Saturday, September 4, 2004


When the political parties try to make compelling TV, too often they succeed to their own regret: Dan Rather getting roughed up at the '68 Democratic convention in Chicago;Ted Kennedy's rambling interview; Richard Nixon's refusal to wear make-up for his debate with John F. Kennedy.

But when they get it right, it puts these so-called "reality TV" shows to shame: Johnson's 1964 "Daisy" ad which scuttled Goldwater's candidacy; Bill Clinton blowing the sax on Arsenio's show; and Senator Sam Ervin and the rest of that colorful cast of characters from the 1973 Watergate hearings.

This past week, the Republicans met in New York City and provided Toobworld with an image that threatened to burn right through the TV screen - Zell Miller, the Democratic senator from Georgia who crossed party lines to deliver the keynote speech.

His firebrand demonization of John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was scary enough. (I hope parents sent their little ones to bed before he began spewing his zellfire and damnation!) But that didn't seem to be enough for Zell Miller.

No, he had to go on MSNBC's 'Hardball' and not only spar with host Chris Matthews, but then threaten to go over to the studio and challenge him to a duel!

Pistols at dawn!

[Remember that "Got Milk?" commercial which featured an Aaron Burr fanatic whose mouth was full of peanut butter? I bet he got a woody watching the exchange!]

I'll bet there were lots of bigwigs in the Democratic party who wish that more Zellish zealots had been up at that GOP podium. It would have been 1996 all over again when the true face of the Republican Party, the intolerant far-right core of support, ended up scaring more people than an episode of 'The X-Files'.

So, thank you, Zell Miller. You've provided Toobworld with the Screensaver of the Week!



The answer, my friend, is Retton on the airwaves.

Riding the coat-tails of this year's Olympics, Mary Lou Retton is appearing in a gymnastic-themed commercial with the Sprint PCS technomage. For the 1984 Olympic gold medal winner in gymnastics, this is just another notch to her belt for Toobworld appearances as herself. Mary Lou's already well qualified for eventual inclusion in the TV Crossover Hall of Fame in the "Reali-TV" section.

Mary Lou Retton appeared on the following shows as herself:

'Knots Landing'
'Dream On'
'Buddy Faro'

She's also the host of 'Flip Flop Shop' on PBS, and she made scads of talk show appearances. And of course there are all of those sports programs in which she competed.

So appearing in commercials gives her a well-rounded presence in Toobworld. All she needs now is a cartoon appearance!

And the Sprint PCS ad isn't her only blipvert. Ever since she won gold at the 1984 Olympics, Mary Lou Retton has also appeared in commercials for:

ReMax Realtors
Lipton's Sizzle 'n' Stir

So here's to you, Mary Lou! When Larry Sanders issued the edict of "No flipping!", he certainly didn't mean you!


"Sorry, Big Guy. But Lou-Mary just didn't sound right."- Ted Baxter ('The Mary Tlyer Moore Show')


If you have nothing better to do on Labor Day, or if your festivities are rained out, tune in to ABC from 1 pm to 3 pm EST in order to see what may well turn out to be chosen as the Crossover of the Year for 2004.

It's a repeat of the two episodes of 'All My Children' and 'One Life To Live' in which the "switched at birth" storyline got rolling. Its ramifications are still playing out today on both of the soap operas, which may have this crossover be regarded as the most complicated one ever in the history of TV.


Friday, September 3, 2004


'Father of the Pride' opened to great ratings, despite all of the negative buzz over the summer (and probably because of it).

I'm still not sure where it will eventually end up in the TV multiverse; most likely in the Tooniverse where intelligent animals live side by side with humans.

Or, because of the appearance by a computer-generated Siegfried & Roy and Matt Lauer, and because of the overall look of the animation, I'm half-tempted to shove the whole shebang into the universe where 'Davy and Goliath', 'Gumby and Pokey', 'Mike & Gary', and all the Superanimation puppets of Gerry Anderson reside.

But no matter where this show ends up, 'Father of the Pride' will definitely be doing a crossover with the movie universe when Donkey of the 'Shrek' franchise appears in an upcoming episode.

Donkey has also appeared in commercials for Dial Soap, Baskin-Robbins, M&Ms, Hewlett Packard, and Burger King..... even the United States Post Office! So has Shrek his own self, but adding a sitcom to his credits pushes Donkey into the lead for eventual inclusion in the Crossover Hall of Fame.

(still hand-drawn)


I was right about Steve Shirripa's appearance on 'Guiding Light' zonking the concept of the TV Universe. Even into his final scene, Shirripa was being described as "the guy who plays Bobby on 'The Sopranos'."

By rights, 'The Sopranos' should be part of the same universe as 'Guiding Light', not considered a TV show by the citizens of Oakdale.

As Shirripa himself said in his parting words, "Wisen up!"


Thursday, September 2, 2004


Lifetime, the television network for women, is hoping that its medical drama 'Strong Medicine' will be able to spin off another show. Towards that end, Tammy Ader and Lisa Melamed are writing the script for the pilot which will be called 'First Response'. Once filmed, it will then air as an episode of 'Strong Medicine' later this season.

'First Response' will focus on a paramedic and a trauma surgeon who are also sisters. Both of them were adopted; the surgeon is black and the paramedic is white.

As I typed up this story, I suddenly remembered that my friend (and "twin sister") Shirley Jordan was going to appear in the August 22nd episode of 'Strong Medicine'.

Sorry, Shirls; I'll have to catch it on the rerun.

I hope all who read this entry will also make the effort to catch it as well.


Wednesday, September 1, 2004


With the first half of the latest 'Monk' season over, news has just come out that Bitty Schram is leaving her role of Sharona Fleming, Adrian Monk's nurse and assistant.

Already several theories as to the reason are floating around:
1] She left to pursue other interests.
2] Creative differences/The producers want to take the show in another direction.
3] Or the usual wrangling over contracts and money

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. Three out of the last four episodes contained variations that could have suggested options for them to explore.

"Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month" introduced us to his former partner, who had been unjustly removed from the force because of a drug charge. There might be a need to bring him back in another episode so that they could team up again on an old case of theirs.

"Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf" found Sharona taking a leave of absence from her job because she thought she was going crazy. (It was the old 'Gaslight' treatment.) While she was gone, Adrian was left in the "care" of a sassy nurse who rattled his mental equilibrium.

"Mr. Monk and the Game Show" didn't have any of the other regulars, as Adrian travelled down to L.A. so that he could help his former father-in-law investigate the possibility of cheating on a game show he was producing.

(It seems that the actors who played Captain Stottlemeyer and Lt. Randy Disher were also finagling for contract renegotiations. I guess this episode was meant to show the trio that the show could survive without them.)

The game show episode also re-introduced a character from the past - Monk's nerdy upstairs neighbor who could also return to "help" in the investigations.

But as for a new character with feminine pulchritude, apparently the producers are now casting about for an actress to play a widow in her late thirties who works as a bartender. The character description would be a bit dismaying in itself; but I know it will be just a starting point in a collaboration between writers and actress to flesh out the role.

I remember when I first heard the description of the Enterprise crew for 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'. Those thumbnail sketches left a lot to be desired. But once those roles were cast and the actors began to explore their own backgrounds as well as new worlds, they quickly rivalled the original crew in popularity among the fan base.

Actually, I'm more interested in the show's inner reality - how are they going to splain away Sharona's departure?

Are they going to kill her off? I don't think it would work - Adrian Monk is still too fragile after the death of his wife. The loss of his nurse, who serves as an anchor and a link to the outside world, would have been overwhelmingly catastrophic. (It even seems unthinkable that he'll be okay without her working for him at all, even if he doesn't have her death hanging over him.)

Sharona Fleming's background is back in New Jersey; that's where her family is from, where her mother and aunt still reside. (Her sister should be still in California, pursuing an acting career.)

It seems the most viable option would be to move Sharona and her son Benjy back to Jersey, perhaps to employ her nursing skills in the care of her Mom or some other relative suddenly stricken as an invalid.

(I highly doubt that she'd ever reconcile with her ex-husband, but if it's ever mentioned that Sharona and her son were in Chicago, then she's back with the lout.)

Having worked with the concept of a TV Universe for so many years, I'm not so distraught about Ms. Schram's departure from 'Monk'. I know that somewhere outside the show's inner reality, Sharona and Benjy will continue their lives. And even though we won't see it, perhaps Monk might receive a postcard from them every now and again. (Not sure how he'd feel about opening envelopes.....)

Whatever lies in the future for Sharona, I wish Bitty Schram the best of luck with her career. As an actress, she was distinctive, cute, funny, and a breath of fresh air; a sexy woman wo could play comedy and drama in equal measure. I'm hoping we'll see her again in another series that can showcase her talents as well as 'Monk' did.

Once we know what Sharona's destiny is beyond the scope of the show, I may return to this topic and speculate on where she may end up in the TV Universe.

Phew! I thought this would be just a "Bitty" post, but that was a lot of typing!

I need a hand-wipe.....


Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Sometimes, television can predict the future......

We're thinking about cutting back on our coverage.
You only covered two hours a night last time. How much more can you...?
We're talking about an hour.
You can't do an hour a night, that's just...
See you don't understand. We're talking about an hour for each convention. We cover the acceptance speeches, that's it.
One of these times you guys are going to come in here and say that and it's going to be true.

[The media directors look at him seriously.]

Look, this is obviously a--do not eat the fruit--this is obviously a, a negotiating position for you, so what is it you need? You want us to vote a member of the Rules Committee out of the convention every night or something? The secretary should eat a jellyfish?
You know what sir, don't talk to me like I'm other people. The four of us are news directors and there isn't a day that one of us isn't begging the person we work for to let us for the love of Jesus Christ do the news.
Is the Republican nominee Rob Ritchie? Yes. Is his running mate Jeff Hesten? Yes. And that question, as impossible as it may be to believe becomes even less suspenseful when talking about the Democratic ticket.
And will there be anything of any force or consequence in the platform? No. Will there be a floor fight over it? What does it matter? And you're getting huffed because the four of us are questioning the wisdom of presenting a four-day infomercial, in primetime, under network news, simulcast?
We'll show the acceptance speeches. And the balloons. The balloons aren't news but it's nice television.
('The West Wing')

On Tuesday, July 27th, not one of the major broadcasting networks bothered to show anything from the second night of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, not even the one hour of coverage they offered up on the other nights.

This week, the Republican National Convention is being held in NYC, and the networks have chosen to scrap the opening night coverage instead so that they can begin their miserly three hour coverage with the Tuesday night speaker.

Why? Because a human cartoon action figure who groped his way into office will be the headliner. The networks are probably not even looking at this as a news story, but more as an entertainment piece.

Considering that the networks get control of their airwaves for practically nothing, they should have been broadcasting the entire convention as a public service. Those people still without cable should be given the chance to see the entire convention process, to better inform their choices. The networks should not be making the decision for them.

We understand you have a counter offer.
Yeah. You broadcast all four nights of the convention.
'Cause the public owns the airwaves, not you, and you have a legal obligation to the public.
The public could care less about the nominating conventions. So why?
You have an FCC public obligation.
Show me a station that's lost its licence for not showing enough public interest programming.
I can't.
So why?
'Cause if you don't the Justice Department is going to investigate you for anti-trust violation.
Anti-trust violation?
A joint decision not to compete for the best convention programming.
You're accusing us of conspiring not to show money-losing programming?
Not me so much as the Justice Department. 15 U.S.C. section 1. "Every contract combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce is declared to be illegal. Every person who shall engage in any combination..."
All right, we get it. We all have lawyers that we'll have to talk to.
Yes, no. There isn't going to be a horse race to cover, either in New York or San Diego. But we gave you the air waves for free 70 years ago and 357 days a year you can say who's up and who's down, who won the West and who lost the South.
But what's wrong with 8 days, not every year but every 4 years, showing our leaders talking to us? Not a fraction of what they said, but what they said.
And then th-the balloons.
Like I said.....
You have to talk to the lawyers.
Talk to the lawyers.
('The West Wing')

I would have complained to the FCC myself, but it's run by the son of the Secretary of State, so what's the use?

But I do like balloons........

(not him, a different one)

Monday, August 30, 2004


I mentioned the other day that one of the two new shows I'm most eagerly awaiting is 'Jack & Bobby'. The other show is ABC's 'Lost'.

Here's a quickie description from Yahoo! TV:

Forty-eight people have survived a horrific plane crash in the South Pacific -- but they were 1,000 miles off course when it happened, so no one knows where they are.

What's more, one of them was traveling in handcuffs and leg irons (for what crime, we don't know), and the remote island is home to some mysterious things lurking in its interior.

And with Meriadoc Brandybuck in the cast to boot!

Damon Lindelof, one of the show's creators, had this to say in an interview:

"They (the survivors) will NOT name their island... but that's not to say they won't discover it already HAS a name. And it can't possibly be as entertaining as 'Moga Moga'."

As a caretaker for the TV Universe, I'm hoping that when they do find the name of the island, it turns out to be... "Bomano".

No, not Bonomo, you taffy-head! Bomano. It had once been used by the Atomic Energy Commission as an a-bomb test site, so it was complete with buildings, a few cars, provisions, and test dummies.

But it had all been abandoned and mostly forgotten by 1969 when a plane crash brought a group of college students who were returning to America from Southeast Asia. Forced to fend for themselves, the students tried to establish a utopia, but found old prejudices and class differences had followed them into their new world.

The TV Universe lost track of 'The New People' less than a year later, but it's always possible that even after thirty years some of them might still be stranded there on Bomano. But with thirty years having passed, there could be a second generation descended from those original survivors.

In his interview, Lindelof has suggested that we may end up meeting more than just the 48 survivors of this latest crash. ("I will not comment on whether or not we'll be meeting any other human beings on the island who were NOT on the plane. But I will posit this -- Who's to say we haven't already?")

Here's a description of "The Dark Side Of The Island" (episode #9 from 'The New People') which aired November 17, 1969:

"The discovery of a shallow grave gives rise to fears that someone - or something - may inhabit the unexplored side of the island. The fear mushrooms into near hysteria when one of the girls disappears."

Damon Lindelof was on record as saying there are no dinosaurs on the island, so there goes the crossover possibility with 'Jurassic Park' and 'Raptor Island'. But there is something gigantic in the jungle which is stomping all the trees. (Lindelof: "The record speaketh true. NO dinosaurs. Will you get a look at the 'thing in the trees' in the first 13 [episodes]? I'll only say this -- maybe you'll see it, maybe you won't... but you'll definitely know much more ABOUT it.")

Someday I'll have to track down a copy of that particular episode of 'The New People' and see if they ever resolved that plotline neatly by the end of the hour. Could the spectre of a "thing in the trees" have been connected?

Ultimately, 'Lost' will probably make no connection to 'The New People'. And considering that hardly anybody remembers that earlier series - even though it was created by the legendary Rod Serling! - why should they?

But 'Lost' is already linked to two TV movies.....

Damon Lindelof: "Oceanic Airlines doesn't exist... but I'm finding out MANY movies have used it when bad shit happens on a plane ('Executive Decision' being the one pointed out to me). And we thought we were so original. Sigh."

We'll skip 'Executive Decision'; that's the movie world, the "Cineverse". For our interests, there's 'Code 11-14' (2003) and 'Nowhere To Land' (2000). All of which, combined with 'Lost', convinces me of one thing......

Don't fly Oceanic Airlines!


[My thanks to Ain't It Cool News for the quotes from Damon Lindelof.]

Sunday, August 29, 2004


Just in time to put a crimp in the grand old party....

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was Friday's leadoff speaker at a two-day conference about challenges that the global economy faces because of rapidly aging populations.

As he did first in February, during testimony before Congress, and several times since, Greenspan issued his warning that the White House and Congress need to come up quickly with a plan to trim the Social Security and Medicare benefits that 77 million baby boomers are scheduled to receive when they retire.

He said haste is critical. There is no way benefits currently promised can be financed by government, he said, and Americans born in the 20 years after World War II need to be put on notice so they can start putting away extra retirement savings during their working years.

Even under the most optimistic economic assumptions of growth and productivity, government resources will be inadequate to provide the baby boom generation with the level of benefits their parents got, he said.

''If we have promised more than our economy has the ability to deliver, ... as I fear we may have, we must recalibrate our public programs so that pending retirees have time to adjust through other channels,'' he said. ''If we delay, the adjustments could be abrupt and painful.''
(from AOL News)

Even though it was probably timed to be lost in the weekend news wasteland, the story will probably get play on a few of the Sunday morning news shows. Even though a majority of Americans would probably never see it, it still becomes a legit part of Toobworld's make-up.

So in the TV Universe, that "abrupt and painful" adjustment will probably climax in this way:

By 2020, the American government, reacting to serious problems of homeless and jobless people, created special Sanctuary Districts in most cities where such people could be cared for.
Unfortunately, while established with benevolent intent, the Sanctuary Districts quickly degenerated into inhumane internment camps where the unemployed, the mentally ill, and other outcasts were imprisoned.

On the September 1, 2024, residents of Sanctuary District A in San Francisco took over an administrative processing centre, holding six centre employees hostage. The residents managed to gain access to Earth's planetary computer network, and many were able to tell their stories of imprisonment to the outside world.

As a result, the American public became aware of the great injustice that had been hidden from them.

The so-called Bell Riots ended when the governor of California ordered federal troops to retake the processing centre by force. Hundreds of sanctuary residents were killed, although none of the hostages were harmed. History records that protest leader Gabriel Bell sacrificed his life to save the hostages. (It is for that reason that the riots are named after him.)

In the wake of the Bell Riots and the senseless death of so many people, American public opinion turned against the Sanctuary Districts. The sanctuaries were abolished as the United States finally began to face serious social problems it had struggled with for over a century. ('Star Trek' - "Past Tense")

As for Greenspan himself, that fiscal boogeyman is 78 and was recently confirmed for a fifth term as the Fed Chairman. So he doesn't have to worry too much about his retirement prospects.

And as for me, I need to renew my Old Glory insurance. For when the robots come for me - and they will! - I want to be prepared!
('Saturday Night Live')



Joan Rivers will be appearing as herself in an episode of 'Nip/Tuck' on FX this coming season. This has to be the best fit of a show's premise to a celebrity guest star since last year's soap opera extravaganza on 'Hope & Faith'.

But it stands to reason that since 'Nip/Tuck' is a show about plastic surgery, it would have a nice, tight fit.

Just like Joan Rivers.......

This will also serve as a link to several other series in which Joan Rivers portrayed herself, and I'm not just referring to her past talk show experiences with 'The Joan Rivers Show' and 'That Show'.

Joan played fictional versions of herself on the following series:
'I'm With Her'
'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
'America 2Night'
and maybe on an episode of 'Here's Lucy'; the one where Lucy and Joan served on a jury.

And there's also 'Can We Shop?'. So sue me.