Thursday, October 21, 2004


"I learned it takes a lot of really smart people,
Working very hard,
To do a crappy show."
Conan O'Brien

By the time I post this missive, there will be just over a week before the latest "MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR TIME". And the Sundance Channel is leading up to that with a four part sequel to one of the first HBO dramatic series, 'Tanner '88'.

'Tanner '88' was a "mockumentary" looking at the candidacy of Senator Jack Tanner as he made an ill-fated run for the White House. Over fifteen years later, and the new show looks at the attempt by his daughter Alex to make another documentary about those times while capturing footage of her father among the new power-brokers at this year's Democratic convention in Boston.

As it was with its predecessor, 'Tanner On Tanner' is chock-full of celebrities either joining the "League Of Themselves" or adding to their roster of appearances in Toobworld. Some of them have appeared in fictional settings before as themselves, or were portrayed by other actors. In the case of Martin Scorcese, both types of appearances apply ('Curb Your Enthusiasm' & 'The Sopranos', respectively).

And then there are those who have appeared as themselves in shows of either a variety or of a news/informational format. On average, they tend to be discounted unless the people involved were regulars or hosts, or there was just something odd about the appearance. (A good example of this would be Harry Belafonte appearing on 'The Muppet Show'. In Toobworld, he was interacting with living puppet people at that theatre.)

So here's a rundown of a few of the celebrities who make significant contributions to the TV Universe by their crossovers. (Others will be listed farther down the page in the "League Of Themselves" segment.)

Reverend Al Sharpton - The big man on campus last time, (with 'Boston Legal', 'Girlfriends', and the upcoming ), here's another addition to his Toobworld resume for 2004.

(It took me two weeks to catch up on the debut episode of 'Tanner On Tanner', so that's why the show wasn't included with the others last week. But as it premiered in the same week as his 'Boston Legal' appearance, it should have.)

Martin Scorcese - 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', 'The Sopranos',
Harry Belafonte - 'Sugar Hill Times', 'The Muppet Show'
Steve Buscemi - 'The Simpsons'
Vice President Al Gore - 'Futurama'
President Jimmy Carter - 'Angie', 'Carter Country'
Bill Clinton - 'The Nanny', 'Live Shot', 'L.A. Law'
Janeane Garofalo - 'Primetime Glick', 'The Ben Stiller Show'
Governor Gray Davis - 'Yes, Dear'
Al Franken - 'The Al Franken Show', 'Saturday Night Live', Yahoo "Franken/Stein" commercial with Ben Stein
Governor Michael Dukakis - 'Cheers'
Reverend Jesse Jackson - 'Both Sides Now', 'A Different World', 'Lou Grant'
Governor Howard Dean - 'K Street'
Chris Matthews - 'Hardball'
Michael Moore - 'TV Nation'
Secretary Madeline Albright - 'Futurama'
Representative Richard Gephardt - 'Lateline'
Ron Reagan, Jr. - '', 'The Ron Reagan Show'
Tom Brokaw - NBC Nightly News, 'Today'
Dee Dee Myers - 'Equal Time', 'The West Wing Documentary'

There is no role too small for which one can't make a theoretical link to some other show.

For instance, when Alex Tanner fled her own premiere at the Rough Cut film festival, she wandered into a shoe store where she met a saleswoman who was also studying film.

The character was played by Krysten Ritter, but had no name - a perfect opportunity to claim she could be a character from another series!

And I have the perfect choice - Ms. Ritter played Brynn, the grand-daughter of an elderly woman who lived in the hotel run by Mavis Rae. Brynn took over her grandmother's room once the elderly lady was removed to a nursing facility. But she proved to be more of a disruption than the old lady when she disrupted the place with her loud parties.

I think Brynn's just the type to take a job in a trendy shoe store so that she could support not only her schooling, but also her wild lifestyle.
('Tanner On Tanner' & 'Whoopi')

As I've always said, I can't possibly watch everything on TV, so my thanks go out to my friend Nora Lee who caught this clash of the TV Universe on an episode of 'Without A Trace':

"Last night's had a good episode about a missing person with an alien abduction complex. When they go to question his abductee support group, a guy asks: "So you guys are the real Scully and Mulder?" (and they're having an affair as well).

"A side amusing part is that the guy is really up on sci fi and knows what they're talking about in their jargon and she just thinks they're all crazy.

"There's a cute interchange at the end then, when the guy (Eric Close) calls the woman (Poppy Montgomery I think) "Scully" and she notes she hasn't been to his apt. yet and she'll come by later. Which is very Scully-ish ."
('Without A Trace')

This apparent Zonk clashing 'The X-Files' with 'Without A Trace' can luckily be saved!

In later episodes, the secretive work of FBI agents Mulder and Scully was exposed twice to the general public.

First off, their exploits were fictionalized and featured in a big screen Hollywood movie in which they were portrayed by Garry Shandling and Tea Leoni. And even though their names had been changed, albeit not necessarily to protect the innocent, publicity material supplied to critics would surely have mentioned the background sources for the film.

Secondly, Mulder and Scully were caught on tape dealing with a creature of the Id which fed on fear. This footage was part of a running "documentary" which would later be edited and shown on the TV series 'Cops'. It's a popular series both in the real world as well as in Toobworld, so it's quite likely someone on an episode of 'Without A Trace' had seen it.

Three episodes into its four-part run on Sundance, 'Tanner On Tanner' is chock-ful of politicians, actors, and other celebrities portraying themselves in a fictional setting. And unlike the recent 'K Street', it's a lot more interesting.

Here's a list of those who have appeared so far on the show and who were not mentioned above in the "Great Link" segment of our show:
Elaine Kaufman Robert Redford Carl Bernstein
Dina Merrill Senator Joseph Lieberman Ted Hartley
Kitty Dukakis Senator Joseph Biden Barak Obama
John Podesta Senator Bob Graham Alex Kerry

And there's still one more episode to air before it's over!

Continuing the political bent, the Rock The Vote organization has a new PSA out which features plenty of stars urging people to make a difference in the voting booth.

Among them:
Leonardo Di Caprio Samuel L. Jackson
Benicio Del Toro Justin Timberlake

And U2 performs "Vertigo" in a blipvert for iPod's and iTunes which makes me long for the days when the band (actually the cast of 'The Ben Stiller Show') hawked Lucky Charms in a commercial.......

Rex Van DeCamp proposed to Bree Mason on Skyline Drive over a bottle of apple wine. And even though she was dating Ty Grant, and her father hated Rex, she said yes.

Rex has an aversion to apple wine now......
('Desperate Housewives')

The comic book that Walt was reading after the plane crash was a Spanish translation of a Green Lantern/Flash team-up from DC. It was entitled "Faster Friends - Part One" and featured a battle with an alien whose intentions ultimately were meant to be peaceful.

One of the show's creators has hinted that the comic book is a lot more important than people might think.
Considering it illustrated a polar bear and soon after a real polar bear showed up on that tropical island, I'd say he's not yanking our crank.

The tattoo on Charlie Pace's left shoulder reads:

Living is easy
With eyes closed

This is a lyric from "Strawberry Fields Forever" by the Beatles.

Billy Warren, a New York firefighter, died in the line of duty near the end of the summer. At his wake, the other members of his company learned that Billy's "prodigious talent" had earned him a legacy of two beautiful ex-wives who appreciated the fact that their FDNY sweetie was carrying extra hose.
('Rescue Me')

Unless otherwise stated within the show, it's usually a given that episodes of a series takes place around the time it is broadcast. (That's why so many debuts can be found in September of any given year.)

'Desperate Housewives' found a way to play with that chestnut. The dates on Mary Alice Young's tombstone read:

11/18/65 - 9/26/04

This was probably the date they were hoping to premiere. As it was, they debuted a week later on October 3rd.

For anyone thinking of starting a timeline for this show, it makes for a good touchstone on which to build.
('Desperate Housewives')

"The most delicious swirl of real/faux in the media echo chamber is the inclusion of Kerry's daughter Alex Kerry (a real documentary filmmaker) making a film about her father. The real Alex and the actor Alex meet in Episode 3, and end up interviewing Ron Reagan Jr., another presidential candidate offspring who has worked his way into a media career. The satire bites you coming and going, as the three engage in a largely improvised scene.

The 'Tanner' film crew was joined by Alex's phony film crew, plus Alex's film school student (played by Luke MacFarlane), supposedly making a film about Alex. Joining them was Alex Kerry's real-life film crew. And then Ron Reagan appeared with his MSNBC film crew, coincidentally trailed by a film crew for another news show.

As political sage Aretha Franklin asked, 'Who's zoomin' who?'

The viewing public is accustomed to sorting through 'reality TV's' layers of almost real interactions. We're used to spotting 'real people' in cameos with actors, and we've been trained to accept TV that toys with our views of what's real. But seldom if ever do we get to laugh at the current state of the media from such a knowing angle."

thanks to TV critic Joanne Ostrow of the Denver Post

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