News From ME

Thursday Afternoon

Jon Stewart is sure having a lot of fun making Sean Hannity defend the indefensible. I'm speaking, of course, of this Bundy guy in Nevada who owes the government in excess of a million dollars for the use of grazing land and won't pay it as some sort of statement against government overreach. I have a hard time buying most claims of "principle" in matters that are also financially advantageous.

In this case, I think Stewart recognized early-on that Bundy was a rotten poster boy who was sure to embarrass his defenders and decided to have fun goading Hannity into doubling-down on his stance. Just for the sheer entertainment value, I hope it goes a few more rounds…but Hannity's probably too smart to chain himself to a guy who doesn't seem to know what not to say in front of a camera. He's probably also afraid that someone's going to get killed.

Anyway, I have deadlines so there won't be a lot of posting here today. If I get a bit ahead, I may write about last Tuesday evening and the tribute to George Schlatter. It was a lot of fun and I'll tell you why when I can.

Today's Video Link

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is an organization that raises loot for a good cause via, among other efforts, a lot of great shows featuring volunteer talent. One of their annual shows is the annual Easter Bonnet Competition featuring hats, songs and sketches. Here from the most recent such event are two members from the cast of Disney's Newsies, Luca Padovan and Zachary Unger. Thanks to Shelly Goldstein for telling me of this…

Commercial Breaks

For some odd reason, I've recently been TiVoing/watching episodes of the old series Adam 12 on MeTV. They hold up fairly well as stories, especially when they don't try to get preachy, lecturing people on the essential goodness of the police department or the horrors of hippiedom. I also like the range of character actors who turn up on the show, as well as all the early seventies' Los Angeles scenery. They seem to go up and down Riverside Drive and Lankershim a lot. I'll write something about the series one of these days.

What I've gotten to noticing a lot are the commercials. Here's what they were selling on the episode I recorded the other day…

  1. Promo for Welcome Back, Kotter on MeTV
  2. Promo for Gilligan's Island on MeTV
  3. Commercial (a very long one) for non-insulin Victoza for people with Diabetes
  4. Commercial for AT&T U-Verse High Speed Internet
  5. Commercial from law firm looking for patients who had metal hip implants to join a class-action suit
  6. Commercial to enroll in Le Cordon Bleu cooking school so you can get a great job as a restaurant chef
  7. Commercial for Humana Dental Plan
  8. Commercial for new kind of catheter
  9. Commercial to enroll you in Everest College to find and be trained for a new career
  10. Commercial for American Dental Care service plan

Leaving aside the promos for other shows on the same channel, the AT&T U-Verse one was the only commercial designed to reach people who were not in serious need. Watching other shows on MeTV, I see that almost every commercial assumes one of these four things…

  1. You need to get affordable insurance of some kind.
  2. You need a career.
  3. You've been injured or otherwise harmed and you need a lawyer who will represent you without up-front costs.
  4. You have a serious medical condition (primarily the kind that impacts the elderly) and you need equipment that will aid you in day-to-day living.

No one who watches this channel needs a car or a videogame or a place to get a good hamburger or a personal grooming aid to make them look better or a vacation or a beer. I don't even see commercials for Coca-friggin'-Cola. Someone kind of presumes that if you're watching their channel, you must be ill, injured or unemployed.

There are a number of channels like this — and some which get that way during certain hours — and it makes me wonder: What kind of Demographic breakdown do they have to offer advertisers? Do their advertising sales people go to potential sponsors and say, "You want to buy time on our channel. We have more sick and out-of-work viewers than anyone else"? And when they select the programming they offer, do they have that on their minds? Do they say, "No, sick and out-of-work people won't like that show"?

Years ago, one of the major advertising agencies put out a list of the best network TV shows on which to sell beer. As I recall, Saturday Night Live was at the top of the list and David Letterman's old show — the one on NBC — was second or maybe third. Cute women and "frat-boy" humor were elements that seemed conducive to beer ads, they said. So what elements make a TV show more appealing to people who are out of work? What kind of viewing attracts the incontinent? The people who need catheters? Based on watching MeTV, it seems that guest appearances by Burt Mustin and Alice Ghostley must do something.

(And a side thing I've been wondering: Those commercials from lawyers who'll fight for you if you're in an auto accident…are they any more effective when they air during Perry Mason reruns?)

This is not a huge issue to me. My TiVo skips me over most of it. But it does seem that some channels and/or advertisers have a very precise image of the person who's watching…and that image is kind of sad.

Today on Stu's Show!

goldensisters01

Hey, today (Wednesday), Stu Shostak has his hands and microphones full when he welcomes Mary, Josie and Teresa — The Golden Sisters — to his program. The Golden Sisters are the stars of their own "reality" show on OWN and there, they bicker and argue and hurl profanity at one another…and they're awfully funny doing so. They have some firm and conflicting opinions on the state of entertainment these days and I expect they'll mix things up pretty good with Ol' Stu. I hope he'll get a word in edgewise if not lengthwise and talk to them about their show, about how much of the "reality" is reality, and about what it's like to become rather famous for what they do.

Stu's Show can be heard live (almost) every Wednesday at the Stu's Show website and you can listen for free there. Webcasts start at 4 PM Pacific Time, 7 PM Eastern and other times in other climes. They run a minimum of two hours and sometimes go to three or beyond.  Shortly after a show ends, it's available for downloading from the Archives on that site. Downloads are a paltry 99 cents each and you can get four for the price of three.  You can't beat that deal with a stick.

Something Else I Won't Be Doing

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I seem to be writing a lot about meat here lately.  Jerry's Nugget, a casino in Las Vegas, has a new eating challenge — a meal consisting of a dinner salad (with croutons), a baked potato, an ear of corn, a slice of garlic toast, a 48 ounce piece of prime rib and a banana split. If you can eat all this in under 45 minutes, you win a t-shirt and you don't have to pay the price of the meal, which is $41.89 plus tax and gratuity. Given the size of my gastric-bypassed stomach, I could maybe handle the baked potato and about 8 ounces of meat…and even as separate dining experiences, I couldn't eat the salad or banana split at all. Lettuce doesn't agree with me and I've developed an aversion to sweets.

So I won't be taking this challenge but I'm kind of intrigued to read the rules (PDF). And if I were to be a competitor, I would have a lot of questions…

  • Does finishing one's salad mean not even a drop of salad dressing must remain? For that matter, could the "choice of dressing" be "none?"
  • I assume one does not have to eat the corn cob but must one consume the potato skin? If not, how do they deal with the fact that no matter how much you eat of a baked potato, there's always a little more potato you can scrape out of the jacket?
  • The size of the slice of garlic toast is apparently up to the restaurant. What's to stop them from making it the size of a Chevrolet? For that matter, they could put twenty heads of lettuce in a tub, say "Here's your dinner salad," and then when the person couldn't even finish that, hand them the check for $41.89 and say, "Too bad!"
  • Can one specify the "doneness" of one's prime rib? A 48 ounce cut is so thick, it's probably not going to be consistent in that regard. What if portions of it are too well-done or rare for the diner's taste? (In a restaurant once, I was served a normal-sized piece of prime rib so overcooked, the Tasmanian Devil couldn't have chewed two bites, let alone swallowed.)
  • Do you have to eat the fatty parts of the prime rib?  The gristle?  Even at Lawry's, which makes that cut o' beef better than just about anyone, I always leave a few of the less edible pieces.  Would that disqualify me here?
  • And then we have this banana split of no specified size. Since it's served if and when the person finishes everything else, it would be easy to make it too large to be eaten in the time remaining.
  • Oh — and what if the food is just plain lousy? I guarantee you, I could cook a 48 ounce piece of prime rib so poorly no one would or could finish it if you gave them a week. But they'd still be on the hook for the $41.89.

I'm sure Jerry's Nugget wouldn't cheat at this any more than they'd rig their slot machines. Then again, the casino is struggling to rebuild after having declared bankruptcy in August of 2012. There's an old joke about the player in Las Vegas who loses a couple thousand bucks at the tables and then goes to the buffet and tries to make it up by devouring that much prime rib. This could be the reverse of that joke; where the casino tries to get out of bankruptcy by forcing people to eat more prime rib than they can handle.

Today's Video Link

It hasn't been officially released yet and I haven't seen it…but a couple of folks have written to me and said that the new Blu-Ray release of The Honeymooners is quite wonderful. So here's a link to order it and here's a preview…

Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?

I like food that can be kept in the refrigerator for weeks and then when you suddenly realize you want to make dinner at home, it can be prepared in under twenty minutes. I look for that kind of meal and a few years ago, I found a great one which I told you about here — Jennie-O brand Turkey Pot Roast. They come fully-cooked and one of 'em microwaves up in twelve minutes, tastes good, resembles real cooking…and saves my life at that moment when I dearly need a sudden supper.

For a time, I had trouble finding stores that sold them but happily, the Ralphs chain began stocking them so I always have two or three in the fridge. (One caution if you try them: Check the expiration dates and subtract two weeks. If it says to use by May 14, use it by May 1. I've had to toss out a few that I prepared closer to the expiration date…and the Ralphs Markets I go to sometimes keep them on sale longer than they should. But they're great if you adhere to the two week rule.)

If I know for certain I'll be dining home the next night or two, I occasionally make a Bill Bailey's Corned Beef in my crockpot. Very simple: Take it out of the wrapper, put it in, cover it with water and cook 10 hours on "low." Even I can do that and I usually do it overnight. I start it at Midnight and then at 10 AM the next morn, I take it out, slice off the fat, let it cool an hour or two, then slice. They're a bit saltier than I'd like but still quite good. They also have the advantage of making your house smell like a real good delicatessen. If I could get Jackie Mason to drop by when I cook one and also hire some waiters who don't give a crap, I'd be indistinguishable from the Carnegie. Oh, yeah. I'd have to overcharge, too.

The trouble with making one of these, of course, is that I can't decide at 6 PM to make one and be eating corned beef by 6:20. That was why I was guardedly thrilled one day in Costco when I spotted the Bill Bailey's fully-cooked, heat-in-your-microwave version. I raced home with it and didn't make it that night because, of course, I also bought a Costco rotisserie chicken while I was there. But a few nights later, I prepared my microwave corned beef.

billbaileyscornedbeef

How was it? On a scale of ten — ten denoting fine corned beef made fresh at a great deli — I'd peg the ones I make in my slow-cooker at a 9 and the microwave version at an 8. Given the convenience, that's more than a passing grade for me. They also carve much neater than the corned beefs I cook overnight so I might give them a half-a-point for that.

So from all this, you'd expect that my refrigerator would at this moment be filled with Bill Bailey's Fully-Cooked Irish Brand Corned Beef Brisket. Yeah, you'd think that, wouldn't you? Well, it would be if I could find them again.

A few days later, I was near a different Costco so I went in and they didn't have them. They had what I now call the "Cook-it-yourself, Pal" version but not the microwave kind. Not long after that, I went back to the same Costco where I bought the first one…and they now only had the "Cook-it-yourself, Pal" kind. I asked the Costco person who is in charge of product information and got a "We don't know if we're going to be getting the other kind again and if so, when."

Naturally, I then phoned the Bill Bailey's company and asked to speak to their Customer Service Department. The person who answered the phone seemed a little unsure if they even had a Customer Service Department but after I explained that I wanted to know where to purchase their product, she put me through to someone who was supposed to know this. It was a woman who told me they're only available at Costco. Nowhere else. Well, not the two Costcos nearest to me, they aren't.

I'm going to keep hunting. I went through this with the Turkey Pot Roasts and eventually, they turned up in other stores. In the meantime, if a Costco near you carries them, you might want to give it a try. Don't bother writing to tell me you found them at your local Costco unless it's near Los Angeles. I'm not going to drive 50 miles for one of these. They're good but not that good.

Groucho Tix 4 Sale

We often plug Frank Ferrante, who tours the land with his one-man-and-a-pianist-show, An Evening With Groucho. This weekend, he's in Iowa. The following weekend, he'll be in Vermont and then New York. May 8 and 9, he's in Minnesota and then May 15, he's at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Anyone here going to the Crystal Lake engagement? The reason I ask is that a reader of this site, Jim Shackett, bought tickets for it and now can't go because he has to go to a family member's wedding. Personally, I wouldn't stay in the same family with someone who'd schedule their wedding in competition with a Frank Ferrante performance but some people have no respect for greatness. Anyway, Jim has real good seats and he's willing to sell them for what he paid, which I suppose is what you'd pay but you probably wouldn't get seats this good. If you're interested, drop me an e-mail. I'll forward it to Jim and then I have nothing more to do with this transaction. It's between you and him.

And if you want to know where Frank will be and when, here's a link to his schedule through June. It's a great show.

Today's Video Link

Stooges stoogin' around…

Curtain Down

And that's it for this year's WonderCon, where I had a WonderFul time doing panels, seeing old friends, meeting readers of this here blog and generally enjoying myself for three days. Rumors said the con hit record attendance but except for a few peak hours on Saturday, it didn't feel overpopulated to me. Then again, I'm large enough that I can usually get where I want to go without too many people getting in my way.

I hosted six panels, appeared on two others, made a live appearance on Mo Kelly's live-from-WonderCon KFI radio program, dined with friends, signed a lot of copies of Groo and Rocky & Bullwinkle and occasionally got a lick of sleep.

It seemed like there were more costumed folks than ever before and a higher percentage than usual had painted all their flesh some bizarre color.

Favorite part of the con? I was a panelist who didn't say much on IDW's panel highlighting their kids' comics like My Little Pony and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There were adults there who love those comics but we also had a high density of kids…and their love of those comics and those characters was great to see. It reminded me of someone I used to know. I believe it was me.

Least favorite part of the con? That's the part coming up known as The Drive Home. I may delay it 'til late tonight…though come to think of it, how crowded could the freeway be as Disneyland lets out for Easter Weekend? I'm thinking of finishing a script that's due and maybe sleeping for a few days before I attempt it.

Correction About Corrections

Earlier today, I posted a message correcting some reporting on a comic news website that reported on a panel I did yesterday. I thought I was being polite and non-inflammatory but a couple of people at the con today mentioned it to me and they thought I was angry about it. I wasn't…so I made a mental note to log in here and rewrite it and temper it.

Then before I could get to that, I ran into the gent who'd written the piece. He obviously had not read or known of my correction and he was so nice about other things that I felt like a heel scolding him about it. So I've taken down my piece. The matters were trivial and I was wrong to make a fuss about them. My apologies to the reporter. He's a good guy and I was just clumsy with my wording.

Today's Video Link

Home movies of Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy. With cameo appearances by Jimmy Finlayson (sans mustache) and Charley Chase (with mustache)…

Groo News

I did a panel Friday morning at WonderCon with my longtime partner Sergio Aragonés. Wanna know what was said on it? It got written up for the L.A. Times website. Yes, it's true that the long-awaited Groo Vs. Conan mini-series has been completed and is coming out. Yes, it's true that Sergio says the first issue will be out in time for Comic-Con. Yes, it's true that no one's told me that and I'm not sure. Yes, it's true that we will soon launch a 12-issue limited series called Groo: Friends and Foes, which since it will be one issue per month, will put Groo back to monthly appearances again. Neither of us knows when that'll be scheduled but we've started work on #3.

And yes, it's true that Sergio has rejected the whole idea, often suggested, of doing a live-action Groo movie. He said he was afraid it would wind up looking like that Flintstones movie. When the audience cheered that — and cheer they did — I guess the reporter didn't hear the Señor add that he did want to do a film but in animation. Some major studios have expressed, as they say in Hollywood, interest. (Do I believe it's going to happen? My policy is that I don't believe any movie is a reality until Leonard Maltin reviews it.)

From the E-Mailbag…

Paul Paron writes…

I've been a Road Warrior since 1979. The Denny's Rule also holds true for motels when traveling.

You pass tons on the interstate and when you finally decide to stop, there is nothing. Nothing, I tells ya, and you stop at something you finally locate. Not your best choice, not your happiest, the place may smell of unfamiliar food scents or have an abundance of non-running vehicles in the parking lot, but you really need a place to stay.

In the morning…somewhat refreshed, you begin your travel again. I can promise you that the next exit will have no less than three suitable motels, if not more.

I really believe this — and it also holds true for fuel. I drive a diesel pick up truck. Pass a truck stop, pass a truck stop, pass a truck stop, really low on fuel, stop at what ever has diesel at the next exit — it's forty or fifty cents higher than the going rate, and guess what you see at the next exit? Discount fuel, we'll give it to you for free, and wash your truck too if you'd like.

I'd say God hates travelers, but then I'd lose my standing as an agnostic.

Maddening, I know. Hey, here's an app I'd like to have on my smartphone and if no one makes this, someone should. It would be called something like, "What's Near Me That's Open Now and Isn't Closing in Fifteen Minutes Or Less?" You could set it for restaurants, pharmacies, etc., and it would show you lists of such places and if they close, when they close. Several times now, I've used one of those search apps to find someplace nearby to dine and it shows me places that close in three minutes. Ideally, you could set the kind of business you're seeking and the minimum amount of time before it closes.

Better still, how about if my GPS had an "On the Way" feature? It knows the route I'm taking. How about if I can set it to show me all the Five Guys burger joints that are either on that route or not far off it? I can use the GPS to search for "Five Guys" but it will just show me that this one is four miles away and that one is nine. Sometimes, that means the nine-mile one is one I'll be passing in ten minutes, whereas to go to the four-mile one would take me in utterly the wrong direction.

And I'm still hoping for the one that will allow me to search for restaurants that don't serve cole slaw. That would be a true benefit to all mankind.

Today's Video Link

Here's another stand-up comic we don't see nearly enough of — Gary Mule Deer…