The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Alan Spencer (‘Bullet in the Face’)

I’ve said before – if not in this column, then certainly elsewhere on the ‘net – how a great deal of my long-term tastes were established during my teen years in the ’80s, and one of the shows that was must-see TV for 16-year-old me was the ABC sitcom Sledge Hammer!, created by Alan Spencer. As a result, my eyebrows shot skyward when I first learned about the IFC series Bullet in the Face, since the press release prominently featured Spencer’s previous credits. Too bad the network’s programming and promotional departments weren’t quite as enthused as I was: the show’s six-episode season was noticed by precious few, resulting in a quick departure from the airwaves.

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Thank goodness for Shout Factory, then, a company who knows a future cult classic when they see one: they released Bullet in the Face on DVD a few weeks back – sorry, I was at the TCA tour at the time, or I would’ve been able to promote it more heavily right as it hit the shelves – and were kind enough to set me up with an interview with the aforementioned Mr. Spencer.

After discussing his most recent endeavor in considerable detail, you will be unsurprised to learn that I took a bit of time to geek out as well, enjoying the opportunity to learn more about his friendships with Marty Feldman, Andy Kaufman, and Anthony Perkins, and to find out if we’re likely to ever see Sledge Hammer! return.

Bullz-Eye: How did Bullet in the Face originally come about? It seems to owe at least a spiritual debt to Sledge Hammer!, but from what I can tell, it appears that the project existed in some form – if only as a vague concept – before you ever came aboard.

Alan Spencer: Well, first of all, there’s nothing spiritual about Sledge Hammer! [Laughs.] Basically, the IFC network… An executive I knew at the IFC network said they had a concept in development that wasn’t working. It was called Dieter Horn in Night Port, and if you Google it or use any search engine, I think you can see information about it. They had made a two-minute trailer – kind of a sizzle reel, as people are wont to do – and a Canadian production company was behind it. The trailer shows a spoof of ‘80s tropes about a German cop called Dieter Horn, who was apparently a bad guy who became a cop, and it’s heavily rooted in the ‘80s. It’s never explained why it was German, by the way. I couldn’t figure that out. But it’s a spoof of a Miami Vice sort of city, and it was…  A lot of people are doing ‘80s parodies – MacGruber, and there’s a miniseries now (The Spoils of Babylon) – and it was an ‘80s spoof, and…that didn’t interest me. And I guess they developed scripts for it and it didn’t work, so it was a piece of… The term is “broken development.”

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Since I’m one of the few people that had done and sustained a successful half-hour action comedy, they came to me and asked if I’d be willing to supervise the writers and retool this. It was basically… I was given, like, carte blanche for whatever I could come up with to fix this. So, anyway, I took the one kernel, one idea from it, and threw everything else out. And the only kernel from it was the German, formerly a bad guy, turning into a cop. So that was it. I threw everything out, re-titled it, and came up with all new characters, an all new milieu, and the kind of a graphic-novel city I set it in.

I also threw out the ‘80s baby with the ‘80s bathwater, because a lot of people can’t reference the ‘80s. I lived through the ‘80s already, and that didn’t interest me to go through it again. I don’t have that hair anymore, I don’t wear the pastels, I wear socks… [Laughs.] So I didn’t want to deal with that at all. I wanted something new and fresh. Also, since I had some creative freedom, I really wanted to go for it, so they were kind of thrilled when I decided to write it myself. I just said, “Let me write it,” as opposed to going through the machinations that we would’ve to find some writers. So they were surprised and happy, but I think that was their agenda all along, to have me write it myself.

So I indulged myself. I didn’t imagine this getting made, so I wrote something very, very extreme, and going further than the restraints that I was used to working on in network television. And then, lo and behold, I was surprised. I got a call from the network saying, “We’re not going to make a pilot for this.” I said, “Oh, all right.” They said, “We’re going to go straight to series!” So it was a six-episode order with the contingency that I write them all. I knew something was up before I got that call, because on Facebook all of a sudden I was being getting friended by IFC executives. [Laughs.] That was kind of the hint that something was in the works. That’s how social media works now, right? If social media was existing during World War II, and if all my Japanese friends were unfriending me, I think I would’ve anticipated Pearl Harbor. That’s sort of how it works.

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Duck hunting with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Diet Dew

It’s time for Super Bowl commercials, and here’s the new one from Mountain Dew featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr.

  

First Drive: 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible

Last summer I had the opportunity to drive the all-new 2014 Corvette Stingray on the backs roads of Monterey. It was a thrilling experience and you can read about my impressions of this amazing sports car here. The Corvette team more than met the challenge of creating the seventh-generation Corvette that would also be worthy of reviving the Stingray name. The new design is striking and the performance surpasses the already high standards achieved by the Corvette team.

With the removable hard top, any new Corvette owner can enjoy the experience of driving this great vehicle while enjoying the fresh air and beauty of the surrounding scenery. But the Corvette convertible makes that experience even more convenient of course, and I recently got to experience the thrill of driving this beast of a sports car with the top down in the mountains surrounding Palm Springs when we were invited to test drive the new convertible.

All convertibles are fun on a nice day, but the experience in the new Corvette Stingray is quite different when you consider the 455 horsepower engine with 460 lb.-ft. of torque. The Z51-equipped models are able to accelerate from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, run the quarter-mile in 12 seconds at 119 mph, achieve 1.03g in cornering grip and stop from 60 mph in 107 feet. Factor in the incredible handling and the various drive modes, having the top down with this vehicle gives you quite an experience as you navigate the roads. I had a beautiful day in the area near Palm Springs and it was a challenge to keep my eyes on the road with the stunning scenery surrounding me.

The Corvette Stingray convertible features an all-new, fully electronic top that can be lowered remotely using the key fob. With the all-new folding mechanism the top can be lowered in just 21 seconds. For even more convenience, the top can also be opened or closed as you’re driving at speeds of up to 30 mph. I tested it at low speeds and it worked great. The Corvette is also pretty quiet when the top is up. The designers focused on luxury and comfort with this new model, and the thick fabric top, along with sound-absorbing padding and a glass rear window, contributes to a quiet cabin and premium appearance.

As you can see from the photos, this beautiful vehicle looks fantastic as a convertible with the top down. The profile view looks great along with views from all other angles. I also liked the Stingray’s signature “waterfall” design which brings the car’s exterior color into the interior in the valley between the seats.

The coupe and convertible share identical chassis tuning and performance technologies along with nearly-identical curb weights, as the only structural changes for the convertible model are limited to accommodations for the folding top and repositioned safety belt mounts. With the all-new aluminum frame structure, no structural reinforcements were needed in the convertible. You’ll sacrifice some cargo space in order the have the convenience of the convertible, and it costs $5,000 more than the coupe.
“An important goal for the team was to create a more intimate and connected driving experience for the new Corvette Stingray,” said Mike Bailey, chassis vehicle system engineer. “Because they share common chassis tuning, power-to-weight ratios and structural rigidity, the coupe and convertible feel almost identical behind the wheel.”

As I said when I reviewed the coupe, the Corvette team hit a home run with this new Stingray, and now with the convertible buyers have another great option to choose from along with the Z51 performance package. And it doesn’t end there. The Corvette team just unveiled the new 2015 Corvette ZO6 for those enthusiasts who want to take their track experiences to an even higher level. But for most buyers, the base Corvette or the Z51 will offer a driving experience that will far exceed their expectations.

  

Picture of the Day: Roxana in a yellow bikini

Sexy Southern blonde Roxana looks hot in a yellow bikini as she enjoys the weather in The Bahamas.

Roxana in a yellow bikini

  

Movie Review: “Labor Day”

Starring
Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg, Tobey Maguire
Director
Jason Reitman

For a moment, it seemed like Jason Reitman could do no wrong, following up his excellent directorial debut, “Thank You for Smoking,” with one great movie after the next, and earning a quartet of Oscar nominations in the process. But even the best filmmakers are capable of making bad movies, and though “Labor Day” isn’t a complete failure, it’s the director’s weakest film by a country mile. Based on the 2009 novel by Joyce Maynard, the movie represents a major departure for Reitman, who’s made a name for himself telling stories with a dark comedic bite. That trademark humor isn’t present in “Labor Day,” instead replaced by the kind of gooey sentimentalism that you’d be more likely to find in a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, which leads me to wonder what Reitman was even thinking.

Set in a quaint New England town during Labor Day weekend in 1987, the film stars Kate Winslet as Adele, a shut-in single mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown. During a rare excursion outside to take her teenage son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) clothes shopping for the new school year, they’re approached by a wounded stranger named Frank (Josh Brolin), who takes Adele and Henry hostage and holes up in their rundown house with the intention of making a run for it at nightfall. A convicted murderer who escaped from the hospital while recovering from an emergency appendectomy, Frank insists that there’s more to the story, and as they spend more time with the supposedly dangerous fugitive, he turns out to be a pretty nice guy. So when Frank ends up staying the next day to do some repairs around the house, Adele and Henry don’t complain, and before long, he’s accepted as a part of the family, serving as a father figure to Henry and passionate lover to the fragile Adele.

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