July 2003 Archives

Saving Private Waiter

I'm digging The Restaurant, the new reality show documenting the creation of Rocco's in New York City. I suspect the best is mostly over, at least in so much as getting a "real" look at how things go in the restaurant world. Customers had to apply for a table, telling the producers what they'd bring to the show. I'm sure the place was jammed with people proposing marriage, hiring and firing employees, coming out to their parents, and otherwise creating artificial "reality". So far, Rocco himself has come off as someone with no people/management skills, and his food has not appeared to go over well. Open only a day, Rocco's looks like a sinking ship.

But more importantly... is it just me, or is one of the waiters a dead ringer for the Jewish soldier from Saving Private Ryan?

Comment (1) | last by Russell Ginns, Jul 31, 1:02 PM

Over on a WWTBaM message board, someone's been keeping track of the results of every contestant over the course of this season. In fact, they've even kept transcripts of all of the question stacks. But I'm more interested in the stats.

There were 382 different players this season, with 396 question stacks (14 contestants who won $0 their first time around were given a second chance later). Of those 396 attempts...

2 players (0.5%) won $1,000,000
1 player (0.25%) won $500,000
5 players (1.26%) won $250,000
19 players (4.79%) won $125,000
39 players (9.84%) won $64,000
84 players (21.21%) won $32,000
52 players (13.13%) won $16,000
34 players (8.58%) won $8,000
6 players (1.51%) won $4,000
0 players (0%) won $2,000
137 players (34.59%) won $1,000
17 players (4.29%) won $0
$12,574,000 in prize money was paid out

Why are these stats interesting? Okay, sure, there's the feel-good factor. But I'll admit that my fingers are crossed that, as the prime time version did, they'll invite their top winners back to play again (splitting their winnings with a charity). I'd love to get another shot at the game-- it'd be even more fun the second time around. I'd go even if it weren't televised and there was no money involved. The drama and excitement of sitting in the hotseat, with the lights and live audience... for a game player, it's the ultimate setting. They had me at hello.

The $500,000 Face

Thanks to The Milk Mustache Book, I can at least verify that no, I hadn't ever seen a photo of Naomi Campbell.

naomi.jpg

I just received a piece of real estate spam with the following subject line:

Promotion Has Not At All Occur Consequently Tranquil!

It's almost as if the sender is trying to hypnotize me: This is not spam. This is not a promotion. There is nothing unusual here. Be calm. Be at peace.

Of course, the absurd grammar and excessive capitalization pretty much blew that plan out of the water. I wonder if there's money to be made in a "Spamming to Anal-Retentives" seminar.

Comments (4) | last by Dave, Jan 17, 3:19 AM

I received a greeting card in the mail yesterday congratulating me on my Millionaire performance, and it really touched me. The sender isn't someone I know very well, since I see him only once a year and even then only very casually. He could have given me an attaboy in a quick email. That he took the time to send a card to such a casual acquaintance really made me smile at his thoughtfulness. Those Hallmark people may just be on to something.

Two Snaps Up

I have no illusions. I'm what you'd call style-challenged. If, by "challenged," you meant "completely lacking in." My wardrobe comes courtesy of Costco, my furniture from a hodgepodge of outlet stores, hand-me-downs, and Ikea. My walls are bare save Arcimboldo Summer and Winter prints, a framed "Speechless" lithograph, and (believe it or not) dogs playing poker. The style police have declared me a mobile disaster zone.

But at least I know it. Which is why I've just set up a season pass for Bravo's new series, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The Fab Five, a team of five gay men expert in the realms of fashion, grooming, cuisine, culture, and interior design, descend upon a straight guy to transform him from zero to hero. And while they're dedicated to rescuing their charge from the style doldrums, they do so with snarky irreverence that's frankly hysterical. Trading Spaces bores me, but Queer Eye strikes a chord. Each poor schlub they rescue from fashion oblivion is me.

Comments (6) | last by Stephen Glenn, Aug 16, 9:47 AM

If you grew up in the New York area in the 70's, allow me to take you on a brief auditory stroll down memory lane.

Comments (5) | last by Evelyn, Oct 13, 7:58 PM

Life is a Cabaret

My parents are back in New Jersey, and I was sorry to see them go. It was fun having them around, even though my mom has this compulsive need to try to pick up girls for me. Just what every son wants. The fact that she's more successful at it than I am is beside the point.

You may remember that I'd been considering taking them to the Herbfarm for dinner. We all thought 5 hours for dinner was a bit much, so we went with Teatro Zinzanni instead and had a terrific time. Teatro Zinzanni is a 3.5 hour dinner theater experience, held in a gorgeous jewel box tent where everyone, from the servers to the cooks, get into the act. The menu is by Tom Douglas, which means tasty flavors portioned for parrakeets and cockatiels. Higher order primates may prefer to snack heavily before they go. Aside from the petite plates, everything about the evening was delightful. Most incredible was the way each performer remained in character throughout the evening, whether they were serving your food, filling your water glass, or doing schtick. An aerialist even maintained her blank glassy stare during her act!

I can think of no greater testimonial to the quality of the evening than this: I'm a frugal guy. A cheapskate, if you will. When I purchased the tickets, the recommended gratuity "suggested" by the management seemed high to me. But when it came time to sign the check, I cheerfully tipped above the recommended amount. That's how good the experience was.

70's Heaven

If you don't get Trio, you're missing out on a fabulous trip down memory lane. As part of their "My Trio" series, in which they invite a celebrity to program the network for a week, Joel Stein of Time Magazine is manning the grill this week. And he's serving up a real treat: daily episodes of Battle of the Network Stars.

I loved watching this when I was a kid, but it's positively delectable now. First, vintage television celebrities like Fred "Rerun" Berry, Gabe Kaplan, Lyle Waggoner and Valerie Bertinelli compete in Olympic-style events ranging from swimming and relays to the obstacle course and tug of war. Victor French in a swimming race? Genius! Slow-motion replay of a panting, heaving Adrienne Barbeau? That's television gold, baby!

Now add play-by-play from Howard Cosell, with all the earnestness of a genuine sporting event, and commentary from Telly Savalas and Bruce Jenner. Feeling groovy yet? Toss in gloriously cheesy pre-credit sequences introducing the teams, rudimentary on-screen graphics from a bygone era, puff-piece lifestyle interviews with the stars, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of ABC shows. Calling your cable company yet? Then let me mention the laughable hair styles and collars wide enough to keep Sally Field aloft. Priceless!

It's hard to believe this hasn't been resurrected. With the popularity of celebrity editions of game shows and Fear Factor, and the advent of reality fare like The Surreal Life and I'm a Celebrity-- Get Me Out Of Here!, this seems like a natural. Or is it a relic from a more innocent time, when we were content to see celebrities in a dunk tank instead of a shark tank? Someone give me a budget!

Comment (1) | last by Russell Ginns, Jul 22, 11:28 AM

Millionaire Recap

Some people have requested a transcript of all the questions in my Millionaire stack, and others wanted to know what was going through my mind while I was in the hotseat. So I've combined them into one entry.

millionaire1_small.jpg

Comments (18) | last by Peter Sarrett, Nov 15, 2:01 PM

Millionaire Today

I'm on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire today. Check local listings for channel and time.

If you watched yesterday, you saw a series of contestants crap out early-- including one player who missed on the $1,000 question and left with $0. All of these people were in my contestant group. I'd gotten to know them over the past day, and I watched them tank from the green room with a sinking stomach. It seemed like a bad omen and rattled my already-strained nerves. I think that bit of background is helpful in understanding my mind-set when I sat in the hotseat.

Warning: I expect the comments to this message to contain spoilers. Don't read if you don't want the know the outcome of the show.

Comments (29) | last by giuseppe zanotti outlet, Nov 9, 4:50 PM

Home Turf

My parents arrived in town yesterday for a week or so of visitation. The last time they were out here was about eight years ago, despite my frequent entreaties and invitations to return. They traveled just about everywhere else-- Holland, Denmark, Austria, Peru, Thailand, India-- but not to see their youngest child. And yet, despite my faithful annual Thanksgiving trips home for the past 13 years, I'm the bad guy if I give even a hint that maybe perhaps I kinda sorta don't want to make the pilgrimage this year.

It's not that I don't want to see my family. I do-- especially my nieces, who are pretty much as cute as nieces can possibly be. Far cuter than yours, trust me. It's just that when I go home there's nothing for me to DO, and everyone gets upset with me for doing it. Everyone else more or less goes about their normal routine modulo all the Thanksgiving prep, and I'm kinda dropped in the middle of it. It doesn't feel like quality family time. And if I'm using my vacation to cross the country to the arctic northeast, I want quality family time. Because a Hawaiian beach is behind door #2, and Monty makes a compelling offer.

Last year, though, was actually quite good. Score one for telling your loved ones how you feel, rather than letting things fester. Ok, so they festered for 12 years. Work with me here. So I've got hopes that this year will also be good Quality Time.

But I'm excited to have the folks on my turf, staying under my roof. Even if the first thing they did was point out all the things I needed to change or fix around the house (out with the old shower curtain and bath mat, in with the new...). Now they're in my world, and I'm in charge of Quality Time. I'm Julie, the cruise director. It's just them and me, and our time together doesn't rely on their suspending their normal routine to be with me, but on my suspending my routine for them. I've got the power and responsibility to make Quality Time happen. Not to impress them, but to just be with them. Show them a little of my world.

Besides, I love 'em. Having them here is just plain fun.

We'll see how I feel a week from now.

I know, I know... so many bozos to choose from, which one do I mean?

In this case, I'm talking about Scott-- the least likeable of all the houseguests, thanks to his wool cap affectation and urban homeboy pretensions. A scant 5 days in, the iconoclast was expelled from the house after throwing furniture around for no apparent reason, acting belligerent towards the other players, and generally making those around him fear for their safety. Just how you'd expect someone to act when they're in a diplomatic elimination contest for half a million bucks.

And get this-- he blamed it all on genital warts, which he claimed have devastated his life. I'm not touching that one with a ten foot pole. And apparently, neither is houseguest Alison who immediately began frantically cleaning the bathroom toilet. I also love how Alison wailed about how having her ex-boyfriend in the house might hurt the feelings of her current boyfriend, yet she has no problem groping Nathan at night. Tonight's show was brought to you by the word HYPOCRITE.

And this is only week 1. Next week we discover that Nathan is on steroids, Dave suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and Jack was once abducted by aliens.

Banzai

I haven't laughed so hard since the first Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. Everything about Banzai is absurd-- the format, the Japanese graphics, the event names, the frenzied narration urging viewers to "Bet now!". But it's inspired absurdity. Watching Simon Cowell deal with an interviewer who would only ask 1 question and then remain silent was hysterical. The capper was having a priest, a rabbi, and Lou Ferrigno race on exercycles, with the stakes being the soul of a baby.

Inspired absurdity.

What makes it all work, however, is the Japanese-accented narration. So over the top, so politically incorrect (although I hear it actually IS a Japanese man doing the voiceovers), and so funny because of it. I can't believe Fox is getting away with this, but I hope it lasts. This is now must-see TV for the start of our weekly game sessions. Until the inevitable outcry from the Asian-American population forces Fox to throw in the towel.

Watch now!

Comments (10) | last by admeena, Jan 29, 4:09 AM

Magnolia

What the hell was up with the frogs?

Comments (3) | last by Mark Lambert, Jul 14, 12:36 PM

Because You're Mean?

On tonight's Amazing Race, Kelly and Jon indignantly wondered why Millie didn't even wave to them when her taxi passed theirs. Hmm. Could it have anything to do with your excessive cattiness and the way you've been making fun of her behind her back for days now? Would you wave to someone who's been calling you Millie Moooooooooooooooooooole and putting you down on national television? Grow up, Kelly Crrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaab.

Me on Millionaire

I've been waiting until the date was official to post anything here, but I've just received confirmation that I'll be appearing on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? a week from today-- Thursday, July 17. Check your local listings for station and time. I taped the show back in December, and haven't been allowed to talk about it. Once it airs, the gag order is lifted.

This comment thread will be a spoiler-free zone. Next week I'll post another entry where people can comment on the show itself.

Here's a teaser, proving that it's manifestly impossible to take a good picture of me-- even for television professionals.

millionaire0_small.jpg

Comments (9) | last by Brian, Jul 17, 9:25 AM

Big Brother 4

Everybody thinks they want fame. But once they have it-- I mean, really have it-- many celebrities wish they could get rid of it and get their lives back. Once you're famous, everything you do goes under a microscope. You can't dash out to the corner store for Pepto Bismol without worrying about getting recognized and seeing "Celebrity Addicted to Antacids" in the tabloids the next day.

So the idea of being on mike and surrounded by cameras for 24 hours, 7 days a week for an entire summer is insane. We all have perfectly innocent yet distasteful habits we'd rather not get publicized nationwide-- biting your nails, picking your nose, scratching your butt. Morning hair. Whatever. And yet thousands of people applied to be locked into the Big Brother house, where their every word and move is captured on videotape.

Big Brother is a guilty pleasure. I watch out of professional interest-- I like to see what challenges the producers throw at the contestants, and consider how I'd make them better or do them differently. But I also watch because the house is a tinderbox, and it's fun to watch it go up in flames.

Horrible, I know. But there it is. This season the producers have stacked the deck rather unfairly. First, they brought 8 of the houseguests into the house an hour early, had them compete in a food challenge (each week guests must earn their food, or else it's nothing but PB&J all week), and let them bond with each other a bit. THEN they told them the secret about their 5 remaining housemates, who arrived shortly thereafter-- they were all ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends of some of the first 8. And right away, before they know whose exes were coming, they panicked and did the logical thing-- made a pact to get rid of those 5 exes first.

The "X factor", as the producers are calling it, will certainly shake up the game from the get-go and yield more soap opera. But it pollutes the game concept, which I find more than a little frustrating. Not all of the exes parted on poor terms. Former partners who can strike a deal with each other are at a great advantage over everyone else. Worse, by giving the first 8 a chance to bond and form a pact, the producers put the 5 exes at a significant initial disadvantage (assuming the pact is kept). That kind of handicapping is grossly unnecessary in a game like this, and I hope it doesn't prove to be decisive.

Either way, I'll be watching and reporting as the season progresses. Watch along with me and join in the commentary. See how fun it is to poke wanna-be celebrities with a sharp stick.

Comment (1) | last by dave, Jul 9, 2:21 PM

Spellbound

I'm a little burned out on movie reviews, so I'll keep this one brief. I caught a good chunk of this year's National Spelling Bee on ESPN. And frankly, Spellbound didn't really give me anything new. There is neither narration nor narrative through the first half of the film, and the camera's attention at times wanders far from the subject. I wanted to know more about the kids themselves-- What they do when they're not studying? How are they treated by their peers? Why do they care about the Bee?-- and less about their families. Part two compresses the two-day event into less than an hour, letting us root for our favorite kids as they drop off one by one. But we never really get a sense of what it's like to be IN the Bee-- there's no behind-the-scenes coverage of kids between rounds, or how the word lists are chosen, or why the rules are the way they are. The most interesting questions go unasked.

If you're a stranger to the National Spelling Bee, Spellbound is worth your time. But if you've even been sucked into the Bee while channel surfing, Spellbound doesn't tell you anything you don't already know.

Comments (2) | last by Peter Sarrett, Jul 7, 11:37 PM

From Match.com's "12 tips to perfect profiles":

11. Be an individual
Nobody � seriously, nobody � will read your profile and say, "Finally! Someone else who likes walks on the beach and is comfortable in jeans or evening wear!"

The fan community is in a tizzy over the new rules for the coming season of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, particularly the rampant cost-cutting measures. To wit:

  • Contestants must now arrange for their own transportation and lodging and pay for them at their own expense.
  • $500,000 winners receive $125,000 after 30 business days, then $37,500 per year for the next ten years (instead of everything in one lump sum).
  • $1,000,000 winners receive $125,000 after 30 business days, then $43,750 per year for the next twenty years (instead of everything in one lump sum).

    Audience members attending a taping of the show will now be able to audition to become contestants. Some fan hopefuls-- particularly those in other areas of the country-- fear this may lead to far more contestants from the New York area, much as game shows taped in Hollywood are stuffed with southern California residents.

    This pretty much brings Millionaire into line with other daytime game shows, none of which pay to bring contestants to the studio. That benefit was a holdover from the show's prime time days, and I'm happy to have been able to benefit from it. It was pretty cool to walk down to baggage claim and see someone holding a placard with SARRETT in big block letters. Small pleasures. Having all the contestants stay in the same hotel, and therefore able to get to know each other a bit outside the studio, was also a bonus future contestants will miss.

    The new payout schedule is a bit odd, though. $250,000 winners get their money all at once, but $500,000 winners only get $125,000 up front. In fact, it'll take four years before such winners have as much money in their pocket as they'd have if they'd just stopped one question sooner. Bizarre. Of episodes broadcast thusfar from last season, only two contestants won a million and another two won $500,000, so the change is unlikely to affect many people-- unless it signals a reduction in the difficulty of questions to produce more big money winners. As far as fantasies go, however, $125,000 + $43,750 for 20 years packs a lot less punch than a check for $1,000,000.

    Update: The winner of tonight's For Love Or Money finale can choose to take the man or the money. The latter is $1,000,000 in the form of a FORTY year annuity ($25K per year, before taxes), or a one-time payment of the present cash value of the annuity. According to The New York Post's insurance experts, that's about $800K. That seems high to me, but I'm not paid to give sound bytes to big city newspapers. So the smart thing to do is take the lump sum, right? Not according to these experts. Check out this logic:

    "There is a real value to the annuity [annual payment] '' said Jack Dolan, a spokesman for the American Council of Life Insurers. "While at first glance, an individual may perceive it as something that is far less than that big prize, over the long term it is the big prize because consistent income over forty years is truly a prize."

    Uh-huh. Let's ignore the lyrical eloquence of that statement and do the math. $800,000 is $520,000 after taxes, assuming a 35% tax rate. Now put that money in a secure, conservative investment that yields 5% interest annually. Well lookee there, that's a $26,000 annuity-- even better than Dolan's "true prize", and that's not even counting the principal! Financial wizards, is it really that simple? And if so, how can an American Council of Life Insurers spokesman possibly make such an asinine statement and remain employed?

  • Comments (2) | last by discount term life insurance, Oct 4, 6:39 PM

    If you're Mike Meyers, you can get away with recycling all the best jokes from your earlier movie, packing in some new filler, and passing it off as a new film. I'm not sure how he gets away with it, mind you, but he does. If you're Arnold Schwarzenegger... you don't. Despite the fact that you could crush Mike Meyers between your butt cheeks.

    Warning, some spoilers follow. Nothing huge, but you've been warned. And when talking about this movie, "warn" is definitely the operative word.

    Terminator 3 is a film that shamelessly lacks any shred of originality. The basic plot of the vastly superior T2-- obsolete Terminator goes back in time to protect John Connor from more advanced Terminator-- is exactly what we've got this time around. The T-X is ultimately dispatched using ideas lifted wholesale from the first Terminator film: detached from its body, its upper torso pursues its target beneath an enormous, crushing weight. It's not even content to just steal from itself! When Arnold's programming gets coopted by the T-X, John shuts him down using the old "What is your primary mission? You're about to fail that mission!" canard which, along with the "omnipotent alien race", was the favorite rabbit in Gene Roddenberry's bag of tricks. I literally threw up my hands at that point.

    T3 suffers from a fundamental cloning dilemma-- you can copy the body, but not the soul. Although it references the past films, it lacks all of their charm. The humanization of Arnold's Terminator in T2 was central to the story's theme of changing one's destiny. T3 doesn't just eschew such touches, it makes no pretense of having themes or subtext at all. The movie is essentially one long chase scene-- and not even a particularly compelling one.

    When the action stops long enough for a conversation, you suddenly appreciate the simple joys of things exploding. The exposition is painfully ham-fisted. When Kate Brewster-- destined to be Connor's future wife-- picks up an automatic weapon and destroys a flying attack drone, Nick Stahl's John Connor looks at her slack-jawed. Why? "You remind me of my mother." Ewww.

    What bothered me the most about the film was its underlying premise-- that Judgment Day is inevitable, and they only succeeded in delaying it in T2. It simply makes no sense. Granted, the whole notion of "sense" in a film whose entire foundation rests on a time paradox is questionable, but you pretty much get one freebie for suspension of disbelief-- and that's the notion that Connor's father was sent back in time to save his mother and conceive John. Beyond that, you've got to play by the rules. And in T2, the self-creation paradox was foiled. The CPU and arm of the original Terminator were destroyed, as was all the research data that led to the creation of Skynet. You can't just turn around and say that Skynet comes about from an entirely different quarter-- that's dirty pool. You can't render the sacrifices and triumphs of the characters in T2 meaningless-- that's insulting to the audience, and the same problem I had with killing off Newt and Hicks before the opening credits of Alien 3.

    And don't even get me started on logical and technical flaws. Controlling a police car's circuitry does not enable you to cause the accelator pedal to depress. You'll never convince me that a liquid-encased metal endoskeleton is a superior design to a machine composed entirely of liquid metal. The T-X must transform her digit into a specialized tool to reprogram electronics, but can identify DNA simply by licking it?

    The ending-- arguably the most provocative part of the film-- leaves the door wide open for more sequels. But as far as I'm concerned, the franchise is terminated.

    Comments (62) | last by giuseppe zanotti uk, Dec 31, 10:39 PM

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