“She really picks up a party, doesn’t she?”

We've arrived at the heart of the show

Welcome to week two of retrowatching Mary Tyler Moore! This week: Season 1, Disc 2, which includes episodes 8-16.

And with that, a programming note: Going forward, I will only be reviewing four episodes at a time. This is still in the experimental stage and lesson learned: eight is too many!

Before I get started, some people of note that I forgot to mention in the last blog:
– The show was co-created by James L. Brooks. He’s had just a little bit of success in television, creating such shows as Taxi and the Simpsons, as well as the MTM spinoffs Rhoda and Lou Grant. He was also a producer on The Tracy Ullman Show, and wrote and directed one of my favorite movies of all time, As Good As It Gets. The list goes on – a producer on another of my favorites, Say Anything, director of Broadcast News... guy has just a smidgen of talent.
– Many of these first episodes were directed by Jay Sandrich. That named seemed really familiar – turns out he went on to direct 100 episodes of The Cosby Show –  including this one and this one. As I’ve seen every episode of The Cosby Show at least three times, it’s no wonder his name was so familiar.
– Another name that stuck out to me: Lorenzo Music as a credited writer for several of the early episodes. It mostly stuck out as a fantastic name, but turns out this guy was ubiquitous in show business. Not only was he the voice of Garfield, he also played Peter Venkman in The Real Ghost Busters, a Saturday morning cartoon I remember well. Music had a steady career in voice over acting, played Carl the Doorman in Rhoda, wrote for the Smothers Brothers and Bob Newhart, and even composed the theme song to the Bob Newhart Show. What an interesting and varied career.

And now, onto the show!

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“Want something. Want SOMETHING.” Six reasons Company will rock

Eiiiiiii!!!!

This weekend, I have the awesome pleasure of seeing a concert version of Company at Lincoln Center. This would be exciting enough. What makes it thrilling is the star-studded cast, including Neil Patrick Harris as Robert, Stephen Colbert as Harry, Patti LuPone as Joanne, Katie Finneran as Amy* and Christina Hendricks as April.

*Confession: I didn’t know which role Katie Finneran was playing until about five seconds ago, and a little thrill went through me when I pictured her singing “Not Getting Married”.

So, I know the whole thing on Broadway right now is stunt casting to sell tickets. Sometimes this works (see: Kelsey Grammer in La Cage Aux Folles); sometimes it doesn’t (see: The entire cast of 2009’s Bye Bye Birdie revival with the possible exception of John Stamos, who can at least carry a tune, GINA GERSHON.) But I have a good feeling about Company. First of all, it’s a scaled down concert version, second it’s only for a couple of days, and third everyone associated with the project can actually sing. 

I give you exhibits A-F:

A: Neil Patrick Harris might be known to you as the womanizing Barney on HIMYM or (if you haven’t watched TV since 1992) the kid doctor on Doogie Howser, but in addition to being a great comic actor, he’s also a fanfreakingtastic singer with a lot of stage experience. Here he is as the emcee in Cabaret: 

And he’s already proven he can sing Sondheim. Here he is playing Tobias in a concert version of Sweeney Todd along side Ms. LuPone:

(On a totally superficial note, I am usually a scruffy hair kinda gal, ala Tim Riggins, but the buzz cut really works for him, no?)

B: I’ve been a fan of Katie Finneran’s since she played the uptight sister of Jayne in the short-lived series Wonderfalls, but I think the theater loves her even more. She’s a two-time Tony winner, her most recent win last year for Promises Promises. I didn’t get to see it, but everything I read said she stole the show.

She was lovably neurotic in Wonderfalls; this can only be a good thing for playing Amy.

C: Christina Hendricks! I cannot WAIT to see her recite my favorite monologue in all of Broadway, and think her voice is a great match for “Barcelona.”

In my head, Christina Hendricks can actually play the accordion.  And also, I miss Mad Men, and really don’t want to wait a freaking YEAR for new episodes. Sigh.  But that’s for a different post.

D: Stephen Colbert! Stephen Colbert! I am most excited about seeing NPH, but Stephen Colbert is just more icing on the cake. And for some reason, I am itching to see him sing “Sorry Grateful.” Like Christina Hendricks, his voice seems so well-suited for this song. Hopefully this will not be interrupted by people taking their seats and loud children, like it was in my stress dream a few weeks ago. (Yes, I had a stress dream about Company. I dunno, guys. Ask my subconscious.) Anyway, if you watch The Colbert Report, you should know that Stephen has a pretty good set of pipes. I cannot freaking wait to hear them live. This isn’t able to embed, but click here to see Stephen sing.

E: Patti LuPone. To be honest, I am nervous to see Ms. LuPone live, because she kinda scares me a little. Okay, a lot. Woman is a diva. Woman has ever RIGHT to be a diva, but still. I just don’t want her yelling at me. Or anyone else. So everyone seeing the 8 p.m. show this Saturday, respect the LuPone, ok? This is from the Sondheim birthday concert last year, and I love this because you can just tell she has been waiting YEARS to sing this song. And sing it she does. And sing it she will on Saturday.

No, she’s not Elaine Stritch, but who the hell is? No one will ever sing it like her, and Patti does a pretty good second. Also, I respect that she puts her own spin on it, and doesn’t try to be Stritch.

F: NPH has some big shoes to fill with “Being Alive”. Raul Esparza blew the lid off of it in the 2007 revival. And as much as I love NPH, I am not expecting this to be the powerhouse Raul made it. However, it’s still one of the best songs Sondheim ever wrote, and maybe even one of the best songs ever written.

Excuse me, the room just got a little dusty, I need to wipe my eyes.

This weekend can’t come soon enough, y’all.

Catching up on resolutions

Happy 2011! Hard to believe we’re halfway through January already, isn’t it?

So this is the time of year where people make resolutions for the new year. (Well, a few weeks ago anyway. But between moving, getting sick, and getting snowed in, I haven’t had a lot of free time.) Last year, instead of making a “best of the decade” list, I made a list of shows I wanted to watch in 2010.  So how did I do? Let’s see:

Watched:
Freaks and Geeks
Sons of Anarchy
The Wire
Mad Men

Not watched:
Oz
Battlestar Galactica
Lost
Breaking Bad
The Sopranos
Firefly

4/10. Not great as a goal, but as a general statistic, completing (or catching up on) 4 shows in a year is pretty good. Of course, I did get sidetracked by other shows – Community and Cougar Town both had one season under their belts when I got around to catching up.

So this year, I resolve to watch at least 4 more of these “best of the decade” shows. After all, if watching Mad Men gave me the beauty (in more ways than one) of Jon Hamm, and The Wire gave me Bubbles and Omar and Cuddy, who knows what Breaking Bad and Oz will bring? (Probably a lot of grief and angst.)

Any suggestions on other shows I should catch up on? They don’t have to be currently airing; in fact that might be better in the long run. There are only so many hours in the day, after all.

Video of the Day: Favorite TV relationship of 2010: Don and Peggy, y’all. Don and Peggy. Also, if Jon Hamm doesn’t get an Emmy for his work on season 4, there is no justice in the world.

Mad Men and more! (But mostly Mad Men.)

It’s been busy ’round these parts lately. Everyone I know had a baby. Well, okay, only two people, but two of the closest people in my life. Hence the lack of blogging.

That doesn’t mean I have been ignoring my pop culture duties. That would never happen. So here are some things I’ve been digging lately.

Mad Men
A few years back, I tuned into a new show called Mad Men, lauded by critics and TV watchers alike. Watched it for about 10 minutes, realized I wasn’t paying attention, turned it off, and didn’t watch another episode until this month. Guys, I don’t know what I was thinking. This show…is SO GOOD. Over the weekend, a friend asked me how it was, and my response was one simple word: “Delectable.” That it is, and not just for Jon Hamm. (Though, lets face it…) Everything, from the cinematography, the clothes, the writing, the acting, the music (THE MUSIC, YOU GUYS. SO PERFECT)…it’s all amazing, and all a feast for the senses. It’s so good that, instead of doing my usual marathon watch, I am limiting myself to one or two at a time. (And trust me, for me, that IS limiting.) So far, I am about 2/3 of the way through season 2, and there hasn’t been one sub-par episode. Also, a word on January Jones: I have not seen her now famous SNL hosting disaster last year. Don’t want to. But in terms of dramatic acting chops? Gal has it. She has Betty Draper DOWN. Do I like her character? Not really, but damn if she doesn’t do a fine job portraying the unhappy housewife.

Also, Jon Hamm is really, really hot. Unlike a lot of hot actors today, he actually has the chops to back it up.

It’s hard to pick a favorite moment (just last night I watched Colin Hanks play guitar; this certainly goes on the list) and, like always I cannot pick just one, so here are a couple of mine from season 1. (Note: All the Mad Men clips disable embedding, so you’ll have to click over to YouTube. It’s worh it, I promise.)

Don’t fuck with Betty Draper, or her kids:

Pete shares his hunting fantasy with Peggy. (How awesome is Peggy, y’all? I love watching her grow professionally.)

Don’s carousel pitch:

Resonates on so many levels, y’all. Also, it’s no secret I am a sucker for nostalgia.

After pitching the carousel, Don thinks twice. (This ties with Matt Saracen driving out of Dillon on Friday Night Lights for best use of a song on TV)

(After this song started playing, I actually said out loud – to an empty room – “Oh, this is PERFECT!” That never happens.)

So yeah, umm, watch Mad Men. Not since Gilmore Girls has a show transported me so fully into another world.

Other things:

* Wednesday night comedies are back! Yay for Modern Family and Cougar Town.
* Sometime over the summer, I started watching Community. Somewhere in the run, I fell in love. Actually wait, I can tell you exactly when I started to love the show. When this happened:

* A few years back, I read what remains to be my favorite book ever, I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb. I recently read his follow-up book, The Hour I First Believed. While it takes place in the same town, and features some of the same characters, it really doesn’t hold a candle to I Know This Much…  It’s still good, but Mr. Lamb gets a bit too caught up in his own drama for me. Kind of disappointing, because She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True are both masterpieces.

* Is anyone going to the Stewart/Colbert rallies? I kind of really want to. Is it just me?

* Another podcast has been added to my regular rotation: Radio Lab. It took me awhile to get into it, because they have an unconventional style that takes getting used to. But, they do some pretty amazing stories, and actually make science interesting a good part of the time. My favorites so far include War of the Worlds, Detective Stories, and Diagnosis. (Two of which actually aren’t that science-y. Go figure.)

But seriously, guys, go watch Mad Men. That’s really the point of this post.