Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's ME!

It suddenly dawns on me that I ought to alert any and all of you loyal WeinWords readers in the Illinois/Kentucky/Whatever area that, the weekend of June 7th-10th, I'm gonna be one of the Guests of Honor at this year's 29th Annual Superman Celebration in the lovely and picturesque city of Metropolis, Illinois. Among the other guests will be the first Lois Lane, the indefatigable Noel Neill; the current Lois Lane, Smallville's own Erica Durance; Supergirl star Helen Slater, former Superman artist, Jon Bogdanove, and comic book legend and my old friend, the Grand Canyon-voiced Murphy Anderson.

There will games, panels, screenings, all manner of fun. We'll be there to shake hands, sign autographs, smile relentlessly, and make sure all attendees have a super-swell time. You can click on the celebration name above for more details. If you happen to be in that neck of the proverbial woods next weekend, come on by and say howdy. We promise we won't bite.

I'll try to remember to remind you as we get closer to the date.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Questions That Keep Me Awake at Night - #2

How come someone can be distraught but they can't simply be traught?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I'll Take "MORE Stuff Len Created" For $1000, Alex

Well, they've done it again. Last night, my lovely wife and I were worshiping as we do every night before the anointed altar of Jeopardy! (and, hey, howcum so many of the things I blog about here -- Reprise!, Strike Up The Band!, Jeopardy! -- all end in exclamation points, anyway?) when my jaw went slack with wonder. The first category host Alex Trebeck announced for the initial round of questions was DC Comics. I perked up immediately. On the show a few months ago, most of the categories in Double Jeopardy were named after several of my X-Men characters, specifically, Wolverine, Storm and Colossus. Could they possibly be planning to play in my sandbox again?

The answers to the five questions were all pictures of DC characters; The Penguin was the $200 answer, Plastic Man the $400, Green Arrow was $600, Robin/Dick Grayson took $800, and the final $1000 answer was a lovely Steve Bissette/John Totleben illustration of a certain muck-encrusted mockery of a man with whom I've had some small acquaintance.

"How'sa Bayou tell us the name of this slimy, half-human DC character?" asked Alex. The reigning champion rang in, answered "Swamp Thing" and it took Christine five minutes to wipe the silly smile off my face.

Seriously, I cannot begin to tell you how honored I am that my creations have become familiar enough to the general public to be used as game show answers, not to mention on my favorite game show. To the question writers of Jeopardy!, my deepest thanks.

I think it'll be when I see Brother Voodoo or Lucius Fox as Jeopardy! answers that I'll really have to start worrying.

Monday, May 28, 2007

In Passing

Your Humble Blogger was saddened today to read of the passing of 76-year-old comedian, actor, director and raconteur Charles Nelson Reilly (of Match Game and Lidsville fame) due to complications from pneumonia. I was fortunate enough to see Mister Reilly perform sans toupee several years ago in the Reprise! production of George and Ira Gershwin's classic Strike Up the Band! and was startled by his uncanny resemblance to an old and dear friend and mentor of mine.

So now who gets to play legendary editor Julius Schwartz in The DC Comics Story?

Pirate Addendum

I neglected to mention earlier in my review of Pirates 3 that, despite the almost-certain urging of your bladder to visit a restroom, it's well worth your while to sit through the movie's copious end credits. As with the first two films, there is an extra scene at the end after the credits that adds a great deal to the story.

Just thought you'd want to know.

This Film is Rated "ARRRRH"


Several years ago, when my lovely wife Christine and I attended the Disneyland premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, I thought it was the best pirate movie I'd seen since Burt Lancaster's classic The Crimson Pirate decades before. Granted, intervening films like Pirates, Swashbuckler and Cutthroat Island made that a comparatively easy thing to accomplish, but still...

In PotC:tCofBP, swords were crossed, swashes were buckled, and in Captain Jack Sparrow, the always-brilliant Johnny Depp created a character unique in movie history. Granted, I was already inclined to like the film since it was being written by friends of mine and, thanks to their generosity, Marv Wolfman and I had spent a day on the set, meeting Keira Knightly, Orlando Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush, and watching the crew shoot the climactic sword fight in the treasure cave. In fact, I still have a few "gold" doubloons from the cave floor laying around the house somewhere as a memento. But I also like to think I'm enough of a professional that I won't let personal allegiances interfere with me giving an honest review.

In point of fact, I did not particularly like the first sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Although I had fun much of the time while I was watching it, in the end I felt it was overlong, left far too many plot threads dangling (the problem with most middle films of a trilogy), and turned Jack Sparrow from a charming rogue to a repugnant, self-serving thug. While I know that the writers had always intended Jack to be totally amoral, it doesn't mean I have to like it.

I guess that's why I thrilled to report that I absolutely LOVED the latest (and, theoretically, final) chapter in the saga, Pirates of the Caribbean: at World's End. While it is by far the longest of the three films, clocking in at a little under three hours, the time seemed to fly past. There was none of the usual squirming and fidgeting that occurs when you're becoming impatient, waiting for the film to end. Frankly, I'd have been just as happy had the film never ended. The entire cast of the previous film was back and, wisely, all new characters added were in service to the half-dozen different stories they already had in place and needed to resolve. The two standout new characters were, of course, the incomparable Chow Yun-Fat as the leader of the Singapore pirates and the incomprehensible Keith Richards as Jack Sparrow's pirate dad. While still self-serving, Depp's Jack Sparrow was once again the charming rogue and, as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, Orlando and Keira took their characters to whole new levels of romance and butt-kicking. As the monstrous Davy Jones, the always-extraordinary Bill Nighy was at turns terrifying and heartbreaking.

In many ways, though, what impressed me most about PotC:aWE was the skill with which screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio managed to resolve all the many dangling plotlines left over from the previous films, and the often-ingenious ways in which they did so. Everything ends satisfactorily in PotC:aWE, though not necessarily in the way one might expect. There is nothing that I can think of that hasn't been addressed and resolved. And that, in itself, is a major magic trick. In fact, the only thing I can think of that could have improved the film is that every member of the audience be given a Tia Dalma-to-English Dictionary, as Naomie Harris's Caribbean accent couldn't be cut with a sharp new machete.

Pirates of the Caribbean: at World's End certainly will not need my recommendation to break buckets of box office records this weekend, but I'm giving it anyway. Go see it. You won't be sorry you did.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Give This "Bee" an "A"

Saturday night, my lovely wife and I and a group of our friends went over to the Wadsworth Theatre in Westwood to see the Tony Award-winning musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, starring the original Broadway cast. Now, as I believe I've mentioned on this here blog before, I'd already seen the Bee on Broadway, starring most of the same performers, in fact, but since the show is only in town for about a month, and since a whole bunch of my friends, including my lovely wife, had not yet seen it, I was more than happy to go again. Since, when I saw the Bee in New York, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the guest spellers, I thought it might be nice to watch the entire show from the audience for a change. I'm glad I did.

T2APCSB, as I've now decided to refer to it, is a wonderful show, full of heart, insight, totally endearing. This original cast won a Tony Award for Best Ensemble Performance, with the amazing Dan Fogler also winning an individual Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, and it's easy to see why they did. They imbue this lovable gang of social misfits with astonishing depth and complexity. After the final curtain, my friends all agreed that there wasn't one character in the show we had not gone to school with. They were all uncomfortably real.

The music for T2APCSB written by William Finn, who also did the music for Falsettos, A New Brain, and Elegies: A Song Cycle, was not particularly memorable, mostly working in service to the story, but the book by Rachel Sheinkin, with some nightly improv thrown in by several of the cast members, was terrific. I don't remember when I last laughed so hard in the theater.

The show is in town for most of the next month and, if you live in the Southern California area, I strongly recommend you go see it. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Talking the Talk

Living in Los Angeles can sometimes be a surreal experience. Thursday evening, for example, instead of going to the first screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End as so many others across the nation were doing, my lovely wife Christine and I, as well as our new friend Donna Accardo, who worked with Chris to organize the Creative Voices series of lectures over at Pierce College, went over to the Writers Guild Theater to enjoy an interview with the film's screenwriters, my dear friends Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. As I may have mentioned here before, aside from the Pirates trilogy, Ted and Terry are also responsible for such minor unheard of classics as Disney's Aladdin, The Mask of Zorro, Shrek, and Nation Treasure. They were being interviewed by film critic F. X. Feeney, himself no slouch as a screenwriter, having worked on The Big Brass Ring and Frankenstein Unbound.

The interview ran just under two hours, with the guys expounding on everything from the craft of writing, from pirate vernacular to finding an ogre's voice, to fighting to maintain one's creative vision against sometimes overwhelming forces, to the art of collaboration, to how to keep Keith Richards vertical while one is attempting to film a scene. It was a fun, lively, extremely entertaining evening, enjoyed greatly by everyone who was there. For those of you who missed it, Ted and Terry will be the second speakers in the aforementioned Creative Voices lecture series this fall at Pierce College. As we get closer to the event, I'll let those of you who live in the Southern California area (as well as those of you willing to shlep to the Southern California area to hear the guys) in on the details of when and where it's happening. It's free, and it's well worth your time.

Oh, and one more thing about living in Hollywood. Before the interview, Christine, Donna and I stopped across the street from the WGA Theater to grab a quick bite at a restaurant called Kate Mantellini's, a joint that's famous as a celebrity hangout. While we were there, famed film director Sidney Pollack (The Interpreter, Random Hearts, Sabrina, The Firm, Havana, Out of Africa, Tootsie, Absence of Malice, The Electric Horseman, Three Days of the Condor, The Yakuza, The Way We Were, Jeremiah Johnson, They Shoot Horse, Don't They? and many more) strolled past us, even as we noticed comedic actresses Conchata Ferrell (currently costarring on Two-and-a-Half Men) and Julie Hagerty (of the Airplane! movies and more TV and film roles than I can list) dining together at another table.

I love it when an old cliche turns out to be true.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Fair(y) Use Tale

Well, I've just finished watching the single best explanation of copyright I've ever seen. Even I, the self-professed King of the Luddite People, now believe I have at least a passing understanding of what my lovely wife, the creators' rights attorney, is constantly yelling at me about.

The video is about 10 minutes long and worth every second. Just click here to watch it, then come on back and let me know what you thought.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Kitchen Chaos

Well, the workers finished putting in the new kitchen lighting fixtures (but not the frames and shades) and the new sink (which is set into a temporary counter top) at about 9:30 Saturday evening, and precisely what I most dreaded at the time has, of course, occurred. Our contractor, now erroneously assuming our kitchen was to some degree functional again, has vanished from the face of the earth. He has vanished, leaving all of our groceries and dishes and whatnot scattered all over the house and yard. He has vanished, leaving us high and (thankfully, due to a fine caulking job by our plumber) dry. When I attempted to call his cell phone earlier, I received the following message: "The number you have called is not reachable at this time." I've never gotten a cell phone message like that before. I have absolutely no idea what the hell it even means. Is there some sort of secret dialing code needed of which I'm unaware? Has his mothership left earth orbit?

Our dear housekeeper is due here tomorrow morning after I canceled her visit last week. I'm thinking of canceling again. Frankly, I'm not sure what housework is possible at the moment for her to do. I mean, trying to navigate our living room right now is like walking one of those "paths of power" that Roger Zelazny (I think) used to write about. For all I know, we've been unwittingly casting mystic spells for the past several weeks that have kept Alberto Gonzalez in office, even as they've slowly been turning the Amazon rain forest into a condominium complex for Munchkins.

I'm afraid there is no other choice for me but to go back into hiding under the bed. For the foreseeable future, could you kindly have my take-out dinners (the only kind we're able to eat at home right now) delivered there?

Questions That Keep Me Awake at Night - #1

Why do the phrases "fat chance" and "slim chance" mean exactly the same thing?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Himself, the Elf

Harlan Ellison is one of my oldest and closest friends. He is a brother to me in everything but blood. He is creative, crotchety, compassionate, cantankerous, compulsive, compelling, and pretty much every other adjective one might find in the dictionary, except one. The one thing Harlan Ellison is not, not now, not ever, is boring.

We have been friends since that day, thirty-some-very odd years ago, when Harlan confronted me in the corridors of DC Comics, introduced himself, and told me he was there to punch me in the nose. It's an interesting story, one I'd be happy to relate here sometime, if enough of you are interested in hearing it. But that's not what I'm here to talk about right now.

The major reason I didn't blog more yesterday, despite my recent promise, was that my lovely wife Christine and I spent the entire day and evening wrangling Harlan as he became the first speaker in the Creative Voices series of lectures at local Pierce College, where Christine teaches photography. The speakers for the second Creative Voices lecture, to be held this fall, are our friends Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who have some minor, rickyticky movie about pirates or something opening this weekend, which all of you will probably go see. But I digress.

Harlan spoke twice during the day. First, in the afternoon at the Campus Center, to a group of students, then in the evening, at the Pierce Performing Arts Center, to an audience of students, adults, and anyone else wearing Kevlar underwear, who was brave enough to attend. Watching Harlan speak is not unlike what I imagine those old EST seminars of the '70s were like, except that you're allowed to go to the bathroom during the Ellison talk.

Harlan takes the stage, refuses to give it back, and then enthusiastically starts challenging the audience as he launches into a series of fascinating stories that keep getting interrupted by some new story the previous one has just reminded him of. Eventually, albeit with occasional prodding from the audience, Harlan will indeed finish every one of the stories he's begun, but the process is not unlike eating an artichoke, peeling away at the outer layers piece by piece until you reach the soft and tasty heart inside. It's something that is far better experienced than described.

The highlight of the day's two performances, however, came during the afternoon session, when Harlan called for any questions from the audience. One of the students, reading from Harlan's abbreviated biography from the program, asked, in unwitting reference to an honor bestowed upon Harlan last year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, "How did you become one of only 29 Grand Masters?" Harlan replied, "Do you know what a Grand Master is?" Without missing a beat, the kid answered, "Not really, but I think it has something to do with the Ku Klux Klan."

It took us twenty minutes to scrape Harlan up off the floor.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

An Observation

So long as there are dogs in the world, there is hope for the Human Race.

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Fabulous!

Well, a week ago tonight, we were back at the Freud Theater on the UCLA campus, not to see No Strings again, Heaven forfend, but to experience another of Reprise!'s Magical Musical Mondays. Unlike the usual Reprise! productions, which run for two weeks, with inventive if simple sets, the cast in costume, and the entire production rehearsed and off-book, MMMs are exactly the opposite. There are no sets, scant rehearsals, and the entire cast dresses in black, and works on book, with podiums lining the front of the stage give the players some place to rest their scripts while they perform. This time, MMM was a staged reading of the infamous 1960s' musical, It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman!

I remember seeing the original Broadway production of this show the same year I graduated High School, and being pretty disappointed in it. After all, I was -- and am -- a diehard comic book fan, and here was a musical that, while certainly fun on some levels, was not taking the characters I loved at all seriously. Of course, since the hottest show on television that year was Batman, in retrospect, this probably should not have been a surprise. Still, the comics fan in me was duly offended and it took decades for that sting to finally scab over.

Last Monday night, all of those old memories faded as my lovely wife and I watched one of the most entertaining performances I've seen so far at Reprise! The sterling cast starred Richard Kind (of TV's Spin City fame) as mad scientist Abner Sedgwick, newcomer (at least to me) Cheyenne Jackson as Clark Kent/Superman, the always-welcome Jean Louisa Kelly (of TV's Yes, Dear) as Lois Lane, and Patrick Cassidy as gossip columnist Max Mencken, a role made famous by his father, the late Jack Cassidy, in the original Broadway production. They were all excellent, with Patrick doing a particularly remarkable job of channeling his late dad, right up to the impish sparkle in his eye and the blinding gleam in his teeth.

I've gotta tell ya, gang, whatever reservations I may have had about the original production were totally erased this time around. The show was a blast, a hoot, in short, totally fabulous. I'm told there were some fair amount of rewriting done to the show's book for this production. The stereotypical Chinese acrobat henchmen were replaced by a mix of various Euro-trash villains, for instance. Whatever other changes were made, they worked. In spades. I laughed my butt off (yes, I'm sitting here now, writing this blog, totally buttless) and I found the songs funny and charming. What a difference four decades can make, huh?

I'd recommend you all rush to see the show but since it was a one-night-only affair, that seems kind of pointless. Guess I'll just have to remember it fondly on your behalf. As ever, just another part of the service.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Kitchen Confidential

Well, the first step in the reconstruction of our kitchen appears to be done. The electrician finished rewiring the room yesterday, and replaced our old, woefully-inadequate track lighting with two new large and lovely fluorescent units. Man, what a difference. Where we previously did most of our cooking by touch and feel, we now have the only kitchen in Woodland Hills that is so bright, it can be seen from outer space.

Seriously, I'm thinking of pasting a large bat symbol over one of the units and turning it on, just to see what happens.

A Science Question

Can somebody who speaks Luddite please explain to me the difference between a view of my blog and a visit? Every week, when I receive the traffic report on this here blog, I note that there have been considerably more views than visits and it dawned upon me this morning that I have no idea what the difference is. So, if one of you out there could educate me about this, 'twould be greatly appreciated.

Also, could all of you on your various own blogs (those of you who have them, of course) make some mention that I'm back here blogging regularly again? I appear to have less than a hundred people a day checking in here and, for my ego's sake if nothing more, I'd like to get those numbers up.

Once, of course, I finally learn what those numbers mean. Thanks in advance.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Home is Where the Heck Is

Those of you wise enough to check out my lovely wife Christine's blog (which can be linked to over on the right) are aware of the construction that's finally going on in what used to be my small but homey kitchen. I say finally because our contractor, an inventive, talented, and earnest fellow, promised us the work would all be done by Thanksgiving. He meant, of course, last Thanksgiving, but the way things are going, I'll be happy if he's finished by sometime this year.

I am a creature of habit. I do not suffer change easily or well. When I travel, I'm usually a bit twitchy from the moment I leave my house until the moment I check into my hotel room or whatever my final destination happens to be. Right now, I am in transition, and I'm not terribly happy about it. I know that when the work is done, the kitchen will be brighter, with a lot more desperately needed cabinet space, and I'll be happy as the proverbial clam (and who the heck determined that clams are by nature happy, by the way? If I spent my life immobile, under the sand, and sealed up in a shell, I'd have issues. But I digress.), but I really wish this particular journey of a thousand miles was closer to its final steps.

As I sit here typing, I can hear sawing, hammering, and sanding going on at the front of the house, and I thank the Fates that my home office is in the rear. The house looks like it was ransacked by Cossacks. There are piles of comics and magazines everywhere (which, in truth, I suppose, is not much different than usual), containers that hold all of our dishes and silverware (I've been eating with plastic utensils and my hands for several days now), and a vast assortment of groceries in bags and stacks. The back and side yards are littered with the old stove, old dishwasher, old sink, and the ruins of the old cabinets. I'm expecting FEMA to have us declared a disaster area any minute now.

When the work is over, however, I'm desperately hoping to be able to use the opportunity to get rid of things we do not need, rather than put them back on the shelves again. The late, great comic book artist Alex Toth once said, "I spent the first half of my career learning what to put into my work, and the second half learning what to leave out." I'm planning to apply that same principle to this house. Right now, there are a lot of things around here that are not nearly as valuable to me as the space they currently occupy.

In the meanwhile, if you need me, I'll be the guy with the rapidly-graying hair who is hiding under the bed. You can email me there directly.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Before the Fall - Part 5

And, finally, because I know there are those of you out there who are still holding their collective breath, here's the CW line-up for the Fall. Don't all thank me at once.

New series in CAPS as usual

8:00-8:30 Everybody Hates Chris
9:00-9:30 Girlfriends
9:30-10:00 The Game

8:00-9:00 Beauty & The Geek
9:00-10:00 THE REAPER

8:00-9:00 America's Next Top Model
9:00-10:00 GOSSIP GIRL

8:00-9:00 Smallville
9:00-10:00 Supernatural

8:00-10:00 Friday Night Smackdown


7:00-7:30 CW NOW!
8:00-9:00 LIFE IS WILD
9:00-10:00 America's Next Top Model repeats
You know where to go for more details.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Okay, so the lovely wife and I watched the final episode of our beloved Gilmore Girls and I cried like an allergy-ridden onion slicer through the entire hour, wishing it would never end, wishing I would not have to say good-bye to these strange and wonderful people with whom I have spent every Tuesday for the past seven years, but knowing in my heart that it was going to end, as all things must. Sad as I am, I'm thrilled to say it ended well. Very well indeed.

Rory is off to start her life as a reporter. Lorelei is reunited with Luke. Lane has settled happily into her new role as wife and mother. Emily has finally admitted her respect for the woman Lorelei has become. Paris and her boyfriend are off to see the world before she starts Harvard Med School in the fall. Taylor Doose still has a stick up his butt. Kirk still makes you want to push him in front of a bus. And Miss Patty and Babette and Sookie and Michel and all the other residents of Stars Hollow, Connecticut remain as eccentric and endearing as ever.

I will miss them all more than I can begin to describe, but I can leave relatively happy, knowing that they are all in a good place. For quirky towns, I guess I'll have to spend my time in Elmo, Alaska on Fridays next season when the charming Men in Trees finally returns to ABC.

In the meantime, Godspeed, Gilmore Girls, knowing that, in my heart and in the DVD collections that now sit on my shelf, you're going to live forever.

A Quick Question

So it's Jordan and Blake, not Jordan and Melinda? I mean, really?

What were you people thinking?

Before the Fall - Part 4

Well, since the CW appears to still be messing around with their Fall schedule, here's what you can expect at the moment from FOX. As they've done for the past several years, they're gonna mix up the line-up in January to add new shows, so here's the listing for both. As ever, if you want more info on these new series, click here.
(All Times ET/PT)

All new series are listed in CAPS.

8:00-9:00 PM Prison Break
9:00-10:00 PM K-VILLE

9:00-10:00 PM House

8:00-8:30 PM BACK TO YOU
8:30-9:00 PM ’Til Death
9:00-10:00 PM Bones

8:00-9:00 PM Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

9:00-10:00 PM NASHVILLE (working title)

8:00-8:30 PM Cops
8:30-9:00 PM Cops
9:00-10:00 PM America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back
MIDNIGHT-12:30 AM Talk Show with Spike Feresten

7:00-8:00 PM THE OT (NFL post-game)
8:00-8:30 PM The Simpsons
8:30-9:00 PM King of the Hill
9:00-9:30 PM Family Guy
9:30-10:00 PM American Dad

(All Times ET/PT)

8:00-9:00 PM K-VILLE (January)/Prison Break (Spring)
9:00-10:00 PM 24

8:00-9:00 PM American Idol
9:00-10:00 PM House

8:00-8:30 PM BACK TO YOU
8:30-9:00 PM ’Til Death
9:00-10:00 PM American Idol

8:00-8:30 PM BACK TO YOU
8:30-9:00 PM THE RETURN OF JEZEBEL JAMES (working title)
9:00-9:30 PM American Idol Results Show
9:30-10:00 PM ’Til Death

8:00-9:00 PM
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

FRIDAY (Spring)
8:00-9:00 PM Bones

8:00-8:30 PM Cops
8:30-9:00 PM Cops
9:00-10:00 PM America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back
MIDNIGHT-12:30 AM Talk Show with Spike Feresten

SUNDAY (Spring)
7:00-7:30 PM
King of the Hill
7:30-8:00 PM American Dad
8:00-8:30 PM The Simpsons
8:30-9:00 PM Family Guy
That's four networks down, one netlet to go.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Before the Fall - Part 3

And here, for both of you holding your breath, is the CBS Fall lineup. Don't worry about The Amazing Race not being on the schedule; it's due back mid-season (or as soon as some other hour show bites the proverbial big one), as are The New Adventures of Old Christine and the new series Swingtown.

New shows in CAPS as per usual (except for the CSIs and NCIS, of course)

8:00 How I Met Your Mother
9:00 Two and a Half Men
9:30 Rules of Engagement
10:00 CSI: Miami

8:00 NCIS
9:00 The Unit
10:00 CANE

9:00 Criminal Minds
10:00 CSI: NY

8:00 Survivor
9:00 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
10:00 Without a Trace

8:00 Ghost Whisperer
10:00 Numbers

8:00 Crimetime Saturday
9:00 Crimetime Saturday
10:00 48 Hours: Mystery

7:00 60 Minutes
9:00 Cold Case
10:00 Shark
As ever, if you're looking for more info on the new shows, click here. Tomorrow and Friday, FOX and the CW, respectively. I, for one, can't wait.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Yep, It's a Rodgers and Nobody Musical

Friday night, my lovely wife and I went over to the Freud Theater on the UCLA campus to see the final Reprise! production of the season, Richard Rodgers' '60s musical, No Strings. It's the only musical to which Rodgers, who had formerly partnered with lyricist Lorenz Hart, then Oscar Hammerstein II, wrote both music and lyrics, and after seeing the show, it's obvious why.

Stars Scott Bakula (star of Quantum Leap and Star Trek: Enterprise) and Sophina Brown (current co-star of Shark) are fine performers, ably abetted by Matthew Ashford (Day of Our Lives' Jack Devereaux), the wonderful Bets Malone (a Reprise! regular), Ruth Williamson (Nip/Tuck's plastic surgery-obsessed Mrs. Grubman), and an ensemble of beautiful men and women models, do an admirable job with a less-than-admirable show.

The problems are two-fold.

First, the show's book, by Samuel Taylor (who also wrote Sabrina, among many other shows and films), is about a group of characters who, at the heart of them, are self-centered, self-destructive, and not terribly likable. No Strings is the story of how an expatriate American writer, now living more on the largess of his friends than on his talent, and a beautiful model, who has found her fame and her freedom in Paris, meet, fall in love, then ultimately go their separate ways. These are just not people you find yourself rooting for.

The second problem is the music. Aside from the opening song, The Sweetest Sounds, which consists of five verses of the same lyrics being sung over and over again, and perhaps the title tune, there isn't a memorable song in the bunch. In fact, the biggest highlight of the show is the absolutely breathtaking costumes worn by the gorgeous models and designed by the legendary Bob Mackie. There are dozens of them and they are simply stunning.

With Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers co-wrote On Your Toes (which, coincidentally, will open Reprise's next season), Babes in Arms, The Boys From Syracuse, and Pal Joey. With Oscar Hammerstein, he co-wrote the legendary Oklahoma!, Carousel, State Fair, South Pacific, The King and I, Cinderella, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music, among others. By himself, Richard Rodgers wrote this. But apparently, he learned his lesson. His remaining musicals, Do I Hear a Waltz?, Two by Two, Rex, and I Remember Mama, had lyrics written by the likes of Stephen Sondheim, Martin Charnin, and Sheldon Harnick. At least Rodgers didn't make the same mistake twice.

Still, despite the faults of the book, I found the music to be the primary problem with No Strings. It's the first time in the four decades that I've been going to see live musicals that I ever left the theater humming the costumes.

Before the Fall - Part 2

And here's the ABC fall schedule. Fear not, Lost will be back for an uninterrupted 16-episode season, probably in February. Things are already starting to get ugly, with NBC's new Bionic Woman currently going head to head with Private Practice, the hot Grey's Anatomy spin-off. Someone will flinch before September. As ever, you can check out more details here.

The complete fall schedule follows. (New programs in CAPS)

8-9:30 p.m.: "Dancing with the Stars"
9:30-10 p.m.: "SAM I AM"
10-11 p.m.: "The Bachelor"

8-8:30 p.m.: "CAVEMEN"
8:30-9 p.m.: "CARPOOLERS"
9-10 p.m.: "Dancing With the Stars" (results show)
10-11 p.m.: "Boston Legal"

10-11 p.m.: "DIRTY SEXY MONEY"

8-9 p.m.: "Ugly Betty"
9-10 p.m.: "Grey's Anatomy"
10-11 p.m.: "BIG SHOTS"

8-9 p.m.: "Men in Trees"
9-10 p.m.: "WOMEN'S MURDER CLUB"
10-11 p.m.: "20/20"

8-11 p.m.: "Saturday Night College Football"

7-8 p.m.: "America's Funniest Home Videos"
8-9 p.m.: "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
9-10 p.m.: "Desperate Housewives"
10-11 p.m.: "Brothers & Sisters"
More news as it becomes available.

Before the Fall - Part 1

Wow, I sure know how to get your attention now, just go for a joke that takes a cheap shot at television. For the record, I'm a huge fan of Heroes, ER, Medium, all the L&O shows, Scrubs, 30 Rock, and My Name is Earl, and I'm actually looking forward to checking out several of NBC's new fall shows, specifically Journeyman, The Bionic Woman (which co-stars my old buddy Miguel Ferrer), Life, and Chuck. Lipstick Jungle and Singing Bee, not so much, but one never knows.

For those of you interested in such things, here's NBC's current Fall schedule. Write it down in pencil. You know it's gonna change before September.

*New programs in CAPS (with the exception of "ER")

8-9 pm Deal or No Deal
9-10 pm Heroes

8-9 pm The Biggest Loser
9-10 pm CHUCK
10-11 pm Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

8-9 pm Deal or No Deal
10-11 pm LIFE

8-8:30 pm My Name Is Earl
8:30-9 pm 30 Rock
9-9:30 pm The Office
9:30-10 pm Scrubs
10-11 pm ER

8-9 pm 1 vs 100/THE SINGING BEE
9-10 pm Las Vegas
10-11 pm Friday Night Lights

8-9 pm Dateline NBC
9-11 pm Drama Series Encores

SUNDAY (Fall 2007)
7-8 pm Football Night in America
8-11 pm NBC Sunday Night Football

SUNDAY (January 2008)
7-8 pm Dateline NBC
8-9 pm Law & Order
9-10 pm Medium
Anyone looking for detailed information about the casts and premises of NBC's new shows can find it here, over at I'll update you with the schedules for all the other networks as the week progresses. You might as well start bracing yourselves now.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Here's Looking In You, Kid!

For the last several months, I've been having some minor digestion problems, so my regular doctor, the ever-astonishing Michael Engelberg, sent me to a gastroenterologist friend of his, who had me take an upper GI series of X-rays. These showed just enough minor stomach abnormalities for him to order up an endoscopy test. Thus, at an ungodly hour this morning, my lovely wife and I drove over to Beverly Hills for me to have the procedure.

The procedure is basically a simple one. You go to the clinic, lay down on a table, they start an IV, add a drug that knocks you senseless, and while you're under, the doctor sticks a camera on a tube down your throat to check out your esophagus and stomach. About a half hour later, you wake up, feeling a little loopy, and that's it. You're done. Somebody (in this case, my aforementioned lovely wife) drives you home, and the next day you're fine.

I wouldn't have mentioned all this, except that I just looked at NBC-TV's new fall schedule, and I'm afraid that the film of my endoscopy stands a really good chance of getting higher ratings than most of what they've got planned.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

In Case You Didn't Know...

Faithful reader Jim McClain wrote:
Glad you're posting again, Len. I'll start checking more often for new posts!
This made me realize that some of you (which, BTW, included me until recently) might not know that you can subscribe to this blog by clicking on the little atom postie thing at the bottom left of this scroll.

That way, any time there's a new post from me (which I'm determined to make sure continues to happen daily), you'll know to come here and check it out.

You know how lonely we can get around here without you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Friendly Warning

I ask you, is there any more comforting taste than that of the lowly grape? That's why a peanut butter and jelly sandwich almost always uses grape jelly rather than any of the myriad alternative flavors like, say, cabbage jelly, for example. That's why kids' juice boxes all across this great nation of ours, and then often the fronts of the kids' shirts as well, frequently contain grape juice. We love grapes in all their various forms. Grape juice. Grape jelly. Grape jam. Grape gum. Grape lollipops. Grape nuts. I love those Jolly Joes grape-flavored candies. I love the dried grape, otherwise known as our friend, the raisin. Heck, even most wines are made from grapes, which just goes to show you how incredibly versatile they are. Let's face it, grapes beat the hideous eggplant hands down as America's favorite purple food.

Which is why I was as thrilled as punch (grape punch, of course) when I was walking through my local convenience store today and chanced upon new Grape Mentos, the chewy mint. I snatched up a roll without hesitation, threw my change on the counter as I raced from the store, and rushed home to taste my new treasure. I should have known when I tore open the package and noted the mint's sickly white color that something was wrong. Still, I popped the Mento into my mouth, began chewing happily, and...

Well, in the immortal words of Lorelei Gilmore, it tasted like keys. It left a sickly, medicinal aftertaste in my mouth that was hard to swallow, if you'll excuse the pun. Certain I had to be wrong, I tried a second mint, began chewing, and quickly spat it out into the trash. It was awful, horrible, a betrayal of all things purple.

I don't know why the Mentos company, an otherwise fine, upstanding organization, is trying to foist this grotesque grape fraud upon the unsuspecting public, but I felt it my duty, as a responsible blogger, to warn you all before you fall victim as well. Just call it another part of the service.

Now excuse me while I go gargle a jar of Welch's Jelly to restore my faith in grapes.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Who Are You? Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh

In a TV season where 24 has been pretty much by the numbers and Lost, until recently, had completely lost its way, the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, now in its seventh season, has been compelling, inventive, and utterly entertaining, combining some terrific off-the-wall elements with the season-long search for one of the coolest serial slayers in TV history -- the Miniature Killer! Just about a month ago, I sent the producers of the series an e-mail to that effect, telling them what a huge fan I am of the show and thanking them for all the entertainment value I've received from them over the years.

So imagine my surprise when, just a few days later, I received an e-mail in reply from the show's Executive Producer, telling me what fans many on the show's writing staff were of me and my work, and inviting me down to the set to watch them shoot an episode.

Thus it was with great enthusiasm, and no small amount of gratitude, that I came traipsing onto the Universal Studios lot three weeks ago today to watch the filming of this season's final episode.

I was met at the door to the writers room by the aforementioned Executive Producer Naren Shankar (whose previous credits include The Chronicle, Farscape, Night Visions, seaQuest DSV, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Co-Executive Producer Doug Petrie (late of Tru Calling and a little something named Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and then escorted to the set to watch Director Kenneth Fink as he filmed several critical scenes for the final episode. While Doug went off to chat with several of the crew, Naren took me on a tour of the series' sets, particularly all the rooms of the Las Vegas Crime Lab, which are incredibly detailed. There are tiny touches all over Gil Grissom's office, like business cards under the glass of his desktop, for instance, that are never noticed on screen, but which help to add incredible verisimilitude to the scenes. When we got back to the live set, Naren got called into a meeting and left me in the capable hands of Doug, who spent most of the next hour discussing my run on The Amazing Spider-Man and much of my other work. I was both astonished and humbled by how much he knew about my career over the years.

As a quick aside, Doug and the equally-talented Jane Espenson co-wrote the two-part season finale of the Saturday morning series The Batman this year, introducing both the Martian Manhunter and my own creation Lucius Fox into the animated mix. When the episodes are rerun (and we all know they will be), I urge you to check them out.

Anyway, after a far too short conversation, Doug was also called away on business, and I was left to my own devices to watch the episode being filmed. Unfortunately, all the major cast members had finished their shooting on the set the day before, and were on their way to Las Vegas to shoot their final location scenes for the episode the next day, so I never got the chance to tell Marg Helgenberger about the terrible crush I've had on her since the days of China Beach, or to thank star William Petersen for causing me to buy my first black leather jacket after I fell in love with the one he was wearing in the film To Live and Die in LA. But, hopefully, there's always next year. After a fascinating few hours, I made my goodbyes to the crew and slipped quietly away. I figured I'd interrupted their regular routine enough for one day. Still, I owe Naren and Doug a debt I'll not soon easily repay.

There is still one really neat aspect to my little visit that I haven't mentioned yet. I know who the Miniature Killer is! Now, normally I'd take the secret with me to the grave, but since I know you guys won't blab it to anyone, I figure it's safe to share it with you. You ready? Brace yourselves. The Miniature Killer is actually...actually...

Hmm, now that's funny. For some strange reason, my bowl of Kellogg's Crispix with 2% milk tastes like burnt almonds. I wonder why that...


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Secrets Behind the Comics - Part 1

Just a quick note.

If any of you comic book historians out there are wondering where I got the name M'Nagalah for the Lovecraftian grotesquery Bernie Wrightson and I created in issue #8 of the original Swamp Thing series way back in the 1970s and who has now become a recurring character in Gail Simone's terrific All-New Atom comic, try to catch the TV commercial currently running for the new Saturn AURA automobile.

Just listen to the tune that plays in the background throughout the ad. It goes kind'a like manamanah da da dee da da manamanah dee dee dee dee. You'll almost certainly recognize it when you hear it. I think the Muppets used the same music as background for one of their classic routines.

Now try replacing the manamanah with M'Nagalah and see what you get.

Yes, another great Secret Behind the Comics (which should be read as if it has an echo effect behind it) revealed for the edification of my readers.

Who says this isn't a full-service blog?

LOST - a Question


If you are a regular viewer of Lost and have not yet seen this week's episode, avert your eyes from the following and kindly go on about your business. Nothing to see here! Move along! Move along! You have been warned!

Okay, are they gone? Good. So answer me this: How many of you out there think that John Locke, who was shot by Benjamin at the end of this week's show, is actually dead? Raise your hands. C'mon. I'm waiting.

Nah. Me neither. I mean, the island already healed him once, right?

I'm just saying.

Not Exactly the Algonquin Round Table

Last Saturday, my old friend, New York Times Best-Selling Science Fiction and Fantasy Author George R.R. Martin (or, as Time Magazine or some such publication anointed him and he prefers to be called these days, "The American Tolkien") was in town on business, so the old gang gathered once more at the Hop Li Restaurant down in Chinatown for another of what used to be our monthly get-togethers. The old gang, in this case, includes myself and my lovely wife Christine; producer of the film Robert Heinlein's Puppet Masters Dr. Michael Engelberg and his lovely wife Kathy; writer of various comics, TV, and the wonderful novel Moloka'i Alan Brennert and his lovely wife Paulette; TV writer and novelist Michael Cassutt and his lovely wife Cindy; and co-screenwriter of Aladdin, Shrek, and the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy Terry Rossio and his lovely significant other Jocelyn. Terry's writing partner, Ted Elliott and his lovely wife Kim, unfortunately, were MIA.

It was terrific to spend an evening in the company of some old friends I don't see nearly often enough these days. The banter was fast, loose, and funny, and the topics ranged from classic science fiction stories, about which both Michaels are experts, to the space program to comic books to vegetarianism to what we're all working on these days to the death of Hawaiian singer Don Ho. I posited that, if he had to die, it shouldn't have been from heart failure, but from an know, a "tiny bubble" in his mind. I was then forced to sit at a separate table for the remainder of the meal.

Still, there's something about the energy that gets generated with you're in the company of your peers, when ideas start flying fast and freely, when you feel that tiny twinge that makes you want to work harder, that is hard to describe and precious to capture. If you're interested in what most of these fine folks are up to these days, just click on their names above and you'll be shuttled to their various websites.

Oh, by the way, for those of you who care about such things, breakfast this morning consisted of an Egg Beaters omelet and cream cheese on a toasted English Muffin. Not nearly as good as yesterday's breakfast.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Gilmore Girls/Veronica Mars Alert!

This is actually just for folks who watch either or both shows in Los Angeles on KTLA, Channel 5, and who were as disappointed as my lovely wife and I were last night when both shows were interrupted and almost totally preempted by news reports of the terrible fires raging in Griffith Park that threatened the LA Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, and many other landmarks and homes in the immediate area. The rest of you are free to go on about your lives with impunity.

Fortunately, all reports today have the fire mostly under control, with none of the aforementioned entities damaged in any way. I thank the fates that all the animals at the zoo were unharmed, and am more thankful still that no lives were lost, but still, this was the penultimate episode of our beloved Gilmores. The news reports couldn't wait until ten? After all, Fox didn't interrupt American Idol, did it?

Anyway, for those of us who've been tearing our hair out for the past 12 hours, I'm pleased to inform you all that KTLA will be running Gilmore and Veronica in their entirety this Saturday at 8PM and 9PM respectively, so you can start taking that Rogaine to restore those precious follicles you've pulled out. Don't forget to set your VCRs or Tivos.

This has been an Obsessive/Compulsive Public Service Announcement. You may now return to your normal activities.

To Blog or Not to Blog

Several dear friends (Hi, Becky, Gillian & Michael C.) have lovingly chastised me for not blogging here more often. They've reminded me that the basic purpose of having a blog is to open channels of communication between the blogger and his readers, and by failing to blog on a regular basis, I haven't been holding up my end of the bargain. I, in turn, have argued that there are many days when I have absolutely nothing that I feel is of value to share with you all. They counter that it doesn't matter, that all that's truly important is the connection between us, and the fact that you can rely on me to be here.

Fair enough then. Henceforth, I promise to blog every day I'm in town, even if it's only to say that I had the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich Combo at Jack-in-the-Box for breakfast, and it was surprisingly good.

So let's see. Today's big news...

Oh, yeah. I had the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich Combo at Jack-in-the-Box for breakfast, and it was surprisingly good.

Alright Already, I'm Back!

And where have I been all this time, you might wonder? Actually, the story goes a little like this...

One of the many odd sidelines I have these days is as an expert witness in legal matters relating to comics history, comics art, and graphic art in general. So about three, four weeks ago, I'm sitting in the downtown LA offices of the prestigious law firm that has hired me for one such case, discussing the fact that, after several years, the matter is finally about to go to trial on Monday, April 23, and that the attorneys and the client would like for me to be in court for the entire duration of the trial, to observe the proceedings and thus be able to adjust my testimony if any new information comes to light. I agreed to this, then casually asked, "So where exactly is the trial going to be held? Downtown LA? The San Fernando Valley? Where?" In response, the two attorneys in the room both gaped at me with what I have long referred to as the "Springtime For Hitler" Take.

"Hasn't anyone told you?" stammered one of the attorneys.

"Told me what?" I asked.

"The trial is taking place down in San Diego," he replied. "Two weeks down in San Diego."

So that's mostly where I've been of late, down in San Diego, participating in a trial. And since I don't currently own a laptop, there was really no way for me to easily blog from down there. Hence the long silence.

I suppose I could have tried to be funny and said that I've been down in San Diego waiting on line to get into Comic-Con, but somehow I don't think the few dozen people I saw down there who were already in line would appreciate the humor.