Destroying the Decepticon in My Living Room – Cutting Cable TV’s $1K Umbilical Cord

Our electric bill had jumped so much, I thought maybe three or four neighbors had run extension cords off the back of my garage.  We walked all around the house, examining every outlet, toaster, stereo and toothbrush charger–right past the culprit hiding in plain sight.  We were so used to its soft roar that it had become almost therapeutic–like a wave-machine in a sauna.  But, to quote Ross Perot, we finally identified “that sucking sound…” the cause of our depleting bank account–it was a Decepticon–the cable company’s Swiss army knife of doom–our modem/router/DVR/corkscrew. Apparently, according to my friend Scott Sowers, these bad boys draw more energy than a refrigerator.  And I get to pay a rental fee for it, too! I’m so used to cable TV that I’d forgotten that free programming was even out there.  When I called my provider, WOW (a fitting title for its increases that, in fairness, can’t compare… Read More…

Emmy Schools Oscar: 5 More Tips to Make the Academy Awards Less Eternal

A film’s producer was asked about his DP—or “director of photography”—or “cinematographer” in case he’s nominated for anything. “He should be great,” he laughed. “But this is his first non-television gig. He might be too efficient!” Sunday’s Emmy Awards was a perfect example of the terrible crime of being too efficient. The Oscars are notoriously always late–– a tiresome joke that probably began with “Wings” in 1929. Last February I discussed kicking Oscar out of the bingo hall (link).  Not sure if anyone at ABC read it, but perhaps they noticed the show from the Fox producers of the Emmy Awards–Oscar’s “little brother on the little screen”–that now produces more quality filmmaking then any 10 hour epic created by Peter Jackson. The big winner was once again HBO.  “Olive Kitteridge,” “Veep” and “Game of Thrones” clobbered most of the competition.  ”Mad Men” did get its farewell nod as Jon Hamm took his much deserved recognition in his interesting goofy style–– so… Read More…

2015 Tonys: Don’t Sell Your TV Audience Short

Welcome to our newest contributor, veteran Broadway performer, Daniel Marcus! First…Anybody else notice that the schtick that Larry David obviously wrote for himself was the only genuinely clever, smart, slightly daring and actually (I laughed) funny material of the night? For me the high point was easily “Ring of Keys” – the low point-maybe cutting off the applause for “Ring of Keys” to do an E.T. gag that was there to patronize a tv audience who let’s face it-know what they’re turning on. The Tonys are always (and always have been) the lowest rated of the big 5 tv award shows (Oscars/Emmys/Golden Globes/Grammys) and the networks keep the show because that small 7,000,000 number of watchers belong to the most desirable upscale educated demographic-the hardest group to get to on commercial network television. And so they remain on network tv. So why dumb-down? I mean-of course I understand this biz…. Read More…

New Podcast on 2015 Oscars: Our Experts on Birdman, NPH & Hanging Lightbulbs

Following a contest on MyMediaDiary.com, the top three winners guessing the 24 categories from the 2015 Academy Awards, Collin Ward, Melissa Balan and Steve Palizzi, were invited by hosts Kevin Walsh and Kale Davidoff to discuss the following: Best and Worst of the Show Bad Clips Shown for Good Actors Underwhelming Films New Categories such as:Neil Patrick Harris and the Hosting Curse–Too Naughty/Too Nice Best Picture–5 Years from Now Best Trailer Best Stuntwork Best Voice-Over Work Recommended Changes The Academy Voters Country Club/US Senate Snubs Joan Rivers Popularity of Hanging Lightbulbs Birdman and Hollywood’s Love Affair with Itself In the podcast, Melissa shared her project on the Mars mission.  Here’s the link!

Kicking Oscar Out of the Bingo Hall: Creating February Madness for the Academy Awards

I knew last night seemed familiar as the Academy Awards dripped by.  I was once again trapped in the living room of my grandmother’s 1974 Florida mobile home.  The room was stuffy; there was nowhere to go, even shuffleboard or laps on the awesome giant tricycles were forbidden to all under 65–and the pond had gators, reportedly. Last night I watched my 40th consecutive Oscars.  It began when I was in fifth grade with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest sweeping the major awards.  With the advent of cable TV’s 400 more channels, Twitter-feeds and on-demand viewing a lot has changed.  Except for the Oscars. Stuck in Lawrence Welk-Land It still starts at 8:30 pm, still runs past midnight due to the the Death Valley of songs, oddball tributes and eternal commercials somewhere half-past “It’s-gotta-be-over-soon” o’clock.  There is still the same generally awkward monologue/opening number—with a brief 1990s hiatus of Billy Crystal between rotating comedians who all get trashed the next day.  Every year there are minor tweaks—for example, last… Read More…

Pick the Oscar Winners and Become the Next MMD Podcaster!

Predict how tonight’s ceremonies will go! Will it be a laugh-riot or a slow-motion train wreck? At least this year, there’s less certainty of the 1-2 front-runners.  But with John Travolta’s famous mispronunciation last year along with Kim Novak’s awkward moment, there’s always more to watch than the happy and pretending-to-be-happy faces of the nominees. The winner (or winners) will be invited to join us on our post-op podcast this week! Loading…   For some other Oscar-related posts… Kale Davidoff’s review of Whiplash Our 2014 Post-Oscar Podcast–covering the highs, lows and bizarres Steve Palizzi’s fun 2014 Oscar-picks Robert Phillips examines Seth MacFarlane’s 2013 (and only) Oscar hosting gig Kevin Walsh’s Voyeuristic Oscar favorites

“God, I Love My Job!” Welcoming Mistakes and Exploding Stuff – The Life of Sound FX Guru–Ric Viers

Listen to Kevin’s podcast with Ric Viers…   Perhaps it’s osmosis, but Ric Viers has noticed that his son seems to have his dad’s ear.  In the middle of The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies, there is a Foley mistake–a sword that didn’t clash to the ground.  “And I saw it and I just kind of smiled, but before I could even say anything, my kid leans over and says, ‘Dad, they forgot one of the sound effects.’” After years of on-the-job training, sound effects expert Viers has learned valuable lessons for not just audio but life, not the least includes keeping ones car keys in the refrigerator. Owner of the world’s largest collection of sound-effects, The Detroit Chop Shop, Ric Viers was a guest speaker in November for Detroit area student filmmakers.  The author of the best-selling books The Sound Effects Bible (2008) and The Location Sound Bible (2012), he shared his war-stories and provided tips included in his easy-to-read and… Read More…

New Podcast – Life Lessons & Sound FX with Ric Viers

    Veteran film and TV sound expert Ric Viers, author of The Sound Effects Bible and The Location Sound Bible, joins Kevin Walsh following a workshop Ric gave to Michigan high school students on his 10 Location Sound Commandments, which offer important life-skills as well. They discuss: Soft Skills and Reputation-how the most skilled person on the set may not be the one who stays on the set. How Does One Begin as a Sound Guy? Fatherhood and the osmosis of sound-awareness Gathering sound-effects (and where to leave your keys) Publishing a book (after finding a niche) The “Oh Crap” Kit Check out Ric’s page on Amazon as well as his own website, www.RicViers.com

“If a Tweet Falls in the Forest…” Life without Applause-Signs, Laugh-Tracks & Likes

It’s often not so much what happens in our lives—as what we figure ought to happen.  If no one likes this post, did it fail? I started noticing  camera-angles and how they manipulated the audience far too early in my life–especially for the poor bystanders who were stuck in a living room, basement or movie theater with me. The Cosby Show, for all of its garish sweaters and too-good-to-be-true charm of a doctor/lawyer upper-middle class family, was a breakthrough on many levels—it revitalized the sit-com and finally placed a TV African-American family out of the ghetto—if you bypass George Jefferson moving on up. But what I noticed immediately, from my hero of a dozen scratched LP comedy albums, was the cutaway to Clair—Cliff Huxtable’s long-suffering wife who managed to smile through the monologues.  You’ll see it in every episode, the need for the reaction shot—generally Phylicia Rashad or one of the kids letting… Read More…

Propaganda, Potholes and Pensions: Political Ads & Business Clichés During Election (Hunting) Season

It wasn’t supposed to be this close of a race in Michigan. To get Rick Snyder re-elected governor may take more checks from United Citizens like the Koch brothers to create more subtle ads like the following… [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnPG2iW3cqU] This cringe-worthy moment was a response to Mark Schauer’s surprising “too-close-to-call” campaign—perhaps riding on the bumpy road of last winter’s potholes and angry pensioners whose fixed incomes become less-fixed with Snyder’s new tax on their retirement. Even GOP legislators weren’t happy with this tax… Republican Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, who introduced the repeal bill on March 20, said he did so in response to constituents in his district who have called his office or approached him in coffee shops to complain about the pension tax as they prepare their returns. “Since it’s tax season, I’ve had a huge amount of calls from my constituents when they find out what their tax liability is,” Jones told… Read More…

“Who is the Tall Dark Stranger There?” James Garner, My First Man-Crush

“I’m getting a little jealous of James Garner,” my wife informed me as I headed down the basement with my burned DVDs.  I was in the middle of  a bit of binge-watching a few months before Netflix appeared on our horizon.  It involved setting our DVR for a series of old Maverick episodes on the Starz Western channel. I’d finally figured out how to burn a bushel of the episodes to a DVD and was taking them downstairs to put by the dusty exercise equipment to induce me to get hooked on a show and lose pounds at the same time. I knew the  Maverick theme song years before I finally saw one of the old episodes… Who is the tall, dark stranger there? Maverick is the name. Ridin’ the trail to who knows where, Luck is his companion, Gamblin’ is his game. Smooth as the handle on a gun. Maverick is the name. Wild as the wind in Oregon, Blowin’ up a… Read More…

Yucking Up “The Walking Dead” to a Few More Emmys: Comic Tips from Three Great Dramas–“Justified,” “The Wire,” and “Breaking Bad”

Granted it’s a zombie apocalypse; granted it’s exhausting peeking around every corner; granted Atlanta in the summer without air-conditioning is brutal.  But come on, let’s have a little levity. There’s a fine line between tragedy and comedy.  Shakespeare knew this as he preceded the haunted and soon to be hysterical Hamlet in the graveyard with a pun-contest with a local gravedigger.  Even Mercutio, after he was stabbed, found time to squeeze out a groaner:  “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.” And what works for the Bard, certainly bears true for three of my favorite dramas. Justified (FX) In Justified, Timothy Oliphant is sentenced to his home town of Kentucky after going all Dirty Harry in the opening scene of the opening episode.  He is forced to not only deal with his childhood buddy and current supremacist outlaw Boyd Crowder, the most verbose, eloquent, polite and delightful psychopath… Read More…

There Be Dragons in Minnesota: A Late Review of the Series “Fargo”

The season finale of Fargo aired last night, and what better time to review it than when it’s off network television? Of course, you may find it on Hulu, on Amazon Prime, or any of the other online venues.  And you should. For the past ten weeks, it was one of the two best shows on television with dragons.  OK, no dragons really.  No vampires…no ghost hunters and no real housewives of Bimidji, Mn. (where the show takes place). Every episode begins with the caption “This is a True Story,” which it is not. Yet despite all these outward trappings of reality it remained strikingly imaginative and clever. The series featured a female lead, a deputy who was politely smarter than all the guys in the room, and, surprisingly, it became to an extent a show about how we define “manhood.” That is, with a capital M, complete with squinting, hiking up pants… Read More…

Unintentional Vanity Plate: Revenge of the DMV Gods on a New Ass-Man

I’ve always chuckled at people who order vanity plates, but secretly wanted one since I watched an episode of “Dallas” and saw JR pull up in in his Mercedes proclaiming to the world that “EWING 3” had arrived. But like the cell phone and personalized M&Ms, vanity plates no longer require great wealth or vast oil-connections in the Texas legislature.  States realized the extra windfall and for $10 more, even without a genie, you too can be Larry Hagman. But I was always too cheap, too lazy to think far enough ahead or, I suspect to be the main reason, too self-conscious.  I didn’t have the nerve of one Dr. Kosmo Kramer… But the DMV gods have a sense of humor and decided to take their vengeance upon one silly mortal foolish enough to post a picture to Facebook while making a joke about Limbo. Saturday mornings aren’t the best… Read More…

Fracking, Rat-Packing & Heart-Attacking: Opening Pandora’s Box of Ads

It is better to give than receive–particularly homework.  But for one weekend my high school students didn’t mind, at first, being asked to watch the Super Bowl and its commercials. The quickly frowning class soon realized it would have to count the number of edits, how a narrator was used, the use of graphics, music, celebrities, etc.  But my favorite column read, “Intended Audience.”  I started the assignment back when the agencies realized they could had grab the same audience that didn’t get a sandwich during a timeout for the first Macintosh ad in 1984–and the Bud Bowl began. Generally, a football game will not be the correct forum for Mop & Glow, pet food or feminine hygiene.  (Someone on Madison Avenue once gave birth to the strange descendant of “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile” as the cringe-worthy, “It’s not your mother’s tampon.” ) The standards for the “Big Game,” as the NFL insists other… Read More…

Hollywood’s Spring Training – Saturday’s 46th Michigan Student Film Festival (Great Seats Still Available–and They’re Free!)

Two events, besides roller coasters,  when people don’t mind long lines:  movies and sporting events.  People will drive 24 hours through the night to get a glimpse… Spring training.  Your team’s undefeated… There’s sunshine, plenty of seats available, a great overall vibe… And it’s the only time you can get close enough to some celebrities–some even before they’re famous. But you can save yourself the long drive down I-75, the sunblock and even the price of admission–and do a lot to encourage some future filmmakers as well. In the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), there are many who want STEAM instead–remembering the important “A” for arts.  And this Saturday just down Woodward Avenue, you can see STEAM in at its very best. The 46th annual Michigan Student Film Festival takes place from 10 AM to 2 PM at the Detroit Film Theatre inside the Detroit Institute of… Read More…

New Podcast: The Hoops & Hype of March Madness

Contributing writer, Kale Davidoff, joins Kevin Walsh and media professionals Aaron Lebovic and Matt Moss to analyze the opening weekend of March Madness. Topics include: – Why is this event so special? – What non-basketball part of the event do you like/dislike most? – Review of brackets busted and intact – Best/Worst of CBS coverage – What changes would you make to either the tournament itself or its programming?

New Podcast: The Oscar Post-Op Show Starring Kim Novak, John Travolta and at Least One Mispronounced Celebrity

  Kevin Walsh is joined by Sheri Horwitz, Aaron Lebovic and Collin Ward as they dissect the  2014 Oscars, including… Our Panel’s Prediction-Accuracy (and those pesky costume awards), Cringeworthy Moments:  Kim Novak’s Vertigo, Travolta’s stumblings, etc., The Big Surprises:  Shutout for Hustle, What Should Be Cut:  Montages of Heroes, what? Ellen:  Too-low key and casual–or just right?

In Flipper’s Footsteps by Brian d’Arcy James

From time to time, I help my cousin Brian d’Arcy James keep his website updated, and this recent post he wrote struck me as a perfect nostalgia article for “My Media Diary,” and for all those who grew up with 1960s TV (or its reruns).  So am sharing it with this blog’s audience. —Laura W. C. Fields is famously credited with this warning to all:  “Never work with children or animals.” My Uncle Brian was more specific: “Never act with a fish.” Let me explain. My namesake and my uncle, Brian Kelly, was an actor. He was a big reason why I do what I do today. He showed me that being an actor was not only possible, but also could be a viable profession. He gave me many tips and insights about the business I’m currently in, either explicitly or by example. However, the most memorable, if not best… Read More…

Making People Feel Like Dummies: Swimming the Treacherous Waters of Sheldons

I’ve had some pretty memorable conversations at the checkout counter at Radio Shack: “So you need a male-to-male connector…” (I was fourteen, buying some cables for my stereo–a bit startled by this apparent pickup line.) “Can I please have your address?” (Perhaps another line, but I was just paying cash.) And my favorite, when I was buying a 25-foot audio cable… “May I ask what you’ll be using this for?” The guy was implying that purchasing an audio cable to run video through a non-gold-plated triple-insulated cable may not only ruin the quality of my picture but perhaps offset the precarious balance of the Middle East peace talks. “Thank you for shopping with us…dummy.” Radio Shack has survived, somehow, by cornering the market of oddball technical needs at crazily marked up prices.  And, with the development of any specialty, there comes the inevitable feeling of invincibility and irreplaceablilty.  I’ve seen… Read More…