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The Idiot Box

Posted by Jeff on July 18, 2012

In case you missed it, Saturday Night Live is losing two cast members (so far) that have, in their own ways, had a profound effect on the show over the past seven years.  Rumors continue that a third long time cast members may be leaving but no official word has come as of yet.  As most of you know I am a true SNL fan.  I have been since the mid eighties when Eddie Murphy was holding court.  Since then I have suffered through some stinker years but SNL also has good years, mediocre years, and great years.  While this past season has not been what I would classify as great, it was good (hopefully you saw the incredibly well-written and perfect SNL skewering of the Jeremy Lin press coverage) and it caps off the SNL run of the incredible Kristen Wiig and the game-changing Andy Samberg.  This edition of the Idiot Box will highlight these two and also cover those that remain (or might be leaving) but truly this will be my love letter to Kristen Wiig.  I admit this so… you were warned.

Note:  Most of these links are to SNL sketches featuring the performers or sketches described.  As SNL normally airs after kids go to bed, most are pretty much… NSFW.

Confirmed Leaving

Kristen Wiig (2005-2012)

Kristen Wiig

Kristen Wiig will go down as perhaps the greatest female performer on SNL ever.  Seventies purists will argue Gilda Radner or Jane Curtain but they just did not have the ability to create completely unforgettable and hilarious characters like Wiig.  I don’t recall any repertory player getting a sendoff like hers back in May.  A fitting tribute.  I can’t wait until her first time back as host.

Memorable characters:  the rabbit hunting A-Hole from the Two A-Holes sketches, the neurotic topper Penelope,  the hideous, baby-handed sister from the Lawrence Welk sketches, the Target Lady,  Michelle Bachman and Nancy Pelosi

Already miss:  Lawrence Welk sketches

I’ll never miss:  Gilly… The only character she ever did that I unequivocally cannot stand.

Andy Samberg (2005-2012)

Andy Samberg actually came to SNL as a package deal. Normally that would strike fear. (Ever had a new boss that brought a “trusted former

Andy Samberg as Mark Zuckerberg with Zuckerberg

colleague” with him?)  But in this case, Samberg came with his long time comedy partners, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone.  Samberg became a featured player; the latter two were writers for the show.  Together they created the now legendary Digital Shorts which started with “Lazy Sunday” and then completely blew up with “D*ck in a Box.” (Unedited version – NSFW.)

While his Digital Shorts were clearly his best work, Samberg really come into his own with impersonations.  Towards the end of his tenure his impressions of Mark Zuckerberg and Nicolas Cage were spot-on hilarious.

Memorable characters:  singer from D*ck in a Box, T-Shane from Deep House Dish, Zuckerberg and Cage

Already Miss: Digital Shorts

I’ll never miss: Blizzard Man, his tragically bad R&B backup singer character.  Wasn’t funny.

Rumored Leaving

Jason Sudeikis (2005-present)

Jason Sudeikis (left as Pete Twinkle) with Will Forte

The rumors of Wiig and Samberg leaving that started back in April invariably included Jason Sudeikis.  Sudeikis actually started at SNL as a writer in 2003.  He made spot appearances but did not become a featured player until 2005 when he first made people howl as the male A-Hole in the aforementioned 2 A-Holes sketches with Kristen Wiig. Sudeikis’ characters are usually more straight man roles but his Pete Twinkle character has stood out as one of his best as he rambles through feminine hygiene ads during play-by-play for 80’s and 90’s fringe sports like women’s bowling on ESPN Classic.

Sudeikis has hinted recently of a departure but the reason that Lorne Michaels and company may be trying to keep him around is that he is currently portraying Mitt Romney in political sketches which usually serve as the cold open for the show.  For many people this is the only sketch they see before going to bed.  Sudeikis has honed his Romney pretty well and presidential election years are typically the best for SNL. He could be replaced of course (Darrell Hammond took over for Phil Hartman as Clinton) but I think this may be what’s holding him back from leaving.  Perhaps they can work out a deal like Tina Fey had when she left but still came back to do her diabolically funny Sarah Palin impression.

The Old Guard

Seth Meyers (2001-present)

Did you know that next year Seth Meyers will become the second longest tenured cast member ever? (Behind Darrell Hammond)  Meyers serves mostly as head writer but he still anchors Weekend Update as well. Current rumors also have him as a finalist to take Regis’ spot next to Kelly Ripa.  He says no. We’ll see.

Fred Armisen (2002-present)

Fred Armisen as Stuart from The Californians sketch

Fred Armisen burst onto SNL with a Show Biz Grande Explosión! character named Fericito.  Since then he has established a number of other memorable characters like Garth the woefully unprepared singer on Weekend Update, Nicholas Fehn, the news commentator that doesn’t really ever say anything and most recently as Stuart in the Californians, a Soap Net parody.  Armisen also does a serviceable job as President Obama.  He has the voice and look down but Obama does not provide the kind of opportunities that his predecessors did in terms of giving a satirist something to work with.

Kenan Thompson (2003-present)

Keenan Thompson as Tiger Woods

This former Nickelodeon kids show actor has grown up a lot on SNL. Kenan Thompson has gotten stronger in both characters and impressions over the years.  His Tiger Woods impression during the divorce year was funny enough to excuse his lack of physical similarities.  Thompson is not great with voices but his comedic timing is unmatched and the writers are giving him more and more good material to work with.

Bill Hader (2005-present)

Bill Hader as Stephon on Weekend Update

Now that Kristen Wiig is gone, Bill Hader is my new favorite on the show.  Hader started out mostly as an impressionist with James Carville and Clint Eastwood being two of his best.

He did have one good recurring character, Vinny Vedecci, the chain smoking Italian talk show host who struggled through interviews with the guest hosts that didn’t speak Italian.  But lately it has been 80 year old curmudgeon news reporter Herb Welch and Weekend Update’s City Correspondent, Stefon that leave me laughing.  Hader’s Stefon is the one charatcer/skit that has consistently made me laugh until I could not breathe.  It requires numerous pauses on the DVR.  Hader has incredible range too.  He is just as funny in satirical roles like the Jeremy Lin sketch referred to earlier.  To top it all off, Hader is notorious for cracking up in character. Much like Jimmy Fallon used to be, when the joke is great even Hader can’t stop himself which just makes the whole thing funnier.

 

The New Guard

Bobby Moynihan (2008-present)

If I wrote this in the summer of 2010, I would have predicted that Bobby Moynihan was gone.  His first two years were fairly unremarkable.  Then came Snooki.  Moynihan started portraying the over tanned Jersey Shore cast member on Weekend Update and people responded.  Now he has two more recurring W.U. characters, Anthony Crispino and Drunk Uncle.  He also did a nice job as Newt Gingrich and Guy Fieri.

Abby Elliot (2008-present)

Another cast member I was ready to write off.  The daughter of former cast member and David Letterman writer, Chris Elliot, Abby is more of an impressionist than a character player.  Lately her Zooey Deschanel impression has been fun.

Nasim Pedrad (2009-present)

Nasim Pedrad is falling into the same hole that so many other female performers on SNL have.  She plays tons of characters but none stands out so at the end of the season you wonder, “who is she again?”

Vanessa Bayer (2010-present)

Vanessa Bayer is similar to Pedrad in terms of not standing out except for her impression of Miley Cyrus.  It is dead on and funny.  Unfortunately unless Cyrus gets into a Lindsay Lohan lifestyle, there won’t be much opportunity for ripe satire. (See Armisen as Obama.)

Taran Killam (2010-present)

There are two heirs-apparent on SNL in my book.  Taran Killam is the first.  Killam stepped up big time this past season with great impressions of Piers Morgan, Tim Tebow, and Rush Limbaugh.  He also shows off some fancy dancing moves in the “Les Jeunes de Paris” sketches.  SNL is Killam’s second run at sketch comedy.  He starred on MADtv previously.

Jay Pharoah (2010-present)

The second heir-apparent might be Jay Pharoah.  When he was first cast last season the internet was buzzing based on his impression of Barack Obama which was popular on YouTube.  Since being cast, he has demonstrated dead-on versions of Denzel Washington, Will Smith and Jay Z.  Until Armisen leaves the show (and provided Obama is still president) we won’t get to see his work as the leader of the free world.  But until then we seems to be willing to stick to what he does and take on straight man roles in other sketches.

Kate McKinnon (2012-present)

Kate McKinnon joined the cast late in the 2011-2012 season after the departure of Paul Brittain.  She only appeared in one month’s worth of shows but she skewered Penelope Cruz in this hilarious sketch.

The loss of Wiig and Samberg is going to be hard on SNL at first.  Samberg will be missed but mostly in the loss of the digital shorts.  Wiig’s dependability, sheer comedic originality and energy will be hard to replace.  Longtime Executive Producer Lorne Michaels has done pretty well over the past 10 years in finding new talent and with two openings, I am sure he will be excited to find the next Not Ready For Primetime Players.  I’ll keep an open mind but I know I am going to miss Kristen Wiig.

I miss Kristen.
(Bumper Sticker Idea!)

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Posted in Entertainment, Pop Culture | Comments Off on The Idiot Box

Ben & Jerry’s “Schweddy Balls” About to Drop

Posted by Adam Butler on September 8, 2011

into a store near you.

The flavor is made up of “vanilla ice cream with a hint of rum and is loaded with fudge covered rum balls and milk chocolate malt balls.”

I’ve got to say, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream is known for it’s unique, irreverant flavors, but they’ve out done themselves this time.

]

Posted in News, Pop Culture | 1 Comment »

More Fodder for NWA

Posted by Brett Kincaid on August 5, 2011

Folks in the Ozarks don’t just look down on Little Rock because of the higher elevation.  Here at BlogHawgs we like to stoke the NWA v. LR fire, usually by pointing out the imperfections of the northwest part of our state.  (Child poverty, anyone?)

Today, though, I’m feeling fair.  Little Rock cracked a list of 20 Cities You Don’t Want to Live in…Yet.  I add this largely because there is a silver lining.  The “…Yet” in the list means we’re on the move!  Truth be told, it’s not a good list.  Other cities on the list include St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, and Baltimore to name a few.  Other Southern cities like Memphis, Jackson, and Birmingham also join the list.

For my money, though, I’d still rather live here than NWA.  If only we could get all the Razorback games moved to War Memorial….  (Okay…not really)

 

Posted in Pop Culture | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Ryan Mallett Sets The Record Straight On The Dan Patrick Show; Charlie Sheen Zings Mallett.

Posted by Adam Butler on March 9, 2011

All in all, I thought Mallett, the former UA quarterback did a pretty good job on the interview, today. And, unlike the rest of the national media, DP asked the appropriate questions, but also gave Mallett an opportunity to clear the air regarding his NFL Combine interview, and supposed character-related issues. That’s why Patrick is the best in the business, and it isn’t even close.

Unfortunately (for Mallett) Charlie Sheen called in unexpectedly, minutes later, and got off a Mallett/Bong  joke quicker than he could say, “WINNING”.

Posted in Pop Culture, Sports | 5 Comments »

I’m Not BiPolar. I’m Bi-Winning.

Posted by Adam Butler on March 1, 2011

The majesty that is Chuck Sheen:



Posted in Commentary, Pop Culture | 8 Comments »

A Brief BlogHawgs NFL Combine, Oscars Redux

Posted by Adam Butler on February 28, 2011

–If you, unlike me, have a life, then you missed the breathless breakdowns of former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett’s media (non) meltdown at the NFL Combine (much ado about nothing, IMO) as well the breathless breakdowns of the aerial display (I like that comparison a lot better than the Ryan Leaf one) he put on a day later.

I am shaking my head on all this. It is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with our Blogocracy. I understand why Ryan Mallett raises red flags, but what I don’t understand is why he is getting skewered, but others, with just as many perceived issues are seemingly getting a pass.

Oh, and as for the rumors that no one is willing to stand behind, but every has been or never was is willing to trot out, I’ll just say I highly doubt Ryan Mallett has abused drugs the last few years while breaking every Arkansas passing record and leading the school to its first BCS bowl bid. If he has, he’s one heckuva multi-tasker.

On the other hand, if he, for the sake of argument, smoked a little gangha in college, then he is clearly the scourge of the Earth, because no one ever does that in college.

–I am still reeling from the Kirk Douglas/Melissa Leo Daily Double of Painful Awkwardness and Elephantitis of the Ear Lobe.

–If Anne Hathaway is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

–Watching James Franco co-host The Oscars made me want to saw my own arm off.

–Anne Hathaway changed dresses 3 times while I was typing this post.

–I think we all expected Christain Bale to give us one of the most poignant, humble speeches of the night. I know I did. Except not really.

–Does the fact that I laugh at the dry wit of every British celebrity (like Colin Firth) mean that I am getting old?

UPDATED: Mallett seems to have performed well in the interviews that mattered.

Three teams that met with Mallett at the combine said they had no problems with his responses to the drug allegations or with his demeanor.

“The guy looked us right in the eyes and didn’t dodge anything at all,” said a high-ranking executive from an NFC team that is considering its quarterback options in the 2011 draft. “If we don’t take him, it certainly won’t be a reflection of his time with us (in the interview).”

Mallett was arguably the most impressive prospect throwing the ball during the Sunday on-field session for quarterbacks. He exhibited the strong arm most scouts expected of him and was very accurate as well. More accurate, notably, than former Auburn star and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, clearly the most celebrated player among the 330 prospects invited to Indianapolis last week.

The physical difference wasn’t the lone disparity between the players, said an assistant coach from an AFC club that might be interested in choosing a quarterback in the draft in two months.

“(Mallett) wasn’t as self-absorbed as the other guy,” the official said. “We really had no problem with him. He was pretty (straightforward), and he was very good, too, at (diagramming plays) on the chalkboard.”

Posted in Commentary, Pop Culture, Sports | 3 Comments »

Finally, Someone Who Understands Me

Posted by Jeff on February 10, 2011

"You can observe a lot just by watching."

In the last paper that I received (Tuesday – Yesterday and today’s are (I assume) buried in snow), John Sykes, Jr. steps up to William Safire territory.  In this well-written article, he analyzes how humans twist cliches and other expressions.  Unsurprisingly athletes and coaches take the largest share of the blame.

The snow in NWA is ridiculous.  Pictures coming.  I’d shovel but that’s a “tall task” to face.

Posted in Commentary, Pop Culture, Sports | 7 Comments »

It Could Be Worse…

Posted by Jeff on January 26, 2011

From the “It Could Be Worse” Department…

 The Razorbacks’ pee isn’t turning brown…

 Jeff Long didn’t receive a letter like this from the lead football donor…

 We didn’t fall off the stage looking for a lost shaker of salt.

Posted in Commentary, Pop Culture, Sports | 3 Comments »

The Idiot Box

Posted by Jeff on January 18, 2011

The Return of American Idol

 

 

 

It’s back but he is not.  Tomorrow, American Idol returns for its 10th season.  But unless you’re just now emerging from that rock, you know that Simon Cowell is not returning.  Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi are not returning either.  They will be replaced by two music industry heavyweights, Aerosmith frontman, Steven Tyler and pop legend, Jennifer Lopez.  More on them later but first… Simon.

Simon Cowell defined the show.  It was his acerbic, brutally honest comments on the contestants’ performances that drove the show and more importantly the water cooler comments the next day at work.  Cowell is a record producer.  He had the credibility to give honest assessments but more importantly he lacked the fear of being labeled a “meanie” or being reviled by viewers and contestants alike.  As much as it might bother host Ryan “Dim the Lights” Seacrest, Cowell was the face of Idol.  No matter how good Tyler and Lopez are, they will always be compared to Cowell or at the least will cause long time viewers to pine for the days when Simon would skewer an off-putting performance.

The credibility that Cowell had was what put Ellen DeGeneres behind the eight ball from the start.  DeGeneres is a comedian, actress and talk show host.  From the get-go she was questioned as to why she was even there. Kara DioGuardi was most known for her work as a songwriter and record producer but she struggled trying to find her role. She eventually replaced Paula Abdul after Abdul left due to a contract dispute but DioGuardi could not decide if she wanted to be the sweet, “nice try” judge or if she wanted to take the line that her record producer colleague Simon Cowell had drawn.  Either way, she never really found her way.  The only returning judge is Randy “Dawg” Jackson.  He and Seacrest will try to maintain the continuity of the show but it’s the chemistry between Jackson and the new judges that will be immediately critiqued.

New Idol judges, Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, some random zombie

Steven Tyler has probably taken the most heat for this career move. His own band mates are not thrilled with it.  Joe Perry even went so far as to state that he did not want the name “Aerosmith” associated with the show.  He has a problem with the fact that it is reality TV designed to sell ads.  In an ironic twist though, Perry said that he was still OK with contestants singing Aerosmith songs… from which he earns royalties.  Actress, dancer and recording artist Jennifer Lopez seems to be a less surprising but also less interesting.  She certainly has the cred they were looking for.  Jenny From the Block has been on the stage since her time as a “Fly Girl” on In Living Color.  Since then she has recorded seven albums and acted in numerous movies and TV shows. She has won AMA’s, Latin Grammys and numerous other awards.  She is certainly qualified but will people watch?

There are several other changes for this year’s edition of Idol.  The head of the Interscope Geffen and A&M label, Jimmy Iovine will serve as an in-house mentor to the contestants.  There will not be celebrity mentors as in years past.  They also plan to extend Hollywood Week which will cut the field of semi-finalists down to 20.  Executive Producer Simon Lythgoe also said that theme weeks will be broader to allow contestants a wider variety of song choices.

While American Idol’s ratings were down last year, it is still the juggernaut that all other show producers respect and fear.  Time will tell if the new faces and changes will change that or if Idol will continue its phenomenal dominance.

Randy says I am "pitchy."

Posted in Entertainment, Pop Culture | 2 Comments »

American Music

Posted by Brett Kincaid on December 15, 2010

Like any form of art, the relative “goodness” of music will always and forever be colored by the personal taste of the connoisseur.  Occasionally, though, we find artists that seem to transcend all boundaries.  Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash spring to mind.  B.B. King could be found on iPod playlists from Alabama to Wyoming.  And I have yet to find anyone in my life that cannot find at least one or two songs from James Taylor that they enjoy.

My taste in music is pretty elementary.  I am not the guy that finds the new underground alt-country bluegrass jam band in an attempt only to feel morally superior to those that have never heard of Mama’s Whiskey Bottle.  You can generally catch me listening to Willie, Johnny, B.B., James or even Dave Matthews if I’m feeling nostalgic for the college years.  You can add a new group to that list.

I cannot stop listening to the latest effort from The Zac Brown Band.  “You Get What You Give” hit stores on September 21, 2010 and my iPod about 2 months later.  This is the band’s follow up effort to “The Foundation” which began tearing up country radio in 2008.  This second album is a definite progression from “The Foundation” which focused more on traditional country themes while introducing non-country musical elements like island music and jam band influences.

What separates The Zac Brown Band from other modern country radio icons is their insistence on playing beyond labels.  The ZBB has plenty of country twang (and stellar fiddle playing), but these Georgia boys blow fakers like Rascal Flatts out of the water musically.  In “You Get What You Give” listeners are treated to a wide variety of music – not necessarily country music.  Sure, you get some tracks produced for country radio (like the album’s debut release “As She’s Walking Away” – featuring a cameo from Alan Jackson).  You also get Caribbean infused delights like “Knee Deep” – with Mr. Jimmy Buffett.  You get a classic American piano ballad with “Colder Weather”.  And you get something altogether different with “Who Knows” which mixes everything from island music to southern rock to traditional country.

I am far from a seasoned music critic.  I like what I like, and it is what it is (That’s for you, Jeff).  But I like to think I know genuinely good music when I hear it.  The Zac Brown Band provides that in spades.  Even those who say, “I don’t like country music” can find plenty to enjoy in “You Get What You Give”.  These guys have a lot of work to do if they’re ever going to be considered in the class of Willie Nelson or B.B. King.  They are well on their way, though, to carving out their own place in history as one of the most enjoyable bands across all genres of music.

 

Posted in Commentary, Pop Culture | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

Hollywood Stunner

Posted by Brett Kincaid on December 14, 2010

Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds are getting a divorce!

Posted in Pop Culture | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Hog Hoops Does NOT Need to Adopt This

Posted by Brett Kincaid on December 14, 2010

In an attempt to make up for his DaVinci Code-esque “At the BlogHawg Offices” from yesterday, Kris Boyd helps us out today with a pretty cool hoops story.  This is one of those things that can only happen at a small, parochial school.  It’s a great tradition, and the students really seem to get behind the idea.

Pajama-clad students, faculty and alumni packed Odle Arena on Friday night for Taylor’s home game against Ohio State-Marion. They remained dead silent until guard Casey Coons scored Taylor’s 10th point at the free-throw line and then they erupted in confetti-filled mayhem for five straight minutes, as though the tiny NAIA Indiana school had just captured a national championship.

If this happened at UA, though, I’m afraid it would take an ugly turn.  How long would it actually take to get to 10 points?  Which sorority would come in the sluttiest pajamas available? (Okay…perhaps that’s a reason for adopting the tradition.)  How many zealots would show up to tell everyone they are worshiping a pagan holiday and going to hell for not having a live nativity at Bud Walton Arena?

And it’s hard enough getting a Hog Call coordinated these days.  How on earth could they get everyone to sing “Silent Night” in unison?

 

Posted in Pop Culture, Sports | Tagged: , , | 11 Comments »

How ‘Bout Some Culture, Y’all?

Posted by Brett Kincaid on December 13, 2010

Congratulations to my friend Warwick Sabin and the Oxford American for making a pretty heady list of magazines this year.  According to PasteMagazine.com the Oxford American ranks as the #5 magazine of 2010, ranking a slot higher than New Yorker and just below Esquire.  That is great company to keep, especially given the magazine’s regional focus.

From the Paste writers:

As we toil away down here in Decatur, Georgia, it’s nice to be reminded that all great magazines don’t come from New York City. Marc Smirnoff’s Oxford American has been through its share of publishing turmoil, but its uniquely Southern voice hasn’t wavered once.

If you are not a regular reader of OA, I highly recommend it.  It’s yet another reason to be proud of living in The South.

Posted in Entertainment, Pop Culture | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

TV and Movie Legend Leslie Nielsen… a Tribute

Posted by Jeff on November 29, 2010

"Nice beaver."

As you’ve likely already heard, actor Leslie Nielsen passed away yesterday at the age of 84. Nielsen started his career in live television and dramatic roles but he became best known to our generation with his breakout comedic turn in 1980 in the disaster movie spoof, Airplane!

Nielsen once had a guest role on M*A*S*H.  He played a gung-ho colonel in an episode called The Ringbanger.  Some of you may not know that I have seen every episode of M*A*S*H at least twice. This one is one of the best and, filmed in 1973, it shows Nielsen exploring some of the comedic timing that he would soon perfect in Airplane!, the TV Series Police Squad, and the subsequent Naked Gun movies.  (Want to see The Ringbanger episode?  It will air on TV Land Thursday the 9th at 5:30 a.m. Set your DVR. (Yes, I knew it was coming up. TV Land is rotating into year one of the iconic Korean War dramedy.))

In the spirit of remembrance, it just seems fit to rattle off some great Airplane! and/or Naked Gun quotes.  I’ll start with perhaps his most memorable:

Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious.
Rumack: I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.

Posted in Entertainment, Pop Culture | 5 Comments »

Punk Rock Meets the iPhone on a Subway.

Posted by Adam Butler on November 16, 2010

This was pretty rad, or cool, or chill, or whatever the kids say these days.

Posted in Pop Culture | 1 Comment »

The Idiot Box

Posted by Jeff on October 14, 2010

How Punditry is Taking Over My TV

 I hate to say this and please don’t quote me but… Rush Limbaugh was ahead of his time.  From 1992 to 1996 Limbaugh had a 30 minute television show that was syndicated across the United States.  Ratings were enough to keep him on the air for four years but eventually the individual stations’ ratings forced him off air. His ego would only allow him to say that he preferred radio to TV but the reality is that the show was wearing thin.

Bill O'Reilly

About this same time, Roger Ailes, who had produced Limbaugh’s show hired Bill O’Reilly to do a political commentary show on the new Fox News Channel. And that, my friends is what started it. O’Reilly was certainly not afraid to say what he believed. Or perhaps what he believed would make people watch. O’Reilly was an immediate hit for Fox News and because of it spawned numerous other clones.

Fox News, in trying to maintain its trademark, “Fair and Balanced” image added Hannity & Colmes in 1996. I have long been a fan of Alan Colmes. His radio show used to air on the same station as Limbaugh’s here in NWA back in the early 90’s. But on this show, Colmes tended to lean further to the right than the liberal viewers expected from him and after 13 years of fending off Sean Hannity’s lopsided conservatism, Colmes left the show.

Glenn Beck

Seeing the ratings success that Fox News was earning with these right-wing pundits, CNN Headline News (now HLN) tried adding its own by bringing Glenn Beck aboard in 2006. After only two years, Beck left for the safer studios of Fox News where he now has an enormously free reign over his own content. Beck has quickly turned unabashed punditry into a combination of Sunday morning televangelism and Saturday at midnight UHF conspiracy mongering. The show is vastly unwatchable. Someone is watching but even the most conservative people I know can’t tolerate more than one segment of his show.

Keith Olbermann

Not to be outdone, MSNBC decided to give Keith Olbermann a try at news commentary. Countdown with Keith Olbermann premiered on March 31, 2003. Olbermann quickly found an audience for his left-leaning show that made a lot of hay attacking Bill O’Reilly for his views and for what Olbermann felt were disingenuous or hypocritical comments. Their feud was legendary and lasted for over half of a decade until Beck came around and gave Olbermann someone a little more “out-there” to lambaste and to label the Worst Person in the World.

Others have come along… Greta Van Susteren, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell. But where did the news go? 

I miss the old Headline News. Remember the old format?  Every half hour, the same news wheel: News at :00 and :30.  Dollars and Sense at :15 & :45.  Sports at :20 & :50 (Jerome Jurenovich, anyone?) and lifestyles (entertainment news) at :25 & :55.  It was great.  You always knew exactly when the news would be on or the sports or whatever.  Don Harrison, Chuck Roberts, Lynne Russell.  Van Earl Wright!  They came on, they read the news, they moved on.   I miss that.

But just presenting the news doesn’t sell ads anymore. If it did we wouldn’t have to put up with Nancy Grace droning on about all the bad people in America every night.  For whatever reason, people prefer to hear the talking head’s opinion on the news as well. And sadly, the more divisive (O’Reilly on the right, Olbermann on the left) the better.   I guess I will just DVR Brian Williams and call it good.  The cable news channels just won’t tell the news straight. It doesn’t sell.  And yes, I blame Limbaugh.

My TV says I should vote for Sarah Palin

Posted in Entertainment, Pop Culture | 6 Comments »

Speaking of Reality Television…

Posted by Jeff on September 28, 2010

So last night, my wife and I were enjoying the mindlessness of Dancing With The Stars.  I had never watched this show before last week.  I am still uncertain what drew me to it this week.  But then last night happened and I figured it out.

You don't boo Baby! You boo the Half Governor.

After her routine, actress Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing) received her scores and on the LIVE broadcast was a smattering of boos.  Grey specifically asked “Why are they booing?”  Her scores were not that bad.  Cut to a live interview with Tom Bergeron and… Sarah Palin.

I immediately assumed that there were a few liberals in the live audience that did not like the fact that the former governor of Alaska was there at all.  In case you hadn’t heard, her daughter, Bristol is participating in the competition. How she is a “star” I do not know.

I guess I am not the only one who assumed the worst in people.

Posted in Entertainment, Politics, Pop Culture | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

The Ten Commandments … or Is it Eleven?

Posted by Brett Kincaid on September 28, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

A new survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life – a non-partisan think tank – tells us what many already knew:  Americans are pretty dumb about religion.  What is counterintuitive to most readers, though, is that agnostics & atheists are the “smartest” self-identified affiliation.  Second?  That’d be Jewish folk.  Third you ask?  Those magic underwear sporting Mormons.  The Sarah Palin Squad – white protestant evangelicals – show up fourth in this ranking.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

The ranking are based on answers to a series of religious questions about all world religions.  What should not be surprising, though, is that the WASPs know the most about the Bible.  They do not, though, seem to have much understanding of other world religions.  Which explains President Bush’s foreign policy positions.

Posted in News, Pop Culture | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Not That Anyone Cares, But…

Posted by Brett Kincaid on September 22, 2010

Someone named “J. Lo” and the corpse of Steven Tyler have joined the “American Idol” cast for 2010-2011.  Randy Jackson remains on the program, blissfully ignorant of the fact that no one understands what he’s done in the music industry.  He don’t care, though, dawg.

Seacrest out

Posted in Pop Culture | Tagged: , , | 9 Comments »

The Real Jersey Shore

Posted by Brett Kincaid on September 22, 2010

Since the end of “The Wire” HBO has been searching for a knockout Sunday night replacement.  A handful of contenders have tried to fill the void that has been gaping for so long, but no show has had the staying power needed to stand toe-to-toe with the legend of something like “The Sopranos” or “The Wire” – two legendary shows that will forever link HBO television to greatness.

After one episode, it is impossible to say “Boardwalk Empire” will ultimately be revered like its predecessors.  But after watching the pilot this week, I would certainly agree that there is reason for optimism.

Terrence Winter

If the overall themes of the pilot remind you of “The Sopranos” you are not alone.  You can thank Terence Winter for that.  Winter is the Emmy award winning screenwriter from “The Sopranos”, widely regarded as David Chase’s right-hand man.  Probably the most striking similarity is the locale – New Jersey.  This time we are transported from present day north Jersey to Prohibition Era south Jersey.  There are other key similarities that I’m sure many noticed.  Our lead character, Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), manages a small criminal syndicate in New Jersey that has just enough sway to get some attention from larger crime families in New York and Chicago.  Thompson is not an alpha male in the mold of Tony Soprano, but he has a smoldering internal fire that we see burn white hot in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Schroeder.  My hunch is that we will see some truly medieval acts from Nucky over the course of the next twelve episodes.

As we wind further into the pilot episode, we learn that Nucky has the duplicity of a true politician.  To the public Nucky is a temperance approving man of the people.  He speaks to the Women’s Temperance Society by day and organizes his bootlegging ring by night.  He helps a young women trying to hold onto her family, then arranges for massive shipments of illegal hooch.

There are more characters, of course, than Mr. Nucky Thompson.  Chief among them is Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt).  Jimmy has recently returned from action in World War I, and is “not the same kid that left” three years prior to the day we join the crew in Atlantic City in 1920.  As we learn later in the episode, Jimmy aint kidding.

Nucky Thompson

Darmody has a wife and young boy at home, and he has clearly found reentry a difficult task.  We learn that he spent years in Nucky’s crew, following the boss around for quite some time trying to pay his dues.  Nucky does not view Jimmy’s service as patriotic or wise; he sees it as disrespectful to Thompson’s growth as a gangster in A.C. in the late 1910s.  In a tense seen midway through the episode, Jimmy declares that he’s not looking for a handout but an opportunity.  It is here that we see a huge opening for a permanent change in Jimmy’s character.  In response to Jimmy saying he’s looking for an opportunity, Nucky says “This is America aint it?  Who the fuck’s stoppin’ ya!”

One of the most pleasing facets to the show is the appearances of actual historic figures.  Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) – famous for rigging the 1919 World Series, creating the Chicago “Black Sox” – arrives in Atlantic City along with legendary New York gangster Charlie “Lucky” Luciano (Vincent Piazza).  Another fun moment – Jimmy and Mr. Rothstein’s driver are sitting outside while the bosses discuss business.  As Jimmy finds out, he’s talking to a young Al Capone.

The action picks up significantly in the final 20 minutes of the show with Jimmy’s character really showing a glimpse of how truly ruthless he could become.  Unbeknownst to Nucky, the stage is set for a war between himself and the Chicago and New York families.  As young Jimmy put it to him, “Look, you can’t be half a gangster, Nucky.  Not anymore,” before handing the boss his share of a heist Nucky never authorized.

All in all this was a very enjoyable first effort, thanks in large part to Mr. Martin Scorsese.  The main man of mafia movies directed the first episode, and boy could you tell.  Sweeping outdoor shots, lots of color and contrasts, and enough blood to make the normal human being a tad bit squeamish – especially a particularly cold execution towards the end.  Marty is clearly in his element here, and I certainly hope he makes another few directorial appearances.  The small screen looks big when Mr. Scorsese is calling the shots.

The big opening aside, let’s reserve our Emmy nominations for now.  I have heard that the first several episodes are truly great with a heavy uptick in momentum.  I am particularly excited about the introduction of Chalky White, who is portrayed by Michael K. Williams – known largely for his role as Omar in “The Wire”.  More largely, though, I am curious about how Winter sees the overall narrative unfolding.  Will he revert back to his “The Sopranos” days and insert some non sequitur episodes into the 13-part story arc?  Or will Winter shake free of his mentor David Chase and let the story develop without distractions?

For the first time in a long time, I am eager to tune into HBO (or at least set my DVR) on Sunday nights so I can find out the answers to those and many, many more questions.

Posted in Commentary, Pop Culture | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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