Posts Tagged ‘television’

It was 20 years ago today that I was in a room at my then-church watching myself on JEOPARDY! I was VERY uncomfortable with this – I would have as soon watched it alone at home – but others had talked me into this gathering.

I need not go through the blow-by-blow experience about being on the show. I wrote about it extensively when I started this blog in 2005, a serial with cliffhangers at the end of each installment, which you can read HERE. The pieces are below the links. They’re also on this site for those dates, Saturdays starting on May 28.

In fact, as I’ve noted, it was being on JEOPARDY! that convinced me that I had enough stuff to write about, at least for a little while. Since I needn’t recap this period, I thought I’d mentioned how the show has changed.

For one thing, the show does an online audition, whereas I did mine in person. The value of the board doubled three years after my appearance. They now give cash prizes to the runners-up.

The most significant change was that, starting in September 2003, a contestant who won five consecutive days could keep playing instead of retiring undefeated and showing up in the Tournament of Champions. For all sorts of reasons, I’ve always opposed the change. And for this season, there’s their FIRST-EVER TEAM TOURNAMENT! I’m not excited.

I still watch the show every day. Well, that’s not technically true. I record it every day and watch at my leisure. So I hate it when JEOPARDY! becomes newsworthy, such as a Sudden Death Tiebreaker! first in regular play.

Or when someone’s noted as an eight-time winner in a news story when I’ve only watched his fourth episode. I now knew he would win those next four games. (That happened last year with bartender Austin Rogers.) It seems that recent champions are more quirky, in the main.

I’m buds with Amy Roeder, one of my competitors, on Facebook.

Winning one game on JEOPARDY! is better than not winning at all, or not getting on at all. No, I can’t go back. But I still have the VCR tape transferred to a DVD. Oh, 12 surprising things you didn’t know about ‘Jeopardy!’ all but one of which I was aware of.

John_RitterThere was a popular sitcom in the US on ABC-TV called Three’s Company, which aired from 1977 to 1984. From the IMBD description: “Janet [Joyce DeWitt] and Chrissy [Suzanne Somers] get Jack [John Ritter] as a roommate for their Santa Monica apartment. Jack can cook (he’s studying to be a chef) and, when called to do so, pretends he’s gay to legitimize the arrangement.”

I found the premise more than annoying, and I seldom watched the program, certainly not intentionally. But when I came across it, I agreed with what the late Don Knotts, a co-star on the show, said in 2002, that John Ritter was the “greatest physical comedian on the planet.”

I’d seen him guest star on a variety of shows, most notably The Waltons, MASH, and Dan August before his breakthrough role.

I did watch, on purpose, 8 Simple Rules… for Dating My Teenage Daughter, starting in 2002, with John Ritter as Paul, Katey Sagal as his wife Cate, and Kaley Cuoco, later of The Big Bang Theory, as teenager Bridget. It was a pleasant enough diversion.

Then John Ritter, born September 17, 1948, died from an aortic dissection on September 11, 2003. It was/is a shock when a seemingly healthy guy not quite 55 dies suddenly. They wrote “Paul’s” death into the series, and it was one of the most painful things I’d ever watched on TV. The show continued for another year and a half, bringing in other characters played by James Garner and David Spade, and the producers created a decent, but very different show.

John Ritter’s parents were legendary country singer/actor Tex Ritter and actress Dorothy Fay. As a child, I used to listen to Tex on the radio late at night on WWVA, Wheeling, WV.

He had three children with his first wife, actress Nancy Morgan: Jason (b 1980), Carly (b 1982), and Tyler (b 1985) Jason I recognize from playing a teacher named Mark on the TV show Parenthood, but mostly from being the voice of Dipper on the animated series Gravity Falls.

He had one child with his second wife, actress Amy Yasbeck: Stella (b 1998). John Ritter died on Stella’s fifth birthday, and one day before the death of country music legend Johnny Cash. Coincidentally, Tex Ritter had written several songs for Johnny during the 1950s and 1960s.

For ABC Wednesday

Marie-SeverinNeil Simon was a writer whose work I appreciated in several media: He penned the screenplays of movies such as The Sunshine Boys, The Goodbye Girl, and California Suite I saw in the 1970s. His plays such as Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues in the 1980s I watched on local stages.

But it was the TV adaptation of the play Odd Couple (1970-1975), starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, that was my introduction to Simon. I only caught the 1968 movie considerably later. I even watched the short-lived 1982 TV remake with Ron Glass as Felix Unger and Demond Wilson as Oscar Madison.

Of course, the career of Neil Simon goes back to the early days of television. Simon’s hits on stage and screen made him the most commercially successfully playwright of the 20th century — and perhaps of all time.
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Marie Severin was a name I first knew as the main colorist at Marvel Comics in the 1960s while also doing the occasional penciling job. But she started as a colorist back in the late 1940s “when her older brother, comic book artist John Severin (1922-2012), asked her to color one of his stories for EC Comics.”

As a penciler, she also worked on Marvel’s parody comic book series, Not Brand Echh. And she co-created Spider-Woman in 1976, designing her iconic costume. Plus, everyone agreed that Marie Severin was one of the most delightful, funny and talented people who ever worked in comics.
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Russ Heath was one of the great comic book illustrators of the field. “Because he veered away from super-heroes and more ‘commercial’ genres, he often did not get the respect he deserved.”

Most people – my wife, for instance – know who Roy Lichtenstein was. Most folks who aren’t comic book fans don’t know Russ Heath. This This piece explains part of my loathing for Lichtenstein:

“One day in 1962, Lichtenstein walked down to the corner newsstand near his studio and bought a copy of DC Comics’ All-American Men at War #89, took it back to the studio, threw it on the overhead projector, and cranked out about a half-dozen paintings based on (swiped from) panels in that comic book, which he then sold for millions of dollars each.” Heath got nada.
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Gary Friedrich, best known as the co-creator of the motorcycle-riding Ghost Rider character for Marvel, died at the age of 75. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. He had a legal tussle with Marvel that was only partially satisfactory.
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Kofi Annan is dead at 80. He came to embody the United Nations’ deepest aspirations and most ingrained flaws.

For some reason, keeping track of UN Secretaries-General – there aren’t that many – has long fascinated me. And I wanted the first one from sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana) to do well, a subject of much debate, despite his Nobel Peace Prize.
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Every time I see that an older person of note dies, I read comments such as “Was he still alive?” They always seem astonished. For me, it’s totally the opposite. If I discover that a noteworthy person, in the realm of my interests, passed away in 2010, and I somehow missed it, THAT would surprise me.

Though Kathy Bates had been working regularly on film since at least 1977, and I undoubtedly had seen her in some of those shows and movies, the first place I really recognized her was in the 1990 movie Misery.

“I’m your biggest fan” undoubtedly affected readers of the Stephen King novel, but to see her Annie Wilkes interact with Paul Sheldon (James Caan)… let’s put it this way; I haven’t seen that movie since I viewed in the cinema, and it STILL makes me shudder. She captured the Best Actress Oscar and a Golden Globe.

My favorite scene of hers, though, was in Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), the bit in a parking lot here or here, when Evelyn Couch got tired of being treated like an old davenport. The vicarious pleasure I felt was surprisingly strong.

From IMBD: “Kathleen Doyle Bates was… raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the youngest of three girls… One of her ancestors, an Irish emigrant to New Orleans, once served as President Andrew Jackson’s doctor.

“By the mid-to-late 1970s, Kathy was treading the boards frequently as a rising young actress of the New York and regional theater scene… She took her first Broadway curtain call in 1980’s ‘Goodbye Fidel,’ which lasted only six performances. She then went directly into replacement mode when she joined the cast of the already-established and highly successful ‘Fifth of July’ in 1981.

I have enjoyed her work in several other TV shows and films, including:

* a prostitute in Woody Allen’s Shadows and Fog (1991)
* the unsinkable Molly Brown in Titanic (1997)
* the villainous Miss Hannigan in a Disney version of Annie (1999)
* quirky, liberal mom Roberta Hertzel in About Schmidt (2002), for which she received a Best
Supporting Actress nomination
* well-to-do Jo Bennett in the latter stages of the US version of The Office (2010-2011)
* Gertrude Stein in Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011)

Kathy Bates turns 70 on June 28, 2018, and by the look of her upcoming credits does not appear to be retiring any time soon, despite living with lymphedema. She has been the national spokesperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network.

Early in this blog, I tried to make the case that people generally ought to use cursing/”foul language” sparingly, lest it come back to bite them. I gave up the fight, as I was told, repeatedly, “it’s the way everyone talks.” I do not believe that to be true, but that was the standard response.

I was surprised by the Roseanne Barr situation. Oh, I wasn’t taken aback by a racist tweet, only that it was that particular message that got her in trouble, having seen other vile stuff from her.

And not just recently. Writer Ken Levine, who unwittingly got into a feud with her has noted how toxic she could be to her writers one her earlier show and had predicted her downfall.

Writer Mark Evanier noted: “The speed with which the decision was made as well as the star’s reputation for… I’ll be polite and say ‘instability.’ Deciding to ax one of your most popular shows is not an action taken on impulse. It’s the kind of thing you run past a lot of people including lawyers to determine any unforeseen legal complications.”

Then I finally got around to watching Samantha Bee did a great six-minute piece on her show Full Frontal about the regime’s untenable treatment of separating parents from children as young as 13 months, even for families that have entered the country legally.

And it’s all but forgotten because she chose to use the word feckless, followed by a word I’m fairly sure I’ve never used in this blog. “Feckless twit” would have been accurate description of the First Daughter – feckless means “lacking initiative or strength of character; irresponsible” – and wouldn’t have totally underminded Bee’s message.

So people write: “First Roseanne Barr then Samantha Bee. Do people no longer have any self control?” They talk about double standards. I suppose the difference is that Roseanne is a multiple repeat offender.

While I’m on the topic, I thought Michelle Wolf’s profanity at the White House Corespondents’ Dinner this spring also lessened its impact. The comments, especially about the press’ too-cozy relationship with the regime was dead on, but some selective words became the story, not the underlying message.

I’m not trying to be a prude here, merely pragmatic. If you want to speak truth to power, make sure the type of words you’re using don’t negate the message.

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