Thursday, June 30, 2022

Episode 10-9: High School U.S.A.

In this season's listener poll winner, Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon lead a cast of thousands in a story of teen romance, school politics, and class warfare that could only be called High School U.S.A.! Plus a robot!

#podcast #tv #retrotv #seventies #eighties #tvmovie #michaeljfox #nancymckeon #crispinglover #tonydow #toddbridges #thegreatmichaelzorek #highschoolusa #teencomedy


Check out this episode!

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Brooks on Books: A pair of resources for "It's Garry Shandling's Show"

On the latest BOTNS episode, I give shout-outs to two books that provide insight into Garry Shandling's first big sitcom, It's Garry Shandling's Show. I find these particularly appealing because I believe this show is underappreciated in comparison to (also brilliant) The Larry Sanders Show. I recommend each book for its own merits as well as for its info on IGSS, and in fact I have to warn you that there isn't as much in either book as you would like.

Alan Zweibel's Laugh Lines is a memoir that covers all sorts of ground, going from his days writing jokes for old-school Catskill comics to collaborating with Billy Crystal on one-man show 700 Sundays.  In between, of course, he had his run as an original writer of Saturday Night Live and later a co-creator of It's Garry Shandling's Show. The book is thoughtful and amusing, though not as "jokey" as I expected. Zweibel has a lot of clear memories of his own life (a possible benefit of being one of the clearest-headed members of that Not Ready for Prime Time crew), and tells his story with wit and likability. His platonic and vital friendship with Gilda Radner is a touching thread that runs through the volume. She helped him get through SNL, and he was there when she made her emotional and beloved appearance on IGSS.

His account of his friendship and working relationship with Garry is fascinating. He shows his own self-reflection and accepts some blame for having a falling out (they eventually reconciled) with Shandling, but he also seems to be holding something back. This book came out in 2020, when his friend was no longer around to share his side, so that may be a factor. You still get a lot more info about the production of and the philosophy of the series than I have seen anywhere else, though I wish there were more about specific production details. The main draw is that Zweibel gives great insight into the complex individual Shandling was. Ultimately, it seems that Zweibel wanted a life outside the show, while Shandling was absorbed by the work, and the former thinks the latter saw any departure from that as a form of betrayal.

I think you actually learn more about the series in Laugh Lines, despite it being one (essential) part of a long and distinguished writing career, than in It's Garry Shandling's Book. My one disappointment about this collection/loose biography assembled by Judd Apatow is that there isn't more about that show. If you're like me, though, you're a fan of Shandling, not just that one series, and so you will be thrilled about the space devoted to Larry Sanders, standup, guest-hosting The Tonight Show, and more.

The one question might be, is the Kindle book worth it? I got the ebook version at a heavy discount AND after I had upgraded my device to a bigger, sharper one. If you see the reviews on Amazon, you will notice many buyers struggle with the ability to read and enjoy the many images. A lot of the content is archival material in Garry's own writing, and he favored a cursive style of note-taking that is hard to read at any resolution and size. For the price I paid, though, even though I did kind of just skip over some of the images or enlarge them as much as I could and squint (Hey, kinda like Garry used to do!), there is tons of other great stuff to enjoy.

Apatow reproduces a lot of old photos as well and solicits memories from friends like Sarah Silverman and, yes, Zweibel! It's interesting reading Silverman, who speaks to the Zen figure we heard about in his later years, the sage voice who was a mentor figure to so many comedians. It seems a contrast to the driven, self-doubting Shandling who pushed so hard to get everything just right and who was troubled by the tragic loss of his brother at a young age and how that affected his family. 

It's nice to think that Garry Shandling found peace in his spirituality and philosophy and that when he died at the way-too-young age of 66 he was at least "in a good place." He was still a complex guy, though, and not one who always pulled back the curtain (ironic, huh?) and revealed much about his inner life apart from his routines. Apatow's book does a fine job of getting at that inner man. 

Zweibel himself in the two books seems to marvel at the difference in how the younger comics perceived the often-difficult boss/partner on IGSS. He wonders if he missed that part of him but concludes that maybe he just changed and grew and was a different person. It's a sensitive, mature take that proves that both books together make a great combination in getting as close to Garry Shandling as we are gonna get. I just wish they had a little more detail on that series!

Monday, June 27, 2022

Collectibles Corner: 8-Track Mac

This is a recent gift from my wonderful wife Laurie:

Yes, it's an original 8-Track cassette tape of BOTNS favorite (recently featured in our Bob Hope episode) Mac Davis!

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Top Ten #183:

1) Garry Shandling: We are getting some great positive reaction to our episode this week, possibly not because of us, but because people appreciate the chance to revisit the classic It's Garry Shandling's Show.

2) Jeff Goldblum: You know what? I think we just spent a whole week praising  Goldblum without using the words "quirky" and "eccentric."

Aw, dang.

3) Bert Convy: There is just something so essentially BOTNS about Bert that we have to smile each time we see him in something. His guest shot in "Go Go Goldblum" is a real win (lose, or draw) for everyone.

4) Florida Evans: The Norman Lear Effect official YT channel posted this a couple days ago. It's not just a meme!

5) The Garry Shandling Show 25th Anniversary Special: We didn't really discuss it much on the podcast, but maybe someday we can. Anyone who enjoys Shandling and the stuff he did after this 1986 Showtime special really ought to check this out:

6) John Aniston: Congratulations to the longtime Days of Our Lives star for his lifetime achievment award at the Daytime Emmys this week.

7) A Shaun Cassidy Special: 40 years ago tonight, NBC aired this, seemingly just a bit after Cassidy's commercial peak. The special is online as of this writing, and here's an entertaining look at it by Phil Hall. Oddly, Hall's piece says it aired September 26. 1981, and he points out that YT uploads mislabel it as from 1979. At least one online upload says it's from 1982! However, this Tom Shales review from June 26, 1982 indicates it did indeed air 40 years ago today after being produced in 1981 but shelved for months.

8) Riptide: Decades is running another marathon of it this weekend, and I admit I was set to call it a forgotten show until I just remembered Crackle added the entire series several months ago! Does that prove or disprove my point?

9) Terri Nunn: Happy birthday to the dynamic singer and actress!

10) TV Tattle: For years Norman Weiss has done an outstanding job curating TV news and analysis from around the web, but now he has finally taken it behind a pay window in the form of a Substack. I wish him luck!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

YouTube Spotlight: Shandling on the writing process

This week's spotlight clip taken from our It's Garry Shandling's Show. It's a short one but quite meaningful, I think, getting to Shandling's attitude towards the process of writing a TV show. It's especially relevant given what we talked about how he approached the series. Check it out below:

Friday, June 24, 2022

Power Rankings: It's Garry Shandling's Show guest stars

This is one of the toughest power rankings I have done! There are some great guest stars who have enlivened It's Garry Shandling's Show, and ranking them seems foolish. But I will do it anyway. Remember, these rankings are based on who I think would win if they faced off against each other under a dome in Yakima, Washington. Also note these are guest stars playing as themselves, so this does not include notable performers doing character parts, so Jack Dodson's turn as Howard Sprague--one of my favorite parts of a disappointing season 4--is not ranked.

1) Jeff Goldblum: I went on enough about him in our episode this week, didn't I? He is perfect in "go Go Goldblum."

2) Bert Convy: On a similar note, nobody played Bert Convy better than the late great Bert Convy. His jealousy of Wink Martindale is palpable in that same episode (and really, can you blame him?).

3) Tom Petty: I love that several times, Tom was just hanging out, one of Garry's neighbors who was dropping by to do neighborhood stuff. When the Shumachers' baby is born, though, Petty helps out by sticking around to do "The Waiting" and even helps out with the delivery!

4) Flo and Eddie: I don't want to give too much detail, but their appearance--and they do sing a song--creates one of my favorite moments on the series.

5) Gilda Radner: She tore the roof of the dump with what was her comeback to TV and also her final TV appearance before her untimely death.

6) Don Cornelius: Don maintained professionalism as he narrated the 1988 election results with aplomb...during the show.

7) Rob Reiner: Reiner just seems like a great neighbor, and on the show he was there to give Garry advice when needed.

8) Martin Mull: He actually feuded with Garry! Mull was an outstanding fit for the show.

9) Doc Severinsen: His appearance is a great surprise in an episode already mentioned, so I won't say anything more.

10) Pete Conrad: I can't recall what he did, but I do know that it was great to see the stilted way Garry introduced him with mock showbiz elation: "Hey, look. it's Pete Conrad, the third astronaut to walk on the moon!"

Not ranked: Norman Fell, June Lockhart, Red Buttons, and many more!