Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mockingbird Lane: A Review (As Promised)

They say that there are two kinds of people in the world.

There are dog people and cat people.

There are "Star Trek" people and "Lost in Space" people.

Mickey Mouse people and Bugs Bunny people.

People who return the shopping carts to the corral and those who leave them in the parking lot.

And, there are "Addams Family" people and "Munsters" people.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am an "Addams Family" person.

But, I also confessed to having an affection for "The Munsters."

So, before I tell you what I thought about the new "Munsters" reboot, "Mockingbird Lane," allow me to wax nostalgic about the original.

The Blog is of a certain age that he watched both "The Munsters" and "The Addams Family" when they originally aired. In later years, he loved both shows in afternoon reruns. At some point in his childhood, The PC had a talking Herman Munster hand puppet, a prized toy!

Some young bloggers and commentators have suggested that they were the same sort of shows. They premiered the same season as, either, a coincidental product of the zeitgeist of the time, or a result of network, industrial espionage.

Those young commentators don't really get it.

"The Addams Family" and "The Munsters" were, really, two very different shows.

"The Munsters" were a classic sitcom family. They had classic sitcom story lines. They just happened to be monsters. They had no idea that they were weird. They didn't understand why their neighbors ran from them in terror. They were just living a normal, conservative, sitcom life, oblivious to their "otherness."

The Addams' knew that they were different. They embraced their weirdness and dared anyone to criticize them for it. They were progressive liberal, libertarians. A precursor to the anti-establishment movement that was soon to come.

The Munsters were the Clever family. Herman and Lily were Ozzie and Harriet. They just happened to be monsters.

Which brings me to Friday night's broadcast of "Mockingbird Lane."

I don't know if this show could be sustained for the requisite 5 seasons, (but then, I thought that "The Big Bang Theory" couldn't last past three episodes, so I've been wrong before!) but I have to tell you, I freaking loved this show!

"Mockingbird Lane" managed to achieve that sort of deconstructionist dark humor that I love, while maintaining a sweet streak.

This version of The Munster family are monsters, and they know it. And, they tend to do monstrous things, sometimes.

That is the nature of monsters.

Eddy Izzard as Grandpa Munster, ("You can call me 'D.'") the patriarch of the family, has a truly nasty streak about him. Not exactly evil. Just confident in his belief that he and his clan are superior to the mere mortals in the neighborhood and, therefore, entitled to exploit the lesser humans for the good of himself and his family. The perfect Romney Republican.

Jerry O'Connell's Herman is, well, Jerry O'Connell handsome in a post autopsy sort of way. Not the overgrown man-child that was the original Fred Gwynne version. But, rather, a hopeless romantic, whose heart literally breaks, because he loves too hard. He is the best dysfunctional dad since Homer Simpson.

Portia de Rossi's Lily is beautiful and exotic. And, surprisingly, she is the family's voice of sanity and moderation.

Relative unknown, Charity Wakefield is Marilyn. Physically, she most closely resembles the original version. The "poor, normal" Munster. In this version, she is the family's "public face" in the neighborhood.

But, unlike the original, this Marilyn exhibits signs of some serious crazy.

You know the sort that I'm talking about.

Ladies, she was your friend in college who seemed really sweet at first, but the more you got to know her, the more "off" she became.

Guys, let's be honest here. You slept with her... twice... before you realized that she was saving that bit of hair that she pulled out of your head that last time and that one sock of yours is missing and you thought you saw someone outside you dorm window.

I mean... I've heard of that happening.

What was I saying?

Oh, yeah.

Given a full season's run, I think that "normal" Marilyn could turn out to be "M.L.'s" most interesting and chilling character.

Finally, Mason Cook as Eddie. A kid who believes that he is "normal" like his cousin, and is none too happy to learn that he is, in fact, a werewolf. Lycanthropy has been used as an analogy for puberty before. Many times. ("I Was a Teenage Werewolf," "Teen Wolf," to name two.) But, the analogy is handled deftly, here.

(On a side note... A quick IMDb check suggests that young Mason may be the busiest, most in demand actor in the cast. He has an impressive resumé.)

The most common criticism that I have seen of the show is, "It just isn't funny enough."

I disagree.

My biggest concern, going into it, was that creator Bryan Fuller's sense of humor runs to "balls to the wall" high camp. His brilliant "Pushing Daisies" ultimately collapsed under the weight of it's own, self aware, preciousness.

But, it turns out that "M.L.'s" humor is quite restrained. The funniest lines are tossed off with straight faces. Throw away lines that could be missed if you weren't paying attention. (I credit director Bryan Singer for this.)

That, combined with spot on visual references to the original show and the mixing in of some old school rules of monster lore, made the show's humor the sort of "Yes, you have to think about it for a bit," humor that I love, and is hard to come by in today's television environment.

Many people have written the show off as dead and buried. But, given that Friday night's airing helped deliver some of the best ratings that NBC has seen in some time, winning the night in the prime demographic, (for the first time in I don't know how many years) I have a suspicion that the "suits" at NBC Universal may have spent their weekend desperately repairing burned bridges.

As I said in my last post, I have no personal investment in the success or failure of "Mockingbird Lane." (Although, it turns out, there is one degree of separation between The Blog and the show. Co-executive producer Jack Clements was The Blog's boss for two seasons about a decade ago.)

Your Uncle PC has just been so disappointed by the new TV season. Not one single risky, edgy, "I've got to watch it!" show has grabbed my attention. This season needs a "Once Upon a Time" or "Revenge."

"Mockingbird Lane" seems, to me, to be that show.

And, as someone with a soft spot for the underdog, I would love to see the perpetually last place NBC give the show a chance.

We'll see.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Democracy in Action?

Tomorrow night, (Friday October 26th,) Something interesting is going to happen.

Oh, it's nothing of any great importance in the grand scheme of things. In fact, you would probably have to be a bit of a media geek like me to get off on the event the way I am.

Before I get to it, a bit of ancient history to serve as background...

In the 1970s, it was a common practice for the television networks (all three of them) to air unsold TV pilots as specials or "movies of the week."

This served two purposes.

The network could recoup some of the cost of the pilot's production by collecting ad revenue for the one time broadcast. At the same time, ratings and viewer feedback sometimes led to the network picking up the show for a full order.

Lots of successful shows got their start this way.

"Columbo," "McMillan & Wife," " Charlie's Angels" and "Diagnoses: Murder" just to name a few.

Others didn't fair so well. "Dr. Strange," "Daredevil" (decades before the Ben Affleck movie) and "Salem's Lot" got one shots that didn't make the cut.

                                                    We were, mercifully, spared "David Soul: Vampire Hunter."

It was kind of cool to be able to get a look at what the networks were considering and to have a small say in the fate of potential shows.

For some reason, the practice fell by the wayside in the 1980s and has never made a comeback.

Instead, the nets dump millions of dollars into pilots that live or die by small focus groups or the whim of the network suits.

We will never know if last season's "Wonder Woman" pilot was any good.

Or they dump even more millions into 13 episode orders, only to risk a debacle like "The Bionic Woman" or "Charlie's Angels" reboots.

Back to the current subject...

About a year ago, NBC announced, with much hype and fanfare, the Bryan Fuller/Bryan Singer reboot of "The Munsters." "Mockingbird Lane" is a deconstructionist re-imagining of the classic sitcom for the "Once Upon a Time"/"Desprate Housewives" generation.

Even though I am more of an "Addams Family" guy, myself, I have always had an affection for the family of Herman and Lily. I find the idea of reinventing the Munsters as a darker, more subversive comedy to be very intriguing.

At some point, NBC did, too.

So they invested a hefty amount of money into the pilot.

When it was delivered, the risk averse "suits" at NBC got cold feet. (No doubt, still reeling from the aforementioned "Bionic Woman" fiasco.)

But, rather than write the whole thing off, NBC will air "Mockingbird Lane" tomorrow night, as a Halloween special. And, just like in the good old days, the show's future is in the hands of the viewing public. If people tune in and like it, production of the series will commence.

If no one cares, or the show just sucks, NBC can move on, knowing that the people have spoken.

Small "d" democracy in action!

Personally, The Blog is rooting for it's success. Not that I have any personal investment in said success. I don't. But, I like the premise. I am a fan of the work of both Bryans. (Fuller gave us the brilliant but flawed "Pushing Daisies." Singer was a driving creative force behind "House, M.D." and directed "The X-Men" movies.) I am also all in favor of supporting any series that is actually shot here in Los Angeles. ("Mockingbird Lane" is literally filmed only a couple hundred yards from the place that the original series was shot, on the Universal Studios lot. Go local production!)

So, check it out tomorrow night. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section. I'll give you my review after I have seen it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Binders Full of Women

"A lie can run around the world before the truth can get its boots on."
Variations of the above quotation can be found, in a matter of seconds, accredited to a number of people.

The Blog was reminded of the quote last night, as the second Presidential debate was winding down.

But, probably not for the reasons you might guess.

Because, whether it was an Irish proverb, the quip of a Scottish poet, or a bon mot from Mark Twain, it seems to The Blog that the idea has moved past "quaint" to become archaic.

Lie or truth, gossip or enlightened thought, cute kitty pics...

                                                      ...or staged political photo ops...

...have pushed the envelope of our artificial time construct, moving at speeds that would make Einstein's head spin.

Because we now live in the era of the "internet meme."

Let me choose one point from last night's debate.

And the winner is...

Romney's "binders full of women" comment.

The PC could do a whole post about Willard's tone deaf comments about women in the workplace. Or, the fact that after two decades in business, Mitt didn't know any qualified women or where to find them. Or, his claim that his recruiting efforts included the "flexibility" to allow women to "get home in time to cook dinner."


The Blog is almost inclined to give Mittens credit for using the term "women" rather than "gals."

And, on top of all that, it turns out that as laughable as his whole "binders of women" anecdote is, it is also...  untrue.

You can read up on it here. And, if you don't like The Huffington Post as a source, feel free to use your favorite search engine. There are plenty of others.

But, back to the subject of memes and speed and time...

Guess what the following memes have in common, aside from being dedicated to Romney's "binder" comment....

Not obvious?

Well, get this!

Your ever vigilant PC collected every one of those up, within an hour of the end of the debates! In fact, several of them hit the social media BEFORE the debate was even over!

Think about that!

In less time that it would take The Blog to boot up his somewhat antique Mac G5 and open Photoshop, these graphics were already being circulated on Facebook and Twitter.

That's faster than Felix Baumgartner's plummet to the earth!

It makes The Curmudgeon dizzy just thinking about it!

And, if that wasn't enough...

Within 90 seconds after the debate's end, had been established and was filled with content within two hours.

The Blog's ears just popped!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16, 2012

 This afternoon, your Old Uncle PC, nursing a mild headache that was the last remnant of a violent, gut wrenching 24 hour bug that, about 15 hours earlier had The Blog begging for the sweet embrace of death, entered his local Ralph's supermarket, (that's Kroger, for those of you east of the Rockies) in search of chicken noodle soup and soda crackers to ease his abused digestive system back into the normal world, when he saw something that caused his slightly thumping head to ratchet up to searing pain.

It wasn't the fact that the store was festooned with Christmas decorations many in the same line of sight as the Halloween displays.

It wasn't that, in spite of the fact that that was, indeed, the case.

Observe two views from opposite ends of the same aisle.

                                                                                          Exhibit "A"

                                                                                          Exhibit "B"

Oh sure.

The Blog could do a whole righteous riff on the thing that has been called "Christmas Creep."

He could. But, he won't.

Why not?

Because it would be stale and cliché.

People have been exclaiming, "It's not even Halloween, yet!" for about 40 years, now.

The "Creep" actually began way back when Macy's department store launched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (née: Macy's Christmas Parade) way back on Thanksgiving Day of 1924.

On that date, Thanksgiving became the default beginning of the "Christmas Season."

I suppose that there were a few who were appalled way back then. But, that's the way it stayed for decades.

It was the late 1960's when the Christmas season began to creep.

And, by "creep" I mean, "leap and bound."

By about 1972, Christmas advertising and decorations in the malls were up in October, as "standard operating procedure." And, it has been that way ever since.

But that doesn't stop those suffering from "Old Fogyism" (a far more serious  affliction than "Curmudgeonism") to complain and exclaim about Christmas before Halloween every year as if it is something new.

So no.

The Blog has long been resigned to the philosophy, "If there are Christmas decorations, it must be October."

The thing that caught the PC's eye and made his head explode was much less esoteric and far more practical.

Take a good look at the above photo.

Those are cakes, cupcakes, cream puffs and caramel apples.

Perishable food products with a two day shelf life, tops.

Decorated for Christmas.

On October 16th.

Someone thought that this was a good idea.

Is your head starting to hurt, too? 

Happy to share! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Making Fun of a Retarded Child...

Many years ago, Stephen King wrote, "Calling 'Plan 9 From Outerspace' the worst movie ever made is like making fun of a retarded child." (He wrote that some years before the word retarded was replaced by more medically accurate terms, so we will cut him some slack, here.)

I think of that quotation every time I see some aggressively ignorant right-winger, like this one, avoid the opportunity to explain their position.

It's funny and easy to make fun of. But, ultimately, it is sad and makes anyone with a conscience feel bad for laughing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

GOP Extreamists Speak...

Okay, my Republican friends.

Are you Lincoln Republicans.

Or, maybe, Eisenhower or Goldwater Republicans.

Your party has been highjacked by extremist assholes.

Admit it. Because it's true.

Christian Fundamentalists.

Science deniers.

People who, just plain, hate the nigger in the Whitehouse. Because he is "the other."

Do you agree with these idiots?

'Fess up.

If you aren't with them, then you should be against them.

The Blog knows that there are decent conservatives out there.

But, if you won't strap on and stand up against the extremists who are claiming your party....

Then you are one of them. Or, you might as well be.

Monday, October 8, 2012

God Damn, I Love Irony!

Last night, a Republican FotB posted this irony deficient status on Facebook.

The comments that followed were... how should I put this?...  Amazing.

"Affirmative action Identity figure?"

Nope. No racism here!

"Stupid... race card always being played by the blue people."


The Blog would "unfriend" "Doctor, Professor  Bryan" in a New York minute if his posts and his acolyte's comments weren't so damned entertaining.

And yes, 29 "likes" for this ignorant bullshit makes The Blog want to draw a hot bath and slit his wrists.

But, I won't.

Because The Blog understands that for all of Bryan's Phd education, The Blog  is still smarter than he is.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


To all of my Republican friends (yes, I do have some) who assumed that my absence from The Book of Faces and the blog, last night, was an implicit admission that Romney won the debate...

Sorry to disappoint, but no.

(I was not here last night, because... I had to be up at 4:00 AM this morning and on my "A game" to work on a super special, extra hilarious, Halloween edition of "The Doctors.")

I will grant you that Romney won the debate. If walking back a year's worth of some policies, doubling down on other odious positions and lying louder and over top of the President and the moderator is what it means to win.

Then yes, Mittens is a "God from Mars with tiger blood." Yes... Mitt is...


IMO, Barack took the high road and didn't allow the debate to turn into a school yard rumble. His behavior was presidential and appropriate.

The Blog gets where the POTUS is coming from. The Blog is pretty sure that a strategy is in play.

The Blog expects that, during the next debate,  Barry will whip out his brass 'nads and wipe them all over Mittens' face, demonstrating, once and for all, the definition of "tea bagging."

But, because the "mainstream media" has skin in the game and, for profit reasons, needs the campaign to continue to be a "horse race," they will continue to be the little bitch pussies that they have become, while Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley rotate in their graves.

Stay tuned.

The debates aren't over, yet.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Blog's Response to Last Night's Post

Last night, The Blog posted a cartoon and commentary about the wealthy, elitist victims of the working class and the poor.

Not too surprisingly, one of his working class, small investor friends, who makes a majority of his income from capitol gains, (because he makes a majority of his income from a couple of rental properties,) and therefore believes himself to be equal to the billionaire 1%,  took offense.

He didn't post his objections here on the blog, (In spite of The Blog's repeated requests to do so. He commented on The Blog's Facebook page, instead.  But that's okay.)

The Blog responded on his Facebook page.


Granted, the cartoon uses a broad brush generalization. But, I think I made my point clear on who the cartoon was about. The problem is that the billionaires have successfully convinced so many people that there is no difference between them and small investors, like you. And worse, they wrote the laws that put you, the small investor, in the same boat with them, if tax rates change.

It is a hostage situation and small investors are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

As long as "the investor class" billionaires can keep the little guy tied to them, the little guy has to advocate for people that they have nothing in common with, except for the capital gains tax rate. Do you really believe that, if the tables were turned, the "1%" would advocate for you?

You see? You immediately identified yourself with the guy on the left, (and not without some good reason) when you are really more like the guy on the right.

We used to have a very steep progressive tax system that would have separated you from the Sheldon Adelsteins of the country by several brackets. That changed over the last decade. And that is a problem that has to be fixed.

Our mutual friend mentions Bernie Madoff.

One bit of Schadenfreude that resulted from the Madoff con was that he bilked a lot of people who were richer and greedier than he was. BUT, he also duped a lot of small investors by convincing them that they were up to running with the big dogs. They had stars (or maybe dollar signs) in their eyes. They should have known better, but with a little razzle-dazzle, he sold the con.

Not unlike the mortgage con that many of us (yes, I include myself here) bought into.

To sum up, I believe that small investors (and small businesses) should be given every possible break. I also believe that when they are lucky enough (or skilled enough) to move up to the big time, they should be ready to give back to the country that afforded them such opportunity.

The tax system needs to be fixed. But it needs to be fixed by people who are looking out for the working class. Not the people who are in the pockets of the 1%.

Oh. One more thing.

Romney says that he will balance the budget by closing loopholes. But, he says that we will have to elect him president before he will tell us which loopholes. As my boss likes to say, "Future behavior can be predicted by past actions." Republicans took away the deduction for credit card interest. Republicans took away the deduction for sales tax. Republicans taxed unemployment insurance benefits. Over the last few years, Republicans have stated that they want to eliminate the deduction for mortgage interest.

So, what "loophole" do you think Romney wants to close? That would not be good for me or you. Given the choice between raising the capital gains tax and eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, you know which side I fall on. (I don't know for sure, but that choice may be beneficial to you, too.)

And, one other deduction occurs to me.

You don't have to tell me about State taxes. I live in California. (Last year, my federal refund was a break even for what I owed on state taxes on April 15th.) Now, if eliminating the deduction for sales tax was okay with Republicans, do you think that, maybe, eliminating the state tax deduction might be fair game for Romney? Just a thought.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Risk Assessment

The Blog is still being lazy for a few days. Just like Romney's 47%.

For now, The Blog will let the brilliant political cartoonist Jeff Danziger do his job for him.

Thanks Jeff, for succinctly articulating what I have been trying to say for ages!

 We do not resent the wealthy for their success.

We resent them for their disconnect from the majority of Americans who actually work for a living. The ones who actually produce things, build things and provide services for their wages. Rather than those who make their money by playing around with money, on paper. Destroying companies and jobs for their personal profit. Then acting like the victims of those who actually build their riches for them.

We celebrate those who use their wealth to create jobs.

We thank Oprah Winfrey, Costco's Jim Sinegal, Starbucks' Howard Schultz and Amazon's Jeffrey Bezos, and all of the small business owners who take care of the working people who contribute to their riches by doing the actual heavy lifting.

But, we say "Fuck you!" to the vampire capitalists (like Mitt Romney and Bain Capital) and the hedge fund managers, Wall Street bankers and insurance company CEOs who put personal profit before the common good.

To those elitists we say, "Sleep well, while those of us who toil to make you wealthy lie awake at night, wondering how we are going to pay our basic bills."