The rising influence of on-demand viewing of TV episodes on the Internet has led to speculation that traditional cable TV will go the way of 8 tracks and audio cassettes. Although 88% of poll respondents say they have no intention of dropping cable service, younger viewers are far more open to using the web to watch their favorite TV episodes. Many industry analysts think this will become the norm for the new generation who will balk at paying high prices for a wealth of cable TV stations delivered to their homes - many of which they will never watch. The practice of bundling networks into packages has long been the model for cable companies, but there are signs consumers are becoming increasingly irritated at having to purchase access to networks that don't interest them. Click here to watch a debate about the future of cable TV
Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada starred in the original series.
CHIPS, the once-popular crime show about the California Interstate Highway Patrol, may be the latest vintage TV series to get new life. Deadline Hollywood Daily reports that aggressive plans are underway to revive the series, which ran between 1977-1983. This would be yet another sign of the creative drought in Hollywood, as studios look to their vaults to dust off older concepts. Hawaii 5-0 is being revived later this year. For more click here
With the long-running At The Movies review show coming to an end, IFC has complied ten of the most memorable reviews given by Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel and Richard Roeper. Curiously, one of the most amusing concerns a long-forgotten Burt Reynolds turkey called Cap and a Half. Click here to view
If you believe the media stories about the shark "menace", this would be the official tourism promotion poster for the state of New Jersey!
By Lee Pfeiffer
Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, American television has launched its annual attempt to make citizens even more paranoid than many already are. This is achieved by a time-worn ritual that dates back to the 1975 release of Jaws, namely: scare the living daylights out of beach-goers by running superfluous stories about the "shark menace". Although actual shark attacks on American shores are rare, some do occur each year. In a recent case, a sand shark actually beached itself at a popular New Jersey vacation resort. (Click here to view footage) This was only weeks after New Jersey officials announced that the nation's most densely-populated state was being over-run by bears. As a New Jersey resident, it's beginning to make me think I'm lucky to get safely back from the supermarket without a shotgun and a pith helmet.Here's a way to ensure that these dangerous critters leave our environs: just post the New Jersey state sky-high tax rates for residents along the beaches and in the woods.
The last time Steven Seagal was considered to be "box-office", Bill Clinton was President and the Internet was an emerging phenomenon. Seagal's macho antics came into vogue just as the era of the blue-collar action hero was going out of style. In recent years, he's been confined to "straight-to-video" hell. His 2001 "comeback" movie Exit Wounds had only middling grosses. Seagal has dabbled in TV recently, appearing on a reality-based crime show. He's now preparing to shoot 13 episodes of a new fictional action series in Canada with hopes that he can emulate Chuck Norris' success on the small screen. For more click here
The era when Americans tuned in to their favorite late night comedy/chat show may be nearing an end. Ratings have plummeted recently for David Letterman, Jay Leno and other iconic TV talk show hosts, indicating that they are falling victim to many competing forms of entertainment, as well as disinterest from younger audiences who tend not to follow structured viewing patterns. Although Leno is still nominally the king of late night, his ratings have fallen significantly since NBC's ill-advised debacle in which his show was moved to prime time. For more click here
Johnson boats: putting the "pleasure" in pleasure craft!
For those of you who are somewhat ignorant of sexually suggestive slang, keep in mind that a popular term in the black community for a certain male appendage is "Johnson". There have been millions of jokes with "Johnson" as the punch line, but few are as funny as this retro 1970s TV ad for the Johnson line of boats. The title: "You and Your Johnson". We're not kidding, folks. Click here to remind yourself just how much pleasure Johnson can provide!
Even the legendary Network character Howard Beale wasn't hawking rip-off gold investment schemes and promoting wacky conspiracy theories to his viewers.
It's time for one of our infrequent forays into covering the abyss known as American television. Everything has been dumbed down to the point that you might be tempted to think Pamela Anderson is running the news divisions. Once reputable networks like The History Channel now cater to the wing-nut fringe with endless specials that cater to folks who believe they are routinely being abducted by UFOs or encountering literal manifestations of angels or vampires. Don't think you can find much solace in the political spectrum, either. Some very highly-rated talk show hosts have been violating any sense of ethics by doing "news reports" about the soaring value of gold and why consumers should invest. "Coincidentally" these programs are sponsored by firms that sell gold investments to suckers at home at rates that consumer advocates say is over 200% of the actual value. All of this is sandwiched in between seemingly endless ads for pills that improve sexual performance, but at the risk of enduing a 30-year erection or projectile vomiting as minor side-effects. The audience has become so undemanding that there is a hit show about a man who literally bakes extravagant wedding cakes. However, instead of hearing me rant about the sorry state of
the medium, it's best to read the words of Variety critic Brian Lowry
who poignantly takes on what he calls the "Wackadoodle" state of
America's cable networks.As Lowry points out, the insane media world personified by Network's raving anchor man Howard Beale is now upon us. Some of us may be mad as hell but it looks like we'll have take it for many years to come. Click here to read (This article links to Variety and you may have to register as a reader in order to have access.)
CNN host John King has just announced that legendary talk show host Larry King has confirmed by Twitter that he will end his long-running talk show this fall. No other details were given but King will address the decision this evening on his program. There has been speculation that CNN would not renew King's contract due to plummeting ratings and what many believe is an outdated style of conducting interviews. King's achievements include many memorable sit-downs with legendary actors and politicians, but his penchant for conducting sparse research has often led to criticism that he was conducting lightweight interviews and throwing softball questions. Nevertheless, King's record is among the most impressive in all of TV history and he has been a main figure at CNN since the early days of the network.
UPDATE: On his program this evening, King told guest Bill Maher that it was his decision to quit the show and that he had not been pressured by CNN. He expressed gratitude that the network allowed him to remain on the air for 25 years but said he wanted more time to spend with his wife and kids. King said he would still be affiliated with the network and would host various specials in the future.
Good news: now you can pay to have your intelligence insulted by watching episodes of shlock like The Bachelorette on Hulu.
Hulu, the popular web site that allows viewers to watch recent episodes of major TV series for free, has bowed to pressure from investors and launched an optional pay-per-view service that will cost $10. Here's the kicker: even after paying, you'll still be subjected to the same amount of ads that viewers of the free service have to suffer through. Advertisements are understandable on the free version of Hulu - after all, the viewer isn't paying to watch the episodes. However, one would think that after dropping $10 per month, you would be spared the type of annoying advertisements that have made television viewing virtually unwatchable in recent years. Hulu counters the complaints by saying paid subscribers will have a wider range of episodes to view and that maintaining the ads will keep the subscription price low. Remember in the early days of cable TV how we all naively believed that by paying for service, we would get commercial-free broadcasts? Before long, we were subjected to infernal assaults on our senses as both movies and re-runs of TV series were not only aired with commercials, but were chopped to pieces to accommodate more and more ads. Hulu does offer episodes of some classic, vintage shows but here's hoping the public doesn't fall for the same trap again. Stick with the free Hulu and relish the knowledge that you aren't paying for suffering through those ads. Besides, how brain dead do you have to be to pay to watch episodes of The Bachelorette? - Lee Pfeiffer
Move over, has been film critics! Cody Gifford is bringing his own brand of "irrelevance" to The Today Show!
By Lee Pfeiffer
When Sarah Palin mentions her fellow "grizzly moms", it warms the cockles of her supporter's hearts, even as it sends her critics heading toward the nearest barf bag. However, Ms. Palin has nothing on the definitive overly-protective mother: obnoxious chat show host Kathie Lee Gifford, who has driven many a viewer to the brink of jumping out their windows with her incessant talk about her kids over the years. After being off the air for years, Gifford is now one of the hosts on NBC's top-rated The Today Show. The network has apparently done an exhaustive search to find the most qualified person to do film reviews on the show and -shockingly- it turns out to be Gifford's own 20 year-old son Cody! There was a time when seasoned professionals were given these plum spots but Cody's main qualification is that the 20 year old likes movies and is studying film in school. Good thing he doesn't like airplanes or mama probably would have pulled enough strings to have him play around with steering airbuses over to Europe. Gifford may think she is doing her son a favor, but his reviews don't indicate he's in any danger of becoming a veteran film critic once her influence is gone. Young Gifford says the word "like" countless times in...you know, like, many different sentences. Worse, he's forced to do his reviews while chatting with mama grizzly herself (apparently Kathie Lee doesn't want to cede a moment of the spotlight even to her son). Cody says he can bring more "irrelevancy" to the reviews than older critics could. We think he meant "irreverence", but this is one Freudian slip that is accurate. He should take a lesson from Ben Lyons, the last high profile victim of a nepotism-obsessed father. His dad, critic Jeffrey Lyons, help land Ben a co-host job on At the Movies, the show founded by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. His lack of qualifications made him a laughing stock and ultimately Ben took the heat for driving a show that had lasted 30 years off the air. To watch Cody in action click here
Hard to match: Jack Lord as McGarrett in the original "5-0"
CBS has released the opening credits sequence for the remake series of Hawaii 5-0. It's underwhelming when compared to the original, but at least there is an opening credits sequence in an era where they are being eliminated as superfluous. The show also retains Morton Stevens' classic theme song, albeit it in a jazzed- up, "improved" version. Click here to view both the new and original openings.
Cinema Retro studiously avoids commenting on most celebrity scandals, including the Tiger Woods debacle. However, this exception is merited because it pertains to one of the great TV bloopers of all time. The steamy faux pas occurred on The Golf Channel, which is usually second only to the Paint By Numbers Instruction Channel in terms of controversy and excitement. Gorgeous commentator Win McMurry meant to say that Woods was withdrawing from a golf tournament due to a "bulging disc" in his back. However, a Freudian slip occurred and she attributed his decision to a "bulging dick"! Click here to watch
At the Movies, the landmark film criticism show made famous by Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel, has been canceled by Disney. The final episode of the syndicated series will be broadcast in August. The show ceased to be "must-see" TV for several reasons. First, the advent of the internet and the abundance of self-professed film critics has diminished the impact of the series. Secondly, with Siskel's death and Ebert battling an illness that has left him unable to speak, audiences found it difficult to warm to new hosts. Finally, Ebert himself assesses blame for the widely-criticized decision by Disney to hire novice film critic Ben Lyons for an ill-fated season co-hosting the show. By the time 'real critics' A.O Scott and Michael Phillips were brought on board to rescue the series, the damage was already done. For more click here
It's been almost 25 years since Larry King debuted his chat show on CNN. Over many of those years, King's show merited "must-see TV" status, with major politicians and show biz people sitting across from the avuncular, if somewhat disconnected King. The ratings were sky high and King's broadcasts often made news, even if he threw more softballs than one could find in a little league game. King has always been criticized for his lazy preparations for his interviews. Devoid of his "cheat sheet" index cards prepared by his staff, he would be as hapless as Don Knotts in that hilarious scene in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken in which he is reduced to a blubbering, incoherent wreak when his speech is blown away by a gust of wind. Yet, King is impossible not to like. His goofy trademark suspenders and likable personality often overcame his legendary bloopers, such as confusing the identities of the people he is interviewing. Now, however, King's ratings are sagging even as he is in the midst of yet another possible divorce from what may be his 4,000th wife...we've lost track. King's show now often has a slap-dash air about it, with low-rent reality show "stars", sleazy televangelists who would give Elmer Gantry a bad name and bubble-headed actors and actresses appearing where once presidents used to sit. For more on King's decline click here
Tom Hanks hasn't gotten so big that he's forgotten his roots. The Oscar winning superstar will reunite with cast members from the old TV series Bosom Buddies for an appearance on a TV awards program. Hanks starred in the variation of Some Like It Hot with Peter Scolari. The duo had a ratings hit playing two straight guys who lead a double life posing as women. The event will mark the first time the cast has been together since the show went off the air in 1982. For more click here
In an article in Vanity Fair, writer James Wolcott states the obvious: that no late night contender for Johnny Carson's throne has succeeded in earning the reputation of being the heir apparent. When the King of the Night retired after thirty years of hosting The Tonight Show, bad blood over who would be his successor began almost immediately. Both David Letterman and Jay Leno had both earned their reputations as guests on Carson's show, but Carson clearly preferred that Letterman inherit his throne. When NBC chose Leno, Carson (always a class act) never publicly second-guessed the decision out of respect for Leno. However, the feud between Leno and Letterman became so fierce that it inspired books and a cable TV movie. In his article, Wolcott updates the messy legacy of trying to replace Carson by bringing in the recent Conan O'Brien debacle that alienated everyone and seemed to never completely satisfy anyone. He also points out why Carson will probably always be regarded as irreplaceable.Click here to read
HBO is negotiating with Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman to star in a TV series titled Luck in which the 72 year-old actor would play a compulsive gambler. This would be Hoffman's first venture into episodic TV. Dennis Farina has been signed to the cast and Michael Mann is producing and directing the pilot. For more click here
In the 1980s, The Cosby Show was "must-see" TV in most American households. Now two of Cosby's TV "daughters" are all grown up. Check out Keshia Knight Pulliam and Raven Symone, who played cute kids Rudy and Olivia, as they appeared at an NAACP awards ceremony. For more click here
Robert Vaughn, the last surviving member of The Magnificent Seven, has been confirmed to star with Sean Bean in The Magnificent Eleven - a big screen comedy about an amateur UK soccer team that comes to the aid of a tandoori restaurant owner who is being menaced by thugs. For details click here
With few exceptions, contemporary TV game shows seem to choose contestants on the basis of providing unintentional laughter. Most of the participants seem happily oblivious to that fact, as evidenced by this video collection of the stupidest game show answers of all time. It must have been a Herculean task to cull these clips from such a rich treasure trove, but one of our favorites is the dumb blonde who thinks Europe is country and France isn't. Running a close second is the contestant on Wheel of Fortune who guessed the mystery phrase to be "self-potato"! And don't overlook the Family Feud show in which two entire family teams could not come up with the name of a single country that starts with the letter "A" except America. Doubtless, these folks have promising careers as television script writers. To view click here
Seinfeld always said that his legendary sitcom was a show about "nothing". However, it was as complex as the works of Ingmar Bergman compared to The Marriage Ref.
By Lee Pfeiffer
I rarely watch episodic TV simply because I'm generally working on a project and don't have the time to actually sit in front of the boob tube. Besides, there hasn't been anything worth watching since the Clinton administration - and even when there is an exception, the mind-numbing amount of commercials make me feel like I've just undergone a lobotomy. Thus, I've grown addicted to political debate shows because I can pump up the volume and not have to actually watch the TV. However, tonight I made an exception and periodically got up to see a show that came on NBC called The Marriage Ref. The only reason I had any interest at all is because it was produced by the great Jerry Seinfeld and the opening episode featured that show's co-creator Larry David along with Ricky Gervais and Madonna. As I watched slack-jawed, Larry David said "This has to be the most uncomfortable hour I've ever spent." This was at the half hour mark, but he could be forgiven for thinking it seemed like an hour. It must rank as some kind of grand achievement to take three ultra talented people and put them into a situation that was less amusing than those old high school health films about preventing venereal disease.
Making the rounds to promote the acclaimed TV WWII series The Pacific which he produced, Tom Hanks tossed out a tantalizing hint about a project he is developing for TV about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Hanks says, A lot of conspiracy types are going to be upset. If we do it right
it'll perhaps be one of the most controversial things that has ever
been on TV." Click here to read.
Barbara Walters has announced she will end her highly-rated TV specials in which she interviews key Oscar nominees. The tradition started 29 years ago. The shows are aired immediately prior to the Oscar broadcast. Walters' last show will be seen on March 7. In unusually blunt language, Walters explained the reason for her retiring the specials: "I think I'm sick of them...I feel I've been there, done that." We can only speculate, but we also would think that the smaller-than-life stature of today's "stars" may have something to do with Walters' decision. Years ago, she interviewed screen legends. This year's special will feature Sandra Bullock and Mo'Nique. Nothing against these talented ladies, but when you've got Bette Davis, John Wayne, Al Pacino and seemingly every other screen legend on your list of interview subjects, today's actors must pale by comparison. In fact, Walters has said that she feels she is now interviewing people whose claim to fame is making one big movie. For more click here
The BBC has ordered massive cuts to its operations, including radically reducing their web site operations and closing two radio stations. Additionally, the budget for importing foreign TV series has been drastically slashed. The strategy will result in major layoffs across-the-board as the legendary BBC focuses more on "quality rather than quantity." There are political overtones to the strategy, according to The Times of London. With a Tory government led by David Cameron a real possibility in the next election, the BBC is trying to show it can clean up its own house with oversight by the government. The cutbacks will impact the average British household in terms of programming selection and availability. For more click here
The 1976 American TV premiere of Gone With the Wind attracted almost half of viewers in the nation.
This year's Super Bowl made history for being the most-watched broadcast of the game. In case you're wondering what other events have generated the highest ratings ever, the Huffington Post provides the background and dates of the top ten American TV broadcasts. Click here to view.
Actor Alex O'Laughlin has been cast as Det. Steve McGarrett in the forthcoming pilot show for CBS' remake of Hawaii 5-0. Jack Lord played the role in the original, long-running classic TV series. According to Entertainment Weekly, O'Laughlin is considered a hot property, but the same article says both of his previous shows for the network were canceled after one season. I guess this qualifies for being "hot" in today's TV industry. Personally, I never heard of him - but then again, I've been tuned out of episodic TV since CBS canceled Green Acres. For more click here
Actor Pernell Roberts, who died recently at age 81, was never part of the Hollywood scene to any great degree. He always walked to his own beat, as evidenced by his leaving Bonanza in 1965 when the show was #1 in the ratings. He rarely gave interviews and I can never recall him sitting down as a guest on a talk show. This air of mystery always made him seem more interesting than other actors who would show up to cut the ribbon at a local supermarkets grand opening if it got them in the spotlight for a few seconds. Author Gary S. Chafetz, who writes political books, was once an aspiring actor in the 1960s. He writes a moving column about a side of Roberts most of us never knew and how Roberts consistently went to bat to help a young actor he probably knew would never succeed. To read click here
Reader David Jackson has taken us to task for reporting that Conan O'Brien willingly wasted NBC's money in the final wee of his show by spending it on frivolous skits. For the record, it was quite apparent that most of his claims were indeed obviously jokes (no one believed he spent millions just to set up a sight gag). However, a couple of "expenses" were reported in the mainstream media as being legitimate, such as paying extravagant licensing costs to play Beatles music. Turns out even that was bogus, we're happy to say. Mr. Jackson points out that NBC has disputed O'Brien's claims that any segment of his show went beyond the normal budget. We're quite glad to hear that. We've always liked O'Brien and feel he was treated badly in the NBC debacle. Our biggest beef was having him ask viewers to donate to Haiti relief while he may have been wasting large sums of money to spite NBC. So we're setting the record straight- Conan is a good guy after all! For more click here- Lee Pfeiffer
With Conan O'Brien on the brink of walking from NBC (albeit with a $30-$40 million pay off), Jay Leno got serious last night and told his audience about the behind-the-scenes drama at the network that will surely go down as one of the great debacles in the history of broadcast television. By forcing top-rated Leno from The Tonight Show and elevating O'Brien to host that show, NBC sowed the seeds for massive ratings drops for both men. Leno told his audience that he never thought the experiment of putting a new show for him in prime time would work, but he went along with the plan anyway. It now appears that Leno will revert back to being host of The Tonight Show, with O'Brien not only paused to compete with him on another network, but to have been paid millions of dollars by NBC to do so...Click here to watch a clip from Leno's discussion.
The problem with new technology is that the latest products mirror the experience of people who bought leisure suits in the 1970s- by the time you got it home and unwrapped, its already outdated. Sony, Discovery Channel and Imax have all formed an alliance to introduce the next generation of televisions, which will allow consumers to enjoy 3-D technology in their living rooms. The innovation is coming faster than you think - sets will be ready for purchase as early as 2011, though its expected that the technology will take years before it becomes mainstream and affordable. The alliance allows each company to bring a unique method of marketing to the venture. If successful, you can finally watch Bwana Devil in your home in the format in which it demands to be seen! For more click here
There is a real possibility that free TV may become a relic of the past. Since the inception of television, the business model has relied on a tried-and-true formula: the networks broadcast for free and make their profits from advertising revenues. However, viewership of the major American networks is in free-fall, as audiences increasingly turn to the web and home entertainment devices to seek programming. Consequently, the four major networks - ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox- are considering revamping their business structure and turning to cable TV for revenues. Cable has maintained its profit base because it benefits not only from advertisers, but also from the subscription fees charged to customers. (Remember those quaint days when people actually thought that by paying for TV, they would not have commercials to contend with?) Fox head honcho Rupert Murdoch has been up-front about the fact that his network is seeking to make up for lost profits by charging cable and satellite systems increased fees to carry programming. This has already resulted in a war for public opinion with Time Warner cable systems, which initially refused to pay the increased fee. (A compromise for undisclosed terms has since been reached) Ultimately, it would appear as though this will become a common issue in the near future as the four major networks, desperate to increase revenue, try to collect higher fees from cable TV companies. Another cable giant, Cablevision, has dropped the Food Network and Home and Gardens due to rate disputes with the networks. The question is: will cash-strapped consumers, who already pay hefty subscription fees, be inclined to accept increased costs to preserve networks they have already been receiving? Industry analysts say that free TV may cease entirely in the the major networks decide to operate as cable TV providers- something one network is apparently already considering. For more click here
A German collector and film restoration expert has gone where no man has gone before and managed to find a long-lost missing pilot episode from Star Trek titled, well, Where No Man Has Gone Before. The first pilot for the series, titled The Cage, starred Jeffrey Hunter and was rejected by NBC, which commissioned this second pilot episode starring William Shatner. Unsurprisingly, the second pilot had plenty of differences compared to the actual series that followed. The collector, Thomas Booch, located a print on 16mm in 1989 that was being sold through the old Big Reel newspaper. Twenty years later, he finally got around to proposing an official restoration for home video, which CBS Home Entertainment has approved. For more click here
The Fall of the Roman Empire is one of the films examined in the TCM special.
By Lee Pfeiffer
Premiering on Turner Classic Movies without the usual fanfare, The Gigantic World of Epics is a truly superb one-hour production produced by Dreamworks and filmed by the ubiquitous Laurent Bouzereau. The special manages to condense the genre of Hollywood epics into a coherent, though far from comprehensive, study. Bouzereau wisely concentrates on a select number of films including Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Doctor Zhivago, Bridge on the River Kwai among others. There are intelligent commentaries by noted film historians and technicians as well as directors Kenneth Branagh, Steven Spielberg, John Milius, along with actors such as Martin Landau and Omar Sharif and Fraser Heston, son of Charlton Heston (who provides some tantalizing glimpses of the family's home movies on the sets of some of these epics). The show traces the emergence of the epic with D.W. Griffiths The Birth of a Nation -a film that remains mired in controversy. It's impact on the film
industry was beyond dispute, but its blatantly racist script was
divisive even upon its initial release.
All of the participants tell stories about how specific epic films influenced them personally. For Spielberg, it was seeing DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth - the first movie he ever attended. Among the most amusing anecdotes are those told by Omar Sharif, who blatantly contradicts Spielberg's observation that he gave his best performance as Dr. Zhivago. Sharif says he still thinks his performance was "terrible". Such candor is virtually unheard of in the film industry, and Sharif follows it with a very funny anecdote about how he began cockily strolling to the stage to accept the Oscar for his performance in Lawrence of Arabia only to hear Ed Begley's name called out half way to the podium!The show also includes some great insights from William Bronston, son of epic movie producer Samuel Bronston, whose mad obsession with making movies on a grand scale resulted in the financial debacle of The Fall of the Roman Empire - a wonderful film that ironically paralleled Bronston's own decline and fall.The show has one fault - it should have had an epic running time of three hours to do justice to all the films that are not covered. However, this is one you won't want to miss. Click here for press release about the program and check the TCM schedule for future showings.
Glory days: Siskel and Ebert's At the Movies popularized intelligent critiques of major motion pictures.
In a highly candid and revealing article, film critic Roger Ebert discusses how his health problems led to the deterioration of At the Movies - the legendary show he started in the 1970s with the late Gene Siskel. Ebert takes some blatant swipes at the boardroom hacks who changed the format of the show, destroyed the iconic set and left it in a pile of rubble, and who hired the hapless Ben Lyons as a co-host. Ebert also makes veiled criticism of his former partner, critic Richard Roeper, for using expletives to promote his own film criticism blog. Ebert's efforts to relaunch a new film criticism show have also fallen through. For more click here
We don't generally delve into the realm of soap operas at Cinema Retro, but when a show concludes a broadcast run of 54 consecutive years, then- as they said of Willy Lohman in Death of a Salesman - "Attention must be paid." As the World Turns has been canceled by CBS- marking the end of TV's longest running soaper. The current version bears little resemblance to the series my doddering old Aunt Lily was obsessed with when I was growing up in the 1960s. Back then, the series centered on rather mundane scandals. Today, the series deals with gay couples, abortion and sordid sex scandals. Perhaps audiences have been desensitized by the overwhelming number or real life scandals that even script writers can't match. (Who on earth could top the Tiger Woods soap opera?) The show will conclude its run in September 2010. Although I've never seen a single episode, I have to respect the fact of how long the series endured and all the initial breaks it offered actors who would later become major stars. - Lee Pfeiffer
Better not invite director Barry Levinson and New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley to the same cocktail party. Levinson is livid about Stanley's negative review of his new documentary Poliwood, which documents the often uncomfortable crossing of celebrities into the world of politics. Levinson says he doesn't begrudge the fact that Stanley doesn't like his movie. However, he eviscerates her professional credentials in an op-ed on The Huffington Post in which he accuses her of using misleading information in her review. For good measure, Levinson also digs up Stanley's negative assessment of Walter Cronkite and his coverage of the JFK assassination! Click here to read
Cinema Retro generally stays away from the world of cable news, but this is a big story. Lou Dobbs, the last of the original CNN news personalities, shocked viewers by announcing he will be leaving the network after his Wednesday night broadcast. He has been with the network since its inception 29 years ago. Dobbs prides himself on being "Mr. Independent" and, although he primarily espouses conservative viewpoints, he was harshly critical of many aspects of the Bush administration. Those views were virtual love letters, however, compared to his nightly lambasting of President Obama and his policies. Dobbs, who once anchored finance-oriented shows, has been a lightning rod for controversy since he switched to analysis of hard news. Dobbs' signature issue - criticism of both Republican and Democratic administrations over weak enforcement of immigration laws - has drawn protests from Hispanic groups that accuse him of being racist. In reality, Dobbs is married to a Hispanic woman and has repeatedly reiterated he is only against illegal immigration and actually endorses increasing legal immigration limits. Hispanic advocacy groups have been petitioning CNN to drop Dobbs and they are claiming credit for causing his departure. However, there is no clear evidence that this is the case. Dobbs did not give a reason for
his sudden resignation, except the old standby that he is looking at
other options to spread his brand of public advocacy. (At least he didn't say it was to spend more time with his family, the familiar refrain chanted by scandal-scarred politicians.) CNN could have insisted
that he continue his program through 2011 but the network president allowed Dobbs to end his contract early. Both Dobbs and CNN indicated his departure is amicable but its abrupt nature is fueling speculation that he was pushed.
Benny Hill's penchant for bawdy humor has dashed his chances of being honored on a UK postage stamp.
By Lee Pfeiffer
The next time somebody tells you that America has a monopoly on politically correct idiots, you can tell them to drop dead. A plan to commemorate the late, legendary British comic Benny Hill on a postage stamp has been shelved because politically correct bureaucrats feared that Hill's gentle humor (often involving chasing after busty, scantily-clad women) could be seen as a violation of the Royal Mail's policy on sexual harassment. If you need further proof that the inmates have taken over the asylum, the Royal Mail also refused to depict a traditional English fry-up on a stamp because the food shown would be deemed to be too unhealthy! For more click here
NBC may feel its decision to run The Jay Leno Show five nights a week in the 10:00 PM time slot makes sense. The show is garnering much lower ratings than the dramatic series it replaced, but Leno's program costs far less to produce. However, NBC is faced with complaints from local affiliates who are greatly concerned that Leno's program is providing a weak lead-in to their 11:00 PM news broadcasts. For more click here
This Friday, The Weather Channel, the popular American cable TV network, will depart radically from their normal programming as part of a four-week experiment to show movies with weather themes. First up is The Perfect Storm which will be shown on the 18th anniversary of "the storm of the century" upon which the film and book is based. Meteorologist Jennifer Carfagno will introduce each film and explain its context in terms of major stories about weather, which seems like a good idea. Some of the films chosen to air are a bit strange...the network justifies screening Misery because James Caan's character is injured in a snow storm! We wish the network well on the new venture - but since the films will probably follow the norm of being shredded to pieces in terms of editing, then deprived of their final credits in order to squeeze in a voice-over promo, there's really no reason to watch.
Dead Man Walking: The Sequel- the late great TV pitchman Billy Mays will be coming to a household near you this Halloween.
By Lee Pfeiffer
Like some creature only George Romero could create, deceased American TV pitchman Billy Mays is more visible in death than he was in life. The motor-mouthed infomercial spokesman for household cleansing products died months ago but his cult status among lovers of cheesy TV ads continues to grow. It's eerie enough that Mays is still in our living rooms due to the fact that the product manufacturers are continuing to run his old ads. Now, however, he might be appearing on your doorstep. It turns out that legions of trick-or-treaters plan to dress up as Mays this Halloween. Not even Marley's ghost had this much trouble resting in peace. Refreshingly, Mays' family seems amused that he has become a pop culture icon and has given their blessing to the faux pitchmen. For more click here
In an appearance on ABC TV's Good Morning America, director Michael Moore was interviewed about his latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story. In the course of the interview with Chris Cuomo, Moore chastised ABC for indulging in exploitive labor practices that are now all the rage across America- namely classifying long-term employees as temporary workers so they don't receive health care benefits. To watch the interview click here
If David Carradine ever referred to coming out of the closet, he meant it literally. In an interview that will appear on a new cable series titled Celebrity Ghost Stories, the late Kung Fu star will say he felt his closet was haunted by the ghost of his wife's first husband. Carradine says on one occasion, the ghost sent a message to him by using one of his old ties with a Grateful Dead logo on it. We're not making this up, folks...The series will also feature first hand ghost stories related by Joan Rivers and Scott Baio. Aren't these people scary enough without having to relate such stories? The show promises to be absurd, stupid and insulting to anyone's intelligence. The American public will love it. For more click here
Taking advantage of the mania for theatrical 3-D movies, Sony has announced it will begin to market televisions capable of telecasting 3-D programming next year. With sales of present high-end TVs leveling off, the industry is looking for the next big thing to excite consumers. Sony says the TVs will be be designed to accommodate popular video game technology as well as Blu-ray players. The caveat is that, once again, there are two competing formats. If the industry doesn't learn its lesson this time and agree on on industry standard, we could see a replay of battling formats that led to the disastrous "wars" between Betamax and VHS and HD and Blu-ray DVDs. For more click here
The nation's long nightmare is finally over: after seemingly endless promotions, Jay Leno's new nightly prime-time show debuted on NBC. For my money, Leno is still the best of the comedic chat show hosts, barring Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. NBC made a major blunder by forcing him into retirement despite the fact he was still the ratings king of the late night talk show circuit. The experiment to replace him with Conan O'Brien may turn out to be a major faux pas, as The Tonight Show is now lagging in ratings behind David Letterman - something that rarely happened during Leno's reign. Leno had the last laugh, however, by negotiating a new contract that has him on the 10:00 PM time slot five nights a week. Three months after he hosted his final Tonight Show, the affable Leno premiered his new show - and the only remarkable thing about it was how unremarkable it was.
The show felt like any old edition of The Tonight Show. Leno entered to rapturous applause, high-fived the audience and gave a boiler plate monologue about current events. The laughs were adequate, but it was clear the writers didn't work up much extra sweat to make this monologue special in any way. The usual zany filmed sketches were peppered through the show. One featuring an unsuspecting young woman who is lured into a car wash where the staff perform extravagant musical numbers was clever for the first few minutes, but it dragged on far too long and the non-responsive demeanor of the "victim" did nothing to add to the laughs. There was a mildly funny homo-erotic sketch featuring band leader Kevin Eubanks and a Leno look-alike. More successful was Leno's dusting off of the tried-and-true gimmick of re-editing a legitimate news interview in a comedic vein. In this case, President Obama's 60 Minutes interview was tailored to make it appear as though he was giving absurd answers to questions posed by Leno.
Writer Steve Vertlieb informs us of the following tribute to a classic TV series:
October, 2009, marks the fiftieth anniversary of Rod Serling's immortal
fantasy television series "The Twilight Zone," which premiered over the CBS
Television network on October 2nd, 1959. I've been asked by Roger Hall
at Film Music Review to write a special look back at this landmark imaginative
series. For this unique retrospective the popular sci-fi web magazine,
The Thunder Child, has also asked to participate in the celebration by lending
their own graphics and individual layout design to my original text.
Both versions of this affectionate tribute to Rod Serling and
his legendary creation can be accessed by clicking onto the
links below. It is our hope that these somewhat ethereal recollections
will rekindle cherished memories of the finest fantasy/science
fiction series in television history.
Remember the plot device in The Boys From Brazil? A society of former Nazis plan to use cloning methods to bring Adolf Hitler back to life. They needn't have gone to all that trouble. Given the number of times Adolf Hitler's name and image are invoked nowadays, you would think he really did conquer the world and that Josef Goebbels was running the international ministry of propaganda. During the Bush administration, left wing wackos routinely compared the president to Hitler for invading Iraq and now right wing lunatics are doing the same to President Obama (over a health care plan, yet!). This week marked the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII and American political pundit Pat Buchanan wrote a column saying Hitler had rather benign intentions but was pushed into war by Churchill! Not be outdone, an AIDS prevention group has caused controversy by producing a public service ad in Germany that depicts a couple having torrid sex. (The ad is far too provocative to be shown on American TV). As they disrobe and get down to doin' the dirty, the man looks into the camera and we see it's Hitler. This is followed by the on-screen message "AIDS is Mass Murder. Protect Yourself." Predictably, the ad has caused outrage with even other AIDS prevention groups saying it presents a distracting and garbled message, not the least of which is that HIV automatically leads to AIDS and death. That was true in the early days of the disease, but as we now know, with proper treatment, HIV is no longer a death sentence. The ad unintentionally also trivializes one of the worst mass murderers in human history. Historians believe that Hitler's sex life was virtually non-existent, even with his mistress Eva Braun. He placed himself on a higher plane and prided himself in not indulging in the vices that tempted every day people. Watching Hitler and his lover rip each other's clothes off like scene from Porky's minimizes the horror he is associated with. Not helping matters is the fact that the chap who plays Der Fuhrer looks a bit like Dick Shawn's character from The Producers. Here's a message to everyone who wishes to invoke Hitler's image or name to make a political or socially significant point: don't do it because it will almost guarantee that your original message will be lost in a sidebar of controversy. To view the ad click here