Thursday, September 17, 2009

On screen and off

*The death of Mary Travers from Peter, Paul and Mary received the proper attention. Less noted (and less known) was Henry Gibson, one of my favorite character actors, who also died this week. Most old timers probably remember him - if they remember him at all - as the "poet" from TV's "Laugh In." I think he really shined in films like "Nashville," "Magnolia," and "Wedding Crashers," among others. Refresh your memory in this obituary from today's Los Angeles Times.

*Speaking of the big screen, it's safe to watch "At the Movies" again. What was TV's best and most influential movie review program when it was started three decades ago by Chicago critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, the program evolved after Siskel's death to, first, "Ebert and (Richard) Roeper," then, after Ebert's illness rendered him speechless, Roeper and a series of rotating guest hosts. Sadly, producers kept the format but threw away the knowledgeable and likable regulars, launching a new version with the undistinguished Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz. Their bad chemistry and bad everything else finally dawned on the aforementioned producers and now, sanity and talent prevail. The new hosts (both former rotating guests when Roeper was in the driver's seat) are A.O. Scott of The New York Times and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune. These guys have real credentials. I'm happy to say others concur, witness this piece in Entertainment Weekly.

*I figured Jay Leno's new program had to improve after its horrible debut. I was wrong. Night 2 on Tuesday was embarrassing beyond belief, particularly a deadly, inane uncomfortable satellite interview with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.
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