The Light from the TV Shows: Exploring “Hidden City with Marcus Sakey”

If Marcus Sakey’s name doesn’t mean anything to you…well, first of all, maybe don’t tell him. He’s a nice guy. I wouldn’t want you to hurt his feelings. But beyond that, it probably means that you need to pick up the pace when it comes to reading top-notch crime thrillers. His debut novel, 2007′s The Blade Itself, was featured as a New York Times Editor’s Pick was named by Esquire as one of the 5 Best Reads of the year, and he’s since enjoyed continued success with subsequent novels Good People, The Amateurs, and The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes.

But we’re not here to talk about Sakey’s books. We’re here to talk about his TV show.

On December 6, the Travel Channel will debut “Hidden City with Marcus Sakey,” a series that will, over the course of its 12 episodes, explore 12 different cities around the United States – caveat: for these purposes, we’re treating the Florida Keys as one big city – by investigating some of the more sordid (or at least less than cheery) parts of their pasts. For example, in Boston, Sakey explores the history of the Boston Strangler. In Chicago, he looks into the infamous protest riot of 1968. Neither is the sort of thing that’d pop up on the cover of a tourism brochure, but it is the sort of thing that fascinates Sakey. I’ve had a chance to screen the first two episodes of the series, which, not coincidentally, find Sakey working his way through Chicago and Boston, and I found it to be highly enthralling viewing.

Okay, so maybe Sakey doesn’t have the eccentric intensity of, say, James Ellroy. (If you haven’t seen Ellroy’s series “L.A.: City of Demons,” I highly recommend it.) But you can sense Sakey’s fascination with the material he’s discussing and the people with whom he’s conversing, which goes a long way. Plus, c’mon, it’s the guy’s first time playing host. Give him a chance to grow into the role, huh? And, anyway, the end of his adventures in Chicago, one thing’s for sure: he’s up for anything if it’ll help him get a better handle on the discussion at hand…even if it involves being temporarily blinded.

Bullz-Eye: So I checked out both of the episodes on the screener yesterday…

Marcus Sakey: Oh, cool! What did you think?

BE: A lot of fun, to say the least.

MS: Beautiful! Thanks, man, I appreciate it.

BE: In fact, I went on Facebook right after I watched it and said that my eyes were burning just watching the Chicago episode.

MS: [Laughs.] Yeah, I think part of the reason I ended up hosting this was that my friend and producer felt that I was dumb enough to get pepper-sprayed.

BE: It’s a good selling point.

MS: [Laughs.] Yeah. Sometimes not being that smart has its advantages.

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Time to choose a gym

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Like most people, you’ve probably waited till after the holidays to think about getting back in shape. It’s an annual ritual for many of us, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

Step one for many of us will be joining a gym, and now is a good time to be looking, as many gyms are offering all sorts of promotions and discounts during the holiday season through January. The New York Times has a good article on getting a deal on a gym membership.

It’s New Year’s resolution time again, and the health and fitness clubs here in New York and throughout the country are out in full force.

This time of year you can count on heavy promotions. Clubs depend on the December-January rush for the bulk of their memberships. But this year the frenzy has been ratcheted up a notch as clubs try to make up for the recession, which caused many corporate sponsorships to evaporate and many individual members to drop out or cut way back on costly extras like personal training and massage.

But lean times for the fitness clubs are good news for consumers.

“Join in December and you’ll get the best deals — across the board,” says Howard Brodsky, chief executive of New York Health & Racquet Club. “Health clubs are businesses just like any other retail business. They have numbers they need to hit.”

And here is more good news: Over the last decade or so the health club industry has cleaned up many of its questionable practices. Years ago, health and fitness clubs routinely made the Federal Trade Commission’s list of the top 10 sources of consumer complaints about deceptive sales practices, misleading contracts and lack of full disclosure.

We also recommend checking out one of Fitness Editor Mike Furci’s earliest articles for Bullz-Eye.com on how to choose a gym.

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