March 30, 2001
MY FAVORITE PLAY — and I'm working on a column that will explain why — is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to
the Forum. I've seen at least 30 productions of it over the years, ranging from the superb (Phil Silvers as Pseudolus) to the ghastly (a
Vegas incarnation that cut songs and added Liberace jokes; it was almost as awful as the movie, which was pretty awful). This evening, I saw
one of the oddest — a presentation of the East West Players, a company of Asian actors who have a lovely theater in Downtown Los Angeles, not
far from Little Tokyo. The program book and dialogue say it's Ancient Rome but the sets, costume and some of the staging are pure
Polynesian. Amazingly, the book by Burt Shevelove & Larry Gelbart, and the songs by Stephen Sondheim all survive the relocation
effort. That is to say, none of what's wrong with it is because all the Roman citizens look like they're about to go and sacrifice someone to a
The problem is that the cast is wildly variable — some great, some not — and they never come together and capture the
proper pace and vaudevillian delivery. (In fairness, some of this may have been because the star, Gedde Watanabe, best known for E.R.,
was out and his stand-by was in.) It's playing at the David Henry Hwang Theater — around the corner from Little Tokyo — through
April 15. If you want more details, here's a link to the website.
I don't necessarily recommend this, especially if you haven't seen a traditional mounting. But if you know and love the show and can tolerate a
weird variation, you might find it, as I did, fascinating.
I DO, however, recommend clicking here and reading
Michael Kinsley's article on the McCain-Feingold campaign reform movement.
ONE OTHER recommendation: I've always loved my TiVo but, now that they've upgraded the software, I love it even more. The
new version lets you "prioritize" Season Passes, meaning that you can tell it to record your favorite shows every time they're on but if one is
opposite another, the higher-priority one gets recorded. You can also search its database by actor, director or keyword, and you can tell it to
start recording a show 1-10 minutes early (for shows that don't start precisely on the hour). It's wonderful and, two years from now, it will
seem as primitive as a 300 baud modem. More details at www.tivo.com.
March 28, 2001
IN THE PHOTO above, the guy on the right is Jackie Kahane. I assume you recognize the guy on the left. The last
five years of Mr. Presley's life, his opening act was Mr. Kahane, a comedian who also, in his day, opened for the likes of Wayne Newton, Tony Bennett
and just about every other singing headliner. Amazingly, this was a side job for Jackie, whose main income then came from managing comedy
writers. A lot of them were, like Jackie, Canadians...but he also managed American writers and was often urging me to join his stable. I
never did, but I enjoyed lunching with Jackie and hearing colorful (often, unquotable) tales of Elvis and Wayne and Tony and Show Biz in
general. He seemed to do well for his clients...and he also performed a special service for some. He was a "front." You see, TV
shows produced in Canada like to hire Canadian writers because it qualifies them for special investment credits from the government which can make it
a lot easier to produce something.
Sometimes, they'd hire one of Jackie's American writers but Jackie, who retained Canadian citizenship, would be the official writer of
record. As a result, he got screen credit on an awful lot of shows that were actually written by other folks. (Bizarre, which
starred John Byner, was one) I thought that was kinda sleazy but otherwise, Jackie — who died Monday at the age of 79 — was a class
act all the way.
I DID AN update/expansion of our "Groo Stuff" section here. If you're the least bit interested in Groo —
which is, alas, the way most folks who are interested at all in Groo are interested in Groo — you'll want to check them
out. We now have a section called Groo Stuff and it's filled with Groo Stuff.
RATINGS FOR WEEK 8 of the XFL: They got a 1.8, which was up a hair from the previous week's 1.6. Given that it was still
the lowest rate prime-time show of the week — even below everything on the WB network — I doubt anyone is uncorking the bubbly. To
the surprise of no one, NBC execs seem now to be floating the idea that they will soon bail.
TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES has been running It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World lately, in part as a tribute to its director, the
recently deceased Stanley Kramer. Unfortunately, the version they persist in running is what is often passed off as the "restored" version, but
it really isn't. The original release ran 192 minutes , not counting overture, entr'acte and exit music. It was then cut to 162 minutes
and then 154 minutes. For years, it was the shortest of these that was shown on TV and released on videotape. Then, a few years ago, a
186 minute edition was released, first on Laserdisc, then on VHS. This incarnation incorporates some lost footage that was found...but it is
not footage that was in the original release. It's scenes and trims that Kramer threw away before the film opened...in Los Angeles, at
the Pacific Cinerama Dome, which is itself being restored at the moment. The result is that we now have this "restored" version which includes
a lot of scenes that Kramer rightly discarded as boring and needless. I'm all for restoring lost footage and I love what was done for the
Laserdisc of 1776, putting back vital material. But longer is not always better and, in the case of Mad4 World, it's certainly
not more faithful to what the filmmakers had in mind. The lost footage remains lost and is, sadly, likely to remain that way. Until and
unless it is found, I think they oughta go back to the longest available version which actually ran in a theater. (You can read an article I
have here about my fondness for this film by clicking here.)
March 26, 2001
I HAVEN'T SEEN a copy yet in person but I'm told that The Groo Kingdom, our latest collection of old Groo stories,
is now in book shops. If you're collecting these, you'll want to race right out and purchase at least one copy. If you're not collecting
these...well, we all do dumb things in our lives. You'll wise up someday. Some day, you'll suddenly have a moment of revelation and
you'll say to yourself, "How could I have been so foolish? How could I have gone through life, thinking I was happy, ignoring the massive void
in my soul that was created by my failure to collect all those wonderful Groo paperback books and put money in the pockets of Mark and
Sergio? What a dolt I was. If only I could go back in time and rectify this tragic error on my part!" Don't let this happen to
you. There's still time to redeem yourself. Rush out. Buy books in mass quantity. If you want to really save your
self-esteem, you can read them but this is not necessary. We'll settle for you just buying them.
I THOUGHT STEVE MARTIN was the best Oscar host in many years...better even than Billy Crystal. I always liked Crystal but
felt that when he hosted, the show — which oughta be about the awards and their recipients — was a bit too much about Billy
Crystal. Martin was funny, unobtrusive and managed to treat the event with the limited seriousness it deserves. And I find the response
to him interesting. Today's Variety review is a rave, whereas the guy at the Hollywood Reporter was apparently watching a
different Academy Awards broadcast, on which Martin bombed big-time. Reaction across the Internet — not that that's ever indicative of
anything — seems generally positive, though one finds the usual unwarranted assumption about comedy material. It's the old, naïve
audience belief that the jokes which flopped were all because of the lousy writers, whereas the jokes that succeeded were all a matter of, in this
case, Steve Martin being brilliant. I still think the odds are against there being a Writers Guild strike in May (or, at least, a long one) but
if there is one, maybe it'll remind America that there's a reason that writers get paid all that money.
ONE OF THE BEST voice actors working today — cartoons, announcing, and he even does on-camera at times — is Gregg
Berger, not to be confused (though he often is) with Greg Berg or Greg Burson. One of my goals in cartoon voice-directing is to someday do a
session with those three guys, plus Bob Bergen and Corey Burton, just to confuse the hell outta whoever has to make out the S.A.G. contracts.
In the meantime, Gregg BERGER has set up a wonderful website with on-line samples of his exquisite voice work. It's at www.greggberger.com. If, like many visitors to this site, you're wondering about a career making funny and
not-so-funny voices before a microphone, you may want to visit and hear what a top-grade voice demo sounds like.
March 22, 2001
I'M NOT SURE WHAT, if anything, I want to write about Bill Hanna, who died — not unexpectedly — this morning.
Like many who will read this, I was reared on Hanna-Barbera cartoons and loved at least the early ones — Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw
McGraw, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones — dearly. And before that, he and partner Joe produced and directed millions of Tom & Jerry
theatrical cartoons, most of which compare favorably to any animation ever done. My feelings about the man are more varied when I look at the
latter half of his career. He became the "production" half of the team: For the most part, it was Joe Barbera who sold the shows and supervised
— sometimes from afar, sometimes not — the creative end, such as it was.
Hanna was in charge of getting the episodes made on time and on budget. Way too often, there wasn't enough of either to do the
job properly. Most of my personal encounters with Bill when I worked there were of the kind that prompted many a staff artist to caricature him
yelling, "Faster! Cheaper! Faster! Cheaper!"
But there is one evening that sticks in my mind. I was toiling way after hours on the Richie Rich show and figured I was
alone in the building. I wasn't, as I discovered when Mr. Hanna came into my office. (He and Joe both worked very hard, even long after
each had a bank account that made Richie look like a pauper.) He wanted to put a script into production before I thought it was ready and, when
we argued — politely — he said that if he didn't send something to the studio in Korea by a certain date, dozens of artists over there
would get laid off, and he might even have to cut a few working there at the H-B Studio. He got to talking about how proud he was of all the
employment he and Joe had provided for people, and how they'd kept the animation industry up and functioning when theatricals died out. As a
Depression-era child, that was very important to him.
Historians of the future will view and assess the incredible body of work that bears the co-credit of William Hanna. My guess is
they'll find it wildly variable, including some of the best and worst animation of its day. But I hope they'll also give a little weight to the
staggering number of people who bought homes and groceries for 30-some-odd years working for Bill. And I hope they'll give him some credit for
an entire generation of us who got into writing and/or drawing because, back when we were small, we loved watching The Flintstones.
March 21, 2001
I HAVE A NEW definition of a good interviewer. A good interviewer can grab your interest even when interviewing someone
you don't care about, about something you don't care about. By this measure, Bob Costas is a great interviewer. I have next-to-no
interest in sports but I've gotten hooked watching his new HBO series, On The Record with Bob Costas. Each week, he interviews a couple
of sports figures, or non-sports figures discussing sports. And even when the focus is one of those games I never follow — which is just
about all of them — he's got my attention. If you're by-passing it because you have zero interest in athletics, you might be
Speaking of sports: Two days ago, I reported that the overnights for last Saturday's XFL game gave it a 2.0 rating which would probably
drop further when the nationals came in. Well, the nationals took it down to a 1.6 rating, believed to be the lowest-ever prime-time night in
the history of the three major television networks. (Mr. Leno noted this evening that they were getting more of the male audience at The
WONDERING what became of Chuck Barris? Here's a
link to an article in The New York Observer about the current
activities of the man who gave us The Dating Game, The Gong Show and the song, "Palisades Park." (If that link doesn't work, go to the
Observer's website and do a search for "Chuck Barris.")
OVER IN OUR Las Vegas Guide, we caution you about trying too hard to save money in that
city, as it can lead to extreme discomfort and/or ptomaine. However, if you're egregiously cheap — or if you just want to browse a rather
funny travel guide — check out Las Vegas on 25 Cents a Day. It's
brutally honest, and one of the few websites that has ever made me laugh out loud.
I JUST FINISHED a redesign of our opening page. Hope you like it. (I keep telling myself I have everything here
designed the way I want it, and won't spend any more time on it. Then I think of something...)
March 19, 2001
THAT'S A PICTURE of Groucho Marx at left, not of Frank Ferrante. But you might get the two of them confused after you
watch Groucho: A Life in Revue, a special which is running on PBS stations this month. This is the biographical play by Groucho's son,
Arthur, and Arthur's longtime writing partner, Bob Fisher — and it's been slightly revised from the earlier video version, which starred Gabe
Kaplan. It's on in Los Angeles, on KCET, this coming Thursday evening, and if you're not in L.A., consult your local listing or phone your
local PBS station and make trouble. Mr. Ferrante is, by the way, wonderful in the role. It ain't easy to do justice to Groucho but he
WHILE YOU'RE AT IT, start keeping your eye on PBS listings (which you can do at
www.pbs.org, among other places) for the Great Performances series. They've been running some amazing shows — that is, if you
can get past the constant 5-minute commercials wherein they urge you to support PBS because it has no commercials. Last season, they aired a
wonderful concert taped at Carnegie Hall which featured a host of wonderful "divas" singing show tunes. It was called The Leading Ladies
and it reruns next week on many stations and is also available on DVD and VHS. This year, they did a similar show called Broadway Love
Songs which had some wonderful moments but wasn't quite as good, up until the end. The last number — which commences with Michael
Crawford singing "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" — is an absolutely thrilling moment for any Broadway theater buff. (Oh, hell, I
might as well tip the surprise since the PBS promos did: Julie Andrews, who has been unable to sing since a botched throat operation, enters and
manages to warble a few, perfectly-appropriate lines. The audience goes absolutely and justifiably crazy.) Broadway Love Songs
does not seem to be scheduled for imminent rerunning, at least on the PBS stations I receive, but it may be on yours one more time soon. It
will certainly be rerun at some point, and it's also out on DVD and VHS. If nothing else, at least catch the last ten minutes.
The latest of the XFL Ratings: Well, we were told they couldn't go any lower than a 2.7 but somehow, they
managed. Week #7 got a 2.0 in the overnights, which will probably drop further when the nationals come in. This is less than a fifth of
the first week's numbers and less than half the guarantee to advertisers. Vince McMahon was making the rounds of the talk shows last week,
saying that it takes time to launch a new brand name and that the quality of the playing is finally where they want it to be. It may be...but
unless NBC signed the stupidest contract in the history of television and can't bail out now, they've got to be picking out what's going on in its
stead. A 2.0 rating would get you cancelled on the WB Network.
HOW SECURE IN YOUR COMPUTER? If you'd like to see if someone can hack into it, go to Gibson Research and run the "Shields Up!" test. Steve Gibson is a world-class expert at matters of Internet
security and his independent research has forced many software makers to fix loopholes in their products. He has also alerted the world to the
dangers of "spyware," which is software that — unbeknown to you, its user — is recording and transmitting information on your buying or
browsing habits to some company out there. Gibson's Opt-Out program, which you can download at his site, will identify some of the spyware, if
any, on your computer. And if that matters to you, you might also want to download and run Ad-Aware (which you can do here) which is from another maker and which locates and removes other spyware.
March 17, 2001
I WANT TO recommend one more book from the McFarland website.
It's called The Animated Film Encyclopedia and it's subtitled: A Complete Guide to American Shorts, Features, and Sequences,
1900-1979. That, it is. Its compiler, Graham Webb, has done a terrific job listing every single bit of American theatrical animation
— even title and animated sequences in live-action movies — complete with extensive credits. I was most impressed with the
hitherto-unidentified voice credits. It includes some amazingly-obscure ones, many of which answer riddles that some of us have discussed for
years. At $125.00 the copy, this book is not cheap. But if you're the least bit into animation history, it's a must-get.
I'M NOT GOING to do an obit column on Morton Downey, Jr., who died the other day because I didn't really (a) know him or
(b) like him. Matter of fact, I disliked his on-air routine so much that I wrote a Garfield cartoon in which I parodied the
guy. To do the voice, I hired someone I did like — a gravelly-voiced actor (also a writer and producer and restaurant critic) named
Stanley Ralph Ross. About a week after the episode was recorded, Stanley met Downey at a party and told him about it, whereupon Downey asked
him for my phone number. Ostensibly, it was so he could call and ask for a drawing from the show but, the next day, Downey phoned and tried to
convince me to dump Stanley's performance and to re-record the episode with him playing himself. He said we could even call the character
"Morton Downey, Jr." and treat him as a total idiot. I declined...but that almost caused me to dislike the off-camera Downey as much as the
on-camera guy. This feeling was reinforced a few months later when I happened to sit near him at the Lawry's Restaurant on La Cienega, and
watched him be needlessly rude to the waitress and bus boys. Still, I was sad to hear that all that smoking caused him to die of lung cancer
this week. Oddly enough, his death came almost a year to the day after Stanley Ralph Ross died from the exact same thing.
I JUST DID some renovation over on the Las Vegas Guide, adding in "star" ratings of the
hotels and buffets, and fixing some HTML problems. This all took a while so don't expect any new additions to this site, except on this page,
for a while. But that's okay because I can't imagine anyone has read everything I've already posted.
March 14, 2001
JUST GOT a big crate o' books from McFarland Press, which issues a lot of esoteric books, mainly on The Arts, in what are
usually limited press runs. One (which gives me the excuse to run the photo at left) is From Beautiful Downtown Burbank (Rowan and Martin's
Laugh-In: A Critical History). It's written by Hal Erickson, an e-mail acquaintance who interviewed me when he did a book on Sid and Marty
Krofft, which was also issued by McFarland. Both are good, as are most — though by no means, all — you'll find in that company's
catalog. What you will find are a lot of titles that will prompt you to say, "Gee, I've always wanted a book about that." Hal's
Laugh-In book is, incredibly, the first real history of a television program that changed the face of American TV comedy, launched several major
stars and, some theorize, helped put Mr. Nixon into the White House. Even without access to some of the key players who declined to be
interviewed, Hal did a fine job and you can purchase a copy, or just browse the McFarland offerings, at the publisher's website. Here, you'll be happy to know, is that link.
New additions: I just posted a two-part interview I did with Irwin Hasen, the gent responsible for the Dondi
newspaper strip. Irwin's a helluva guy — funny, honest, insightful — as you'll see when you read the interview...which you can do
by clicking right here.
I ALSO FIXED a couple of mistakes in articles (dropped text, mostly) that no one, self included, has noticed before. In
converting these articles from Microsoft Word to HTML, I have found that sentences can miraculously disappear. Anyway, I put a couple back and
there are probably others I haven't noticed yet.
March 12, 2001
WELL, THINGS have been fun around here, lately. Yesterday morn, around 2:00 AM, there was a
high-speed police-type chase in my neighborhood. It ended on my front lawn with the "suspect" (that's what they have to call the guy who ran
from, in this case, the Beverly Hills Police) crashing his car into the front of my house. He didn't do a lot of damage — one big hole in
the wall surrounding a little courtyard — but it sure made things interesting. And this is the third time cars have jumped the
curb and wound up on my property in the 20 years I've been living where I live. I'm going to have to start charging for parking in my
THE DRAWING ABOVE is the cover of Bugs Bunny and Friends: A Comic Celebration, a paperback collection of old Warner
Brothers comic book stories that I helped assemble a couple of years ago. Just thought it deserved a mention here as there's some neat, vintage
stuff in there, especially the stuff from the earliest issues of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies comics, reproduced off copies from my very
own personal collection, primarily from old Dell and Gold Key Comics. You can get it for around twelve bucks at amazon-dot-com and I don't make another nickel off it, so my
recommendation is quite sincere. These comics were an important part of my childhood and unlike some, they actually hold up quite well in my
JUST ADDED two of my earliest columns — the fourth and fifth installments of POV I wrote, in
fact. The topic of one was "Krypto-revisionism," which was a term that writer Steven Grant and I came up with for changes in comic book
continuity that we, as readers, refuse to accept. You can read the whole column by clicking right damn
here. And while we're at it, Steven does a regular column for a fine website called Comic Book Resources. You can access his latest offering by clicking here. The other column consisted of obituaries for Don Segall, Frank
Ridgeway and Doug Wildey. The link for that one is right here.
WELL, IF I'D wagered that the XFL ratings would go even lower last Saturday eve, I'd have lost. I didn't expect the
network to stoop as low as that promo spot in which an incredibly-cute cheerleader promised a half-time tour of the cheerleaders' locker room.
Amazingly, that only boosted numbers .1 over the previous week's — to 2.8. At this point, it wouldn't surprise me if they got rid of the
football players and just turned the whole thing into a big wet t-shirt contest.
Those Wacky, Wacky Websites: On the Internet, one not only finds parody websites, one finds parodies of parody
websites. One of the most inventive of the former is the infamous RealDoll which — if you're over 18 — you can reach by clicking here. Another very funny website is the equally-infamous Hamster Dance, which exists in many
permutations, including the one you'll find here. And someone
has come up with a spoof of both called RealHamster...and that, you can visit by clicking
here. Yes, welcome to the World Wide Web where parody begats parody begats parody...
March 10, 2001
HAVING DECRIED decried the choice of shows honored at this year's William S. Paley Festival at the Museum of Television and
Radio, I should report this: The two evenings I attended were both terrific.
Michael Moore showed three segments apiece from TV Nation and The Awful Truth. He was so funny and real that he
even "won over" a friend of mine who loathes his politics but attended, hoping to learn how to do a similar kind of show from a conservative
P.O.V.. I dunno if he learned that but he did laugh a lot and admit that Moore had made some solid points. (In one segment, George W.
Bush yells at Moore to go find a real job. They then cut to Moore phoning his father and saying, "Dad, you got an oil company or a major league
baseball team I can run?" Funny.)
Eric Idle and Neil Innes were among the guests for a screening of The Rutles, the "mockumentary" they made about a group not
unlike the Beatles. When their film (aka All You Need Is Cash) first aired, it was one of the lowest-rated TV-movies ever, and I seem to
recall it being generally ignored by the press. But it's had an amazing endurance...so much so that Idle is currently assembling a sequel,
Can't Buy Me Lunch, some of which was also shown. It also seems very funny and it even goes farther with an interesting aspect that was
noted about the first. It's that many of the real people interviewed about The Rutles, such as Mick Jagger and Paul Simon, wound up indirectly
expressing their feelings about The Beatles.
For the new version, Idle has interviewed — among others — Tom Hanks, Jewel, Conan O'Brien, Robin Williams, Steve Martin,
etc. And many of them, though they're speaking about the Rutles, are really talking from the heart about John, Paul, George and Ringo.
There's no airdate for this, nor has any network picked it up, nor is it even finished. But whenever and wherever it turns up, it's a
Funniest line of either evening: I was sitting in the front row for The Rutles, along with a bunch o' friends including writer
Charles Schlotter. Charlie asked, "Is the rumor true that all of the Rutles' songs were purchased by Jermaine Jackson?" Huge laugh from
the audience, followed by another huge laugh as Mr. Idle whipped out a pen and wrote it down for future use...then answered, "No, Jesse Jackson."
March 9, 2001
AND, SPEAKING OF LAS VEGAS...if you've browsed this site, you know I'm fascinated by the place, especially the historical
aspects. The other day, I came across a website that's chock full o' facts and pics about the place. If you share my interest, you might
want to surf on over to www.lvstriphistory.com and look around. (By the way: The
Holiday Casino really was designed to look like a showboat and it had a tacky maritime theme throughout. The facade has been refurbished in a
Mardi Gras decor at what is now Harrah's. Amazingly, at one time, there were three casinos in Vegas that were built to look like big
showboats...this one, the Showboat and the Paddlewheel.) And don't you love the fact that someone thought that an "adult and spicy" revue was
not enough to lure in the patrons so they needed to mention how much you could win playing Bingo?
I MOVED all the February items from this page to their own page, which you can access by clicking
INTERESTING ARTICLE over on Slate by William Saletan on polling
methods. You can read the whole thing by clicking here
or I can just summarize it for you: The results of a public opinion poll can vary widely depending on precisely how the question is phrased.
That's really all the piece says but the examples are rather interesting.
Those Wacky, Wacky Websites: Four or five different people have called my attention to the homepage for Peter Pan, which
you can reach by clicking here. Several others have suggested I mention the
Chia Pet Web Cam, the link to which is right here. And even a few Republicans have
reported their amusement at "Bush or Chimp," one of an amazing number of websites that compare and contrast the Oval Office Occupant with various
anthropoids. Here's that link. Proceed at your own risk.
March 7, 2001
I'M POSTING THIS this from Vegas, where I've spent four days locked in a hotel room at the Fiesta, battling a deadline. I
'm winning, but not without a lot of bloodshed.
The Fiesta is a "locals'" place with a big casino and a small hotel — 200 rooms, which is the minimum a casino-hotel can have and
fulfill certain rules 'n' regs of operation. In other words, they have the hotel only so they can have the casino. Their website may or may not still promise that all rooms have "internet access, email access,
dataports," as it did when I booked my room. Turned out, they have none of those. They've been planning to install something
of the sort but at the moment, it means each room has a phone...and in order to log in for my e-mail, I had to crawl under the bed and unplug the
wall jack. They may change the site since I called the (ahem) discrepancy to their attention but a desk clerk told me that info's been up for
months and I'm the first to mention it.
There are a lot of these "locals'" establishments, most of them far from the Strip and most offer great gaming rules and great
food. The buffet at the Fiesta is terrific, the one across the street at Texas Station is even better...and my buddies Steve Gerber and Steff
Osborne took me to the one at the Suncoast, which is outstanding. Many of these places for some reason have western themes and most have either
a bowling alley or a movie theater, though they rarely have showrooms. And the thing they really lack is a line of taxis out front since, as I
said, they're mainly for Vegas residents and such folks have their own vehicles. But as a place to just "get away," spots like the Fiesta are
perfect. Unless you have your heart set on the promised "internet access."
Sunday night, I was in the casino at the Plaza downtown when a fire alarm went off. I've always heard that in Vegas, when an
alarm goes off, not one person even considers budging from the crap table or slot machine. It turns out this rumor is true.
LASTLY: After the first four weeks of XFL Football scored overnight ratings of — in this order — 10.3, 5.1, 3.8 and
2.9, a friend at NBC e-mailed me that they'd touched bottom, couldn't go any lower and would now rebound. Week #5 then got a 2.7. Before
I leave Vegas, I'm going to visit a Sportsbook and see if they're accepting bets on the XFL...not on which teams will win but if the ratings will get
March 2, 2001
JUST IN CASE you haven't heard: NBC's Later show has been running old, chopped-up installments of SCTV. The
editing's a little weird and the selection of episodes, a little weirder. But even with all that, it still stands out as one of the bright and
shining lights of television sketch comedy. Later follows Conan O'Brien Monday through Thursday nights. (Well, actually, it's
Tuesday morning through Friday morning, but you know when I mean...) Just tune it in and enjoy.
OVER IN OUR Las Vegas Guide, I mention that shows in that town have been quietly sneaking
their prices upward...and doing so, so rapidly that websites can't keep up. Here's a good example. If you go to the site for Showbiz, which is the most popular of those free magazines distributed at almost every hotel,
they'll tell you that the top price for "O" is $100 a seat. Meanwhile, over on
www.vegas.com, there's a page devoted to "O" and they say the top seats are $110. And if you go to the website for the Bellagio Hotel, where you can actually book tickets for "O," you'll really get confused. As I write
this, the page where they give prices says the top seats are $110 but if you click on that page and actually try to make a reservation on-line,
you'll discover the price is now $121. These may get changed by the time you read this but the point is that increases are occurring so rapidly
that even the hotel's own website can't track them.
WELL, NEGOTIATIONS between the Writers Guild of America and the A.M.P.T.P. have collapsed, which does not come as a shock to
anyone with a lick o' sense and a sense o' history. This always promised to get ugly and it will surely get even uglier, even before the
dreaded Writers Strike of '01 could possibly commence. I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that my brethren and I will soon be carrying
picket signs...but I can tell you a few things that will happen. We'll see in the trade papers, beginning in the coming week, pieces that quote
high-profile writers as saying that strike at this time would be suicidal; that it will rip the Guild asunder; that it cannot possibly be
cost-effective. There will be articles wherein studio and network heads claim that they not only can endure a prolonged strike but might even
welcome it as a chance to purge their inventories of leftover material, and to cancel contracts that they wish to get out of. Support for the
W.G.A. from other unions will be mixed. And at some point, the two sides will reconvene at the bargaining table and try again to make things
work. Stay tuned.
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