Category Archives: TV Hotspot

Your new best friend… Billy Eichner

I like Fuse.  I often forget about it because it’s buried pretty deep in my channel flipping zone (somewhere before the porn channels, but after the public access channels.)  However, when I am doing a deep TV flip, I like what I see when I land on Fuse.  I like that they actually play music videos, I like that Nicki Minaj and Drake take over a fair amount, I like that they show concerts, and I like their documentaries on the music industry.  They do a good job filling the music void that MTV left. 

A few weeks ago, while I was doing a deep flip, I saw that Fuse was airing a show that wasn’t about music.  I instantly became worried.  Is this going to be the “Laguna Beach” of Fuse?  Is this show going to be the slippery slope that leads Fuse to become an all reality TV network?  I decided to watch “Billy on the Street,” knowing absolutely nothing about it.  It’s not music videos or concerts, but if this the direction the network is going towards, I’m a fan.

“Billy on the Street” claims to be a new pop-culture trivia game show where you can win money.  If you’re thinking you’ve got a fair shot at being a great contestant on this show, think again.  You have no shot at signing up to be a contestant.  Host Billy Eichner grabs his contestants off the streets of New York and they have no idea he’s coming for them.  Shocked and confused pedestrians stumble and have a hard time coming up with answers as they are suddenly ambushed with questions about Heidi Klum’s marriage and what celebrities they hate the most.  It is, quite possibly, one of the most wildly brilliant and hilarious game shows to ever grace the television set.

To call it a game show is really unfair to host Billy Eichner.  True enough, he is asking trivia questions and giving prizes to contestants who are winners (even though sometimes the prizes are as simple as a pair of shoes,) but Billy is really a character to watch.  If you are looking for Alex Trebek, keep flipping.  There are moments in the show where Billy says exactly what you are thinking; only you assumed it would be inappropriate to say on television.  “That is ridiculous” he says as a woman tells him her name is Haiyasi.  “I don’t want to hear about the exhausting gays” he groans as a woman dodges an Anne Hathaway question to speak of her gay pride.  As a group of high school girls scream their status as the best actresses and fight for camera time, Billy pushes them out of the way and screams louder and prouder that he is in fact the best actress.  Has Alex Trebek ever done that?

The host is not the only character on the show.  Once again the city of New York provides a sea of characters.  Billy runs up and down the streets of New York asking comical, yet fairly simple questions such as “scream the name of a celebrity you hate.”  On the one hand we have the hilarious expressions of people caught off guard, like the woman who looks beyond perplexed as she yells out Adam Sandler’s name.  On the other, we have a man who takes it upon himself to step into the camera and scream Marc Anthony’s name without any prompting.

The setting and host are a perfect match.  When paired with pretty funny trivia questions, we have a really fun and innovative comedy trivia show.  The show was created by the people at Funny or Die which makes perfect sense, because if you think about the funniest clips you watch during the year, I bet most of them are from something you watched online.  It’s nice to see a show on my television set that makes me laugh from the comfort of my couch (because the walk to the computer desk is oh so far.)

While I enjoy my music networks and am anxiously awaiting a Pitbull takeover, I’m okay with Fuse’s decision to add “Billy on the Street” to their line-up.  In fact, this is such a perfect pairing of music, trivia and comedy, that I think I’ll work Fuse into my regular flipping rotation.

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Conan and TBS enjoy their honeymoon phase

It’s fair to say that this article may be a bit of a retraction from the previous thoughts I had in regard to Conan’s new TBS show, “Conan.”  As eager as I was to quickly write a review of the new show and get it on the web, the real character of a show is never apparent in its early stages.  One of the best shows in the history of television is “Seinfeld” and I hardly doubt anyone would label its pilot episode as their favorite.  A show needs a chance to grow and its star needs a chance to get comfortable.  If you’ve tuned in to TBS recently at 11pm, you’ve been able to enjoy watching a star get comfortable and a seeing a show grow.

When did a brief stint as host of “the Tonight Show,” last fall, there was something missing to his comedy.  He was still being funny and his bits were as clever and smart as they had been on “Late Night,” but something was off.  After all of the drama occurred with NBC, it was obvious what the missing piece was:  Conan had no support from his network.  Maybe it was draining him or maybe it was the suits pressuring him, but something about that show felt off compared to his “Late Night” show.

Now Conan is back on TV and he’s with TBS.  It’s not network television, it doesn’t follow Jay Leno, and it is pretty liberal about its standards and practices.  So at first, maybe around the time we wrote our first assessment of Conan’s new show, Conan was getting his mojo back.  At first, it seemed he still harbored some NBC/Jay Leno anger (and rightfully so) but to the point where it seemed to dominate the monologue.  And it seemed at first that maybe Conan was still looking over his shoulder a bit to see if anyone he had left behind was still watching over him.  So the first week, not too surprisingly, was a little lack-luster.

But week one has ended.  Nobody is trying to steal Conan’s chair, nobody is holding the spot in front of him, Jay Leno is a distant memory and Conan is making a home at TBS.  He’s starting to settle in, he’s starting to get comfortable again, and dare I say it, he’s really getting his mojo back.

This, of course, is an assessment that I have concocted in my head.  Perhaps Conan always felt comfortable on TBS and perhaps Jay Leno was always a very distant memory, but to your average, ordinary viewer, it only seems like now he’s starting to get in to the groove.  He’s going back to being Conan and to being the comic genius that recruited us all to his Coco army.

In the past month or so the bits and monologues have really hit their stride.  Conan has always been great at interacting with his audience, something that was especially apparent during the writer’s strike of ’08, and he’s doing exactly that on his TBS show.  From a man dressed as Harry Potter (who just happened to be sitting in the audience that night… no really,) to a group of girls who showed up in orange beards to a man named Jesse who was dressed so poorly that not only Conan but guest Tim Gunn had a field day with him.  Conan is brilliant at picking out the one person in the crowd in a funny costume or that refuses to laugh and stand.  He never turns the camera on some one who is hiding their face or storming out because they are offended.  He finds genuine characters and they love their little moment of Conan attention.

What Conan’s show is probably most famous for is his bits.  I have seen so many great bits on this show lately, it’s hard to pin point just a few.  He debuted a web show/vlog, he created commercials for his show aimed at a black audience and he even reenacted fights between him and sidekick, Andy Richter, through Taiwan animated news segments.  But perhaps the most stand-out bit came from his interaction with the always over-the-top Gary Busey.  Conan has been tracking his bright orange blimp around California as it floats by Gary Busey… no matter where he is, no matter how many times he tries to relocate.  Busey completely freaks out anytime he spots the blimp and screams at the sky, begging for some kind of answers.  While it’s obviously a staged reaction, because it’s Busey, you know it could be real.  I wonder just how much of it is staged?

It wasn’t until last week when Conan decided to host the entire show in jeggings, that I realized that I needed to take to this blog and point out that the awkward, getting-to-know-you phase with his TBS show was gone.  TBS and Conan have become a serious relationship, and ya know what?  They make a great couple.

Team Coco rejoyce… or not.

Somewhere in between watching my beloved Yankees lose the ALCS and watching “King of Queens” repeats, something occurred to me:  Conan O’Brien is coming to TBS.  The network placed it on the sidebars during the commercials, Craig Sager plugged it during every sporting event, and little Conan animations popped up during “House of Payne.”  The whole station just looked more orangey than usual.

This is great news for everyone who’s ever been Team Coco or better yet, anti-Leno.  Conan’s premiere on cable was to be Conan’s big redemption and revenge on the major networks that had wronged him in the past.  On top of all the hype that came with his exit from NBC and agreement with TBS, the trailers for Conan’s new show promised that the show would be EPIC.  Everyone was on the edge of their sofa’s waiting for the clock to strike 11 O’clock on Monday November 8th, 2010.

In fact, so many people were waiting and watching and clenching their pearls, that Conan trounced the competition.  Not just beating the red hot Daily Show and Colbert Report (who’s ratings last month were the highest ever for the two shows,) but also beating the big wigs of Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman and of course, the evil Jay Leno.  Point awarded to Team Coco.

But getting an audience after a much hyped premiere is easier than getting an audience on day two.  The first show was filled with F-U’s to Jay Leno and NBC, many jokes about getting fired, and funny thoughts about being on network cable.  But then, the second show was filled with the same thing… as was the second, and third show.  Conan is becoming Taylor Swift and NBC is looking like Joe Jonas.  But at this point, we get it.  You got dumped in a 27 second phone call; time to write a song about something else.

On top of weak and redundant jokes/sketches this week, the opening week guests were lack luster.  As per usual, Tom Hanks was a great guest.  I enjoyed Conan’s Wednesday bit on having the stars of basic cable stop by:  Bruce Jenner, a hoarder and the Alaskan crabs from “Deadliest Catch.”  But I could live without seeing Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi be their emo/awkward selves/characters two days in a row.  Are they really a great “get”?

We all know Conan’s potential.  We all remember the great things that came out of his NBC late night show, such as Triumph, the masturbating bear, hornymanatee.com, etc.  They are all still with Conan so as soon as he gets his sea legs over at TBS we should be able to see Conan and his characters be funny again, right?

It’s almost like when Conan got moved to 11:30, the funny in him got sucked out and now he’s got to find it again.  Hopefully, he finds it soon because the Jay Leno jokes are getting old.  The last thing we want to do is to have to watch Jay Leno to avoid hearing about Jay Leno.

I understand that not everyone comes bursting out of the gate at full speed.  Especially when you’re used to network executives breathing down your throat, so I am pulling for Conan to really pick up steam as his run continues.  I’ve already had to deal with a losing season for my Yankees (yeah yeah I know, I’m a spoiled Yankee fan, we spend a lot of money, yadda yadda yadda,) but I can’t handle another loss!  Team Coco needs to be a winning team.

the Daily Show gets Oprah-fied

You get a trip to the Rally for Sanity!

You get a trip to the Rally for Sanity!

EV-RY BOD-Y GETS A TRIP TO THE RALLY FOR SANITY!!

In case you missed it last night, Oprah surprised the “Daily Show” audience last night by appearing via satellite and announcing that under their seats awaits a trip to Washington DC to attend the “Rally for Sanity.”  Check out the clip below to see the Daily Show get Oprah-fied.  (Also includes a guest spot from Stephen Colbert)

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-october-14-2010/rally-to-restore-sanity-and-or-fear-announcement
So what do you guys think?  Are you going to be heading to DC to march on the Washington Mall for reasonable thinking and even tempers?  I just might have to make an appearance.

White Collar delivers a BIG season finale

It’s no secret I’m a “White Collar” fan.  I think the executive producer and writers dubbed fans of the show “Collars.”  Yep… that would be me.  I’m a collar.  Will I constantly over-load this blog with my thoughts and opinion because I am a fan?  I hope not.  But if they keep ending every season, or mid-season, with shockers, it will be very hard for me to keep my mouth shut.  Or I guess in this case, my fingers off the keyboard.

“White Collar” has brilliant writing.  The show never assumes the audience is dumb.  Plots and historical points are never over-explained, and characters are brilliantly developed.  The character’s are all likable, relatable and yet… completely mysterious.

Well, our exception is Peter Burke (played by Tim DeKay.)  He’s not as mysterious as most characters on this show.  Burke definitely plays for the good guys.  Unlike his counter parts, he’s happy to eat chinese take-out and watch a basketball game rather than visit a museum or sip fine wines.  He’s surprising at times, but not quite mysterious.  He’s level headed, a great voice of reason and incredibly likable.  He’s certainly got the tough task of trying to reel-in and manage our vaguer characters.

I know that when I say vague, our minds go right to Neal Caffrey.  Neal Caffrey (played by Matt Bomer) is a fantastic character because he does such a great job at towing the line between criminal and hero.  Actually though, I was thinking more about Mozzie.  Perhaps I had underestimated Mozzie this season.  When he showed his bravery for a woman he pined for, I was surprised.  My heart-strings were tugged a bit when he opened up about never having been adopted as a child and I was impressed by his brilliant ear when he opened that music box.  Mozzie was always a great character, but this season the audience was able to connect with him and be stimulated by him in a way that wasn’t there season one.  Perhaps in my last season finale entry, I gave Neal Caffrey too much credit for being a great character.  Perhaps Mozzie needed more acknowledgment.

Or maybe it’s a case of never knowing what I have until it’s gone.  With the way “White Collar” ended on Tuesday night, perhaps I had been taking Mozzie for granted.  He was comic relief for the show and he was a mysterious character, but maybe I didn’t realize what a strong presence he brought until he was suddenly (and shockingly) taken away from me (I know, I know… or was he?)

We’re in season two of “White Collar” and the show has  not lost its sophistication.  (Although, one could complain about the use of green screen on Tiffani Amber-Thiessen, but that’s really nit-picking.)  It’s as intelligent and exciting as it was throughout season one.  This summer we Collars got to experience investigations that ranged from a Criminology class, to a dirty politician and to an underground poker ring. We met characters that were elegantly brilliant and deceptively corrupt.  We saw places that were stunning and repulsive.  It’s amazing that after all those years of watching awful deaths and despicable crimes on “Law and Order” that I am satisfied with a simple art heist.  In fact, I’m more than satisfied, I’m excited.

“White Collar” never assumes that it’s audience is unintelligent.  This is a key to why the show is so  alluring.  It is because of this that the audience is able to make such a connection to the characters and be so excited to see story lines about ancient artifacts, priceless paintings, Spanish silver and of course, the inner workings of the FBI.  And the writers deliver.  They deliver with unbelievable endings like the one we saw this Tuesday.

I’m curious to see where the writers plan to take this ending.  On a show like this, you have to wonder if they have already seen the bigger picture in their minds.  Do they already know who “the man who pulls all the strings” is?  Do they already know Neal Caffrey’s destiny?  Or are we watching a story as it develops?  Either way, count me in for the ride.


Written by Jessie Kanev

Hot in Cleveland finds a place on our worn out dial

People these days are not satisfied with just a couple of funny jokes and good looking people. Shows like “Full House” are fun to reminisce about but I doubt it would work on today’s audience.  To reach a modern audience now, sitcoms are often given a twist.  In many ways the the classic sitcom has changed.  Now networks are having them filmed like a reality show (“Modern Family”) or a show within a show (“30 Rock”) or even having a narrator set the scene (“How I Met your Mother.”)  Can a sitcom that follows an old school formula of having sharp characters, quick yet easy jokes and a big name star find a place on your dial?

My answer is yes.  But what channel would be willing to take a risk on a show like this?  Well, since TV Land is the home of old school sitcoms, it would only make sense that for their first original scripted series, they would bring the sitcom back to its roots.   Not only did they tap the TV vet Betty White, but her costars are all sitcom alum as well (Jane Leeves of “Frasier”, Wendy Malick of “Just Shoot me” and Valerie Bertinelli of “One day at a Time” and Jenny Craig commercials.)  The show is taped in front of a live studio audience and never breaks the fourth wall.  It truly is a throwback sitcom.

The show takes three single, successful, middle-aged women from Los Angeles and brings them to Ohio.  Things like staying thin, looking young and feeling bad about themselves suddenly go out the window.  In Cleveland, these women are hot. Hence… the title of the show.

Some may complain that this situation provides a lot of easy and predictable jokes. For example, when the girls order the chili cheese fries, 10 minutes of dialogue is able to stem from this.  I have no complaints about that though.  The jokes are funny even if they are predictable.  Women do worry about what they are eating and embarrassingly, we do celebrate at the mere taste of something as delicious as chili cheese fries.  Not all of us, but a good handful of us can find the humor in this joke and relate to it.  And when you’re constantly trying to one up the twenty-something beauty next door; an abundance of men looking your way is a welcome change.  Maybe older women looking for love has been done, but it hasn’t gotten old.

So how do we get Miz Betty White into the mix?  Well, when Melanie (Bertinelli) leases a house on a whim, she finds out that the house comes with an 80-year old caretaker played by Betty White.  Betty plays Elka, the sharp, uncensored, sassy senior citizen that will be hanging with the girls while they stay in Ohio.  She has a series of one liners and fast retorts.  (And for those who are saying how the jokes on the show are predictable, I dare you to watch Betty White explain why older women wear track suits and not laugh.)

The shows only downfall is Betty White’s lack of airtime and even this isn’t something I can fault the show for.  We love her, but we don’t want to burn out on her either.  I expect she’ll have a much bigger role in future episodes.  Plus, the three women around her are strong enough actresses to carry the show and make it funny and entertaining on their own.  There is no denying though that Betty White is a scene stealer.

“Hot in Cleveland” is a throwback sitcom in every sense.  From the sets, to the format, to the camera angles, to the cast- there is something familiar about everything on this show, and that’s a good thing.  Watching this show is not only entertaining, but it’s comforting. It reminds us that there is still a place for a classic sitcom on prime time TV, even today.

Burn Notice premiere moves at it’s own pace

Good things take time.  Even our favorite things can get off to a slow start. I love a good beef stew, but we all know that it should cook all day before we eat it. I also enjoy all of the Harry Potter books, but things really picked up at the end of book four. Great things don’t always shoot right out of the gate. Sometimes, they need to slowly build.  That’s the case for Season four of “Burn Notice.”

“Burn Notice” is a fast-paced, action-packed show about a former spy that has been burned.  If you’re looking for more details about our main character, Michael Weston (played by Jeffrey Donovan,) then look no further than the opening of every episode.  He gives a brief lesson on what it means to be a burned spy.  The show is typically exciting and action packed and at the end of Season 3, we were left with a huge cliffhanger that had us wondering the fate of our beloved burned hero.  Since the season four opener picked up right where we left off (and I mean RIGHT where we left off- literally in the same room, in the same position,) I expected the action and the suspense to pick up right there as well.   It didn’t.

The normal pace of the show was actually halted when we learned where Michael Weston was and who he was with.  Instead of throwing us a huge twist or bringing back an old enemy, we were given a new story arc for the season.  Typically, I have no problem with this, but I must admit, I had been hoping for a huge reveal when Michael realized where he was and who he was with.

Hope is not lost though.  As Michael makes his way back to Miami, the show begins to build steam a bit.  He has a quick reunion with Fi (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam (Bruce Campbell) and before we know it, he’s right back to holding a machine gun in front of a biker gang.  The biker gang story line then takes over and provides some nice action scenes.  There’s a great chase scene between Michael and motorcyclists that gives us a taste of the “Burn Notice” we have come to enjoy.   It’s fast-paced, suspenseful and best of all, trigger happy.

After returning to his “normal life,” Michal has a brief emotional moment with his mother, Maddie (played by Sharon Gless) and we can see wheels turning in Michael’s head.  The conversation motivates Michael to look for more answers to his many questions.  Unfortunately, when Michael Weston looks for answers, sometimes people in his way have to pay the price.   This is where we are left at the end of the episode- watching some one pay the ultimate price for just being in Michael Weston’s line of fire.  It’s the kind of twist that leaves us with a million questions and wondering what will happen next.  It’s the kind of ending that nobody saw coming, and yet it fits perfectly.  It’s the exact ending that you would want and expect from “Burn Notice.”  This ending gives us just the right push we needed to stick with our show, and our beloved burned one.

If you are able to get through the beginning of the season four premiere of “Burn Notice” and resist that itching finger on your remote control, the pay off is big.  Not every episode can hit maximum speed before the first commercial break. Sometimes, the show needs to build up steam before it reaches it’s ultimate pace.  And once it reaches that pace; you realize the wait was worth it.