Wednesday, August 5
Patricia Fili-Krushel. Rarely has the name of a high-ranking television executive rolled so trippingly off the tongue. At Lifetime Television, she continued the life span of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd ; as head of ABC daytime, she created the infotainment version of that claaaaassy sitcom, with The View . Now, as the new president of the ABC Television Network, she oversees both news and entertainment, David Westin and Jamie Tarses, Peter Jennings and Jenna Elfman….
And yet, powerful and undoubtedly wise as she is, one cannot help but return to the majesty of her name. The formal, austere, “Patricia,” followed by the sprightly, playful “Fili,” joined to the stern, Teutonic “Krushel.”…
One’s thoughts cannot help but turn to anagrams… A few follow….
U.C.? I’ll write a hi-fi S. Park.…
Uh, sir? It fail like crap.…
Hi, I pluck frail Tarsie.…
A: I shill, I pucker, I fart.…
F.U., liar. I lie, I pick trash.…
Tonight on ABC: season premiere of the American version of British improv skit show Whose Line Is It Anyway? Host Drew Carey is beside himself: “I make everything up, and nobody wins anything!” Maybe a noble attempt as an antidote to prime time, but it’s really just five dopey comedians back in the womby comfort of the college theater department. [WABC, 7, 9:30 P.M.]
Thursday, August 6
That funny bastard Norm MacDonald in his element, telling rambling stories on the stand-up stage. [Comedy Central, 45, 10 P.M.]
Friday, August 7
NYTV’s money correspondent D. Laurence Bailey reports: Ahhhhh, CNBC. I’m home now. From 5:30 in the morning, when young, dignified Dalton Tanonaka wraps up Asian trading from the Singapore desk, until 7:30 P.M., when I kiss Maria Bartiromo goodbye (for the last time) and Bay Buchanan starts giving “Equal Time” to Monica Lewinsky’s underpants, CNBC gives me the TV version of the Greatest Show on Earth: Finance Capitalism at the end of the 20th century….
As a man, with the shows he loves, it’s the women who make the experience. Maria is the diva, Kate Bohner the tramp, but we already knew that. It’s the heart of the lineup that makes all the difference. Sue Herera–with the big curves, the affable nature, and the easygoing professionalism–is the woman any aficionado of money TV holds in his heart. Bond Girl Kathleen Hays brings you the macro-economic news. And, no, it’s not that she’s mad at you–she’s just smarter than you. Darby Mullany, news editor, has the fine bone structure that gives her “face of concern” a real authenticity. Then there’s Sharon Epperson–”Eppy” I call her–whose big brown eyes and glowing brown skin are as bright as a painting of the sun.…
Martha MacCallum looks like a prep-school grad slumming it at the New York Stock Exchange. She gives you the latest, the naughty thing. Felicia Taylor is every inch the upstanding lady. That her eyes may twinkle knowingly is entirely immaterial. Alina Cho is razor-sharp. She knows you’re looking at her–but are you listening carefully? Amanda Grove doesn’t even need this job. She could be representing mobsters–and getting them off.…
O.K. A word about the guys of CNBC. First of all, they’re pros. From the big-voiced ring leader of morning’s Squawk Box , Mark Haines, to Ron Insana–the cool master of the closing bell–these are high-talent journalists. I could talk about Joe Kernen’s slow talk and big brain, David Faber’ s inside information, Bill Griffeth’s afternoon charm, or Ted David’s similarity to “Jim” on Murphy Brown , but what good would it do? The women are the story.…
You might think I am slighting the women of CNBC by emphasizing their erotic impact on me, but nothing could be further from the truth. I watch them and I listen to them. If they weren’t journalists, I’d have no use for them. But let’s face it, a man will fantasize about the woman who passed him on the Garden State Parkway in an Oldsmobile. And these women are sex symbols for the 90’s: intelligent women in suits with above-average incomes. The bunny and the bink are passé. Men crave Scully….
There is a problem on CNBC, and let’s face it. It’s Maria. We fell in love with her when she was dodging traders and shouting from the floor of the New York stock exchange. Now they’ve got her hosting a 7 P.M. show with that twink Tyler Mathisen. Tyler knows what a twink has to do on this job–turn down the charm, stay tight, get the voice low. He’s Dan Rather with abs and buns. He’s killing the ladies and reporting the news. The problem is, Maria’s still got the look of the girl who had track practice before class. Her hair is a little messed up at the back. That worked in spades when she was jostling market makers back on the floor, but next to Tyler she seems to lack polish.…
I say this. I say you put Maria back on the floor of the stock exchange mornings, then she zips over to the Comex to give a quick metals report–preferably in an Aston-Martin–then she’s off to the airport and into the CNBC Gulfstream jet to crack the case of the Chicago Board Options Exchange. She breaks the Mercantile open and and it’s all groovy, baby!…
There are TV reporters who are meant to anchor and there are TV reporters who are meant to go out and interview typhoons. Maria Bartiromo, put on the safety equipment and get out the door! [CNBC, 15, money stuff from 5:30 A.M. to 7:30 P.M.]
Saturday, August 8
When Jodie Foster, all alone in the cockpit, shoots through space in the 1997 Robert Zemeckis sci-fi bonanza Contact , she does some thrilling, erotic stuff. This movie is a big, semi-dumb piece of escapism with a message. Sit close to the screen, turn the volume up. Better than drugs. [HBO, 28, 9 P.M.]
Sunday, August 9
Yet another New York homecoming for Jerry Seinfeld took place on Aug. 4 in a padded room full of journalists on the 15th floor of HBO. HBO is producing Jerry Seinfeld: I’m Telling You for the Last Time , the live telecast of his Broadway stand-up show, including his all-time greatest routines (but do we hafta hear the one about the Tide commercial in which the lady is trying to get rid of a bloodstain again?). In pressed khakis and tan suede shoes, the comedian answered questions for 40 minutes. When asked “How does it feel to be back?” he said: “That’s a good question. How much time did you put into that one?” When asked if he misses his anonymity, he said: “For many years of my life I was an anonymous person, and it’s O.K., it’s pleasant, but it’s not really fun. Being famous is much more fun.” And so on. When prompted, he did do a Monica Lewinsky joke. “This whole thing of did they lie about sex. Of course! Everyone lies about sex! People lie during sex, why wouldn’t they lie about sex? Truth and sex is not going to happen. Let’s give up on that dream.” [HBO, 28, 10 P.M.–live.]
6 NYTV’s very special music channel correspondent Carl Swanson reports: MTV’s Celebrity Death Match makes a valid point. The mortal combat between claymation versions of these projections of our collective enthusiasm–the Spice Girls, Hanson, Marilyn Manson, Garth Brooks, Christopher Walken –are an appropriate response to the proliferation of the famous; the herd must be thinned….
Not too long ago, by reading just a few magazines, watching just a few movies and tuning into the three TV networks and Top 40 radio from time to time, you could fully and actively participate in the celebrity canon. But now the value of celebrity has gone down for three reasons: (1) Even well-known humans are living longer instead of burning themselves out or dropping out of sight; (2) the Tribble-like multiplications of media outlets that provide celebrities with forums; (3) the nostalgia-fueled resurrections of what used to be obsolete stars. Which leads to something like Celebrity Death Match , where caricatures of well-known people rip each other into bloody pieces. The show acts as a kind of steam valve for our frustration with the rising celebrity population….
But now another thing must be said. Despite the parodic intent, the show isn’t really funny, insightful or dangerous. It’s just understandable. Tonight: Leonardo DiCaprio gets mauled. [MTV, 20, 9 P.M.]
Monday, August 10
The main reason Ally McBeal got all that ink last year was because the networks didn’t deliver any bona fide hits. Their share is down 5 percent from last year, and only 14 percent of last season’s new shows have survived. [ WNYW, 5, 9 P.M.]
Tuesday, August 11
You’ll be stunned and amazed by this cheap-to-produce Fox show, Guinness World Records . College kids eat beetles. Man squeezes himself through tennis racquet. [WNYW, 5, 9 P.M.]
Peter Bogdanovich’s Movie of the Week
“Most of the good things in pictures,” John Ford said, “happen by accident.” When he told me this, rather offhandedly, he was in his 70’s and had directed nearly 150 films while I had directed one and was more than a little surprised by his comment. Ford was Orson Welles’ favorite American director and I repeated the old man’s remark to Welles when Orson was about my age now, no kid, and his eyes brightened as he confirmed the statement with an inspired, “Yes!” He paused and then added, excitedly, “You could almost say a director is a man who presides over accidents!” Now, after doing a score of other films, I’ve found that these are two key words of wisdom and have amazingly complex layers of meaning, the more pictures you make. Ford, who was always terse in his remarks, even elaborated once: “Sometimes you have good luck on pictures; most of the time you have bad luck.” And luck, for the Greeks, came ultimately from the Fates who, as we know, are either with us or they’re not. When you are making a movie, you feel part of a larger, unstoppable adventure, over which you only have so much control, and the rest is, as Jeff Bridges succinctly puts it: “the hand you get dealt.”
There is no more enduring cosmic lucky accident in picture history than the 1943 Warner Brothers classic World War II romantic foreign adventure, Casablanca [Sunday, Aug. 9, Turner Classic Movies, 82, 6 P.M.; also on videocassette and laser disk] . It stands also as the single favorite vindication of the Hollywood studio system, circa 1910-1962, because there is no other way Casablanca could have been made and worked as well. Yet if you remove any one element, the whole thing falls apart. Just imagine someone other than Humphrey Bogart as Rick–say, George Raft, who turned down the role. Raft was a much bigger Warner Brothers star at the moment and had far more leverage with studios on choice of material. Bogart was assigned the picture and had no way out of doing it, even though the script was not in good shape when filming began, and there were constant revisions coming in throughout shooting. This can have on actors the positive effect of freshness, no one having time to overprepare. Now subtract Ingrid Bergman, who had to be borrowed from David Selznick, which means the role could have more easily gone instead to a Warner Brothers contract player like Bette Davis or Ida Lupino. When they asked Bogart how come he had never been so romantic in a movie before– Casablanca was the film that made Bogart an A-list leading man–he responded very wisely: “If you have someone who looks like Ingrid Bergman looking at you as though you’re romantic, you are .” Bogart was referring, at least in part, to Bergman’s first close-up, looking at Bogart across the crowded room; it must be the longest-held close-up in pictures–it goes on and on–of Ingrid at her most gorgeous looking off with troubled adoration at Bogie.
Imagine Howard Hawks directing–he was offered the script before contract veteran Michael Curtiz; Hawks used to refer to Casablanca as “that musical,” mentioning the scene at Rick’s nightclub where everyone stands and sings along during the playing of France’s national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” “I couldn’t do stuff like that,” Hawks said, but Curtiz, because he had no discernibly artistic personality, had no compunctions about doing whatever the script called for, and generally with reasonable dispatch. As the studio system fell apart, so did Curtiz’s career. Hawks would have done his own version of “A Night at Rick’s,” the script’s original title, but it wouldn’t have been the Casablanca we know and love. It would have been To Have and Have Not , which Hawks made with Bogart a couple of years later and which some of us know and love even more than Casablanca . Another lucky force in the directing area was the impact of Don ( Dirty Harry ) Siegel’s second-unit montage and insert work on the picture; this was his field at Warner Brothers, from the early 30’s to the mid-40’s, and had an enormous amount to do with the general verve and vitality of Warner Brothers’ five major pictures in those years.
Then there’s all those extraordinary supporting actors, each under exclusive Warner Brothers contract: Claude Rains’ Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, S.K. (Cuddles) Sakall, Sydney Greenstreet, plus respectable though unexciting second lead, Paul Henreid; and immemorially Dooley Wilson singing “As Time Goes By” to a disconsolate Bogart in the ultimate “Quarter to Three” scene. (Pretty soon, Frank Sinatra was doing both parts.) An international cast–American, English, German, Hungarian, Swedish, African-American–a Hungarian director, a war-ensnared North African setting created entirely on the American back lot. The recipe is intriguing; add the “coincidence” of the real Casablanca becoming the rendezvous for that highest-level World War II Allied conference just before the release of the film, and you realize this was a movie greater than the sum of its parts. And its selfless message–that “The lives of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans” compared to the enormous struggle against oppression and murder then raging around the world–was obviously one that needed to get out there, and the Fates clearly were around to help that.