Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Here's to another amusing collision of pop culture and politics in 2012.

RG wishes you a happy, healthy New Year!

And, hey, let's be careful out there. None of that drinking and driving business.

Drive(especially) safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Channel Cruiser: The 2011 Wrap-Up Rant

I've been betrayed by cable TV. We all have. Back in the early days--before most of us were old enough to appreciate what we'd soon be missing----the new medium promised so much. Niche broadcasting at its best: the arts, documentaries, bold programming offered day and night without regard to ratings. But Alas, nothing lasts forever. And that's the best way to sum up where we are today, bitterly flicking through every one of Bruce Springsteen's 57 channels, finding nothing on. Except drivel: reality and sensational crime and political hectoring.

Okay, I exaggerate. There's more than a smattering of quality shows--dramas and documentaries, quirky comedies that couldn't survive elsewhere, too. But most of them are on the premium channels like HBO ( "Boardwalk Empire" "Treme" ) Showtime ( "Nurse Jackie," "Homeland") and more recently Starz ( "Boss"). But AMC has the Emmy Award winning "Mad Men," and TNT has forayed into dramas. But I'm miffed at the basic cable stalwart for pulling the plug unceremoniously on "Men of a Certain Age," right after the special dramedy picked up a Peabody and left us hanging at the end of the second season. TNT added bitter lemon oil on my ire when it also ditched the quirky detective drama "Memphis Beat. "

I was, in fact, feeling a little like a TV jinx. But I tossed off my scarlet TVJ when HBO spared the critically acclaimed but low-rated "Enlightened." This genre-busting gem takes on corporate greed, self-help and human relationships--inside the office and out-- with such fresh and timely humor and unexpected compassion. The show has already nabbed Golden Globe nominations as Best Comedy and for Laura Dern as Best Actress. I hope Dern and co-creator Mike White ( who also does a nice supporting turn as office mate Tyler) get the recognition they deserve. Awards help. Just ask Matthew Weiner.

Speaking of the "Mad Men" maestro, junkies, still fuming from the bad Blakenship karma will finally get their fix of the oft-decorated, still low-rated drama when it finally returns to the small screen in March.

Other highlights of 2012 will likely include:

"Luck, " HBO's latest drama about the continually changing fortunes at a race track. From Michael Mann and David Milch, the show's pilot already displays the network's golden touch. A star-studded cast featuring Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte and Dennis Farina will surely help propel this timely discourse on the vagaries of luck.

"Magic City," is Starz latest drama about the early days Miami. If "Boss" set the standard, this one could take the network to a new level.

HBO also ushers in the third season of "Treme," rolls out the film version of the political bestseller "Game Change" about the 2008 presidential election; you know the one with Julianne Moore playing Sarah Palin. Saw the preview and yes, kids, she's got the look and voice down.

And Julia Louis Dreyfus stars in "Veep" a new HBO show about the first woman Vice President. Let's hope she's not doing a Palin impersonation.

I also look forward to more music shows, most found on PBS. 2011 highlights included "Paul Simon at Webster Hall" and "Buddy Holly: Listen To Me." Grand shows for music fans; would be even grander to watch without the pledge breaks ( but the programming doesn't pay for itself).

On broadcast TV: Both "The Good Wife" and "Harry's Law" keep getting better, while both "Pan Am" and "Revenge" flamed out too soon. I'm also just ( year two or three?) getting into "Parenthood" and find both the writing and acting among the best and most authentic.

On a personal note: I'm toying with the idea of reviewing in the voice of Pauline the Bargain Shopper, a long lost radio character who somehow found her way into my play "Psychic Chicken Soup," as the main character's sister. Pauline (not to be confused with Pauline Kael, who's probably doing cartwheels in her grave about now)is blunt, boisterous and can always spot a bargain and convince you to buy it even if it doesn't fit.

I'll try it on for size. If it doesn't work out, I can always shove her in the back of the closet among all the other non-returnable clunkers.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.

And pass the remote


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Secular Season's Greetings

Remember a few years ago when Bill O’Reilly got his festive knickers in a twist because our big, bad secular society had waged a war against Christmas? Bill O and the Fox brigade were miffed because many retailers had ditched the “Merry Christmas” salutation in favor of the more inclusive “Happy Holidays.” It seemed to me that practice had been going on for years, but apparently it was slow news cycle and the story took off like a tardy Santa making his rounds with the B-team reindeer in the middle of a blizzard. Now conservative religious groups actually rate stores based on their “Christmas friendly” quotient.

Anyway, while the embers of that Merry debate may continue to burn, it’s a little 2008. The latest warrior– Sarah Palin– chimed in with her chorus of “Jingo All the Way,” whinin’ on Fox News about the lack of “foundational American values” displayed in the Obamas Holiday card. The facts that most presidents have adorned their cards with secular pictures of the White House while the White House itself is always filled with several Christmas trees seem to have eluded the former half term Governor/VP candidate turned Facebook celebrity.

I’m not an atheist, but I have compassion for true non-believers deluged with religious messages and the not so subtle merry mandate ( which takes its toll on the morose and clinically depressed, too). Everywhere they turn they are bombarded with seasonal symbols and songs. And they have none of their own.

Until now. Maybe this Steve Martin song will cheer on our abandoned Atheist brethren. It’s witty and catchy enough to become an instant classic.

So I offer Secular Season’s Greetings to one and all. While our beliefs will, no doubt, continue to diverge, there is one thing all Atheists and believers can agree on: fruitcakes are to be used sparingly and only for strictly nostalgic and decorative purposes.

Happy Nothing. Merry Everything.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wasilla Holidaze

Bah, Humbug! She's back. That half-term quitter chick from Alaska. Nope, Sarah Palin's not tossing her Moose hunting hat into the Presidential race. But she's tweetin' and facebookin.' And--when her gut gives her the go-ahead--she may even do a little endorsin.' And she's got a whole lot to say about the lack of "foundational American values" the Obamas put in their Holiday card.

But the really big news: Sarahcuda's pitching another season of her Reality TV show.

Oh, is Santa slipping another big lump of coal in John McCain's stocking this year? You betcha!!

Oh, and don't be afraid to hurl a little fruitcake in the right direction.

Drive safe. Play merry. Think peace.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Jolly Follies: The 2011 GOP Edition

'Tis the season to revel and rejoice.
But if you're a red meat Republican you have little choice.
And you like it that way.
Ah, but for true blue Liberals, it's a new jingle every day.

Much can be said of Newt Gingrich.
His posture and pitch,
all ego and bombast.
We only hope his surging in the polls will last.

But should Romney rebound, have no no fear.
Mitt flips and flops like Grandma before she got run over by that infamous reindeer.

And Bachmann, too, continues to deliver.
Enough Malaprops and mistakes to make us quiver.
Her stand against gay marriage she makes such an ado
And always walks off with a face full of marshmallow goo.

'Live and let die!'
That's Ron Paul's cry.
He was Dickens model for Ebeneezer
Go ahead: take a close look: Neither man's eyebrows ever met a tweezer.

He can't name the Justices on the Supreme Court
And one or two he's willing to abort.
But filled with gay bashing and verbal blunders Rick Perry
remains oh, so misguided and merry.

Herman Cain's campaign may be on hold
But he's bound to hit the trail again once Gloria's scolds get old.

Hunstman may be smart,
but he'll never get the part.

Santorum's high school nickname was Rooster.
From Palin he hopes a campaign booster.
Still his numbers and attitude hover in a marginal fog.
He better spike that egg nog.

The Donald canceled his debate.
That's because everyone but Newt said the invitation came too late.
Both guys' heads are too big and their waistlines could be leaner.
Still, Hollywood's working on the movie: 'Mean & Meaner.'

With a lump of coal in every Republican's stocking,
it's almost no fun mocking.
Every day, every week, brings more zingers
for loyal fright wingers.

If that doesn't get on your Christmas cringe.
Then, my friend, you're not a real Republican, not even a twinge.

So there's hope for you yet.
And if I were as rich as a Romney I'd wager a bet.

Santa's a socialist and God's a Democrat,
Take a look at the GOP field and roll out Obama's second term Welcome mat.

Merry everything to all.
And to all a good fight.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Friday, December 9, 2011

You're A Mean One, Newt Gingrich

Season’s Bleedings from Newt Gingrich and the Fright Wing Repubs.I doubt Dr. Seuss could conjure a villain as mean-spirited as Mr. Gingrich. While the Grinch’s heart swells to let in transformative love, the Gingrich’s head swells to accommodate grandiose delusions, historical re-writes and plots to reform America’s impoverished youth.

Dickens had Newt's number. It's like he fell out of Oliver Twist, and he can't get back in.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lennon's Wisdom Still Shines On

"Society is run by maniacs for maniacal ends." John Lennon.

John Lennon, gunned down on December 8, 1980, is still a prophet. War is over if we want it. Sadly, the world is still not ready to embrace that simple, but profound concept. But for those who imagine peace, John Lennon's legacy will shine on. And on.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hall of Fame Rolls in New Rockers

It took a few tries, but the late legendary singer-songwriter Laura Nyro finally got her ticket punched to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame today. Others who will receive the high honor on April 14 at the hallowed Hall in Cleveland:


Beastie Boys

Guns N’ Roses

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Small Faces/The Faces

The Ahmet Ertegun (non performer) Award goes to producer/rock impresario Don Kirshner; Freddie King gets the Early Influence Award; Cosimo Matassa, Tom Dowd and Glyn Johns will receive Awards for Musical Excellence.

The Moody Blues, America, Hall & Oates will have to wait until next year. Again! HBO will air the festivities in early May.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.