Thursday, June 17, 2010

Screaming Good

Category: TV Show Review

The Travel Channel apparently has been trying to catch lightning in a bottle yet again the way they did with No Reservations, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and Man V. Food. Their recent attempt was a major disappointment (as I reviewed here), and a number of their series launches have lasted shorter periods of time than the commercial hyping the show did.

Now the Travel Channel has started a new program, Bert the Conqueror. The show premiered on Wednesday (6/16) after the season opener of Man V. Food (a good lead-in, considering they are both from the same production company). This time, the Travel Channel has a good show that will hopefully catch on and stay around for a long time.

The "Bert" of Bert the Conqueror is comedian Bert Kreischer. He is taking his travel experiences ("half my life I've been on the road" he said in the opening episode) and putting them in front of a camera. Most of these tales revolve around the slightly offbeat: mainly, rides and daredevil attractions located at various cities and theme parks throughout the country.

While that's nothing new to the Travel Channel (see their Extreme series), Kreischer puts a familiar face to the guide showing the audience around these rides. He also puts a new point of view on the rides: his own. During most of the rides he experienced on the opening night shows Kreischer wore miniature cameras mounted to his helmet and clothing so the audience could see the ride from his perspective (and his usually terrified reaction to the ride). His enjoyment of the "human slingshot" in Utah was particularly enjoyable.

The two episodes of Bert the Conqueror that aired on Wednesday night were quite fun (if a little shaky because of the camera moving at 70 mph along with Kreischer on the rides). Here's hoping that Bert the Conqueror gets to stay on the Travel Channel and "conquer" a large audience.

Bert Kreischer's web site

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Here Comes the Blind Commissioner

Category: Sports News/Rant

Here comes the blind commissioner
They've got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tightrope walker
The other is in his pants

(Bob Dylan, "Desolation Row")

Needless to say, Dylan did not have baseball in mind when he wrote "Desolation Row," but if ever a line proved prophetic it is the above-quoted lyric.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, on a mission to cement his place in history as the worst commissioner in history, has refused to declare the June 2 game by Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers a perfect game.

With two outs in the top of the 9th inning, Indian batter Jason Donald was called safe by umpire Jim Joyce, when every replay angle showed without question Donald was out. It was not just a "blown call," it was a blown call that cost Galarraga a place in history as the 21st pitcher of a perfect game. Umpire Joyce admitted he blew the call and said he felt terrible, not because the call had any outcome on the game itself, but because "I just cost that kid a perfect game."

All was not lost, initially, because the Commissioner of Major League Baseball has the power to overrule things like that. However, Bud Selig quickly announced that he would not overturn the umpire's bad call and declare that Galarraga's game was, indeed, perfect.

This ruling proves one thing is perfect, and it's Selig: a perfect jerk. People like ESPN's Tim Kurkjian praised the commish for not overturning the call, saying that we cannot go back and undo the past. After all, the "human element" is part of the great game of baseball.

Not so fast, Mr. Kurkjian. In 1991, Fay Vincent undid the past when he changed the definition of a "no-hitter." His ruling wiped fifty no-no's off the books. Among the no-hitters that were no longer no-hitters, no matter how many hits the other team did not get, were "visiting pitcher losses." Such a game happened on July 1, 1990, when the Yankees' Andy Hawkins lost to the Chicago White Sox when the Yankees gave up four 8th inning errors, but pitcher Hawkins allowed no hits, in a 4-0 White Sox victory. The Yankees were the visiting team so the bottom of the 9th was not played, meaning Hawkins only pitched eight innings -- so his no-hitter was taken away from him! The loss, however, was not. The Red Sox' Matt Young also threw an eight-inning no-hitter as a losing pitcher in 1992, and in 2008 two Dodgers pitchers combined for an eight-inning no-hitter in a losing effort. Vincent also declared that a no-hitter had to be "at least nine innings," meaning that several games that were official games (meaning they went in one team's "won" record and the other team's "lost" column) were no longer declared to be "no-hitters" because things like rain or darkness ended the game before nine innings.

There is also other cases of "the past" being changed: most famously, George Brett's "pine tar" home run. In 1983 Brett was called out after hitting a home run for having too much pine tar on his bat. Lee McPhail reinstated Brett's homer.

So, Mr. Kurkjian, there is precedent (which is what you were afraid of): the definition of a no-hitter was redefined by the Commissioner of Baseball, effectively eliminating four dozen no-no's from the history book. (The article about disqualified no-hitters.) And, and in all honesty, the "precedent" I would love to see established is for Bud Selig to do the right thing for a change.

The TV Weeps

Category: Obituaries

The past week has not been kind to television stars. Three major players have passed away, leaving huge holes in the world of television entertainment.

Art Linkletter (died May 27th after an illness): The passing of this giant makes those of us old enough to remember him truly sad for the younger generations who have no Art Linkletter. He reveled in the hilarity brought about by the innocence of childhood on his House Party show. His book, Kids Say the Darnedest Things, featured numerous quotes from the children who appeared on that program.

Linkletter had known numerous tragedies, losing three children (including a 20-year-old daughter jumping to her death in 1969). Still, he managed to keep a smile -- and keep the world smiling as he coaxed "the darnedest things" out of children.

Linkletter was 97.

Gary Coleman (died May 28th of a cerebral hemorrhage): He gave the phrase "Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis?" to American popular culture thanks to his role on the NBC series Diff'rent Strokes. The former child actor grew older but not up (because of kidney problems suffered in childhood), and he found his adult life filled with failures and troubles (although not to the extent of either child co-star: Dana Plato died of a drug overdose at the age of 34, and Todd Bridges has been plagued by legal and drug problems for decades). Coleman was 42.

Rue McClanahan (died June 3 of a stroke): People remember her best as the saucy Blanche from The Golden Girls, but her career had covered decades on the stage and the screen. In fact, The Golden Girls was the second time McClanahan had teamed with Beatrice Arthur: she first played Vivian, the best friend of the liberated Maude Findlay on the controversial series Maude in the 1970s. Her death at at the age of 76 leaves 88-year-old Betty White as the sole surviving "Golden Girl."

Farewell to these three television superstars.