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"Dangerously Funny" Update, But Also Back to Business: Watch TNT's "Men Of a Certain Age"
December 7, 2009  | By David Bianculli


I'm back from L.A., trying to get back to basics -- so today's blog will be a mixed bag, with some news about my Smothers Brothers book, but also pointing out some TV worth watching: Ray Romano's original, very entertaining new TNT series...

First, book news.

Publication ended with a nice troika of publicity: My deer-in-the-TV-lights appearance on CBS's The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on Friday, a 3-1/2 star review in People magazine, and a Fresh Air Weekend replay of my interview last Monday with Terry Gross. The combination kept the book in the Top 200 on Amazon, where it's been pretty much since publication day. Even I, the eternal pessimist, see that as good news.

The Ferguson appearance, by the way, you can see by linking HERE.

My Fresh Air interview with Terry can be heard by clicking HERE.

And last Tuesday's Good Morning America piece on the Smothers Brothers can be seen by clicking HERE.

Still to come, according to my publisher: reviews from Newsweek, The New York Times and others. Whether or not they're GOOD reviews, though, only time will tell...


Now, back to the TV Worth Watching business.

I really, really enjoy TNT's new Men of a Certain Age, starring Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula as friends with problems, unrealized dreams, and very dry senses of humor.

men-of-a-certain-age-andre-.jpgWhat won me over was the opossum. But it's not fair to explain it, just to try to persuade you to tune in and enjoy it. I've loved Braugher ever since Homicide: Life on the Street, and this is a role he clearly can do a lot with. He, Bakula and Romano all are showing different sides of their talent here -- and what we're seeing is impressive, and very likable.

TNT, it's clear from even just the pilot, has another solid hit on its hands. And cable has another intelligent show that the broadcast networks could have done, but didn't.




Phillip R. Crabb said:

Glad you're back Dave...the book just arrived from Amazon. Was going to wait for Christmas but, well, that didn't last long. Good to hear the opening reviews are strong. I'm sure it will be a great success.

On the TV front, I'm late this year in my annual remembrance of the great Christmas Specials "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".

I knew the season was off to a bad start when WPIX (here in NY) broke what had to have been a 40-year tradition and did NOT show "The March of the Wooden Soldiers" on Thanksgiving morning. Some football highlights were on in its place, of all things. I mean, who's in charge over there (WPIX)? Was somebody put in charge who didn't have a clue?

Christmas is the season where many of us reminisce about simpler and happier times as kids, who could count on these shows at the appointed time. Traditions that tie you back and provide you 'foundation' for the present.

As you once mentioned, even though they are readily available on DVD, shows like Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph, and MOTWS are must-see as a family viewing.

Now, as Diane noted, "Charlie Brown Christmas" was pre-empted by the President (LBJ would have NEVER done that), and Rudolph was put up against the Rockefeller Tree Lighting...another local (NY) tradition that for many is a must-see that is worthy of more than the back-and-forth-between-commercials viewing.

I mean, who is doing the scheduling..? Who is putting ounce-one of thought into what has proved themselves still to be television forces some 40-years (boy, when did we get old..) later..?

Oh, the humanity.

Frankly, at this time of year, someone should be driving this that knows of the history..and is not blind to the loyal following that has passed these traditions to new generations.

Frankly, this should be the simple stuff.

Sorry for the (annual) rant, congratulations on the book...look forward to the discoveries therein.

Phillip R. Crabb
Franklin (Sussex County), NJ

[It was a well-deserved, and well-written rant. Thanks. -- David B.]

Comment posted on December 7, 2009 4:10 PM

Angela said:

Phillip. Well said! And then there are people like me, who somehow missed out on these traditions growing up and need people like you and the writers here to show the way.
I've never even seen March of The Wooden Soldiers!
Maybe you could post this "rant" to your local paper, and to your local TV station. I know AMC said that they *really* need viewers to write in about what we want to see. (Can you tell I'm an idealist?)

David, Yea! I finally get to see your live interview! (I screwed up my recording). I will try to give you an unbiased appraisal of it. Or die trying.

BTW, I listened to your Fresh Air interview and learned a lot. I didn't know their story. They paved the way which is great. But like you said, it would have been really cool had they been able to make a come back. The way it turned out, is sad....

Comment posted on December 7, 2009 8:02 PM

Eileen said:

Welcome back & congratulations. No one deserves the accolades more, as the time & talent you've spent is overwhelming.

I couldn't agree with Phillip more. March of the Wooden Soldiers was a "must see" in my house on Thanksgiving. It seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird.

But, Phillip, take heart. AMC usually has a non-stop run of "A Christmas Story", and "It's a Wonderful Life" should be on almost every channel within the next two weeks.

Speaking of WPIX, they used to have an annual "Yule Log" which actually did nothing but throw off a beautiful glow while Christmas music played in the background. In my house, we always tuned to this on Christmas morning, and kept it going all day. There were kids running around, neighbors in and out all day, but this beautiful backdrop was there emitting a sense of calm and holiday beauty.

Some idiot decided to do away with that, and it was amazing to me the public outcry. Well, it's back. So, Phillip, don't give up. You never know when someone at a tv network is actually going to "grow a heart".

Comment posted on December 8, 2009 10:38 AM

Greg Kibitz said:

Just watched your Fergusen segement. I thought it was great. Yea, the Leno dig was a bit of a faux pas but I for one could not agree more (other than I quite liked Leno @ 11:30). If only you had more carefully said you didn't like Leno now at 10pm and the new deskless format, that he was far better behind the desk and at 11:30. But so it goes. I'm sure I would have trashed a dozen shows if I had been asked.

Anyway, just glad the video is finally up on YouTube because I've been looking for days on the CBS site and they have yet to post Friday's show.

FYI: You gotta remember to always plug the web site, especially when you have a very rare national TV audience. But I bet you are kicking yourself in the arse for that already.

[Actually, I know Craig hates plugs, so I avoided them. As much as my brain could focus on anything, that is... -- David B.]

Comment posted on December 8, 2009 1:18 PM

Patrick said:

The above message from "Eileen" is wrong on two fronts. TBS, not AMC, runs the "24 Hours of 'A Christmas Story'" marathon. More importantly, "It's A Wonderful Life" is now covered by copyright (how did that happen?) and will be run exclusively by NBC twice - Saturday December 12, and Thursday December 24, both days at 8 p.m.
Billy Ingram's great website "TV Party" has a page on the "Yule Log" and its history. Here's the URL: http://www.tvparty.com/xmaslog.html
[And, of course, the best way to find any holiday special is on Diane Werts' ever-expanding viewer guide. Check her blog! -- David B.]

Comment posted on December 8, 2009 3:53 PM

Davis W said:

I guess you aren't that familiar with Dinner for Five with Jon Favreau? Kevin James told a story about Ray Romano running over a squirrel over and over for humanity's sake.
Check it out if you have a chance. Sorry I don't know what season it is from.
Look forward to reading your book. My bother and I sneaked our parent's version of Live at the Purple Onion and I believe that I still have the whole album memorized.
I am 46 and read your blog everyday.
[Thanks. And I watched Dinner for Five, but didn't see that episode. I'll dig it out! -- David B.]

Comment posted on December 8, 2009 10:22 PM

Sally W. said:

I enjoyed seeing Charlie Brown's Christmas special on this Tuesday - it is a terrific tradition. But, I really wouldn't hold the delay against the President all that; he was only doing his job (not an easy one) and thankfully ABC re-scheduled (ABC knew full well that they could not avoid airing Charlie Brown). On the other hand, I remember that, when I was growing up (back in the not-that-far 1980's), Charlie Brown was aired on CBS, so seeing him and his friends on ABC is still strange for me.

Maybe it is just me, but I was bothered by another change to tradition: for awhile the local NBC in NYC used to have the original "Miracle on 34th Street" after the Thanksgiving Parade, and then the Westminster dog show. But, this year, they had the dog show and then some other movie entirely. Personally, I loved the original "Miracle on 34th Street" as nice traditional segue from Thanksgiving to Christmas and was a little disappointed with the local NBC for the change.

I too appreciate the local WPIX restoring the Yule Log to tv appearances and also - as a 21st Century twist - putting it on the web. Traditions are sometimes where we can find them these days!
[Dear Sally: To be clear, I wasn't complaining about the delay -- just ABC rescheduling the Peanuts schedule in a 30-minute time slot. -- David B.]

Comment posted on December 9, 2009 1:00 AM

Eileen said:

Thanks for clarifying; I should have known TBS as I watch "A Christmas Story" every year.

As far as NBC & "It's a Wonderful Life", this must be the only good thing NBC has done all year. So let's be thankful for that, at least.

I enjoyed the "Yule Log" site; it's amazing how many people hold this dear as a real, yearly holiday tradition. I'm glad it's back, and getting great ratings.

Comment posted on December 9, 2009 8:49 AM
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