Show Business with Dr. Mike Lano
DirecTV's new Dog Channel is fun viewing even if you're not 4-legged!
Rewatched 1946 Courage of Lassie that my grandfather Lionel Houser wrote the screenplay for, expertly hosted by Robert Osbourne on TCM and it's still amazing. The lengthy opening depicting Lassie helping various forest animals is devoid of dialogue but still tells a great story until 12 year old Elizabeth Taylor utters the film's first words. Lionel also wrote Christmas in Connecticut for Barbara Stanwyke. He was signed to RKO in 1935 and soon after wrote The Girl From Mexico launching their profitable "Mexican Spitfire" series. He later worked for MGM(Lassie), Republic and Warner Brothers studios(Christmas). He was born two days before my own birthday on April 16th, 1908 and we lost him 11/12/49 at only 41. My grandmother Barbara also drafted screenplays but had to submit them under a male name(Bob) because those were different times and women just weren't in that many power positions.
It's time for more industry terms.
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TV insiders are still talking about NBC's alleged planned ouster of Jay Leno next year, replacing him with Late Night host Jimmy Fallon and moving The Tonight Show from L.A. back to New York where it began. One NBC former exec joked "in case things don't work out with Jimmy, they could pitch to Letterman just down the street from the new Tonight Show studio since Dave was Johnny Carson's succession choice in the first place!"
With Tax Day around the corner most stars and tv folks are doing the stress dance with their accountants. The same could be said for ABC censors.
Speaking of reality tv, it's quietly been taking a small ratings hit overall in favor of scripted programs. For example, surveyed viewers prefer DWTS newbies rather than last season's all-star returnees.Loved E!'s recurring spoof of The Bachelor (Burning Love) with some name stars like Kristen Bell portraying fake female contestants. Comedy Central's Jeff Ross vehicle, The Burn returns for a third great season, although at press time E! isn't sure about Whitney Cummings Love You, Mean It. Last time I interviewed her, she said "juggling three tv shows all at the same time is insane!" Kudos for her non-stop work ethic while saluting her mentor Chelsea Handler.
An update from last month: it's now just The Artie Lange Show, but he's beefed up the comics on the show, like with my pal, the hilarious Rev. Bob Levy. Both he and Artie were long-timers on The Howard Stern show.
Ultra-HD TV was one of the highlights at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. Some manufacturers claim their resolution will be four or more times clearer than current 1080p sets, especially for larger screen sizes like LG's 84", $20,000, Ultra-HD TV. As with most TV technology, prices will decrease quickly with time. The big question is whether people will adopt it widely or treat it similarly to the incredible 3D-TV movement which still needs a larger audience to be more than a novelty. Many say four to eight times resolution looks great at any distance and gives the effect of 3D anyway but without the glasses. With more than eight million pixels, these TVs really deliver amazing images of bodies of water, blades of grass, even individual snowflakes. As with 3D, unless you have DirecTV there's not enough content out there yet, but Ultra-HD sets can convert what you're already watching. By the way, some 50" 3D -TVs are now selling for less than $900, a third of their original price. And with free glasses that don't need to be charged! DirecTV 3D content I've viewed includes extreme snow sports, animals and basketball.
Amongst the other 19,999 products launched at CES are several voice-command-integrated TVs. Samsung's new F8000LED "understands" and responds to vocal search requests like "find a movie about the making of television". LG's 55" GA7900 Google TV may cost as little as $1500 USD.
Here's hoping MMA in 3D is next. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was upset that cameras cut his farewell-to-UFC speech after possibly his last fight for the organization (which has great programming on Fox, FX and Fuel Nets). Competitor Bellator is on Spike with the newest recruit in the colorful and talented King Mo who originally worked for Zuffa/UFC's Strikeforce. Mo will be doing double-duty also in wrestling rings for TNA Impact (Thursdays on Spike). Since Rampage grew up on Jerry "The King" Lawler and classic Memphis Wrestling (the number one show in that entire market for decades on Saturdays), maybe he'll join that other "king" there too!
Get well wishes to UFC boss Dana White after major surgery.
Recently interviewed Mad About You star Paul Reiser who remains proud of his long-time co-star Helen Hunt and her work in The Sessions, which might bring her an Academy Award. "I started doing stand-up again just because I enjoy doing it so much again after not having done it in years. I was asked to do a recent charity event and had so much fun, I called some clubs in California and Florida and got myself booked." Reiser took time off from TV to enjoy his family and ended up writing another great book about it, Familyhood.
Audience Network (239) has been airing the syndicated Nick & Artie Show Friday nights. First-class comics Nick DiPaolo (a regular on FX's Louie) and Artie Lange (MADtv, The Howard Stern Show and NY Times best-selling author) broadcast their wild national radio show, skewing sports and pop-culture news from arguably the greatest studio ever created by Man Cave and NFL star Tony Siragusa. Maxim girls and celeb pals round out this amazing wild ride. Parental discretion advised!
January 2013, Satellite Direct 1st Annual DeeTeeVee Awards
In no particular order:
Louie, Homeland, Later...with Jools Holland, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Modern Family, South Park, The Simpsons, Walking Dead, Extreme Couponers, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Bill Maher, RAW, Boardwalk Empire, Anderson Cooper 360, Joy Behar: Say Anything, 30 Rock, Rock Center, The Big C, Ricky Gervais' An Idiot Abroad and Life's Too Short; PBS' Nature, Ed Sullivan specials and Jacques Pépin shows; World Series coverage over on Fox, HBO and Showtime boxing, Ultimate Fighter, and the sadly cancelled Treme and Boss.
What else are we leaving out? Good Wife or Chelsea Lately anyone? Hallmark, Lifetime and Ion worked overtime in delivering tons of great holiday movies last month and get New Year's thanks. Sorry Weeds, not this year.
A long time outstanding favorite remains the classic CBS Sunday Morning, which has the best mix of vignettes, important stories and "Moments of Nature."
2012's best show of 2011: Curb Your Enthusiasm
My grandfather, Lionel Houser, wrote the screenplay for one of the season's top movies, Christmas in Connecticut. Besides other films, he wrote Courage of Lassie and worked with most of the greats, including Barbara Stanwyck, Elizabeth Taylor, Roddy McDowall and Mickey Rooney.
Two late-night music legends (David Letterman band guitarist Will Lee and Conan O'Brien's band leader, Jimmy Vivino) have an amazing side project in the world's greatest Beatles tribute band, The Fab Faux. They tour with three other outstanding name musicians, and a full orchestra of horns and strings. FF precisely duplicate each Beatles masterpiece with all the sound effects and full experience. Because of their primary weeknight gigs, FF events are few, but always sold-out to rabid fans flying globally to hear their dedication to the craft.
"Playing these songs is a true labor of love," Will said on my radio show. "Their music's timeless." Will and Jimmy are amazing live and both play multiple instruments besides the 50+ guitars they transport to shows. Both are regarded as amongst the best guitarists in the world by peers, so it was a surprise when Jimmy told me keyboards were originally his primary instrument.
I've been a DTV subscriber since 1993 and now enjoy their live-streaming app on my iPad. My go-to DirecTV channels for major music events are Audience (which also has incredible first-run shows and sports), AXS and Palladia.
Palladia offers the world's greatest music show (Later... with Jools Holland). The former Squeeze bandmate's soundstage-in-the-round has a dozen connected stages where he jettisons from act-to-act in 360-degree fashion.
One show alone had Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Adele, R. Kelly, and Neil Diamond. It's a must-appear venue for serious artists. All live singing, no lip-stinking. Upcoming guests this month include the Beach Boys, Dionne Warwick and more. You have to see it to believe it.
I spoke to Olivia Newton-John recently at her charity and signing event in San Francisco. She continues to focus her energy on cancer awareness and women's health. "I beat breast cancer years ago and recently opened The Cancer and Wellness Center in my native Melbourne." She's worked hard fundraising for many causes via her new cookbook Livwise. "We ate really healthy as kids. And it's more important than ever to teach children the importance of eating properly to establish long-lasting habits." She next plays a bride's mom in Stephan Elliott's comedy A Few Best Men.
Growing up in Westwood, California, I went to Junior High with some of the Jacksons and Osmonds, Larry "Bozo" Harmon's daughter Lori, Leonard Nimoy's son Adam and even Darby "Daniel Boone" Hinton. I was best friends with Richard Dawson's two sons and basically lived at their home in the seventies after Richard saved my life (more on that in a future column). Dawson, who passed away this summer, had achieved TV/movie fame in his native England while married to Diana Dors, the UK's Marilyn Monroe, before moving here. He appeared in "The Invisibles," a spooky Outer Limits classic, and besides legendary roles on Hogan's Heroes, Laugh-In and Match Game he of course hosted Family Feud.
Richard also tried resurrecting Masquerade Party, where celebs would have heavy Rick Bakeresque make-up applied and contestants attempted to guess their identities. A real shame it wasn't picked up, but it did quickly lead to his being selected to helm Family Feud. The great Lon Chaney Sr would've been proud and his own biopic, The Man of a Thousand Faces, is still a moving classic this or any time of year.
In Dawson's last film he co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the appropriately frightening Running Man. Based on Stephen King's post-apocalyptic novel, he memorably played heel TV game show host Damon Killian in a landscape where the convicted had to compete to survive. In our reality shows and celeb-obsessed era, I can think of only Network as a relevant double-feature film for October 31st. As SCTV's Count Floyd would howl, "that's scary stuff!"