Springsteen and Fallon make me smile

‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’ celebrated its third birthday tonight with the Boss, and it was magnificent. He and Bruce teamed for one of their legendary duets and Springsteen and the E Street Band jammed for three songs, two from their new album ‘Wrecking Ball,’ and ending with the E Street Shuffle, which brought the audience to the stage.

I love Jimmy’s gentle comedy, his unashamed idolatry of his guests and his pure delight at music. He is always so grateful for his position and for the kindness of his guests and house band. He was hot on cowbell tonight when the Roots joined the E Street band, and he clearly loved every minute of it.

And I did, too.

Thank you, Jimmy, for a great Friday night, as always.

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Entertainment Overload: Or, how I am becoming a discerning consumer

I think I have reached my entertainment saturation point. It started gradually a couple of years ago; tonight it reached its limit.

It started when I stopped reading “In Touch” magazine. It was when reality stars, predominantly “Teen Mom” stars, began gracing the covers. It was as if the magazine itself had run out of ideas. No legitimate star news was juicy enough to warrant the cover. Really? That goes for entertainment?

Today (Sept. 28, 2011) is only Day Two of Conrad Murray’s trial in the involuntary manslaughter trial in the death of Michael Jackson, and already I have tuned out my favorites: “E News” and “Entertainment Tonight.” Enough. I have no patience. The coverage was the lead story on news and entertainment stations, and I cannot stand the thought of two months of this incessant noise. I cannot bear it.

And tonight, when I became bored with “Modern Family” within the first 10 minutes, I realized the beginning of the end of my need for pop culture may be in sight.

It’s the perfect storm: too many programs trying too hard to be as far out and ridiculous or sometimes nasty as possible, and I am simply no longer interested. I used to watch it all. I became good at channel hopping, watching bits of shows during commercials of other shows. It does not take more than a few seconds of something to figure out what’s going on. And the same with a magazine, especially the vapid ones I read.

But I am on overload, and I do not have the energy or inclination to watch or read something I don’t want to or that seems rehashed. Enough.

So now I am finding quiet gems, stories that unfold sweetly or slowly and move on. I want a “Downton Abbey” or a “Law and Order: UK.” I want good writing about people who matter. I want a “Vanity Fair” or “Rolling Stone” piece. And when it comes to entertainment variety, I want “Entertainment Weekly” that still covers books and theater.

This is not to say I have given up on all programming. I still adore “The Simpsons,” for example. At its core there is a sweetness about it, a caring for one another. And I keep trying.

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Rereading an old friend

Yesterday I reread John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill,” his first novel that was rereleased after the success of two other books.

It’s a hard book to read in terms of violence. It has a brutal rape of a 10-year-old girl. It has the Klan. It has the n word. It has poverty and ignorance and hate and anger.

But it also has kindness. It has Jake Brigance, who takes the case of the case of the father accused of murdering his daughter’s attackers. It has Lucien Wilbanks, a disbarred lawyer who, for all his demons, understands the plight of blacks in the United States. It has a female juror who asks her counterparts to think about the crime in different terms. It has family and hope. It has shades of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

It’s hard to believe that a country that chooses Grisham as a best-selling novelist does not learn from his books. Maybe it is similar to the situation of the viewers who agreed with Archie Bunker from “All in the Family,” who thought his bigotry was right. Maybe some think the Klan was right.

Or maybe the country does learn. Maybe some readers reconsider their prejudicial views after reading his books.

I came away thinking that these glimmers of hope mean that the country can do what’s right. It can correct injustices. Grisham (and Harper Lee) are the kinds of writers they want to read, whose messages they hear. Certainly there is hope in that.

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When bad things happen to good shows

With the news April 14 that ABC will be canceling “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” in September and January respectively, I can only feel a little lost. I realize that the soap opera genre has been dwindling, but the ABC soaps, with their popular story lines and characters, seemed to have been above that. They were still popular with certain demographics. But they are to be replaced by cheaper shows on the self-help issues of food and health.

Susan Lucci, always gracious, reacted in ABC Soaps In Depth magazine with dignity. Of course, she did. She thought of the fans and of the opportunities that might be forthcoming. And others have commented, too.

Cancelation of shows is not new, nor is the outcry from fans when it happens. But when a show that has been running for decades leaves, the fans who have been with it and its characters throughout the duration feel a different kind of loss. Their routines change. Their additional commitments to the show, such as their magazines, their clamor for glimpses of their favorite stars on other programs and on Broadway and in music, are gone, too.

And the soaps have been like a farm club for new players. And “One Life to Live” has been a ground-breaker in so many way. Some folks got training on OLTL before they were stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Berenger, Nathan Fillion, Judith Light, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Phillippe and Phylicia Rashad, among others. Where will young actors go now to learn on such a big canvas?

My friend Dan Hagen, a fan, too, suggested that some smart programming executive might insist on filling the void left by no more daytime stories of human dramas, perhaps putting these shows on prime time. Maybe another network will pick them up. According to the fans on Facebook and Twitter, they won’t give up. They will keep on hoping that their favorite characters will live on.

I will keep hoping, too. OLTL has given me strong female characters of a certain age who have complicated relationships, and I have identified with them. I certainly will miss them.

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Advertising that works: Chrysler

I love the new Chrysler campaign. When I saw the first ad during the 2011 Super Bowl, I was drawn into its music and stylized camera-work. It had the perfect backbeat, perfect tempo, perfect taglines. And, of course, it had Eminem, pointing at us and challenging us to rethink the media perception of the Motor City and the concept of American-made.

After the Super Bowl, the ad morphed into something cleaner, slicker. It still had the strong, close shots of Detroit’s art and power and beautiful people. It still had the backbeat. And it still had the tag line, “We’re the Motor City.” It is beautifully done and does what an ad should do: It makes you remember the product.

And now the “arrive in style” piece is the latest in the arsenal. Shot in black and white (love the red balloon touch) with imagines of elegance and style from 60 years ago, the campaign once again stirs emotions in us.

Clearly these folks have taken a page from Don’s Draper’s sales text. It’s straight out of the first season of “Mad Men” when Don pitches the Kodak Carousel. For a moment we are all transformed to another place and time. The product become more than something we purchase. It means something to us.

The Chrysler folks have done that. They excite us. They stir something in us.

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Pledge-drive treasures

In terms of new television, March is complex. On the one hand we have season finales of great shows like Detroit 1-8-7, broadcast Sunday night on ABC, and new episodes series like ‘Army Wives,’ also Sunday nights on Lifetime. There are things to watch. New episodes of “Real Housewives,’ ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and ‘Dancing With the Stars.’

But for me one of the highlights is the plethora of wonderful programming on our local public broadcasting stations as they put their best feet forward because … wait for it … it’s pledge drive time. Truly, what has intrigued me are the hidden treasures on the local PBS stations.

I am lucky. I get three PBS stations on my satellite feed. Each programs differently. So when pledge-drive time rolls around, I love to surf the channels and find out what great concert or film or documentary will be broadcast. It’s a crap shoot, but one in which I am rarely disappointed.

Clearly each program is chosen to appeal to the Baby Boomers who might feel nostalgic toward the singers of the ’60s and ’70s or to the left-over liberals who feel sentimental toward folk singers or great artists. Naturally, I fit into both categories.

One night I caught the American Masters’ program ‘Carole King & James Taylor: Live At The Troubadour,’ and could not stop watching it! And the Ken Burns’ film on Mark Twain made years ago was showing this week for two nights. What a gem!

To me, the real beauty of PBS is in its gentleness. There is a calmness about the sound, a gentleness of expression and a sense of reason even when discussing topics that make us uncomfortable. And I learn something every time I watch. I learn about our nation’s history, its heroes and its problems. And a bit of continued education is good for us all.

In a TV landscape full of loud, rough and mindless patter, PBS is a contrast. Watching PBS like taking a deep breath, and relaxing. And we need this more than ever. So it has been a joy to watch the shows on PBS during this festival time. Keep them coming … PLEASE!

You can join the effort to ask the federal government to continue funding public broadcast, go to www.170millionamericans.org/partners or talk to your local representative. We all need a little gentleness in our lives.

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The crowd went wild

When Susan Lucci snuck up behind Walt Willey on the stage of the Town Hall on 43rd Street in New York City Sunday night, March 13, 2011, the crowd went wild.

At the finale of ABC Daytime Salutes Broadway Cares, Lucci was on hand to announce the seven-year total of funds raised to help the NYC-based organization: more than $1 million. Last night, $300,000 was raised.

The program started as a way to celebrate ‘All My Children’s’ 35th anniversary in 2005 and to let the soap stars display their additional talents. The following year, stars from ‘One Life to Live’ and ‘General Hospital’ came along, too.

The sold-out crowd was thrilled to watch the hunks of daytime, including delicious men of ‘OLTL,’ show their chiseled chests and sing ‘Let it Go,’ from ‘The Full Monty. To hear fan favorite Kassie De Paiva sing ‘I will Never Fall in Love Again’ and ‘Cellblock Tango’ with her fellow tormented female ‘OLTL’ stars.

And ‘GH’s’ Tony Geary closed the first act with an amazing rendition of ‘I am What I am’ from ‘La Cage Aux Folles.’

Stars from ‘OLTL.’ the only show left in NYC, were out in full force. All the stars were taken by bus a block to the Marriott Marquis to celebrate their performances, all except Lucci and Willey, who came by limo.

My only complaint: The Divas of Daytime did not perform their Soapnet hit “It’s Raining Men.” And because it makes me happy, I thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy!

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