Sunday, September 28, 2008


This cartoon is from the July 8, 1980 editorial page of the Cincinnati Post. It depicts then Ohio governor Jim Rhodes. I couldn't find any speeches or articles in the papers from that week where Rhodes was railing against environmentalists, but I'll take Watterson at his word here. Here, Governor Rhodes is literally being dissolved by the acid rain. I can't tell if the podium is actually being distressed as well or if those are just supposed to be rain lines.

I guess the issue was resolved, because I haven't heard any doom and gloom about acid rain for about 20 years. I wonder what he'd draw today given all the global warming hysteria.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


subtitle: Don Rickles Averts Total Emmy Disaster

Those who did live Emmy blogging had a lot to talk about, as much of it was disastrous. It's sad that five individuals whose job it is to host television proved terribly inept at entertaining, but perfectly able to fill/kill time. Many younger viewers may be shocked to learn that Howie Mandel once made a living as a comedian. Tom Bergeron proved to be the one most up to the task, and perhaps they should have let him fly solo, or with Heidi as a foil. I think next year they should get Ricky Gervais, whose presentation early on turned out to be the highlight of the broadcast.

One part of the show I always pay close attention to is the "In Memoriam" montage. If you don't know already, I've been obsessed with death for quite awhile. Here's my list of TV deaths for 2007. I wanted to highlight a few people who were left out. The most egregious omission was Tony Snow. Tim Russert was included, put near the end of it, in fact, for greater impact. The exclusion of a peer makes no sense and there's no excuse for it.

ALLAN MELVIN died this year at age 85. He was in a bevy of sitcoms, showing up as a regular or day player on "Sgt. Bilko", "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Andy Griffith Show". He also spent many years as Barney Hefner, Archie Bunker's neighbor and best friend on "All in the Family" and "Archie Bunker's Place". He was also the voice of Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, Magilla Gorilla. He'll probably be best remembered for the six episodes of "The Brady Bunch" where he played Alice's boyfriend, Sam the butcher.

DAVID GROH died in February at age 68. He worked in television as a guest or series actor for almost 40 years. He was the male lead for the first three seasons of "Rhoda", a popular sitcom that broke TV ground by showing a marriage break down into divorce. I don't think having had a recurring role on Pam Anderson's "V.I.P." should disqualify you from the Emmy montage.

Maybe it's Emmy nominees and winners that made the grade? I don't have time to imdb everybody, but where was Earle Hagen, who scored music for numerous shows and won an actual Emmy for "I Spy". They even used a bit of "The Andy Griffith Show" theme, penned by Hagen, in that ill-conceived TV theme medley. Where was writing nominee Bill Idelson, who also had a recurring acting role on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"? What about Dick "Mr. Whipple" Wilson? He doesn't have an Emmy, but he's as memorable a TV character as Bozo the Clown.

No other complaints, other than the political jabs got old. It may have been more refreshing for someone to say, "Vote Obama!" rather than have a coy turn of phrase. And Mary Tyler Moore might want to stick to outfits with sleeves so as not to creep everybody out. Just sayin'.

And hey, did you know at they made a big deal about voting for the top five clips from comedy and drama and that the winners would be revealed on the Emmy broadcast? You know, the contest where the death of Henry Blake in "M*A*S*H" was one of the memorable comedy clips? Ha ha, Henry, how we all laughed when your plane was shot down. Well, somehow smarter heads prevailed and the winning clips weren't talked about or seen on the Emmys at all. Instead, they decided to let five people who aren't funny talk a lot and ruin the show.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


TV's biggest night, the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, is Sunday night. Being a big TV fan, I wanted to weigh in with my picks on some of the major categories as well as sound off on who I feel was overlooked for a nomination. I don't list all the nominees, so if you want to see them the list is on the Emmy site. Here goes...


The Office - It was a near toss-up for me between this and "30 Rock". Both had great seasons and both already have this Emmy. But I have to say that the characters I look forward to seeing most are the employees of Dunder-Mifflin. Pam and Jim's overnight at Dwight's beet farm, Michael and Jan's disastrous dinner party, creating their own Scranton branch commercial and the season finale all rate superb comic marks.


Flight of the Conchords - I never laugh harder than at the misadventures of this New Zealand music duo, Bret and Jemaine. Highlights of the season include Bret getting advice from an ethereal David Bowie, blowing their managers money with their "rock star antics", and their big break recording a song for a greeting card.

Boston Legal - Of the six nominees, this is the only drama that I watch, so it's an easy pick. I enjoyed the revamped cast, particularly the addition of John Larroquette, playing the sane voice in a legal firm of misfits. William Shatneer always delights as Denny Crane, though not so his close pal Alan Shore, who's liberal nonsense-laden closing arguments are often fast-forward-worthy.

The Wire - Readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of "The Wire", and it's not just because I'm a white guy. If you watched the last season, you might enjoy the Wire Webcasts that I did with fellow blogger Jeff Miller. This was the best drama of last year and the most engaging show of the past decade.


STEVE CARELL as Michael Scott on "The Office" - This three-time nominee is a large part of why I picked the show for best comedy. His character is inept, shallow, and likable all at the same time, doing and saying things almost every episode that most people in the real world could be fired for.


LARRY DAVID as Himself on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" - Emmy has awarded other actors for basically playing themselves, e.g. Ray Romano, so why not David? He is more nuanced than mere neurotic and more complicated than callous curmudgeon. Like Carell, David manages to be a likable hero while exhibiting qualities that others despise.


TINA FEY as Liz Lemon on "30 Rock" - Third nomination time should be the charm for this generation's Mary Richards and every nerd's dream girl. While like Richards, Lemon is surrounded by oddity, it's the portrayal of her personal and professional vulnerability that is the heart of the show.


RAINN WILSON as Dwight Schrute on "The Office" - I don't really know much about Rainn Wilson, but I assume he's nothing like Dwight Schrute. Ergo, the fact that he is so totally Dwight Schrute on the show is an apex in acting. Give that man an Emmy!


TOM PETTY as Lucky on "King of the Hill" - Petty's role of recurring character Lucky expanded this season with his engagement to Luann. He's also matured this season, realizing he can no longer live off insurance settlements as a professional 'slip and fall' man. Many people will dismiss the show because it's a cartoon, but this is the best family comedy on TV.

RHYS DARBY as Murray on "Flight of the Conchords" - Darby's Murray, the Conchords' naive, flustered and beleaguered manager, steals the show. Just his presence in a scene cracks me up in anticipation of what he'll do next.


I really don't have a pick here since I don't watch any of the nominated shows, and I only caught "SNL" spottingly. I just find it interesting that Amy Poehler is eligible for this category when the show is in a different category. I can't think of another time when an SNL cast member was up for an individual Emmy (any help, dear readers?).


JENNA FISCHER as Pam Beesly on "The Office" - I just checked the list of nominees again because I was sure I had this wrong. This is an Emmy error for this one-time nominee. There's not a false move anywhere, and Pam is the character I think most viewers trust and identify with.



WILLIAM SHATNER as Denny Crane on "Boston Legal" - aw, just keep giving this guy Emmys. He's fun to watch. You can almost hear the internal groans of the audience when he wins, and that's fun too.




CANDICE BERGEN as Shirley Schmidt on "Boston Legal" - ok, this is kind of a punk call, because I don't watch the other shows and because she's already got five of the darned things. Should how many Emmys an actor already has affect your voting decisions? It shouldn't, it should be about their work for the nominated season, but it does. That first win doesn't really count anyway. She was up against three of the 'Golden Girls'. They split the 'Golden Girl' vote! It was ample room for someone else to get in. Anyway, can you tell this is the spot where I lost my notes?


FELICIA PEARSON as Felicia "Snoop" Pearson on "The Wire" - One of the few gangsters on the show that lived the hard life she is portraying. I thought she was a guy the first time I saw her, which I guess is the point. She handles herself as a man to make it in a man's world. While you may think it's easy to play a version of yourself, she wasn't an actress before this role and it doesn't show.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the Emmys. I'd say 'see you on the red carpet', but that jerk Seacrest had me banned.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Comic strip legend Milton Caniff’s longtime friend, one-time studio partner and artistic brother, Noel Sickles, is celebrated in a new book from IDW – Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles. It's a hefty tome, with the first half or so being a biography of Sickles and the latter part reprinting his run on the comic strip "Scorchy Smith". Since I’m only on page 4, I don’t have a review yet, but here are some reviews by some other dudes:

The Oregonian
Today’s Inspiration
Temple of the Seven Golden Camels

IDW also continues there reverently produced volumes of The Complete Terry & the Pirates. Volume 4 is due out at the end of the month, covering the years 1941-42. In Harvey’s biography of Caniff, ‘Meanwhile...’, we learn of Caniff’s dilemma in December 1941. Caniff had already produced strips several weeks in advance and couldn't change his storyline to reflect the war until the next year. A stickler for accuracy and realism, Caniff was pained by the bind he was in. It will be interesting to me to see how he slowly integrated the most important development of his time into the strip. The war years, to this Caniffite, showcase the apex of his talent.

Volume 5 is also on the schedule, though I assume the release date of October will be pushed now into next year. This isn’t a criticism, in fact I think all of the volumes have been late. I think it’s good not to have them come out too close together (the twice-a-year schedule for the 'Peanuts' reprints has been ideal. Though if you prefer the slipcase sets like I do, it’s a once a year deal.

Also on the Caniff horizon, the next volume of Checker Publishing’s Steve Canyon reprint series is due in January. This volume reprints a year’s worth of Canyon strips from 1955-56. While I’m not a fan of the monochromatic cover color schemes and the smaller strip reprint size, the strips and stories still thrill me. Also, in a couple of volumes we’ll be into uncollected territory. The last reprinting effort, in ‘Steve Canyon Magazine’, stopped in 1992 with strips from 1958.

HervĂ© St-Louis has an interesting comparison of cartoonists Alex Toth and Hugo Pratt and how they were influenced by Milton Caniff. It’s over at the Comic Book Bin. I would have liked to have seen more art examples in the article. St-Louis uses a blow-up of the cover of a recent Canyon reprint collection, for example, which doesn't show Caniff's gift for panel layout, which is the point of the article. While I think there is a dearth of Caniff art on the web, there are ready examples of complete Caniff strips, such as the daily reprints of 'Canyon at Humorous Maximus.

As we roll through September, it looks like the release of the entire 'Steve Canyon' TV series on DVD may not happen as hoped for 2008. I'm really excited by this project, so I encourage you to check out the Steve Canyon on DVD website. There's a new post there today promising a big announcement soon. It's assured that John Ellis and the Milton Caniff Estate have been working hard on this labor of love. There's a 'Special Edition' out there with four episodes, the purchase of which helps fund the restoration of the rest of the series. You can buy it from there home site, but they also have wider distribution points, such as Bud Plant and Amazon.

[EDIT: How wrong can a guy be?!? Check out the Steve Canyon DVD website for exciting news about releases of the TV series on DVD in 2008!!}

Friday, September 5, 2008


BRIAN Epstein’s first contract with the Beatles was sold at auction on Thursday for ₤240,000. Signed on January 24, 1962, it gave Epstein 25% of the band’s earnings, but only if the band was making over ₤800/week. It’s signed by all four Beatles, as well as the fathers of underage Harrison and McCartney. Epstein didn’t sign until October 1st, when he secured a recording deal with EMI.

MONOPoly has released a Beatles version of the game. Most of the properties are album titles instead of real estate, with a couple of exceptions (e.g. instead of Park Place, there’s Abbey Road Studios). The tokens represent Beatles songs: walrus, sun, raccoon, octopus, strawberry and hammer (if you can’t guess the songs, shame on you!). For the curious, the copy of the game in the photo is under the famous arm of McCartney himself (wonder if he got a free one?).

FOLLOwing up there song for song remake of ‘Meet the Beatles’, the Smithereens have released ‘B-Sides the Beatles’. As the title suggests, the Beatles songs covered are songs they released as B-sides of 11 of their singles between 1962-65. They also include “Some Other Guy” (which the Beatles released on ‘Live at the BBC’) It wasn’t a B-side, but maybe the liner notes, by Beatles historian Bruce Spizer, will clue me in. But wait, there’s more, the disc album cover is by comics legend Jack Davis!

M. CHapman, the jackass who murdered John Lennon on December 8, 1980, has been denied parole for a 5th time. Rot awhile longer, nutjob!

PHIL Collins has bested Paul McCartney in a contest neither wanted to win. Collins settled his 3rd divorce for reported $46 million, about a million more than Macca’s split from Heather Mills and the most costly divorce among British entertainers.

PAUL has a new love interest – Nancy Shevell. No golddigger she, Nancy already has her millions and is vice president of her family business – New England Motor Freight. Paul recently took a trip down Route 66 with his new gal, detouring in Branson, Missouri to hang out with George Harrison’s sister, Louise.

SADLY, there is no Ringo Starr news. Hopefully this bizarre ad from Japan will tide you over...