Category Archives: mtv

Miley Gone Mad?

With an impending birthday coming this week, after watching the opening number of this year’s MTV VMAs, I had to ask myself two questions. Or rather one question with a choice. Am I old, or has Miley Cyrus lost her mind?

I am concerned for her well being honestly. The woman is clearly out of control, if not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or just plain stupidity. If she was a close friend, or a member of our families – you know damned straight she’d be long overdue for an intervention.

Yeah, and there it is. It’s not like the VMAs don’t have a reputation for controversy. I remember quite clearly as a young man seeing Madonna hump the floor in a bridal gown while singing “Like a Virgin.” I will never forget that as long as I live. Later shows have tried to recreate or top that moment, but rarely succeeding. It may be time for MTV to stop trying to do that, and just do an awards show. The Oscars and the Tonys have both shown in recent years that ‘just an awards show’ can actually be quite good.

What bothers me most about the Miley Cyrus performance at the VMAs is that no one stopped it, no one pulled her aside and said No. Even Robin Thicke, especially co-conspirator Robin Thicke should have known better. Lady GaGa is outrageous. Madonna is outrageous. But poor Miley just made us feel embarrassed and worried for her.

Outrageous, unique, and controversial are something to aspire to in the entertainment industry, but this was just a freak show, and pitiful and shocking for most of us to watch. And I’m sure Will Smith and his family agrees with me.

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French Fry Diary 506: DEVO

Arrow: Betrayal

“Arrow” is at a point now where you need a score card to know what’s what and who’s who. I’m not sure that’s a place this show should be at right now. I’m sure there’s a core audience, but despite the handy elevator pitch origin story in the opening of every episode, I’m not sure that any new viewers wouldn’t be hopelessly lost. No matter how you slice it, even I was having trouble keeping all the balls in the air at the beginning of “Betrayal.”

Oliver confronts his mom about the notebook full of names that he got from Felicity last episode. She throws it in the fireplace, suggesting the only way the family can heal is to stop asking questions. Diggle tails her throughout the episode, discovering some nasty secrets. When Oliver confronts her later as Arrow, heh, well, that’s this episode’s cliffhanger.

In the main story this episode, Cyrus Vanch, former muckety-muck of the Starling City underworld has been released from prison, Iron Heights specifically – nice shout out to the comics. He wants what’s his back, as well as the Triad’s and the Bertinelli family’s (I guess that means we haven’t seen the last of China White or the Huntress). And he also wants Arrow out of the way. Using his contacts on the police force, he learns Laurel knows Arrow, so he kidnaps her. This forces Dad to cooperate with The Hood.

In the attack on Vanch, I am again struck by the violence of this so-called hero’s methods. By my count, there are at least eight of Vanch’s men who take arrows right in the chest. Can you live through that? It’s what bothered me about previews of the show before it aired. Have they made Green Arrow into a serial killer? Man, give me an old-fashioned boxing glove arrow any day.

In the soap opera portion of the show, honesty gets between Laurel and Tommy. Disappointingly this coupling has yet to be used to its potential as far as being a plot complication. So much unused potential, but I’ll keep waiting. Laurel’s relationship with her dad is suffering from problems similar to hers with Tommy as well this episode. I wonder what’s next on “All My Arrows”…

On the island, Oliver meets Slade Wilson, played by Manu Bennett, Crixus of Starz’ amazing “Spartacus” series. Comics readers will immediately recognize the name Slade Wilson as the not so secret identity of Deathstroke. Again, for TV they have flipped things. Wilson is apparently one of two Deathstrokes, and not the one Oliver encountered earlier. Apparently Slade is who trains Oliver. I won that bet.

There are other cool shout outs this episode as well. Vanch’s lawyer worked for Wolfman and Perez, referencing the writer/artist team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez, who created the New Teen Titans, a team that occasionally featured Speedy. They also, most notably, created Deathstroke. Laurel wants to call DA Kate Spencer for help to put Vanch back in prison. Kate is of course the civilian identity of Manhunter. Arrow and Laurel meet atop the Winick building – Judd Winick, former MTV “Real World” wrote the Green Arrow comic for a while.

Be here next episode when Oliver tells his mom that she’s failed the city, same Arrow time, same Arrow channel.

David Bowie – "Where Are We Now?"

Earlier this week, on David Bowie’s birthday, he released the first single and music video from his new album. We all thought he had retired, so yes, it was quite a shock, and a delight.

David Bowie is a rock god. That is completely undisputed. I also love him. He is one of my favorite artists. I was thrilled to hear this news and downloaded the song, unheard, immediately when I found out about it. Take my money, iTunes, I don’t even have to hear it. That’s how I feel about Bowie.

Here’s the music video for “Where Are We Now?”

Wow. What is most stunning about the video is that after over forty years in the music video business (that’s right, kids, Bowie’s been doing it longer than MTV has), he can still amaze, and mesmerize, and innovate. The video accompanies a song that is slow and drifting at first but builds at the end, almost like the work of Kate Bush. The more I listen to it, the more I like it.

I can’t wait for the new album. David Bowie’s The Next Day is scheduled for a March 12, 2013 release.

Lost Hits of the New Wave #16

“Love Is a Battlefield” by Pat Benatar

Another example of an established rock act getting on the new wave bandwagon, this example may well have had good intentions but went above and beyond them. While the previous studio album by Pat Benatar, Get Nervous was far more new wavey than this song, it didn’t do as well as it was intended to do, and the singles released did not sample that flavor.

“Love Is a Battlefield” was the first single from Benatar’s live greatest hits collection, Live from Earth. Written by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman, the drum and synth heavy tune was accompanied by a music video that featured Benatar as a runaway/taxi dancer who leads a rebellion against her pimp and walks off into the sunset victorious. The fashion, the dancing, and the story got the video honored with multiple awards, and earned Benatar her biggest US hit.

Lost Hits of the New Wave #14

“Can’t Stand Losing You” by The Police

Back in the days before MTV, or before everyone except me had cable television and MTV, I would seek out every possible avenue to see music videos. Long about 1980, 1981, those avenues were few.

There was a program called “Rockworld” that aired on the pre-Fox channel 29, on the UHF dial for all the old folks reading, and that was one outlet for pre-MTV music videos. It was an hour long and would feature one or two artists or bands per episode, and there really weren’t that many episodes, and they repeated them often. This was where I saw many of the early videos by Adam and the Ants, DEVO, Van Halen, the Pretenders, and The Police.

The Police videos all looked they had been filmed on the same day, and quite possibly with a single budget. Besides “Can’t Stand Losing You,” one of my all-time favorites, there was also “Walking on the Moon,” “Message in a Bottle,” and of course, “Roxanne.”

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The Forgotten Spider-Man

Everyone knows the 1967 “Spider-Man” cartoon, you know, the one with the catchy theme song. Most folks know the 1990s series on Fox as well. The fanboys and girls among us know the MTV CGI animated series, the spacey cosmic “Unlimited”, and “Amazing Friends” with Iceman and Firestar. But does anyone remember the 1981 Saturday morning cartoon?

The 1981 “Spider-Man” did not air in the Philadelphia area so I didn’t see it until years later in syndication. It was the wall-crawler first animated appearance on TV since the classic 1967 series. It was Spidey once more on Saturday mornings, and a prelude to “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.” Many of the queues were taken from the sixties cartoon, maybe not actual model sheets and drawings, but they sure tried to copy it, from shots of buildings to angles that Spidey would swing by on his weblines.

The villains were there. Spidey fought the Green Goblin, the Vulture, the Sandman, the Lizard, Mysterio, and the Kingpin. Others who had not yet seen animation as Spider-foes like the Chameleon, Black Cat, Silvermane, Hammerhead, and Kraven the Hunter. New villains were added like the Gadeteer, the Stuntman, and in a hollaback to the ’67 ‘toon, the Desperado-like Sidewinder.

Attempts to expand the animated Marvel Universe were made as Spider-Man also went up against Magneto, the Red Skull, and the Ringmaster. The oddest addition of this type was the seeming ascension of Doctor Doom to archenemy status for Spider-Man. The two clash in six out of the twenty-six episodes. Many Marvel super-heroes show up as guest-stars as well, including Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, Ka-Zar, Medusa and even Namorita.

There were problems however. This DePatie-Freleng production had the same quality as the last two Marvel animations, “Spider-Woman” and “New Fantastic Four,” the latter was the infamous version with H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot. The animation is very slow-paced, Spidey’s webs eject with almost molasses flow sometimes. And of course this was a time in network television when violence was considered to be rotting the minds of young children – so Spider-Man could neither make a fist nor throw a punch, even at someone as evil as a Nazi madman like the Red Skull.

The 1981 “Spider-Man” cartoon has its moments, and it’s closer to comics continuity than a lot of superhero animation out there. It’s worth a viewing or two for the hardcore fans, and is now available from Netflix via DVD or streaming online.

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Don Kirshner 1934-2011

One of America’s greatest music producers, and a driving force in popular music for decades, Don Kirshner, passed away yesterday from heart failure in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 76.

I think it’s sad that there are probably generations who don’t even know his name, or if they do, it’s because of late night infomercials, or they think he’s a character Paul Shaeffer played on “Saturday Night Live.” Of course they are other generations, before the advent of MTV, who know the man and his contributions.

Kirshner was instrumental in starting the careers of numerous songwriters in the 1960s with his “Brill Building” school, where friend and producer Phil Specter also worked. ‘Graduates’ included Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Howard Greenfield, and Gerry Goffin. Together they scored dozens and dozens of hits, before they went on to have careers of their own, while Kirshner himself started several record labels and moved on into television. Known as “The Man with the Golden Ear,” he was one of the folks who created the Monkees, as well as the cartoon Archies, both groups prefabricated, and he also discovered many ‘real’ music acts as well like Bobby Darin and Kansas.

Kirshner was also a 1970s fixture on Sunday late nights with his legendary “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” There he introduced many acts to America for the first time like Prince, Blue Oyster Cult, Earth Wind and Fire, Parliament Funkadelic, the Sex Pistols, Alice Cooper, Rush, Linda Ronstadt, KISS, Ted Nugent, David Bowie, and the Ramones, just to name a few of the hundreds who appeared on the program. The series, which ran from 1973-1981, was notable for being live and not allowing acts to lipsync, a widespread curse of the 1970s. We didn’t have MTV, we had Don.

We have lost one of the true geniuses of the music industry, he will be missed.

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Lost Hits of the New Wave #4

“Hello Again” by The Cars.

The Cars were at the start of the New Wave but this entry, the fourth single from “Heartbeat City,” comes from late in 1984, well after the MTV video revolution. In fact, at this time, Ric Ocasek and The Cars were at the forefront of the music video world and recruited the legendary Andy Warhol to direct this one. He appears throughout, and also look for a very young Gina Gershon.

The song, my favorite from the album which is full of great tunes, both wildly popular and largely unknown, seems to me to be about The Wizard of Oz, but the video seems to focus on the dangers of gratuitous sex and violence in music videos. Somehow that seems too appropriate.

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Harry Potter Preview

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