Category Archives: television

Do Not Adjust Your Set…

Here’s the announcement I’ve been waiting to make for a while, but I wanted to wait until it officially showed up in my own TV listings.  Which it finally did last night on my snazzy Verizon FiOs DVR:


On the same morning Jim Henson is published, I’ll be on The Today Show to talk all about Jim, some time (so I’m told) between 7 and 9 a.m. That’s pretty freaking cool in itself — and I’m both excited and a bit nervous about it — but what this listing doesn’t tell you is who’ll also be sitting with me to talk about Jim Henson . . . someone who knows quite a lot about Jim and the Muppets.

It’s this guy, right here. MV5BMTI1NTM4ODA0OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODMxMjQ0._V1._SY314_CR6,0,214,314_

Yup. It’s FRANK OZ.

If you’re writing it down, it’s The Today Show on NBC on September 24.  Check your local listings for the right time. You won’t want to miss this one because, come on, IT’S FRANK OZ.

Hip To Be From ‘Burque

While I was born in Kansas and have lived for most of my adult life on the Atlantic Seaboard, if you ask me where I’m from, I’ll tell you that I’m a New Mexican. More specifically, I’m from Albuquerque.  That’s it in the photo above — you’re looking across the Rio Grande, past the glowing downtown, with the Sandia Mountains squatting on the city’s east side. Pretty nice.

I moved to Albuquerque when I was six years old — and while I briefly attended junior high school in the Midwest, I still did most of my growing up in the Duke City. I played Roadrunner little league baseball on scraggly grass fields hacked from vacant lots we always called “mesas,” even if they technically weren’t.  I considered three inches of snow to be a snow storm.  I drove my first car on old Route 66 in the center of town, and ate carne adovada burritos at The Frontier.  I graduated from Eldorado High School and the University of New Mexico. I oriented myself using the Sandia Mountains. And to this day, I still know how to answer The Single Most Important Question a New Mexican Will Hear: “Red or Green?” (Green, thank you very much — and why would you want it any other way?)

Those of us from New Mexico are used to our state causing confusion.  Certainly, having the word “Mexico” in your address can lead to a bad case of Mistaken Identity with our neighbor to the south. During a brief move to the Midwest, for example, I was asked if we had lived in huts or rode horses to school.  When I moved back to New Mexico in the early 1980s, one of the movers nervously asked if it was okay to drink the water. 

Even in the mid-1990s, New Mexico still wasn’t always feeling the love.  During the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, a New Mexican called to order tickets for the games — and when he informed the ticket agent where he was calling from, he was told he had to consult either the Mexican or Spanish delegations. 

 “No, no, no — it’s NEW Mexico,” the exasperated Santa Fean told the attendant.

“New Mexico, old Mexico, you still have to go through the Mexican delegation,” he was told.

And Albuquerque?  Forget it.  It was a punchline.  When the seven-year-old daughter of one of my coworkers found out I was from Albuquerque, she burst out laughing.  She had heard Bugs Bunny complain that he “shoulda turned left at Albuquerque,” she said, “but I never knew the place was real!

Now, though, things are changing.  Suddenly, it’s positively hip to be from ‘Burque.  All three installments of High School Musical take place there, for instance, though it doesn’t appear an inch of film was actually shot in town — when you see Troy and Gabriella on the roof of the fictional East High School, the palm trees in the background are a giveaway that you are definitely not in the Duke City.

On television, AMC’s Breaking Bad takes place in Albuquerque — and unlike the High School Musical series, is actually filmed in the city, though it uses some of the less charismatic locations, in keeping with the main character’s drug selling business.  Things look better on USA’s In Plain Sight, which follows a federal marshall housing witnesses in the Witness Protection Program.  Not bad, considering the last major features to take place in Albuquerque (regardless of whether they were filmed there) were the gloriously trashy made-for-TV movie Sparks: The Price of Passion, with Victoria Principal, and the gawdawful serial killer film Suspect Zero.

I’m not sure if it really has become hip to hail from Albuquerque, but that’s all right.  I’m still pretty pleased to call it home.

Where The Air Is Sweet…

Happy 40th Anniversary, Sesame Street! And if there’s one important lesson I learned from the show, it’s this: be careful when you sneeze that you don’t blow your nose off.

Ruht roh….

scrappy04Fans of Scooby Doo generally agree that the show jumped the shark with the introduction of Scooby’s annoying nephew, Scrappy Doo.  And if you’ve ever asked the universe rhetorically, “What in the hell were they thinking?”  or, maybe better, “Who’s to blame?” then television writer Mark Evanier has an answer for you.  In fact, it’s a confession—because Mark Evanier is, indeed, the guy who came up with Scrappy Doo. Or, at least, mostly. As he says over on his web site:

People ask me if I knew at the time I was contributing to the creation of a such a hated thing as Scrappy Doo. No, I didn’t and no, I still don’t. I am aware that there are some folks out there who, given the choice of seeing the execution of Osama bin Laden or Scrappy Doo, would opt for Scrappy and wonder why you even had to ask.

In a six-part series on his always-fascinating website, Mark takes you through the executive and creative process that brought about Scrappy—and he’ll also tell you how Scrappy might actually have saved Scooby Doo in the ratings.  As much as it might pain you to know it.

Marks tells his story in six short installments, which he’s gathered right here for you to read.  Go read it—and remember, the second suspect you meet is probably the ghost.

…And Now A Word From Our Sponsors

Does it seem like commercials these days just ain’t what they used to be?  Maybe it’s me having one of those stay-offa-my-lawn moments, but teevee spots nowadays just seem too loud and too lame.  Man, I miss the days when commercials had to lure you in with catchy tunes, silly costumes, eager faces, and cheap giveaways.

Like f’rinstance…

Here’s one of my all-time favorite bits — albeit attached to a product I was never really a big fan of — and it’s a jingle so memorable that I still sing it today, much to the embarassment of my 13-year-old daughter:

Then here’s my all-time favorite animated commercial — it’s for Freakies cereal, a cereal whose taste I can’t even remember, but which had the best giveaways in the world, including t-shirts, magnets, and plastic figurines. My brother wore his Grumble shirt for years.

Next it’s a spot for my favorite line of toys ever, the Mego Batman figures, vehicles and playsets. Yes, I still have all of these in boxes in my basement — and yes, my Batsignal still works, and it’s just as cool as it looks here:

Let’s wrap thing up with two spots featuring perhaps the most memorable jingles of all time. The first, from the early 1970s, contains a slew of not-yet-famous actors at the time — including Anson Williams from Happy Days, John Amos of Good Times, and Johnny Haymer, who played Sgt. Zale on M*A*S*H — all singing and dancing their hearts out about their pride in keeping their place of employment spotless:

And finally, here’s perhaps the finest — or at least best remembered — song and dance number of my generation. It features David Naughton, best remembered as the lead in An American Werewolf in London, but who also starred in one of the best, and least watched, one-season-and-out shows of the 70s, Makin’ It. Take it away, David . . .

Christmas, Here’s Your Cue…

Sit down cross-legged on the floor of the living room and pull a TV tray over in front of you. In the days before video tapes, DVDs, and cable television made it possible to watch Christmas specials year round or multiple times, you had exactly one shot a year at catching Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Year Without A Santa Claus, or A Charlie Brown Christmas. If you missed it, you were outta luck until the next December. If you were like me, then, you were on your butt in front of the television, a Swanson’s pot pie steaming in front of you, with five minutes to spare.

With that in mind, let’s kick off the Christmas season with an appropriate bit of fanfare. (And my fellow Gen Xers, prepare for flashbacks in 3…2…):

The Christmas Season is officially here!