Archive for Television

Before Lauren Alaina: Hear All Three Versions Of ‘Like My Mother Does’

Kristy Lee Cook, Jesse Lee, Lauren Alaina, Like My Mother Does

Kristy Lee Cook (left), Jesse Lee (center) and Lauren Alaina (right)

Third time’s a charm for the song “Like My Mother Does.”

For anyone who watched Season 10 of American Idol, the loving tribute to “mom” seems tailor-made for runner-up Lauren Alaina.

But “Like My Mother Does” has a history. Lauren’s not even the first Idol singer to record it! That would be Season 7’s Kristy Lee Cook, who sang it on her 2008 post-Idol album Why Wait. Country singer Jesse Lee released her version last year (2010).

Listen to all three versions and read the rest of this post HERE!

Greg Valentine
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Is SNL Suffering From ‘No-mentum’?

“On DVR From New York, It’s Tuesday Morning!”

Kinda sums up my ambivalence about Saturday Night Live this season. I just got around to watching last weekend’s show with Blake Lively and Rihanna.

No doubt that SNL has lost some momentum lately. That’s too bad, because they’re coming off a pretty strong season, which had the election, and many opportunities to send-up Obama, McCain, and most notably, Tina Fey‘s hilarious and spot-on Sarah Palin.

Without the political excitement, SNL‘s letdown can be compared to, well, the country. We’re all watching and waiting for things to get better.

Of course, the annual complaint that SNL “isn’t as good as it used to be” started season two. If the 35-year old show truly deteriorated every season, by now the quality would have to be lower than the temperature of liquid hydrogen.

Get a tad better it did this week. Baby steps. They lampooned the White House Party-Crashers, and raised a few eyebrows and controversy with the Tiger Woods getting walloped by his wife sketch. Maybe it’s my love for music. But the “Shy Ronnie” digital short with Rihanna and Andy Samberg had me rollin’.

Even through this dry spell, Seth Meyers continues to deliver on Weekend Update. Great writing and performance that could only be improved by the return of his partner Amy Poeller, who did a Tina Fey to prime time. Here’s a Seth gem from Saturday: “A new study has found that lineman on college football teams are often obese. The study was conducted by the University of My Eyeballs!”

Of course, that’s the same university that will be watching for signs of improvement on SNL.

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Who Is The New King Of Late Night TV?

leno_letterman_obrienThere are a lot of people talking about NBC’s “big mistake,” the decision to replace Jay Leno with Conan O’Brien on the Tonight Show. Well, memories are short. Or maybe simply short on “free space,” like your camera’s memory card. It’s 1993-1995 all over again.

Yes, initial ratings have David Letterman regaining the lead in the battle of NBC vs. CBS at 11:35. But if there’s one lesson from the set of circumstances that led to the Tonight Show/Late Show face-off (Johnny Carson’s retirement in 1992, Letterman’s bolting to CBS a year later), it’s to not jump to any conclusions about late night supremacy during the first couple years of the new regime.

Letterman trounced Leno in the ratings for nearly two years when they first went head-to-head. So much so that a book was written (The Late Shift by Bill Carter) in which Letterman was triumphantly declared the “King of Late Night,” and NBC execs ridiculed as fools for letting him get away. This was undoubtedly a redemptive time for Letterman, his fans (like myself) who thought NBC gave him the shaft, and for Carson, who’s personal choice, not that NBC cared, for his own replacement was Letterman.

But as we now know, the book was written to soon to reach the conclusion it did. Leno tweaked his show, building a new set that bought him mere feet away from the audience and making his monologue longer, changes that seem obvious now that played to his strengths as a stand up comedian.

Then there was the night Hugh Grant came on. Grant had been recently busted for soliciticiting a prostitute. Even so, he kept a previously scheduled appearance with Jay, who’s first question was famously, “What the hell were you thinking?” Leno beat Letterman in the ratings that night. And never looked back, besting Letterman’s numbers every year after.

So who will prevail? Who will be the new King of Late Night? Hard to say, and it’s probably the wrong question to ask. About ten million people tune into The Tonight Show and The Late Show combined on any given night. But TV viewership across all time-slots continues to trend downward. The competition for eye balls now includes the Internet, video games, and cable TV. Being “King” over the entire nation, a la Carson, is getting harder and harder to pull off. Your best hope is to be “King” of your province.

Like in 1993, there’s factors we can’t see right now. How long before Letterman decides to retire? How soon before Conan warms up to his new time slot? Or middle America to him? Traditionally, the 11:35 time slot has hinged on the monologue. It’s a place America has gone to get jokes about current events. Monologue superiority alone might’ve been the reason Leno beat Letterman. The monologue edge (for the time being) goes to Letterman. That’s never been O’Brien’s strength. But NBC is banking that times are changing. That comedy will prevail. That’s Conan’s terrain. His skits, bits and characters are light years ahead of Letterman, who did this sort of thing much better as a younger man. It’s a weapon in Letterman’s comedic arsenal that he seems to have forgetten he ever had, or refuses to use anymore.

Audience fragmentation is about to get more so with the launch of the Jay Leno Show on September 15. And if it works, if a viable “late night” style show airs at 10 pm, will Jay’s viewers necessarily feel inclined to come back at 11:35 for Dave or Conan? Not only is the pie getting smaller, but there’s more people sitting at the table than ever. The slices are smaller, and that’s that.

A couple years ago, I would’ve said there’s no way a 10 pm comedy/talk show would work. But in today’s changing media terrain, I think it has a legitimate shot. We already know Leno’s legendary work-ethic, and the goodwill with audiences he’s amassed over the last 17 years. And Jay will certainly have the superior monologue going for him.

Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit I was one of the ones who basically rooted against him when he took over the Tonight Show. But I say don’t count Leno out. People did that to him once. We were wrong.

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Borat vs. Brüno: Ali Da Movies Of Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen, Sasha, Borat, Bruno, Ali GAfter seeing Brüno, me figured it was a good time to re-watch the two other movies spawned by Da Ali G Show, Sacha Baron Cohen’s cult TV classic. On Da Ali G Show, Baron Cohen established three distinct and hilarious (although not equally) characters, each of which has become the basis for a full-length film: Ali G, a wannabe white rapper who puts the ill in ill-informed; Borat Sagdiyev, a clueless Kazakhstani television reporter; and Brüno, a gay, self-absorbed fashionista.

On Da Ali G Show, the road to laughs was simple. They put each of Baron Cohen’s characters into interview situations with real people, who definitely aren’t in on the joke. Comedy ensues as Baron Cohen’s characters ask outrageous questions and violate social taboos, while getting the interviewees to reveal their own ignorance and predjudices. The results have been at times brilliant, crude, and often fearless. And understandably, not everyone’s cup of tea.

Baron Cohen deserves a lot of credit for melting into each character (when he’s Brüno, you forget he’s Borat, and vice versa) and his ability to stay in character and milk the comedy from whatever outrageous situation he’s created. By the way, if you think that’s easy, try and watch without saying (or thinking), “Oh my God, I can’t believe they’re doing this!” They are. And I suspect that even after the cameras are off, Baron Cohen still doesn’t let those people in on the joke.

One thing you have to remember if you want to try and rank Sacha Baron Cohen’s Ali G  movies is the effect they had on you the first time you saw them. That “Oh My God” factor has to be accounted for. It’s a different experience once you know what’s coming. So here we go, it’s the Sacha Baron Cohen countdown:

3 – Ali G Indahouse (2002) – This was the first of Da Ali G Show characters to be made into a feature. It went straight to DVD, and deservably so. On this one, they made a major swerve from their formula. It’s an entirely scripted story, as opposed to the unscripted tactics of the TV show (and the basis for the two other films). So what you get is one of those “vehicles” where they try and shoehorn an established character into an awkward movie. In that respect, it might as well be Weird Al Yankovic in UHF, or Mr. T in DC Cab. It makes no difference that Baron Cohen co-wrote the script. The movie simply tries too hard. Ali G was always the least interesting character from the original show. D

2 – Brüno (2009) – It was the number one movie at the box office this last weekend, and deserveably so. Crude, vulgar, uncomfortable (a ri-dong-ulous amount of full-frontal male nudity), and funny! Ten times more outrageous than Borat. I’m not surprised by that. In a way, you have to top yourself if you’re Baron Cohen. Even with the thinnest of plots (Brüno searches for a way to become “uber-famous”), this movie finishes stronger than Borat. My original fear was that I’d only like this movie about 60% as much as Borat. I’m not sure where I got my formula for that. But I liked this one a lot–and more and more as I think back on it. B

1 – Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) – Still my favorite Baron Cohen movie. I watched it for the umpteenth time yesterday. Yes, it’s been surpassed by Brüno on the raunchiness. But I still laughed my ass off watching two grown men–one of them very fat–wrestle each other naked, then chase each other nude through a hotel and into a packed convention ballroom. It’s even funnier because this stuff really happened. Everyone involved signs release forms ahead of time without knowing what to expect once filming begins. It’s said that the police were called no less than 91 times during the making of Borat. The thing Borat has over Brüno is heart. You root for this guy. He’s likeable. Which is saying something of a character who’s both misogynistic and anti-Semitic. A

Finally, if you enjoy any of the above, check out Da Ali G Show, which aired on HBO in the U.S. Both seasons are available on DVD.

Greg Valentine
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