Monthly Archives: November 2012

“…when this girl meets world”

“You coming with us Mr. Feeny? You gonna sneak up on us in Central Park or something?”

“No, I shall remain here.”

“No, you’ll always be with us…as long as we live, okay.”

{A pause after Cory is the last to leave the classroom}

“I love you all…class dismissed.”

This was the emotional ending to the seven year run of one of America’s favorite shows: “Boy Meets World.” The year was 2000 and fans of the series were now expected to venture into the new century and our own ‘brave new world’ without the wisdom and guidance of the incomparable Mr. Feeny. This was not only the series finale, but also the tearful goodbye of nineties sitcoms geared towards the family and its teenage sons and daughters.

Of course top-shelf shows like “Friends,” “Frasier,” “Will & Grace” (NBC sure was King back then) and others continued well into the early years of the 21st century, but Cory Matthews’ classroom exit symbolized the end of TGIF.

There is no longer the evening block for families to gather with pizza and soda to laugh together at Urkel destroying the Winslow’s roof or witnessing Cory and Shawn turn Mr. Feeny’s home into a profitable B & B or Larry and Balki baking desserts while singing the “Bibbi-Babka Ditty.”

After the casts of the NBC greats mentioned above took their final bows, that also seemed to mark something of significance in television. These sitcoms starred grown-ups, with actors and actresses in their thirties (at least). The stories were filled with humor and heart. Important lessons were taught and learned and at the same time the viewers could relate to the characters’ very problems and conflicts. The only discernible difference was the setting and exact circumstance.

One happy and distinct consequence of their “mature age,” as measured by Hollywood, was how they were able to say things that may have been considered “risky” by a younger cast.

Timing and writing is pivotal in sitcoms and even when outrageous things are said on one of these shows, it’s done with a certain amount of creativity and well…comedic grace:

The borders of appropriate innuendo was constantly tested and was hilarious every time by the sitcoms alluded to above. “Boy Meets World” and its TGIF family were also excellent at keeping the necessary phrases and key words ‘in the shadows’ for their particular brand. There are certain words that shouldn’t be said on television and the great shows steer clear of these, but test the limits on everything else.

You can peek over the fence and get as close as you can get without leaping over. This was the template of yesteryear, plus a few now obviously.

“The Big Bang Theory,” it needs to be noted, is currently playing the role of one of the shows featured in the old NBC all-star sitcom lineup…though on CBS. The writing and acting is incredible and has been proven lately with its dramatic ratings spike and the cast and crew’s flash mob (Go to “Amazing” section for full video). “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men” do so too, but in recent episodes have been reaching too much and too often for ‘crude’ laughs. Earlier seasons of “Two and a Half Men” distinguishes itself as a much different show than today.

The comedic rule, as attempted by George Costanza on “Seinfeld,” of always leaving on a high note with your audience wanting more, was fully enforced on these sitcoms. Go 90%, but never go the full hundred. Each shows’ writing and its actors’ comedic timing was simply outstanding. ‘Must-See TV’ indeed.

Today, taboo subjects and inappropriate words for prime-time are barely cloaked and are often fully exposed in ways that question whether what’s being said is actually being said on network television in the 8:30/9:00 p.m. time slot?

(Do consider though that we live in an era where networks deem it right to air Cialis commercials during the national news broadcasts in the 6:30 p.m. half hour, so…)

An example from a show could be given, but it’s safe to say we all can rehearse one of these scenes or punchlines.

Understanding that one part of comedy is about pushing the envelope, a little bit here and there is to be expected and is usually funny. However, constantly talking in a manner more suited for HBO or Starz may be throwing too much chum in the water for that great white laugh. Slightly inappropriate one-liners with innuendo is paramount in delivering great comebacks or punchlines on sitcoms. All too often though, there is no filter or attempt to disguise potentially offensive language for today’s prime-time television viewers.

One of the major differences between shows from the nineties and shows today is the over-reliance on shocking one-liners for quick and immediate laughs. Studios’ lack of patience in allowing stories and character’s on these shows to develop is partly to blame for this phenomenon. And yet while this may suit the ratings for a couple or a few weeks, the reaction is a lack of character depth.

All great sitcoms have great characters and clever, witty writing. One equivalence of offensive language during prime-time viewing is listening to a stand-up comedian spout off profanity just because he or she has the human capacity to do so.

The legendary George Carlin did this, however, he did so with specific purpose and identity. As Carlin would say about how certain people perceive things, “difference, (there’s a) difference.” On morning shows, late night or appearances in public outside the theater stage, he spoke according to the setting. One of the kings of profanity always knew his boundaries and his audience.

“Real Housewives” and other shows featuring millionaires ‘living’ their lives is one of the epicenters for this excessive language (bleep). There are also a couple sitcoms that lately have been going too far and explicitly saying things undoubtedly questionable for its time slot. These are great shows and ones I watch every week, but they’ve been going the full hundred just a few too many times.

The point being made is that good scripts and acting allows potentially controversial things to be discussed and laughed at by its audience. Below are three examples of how to cleverly maneuver around somewhat delicate subject matters by registering around the 80-90% mark:

“Friends” Take a Nap

Niles Like You’ve Never Seen Him Before

One of the most famous “Seinfeld” episodes is when Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer all make a bet to see who can…well, here:

Innuendo was clearly the winner of that bet.

These are examples of terrific writing that dances on the edge with implications rather than outright disclosure. Providing the audience with the opportunity to use their imagination when it comes to particular situations is essential.

If more proof is needed about the brilliance of sitcoms that started in the ’90s, look no further than the frequency of the reruns of these shows that are on nearly everyday and current promotions for their respective DVD sets, more than a decade after wrapping. The love and appreciation for these characters is real and ever-lasting.

They’re members of the gold standard of television.

Some may laugh and roll their eyes at us who constantly and nostalgically quote memorable lines and favorite moments from shows that originated during the ’90s. If you look around and watch what is dominating some of our evenings, maybe now there is more understanding in our desire for a cultural repeat.

This is an excerpt from a note written by Danielle Fishel (Topanga) on her Tumblr account recently confirming the rumors of a “Boy Meets World” reboot. Generation Y, this is for you:

“Those years were among the most warm, hilarious, insightful, educational years of my life and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.  Another thing I wouldn’t trade for anything is the integrity and the heart with which BMW was made.  I promise with the entirety of my heart that we will make GMW with the same honesty, innocence, and intelligence that you learned to expect from BMW.”

“Girl Meets World:” The Legend Continues.

You’ve Never Seen a Turkey Fly Like This Before

As a nervous “chef” whose primary fear in the kitchen is under-cooking meat and fish, I am always looking for easy tricks of the trade. The one food item I never ruin is one that should become its own food group in the ever-famous Food Pyramid: popcorn. My eternal love for this snack of all snacks is…well, no time for that right now.

The recipe below was given to me with Thanksgiving on the horizon. The author certainly solved the rubik’s cube of every feast which is, of course, how to prepare and cook the turkey. Nobody wants to repeat what happened in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Below is the aforementioned recipe from an unknown source on how to successfully cook a turkey.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

“TURKEY RECIPE

I thought this sounded good! Here is a turkey recipe that also includes the use of popcorn as a stuffing ingredient — imagine that!
When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect for people like me, who just are not sure how to tell when turkey is thoroughly cooked, but not dried out.

Give this a try:

8-15 lb. turkey
1 cup melted butter
1 cup stuffing (Pepperidge Farm is Good)
1 cup un-popped popcorn (ORVILLE REDENBACHER’S LOW FAT IS BEST)
Salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush turkey with melted butter, salt and pepper.
Fill cavity with stuffing and popcorn.
Place in baking pan making sure the neck end is toward the front of the oven, not the back.
After about 4 hours, listen for the popping sounds.
When the turkey’s ass blows the oven door open and the bird flies across the room…it’s done.
(And you thought I didn’t cook…)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

“007: Reporting for Duty”

“Quantum of Solace” left a rare bad taste in our martini aroma filled mouths and James Bond needed to redeem himself. It had a fascinating premise: control of renewable energy by an evil villain. While there are memorable scenes and action sequences (the opening chase and the walks through the desert), collectively the 22nd Bond installment of 2008 fell flat. It revealed the classic shortfalls of bad movies: lack of great characters and a mediocre script. Regardless of the number and scope of fiery explosions, they amounted to only a flicker. A modern comparison would be a film with an overuse of CGI or Computer Generated Imagery.

Without context, meaning or believability, big explosions appear 2-dimensional.

This is what Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer said after defeating Cal earlier this year.

“The best thing about 3-0 is you get a chance to go 4-0 … and get better. I can promise you we are going to get better,” Urban Meyer said.

This brings us to November 2012. After an under-performing 22nd Bond installment, one thing was crystal clear: The best part about making the 22nd Bond movie was the chance to make the 23rd Bond movie.

“Skyfall” had to endure what no other James Bond film has, which is the realistic threat of extinction. Without delving in too deep, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) faced bankruptcy and the entire franchise was financially starving. According to, “The Broke and the Beautiful: Bond Edition” on WSJ online, the movie studio went through bankruptcy in December 2010. With generous funding through advertising (Heineken among others), it was determined that James Bond would have to ‘die another day.’ It’s important to note that plot secrets will not be revealed in this entry, but instead includes what can be seen in the trailer or interviews with the actors before the premiere.

This is a non-spoiler commentary, aimed at those who have seen and those who have not (yet) seen “Skyfall.”

What makes “Skyfall” so appealing is the return of James Bond as portrayed by the brawny Daniel Craig. “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” had a storyline interwoven that included the professional yet emotionally vulnerable Vesper. The newest adventure takes the audience in a new direction, one with poignant overarching themes.

As the trailer above shows, James Bond has decided to enjoy his ‘death’ by living in moderate opposition to the MI6 handbook (now there’s a must-read!). The decision is made to return, but as the trailer shows, his shot is frustratingly off. He is visibly shaken. But, rest assured that villains still need his undivided attention and the diabolical, blonde haired Silva (Javier Bardem) is in his cross-hairs this time at the direction of M (Judi Dench). And there is no doubt that Silva fills the shoes of a classic Bond villain, plus some. In fact, he is one of the best Bond villains…ever.

Silva is a cyber-terrorist and is very proficient in his trade, which poses quite the challenge for Mr. Bond. The sophisticated use of computers and technology in the movie is a good representation of the primary battles and wars we will face in the not so distant future outside the movie universe. Inevitability may be the most appropriate adjective. In this good v. evil battle, there is the need to first understand the nature of this terrorism. To do so, a new and innovative perspective and tact is required. Insert the young, shaggy haired, technological wizard known as the Quartermaster, or Q for short.

The trailer shows Bond and Q sitting side by side in a museum with the following dynamics: short hair v. long hair, young v. old(er), strength v. computing and old school v. new school. As the world changes, so do the partnerships. Force can be exerted in a myriad of ways, with these variations falling within the realms of the physical and mental senses. And as with most things in life, balance is still of the up most importance.

As mentioned above, 007 must come to grips with the actualization that he has lost a step since going six feet under. Sam Mendes said he was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s adaptation of Batman. There are definitely similarities between the films that reflect this admiration of a hero having to ‘rebuild’ himself, but this story of everybody’s favorite British spy is unique to the James Bond legacy. To be clear, there is no doubt that this is a 007 movie.

Each of Craig’s three films have shown him as a Bond that is tough that, at times, exerts brute force. He may even represent a secret agent that could exist in today’s world. But within this rough and tough exterior also exists a drinking, smooth talking ladies man with room for friendship, compassion…and even love (Vesper). The personal shortfalls and emotions he experiences can be felt through the screen and have since his debut in “Casino Royale.”

Is the kind of visible despair he goes through, with Mathis and Vesper for example, good or bad for the character of James Bond?

And why does James Bond experience this? One reason for this movie may be that the 2012 007 is dealing with a very savvy 2012 villain who challenges him in ways that are difficult to anticipate. Evil is no longer restrained by powerful figures within government and its military. Like in the non-movie world, evil’s only limitations are those determined by the individual leading the charge. This is another intriguing reality portrayed in “Skyfall.” How does a government defeat an individual or group with independent resources who walk and strike without a uniform or home base?

“Skyfall” is full of  themes that resonate and action sequences that excite. Though it does not necessarily qualify as a gadget and is more of a feature, the palm printed gun that Q gives 007 in the museum is nothing short of a splendid modern day example of innovation. Only Bond’s prints can activate the trigger. Brilliant. Since it’s featured in a movie, certainly this concept has been developed and used by our men and women of the CIA.

It’s always been an assumption of mine that if we, civilians, can think of a cool gadget idea then the probability is extraordinarily high that people within the government have had the same idea, but years earlier. It’s almost unnerving to contemplate that a print locked gun is only the tip of the iceberg of inventions and ideas floating around my and surely your head. Just imagine what is being proposed and use at this very moment…

James Bond faces an incredible adversary in Silva. Not only has the world changed, but Bond too is forced to readjust. The enemy and challenge before him is unlike any he has ever faced. It’s a new chapter in the 50 year James Bond franchise.

It’s been said that businesses do their best when looking into the abyss. James Bond and its studio faced such a scenario.

I suppose you could say they navigated their abyss by means of a “skyfall.”

I’m an Ohioan and I Approve This Message

The 2012 Presidential Election is tomorrow. This means two things:

1. The president for the next four years will be determined (and Ohio will play a minor role)

2. The never-ending loop of political ads will stop!

I live in the Buckeye State and that means I’ve seen and heard every single kind of political ad that’s been made. Just in the past couple months, and this is rounding down, ~99% of all commercials during basic cable news broadcasts, sitcoms, sporting events, etc. have been political. Both parties do them and both parties go way over the top, particularly with the quantity level.

*Bottom Line: Of all the ads and commercials, good and bad, that have played in the state of Ohio throughout this election cycle (I don’t even want to know the actual number), here is the winner of…

The Best Political Commercial of 2012:

I live in Ohio and I approve this message