SOME STATS FROM 2016

This is just a quick stocktake for the second quarter of the year to see where we stand heading into the last third of the year. Think of it as less a self-congratulatory pat on the back and more a shameless plug for previous posts.

Image result for united kingdomConsistently most of my views come from the USA ( who overtook the top spot from Australian readers early this year and don’t look like handing it back anytime soon), Australia, the UK, Canada and then Spain. Early this year Brazil powered ahead to No.5 but Spain has shot back in the past couple of weeks. Near the end of August Great Britain had the most views for the month but then the world turned, the East Coast woke up and America took out the No.1 spot just like they did in the Olympics. I wonder if the U.K. could take out a month though in the future.

Top 5 Most Views by Country 2016

  1. United States 1,209 Views
  2. Australia 922 Views
  3. United Kingdom 811 Views
  4. Canada 220 Views
  5. Spain 122 Views

Top 10 Most Viewed Posts 2016

  1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army 129 Views
  2. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 77 Views
  3. The Heroes of Kibeho 76 Views
  4. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton Falls and Back Again 66 Views
  5. South Vietnamese General Ngo Quang Truong’s War 56 Views
  6. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part V: Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls 55 Likes
  7. Youth is Wasted on the Old 54 Views
  8. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will to Live 52 Views
  9. Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds 45 Views
  10. Stars Wars Has Return to our Screen and Our Hearts 45 Views

Top 15 Most Liked Posts

15. A Couple of Nice Guys to Spend Time and A Brave New World with New Ghostbusters

Rounding out the Top 15 are the last two film reviews with 10 Likes equally. On paper one is a old school masculine driven film and the other a revived franchise that re-casts women as the central heroes. Both have similarities though, in The Nice Guys a young daughter is usually the most sensible and smartest person in the room despite the guys loudly throwing punches and shooting guns, she maybe the one who makes the biggest difference. Both are also about people having to face overwhelming challenges to find out who they really are and take up that mantle. In one two damaged but good men discover they can do the right thing and in the other women surrounded by naysayers prove they maybe the only ones who can save us from Ghosts. Sadly I found The Nice Guys a delight despite a third act finale that didn’t quite take off for me but Ghostbusters was another example of a tired old regular reboot blockbuster. Not bad by any stretch but lacking the laughs and confident subversion of Paul Feig’s previous films.

14. Hail, Caesar! A Lovely Film For Those Who Loves Films 10 Likes

As a film buff, Hail, Caesar! may speak to me more than the average cinema goer. There’s the usual clever Coen dialogue to be found here and even a lot of depth underneath the surface. I doubt it will go down as one of their classics, it feels very much like an inbetweener (yes I know this isn’t a real word) for them but I liked it quite a bit and you can’t deny what the heart wants – the heart wants.

13. Lance Corporal Michelle Norris MC 11 Likes

Those who may say women can’t serve in combat may want to look up Cpl Norris. A 19 year old medic when deployed to Iraq she became the first female soldier ever to be awarded the Military Cross. Subsequently 3 other female soldiers have earned the Gallantry Award.

 

 

 

 

 

12. 10 Pics form the Sticks Part V: Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls 11 Likes

1711Part of an ongoing series of blogs about hikes I’ve been on, I gained confidence from the excellent Cindy Bruchman’s series Five Shots to post these and they seem to have gone down well. When my sister came over from England with her Canadian partner I decided they would enjoy the spectacular views of The Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. That day was even  more enjoyable for the opportunity to get acquainted with them. A wonderful memory.

11. South Vietnam General Ngo Quang Truong’s War 11 Likes

It may surprise some to find out that the South Vietnamese military had one particularly good leader who was respected by all sides and would eventually turn back a North Vietnamese invasion in 1962 when mass American ground troops had left South East Asia. He lost the war he fought and his country but he never stopped rising to every occasion including re-settling in America with his family and making a new life.

 

10. The Year of Blogging Dangerously 11 Likes

Well this is awkward, this was a similarly themed post from April and includes shouts outs to reviews from previous years like my love for About Time, Craig Ferguson and David Letterman.

 

 

9. Birth Days 11 Likes

A little short story I wrote for university that played with narrative structure. Essentially relating birth moments throughout a lifetime with certain patterns emerging again and again over the years. It means a great deal to me all the positive feedback I’ve received for it.

8. Alice Going Through the Looking Glass and the Sequel Motions 12 Likes

Not a particularly good film or good review but it’s nice to have fans.

 

 

 

 

7. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes 13 Likes

Image result for love and friendship movieWhat I like to call a clean review. Fairly concise, not too boring to read hopefully and sums up what is good about a pretty decent movie. The number of likes probably reflects an interest in the film itself which has been getting good notices.

 

 

6. Central Intelligence – There’s Worse Films Out There 13 Likes

I felt inspired writing this review to touch upon this guy I knew in high school who became a bit of a success story. The film itself didn’t bowl me over but there were funny moments to be had and The Rock and Kevin Hart are two very likeable star personalities who played well off each other.

5. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will To Live 14 Likes

Image result for amy adams vanity fairThe film depicts the character of Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller and Deadshot very well. I’m intrigued to see a better film with these performers playing off the dynamics of their core relationships. That unfortunately is not what this film was and a rant and Amy Adams Vanity Fairs photo shoots ensured. People seemed to enjoy reading which is a relief because it was one of my longer rants of late.

4. Star Trek: Beyond Covers Familiar Ground 14 Likes

star trek star review trek beyondStar Trek: Beyond has been well received by most critics and fans so pay to attention to my opinion but here it is for those that are interested and it seems to have intrigued some.

3. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns up a New Zealand Gem 20 Likes

Out of the 2016 films I’ve reviewed so far the best ones have been Eye in the Sky and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Those that have seen the film seem to have been enchanted by it and that good will meant people were just happy to share their joy of the film here on this post as well. It really is a gem, be sure to check it out.

2. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton Falls and Back Again 20 Likes

1619Karen and I went hiking one day up at the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walks and came across an echidna in the wild which was a real treat. I also touch upon a trip we took with her grandfather to the same area not long before he passed away.

1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army 51 Likes

Blame GP Cox and his amazing blog which started about retelling the experiences of his father as a Paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II and now is just a fine source of history from that period. When GP posts something within 24 hours he receives 100 Likes, goodness knows how many views. He’s built this following up over time with fine consistent work and consistent supportive interest in the blogs of his followers. As soon as he reblogged on his site my post about the first known Aboriginal to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army – the stats on that post shot up. Captain Reg Saunders was a war hero who endured much upon his return home and always overcame the racial indignities of his time with humour and resilience. We could learn a lot from his example.

 

For Your Consideration

I don’t think of myself as a particularly good writer but nonetheless sometimes I’m excited by what I come up with. Other times I can’t help but feel it is a bit messy and has nothing of interest to add. My review for Captain America: Civil War for example lacks any real hook. I list a few things I like and what narrative threads may have consequences throughout the franchise but it’s a joyless review for a film that was quite joyful. Suicide Squad an imperfect frustrating film on the other hand led to a funny review (an attempt at being funny anyway) and one that was relatively painless to write. Here are the posts that I’ve enjoyed compiling and seeing reactions to that you may have missed.

Cpl Bryan Budd VC

Published March 29 3 Likes

article-1216591-025CB87C000004B0-562_470x423[1]The closing paragraph I’m particularly proud of but at the end of the day this soldier’s story tells of extraordinary courage and sacrifice and should never be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

Eye in the Sky Is Pure Perfection

Published March 29 8 Likes

The first great film of 2016 has a lot to say without clamping down on one agenda either way. It will spark debate, discussion and thoughts about many aspects of modern warfare but in the end it is a poignant tale about one girl selling bread on a street corner and whether she will survive to see tomorrow.

 

Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 6 Likes

Brooklyn maybe my favourite film of last year, maybe not the best I’m quite happy Spotlight won the Oscar, but my heart literally swells right now thinking about Brooklyn. I felt like I went to three different funerals while watching it. It’s about falling in love, chasing dreams and planting your feet about who you and where you’re headed in life. It made me think a great deal about my little sister and how much I love her.

Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 6 Likes 

I went for broke trying to be funny here and I’m quite happy with the results. It’s the first time I got to write about Jennifer Garner and I hold no shame in that. People have gone cold on the film already saying it’s not that original and the marketing sold it. Fuck them. Any idiot could say the filmmakers edited around a standard origin story but there’s wit here that you just don’t get in many blockbusters anymore and it punches above its weight in terms of budget and action sequences. In a summer of disappointments Deadpool stands tall against all odds as the little blockbuster that could AND DID.

Youth Is Wasted on the Old

Published January 10 3 Likes

Youth didn’t light up the box office or feature much in the end of year award shows. For me though Youth stays in the mind for a long time after. Michael Caine gives another stellar performance as an ageing composer facing up to what he’ll do with the time he has left and what he has lost along the way.

Thanks again to all those reading and have a great weekend.

-Lloyd Marken

The Year of Blogging Dangerously

002I studied in the Creative Industries and like a lot who do it is not now where I work. A few years ago my sister who blogs suggested I should too. I guess to have a creative outlet and maybe to practice my craft and build a portfolio. Sadly I don’t think I’ve really become a better writer but I have become a happier person. I popped my blogging cherry in November 2013 writing about my favourite film of that year – About Time.

Nighy is an actor so beloved that when he shows up in a movie you can’t help but smile. His first line had me grinning even though he wasn’t saying anything funny. I was just so happy to see and hear him. Such an effect from an actor makes him perfect casting for the role of the father. The world loves Nighy and that love will give the film absolute weight later on when he tells Tim what he used the gift of time travel to do with his life. Because if you’re a father and you can travel through time that is exactly what you would do. This is one of the year’s best.

There were no pictures and I didn’t check stats, there were errors galore and it all went on a bit too long but I had expressed something inside myself and enjoyed the process. It was only a matter of time but eventually I blogged again when Craig Ferguson and David Letterman left their late night programs.

When Craig Ferguson’s last show aired in the middle of the night I stood up alone in my living room in my boxers as Craig finished singing and the audience applauded. I smiled sheepishly knowing how stupid I was behaving but wanting to feel connected in some way.
No doubt I’ll be on my feet again this Thursday. Because that’s what you do when legends retire. You stand up and you applaud.

At that point I headed back to university for a short course and had more time on my hands. Being back around creative people with creative pursuits was terribly rejuvenating even if I regret not making the most of my time in the course. My fifth post was about The Martian and within 24 hours I saw these little cubes pop up on my post. busyk AntVicino cinetactic

 

A film about a stranded astronaut rife with 70s tracks demands a track from Bowie to be used and The Martian answers the call better than I could have hoped. The choice of Major Tom would have been welcome if too on the nose. Instead Starman begins right where it needs to in arguably the best moments of the film. The crew who left Watney behind circle around Earth to pick up supplies and sling shot back towards him. This enables the crew to communicate with families hundreds of miles away from them but as close as they have been in months before returning to rescue their stranded crew member. It is a heroic gesture full of sacrifice but the film plays the scene as one of unbridled joy. “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

I had a couple of followers before and my sister always shared my posts on Facebook but this was something new. Somebody was communicating with me specifically, 3 people in fact from AntVicino from Oakland, Cinetactic from the Philippines and Busy K from New York City. Another milestone. Next I wrote about the James Bond series and little boxes appeared again. I started to wonder if it was possible to always get one like when I posted. I also checked out the likers and followers and started following people myself which made the reader take on a new importance. Views and visitors though always fascinated me proving no matter how small the response people were seeing my work. I don’t particularly need validation, I’m still at heart just somebody writing About Time because I love it so much and have to express it, but it is very enjoyable to have feedback and to have interest in your blog.

As the year closed I wondered if a lot of views were garnered by me reading my posts when I was logged out. In any event it’s been a year since I started seriously blogging and in that time my followers, likes and comments have grown. In March when Cindy Bruchman announced I would be co-hosting her Lucky 13 Film Club in April it doubled my interaction with the blogging community. I was very lucky to be involved in something so well liked and with a blogger so well respected that my likes, comments and followers probably doubled in that time but so did the blogs I follow and the blogs I comment on or like. It’s been a very enjoyable experience to feel more a sense of community than ever. Having branched out from film reviews to posts about hikes I’ve taken and military biographies I wrote for an old newsletter, I finally bit the bullet and put forward a short story to read for that community. When you write a film review, the focus tends to be on your opinion and whether it’s shared by others. When you write a story though it becomes a bit more personal. People are focusing on you now. I’m touched to say that my fellow bloggers have been kind and it is a huge relief that they seemed to enjoy the story. So as I celebrate one year of regularly blogging I thought I’d reflect on some interesting stats and which posts seem to have struck a nerve from 2016 so far. Think of it as a shamelessly greatest hits plug if you will and less so a chest thumping celebration from someone who really has a very small blog. May I just say to my regular viewers, followers, likers and commenters. Thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart and keep it coming.

 

You know I’m big in Brazil.

Last year the vast majority of my views came from Australia (over 1,500 which I assume includes mostly from me) with 51 from the U.K. and 39 from the U.S., 8 from Spain, 6 from Canada, 3 from Switzerland, 2 from Denmark, and 1 from France. Interestingly none from the Phillippines?

In 2016 so far it’s 516 Australian views (I don’t think those are mine), 366 American, 314 British, 78 Canadian, 59 Spanish and chomping at the bit to get into the Top 5 Brazil has 52 views.

Most Likes

  1. Birth Days                                                                                                                   9 Likes
  2. A Reblog of Jeff Bridges: The Lucky 13 Film Club April 13                            8 Likes
  3. Hail Caesar! A Lovely Film for those Who Love Films                                  8 Likes
  4. Ex Machina                                                                                                                  7 Likes
  5. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part III: Lake Baroon to Delicia Road                     7 Likes
  6. Eddie the Eagles Soars Enough to Qualify                                                         7 Likes
  7. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection                                                                          6 Likes
  8. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant           6 Likes
  9. The Huntsman: An Unnecessary Sequel That Is Not Necessarily Bad      6 Likes
  10. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                 6 Likes

Most Viewed in 2016 So Far

 

10. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant

Published April 1 – 30 Views                                                                                                                                                            Less a film review than a full blooded rant. “Kicking off where that film ended with Bruce Wayne on the ground during the Metropolis battle trying desperately to reach his people in a Wayne Enterprises building in the best sequence of the whole film. The music and sound pounding in an Extreme Screen cinema has to be experienced as Bruce a highly capable mortal man commutes by helicopter then car then foot through the mayhem. His skills keep him alive getting out of the way of destruction repeatedly at the last second but his figure remains powerless in the face of such super beings. Bruce Wayne is also with the victims that we never really saw with Superman in the finale of the last film. It’s an inspired way to address criticism of the last film and set up the central beef Wayne has with Superman in this movie. It also well and truly proves that audiences can now see movies that fully evoke the horror and helplessness of September 11, 2001. Take that Al Qaeda!

9. Birth Days

Published April 24  – 30 Views

The Short Story I wrote, it is trying to communicate something about the randomness, cyclical nature and inevitability of life with spare sporadic writing. There’s a lot of jumping in and out of moments where you have to pick up hints of resolutions along the way. Once again I am very grateful for its reception. A week old and the only post I haven’t shared on Facebook, the number of views, likes and comments is really encouraging.

8. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                                         

Published January 19 – 31 Views  

Arguably the funniest of the award season darlings last year. ” This is the film’s greatest conceit; it’s inversion of what happened. The majority of Americans got ripped off and screwed over by the Global Financial Crisis! Then it spread to the rest of the world too! The Big Short doesn’t follow suckers or losers though, it follows winners, people smart and brave enough to see what was going down and the film makes us feel included in their wisdom and plight when we weren’t. I don’t say this cynically, I think this is the best movie ever made about the Global Financial Crisis and it will reach the broadest audience and make them feel the most about it as a result of this approach. The film is never preachy but there are few lines sprinkled throughout that hit home not just about the financial sector but maybe even our society at large. There are montages of photos to remind us of current events and major pop culture distractions at the time. One great sequence shows many characters leaving a hotel and their current wealth defined by the car they leave in.

7. Ex Machina: A Small Film with Big Ideas 

Published January 27 – 31 Views 

My first post to get over five likes which I means I have to click on the word bloggers to have them all appear. Sadly such things give me a thrill. A real gem of a movie that not everybody has seen yet. “How each audience member reacts to each character may say as much about themselves as it does about the characters and certainly one of the pleasures of the film is seeing these very different creatures bounce off each other. The movie enjoys playing with the ideas of who is being tested, is anybody else maybe a robot, who is sympathetic or being dishonest and just where this all may lead? I wouldn’t dare spoil it, it is nice to not be sure of a film’s outcome and yet also at the end be satisfied with it.

6. Deadpool: Finally A Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 – 31 Views

Since the film revelled in meta humour I had a go at trying something different with this review. It was a lot of fun.” A few years ago Deadpool would have been subverting a genre the average movie goer didn’t know inside and out. It turns out my ex-wife was right, timing is everything although I think she was talking about foreplay rather than motion picture releases and box office success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 – 32 Views

It’s always  nice when a piece of your writing that you particularly like seems to go down well with others. Of the film reviews that have done particularly well there often seems to be a correlation to how much I put my own personal thoughts, opinions and experiences into it. Not always but often. 🙂 I was thinking about my little sister when I wrote this. ” That seat at the table never stops feeling empty but the person missing is sitting at another table across the seas and they are loved.. and they are home there too. This is a great movie.

4. Star Wars Has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                                            

Published January 13 – 42 Views

Again more a spoiler filled rant than a review to the biggest film of last year. The film’s popularity may have something to do with this. ” Han Solo to me is still roguish in this one but with age and a son has come vulnerability and real stakes for the smuggler. I’ve seen the film four times and every time Leia says “Luke is a Jedi…you’re his father.” I tear up. There has been a lot of talk about how Han Solo should have died in an epic way taking on many bad guys or sacrificing himself to save someone’s life. That’s the thing though he does die in an epic way to save someone’s life…to save Ben…to save his son’s.

3. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 

Published March 29 – 43 Views

The first great film of 2016 is certainly garnering a lot of attention. “Missiles hovering high in the sky waiting for civilians at trade deals to come and answer their phones. Boys selling cheap plastic buckets to act as a cover story for an agent while he operates multi-million dollar miniature drones to fly inside a safe house. Bread in a wood fired oven potentially being a death sentence. Gavin Hood’s film powerfully conveys a brave new world with the same old truths of human nature. We want to raise our children in peace, go to work, come home and see them playing in our yards. But war has always existed and people die in wars.

2. Youth Is Wasted on the Old                                                                                                 

Published January 10 – 48 Views

 

Again another film that I really enjoyed and a review that I really enjoyed writing. It is a pleasure to have it be one of the most viewed posts. “ The whole cast is uniformly exemplary but Sir Michael Caine is here once again taking on the lead role and giving one of his best performances ever-worthy of an Oscar as anything else I’ve seen this year. Even at this stage of life Fred Ballinger has a character arc and grows. He learns there are things to be done, there is still strength in these arms and there is not a moment to lose. The firemen are coming. This is one of the year’s best.

1. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                                

Published January 10 – 51 Views

Originally one of those pieces I wrote for my newsletter and then revamped for uni last year. There are no words to do justice to what was endured by all those who were there at Kibeho in April 1995. All I can say is I acknowledge them, I am proud of them and I wish them peace. If there is a highlight of doing this blog, it may just be to have had Terry Pickard comment on this post. When I told my Mum that Terry Pickard had commented on my Kibeho post she enquired “Is he a blogger?”. I replied “No Mum…he was there.”

-Lloyd Marken

BLUE BALL TELEVISION SERIES FINALES!

I was inspired by the recent X-Files revival to muse on a long held lament of mine.

That of the disappointing television series finale. Warning spoilers ahead for any TV show being discussed.

Television is long form story telling affording the opportunity to make characters part of our lives with weekly catch-ups. It rewards staying power making you feel like a confidant who really lives with these people and understands them.

Yet most TV shows never have a plan for the arc of the show, are cancelled prematurely due to low ratings, lose actors to personal volatility, creative differences, ambition, etc. When a show is successful it often runs too many years and show runners and/or stars can leave before it closes. If not then often without a plan for a finale the show will suck. Lately the greatest way to cop out of a prestige series is simply leave an ambivalent ending ala The Sopranos. While in my opinion it works well in that series I can understand how some fans of David Chase’s series felt cheated. The X-Files was the longest running science fiction series of its time ending after 9 years. Part of its appeal had been a long convoluted conspiracy mythology that had already started to contradict itself long before the series ended. After 9 years all we got was our heroes on the run and an alien invasion set date of 2012 which seemed a million years away in 2003. What a fucking cop out. I was never a regular viewer and true fans have told me that the mythology is not such a sticking point for them since most of the show’s best episodes were about stand-alone plots. Still five years later a movie came tying up no loose ends and doing a standalone plot. Eight years after that we got six episodes which varied in quality but overall made the series viable ongoing for continuing adventures. Now there’s talk maybe another series and a third film to wrap up the stories. This is for a show that started in 1993 and peaked around about 1998. I was in high school, now I am middle aged so please to all involved…

What is served by delaying for another series or two of six episodes? Tales unless they are The Canterbury ones should be finished, even those should have been finished!

This brings me to Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I did watch regularly. I was 18 when Buffy and Angel got it on and he lost his soul in a cliff-hanger halfway through Season 2. Every episode after whether filler or not had us fans wondering when and if Angel would get his soul back. Every episode was taped on the VCR and played again during the week with my siblings as we quoted Whedon’s witty one liners and mused on how it would all play out. In that moment I loved that show possibly a way I will never love another show because anything from when you are a teenager becomes sacred. I was after all finding out about love at the same time Buffy was. Angel did get his soul back and get sent to hell before returning in season 3. At the end of that season Buffy graduated high school and Angel left for L.A. Their love story having begun to repeat itself would now be put on hold as David Boreanz got his own spin off. Season 3 was a great year for the show with the introduction of rogue slayer Faith and the Mayor being a superb villain. My little brother noted to me that the season finale felt more like a series finale and sadly his words would prove prophetic.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was never the same show for us after that, the writing became inconsistently funny and new storylines were far less enjoyable then the high school set ones. Which is not to say I regret the following four years Spike and Anya became fantastic main cast additions and there were some serious stellar episodes like Hush, Restless and Once More with Feeling.

Chosen brought Angel back for a cameo and but also acknowledged how much Spike had become just as interesting and popular a love interest. More importantly it had a stunning set piece finale, changed the status quo for the hero (giving every potential Slayer their powers automatically)and gave each character a chance to shine.

 

Angel which was probably a more consistent quality show over its five year run ended with our heroes in an alley about to go out fighting a horde of demons. It too had been a satisfactory finale but after eight years Buffy and Angel had not rode off into the sunset to live happily ever after. I know that shouldn’t be what I expect or want but after falling in love with these characters and their relationship despite how both shows had evolved over the years I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. In 2007 a Season 8 Buffy Comic followed and then a Season 6 Angel comic. I got to the end of both with not many answers and very disappointed how they had turned out despite the TV show writers being involved. Hence my central lament.

If there is a show that I feel more frustrated with it is Ally McBeal which I really discovered in 2011 but still carries a nostalgic factor due to watching some Season 2 episodes with my younger sister. If you’re a fan, you know Season 2 is really the best one. That show about a single female lawyer trying to find love in the modern era had its ups and downs but season 4 saw Robert Downey Jr. come on board and give the show new life. But his drug abuse eventually got him written off just as the two characters were to be married in the season finale. Season 5 attempted a reboot before I think the term was coined with a set of new characters for the firm as the most likeable character John Cage made fewer appearances. Typical of a David E. Kelley show interesting characters were left hanging with no plotlines and new characters were introduced randomly and then magically disappeared. A late add of Jon Bon Jovi and a daughter for Ally went nowhere and the show feeling a million miles from its fresh, oddball and original first season bowed out. Did Ally get back with her true love? No she left town with her daughter. John Cage alas was friend zoned after having made more interesting pairings with Portia De Rossi’s Nelle and Anne Heche’s Melanie. All these years later I still wish for a telemovie to show Ally reunited with Larry but Robert Downey Jr’s career success has made that a pipe dream.

Interestingly enough Boston Legal which perhaps was a better Ally McBeal 2.0 with boys did end right. Remaining characters were paired off, the firm survived, everybody got to stay together and do their jobs and Denny and Alan got married so Alan could be Denny’s power of attorney.

Well those are the season finales that I feel most passionately upset about. Let’s consider some that maybe stuck the landing. Feel free to disagree.

BattleStar Galactica

The best thing to come out of the Writer’s Strike of 2008 may be the reduced run of the BattleStar Galactica reboot series. Season 3 had felt a little bit like buying time but season 4 continually raised the stakes as the ship literally started to fall apart. Some fans don’t like the Series Finale where the fleet is flown into the sun after Earth is finally found, the Cylons are allowed to leave to find their own world, President Rosselin dies and Lee Adama decides to go walk about while Starbucks is revealed to be a Spirit and vanishes. What I adore about this finale is if you don’t agree with a character’s decision the story is left open for you to reverse it. Lee Adama is a born leader, I know he’s going to go exploring but soon he will return and he will lead people because that’s what an Adama does. How many shows develop their characters and their worlds so well that after all that time you can feel the freedom and confidence to do that following a finale.

The Wonder Years

Possibly my favourite series from my childhood, the finale after years of obsessing over Winnie Cooper had Kevin and Winnie lose their virginity in a barn. A voice over prologue at the end declares that Kevin’s father died, Winnie went to Paris and remained friends with Kevin who married somebody else and had a kid. Wait…WTF! Somehow though even at 13, I somehow understand after talking to my own Dad that life can turn out like that. The finale may be contentious for some but for me the show was always honest about life’s realistic turns and the wistful nostalgia Daniel Stern’s voice over carries for those days becomes so much more poignant when you realise that Kevin only has memories of his father from that time really.

 

Cheers

Sitcoms notoriously run too long and lose talent and stop being funny. This maybe the gold standard though for how to do it right. If you cast back to the mid-80s and Sam and Diane getting engaged and moving in together you might have been very excited to hear that Shelley Long would return for the finale. Last time she was walking up the steps away from the bar declaring she would be back in a year. Old slugger Sam knew better and watched her departing figure go repeating “Have a nice life.” The writers knew something about those characters and about life in that exchange that went beyond Shelley Long leaving a popular show to pursue a film career. All those years later when they wrapped the show they displayed that wisdom again. Sam and Diane did not ride off into the sunset however much some fans may have wanted them to. No instead Diane went on with her career and Sam returned to his bar and its regulars. As each character got a send-off in a late night smoking session to welcome Sam back, Norm was left to declare that Sam all along had stayed with his one true love. Friends saw Ross and Rachel get together, Monica and Chandler have a baby and the friend stay friends while dramatically moving out of the apartments but Cheers has the greatest sitcom finale of all time.

 

The Late Show with David Letterman

Essentially a glorified clips show David Letterman’s sojourn still has big ticket guests doing an excellent Top Ten and the man himself holding centre stage in an honest speech saying goodbye. The montage of images played while the Foo Fighters close with Evergreen though is the kicker. So many memories and then Letterman steps up onto the stage waving to the crowd. Perpetually beginning for posterity’s sake as the show ends for good.

Mad Men

Repeating a feature of several later episodes the finale chews up valuable time with Don going to a retreat isolated from the rest of the characters back in New York. Where will the story end we wonder and then he quite possibly makes a breakthrough emotionally. We follow a montage of characters Peggy finally happy in a relationship and at work,  Pete reunited with his family and hitting his peak like Don before him before his inevitable decline, Roger Sterling happily seguing into retirement and travel with a likeminded companion, Joan finally the boss, Betty in control of her life but sadly at the end of it and the wise rebellious Sally accepting responsibility in the family. When Don opens his eyes is he about to return to advertising with the famous Coke campaign that closes the series or is it just a gentle mocking of Don’s industry and our subsequent consumerist culture? These ambivalent endings can feel like cheats but when it comes to The Sopranos and Mad Men I am fairly happy with the results.

So what are some of favourites or least favourites? How do you rate the finales of Airwolf, Alf, Alias, The A-Team, Breaking Bad, Boston Legal, The Cosby Show, CSI, ER, Family Ties, Frasier, The Golden GirlsHill Street Blues, Knight Rider, Lost, Magnum P.I., M.A.S.H., N.Y.P.D. Blues, Seinfeld, The Shield, The Sopranos, The West Wing?

-Lloyd Marken

JAMES CORDEN WINS THE LATE NIGHT SUPERBOWL SPECIAL

Post Super Bowl programming deserves sports parlance as much as anything and in the case of CBS this year you could describe it as Stephen Colbert fumbled a great opportunity and James Corden showed up to play.

Late Night Talk Show Hosts are cults of personalities. Always have been. Johnny Carson the story goes turned to a young producer once about a show he was about to start. The producer had been explaining the skits, the formula, the guests, the production values. When the producer was done Carson leaned in and told him “These shows are all about the guy behind the desk.” They are and I can tell you this because without my guys Craig Ferguson and David Letterman the genre has held less appeal this past year. All that remain are talented entertainers but they’re not Craig Ferguson and David Letterman and so I have not felt compelled to write about them. Where I live and with the technology I have I semi-regularly catch whole shows of Stephen Colbert, James Corden and Jimmy Fallon. I chase down viral bits from Conan, Kimmel and Meyers on YouTube. Alas I’m not catching anything from Comedy Central because “I’m an overseas viewer.” Their loss or mine? Who knows in this social media driven culture. What I see I like and champion.

Jimmy Kimmel

I love Mean Tweets, Halloween pranks not so much. Kimmel general does well with his celebrity interviews and can engage politicians well enough. For example his opening up of Harrison Ford with a Chewbacca recurring bit is gold, Jimmy’s search for Austin’s Best BBQ which parodied The Bachelor was neat too. The stuff with Matt Damon is brilliant too even if the peak was that clip with Sarah Silverman all those years ago now.

Conan O’Brien

Coco’s ratings scores have been as low as 300,000 viewers during the low season and he has never crested a million on a regular night in years. Yet a little Cuban special snagged two million viewers taking in DVR recordings after the telecast last year. Relegated to TBS O’Brien has a social media presence and a youthful demographic that belies his years. He is the epitome of punching above his weight. Kids watching him now may not even know about the Leno fiasco of ’09 but they know about Uber, Tinder and Grinder, Ride Along with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, Call of Duty, Archer, Magic Mike XXL and crucially they know funny and Conan O’Brien remains as funny as he has ever been. At 53 he is out doing remotes when Letterman was sending Biff Henderson and Rupert Jee into the fray. His cultural reach far exceeds his real numbers. Sure some of the interviews are boring, sure sometimes the monologue is lame. Who cares? This man shows up to work again and again and rather than coasting on old NBC bits he’s been reinventing himself for a new generation. GO COCO!

Jimmy Fallon

Fallon is King and moment to moment I doubt there’s anybody funnier that’s why he regularly rates higher than his competitors. You tune in for Trump on Colbert. You watch Fallon no matter who’s appearing because Fallon is appearing. His monologues actually make me laugh; he has an easy rapport with his house band The Roots which amongst being bonafide musicians all have unique personalities which are comfortable to get involved in sketches and on the spot riffing. It’s true they’ve had six years to get this down pat but they’re running like a well-oiled machine at this point. The question remains when will we get tired of this routine. Will Fallon ever mature into the statesman Carson and Letterman became? Does it really matter? Jimmy Fallon has no edge, so what? Late last year he asked a question of Trump who replied “These were not the question we agreed to.” In this simple gesture he made Jimmy Fallon more badass than any question he was going to ask would have made him. He once turned to Hilary Clinton and asked “Why don’t you release the e-mails? I’m sick of hearing about it, aren’t you?” and she agreed. He asked the question and he put it in terms that were on most American’s minds. Frustratingly they just moved on but that is not to say Fallon is a push over. He has actually been very steadfast that he wants to make a fun show and he wants his guests to have fun on his show like everybody else. You can tell Fallon’s politics as clearly as Colbert but like Conan O’Brien his show is not about politics but about having fun. As long as that is happening I don’t think he’s going anywhere. Can he be the fun guy for multiple generations? Can he do dance offs with the next pop sensation when he’s 55 or will it lose something when it isn’t a peer like Justin Timberlake? Time will tell but the man is incredibly talented, hardworking and he has the most entertaining show on late night television consistently. However short the reign he has not been a flash in the pan. He is the current King of Late Night Television. Fact.

 

Stephen Colbert

Colbert is booking CEOs, civil rights leaders and journalists in a way nobody else on network late night television is. This is classic counter programming which won’t place him in No.1 but will hopefully snag enough of a high income audience to justify his existence. The thinking person’s alternative though lost to Kimmel and Meyers throughout the month of December and those guys provide some of what he is selling to audiences as well. That makes it tricky. Plus nobody really bitches about Meyers lack of viralness because his lead in from Fallon makes him the highest rated in his timeslot by a country mile. The Colbert Report was so good for so long that we took for granted what an upheaval a new show would be. Colbert a former improve actor could sing and dance, his quick wit and intelligence was undeniable, his interviews in his old persona were actually really insightful and on top of it all he had a youthful openness, a yearning to ask questions and find answers rather than accuse and demean. Yet The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has been rife with teething problems of any first year out program. Jon Batiste is a talented musician and Colbert and he appear to genuinely like the other but chemistry comes from a variety of factors and right now… they don’t have it. Joe Biden’s interview on Colbert was a gift that reminds us what a great television moment of authenticity can be. A man clearly laying bare his emotions in a public forum without anything to gain from it as it turned out since he didn’t end up running.

I like a lot of the sketches Colbert has established written by his clever writers like “A Big Furry Hat” and even more so “Big Thoughts with even Bigger Stars.” Yet Colbert’s celebrity interviews are often as awkward as Fallon’s ass-kissing routine where everyone is so great and so funny. An easy rapport with Chris Pine and Josh Brolin recently had me questioning why can’t all Colbert interviews be like that?  This may not be entirely fair for someone who just renovated a theatre on Broadway and has big numbers in it but Colbert doesn’t seem to do remotes. Neither does Fallon to an extent but you feel it with Colbert. The guy is busting his ass, dabbling in live shows and doing five nights a week but when you take a break six weeks after your debut it feels lazy.

Which brings us to the Superbowl.

CBS took the unprecedented step of following their Super Bowl 50 coverage with a live telecast of their late night programs The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Late Late Show with James Corden. The Late Show started strong with a monologue that involved him throwing the football to first soldiers overseas, an astronaut and then the President. It’s the kind of extra expense stuff you save for such shows which also tugs at the heart strings of Americana. Support the troops, we can reach outer space and our Commander in Chief enjoys a throw of the ole pigskin as much as we all do. It got even better when Colbert involved in some meta humour. The President pointed out he was in a pre-taped bit to which the host insisted he was doing the show live. President Obama proved his point by bringing Colbert onscreen in the bit to talk to his live studio self. It was a neat sketch and was true to Stephen’s comic sensibilities.

Unfortunately the rest of the show was not as strong at all. Colbert followed with an interview with Tina Fey and Margot Robbie that was average despite Fey usually being funny. It was awkwardly interrupted by a cross to the Super Bowl stadium to have a satellite interview with MVP winner Von Miller. When it concluded Fey joked “Now about this movie.” Will Ferrell followed with a neat joke about being a new animal expert for the show and refusing to talk about Zoolander 2 which he was there to spruik. Yet I couldn’t help but flashback to his lip sync battle with Kevin Hart last year on Fallon and just feel these were half measures. A popular sketch from Key and Poole related to football also made an appearance before finally Megyn Kelly showed up to engage Colbert in the type of interview that he’s good at but at that point the hour had drawn near. 22,000,000 viewers watched this fucking show. Two decades ago at the height of his powers with a four network landscape and a Winter Olympics lead in David Letterman mustered 14 million on a weeknight. Last year when he retired he pulled 13.7 million. You’ll never get 22 million again, this was a golden opportunity to draw a wide net and grab some extra casual viewers over the long haul to hopefully remain a viable competitor. To be fair it wasn’t for lack of tyring, Key and Poole, Fey and Ferrell are all comedy superstars and were well chosen. They referenced football, they got the President and the First Lady to show up and Megyn Kelly is a high profile reporter and brings an audience that doesn’t tune into Colbert. It was the kind of aisle crossing inclusivity the late show host has practiced since he booked Jeb Bush on his first night on CBS. Yet it didn’t flow seamlessly, it was a mess of ideas and priorities. Look here’s celebrities but we’ve got to cross to an actual footballer. Here’s a sketch from another show because it involves football which means it will be fifty minutes before I talk to Megyn Kelly which arguably is going to be the best bit but will not be funny and we need to be funny right?

James Corden On The Other Hand

The Late Late Show followed and scored a franchise high of 5 million which is impressive when you consider some affiliates were going with local news at that point after cutting Colbert’s last few minutes. So let’s talk about James Corden. James Corden a portly British television and theatre star has spent twelve months on his show embracing American culture including kicking a half time field goal at a local game and hanging out at a tailgate party.

As a result when he got engaged with elements of the Super Bowl for his show it seemed more authentic and he more comfortable. Unlike Fallon and like Colbert he stayed in his home town and his home theatre but he did send his parents down to the Super Bowl to report from the field which was surprisingly funny and a little moving. Their son has been successful in the arts for a while now but in their bits there is a touch of grounded people marvelling at the opportunities afforded them and a wicked unfiltered sense of humour about life in general. James Corden had a great gag putting all Denver Bronco supporters in his studio and leaving Carolina Panther supporters in the car park where they set up rain machines to pour water on them before making it snow in L.A. Crossing back later in the show to show them huddled in ponchos he offered snacks for them punching through corn chips and dip through the rain machines. It is humour with a bit of bite but then the Bud Light crew showed up for the Panther fans and all was well. Corden was due to interview Peyton Manning but instead his bandleader Reggie Watts played a big musical number throughout before they lost the satellite feed. It’s a re-occurring gag they’ve done before and shows that Corden is prepared to be the butt of jokes as much as Panther fans. Referencing nostalgia like a boss James also starred in a parody of a classic Super Bowl advertisement with original star Cindy Crawford. Finally two strong bits that Corden does were brought into the show. He roped in young and hip performers Anna Kendrick, Adam Devine and Zac Effron to go through every sports movie in 7 minutes. It was a bigger scale version of the silly, low tech and funny sketch that has met with some success for him before. You know?! Kind of what you’re supposed to do with a post Super Bowl audience.

Following this formula he did a similar thing with his signature sketch- he did Carpool Karaoke with Elton John. This part of the show referenced nothing about the Super Bowl but it was Corden’s superstar sketch with a major superstar in it for his biggest audience ever. That’s how you do it. By organically filling the rest of the show with football the Elton John bit did not need it and since Carpool Karaoke is such a signature Corden bit its inclusion did not feel awkward or out of place either in the Super Bowl special. Speaking of Carpool Karaoke, a recent one with Adele has hit 67,000,000 views on YouTube. That’s more than anything on YouTube from any late night TV show. The Late Late Show with James Corden is not perfect but I marvel sometimes at it. It has a spirit of fun, has established its own identity within weeks of airing for the first time, Corden’s chemistry with Reggie Watts is easy and Watts is not a sidekick but his own thing. One night I tuned in and James Corden and Tori Kelly went out to restaurants in a remote and sang for their supper. Working outside the studio with a shaky premise and uncertain of how crowds are going to react makes for exciting if awkward television. As it advanced Reggie’s house band came out and Tori Kelly got people up and dancing to her song Nobody Love. The punch line made me smile.

Zoologist Jack Hanna of Letterman fame showed up with Betty White a great animal lover along with Amar’e Soudemire. Rachel Platten closed with a powerful rendition of her pop hit Stand By You. My God it was fun!

 

-Lloyd Marken

When Legends Retire: David Letterman

David Letterman announces that he will be retiring from the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN on the broadcast tonight, Thursday, April 3 (11:35pm-12:37am, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

David Letterman announces that he will be retiring from the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN on the broadcast tonight, Thursday, April 3 (11:35pm-12:37am, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

When legends retire, you stand up and you applaud. For the past month of shows the audience in the Ed Sullivan Theatre have been rising to their feet as David Letterman walks out to do his monologue at the beginning of what are to be the last episodes of The Late Show with him at the helm. The monologues are not the strong suit of the show and five minutes later only one good guffaw may have been unleashed. Still they are on their feet clapping. Most likely not for the monologue or even the show to come. Most likely not for the guests on that night. Possibly not even when things are going particularly well. No they’re rising to their feet and giving a standing ovation for over 6,000 shows over 33 years. A lifetime of memories that Letterman gave us from a lifetime of work. They’ve come from around the country, most are long-time fans, and they’ve paid money, booked tickets and waited outside. They haven’t done this for nothing. They’ve done this because they want to see the man in the arena either one last time or for the first time because one more times are fast running out. A pilgrimage to let the man know it mattered, what you did mattered and we are grateful. Part of this is nostalgia and sentiment for time passing. Would we have appreciated him signing on for another year of not being Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel? But the outpouring of love and reminiscing runs deeper.

Letterman’s origins come from so long ago we kind of take for granted how much he changed the comedy landscape. Tenure gives you respectability as Letterman has pointed out adamant that he is no Johnny Carson but Judd Apatow, the two Jimmies, Conan, Jon Stewart, Ray Romano, Stephen Colbert to name a few have cited the importance of how 80s Late Night show changed everything. The hyperbole of the moment includes Late Night television will never be the same. You hear laments about how talk has left the genre of talk shows. So it’s important to remember in September there is going to be a lot of buzz devoted to Colbert’s arrival as the second ever host of The Late Show and the ensuing interest to see if Fallon can stay No.1 and if Fallon remains king what will this mean for all the new players.

Time marches on and the world continues to turn. In a moment as we all get misty eyed about Dave and his achievements it’s easy to forget sometimes that he’s been a little lazy in recent years, a little a bit of a prick to people who didn’t deserve it, a little too awkward around young starlets. So why the love? Seriously is it all for the revolution that was Late Night in the 1980s? I mean why didn’t Jay Leno get this much press last year? Seriously he didn’t. 22 years at the top in the ratings, far nicer to people and probably on average funnier moment to moment than his rival. Partly this was due to the fact that Leno had gone away before and come back but also because critics have never loved Leno as much as Letterman.

Lettermancarson

Maybe it’s because Letterman is 33 years of Late Night, the last link to an age when Johnny Carson was still on the air. Conan O’Brien has become the elder statesmen and he is only has 11 years to go to match Dave’s record, Kimmel has 20 years, Colbert has 20 and Fallon has 27 years to go. Although television as we know it going to be around in 2022 let alone 2042. They might make it and hell if any goes with 20 or 25 in the bank it will deserve our recognition. However this is about more than longevity. It’s about more than all that the gap toothed youngster did in the 1980s. All this love is about Dave.

I’ve been watching David Letterman since 2001; I was a university student living in public housing in Australia with a TV and five channels. In the middle of the night if you didn’t want to watch Tony Robbins infomercials The Late Show was it. This was before torrents. Before YouTube. Before cheap DVDs. I had seen Jay Leno on my parent’s cable and thought he was funnier and nicer. Kevin Eubanks seemed more hip than Paul Schaeffer and the bigger stars seemed to be on Leno but this was nothing else on so I watched. Then something funny happened. One night I was over at my parents place and I asked my siblings to turn the channel over to him at the allotted time. They didn’t get it. They mocked it but that’s when I knew, I was a fan.

Was dropping random objects in a giant water tank mesmerising television? No it was not. As sexy and talented as a grinder girl was I don’t think I needed to see her that many times or hula-hoops lady either but stagehands Pat and Kenny reading Oprah transcripts –that never got old.

Alan talking sexy to the camera. Love it.

When Biff yelled out at a jogger with a bullhorn “You’re going to die anyway.” While passing by in a car I laughed so hard.

Letterman himself played over and over a clip from a Gap Jeans commercial just because he liked the girl in it. Given at the time he was 30 years her senior that is perhaps a little leery for today but it spoke to my youthful hormones and on some level you knew Jay wasn’t doing stuff like this. Dave was the rebel and as the years ticked away that became why I loved him. When you think about some of his best interviews some of the ones that immediately come to mind were distinctly unpleasant. Letterman would milk the awkward tension and unpleasant vibe for all it was worth.

A personal favourite was Paris Hilton coming on the show after her time in jail.

I’ve seen the clips of Cher, Madonna, Andy Kaufmann and Harmony Korinne from before my viewing time as well. They’re all solid gold as well as any number I watched live with Bill O’Reilly though they have mellowed around each other somewhat.

Regis Philbin who was an unknown to me here in Australia has been on the show more than anybody else for a reason. Some of the best shows Dave had were with Regis. Just two old guys on a couch arguing like an old married couple. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFx3n6DSD9E

But other interviews I’ve loved with Letterman had nothing to do with awkward pauses and glib putdowns. If Dave has become known for openly showing disinterest in the parade of young stars with repetitive products to shill he has become the go to guy for former Presidents, current politicians, war heroes and journalists to be interviewed by.

Some of the celebrity ones have been stellar.


I’m not interested in pointing the finger at younger rivals and complaining that they can’t do this. The Dave of Late Night couldn’t have brought gravitas like the Dave of now. They can grow into it just like he did.
Yet Dave does bring something only he can. I don’t know if it’s the Midwest in him or his interest in wordplay but there’s something deeply unique and profoundly simple in the some of the way he talks about things. On Robin Williams he described his comedy force arriving at the Comedy store in comparison to the other comedians. “We’re like morning dew and he comes in like a hurricane.” When jousting with Bill O’Reilly “You’re putting words in my mouth just like you put artificial facts in your head.” Or when returning to the air after September 11, 2001 “We are told these attacks were carried out by zealots fuelled by religious fervour and if you live to be 1000 years old will that make any sense. Will that make any Goddamn sense.”

Johnny Carson tucked America into bed for 30 years. If nothing else David Letterman did it that night. He still has that power. Letterman was the last to return to the air after Robin Williams’s sudden suicide and we waited to see what he would say about the man he had known for 30 years having passed away. By recounting the early days of the Comedy Store he acknowledged the extraordinary talent and generosity of the man. There was no homespun homily either. After a clip throughout the years he closed with “I had no idea the man was in so much pain, that the man was suffering. Robin Williams what a guy.”

David Letterman doesn’t lie. This is troublesome when he’s bored by someone you or the populace likes. Yet that brings its own reward. When at 67 years of age he bounds onto the stage and says the indie rock band playing was good you know he means it. When he introduces a guest as the very funny or the very talented it’s high praise.

Not lying allowed him to interview Warren Zevon and not gloss over then fact that he was dying. Zevon is a musicians’ musician who amongst other hits wrote and performed Werewolves of London. But in 2002 when Dave has Zevon it’s fair to say he wasn’t the biggest star in the world. Long-time Letterman fans knew him thought from multiple appearances including sitting in for bandleader Paul Schaeffer. He devoted the whole show to him and me who didn’t know Zevon or their mutual history was mesmerised. “It’s lung cancer.” Zevon told him and David responded “That’s tough.” with a heartfelt grimace having gone through a quintuple bypass a couple of years earlier. Mortality was circling the now middle aged rock’n‘roll baby boomers.

You can hear a pin drop in the clip as the audience goes deathly quiet. Zevon cracks wise throughout the interview and looks great if a little thin but does not shy away from what is happening. Death is a part of a life but seldom is it dealt with on television with such authenticity. It is here. Hear Dave’s voice crack when he tells “Stop it Paul” who is offering Warren to play the songs in any order. Warren Zevon performs three songs on the night and while his voice can’t quite ascend to its full range during the ballad Mutineer he is right on point throughout his last public performance. Looking over at his fellow musicians in recognition and thanks at the end of every song I am always moved by the concentration on every band member’s face as they nail the horn finale of Mutineer.

During the interview Letterman asked Zevon if he knew anything about life that he did not know yet. Zevon answered “To enjoy every sandwich.” The sentiment is so simple and so profound it shows the similarity of their two sensibilities. At the end of the final performance Letterman strolls over and advises Zevon and us all to enjoy every sandwich.

It immediately spoke to him and he repeated the exchange in a tribute show to Zevon the following year when the news came that he had passed away. It was a lovely touch earlier this month when a cover of Mutineer was played and Letterman mentioned Zevon by name after. That whole show was just so real and I pray to God that tradition is maintained in the late night shows to come.

Not lying has brought him forgiveness too. Coming clean about having an affair with staff was an incredible low point. I used to watch Stephanie Birkitt on the show that is a few years older than me and I had a big crush on her. We’ve all got our own sins to make up for but I am pleased to see Dave trying as much as the rest of us, maybe even more and while it’s none of my business I hope Regina is now happy and at the time gave’em hell. I hope Birkitt and also those affected will be allowed to get on with their lives from this moment. But when Dave says he did a terrible thing and he has a lot of work cut out for him it kind of makes me happy to still count myself as a fan.

I just like Dave. But I also like the entire crew that he has brought in front of the camera. Rupert Jee from the Hello Deli, the aforementioned Alan Kalter, Pat and Kenny, Biff Henderson. Then there is Paul Schaeffer. Paul Schaeffer it turns out was just as hip if not more hip as Kevin Eubanks. He’s backed some of the biggest names in the business on the show and made some of the most magical musical moments on the show possible. Every night as the commercials have come and gone I have gotten used to the bands rendition of this song and that. I can’t believe they’re not going to be there anymore. This would have been more than an achievement but Paul has become one of the funniest sidekicks on TV even sometimes nailing a punch line as Dave searches for one. This supporting cast of characters has been as much fun as Dave has.



Yet it all does come back to Dave. When I think about my favourite bits from the last decade I usually recall stories he told at his desk in between the monologues and the guest interviews. One day he told a story of stealing the car keys of paparazzi following him while he jogged. When he threw the car keys away he closed with the line “I felt like Clint Eastwood.” Another story about a bear breaking into his house is a well-known classic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWRTglU3GXU

as well as the countless riffs on the Conan vs. Jay war of ’09

Last year when announcing his retirement he again was in story mode and it softened the blow beautifully while also making you realise the one thing you were going to miss most about him – that of the storyteller. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5sVI_-LRCI

For two years I had Craig Ferguson and he became my favourite but he’s already gone. Maybe that’s a good thing because while I was still watching Dave these past few months have reminded me why Letterman was my Late Night host for all these years. I’ve seen a lot of clips of Johnny Carson and I get why 1992 was such a pivotal moment in American culture. Carson was everything. When Letterman says he is no Carson I understand what he means but Letterman is Letterman and that in itself is something special so let me put it out there in this little obscure part of the internet. Dave always feel free to come back and do anything you want big or small. It won’t taint your legacy and we’ll be happy to see you. Adam Sandler struck a nerve with me when he sang “Because you’re the king of comedy, my best friend on TV.”

When Craig Ferguson’s last show aired in the middle of the night I stood up alone in my living room in my boxers as Craig finished singing and the audience applauded. I smiled sheepishly knowing how stupid I was behaving but wanting to feel connected in some way.
No doubt I’ll be on my feet again this Thursday. Because that’s what you do when legends retire. You stand up and you applaud.

-Lloyd Marken

Two More Weeks with my Favourite Late Night Host Craig Ferguson

Two more weeks.

That is all you have left.

Two more weeks and then Craig Ferguson will no longer host The Late Late Show.

If ratings are anything to go by this is hardly the concern of most but a few.

I count myself as one of those proud few.

There I was one night recently lying on my couch watching Ferguson at 11:30pm and I just smiled. It had been a long long day and the sandman was at my door but I had held on, left the TV on. Because he’s my guy, it’s my show and I just smiled.

This is my Late Night TV show. My favourite. I only started watching two years ago when I got a digital TV. Maybe only a year ago did I discover all those old clips on YouTube and start mentioning to my friends that they should watch.

And now all too soon he’ll be gone and that will be that.

So it’s important to savour these last few nights of a truly unique late night talk show.

What do you get with Ferguson at the helm that you don’t get with my David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel?

I’ve been a long time watcher of Letterman who has the best interviews and the relaxed style of a veteran that can only exist by having been around. Watch him announce his retirement or pay tribute to Robin Williams, Jimmy Fallon the King of Late Night currently doesn’t have that gravitas nor storytelling ability. Fallon might grow into it. As a host celebrated for his boyish good looks, social media savvy and youthful enthusiasm people fail to notice he regularly acknowledges the history of the medium and seeks guests who are part of its rich history. Kimmel will keep Letterman’s snark alive and well. His comedy has edge and his most classic bits are just as newsworthy as any of the endearingly daggy games Fallon gets big guests to play. I really would have liked to have seen Conan O’Brien get a fair shake at The Tonight Show. I doubt that he would have been the success that Jimmy Fallon is now but for my money he is a better host. Conan felt like my generation’s Carson. He lampooned the things I knew and loved. He had the guests on that were my popular culture and his bits were just my sensibility.

But Ferguson…Craig Ferguson is my favourite. For starters I love double entendres, the more obvious the better and Craig has made an art of doing the obvious ones and doing several in an episode.

I love how he flirts with many of his female guests. Sometimes the way he fawns over how great an actress looks and then quickly mentions a male guest is looking good does raise concern of whether he comes across as someone who places too high a value on the way a woman looks. But he seems genuinely a fan of Shailene Woodley not just because she is beautiful but because she is smart and confident. While he happily flirts with someone younger like Kirsten Bell whose many appearances on the show have become legend because of their easy rapport, he is also flirts with peers like Robin Wright, Mary McCormack and Sandra Bullock and more venerable guests like Betty White. Some of the best bits have been when the women call his bluff and not only flirt back but confront him with doing something else. His nervous smile and clear discomfort with Kate Mara or Berenice Marlohe show he is happily married and out of his depth. Gwendoline Christie who plays Brienne of Tarth of Game of Thrones was on recently and is a great example of this. For a woman I know for being dressed up in armour, being stern and heroic and noted for her height it was a fantastic change of pace to see her being sexual and funny.

Secondly I love the zaniness of the show. This might have cost him in the end a shot at the 11:30 timeslot but that race had probably already been lost when Geoffrey Peterson and Secretariat became permanent fixtures. He has great chemistry with Josh Robert Thomson who voices, wait for it, The Gay Robot Skeleton Geoffrey Peterson. Yes Craig has a skeleton mannequin off to the side of the stage and also two guys in a horse suit named Secretariat off to the other side in a stable. I figured this was pretty weird but hardly off putting in this day and age. So imagine my delight when I found my baby boomer mother was put off by Geoffrey. “He’s a symbol of death, it’s kinda creepy.” She’d tell me. No offense Mum but your discomfort kind of makes Geoff and Craig just a little bit cooler and I thought at 34 I was way past these delights. Ferguson stated in several interviews that Thomson and him will be working together in the future. I’m not surprised. Often the best lines of the night belong to Geoff Peterson and not in a threatening manner to the lead host. Part of their act is essentially Ferguson throwing to Peterson for a punch line or at least to help him build to one. At least twice every night when a joke stalls Peterson pops in one that did work a few minutes before but in a mocking manner as if the show really never pulls off anything.

That’s part of the appeal for me too. Since the show airs at 12:30 at night in the States it’s like a best kept secret. It’s production values look cheap and half the time it’s guests are B-Grade. I cannot back up if this is actually true but the impression they try to sell is that Craig comes out and rather than do a monologue written by ten writers and put on cue cards he rattles off a few points of interest from the day and see where it takes him. This means when everybody else is referring to Governor Christie or the Presidential elections Craig might be mentioning an obscure International Day of…  There’s a devil may care attitude to proceedings and an acknowledgement this late in the game that the people watching aren’t mainstream America but fans most of which aren’t casual viewers. You either get this or you don’t and if you get it you’re not normal-you’re one of us. That’s a terribly nice feeling when you sit down to watch something. If you think you’re odd, you’re not alone and maybe you’re a little bit cool because you get it and not everybody does. The opening number written and performed by Ferguson implores you to stay up and that you’re part of a group. It’s hard to stay up. It’s been a long long day and the sandman is at your day. But hang on. Leave the TV on. And let’s do it anyway.

Let us do it anyway.

The show follows a standard format. Monologue (kinda), a section where Craig reads tweets and e-mails from viewers while riffing with Geoff, interview 1, interview 2 and finally a summation of the night with What Did We Learn on the Show Tonight Craig? I’ll admit that I look forward to the monologues and tweets and emails reading most nights. The only difference between the two is the stimuli and that he stands up for the monologue and sits down to read the e-mails and tweets from viewers in the second one. Both rely on repeated jokes that are told every week and appear to be adlibbed by Ferguson and Thomson to hopefully come up with a punch line that will be successful enough to end the segment on. When you think about it, this is gutsy live performing that is a wonder to behold. Nobody else does this. Everybody else had monologues that are polished, topical and get smaller laughs more often. Craig and Geoff crack me up though and there’s an energy that comes from the comedians themselves not knowing how they are going to get to where we’re headed. It’s two mates basically trying to crack each other up.

The interviews can be hit or miss but it’s not because Ferguson is a bad interviewer. Ferguson is interested in ideas and owing to the later start time he gets on people that don’t have to be big celebrities. Novelists, old comedians and the former Mayor of Reykjavik sit down on his couch and not just to plug some product but to merely tell their story. His interview with Reverend Desmond Tutu won him a Peabody Award and he had a whole episode where he discussed a range of topics with Stephen Fry. The latter being a tribute to the former format of the show under Tom Snyder who really did a TALK show. When somebody sits down for an interview he asks the kind of random casual questions you’d do with a friend you haven’t seen in a while or stranger you just met at a party. He infuses every interview with a sense we can talk about anything. Many years ago he had an interview with Alec Baldwin and he read his cards for the interview which were prepared by his staff. The first question was “How have you been?”  He tore up the cue cards and has made a point of doing so ever since.  Anthony Hopkins talked to him about being in the army not so much his latest movie. Kevin Bacon talked about his Mum’s cooking not so much his new TV show. Shailene Woodley talked about pipe smoking and Matthew McConaughey about acting and Don Cheadle about colonoscopies. Ferguson will rope in things going on in his life at the moment like becoming a vegetarian or a new love for British TV show Foyle’s War or an incident of road rage. They often feel like genuine conversations with people he is either friends with or is getting to know. I doubt this is true but that’s what it feels like. So much so that I am surprised when I see them show up on other talk shows. Kevin you bitch?! What will Craig think? Why didn’t you ever do a Footloose re-enactment on his show? Yeah silly I know but that’s how friendly they sometimes seem. If the guest and him are struggling to find a focal point he may pull out his pipe and pretend to be a therapist. This works on so many levels. First off it mocks the LA mentality that everybody, especially rich famous people, are seeing a therapist. Secondly it invites celebrities to talk about their secret fears, hates or dreams. To share something real and personal. Thirdly in a very real way it has gotten quite a few quests to mention they have done therapy. This has opened up to a wider audience however subtlety that everybody goes through a range of issues of emotions in their lifetime and if you need to see a therapist then you are not the only one. While we’re on the topic of acceptance having a gay sidekick however not real is a step in the right direction too. There may be a lot of play on word jokes but honestly after you’ve heard of Geoff’s active sex life isn’t this making more conservative people used to hearing about a gay person having an active sex life. Yes I know he’s a skeleton and he’s not real. I still love him and still think it’s a relevant point. A mainstay of the show is him closing with an awkward pause. Like a lot of gags they can get too repetitive but there’s something comforting in the repetition and most times it leads to something amusing if not hilarious.

I think it’s high time we get someone on Late Night who isn’t a middle aged white guy and I’ll tell you why. Because while Ferguson is those two things he is also a Scotsman and that alone has brought an outsider’s perspective to proceedings. He’s well-travelled, well read and refers to pop culture that sometimes Americans don’t know about. The aforementioned Foyle’s War and Doctor Who for example. He’s taken the show on the road to New Orleans, Scotland and France. There is something wonderful in that. The idea to introduce your audience to large ideas, a wider world and obscure entertainment that nobody else knows about. Compare that to a company man like Fallon who only mentions what’s coming up next on the show this week.

Finally I just like Ferguson. He’s not mean like Letterman or Kimmel can be. But he’s more real and honest than Fallon and less zany than O’Brien.  In the serious moment of the show he talks about his aim to be honest with everything he does with the show. That kind of nobility can only come from a man who’s lived life. The son of a postal worker and a teacher. A former punk rocker who became a stand-up comedian who worked odd jobs including bouncer and construction worker. A Scotsman who brings an outsider’s perspective to Americans and yet as a newly minted citizen has an idealism and deep love for his adopted nation. A man who is well travelled and well-read who in between the smutty humour will quote Kaufman, Beckett and Freud. An actor who I remember fondly playing Mr Wick on The Drew Carey Show, an author and a screenwriter. A doting father and happily married husband who knows the pain of divorce. An alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in two decades. This all informs his act and beneath the scramble to make you laugh is a determined journey to make you engage.  Even I can recognise that Craig makes it a little bit about him sometimes but in doing so it draws us in as viewers and I believe has drawn in some of his regular guests. Mary McCormack a regular spoke on last night’s episode that she loved when he spoke about his Dad. He said he’s never gone back and watched it but at the timehe just had to do it. It was almost ten years ago when the show had been on the air for a year when his father passed away and he talked about his father in the opening monologue. It says something about how real that love and loss is and it was about his father and not him when he says he’s never gone back to look at it. As soon as I got into Ferguson and read up about him I immediately youtubed it. Fathers and sons are a particularly pertinent topic for me and this did not disappoint. He talks about a man who loomed large in his life and that he looked up to. A man who was tough and taught him right from wrong but also looked out for him. The man couldn’t let his father pass without acknowledging it and the same was true after the Colorado shooting or the Boston Marathon Bombing or his mother’s passing.

How could he make us laugh when something sad had happened? He had to be honest in that moment and about how he felt. His feelings are faultless because in remaining true to how he felt he has honoured the dead. That honesty was even more powerful and profound when he spoke about his alcoholism in the wake of Britney Spears being carted off in the back of an ambulance with a shaved head. Here was someone famous and wealthy who couldn’t keep it together and so was throwing it all away. In our ignorance we may have judged her a little for risking it all through bad decisions. You can’t beat this rap with money Ferguson said and then wished her good luck. To not hop on the band wagon with such insight into addiction and some courageous openness about his own past sealed the deal. Craig Ferguson is my favourite and I will miss him when these two weeks are up.

Plus Puppets.