Tuesday, November 30, 2004

"California Here I Come ..."

Damn. So last night I finally got around to writing a whole big entry and right when I'm about to publish, Blogspot goesY2K on me and completely freezes. So everything ... was lost. Dayum, that's not right. So I'll try to replicate what I wrote last night in the minutes before I head off to the airport. The airport? Yep, that's right, I am about to head off to Hollywood until Sunday, in what will be the continuation of a crazy two weeks. Yeah, when I started this blog I did so thinking I'd have tons of time to write, seeing as how I was basically sitting around in CT looking for a job. Now business has picked up a little bit, though I shouldn't say too much because in a week's time I may be right back to sitting around watching VH1 at 1 am. But it all started a few Thursday ago when ...

I'm planning a trip to LA, when suddenly the fine folks at Late Night With Conan O'Brien call and say they need PA's to help with their move to new offices. Start monday, let them know by THE NEXT DAY whether I'm in or our. So of course that's when OPERATION FREAK OUT BEGINS (as ol' Flava Flav might say ...). Luckily, things seemed to fall into place after only a few hours of panic. My aunt Amy, of Riverdale, NY, was nice enough to let me stay at her apartment for a week and a half. So I was in business, and headed out to NYC for a week of heavy lifting. It was great to be back at Conan, and nice to see all the staff there. The work itself was pretty brutal ... days filled with box-packing, box-lifting, and box unpacking. But kudos to the other hard-working PA's there who made sure I took minimal breaks and worked till I could not work no more. See, for those of you who aspire to be writers, you pay your dues by doing manual labor! Who says showbiz is glamorous?

Still, there were some great moments. One happened on my last day, when I got a glimspe of one of my all-time rock idols - SLASH~~! Yep, Velvet Revolver played the show, and some other PA's and I were called down to help move their equipment. Man, I have been a huge Slash fan since I first discovered the greatness of GUNS N'ROSES back in the day. So that was a pretty big thrill.

NYC was also great because, well, I got to get outta CT. But, also, I got to see a lot of friends in the area, many of whom I had not seen in way too long. Of course, my crazy schedule kept me from seeing everyone I wanted to, but hopefully I'll be back to the city soon. One of the highlights was definitely a Shabbat dinner at the house of one Rabbi Schmooley, right wing radio talk show host and author of such best-selling books as Kosher Sex. Yep, you read that right. It was a birthday celebration for both him and my friend Erica who is now working for him (and living in his house, odd since she is a liberal Catholic / Wiccan). Well, a good time was had by all and a celebration like no other I've ever seen, highlighted by the unveiling of two birthday cakes: Schmooley's cake of decency and morality, and Erica's rainbow-colored cake of immorality and sin! Yeah, craziness!

SO ... now I'm off to LA, well, Burbank to be exact. I'm interviewing with NBC's page program there and with Warner Bros. TV. Full report when I get back, and more sweet, sweet, verbal-candy blog-writing to come.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Pathetically Long TV Rant: FOX Sunday Night, New Shows, and More!

FOX Sunday Night. Throughout my formative years this was the last entertainment stop before the school week began. Even throughout college, homework was put aside for a little while as The Simpsons entertained me with their hilarity. The lights were dimmed as The X-Files presented me with the continued adventures of Mulder and Scully. Okay, enough with the nostalgia. Rant time:

What in de blue hell is wrong with FOX? The following great shows were prematurely cancelled over the last few years: Futurama, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Undeclared, and Family Guy (and probably more that I'm forgetting ...). Why? Because FOX totally SCREWS with their scheduling. The latest victims of this idiocy were perennial favorites King of the Hill and Malcolm in the Middle. Okay, they KNOW football ain't gonna end at 7:00 pm, yet these shows are scheduled from 7 to 8 pm, just as Futurama had been in years past. The result? All too often, football preempts said shows, causing them to fall off the viewing public's radar and dooming them to programming hell, only to later be resurrected on DVD when everyone rediscovers them and wonders why such great shows were never on in a consistent time-slot. See example A - the sales of Futurama on DVD and example B - Family Guy on DVD. So now FOX is gonna screw over two more of its most consistently popular shows, just so it can show some lame Apprentice-parody at 9pm, the once-hallowed time-slot of The X-Files? Damn you FOX, for teasing us with kick-ass TV shows and then sending then off to the slaughter. Oh, and get some new writers for The Simpsons (aka, ME!). That is all. Now, my grades for FOX's big season premieres?

King of the Hill: Another solid episode that actually has something which The Simpsons has lacked for about 6 years now - heart. Hank Hill remains one of the greatest TV characters of all time, who seems all the more relevant now as we enter a new, Red State-dominated era. Hank is a personification of our Culture War, and rages this internal struggle each week with hilarious results. B+

Malcolm in the Middle: This show seems to be getting increasingly further away from its original premise, but its quirky sensibilities still make it stand out. For example, just when I was getting annoyed at the absurdity of Reese's military subplot, he starts hallucinating about a giant waffle-man, and it was SO absurd that it was awesome. And Malcolm and Dewey comparing lists of brotherly offenses was a bit of classic Malcolm. Still, there's smomething missing. B-

The Simpsons: There's something about horror and comedy that can go together like peanut butter and chocalate. And the Simpsons halloween episodes are a great example of that perfect blend. But, as in the last few years, we get the Treehouse of Horror a week after halloween, and lacking much horror. And, as is now typical, lacking much comedy as well. What's so painful about nu-Simpsons is that each episode still contains at least 2 or 3 gags that, even if just for a second, are so funny that you think you're watching vintage Simpsons. But then the lack of plot, characer, or story structure remind you otherwise. Since most regular episodes are kind of like three different episodes rolled into one, the traditional 3-act THOH episode seems much more standard than usual. Still, this one did have some great lines, and overall, had much cooler storylines than the last few year, particularly the first, Flanders-as-psychic story (even if it treaded familiar ground). And seeing the great voice actors do Simpsons in Victorian English was kinda cool. It's too bad that what was once a brilliant sci-fi/horror parody is now mostly self-parody. Oh well, despite it all I'm glad the show is still on. At least we can be sure this bankable show will never be preempted by football. P.S. - props on the use of the PERFECT STRANGERS THEME SONG .... C+

Arrested Development: By some miracle (and 2 Emmys) this show is still on, and thank god for that. The humor is so different and so sharp that many people won't get it, but its cast is go talented and the writing so intelligent that who knows, it might just catch on. The 2nd season premiere lacked the usual number of laughs in favor of a plot that was even more tightly-packed than usual, but when the big laughs come on this show, they are big (Gob impressing the boardroom with magic, a blue David Cross, anything Buster says). Watch this. A-


- Is it sad that I actually got a little emotional watching the last Surreal Life? Oh Flav and Bridget, we hardly knew ye. And someone give David Coulier a new show! He's Uncle Freakin' Joey! Man, the cast on this show did seriously rule, making it a guilty pleasure that ya just can't resist. FLAVA FLAV~

- Please, watch VERONICA MARS. This is THE BEST NEW SHOW OF THE SEASON and it kicks all kinds of ass. This show is DARK. It mixes that Freaks And Geeks, teen-outcast vibe with some kind of twisted film noir, ongoing serial mystery. Kristen Bell is great in the title role. Who killed Lilly Kane? Please let this show stay on long enough for us to find out. Oh, and it's theme song ("COME ON NOW SUGAR ...") rules.

- LOST is awesome. That much is sure, but the last few episodes have been slightly lacking when compared to the first few and most especially the AMAZING episode featuring Locke, already one of the coolest, most complex characters I've seen, anywhere, in a while. The problem is that this show could go in any number of directions, many of those directions containing much potential to be highly lame. Still, if you're not watching, you're missing out on the water-cooler show of the year.

- Despite its repetetive plots (mind-control, again?), mind-boggling cheesiness, and increasingly annoying characters (cough*LANA*cough), I remain a fan of SMALLVILLE. Why? Tom Welling is growing into the role of Superman to be. The villainous Luthers remain as awesomely villainous (or potentially villianous in Lex) as ever. Erica Durance as Lois Lane is a great spark to the show. And despite all its faults, its a FUN show, which nowadays is a rare thing indeed.

- THE OC is back, and all hail the show that turned nice Jewish boy /comic geek Seth Cohen into a teen idol, thus giving new hope for all nice Jewish comic geek-boys everwhere.

Yes, I watch too much TV. But it's what I majored in in college, and I make good use of the VCR, and I'm stuck at home looking for a job, so don't judge me, foo'.

NEXT: The political rant of doom.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

It was a nerd heaven, it was a nerd hell ...

This past summer when I interned at Late Night With Conan O'Brien, I was in a constant state of disbelief. Sure, I tried to act cool, but dammit all I was working in the offices of one of the greatest comedic minds alive. This guy was the editor of the Harvard Lampoon. He wrote the MONORAIL EPISODE OF THE SIMPSONS, for Homer's sake. He wrote for SNL. And he had a damn funny late night talk show. In my opinion the best late night talk show there is. Wow. How in the hell did an unassuming kid from Bloomfield, CT end up here? AS the weeks went on, the place started to become familiar. But still, every time I happened to pass Mr. O'Brien I did a double-take. I walked through the halls of NBC brandishing my ID badge for all to see. True, I was a lowly intern - the bottom rung on the food chain, but look at me, Ma, I had made it.

So it was three months later, and I was still looking for a job. Yep, I was like the Al Bundy of recent college grads, reduced to muttering about my former glory days as a Conan intern. I had lived the dream of comedy nerds everywhere, and then, to paraphrase Aerosmith, I was back on the street like I didn't miss a beat. But there were some interviews in the weeks to follow. Not just any interviews, mind you, but visits to three of the companies that really shaped my childhood and made me into the man I am today. Yep, I walked the hallowed halls of Nickelodeon, DC Comics, and the WWE.

Nickelodeon. In my youth I was a Nickelodeon kid. At the time as many of you remember this channel was all about subverting us impressionable youths into parent-hating, authority-bucking, rebels. I gobbled up their shows like they were Reeses Pieces. You Can't Do That On Television, Out of Control, Hey Dude, Salute Your Shorts, Pete and Pete, Pinwheel, Are You Afraid of the Dark, Welcome Freshman, Sixteen, Double Dare, Guts, What Would You Do, Nick Arcade, Ren and Stimpy, Doug, Rugrats (it's still on!), Rocco's Modern Life, that show with Melissa Joan Hart, The NICK KIDS CHOICE AWARDS (oh my god those ruled back in the day). OK, you get the picture (wow that list was fun to make ... too fun). So yeah I was a total Nick zombie. Hell, I once accidentally dialed 911 while desperately trying to win the Nick Shopping Spree thing, and oh how I wanted Nick to invade my school and slime my teachers (take THAT Mrs. Yardeni!). So here I was, interviewing at a company that will forever own a piece of my childhood. I went for one interview and it went well but I didn't get the job. I went for a second, for a different position, and it seemed to go really well, but again, no dice. Sure, the company that now counted a giant yellow sponge as it's mascot was not the same place that in my youth made me stop everything to dance along to Happy Happy Joy Joy, but it would have been frickin' sweet to work there. Next.

WWE. Or as it has long been known, the WWF. Laugh all you want, but yes, I am a fan. I got the bug when I was just a toddler, watching Hulk Hogan and the Macho Man and Ted Dibiase and Bret Hart and all the rest. Now, does the current product still excite me like it used to? No. Do I somehow understand the appeal of guys pretending to kick each other's asses in a melodramatic fashion? Oh, hell yes. So as I drove to Stamford and Titan Towers, I was kinda unsure. I mean, let's say I want to one day write for a TV show. Will they look down on a guy who worked for the company that promotes Bra and Panty matches? All the while, of course, I was assuming they'd hire me. I mean, I worked for Conan freakin' O'Brien. Never assume, people. After a grueling 3 hour, five-person interview, it seemed to be going well. So there I was, in the WWE studios. If I had been ten years old I probably would have crapped my pants, but still, my cynicism gave way to thoughts of "wow, this is pretty darn cool." So, no, I didn't get the job. But at the time it was kind of a relief. I mean, I didn't want to move to Stamford. I didn't know what exactly I'd be doing. And there was still the chance I would hear from ...

DC Comics. I won't sugar-coat this. I am a huge DC fanboy. Basically, one of my dream jobs is to work at DC Comics. I will defend comic books to anyone - they are a great American art form and I would love to work in this medium. So I wasn't nervous when I went to the almost mythical halls of DC in New York City, I just had a huge smile on my face, cuz holy crap, there was a giant statue of Superman! There was a giant mural of all the classic characters! There was Joey Cavalieri, editor of the Superman comics! It was pretty hard to contain my fanboyish excitement as I saw his desk, littered with as of yet unpublished artwork and ideas for upcoming storylines. I also met Joan Hilty, another editor, and the man himself, Managing Editor Dan DiDio. All things considered, I think it went well. I had long heard stories of young assistant editors who go on to become big names in the business, and I hoped and hoped that that next young upstart in the DC bullpen could be me. I should have known by the free comics I was gratiously given to me - it was almost a concilliatory gesture. Of course, it would be almost a month before I knew whether or not I got the job. So yeah, didn't get that one either. When all is said and done, it was pretty cool, ok, I was living the fanboy dream to see the insides of DC, WWE, and Nickelodeon. Just like it was when I interned at Late Night. Now I actually need a job (and lots of sweet sweet dolla dolla) and I need to really get in the game. Being a fan is one thing, but now I gotta contribute. Still, if you told me when I was a kid that I would have seen the places I've seen, well, I'd be happy.