Category Archives: Life

2015 San Diego Comic-Con Preview

Reddit
Reddit

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


If you walk outside right now, face west, and inhale really deeply, then it is possible that you will catch a whiff of the type of smell that can only happen when 1000s of sweaty nerds in costume converge in one place.  The 2015 San Diego Comic Con is this week, and this year, like every year, Whale’s Vagina becomes mecca for all things movie, TV, and comic book related.  If you are one of the people who says it has just turned into a corporate event and has lost all of its charm, then I’m here to offer you a counter-argument to that.

It would have never became such a large event if it wasn’t for those nerds who grew up reading comics and are now in charge of making those comics come to life.  Would you trade a smaller crowd once a year for no Dark Knight trilogy?  Some things are worth it, and I, for one, welcome those corporate studios because they want to get the crowd excited by huge announcements and fanfare.  The announcement two years ago that Batman was finally going to be on screen with Superman in the same movie made me cry and jizz at the same time, and that kind of movie or announcement wouldn’t be possible without the SDCC.  I mean, just look at the reaction and tell me that this still doesn’t give you the bumps of a goose.

I am very curious to see whose movie or news will dominate all of the talk this year, and have a few thoughts on the topic.  Let’s run through some of the top panels and preview what we hope to hear this year.


Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

DC Entertainment
DC Entertainment

Marvel has dominated the SDCC for the past few years and has established themselves as the top dog when it comes to comic movies, but they will not be there doing a panel this year.  Age of Ultron has already been released, and Ant-Man comes out next week, so all of their movie releases came at points that promotion here isn’t needed.  That gives DC a wide open lane to come in with some good footage and a couple of announcements, and destroy the minds of everyone there.

They have to put on a show because they are miles behind Marvel and need to make up some ground.  There is a trailer that has been released, but I’m expecting some new footage that includes more than Bats and Supes glaring at each other.  I’m hoping for some Wonder Woman footage because she is going to be one of the main characters, and if they don’t show her, then the fears that are present that they made a bad choice in casting are going to show up again.

Reddit
Reddit

On top of wanting some Wonder Woman footage, I would like to see Aquaman and his trident pimping around on the back of a whale.  I have a sneaking suspicion that Aquaman is going to have more to say in the plot than the title would suggest, so there may only be a quick shot, but it still needs to be a shot nonetheless.  This movie has so much more than Batman and Superman, and even though it is a year away, we want and need to see those other elements, and hopefully DC doesn’t let us down the way they did with that piece of shit Green Lantern movie like it has in the past.  Bring it on DC, drop your big movie dick on the table and show us what you’ve got!


The Hateful Eight

Weinstein Company
Weinstein Company

Quentin Tarantino will be making only his second appearance ever at SDCC, and could quite possibly steal the show.  There haven’t been any formal announcements on who will be showing up from the cast with him, but I can’t think of a better way to spend an hour than listening to Samuel L. Jackson say mother fucker while there is some awesome footage of people getting shot in the old west.  A trailer hasn’t been released for the movie yet, so get prepared to see it hit the web in the very near future since it will most likely debut in Hall H.

Now, it is very possible that Quentin doesn’t care about making a splash and is only showing due to a studio obligation, and if so, then it will be boring and he’ll be out the door.  However, if he is there to drink and party and blow people away with possibly the best cast he has ever had, then I am all for him showing everyone that he means business.  You never know which Quentin will show up, but I’m expecting movie fan/heavy-drinking Quentin to show up to crash parties and end up on YouTube doing something ridiculous.


Fear the Walking Dead

AMC Studios
AMC Studios

Say what you will about having The Walking Dead, the highest rated show on television, to anchor Sunday nights, but AMC is getting scared that they are almost out of programming.  Mad Men is gone, Better Call Saul isn’t the hit they thought it would be, and Walter White isn’t walking back through that door……wait, what??  Breaking Bad might have a season 6??  That scares me, and not in a good way.  With Fear the Walking Dead, this is a pure spinoff that the network is hoping will catch on the way its predecessor has and give them another show in their depleted arsenal.

The first season is premiering soon, and will only have 6 episodes, so you know full well that those episodes are going to be intense and action-packed.  They have some things in their favor, the top of those things being Kim Dickens being cast as the lead, and so there is a chance that it catches on, but for it to be successful, the Comic-Con/comic-reading audience needs to be on board.

AMC Studios
AMC Studios

This new show isn’t something adapted from the comics, this is a straight spinoff, so part of that huge audience might not respond to the characters the they did with the original.  At the end of the day, it’s still zombie-killing, and zombie-killing is fun to watch, but without that emotional connection from the story it will be a failure.  I am a huge The Walking Dead fan, so I’m rooting for it to work and for them to eventually meet the Atlanta group, but who knows if that ever happens.

At SDCC, however, the new show will be on the same panel as the old show, so any clips that are seen will have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Fans are going to go crazy, but that doesn’t mean they will watch it.  A good showing here might change that, or it might ruin it before it ever gets out of the gate.  This panel will be one that I watch closely.


Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Lucasfilm
Lucasfilm

Here is your odds-on favorite to show up this weekend (2nd to last show on Saturday) and shut down Comic Con like Eminem rap-battling a toddler.  JJ Abrams could walk into Hall H with a lineup that includes all of the members of nerd Mount Rushmore and make the force awaken in everyone’s pants at the same time, and I wouldn’t put it past him to do exactly that.  Sure, there has been some hype about the movie, but that is mostly from fans, and it is close enough now that the studio is going to start ramping up the excitement themselves.

Reddit
Reddit

What better way to do that then with Han, Luke, and Leia on stage together at the same time on a panel that will melt the faces of every fanboy in attendance?  I’m sure they have appeared together at some point since then, but if they have, I don’t remember it, and it is time for that to happen, even if Harrison Ford will be comatose the entire time and doesn’t give a shit about you.  He is still Han Solo, and his presence alone wins the SDCC; if he is as stoned as he normally is, the look on his face when 84 Chewbaccas are looking at him at the same time wins going away.  Someone please make that happen!  I don’t ask you for much!


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

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The Dark and Dangerous Descent of Actors

Pacific Coast News
Pacific Coast News

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


All actors are not created equal, no matter what you read about actors describing their “process” for preparing for a movie and how they get into character.  Sure, most actors put in months of research in preparation to play a role that might entail shooting a gun, playing a cop, or playing an instrument.  The majority of the time, studios will pair an actor with an expert on the profession they are attempting to portray, so some of the more subtle things see natural.

Warner Bros
Warner Bros

For instance, when Matt Damon was preparing to play Police Officer Colin Sullivan in The Departed, he spent time with a Massachusetts State Police unit where he learned how to properly do a pat down, he went on a raid, and rode along with various officers on patrol.  All of that is good preparation, but that is what separates a solid actor like Matt Damon from other actors who rolecan win an Oscar every single time they appear in a movie.

The list of actors and actresses who can pull that off is smaller than you might think, and what separates them from the rest of the pack is that they are so methodical in their acting and preparation that it can be borderline dangerous.  When I think of the people who have a legitimate chance of winning an Academy Award with each movie, it is a fairly small list in relation to the volume of working actors in Hollywood right now.


Here is a version of what I think that list could look like:

Daniel Day Lewis (DDL is the reigning GOAT and only actor to win 3 Best Actor Oscars.)

Leonardo DiCaprio (This is the hardest sell since he’s never won, but I honestly believe Leo is one of the best around.)

Tom Hanks (He has 2 wins and 5 nominations, but he’s starting to slow down)

Meryl Streep (I think it’s easy for her to get nominated because of her name, but winning isn’t the same.  15 nominations and 2 wins is still impressive.)

Cate Blanchett (She’s the best working actress in Hollywood and it is not close.)

mirror.uk
mirror.uk

Christian Bale (I am much more surprised by this than you are, trust me. I was never a fan of his early on.)

Sean Penn (The former Mr. Madonna has 2 wins and 5 nominations.)

Kate Winslet (Kate has notched 6 nominations and just 1 win.)

You could possibly make the case for Hillary Swank or Joaquin Phoenix, but those are hard sells to me.  I think Phoenix is one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, but he is also a legit crazy person which keeps him from being nominated more than he has.


So that is the entire list: eight total people who have a legit chance of WINNING an Oscar each and every time they appear on screen.  So what separates them from everyone else?  What puts them in the category of award-winning caliber and also box office successes?

The answer for me is fairly simple; it is the way they descend into a character to sometimes scary levels, and voluntarily transform their body in sometimes scary ways.  I want to call this the Heath Ledger Corollary, but I’m not sure he is the best example. He’s the most well-known example, which is different, but it is also a great place to start.

pintrest
pintrest

Ledger was on the rise as someone who could make the category above, but when he was cast as The Joker, the wheels fell off so much that he could never recover.  There were numerous reports that he locked himself in an apartment for a month prior and after shooting, and never broke character the entire time.  There were also reports that he would show up to set on his days off, in character, to watch creepily from the back in a way that seriously disturbed everyone on set.  We all know how that ended, but what we don’t know is how much of that was mental stress that he brought on himself because of his commitment, and how much of it was him taking drugs and falling off of the rails.  The answer probably lies somewhere between the two.  The reason I have been thinking about this is that there are already reports from the set of Suicide Squad that Jared Leto, a renowned method actor, has sent gifts to his costars in the forms of a live rat in a black box, bullets, and a dead hog with a video of him in character.  Is Leto heading down the same path as Ledger did?  Is there something about method actors and The Joker that makes it too hard to shake?  I’m sure there isn’t, and I don’t want to practice overreacting to certain things like that, because that is serious subject matter and I’m not one to make light of that topic.

imgur
imgur

What I am sure of is that The Joker is unique to any other character, especially any other villain, in any form, from any movie.  As someone who has read 1000s of Batman comics, I can say without pause that The Joker is the scariest villain you could ever imagine.  He is completely insane, but also has a split personality, and can go from “over the top” scary to “having a quiet conversation in a car with a dead person that he killed” subtle-scary in a second.  To take that on as a method actor could absolutely be overwhelming, but I’m sure Leto will be fine and shake it off eventually.  I am not comparing the two actors; just the menacing psychosis that I’m sure would infect anyone who pretended to be that for months at a time.

I’m not the only one who thinks that, because this time with The Joker around, the filmmakers have what they are calling a “Life Coach” on set at all times because of the very dark subject matter that will be in this movie. There aren’t any reports of any talks he has had with anyone, but when Leto dives into a character, he goes deep, and I’m curious to see him on the other side of that evil coin once filming has ended.  What I expect to see is an actor who is on his way to the “every time” Oscar category we touched on earlier, and someone who can get any role he wants.

That is how he breaks into the categor,y and is also what separates the category from the rest of the field.  If you look at that group, all of them are fully capable of disappearing into a role and not coming out until they are done filming.  Daniel Day Lewis might be the best example since he is the acting GOAT of a generation, and the only 3-time Oscar winner for Best Actor.

reddit
reddit

This is a man who takes very few roles, but please don’t try to argue that anyone else is better than him at acting or preparation for a role.  Your kneejerk reaction is say that Tom Hanks is the best actor of his generation, and he is a terrific actor and an American treasure, but he is not better than D. DayLewis has won 3 Oscars to Hanks’ 2, but Lewis has taken on 28 acting roles to get that and Hanks has taken on 76.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is what they call killing it!  DDL sinks so far into roles that when he played Christy Brown in My Left Foot, he refused to get out of his wheelchair for the duration of the role, and not only that, he refused to even sit up straight so as to not break character.  That commitment is what got him the Oscar, but it also got him 2 broken ribs from the stress and over a year of physical therapy to recover.

reddit
reddit

That is incredible to me! When you read stories of Christian Bale dropping down to 120 pounds to play a role, and then turning around and gaining 90 pounds to play Batman eight months later, it seems like a good story, and it is, but it is also incredibly dangerous.  Those types of physical transformations take their toll on a body and mind, and it’s something that these type of actors do on a regular basis, which I think is taken for granted.  That is why I worry when I see a method actor taking on a role like The Joker or when I read that actors are struggling with drug abuse.

There have been some tragic examples of this, with the likes of Heath Ledger and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but that is where this corollary shouldn’t be a surprise, and one that we should be on the lookout for.  These people do this for their craft, they do it for us, but they also leave behind families, so keep that in mind the next time you see someone lose weight or you hear a rumor about drug abuse.  These people are better at their jobs than we are at ours, and it is something that I think about when I can forget that someone is award-winning famous for two hours and just be impressed by the performance.  It’s an amazing transformation!


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

Is Howard About to Say, “Buh-Bye, Baba Booey?”

Like David Letterman and Jon Stewart, will Howard Stern exit in 2015?

Losing two comedic legends and innovators within four months of each other is devastating, but will one more make 2015 the year comedy died in December?

Scoop Photo 3 Scoop Photo 2

(Letterman, left, signed off in May — Stewart will say his goodbyes in August)

Last month, with a heartfelt, “Thank you and good night,” David Letterman signed off, and Jon Stewart will exit The Daily Show in August.

Now all eyes, or in this case, ears are fixed on Howard Stern.


Legacy Secured

I started listening to The King of All Media during a tour of duty in radio in the early 1990s. Stern had exploded on the national scene with his book Private Parts and luckily, I had a co-worker who had a friend in New York State who would send bootlegs and underground recordings of his show.

It was like finding your older brother’s porn stash for the first time, or when you were assembling your own. No matter, it was forbidden, it seemed wholly wrong, but you couldn’t live without it either.

Scoop Photo 4
Stern circa Early 1990s

Since then, with the help of YouTube and my own conversion to satellite at over $200 per year, I’ve become become an unabashed “Stern Fan.” I have to say I’m grateful to have had the privilege of not only listening to a legend ‘live’ while also gaining a greater sense of his unique place in history, thanks to his unending catalog of back material and shows.

There’s little to no point debating Stern‘s impact on radio and pop culture. Love him or hate him, he revolutionized radio as we all know it. Quite simply, modern radio doesn’t exist without Stern. For every “morning zoo” in any city, to every silly stunt, prank call or celebrity interview that goes too far, Howard‘s fingerprints, the genius of his staff and writers and influence, are in there somewhere.

Scoop Photo 5
Stern on Letterman (CBS)

He’s done all there is to do. The bestsellers, the movie, it has all contributed to a very secure legacy and perhaps a very appealing retirement. His leap into satellite has made both him and Sirius extremely successful, with over 27 million subscribers and a balance sheet that is making shareholders very happy. Stern has become decidedly more acceptable to the mainstream, and a more respected talent thanks to his reach via America’s Got Talent.

One of the most recent estimates pegs Stern’s net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and he recently purchased a home in West Palm Beach worth $52 million that is only slightly smaller than the actual island of Manhattan. To put it into perspective, the entire Wack Pack could visit for the weekend and likely never find him.


Has he finally had enough?

Like in 2010, Stern fans have started the second or even third, Bataan Death March. In December, Stern’s second five-year contract at Sirius-XM comes to an end. In 2010, at roughly the same point on the calendar, he had already begun to lament his schedule and the demands.

Not long after his re-signing in 2010, Stern sued his employer over stock options in 2011 and came up short, but it’s seemingly the only serious bump in the road on the corporate side.

America's Got Talent (NBC)
America’s Got Talent (NBC)

On his show, he has talked about expanding his interests in painting and photography, while also cutting back his schedule even further and to spend more time with his wife. As recently as last week he was speculating about which job he would prefer, the radio gig, or America’s Got Talent.

Seemingly every hurdle he faces makes him yearn for a life away from the spotlight, and between now and quite likely a few days before the contract is up, listeners will either be entertained or beaten down by the daily speculation.

No matter what, it’s going to be a long, hot, summer.


Further Cementing History

The twisted part is that these negotiations make for great radio. An angst-filled Howard is pretty much radio gold.

Without having to worry about timelines and sponsors, he has simply flourished since his foray into satellite. The satellite medium has given him the freedom to widen and expand his show’s reach in terms of comedy, news and features.

(LtoR - Stern, Billy Joel and Robin Quivers)
(LtoR – Stern, Billy Joel and Robin Quivers)

The porn stars and lesbians, while never far away, have been supplanted in some ways; the Stern channels run features on everything from embedded news items about specific members of the Wack Pack, to amazing projects like a three-hour Billy Joel interview/performance and a birthday bash that will go down in history in terms of both performances and guests. He’s also booked exclusive concerts that have reunited acts like Soundgarden and brought in other bands like The Flaming Lips.

 

As a further indication of how much better and more mature Stern has become, twenty years ago, if anyone would have guessed that Howard Stern would produce a men’s health show on radio, you likely would have been committed.

These highlight what has been a better than brilliant second term for Stern at Sirius.

Stern with Quivers (National Enquirer)
Stern with Quivers (National Enquirer)

Rumors are more than strong that one of the key factors in re-signing in 2010 was Stern’s loyalty and worry about the fate of his staff going forward without him. While nearly every member of his staff pushes him to the breaking point, arguably the most poignant and beautiful aspect of this second term was his outpouring of love for Robin Quivers during her yearlong battle with cancer.

It exposed a side of Howard not often seen, and the kindness and loyalty to Quivers, and begrudgingly at times to the rest of his crew, demonstrate that Howard is not only a legendary figure, but deep down a very good and gentle man.

The revolution and the high profile rebellion of years gone by may be over for Howard Stern, but he’s rich, comfortable and ultimately needs this forum. The pain and suffering hides the importance of this forum to him. He knows he’s a far more important voice than he ever was and is reaching a wider audience year by year.

Stern with Madonna (Rolling Stone)
Stern with Madonna (Rolling Stone)

Even though new technologies and platforms continue to emerge, he’s not overly interested in companies like Apple and their platforms via iTunes, and has all but denounced podcasts as being a waste of time. Most importantly, and any time he’s pressed, he’s intensely proud of what he has accomplished at Sirius, both for himself and the company.

In spite of the pain in his voice, the wealth and the legacy, I’m not sure we’ll hear a final “Baba Booey” for a while.


Kevin Donnan is a Contributor at The Scoop and is a sports obsessed and self-confessed Pop Culture idiot savant trapped in a frozen, northern wasteland, yet, loves all things Texas and is the most “American” Canadian who has ever lived above the 49th parallel.

Then and Now: The Jazz Singer

Welcome to the first installment of what should be a fun film review series here at The Scoop! My objective is to select films that have been remade, and see how the remakes stack up against the originals. The fun will come when the details and distinguishing features of each are discussed. As always, this series is meant to inspire debate and conversation.

We start with The Jazz Singer, originally made in 1927, starring Al Jolson as Jakie Rabionvitch/Jack Robin. Its comparison is the 1980 iteration starring Neil Diamond as Yussel Rabinovitch/Jess Robin.


The Story

the jazz singer jolson posterCantor Rabinovitch is the worship leader of his temple. He is training his young son, who also possesses a great vocal talent, in the ways of Hebrew worship. This is because he is to be the sixth generation Rabinovitch to be a cantor, in service to God through holy song. Jakie/Yussel, however, appreciates all types of music, and feels that he’s meant to share his voice with the congregation of the world, not just a synagogue.

Father and son clash over this spurning of familial tradition, and they part ways on the worst of terms. Several years after Jakie/Yussel leaves, he becomes a famous singer and gains quite a bit of popularity. He even goes as far as to take on a stage name: Jack Robin/Jess Robin. The night before a big performance, he is informed that his father is ill and will not be able to lead the Yom Kippur worship service. This is a very sacred service, as Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, and a Rabinovitch has led it for five generations.

A family friend asks Jakie/Yussel to return, make amends with his father, and lead the service in his stead. He decides to choose family and faith over his popularity, and returns to lead the service. Father and son are reconciled and peace is restored to the Rabinovitch family.


The Similarities

the jazz singer diamond posterIn each film, both Jakie and Yussel are pressured by their fathers to follow in line with the family tradition and become the next cantor of their synagogue. They also manage to engage their audiences via popular music of the day. In the 1927 original, Jolson was featured singing the classic Blue Skies, while Diamond used the occasion in 1980 to introduce the world to America, Love on the Rocks and Hello Again.

Interesting note: Jolson‘s original is mostly silent, but helped usher in a transition to “talkies” by featuring a complete soundtrack for the movie that was available for purchase after the release of the film.

The big payoff is when Jakie/Yussel returns on Yom Kippur to lead the congregation in a prayer called the Kol Nidre. It’s a powerful moment seeing the son finally stepping up to lead the congregation, as his father had wished of him.

Here is Jolson‘s take:

Here is Diamond‘s take:


The Differences 

This is where this particular duo of movies gets interesting. The years 1927 and 1980 look equally intriguing and odd to my 2015 eyes, especially when watching the Jolson version.

The biggest difference between the two is the relationship between father and son. In the Jolson original, he is presented as a stubborn youth who won’t conform to his father’s wishes and revolts and runs away. In the Diamond remake, he gets his father’s blessing to go record a demo track in LA for two weeks. While there, he gets discovered and tells his father he will probably remain there and not come home.

This leads to change number two.

neil diamond the jazz singer sceneJakie runs away from his father and loving mother and becomes the star of a music review show. There, as Jack, he meets and falls for a lovely dancer, who encourages his pursuit of fame. Jakie‘s disregard for his God-given voice is what sets his father off. Yussel leaves behind his cantor father AND a wife, Rivka, who is also his high school sweetheart. While in LA, he falls for his talent agent (played by Lucille Ball‘s daughter, Lucie Arnaz) and divorces Rivka. This is what shames Yussel‘s father the most, and causes Cantor Rabinovitch to ceremoniously proclaim Yussel dead.

al jolson the jazz singer sceneThe most interesting difference is the use of blackface by Jakie/Jesse in a musical performance. In Jolson‘s day, blackface (the art of applying dark makeup to one’s face) was used by white entertainers to portray black characters in song. Jolson uses it prominently in the original, whereas Diamond uses it as an “homage” in a scene where he is filling in for a friend who is part of a singing group performing at a club specifically for an all-black audience. As accepted as it was in Jolson‘s day, modern eyes will have trouble adjusting to either use of a bye-gone theatrical device, and it does come across as plain silly in the 1980 film.


Final Thoughts

Overall, the story is one that not many may identify with at face value in 2015. What may echo with viewers, though, is the sense of achievement that one can feel when pursing a dream, whether it’s to be famous or return home and reconcile a broken relationship. As I mentioned near the beginning, both eras represented are not easy to relate to as presented, and some things in both come across as silly. If anything, both singers do a wonderful job of presenting popular music to their newfound congregations. I led with this one, though, because of my musical bent, and to truly watch and observe the cultural and cinematic differences of 50 or so years.


Do you have a suggestion for this series? Contact Sarah Powers on Twitter at @SPow26.

 

It’s Not Just “Dave” That’s Leaving

LA Times
LA Times

Late Night TV Will Never be The Same

We loved him because he “got” us.

As David Letterman seemingly closes the curtain on an amazing near 40-year run in network television, he leaves as an icon for generations of stand-ups, talk-show hosts, actors/actresses, directors and producers, while also becoming a skeptical and cynical form of an “anti-hero” for his legion of fans, while also finding the formula that probably worked better than anyone before (Johnny included) or since.


One with the Audience

As Jerry Seinfeld helped expand and even create his own brand of comedy, David Letterman helped expand and create an entire genre of his own as the bridge from the traditional shows of Paar, Cavett and Johnny, to where we are today.

CBS
CBS

Whether it was the painfully long staredown of the camera and breaking the fourth wall over a failed joke, or the altogether too phony comment by some vacuous celebrity whose movie you knew would likely bomb, he not only let us in on the jokes, but he also made us feel like we shared in his pain and the absurdity of show business at its core.

From his entry in the late night talk arena in 1982, he was different. It wasn’t seamless. He never took himself or his position very seriously, and somehow he made YOU feel like you were one of the buddies he had around tossing ideas over a case of beer and at least three or four opened pizza boxes.

He was simply “Dave” and if he could do it, why couldn’t anyone else?

NBC
NBC

Watching the original Letterman show made you root for the guy. Here was a typical Midwestern kid, the son of a florist and a church secretary, who was simply trying to entertain while navigating his show through the haze of corporate and broadcast bureaucracy (the NBC and General Electric bits), vapid celebrities and the challenges of day-to-day life.

Nowhere was that more apparent than during a “dream sketch” when Dave decided the three people living or dead he would want to have dinner with were: William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln and NBC movie reviewer Gene Shalit. Or, when asked by Shirley MacLaine whether he “believed in having past lives,” he responded with, “I may have delivered a pizza to the Eisenhowers.”

He was the sophomoric smart-ass, and one of the true reasons why David Letterman was so inspirational to so many is that Dave made us feel like he was an “outsider” among all of the ridiculous people in an even more ridiculous business.


Taking Johnny to Another Level

NBC
NBC

Where Johnny’s show had the feeling of a polished, well-oiled machine, with a flawless big band and a show that was fondly nicknamed “How America Went to Sleep,” Letterman was there to show us that his studio wasn’t much bigger than a broom closet, and he had a four-piece band that could rock the place if necessary. He wasn’t in Burbank with the perfect set, kibitzing with the A-listers who played cards with Johnny on his yacht. Johnny had sketches and bits, but they always seemed a little forced and focused on rim-shot humor.

Dave was the guy who drove in from somewhere in Connecticut and tried things that no one dared, or considered. And when he tried to put a fresh spin on bits from other acts like Steve Allen or Howard Stern, he would either pay tribute, or apologize (rather than outright stealing them and taking credit for them as original, a-la, Jay Leno).

CBS
CBS

The Top 10 List, Late Night “Thrill” and “Monkey” cams, “The Guy Under the Stairs,” Stupid Pet and Human Tricks, “What’s Hal Wearing” and Dumb Ads. Some of them worked brilliantly, and even the ones that failed somehow became absolute gold.

Bill Carter’s book, Late Shift, captures in brilliant detail the Tonight Show triangle of Johnny, Dave and Jay. The account is a reporting masterpiece that unlocks the backstage door of a power struggle that changed television and Hollywood, and in the end, Letterman never got what he and many, many, others felt was his just reward for essentially re-inventing the formula of the talk show.

As he made the transition to an earlier time-slot at CBS, it always felt like Letterman had a Van Halen type of existence in terms of his career. Where once he was edgy, raw and people were even slightly afraid of him, when he went to CBS, he suddenly became “Buttoned-Down Dave” and put away the wrestling shoes and tan khakis for designer suits, and suddenly became more mainstream.

The name was the same, but we all had to adapt to a rather seismic change. While fans could spend years debating, which Dave they prefer, much like Van Halen, the foundation, and yes, even some of the magic, was somehow still there, albeit in a more reserved, more mature and perhaps, more confident place. Everyone mellows out and gets old. Yes, even Dave.

As Dave became an adult, so did we, begrudgingly. And as he put away a good chunk of the old bits and gags, he became a better interviewer, and found the perfect balance where a true late night talk show could still explore complex issues like war, race relations and terrorism, while still ending a long day with a smile.

You only have to watch his performances following 9-11 to understand just how important, how reasoned and valuable he became in that time. Somehow the guy who wore a Rice Krispies suit helped an entire nation heal.

Dave leaves an ever-evolving medium where the balance has shifted. The emphasis no longer on the “talk” and the celebrity, but rather sketch comedy and bits where celebrities make fools of themselves and only appear interested in release dates and favorite songs to lip-sync. Times change, but the absence of Letterman will see that style of late night fade to black. At the same time, I’m not sure anyone could ever feel at all comfortable with either of the Jimmys (Fallon, Kimmel) discussing foreign policy today, tomorrow or anywhere else in the future.


No Matter the Dave

The magic of Letterman was his ability to find that perfect balancing act that gives the viewer enough celebrity to draw you in, and enough humor to keep you coming back.

The Velcro suit should probably be in the Smithsonian. We’ll miss the gap-toothed grin, the wild guests, jokes and the brilliant cynicism, but what we’re really going to miss is a guy who understood and appreciated his audience better than anyone.

CBS
CBS

David Letterman may not have the title “The King,” but for at least a generation, maybe two, we’ll settle for “perfect,” simply because he was one of us, and leaves with the legacy of the ultimate balancing act that made us keep coming back no matter what version of Dave you liked best. In the end, an entire nation is showing its well-deserved gratitude, and having a hard time saying farewell to both.


Kevin Donnan is a Contributor at The Scoop.

That 80s Mailbag

Lorimar Productions
Lorimar Productions

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


Welcome back to week three of “I Love the 80s” month here at The Scoop, where we are celebrating everything from that glorious decade that we all know and love.  In case you missed the first two installments you can find them here and here.

As you can imagine, talking about the 80s brings back a lot of memories for people who grew up in a world of MTV, “Just Say No,” and Aquanet, so I’ve been inundated with questions about all things 80s.  Not only have I received a ton of questions, but I’ve received some terrific questions, so this week I am going to open up the mailbag and throw out a few answers to you fine people.

So let’s sweep the leg of this mailbag and show it who is boss…

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I like the 80s, but why did the “That 80s Show” not survive any longer than it did?  I thought it was going to be funny, and don’t know why it didn’t work.

Jason – Austin, Texas

The answer to why any televised situational comedy fails or succeeds is always the quality of the writing, and the writing on That 80s Show was really, really, REALLY bad.  It debuted in 2002 after That 70s Show was a huge hit, and the network, being reactive in nature as it is, thought that it was only the nostalgia that people loved.  That 70s Show really took care of story and characters, which when paired with excellent casting, can make a show exceptional.

Carsey Werner Productions
Carsey Werner Productions

That is why I was surprised that the show didn’t work, because the same team of writers was behind both, but it was painfully obvious that they were just being asked to do something for the network with 80s Show, while 70s Show was a labor of actual love.  You could tell they were just going through the motions by the way that most of the jokes were about how terrible the things in the 80s were, while the reason That 70s Show worked was that the decade was just a setting for great stories each week, not the focus of the entire show.  That is what makes it so much fun to watch, and what makes a current show as much fun as that one.

ABC
ABC

If you have missed The Goldbergs, then you are missing out on one of the best comedies that is currently on TV.  It is the best combination of nostalgia, humor, story, family, and charm, and it isn’t just a running joke about the 80s.  Yes, it is set in the 80s, and there are some great things to see from the decade there, but the reason the show works so well is that the stories are really well done, and the jokes work in any decade.  The good news is that you have time to catch up on it now, and you will be very glad that you did.  The second season just ended and you have all summer to plow through the first two seasons and get ready for season three.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.


How have you written so much about the 80s and not mentioned Glamour Shots yet?

Amanda – Arlington, Texas

You are 100% correct, that is a terrible job by me to have not said anything about it yet.  There are very few things that are better than the glossy, hair-sprayed, and soft lighting of Glamour Shots.  I firmly believe that the two reasons that the Internet was invented were to find hilarious Glamour Shots and to see pictures of Nic Cage’s face on things.  Those two Google searches always lead to non-stop entertainment and make me want to send a thank you note to Al Gore for inventing the Interwebs.

Photo Credit; Lea Brown
Photo Credit; Lea Brown

Look at this picture!  I mean really take it in, it is just absolutely perfect!  Only in the 80s could you leave the house thinking, “You know, I think I’m going to have my picture taken with enough hairspray on to kill the ozone, and I’m popping the collar to my jacket that looks like it was made from a world championship wrestling belt.  I look so fly right now!”  And you know what, she does look great.  You can’t look at this now and compare it to modern fashion, you have to absorb it with the 80s perspective, which is: This look made all of the guys stop and say DAAAAAAAMMMMNNNN!!!


Who was the toughest movie villain to escape in the 80s?  Jason Voorhees has to be high on the list, but Freddy Kruger is in your dreams, so he has to be the toughest, right?

Mike – Grapevine, Texas

They are both formidable opponents to escape with your life, but the toughest is and will always been Hell Track.  You might not make it out with your life because face it, not all of us are Cru Jones.

TalliaFilm II Productions
TalliaFilm II Productions

What did you want to be when you grew up in the 80s?

Charlotte – Houston, Texas

A computer programmer…

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Can you please settle a bet for me?  My friend says that the best thing from the 80s that nobody talks about anymore is Fraggle Rock, and I say it is Buck Rogers.  Which one of us is right?

Dave – Dallas, Texas

First off, you both have excellent taste, but I have to disagree with both of your answers.  The best thing that nobody talks about from the 80s has to be G.L.O.W.Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling had it all, from skits to rapping to wrestling to the best names that have ever been created.  They rapped their intro, and as it turns out, the “rings” that they wrestled in weren’t even padded, they were essentially carpet over plywood.  Do you know how tough these women would have to be to do that?

I stumbled on to G.L.O.W. as a kid because I was a big fan of WWF and watched Saturday Night Superstars religiously, but one night after it ended, I didn’t turn off the TV for bed and this started.  I ended up watching all of it and kept on watching it for the next four years.  It was and is very entertaining to see these women rap and perform the worst promos that have ever been cut.  If you have never seen this show, then do yourself a favor and fall down that YouTube rabbit hole for a few hours, only to return forever changed.


Can you think of something from the 80s that wasn’t meant to be funny at the time, but has now become unintentionally hilarious?

Evelyn – Houston, Texas

That is a tough question, Evelyn, since you just described almost anything from the 80s, but luckily you have come to the right place.  The answer to your question is undoubtedly the British kids’ television series, T-Bag……you read that correctly, T-Bag.

Thames Television
Thames Television

T-Bag was a show about a woman named Tallulah Bag (T-Bag), who obtained magical/witch-like powers when her kid sidekick Thomas Shirt (T-Shirt) made her a cup of tea from the High T-Plant.  T-errific, right?!

Each series had a different title, such as, T-Bag and the Pearls of Wisdom, T-Bag Bounces Back, and Take off with T-Bag.  Everything about this show is dripping with unintentional hilarity and, for my money, you cannot find a better measure of how innocent the 80s were.  God bless you, The 80s, please never change.


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

I Love the 80s: The Swayze Awards

Silver Pictures
Silver Pictures

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


Welcome back to week two of “I Love the 80s” month here at The Scoop, where we are celebrating everything from that glorious decade that we all know and love.  In case you missed the first installment, check out the Couple Skate Power Rankings here.

Just like with any decade, the 80s were full of things that were good and bad, but when they were bad in the 80s, they were really, really bad.  I’m fully aware that most of that is hindsight, but I was one of the kids who grew up poor, and I would have told you then the same that I will tell you now…that Gobots sucked ass.  They were cheap, they were small, and compared to a Transformer, they looked like an Ewok standing next to Chewbacca.

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That made me appreciate the finer things in life, even if I only had one Transformer and an empty TV box that I turned into my own Fortress Maximus.  You knew that it was Fortress Maximus due to the writing in pencil I put on the side of the box that said Fortress Maximus.

There were countless things about my childhood that kept me in constant fear of getting beat up, but that information leaking out would have been as sure fire a butt-kicking as someone seeing my tighty-whities with blue Donald Ducks on them that were sewn by hand by my Aunt Reta.  I’m telling you now that if a picture of that surfaces, I am going on the lam and moving to Canada like a draft dodger in the 60s.

Being poor, though, just meant that when something awesome happened, I really appreciated it so much more.  The year that I turned 8, I finally had a birthday party that wasn’t at home with my cousins Chris and Harrell and whatever other friends we could scrape together (I wasn’t the popular kid if you couldn’t tell from my underwear selection)  to enjoy some homemade cake and store brand ice cream.  Please don’t misunderstand me, those are now some of the best memories that I have, but at the time I wanted an actual party at the skating rink or bowling alley or anywhere that would make me seem like the cool kid that I most definitely was not.  So, for my 8th birthday, my mom invited some people and we loaded up the car for a full-fledged birthday at McDonald’s!

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Words cannot convey how awesome that was at the time, and how much fun McDonald’s was to a kid of the 80s.  To be fair, that may have just been for me, because my dad was notoriously cheap and refused to eat anything fast food, so anytime we got to go out to eat in general it was an amazing event.  When I got to play at this place, it always made for a special day.  I mean look at it and let its glory wash over you!  You got to play outside (skin cancer wasn’t a thing then) and ignore the fact that in the middle of the summer, that solid metal playground equipment could give you 3rd degree burns.  The BEST!  I will never forget that birthday; it goes down in history as one of the best I ever had, even if I did get another stupid Gobot that year.

So now that I can look back and appreciate the finer things in life, I want to give retroactive awards to some certain things that may have been forgotten.  What do I call an award that celebrates the best things the 80s have to offer?  The Swayze Award, of course, what did you think it was going to be?  Nothing sums up everything good about the 80s better than Patrick mother-effing-WOLVERINES Swayze!  His name is forever going on this award, and there is no other person who can even come close, so hat-tip to the Movie Yoda for the idea.

So without further ado, here are the categories and winners for the 1st annual Swayze Awards.


Best Toy of the Decade:

Transformers

Look, they are freaking more than meets the eye, what else do you need in a winner?  GI Joe was cool, and He-Man action figures were much better than the cartoon, but when it came down to pure greatness, you cannot beat Optimus Prime and his crew of Autobots.  I will admit that this choice is very much slanted to the boys of the 80s, but I am 100% aware of how Cabbage Patch Kids and Strawberry Shortcake are hall of fame toys.

I am aware, but never had any in the house growing up because my sisters are 7 and 9 years older than me.  There are definitely other great toys from the decade, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I watched religiously on TV and had all of the action figures, but nothing trumps Transformers.

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Especially not My Buddy with their catchy jingle or Teddy Ruxpin, which looks cool on TV until you see it talking in person and realize his face/mouth/voice is clearly being maneuvered by the devil.

Best Commercial of the Decade:

Where’s The Beef?

The first commercial that came to my mind wasn’t this commercial, but I do bow to its longevity now.  The Where’s the Beef? lady coined a catchphrase that stuck around the rest of the decade and beyond.  She was even on talk shows simply because of how popular she had become by doing the commercials.  There are several other options from the decade that came to mind for me first, like California Raisins and that pesky Noid trying to make your pizza cold before you could enjoy it.  Those are great commercials, and if you ever get bored, then chase the Kool-Aid Man, wrecking shit for 5 decades on YouTube.  Nothing can top the Where’s the Beef? lady, and I’m sure she was a huge fan of Patrick Swayze, so she gets the award.

Best Music Video of the Decade:

Weird Al Yankovic – “Eat It

I am sick and tired of Thriller being considered the best music video of all time.  Sure it was good, and sure it was groundbreaking, and sure Michael Jackson was the biggest thing in music, but how on earth can you top this song?  Weird Al is a freaking pioneer, who still cranks out great songs to this day, and to top that off he’s never been to court over allegedly diddling children.  Weird Al changed the lives of so many adolescent boys of the 80s and made it cool to make a fool of yourself.  His Weirdness is a freaking icon and if you don’t like that, then you can eat it.

Best Movie of the Decade:

Road House (1989)

Giphy
Giphy

If you think for one second that I’m creating an award named after Patrick Swayze, and not including this movie as the best of the decade, then you are crazy!  I totally get that there are movies that you might consider “better” than Road House, and I even had an argument today with our friendly neighborhood 80s guru Jenifer Sutton about it, who maintains that if you’re going with Swayze you have to roll with Dirty Dancing, but nothing is changing my mind on this (even though she tried very hard to do just that).  Sure, nobody puts Baby in the corner, but nobody and I mean NOBODY is going to fight on Dalton’s watch, and especially not that greedy asshole Brad Wesley.

Silver Pictures
Silver Pictures

This is peak Swayze on top of peak Sam Elliot on top of peak Kelly Lynch, and to top that off, Swayze rips the freaking throat out of a guy AND has sex with a woman against the wall standing up straight!  Both of those things are equally impossible if you’re not The Swayze (seriously, try to pull that off and be prepared for your core muscles to jump out of your body, screaming in pain.  Stop lying to me, movies, you dick).  Did Han Solo ever do that?  Did Indiana Jones ever spot a blade on Nazi boot?

The answer is a resounding no!  It’s Dalton and Road House for the win, so don’t get a problem over it there, mijo.


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.