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Robin Williams Tag

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Comics don’t stay in comics. For better or worse, most comics are produced in the hopes they will lead to films, cartoons, action figures, video games, backpacks, beach towels and bubble baths. Extra Medium is my column about all these things and more.

During my handful of Limbo years between high school and college, Denny’s was the place to be; more specifically, the Denny’s on Western Ave. in Albany, NY. The Denny’s on Central Ave. was the rallying point if the one on Western was too crowded, and the Denny’s way out on Wolf Rd. – near the Albany Airport – was just barely acceptable  if all other hope was lost. Sadly, all of the local Denny’s except for the one on Wolf Rd. are all gone (or happily, depending on how you feel about saturated fats).

We were too young to get in bars, and too old for the high school hangouts. Denny’s was open all night, it was cheap, and you could smoke. That’s all there was to it.

This was around 1993-1994. There was a regular cast, many of whom are too deep in the periphery of my mind to recall names or even faces. But there was a regular core group I hung out with. We talked politics, sex, religion, movies, TV, books, whatever. It wasn’t rare to roll into the Denny’s parking lot at 9 or 10 at night and leave at 4 or 5 in the morning.

I don’t think any of us collected comics at that time but quite a few of us had grown up with them, and one of our most oft-repeated topics of discussion was who should play who when the X-Men movie was eventually made. Someone would manage to produce a notebook or a legal pad and something to write with, and while we slurped up patty melts and flicked ashes all over the table, we argued and made lists.

With the release of X-Men: First Class at the end of this week, I started feeling a little nostalgic and figured I’d talk about some of our casting choices. It’s perhaps a little pathetic that while I can’t remember all of the names of people I debated this important issue with, I can clearly remember the lion’s share of the casting picks we talked about around 15 years ago.

Johnny Carson was the king of late night for a reason. He could handle any situation put in front of him with ease and he never lost his cool. When a joke, a sketch or a guest were about to go bust, all Carson had to do was make a deadpan glance at the camera, roll his eyes, or deliver a perfectly time comeback to create a classic comic moment. Together with his trusty sideman, Ed McMahon, and bandleaders Skitch Henderson (up until 1966) and Doc Severinsen, Carson ruled the after hours because he was always in control. Before the airwaves became crowded with late night yap fests, there was only one destination if stars wanted to plug their projects or simply sit down and have a good time for an hour. That place was the couch next to Carson’s desk.

This beautifully packaged box set contains 15 discs of complete episodes (not highlights) covering Carson’s four decades as Tonight Show host. It offers just a taste of the wit and genius that Carson possessed. Starting with his wily days as a young gun in the 60’s, transitioning to the 70’s, when he became the consummate talk show host, sliding into the 80’s when he hit his peak, and wrapping it up in the early 90’s, just before he decided it was time to retire, the 30 hours on these DVD’s offer a chunk of television history. Anyone who enjoys Dave, Jimmy, Conan, Craig, the other Jimmy, Leno, and maybe Lopez, should watch this collection to understand what all of those hosts are trying to achieve each night. They’re all successful in their own way, but  none of them have the same stature as Carson.

Its Blu-ray debut is timed to take advantage of the hubbub surrounding director Christopher Nolan’s latest film, but 2002’s Insomnia would make for a fine summer reissue even if Warner Bros. weren’t already pimping the highly anticipated Inception — to watch Al Pacino trudging around the Alaskan wilderness while you’re sweating through one of the hottest nights of the year is to be reminded that cooler winds will soon prevail.

A remake of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s film of the same name, Insomnia appears, on the surface, to be your standard crime thriller, transplanted to the icy tundra — as it opens, you’ve got a pair of LAPD detectives flying into a small Alaskan town to assist in a murder investigation. This is Nolan, though; even if what he’s showing you is exactly as it seems, you know there’s some rich subtext running beneath the frame.

Here, it’s a subplot about an internal affairs investigation targeting the detectives, and the conflict that arises when one partner (Hap Eckhart, played by Martin Donovan) decides to cut a deal that will implicate the other (Will Dormer, played by Pacino). Without spoiling any details, Dormer’s carrying a certain amount of guilt as the movie begins, and events soon transpire that compound it exponentially.

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Hi everybody! It’s CHART ATTACK! time once again, and this week’s pretty solid, if I do say so myself. (And I do.) This week, we bid a fond (okay, maybe not-so-fond) farewell to three artists who had a slew of Top 10 hits in the ’80s but came to a dead halt within a few weeks of this chart. One day, someone will write a requiem for Loggins, Lewis and Palmer (sounds like a really bad supergroup), but until then, we’ll just have to pay tribute to them here, as we look back to September 24, 1988!

10. Don’t Be Cruel — Bobby Brown Amazon iTunes
9. Nobody’s Fool — Kenny Loggins Amazon iTunes
8. If It Isn’t Love — New Edition Amazon iTunes
7. One Good Woman — Peter Cetera Amazon iTunes
6. Perfect World — Huey Lewis & the News Amazon iTunes
5. Love Bites — Def Leppard Amazon iTunes
4. Simply Irresistible — Robert Palmer Amazon iTunes
3. I’ll Always Love You — Taylor Dayne Amazon iTunes
2. Sweet Child O’ Mine — Guns N’ Roses Amazon iTunes
1. Don’t Worry, Be Happy — Bobby McFerrin Amazon iTunes

10. Don’t Be Cruel — Bobby Brown

Whenever I’m feeling down in the dumps, I like to present myself with some perspective. I always used to think about the Blues Traveler line “It won’t mean a thing in a hundred years,” but I think I’m switching to “hey, you could be Bobby Brown.” Because I don’t know if anybody is such a great example of having everything and then flushing it right down the toilet. He’s even worse than Andy Gibb. I mean, Bobby Brown is so universally hated that even Whitney’s Oprah interview can’t bring her back to the top. You only need to spend a few minutes with Bobby Brown to know that it’s generally a bad idea (case in point? Glenn Medeiros); Whitney spent what, five years with this tool? Maybe if she could still sing, we’d take her back, but this is all besides the point. The point is that no matter how bad you think you’ve screwed up, or how much you think you’ll never be able to get back to a better place, remember: hey, you could be Bobby Brown.

Bobby’s first solo album King of Stage didn’t do so well on the charts (quite possibly because was not the king of the stage). Not so with Don’t Be Cruel, both the album and the single. This was the lead-off single, and though it took a couple of months, it eventually peaked at #8 and paved the way for the other hits from the album. “Don’t Be Cruel” is a pretty sweet R&B song; dare I say it deserved to chart higher, or at least higher than “Humpin’ Around.” My only criticism of the song, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, is that it ends too abruptly. Bobby does a nifty lil’ rap, and then there’s a fade-out. I seriously want more.

9. Nobody’s Fool — Kenny Loggins

As we’ve said before, Kenny Loggins was the undisputed King of the Soundtrack Songs in the ’80s. You can’t deny the awesome montage/we’re-gonna-make-it-after-all power of “I’m Alright,” “Footloose,” “Danger Zone,” and “Meet Me Half Way.” Kenny would agree; they’re included on his 1997 greatest hits collection. “Nobody’s Fool,” however, isn’t on there. Seems odd, right? The song did reach #8, certainly higher than other included songs like “Forever” (#40), “Conviction of the Heart” (#65) and “The Real Thing” (#∞).

So why isn’t it included? I’m going to guess that perhaps it’s because the song was the “Theme From Caddyshack II,” which was a terrible, terrible movie. And because it actually includes the line “Back to the shack,” which just reeks of desperation. Take a look at the video, which — of course — includes numerous clips from the movie itself. When you’re competing with Jackie Mason for screen time, you know you’re in serious, serious trouble.

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“Nobody’s Fool” was Loggins’ final appearance not only in the Top 10, but in the Top 40. That might be another reason why the song isn’t included. It’s actually a shame, because the chorus is pretty damn good. You can read more about the song and its video at Gavin Edwards’ Rule 42 blog.

I don’t know much about this Bob Marley character, but if his performance on the “Welcome to New York” bootleg is any indication, he was a real hack: a quarter of his set is devoted to covers of Eric Clapton (“I Shot the Sheriff”) and Johnny Nash (“Stir It Up”) songs, and he doesn’t even play his best number, the immortal classic “Red Red Wine.” When I discovered that he ripped off the theme to the Saturday-morning cartoon The Banana Splits for his song “Buffalo Soldier,” I was even more convinced he’s no “legend.” Not even his hilarious performance in the Robin Williams comedy Club Paradise could erase the damage that had been done.

Speaking of TV theme songs and outright lies, I received an overwhelming response to my request for bootlegged TV themes last month. That is, if you count one response as overwhelming. This week, in addition to Mr. Marley and the Wailers’ concert, I offer you J.D. Souther’s first-season-only theme song for the Richard Lewis-Jamie Lee Curtis sitcom Anything But Love (1989-’92), the radio-ready version of Lee Majors’s theme to The Fall Guy (1981-’86), and two versions of the theme song for Glenn Gordon Caron’s dearly departed Now and Again (1999-2000), performed by Ariel Ryder and Narada Michael Walden.

Thanks to “Friends of Popdose” Ken (who got the ball rolling on this idea in January) and David for the Anything But Love and Fall Guy themes, respectively. Gentlemen, please keep in mind that your new FOP status entitles me to ask for donations whenever I please. Say, that reminds me — if anyone can explain why I’ve never seen Lee Majors’s first TV hit, The Six Million Dollar Man, in syndication or on DVD, Ken and David will pay you six million dollars.