Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

As most of you probably already know, the Sacramento Kings will unveil William ‘Bill’ Fuller as their new head coach in a news conference this morning. Fuller is the former head coach of the Deering Tornadoes, a high school team in Indiana. He left that position after three seasons to become the head coach of the University of South Florida. Coach Fuller is a players coach to say the least. His in game strategies often times take a back seat to his players learning life lessons along the way. It should be interesting to see how Ron Artest responds to this type of mentor. While some pundits remarked that it seemed a huge jump for Fuller to make going from head coach of a high school team in Indiana to the head coach of a Big East team, others might feel that the jump is nothing compared to transitioning from a sub-par NBC saturday morning sitcom star to coach of the NBA Sacramento Kings.

I personally enjoy all of Coach Fuller’s work dating back to his playing days when he was still known as Reggie Theus. With the exception of Reggie Miller, Theus was probably the greatest Reggie in NBA history. Then again, I’ll have to check with ESPN’s ‘Win Probability’ CWS scale on that one…

Shorty is creator and lead writer of Milk Was a Bad Choice

(editor’s note: We love Coach Fuller around here, and we talked about him during college basketball season, too.)

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First off, big thanx to Extra-P for letting me put my virtual soapbox on someone else’s property for a change. I hope everyone enjoyed their Holiday Weekend as much as I did. A little Beerdie, a little food and alot of sports.

Did anyone else notice the eerie voice of Darth Vader on Outside the Lines all weekend snitchin’ on Michael Vick and his passion for dog-fighting? I felt like every-time I turned my head I heard “He’s one of the heavyweights.”

Well, all this got me thinking about voices in sports. Nice segue? OK, maybe not so much, but here we go. For my first ever post here on The Extrapolater I figured I’d take the best of both worlds from Awful Announcing & Pyle of List (two blogs which I’ve recently discovered and now read religiously) and create the top three sports broadcasters of my lifetime. Enjoy!

1. Vin Scully — To me personally, Vin Scully is the end all, be all of sports broadcasting. He is a legendary announcer known primarily as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Scully has been a part of some of the most memorable plays and games in Major League Baseball history and his calls of the 1986 & 1988 World Series could have put him into the Hall of Fame by themselves. I think I would donate a testicle if it meant I could hear Vin Scully announce one more World Series instead of having to sit through Joe Buck’s stand-up comedy routine…

“Little roller up along first . . . behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”

“And look who’s coming up… you talk about a roll of the dice…this is it. High fly ball into right field, she i-i-i-is… gone!!!”

2. Al Michaels — The current voice of NBC’s Sunday Night Football is one of the best to ever grab a microphone. He is well respected and well versed in announcing major events in multiple sports including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and World Championship Boxing. Michaels is best known for his amazing call of the 1980 US Hockey team’s stunning upset over the Soviet Union in what is now simply referred to as the Miracle on Ice…

“Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

3. Bob CostasWhen I was a youngster, my dream was to become a sports announcer. The biggest reason for this was Bob Costas. His complete control of the english language has helped him establish a well deserved respect from viewers and his peers. His love & knowledge of baseball is so in depth that he has even been recommended as a possible future commissioner. In recent years Costas has done more studio work than anything else, specifically on NBC and on his own HBO series…

Mickey Mantle Eulogy

*Props also go out to Dick Enberg and Jim Nantz who would have finished fourth and fifth respectively had this list continued…

Shorty is creator and lead writer of Milk Was a Bad Choice

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I’m sick of talking about sports tonight.  So I’m just going to do something that makes me mindlessly happy:

You know what I do when I fall off my skateboard?  That’s right, I laugh my ass off.

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I’m working on my html skeelz for Smells Like Pujols, and my Press Room Buffet post (announced here) for Awful Announcing, so a long post is probably not forthcoming. In the meantime, however, I’ve seen many good things around the internets, so let’s go to Linkin’ Park.

Some people say no news is good news. S2N points out that no news is, in fact, not news.  Especially when we’re talking about Roger Clemens.

Roger Clemens went to the U. of Texas.  Despite that, I heartily approve of Texas Gal’s campaign in favor of NCAA Baseball.

Speaking of baseball, Babes Love it.  BLB breaks the shocking news that Kerry Wood is hurt again.  Given the rumors that Wood might move into the closer spot, I’d lay money that Ninja Ryan Dempster whacked him with some nunchucks.

Do any of the aforementioned Cubs have Gheorgheness?  Probably not.  But if you know someone who does, the guys over to Gheorghe the Blog are accepting nominations for the pantheon.

The ESPYs definitely have Gheorgheness.  They’re long, nobody expects much from them, but we’ll watch them if nothing else is on.  Awful Announcing “celebrates” the fifteenth anniversary of the most meaningless statuette in the history of statuettes.

Complete Sports is not offering a statuette.  But if you can predict what corny phrase Jim Nantz will utter at the end of this year’s championship game, you’ll earn his undying respect.  So you’ll have that going for you, which is nice.

Speaking of respect, Marco gets the best interviews over at Just Call Me Juice.  His laid-back interviewing style cracks the shell-like veneer of even the toughest cats.  Including Joe Lunardi.

One More Dying Quail minored in Bracketology, but his major was Global Studies.  Joining the AA Channel Four News Team has given him an honorary PhD in European-American Studies.

To finalize some of the most tortured segues on the internet, Sunil from Hurricanes are for Drinking points out that three European-Americans are key players for my hometown Kansas City Royals.  Don’t tell C.C. Sabathia.

Segues fail me on this one.  RUTS loves tornadoes.  And C.C. Sabathia… um, pitches like a mixture of warm and cool air that destroys trailer parks.

That’s it, I’m done.

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vabook07.gifI live in Charlottesville, VA, which is a big-time literary town. A long list of writers call this area home, including John Grisham and Rita Dove. There are many more. The town hosts an annual printgasm known as the Festival of the Book, with lectures, readings, book signings, etc. The fest coincides with the first blush of spring in this notoriously beautiful area, so it’s an incredible way to spend a few days.

This year one of the keynote presentations featured David Simon and George Pelecanos, discussing their experiences in writing the HBO series The Wire. The show has been rightly praised as the best show on television, and I attended the lecture hoping to gain some insight as to how these two men were able to get such an iconoclastic idea on the air, even at Home Box Office. I was not disappointed.

Rather than try to synthesize the moderated Q & A into an article, I’m going to present the most interesting Qs and distill the A from what both writers said.

wireposter.jpgQ: Why not follow one storyline or set of characters? The show’s creators imagined this as a novelistic exploration of the problems we face as a society. They found them all contained in the city of Baltimore. That thematic thread binds together the seasons, which jump around between cops, criminals, education, politics, and (upcoming) the media.

Q: How did you get HBO on board with this notion? They didn’t. They sold season one in toto as a cops and robbers show. After that season was a modest success, Simon returned for a second season pitch in which he laid out his true vision for the story arc. Everyone in the room chuckled when he recalled an HBO suit complaining “Wait… is that the same show we bought?”

Q: How do you get the dialogue right? Writer Ed Burns was a member of the Baltimore police force. After retiring, he became a teacher in the Baltimore school system. His familiarity with cops, criminals, and kids from the area really helps. The most interesting part of the answer to this question was the notion that cops have a slang that is peculiar to them, and a little outdated. There was a lot of nuance to picking the right slang elements to include in dialogue. They noted that they try to avoid flash-in-the pan slang terms, because they make an episode seem out of date within about six months.

nightgardenercropped.JPGQ: Why don’t you use/why did you kill my favorite character? Several reasons. Because these guys do die. Because no matter how beloved, a character gets stale if he/she is used too much. Simon referred to his time with the show Homicide when the Pembleton character in the box with a suspect became the dominant paradigm of the show. The show as a whole was not an audience favorite, so Simon was not able to deviate much from what was working, but he did win the battle to incapacitate Andre Braugher’s character with a stroke, essentially taking away the tools that made him formidable (intellect and speech) for one season. With The Wire it was known from day one that audience demand would not drive character actions. The writers actually used the term “We were determined to give viewers what they need, instead of what they want”.

Other memorable discussions:

homicidecover.jpgAs much as viewers like the McNulty character, he was in danger of becoming a one-note drone. In real life, this type of guy is a Don Quixote, trying to do a job that is full of sleaze and bring down a hydra by cutting off just one of its heads. These guys don’t win in real life. The writers made a conscious choice to keep the character on a back burner for a while in order to make him more multifaceted later on. The line was “In order to build his character, we had to make him disappear for a while”. When one female audience member bemoaned the lack of McNulty, Simon said “You’re leaning into the punch that makes network television so predictable”. Great line.

In general, this was a wonderful way to present the topic. The two writers sat at a table in a modest performance venue on Charlottesville’s downtown mall, and the place was packed. Since we weren’t on grounds of the University, it was nice to be able to buy a beer at the bar and sit back and just listen to the speakers as if it were an extended episode of public radio’s Fresh Air. While I long ago gave up any pretense of writing fiction or screenplays, I still learned a lot about how to write, and how to make decisions that might be painful in the short run that are right for the long-term health of a project, by listening to these two veterans.

This is exactly the kind of thing I love about living in a college town. I get a decent amount of intellectual stimulation, good music, and unique events without the hassle of living in a city.

Get Hip to the Charlottesville literary scene by reading Cville Words. They really delve in and explain this town’s love of words far better than I can.

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Today I don’t feel like writing about basketball. (Wow, I could almost hear the sigh of relief from here). I feel like writing about writing, in fact. And specifically, the writing on the Fox television hit House, M.D.

hugh_laurie_house0.jpgNow, let me say that House is not really my favorite show. I resisted watching it for nearly the first full year of its run because A) I’m sick to death of hospital shows B) I’m bored by formulaic hour-long dramas, and C) I hate that stylish action trumps internal logic on these kinds of shows. All of those things still bother me about House.

The patients exist only as props for the main character to manipulate. For that matter, Omar Epps and Robert Sean Leonard are the only permanent supporting cast members who ever delve into three dimensions. The medical dramas are predictable – only the most visually disturbing symptoms (seizures, rectal bleeds, puking) and procedures (Needle in the eye? Skull drilling? YES!) will ever be shown, and have long since ceased to shock me, though they do make me squeamish from time to time. We know the wrong diagnosis will be made at least twice, and that every decision will have potentially fatal consequences. And pretending that Gregory House’s boss, friends, and co-workers would not only put up with his bullshit but actually love him and bend over backward to accomodate him is insulting to my intelligence.

And yet I watch every new episode that comes on. Why? The dialogue. The writing on House M.D. is routinely the most intelligent, biting, and hilarious scripting on network television. Credit for delivering great lines with panache (and a mind-bogglingly accurate American accent) goes to British actor Hugh Laurie, who is undeniably the center of gravity in the House solar system. But the writers turn out astoundingly snappy dialogue for House to spit, and they refuse to dumb it down for the audience. They also steer clear of political correctness by letting House be the Archie Bunker of our time. whineandcheese.JPGHe despises all people equally, and he regularly lampoons our current cultural confusion about race, gender, and disability with statements that make me cringe and laugh out loud at the same time.

I give the people listed below credit for courage, intelligence, and timing. They are smart enough to give House a worthy adversary every few seasons. The battle of wills between the doctor and the billionaire Vogler in season one was good TV, and I really enjoyed David Morse as the menacing cop Tritter in recent episodes. He was a perfect foil for House – an arrogant prick vs. an arrogant prick – each character had a good reason to hate the other, and each refused to cave. It was a brilliant and necessary story arc, though it wobbled a bit toward the end.

The Writers
David Shore (59 episodes, 2004-2007)
Lawrence Kaplow (12 episodes, 2004-2007)
Thomas L. Moran (7 episodes, 2004-2006)
Peter Blake (6 episodes, 2004-2006)
David Foster (6 episodes, 2005-2007)
John Mankiewicz (5 episodes, 2004-2006)
Russel Friend (5 episodes, 2005-2006)
Garrett Lerner (5 episodes, 2005-2006)
Matt Witten (5 episodes, 2005-2006)
Liz Friedman (3 episodes, 2005-2006)
Sara Hess (3 episodes, 2005-2006)
Doris Egan (3 episodes, 2006)
Sara B. Cooper (2 episodes, 2004-2005)
Matthew V. Lewis (2 episodes, 2006-2007)
Pam Davis (2 episodes, 2006)

So, all told, I can overlook the formulaic and inconsistent aspects of the series (it’s leaps and bounds beyond what Fox is generally capable of) and focus instead on the multiple laughs I get out of each hour. At some point I know the series will tip toward melodrama and absurdity (have you seen E.R. recently?), because an outrageous character becomes routine unless he finds new ways to shock. But until then, I’m going to applaud the people on this list for their ability to turn me green with writerly envy.

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nobryanadams1.jpgIn an unprecedented break from tradition, American Idol voters took to the phones one week early, inundating the Department of Homeland Security with nearly 14 million calls and 4 million text messages.

The subject that aroused such passion in a segment of the populace best known for inflicting Clay Aiken on the world? The border fence. No, not the southern border fence meant to slow illegal immigration from Mexico, but a trade barrier levied against our Canadian neighbors to the north.

In Wednesday’s final cut-down show, Idol viewers were bombarded by multiple consecutive heartfelt renditions of Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman, a ballad recorded in 1995 by Ontario native Bryan Adams.

“I lost consciousness sometime during the 8th version” said self-described Idol worshipper Danielle Cummings “when I woke up, I realized that Canada was ruining an American institution, because we allow them to import their crappy pop songs when we have plenty of crappy pop songs made right here in the good old U.S. of A.”

seacrestcloset.jpgCummings cited Celine Dion, Shania Twain, and Sarah McLachlan as other undesireable foreign nationals whose songs dominate the auditions for the show. She joined millions of other viewers in the grass-roots campaign to bar northern-born singers from submitting songs to American Idol.

Results of the voting will be aired on a special Friday night edition of the popular show, during which diminutive host Ryan Seacrest is expected to say the words “we’ll find out… after the break” at least five times, and attempt to break his own Guiness book world record for longest dramatic pause preceding an announcement, which he set during last year’s final results program.

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castro.jpgHavana, Cuba – Ailing dictator Fidel Castro left his sickbed on Tuesday to appear on Cuban national television. The occasion was a visit from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, known to music aficionados as “The Randy Jackson of South America”.

The two socialist leaders are reputed to have engaged in several private talks over the past two years, and the topic of discussion frequently roves from feeding and housing their people to a shared enthusiasm for the #1 television show in the U.S. – American Idol.

“El Comandante is a huge Taylor Hicks fan.” said Carlos Lage Davila, one of six Cuban Vice Presidents “He even bought a ‘Soul Patrol’ t-shirt off of eBay last year. His health problems initially kept him from pursuing his dream of starting a Cuban Idol program, but he revived the idea when Presidente Chavez agreed to appear as a celebrity judge.”

Despite a tremulous and halting rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, Castro is the odds-on favorite to win the finals, which are held in Havana, where his power is unquestioned. Chavez put him through with his typical verbal swagger, saying “Mira, Jefe! Dat was da bomb, perrito! You’re going back to Havana, amigo, 1,000 percent!” The other two judges, Castro’s second cousins Ivan and Carlito, saluted smartly, and the iconoclastic leader was through.

fleetlinesmall.jpgFinalists in the singing competition are rewarded with a complete style-and-uniform makeover by El Jefe’s own tailor, along with a contract to appear in weekly in-show advertisements for the 1946 Chevrolet Fleetline. The winner, to be announced in a lavish live ceremony on March 1st, receives a contract to perform the national anthem at the Pan Am Games, a crate of hand-rolled cigars, and a Cultural Advancement Grant from the Venezuelan Treasury valued at 9 million pesos.

The U.S. Commerce Department continues to enforce an embargo that prevents American pop music from entering Cuba legally. The blockade has done nothing to erode Castro’s power base, but has considerably eased the aural suffering of the average Cuban citizen.

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From the moment that Ryan Seacrest read his name as the winner of American Idol 5, Taylor Hicks was ready for the spotlight.

Through countless grueling hours of auditions, performances, and filming of horrendous product placement spots, the grey-haired soul cougar relentlessly positioned himself as That Funny-Dancing Guy from American Idol.

“Taylor is an original.” said Seacrest “Nobody will ever confuse him with The Fat Black Guy from American Idol, That Single-Mother Chick, or The Dude Who Looked Like Sideshow Bob.”

Hicks won legions of fans with a tried-and-true cocktail of pop suavity. He shouted “Soul Patrol!” with the relentless audacity of a Tourette’s patient. Then he incorporated the severe intestinal discomfort caused by performance anxiety into his dancing style, which reminded many of William Shatner’s acting in T.J. Hooker. That, and speaking with a southern accent, was all it took.

“I really thought I was done for the first time that McPhee chick leaned into the camera.” said Hicks “And then when she showed her coochie, I was ready to pack for home right then and there. I mean, if I was sitting at home, I’d vote for “That Hot Slutty Chick” instead of “Funny Dancing Guy”, wouldn’t you?”

But it appears that Hicks and McPhee both underestimated the contempt that Idol’s predominantly southern fanbase holds for anything resembling a Yankee. Past winners have included a Texan, an Oklahoma farm girl, a Tarheel, and now two Alabama natives. McPhee’s glossy, L.A.-trained stage persona didn’t pose any real threat to Hicks’ deep fried corncakes.

“We considered auditioning just on the chitlin’ curcuit for season six,” said Seacrest “But then we realized we need a few Jennifer Hudsons (a Chicago-born early-exit garnering Oscar buzz for her role in Dreamgirls) to give us some semblance of artistic legitimacy.”

And what of Taylor Hicks? He’ll be laughing all the way to a High School gymnasium near you in early 2008.

“Woo! Soul Patrol!!! Dawg Pound!” shouted Hicks, apropos of nothing.

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