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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Terry Bradshaw talks Pepsi Halftime, the Super Bowl and the “Immaculate Reception”

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40 years ago this month, fifth-year NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw came of age. The former #1 overall draft pick in 1970 had struggled in his first five regular seasons, averaging just 1,504 passing yards per season, while throwing 48 touchdowns and 81 interceptions.

But in the 1974 playoffs, something clicked. In wins over the Buffalo Bills, the Oakland Raiders, and finally, in the Super Bowl IX against the Minnesota Vikings, Bradshaw played the best football of his career, steadying himself long enough to let a powerful running game and legendary “Steel Curtain” defense dictate the tempo of games and slowly bleed out opponents.

In 1975, Bradshaw set a career high in passing yards, posted a 2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio, was named to the Pro Bowl and guided the Steelers to a victory in Super Bowl X. Over the next four years, the Steelers won two more Super Bowls (XIII and XIV) because of Bradshaw and a ferocious defense, not in spite of him.

The evolution of Bradshaw as a quarterback can be neatly surmised via a casual glance at his statistics in each of the four Super Bowls which he participated in and won. From throwing just 14 passes for 96 yards and one touchdown in his first Super Bowl, to throwing 21 for 309 and two touchdowns and winning the MVP Award in his fourth, Bradshaw rebuilt himself and completely changed the trajectory of his career.

After a brutal first five years as a professional quarterback, Bradshaw was named NFL MVP in 1978 and was the first quarterback to win three, and then four Super Bowls, collecting two Super Bowl MVP awards in the process on his way to Canton, Ohio and a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame.

We spoke to Terry about his progression as a quarterback, the Super Bowl and the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Chatting with Lara Pulver about ‘Fleming,’ ‘Da Vinci’s Demons,’ and more

Lara Pulver made her first TV appearance in 2009, but she’s quickly racked up a list of credits that’d impress just about any TV viewer, including roles on Robin Hood, True Blood, MI-5, Sherlock, Skins, and Da Vinci’s Demons. In addition to popping up briefly in the current run of Sherlock and returning to Da Vinci’s Demons for its upcoming sophomore season, Pulver can also be found in BBC America’s new limited-series event, Fleming, playing Ann Charteris, the woman who – 62-year-old spoiler alert! – eventually went on to be Mrs. Ian Fleming. Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to chat with Pulver at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, and we asked her about all of the aforementioned small-screen roles while also touching on her film work with Idris Elba, Michael Sheen, and Tom Cruise.

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Bullz-Eye: So how much did you know about Ian Fleming’s life before you signed on to this project?

Lara Pulver: As a Brit, I knew his novels, I knew he was behind the Bond franchise, but I knew nothing about the man.

BE: How surprised were you to learn about him?

LP: I found him fascinating. Like, from a psychoanalytic point of view. His relationship with his mom, the depressive arrogance, his ego when it came to women, his failure as a man when it came to finding an occupation, finding his niche in life… And yet he never really lived long enough to find out the true success of what we now celebrate as 50 years of Bond as a franchise. So I found it fascinating.

BE: Were you a Bond fan going in?

LP: It’s definitely in British arts and culture history. It’s on TV at Christmas. There’s always a Bond movie. And it’s quite fascinating how they’ve been able to reinvent to make it so current 50 years on.

BE: Were you familiar enough with the franchise to recognize the bits and pieces of it that turned up in his real life?

LP: Yeah, and it’s also so interesting, having done Fleming, to see a Bond movie now. That’s even more interesting.

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A chat with Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman, the NFL’s first deaf offensive player

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One of the most famous episodes of the legendary sitcom “Seinfeld” was called “The Lip Reader.” In it, George borrows Jerry’s deaf girlfriend at a party to spy from across the room and lip-read his former girlfriend’s interactions with a presumed prospective beau. As with any typical Costanza situation, the plan ended in failure. But for Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman and partner Duracell, the 2013 NFL season has been anything but.

Duracell hopes to inspire people, especially children, to trust the power within to achieve their dreams. And Coleman is a living example. Check out this fantastic video from Duracell detailing his road to the NFL:

Coleman, who is legally deaf  and has mastered the art of lip reading, entered the preseason as an undrafted running back a year removed from UCLA and was just hoping to be included on the Seahawks’ 53-man roster. After contributing on special teams and offensively (including a 6-yard TD catch) in the preseason, the Seahawks kept Coleman and converted him to fullback.

Coleman is the first deaf athlete to play offense in the NFL, which inspired Duracell to feature and promote his story of success.

“Duracell saw that I had an inspiring story to tell and they want to inspire people, especially children, to achieve the dreams they have like I did,” Coleman said. “That’s how we linked up based on the similarities.”

The 6-foot, 233-pound former Bruin scored his first career regular season touchdown on Monday Night Football in a 34-7 thrashing of the New Orleans Saints.

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Bullz-Eye interviews NBA legend Rick Barry on his career, Ektio shoes and what’s wrong with the NBA

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We recently had the chance to talk with NBA legend Rick Barry, and it was fantastic! After the interview, I went out and shot 1,000 free throws and made 999 of ‘em!

Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987, Barry won an ABA title in 1969, an NBA title in 1975, was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1966, and was named the All-Star Game MVP in 1967. He’s the only player to ever lead the NCAA, ABA and NBA in scoring for an individual season. Check out the ridiculous numbers he put up.

Your performance in the 1966-67 All-Star Game is one of the greatest single game performances ever. You dropped 38 points and led your West squad to a victory over an Eastern Conference team that featured Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell and was coached by Red Auerbach. And you did it when you were just 22 years old. What are your memories of that game?

It was a remarkable game. You look back and see how many players who played in that game were named to the 50 Greatest NBA Players team. In addition to who you mentioned, they had Jerry Lucas and Hal Greer as well. We had Nate Thurmond, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West; it was a remarkable array of talent. I got the MVP, but in all honesty, I’ve always thought the NBA All-Star Game should have a Most Outstanding Player (MOP) and a Most Valuable Player (MVP). In this case, I would’ve won MOP for a great offensive output, but the MVP was Nate Thurmond and how he helped negate that incredible front line of the Eastern All-Stars.

The other thing that is amazing is it may be the only NBA All-Star Game ever where a coach got thrown out! Red Auerbach actually got thrown out of the game! That would never happen now because competition has changed. When I go to the All-Star Game now, fans go to be entertained; it’s entertainment. There’s not super competition. As a purest, and someone who loves the game, I’m always hoping it’s going to be close in the fourth quarter because then they play really serious and pride will come out and they want to win. Otherwise, the stuff that they’re doing now isn’t true competition. For us, the winning team got a $2,000 dollar bonus; two grand to me was almost one-seventh of my salary! That’s a lot of money in those days. Now, it’s irrelevant. So our games were incredibly competitive.

What happened to the true sharpshooters; guys like you and Chris Mullin?

I think Chris was more of a shooter than I was. I was more of a scorer; I found ways to score. I got better as a shooter as my game progressed. There’s still some amazing shooters out there. Like Ray Allen. Guys like that are shooting 40% from beyond the arc and that’s an amazing shot; it truly is. The NBA three-point shot is from a long way out. What you’re not seeing today is guys playing and utilizing the mid-range game like we used to. Now, it’s either inside post-up dunk or three point shot. I think they’re missing the boat in that regard. It’s fun to watch a team do that, which is why I like to watch San Antonio. Gregg Popovich does such a great job coaching his team to play the way I always thought the game should be played. Tough defense, move the ball around, set screens, force the defense to make decisions.

How did all of your sons who played professional basketball become such great shooters? And did you ever think that one of your kids would have a Slam Dunk Champion trophy in their possession?

To be honest, I was hoping one of my boys would be good enough to play division I college basketball, or to even play basketball if they wanted to, to get a scholarship. I have five now, four in the NBA. To have three of them has never been done before and who knows what’s going to happen with my youngest son. At this stage, he’s probably more skilled than the other guys. As far as becoming great shooters, having the confidence to make the shot when you have to is the key. And repetition, repetition, repetition. That’s a matter of putting the time and effort into it. But you also have technique, a pattern that you do. Whatever your routine is, you do it every single time, like with free throws.

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