December 5, 2013
Younger readers will no doubt remember Buddy as the star of the popular 1997 film “Air Bud,” which told the story of a dog who comes into the life of a young boy dealing with the death of his father and eventually scores it big as a player on a local basketball team. But before his work in Air Bud, Buddy was one of the stars of the hit family TV show Full House—a long way from his rather modest and humble beginnings.
Buddy, who is one of the more popular “Hollywood” dogs of the 20th century, was not always living the high life of Hollywood glamour. He lived several years of his life as a stray dog. In 1989, he was found by Kevin di Cicco in the Sierra Nevada mountains; for the next few years, Buddy recuperated from his earlier rough start and went on to be well trained in vigorous activities. Di Cicco especially loved to train Buddy in sports–he learned how to “play” soccer, football, hockey, baseball and, of course, basketball. In the early 90s, he first came into fame by appearing on the popular show America’s Funniest Home Videos. He also appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, where he dunked basketball baskets.
But Buddy’s first real “role” came when he was cast on the hit sitcom Full House. The show ran from 1987 to 1995–Buddy starred in 6 seasons, from 1989 to 1995, and was one of the long running cast members of the series. He played the role of Comet, the family dog. In the show, Comet arrived in the Tanner family via his mother, Minnie. Minnie was a dog who ran away from home and was eventually found in the backyard of the family–she was taken in, pregnant, and gave birth on the bed of Uncle Jesse! The owner of Minnie arrived and, grateful to the family for taking care of his dog, allowed them to keep a dog.
After his long stint in Full House, Buddy went on to star in the first Air Bud film. Shortly after filming, however, it was discovered that he had synovial cell sarcoma, a type of cancer that manifests in the joints of dogs. His right leg was amputated to help stave off the cancer, but he unfortunately died in February of 1998 due to compilations.
December 4, 2013
Can we agree that Canadians are funny? Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, both comedic geniuses and both from Canada. Another great love of mine is sketch comedy and when you combine the two, Canada and sketch comedy, you get wonderful goodness like The Kids in the Hall. For 5 seasons and 111 episodes, plus a feature film and an eight part mini-series, (allowing the Kids to remain as relevant as ever), The Kids in the Hall have made their impact on the TV landscape.
For them, it began in the comedy clubs in Canada, where the five members met and began honing their craft and comedy timing. When Lorne Michael of Saturday Night Live fame, discovered them, they were able to put together a sketch show that would change the way we view comedy. It was quirky and different and flat out hilarious, rarely not delivery something worth thinking or talking about.
The show was wild and surreal, often taking the viewer onto what can only be described as avant garde acid trips. They often broke the fourth wall, speaking directly to the camera and live television audience. The sketches were just that, loosely affiliated skits held together by the talent of the cast, who wrote most of the material themselves and craziness of the show.
The five men that made up the Kids, Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson, also played women on the show, dressing in drag and doing the best impersonations of females the world has ever seen. The mannerisms, the voices, the everything, the Kids made it seem like they were more women than most women are! They really could do anything.
There were tons of recurring sketches that left an impression. “I’m crushing your head!” accompanied by a little finger crushing a simple way to see if someone you know or even a stranger is a fan of the show. Try it sometime and people either laugh and say, “Kids in the Hall!” or don’t understand what you mean and shake their think you are crazy.
December 3, 2013
Some shows are so ridiculous they can’t seem to be anything other than a sick joke by their creators. Simple and silly, that would be the best way to describe The Gong Show, a “talent” show much like the first round of American Idol, in that the contestants are mostly no talent hacks that just want to be on television and have no business being there.
Somehow, though, The Gong Show did well and showed Americans, in fact the rest of the world tuned in as well, that we are all able to entertain when called upon, even if they are normal, run of the mill people from the general public. And call upon people they did, for over 500 episodes, an amazing amount of shows where amateur competitors would step on stage and compete for… what were the prizes? They were pretty crappy from what I remember, nothing worth mentioning and neither were most of the contestants. The celebrity panel of judges were able to toss the silly people off the stage by hitting the big Gong behind them with a mallet and thus the name of the show.
But then again, some of the people on the show were pretty hilarious, including The Unknown Comic, a man that stood on stage and did stand up comedy with a bag over his head, as if he knew how ridiculous the whole thing was and he did not want to expose his identity to the world out of embarrassment. But the guy was funny and often surprised the judges and audience by his quick wit and self deprecating humor.
It was funny to watch and in addition to The Unknown Comic, the show had some legitimate success stories, such as Cheryl Lynn, who went on to perform and record a hit single that reached the Top 40. Paul Reubens, Mr. Pee Wee Herman himself, was also a contestant on The Gong Show and has gone on to a fine career.
The Gong Show was outrageous and strange but is no less silly than much of what is on TV today.
December 2, 2013
Before the Monty Python comedy troupe came together to form the most influential sketch comedy show of all time, the genre didn’t really exist. Flying Circus is the blueprint for every show of its type that came later or will ever come out, it’s that big of a deal. British culture would never be the same after this seminal show came to life.
Lampooning everything from British politics to simple things like organized sports, Flying Circus’ targets knew no limits. For 4 glorious years and 45 outstanding episodes, this show took on all comers and whether or not came out on top doesn’t better. They didn’t care. They did what they did, sending up social conceit after social conceit, much of the time poking fun at government bureaucracy like in the Ministry of Silly Walks where men are encouraged to come up with the most outrageous walking jaunts possible.
The physical comedy evident in this sketch shows the vast amounts of pure comedy gold they were capable of. They could do it all. Political satire, slapstick, simple physical comedy, sarcasm, straight man comedy, whatever your taste, John Cleese and the boys could deliver. They had such a gnarly sense of timing and devil-may-care attitude about what they were doing it was a joy to watch.
Before this show, this kind of comedy was very rare, if it existed at all. There are many that feel they more or less invented the sketch comedy show with this program. No matter what, they changed everything and much of the format of later, similar sketch comedy shows, was set on the same scatological premise of Flying Circus. Sketches did not have to follow a pre-set, normal format of other comedy shows, like the variety hour type shows in front of an audience. They were fun, family oriented shows based on vaudeville programs performed in theaters.
Flying Circus was different. They went outside the live studio audience, though there was still a laugh track at times, and much outside the box, pushing the limits of what made comedy funny. It still resonates today.
December 1, 2013
I love sketch comedy and there have been a multitude of them on TV over the years. Some are better and more memorable than others. One of the best in my opinion was Mad TV, based on the satirical magazine of the same name. Everyone knows the cover of that mag, the one with the goofy looking red head kid with the strange expression on his face, like he either just woke up from a nap or is high on pot.
The show took a similar take on its form of comedy. It lasted for an impressive 14 seasons and 321 episodes. This longevity places it alongside Saturday Night Live as one of the most successful and longest running sketch comedy programs of all time. I liked Mad TV a bit better, at least when compared to the trudge that was airing on SNL at the same time when both were on the air.
Mad TV was less arrogant in my opinion. There is a certain stuffiness to SNL I don’t like sometimes. Perhaps it is because of the vast history associated with the show, it deserves its legendary status it enjoys; perhaps it is because of Loren Michaels’ influence and he is a snob, I don’t know. Perhaps it is the respective networks they aired on, NBC for SNL and Fox for mad TV, that made the tones so different from each other.
Mad TV had many memorable characters and sketches, including Lowered Expectations, which is a recurring bit that pokes fun of the dating circuit, Ms. Swan, a confused woman who always confuses the cops or anyone she speaks to with her vague answers to any questions, and another stand out, Stuart Larkin. Stuart is a boy played by an adult actor and has a nagging, alcoholic mother who constantly yells at him.
This is mere trifling amount of the vast number of recurring and hilarious characters and sketches Mad TV employed over the course of its run. It is one of those shows, much like Kids in the Hall, that came out fully realized yet grew better.
November 30, 2013
It is amazing to me that some British shows can be so short, like The Office with its 12 episodes, yet still be vastly influential. The same can be said for Fawlty Towers starring John Cleese. It had a paltry 2 series and only 12 episodes, just like The Office and was still voted the best British television show of all time in 2000 by the British Film Institute. Pretty rarified air for a little show that could, yes? Is the title justified? Perhaps.
Fawlty Towers involved John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, the owner and proprietor of a small English Hotel called Fawlty Towers. The title is a pun of course, with the double meaning of faulty, which is how most guests would describe the hotel and how it operates, so it’s not just the name of the owner. The hotel was a piece of junk and much of the comedy revolved around the guests not liking things about the place and wanting Mr. Fawlty to fix them.
He was inept of course, struggling to do the simplest things like communicating with the guests, often screaming at demanding women or just flat out not answering questions, poking fun at not only irate guests that anyone who has worked at a hotel can relate to but also satirizing incompetent hotel staff, for anyone that has stayed at a crappy hotel can relate to.
It is pretty amazing that Cleese and his real life wife at the time, Connie Booth, were both starring on the show and writing it. That’s a tough feat for any married couple to be working so close together all the time, both in real life and at work. Booth played not his wide on the show so maybe that helped relieve some of the pressure. She played a waitress and genera gofer on the show and was more or less the “everyman” of the group, representing the audience.
The show was based in part on a real hotel and owner that Cleese and the rest of the Python group met while working together on their show Flying Circus.
November 29, 2013
A show comes along that seemingly has no chance yet becomes a legend in and of itself. It seems like it would not last an entire season yet lasts much longer. The premise does not have to be so spectacular as to think it will be amazing but I have rarely seen such little fanfare at the beginning of a show as compared to the legion of fans it has after when it comes to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It was based on a simple, run of the mill flick about a teenage girl that fights vampires. The film, starring Kristy Swanson was nothing special. It was okay, not a bad film but nothing big enough to spawn the franchise that it did afterwards; a franchise that includes the TV series of course but also comics, novels, video games, magazines, a role playing game and a number of other TV show spin-offs. Whew, that’s a lot for one measly film.
Joss, Whedon, the original writer for the movie, was able to create and begin the TV show after he decided it was time for a darker tone towards the world. I would not say Buffy was all that dark, darker than the movie, but it had some dark themes. Buffy fought and killed vampires, demons and other monsters, all the while putting her life on the line as the world’s only Slayer.
But Buffy is cool like that. She loves fighting the bad guys and righting wrongs and kicking butt. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays the character with passion and gusto; you can tell she really got into the role and had a lot of fun doing it. The other cast members were also very gung ho and they had a great camaraderie on and off the set. They became friends, doing a tough job together, all the while dealing with the same problems normal high school students must face and that’s not easy!
Buffy tapped into a fantasy world that has spun off not only into related media but TV in general. Look around at all the fantasy and horror hybrids on TV today.
November 28, 2013
Some shows were meant to be remade. Their premise, while simple, promised much more than their paltry, limited by the time period in which they were made budgets could allow. The re-imagined Battlestar Gallactica is one of those shows. When it started in its first incarnation it was nothing but a cheap Star Wars clone but the newest version is one of the best TV shows of the past decade.
The devastation of the war with the Cylons, humanity is on the brink of extinction. There are a mere fifty thousand people left alive and one lone ship, the Battlestar Gallactica, and this ship is led by Commander Adama and President Roslin, in the hope they can survive long enough against the enemy to repopulate.
All the while, they are hounded by the Cylons and enemies within their own ranks, people who are actually Cylons, cybernetic creatures whom humanity created. This show is hardcore in that they never let up on the tension and the stakes are as high as possible. It is about survival, pure and simple. The Cylons want every single human dead and will stop at nothing to get what they want.
It had action, space adventure, fantastic character and more internal and external conflict then twenty soap operas. This is what made it so compelling. The Gallactica was the only real war ship left other and while they had other smaller ships that could fight, their flagship was the only one that was really capable of doing the heavy lifting. And even the Gallactica was old and decrepit, having been damaged during the war.
So even when they had something good there was always a catch. That is life. Things are difficult. There is conflict everywhere on this show, with challenges for every character, every situation that must be dealt with or things will get even worse. There’s compromise and tough choices that get made.
It lasted 4 seasons and 75 episodes and spawned spin-off series and other media and merchandize and become a full fledged sci-fi franchise to rival the best of all time.
November 27, 2013
Archie Bunker is one of those iconic TV dads that everyone knows. The world class American bigot, Bunker and his family paved the way for so many situational comedies on television it would be impossible to list them all here. Suffice it to say, the incredibly controversial topics All in the Family tackled during its 9 season, 208 episode run helped open the door for the sitcom to be about real people and real subjects.
The accolades received were numerous and well earned, including being number in the ratings for an astonishing five years; it also garnered many Emmy nominations and wins as well. Archie Bunker has been named the greatest TV character of all time by TV Guide. Go figure. For a man that hates anything and everything that is not American born or white, he has gone far in the annals of TV history.
Most of the comedy stemmed from Archie’s outrageous statements about the state of the world and about other people. His wife Edith Bunker was the polar opposite, sweet, good natured and clueless. She was the voice of reason on the show and the peace maker and though she argued with Archie incessantly, she loved her husband and was very loyal to him.
The rest of the family contained a lot of recognizable actors and one future big director in Rob Reiner, who appeared as the polish husband of Sally Struthers. Reiner played a hippie on the show, which was supposed to reflect the counter culture of the time period, the late 60’s, and was always fighting with Archie on every conceivable topic that came up. Struthers played Archie and Edith’s daughter on the show and was often the mediator between her parents when they argued.
The show was epic, it really was. Each character was so well fleshed out and realized by the actors it was really fun watching them go at. Its place in TV history is assured yet a lot of people of the current generation don’t know much about it. It is a show that should be revered by all.
November 25, 2013
The second week of NBC’s Friday horror genre shows–lead by Grimm and the new series, Dracula–took a noticeable dip in the ratings. The first week premiere of both shows was solid, as was expected for the popular show Grimm and the much-hyped Dracula, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Week 2, however, was not quite as solid. Dracula achieved only a 1.3 ratings among adults, which is a 28% downturn from the first week. Grimm was also down, this time only 17%–although it should be noted that Grimm was still the highest ranking scripted show on Friday night.
The reason for this dip has been attributed to the poorly received 8 PM slot: “Why We (Heart) Vampires,” a special documentary, which had only a 0.7 rating among adult viewers. This documentary, which some have likened to a “bad VH1 special,” may have caused a drop-off for the shows it lead into: namely, Grimm and then Dracula.
It should definitely be noted that both Grimm and Dracula showed a huge gain in the number of DVR watchers. Grimm’s DVR watchers increased by 58% from Week 1 to Week 2, while Dracula’s DVR watchers increased by 56% in the second week.
The success of the 8 PM timeslot is invariably linked to the success of the 9 PM timeslot—in other words, Grimm—which has in turn been closely linked to the potential success of NBC’s new horror show, Dracula, which airs immediately following Grimm. Insider speculation has linked Grimm’s switch back to a Friday timeslot the premiere of NBC’s new show, which they may have placed on a late-night Friday timeslot in order to “test the waters,” as they initially did with Grimm back during its first season.
Grimm has been such a success for NBC that it was actually moved to a coveted Tuesday time slot during the last half of its second season earlier in 2013, making it one of the few NBC shows to be moved from the unappealing Friday slot to prime time. But with this move back to Friday, NBC may be risking even more dips in the ratings—hopefully, NBC takes note of the unpopularity of the documentary aired in week 2’s 8 PM timeslot and gears up something more intriguing for viewers to watch instead.