Tuesday, December 20, 2016

DON'T STOP INDUCTIN': Your Rock Hall of Fame Inductees are Tupac Shakur, Pearl Jam, Joan Baez, ELO, Yes, and Journey.  Chic does not get in, but Nile Rodgers receives the "Award for Musical Excellence," honoring "those musicians, producers and others who have spent their careers out of the spotlight working with major artists on various parts of their recording and live careers," previously won by the E Street Band and Ringo Starr.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016

START YOUR AWARDS RACE:  As always, the Golden Globe nominations are a mixture of one part obvious (lots of love for La La Land and Manchester By The Sea) and one part bizarre.  A few surprises to note:
  • The Globes have apparently forgiven Mel Gibson, who gets best picture and best director nods for Hacksaw Ridge.
  • Inexplicable nominations--Lily Collins (Best Actress, Comedy/Musical for Rules Don't Apply), Jonah Hill (Best Actor, Comedy/Musical for War Dogs), Simon Helberg (Best Supporting Actor for Florence Foster Jenkins), something called My Life As A Zucchini for Best Animated Feature.
  • Winona Ryder for Best Actress in a TV Drama (Stranger Things)?  Not inexplicable, but not really a lead performance, even if she's billed first.
  • It looks like Disney is making "How Far I'll Go" the song pushed from Moana.
  • The obligatory "new shows the Globes fell for" this year are The Crown and This Is Us (which gets acting nods for Chrissy Metz and Mandy Moore in the insanely competitive consolidated supporting actress/TV category).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

OVER THE MOOOOON:  I'm sure we will find much to argue (and to agree with) in this ranking of Rent's characters from least to most insufferable.

Friday, December 2, 2016

U CAN SEE THEM:  Emma Stone (3rd time), John Cena, (1st) and Casey Affleck (1st) to host the last three SNLs of 2016.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

VOTING SHALL BE BASED UPON THE PLAYER'S RECORD, PLAYING ABILITY, INTEGRITY, SPORTSMANSHIP, CHARACTER, AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE TEAM(S) ON WHICH THE PLAYER PLAYED: The National Baseball Hall of Fame has released its new ballot for modern players. It has fifteen new names, including Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman, and seventeen returning players some new players, some returning players, and it took me days to realize I had just cut-and-pasted here. And voters only get to select ten of them.

I have set up a Doodle poll for the ALOTT5MA community to vote. All the stats are here. Please vote for no more than ten names, because that's what the BBWAA does, remembering that anyone who falls below 5% will be dropped from next year's ballot, so vote strategically if you must. I have long believed that players accused/admitted of PED usage should be voted into the Hall if their accomplishments so merit, and with their Hall plaques "teaching the controversy" where appropriate. My 2017 ballot reflects this. with players new to the ballot noted with an asterisk:
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Hoffman, E Martinez, Mussina, Raines, Ramirez*, I Rodriguez*, Schilling.
I did not end up voting strategically this year -- in some years, I've left off Bonds/Clemens out of the assumption they wouldn't make it anyway, but there's no one I really wanted to vote for that I couldn't. I was able to return them and Edgar Martinez to my ballot where I've had to exclude them in years past due to the 10-person limit.

I'm not sure that I need to explain my votes for Manny Ramirez or Pudge Rodriguez, but I will if I need to. Vlad Guerrero was the closest call, but there's not a metric by which he's not inferior to Manny, and probably Sheffield too. I just hear my dad's voice in my head: nice player? sure. Hall of Famer? Closer to Dave Parker than the true greats.

Curt Schilling remains on my ballot because while character matters, none of the criticisms of him as a businessman or public advocate have any bearing on his character as a baseball player.

Also, if I could, I'd have voted for Jim Edmonds again. His one-and-done remains absurd.

(Our discussion of the 2011 ballot2011 Doodle results; 2012 discussion; 2012 Doodle results; 2013 discussion; 2013 Doodle results; 2014 discussion; 2014 Doodle results; 2015 discussion & results.)

Monday, November 21, 2016

TAKE THE PHYSICAL CHALLENGE: Of course we're going to provide you with a link to an oral history of the Double Dare obstacle course, especially one that manages to work in the idea of an "attractive nuisance!" 

Monday, November 14, 2016

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD:  The long list for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars is already out, with 27 films in competition, guaranteeing 5 nominees.  Seems like Finding Dory, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Moana are in, but who gets the other two slots?  (I don't think Sausage Party is likely, despite big box office, because the animation was mostly not particularly good/stylish.)

Thursday, November 10, 2016


"Riddle of the day: Samuel was born first, but his twin brother Ronan is older. How is that possible?

Friday, October 28, 2016

I WANT CANDY:  Vox ranks 27 common Halloween candies, and I'm sure we will have ample disagreement about them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

IT'S KELTNER SEASON:Your nominees for this year's Rock Hall of Fame class:
  • Pearl Jam
  • Tupac Shakur
  • Depeche Mode
  • ELO
  • Jane's Addiction
  • Janet Jackson
  • Journey 
  • The Cars
  • The Zombies
  • Yes
  • Bad Brains
  • Chaka Khan
  • Chic
  • J. Geils Band
  • Joan Baez
  • Joe Tex 
  • Kraftwerk
  • MC5
  • Steppenwolf
Pearl Jam and Tupac seem like cinches for first ballot induction, but the rest of that class seems pretty uninspiring to me.  Eligible this year for the first time, but not finalists?  Boyz II Men,  Alanis Morissette, PJ Harvey, and Tori Amos.  (Next year's eligibles include two seeming first ballot cinches--Radiohead and Beck.)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

WE'RE ONLY ONE YEAR AWAY FROM MIAMI 2017:  We normally stay away from politics, but when two candidates (on Long Island, naturally) debate which one loves Billy Joel more, we're on it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

PRESUMABLY, THE NEW CAST ADDITIONS ARE YOUNG, SCRAPPY, AND HUNGRY: Lin-Manuel Miranda will host SNL on October 8.  Musical guest is Twentyone Pilots, and sadly, not someone involved with Hamilton

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

NO DAY BUT YESTERDAY:  I saw the 20th anniversary tour of Rent last night, which I hadn't seen on stage in many years, and some thoughts:
  • For as fresh and "now" as the show felt in 1995, it now feels SUPER-dated in a world of cell phones, more general acceptance of LBGTQ people, and the Internet.  In particular, Collins' rants about technology and philosophy and our need to engage in "ACTUAL REALITY!" have not aged well.
  • That said, the show is still enormously effective at pulling on the heartstrings, in particular in the "I'll Cover You" reprise, and the somewhat different take on "Over The Moon" (Maureen as overzealous MFA-type, rather than "wild child") kept that relatively funny and fresh.
  • The production's biggest problem was its Mimi.  Mimi is a junkie stripper (albeit one with a heart of gold)--there should be more than a hint of danger to her.  The performance here felt more like a sorority girl playing dress-up.
  • You forget how off-balance the two acts of the show are.  The first act covers a mere 4-5 hours, from December 24, 9 PM, Eastern Standard Time, to a party after Maureen's midnight performance/protest, while the second act covers almost a full year.  
  • The saddest thing the show reminds us of is what a talent we lost in Larson.  If he'd lived, I'd be fascinated to see what else he was able to do, and how he might've adjusted the show after its premiere to give it a little more balance.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

RE: YOUR BRAIN-EATING BUGS:  I'm still not entirely sure what to think of BrainDead, which tried to mix a lot of things that you wouldn't think would go together well into a strange cocktail--gory splatter horror, super-broad political satire, and charming romantic comedy among them.  However, the one thing that unquestionably worked?  The original songs that recap prior episodes, written and performed by Jonathan Coulton, which get increasingly bizarre and meta as the show progresses, including, at one point, him finding recapping the show "too stressful" and deciding the recap Gunsmoke instead.  Someone has helpfully gathered all the songs (including the recaps and a final epilogue song) in one place, and even if you didn't watch the show, it's well worth your time.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

LFNY,ISN!  Jesse David Fox speculates on who'll host the season opener, listing the Final Five as most likely. I think we're due for a Tom Hanks return - it's been a decade, and even longer since Sabra Price Is Right or Mr. Short Term Memory. (Or has it?)
CSI: DOG WHISPERER: With Bull, a drama inspired by Dr. Phil's pre-talk show life, hitting CBS this fall (with Hamilton's Chris Jackson, which I suspect is enough to get many eyeballs in our demographic), and CBS in development on a scripted show inspired by Judge Judy, where is CBS headed next in the bold new strategy of "daytime in primetime?"  A drama about Jerry Springer as mayor of Cincinnati?  Alex Trebek--game show host by day, crime solver by night?  Pitch your ideas here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

P-R-E, M-O-R, S-E..something something:  Annette Funicello, who I assumed was both dead and way older than 70, is dead only now.

ETA:  Apparently, this story is three years old and, due the vagaries of how FB threads news stories, this appeared this morning.  I am pretty sure I would have been surprised that she was still alive to be dead in 2013, but this is not -- properly -- premorse.
JURORS GONNA JUR JUR JUR JUR:  Taylor Swift is on jury duty in Nashville today.

Monday, August 22, 2016

KEEP ON WITH THE FORCE, DON'T STOP:  Pitchfork goes Top 200 on Songs of the 1970s, and this is a lovely meditation on #15, "Bohemian Rhapsody":
And yet, at its heart, “Bohemian Rhapsody” holds a secret: What the Bismillah is it all about? For decades, the band guarded it fiercely, demurring only to say that it was the composer’s personal business. Ultimately, his lover Jim Hutton confessed that it is the singer’s coming out. 
Mercury sings to his previous sexual partner/flatmate/best friend Mary Austin that he “just killed a man”—his old hetero self—via his first gay affair; the rift it causes is so traumatic that he momentarily comes to the conclusion that many LGBT people—who even today experience rates of suicide far exceeding their straight brothers and sisters—still at times reach: “I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.”  
But Mercury escapes this torment, and plunges himself into a world of man-on-man masculinity embodied by the kick-ass section so beloved by Wayne and Garth and headbangers everywhere. As for the self-hatred and societal obstacles, he gets himself right outta there, and ascends to a place where he can be truly free. Across every religion, that’s the very definition of heaven, of divinity, and that’s why the most secretly gay song of all time is also one of the most universal. It’s the story of Mercury learning to love himself. Who can’t relate to that?
I READ ABOUT IT IN TRONC: Panda Express, the place you go when you're at a mall and want Chinese food, and don't want to drive to the nearest Pei Wei, has rolled out the unholy union of a fork and chopsticks.  Naturally,it's called a chork.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

AQUAMAN'S TRIDENT:  The ALOTT5MA Vexillology Desk is re-opened to note Shea Serrano's attempt to rank (many of the) Olympic nations based on national flag. Also, gratuitous TPE-wooing:
5. Belize
It’s like there was a meeting and the person in charge of the meeting was like, “We’re here today to determine what should go on our national flag.” Then some guy in the back was like, “What about 50 leaves in a circle?” And a woman a few rows ahead of them was like, “No, no, no. How about a tree?” And then a guy on the left side of the room was like, “I like boats.” And then a different guy on the same side of the room was like, “Hey, oars are cool.” Then a woman different from that first woman was like, “How about two men, one browner than the other?” And then a different guy in the front row was like, “Let’s not forget saws and axes.” And that first person in charge of the meeting was just standing there, taking it all in. Then he was like, “You know what? Fuck it. Put it all on there. Meeting adjourned.” It’s the same way they made the cover for Willie D’s Controversy in 1989.

Monday, August 15, 2016

IT'S A SLED:  The AV Club looks at an interesting question--do spoilers constitute copyright infringement?  AMC has apparently been sending letters to Walking Dead fan sites threatening them with copyright claims if they spoil the result of last season's cliffhanger.  While there's an argument that this sort of spoiler is akin to that found not to be fair use in Nation v. Harper and Row--it's a small taking, but a crucial one--it's hard to say that any substantial number of people are not going to watch the show because they knew in advance what was going to happen.
INCLUDING THE CRAZY SUMMER THAT HAD ONE CRAZY SUMMER:  Steve Hyden endeavors to rank the past 40 summers for movie quality, or at least, the top 10 and bottom 10.  (M.I.A.: 1999, with Sixth Sense, South Park: BLU, American Pie, and more.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

CALL YOUR GIRLFRIEND:  I think Lorne's making a real mistake in weakening an already sub-par male half of the SNL cast by axing versatile Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah with one year left on their contracts. How do you not have an Obama while Obama is still in office? (What: Pete Davidson?)  And how do you replace all the impressions Killam does so adeptly, as well as the dancing ability?  The world does not need a Christoph Waltz impersonator, but damn his is good.

We're going to end up with Kenan Thompson as Tim Kaine, aren't we.
SOMEONE IS GETTING THE PEOPLE'S ELBOW:  The Rock has declared that some of his male co-stars in the upcoming Fast 8 are "candy-asses."  Speculation generally revolves around new cast addition Scott Eastwood, though Kurt Russell (who appeared in a small role in Furious 7) seems to be a possibility.

Monday, August 8, 2016

DOES THIS MEAN PIGGY IS ELIZA?  Despite their last TV show being a failure, Disney is staying in the Muppet business, launching a new show at Disney World where the Muppets present "their own unique take on the founding fathers and the birth of the United States of America."

Sunday, August 7, 2016

MY TRAVELING COMPANION IS NINE YEARS OLD: "Here are the best playlists for your summer road trip. They’re called albums."
“One thing in favor of the album format in the streaming age is just that maintaining and curating your playlist is work” says Hein. “Fleetwood Mac put all this thought and attention into picking eleven Fleetwood Mac songs for you to listen to, in an order, as a group.” 
So why not just hit play and let Fleetwood Mac—or Grimes, or Modest Mouse, or Beethoven—do the curating?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

PLUNGE FOR DISTANCE, DENIED:  Following up from our June 2015 post, IOC sportocrats have added for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games the sports of skateboarding, surfing, "climbing," karate, and baseball/softball. (Squash, bowling, and wushu: denied.)

I renew my request that the modern pentathlon be reformed to include the five disciplines essential to Back to the Future: skateboarding, running, boxing, guitar-playing, and auto racing.
THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE:  It's apparently National Watermelon Day.  Which pop cultural watermelon is more important:  the one Baby carried or "watermelon to the face?"

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

REACTIVATE THE UNNECESSARY REBOOTS BOT:  Steven Bochco wants to reboot L.A. Law.  With Good Wife having ended, there's not a good network show set in a law firm (as opposed to a DA's office) running, and Suits is about it on the cable side, and I think there's potential here--kick it off with McKenzie dying (a la Chaney's death in the original pilot), and Brackman finding it uncomfortable as the firm's central figure.
REMEMBER THE SUSSUDIO:  Spotted in San Antonio:

Our prior Phil Collins/Alamo coverage.

Monday, July 18, 2016

THESE ARE PEOPLES LIVES!  Immediately add Leslie Jones to the list of people who should appear on Match Game (and any other game show**, really) whenever they want.  That was just batshit crazy and it kept deteriorating wonderfully all night now.

Also, Justin Long, Bellamy Young, and Al Yankovic are perfectly cromulent Pyramid players.  Well done, ABC.

** Look, I'm still not sure if Match Game is a game show, or a comedy show in game format. Work with me here.
HAIL TO THE CHIEF, HE'S THE ONE WE ALL SAY "HAIL" TO:  The WSJ ranks 44 fictional Presidents based on their accomplishments, and as usual Jed Bartlet is too high because you don't lie about a debilitating illness, assassinate a foreign leader, or trade away a Supreme Court seat just because you're convinced the court was at its best when Brady was fighting Ashland.

Underrated: Fitz.  Unlisted: Jack Stanton. What a handshake.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

"I WISH I WAS OUT OF SHOW BUSINESS THIS VERY MINUTE":  I never knew about the chaotic night in 1991 when The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson invited Morrissey onto American television for the first time.  (Also on the show: a certain pudding-pop-promoting serial rapist.)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

IF ROSIE IS MATCH GAME'S HEART, HOST ALEC BALDWIN IS ITS DICK: This may be the one topic, until that movie with the ladies and the ghosts, which moves the needle around here this summer. So let's talk about this week, and, in particular, the hell was wrong with "rubber duckies in tubs" as a winner's circle clue (Things That Float) on Pyramid?  Linda Holmes has a theory, but that's just a dumb rule.

Also, there's awesome clues and then there's "your crooked tie," which is so perfect that I don't even need to say what the category was.

(Strahan still needs to improve on the lean-in-and-tell-them-the-one-clue-they-missed move, but he's learning. And never let Martha Stewart on that show again.)

Match Game was also good, but I am fearful for next week's No Rosie No Tituss experiment -- even if it has Josh Charles, Jack McBrayer, Leslie Jones, and Cheryl Hines.

added: Full list of contestants in the second round of Match Game tapings, including Josh Malina, Randall Park, Ellie Kemper, and a former large-state Governor who you betcha we're not discussing here.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

THEY PADDED THEIR CUPS, BUT I SCREWED THE JUDGES:  Time to supplement our NBC Hairspray Live cast list: in addition to Harvey Fierstein, Marty Short, Derek Hough, and Jennifer Hudson in (the roles you'd cast them in if you were casting Hairspray, even though J-Hud's probably too young for hers), Kristin Chenoweth and Arianna Grande are in as ... oh, come on, that's just perfect casting, plus previously-unknown (yay!) Maddie Biallio as Tracy Turnblad, and she has pipes.
WHATCHU GONNA DO:  It's the 20th anniversary of Hulk Hogan's big heel turn (no, not when he teamed up with Peter Thiel).

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

I'LL TAKE THE PHYSICAL CHALLENGE:  Marc Summers will host a special edition of Double Dare live from Comic-Con in honor of the show's 30th Anniversary.  My goal was always to get on the show and then clean up simply by answering every question correctly rather than deal with any of the stunts.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

GO, DADDIO:  Previously.tv ranks NBC's other sitcom efforts on Must See TV Thursdays, because keeping Mark Feuerstein gainfully employed is a critical national goal.

Monday, July 4, 2016

IN CONGRESS JULY 4, 1776: The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

[First, a complaint: TCM's not airing 1776 until 1am on July 5. That's balderdash.]

[See, related, Isaac Spaceman's "A Word From Your Editor" (July 4, 2008) here. In the meantime, enjoy "The Lees of Old Virginia" as performed by the My Little Pony troupe, and read John Adams' letter to Abigail Adams of July 3, 1776 ("It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.")]

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Friday, July 1, 2016

ONCE YOU'RE WITH THE WIZARD, NO ONE THINKS YOU'RE STRANGE:  I have a hunch you'll love The Baseball Bunch oral history which SI just published.
YOU GOT A WEIRD THING FOR CANADIAN MELODRAMA:  On this Dominion Day Canada Day we contemplate one of life's burning questions: what makes a film a Canadian film?  Is it the setting? The director and cast? Must it be filmed in Canada? (Can a movie be filmed in Canada and not be "Canadian"?) Must it be Canadian in tone and pacing, whatever that means? Is eligibility for the Genie Canadian Screen Awards sufficient? (Do you consider Room, Brooklyn, or Meatballs to be Canadian films?)

FWIW, my favorite film from The True North remains Atom Egoyan's Exotica, though I think the best is Dead Ringers -- I just can't bear to watch it again, no matter how good Jeremy Irons was in it.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

EVERYONE'S GRADES WILL BE A'IGHT A'IGHT A'IGHT:  Matthew McConaughey will teach a film class at UT-Austin this fall (primarily via video).
YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY:  As part of its inexplicable relaunch of Crystal Pepsi, you will soon be able to travel down the Crystal Pepsi Trail.
DISCUSS AMONGST YOURSELVES: For a movie that was so good about celebrating a character with a cognitive disability, Finding Dory really bungled the Gerald stuff, didn't it?
DISCUSS AMONGST YOURSELVES:  If Back to the Future were remade today (sacrilege, I know), what would be the equivalent of Marty McFly teaching Marvin Berry how to rock-and-roll for the mid/late 1980s?

(HT: Adam C.)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

JONI MITCHELL WAITS PATIENTLY, PENSIVELY: Having recognized Carole King last year, the Kennedy Center Honors will stay in Laurel Canyon for one more year to hang a rainbow ribbon and medal on James Taylor this December, along with Al Pacino, Mavis Staples, pianist Martha Argerich, and The Eagles, whose intended 2015 award was delayed by Glenn Frey's illness, ultimately resulting in his death.

In 2008, Benner noted that Pacino was certainly on the "how has he not won yet?" list, along with Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Prince. (The latter two may have been invited.) Also on the never-awarded list: James L. Brooks (come on!), Jerry Lewis, Martin Scorsese, Neil Young, Norman Lear, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Glenn Close, and Gene Hackman.
GET READY TO MATCH THE STARS:  Your panel for the first episode of the new star-studded big-money Match Game?  In seat order: Tituss Burgess, Rosie O'Donnell, Michael Ian Black, Debra Messing, JB Smoove, and Sutton Foster. 
BUSTING ON THIS MAKES ME FEEL GOOD: Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott have recorded the title song to an upcoming summer film for which some here have expressed interest.

Friday, June 17, 2016

YOU NEVER FORGET KIDS LIKE EMILY, OR ANDY, BUT THEY FORGET YOU:  For the record, I prefer the Grierson/Leitch 1-17 ranking of Pixar films to Owen Gleiberman's because the former properly gets Ratatouille way ahead of anything Cars-related, though I have no ability to or interest in ranking the Toy Story films against each other, each of which is perfect.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

THE TOUGHEST CASE I'VE YET TO FACE:  Wicked will fly to film screens on December 20, 2019, so go ahead and start casting. (Not that we haven't tried once or twice before.)

Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda has confirmed -- in addition to his July 9 end-date -- that they will film the current cast of Hamilton before he leaves the show, though whether that will be made publicly available is TBD.  Determined, however, is that if you want to see She Loves Me with its revival cast, they'll stream it live online for $9.99 on June 30.

EDITED: Also, how about a Tony Kushner-penned, Spielberg-somehow-involved remake of West Side Story?

Monday, June 13, 2016

ANOTHER QUARTER OF THE EGOT:  The 2016 Emmy Ballots are out, and some interesting observations:
  • A number of shows opted to submit only one episode in the writing category to avoid cannibalizing votes--among them?  Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Pilot), black-ish (the BLM episode), The Goldbergs (Dirty Dancing), Master of None (Parents), Kimmy Schmidt (finale), The Good Wife (finale), The Leftovers (International Assassin), Horace and Pete (Episode 3), Mr. Robot (pilot), 
  • Documentary Now! is considered a variety series (more specifically, a "variety sketch series"), not a comedy series, but only Hader is submitted as a lead actor, Armisten is supporting.
  • The various Muppet performers are all listed in lead actor for The Muppets.
  • Adele is a likely nominee for her Radio City special.  A win would leave her just T shy of EGOT.
  • You are not a lead, despite being submitted as one:  Brett Dalton (Agents of SHIELD), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (American Crime Story), Dianne Wiest (Life in Pieces), Elizabeth Henstridge (Agents of SHIELD), Reshma Shetty (Royal Pains).
  • Fred Armisen has 4 separate submissions for guest actor in a comedy (Man Seeking Woman, SNL, Kimmy Schmidt, and Difficult People).
  • Long-ish shot nominee who I'm really rooting for?  Tovah Feldshuh, Outstanding Guest Actress Comedy. 
THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD: Jessica Lange (G) is now one step away from EGOT, but that can't be the most important takeaway from last night's appropriately solemn and celebratory Tony Awards.

Yes, the producers put their thumbs on the scales in terms of favoring Hamilton over other shows in terms of performance time -- but that's what the public, and the moment, demanded. Waitress moves up my want-to-see list, and Fiddler (too flashy!) down a peg. James Corden was an able host, though not on the NPH/Jackman pantheon.

And while I know it may prove controversial here, I'm more pro-faux-Ham4Ham interludes than anti, but really what I needed less of was the Chicago tribute when they were already running late. (And why would one rouge one's knees, anyway?)

Most of all, let's be glad we live in a country in which not too long from now, school groups will get to perform Hamilton, boosting their love both of musical theater and America, and I am very much looking forward to it.

(Lucy, who will graduate high school in 2021, is ready to take on Lafayette.)

Friday, June 10, 2016

ALL RIGHT, WE'LL GET ONE MORE:  We've previously posted about Gary Ross' planned Sandra Bullock-led all-female Ocean's Eleven, and reports are we've got some more casting, including Elizabeth Banks, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and Mindy Kaling.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016

I'LL TAKE "BALLER MOVES ON JEOPARDY!" FOR $2000, ALEX:  And here's your clip.
IN HER COLD COFFEE EYES:  Paul Simon Thinkpiece + SlatePitches = ALOTT5MA fodder:
... That said, Simon’s whole concept of “street angels” and treatment of mental illness here—the character returns in “I’m in a Parade” being diagnosed in an emergency room as schizophrenic and rambling “my head is a lollipop and everyone wants to lick it”—verges on poor-taste slumming.

Such occasions to wince recur several times, a reminder of the gringo-on-safari suspicions around Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints. It’s tricky for any millionaire rock star to sing credibly about social injustice (I refer you to U.K. band Hefner’s lost gem “Gabriel in the Airport”), but it’s exacerbated by Simon’s way of merging those concerns with his own stream-of-consciousness goof-offs and often exaggeratedly wry vocal delivery. His class blinders, and assumption of his entitlement to teleport into any situation, are close to the heart of his gaucheness—I love “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” as much as the next Sesame Street tyke, but it requires overlooking what seems to be his cringe-worthy imitation of a Latino kid’s street dialect.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

THE GREATEST:  Was there anyone else on earth as easily recognized by such a provocative (and true) appellation? The Ringer has plenty of links with which to remember Muhammad Ali, the most important athlete of the 20th Century.

Friday, June 3, 2016

THEY HAVE SAVED THE MAX:  A Saved by the Bell-themed restaurant, there in Chicago.  As the article says, don't drive Lisa's Mom's car after having a couple.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

IT MEANS SO MUCH TO SO FEW PEOPLE:  Inside the history of "Potato Chip," one of Isaac's favorite SNL skits and well worth rewatching.
WHY WOULD YOU TAKE ICE CREAM OUT OF THE FREEZER?  Silvia Killingsworth ventures a theory on why The Great British Bake Off didn't quite translate to America:
“Bake Off”’s success has less to do with national identity than with national psyche. The show is a reminder that awfully boring-sounding amateur leisure activities — like knitting or building model trains — can be valuable for a well-balanced spirit. BBC Two is in fact doubling down on “Keep Calm and Carry On” television with somehow even more British-sounding programming like “Great British Garden Revival” and “Great Pottery Throw Down.” But in America, where we talk about lengths in football fields and television ratings in fractions of Super Bowls, our entertainment is oriented more toward competition and celebrity rather than deep pleasure in craft....
The original “Bake Off” captures the quirky, gentle competition of a spelling bee, combines it with the urgency of a cooking show, and adds a pinch of provincialism. But more than that, it’s a show about a hobby, and the status quo, and that is the most British thing of all. In her New Yorker profile of Sharon Horgan, Willa Paskin nails the difference between British and American Television. She’s writing about sitcoms, but the heart of the observation is the same: 
U.K. sitcoms tend to be darker than American ones, encouraged by a powerful public broadcasting system whose aim is to serve the varying tastes of taxpayers, not the upbeat preferences of advertisers, and by a national psyche fixated on the immutability of the class system, not on a dream of self-improvement. Americans believe that things will get better. Brits laugh at how things stay the same. To become a hit in the United States, “The Office” not only had to transform the tragic, grating boss into a less tragic, less grating, more well-meaning boss; it had to cast off the message, central to the British original, that work is where you go to waste your life.

WELL, I GUESS HE STOPPED WATCHING SLIDERS:  In an ALOTT5MA Worlds Colliding moment, Cass Sunstein talks to the AV Club about Star Wars.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

PYRAMID SCHEME:  The new $100,000 Pyramid has announced its first bunch of celebrity players, some of whom I fully expect to be pretty great (Terry Crews, Weird Al Yankovic, Yvette Nicole Brown), and some of whom seem like disasters waiting to happen (Snoop Dogg, Deion Sanders, Mario Batali).  Who do you want or not want as your celebrity partner?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

SHE'S GOING FOR THE PIN: Netflix is doing a behind the scenes comedy/drama set in the world of ladies professional wrestling, from the folks who gave us Orange is the New Black.  Some suggestion that it's going to be a late 80s period piece, which would be awesome.
NOT AS COLD A WAR AS YOU MIGHT EXPECT:The New York Times takes a look at the war between Mister Softee and New York Ice Cream for control of the lucrative Midtown ice cream truck market.
PLYMOUTH ROCK LANDED ON US:  Slate's Aisha Harris and Dan Kois have curated a top-50 canon of films by black filmmakers, and since it includes both Tongues United and Hollywood Shuffle I think I'm happy with it.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

OH MY GAWD, PABST BLUE RIBBON HAS BUSTED CENA WIDE OPEN! Apparently, John Cena's values of Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect may not extend to the Lanham Act.

Friday, May 27, 2016

THERE ARE NO WORDS:  The kids from What's Happening!! join Rick Dees, Rip Taylor, Fake Jan and the rest of the Brady Bunch Variety Hour Players for a tribute to disco.

This is an open thread for the weekend.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

TEN SPELLERS REMAIN:  Spelling resumes shortly after 8pm. Let's have fun.

11:05pm: Our livechat is archived below the fold. These were two amazing kids -- hell, the final four were all as good as any spellers we've ever seen -- and I'm glad that no one had to lose. Still, three straight ties? It's worth further thought about competition structure and whether there's another set of refinements we need, but at this moment I'm just glad I got to see what Nihar Janga and Jairam Hathwar could do.

A TRADITION LIKE MANY OTHERS:  This year's computerized round, for your amusement:

SUHN-dree: items often found with your various ones
in-SHROWD, en-SHROWD: part of the traditional Jewish burial ritual (tahara)
JEH-muh-nayt: to pair
maa-duh-mwah-ZELL: a defunct women's magazine
uh-LOG-uh-mee: cross-fertilization
kih-ROP-uh-dist, kay-ROP-uh-dist, shuh-ROP-uh-dist: foot doctor
tuh-PEET-uhm: cell layer
POHL-ee-see-mee, puh-LISS-uh-me: this word has many meanings
hee-muh-tow-RUCK-uhs: a spinal heh-muh-rij
fweh-TAY: fancy leg turn
LAHKS-sheen-kuhn: a fancy German ham, "the salmon ham," etymology-wise
NOO-norsk, NEE-norsk: New Norwegian dialect.
Answers here, include the ne plus ultra of vocabulary exams.
LAGNIAPPE: The folks at 538 want you to know, as we long have, that words derived from Hebrew are the hardest in the Bee, though it looks like they didn't sample enough Welsh to compare. Also:
Occasionally, though rarely, the bee’s words are sourced from some of the more obscure of the 7,000-ish languages spoken on Earth: “kathakali” (a form of dance drama, from Malayalam), “uayeb” (part of the Mayan calendar), “takin” (a large bovid, from Mishmi) and “compas” (a type of music, from Haitian Creole) have all made appearances. In 85 cases — including the words bagwyn, larrigan, pandowdy and tatterdemalion — the origin was unknown.
Back in 2011, Nupur Lala and Amy Goldstein both answered "what's the hardest word you've seen in terms of both orthographic trickiness and usage/popularity?", and it covers everything from engysseismology to preux and beyond.
ROUND SIX:  Seventeen spellers remain, and you'd expect this will be the final round of the afternoon. Buzzsaw like round 4, or gentle slope like round 5?  (Nabokovian and ayurveda, really?)  We shall see.

1:45: We'll stay here for round seven, the final round of the afternoon.

1:55: If you want good spee-uh-dee-nee, we have a place in Philadelphia.

Ten spellers remain for tonight. More in a bit.
ROUND 5:  21 spellers remain.  If it's as bloody as round 4, it'll be our last round of the day, but our first three spellers are successful.

12:18pm: 5/6 correct so far; they may have eased off the throttle a little. Ayurveda, in particular, seems easier than everything else in the past round-plus, though that may be one of those gaps between grownup and kid experience.  But no Samoan/Tagalog/unknown in this round.

12:30pm: And the Jamaican goes down!  But, lookie here: a lawyer word -- ipsedixitism, which is spelled exactly as you'd hope.
GREETINGS FROM NATIONAL HARBOR:  Round 4 begins with 45 spellers.

Unlike the past two years, today will proceed with a carefully titrated spell-til-you-drop until a round finishes with 10-or-so spellers, at which point they'll pause until prime time, rather than an artificial cliff governed by a second written test. In other words, by the time tonight is over -- because the new rules severely reduce the possibility of a third straight tie -- forty-four of these kids will have erred, with one remaining triumphant. Let's watch.

10:06am: The first speller goes down on the name of the Phila suburb encompassing Elkins Park where Benjamin Netanyahu and Reggie Jackson attended high school. Also is some art something. Sigh.

10:11am: Ten minutes in, and 3/4 of the spellers down. My goodness, and none of them are Canadian!

10:37am: Our friend Amy Goldstein notes for ESPN of the six (of 13) who are down so far, every one of the fallen is a first-time female speller.

10:46am: Chaunte Blackwood says "thank you, sir" about 15 times to Dr. Bailly, nails nannygai. And now my Bee is back.
THE 2016 SPELLING BEE POOL: Forty-five amazing spellers remain.

Our rules are not too different from years past. There are three returning spellers from last year's primetime finals -- Tejas Muthusamy, Snehaa Ganesh Kumar, and Sylvie Lamontagne. You can only have one of them in your pair.

So: pick two spellers, only one of whom can be from among those three. While individual spellers can be used more than once, you cannot repeat the same pairing that someone else has already submitted. First come, first served, and you cannot choose a speller once s/he spells a second time tomorrow.

You will get one point for each word your spellers correctly spell during today's rounds of the Bee, which resumes at 10am eastern on ESPN2. Most points wins; tiebreaker will be whoever has the individual speller going the furthest. Do not edit your entry after you've made it; if you need to make corrections, reply to your original comment.

It's my blog, so I go first: I came really close to picking Tejas Muthusamy last year, but I couldn't bring myself to pick a sixth-grader. I will not make that mistake again. And as I've done in years past, I will take Chaunté Blackwood, because some day a Jamaican speller will win again, and I don't want to have not chosen her when that happens.

Previous pool winners are Elicia Chamberlin in 2006 (Close/Hooks), Professor Jeff and Amy tied in 2007 (O'Dorney and Thomas/Horton), KJ in 2008 (Mishra/K Shivashankar), Cagey (K Shivashankar/Pastapur) in 2009, Bob Loblaw/Jenn tied in 2010 (Veeramani and Chemudupaty/Denniss); 2011's winner was Nupur Lala (the Roy/Ye Keystone combo); Bobby in 2012 (Nandipati/Mahankali); Sara Miller in 2013 (Mahankali/Sivakumar), Bobby again in 2014 (Venkatachalam/Hathwar), and Adam C in 2015 (Venkatachalam/Shafer-Ray).

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

ROUND 3 IS COMPLETE:  And 171/284 spellers remain as we await the announcement of the final up-to-50 for tomorrow.  Both the most experienced and the youngest spellers will not be among them, but we'll update this post (and the comments) with those who remain.

For the pool: expect it to open at 9pm tonight, and given the absence of a large pool of experienced spellers, likely no restrictions whatsoever in constructing your unique pairs.
ERIN HOWARD OF HUNSTVILLE, ALABAMA, COME ON DOWN!  Two rounds today, streaming online on ESPN3, and both are ding-and-you're-out.

There are two preliminary rounds today in which all 284 spellers will face the microphone, Dr. Jacques Bailly, and the cameras of ESPN3 online (in both "play along" and more aggressively chyroned versions). Spellers receive 3 points for each word spelled correctly today; add that number to yesterday's written round score, and the top up-to-50 spellers advance to the semifinals tomorrow.

You can follow along in a few places (in addition to here): the Bee website, and a few places on Twitter worth noting: @ScrippsBee, @PeterSokolowski @APBenNuckols, and hashtag #SpellingBee.

Last year, 279/283 of the students survived the morning round, and 214/283 of the students survived the day unscathed altogether, with 49 making the cut for Thursday's semifinals.

8:57 am: 56/63 correct so far, and with both Ponzi and glengarry coming in early, one wonders if David Mamet has joined the staff.

10:02 am:  123/140 correct, with this year's lone four-timer, who did not reach Thursday in any of his efforts, among the fallen. Seems like a sweet kid.

10:46 am: "Can you spell it please?" asks Abigail Pittman on RENT-guhn, RUNT-juhn, you know, that unit of x-rays which is named for a German dude.  And Dr. Bailly won't, and she can't. Sigh.

12:18 pm: 251/284 survive to the afternoon.

1:30pm: We're back. (Sorry: work duties. I'll be intermittently involved this afternoon.)

1:44pm: 14/17 through so far, and the round doesn't seem any harder than round 2.  Calisthenics, encyclical, impeachable, hallowed?  I'd feel guilty even putting up the pronunciations.

5:00pm: About a 70% success rate this round (135/183), on words that may not always seem difficult to us (flagon, consulate, baklava), but it's the difference between a memorized list and a wide-open dictionary. There's nothing in this round that should prove problematic to the prime-timers, but there's a lot of variation in this round.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TABLE-SETTERS: Ben Nuckols on how former Bee contestants have stayed involved (including frequent ALOTT5MA guest Amy Goldstein), and the Richmond Times-Dispatch profiles two-time prime-timer Tejas Muthusamy, the 7th grader who's much of a favorite as we've got this year:
“This year has been a little bit tough,” he said Friday. “It’s been a lot. But I’ve tried to not just focus on spelling because, obviously, spelling is just one part of my life. I kind of want to, you know, try different things because I’ll never be able to get that opportunity back.”

Along with preparing and competing in spelling bees, Tejas writes for the school’s newspaper, practices classical Indian dancing and is a voracious reader who follows politics closely.

Tejas says two of the biggest lessons he has learned from competing the past few years are how to deal with defeat and how to grow from adversity. In the past, he would cry and leave the room when he missed a word or did not do well.

“Now, even if I don’t do so well, I take it as, ‘OK, I need to do better next time. How can I do better next time?’ ” he said. “That’s something most people get when they become adults. But I think in the spelling bee, kids mature much faster because of all the life lessons that are being thrown at them.”
NUNATUK:  Right now in National Harbor, Maryland, 285 incredibly talented children are sitting down for a four-part spelling and vocabulary test which will help determine their fates at the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and for the 14th year* we will be trying to cover all of the joy, agita, and triumph. If you're not a regular here, welcome aboard; if you only come here this one week per-year, welcome back. And if you're in your early twenties or younger, this is called a "blog" (short for "web log") -- it's like Twitter, but longer, and you'll read about it in your History Kindles soon enough.

For newcomers trying to get their bearings, here's a short list of things we do and don't like about The Bee:

  • Smart kids being awesome. Smart kids being awesome.
  • That part late in the Bee when we get to words of Finnish, Mayan, Welsh, Afrikaans, and Egyptian origins.
  • Jamaican and Canadian spellers, except the 2008 Canadian Bloodbath round which was really unfortunate.**
  • Foodie words, because it's the only time in the competition many grownups feel smart.
  • Dr. Jacques Bailly 
  • Sardoodledom.
  • The rules changes for 2016. Go read up on them.
  • When Bee veterans, coaches, and parents come here and share their wisdom and experience. If you go back to our archives for the last week of May, every year, you'll find some great stuff.
Don't Like
  • The 2014 (and especially 2015) version of the rules, in which computerized tests were employed to impose artificial elimination checkpoints for tv purposes, especially in the cutoff from Thursday afternoon to Thursday night.
  • Interviewing kids in the middle of the competition
  • Interviewing kids right after they've been eliminated
  • Cutesy filler pieces which demean how hard these kids work
  • The fact that the bulk of the first hour of primetime will be dominated by filler, and not spelling.
  • Yiddish words capable of multiple correct spellings (otherwise known as The Marsha Special), and capable of igniting Bee controversy.
  • Amateur psychoanalysis of the kids and their parents. As I've written before, which is as close to a mission statement as we've got:
"What we won't do is mock the kids, or presume we can learn anything meaningful about them or their parents based on the brief slices we see on tv. As my favorite line from Frost/Nixon goes, 'The first and greatest sin or deception of television is that it simplifies, it diminishes. Great, complex ideas, tranches of time. Whole careers become reduced to a single snapshot.' We will try to be modest about what we believe we're seeing; the only thing we can know for sure is whether the word is spelled correctly, and what we learn from former spellers thereafter."
Or, as Shonda explained in 2013: "What I love about the Bee is its celebration of intelligence.  The Bee at its best is a dance party for braininess, a nerdgasm for smarty-pants. The Bee is home for those of us who maybe can not throw a ball or run without our inhalers. The Bee is a place for people who like to read, who enjoy math, who love science and art and geography and words, words, words.  The Bee is for people who have plans that do not include being a Real Housewife of Anything. The Bee is the only way our people will ever be on ESPN. And that makes the Bee awesome. The Bee is a celebration."

Come celebrate with us this week.

* So maybe next year we're finally ready go to all-Twitter. But I'm stubborn.

** Described here as, by various commenters, "The worst Canadian disaster since Glass Tiger broke up," "the worst Canadian disaster since Thicke of the Night," "must be like what it was like when the Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets left the country," "like when Neil Young moved to Topanga Canyon," "like when Vince Carter started mailing it in so that he could get traded to New Jersey," "like Eric Lindros insisting to the Nordiques that he wanted to play for the Flyers," and "the worst day for ONttN this year, even more so than Steven Page's leaving Barenaked Ladies."

Monday, May 23, 2016

HUNGER FOR TRUTH:  All that farm-to-table stuff your local restaurant is offering? At least in the Tampa area, they're lying. And worse:
Old-timers like Gulfport’s La Cote Basque were dinged for advertising veal schnitzel dishes but having no veal in sight. “No packages commercially labeled veal (and) no veal invoices are present (but a) large volume of frozen pork chops and sliced pork” were observed. Wholesale veal can cost three times as much as pork. For pork-eschewing Muslims and Jews: Surprise.
I SING MY SONG FOR ALL TO HEAR:  Pantheon sketch, no question.

Ever since the day of the merger, more than twelve -- yes, twelve years ago, we've tried to do an annual "stay or go?" for the SNL cast. Here's my quickie take:
Vanessa Bayer: solid utility player. Can stay as long as she wants. Still [heart] Jacob, the Bar Mitzvah Boy. 
Beck Bennett: meh. 
Aidy Bryant: good straight woman. No reason to leave. 
Colin Jost: other than his interactions with Leslie Jones on Update, replaceable in the cast. He's not Seth Meyers.  
Taran Killam: I feel like he took a step back this year. Where did Les Jeunes de Paris go?  I'm still a fan. 
Kate McKinnon: the undisputed star of this cast. Keep her as long as you can. 
Kyle Mooney: I'm a fan of weirdness. He can stay. 
Bobby Moynihan: utility player. I'm fine with his staying. 
Jay Pharoah: needs more to do. Needs to evolve beyond impressions to angles -- yes, he can sound like Obama, but to what ends?  His Dr. Ben Carson, though, is wonderfully odd. 
Cecily Strong: second only to McKinnon in the cast. Can do it all.  
Kenan Thompson: As long as Darrell Hammond keeps the record, he can stay as long as he wants until that point. Disappointed we didn't get a What's Up With That? with Sudeikis and Armisen in the house this week. 
Sasheer Zamata: I want to see more. Underused. 
Michael Che: I like his comic voice. Keep him on Update. 
Pete Davidson: Unbelievable that he's only 22. Possibly the Mike Trout of this cast. Cannot let him leave. 
Leslie Jones: I wrote this post because Watts want to gush about her.  I don't know that she can do more than the one thing she does, but damn she does that brilliantly. 
Jon Rudnitsky: who?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

SCRIPPS-TED:  Hard to believe (because it's the week before Memorial Day this year), but the Scripps National Spelling Bee does begin next Tuesday with the written round. We've already discussed the rules changes, so now let's take a look at this year's competitors:

  • This is the least experienced Bee crew I think we've ever seen: zero five-timers, one four-timer (who hasn't been on prime time), and only eight three-time repeaters -- though one of them has made prime time in his first two appearances. There are no Shivashankars, and we'll be making some new stars.
  • But, okay, two siblings of recent former winners (Jairam Hathwar and Srinath Mahankali).
  • You'll want to meet this year's Jamaican speller, Chaunte Blackwood. Because unlike the Penn Relays, in Spelling Bees this blog is pro-Jamaica.
  • On the other hands, after many years of drought, we're somehow back to five Canadians this year.
  • Historically, Philadelphia does in the Bee like New Hampshire in the Miss America Pageant, but we're still rooting for Saif Siddiquee

Monday, May 16, 2016

MOTHER OF DRAGONS, BREAKER OF CHAINS, WIZARD OF PINBALL:  Have we reached Peak HBO? A 538 investigation.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sunday, May 8, 2016

IT GOES ELECTRIC WAVY WHEN I TURN IT ON: It was widely assumed that Lin-Manuel Miranda would roll to his EMPGOT this year (EGOT + Pulitzer + MacArthur Genius Grant) for his (as yet unheard) original songs for Moana, but he's got some competition from Justin Timberlake--who's already got 4 Emmys, 2 for acting and 2 for songwriting, and 9 Grammys--whose "Can't Stop The Feeling" is making a bid not just for the Oscar (it's apparently from the soundtrack of the upcoming Trolls), but for Song of the Summer (bunches of radio stations are already playing it hourly).

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MAKING IT HARDER TO GET A SHOT TO THROWAWAY:Unsurprisingly, Hamilton dominated the Tony nominations, busting The Producers' record, despite having one less category to be eligible in.  A few #EGOTWatch notes:
  • Steve Martin, nominee for Best Book for Bright Star, has Emmy and Grammy already.
  • Julian Fellowes, nominees for Best Book for School of Rock, has Oscar and Emmy already.  
  • Glenn Slater, nominee for Best Score (Lyrics) for School of Rock, has Grammy already and is a prior Oscar and Emmy nominee.
  • Jessica Lange, nominee for Best Leading Actress in a Play for Long Day's Journey Into Night, has Oscar and Emmy already.
  • Sara Bareilles, nominee for Best Score for Waitress, somewhat surprisingly does not have a Grammy, though 5 nominations!  (She wouldn't have won Best New Artist the year she was eligible, as that went to Adele, but she wasn't even nominated, though Jonas Brothers, Duffy, and Jazmine Sullivan were.)
The biggest surprise is that despite rave reviews and her record-setting Tony wins, Audra McDonald is not a nominee for Shuffle Along.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

WHO NEEDS TO READ AND WRITE WHEN YOU CAN DANCE AND SING?  Add Martin Short (Wilbur) and Derek Hough (Corny) to your NBC Hairspray cast.

Related: since when did it come to pass that People In The Know started calling him "Marty" all the time?
IT'S AFTER SIX. WHAT AM I, A [BLANK]?  In addition to the return of Pyramid (with Michael Strahan hosting) and a Steve Harvey-led Celebrity Family Feud, Sunday nights on ABC this summer will be capped off by a revival of The Match Game, hosted by Alec Baldwin (who, alternatively, could just be taking the Richard Dawson slot).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

YES WE MORE OR LESS AGREE:  Harvey Fierstein to play Edna Turnblad, Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle in NBC's live Hairspray this December.

Look: Fierstein's Edna is a national treasure, and since not everyone got to see it on Broadway (ok: twice for me), yes, absolutely, sure. Right dramaturgical choice, and there are plenty of stars to bring in for the ratings (Velma, Corky, etc). Ms. Hudson absolutely being qualified to be one of them, though ... she's a little young for the role.

As long as they cast an actual plus-sized actress as Tracy, we should be fine.
LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT'S THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION'S SPONSORED CONTENT RULES!  Given that SNL has enough difficulty bringing enough funny content to fill its timeslot most weeks, and already has entirely too many sketches that go on way too long, reducing the commercial content by 30% by removing two commercial breaks, as planned for next year, seems like a difficult endeavor.  They will also offer 6 "branded pods" a year, which will apparently be ad content masquerading as sketches (akin to sponsored content at someplace like Buzzfeed).
MORE THAN WORDS: Remember everything we hated about the last two years' worth of changes to the National Spelling Bee? They listened.
The bee will no longer have a second written spelling and vocabulary test that was used to help determine the finalists. The test was unpopular partly because spellers could be eliminated without getting a word wrong onstage. Kimble said that could confuse TV viewers, left to wonder why a favorite speller was suddenly gone.

This year, there will be up to 50 spellers competing on the last day, and all will be considered finalists. The morning rounds will continue until there are about 10 left. Then, the competition will pause before returning for the prime-time finale.

Finally, the bee will scrap use of a list of words from local and regional bees in the first onstage round. Last year, only four out of 283 spellers got words wrong in that round, prompting former speller Jacob Williamson to call the round "pointless." This year, words will be drawn from a list given spellers after they've qualified for the national bee. And words in the following round won't be given to spellers in advance.
And the (easier) Championship Word List is dead. Instead, per a new FAQ:
In previous Finals, Bee officials matched words to the mettle of spellers on a round-by-round basis except for the head-to-head portion of competition. During the head-to-head portion, the Bee offered only words from a special list of 25 words compiled specifically for head-to-head competition purposes — this in accordance with contest rules. For purposes of clarity, our definition of head-to head competition is any round of spelling involving three or fewer spellers.

In this year's Finals, Bee officials will match words to the mettle of spellers on a round-by-round basis, including the head-to-head portion — this in accordance with 2016 contest rules
(Gotta love the confirmation, long coming - at least to me - that such round-by-round calibration was occurring on the fly before.)

And so the competition will not end until there is one winner, unless: "If one champion fails to emerge at the conclusion of 25 consecutive rounds of competition involving three or fewer spellers, the remaining spellers in the competition will be declared co-champions."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
But all good things, they say, never last

(more later)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I WANT MY BABY BACK, BABY BACK:  In response to slumping sales, Chili's is going to revive the classic baby back ribs jingle.

Friday, April 15, 2016

CZECH CLASSIC WILL BE NEXT:  The Czech Republic may try to rebrand itself as "Czechia," rejecting proposals by others go to with "Bohemia." 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Saturday, April 9, 2016

OH, HE'S INSPIRING SOMETHING, ALRIGHT:  Peter Cetera will not be joining Chicago at the Rock and Roll Non-Country Popular Music of the 1950s and Beyond Hall of Fame induction ceremony, because ...
In January, Cetera posted a letter on his website saying he was willing to perform "25 or 6 to 4" that night, also suggesting that all of Chicago's living members, past and present, be invited to play the song.... 
Lamm was communicating with Cetera by email and said "there was always a desire and assumption on my part" that Cetera would be there and perform during the ceremony. But Cetera apparently had other ideas. "He decided he wanted to play [the song] in a different key if he was going to play with us, which is definitely not going to happen, and then he wanted to play with his band but not with us and sing his songs or sing whatever songs the Hall wants him to sing," Lamm said. "It's all very strange."

Thursday, April 7, 2016

PANTS ON THE GROUND:  My total Idol viewing amounts to probably 20 minutes, but yeah, when 538 538's about it in honor of the "series finale" we'll link to it.  (And probability of the show being back on the air in some manner by Spring 2018 seems to me to approach 1.)

Friday, April 1, 2016

KFOG, RIP:  If you grew up in the Bay Area, around 1984, KFOG changed over from an all Musak/Elevator format to slowly become the heart of Bay Area rock n' roll radio.  It had a few years, here and there, where a program director took it on an odd turn, but it hosted any number of Bay Area radio institutions: 10 at 10 ("Ten Great Songs from One Great Year!"), Acoustic Sunrise, KFOG's Live from the Archives and one of the more intelligent morning shows.

Yesterday, Cumulus Broadcasting sacked everyone, near enough, and have gone to a no-host format. The same sort of music, nominally, but cheaper.  I don't listen to much music radio anymore, but over the 19 years since I've been back from law school and here in the Bay Area, KFOG was the only place I ever picked up on new bands or new songs, many of which became very dear to me.  And since our love of KFOG was one of those things over which Mrs. Earthling and I first bonded, many of those songs are the soundtrack of us.

And it's gone.

And, worst of all, today they ended a tradition that had lasted for the entirety of its modern format. At 5 pm, they played The Toyes "Smoke Two Joints" -- a thing that, at 14 or 15, seemed subversive and as I grew older was, in turn, silly, ironic, nostalgic, an anthem of the Bay Area and my love of home.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

THE PENIS MIGHTIER:  No traditional Celebrity Jeopardy! this season, but a Power Players tournament will tape in DC in a couple of weeks with players including Louis C.K., Anderson Cooper, Al Franken, Jonathan Franzen, and Matthew Weiner.
LOOK, THE SITUATION IS LOT MORE NUANCED THAN THAT:  One of the delights of Late Show with Stephen Colbert has been his unabashed musical theater nerdery--following up on his discussion with Anna Kendrick about whether or not the Pitch Perfect movies are musicals, last night, he and Rachel Bloom explain (with singing, naturally) how "Anything Can Be A Musical."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

THE HEIGHT OF MUGGSY BOGUES, COMPLEXION OF A HOCKEY PUCK:  People's Instinctive Travels, Low End Theory, and Midnight Marauders all occupied large parts of my brain for years upon years upon years, so it is with great sadness that I report that A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor) has died at 45 from diabetes-related complications.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

FREE THE SLOTHS:  With Zootopia (deservedly) crossing the $200M domestic mark this weekend, and likely to head well north of that, one would guess that Disney is trying to come up with ways to extend the brand.  Two I'll offer (and offer up your own in the comments):
  • Zootopia P.D.--Animated sitcom on ABC, following a group of new recruits at the P.D., in the vein of Barney Miller or Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  Doesn't need to regularly feature any of the larger names from the movie, but could readily feature supporting characters and occasional cameos from Bateman and/or Goodwin.
  • It's an easy addition to Animal Kingdom--I'm sure a meet and greet with Judy and Nick will be up by summer, but how about a dark ride akin to Toy Story Mania, where you accompany Judy and Nick and help them catch a bad guy?  It would help a family-ride-light park, though there's not a clean place in the park to put it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

TIPPECANOE AND HAMILTON, TOO: William Henry Harrison, the Musical!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

TODAY'S TOM SAWYER:  What may be the best short quote from a magazine article I've read in a long time comes from this Washington Monthly article about the punk scene in DC:

When I told him we didn’t have much of a choice because our band had to play, all sense of urgency disappeared. Did we sound anything like Rush? And did we want to hear a bunch of stories about the dozens of Rush shows he’d been to? The answer to the first question was no. The second question was rhetorical.
AND YOU WOULDN'T WANT ME ANY OTHER WAY:  Sixteen songs which are better because of bagpipes?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

SPRINGTIME FOR YOU-KNOW-WHO:  Deferring to the complaints of four parents in the community, a Hudson Valley high school production of The Producers has gotten rid of the Nazi flags (but kept the armbands, and the dance-in-swastika formation, and the entire plot).

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

THIS IS A TRUE STORY.... OUT OF RESPECT FOR THE DEAD, THE REST HAS BEEN TOLD EXACTLY AS IT OCCURRED:  Fargo (the film, not the tv show or the city) was released twenty years ago today, and the AV Club is chock full of fun links and trivia.

Friday, March 4, 2016

PEPPERED AND COUNTRY:  A man dressed as a clown was recently arrested at an Athens, GA Waffle House for having wandered in during the wee small hours of the morning and smoking a bowl of meth at the counter.

We do not make light of drug addiction on this blog, but the combination of Athens + Waffle House + Clown Suit does kinda hit a sweet spot for us.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

WHERE'S NATE SILVER WHEN YOU NEED HIM?  The Deadspin staff ranks chain "casual dining" restaurants.  I think they badly overrate Chevy's and Macaroni Grill, and underrate Outback and Longhorn Steakhouses, but you may disagree.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

JUICE?  JUICE?  JUICE?:  This scene from Friends takes on new meaning after David Schwimmer's performance in People v. OJ Simpson, where he certainly likes to say "Juice."  Share your thoughts on the show here, and don't kill yourself in Kimmy's bedroom, OK?

Monday, February 29, 2016

WOULD IT HELP?  An open thread to discuss last night's Oscars.  Angry that Fury Road didn't win more?  Still confused by The Weeknd and his missing vowel?  Upset that Mark Rylance didn't deliver one of his traditional acceptance speeches?  Overall, I thought this was a year long on the Very Good in the nominees, but short on the Great.
TAKE A LEAP, PAL: That's the spirit!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

HOW DOES POWER REALLY WORK:  Holy shit, new awesome Robert Caro interview:
As I was writing this book, I realized—realized is probably an exaggerated word—I realized that if I did his life right, I would be explaining not just him, but how urban political power worked. Not just in New York but in all the cities of America. 
Moses had done something no one else had ever done. Everyone thought power comes from being elected. He wasn’t elected, he realizes he’s never going to get elected to anything, so he’s got to figure out a way to get all this power without getting elected, and he does it. I didn’t understand it, no one else understood it, even La Guardia says to him, 
“Don’t tell me what to do,” or whatever the quote is, “I’m the boss, you just work for me.” 
And Moses writes, and I saw this letter in La Guardia’s papers, he sends back the letter and he writes across it, “You’d better read the contracts, mayor.”

Monday, February 15, 2016

SORRY MR. TILDEN, BUT YOU'RE NEVER GON' BE PRESIDENT NOW:  On this Presidents Day, with a cast performance of "Alexander Hamilton" set for tonight's Grammy Awards, do suggest another person or incident in American political history which you'd like to see adapted into a musical. I'm going with the election of 1876 and the end of Reconstruction, because who said musicals had to have happy endings?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

YOU HAVE WON SECOND PRIZE IN AN ENNUI CONTEST: A clever new strategy to win Monopoly, make everyone angry but convince them never to ask you to play Monopoly again.

THAT'S NOT THE PICTURE OF A MOCKINGBIRD I WANT: Aaron Sorkin's quest for EGOT continues, with a stage adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird allegedly coming to Broadway in 2017-18.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 2014 SEASON, WE HAVE A CHANCE:  Frozen: The Musical will arrive on Broadway in Spring 2018.  So, who are you casting?
1990S FLASHBACK NOTES:  Ever wonder what happened to Bubbles the Chimp? Like many aging primates, he's living it up in South Florida at an ape sanctuary which tends to former showbiz celebs.  There is no word on whether he's had the chance to enjoy the early bird at Wolfie's Rascal House, and don't you dare remind me that they closed in 2008.

In other news, tonight is White Ford Bronco night on The People vs O.J. Simpson, and if it's as good as the pilot episode, you will want to watch, and not just for the gratuitous Kardashian Kids references. So much fun.
MIND YOUR OWN CHEDDAR BAY BISCUITS:  Perhaps courtesy of Beyonce, Red Lobster's sales on Sunday were up 33% from the prior year's numbers.

Monday, February 8, 2016

I WAS THERE TO MATCH MY INTELLECT ON NATIONAL TV:  Ever wonder what happens on Jeopardy! for one of their two-week tournaments, when there's a tie in determining the final entrants based on most dollars among those who didn't win their individual nights? Because it happened in the present college tournament, and it's kind of a clusterfuck.
UPSET CITY:  Denver won the game, Hyundai (featuring George Washington High School's own Kevin Hart) won the Ad Meter, Gaga was right on the border, and so Lou Wainwright, who forecast a narrow Denver win with Von Miller as MVP, wins our 11th annual pool.

According to the Ad Meter, America's not really interested either in whether we're defecating too much or too little. Go figure.

added: We should also use this space to talk about Queen Bey and the halftime show, and your general thoughts on "Formation," which is as chock full of signifiers and ambition and ... whoa. It's something.

Friday, February 5, 2016

1. Winner/final score.
2. Official Game MVP.
3. Which advertiser tops the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter?
4. Eff Coldplay. There is no question 4 this year. Just name your favorite Earth, Wind & Fire song.
5. Will Lady Gaga's rendition of the National Anthem run longer than 2:20?
Tiebreaker: pick a prop bet. Get it right. The tougher the odds, the better you do.

Previous winners: 2006: Benner; 2007: me; 2008: Joseph J. Finn ; 2009: Scott; 2010: Scott again; 2011: GoldnI; 2012: Phil; 2013: Benner; 2014: Isaac Spaceman, and 2015: StvMg. As they will tell you, the prizes are Fame and Glory within this community, but nothing financial.

My picks: Carolina 27-20, Newton, Anheuser-Busch, "Groove Tonight," shorter. And Stephen Curry points (-4.5) (-115).