Saturday, September 29, 2012

I Miss My Old Glasses

I was going to write this entry when I got my new glasses but things got held up for about 8 months or so. Fortunately I'd like to think that one of the endearing quirks of this blog is its tendency towards putting out terminally outdated and overdue posts. Perhaps somewhere further down the line I'll write my thoughts on the Gary Condit murder investigation or my pick for Super Bowl XXXIX.

So as I was saying I got a new pair of glasses in February and every time I find myself getting new frames I think of that scene from the 6th season Simpsons episode "Bart's Girlfriend" where Marge asks  Homer if he noticed any new changes in Bart and he randomly suspects new glasses and then grimly misinterprets Marge's concerns about "smothering" Bart. Although it has little to do with the episode and isn't one of those all time famous Simpsons scenes like Kent Brockman's welcoming of out new insect overlords or parking in the Itchy lot (which I will almost always reference when parking in a large complicated parking lot with friends), this scene always sticks with me as one of my personal all time favorite scenes.

One for the reasons I find it so memorable is that for me it encapsulates in one scene what made the Simpsons the greatest show of all time. It has that wonderful mix of the classic and the absurd that the show uniquely captured so well in its prime. The Simpsons have always been about subverting the trope of the American family television sitcom and at its best the television comedy genre as a whole. Here you have the most common of settings for a sitcom set up, a son having personal problems and the parents being concerned, but then when one parent discusses the matter with the other it quickly veers into the silly randomness of a discussion about non-existent glasses and contemplated acts of filicide. There's heart but there's also the unexpected weirdness as portrayed respectively by Marge and Homer. Essentially every sitcom since the dawn of the medium to this episode when placed in that similar scenario went the standard route of the parents reacting logically to the situation. The show was just routinely doing amazing things like this week in and week out in its hey day.

That's just my incredibly unfunny take on an incredibly funny scene.

Oh and for anyone out there who now feels a little guilty that they didn't notice my new glasses, they were essentially the same color and design as the old ones so you're off the hook.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Replacements 2: The Official Sequel

While yesterday night's NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns was about as routinely unspectacular as any game involving the Cleveland Browns would be all season, it did mark the historic end of our long national nightmare as the official NFL referees returned to work after settling their early season lockout with the league. Based on the outpouring of outrage and disgust by football fans across the country over the course of the new season and particularly after the tipping point of the Monday Night Football debacle, this whole ugly affair could not have ended soon enough. If I were an obnoxious, moral high horse, sort of guy I would point out how it felt like I read more widespread and vocal public outrage over the quality of officiating in professional football games on the internet than about the civil war in Syria, famines in Africa, growing anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, or the important issues at the forefront of the upcoming presidential election. However, like I said, I am not the type nor am I in any position to be judgmental. In fact I'll admit I've put more thought into what to eat for lunch at work than basically all those issues combined.

What I have been thinking about lately was that with the end of this strike, we have the real life story upon which to create a sequel to the 2000 Keanu Reeves sports comedy "The Replacements". As the "The Replacements" loosely based their story on the replacement players brought in for the 1987 NFL players strike, particularly of the Washington Redskins, who given a brief chance to live their dream of playing in the NFL managed to win all three of their games with a roster entirely composed of replacement players, "The Replacements 2: The Official Sequel" (final title still open to change) will be the triumphant story about a officiating crew of underdog replacement referees who proved all the doubters wrong and competently officiated football games even better than the professionals (see this is where the "loosely based" part comes in).

It doesn't have to be a straight sequel with the same cast, although I guess Reeves' character could somewhat impassibility be written in as having become a referee after his playing career ended, but the essential story can almost be converted directly. Due to a work stoppage caused by the union of greedy, prima donna professional referees, the beleaguered commissioner is forced to turn to untested, ill suited replacement referees to save the season. The main Shane Falco character would be a ref who had a promising officiating career in college before spectacularly flaming out, losing his confidence, and has been forced to ref poorly organized street ball games just to get by. The other side referees would be a colorful, broadly drawn, ethnically diverse, rag tag bunch of misfits, losers, and outcasts. There's the absurdly fat ref who has always got a sandwich in his hand, the foreign soccer ref who doesn't understand any of the rules, the sassy black ref, the ref that can only make defensive penalty calls, the ref who refs in a dress, and the ref who is amazing at his job but he's legally blind, among others.  They are all of course brought together under the tutelage of the brilliant but maverick head referee coach (not sure if there is such a position) who sees potential in this sad lot and knows he can whip them into shape using his unorthodox techniques.

Initially the replacement referee experiment proves to be a disaster as widespread criticism and fan disappointment abounds. The newly assembled group fails to get along together off the bat, cannot keep up with the pace of the game, and are disrespected by all the players. However, little by little, through a series of workout montages, unusual training strategies, and an inspiring speech or two the officiating crew begins to excel and their competently officiated games begin to gain the attention of a surprised sports nation (insert cameos by real life sports announcers like Bob Costas and Dan Patrick talking about the surprising progress of the new refs). Eventually they work their way up to officiating the Super Bowl and though they initially fare poorly under the intense pressure and scrutiny of the big game, when the entire conclusion of the game comes down to a disputed touchdown, the refs make the correct call (I won't spoil it for you) that decides the whole game and the stadium crowd and the millions of people watching at home cheer in the victory of a well called, fairly judged game. As the replacements slowly walk off the field knowing that their brief time in the big leagues will be coming to an end with the return of the real refs the next season, they are respectfully applauded by the newly won over players, the fans there and abroad, and even that one really dickish pro ref who's been ragging on them the whole time. Oh and the main guy falls in love with some chick, maybe it's a cheerleader, maybe it's a sideline reporter, maybe it's the evil pro ref's hot daughter, your call.

I think there's enough there to make a modestly profitable sports comedy that'll stand up to copious replays on TBS. My only other idea is a spiritual sequel to "Juwanna Mann" where instead of a bad boy NBA player being banned from the league and ending up playing in the WNBA in drag, it is a dirty NFL player who gets kicked out of the league and ends up playing in the Lingerie Football League in drag.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The M.I.N.D.Y. Project

Every time I see ads for the upcoming Mindy Kaling sitcom "The Mindy Project" I imagine a show with a far more literal interpretation of the titular "project". Specifically I picture "The Mindy Project" to be some sort of ultra secret military initiative tasked with creating an android super solider designed to be the perfect battlefield killing machine (making up an acronym off the top of my head the MINDY could be short for  "Mechanized Infantry Neutralization Droid Y", maybe someone can think of a better one with time). So this killer robot played by Mindy Kaling would be essentially like the titular killer robot in the 1996 Mario Van Pebbles action vehicle "Solo" (and yes that is future Best Actor winner Adrien Brody in the scientist role) or the lovable Johnny 5 from the the beloved 1986 sci-fi comedy "Short Circuit". Also along the lines of "Solo" and "Short Circuit" the series would be a classic killer robot out of water story with the former blindly obedient Mindy bot unexpectedly "malfunctioning" by developing a soul, becoming conscious of the questionable morality of her actions as a government directed murder machine, escaping her handlers, going on the lam, and exploring the outside world for the first time while helping strangers in need to atone for her prior atrocities.

While that overarching plot alone would be enough for six seasons and a movie, I think if we combined the escaped killer robot angle with the actual premise of the series (sassy, career driven, single girl struggling to have it all with the help of her cadre of quirky friends and co-workers) we might be onto something special. The series could pick up right after Mindy has escaped from her top secret military installation and evaded a mess of government agents and troops to establish a new life and identity as a delightfully imperfect, single OB/GYN in the big city. The series would progress with episodes of Mindy's stressful life in the city balancing work and relationships alternating with action packed episodes where Mindy has to dispatch elite NSA hit squads and maybe take on the local mob boss. Perhaps there will even be episodes where both angles come together like when Mindy nervously goes on a date with a hunky guy she thought was Mr. Right...but turns out he's a nuclear powered cyborg sent to eliminate her.

I think the executives of Fox would agree the mass appeal of such a series is undeniable; what other show on television could combine light romantic situational workplace comedy with thrilling serial action drama, all with a solid science fiction background? What demographic would not be excited to watch such a show? Attention producers, there is still time to retool the series before it debuts proper later this month. You may have to do some re-shooting and editing, some heavy script modification, radically increase the production budget, and likely overhaul most of the cast but I think the results will be well worth it. If that is unfeasible, there is always the option of introducing the whole new robot angle retroactively by revealing her secretive past as an end of the season cliffhanger and continuing the series from there. Now that could do some serious damage during sweeps.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


Between Lance Armstrong being stripped of his Tour de France titles and receiving a life time ban from cycling and astronaut Neil Armstrong passing away, last week has undoubtedly been the worst week ever for notable Armstrongs. Somehow Billy Joe Armstrong managed to get through this period miraculously unscathed; Green Day even managed to retain their position at the top of the Billboard Rock Charts for another week.

Going back to Neil Armstrong, when I heard of his passing one of my first thoughts was, of course, of a long forgotten Saturday Night Live sketch.

The sketch in question was even more esoteric than usual. It came from SNL's 2000 season and is actually part of a group of sketches that make up an interesting footnote in the show's history. During that season, head writer Adam McKay, who would later go on to fame and fortune making movies and creating Funny or Die with Will Ferrell, created a series of quirky short films. Basically these were the direct forefathers of the successful SNL Digital Shorts which came along about five years later. At the time I did not really care for these early short films. The format was unfamiliar, the premises were strange, and the subtle humor wasn't played for immediate laughs. Frankly I would have preferred another "Ladies Man" sketch to have taken up the time.

Reevaluating them over a decade later, I think I'd have to disagree with the insights of my 16 year old self (shocking I know). These shorts,which while still not as funny as I'd like them to be, have an intriguing creative edge to them. I appreciate their enduring strangeness which makes them far more interesting to watch than another lazy Spartan Cheerleaders sketch. I already wrote a post about one of the shorts "The H is O" last year within the utterly incongruous context of Carmelo Anthony's first game as a Knick. Maybe after this post I'll try to make it a thing going forward to eventually cover all 7 shorts.

As for the Neil Armstrong sketch "Neil Armstrong: The Ohio Years" the premise is accessibly simple yet unexpectedly bizarre. The whole short is a brief dramatization of the post-moon landing, contemporary, daily life of Neil Armstrong; short scenes of a man who by virtue of having the singularly amazing experience of becoming the first person to walk on the surface of the moon and gaze upon the Earth is cursed to have the rest of his live come a singularly anticlimactic denouement by comparison. There's sort of a Wes Anderson-esque vibe to the short in parts in terms of soundtrack, cinematography, and fixation with events from the 1960s.

Neil Armstrong - The Ohio Years from Fred Gooltz on Vimeo.

For the famously modest and private Armstrong (in stark contrast to his fame whore Apollo 11 teammate Buzz Aldrin who has done his fair share of TV and film work including "The Simpsons" and "30 Rock") this is what I sort of imagined his quiet life after the end of Space Race would be like, just carrying on like any other senior citizen, seeing everyday living on this Planet as an inadequate substitute to walking on the lunar surface. Always thought the same for all the handful of men who walked all the moon all those decades ago. I mean, after walking on the MOTHERFUCKING MOON, what else to you have left? How does Harrison Schmitt get excited about his granddaughter's high school volleyball championship? Does Charles Duke scream out "MOON" when he's finishing up in bed? How does Edgar Mitchell manage to hold back his contempt when he gets bad service at the Olive Garden?

That glorious fleeting walk on the moon has got to change a man.