Archive for television

Everyone off the Dance Floor

Posted in High Definitions & Low Expectations with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2009 by davegerry

[picapp src=”9/7/c/1/Dancing_with_the_63ff.JPG?adImageId=6880484&imageId=6504587″ width=”380″ height=”570″ /]

I must be completely out of step here but I do not, for the life of me, understand the popularity of a show like Dancing with the Stars.

American Idol, I get. There’s a journey.  There’s a chance to watch some young people struggle to make their mark.

But why would I want to watch a bunch of B-list celebrities learn how to dance? Chances are I didn’t much like what they were doing in their real jobs. Now you want me to embrace their recreational time? Strange. What’s the payoff here? Is it because these people are supposedly out-of-their-element doing the jitterbug?

Celebrities of this calibre used to filter down to game shows and that was fine with me. Think of all the people The Hollywood Squares used to employ! And that was good. There was nobody better than Paul Lynde in that centre square. Nobody.

I liked Charlie Weaver (Cliff Arquette) and Wally Cox and George Gobel too. Hell, I even thought Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Moquiere de les Esperades Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Najosa Rasten…better known as Charo (cuchi cuchi!) deserved her square. ( I can’t believe I just wrote ‘cuchi cuchi’.)

And then there was The Match Game and Password and I’ve Got a Secret. This was action central for people like Nipsey Russel and Charles Nelson Reilly and Fannie Flagg.

But the game shows are more or less gone and taken with them are all those employment opportunities for the stars who twinkled in a less stellar corner of the firmament.

And now you can find them all dancing.

marie osmondMarie Osmond fainted after one particularly spicey samba and, I swear to God,  it got more airplay than the Zapruder film. Entertainment Tonight must have had her keel over 60 times!  Now her brother’s burning up the floor. Heaven help us if they start recruiting from the Jackson family.

By the way, I have met and interviewed Marie Osmond twice. The second time she asked me if I “enjoyed being obnoxious?”.

Sometimes, Marie, yes.

Other times I just feel like…dancing.

Bye Soup

Posted in High Definitions & Low Expectations with tags , , , , on October 23, 2009 by davegerry
Soupy Sales R.I.P.

Soupy Sales R.I.P.

Soupy Sales died last night. I know a great number of people are asking, ‘ Who the hell is Soupy Sales ‘ ?

Well, if you don’t know you can always look him up on Wikipedia.

I loved Soup. Jeez, I grew up on him. He launched his television career the same year I was born…1953 from WXYZ-TV in Detroit…just two hours down the highway from my home in London, Ontario. In those days you could only get half a dozen channels and the most powerful ones were beaming their signals into Canadian homes directly across the Great Lakes.

soupy sales showSoupy Sales was a perfect representative of the heyday of local television production, when any crazy kook could seemingly launch a show and build a loyal audience. There were kids show hosts (like Soup) and local game shows and (my personal favorite) the Saturday afternoon horror movie host. I will never forget Ernie Anderson as Ghoulardi out of WJW-TV in Cleveland. Every tv station was absolutely cranking out local content as fast as it could. It must have been a blast!  Those days are long gone. I guess I was lucky to have had a little taste of it when I first got into broadcasting in the mid-1970’s but I have always felt like I was born about ten years too late.

Television now is a lean, mean, flinty machine, folks. There is no wiggle room for experimentation and local content (outside of News) has pretty much evaporated.  Now that’s the real pie in the face. See ya Soup. You were an original.

The Idiot Hour

Posted in High Definitions & Low Expectations with tags , , on September 21, 2009 by davegerry

High Definition / Low Expectation

There’s a nightly television ritual in our home which I am powerless to banish.

It is the viewing of what I call The Idiot Hour. In our neck of the woods (and probably in yours) The Idiot Hour begins right after the local evening news and runs from 7pm to 8pm. This is the soul-sucking black hole staked out by tabloid entertainment shows. My wife, who usually nestles down with a cup of warm milk, calls it her ‘guilty pleasure‘. So be it.

I am not trying to be a snob here. There are many evenings when I am more than willing to give it a shot but usually within the first forty five seconds the tone of the show literally catapults me from the couch. Remember the Seinfeld episode when Kramer had a seizure at the mere sound of Mary Hart’s voice? My reaction is not much different, except I’m in training for a plunge through a plate glass patio door.

The tabloid shows are just too self-servingly gushy for me. I don’t think it was always this way. There may have been a tad more objectivity when it all started but now the dance is incestuous beyond belief. There is more milking here than at the Wisconsin State Fair.

It does little good to switch from show to show as they all seem to have the same fawning , inconsequential items in essentially the same order. Audience research indicates that , when it comes to topics, there are two sure-fire attention grabbers.

  1. Any daily development in the life of Dannielynn, the daughter of the late Anna Nicole Smith.
  2. A Marie Osmond stumble.

Celebrity death has been elevated to an art form on these shows. In fact no one is really allowed to to die. The initial announcement is followed by a never ending stream of updates, exclusives, remembrances, memorials, analysis, revisitations and, if it can be managed, a resurrection. In the case of Michael Jackson this is going to last a year.

Is there any entertainment show I’ll watch?  Yes. I will tune in to Access Hollywood, not for the content but for the women. Is that shallow enough for you? I confess to an unrelenting attraction to Nancy O’Dell who, in addition to being lovely, winsome and immaculately groomed also has the best posture since Audrey Hepburn. I would watch Nancy O’Dell for her posture alone.

And then there’s Maria Menounos.

my Maria

my Maria

I have been known to describe attractive women as being positively Menounosian. This is the highest form of praise.

There is an autographed, personalized photo of Maria on the desk in my office. She was very kind to send it to me a couple of years ago.

I plan to make room for it in the casket along with a leather-bound copy of Mutiny on the Bounty and my Oscar Mayer Wienermobile whistle.

I learned a big lesson about television programming almost 25 years ago. I was assigned to produce feature stories at Expo ’86 in Vancouver, B.C. I would walk the grounds every day with a cameraman, often for hours on end.One particularly hot afternoon we were almost run down by an Entertainment Tonight television crew in a golf cart.

And I yelled, ‘Hey…how come you guys get a golf cart?’

And the reporter shouted back three simple words, ‘ Twenty Million Viewers!’.

And that’s all anyone really needs to know.

Breakfast Blogavision

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 18, 2009 by davegerry

 

Dave and Simi

Dave and Simi

 

Or, if you prefer……

 

 

Simi and Dave

Simi and Dave

 

I had a bite of breakfast this morning with my terrific friend and fellow broadcaster Simi Sara. For those of you not aware, the two of us co-hosted a morning television show in Vancouver for three years.

Then..we didn’t. Please see my earlier post entitled ‘The Devil on Your Shoulder‘ for more engrossing detail.

Simi and I correspond at least once a week and you should know that when we manage a face to face encounter the personal electricity is still palpable.

Simi: How’s your egg?

Dave: Not bad. Yours?

Simi: Good. I like the way it gushes from the middle of the bagel.

Dave: Mmmmph.

Folks, you simply cannot fake that kind of chemistry.

(photo courtesy People Magazine)

 

High Definitions & Low Expectations

Posted in High Definitions & Low Expectations with tags , , , on September 15, 2009 by davegerry

High Definition / Low Expectation

This will be a new regular segment called High Definitions & Low Expectations which pretty much mirrors my feelings on the current state of television. I have never earned a penny being a tv critic but I have put more than my fair share of crap up on the screen. I figure that makes me more than qualified to lock and load.

I’ve been so busy with starting this blog that I’ve barely had a moment to reach for the remote but it was with a real sense of discovery and gastronomic glee that I accidentally stumbled upon some vintage Julia Child programming this week on Seattle’s PBS station KCTS.

The late icon of the television kitchen is back on the front burner due to the popularity of Nora Ephron’s new film Julie & Julia starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

I have yet to see the movie but I sat there watching those old tv shows (produced in black and white, mind you) with the goofiest grin on my face.

Part of this reaction comes from the fact that Julia Child will forever be linked with that riotous Saturday Night Live sendup. The image of Dan Aykroyd as the French Chef, complete with fright wig and apron, accidentally dicing a digit and hemorrhaging his way through to the final ‘Bon Appetit’  has been seared into the collective memory like a grill mark on a good steak.

I understand Julia got a real kick out of the sketch at the time.

So I sat there watching her wrestle with a bunch of chicken carcasses and flip a few dozen omelettes and it transported me back to the earliest days of broadcast cookery.

Julia set the bar but my father and I were particular fans of Graham Kerr’s original 1968 series The Galloping Gourmet which was produced by the CBC out of Ottawa. We never missed a single show.

Not long ago I was prowling about in a used book store on Whidbey Island in Washington State and I found four of the original Galloping Gourmet editions. I had them at the checkout in a heartbeat.

We now have entire networks devoted to food but Julia and Graham and Jacques Pepin (to my mind the best food technician ever)  were hitting their stride well before the world went stylistically organic. There was still lots of butter and (God forbid) lard on the list of ingredients. Goat cheese had yet to insinuate itself into every item on the menu. I miss those days.

I have pared down the number of cooking shows I watch because there are just too many hotdogs on the screen and I don’t mean the kind you find nestled in a bun.

When chefs became the new tv celebrities a lot of  technique was sacrificed for style.

It took me ages to sit through an entire Iron Chef show. I found all of the frantic camera action, Wagnerian crescendos and screaming hosts to be a bit much. As someone who loves to cook I’m interested in digesting more method and less madness.

How do you feel about Gordon Ramsay? I’m a bit split on the foul-mouthed Brit. I still enjoy Kitchen Nightmares but have tuned out of his biggest show Hell’s Kitchen. It’s simply too manipulative and like most so-called reality programming I find it completely formulaic. By the way, who would have thought thirty years ago that you’d be rushing young children away from the television because a cooking show was about to start?

I did enjoy eyeballing the pneumatic Nigella Lawson, but only while dressed in loose fitting clothing when my wife wasn’t around.

Jamie Oliver, I think, comes across as a genuine guy and Anthony Bourdain has a distinctively cynical,  literary edge.

But that’s about it. Isn’t it curious that with such a vast visual selection I found myself, once again, mesmerized by the black and white image of that six foot, two inch, glad-hearted leviathon with the loopy booming voice?

Julia Child died five years ago at the well fed age of 91. When asked the secret to her longevity she didn’t miss a beat, “Red meat and gin”.

Chew on that for a while.

Good Luck to a Good Guy

Posted in High Definitions & Low Expectations with tags , , on September 14, 2009 by davegerry
Twenty years ago

Twenty years ago

At the risk of appearing like one of those treacly, self-absorbed, sycophantic slobber-pups who nightly regale us in television magazine shows let me wish Jay Leno good luck with the launch of his new 10pm show on NBC tonight.

I met him in the Winter of 1988/89 , a few years before he took over the reigns of The Tonight Show.

This photo was taken backstage at Vancouver’s Orpheum theatre where I was lucky enough to do the on stage introduction.

He was extremely gracious and quickly agreed to a little taped improv for a local magazine show of our own. I also thought he showed a remarkable degree of patience.  Jay Leno is about as genuine an entertainer as you can get. I think it simply radiates through the screen.

My wife, Angie, who was standing just out of photo frame holding a pile of jackets, remembers him shaking her hand and saying, ‘And you must be the coat girl’. By the way, that’s the late, great cameraman Grant Wyatt peeking out between us.

Do you think my sweater was busy enough?

My guess is the new Jay Leno Show will fly. It’s a big gamble for NBC because that kind of show in that time slot has never been done before but it could be the perfect vehicle for viewers who want a healthy dose of animated chat and a few good laughs before heading off for a more civilized bed time.

If you love learning about the thrust and parry of American network television I urge you to read New York Times writer Bill Carter’s 1996 book, The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno and the Network Battle for the Night. You won’t quite believe what happened with Johnny Carson decided to finally hang it up. It’s a good, juicy read.

The Devil on Your Shoulder

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 14, 2009 by davegerry

Before we go any further with this blog there’s something we have to talk about.

the tap 004

It’s The Tap.

It’s just a gentle touch on the shoulder but if it comes in the wrong place at the wrong time from the wrong person’s digit  it has the potential to change your life.

I got The Tap in August 2008.

I had just finished co-hosting a four hour morning television show, the lights on the set, though dimmed,  still had a certain rosy hue and, by God, there it was….The Tap!

My lovely, talented co-host and a few other individuals got The Tap too. I believe it was very likely an SCT…a simultaneous cluster tap.

I want all television viewers out there to know that the reason why some of your favorite people suddenly and mysteriously vanish from the screen is undoubtedly because they just got The Tap.

Sometimes it’s very much like that scene in the movie Goodfellas, when Joe Pesci’s character has that momentary, awful revelation that his number is definitely up.

The Tap can be that quick.

But I actually saw it coming. I thought all the signs were there. When you witness enough people lose their jobs in one building over 23 years, you don’t need to be psychic to spot a tap-ripe environment.

When broadcasters get The Tap it’s as if aliens have instantly uploaded them to a mother ship. You’re gone.  If you’re lucky,  you’re gone with a severance cheque in your back pocket but, make no mistake, you’re not on television (or radio) anymore..at least not at that station.

There are very few long goodbyes for broadcasters..maybe if you’re Walter Cronkite you might be allowed to look into that lens and thank all the people watching at home. But even Uncle Walter got shuffled out of there in fairly short order. Dan Rather was still pulling on his sweater.

Broadcasters know all about the unwritten protocol of dismissal. We know that when it does come it will be a ruthlessly efficient and surgical strike.

I can understand why an employer doesn’t want to tip his hand.

You can’t let someone back on the air once they know they’re going to get The Tap because they’re liable to say anything. There could be some sizeable parting shots. So the end must truly be the end and the lights must, quite literally, go out.

The next morning there are happy new people in your chair. These are your new tv hosts, folks. They are not imposters. They are not pods. (Okay, most of them are not pods) You might as well welcome them. Warm to them. But don’t get too comfortable because, alas, The Tap is out there waiting for them some day too.

The timing of my tap did not prove to be fortuitous. In September the stock markets crashed,  advertising sucked back like a fetid tide and hiring freezes became the order of the day.

It was beginning to look like it might be a long road back. Frankly, it still does.

What did I do? Well, first I tried to apply a thick coat of soothing balm to my ego which, after several aimless weeks, began to look like it had gone 12 rounds with Jake LaMotta. We all have an ego but if you earn your living on television your ego has probably grown to a sizeable entity. In fact I know some tv egos that have taken on the breathtaking scope of Devils Tower in Wyoming.  Funny how these often belong to the least talented people. I’ll let you do the psychology.

My battered ego told me to get out-of-town. I believe it spoke to me in Spanish. So I grabbed my willing wife and headed for Mexico, a country I truly love and a place where I have produced two documentaries. By the time we had spent three weeks in Mexico I was so relaxed that I could no longer tie a shoelace. It was time to come back. But to what?

I preoccupied myself with constructive distractions. I painted. I renovated. I got back to doing some sculpting in stone. I tried to write something every morning, just to keep my mind active.

Eventually I had about forty thousand words of a book that recalls my more than three decades of meeting the most remarkable people. (I plan to offer excerpts from that project on this blog every month.)

This summer my garden looked the best it has ever looked. I have pruned, shaped, watered and fertilized every strand of greenery to within an inch of its life.

Hummingbirds and goldfinches have grown so used to my presence they all but alight on my ears. I feel like Snow White.

Much of this has been good, restorative stuff.

But I still feed the need to communicate. I have a couple of extremely slow burning irons in the fire but I think the fish in my aquarium may grow legs and crawl out of the tank before it all comes to much.

So we’ll talk in this blog.

And remember…if you’re crying for custom cabinetry, a stone bear or if your daisies need some deadheading…I’m your man.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet

The Bear

The Bear

The Garden

The Garden