Saturday, February 4, 2012

Maybe It's for the Best

As anyone who has ever watched TV knows, lots of shows don’t last very long. Loads get canceled only a few episodes in, getting next to no time to find an audience Others are just plain dead on arrival. It seems sometimes like shows that are complete crapfests get to live on ad nauseum despite their utter lack of value, while quality programs hang on by a thread until they’re finally taken out behind the shed.

I work at a CBS affiliate, and at the beginning of every summer, we receive pilot episodes of all the new fall shows. They’re almost never a finished product. For example, music from Inception was used for the Person of Interest pilot, and William Shatner’s son on [Bleep] My Dad Says was decidedly cuter before his part got recast. It has become something of a sport to try and guess which shows will survive. My track record isn’t that great, although I’ve learned that if I enjoy a show, that typically means it’s marked for death.

Another random fringe benefit of working here is that, after shows have run their course, sometimes I can get my hands on the show posters that hang in our lobby. (I’m still bitter that the Three Rivers poster - featuring the absolutely edible Alex O’Loughlin - was scooped up by someone else.) Two such posters hang proudly in my office featuring the casts of The Class and Out of Practice. I loved both of these shows, and that’s probably why neither of them lasted a whole season.

It’s probably a good thing they got canceled, because otherwise members of both casts might have missed out on later successes. Both shows had cast members who went on to star on the ABC hit Modern Family—Ty Burrell played a womanizing plastic surgeon on Out of Practice and Jesse Tyler Ferguson played perpetual underachiever Richie Velch on The Class. Andrea Anders (The Class) went on to crack my shit up on Better Off Ted (another show that got canceled far too soon), and Jon Bernthal (The Class) is busy these days running from zombies on The Walking Dead. I don’t even want to think about Out of Practice’s Christopher Gorham missing his chance to play the titular character’s adorkable love interest on Ugly Betty.

So the next time your favorite show gets the axe, don’t let it get you down. Think of it as a natural step in the actor catch-and-release program.

Brian 5 = Badass?

About a month ago my brother and I went to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Unfortunately for us, we were seated behind a group of chatty teenagers. After giving them about a 2-minute grace period, I leaned over and said, politely but firmly, “Can you please stop talking? Thanks.”

Mind you, I’m not an intimidating guy by any stretch of the imagination, but they went from mid-morning chat show to Tibetan monastery in 0.3 seconds. In fact, they ended up leaving halfway through the film.

Now if I’d only had the balls to say something to the dude who kept kicking my seat.

Who Needs Context?

In October of 2010, I traveled to Europe with my friend Adam. During our visit to Amsterdam, we stayed with the handsome and hospitable Tom and Ben along with our friend Kirstin who was studying in Edinburgh at the time.
One evening, we took a respite from international tourism and settled down to what proved to be a riotous evening of ... playing board games. Make that one board game: The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Game.
Basically, you try to provide the funniest captions you can to random, captionless New Yorker cartoons that are drawn from a deck as your token reaches certain spaces on a board. The funnier you are, the more quickly you reach the end.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, my friends and I were consuming whiskey as we played, which probably upped the hilarity factor. Still, I share with you now my recently rediscovered answer sheet, presented without comment or context.
  • "And behold, they reached the last resting place of King Mehem-toast-tep."
  • "This is what Betty White was doing five years ago."
  • "Who d'ya have to fuck with a carrot nose to get a drink around here?"
  • "If I gotta swim with the fishes, I wanna look good doin' it."
  • "The cross? Oh, just angling for church sponsorship for the marathon."
  • "And as the old millionaire burst into a cloud of dust, he handed his accountant a balloon with a '$' sign on it."
  • "Have a nice recovery, Miss Smith. I took all the pills I could find in your medicine cabinet, so you're going to need to stop by the pharmacy."
  • "Casual Friday's, guys! Not formal! We wear our tuxes every day of the damn week!"
  • "I'm sorry, sir. Our new head chef used to work security for a bank."
  • "I know you guys had a rough time during the first movement, but we're gonna go back out there and beat the Boston Philharmonic's ass."
  • "Bet you wish you had bought that fall coat now, huh? Idiot."
  • "... and in summation, gentlemen, that's how babies are made."
  • "Steven Spielberg is vacationing here. That guy's just auditioning."
  • "Sales for loincloths have plummeted. It seems, gentlemen, that I'm the only idiot who wears them."
  • "Don't you hate being in a cartoon that doesn't lend itself easily to a caption?"
  • "Excuse me, sir. Is the bar tender here?"
  • "Cute, Earl. Very smooth. Wearing sunglasses but then sitting outside? Very low profile. By the way, I'm a horse."
  • "Fuck. The Cherokee have discovered Twitter."
And finally, everyone's favorite caption...
  • "Yeah, I've always said I didn't fuck that alien, but I totally fucked that alien."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Broadway Scorecard

  • La Cage Aux Folles
  • Spring Awakening
  • Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
  • [title of show]
  • Xanadu
Off Broadway
  • Altar Boyz
  • Die Mommie Die!
  • The 39 Steps
  • The Divine Sister
  • Fuerza Bruta: Look Up
Touring Productions
  • Avenue Q
  • A Chorus Line
  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  • Wicked
  • Spring Awakening
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • In the Heights
  • Monty Python's Spamalot
  • Miss Saigon
  • South Pacific
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • The Drowsy Chaperone
  • Rent
  • Hairspray
My "Wish List"
  • How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying
  • Next to Normal
  • Hair
  • Follies
  • Fuerza Bruta
  • August: Osage County
  • Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
  • Book of Mormon
[Updated 2/4/12]

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bunnies: A Primer

Bunnies is a drinking game enjoyed by adult beverage-drinking adults nationwide*. While some find the game quite simple, others find it far too complicated. Who is correct? Read the rules below and make your own informed decision:
  1. Take seats around a table or in a circle on the ground. Choose someone to be the first "bunny". My friends and I have a random, complicated way of determining who it should be, but you can just point at someone and say, "Dude, you're the bunny."
  2. If you're the "bunny", you hold your hands up with your thumbs touching the sides of your head. Y'know, like a bunny rabbit. ("Jazz fingers" are encouraged but not required.)
  3. The players to either side of the "bunny" have complementary bunny ears, which means they should have one "bunny ear" up on whichever side is closest to the "bunny".
  4. The object of the game is to keep track of where the "bunny" is and have one or both hands up accordingly.
  5. The "bunny" passes in one of three ways: (a) a direct pass, (b) a drop pass or (c) a Bradford pass.
  6. To make a direct pass, let your hands leave the sides of your head and point at another person in the group. The person you pointed at is now the "bunny" and should raise his/her hands to his/her head, and the people to either side should have complementary bunnies. The original "bunnies" drop their hands. (Important note: The pointee can reject the bunny by quickly making an "X" with his/her forearms. If this happens, the person with the "bunny" must either try again or pass to someone else. Also, you can fake a direct pass by pointing at someone without letting your thumbs leave the side of your head.)
  7. You perform a drop pass by simply dropping a hand to your side, turning yourself into a complementary bunny and effectively passing the bunny to the person on the side with the hand that's still up.
  8. The Bradford pass - my favorite - involves dropping one hand and touching the thumb of your other hand to your nose. The bunny then passes to the person two people away depending on which direction your palm is facing. For instance, if you're touching your right thumb to your nose, the person two people to your left now has the bunny.
  9. That's basically it. If you screw up in any way, you drink.
  10. Oh, I almost forgot! You can't say "drink". Or "beer". And you can't swear. This may sound silly, but trust me when I say this rule truly makes the game a classic. It's hilarious watching someone swear and then swear because they swore and on and on.
So what do you think? Too complicated? Or easy-peasy? Either way, I think it's loads of fun.
If you're still a little hazy on what the game looks like, check out this link. You'll see a couple extra rules (e.g. Mr. Nose, the shark), which you're welcome to try, but my friends and I skip them.
*Except in Utah where the mere mention of bunnies in a drinking-related context has been a prosecutable offense since 1963.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hardly Workin'

Allen, one of the engineers at the T.V. station where I work, is very well known for his practical jokes, ranging from simple pranks to elaborate hoaxes. If there's something glued to something else, hidden in an odd place, turned upside down, etc., he's usually behind it.

About a week ago Allen took an unused thermostat and, using a pushpin, hooked it on the wall of a small, unisex bathroom on the second floor. I'm not sure exactly when he did it, but I do remember walking into the bathroom late last week and thinking, "How have I never noticed that before?" I chalked it up to being unobservant and thought no more of it.

This week, a small sign appeared under the thermostat stating emphatically: "Do no adjust thermostat!" I wasn't sure who posted it, but when I saw it - still thinking that the device was legit - I came up with a prank of my own. I hurried back to my desk and typed up a list of instructions. After printing all of them, I cut them into separate, small "signs". Making sure the coast was clear, I grabbed the tape dispenser and made a beeline for the bathroom. I quickly posted all of the miniature signs, then headed back to my desk as if nothing was amiss.

My workspace is adjacent to the bathroom, and it has been a trip to observe everyone's reactions as they walk out. Some folks have been able to figure out it was me, while others are attributing the notes to Allen, which cracks me up. Still others have posted their own notes, although I think mine are the funniest. Just sayin'!

Here's a list of what I posted and where:
  • Toilet: "Do not flush before you are finished!"
  • Toilet Paper Dispenser: "Do not use toilet paper to jot down ideas!"
  • Paper Towel Dispenser: "Do not use this for toilet paper!"
  • Soap Dispenser: "Do not use more than two pumps!"
  • Mirror: "Do not stare at yourself for more than 30 seconds!"
  • Interior Side of Door: "Do not knock on this door unless you are on the other side."
  • Above the Urinal: "Do not stare at this spot!"
  • Trash Can: "Do not dispose of non-trash in this receptacle."

That last one only survived for a few days before someone replaced it with a sign of their own. They apparently thought their joke was more clever than mine. It wasn't, in my humble opinion, but they misspelled "toilet", which made me feel better.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Love, Nerd Style

I adore the television show Fringe. It's smart, funny, and oh-so-well written. I mean, the writers actually remember what happened previously and then build on it. Unheard of, right? Too many times I encounter shows where the writers seem to have creative amnesia. Characters switch personalities from one episode to the next, and plot threads are dropped, never to be picked up again. (I'm lookin' at you, Glee.)

The Fringe writers remember everything. That little something that happened way back in the third episode that you didn't think had any importance? They'll go back and transform it into a major plot point. And unlike shows that dangle a carrot in front of you only to rip it out of your reach over and over and over again (Now I'm lookin' at you, X Files!), Fringe presents its viewers with both mysteries and answers on a regular basis, always chugging forward toward bigger and better stuff.

The show does a great job of giving you characters you care about as well as intriguing puzzles for you to try and solve--food for the heart and the head.


Being the dork that I am, I love a good opening titles sequence, and Fringe's intro is terrific. It's dark and mysterious, and it reads like a quick cram session for the viewer. Words like "astral projection" and "parallel universes" float across the screen as if to say, "This is the kind of weird stuff we'll be spending our time on, so buckle up."

In the second season, after spending a lot of time referencing a particular character's work in the 80's, an episode ended up being set entirely in 1985. To the delight of the fans, the opening titles followed suit with 80's-style graphics and such unheard of terms as "personal computing" and "cloning" floating across the screen. Fun, right?

Even further into the second season, the show's protagonists traveled to a parallel universe, and the show's intro changed yet again. From that point on, viewers would have a quick way of being able to tell in which universe an episode was set.

Finally, a word to the wise: Don't ever try to eat anything while you're watching Fringe. Just trust me on this one.