A Magic Moment on Saving Grace

27 08 2007

Holly Hunter
Despite the somewhat middling reviews, I’ve really fallen for TNT’s Saving Grace. The exquisite Holly Hunnter stars as Grace Hanadarko, a hard-drinking, hard-living Oklahoma City homicide detective who has to contend with a redneck guardian angel named Earl. I had some doubts about the Joan of Arcadia-meets-um-My Name Is Earl plot, but I’m really sold on the show. It’s not a religious show, at all, but it’s asking some big questions about how we ought to live our lives.

Plus, the show is set in Oklahoma. Some Oklahomans don’t care for the sex, booze, and rock’n’roll in Grace’s life, but not all of us Okies spend our Wednesday nights at Bible study, you know? Anyway, Hunter is as watchable as ever. And if you like handsome men, I’d happily recommend Kenny Johnson, who stars as Grace’s police partner/lover Ham Dewey. Or, for that matter, Bailey Chase, who stars as Butch Ada, a fellow detective. Meow. (Many of the characters, by the way, have names that evoke actual Oklahoma towns.)

But none of that, really, was supposed to be the subject of this post. I wanted to write about some of the music on Grace. The tasty theme music is performed by Everlast, who is one of my favorites. And each episode features eclectic music. Last week’s episode, “Would You Want Me to Tell You,” closed with an incredible cover of “This Magic Moment” by Lou Reed. You can, and should, listen to it here (link via Classic Rock FM). Since I watched that episode, I haven’t been able—or wanted—to get the song out of my head.

Holly Hunter, good plots, Oklahoma, handsome men, cool music… All that’s why I’m watching Saving Grace every Monday night on TNT.


Men just don’t grow on trees in Philly.

4 02 2007

I have a confession. I’ve fallen hard for ABC’s Men in Trees, which, I know, is a total chick show. Not that there’s anything wrong with chick shows; I’m just not a chick. Trees, though, reminds me of Northern Exposure, an old favorite of mine, plus I’m a total sucker for any show that’s really all about finding love unexpectedly.

Wait, there’s more. I got hooked on Trees primarily because I’m such a fan of Abraham Benrubi, who plays Ben Thomasson (the owner of the town’s bar, The Chieftain). And when I say I’m a fan, I mean, of course, that I’ve been crushing on him for a long, long time.

You’ll know Benrubi. He played Jerry, who runs the front desk, on ER, and he’s been a guest on a lot of different TV shows. (I love the long-, long-ago episode of Wings where he plays the gay son of the uptight Roy.) And in my mind, he’s just about the sexiest thing on the planet.

Doing a little ‘net research on Benrubi just made him all the more irresistible, too. He’s 6’7″, he owns over 8,000 CDs (that has me beat!), and—of all things—he’s part-owner of an Indy brewpub that specializes in Belgian beers. So, let’s see. Tall? Check. Music fan? Check. Cool goatee?  Check.  Good taste in beer? Check.

Abe Benrubi is obviously the man of my dreams.

The 10-Not-So-Famous-People Meme, Part II

30 01 2007

Curtain Call
A few months ago, I concocted this meme, and I even convinced a handful of people to participate. I keep thinking of not-so-famous people I’d like to meet, though, so I’m having another go at it.

To refresh your memory, here are the rules.

  • Select 10 not-so-famous people that you’d like to meet.
  • Give a brief, or not-so-brief, explanation as to each. Why would you like to meet Mr. X? What, if anything, would you say to Ms. Y?
  • All 10 must be living and cannot be so famous that an average person would have heard of them. It’s ok if a pick is well-known in a particular circle, so long as most people don’t follow that particular endeavor closely enough to recognize the name. (As a lawyer might say, it’s ok if the persons are limited-purpose public figures.)
  • The idea is to compile a list that’s mostly about you and your interests. The list should not simply be a reflection of who’s currently popular.

1.) John Anderson — John Anderson first caught my eye when he was the weekend sports anchor for KOTV, one of Tulsa’s local TV stations. He was smart, brash, witty, refreshingly sarcastic, and he had incredible TV hair. I mean, really, the hair was just amazing! It was thick and fairly longish, and Anderson pushed it straight up. He had memorable hair. I lost track of Anderson, and his hair, when he left Tulsa, apparently for a Phoenix station. Sometime in the late 1990s, though, I was happily surprised to see him on ESPNEWS. Now he’s one of the hosts of ESPN’s flagship, SportsCenter. Anderson’s hair is less impressive now (whose isn’t?), but he’s still just as smart and funny. And, refreshingly, he delivers the news with just enough bite to keep you wondering.

2.) Erik Balkey — I’ve written previously about Balkey, one of my favorite folksingers, and the crush I have on him. I’ve seen him in concert, he’s walked right by me afterward, I’ve repeatedly been been within six feet of him—and, yet, I’ve never even said hello or shaken his hand. Am I crazy shy or what? Anyway, it’d be fun to talk to Balkey about his music, his house-painting (to pay the bills), being on the road forever, and, well, my crush.

3.) Tony Carrillo — Carrillo is the cartoonist behind F Minus, the quirky, entertaining comic strip that recently hit the “big time” when United Features Syndicate began, um, syndicating it. F Minus is one of the strips—like Bizarro, The Quigmans, The Far Side—with an off-kilter, often slightly surreal point of view. In F Minus, bears drive, physicians compete at speed-surgery, and bad street musicians solicit contributions to quit playing. There’s so much junk on most newspapers’ comics pages these days. F Minus is worth two dozen Sally Forths or For Better or for Worses.

4.) Bill Daily — I’ve been watching the first four seasons of The Bob Newhart Show on DVD. When I was a kid, nothing made me laugh like CBS’s Saturday night line-up—The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. (And earlier in the evening, CBS aired All in the Family and M*A*S*H. What an incredible set of shows!) While watching TBNS again, I’ve realized what an impact the show had on me. Newhart’s character, psychologist Bob Hartley, always struck me as the quintessential rational adult, composed even when nuttiness occurs all around. I think I sort of wanted to be him; I wanted to move to the big city, have a smart career, and be the voice of reason in a network of friends. I’d love to meet Bob Newhart himself, of course, but he wouldn’t qualify as not-so-famous….so I’m going to go with Daily, who brilliantly played the Hartleys’ quirky neighbor, Howard Borden. Borden was an airplane navigator (later pilot), who was always dropping in, unannounced, on the Hartleys. He conveyed a sort of humane neediness that was altogether charming. Daily also played Major Roger Healey, on I Dream of Jeannie—a show, ahem, that was a little before my time.

5.) Robert Drake — Drake is my favorite Philly DJ, probably because he’s a fan and proponent of New Wave music. (I’m such a child of the early 1980s.) Once a month, the local alternative public radio station, WXPN, gives Drake four hours to play New Wave music on a show atply titled Land of the Lost. And best of all, Drake doesn’t play the obvious choices; I’m always really surprised by his choices. Want proof? Check out the Land of the Lost archives here. Drake also hosts and produces Q’Zine, Philly’s flagship radio program for the GLBT community.

6.) Margo Howard — Howard is Ann Landers’s daughter, and she’s an excellent advice columnist in her own right. I started reading Howard when she served as Slate‘s Dear Prudence. The current Prudence, Emily Yoffe, is horrible—she’s one of those advice columnists whose normal schtick, say in 90% of the cases, is to blame the advice-seeker for even needing help. (Other irritating advice columnists in this blame-the-victim vein include Carolyn Hax and Amy Dickinson.) That’s sometimes what a good advice columnist will do, but sometimes, maybe even often, the advice-seeker is better served with some good, objective judgment—not with stinging criticism. Best of all, Howard’s judgment is modern and sound. She understands that humans are sexual, flawed, and all-too-needy. If I needed advice, I’d want it from someone like Howard.

7.) Ruth Prawer Jhabvala — Jhabvala is a Booker Prize-winning novelist (in 1975, for Heat and Dust) who is probably better known for the screenplays she wrote for filmmakers Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. She won the Academy Award for two of those Merchant-Ivory screenplays, A Room with a View and Howards End—both, of course, adapatations of E.M. Forster novels. A Room with a View is one of my absolute favorite novels, and Jhabvala’s adaptation is exquisite. The story of the love affair between George and Lucy, including Lucy’s escape from a life dominated by convention (there was a similar theme in Heat and Dust, by the way), is somehow almost sharper in Jhabvala’s telling. It’s a brilliant screenplay. Jhabvala, by the way, has also lived a fascinating life. A German Jew, she fled to England as a child. She married an Indian man, and they moved to New Delhi. And, of course, she’s had an enormously successful career. Wouldn’t it be great to meet her?

8.) Linda Johnson — Johnson, the “first lady of poker,” is probably better known these days for being a tournament director. Most notably, she’s often seen at World Poker Tour events, keeping the live audience informed and making sure that everything’s, well, according to Hoyle. But I saw her play last year on a GSN poker series, and she was just delightful. One thing she said stuck with me. Every time she plays, she said, she has three goals: To make money, to have fun, and to make sure her competitors have fun, too. (She says something similar in this Card Player Magazine piece.) What a great attitude. She’s also well-known for working to combat player-on-player abuse in poker rooms. And having been in the poker business for years, I’m sure she has a lot of stories to tell—including how she won a World Series of Poker bracelet in Razz, a game that fascinates me.

9.) John Scalzi — Scalzi wrote my favorite book of 2006, the sci-fi thriller The Android’s Dream. TAD begins with an interstellar scandal initiated by a diplomat’s fart (really), a plot point that caused me to discount the book initially. (I have nothing against farting, I swear. I just thought the farting gambit was a bit too gimmicky.) I was wrong. The rest of TAD—which exposes the reader to a self-consciously ironic religious sect, authenticist butcher shops in a post-Meat Age, and a xenophobic planet with a strange interest in a particular breed of Earth sheep—is engrossing. I took TAD home with me to Oklahoma over Christmas, and I absolutely couldn’t stop reading it. One way Scalzi lured me in was by placing a sympathetic figure (and eventually more) on the side of the “bad guys.” For me, the only false note in the book involved a gay relationship, or, rather, how one of the gay men acts after a certain eventuality becomes obvious. Highly recommended, anyway. Scalzi also writes two blogs, Whatever and By the Way (hey, an AOL blog is so retro for a sci-fi author), and he seems like a genuinely good guy.

10.) L. Jon Wertheim — Wertheim, of Sports Illustrated, is the best tennis writer of our time. His Tennis Mailbag column for SI.com is always one of the highlights of my week. It’s smart, shrewd, and funny. Wertheim stresses that the not-always-so-serious Mailbag is a small part of what he does at SI. Maybe he’s a little embarrassed by it? “You fear that your reputation as a journalist might be compromised when you’re known more for your snarky, stream-of-consciousness on-line column, than for the books and magazine pieces, etc. in which you’re much more professionally invested,” he’s said. But for a tennis geek like me, it’s a real treasure to have a place to remember journeyman John van Lottum, to discuss why the American Davis Cup team is always so disappointing, or to debate whether Tomas Berdych’s height is one of the reasons he’s been so startlingly successful against Rafael Nadal. (You’re yawning now, aren’t you?) Anyway, Wertheim is so clever and knowledgeable—about any number of things—that he’d definitely be fun to meet. By the way, if you haven’t checked out his more serious writing, I highly recommend Transition Game: How Hoosiers Went Hip-Hop (see, he’s more than just tennis) and Venus Envy: A Sensational Season Inside the Women’s Tennis Tour.

I flopped the nuts.

11 01 2007

The last couple of weeks could’ve been halfway, sorta tough.  I always have a little post-holiday letdown.  Plus, I had all that mind-numbing bubble-wrapping and packing to do at work.  And there’s just nothing stimulating going on my life right now, anyway.  (Yikes, I just realized I haven’t had a date since I was in my 30s!)

But, just in time, I found something to keep me going: NBC’s Poker After Dark.

Even when it seemed the poker craze had run its course, NBC came through for me—with a nightly(!) one-hour show featuring the game’s top characters and, best of all, one hand right after another.  I love poker for the ruthless math and psychology of it all.  Poker After Dark gets that.  The show isn’t edited down to a few, select hands; since there’s an episode every night, we get to see a big chunk of every week-long, winner-take-all tournament.  It’s also entertaining to see and hear so much everyday, unedited interaction between poker pros like Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Annie Duke, and Huck Seed.  The small table (each week begins with a six-player table) makes it easy to follow the poker and the conversation.

The snarky, unseen commentator—who makes fun of Phil Hellmuth’s temper tantrums and Mike Matusow’s ego—adds to the fun, too.

Since Poker After Dark airs in the middle of the night, I set my TiVo to snag every episode.  So, after a hard day of bubble-wrapping or paint-fume-inhaling, it’s a real pleasure to come home to a new episode.  I’ve almost been skipping home from the train station each night.

Try not to imagine me skipping, ok?

So, so close, Mr. TiVo

11 11 2006

My TiVo is smart. Right after I got it, it figured out I was gay, liked sports, would watch anything poker-related, was partial to edgy comedies, and had a soft spot for hour-long dramas. So when there’s room on my hard drive, and there usually is (it holds 205 hours of programming!), it records all sorts of fairly good “suggestions” for me—things like episodes of The Office, travel specials from Logo, every other program broadcast on the Tennis Channel, and reruns of Alias and The West Wing.

Last Friday, though, when I got home, TiVo had taped only two things for me—Torch Song Trilogy and some drag racing from Speed Channel. Wow, where to start with that? First, I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere about drag-queen racing, but Speed Channel hasn’t covered that yet. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to watch that, either.

Anyway, if there’s a man out there who likes both Trilogy and drag racing, I haven’t met him yet. Maybe I should. Personally, I’m not a fan of either Trilogy (psst: Please don’t revoke my gay card for admitting that) or drag racing. Neither provides enough, um, drama. I would’ve been much happier with Gods and Monsters and some Formula One racing. TiVo almost got it right, I guess.

I ended up deleting both suggestions.

Question of the Day: Survey Says

15 08 2006

When you were younger, were there any game shows that you religiously watched and wanted to be a contestant on?

Wow, what a good question for me. I’m a game show fanatic. It all started with Let’s Make A Deal, which I watched with my grandparents. (How about that Carol Merrill?) And since then, I’ve gorged on a steady diet of buzzers, gaudy lights, Teflon-coated hosts, and giddy contestants. In fact, during my summer vacations from school, when my days blurred into one another from boredom, watching game shows was often what kept me going. That and peanut butter.

So what game shows did I like? Nearly everything. Shows like Gambit, The Newlywed Game (which I hate now, by the way), Truth or Consequences, The Price Is Right, I’ve Got a Secret, High Rollers, The Joker’s Wild, Tattletales, Password, Card Sharks, Sale of the Century, Press Your Luck, Jeopardy!, Tic-Tac-Dough (how about that Wink Martindale?), Scrabble, and on and on and on. And on.

Of all the game shows, though, my absolute favorite was Match Game. I can’t imagine now why my parents and caretakers let me watch a show so focused on silly boob and derriere jokes, but they did. By the time I was eight, I already had an adult’s vocabulary, and I guess the actual adults wouldn’t have stopped to consider the appropriateness of a game show anyway. However it happened, I loved Match Game. I loved the silly Mad Libs-style guessing game, the B- and C-level celebrities (DebraLee Scott, anyone? Patti Deutsch?), the audience participation (the call of “Dumb Dora is so dumb” followed by the audience response of “How dumb is she”), the orange lights, the big spinning wheel, and the fact that Brian from Santa Cruz might win $5,000. I loved it all.

Most of all, I loved Brett Somers, who was—of course—a Match Game regular. She was quick-witted and smart. She made me laugh, but she also tried to help the contestants win. In my mind, that made her heroic. While some celebrities went for the completely offbeat (Patti Deutsch again comes to mind), undermining the interests of the contestants, Somers worked within the game—trying to be funny while trying to actually match the players. Oddly enough, my own sense of humor today owes more than a little bit to the benevelont bitchiness Brett Somers demonstrated every weekday on my TV.

So, my answer is Match Game. I watched religiously, and I wanted to be a contestant. Actually, I wanted to be one of the Match Game regulars. Believe me, I could’ve been Charles Nelson Reilly. And if any game show producers are out there, I still could be. Hee.

Happily enough, Game Show Network (oh, sorry, GSN) still airs Match Game re-runs. And, yes, I love Brett Somers as much as ever.