Tag: Seinfeld

Day 999: Buh-Bye, So Long and Hallelujah

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It’s a completely valid question.

For the past 50 or so days I have been fielding one question more often than most: what am I going to do for Day 1000? Will the final kilograph reflect upon the 999 that came before, like some extended clip show of my greatest guffaws and most aww-rending moments? Will I spend my final entry in closing-credits mode, thanking those who have made this all possible and put up with my considerable dearth of free time over the last 2 years and almost 9 months?

In short… no. While my original intent was to meander down that self-serving footpath for my final article, I decided that I would only do so if I could cite the Wikipedia page that had been created about me – as it turns out, that doesn’t exist yet.

In order to figure out my final missive, I felt I should turn to the moulder of my wisdom, the sage oracle who has helped to shape my morality, my perception, and even my understanding of the world: television. I have experienced the highs and lows of series finales – certainly at least one of them could illuminate the road to a poignant, entertaining, and (most of all) worthy coda to this monstrous undertaking.

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My first option is the beloved trope of bringing back a classic character for the finale. In my case I could introduce a surprise cameo by Yoko Ono, Craig David, Mary Nissenson, or if I really want to stretch to my roots, Phineas Gage. I could style the entire piece in a blend of haiku, musical theatre and secret code (did anyone ever figure that one out?). It sounds trite and cliché, but that’s always a place to start, isn’t it? Read more…

Day 841: Hunting The Lost City Of Z

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There are days when I look at my life story and say, “Woah. This is not the stuff of exquisite drama. Where’s the page-turning twist, the perilous element of surprise?” Then I flip on the TV and get distracted by an old episode of Seinfeld and feel much better.

I suppose looking at the life of someone like Percy Fawcett shouldn’t instill a sense of regret or jealousy – after all, while it’s easy to admire his balls-on-his-sleeve bravado and fearless conviction to unpeeling what little mystery remained of the earth’s unexplored regions in the early 20th century, things didn’t end well for the guy. The truth is, my reasons for not pointing my footsteps into the murky depths of the Amazon jungle have nothing to do with cowardice or western-culture pussification. That sort of craziness just doesn’t tweak my interest.

Adventure… excitement… a Jedi craves not these things. And neither do I. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not forehead-thwackingly flummoxed by the souls who dare to venture forth, chuck their health and well-being into the scrap-heap along with their common sense, and live the kind of adventure that makes for good cinema. Percy’s life arc was a hell of a ride.

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Like any manly man born in 19th century England, Percy served his time in the Royal Artillery, beefing up his macho fortitude by blowing stuff up. He met his wife… actually, the article states that he met his wife in Ceylon but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t his wife when he met her. That’s just lazy writing. Let’s just say he married Nina Agnes Paterson in 1901 and within five years they had two young, strapping boys: Jack and Brian.

Percy studied map-making and surveying with the Royal Geographic Society, then served for a period with the British Secret Service in North Africa. There he became chums with Allan Quartermain author H. Rider Haggard and Sherlock-concoctor Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle would later use some of Percy’s tales from the depths of the Amazon as the inspiration for his novel The Lost World. Read more…

Day 784: Show Me That Smile Again

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Lately I have found myself falling back in love with All In The Family. The jokes are still funny, the characters still compelling, and it’s the only show from the 70’s that can still be called ‘edgy’ by today’s standards. I wanted to do a piece about the show, but rather than delve into a history of the show’s production or spin a bullet-list of trivia (which I’ve already done for The Golden Girls), I decided I’d focus on the song.

You know, that song. The one where Jean Stapleton – whom I have recently decided is the funniest woman ever to appear on TV – hits that high note that can make your sofa cushions cringe. The song that Family Guy homage-ifies with their opening number.

TV Theme songs may seem like a fluffy topic, but they are certainly worthy of a couple hours-worth of finger-punching my keyboard. The lyric-laden theme song is a dying art form, yet these tunes are woven with the fabric of my slothful youth. Some became hits or were hits already – I’m not going to dig into the roots of John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back” or Al Jarreau’s “Moonlighting” here. But each of these songs was written and performed by somebody, and those somebodies had a story.

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“Those Were The Days” was penned by the team of Lee Adams and Charles Strouse, the guys responsible for the Broadway hit, Bye Bye Birdie. There were a few versions of the performance recorded throughout the series’ run, and astute listeners can pick out Stapleton’s second-verse screech becoming more comically punched as the song evolved. Read more…

Day 771: On Tonight’s Show… History.

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Once the collective click of a few million TV sets shutting off had resonated throughout North America in the shadowy hours of February 9, 1964, the pentimento of American culture as it existed before that day was almost invisible. This is the news blurb that kids – and I include here many in my generation, those who played their opening number on this earthly stage some years after the 60’s had taken their bow – will gloss over and ignore. Precisely one half of a century has elapsed since the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Trying to rationalize the significance of this broadcast to my children is a fruitless endeavor. Even in my limited history, the only television “events” that embedded a rusty touchstone in our shared timeline were series finales (M*A*S*H, Cheers, Seinfeld), sporting events or news stories. The first two would get us talking, but eventually they’d meander under the covers of the past. And while the scope of our world might have shifted after we all watched O.J. race through the arteries of Los Angeles in a Ford Bronco or after we saw the towers fall a few years later, television was merely the window through which we’d all observed a salient chapter in history. When the Beatles splashed down into 74 million pairs of eyeballs for the first time, it was culture announcing through its own mouthpiece that everything was about to change.

There had never been an equivalent in the world of popular music. And given the splintered state of our popular tastes and the three-block buffet of media options at our disposal, such a singular jarring of our culture is not likely to ever occur again.

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First of all, there is no parallel to Ed Sullivan today. Sullivan’s show was a weekly stage for performers to hurl their skills at a national audience in hopes the exposure will crank their success meter up to the next notch. You’d see plate-spinners and dog trainers, classically-trained actors and world-renowned singers. The late-night talk show circuit is the closest to an equivalent today, but Ed’s show was about showing off his guests, not interviewing them to hear pre-rehearsed stories about the time George Clooney pranked them in the studio commissary. Sunday nights were our culture’s window into the wider world. Read more…

Day 757: Best Care Anywhere – 23 Things I Didn’t Know About M*A*S*H

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Up until the recent spate of Platinum-Age television brilliance forced me to redefine the parameters of small-screen excellence, I had always placed M*A*S*H upon a mighty khaki pedestal. The show wasn’t perfect, but it blended riotous comedy with deeply human drama and did so often within the same scene. As recently as last week I found myself reminiscing with someone about the most unforgettable episodes – “Point of View”, “Dreams”, “The Interview” – and I realized I have yet to pen a piece in tribute to this eleven-season masterpiece.

Hell, I’ve already written about Golden Girls; how have I not written about this show yet? I’m going with the ‘things I didn’t know’ format, since there’s simply too much interesting trivia to cram into a proper narrative kilograph. Also, I’ve got an extremely tight deadline.

Some of these I did know before today, but I learned them after the show’s initial run (which wrapped up when I was 8 – thank goodness for syndication).

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–       The TV show was based on MASH, an elegantly twisted 1970 film by Robert Altman. The film was based on MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, which was written by Richard Hooker.

–       Richard Hooker doesn’t exist. He’s an amalgam of writer W.C. Heinz and former US Army doctor H. Richard Hornberger, who served as a military surgeon in the 8055 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.

–       Many of the stories in the first few seasons of the show were based on actual tales from former army doctors. Hornberger’s quarters in Korea were actually nicknamed ‘The Swamp.’ Read more…

Day 651: When The Whole World’s Watching

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A couple Sundays ago, over the course of 75 minutes that some of us are still trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to wash out of our brains, Breaking Bad aired its series-concluding episode. 10.3 million people tuned in, scoring a 5.2 share – a phenomenal success, considering the previous season’s finale (the unforgettable Face Off episode that wrapped up the Walter White vs. Gus Fring conflict) only drew in 1.9 million viewers.

For those who spend a much more logical amount of time thinking about television than yours truly, that 5.2 share means that 5.2% of running televisions during that time-chunk were tuned into AMC’s broadcast. In 2013, that’s pretty impressive, especially for a cable series. When The Sopranos clocked out with a cut-to-black curtain in 2007 the numbers were only slightly better, with 11.9 million fans watching. Somehow they can tweak the numbers to account for PVR recordings, but of course the ratings-counters can’t keep track of illegal downloads, a very real player in how a lot of people catch up on their favorite shows. But still… 10.3 million? I feel like that number should be higher.

The fact is, we live in a world filled with gazillions of channels – undoubtedly it was hard for some viewers to turn away from 12-year-old reruns of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire on the Game Show Network to catch some fresh drama. We’ll probably never hit the big numbers that have defined our most shared TV experiences again.

Sometimes you just can't beat some classic Regis.

Sometimes you just can’t beat some classic Regis.

Any list of the most watched shows around the world is bound to be suspicious. FIFA would have us believe that their World Cup broadcasts – inarguably the most beloved sporting event across the globe – bring in billions of viewers. But even they have admitted that some of their figures are exaggerated while others are an outright guess. Read more…

Day 601: The Thousand-Word Fortune Cookie

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The reaction to yesterday’s article, which outlined future planetary events over the next couple centuries, was overwhelming. “It changed the way I see the world,” said one fan that I made up. “So much information in such a callipygian space!” said another, who clearly doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘callipygian’ (it means well-proportioned buttocks).

But the question that was asked most often – I’d like to say by curious fans, but truthfully just by myself during the commercials of a M*A*S*H rerun last night – was what about our lives? Sure, maybe Venus will eclipse Jupiter in 2123, but certainly there must me more I can find out about life on this planet during the short window I’ll get to see.

Well, good news. With 400 articles yet to be slapped upon the giant refrigerator of this project, I have grabbed my next magnet and selected a good mix of forecasts about life on earth to form the basis of today’s entry. Let’s see what we can expect over the next fifty or so years.

I hope it’s all good news.

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For starters, there are going to be a lot of us. We just passed the post of seven billion souls (and a handful of soulless folks) on this planet, and in the next 12-13 years we’ll hit eight. Nine billion in the early 40’s, and the United Nations is confident we’ll be bursting at the seams with ten billion people by 2083. I suppose the upswing to global warming is that the toastier temperatures should make the real estate in Greenland a lot more valuable – that’ll take some of the crowd-burden off the rest of us. Read more…

Day 588: 15 Minutes Of Fame… And Counting

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I have made no secret about the fact that the Kardashians, the most unredeemably useless potholes along the seedy boulevard of our popular culture, will never be the focus of an article here. They serve no purpose, except to draw ratings away from people who actually work for a living to produce television content aimed at something above the lowest common denominator of drek-slurping zombies.

Yet despite my inherent loathing, I am nonetheless fascinated – not by the sisters themselves, but by a culture that would allow such talentless cuntery to blossom into a royal-esque adulation. Radio personality and cultural philosopher Ralph Garman once pointed out that despite Kim Kardashian’s rise to fame via a sex-tape, she doesn’t even deserve the title of ‘porn actress’, because at least porn actresses actually work for their paychecks.

She’s a celebutard, a tragic deviation from our one-time unmitigated respect for actors, musicians and even politicians who have made a positive difference in the world. But neither Kim nor her vacuous sister of the small screen, Paris Hilton, can lay claim to being the first model of fame for fame’s sake.

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The term ‘celebutante’, a portmanteau of ‘celebrity’ and ‘debutante’ was first ascribed to Boston-area heiress Brenda Frazier. She was young and beautiful, and deviously clever enough to ensure that her photo was taken at every society function she attended. Gossip columnist Walter Winchell used to write about her, launching her into some weird orbit of fame that not even Brenda could have predicted. Along with the likes of Gloria Vanderbilt and Doris Duke, she became famous simply because she existed. Read more…

Day 509: If She Looks Like A Pig, Sounds Like A Pig, And Eats Like A Pig…

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Next time someone calls you pig-headed, you’d best confirm whether they’re referring to your stubborn nature or likening you to a seventeenth-century mythical medical mystery. Remember that Seinfeld episode when Kramer was convinced he’d seen a pig-boy in the hospital? It turns out that was actually a folklore reference to historic Dutch, French and English stories from hundreds of years ago.

I’m sure if you look into the historical origins of shrinkage, you’d find the same allegorical influences.

There is no single story of the Pig-Faced Woman. From what I can tell, this legend popped up over and over again in various places, kind of like that tired idea of two people switching bodies in a movie. Except the pig-faced women were spoken of as fact. And not one of them was played by Judge Reinhold.

Go figure, Judge Reinhold did a movie with a pig co-star.

Go figure, Judge Reinhold did a movie with a pig co-star.

At some point in the late 1630’s, stories about pig-faced women seemed to simultaneously emerge in Holland, France and England. A Dutch print from about 1638 gets credit for being the first, telling the tale of one Jacamijntjen Jacobs, an Amsterdam woman with far too many consecutive consonants in her first name. The story goes that Jacamijntjen was approached by a female beggar, kids in tow, asking for a handout. Jacamijntjen’s response was something like, “Take those filthy pigs away from me! Don’t you realize how many consonants I have to contend with here?” Read more…

Day 439: Thirst Is A Battlefield

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You walk into your local convenience store, peruse through the salty offerings of starch-based stoner food to accompany your quiet night of magic mushrooms and Nicholas Spark movies, when you decide you’d best grab a beverage. Little do you know, behind the double-pane glass of the store’s cooler lies a battlefield. An unrelenting, unforgiving, and unflinching war for the back of your throat. Whichever icy beverage gets to plant its flag in your uvula may win because of its flavor, it may win because of your mood this evening, or maybe its victory will be a triumph of someone’s marketing department.

Such is the condition of the Cola Wars.

Choose your side. Just stay away from the Miller Lite - that stuff will rot your insides.

Choose your side. Just stay away from the Miller Lite – that stuff will rot your insides.

Ever since the mid-1980s, soda companies have been upping the competition for your thirst-quenching dollar. Coke pried Bill Cosby away from his Jell-O Pudding Pops, so Pepsi slapped a can of their product into Ray Charles’ hand. Coke stuck a computerized head in front of some line-art graphics and somehow talked us into caring about Max Headroom, so Pepsi lit Michael Jackson’s hair on fire. Coke changed their classic formula, and Pepsi… well, they never did anything quite that offensive. Read more…