Friday, June 14, 2013
Some early L.A. color finds from the Vintage L.A. and Lost Los Angeles YouTube channels, culled from various film clip libraries.
"Civic Center in the 1940s"
"Driving in LA, 1940s style"
"Grand Hollywood of the 1940s"
"The Southland Style 1940s"
"Sunset Strip in the 1940s"
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
BANFF: Craig Ferguson on Deconstructing the Talk Show, the Late Night Wars and Whether He Wants a New Time Slot
"Do I have ambitions for another time slot? You can ask me," Craig Ferguson tells me. "I dont care."
"Craig, do you have ambitions for another time slot?"
"I don't care."
The highlight of this year's Banff Media Festival had to have been my on-stage interview with Ferguson, the late-night host who has become a pro at deconstructing the entire genre. "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" is known for its spontaneous interviews, robot sidekick, stream of consciousness monologues and more. We talked about all of that, and more, in front of a crowd of perhaps 200 conference attendees (including the mayor of Banff).
Here's an excerpt from how the local media covered it:
BANFF, Alta. - The popular host of "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" brought his unique brand of often ribald humour to the Banff World Media Festival where he was receiving the Sir Peter Ustinov Comedy Award.
"My people built this country. I don't know if you know that. Oh, I'm lying? It's not true?" Craig Ferguson said Tuesday to laughter and applause.
"This is what I said when I drove into Banff. It's lovely here. This is what Scotland must have looked like when they first built it," said Ferguson, with a much more pronounced Scottish accent than he has on his show.
Ferguson, 51, has been hosting the show for nine years. He's been nominated for an Emmy and won a Peabody Award for his interview with Bishop Desmond Tutu, has written books and appeared in TV shows and movies.
There's the air of a bad boy about Ferguson, who often refers to himself as just another "late-night douche" in reference to the typically formulaic state of late-night talk shows.
His show is unscripted and it's tradition that he tears up the carefully typed notes and tosses them as each guest sits down.
"That's just a kind of protest. It's saying I'm not going to do what your publicist told you I was going to do. That's how it started as and what it's become is some stupid OCD thing, I suppose, but I just do it," said Ferguson, wearing a casual grey Catalina Island T-shirt, jeans and running shoes.
"They're not props. They're really done and they still do them and I rip them up."
Even the addition of his gay robot skeleton Geoff Peterson was meant to be a shot at the cheerleading responses of most late-night sidekicks.
"Geoff Peterson is emblematic of my failure as a late-night talk-show host because what I wanted to do, as a protest, have a robot that would give the sidekick pat answers. This is how robotic it is. It's ridiculous," he said.
More coverage from the Calgary Herald.
And here are several clips from the interview that have already made it on to YouTube:
Monday, June 10, 2013
Even John Beard was surprised by the amount of face time he got in the new season of "Arrested Development." The former Los Angeles TV news anchor, now in Buffalo, spent a 12-hour day last year shooting all kinds of footage for the show's new Netflix run. Most of those scenes ended up spaced out throughout this season.
I last spoke with Beard back in March, before the show premiered. Now that we've seen this season, I asked him to talk about his experience -- read the story here.
In the "Arrested" world, the newscaster has become the host of a "To Catch A Predator"-like show, quits his anchor job and defaults on his house. House of Lies' Ben Schwartz even plays his slacker son, John Beard, Jr.
Creator Mitchell Hurwitz says the story of Beard's career collapse on the show mirrors the Bluths' prospects. "I don't know why this guy isn't taking some of Brian Williams' jobs in comedy," Hurwitz says. "He's excellent. He plays it serious and also makes fun of himself, and also seems real. I just love him."
Beard says his character's career evolution in Season 4 also "mirrors that of every long-time TV news anchor, as the business transitions into a much leaner enterprise than it was when we started." He knows that situation first-hand, having left KTTV in 2007 when his contract wasn't renewed. "I think news viewers in every market have seen that change reflected in many local stations," Beard says. "Mitch managed to put that and the housing market collapse to good comedic use."
Usually downtown's Union Station is the backdrop for advertisements -- which makes it kinda cool to see Griffith Park's Travel Town getting some commercial love. Here's a spot for "OurTime.com" shot at your toddler's favorite spot for a birthday party.
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
In episode 3 of this season's "Arrested Development," Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) flies to India for some spiritual enlightenment. (We later discover that Tobias wound up there as well). Doubling for the India airport? Burbank's Bob Hope Airport.
Of course, the airport has been covered, via CGI, with Hindi lettering. Here's an extra subtle joke: "Arrested" creator Mitch Hurwitz tells me that the main sign you see in the India airport reads "BOB HOPE AIRPORT" in Hindi.
Here's what Bob Hope Airport normally looks like:
Monday, June 03, 2013
Lists like this were made for debate, and boy, are people debating it. Last year the Writers Guild of America members were asked to pick 20 of the best-written TV series of all time. A independent group then tallied the entries and helped come up with the Top 101 list. The WGA unveiled the ranker on Sunday night at an event in Beverly Hills; because TV Guide Magazine was the media sponsor, I got to open the event with a few remarks before turning things over to moderator Merrill Markoe.
The top ten:
1. The Sopranos
3. The Twilight Zone (1959)
4. All in the Family
6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
7. Mad Men
9. The Wire
10. The West Wing
Read the full list here.
The gathering attracted some hefty names, but the highlight was easily Carl Reiner and Norman Lear. We could have listened to them tell stories all night. Some pics:
Living legends Carl Reiner and Norman Lear at WGA's 101 Best Written TV Series event. At 91, Reiner is sharper, wittier and faster than most comedians half his age. And at 90, Lear is remarkably spry as well. Can someone bottle their youthful energy?
Gail Parent, Jim Brooks, Steven Bochco join Reiner and Lear on the panel to discuss TV of the '60s and '70s.
Drama panel: Matt Weiner, Ron Moore, Gail Parent, Jim Brooks, Steven Bochco, Winnie Holzman, Vince Gilligan.
Modern Family's Steve Levitan (far left) joins the panel to discuss comedy.
Friday, May 31, 2013
Once upon a time, Bravo was a network devoted to the cultural arts, and TLC was "The Learning Channel," even airing some programs in French! Some late 1990s promos for Bravo (above), and a 1989 round up of some truly dry, early fare for The Learning Channel below. (And by the way, I don't mean this to judge these two channels, which are both tremendously more successful now than they ever were back in the day. And let's all be honest, we watch a lot more Bravo and TLC now compared to back then. These are businesses, people.)
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Wolvesmouth's Craig Thornton, in action
Underground cartoons are coming to Fox via the new Saturday night ADHD ("Animation Domination Hi-Def") block starting this July. To spread the word, ADHD turned to the culinary king of L.A.'s underground dinners, chef Craig Thornton, whose Wolvesmouth supper club is now legendary. But Fox and ADHD pushed Thornton and his team to the limit this week, hiring him to put together six dinners over three nights at ADHD's workspace in Hollywood. The catch: While one of the coolest offices around, the ADHD space has no kitchen. Despite that obvious limitation, Wolvesmouth relied on a grill, hot pots and some toaster ovens to put together one of the most amazing, and memorable, meals I've ever had.
ADHD's lineup includes an adaptation of Axe Cop, the comic book created by Ethan Nicolle and his young brother Malachai. (An uncredited Nick Offerman provides the lead character's voice.) Here's the cool part: ADHD produces its toons, from start to finish, right there in Hollywood. Again, it's a deceptively simple process that yields big results -- much like a Wolvesmouth dinner.
The Huffington Post's Maggie Furlong asked Thornton to share his favorite L.A. eats (and his ideal "final meal") -- read about it here. Meanwhile, here's a snapshot of everything that went into my belly on Wednesday night. Yes, I'm still happily stuff.
Zombie Solstice (dark rum, light rum, vodka, pineapple juice, orange juice, sugar, bitters, lemon)
Ribeye cap, cheddar fritter, Rainier and bing cherries, Rhubarb, Hanover Woods mushrooms
Soup inspired by sour cream and onion potato chips
Halibut, corn salad, beets, cabbage juice, tempura squash blossom, poblano cream
Rabbit meatballs, masa sopes, dried cherry, grilled scallion, chipotle cilantro, avocado
Pork belly, tostones, snap pea remoulade with dungeness crab, grilled nectarine, squash, mint lime aioli
parfait, lime curd, pressed pineapple, pineapple ice
vanilla buttermilk, panna cotta, strawberry merengue, more
The kitchen bustle
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Restaurant: Ara's Tacos Mexican Grill
Location: 901 W Glenoaks Blvd (Glendale)
Type of restaurant: Mexican
We stipulated: After one of the Blogger Toddler 2.0's Saturday morning Pee-Wee baseball games, we wanted to grab lunch. I'd been curious about Ara's, which comes from some of the folks behind Zankou Chicken. (It even shares space with a Zankou). I loves me some Zankou chicken, so tacos stuffed with the meat ought to be delicious, right?
They stipulated: From a Glendale News-Press story: "I eat at Chipotlé, I respect what they did, but there's more room in the playing field," founder Steve Iskenderian said." I thought, I could do it better — better food, more authentic food." Iskenderian said he felt confident that because of his experience managing food operations at Zankou locations, he could beat Chipotlé at its own game. Ara's Tacos will use chickens from L.A. Poultry, Zankou's supplier, and beef from Canyon Wholesale Provisions. Like at Zankou, whole fresh chickens will be deboned and marinated at the restaurant, Iskenderian said.
What we ordered: Chicken bowl ($6.25); chicken tacos ($6.25)
High point: Lots of meat.
Low point: The chicken edges were burnt, and there aren't a lot of salsa choices.
Overall impression: Another joint that I really wanted to like. But it's such a copycat of Chipotle that I couldn't give it any points for originality. And that famous Zankou Chicken flavor was marred by the burnt edges. Sorry, but a bummer.
Chance we'll go back: I'll stick with Zankou for chicken, not tacos.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Even as the ABC television network struggles in primetime, in Los Angeles, ABC's owned-and-operated station KABC-TV continues to dominate. And boy, did it dominate during the recently concluded May sweeps -- winning every single newscast time slot in both total viewers and adults 25-54.
First, a caveat: In Los Angeles, demographic information is available year-round, which makes sweeps periods irrelevant. But it's an old habit that has been hard to kill, which is why L.A. stations still make an extra effort during those months (November, February, May and July). I guess it gives everyone something to strive for.
Among other highlights, KTLA's "KTLA Morning News" was strong in the mornings -- but I wonder what happens to the horse race in the future with the departure of co-anchor Michaela Pereira. More highlights:
At 11 p.m., KABC/Channel 7 won with total viewers (averaging 291,000), followed by KCBS/Channel 2 (199,000), KNBC/Channel 4 (173,000) and KCOP/Channel 13 (47,000). In the adults 25-54 race -- the news demo coveted by advertisers -- KABC was first (117,000 viewers), then KCBS (74,000), KNBC (62,000) and KCOP (26,000).
In the 10 p.m. news race, KCAL/Channel 9 (which airs a 45-minute newscast) averaged 158,000 viewers, followed by KTTV/Channel 11 (142,000) and KTLA/Channel 5 (which also airs a 45-minute newscast) close behind (141,000). In the 25-54 demo race, KCAL and KTTV were tied at 77,000 -- with KTLA (59,000) in third.
As for the hyper-competitive 7 a.m. breakfast news smackdown, KABC's "Good Morning America" led the way with 189,000 viewers, followed by KTLA's "KTLA Morning News" (167,000) and KTTV's "Good Day L.A." (95,000). KNBC's "Today Show" (73,000) and KCBS' "CBS This Morning" (65,000) were in back. (That, of course, helps explain why "GMA" is surging over "Today" -- those O&O ratings don't help.)
The morning competition was a bit tighter in the demo: KTLA's "KTLA Morning News" leads (78,000), with KABC's "Good Morning America" and KTTV's "Good Day L.A." tied for second (58,000). KNBC (27,000) and KCBS (18,000) lag.
Here are a few more time slot standings in total viewers:
KCBS ("Judge Judy") 137,000
KNBC ("Ellen") 127,000