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Posts about Television

Darrell Hammond of 'SNL' fame writes about drug problems

Posted by: Vince Tuss Updated: October 25, 2011 - 6:15 PM


It's almost a sterotype, a bad joke ripe for lampooning: "Saturday Night Live" star with a drug and drinking problem. But sad to say, there isn't a lot of funny in Darrell Hammond's revelations. They come in his new book, which has a title that will cause a problem for coverage in family newspapers: "God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F---ed,”

Hammond, shown above as John McCain on "SNL," writes about:
* Keeping a pint of Remy Martin cognac in his desk, and when that didn't do the trick, started cutting himself.
* Leaving NBC in 1998 in a straitjacket and being taken to the hospital. ""My wife came but I didn't recognize her," he wrote.
* Taking up cocaine in 2002, which led him "to be creative about how I did it without other people catching on or letting it interfere with the work. At least too much." Which has to be a lot at "SNL."
* Going to rehab in 2009, then relapsing after discovering crack and spending time in crack houses.
Above is Hammond speaking about his childhood abuse and the resulting treatment, cutting, drinking and drug use -- as well as his trouble playing McCain. It's some powerful stuff. Here is E Online's write-up as well as the New York Post's. I'm sure this won't be the last we hear of Hammond's tale as the Nov. 8 release of his book approaches. 

MTV to be hip & edgy again. No really

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 17, 2011 - 10:51 AM

MTV is always looking for ways to be edgy and hip and cool like it used to be. Occasionally they must have meetings about getting their old mojo back, and some says - timidly, cringing as if he expects to be beaten - “why don’t we do what we did before everyone gave up on us?” Looks like someone listened: they’re bringing back “Liquid Television.” Since that was a name for a showcase that had all sorts of different animated programs, you may wonder it means to bring it back. Well. Let’s go to the Wrap.

TheWrap talked with David Gale, the head of MTV's cross media group MTVX and former head of MTV Films, as well as David Harris, a vice president at MTV who is spearheading the new "Liquid Television." Gale and Harris dished on relaunching "Liquid Television," looking for the new "Beavis and Butthead" and almost let something slip about Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Can we please stop using “dish” to mean “discuss” or “reveal”? Just drop the word already. It makes you sound like a computer program that runs old Joan Rivers jokes through a People mag stylebook. Now, here’s the amusing part:

Q: So what exactly is your role, David?

Harris: Heading up "Liquid Television." I've run a couple projects for the division, and David let me take the ball on this one. From both a technical and creative standpoint, I'm an arts school kid. I went to 50/50 because "Liquid Television" existed and stuff like "Aeon Flux" that was the heyday of MTV interstitial -- creative weird stuff that felt so outrageous that anyone was broadcasting it at all."

Q: Given the popularity of some of those shows, why did it die, and why bring back now?

Gale: "There is no answer for why it went away. Times in TV have changed. One of the brilliant things about "Liquid Television" was it consisted of shorts. Shorts on's not an easy thing to have. MTV is one of few places that has occasionally had shorts in the form of interstitials."

He’s right, I suppose, but it’s amusing to say “shorts are not an easy thing to have” when MTV used to be entirely about shorts. Nothing but. Short videos, short news, short promos, shortshortshort. This was roundly attacked for eliminating the attention span of the young & impressionable, which was possibly the reason MTV began to downplay videos in favor of longer-form reality shows. They were concerned about their impact on the developing brains of American youth.” Yes, that’s the reason. Read the rest of the interview for a master class in corporate palaver, or PRBS if you wish. Read how everyone at the company loves the brand. Do you know why? Because it reminds them that the company used to be hip and edgy and cool, and if they’re resuscitating a brand from that era, it means everyone connected is hip and edgy and cool again. Even if everyone left them for Adult Swim. Years ago.


As for Aeon Flux, I never got into it - seemed pretentious, didn’t like the visual style, and the whole idea of “incredibly acrobatic beautiful female assassins who are six-feet-tall and have huge breasts and do not dress appropriate for the workplace” seems a big played out. According to wikipedia, don’t think I missed much:

With the exceptions of the exclamation "No!" in the pilot and the single spoken word "plop" in the episode "Leisure", all of the short episodes are completely devoid of (intelligible) dialogue. Instead, the sound track employs a variety of sound effects including sounds such as laughter, grunts, and sighs. Unintelligible dialogue was voiced by the series music composer Drew Neumann[

One peculiarity of the early shorts is the violent death of Æon Flux, which occurs in each of the installments (by contrast, she only "dies" once in the half-hour series). Often her death is caused by fate, while other times she dies due to her own incompetence. In the episode "Chronophasia", Æon is apparently killed repeatedly by a monstrous baby, but the reality of these events is ambiguous.

Aren’t they always?

Anyway, here’s a reminder of what those “shorts” on MTV used to be. It was a big thing when they had a new ID segment. These took work. 



I think this one ran once.


"Ab Fab" is back, again

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 3, 2011 - 4:21 PM

English Vogue, Italian Vogue, Bloody Aby-bloody-synian bloody vogue: EW has some news.

Ab Fab is back, darlings! As EW reported back in August, the cult British series is returning early next year on BBC America and Logo with a trio of new specials. But you don’t have to wait that long to reunite with the boozy Patsy (Joanna Lumley) and Edina (Jennifer Saunders): EW has the exclusive first look at how the fabulous duo are holding up in the new specials, which marks the first time they’ve reunited since the BBC America comedy Clatterford in 2006.

They look well-maintained, if you don’t wish to click. It’s been 17 years since the show hit the States. How does it hold up? Matter of opinion, probably, but it was best early on. In 1994 it was different than anything else, mainly because the characters did things no one else did: they drank to excess in the afternoon, smoked like fiends, and wafted through life without consequence or accomplishment. Few shows have ever looked at their characters with such unsympathetic eyes. At some point, though, it just got a bit much. Patsy was always amusing, but she’s a one-note character. No slam on Lumley; she’s great. But Edina became insufferable. She’s a failure as a person on almost every level, boundlessly selfish and infantile and self-pitying. As soon as the show started to treat them with affection, it went downhill.

Or so I remember. All the clipson YouTube seem to be fan compilations. This one’s official. Back to the 90s we go:


"Pop-Up Video" returns

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 3, 2011 - 11:10 AM

This is welcome:

Beavis and Butt-head return to MTV later this month, and MTV's sister network, VH1, is also giving us a welcome blast from the past with the return of "Pop Up Videos" at noon on Monday.


New episodes of the series were last seen on VH1 in 2002, and music videos in general have only become more scarce -- particularly on MTV and VH1 -- since then. But "Pop Up Video," with its wealth of well-researched factoids, those cute little icons and, of course, the infectious theme song and "pop" sound effects, has dug into some of the most memorable music clips from recent years for the new episodes.

Some people might not remember the show - I certainly don’t remember the theme, “infectious” as it may have been. It was as close as music-video channels ever got to being educational. You learned things! It made non-annotated videos look incomplete.

Here’s an example, from the days when people watched this video of their own free will, not because they’d been tricked or trolled. Yes, children, people wanted this on purpose.


Today's newest reality TV show: The Mandelas

Posted by: Vince Tuss Updated: September 29, 2011 - 4:42 PM


Need a sign that reality TV is taking over the world? Try this Los Angeles Times story that the extended family of former South African President Nelson Mandela will be the subject of a new show, announced Thursday.

Easy, easy, Mandela himself isn't a part of it. It's more a look at how three of his granddaughters, including Zaziwe Manaway, above at left, make their way in the world with such a famous name to live up to. And if you are worried about yet another American pop culture export, then you might be heartened by this reaction:

Producers were at pains to reassure South Africans that the show wouldn't detract from Mandela's dignity, as the country's Twitterati bleated anxiously that a reality show might undermine the country's world-renowned former president.

"We're not wearing 'I'm a Mandela' T-shirts," said Swati Dlamini.

You might not like this reaction from the producer, however:

Producer Rick Leed said part of the reality show might be fiction and part of it fact.

"This may be part storytelling, part reality, except the story we are telling is real. ... It's not going to detract from the dignity of Nelson Mandela."

So which part is reality?

Wake up with the Kardashian clan as it takes over 'Today'

Posted by: Vince Tuss Updated: September 29, 2011 - 12:04 AM



Get ready for the Kimsanity.

In preparation for the television bonanza that is the Kim Kardashian-Kris Humphries wedding, next week, the "Today" show is turning over co-hosting duties in the show's fourth hour to members of the family -- one a day -- to stoke the hype before the wedding is shown Monday, Oct. 10 on corporate cousin E!

The schedule:

Monday, Oct. 3: Khloe Kardashian

Tuesday, Oct. 4: Bruce Jenner

Wednesday, Oct. 5: Kris Jenner

Thursday, Oct. 6: Kourtney Kardashian

Friday, Oct. 7: Kim Kardashian

The bad news: No word at all about Humphries, but we would assume he would find a way on TV on Friday with Kim. The good news: Kathie Lee Gifford is gone from the nation's airwaves.

Even before the wedding hype hits overdrive, Kim Kardashian was voted "most annoying celebrity" in Parade magazine's pop culture poll. She outpunched Charlie Sheen and Snooki, among others, for the title.



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