Category Archives: nbc

But Doesn’t Everyone Know They’re Belgian?

RIP Jack Klugman

Award winning star of stage, screen, and television, Jack Klugman, passed away Christmas Eve in his home, surrounded by his family, apparently of natural causes. Born in Philadelphia, he was 90.

Jack Klugman was probably most well known in the role of Oscar Madison, the sloppy sports writer from TV’s “The Odd Couple,” in which he played opposite Tony Randall as the fussy photographer, Felix Unger. The sitcom ran for five years on ABC from 1970 to 1975, based on the movie, and the Broadway play by Neil Simon. While never having spectacular ratings, it found fame in summer reruns and syndication. As a kid growing up in the 1970s, “The Odd Couple” was a fixture in my Friday night TV programming.

Later in the decade, Klugman moved to NBC with the serious police/doctor procedural, “Quincy M.E.” With a coroner as the protagonist, Klugman had said once, it was the best of both dramatic prime time worlds. In the sixties, he also appeared in four episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” including “A Game of Pool” and “A Passage for Trumpet,” two considered classics.

Before, and after his television days, Klugman was in more than a few films, most notably he was Juror #5 in 12 Angry Men. He also performed on stage throughout his career, even more than a few times in The Odd Couple. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1974, and in 1989 lost one of his vocal cords to it, yet he continued to act, albeit in a much quieter huskier voice.

Jack Klugman was a terrific actor, and he will be missed.

Revolution

I recently had the chance to view the pilot episode of “Revolution” via OnDemand. Apparently it’s also on Hulu and NBC.com, so I have to wonder if anyone will watch this when it airs Monday night. After the last few television projects from J.J. Abrams, I was prepared to be unimpressed, but I gotta say, I might give this a shot. It actually seems like it might be fun, conditionally, that is.

The concept of “Revolution” is a world where all the power has gone off. Logic dictates some sort of electromagnetic pulse possibly, but who knows really what it could be in a J.J. Abrams show? Didn’t he make up that island you could drive on “Lost”? So the power goes off, and our story begins fifteen years later. America has devolved into small villages of folks living off the land and warring militia states. Still, nobody has gotten the power back on, or even had the know-how to build a simple generator. Did no one pay attention in high school science class?

Logic aside, it does have its moments that set it slightly above other scifi fare currently on TV. I like our reluctant hero Miles, played by Billy Burke, who is like a mild-mannered badass with a sword. I also like our middle management villain Neville, played by Giancarlo Esposito, Fring from “Breaking Bad.” He plays the baddie with the same quiet deadly charisma of The Operative in Serenity.

“Revolution,” created by Abrams, and with this pilot episode directed by Jon Favreau, also depends a lot on its potential genre nerd cred. One of the best moments in the pilot is when Charlie, played by Tracy Spiridakos, and someone who has lived most of her life without power, reveals her secret stash – in an Empire Strikes Back lunchbox, and we hear a few notes of John Williams movie score. Moments like that elevate this show, and make me want to keep watching.

The only thing that would keep me from watching, and it’s the condition I spoke up at the beginning of this review, is that plot device that the show revolves around. What caused the black out? If that will be the carrot on a stick, that keeps viewers watching, yet never gets revealed, I think I’m out. I don’t want another “Lost,” and I certainly don’t want another “Flash Forward” or “Journeyman” where we never find out what happened.

Now watch the following preview at your own risk. It’s one of those that pretty much tells you everything that happens in the pilot, right in the preview. Stupid television executives…

RIP William Windom

This has been a bad weekend for show business. We lost director Tony Scott to an apparent suicide, singer/songwriter Scott McKenzie of “San Francisco” fame, and just today, Phyllis Diller. But for right now, I’m going to talk about Emmy Award winning actor William Windom.

Windom was perhaps one of the best character actors in television, film and stage. He was memorable in “The Farmer’s Daughter,” “Star Trek,” “Night Gallery,” a recurring role on “Murder, She Wrote,” and multiple episodes of “Twilight Zone.” You might also remember him from the films To Kill a Mockingbird, Escape from the Planet of the Apes and The Detective among others.

But the reason I remember William Windom is a short-lived NBC TV series called “My World and Welcome to It.” My big sister Bobbie, for whom I am eternally grateful for teaching me to read at a very young age, insisted I watch the show when I was just a wee one. At the time, I might have thought she put me in front of the TV because it had cartoons in it, but in reality, she was exposing me to a great writer – James Thurber.

The show revolved around a writer and cartoonist based on Thurber and played by Windom, who won an Emmy for his work there. Most of the content of this unique half-hour sitcom was either based on Thurber’s stories, essays and cartoons, or on his own life. The one animated sequence that stands out in my mind is “The Unicorn in the Garden.” Years later I would find the tale in a book and discover one of my favorite authors.

Thank you, Bobbie, for introducing me to James Thurber, and thank you, William Windom, for bringing him to life. Windom passed away on Thursday from congestive heart failure. He was 88, and he will be missed.

Thumbs Up for London, Epic Fail for NBC

I just watched most of the opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics. I had to turn away. NBC, in the form of Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer, destroyed any enjoyment I may have gotten from the show.

The opening ceremonies were amazing, and fun, and a spectacle to behold. I amused myself thinking that this is what we would get if the UK ever got off its butt and actually won Eurovision for a change. Yeah, it was that kind of spectacle.

There was a battle between Voldemort and Mary Poppins, a jab at America and our lousy healthcare system, appearances by Mr. Bean, JK Rowling, Daniel Craig and The Queen, tributes to the world wide web and children’s literature, and a touching love story told through the history of British pop music. We even had a three second audio cameo of the TARDIS sound during “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Like I said, amazing.

The problem was NBC had Viera and Lauer over-explaining everything to the audience at home. This isn’t the freaking Rose Bowl Parade, and we are not dull children. We have brains, and failing that, Google, we don’t need you to explain it all. I don’t know what shocked me more – the things they did not know or what they thought we did not know. I know I will never watch any program with them involved again. Even with thousands of Twitter folks telling them to shut up live, they continued their idiotic banter.

A note to the folks at NBC who put this together… Do you ever wonder why the rest of the world hates the United States? Tonight, it’s because of you.

V – Visitors, New and Old, at Biff Bam Pop!

Head on over to Biff Bam Pop! and check out my review of the “V” television series, both the original and the recent re-imagining. You can see it directly here. Enjoy!

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Outsourced

Outsourced ~ “Outsourced” on NBC this past TV season was one The Bride’s and my favorite new shows. The story of an American who goes to India to manage the outsourcing of his novelty company’s ordering and customer service department was actually quite charming once you got past the racial humor which may or may not have been offensive. I vote for inoffensive based on the heart and warmth at the core of this sitcom. Sadly, like most shows we like, it was not renewed for a second season. Boo hiss, NBC.

This stranger-in-a-strange-land TV series, as well as the British version, “Mumbai Calling,” was inspired by a 2006 Bollywood movie also called Outsourced. When we saw it playing on one of the independent movie channels, and missing the show we loved, we decided we had to take a peek. The plot and premise of the film version is essentially the same only with less emphasis on the comedy and more on the drama and romance, which was at first hard to get used to, but then worked quite well.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s a fun movie, with, much like the TV series, a warm fuzzy center. Definitely worth seeing.

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What Happened to Harry’s Law?

I am not a fan of either David E. Kelley or TV law shows. The first part is a matter of liking good writing and not liking where the author puts his opinions inappropriately into the mouths of his characters. Kelley also gets very preachy and overly topical in forums where it’s supposed to be entertainment, not op-ed. The second part is first because it usually bores me, and also, The Bride, being an attorney herself, has a very low tolerance for such crap in her off-work life.

When The Bride showed interest in “Harry’s Law,” which also starred Stephen King favorite Kathy Bates at her acerbic best, I went easily along for the ride, despite it being a David E. Kelley law drama. Disenfranchised and disillusioned lawyer Harriet “Harry” Korn finds new life as a neighborhood attorney based out of a shoe store in a bad section of Cincinnati. She was surrounded by a cast of well-meaning folks who equally believe in helping their neighborhood. It was a different kind of law show, more about community than court, and it was also critically acclaimed, and one of the few new series to survive what has lately been a rather nasty television season of canceled programs.

When it returned this season, things were different. The kind of lawyers she fought against in the first season, she seemed to turn into. The kind of cases she would never have taken in the first season, she takes in every episode. And the very law firm she opposed in most episodes in the first season, she merges with! What the hell happened?

Basically all of the charm, wit and humanity that brought both The Bride and myself in to this series is gone. “Harry’s Law” is just another law show now. Is David E. Kelly just recycling old “The Practice” scripts now? Is he getting even with NBC for not picking up his “Wonder Woman“? What the hell?

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The Cape: Kozmo

Here we are with episode three of “The Cape,” and perhaps it’s time for a bit of credit where credit is due. The series was conceived by writer/producer Tom Wheeler and realized by action director Simon West among others. Either way, this is Tom’s baby, and quite an adventure. He’s built a continuity from the ground up, and inspired by the heroes of the pulps rather than anything contemporary, so far so good.

This episode in particular is notable, to me at least. It caught the attention of my mom-in-law, who liked it. She’s about as far from the comic book genre community target audience of this show as you can get, so extra points to Tom Wheeler and crew for nailing that elusive mainstream audience. Unlike “Heroes” before it, “The Cape” just might have a longer shelf life, especially if it continues like this.

I couldn’t wait for this episode because of the title. I remembered from the pilot that Kozmo was the name of the man who used the ‘magic’ cape before Vince Faraday. Come on, we all knew he’d come lurking back into the picture, for the first time, sooner or later.

It starts well, Gregor the Great, escapes from a Russian prison, establishing himself as a little bit Houdini, a little bit evil Mister Miracle, and we just know where he’s headed. Next comes the animated credit sequence, some of which seems to have been lifted from the online graphic novel, but it’s not, rather a montage of the actual The Cape comic book used in the show. When a bridge confrontation follows, right out of the beginning of Alec Baldwin’s The Shadow, I am once again hooked.

I am surprised when Gregor shows up and calls Max Malini Kozmo. It seems that Kozmo is a legacy, much like the Dread Pirate Roberts, and an identity that is passed down for decades. Max, after seeing what Gregor was capable of with the cape, decided to cut the legacy short. There is much made in this episode that the cape may really be magic, and that there may be more to this world than we thought.

Other highlights this time around include Orwell finally meeting the Carnival of Crime, which is interesting, especially seeing The Cape’s two worlds come together. There’s also the much un-subtle and too obvious reveal of who Orwell really is. I wish it had been done better.

Also on the side of not-done-well is the set-up for the duel of the cape between The Cape and Gregor. It is sudden and clichéd. I thought we were finally going to get to see the Carnival perform, and was looking forward to it too actually, and it becomes awkwardly a fight scene. There was definitely some clunky writing here, and I was disappointed. There’s still enough here to bring me back, hopefully this was just a fluke.

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The Cape: Tarot

I have always believed that what was wrong with so much of the superhero genre in other media like television and film is the seeming need to retell the hero’s secret origin. Most times, unless the origin is part of the story told, it’s not needed. All you need is the understanding that this is the hero, he can do this, and here he is, roll with the story.

In running the second episode “Tarot,” immediately after the pilot and origin story of The Cape, I think NBC is hedging their bets and giving the audience the supposed best of both worlds. Here’s the secret origin, and here’s the first adventure. I’m down, or rather, seeing how much I liked the pilot, I’m still down.

The episode starts with a bang. The Cape visits Chess and runs afoul of a new villain guarding the big bad called Cain, with a tarot tattoo and a poisoned knife. Our hero barely escapes with his life and a little help from the beautiful Orwell, played by Summer Glau. She drops him off with the Carnival of Crime then runs. Shame, I was hoping to see them interact.

Max Malini, the ringleader of the circus, thinks Faraday has been reckless and careless, and so revokes the ‘magic’ cape from him. What follows is an amazing montage sequence where Faraday hones his abilities and continues his training. It’s not only the kind of thing you figure Batman does in between issues, but it shows the determination of our hero. I like it a lot.

There’s a lot to like here. This show just keeps getting better. There are hints of a larger hyper-reality mythology happening here, not only the concept of a ring of assassins called Tarot, but also the thinking that maybe The Cape isn’t the first superhero in this world. I also like the title cards that accompany each scene. I love Rollo played by Martin Klebba, who I had previously seen in a non-dramatic reality role as Amy Roloff’s friend in “Little People, Big World.” He’s rocking it here in “The Cape.” Summer Glau as well kills in this episode.

That’s two in a row, looking forward to more.

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