my lack of regular blogging on Idol this season can be chalked up to a couple things: (1) busyness in other areas and (2) watching the show felt like homework this season. And it was homework I wasn't being graded on.

Last season's battle between Jordin and Blake didn't turn me on either. I did enjoy Blake's originality but it's not like I wanted to buy his CD. This season I had nobody to root for once Amanda and Danny were eliminated. I miss the days of Fantasia, when true talent triumphed over packaging (how great was it to see her strutting around that stage like a woman possessed by the spirit of funk with the bright red hair the other week). I miss the goofiness of Taylor Hicks. I miss the wit of Kelly Pickler. And yes, I miss the smoldering looks of Constantine Maroulis.

So let's talk about the finale - the battle of the Davids.

I do like David Archuleta. At times his "oh gosh" Leave it to Beaver manner gets on my nerves, but mostly his humility seems genuine. I think he's got a great voice and good stage presence, though he occasionally looks like a deer in the headlights, or a kid who'd rather just be in the school musical. His performance of Imagine was probably the best performance all season, in my opinion. He's got the perfect teen idol appeal - he's totally ready for the cover of Bop! magazine. He's harmless and cuddly. You kind of just want to poke him in the belly and hear him giggle like the Pillsbury dough boy.

Then there's David Cook. I should like him - after all, he's a "rocker" who hails from the great state of Missouri (like me, Vincent Price, and Scott Backula). But I have found him to be a fake rocker from the get-go. He favors that sludgy rock in the Nickelback, Three Doors Down, Switchfoot vein which I just am not into. Others are - clearly - since these bands do have an audience and Cook garnered 55% of the Idol vote vs 45% for Archuleta. I have found him to be smug throughout the season, as Simon pointed out several times. This could be shyness masked as arrogance, but either way it's unattractive. It does seem odd that the much sexier Michael Johns finished way down in the pack, and Cook survived. The difference, I guess, would be Cook's "original" arrangements. Since Ryan mumbled the introduction "here's David Cook singing Chris Cornell's version of Billy Jean" most viewers felt that David really changed up that song. This isn't David's fault, you might say, but I would argue it was a calculated move to pick an already established unusual version of a song and bank on the fact that most of the audience won't realize you weren't the one who made it funky. But hey, everybody uses whatever tools they have in the game - Brooke turns on the water works, Chikezie tries sass, Kristy Lee dresses like a ho.

To be fair to Mr. Cook, he did have a original version of "Hello", which was good, if you can manage to get the blind girl sculpting Lionel Richie's head in clay out of your head while you listen to it (I couldn't). And his rendition of "The Music of the Night" showed that he does have a nice range and a pleasing tone to his voice. That's fine, but as rockers go, he's not in the Daughtry or Bo Bice league. I guess the good takeaway from this result show it that there is still an audience for rock music and it can triumph over pop treacle.

The two-part finale was awash in a sea of cheese. On Tuesday, the boxing match metaphor was dragged out to death, like
a dog collar match between Greg Valentine and Rowdy Roddy Piper. Simon's scorecard had Archuleta as a clear winner in all 3 rounds, and he declared the night a knockout. Note how he backpedalled on Wednesday with the usual "when I heard it back on tape, it sounded different" so that he wouldn't look like he'd made an error when Cook was declared champ. Well, I did watch it on TV, and I thought Archuleta won. His version of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" was powerful and he managed to bring something new to that old chestnut. Meanwhile, Cook just proved he wasn't Bono on the U2 tune. I'd probably give Cook the edge on the 2nd round battle of terrible Idol singles. Both songs were dreadful, but at least Cook's was a bit catchier. Then the third round - Archuleta smartly reprised Imagine, while Cook trotted out a dated Collective Soul tune "The World I Know" because he wanted to do something new. That song is many things, but it is not new and his rendition didn't freshen it up.

Wednesday's spectacular had some cool moments. I actually enjoyed Brooke White's duet with Graham Nash, even though I usually want to punch Brooke in the face. It was a nice quiet moment. Archuleta sounded glorious on "Apology" (was he telling his overbearing dad "it's too late to apologize...too late"?) and definitely outsang his duet partner in OneRepublic, the cameos by my beloved Matt Rogers and the fresh and funny Michaelah Gordon as commentators.

Low points included, but were not limited to: the shameless plugging of The Love Guru which went on way too long (although that Mariska Hargitay chant is hilarious), Donna Summer being unable to descend a staircase without two attendants (at least pick beefy guys and put them in loincloths and carry her down on a throne if you have to do that), Cook hogging the stage from ZZ Top when he's not worthy to comb their beards, the idol kids being made to dance through Donna Summer and George Michael medleys (Brooke was so awkward, and Amanda scowled all night), Randy's pimp suit, The Jonas Brothers resurrecting the specter of Hanson, and George Michael looking like Dodi Fayed and struggling through one of my favorite tunes "Praying for Time" (he blamed a cold, like so many Idol contestants before him). The inclusion of oldsters like ZZ Top, Donna Summer, George Michael, Bryan Adams only underscores the point that's been made about the dated mentors dragging the show down. Here's hoping they bring in some younger talent next year, although I probably wouldn't tune in to Miley Cyrus night.

In the end at our Idol finale party where we were watching the pre-recorded show, our Tivo cut out right as Ryan said, "and the winner is David--" It's probably just as well. I wouldn't have been too interested in his victory lap or in hearing that Idol single again. Am I done watching Idol? Probably not. I still find it interesting from a cultural studies perspective, even if it rarely produces music I want to buy.

For those of you in LA who want to see a real rocker instead of a fake rocker - Amanda Overmyer is playing the Whisky tonight.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Meet the YouTube Filmmakers...and a Project Runway Legend

Last night, Google hosted a Meet the YouTube Filmmakers event at the El Rey Theater. This was the second Google party we've thrown at the El Rey (the first being our Old Vegas holiday party in 2006), and they are a great venue to work with!

The program's panelists included YouTube filmmakers Arin Crumley, Javier Prato, M dot Strange, Ben Shelton, and Francis Stokes who talked about their experiences with YouTube and the alternatives it offers for distribution and marketing for independent filmmakers. A couple Google engineers also talked about the behind-the-scenes machinations of the site.

The highlight of the night for me was meeting Vincent Libretti from Project Runway. Vincent was my favorite cast member of his season, and I wrote a tribute to him when he got kicked off. It turns out he's the neighbor of one of my colleagues, who doesn't have a TV so wasn't familiar with the show but thought Vincent was an interesting fellow.

Vincent was super-friendly, and we chatted for a bit about the reality TV experience. It sounds like it was stressful but ultimately worth it. He described many long days and tough working conditions - they were filming in NYC in the summer in un-air-conditioned workspace where the windows had to be kept shut to block the traffic noise for filming - no wonder he had some tantrums! Of course, tantrums make good reality TV. He's developing several new TV projects and still running his store.

We also talked about the everyday woman challenge he won, where the designers had to make clothes for their fellow designers mothers or sisters, many of whom did not look like models. I said the designers acted like designing for plus-sized gals was torture, and he said they were over-reacting and that he felt he was able to win that challenge because he is good at reading people and recognizing their taste and personality.

He laughed when I told him my friends and I still like to quote his catchphrases: "That turns me on!" and "That gets me off!"

I have to say - these Google parties turn me on!

Photos by Brady Walters

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American Idol - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Night


David Cook - "Hungry Like the Wolf" / "Baba O'Riley"

I applaud David's good taste in choosing the first tune. I just saw Duran Duran two nights ago at the Nokia Theater and they were awesome! David's arrangement was similar to an acoustic version that D2 put out on a CD single around the period of The Wedding Album. He tried to be sexy but it wasn't really working for me. Still, a good vocal.

Cool 2nd song choice. "Teenage wasteland" is a good metaphor for this show, and it would be something David C can quote when David A beats him in the finale. David is winning me over a bit with this performance. I thought it was a strong vocal and actually a bit sexy when he wasn't really trying to be, unlike the first song where he was trying too hard.

Syesha Mercado - "Proud Mary" / "A Change is Gonna Come"

She looks great in the gold dress, but I'm not seeing this performance as better than any typical Vegas revue. She does exude confidence but still not a lot of personality.

Second song - Another great dress. This was a little dirge-ish until she belted out the final run in true diva fashion. The song choice gave her a bit of gravitas, but it was a bit dull. Paula was right though (for once) - Syesha has grown a lot during this competition.

Jason Castro - "I Shot the Sheriff" / "Mr. Tambourine Man"

Jason does nothing to break from his pothead image by choosing a Bob Marley song. He had a bit more energy than usual. But it made him look very white and a little ridiculous. Wow, the judges were hard on him...sometimes that has the opposite effect and brings sympathy votes.

Second song - more of the usual, Jason and his guitar and no big vocal demands. Apparently he forgot some words but I didn't notice. Well, he's still cute.

David Archuleta - "Stand By Me" / "Love Me Tender"

This was a good song choice for David and his voice sounded very pure and true. He added some runs to make a simple song more challenging. Sometimes I think he looks like he could be a hobbit, but I enjoyed the performance.

Second song - David sang this in a very heartfelt fashion, making eyes at the camera like a presexual Constantine and selling his devotion to every girl in the home audience. He took an old chestnut of a song that typically bores me (and I'm an Elvis fan) and found something new in it. I can't see anybody derailing his train to Idoldom.


Seems pretty clear that the judges want Jason gone, and he did little to save himself, although the teens and tweens may still vote in droves for his dreamy eyes. But I think Jason leaves this week, with Syesha in the Bottom 2.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Trippin Out at Pam Anderson's Estate Sale

Let's dispel those nasty rumors - just because she's having an estate sale doesn't mean Pamela Anderson is dead! She's very much alive and you can go see her this weekend in Malibu and root through her stuff!

When I got the Urban Daddy email yesterday about Pam Anderson's Estate Sale, I knew I had to check it out. Lucky for me, my friend Annie was into the idea as well, so we got up early today and drove up to Malibu High School, the parking area for the sale. Upon arrival, we were met by PAs from the new reality show "Pamela" and a security guard. We were told to leave our cameras in the car and made to sign a waiver agreeing to appear as background people in the TV show. We then boarded a black shuttle van and waited to depart. And we waited 15 minutes or so, until a PA came over and told us there was drama at the house! Apparently the neighbors were complaining about the traffic and about people being made to believe this was Pam's real house. It was just a rental house for the sale. The neighbors feared Pam stalkers would keep coming back and destroy their idyllic existence. So the PAs were being made to put up signs everywhere that said "This is not Pam's real house!" Eventually, the PA got the cue that it was okay to proceed, so our van proceeded on the short drive to the rented house.

Upon arrival, we saw a lemonade stand ostensibly staffed by Pam's and Tommy's offspring, Brandon and Dylan. In reality, a chef was manning the stand while Brandon and Dylan played football with a friend. They are cute kids, rambunctious but well-behaved. Dylan hit me with a spit ball, but apologized, saying he had been aiming for his friend.

We started browsing through the stuff - outside there was a tented area with white shabby chic couches, a ton of shabby chic patio furniture, and a bunch of toys and games. There was also a hot pink Butt Blaster exercise machine. As we were looking at Pam's tools, Pam emerged from the house, wearing short shorts and a t-shirt. She was actually at her own garage sale! She said hello to everyone and the camera crew followed her around as she second-guessed selling certain things. She reclaimed a pair of purple rain boots and put them on. She conferred with her mom, who was also there hanging out.

Inside a large garage, we found a ton of shabby chic furniture. How many armoires can one woman have? There were at least 10 huge ones for sale. An autographed orange life buoy from Baywatch was on a silent auction with a starting bid of $1800 (no bids yet). There were a lot of linens and kitchen stuff. One guy bought Pam's toaster and asked her to autograph it. He said he would be putting it by the autographed microwave he bought at Tori Spelling's sale.

I proceeded into the clothes room where I marveled at the many varieties of hooker shoes, all in size 5 1/2. I wear a size 9, so I could not take home any clear-bottomed platform heels. I then stumbled upon five faux fur coats in different colors and styles. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could actually fit in one. Maybe it belonged to Kid Rock rather than Pam? Either way, I was getting it, even if it was $150. Hey, all proceeds were going to PETA after all, and I'd been planning to buy one for Burning Man anyway. I also snapped up a fabulous pink and purple boa for $35. The clerk told me it was well-crafted and probably cost Pam $100. I doubt it, but I dig it anyway. Annie bought a little league T-shirt for the Malibu Braves. Brandon's and Dylan's names were on the back and she had them autograph it for her, and Pam signed it too - very cool souvenir!

Outside there was a giant pile of remote controls. I wondered if she had ditched them in favor of a universal remote. There was also a collection of about 25 metal buckets and wash tubs - not sure what that's about. Pam pointed out some kids furniture that she said was purchased for her kids by golfer John Daly. There were some books and CDs - Lots of normal stuff you'd find at any garage sale. In fact, we were struck by how normal Pam and the kids were. She chatted with customers, gladly signed items including underwear, and then dashed off in her Range Rover to take her kids to their baseball game. OK, not everything was normal. There were two gals dressed as chicken showgirls carrying "Boycott KFC" signs. Yes, the day was an odd mix of the surreal and the mundane, and it was all great fun.

Although we couldn't take our cameras to the sale, we did manage to get a photo on the run of Pam driving , as they happened to be heading south on PCH right when we were. Stars - they are just like us! They drive their kids to ballgames! They put items up for sale at yard sales and then have second thoughts and reclaim them! They hire chefs to run their children's lemonade stands!

Anyway, if you want a piece of Pam, be it a chainmail bra or an ice cream scoop, you have one more day to get there!

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