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R.I.P. GEORGE CARLIN
Relatives and close friends aside, a stark reminder that I'm getting old means losing people that mean a great deal to me. It started with Bob Hope, not so much because I was a fan, I wasn't, but because he had always been around for all my life.

George Carlin had a massive impact on my generation, he was the first counter culture comic to enter the mainstream and maintain his integrity. Heck, he embraced the mainstream in an effort to get his message across, he was a regular on The Tony Orlando & Dawn Show for heaven's sake. He turned up frequently on afternoon talk shows like Dinah! and The Mike Douglas Show but that never diminished his comic edge.

Here he is from a 1971 Mike Douglas Show:

Right about now Mr. Carlin has found out the truth behind this routine - NSFW.

Monday, June 23, 2008 - 6:38am
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DVD BEST SELLERS
The Goldbergs on DVDFor what it's worth, every once in a while I spotlight the top selling TV on DVD collections sold through TVparty! and I always point out that sales through this site don't necessarily correspond to the real world.

Here are the top 10 sellers during the last quarter:
1. The Goldbergs
2. Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp
3. Sold Separately
4. Best of Fractured Fairy Tales
5. Route 66 Season One Vol 1
6. Diver Dan
7. Sonny & Cher - The Ultimate Collection
8. Soupy Sales: In Living Black & White
9. Hiya Kids! A 50's Saturday Morning Box
10. Soupy Sales Collection: The Whole Gang Is Here!

The Best of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Vol. 1; The Carol Burnett Show - Show Stoppers; Classic Commercials; Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt-8 DVD Set follow close behind.

Sunday, June 22, 2008 - 10:44am
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BLOG RERUN
Variety ShowsWhile going through some old boxes (like panning for gold) I discovered some audio tapes I made as a kid and turned up many audio gems - like this lively a duet between Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey. (These magnificent performers both played the lead in Hello Dolly on Broadway at different times.)

Many of the audio nuggets I found featured the legendary vaudeville performer George Burns.

George Burns TV SpecialHere's a wonderful few minutes with two television masters - Merv Griffin and George Burns. Burns loved to sing old songs from his vaudeville years, tunes that had long fallen out of favor with the public. He even released an album of these obscure ditties in the mid-seventies but it didn't exactly inspire a rush on the record stores.

This clip reminds is a reminder of just how great television could be in the daytime during the 1970s; shows like Merv, Dinah and The Mike Douglas Show offered the opportunity to watch legendary performers in a slightly more relaxed atmosphere. This clip in particular is a glimpse into what it must have been like when George Burns rehearsed.

Merv has released a Best-of DVD set and I wish there were twenty more - we're still waiting for a box set of the Mike Douglas shows. Unlike many daytime productions from 30 years ago, these programs still exist so it's something to look forward to one day.

Here's another George Burns sound clip I recorded during the mid-seventies.

One last clip from those tapes with George Burns from an unknown TV production. This time he's accompanied by Marvin Hamlish, singing a song Hamlish wrote for 'The Entertainers.'

Sunday, June 22, 2008 - 9:42am
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ON THE TV
Do you enjoy horror movies as much as I do? I mean films that chill you to the bone and shock your system? Then you'll love the new HBO's documentary Hard Times at Douglass High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card, the story of Frederick Douglass High School's class of '05.

If you caught season 4 of The Wire (set in a Baltimore inner city school) you'll find much of this territory familiar. If anything, the show painted a rosier picture than the reality, most probably because the truth would have seemed too implausible.

At times you may want to reach through the screen and hug these teachers and student advisors for their perseverance and courage - but you'll want to rail against others who enable failure, teaching kids to grasp for creative excuses to hang their failures on.

Those few students that made their way in triumph through this boiling labyrinth are to be greatly admired.

I guess I can't say too much about this production; Baltimore's inner city is so far removed from my experience, years of living on the east side of LA aside. The end of the picture brings no resolution, as if one were to be expected, only new questions and a yearning for a follow-up.

Don't miss heartbreaking, devastating documentary - trust me, you'll feel so much better about your local schools.

Here's more from the press release:

The No Child Left Behind Act was created to boost academic levels of American schoolchildren by setting standardized goals across the nation – and holding states, districts and schools accountable for performance. For urban schools in high-poverty areas, reaching these goals has proven to be a daunting task, and many now face the real possibility of being taken over by the state – or being shut down altogether.

Produced and directed by Oscar-winners Alan and Susan Raymond, Hard Times at Douglass High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card reveals troubles and triumphs in the classrooms, hallways and offices of Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, MD – from the celebrations of drum lines and debate teams to the worries of faculty who know that 50% of their freshman will not return for their sophomore year. This immersive documentary cautions that education is inevitably an achievement of people, not policy.

Check out sneak peek clips of “Hard Times at Douglass High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card” on Dailymotion.

Hard Times at Douglass High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card premieres this Monday, June 23 at 9 p.m. – only on HBO.

Sunday, June 22, 2008 - 9:42am
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HAPPY ANNIVERSARY?
I've gotten several comments on the WPIX 60th Anniversary show that aired a while back - all say it was perfunctory at best with a scant glance at the children's shows they used to broadcast. I have to wonder on what level it's just the show's producers not being familiar with the material and what it meant to the community or whether this kind of slight is done on purpose so that it won't become so apparent that the station that used to broadcast wholesome fare for children during the day now fills the air with the fevered swamp gasses of Maury and Jerry Springer.

Sean writes: "Well, heck, I guess it galls me that the things I liked in my youth have been allowed to vanish... funny how I can find Chuck McCann clips (slightly before my time, but still very interesting) on You Tube from WNEW-TV, but not WPIX. Different management, I guess."

These anniversary shows have devolved into purely self-congratulatory exercises instead of what they should be - a gratitude filled look back at the individuals and unique programming their business was built on. I ask you - wouldn't the latter show be more entertaining?

Unfortunately, that would likely require going outside the station for a producer (and that ain't gonna happen) since most of the guys and gals producing the local news are not experienced at that sort of thing, they rarely if ever have an opportunity to tell a story longer than a few minutes.

Oh, WPIX - cancel Jerry Springer and get Chuck McCann on the phone!

Friday, June 20, 2008 - 11:32am
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A CLASSIC RETURNS
Match Game is coming back, this time on TBS. Raunchy comic Sarah Silverman will be part of the celebrity panel for the pilot episode along with Super Dave Osborne, Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall), Norm MacDonald, Rashida Jones (The Office), Niecy Nash (Reno 911!), with host Andrew Daly. I love the idea that Bob Einstein will be on the show produced by Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). Sounds like a winner with a lineup like that!

Friday, June 20, 2008 - 8:36am
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MORE SHIRTS FOR SUMMER
Reaction to the T-Shirt designs I offered yesterday got a big response so here are a few more oldies but wierdies.

retro T-Shirts
Does anyone know if Tony's Pizza was a chain? Sure looks like it by the sign. This particular business was on Battleground in Greensboro, NC and closed in 1974, replaced by The Grinder. I seem to remember the pizza was really good at Tony's, we ate lunch there in high school a lot.

retro T-Shirts
Wow. Quite the tourist spot, eh?

boardless hodad - Frank Frazetta T Shirt

From a Frank Frazetta public service ad in the 1960s.

See the entire couture collection here. Very fashionable, don't you know? If you live in a neighborhood you'll surely be the envy of it.

Friday, June 20, 2008 - 7:30am
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FACTORY
I hate writing bad reviews, especially when you have a show that should be a strong one based on the folks involved. But, they send 'em and I review 'em as they come.

Spike TV has a new improvised 6 episode series that they hope will be a blue collar version of The Office. It's an attempt to capture the lives of four way too ordinary working guys from Strangers With Candy co-creator Matt Rouse. Strangers With Candy I liked a lot, this one's a soaking wet dog.

The show stars Michael Coleman, David Pasquesi (both from Curb Your Enthusiasm but I don't remember them despite having seen every episode at least twice), Jay Leggett (In Living Color), and Matt Rouse. It's a production of 3 Arts Entertainment, the folks who bring us The Office and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, so how did this one go so wrong?

Nothing particularly funny happens and there's no comedy dialogue to speak of, these guys are no funnier than any random group of people you might encounter on the street. It's the kind of comedy that the actors in the series will howl with laughter at how clever they are while viewers like you and I are left with a expression of boredom.

It's merely an aimless, poorly directed, sparsely written, meandering mess with all too familiar setups and predictable pitter pat dialogue. Just guys standing around or walking around talking. Talking, talking, talking yet having not a damn thing to say. You could call it a drama if anything interesting happened.

I'll give the producers credit for one thing - the show is every bit as tedious as working in a factory.

Factory debuts Sunday, June 29th at 10pm on Spike TV.

Thursday, June 19, 2008 - 8:34am
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