The Light from the TV Shows: TGS: 30 Great Shows (That Don’t Actually Exist)

With “30 Rock” departing the airwaves after a not-unrespectable seven seasons – a particularly incredible achievement when you consider what an incredibly off-the-wall, insider-y sort of sitcom it was throughout its run – it seemed only appropriate to offer up some sort of tribute to the show in this week’s column. Unfortunately, since everyone else seems to have swiped all of the good angles that are 100% show-specific (indeed, I actually wrote a piece on the 30 best “30 Rock” guest stars for the “Today” blog, The Clicker), I had to think a little bit outside the box, but since a key aspect of the series was its show within a show, “TGS with Tracy Jordan,” it seemed like a perfectly reasonable concept to spotlight 30 of TV’s great fictional TV series. Lord knows these aren’t all of them, of course. Hell, even limiting myself to a one-fake-TV-series-per-real-TV-series rule…with the only exception being “30 Rock,” which seemed only fair, given the reason for the list in the first place…there are still thousands of omissions, so feel free to offer up your personal favorites that didn’t make the cut, “Family Guy” fans. (There’ve been so many on that show, I didn’t even know where to start.)

1. TGS with Tracy Jordan (“30 Rock”)

For those who can remember back to the pilot of “30 Rock,” Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) was originally in charge of a not-terribly-great sketch comedy series called “The Girlie Show,” but when GE’s new Head of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming, Jack Donaghy made an executive decision to add the completely unpredictable Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) to the show, the comedian’s ego necessitated a change in the show’s title to feature his name more prominently. 136 episodes later, we’ve scarcely seen a single “TGS” sketch in its entirety, and what bits we have seen have rarely been funny (at least not intentionally), but the shenanigans surrounding the series have been consistently hysterical.

2. The Alan Brady Show (“The Dick Van Dyke Show”)

Dick Van Dyke has discussed on many occasions how many TV writers have come up to him over the years and told him that the biggest reasons they decided to break into the business in the first place was because Rob Petrie and his cronies on Alan Brady’s variety show made it look like one of the most entertaining occupations in the world. Strangely, he hasn’t spoken nearly as much about how many of those writers finished their comments by yelling, “Thanks for nothing, you big liar!” I’m betting it’s about 50/50.

By the way, although “The Alan Brady Show” wasn’t real, the folks at MeTV talked Carl Reiner into doing a promo for the addition of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to their line-up where he reprised the character. Funny stuff.

3. Invitation to Love (“Twin Peaks”)

If you’re not a David Lynch obsessive, you may not remember this soap opera, but those with keen eyes will recall that it turned up at least once in each of the first seven episodes of “Twin Peaks.” It’s also worth noting that “Invitation to Love” pointedly features identical-twin characters played by the same actress, which – in no way coincidentally – was more or less what Sheryl Lee did as Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson.

4. The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy (“Spongebob Squarepants”)

The best bit about this cartoon-with-a-cartoon was the fact that the “Spongebob” show runners reunited former “McHale’s Navy” co-stars Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway to prove the characters’ respective voices. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

5. The Terrence and Phillip Show (“South Park”)

Disproving a longstanding theory that Canadians can’t be funny while cementing the not-really-in-question suspicion that farts are always funny, it need only be said that Terrence and Phillip are a stone-cold gas. Sadly, this clip is from their movie, “Asses of Fire,” rather than their series, but it’s basically the same thing. Y’know, except filthier. Much, much filthier.

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Adrian Grenier discusses green living at 2012 Go Further with Ford event

Most Bullz-Eye readers will recognize Adrian Grenier as Vincent Chase from HBO’s “Entourage.” But there’s much more to him than that. Grenier has always been passionate about the environment and living a sustainable lifestyle, and eventually that passion led him to co-found a company dedicated to this purpose.

I recently attended Ford’s 2012 Go Further event will several hundred other bloggers, and Grenier was featured on a panel with his SHFT.com co-founder Peter Glatzer to discuss green lifestyle issues along with other experts and activists. Frankly I came away very impressed. So many activists in this area can become very preachy about the subject, and that’s particularly true with celebrities. But Grenier is much more interested in inspiring people to make their lives more sustainable, and that’s the mission of SHFT.com according to their website:

SHFT is a multi-media platform founded by film producer Peter Glatzer and actor-filmmaker Adrian Grenier. Our mission is to convey a more sustainable approach to the way we live through video, design, art and culture.

The website covers a wide variety of topics, including architecture, art, business, conservation, design, energy, fashion, food and home & garden. They’re aiming for an audience looking for innovative ways to change the way they live their lives in order to better take care of our planet.

One effort is called “The Big SHFT” which involves a partnership with Ford Motor Company.

The night before, we heard from Bill Ford who recounted his own commitment to these issues and he candidly discussed how the powers that be at Ford looked at him like he was an alien when he brought up these issues years ago. But he wouldn’t give up, and now Ford has become a leader in this area.

Among the presentations at the Go Further event involved some of the innovations coming out of Ford’s research labs that are changing the materials that go into their cars. One example is Ford’s use of soybean-based foam in seat cushions, backs and head restraints that saves about 5 million pounds of petroleum annually. The next step according to the researchers is making these foams biodegradable.

Ford is also focusing on recycled materials like plastic bottles, denim and old tires. They also working on other initiatives, like retired US currency of all things. With its strong, tensile characteristics, they are looking into shredding these old greenbacks for use in the manufacture of plastic parts like trays and bins. Currently retired currency is simply burned.

The possibilities are endless, as long as we put our minds to it. Ford is one of the many companies pushing for these solutions, and SHFT.com wants to inspire more companies and individuals to look for more innovations. You don’t have to be a multi-national corporation to make a difference.

Check out the SHFT.com website for more cool content in this area. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter. For some the green issue has become very political and polarizing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. All of us can learn more about simple changes we can make for a more sustainable lifestyle, and this bottom-up approach can have a huge impact.

  

5 Questions with Génesis Rodríguez of “Casa de mi Padre”

Be sure to check out our interview with the “Casa de mi Padre” cast and crew, including Will Farrell, Diego Luna, Génesis Rodríguez, Nick Offerman, and writer Andrew Steele!

If you’re a regular viewer of Telemundo telenovelas such as “Prisionera,” “Dame Chocolate” and “Doña Bárbara,” it’s a bit odd you’re reading an online men’s magazine. If you have watched them, however, odds are you are already a fan of the beautiful young woman whose full name is Génesis Rodríguez Pérez. A second generation Latin American TV star — her father is Venezuelan legend José Luis Rodríguez, aka “el Puma” — Ms. Rodríguez (“La Pumita”) is Miami born and bred. She is, to say the least, equally loquacious in both Spanish and English and, in the nicest possible way, just a bit wacky in her approach to chatting up the press. So much so, in fact, we expect her to conquer Hollywood shortly.

A seasoned veteran with plenty of onscreen gravitas at the shockingly young age of 24, she makes a entirely credible romantically conflicted leading lady opposite budding Latin American leading man Will Ferrell (pronounced “Wheel Fer-all”) in the over-the-top Spanish language Mexploitation/telenovela spoof, “Casa de mi Padre.” “Casa” however, is not Ms. Rodríguez’s only recent brush with the big time. After a relatively small part as one of Turtle’s bevy of attractive drivers on “Entourage,” she has also appeared in her first really big American movie as Jamie Bell’s girlfriend in the hit thriller, “Man On a Ledge.” The high profile production also gave her a scene with thespian living legend Ed Harris (see a photo from the film below, before question #4). Her next gig is “Hours,” an intense drama set during Hurricane Katrina and co-starring Paul Walker.

Clearly, Génesis Rodríguez is more than holding her own in the world of Yanqui entertainment. She certainly gave much better than she got when it was time for us to ask her five questions.

1. Who’s more intimidating, Ed Harris or Will Ferrell?

Ed Harris, because Will Ferrell’s a teddy bear. Will Ferrell’s the sweetest individual you could ever come across. Ed Harris is very method, so if he plays a villain, good God. You’re going to be scared. You’re going to be very scared.

2. You obviously did just fine in the movie, but since this was your first big, funny movie with some pretty major comedy talent, are we going to see your cracking up all over the “Casa de mi Padre” Blu-ray?

I really tried to keep it together. There were moments. I don’t take myself very seriously, as you can see; I’m kind of a goofball. I kind of get nervous when people are extremely intense. So I tend to crack. I just start laughing for no reason. If someone has an accidental fall or something, and they’re hurt, I can’t help it. It just happens out of nervousness. So, I really had to learn how to keep it together. I didn’t want to be that jerk that Will hired that’s a newbie that can’t hang around the comedy people.

I had to say different, random things in my head, like, “This isn’t funny, Génesis, why don’t you just come on?” “He’s not funny.” “This is not funny, come on.” I would think about my grandmother and what I was going to eat later and just random things to keep my mind occupied — as well as thinking about my acting. It’s a very complicated thing to do!

3. Since this is for an online men’s magazine, I am forced to ask you about “Entourage.” What was the best thing and what was the worst thing about your stint there?

The best thing was just the people who do “Entourage.” They’re so very respectful. They’re a very nice group of guys to hang out with on set.

The worst thing about it is that I was hired to be a driver and I didn’t know how to drive. I had to drive the car and I didn’t know how to do that. They said, “Hey, Gen, this is a $500,000 car. Are you okay with this?”

And I said, “No, see, I don’t know how to drive.” So, they had to get a stunt [person] for my little part in “Entourage,” which I find to be very ridiculous.

4. And what’s the best and the worst thing about being a telenovela superstar?

Telenovelas have a stigma to them but it’s part of our culture. People don’t know how hard it is to be in a telenovela. It’s 18 hour workdays, Monday through Saturday, for eleven to [16] months straight. No breaks. We only had Sunday off. We really became vegetables by the end of it. It was extreme hard work.

The good thing about it was the audience that we got. We were on the air five days a week and we were in prime time. People were watching us when they were cooking, or putting the kids to bed, or eating dinner. You really became a part of their home. When people recognize me, they hug me, they kiss me, and they love you because you’re part of their family.

The same thing. When I see someone from a telenovela that I love, I kind of melt. I kind of melt because I adore them. You don’t even know the person but you feel like you love them. That’s the beauty of a soap opera; it’s a very special fan, a very special audience.

5. Speaking of your telenovela work, Will Ferrell has publicly marveled at your ability to cry on cue. What’s the secret?

This is something you learn doing a soap opera. It’s something that you automatically know that you just have to do. People get scared when they hear that, especially men. They’re like, “Ohhh — this one; she knows how to cry on command. This is kind of scary.” But you kind of can tell when I’m faking it.

You can tell because when I really cry, my face just completely distorts and morphs into another ugly, ugly face. My chin starts trembling and that’s when it really hurts to cry. The tears thing — it’s just technique. It’s just like anything else, for me. Which is a gift, I know. I know, it’s a gift. Do you want me to do it right now?

[We were initially startled, but of course we did!]

You don’t have a camera, but you’ll see.

[At this point, Ms. Rodríguez took a gulp of water. An intense, but not particularly disturbed, look crossed her face as she began the tearing up process. Her voice got noticeably more quiet, but she continued talking.]

It’s coming…You get glassy. You just start getting watery. I’m not thinking about absolutely anything. It’s coming. You see it? You can’t see it yet? It’s going to happen.

[And sure enough, the waterworks flow. Very impressive.]

It’s nothing. I could talk about cupcakes and dogs. I can talk about happy things and rainbows.

  

A Chat with Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss may have had pop culture street-cred for his work as a journalist for Rolling Stone and The New York Times, but it wasn’t until he wrote The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, that he became perceived as a “guy’s guy” journalist…for better or worse. Now, with the help of collaborator Adam Kornblum, The Game has been turned into a game itself. Strauss talked with Bullz-Eye about the unique entity that is Who’s Got Game? while taking additional time to discuss some of his other literary endeavors as well.

Bullz-Eye: So The Game is now officially a game.

Neil Strauss: Yes. In a matter of speaking. [Laughs.]

How weird was that? Was it an idea that you came up with, or did someone else pitch it to you?

Yeah, I don’t think I ever would’ve come up with that on my own. [Laughs.] But now I’m really into it. Now I really love it. There’s two elements. One, it’s really fun – Adam (Kornblum) made a game, and I made it into more of a game that I’d want to play with my friends – and, two, it’s just kind of fun to have a game. It’s kind of a childhood dream. It’s not just Monopoly or Sorry! or Mousetrap or Chutes and Ladders or…there’s this game 221B Baker Street, which is, like, a better Clue. [Laughs.] But all those games…I’d always wanted to do a game, but what I think really motivated me to want to do it was that Adam contacted me, and…I didn’t know him at all, but sometimes in the deluge there’s a compelling email where we sit around and think, “Maybe we should contact this guy.” And he had done a game for Hasbro, so he had some credibility there. He said he had made a game based on the books I’d done already that he’d been, like, taking out to bars and playing there just to meet women. So I thought, okay, this guy’s field-tested his idea, he’s not just writing about an idea that he’s come up with while he’s sitting in front of his email. I guess he’s now engaged, so obviously it worked to some degree. [Laughs.] Anyway, I thought, “Okay, let’s kind of entertain this and take it seriously.” And he sent it over, and I kept just playing it with different friends and then adding tweaks and changing it and adding new types of cards. Like, I really wanted the game to be something that you play in bars but, like, for example, when I’d go out, I’d end up bringing people back to my house and I’d be, like, “Fuck, now what do I do with them?” And the game’s kind of like social lubrication, a way to get to know people and having everybody having fun and laughing and bonding without any awkwardness.

You said Adam got the ball rolling, but when someone’s playing the game of The Game, what’s something that you personally added to the game?

I think a couple of my favorite things are the Neg cards, where, like, whoever has the worst driver’s license picture or the most wrinkled shirt loses points. [Laughs.] It’s, like, I thought, what’s fun is people laughing at themselves and their own foibles in a non-malicious way, where you’re teasing someone like they’re friends might tease them. Another favorite is the Secret cards, which are basically…it’s a secret social mission to pull off over the course of the game. For example, if you make up something conversationally and someone else in the group believes it’s true, you get two points. So all through the game there are these two layers: the game itself, and the social mission. And it’s a fun layer. It’s a fun form of manipulation, because you’re, like, “How can I get everyone to believe this and get my points?” The social dynamics part is something that, as far as I know, hasn’t been seen in a game yet. There are games with fun challenges, tests, points giving and taking, but where you’re actually trying to execute a social mission within the group…? That’s where it becomes unique.

It definitely seems that you don’t have to be single or on the market, as it were, to enjoy the game.

Oh, definitely not. In fact, we had a dinner party a few nights ago, it was about 12 people, and I’d say about eight of them were couples in serious relationships. So, no, it doesn’t matter at all. Either it’s good to get to know someone or it’s just fun to play with friends. But, I mean, my girlfriend and I play it all the time. It’s fun to go to a party and bring your own game. By the way, you only do that at parties with really good friends who are proud of you and can appreciate that you have your own game, and not with casual acquaintances who are, like, “Why is this asshole bringing his game to our party?” [Laughs.]

Having brought up the fact that you have a girlfriend begs a question about the original book: how quickly did you admit to her that you were the guy behind The Game? Or did she know from the get-go?

Uh, yeah, at this point, I think I’m kind of screwed. I kind of have to say it up front, because if I don’t, one of these things happens: they know the book already, their friends are going to tell them, or they’re going to Google me and find out. Better that I be the bearer of the news. [Laughs.] It can definitely make it more difficult as far as getting people to trust anything you’re saying. I think my only recourse is to be as sincere as possible, because everything is tainted with suspicion.

So what was the original impetus for writing The Game? You’d written in the medium of pop culture quite a bit prior to that, certainly, but…

I think the initial impetus was being a rock critic at Rolling Stone and The New York Times and going to all these shows, which are carnivals of flesh and sexuality, really. But that’s rock ‘n’ roll. [Laughs.] And I’m just the lonely guy with the notepad watching everybody else have all the fun, hoping that maybe some girl’s going to come up and talk to me because I’m writing something in my notepad. And then I’d say, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to this show next week and these other shows the following week, if you want to come with me,” and I assumed that was going to be a date, and…I remember once I met this girl at one, and she ended up making out with the guy sitting next to me. And I was, like, “What the fuck…? What’s wrong with me?” So it really came not from a desire to go underground and assume an identity and be an investigative journalist or even to write a book but, rather, to help get over my own problems with women. [Laughs.]

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A Chat with Carla Gugino (“The Mighty Macs”)

Bullz-Eye: We met very briefly in person when you were at the TCA tour for the “Californication” panel.

Carla Gugino: Yes! Very good…and a totally different project! [Laughs.]

BE: To say the least. So how did you find your way into “The Mighty Macs”? Was the script pitched directly to you?

CG: Yeah, you know, my wonderful agent – his name’s Mike Nilon – he’s actually from Philly, so he kind of knew the story and said, “There’s this filmmaker, Tim Chambers, who wrote and is gonna direct this, and he’s really interested in meeting with you for the role of Cathy Rush.” And I was doing a play…I was doing “Suddenly Last Summer” off Broadway with Blythe Danner at that time, so Tim came to see the play and took me out to dinner afterwards, and he basically told me the story. And, of course, then I read the script, and we went on from there. But he was so passionate about this story and had done such extensive research and was just really galvanized to tell it. And I think that’s the thing for me: it’s always about looking for a person with a vision at the helm, and a character that I have not gotten to play yet. That sort of scares me in a great way. [Laughs.] And in this particular case, you know, Cathy’s a pretty phenomenal woman – she’s still alive and thriving – so to do justice to her story felt daunting in the most fantastic way.

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