Tag Archives: Showtime

Blast From The Past: Mick Ronson

God damn, he was great.

Always been a Ronno fan; loved his tone on all the Bowie albums and thought his collaboration with Ian Hunter was the perfect dynamic for both men. And while his first two solo albums (Slaughter On Tenth Avenue and Play Don’t Worry) didn’t hit those heights, they were enjoyable nevertheless. In later years I marvelled at how his magic touch would lend a spark to artists as diverse as Ellen Foley, John Mellencamp and Morrissey. I have plenty of great Ronson memories but thought of this one the other day when I came across an old review.

When I moved in June of 1981 I didn’t know a soul in my new town, but found out that Ronno’s band The New York Yanquis was playing a beach club about an hour from my apartment. I swear I was the only one in that club who was aware of the magician on stage, despite his more conventional appearance. Everyone else seemed to be getting hammered and ignoring the legend on stage, who simply went about his business blowing my mind.

It was the first gig of that tour, and the band had just gotten a cease and desist order from the Yankees baseball team, but even that introductory story didn’t make a ripple in this crowd of Budweiser swilling drunks. So he just played a myriad of rock and reggae and soul, backed by Shane Fontayne (guitar), Frank Cambell (bass), Tommy Gun (keyboards), and Wells Kelly (drums), with Ann Langte and Dede Washburn on vocals. I even got to talk to him for a while that night; he was exhausted and probably a little depressed but seemed relieved to know that at least someone recognized him and was excited about the band. It was the last time I’d see him.

His death hit me hard in 1993, and I assumed that there would never be another album since the others never sold that well and glam was the furthest thing from the current grunge on the radio. How delighted I was to come across Showtime in 2000, let alone the wonderful collections that followed.

Here is my review from Amplifier Magazine in 2000…

The first officially released live collection dedicated to Mick Ronson’s solo work is yet another stunning testament to the late guitarist’s versatility and passion. Showtime culls tracks from a 1976 performance of The Mick Ronson Band alongside excerpts from the 1990 Hunter/Ronson band tour. Lesser known tracks like “Takin’ A Train” and “I’d Give Anything To See You” shine while the cover of “White Light, White Heat” explodes with energetic fretwork. Extended versions of the instrumentals “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue” and “FBI” are highlights, but “Sweet Dreamer”, as always, is the emotional showstopping performance that will leave you with heart in mouth.

Limited editions of this release include a bonus disc featuring four tracks recorded in Sweden in 1991, later versions of which appeared n the posthumous release Heaven and Hull. The label is reportedly assembling more Ronson releases including a CD spotlighting his instrumental work. Keep it coming folks, this is magic!

Listen to clips here.

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In Praise of Arthur Dietrich

Or as he is known in real life,Steve Landesberg – 65 years young today.

Barney Miller was one of my favorite shows, and in a solid ensemble cast of ethnic characters and odd personalities, Steve’s droll and deadpan Arthur Dietrich provided some of the show’s biggest laughs. Brought on in the second season, he wasn’t a regular until midway through the series’ run, and in fact played a guest role as a felon prior to being cast as a detective.

At first, his calm wit was played off the easily agitated Ron Glass character Detective Harris (the first metrosexual on television?) before his eventual teaming with the frustrated uniform cop Carl Levitt. As the diminutive and gullible Officer Levitt, Ron Carey was the perfect foil for Landesberg’s intellectual smart-ass persona. Many of the later episodes features scenes totally focused on the brilliant interaction between the pair.

Steve was nominated for an Emmy three years running but didn’t win. Bad timing and great competition; from 1980 through 1982 the award went to Harry Morgan on M*A*S*H and both Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd from Taxi. Not bad company.

After Barney Miller went off the air I didn’t see much of him anywhere. Part of it was my non-TV lifestyle, but looking at his resume I don’t think I would have watched anything he was in anyway. But I was thrilled to see him pop up in a small but hilarious role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, that perfect comic timing and deadpan humor still in place. And when I saw that he was in the cast of the Showtime comedy Head Case (where he plays Dr. Myron Finkelstein) I picked up the complete series DVD without a second thought.

I still remember cracking up the Dietrich was in an apartment talking to Fish’s daughter who was being harassed by her boyfriend. She tells Dietrich that if he comes to the door to tell him, in a masculine voice, to go away. When someone knocks on the door, Dietrich calmly tells the guy to go away…by imitating the voice of Gregory Peck as his iconic character Atticus Finch.

Video: “Fish” episode (scroll to the 12 minute mark)

That’s about three levels of funny, and a lesser actor would have ruined it with mugging and gestures. Landesberg nailed it by underplaying it and letting the absurdity of the moment sell the scene. I’m still laughing about it thirty years later…well played, Dietrich!

Happy Birthday, Steve.

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The Green Room and The Portable Lounge

Love, love, love comics talking about comedy.

Finally got the opportunity to start watching Paul Provenza’s show The Green Room. The basic concept is simple – bring a handful of comics together for a roundtable discussion and let it rip in front of a live audience. Provenza knows pretty much everyone in the comedy universe, and he excels at bringing the right mix of people and personalities together.

Check out the trailer.

The first season is in the books (six episodes) and the guest list is amazing. Green Room guests range from iconic veterans like Robert Klein, Jonathan Winters and Tommy Smothers to cutting-edge guys like Dana Gould, Jim Jefferies and Andy Kindler. It’s fast, funny and uncensored for your protection.

Provenza, who helped bring the documentaries The Aristocrats and I Am Comic to the screen, also has a new book called Satiristas which is loaded with great interviews. I was always ambivalent about him as a comedian, but his passion for the art and history of comedy is undeniable and I hope he has several more projects up his sleeve. (More on this and other comedy books soon...)

Visit The Green Room

No Showtime? No spare time? Spend a few minutes at Comedy Central’s Portable Lounge, where two comics hang out, discuss absurd topics, plug a new project or two, review what Internet scabs are writing about them and just generally have fun with absurd games like Tweet Of The Moment. The plethora of commercials at the website are a little annoying, but that’s why browsers allow you to open multiple windows. Multi-task, people!

Four episodes so far – the pairings are Chris Gethard and Bobby Moynihan, Amy Schumer and Julian McCullough, Joe DeRosa and Rachel Feinstein, and Kurt Braunohler with Kristen Schaal. It’s possible you won’t recognize the all the names; if not it’s a great opportunity to discover a few new funny people in a different environment than they are usually presented. It’s a very casual atmosphere; long enough to be worthwhile and short enough to fit in any schedule.

Visit The Portable Lounge

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Emmy Nominations – Not Bad!

Shiny objects distract me.

 

The 62nd Annual Emmy Awards take place at the end of August but the announcements were made this week. Normally that’s great timing for television networks because their seasons are done and they need to attract attention to themselves and away from the summer blockbuster movies. 

But things have changed – basic cable has flexed its muscles in recent years, and proven powerhouses like The Closer, Mad Men and Rescue Me have just started their seasons. More shows have followed suit, and frankly White Collar and Louie are as entertaining as anything the networks have launched during the traditional season. And now that DVRs and TiVo are commonplace, there’s no longer a concern about weak numbers from failing to lure viewers inside on a nice summer night. 

Perhaps for that reason the networks seemed to be willing to take some chances last year – the Jay Leno 10pm debacle aside – and the voters seem to have responded. Like the Oscars, voters have tended to lean towards veteran shows, some nominations seemingly for a prior oversight or a body of work rather than the eligible time period. But this year freshman hits Modern Family and Glee dominated the nominations, although the multiple acting nominees might split the votes and give the advantage to the other actors. 

Omissions aplenty, like Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) and even Ed O’Neill on Modern Family. And my hopes of Better Off Ted getting its post-mortem due were crushed. But I was happy to see unexpected nods for unheralded and solid work, especially Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age) and both Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler for Friday Night Lights. And the final season of Lost did not go unnoticed, although it’s a shame that Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn can’t both win a statue. 

Looking at all the categories I was astounded at the level of detail. Awards for best single camera editing on a reality series? Best hair styling in a drama? Best commercial? But I’m glad to see categories like Best Casting, a reward hopefully for a solid ensemble show where everybody just looks right  (even if there are several glaring omissions). 

Here’s some of the major nominees and a link to the official Emmy website listing all the categories. I’ll make my predictions closer to the date. 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper
Larry David as Himself
Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester
Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk
Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Bryan Cranston as Walter White
Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan
Kyle Chandler as Eric Taylor
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House
Matthew Fox as Jack Shephard
Jon Hamm as Don Draper 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Lea Michele as Rachel Berry
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell
Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon
Toni Collette as Tara Gregson 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson
Glenn Close as Patty Hewes
Connie Britton as Tami Taylor
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick
Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson
January Jones as Betty Draper 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel
Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker
Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy
Jon Cryer as Alan Harper 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman
Martin Short as Leonard Winstone
Terry O’Quinn as John Locke
Michael Emerson as Ben Linus
John Slattery as Roger Sterling
Andre Braugher as Owen 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy
Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett
Kristen Wiig as Various Characters
Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney
Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen
Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons
Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma
Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart
Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson 

Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm • HBO
Glee • FOX
Modern Family • ABC
Nurse Jackie • Showtime
The Office • NBC
30 Rock • NBC 

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad • AMC
Dexter • Showtime
The Good Wife • CBS
Lost • ABC
Mad Men • AMC
True Blood • HBO 

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Stand Up Wit…Jim Norton

Jim Norton on - not dropping - a stool.

It only seems fair that as the rest of the world focuses their attention on the Olympic Games, I choose to draw your attention to the re-release of two of Jim Norton’s comedy albums. Although previously available in CD format, today marks the first time these albums are available for digital download and streaming through popular stores such as iTunes, Amazon.com and Rhapsody. In other words, welcome to the Twenty-First Century, Jim

If you don’t know Jim, let’s just say these are not safe for play at the workplace, although I would hope that anyone who can read would figure out that bits called “Liz Taylor’s Hairy Hat” and “Bloody Lump on the Linoleum” might draw their own conclusion in that regard. Both are irreverent, hilarious, filthy, perverse, bizarre and mind-blowing, but what do you expect from a hooker and self-gratification fan whose two favorite words are teabag and tickle? It’s safe to say that when they made Little Jimmy Norton, they smashed the beaker

Used copies of Yellow Discipline and Trinkets I Made With Gorilla Hands have been going for over twenty-five bucks, so to be able to get these digitally for a normal price is a godsend for Norton fans, most of whom would have needed to chloroform Grandma and take her wallet to get the hard copies. 

I’m a big Norton fan; he draws his own line, crosses it and goes further down the road to drag someone back to see what he did. Although many swear by his Opie and Anthony tenure as his best comedic moments, I’m more partial to him walking the tightrope (and usually falling off, spectacularly) on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, and his acerbic, perverted, leering pot dealer on the late, great Lucky Louie. (When you can make Rick Shapiro look normal, you are dancing on the edge, my friend). 

Norton has also written a pair New York Times best-selling books (Happy Endings: The Tales of a Meaty-Breasted Zilch and I Hate Your Guts)  and has had three HBO specials (Monster Rain, Down and Dirty with Jim Norton and One Night Stand, all now available on DVD) plus numerous stand-up sets on all the top shows. 

Amazingly he was in good standing during a run of Last Comic Standing when a filming conflict forced him to withdraw from the round of twenty finalists. The next step was whittling down to the ten comics who would move into the house (and therefore reap the most benefits from the television exposure). I still can’t imagine how Jim would have been able to survive the censors (although he killed on Letterman) but if the network had any cojones that would have turned reality television on its ear

So please buy Jim Norton’s CDs – hookers aren’t cheap, you know. 

Formal Attire

Tour dates, merch links and more info at Jim’s website (be sure to read the survey at the bottom!) and Jim’s wiki page 

Videos, including Jim on the Bob Saget Roast 

*** 

And they’re no longer here to celebrate, but we can – Happy Birthday to Ward Cleaver, Elvis Presley’s Best Songwriter and Cher’s Husband

More cake for us!

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Golden Globes Noms: Rusty

Ricky Gervais, save us!

The nominations for the 67th Golden Globes were announced this morning, and as usual it’s a mixed bag of deserving nods, payback to schmoozing favorites and a handful of glaring omissions. For now a quick look at the nominations for television: 

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. BIG LOVE (HBO)
b. DEXTER (SHOWTIME)
c. HOUSE (FOX)
d. MAD MEN (AMC)
e. TRUE BLOOD (HBO)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. GLENN CLOSE, DAMAGES
b. JANUARY JONES, MAD MEN
c. JULIANNA MARGULIES, THE GOOD WIFE
d. ANNA PAQUIN, TRUE BLOOD
e. KYRA SEDGWICK, THE CLOSER

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. SIMON BAKER, THE MENTALIST
b. MICHAEL C. HALL, DEXTER
c. JON HAMM, MAD MEN
d. HUGH LAURIE, HOUSE
e. BILL PAXTON, BIG LOVE

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. 30 ROCK (NBC)
b. ENTOURAGE (HBO)
c. GLEE (FOX)
d. MODERN FAMILY (ABC)
e. THE OFFICE (NBC)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. TONI COLLETTE, UNITED STATES OF TARA
b. COURTENEY COX, COUGAR TOWN
c. EDIE FALCO, NURSE JACKIE
d. TINA FEY, 30 ROCK
e. LEA MICHELE, GLEE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. ALEC BALDWIN, 30 ROCK
b. STEVE CARELL, THE OFFICE
c. DAVID DUCHOVNY, CALIFORNICATION
d. THOMAS JANE, HUNG
e. MATTHEW MORRISON, GLEE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. JANE ADAMS, HUNG
b. ROSE BYRNE, DAMAGES
c. JANE LYNCH, GLEE
d. JANET McTEER, INTO THE STORM
e. CHLOË SEVIGNY, BIG LOVE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. MICHAEL EMERSON, LOST
b. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
c. WILLIAM HURT, DAMAGES
d. JOHN LITHGOW, DEXTER
e. JEREMY PIVEN, ENTOURAGE

I have to remind myself that these nominations and awards, however prestigious, are the work of ninety reporters in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it’s not an industry-wide tally. Some of these people don’t even review the work itself – they exist solely to hobnob with stars and create puff pieces for magazines and gossip columns. By comparison, the Online Film Critics Society has over one hundred forty reviewers

The awards hold merit despite the fact that most people realize it is a popularity contest; some favorites would almost have to commit a crime to not get a nomination. Remember that this is the same organization that accepted lavish gifts and bribes in return for naming Pia Zadora Best Actress. 

Whatever

As far as drama goes…I’m always glad to see Michael Emerson getting some love for Lost, but I thought the show made a major rebound this past season and deserved a nod. And how about FX’s Sons of Anarchy – not to mention Katey Sagal‘s bold performance? Breaking Bad (not to mention its two male leads)? Tired of the Hugh Laurie and House nominations, people – great guy but he’s sleepwalking in that character after so many years. 

Looking at the comedy nominations, I’m floored that freshman shows Glee and Modern Family both got nods, but equally stunned that It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – the funniest show on television this past season – got blanked. Entourage is a joke; I think it gets nominated because of its subject matter. Far funnier shows include Better off Ted, Parks and Recreation and even Community

Lots of shows seemingly fall in the middle – there’s plenty of humor on Castle, Rescue Me and The Closer although I suppose all would be considered under the drama category…if anyone bothered to nominate them, that is.  Ditto a wealth of performers on those ensembles that aren’t getting the publicity or the nominations while Jeremy Piven gets rubber-stamped in yet again (albeit in a very tough category).

Oh well. At least I don’t have to puke in my mouth a little anymore, now that they’ve finally put Boston Legal in its grave. And each category, despite the omissions, does have someone I can truly root for. But it’s far too much hoopla for such a small return…and the over hype is just getting started. 

My five word summary: Thank God for Ricky Gervais

 

Full nominations here.

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