Sunday, August 20, 2017


The Mount Rushmore of modern American Comedy: Pryor, Steve Allen, Newhart.

Bill Hicks.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Tonight's guest, that star of stage, screen, and radio. . . . Lee Oswald?

The second part (36:00), recorded several days later, is a marvelous job of mousetrapping. Just a taste of what Lee would get a few months hence, on his way toward oblivion.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Oz and best friend Thorny argue about a series of books called The Rover Boys (Ozzie claims there was no Rover Boys Go to Treasure Island while Thorny insists there was). Having absolutely nothing in the world to do (as always), Ozzie rushes to his nearest library and there runs into son David's English teacher. When she asks Oz what he's looking for -- ashamed to mention the Rover Boys -- he grabs the nearest book at hand, a 25-pound version of The Peloponnesian Wars, Volume One. Astonished at this scholarly taste, the teacher invites Ozzie to lecture on Ancient Greece to her PTA book club -- an offer David's dad cannot refuse. This all happens quickly and soon we're into the near-entirety of the episode: Ozzie struggling through four massive volumes of Sir Henry Parkinson's unread masterpiece. Strangely, Thorny's also going through the books, even though he wasn't even invited to attend the lecture. Eventually, Harriet saves the day by calling the English teacher and telling her Ozzie is sick.

A mind-boggling 23 minutes (wish I could find the uncut version) composed of less than 50 shots -- average shot length over 30 seconds. (The average Curb Your Enthusiasm, for modern example and a show not editorially-retarded, runs 28 minutes containing over 500 shots.)

Ozzie Nelson is the Carl Dreyer of television!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Besides the greatness of Rick Nelson, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is best remembered for its astonishing longevity (14 seasons, 435 episodes) and for the equally astonishing moribund irrelevance of its later years (1960 and beyond). At its best, however, it was great. Under the total creative control of Ozzie Nelson (who it's said made Otto Preminger seem like a pussycat on set), it was the original "show about nothing." Ozzie never had a job, seemed to have no plans for the day, was considered a boob by everyone, and was surrounded by friends, relatives, and neighbors who also had pointless, jobless lives. (What a refreshing change from the CV-obsessed garbage of modern television!) Yet everyone was happy, warm, relaxed, and gentle -- without a hint of smarm or calculation.

One of the wackiest early episodes is called "The Orchid and the Violet," from April of '53. Oz is mistaken for a bum (as he should be) by a florist and his wife, hysterically played by the great Alan Mowbray and by Orson Welles's own Jeanette Nolan, reprising her role here as Lady Macbeth.

Crazy, man!

Monday, August 14, 2017


One man is looking for a little girl's doll; the other for a cone of tutti frutti ice cream.

Cops, a druggist, his wife and best friend, the store manager, telephone operators, his sons: all do what they can to help Ozzie Nelson find that tutti frutti ice cream. Meanwhile, Oz plays cards and cooks hamburgers at four-in-the-morning, files a false police report about being lost, raids a 24-hour supermarket, wakes up his sleeping wife after having a tutti frutti nightmare, wakes up a sleeping druggist, throws rocks at his neighbor's window in order to wake him up in case he has the ice cream, is woken up by the same neighbor (played by the great Parley Baer) who now also has the tutti frutti bug, wakes up the boys and tries to fob off some cherry ice cream mixed with fruit cocktail as tutti frutti on them -- with no one in sight having a care in the world as morning approaches . . .

Larry David's L.A. is a city of gargoyles: racists, liars, assholes, cheats: amoral psychopathic egoists -- a place where one is naturally murdered by tire-iron for honking a car horn at a driver who has backed into you. In the first few seasons, David's character is a rather befuddled and passive Joe who, like Ozzie, rarely works and who, unlike Oz, gets into deeper and deeper trouble the more he tries to do the right thing. Everyone he meets outside his closest circle (and sometimes within) treats him with dishonesty, loathing, suspicion, condescension, arrogance: so-called friends, cousins, his receptionist, his dentist, co-workers, other drivers -- everyone. It's amazing the character hasn't gone postal (yet). But midway through CYE's run, Larry David changed character: thereafter, David becomes the instigator of most unpleasantnesses; and seems to get off on them. When this wrongheaded shift originally occured, I figured it was prelude to the ending of the Davids' marriage -- 'cause who wants Larry to be just another schmuck victim of a betraying wife? But the marital split didn't occur until the end of Year 6, so no. A strange choice, and while probably a leap toward what the "real" Larry David is like, the show lost its Everyman quality and has too often been "this week's politically incorrect kick in the teeth to": Orthodox Jews, kamikaze pilots, gay Barneys workers, the deaf, devout Christians, Lesbians, blacks blacks blacks, pregnant women, little girls, and Koreans who eat dog. Still -- as Ozzie represents the giddy "what me worry?" exhilaration of Eisenhower's suburban white Eden -- Curb Your Enthusiasm embodies the prick heart of 21st Century America, as well and as consistently as anything in the pop culture.

And oh yeah. . .

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Willie and the Mick

The very first Home Run Derby, from December of '59.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

All Time

RIP, Glen Campbell.

Friday, August 11, 2017


My favorite family drama has always been Father Knows Best. FKB was alive for six years (1954-60) and -- sharing the same condition with Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver -- crashed and burned when midnight approached on the decade. Like LITB (but unlike O&H which had the good sense not to turn Rick Nelson into a big man on campus), the Anderson kids changed quite a bit and not for the better. The show is at times preachy, always drenched in Eisenhower monochrome conservatism, somewhat predictable, and toward the end Jane Wyatt as Mother turned herself (or somebody did) into a piece of arch waxworks so annoying as to ruin most episodes from years 5 and 6. Still, I love it, most of the time. It is beautifully photographed, scored, and paced. What's most attractive is its radical faith in the basic goodness of people. Unlike O&H and LITB, there are unrepentant bad characters in FKB (unlike any other 50s family show). There's a war going on here -- internal and external -- between Christian light and Christian dark, and when necessary both sides get their due. But the human good, in the most earnest way, always has the last word. Why not?

A lovely episode from March 1955, "No Partiality"

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Empire is Born

Friday, August 4, 2017


A lonely man meets an abandoned little girl on Tomoyasu Murata's Scarlet Road (2002).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Under the hand of Vincente Minnelli.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Moses Supposes

Thursday, July 27, 2017

On the Town

The Powerpuff Girls hit the Big Apple!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Again, Vietnam

Dr. John Newman -- author of four indispensable histories of the American Cold War deep state -- clinches our understanding of John. F. Kennedy and Vietnam: