We were living in Philadelphia in the summer of 1985, and the television
was on as background noise. A "Miami Vice" rerun was airing. I'd caught
a few minutes of the series earlier in the year and, frankly, it wasn't
on my must-see list. Anyway, I was working on something when I heard a
car engine gunned, followed by a hard cut to Tommy Shaw's driving "Girls
I looked up to see a tracking shot of speeding convertible. After a few
seconds, it became obvious the tracking vehicle was a helicopter,
perfectly matching the speed of the auto. I slowly became aware that
there weren't any edits... this was one long honking aerial shot.
It runs for a total of 79 seconds, an eternity in a filmed television
series. I couldn't find many details. The episode, "Glades," was the
ninth in the series' first season. It originally aired on November 30,
1984; I apparently caught the rerun on June 21, 1985. The show was
directed Stan Lathan (who would later go on to direct 122 episodes of
"The Steve Harvey Show"), and the director of photography was Duke
Callahan, who was also the D.P. on the motion picture Conan The
Barbarian. The helicopter pilot and cameraman were uncredited.
The segment starts on the west side of Miami and continues along the
Tamiami Highway. My guess is the director told the stars to drive
themselves to the location that day, and he told the DP to grab a
camera, get a helicopter, and get him some filler because the episode
timed out short.
Or, it could have been a deliberate attempt to create a shot so
impressive an old fart like me would remember it nearly 30 years later
when he accidentally encountered it on the web.
In light of the Edward Snowden/NSA scandal, CBS' science fiction series Person
of Interest now more closely resembles a reality show:
While not quite as memorable as "Space... the final frontier," the
series' opening voice over provides a pretty good summary of the premise:
"You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine
that spies on you every hour of every day. I designed the machine to
detect acts of terror, but it sees everything... violent crimes
involving ordinary people. The government considers these people
'irrelevant'. We don't. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret.
You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up...
we'll find you".
John Reese (Jim Caviezel), a former Green Beret and CIA field officer,
is living as a derelict in New York City after the death of the woman he
loves, and is presumed dead. He is approached by Harold Finch (Michael
Emerson), a reclusive billionaire computer genius who is living under an
assumed identity. Finch explains that after September 11, 2001, he built
a computer system for the government that uses information gleaned from
omnipresent surveillance to predict future terrorist attacks. However,
Finch discovered that the computer was predicting ordinary crimes as
well. The government is not interested in these results, but Finch is
determined to stop the predicted crimes. He hires Reese to conduct
surveillance and intervene as needed, using his repertoire of skills
gained in the military and the CIA. Through a back door built into the
system, Finch receives the Social Security number of someone who will be
involved in an imminent crime, at which point he contacts Reese. Without
knowing what the crime will be, when it will occur, or even if the
person they were alerted to is a victim or perpetrator, Reese and Finch
must try to stop the crime from occurring.
They are helped by NYPD Detectives Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), a
corrupt officer whom Reese coerces into helping them, and Joss Carter
(Taraji P. Henson), who in early episodes investigates Reese for his
vigilante activities. Although Reese arranges for Carter and Fusco to be
partners in the NYPD early in the first season, neither learns that the
other is also working with Finch and Reese until season two.
Periodically, the team also enlists the aid of Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco),
a professional "fixer" who applies her skills to particularly difficult
tasks. The series features several subplots. One significant story arc
involves "HR", an organization of corrupt NYPD officers in league with
budding mob boss Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni); in the course of this
arc Fusco is forced to go undercover. Another important storyline
revolves around Root (Amy Acker), a psychopathic female hacker who is
determined to gain access to the Machine; she asserts the device is
actually God, and that she has been summoned by "her."
Ah, The Machine...
The Machine is a mass surveillance computer system programmed to monitor
and analyze data from surveillance cameras, electronic communications,
and audio input throughout the world. From this data, the Machine
accurately predicts violent acts. Under control of the U.S. Government,
its stated purpose is the identification of terrorist and their planned
assaults. However, the Machine detects future violent acts of all kinds,
not just terrorism. Unknown to Finch, his partner, Nathan Ingram,
installed a routine called "Contingency" prior to delivering the system
to the government. The covert software causes the machine to also act on
non-terrorist crime. Finch is appalled that Ingram has the data sent
directly to him. After Finch fails to prevent Ingram's
computer-predicted murder, he further modifies the system so that
"irrelevant" non-terrorism data is transmitted to him in the form of
social security numbers, via coded messages over a public telephone.
Over the course of each episode, the viewer periodically sees events as
a Machine-generated on-screen display of data about a character or
characters: identification, activities, records, and more may be
displayed. The viewer also sees a Machine-generated perspective as it
monitors New York. Commercial flights are outlined by green triangles,
red concentric circles indicate no-fly zones around tall buildings, and
dashed boxes mark individual people. The Machine classifies the people
it watches by color-coding the boxes: white for no threat or an
irrelevant threat; red for perceived threats to the Machine,
red-and-white for individuals predicted to be violent; and yellow for
people who know about the machine, including Finch, Reese, Ingram,
Corwin and Root. The white-boxed "irrelevant threat" targets include the
Persons of Interest that Reese and Finch assist.
As the series progressed, a wider governmental conspiracy emerged. Known
as "The Program", it revolves around the development and utilization of
the Machine. Apparently led by a mysterious figure known only as
"Control", an unnamed official (Jay O. Sanders) from the Office of
Special Counsel begins eliminating key personnel who are aware of the
Machine's existence by deploying teams of Intelligence Support Activity
(ISA) operatives who believe they are acting to eliminate perceived
terrorist threats on the recommendation of a department known as
"Research". The members of the elimination teams are classified by the
Machine using a blue box.
Person's producers have hinted the third season of the hit
series, which moves to a new day and slot (Tuesdays at 10 pm, premiering
on September 24) will attempt to be more, er, science fiction-y. Like
all television shows, Person does have some reality-bending
elements, but the suspension of disbelief level required is remarkably
low. The bad guys are still lousy shots, and the key characters make
miraculous recoveries from concussions, lethal injections and various
forms of physical trauma, often before the show's end credits roll. But
hey, it's episodic broadcast television, right?
Where the show excels is in production values and technical accuracy.
While Mr. Finch's technology boasts features which are a couple software
releases in the future, the indulgences can be forgiven. The show's
cellular phone networks, computers, and other devices work at blinding
speed. But when you have to shoehorn a rich narrative into 40 minutes of
actual episode time, you really don't want to watch systems execute
communication protocol negotiations in real time; trust me.
Particularly impressive is the effort the show puts into elements that
have perhaps a second or two of screen time. Thanks to high definition
and digital video recording, I've been able to freeze frame some of the
monitor shots- and it's obvious these guys have some real-world Unix and
TCP/IP knowledge. A one-second blip of a phony newspaper article reveals
someone actually wrote a faux news story and, apparently, follows The
Other one-hour drama series spend eight days or less to film an episode. Person
of Interest spends nine and a half, with more camera coverage,
extensive location shooting, and substantial post-production work.
They spend money on this show, and it's all up on the screen. The
episodes have a decided theatrical motion picture feel.
So... when planning your television viewing for the upcoming season,
give Person a shot. Like certain other Warner Brothers shows, the
studio hasn't made it available for free, on-demand viewing- you have to
buy the DVDs or download the show from iTunes. Update: During the
third season, the show became available on the CBS website.
Just type CBS Person of Interest into Google and you'll find hundreds of
useful fan sites and video clips from key episodes.
One caveat- the series is produced by J.J. Abrams of Lost fame,
which means there's a chance that at some point the whole thing could
take a sharp turn into stupidity. But, based on the first two seasons,
it's worth the risk.
(YouTube video: ComiCon trailer for "COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey," a
13-part docu-series debuting in 2014 on FOX.)
The original 13-part Cosmos: A Personal Voyage first aired in
1980 on the Public Broadcasting System, and was hosted by Carl Sagan.
The show has been considered highly significant since its broadcast;
Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times described it as "a watershed moment
for science-themed television programming". The show has been watched by
at least 400 million people across 60 different countries.
Following Sagan's death in 1996, his widow Ann Druyan, the co-creator of
the original Cosmos series along with Steven Soter, a producer from the
series, and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, sought to create a new
version of the series, aimed to appeal to as wide an audience as
possible and not just to those interested in the sciences. They had
struggled for years with reluctant television networks that failed to
see the broad appeal of the show.
Seth MacFarlane had met Druyan through Tyson at the 2008 kickoff event
for the Science and Entertainment Exchange, a new LA office of the
National Academy of Sciences, designed to connect Hollywood writers and
directors with scientists. A year later, at a 2009 lunch in NYC with
Tyson, MacFarlane learned of their interest to recreate Cosmos. He was
influenced by Cosmos as a child, believing that Cosmos served to
"[bridge] the gap between the academic community and the general
public". MacFarlane had considered that the reduction of effort for
space travel in recent decades to be part of "our culture of lethargy".
MacFarlane, who has several animated shows on the Fox Network, was able
to bring Druyan to meet the heads of Fox programming, Peter Rice and
Kevin Reilly, and helped to get the greenlighting of the show.
MacFarlane admits that he is "the least essential person in this
equation" and the effort is a departure from work he's done before, but
considers this to be "very comfortable territory for [himself]
personally". He and Druyan have become close friends, and Druyan stated
that she believed that Sagan and MacFarlane would have been "kindred
spirits" with their respective "protean talents".
After John Larroquette played the Klingon crew member "Maltz" in
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and before Brent Spiner went on
to play Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), the pair
appeared together in a half-dozen episodes of NBC's Night Court.
Larroquette won four Emmys as assistant district attorney Dan Fielding;
Spiner played Bob Wheeler, a Yugoslavian immigrant with a West Virginian
accent and incredibly bad luck.
David Letterman (born April 12, 1947) is an American television host and
comedian. He hosts the late night television talk show, Late Show
with David Letterman, broadcast on CBS. Letterman has been a fixture
on late night television since the 1982 debut of Late Night with
David Letterman on NBC. Letterman recently surpassed friend and
mentor Johnny Carson for having the longest late-night hosting career on
US television. (Click
for full Wikipedia article.
Everyone has a purpose in life. Perhaps yours is watching television.
Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change
color and fall from the trees.
I saw a robin redbreast in Central Park today, but it turned out to be a
sparrow with an exit wound.
I'm a magical being. Take off your bra. (From Top Ten Elven Pickup
On December 10, 1975, the 13th and final episode of Mel Brooks' When
Things Were Rotten aired on ABC.
Hoping to do for the Middle Ages what Blazing Saddles did for the
Old West, the absurdist comedy premiered in the top 20 but quickly
tanked. A critical success, it couldn't survive in its Wednesday 8 pm
time slot opposite Tony Orlando and Dawn on CBS and Little
House on the Prairie on NBC.
In that primitive age- before the Internet, before DVRs, yea, verily,
even before Betamaxes- moms and dads opted for musical variety and
wholesome viewing on the family's two television sets.
It was a shame. In addition to Brooks, the series boasted top-name
talent. The show's bouncy theme was written by Charles Strouse and Lee
Adams, the guys who did Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, and Annie.
Four episodes were directed by Peter Hunt, better known for directing
the Tony-winning musical 1776 and its movie adaptation.
And it featured great stuff like:
Villain: "Are you ready to tell that to your maker?"
Victim (to camera): "Mel! I didn't do it!"
(YouTube video: Opening credits and theme, "When Things Were Rotten")
Once upon a time when things were rotten Not just food but also kings
were rotten Everybody kicked the peasants Things were bad and that
ain't good Then came Robin Hood... ba-bah!
Soon the band of Merry Men begotten They wore outfits made of plain
green cotton Helping victims was their business Boy oh boy was
business good Good for Robin Hood!
They laughed, they loved, they fought, they drank They jumped a lot
of fences They robbed the rich, gave to the poor Except what they
kept for expenses!
So when other legends are fogotten We'll remember back when things
were rotten Yay for Robin Hood!
Published Thursday, November 22, 2012 @ 8:30 AM EST
WKRP in Cincinnati: "Turkeys Away" (Season 1, Episode 7, aired 10/30/1978)
Mr. Carlson is beginning to feel useless at the new formatted rock station so he
decides to create a big Thanksgiving Day promotion. His idea? Get a helicopter,
with a banner attached to it saying "Happy Thanksgiving From WKRP", and drop
live turkeys from the helicopter. What could go wrong?
(YouTube video: "The turkeys are hitting the ground
like sacks of wet cement!")
Two legendary talk show hosts with entirely different personalities and
approaches; yet the prosaic King and the cosmopolitan Cavett both killed
on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson earlier this year.
(YouTube video: Larry King inhabits the body of Geoff the Robot.
(YouTube video: Including such delights as a joke based on an obscure
reference to Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.)
Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012 @ 12:55 AM EST
Failure to write a concession speech is what sealed Mitt Romney's fate:
(YouTube video: "Election Night" episode, The West Wing)
Sam Seaborn: You wrote a concession? Toby Ziegler: Of course I wrote
a concession. You want to tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop
the thing? Sam Seaborn: No. Toby Ziegler: Then go outside, turn
around three times and spit. What the hell's the matter with you?
Published Tuesday, October 23, 2012 @ 12:29 AM EDT
John William “Johnny” Carson (October 23, 1925 - January 23, 2005) was
an American television host and comedian, known for 30 years as host of The
Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992). Carson received six
Emmy Awards, the Governor Award, and a 1985 Peabody Award. He was
inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987. Johnny Carson
was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 and received a
Kennedy Center Honor in 1993. Although his show was already successful
by the end of the 1960s, during the 1970s Carson became an American icon
and remained so until his retirement in 1992. Click
for full article.
(A portion of David Letterman's 2005 tribute show for Johnny Carson.)
One of Carson's funniest routines was Carnac the Magnificent, an
alleged psychic who would hold to his head a sealed envelope, divine and
announce the answer, then open the envelope and read the question. He
adapted the bit from routines previously performed by Steve Allen and
Ernie Kovacs, but Carson perfected the format.
Herewith are some of the more memorable Carnac gags. For the complete
list, go to the source at www.nightscribe.com,
But be certain to watch the video at the end...
A: Peter Pan. Q: What do you use to fry a peter?
A: Mount Baldy. Q: How do you play piggyback with Telly Savales?
A: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Q: What were some of the earlier forms of
A: Clean air, a virgin and a gas station open on Sunday. Q: Name
three things you won't find in Los Angeles.
A: Black and white and twenty feet tall. Q: Describe Sister Mary Kong.
A: An unmarried woman. Q: What was Elizabeth Taylor between 3 and 5
pm on June 1, 1952?
A: Cyclone. Q: What do call the clone of a guy named Cy?
A: ”Hi diddly dee.“ Q: How do you say "Good morning" to
your diddly dee?
A: The Orient express. Q: What is a drink made with soy sauce and
A: Gatorade. Q: What does an alligator get on welfare?
A: Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. Q: What's the best thing
to do if you swallow a hand grenade?
A: Until he gets caught. Q: How long does a United States Congressman
A: Kumquat. Q: What do you say when calling your quat?
A: Defrost. Q: On a cold morning, what forms on de-grass?
A: Gunga din. Q: What do you hear when you put an amplifier in your
A: Igloo. Q: What do you use to keep your ig from falling off?
A: Shoo be doo be doo. Q: What do you look for when you're tracking a
shoo be doo be?
A: Trapper John. Q: What do you call an outhouse built on quicksand?
A: Rub-a-dub-dub. Q: What does a masseuse do to your dub-dub?
A: Zeppo Marx. Q: What do you get when something gets caught in your
A: Touchback. Q: What's the smart thing to do if a Dallas Cowgirl
A: The big ten. Q: Describe the five finalists in the Miss Universe
A: All the President's Men. Q: Who won't be let out to see the
A: Bifocal. Q: Name a focal that goes both ways.
A: Timbuktu. Q: What comes after Timbuk one?
A: R-O-L-A-I-D-S. Q: How does a stupid person spell “backgammon?”
A: Jello and “Charlie's Angels.” Q: What looks delicious,
quivers all over and can't talk?
A: The Loch Ness Monster. Q: Who will they find sooner than Jimmy
A: The diamond lane. Q: What does Zsa Zsa Gabor call the center of a
A: A nine foot base with two feet of powder. Q: Describe Mick
A: Putting on the dog. Q: What do you call dressing up as a tree?
A: "Yes man." Q: What should you answer to everything
George Foreman says?
A: You asked for it. Q: How do you get it?
A: Big Ben, Joe Namath and the candidates' campaign promises. Q: Name
a clock, a jock and a crock.
Published Friday, September 28, 2012 @ 12:05 AM EDT
Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG) premiered 25 years ago
today, the week of September 28, 1987, to an eager audience of 27
million viewers. With seven seasons and 178 episodes, ST:TNG
surpassed the original series' 79 episodes and three year (1966-1969)
run on NBC. ST:TNG's two-hour finale, "All Good Things...", aired
the week of May 23, 1994. Both series were created by Gene
Roddenberry. ST:TNG is set in the 24th century, 80 years
after than the original series.
TNG was broadcast in first-run syndication. Like the original
series, it remains popular in syndicated reruns. Three additional Star
Trek spin-offs followed The Next Generation: Star Trek: Deep
Space Nine (1993–1999), Star Trek: Voyager (1995–2001),
and Star Trek: Enterprise (2001–2005). There are also 22
half-hour episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series which
originally aired on Saturday mornings on NBC in 1973-74.
In its seventh season, Star Trek: The Next Generation became the
first syndicated television show to be nominated for the Emmy Award for
Best Dramatic Series. The show received numerous recognitions, including
Emmy Awards, Hugo Awards, and a Peabody Award. Click
for the full Wikipedia article.
"Relics," TNG's 130th episode (the fourth episode of
the sixth season), features James Doohan as Montgomery Scott, the
legendary chief engineer of the original series. Technobabbled into the
24th century, this is no mere cameo appearance. Scotty appears to be an
antique out of time but -of course- he ends up saving another starship
named Enterprise. And kudos to LeVar Burton (Geordi LaForge) for
holding his own in the presence of an iconic scenery chewer.
...when "satire" in The Onion
is about the only honest, objective view you'll get of this abysmal
Sadly, Nation Knows Exactly How Colorado Shooting's Aftermath Will
(The Onion, July 20, 2012)
WASHINGTON-Americans across the nation confirmed today that,
unfortunately, due to their extreme familiarity with the type of tragedy
that occurred in a Colorado movie theater last night, they sadly know
exactly how the events following the horrific shooting of 12 people will
While admitting they "absolutely hate" the fact they have this
knowledge, the nation's 300 million citizens told reporters they can
pinpoint down to the hour when the first candlelight vigil will be held,
roughly how many people will attend, how many times the county sheriff
will address the media in the coming weeks, and when the town-wide
memorial service will be held.
Additionally, sources nationwide took no pleasure in confirming that
some sort of video recording, written material, or disturbing
photographs made by the shooter will be surfacing in about an hour or
"I hate to say it, but we as Americans are basically experts at this
kind of thing by now,” said 45-year-old market analyst Jared Gerson,
adding that the number of media images of Aurora, CO citizens crying and
looking shocked is “pretty much right in line with where it usually is
at this point." "The calls not to politicize the tragedy should be
starting in an hour, but by 1:30 p.m. tomorrow the issue will have been
politicized. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the shooter's high school
classmate is interviewed within 45 minutes."
"It's like clockwork," said Gerson, who sighed, shook his head, and
According to the nation's citizenry, calls for a mature, thoughtful
debate about the role of guns in American society started right on time,
and should persist throughout the next week or so. However, the populace
noted, the debate will soon spiral out of control and ultimately lead to
nothing of any substance, a fact Americans everywhere acknowledged they
felt "absolutely horrible" to be aware of.
With scalpel-like precision, the American populace then went on to
predict, to the minute, how long it will take for the media to swarm
Aurora, CO, how long it will take for them to leave, and exactly when
questions will be raised as to whether or not violence in movies and
video games had something to do with the act.
The nation's citizens also confirmed that, any time now, some religious
figure or cable news personality will say something unbelievably
insensitive about the tragic shooting.
"Unfortunately, I've been through this a lot, and I pretty much have it
down to a science when President Obama will visit Colorado, when he will
meet with the families of those who lost loved ones, and when he will
give his big speech that people will call 'unifying' and 'very
presidential,'" Jacksonville resident Amy Brennen, 32, said, speaking
for every other person in the country. "Nothing really surprises me when
it comes to this kind of thing anymore. And that makes me feel terrible."
"Oh, and here's another thing I hate I know," Brennen continued, "In
exactly two weeks this will all be over and it will be like it never
(YouTube video, The Andy Griffith Show: "Opie the Birdman")
When I remember watching Andy and Opie and Barney and Aunt Bee, I can't
help but smile. There's no greater compliment.
Andrew Samuel "Andy" Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012) was an
American actor, director, producer, Grammy Award-winning Southern-gospel
singer, and writer. He gained prominence in the starring role in
director Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957) before he became
better known for his television roles, playing the lead characters in
the 1960–1968 situation comedy The Andy Griffith Show and
in the 1986–1995 legal drama Matlock. Griffith died on July
3, 2012 at the age of 86. (Click
here for full article.)