James at 15 premiered on NBC before my 10th birthday, but I was the kind of kid — I think a lot of us were — who craved TV that seemed more grown-up than I was. In fact, looking it up right now, I see that Soap premiered on ABC eight days later, and that might well have been the most controversial series of the 1970s, or at least since the debut of All in the Family. I remember watching a report about Soap on Eyewitness News earlier that evening, warning of the risqué material, but that didn’t keep me from watching the first episode that night. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before, but when we moved into our new house in Woodland Hills in late 1972, just as I was turning 5, the three Weisman kids each got their own bedrooms and their own TV sets. For real. Yes, we had it good.
Category: Entertainment (Page 1 of 5)
A quick word about this list and its TV companion: I have chosen my favorites. There might be higher-quality movies or more important movies for a given letter, but these are the movies that meant the most to me.
And the bottom line is, you can’t change the letter you’ve been assigned … except in the case of National Lampoon’s Animal House, which I discuss below.
A: Arrested Development
B: Breaking Bad
D: The Dick Van Dyke Show
E: EZ Streets
F: Freaks and Geeks
G: The Good Place
H: Hill Street Blues
I: I Love Lucy
K: The Kids in the Hall
L: The Larry Sanders Show
M: Mad Men
N: Northern Exposure
O: The Office
P: Parks and Recreation
Q: Quincy, M.E.
W: The White Shadow
X: The X-Files
Y: Young Justice
Most surprisingly competitive letter:
W: The White Shadow, The Wire, WKRP in Cincinnati, The Wonder Years
If Major League Baseball wants to feel better about the impression it has made during an offseason quite possibly to be remembered as a countdown to a major work stoppage two years hence, it need look no farther than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which seems to be on a mission to torpedo its signature event, the Oscars.
This won’t be a big deal to many people — certainly not in comparison to something like the recent anniversary celebration of The Sopranos — but today marks the 20th anniversary of the night that the Disney Channel show So Weird premiered.
It’s a doubly major milestone for me, because it was the biggest break in what was then my screenwriting career — I wrote four episodes and shared credit on a fifth — but the premiere party on Sunset Boulevard was also the first official date for me and my future wife.
Last summer, I talked about those experiences and more when I did an episode of The So Weird Podcast. I never posted that here, but today’s a good day for it. It’s a fun listen if a) you were a So Weird fan or b) are interested in the career experiences of the Jason Grabowski of screenwriters.
So Weird, I truly believe, deserves a more popular legacy than it has gotten. I mean, it’s certainly not The Sopranos, but it was a Disney Channel show with uncommon depth, willing to take on real life issues but in an imaginative, non-Afterschool Special way. It remains one of the greatest work experiences of my career, one that I’m forever grateful for even if it was relatively short-lived. (Fortunately, my marriage continues to be renewed season after season.) And, aside from the technology changes since the pre-Y2K era, I think it holds up. (Same.)
I even got to write an episode set largely on a ballfield, which remains near and dear to my heart. I’ll put it up against The Sandlot anyday …
Anyway, there’s no way you’ve read this far if you didn’t like me and/or the show, so if you have, join me in an anniversary toast …
Randy, are you all right?
Oh, Dr. Rumack, I’m scared. I’ve never been so scared. And besides, I’m 26 and I’m not married.
We’re going to make it, you’ve got to believe that.
[a woman passenger comes in]
Dr. Rumack, do you have any idea when we’ll be landing?
Pretty soon, how are you bearing up?
Well, to be honest, I’ve never been so scared. But at least I have a husband.
* * *
Well, this was a good time — and really fun to play out on Twitter over the course of the weekend. In case you missed it there, I’m bringing it here. Keep scrolling …
In January 1980, we got our first VCR. About a month later, I set up a recording for what sounded like might be an interesting hockey game. pic.twitter.com/DJTq1P4xLK
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) February 11, 2018
By Jon Weisman
It was a full sprint at the finish line, but even in a busy year in which I only saw a baker’s dozen of live-action movies, I did manage to get to all nine Oscar nominees for best picture. That’s the first time that’s happened since I left Variety.
I’m glad I did. Usually, there’s at least one nominee in the bunch that I find inexplicable, if not horrible. But I had positive feelings about every nominee, all the way to Hacksaw Ridge, which I had been avoiding until it became the final unseen nominee on my list. The initial plotting in Hacksaw is somewhat by the numbers, but it’s a powerful story and it more than does its job of making you feel both the horrors and heroism of war.
Still, my favorite movie of the year is La La Land, and I’m not dissuaded by the backlash that complained about its supposed superficiality or the quality of the singing. The film resonates with me today, months after having seen it, and is more complex than many of its critics give it credit for. I don’t buy the argument that you have to have Broadway voices to make a musical sing. In many people’s eyes, the best picture race has come down to La La Land vs. Moonlight, and I don’t begrudge those hoping Moonlight takes the big prize. But as much as I appreciated the latter, La La Land is triumphant for me. Of course, I’m someone who was also happy with The Artist and The King’s Speech, which from every story that I’ve read about them over the past few years, you’re not allowed to like at all.
The most underrated movie of the year for me is Loving, whose omission from the Oscar picture nominations is hardest for me to understand. It’s an important story, the execution of that story is essentially flawless, and it’s the kind of story that should fit into the Academy’s wheelhouse. In a year of big stories told intimately, Loving was the best of any that I saw. Jeff Nichols, who also wrote and directed Mud and Take Shelter, deserved better. The Lobster is another movie that was worthy of best picture consideration, though it’s far easier to understand why it didn’t get a foothold with the Academy beyond an original screenplay nomination.
If I were limited to a top five, it would be La La Land, Loving, Moonlight, Lion and Arrival. Lion was a satisfying movie experience from start to finish. Arrival began slowly for me but finished strong, leaving a deep impression.
Heading into Manchester by the Sea, I expected I was about to see the year’s best picture winner. And while it was well done — with Michelle Williams’ performance stealing the show — it was a movie that I was done with about as soon as I walked out of the theater. At the time, I was watching the final season of AMC’s Rectify, which had the quiet lead character with a troubled past like Manchester but was doing it much more compellingly, week after week, and Manchester suffered by comparison. It deserves its best picture nomination, but not the Oscar.
I have no complaints about the film adaptation of Fences other than what happens with Denzel Washington, my pick to win best actor, in the final stretch. I know that’s part of the point of the story (and it gives supporting-actress favorite Viola Davis one last moment to show she wasn’t a supporting actress), but it just seemed to leave a hole in the production where a punch should have been. Hell or High Water was strong — a Bonnie and Clyde for the post-recession era — and with Manchester, Lobster, Fences and Hacksaw, it takes a spot in my top 10 ahead of Hidden Figures, which also has a great story but presents it in a clumsier fashion than some of the others. In particular, the story of Octavia Spencer’s character, who is treated as a glorified administrator for virtually the entire film when she was so much more, really seems to get short shrift.
The two other live-action movies I saw were also completely entertaining. Florence Foster Jenkins was a good watch — as old hat as it is for Meryl Streep to get an Oscar nomination, it doesn’t come by accident. Meanwhile, Simon Helberg and Hugh Grant are also really terrific and help make the film a winner. And I’ll also throw some positive support behind Eddie the Eagle, which we saw on something of a lark early in 2016. The movie knows what it is — it doesn’t try to make itself into something grand, but it also isn’t stupid. If you catch this one on the small screen, I’ll bet you enjoy it.
I’m not nearly as positive on the animated films from 2016 I saw this year. While not as good as top animated films of past years, Moana is the best of this year’s bunch, by several degrees, and yet the broad consensus is that it will lose best animated feature to Zootopia, which was forgettable. Kubo and the Two Strings had a good story, but the anglicized voice acting significantly undermined it. Finding Dory, Trolls and The Angry Birds Movie did little more for me than pass the time with my kids.
[mlbvideo id=”1093535383″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]
Carl Reiner doesn’t throw 94, but he is 94 — and he’s a legend. So even though he had to cancel his plans to throw the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, it was still great to see another legend, Orel Hershiser, meet him at his home for some pitching tips and a conversation about their careers.
Reiner wrote more than 50 episodes of his creation, “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and directed such movies as “The Jerk,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “All of Me.”
— Jon Weisman
From the year that brought you a career-high 20 complete games from Fernando Valenzuela and 210 hits from Steve Sax, Dodger Stadium is bringing back “Top Gun” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
The two blockbusters, each celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, will be the postgame features this summer in the Dodger Stadium Movie Series, presented by Fandango.
“Top” will play on the DodgerVision screens 15 minutes after the 4:15 p.m. Dodgers-Padres game ends on July 9, while “Ferris” will be shown following the 1:05 p.m. August 13 game between the Dodgers and the Pirates.
For more information, visit dodgers.com/movies or call (866) Dodgers.
Dodger Stadium will host Beyoncé’s “The Formation World Tour” on September 14. Tickets go on sale to the general public May 13, but Dodger fans can jump ahead with a presale that runs from 10 a.m. May 11 to 5 p.m. May 12 by visiting dodgers.com/beyonce.
The Dodgers are playing an afternoon game at Yankee Stadium that day, part of a 10-game road trip September 9-18 to Miami, New York and Arizona that is their longest of the season.
— Jon Weisman
Tickets for the added August 19 show will be available on a 48-hour pre-sale for Citi cardmembers beginning Tuesday at 10 a.m., followed by a Dodger pre-sale Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets for the general public go on sale beginning Friday.
The Dodgers will be in the middle of a seven-game road trip to Philadelphia and Cincinnati, returning home to play the Giants from August 23-25, followed by the Cubs from August 26-28.
— Jon Weisman