Friday, December 13, 2013

CHECK ONE TWO THREE, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH [100]GS: Saray is back with some more aca-awesome:
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Let’s take a minute to talk about the stakes of The Sing Off, or lack thereof. There’s something inherently charming about a reality singing competition in which the prize is a Sony record contract and $100,000. Split amongst the multiple members of a group, it’s not a ton of cash, and a record contract doesn’t really mean anything if the label doesn’t invest in you. As my friend Randi said, labels have to recoup 100% of their costs before you will see a penny of what you’ve earned in royalties. Winning The Sing Off is nice, but unless you put heart and soul into it (like Pentatonix has, to great success), it’s not going to make your career. So off we go, for a night one hour of low-stakes singing fun.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

LIFE, FROM NEW YORK, IT'S A WOMAN OF COLOR!  About twenty-five African American women have auditioned for Lorne Michaels in the past week, with plans to add one to the cast in January.
YOU REALLY ARE A HEEL:  Former attorney Linda Holmes advises a resident of Whoville as to his rights under defamation law.
HOW MANY FOOTNOTES WILL THE MOVIE CONTAIN? Jason Segel will play the late David Foster Wallace in a forthcoming biopic focused on the book tour for Infinite Jest, from the director of The Spectacular Now.
PARTY ON GARTH, PARTY ON WAYNE: Saray with The Sing-Off, night two:
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Tonight is “Party Anthem” night on The Sing Off, so obviously the big group number starts with Ten singing “Let’s Get it Started” by the Black Eyed Peas. The acoUstiKats and Calle Sol join in quickly after, and the judges all put on light-up sunglasses. Vocal Rush chimes in with Ke$ha’s “Die Young” and Home Free countrifies it up with some nice bass tones. Street Corner Renaissance is as adorable as ever doing the step-touch in the audience. Element is in the middle of the audience, and VoicePlay on the other side and both chime in for a verse and a chorus. Notice how it’s a “group number” but a significant number of people are not singing for a lot of the song – this is how they make it interesting without having to rewrite too many sections for each group. The Filharmonic runs on stage and their lead singer gets to sing with Honey from VoicePlay to fill out the sound, and now we’re in “Please Don’t Stop the Music”. But they do stop the music, and it’s time to go. Title credits!

Remember how last night I said I would try to write shorter about a cappella? Sorry. You get 2,000 words tonight.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

SADLY, THERE'S ALREADY A SHOW WITH A BIG NUMBER CALLED "I BELIEVE:" Bull Durham: The Musical is aiming for Broadway next season. No casting is announced, but Jeremy Jordan or Aaron Tveit as Nuke LaLoosh and Norbert Leo Butz as Crash Davis would have to be seen as potential targets.
GET READY TO MATCH THE STARS!  As part of a whole week devoted to game show content, our friends over at have given us a proposed cast for the star-studded big-money Match Game 2014, and have some pretty awesome selections.
THUMBS UP:  Facebook is considering adding a "Sympathize" button to replace the standard "Like", for when a user posts a status update containing sad news.
THE SAGGIES:  Nominations for the 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards have been announced, with lots of potential love spread in many of the places you'd have expected (12 Years a Slave, The Butler, August: Osage County, Captain Phillips), and if you thought we had finally passed the statute of limitations on awards for Behind the Candelabra or 30 Rock, apparently, not quite yet.

[Dan Fienberg notes, however: zero love for this season of Mad Men.]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NOTHING MAKES A WOMAN FEEL MORE LIKE A GIRL THAN A MAN WHO SINGS LIKE A BOY:  The Sing-Off returned to NBC last night; I am delighted that longtime reader and a cappella expert Saray will be covering it for us. With no further ado...
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Many of you know that I am passionate about a cappella; after performing for over 15 years and working for Varsity Vocals (the people who bring you the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella or “ICCA”) it’s pretty much just ingrained at this point.  Adam kindly asked me to write some recaps/commentary about the shows as they air this season, and I hope to bring you a bit of insider perspective.  General caveat: I do know some of the performers in this season, and am friendly with many of the behind-the-scenes producers and arrangers for the show.  I’m going to try not to get too technical or, well, horribly snarky, but the jaded part might take over.  Many, many thanks to Marsha for covering this beat for the past three seasons.

We roll right from The Voice into an big group opening number, and I know I’m already screwed: the song is “Some Nights” by fun., which I declared last year to be the most overdone song in a cappella.  (Seriously – I made an agreement with a friend that he would donate $1 to the charity of my choice for every “Some Nights” cover from a different a cappella group that I could find on YouTube.  I stopped at $160 because I couldn’t take it anymore.)  For a show that is routinely called the most honestly earnest of the singing competitions, I suppose that’s fine.  There’s lots of pops of color in the clothing, as expected, along with snazzy college blazers.  Yep, it’s definitely The Sing-Off!

WHENEVER I GET GLOOMY WITH THE STATE OF THE WORLD:  The never-ending debate over the merits of Love Actually continues.  Christopher Orr, The Atlantic, anti:
Love Actually is exceptional in that it is not merely, like so many other entries in the genre, unromantic. Rather, it is emphatically, almost shockingly, anti-romantic.... I think it offers up at least three disturbing lessons about love. First, that love is overwhelmingly a product of physical attraction and requires virtually no verbal communication or intellectual/emotional affinity of any kind. Second, that the principal barrier to consummating a relationship is mustering the nerve to say “I love you”—preferably with some grand gesture—and that once you manage that, you’re basically on the fast track to nuptial bliss. And third, that any actual obstacle to romantic fulfillment, however surmountable, is not worth the effort it would require to overcome.
In response, Mother Jones' Ben Dreyfuss:

Monday, December 9, 2013

SMASH LIVES! With the ratings success of Sound of Music: Live!, NBC has announced that they will do another one next year, with the only requirements being "they must be Broadway classics with a slew of familiar songs."  So, South Pacific?  The King And I?  My Fair Lady? Camelot?  Provide your musical and casting suggestions below.  (And related to the headline, Hit List In Concert has drawn more than a few quite positive reviews, with some suggestion it could have an afterlife.)
Many runners were decked out in old-school gray sweats and red headbands like the ones Rocky wore. Phil Yurkon of Scranton, Pa., wore boxing gloves and had "Lithuanian Stallion" written on the back of his sweatshirt, a play on Rocky's "Italian Stallion" nickname and a homage to Mr. Yurkon's ancestry. The 32-year-old hadn't run more than 17 miles before this run; he heard about the Rocky run the day before and decided to try it. 
Brian Lynch stepped out of his house across the street from the one used in "Rocky II." The "Rocky house" draws a steady stream of curiosity seekers, often tourists from the U.K., he said. He was impressed by the turnout for the run. But he confessed to sometimes thinking that when he goes around Philadelphia, "I can't escape this damn movie."... 
"I'm getting ready for my cheesesteak, gonna stretch out for a little bit, and go home and take a nap probably," Mr. Yurkon said after completing the run.
BRING OUT YOUR KELTNERS:  Roy Halladay, clearly the best pitcher of [insert arbitrary endpoints here], will today sign a one-day contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and announce his retirement from baseball.  From 2002-2012, for instance:

1 Roy Halladay 181 25-35 329 63 18 2351.0 2222 408 1831 3.07 186
2 CC Sabathia 174 21-31 350 35 12 2384.0 2212 674 2043 3.44 208
3 Derek Lowe 155 29-39 374 10 4 2174.0 2266 650 1344 4.08 178
4 Mark Buehrle 154 23-33 361 24 6 2406.1 2564 537 1358 3.86 271
5 Roy Oswalt 149 24-34 328 17 7 2071.1 2024 487 1674 3.32 181
6 Tim Hudson 148 26-36 318 19 11 2108.2 1998 595 1319 3.37 158
7 Johan Santana 136 23-33 315 15 10 1896.0 1574 497 1896 3.02 203
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/9/2013.

A Cy Young in each league, eight All-Star appearances, a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter. Induct! (Basically, you're making the Koufax case here given the career length, but ... it's justified.)
THE MOST IMPORTANT MAN IN SPORTS IN THE PAST FORTY YEARS: The Veterans Committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, again given the chance to induct Marvin Miller as part of its expansion era ballot, has instead voted unanimously to induct managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, and Tony La Russa.

I do think Mr. Finn raised a fair point regarding La Russa: if we're going to ding McGwire for using PEDs, why give a free pass to his manager who let it happen?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

HE VERY NEARLY, VERY LITERALLY WORKED HIMSELF TO DEATH FOR THE BENEFIT OF HIS EMPLOYER:  Mike Tanier did not care for the Houston Texans' firing of coach Gary Kubiak on Friday, just one month after he suffered a transient ischemic attack in the middle of a football game:
Football is a business, and the Houston Texans have a responsibility to win football games, so there was little chance Kubiak would coach the team beyond this season. But there are ways of acknowledging Kubiak’s efforts — not just the health risks Kubiak took in the name of team and career, not just the conscientiousness he showed by rushing back to work, but the eight years he spent building a team that, as recently as January, was a true contender. 
Kubiak was the most successful coach in franchise history, such as it is. When things went south, he worked to solve the team’s problems until he collapsed. Under contract through 2014, Kubiak could have been shuffled off to a “consultant” position for a year, a de-facto health severance and recognition that his shortcomings arose from just the opposite of a want for trying. If nothing else, he earned the right to play out the season with dignity, to give a final press conference and shake hands with Bob McNair on Dec. 30. 
Instead, the Texans fired Kubiak on Friday afternoon. Thanks for the playoff appearances, coach. Thanks for devoting yourself to our organization until you grew so dizzy on the sideline that you could not stand up straight. Now get the hell out of the facility.