Category: Robert Lloyd

'The Simpsons': Q&A with Matt Groening on reaching 500 episodes

Matt Groening

"The Simpsons" aired its 500th episode Sunday, in which America's brightest yellow household was cast out of their home town of Springfield, only for the rest of Springfield to follow them to their new life off the grid (bringing the grid with them).

The broadcast included a cameo from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange — really, it did — and a "couch gag" (the bit at the end of the credits where the family sits down to watch TV) cut together in rapid-fire form from all preceding couch gags.

A week earlier, I sat down with "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening for an interview that ran in Sunday's Sunday Calendar. What follows is more of our conversation than that article could hold.

PHOTOS: Remembering 23 seasons

On Valentine's Day you're getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 In my previous life working for the Los Angeles Reader, I used to type up the calendar section, and any time any celebrity would get a star on Hollywood Boulevard I would type up the press release. But as an investigative journalist I would actually drive to the address where the star was going to be, and I would note what store it was in front of and write, say, "Curly Joe DeRita is receiving his star in front of the Pussycat Theater," or whatever it was — Joe's Bong Shop. And I remember getting calls saying, "Please don't. Please don't put what stores are at these addresses."

Years later "The Simpsons" got a star on Hollywood Boulevard, and that was a lot of fun, and last year I got a call from someone in Fox Publicity saying they want to give me a star and I said OK, because of the absurdity of it. I've been haunted since college by the book "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America" by Daniel J. Boorstin." It was written in 1962, and it's analysis of fake media events, and this I would consider a fake event. But Paul McCartney did it, on Thursday. It'll be fun.

It can't be something you imagined when you first came to Hollywood.

 I did not. That's why I did it. I tell myself to carefully consider things that are unique opportunities. One of the "Simpsons" writers was giving me a little bit of a hard time about it because "The Simpsons" already has a star. I said that the star was for "Life in Hell" [Groening's angsty comic strip, which led via one thing and another to "The Simpsons"].

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On David Letterman's 30 years of late nights

David letterman 30th anniversary late night

David Letterman celebrates 30 years in post-prime-time television Wednesday, spent first as the host of "Late Night With David Letterman" on NBC, and then, since 1993, of "Late Show With David Letterman" on CBS. He went to CBS, famously, after NBC gave "The Tonight Show" to Jay Leno, in spite of endorsement for Letterman from its departing host, Johnny Carson (who in his retirement would also sometimes supply him with jokes). It was a bitter pill that still produces the odd quip from Letterman, nearly two decades later.

Carson's "The Tonight Show" was an institution — Leno's, not so much — but it wasn't a bad thing for Letterman to lose that war. The underdog status suits him; it allows him to position himself as an outsider, in show business but not exactly of it. (I speak relatively, of course, of a man whose 2011 earnings, from show business, Forbes estimates at $45 million; but every dog has his context.)

Leno, his time slot competitor, reliably draws more viewers, but Letterman has created a community, partly from having remained in New York: Right outside the theater doors, mad, bad, beleaguered and attacked, the city reflects "Late Show" as "Late Show" seems to speak for it.

PHOTOS: Thirty years ago

The self-deprecation is, of course, also a kind of misdirection (and an inheritance from Carson, who perfected the art of getting a laugh on the back of an unfunny gag). Letterman is one of the great figures of television; it is his natural medium, both in the sense of an art he practices and the element in which he swims. He rules his turf; there is no desperation in his presentation; he does not need to impress you, or the celebrities who sit next to him.

As the king of all he surveys, he can afford to be himself; he is comfortable enough to be seen as uncomfortable — to actually be uncomfortable — though even his worst real-life moments and most sincere apologies for misfiring jokes have a way of fueling more jokes. He controls the field in a way that leaves room for accidents and integrates them into the comedy.

Letterman turns 65 this year; it has been a dozen years since he underwent a quintuple bypass, and he looks fit, if grayer and balder. But except to downplay his intelligence, he doesn't pretend to be other than he is. ("When I was your age I had a paper route," he told Lady Gaga recently.) Letterman is a private person but he is also a present one; you feel that what he offers you, from himself, from his show, if it does not amount to Total Disclosure is nevertheless something authentic, or at least more authentic than it needs to be. Like Carson's, his program is more party than sales pitch. Stars come to hawk their wares, of course, but there is also an acknowledgment of that process and bargain. (Tuesday night saw him filling an envelope with cash to tempt Brad Pitt onto the show.)

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Q&A: 'MythBusters' Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage get personal

"MythBusters" hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are traveling the continent with a live spinoff of their long-running television show, which subjects to their junkyard brand of scientific testing urban legends, tales from history, old saws, stuff you see in the movies, and anything else people think they know when they don't think too hard about it. (The show, "MythBusters: Behind the Myths," passed through L.A.'s Nokia Theatre on Sunday -- Margaret Gray's Times review is here -- and is at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside Wednesday night).

Heroes of 21st century DIY culture, they count among their famous fans late-night TV host Craig Ferguson, whose sidekick Geoff Peterson is a robot built by "Build Team" Mythbuster Grant Imahara, and President Obama, who appeared on the show in 2010 to offer a "viewer's challenge." Just before they hit the road, I spoke to them by phone for a Culture Monster Q&A focusing on "Behind the Myths." Here is some more of that conversation.

What originally brought you to the West Coast and San Francisco?

Jamie Hyneman: I came out here well over 20 years ago. I had gotten my start in special effects in New York and wanted to do larger things in movies. "Star Wars" had acquired quite a bit of momentum in the Bay Area; there were a number of companies doing high-end special effects, and so I sought that out.

Adam Savage: I had a brother that lived in San Francisco. I visited him in the late '80s and decided I wanted to live here someday. And then in 1990 a friend asked me to come be his roommate and I've never looked back.

One of the reasons I moved out was I was doing a lot of sculpture at the time, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. And when you're not sure what you want to do, New York is a very terrible place to be. And San Francisco is a fantastic place to be. Because New York is all about ambition -- which is wonderful and yields a fantastic culture -- and San Francisco is all about exploration, where you can try anything. And if you're where I was in the early '90s, talented but without a lot of ambition, it was a great place to try my hand at everything. And I think the fact that both Jamie and I have spent our lives trying our hand at everything that interested us, and found forums and careers that engendered that, lined us up uniquely to be hosts of this show.

I started out as an actor -- I did all the high school plays and studied acting privately and then at NYU for a brief period of time -- and when I first moved to San Francisco I paid my rent for several years in theater. "MythBusters" brought these two halves of myself together, the maker of things and the performer.

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Year in Review: Robert Lloyd's top new TV for 2011

Fred Armisen Carrie Brownstein Portlandia
Thirteen favorite things new to TV in 2011, in 10 entries.

"Enlightened" (HBO): Mike White and Laura Dern’s numinous, luminous comedy on the difficulties of spiritual reform.

"Portlandia" (IFC): Site-specific countercultural sketch show, from an “SNL” stalwart and an alt-rock rock star, examines the attitudes of doing right.

"New Girl" (Fox): Zooey Deschanel stays up on the tightrope her costars keep taut.

"Downton Abbey" (PBS): Julian Fellowes’ post-Edwardian upstairs-downstairs, country-house comedy-drama is a digest of British literary and TV traditions.

"Homeland" (Showtime) / "The Killing" (AMC): Hazy mysteries trap the attention of troubled, talented female investigators (Claire Danes and Mireille Enos, respectively, as good as can be but better).

"Mildred Pierce" (HBO): Todd Haynes’ languorous, detailed adaptation of the James M. Cain novel is lifelike and larger than life.

"The Hour" (BBC America) / "Page Eight" (PBS): Hugely satisfying British thrillers; the first jumps like an Aston Martin, the second purrs like a Rolls.

"Boxing Gym" (PBS): A little symphony in pugilistic percussion from Frederick Wiseman, 81.

"George Harrison: Living in the Material World" (HBO) / "Woody Allen: A Documentary" (PBS): Great big films about artists easy to take for granted.

"Wilfred" (FX): Brainy low humor with a sweet streak as awesome Jason Gann (in a dog suit) leads Elijah Wood hectically toward the light.

A low point: After 45 years, Jerry Lewis is clumsily cashiered as the public face, and telethon host, of the Muscular Dystrophy Assn.

For more, here's an essay on TV in 2011.


The year in television essay: Robert Lloyd

-- Robert Lloyd

Photo: Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein putting a bird on it in "Portlandia." Credit: Scott Green/IFC.

Harry Morgan, 1915-2011: An appreciation

Harry-morgan_66089518Harry Morgan, who died Wednesday at age 96, was one of the first people I can remember seeing on television, in an early-'60s situation comedy called "Pete and Gladys," about which I can remember nothing else except that it also starred an actress named Cara Williams, about whom I can remember nothing else, and that it was a spin-off of a show called "December Bride," of which I remember nothing. I would know more of Morgan in years to come, of course, as would everybody who watched television, which is to say, everybody.

In Jack Webb's late-'60s revival of "Dragnet," he played easygoing Officer Bill Gannon, the partner to Webb's rock-hard Sgt. Joe Friday. In "MASH," he was the gruff yet not-always-by-the-book Col. Sherman T. Potter, a role for which he won a best supporting actor Emmy in 1980, and for which he was nominated every year he played it, from 1976 to 1983. In the latter series, he was the still point amid the pandemonium, a flinty corrective both to its silliness and its sentimentality. In the former, he was the subtly comical sidekick to Webb's very straight straight man, a little licking flame of human warmth to animate the overarching deadpan.

Among the most familiar screen faces of the 20th century, Morgan was an American type: the regular guy, younger and older, in his lighter and his darker aspects. To say that he played in a lot of Westerns, crime dramas and war movies before and during his television years, is to say only that he was busy -- extremely busy -- in a time when those were the prisms through which the nation saw itself. His more prestigious pictures included "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), "The Big Clock" (1948), "High Noon" (1952), "Inherit the Wind" (1960), and John Wayne's elegiac final film, "The Shootist."

Morgan, who was born Harry Bratsberg and acted for a while under the name Henry Morgan, was small, but tough -- he played varsity football in high school -- and made a sort of Norwegian American counterpart to more darkly ethnic actors like Elia Kazan and John Garfield, who were his classmates and colleagues in the Stanislavski-inspired Group Theater. (He was funnier, too, than many actors schooled in "the method.") He made his Broadway debut with the Group in 1937, in its production of Clifford Odets' boxing drama “Golden Boy,” alongside Garfield, Kazan, Frances Farmer, Karl Malden and Lee J. Cobb.

The supporting actor in the movies, or the TV freelancer, becomes known for a range of roles without being identified with any one of them; in a television series, the part and the actor entwine in such a way that each writes the epitaph for the other. In both "Dragnet" and "MASH," Morgan stepped into a space vacated by other actors -- Joe Friday had worked with different partners through the years, on radio and the big and the small screen. Morgan's Col. Potter was the capable contrasting replacement for McLean Stevenson's whimsical Col. Henry Blake. But Morgan is the one I remember when I think of these series, not just because he came last -- indeed, "Dragnet" has reared its head more than once since his tenure there -- but because of the quiet power and deceptive weight with which he occupied his parts, and the focus that brought small moments alive. He could command your attention while still seeming quite ordinary; that was his particular magic.


Harry Morgan dies at 96; star of TV's "MASH"

-- Robert Lloyd

Photo: Harry Morgan in 1949, in the play "Red Light." Credit: Associated Press

Review: The return of 'State of Play'


Tonight, seven years after it first brought the series to these shores, BBC America will begin replaying the 2003 conspiracy-thriller miniseries "State of Play." It is a terrific work of television, with what seems now a superstar cast and crew, nearly all of whom have gone on to greater fame and bigger if not always better things. ("State of Play" did set the bar high.) Actors include Kelly McDonald, the best thing about "Boardwalk Empire"; John Simm, later the star of "Life on Mars"; David Morrissey ("Blackpool," "Red Riding"); Bill Nighy, already a little bit famous then for "Love, Actually," but not yet for "Pirates of the Caribbean"; Polly Walker ("Rome," "Caprica"); Philip Glenister (also later of "Life on Mars" and its sequel, "Ashes to Ashes"); and James McAvoy, who is now a full-blown movie star ("The Last King of Scotland," the lead in "Arthur Christmas" -- opposite Nighy, as it happens). Writer Paul Abbott would create "Shameless"; director David Yates made the the last four "Harry Potter" films.

I reviewed "State of Play" at the time of its American premiere in tandem with "Prime Suspect 6." Here are excerpts:

There are many points in common between the series. Each richly employs London locations, venturing into the reaches of the city that Hugh Grant movies never show. Each is scored by the constant ring of the cellphone. Each is fairly but not fatally "stylish" ....

In both shows, the plots point toward bad actions in high places. It's in some ways a cliche of fiction that the higher up the ladder you go, the more corrupt, cynical and arrogant are the people you find, but it is a cliche not without merit. (And as such people are so rarely held to account in real life, it's always nice to see them get their comeuppance in the moving pictures.) And despite their heroes' nominal victories, each ends somberly -- the case is closed but the damage is done. Real closure is chimerical.

And most crucially, both benefit from length, which allows for the complexity and the sprawl commonly called "Dickensian" but also allows for silence, the long look, the apparently extraneous conversation that builds texture and reveals character rather than just advancing the plot ....

A continually surprising thriller that maintains an air of imminent danger through its five or so hours "State of Play" is a grander, more romantic creation [than "Prime Suspect 6"]. Written by Paul Abbott ("Cracker," "Touching Evil"), it is at once harrowing and funny and involves friendship and betrayal, love and adultery, government conspiracies and personal jealousy and the overlapping business of the police and the press, each of whom has its own view of the proceedings: "It's a case, not a story," cop chastens journalist.

The main focus is upon a not-too-motley Scooby Gang of young adrenalized reporters -- the policemen are not quite so good-looking or energetic -- on a breaking story that keeps breaking into different stories. (Some of their information-gathering tactics seem marginally legal to me, or at least not very nice.) They are led by Cal McCaffrey (John Simm, Raskolnikov in last year's "Crime and Punishment"), who is somewhat dissolute, in the familiar dissolute-reporter mode, and trying to help former best friend Stephen Collins (David Morrissey, "Girl With the Pearl Earring"), an ambitious politician whose life begins to unravel when his assistant and mistress goes under a subway train.

Cal's also sleeping with Collins' estranged wife (Polly Walker), while ... well, you'll really have to watch it. We could be here all day summarizing, and it would just spoil the fun. But mention should be made of Kelly Macdonald, in a slightly more knowing version of the Nancy Drew figure she played in "Gosford Park"; and especially Bill Nighy (the aging rock star in "Love Actually") as a newspaper editor with a dry wit and ironic eyebrows, who emerges slowly as the series' comic relief and shadow hero and whose character loudly cries: Sequel!

Sequel came there none, though a big-screen remake, from different hands, starring Russell Crowe was released in 2009. (And Nighy's recent "Page Eight," which showed here on PBS' "Masterpiece Contemporary," gamboled in a similar field.) But here is the original, back again and unbeatable.

-- Robert Lloyd

Photo: David Morrissey and John Simm in "State of Play." Credit: BBC America


Illeana Douglas puts herself together in 'Easy to Assemble'

This post has been corrected, as detailed below.

In 2008, the actress Illeana Douglas, known for her roles in Allison Anders' “Grace of My Heart,” Gus Van Sant's “To Die For” and Martin Scorsese's “Cape Fear,” among many other parts, created a Web series for IKEA, the Swedish furniture maker and lifestyle retailer. In “Easy to Assemble,” she plays herself as an actor-in-recovery-from-acting who goes to work at IKEA. The title, of course, has meanings beyond that of putting together a bookcase: It’s also about the process of putting oneself together (there is perhaps some irony in the “easy”) and, in a meta way, the process of making the series itself. I should say that it's a comedy.

“It has this sort of vaudeville sense of 'grab some actors, grab some directors, put 'em all together and they're easy to assemble,'“ Douglas told me not long before the series' third season began in October. (When lined up, its 17 constituent webisodes will form a 90-minute movie.) We were having coffee in the cafeteria of the Burbank IKEA, where the first two seasons were filmed, largely during store hours, while customers milled in the background.

“It was just at the point that the stock market collapsed,” Douglas remembered, “and people were in a little bit of free fall in terms of independent films -- I had three movies that just vaporized -- and so I thought, well, we'll do this thing; it'll be fun. I had no idea that it would grab hold of me and become so much fun that I would want to to do it exclusively."

The current season, which is titled “Finding North,” is set in Sweden (doubled by Big Bear Lake, Calif.), where Illeana has gone to accept an award as “Co-Worker of the Year.” That is also the title of the series’ second season, which pitted her against fellow employee and manipulative frenemy Justine Bateman (a brilliant Justine Bateman). (Those seasons are linked by the three-episode “Flying Solo,” which takes place on the flight to Stockholm.) You need to see the second season to understand the third, but the entire run of the show is ever-present on the Web, most comprehensively on, an executive producer of “Flying Solo,” and a dedicated YouTube channel.

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'French in Action': Now on an Internet near you

"French in Action," a 1987 public-television, total-immersion language course in the form of an annotated romance -- there are fellow fans, I know, already shaking in excitement from these few words -- is now available online in its 52-episode entirety, for free. (You can also buy it on DVD, if you are rich, and it is bootlegged higgledy-piggledy on YouTube.) Produced by Annenberg/CPB (whose Annenberg Learner site hosts the series) along with Boston's WGBH and Yale and Wellesley universities, it is a pedagogical romcom whose secret weapon is a cast so incredibly good-looking that you really, really want to be able to talk to them. It is learning by desire.

I watched much of "French in Action" around the time it first appeared and I was still dizzily under the spell of my first trip to Paris -- a spell I am still under, frankly -- and interested in learning the language, if only to read "Tintin" in the original. I wrote briefly about the series in 2008, when I discovered it rerunning at 4 a.m. on the LAUSD-connected PBS station KLCS. (I've kept several episodes on my DVR since, in case of emergency.) Even without understanding much French, it's entertaining as a kind of audio-visual collage and an evocation of a time and place.

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Q&A: 'Bored to Death' creator Jonathan Ames

Jonathan Ames, creator of HBO's "Bored to Death"
Episode 6 of the eight-episode third season of "Bored to Death,"HBO's delightful, Brooklyn-set, cross-generationally bromantic, nothing-human-is-foreign-to-me stoner detective comedy, premieres Monday night. It stars Jason Schwartzman as Jonathan Ames, a novelist-cum-unlicensed private eye who shares a name with his creator, the novelist Jonathan Ames; Zach Galifianakis as Jonathan's comic-book-artist friend Ray; and Ted Danson as George, formerly a magazine editor and now a restaurateur.

It has been a busy season that has seen, among other things, Jonathan and George in "friendship counseling" (with Sarah Silverman), George's daughter dating a man in his own age and income bracket, Ray in an affair with a senior citizen (Olympia Dukakis), George sleeping with his singing teacher (Danson's own wife, Mary Steenburgen) and Jonathan celebrating the arrival of his second novel, framed for murder, confronting his doppelgänger, hanging like Harold Lloyd from the clock of the Williamsburg Savings Bank and interviewed by Dick Cavett. Ray has met the baby born from his sold-than-stolen sperm, and Jonathan, who has learned that he himself is a sperm-bank baby, is searching for his biological father.

A little before the season started, I talked with Ames for a Times feature; here are some outtakes from that interview. We began at the beginning, with the short story that led to the series.

Jonathan Ames:At the time I had been reading a lot of David Goodis, most well known for "Shoot the Piano Player," which Truffaut turned into a film. There was this real rush to his stories and I wanted to write something like that, something of a thriller, and maybe something a little bit darker than I had previously. And I named the character after myself, as I've said before, because often when I wrote fiction people would say, "C'mon why don't you just call that a memoir," and when I wrote nonfiction they said, "You made that up, didn't you? You exaggerated that. That didn't happen." I couldn't win. So I thought that I'd write a piece of fiction almost initially in the tone of one of my essays to kind of lure my half-dozen readers in — maybe I have a dozen readers. And after I finished it I thought, "This could make a movie."

Was that a thought you had had before?

JA: I had adapted two of my books into script form, trying to get them made; it wasn't really happening. I had written a TV pilot for Showtime called "What's Not to Love?" based on my essay collections — that was how I got my foot in the door out here a little bit, 'cause a guy heard me give a reading in Los Feliz at Skylight Books and said, "I think there's a TV show in your essays." So I pitched something with him to Showtime and they green-lit the pilot. I played myself, I played Jonathan Ames; I had done a fair amount of performing, doing monologues sort of like Spalding Gray. I pitched it at the time as a poor man's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" — literally a poor man, because I was a struggling writer, and the show would be be about this guy in Hollywood. And we shot it, and it came out all right, but it didn't become a series. But to be frank I had kind of given up on all that in 2007 when I wrote this short story.

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Appreciation: Andy Rooney, 1919-2011

The American humorist Andy Rooney, who last month retired from his longtime seat on the CBS news magazine "60 Minutes," which he would cap each week with an observation about this thing or that -- or more often this thing and that, and then another thing -- died Friday night at the age of 92.

Rooney, whose job was to be publicly himself for a few minutes every Sunday evening, was inescapably different things to different people, and even from essay to essay: On the one hand, a teller of truths, old enough to remember a world that made a little more sense, or wise enough to imagine the world in which we finally might get it right; on the other, a mean old man yelling at some damn kids to get off his lawn. (Cameron Crowe's recent documentary "Pearl Jam Twenty," about the Seattle rock band, replays at length Rooney's less than gracious remarks on the 1994 suicide of Kurt Cobain, and the generation that idolized him.)

PHOTOS: Andy Rooney| 1919 - 2011

Indeed, Rooney was nearly (or almost nearly) a senior citizen when he began his long last act on "60 Minutes" -- 33 years encompassing 1,079 editions of his secular sermonette, "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney." He had already lived a professional lifetime by then, beginning as a correspondent for Stars and Stripes during World War II and entering into television in its infancy, where he would write for both entertainer Arthur Godfrey and newsman Harry Reasoner. These comic and journalistic voices he would later combine in his own work, beginning in the 1960s with the video essays he wrote for Reasoner and then, in the '70s, the self-hosted prime-time specials, including "Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington" and "Mr. Rooney Goes to Work," that first established him as an on-air personality.

There are a lot of people talking on television today, in the precincts where Rooney worked, and many of them are talking without much reflection, wit or attention to the words they use. They deal only in volume: They speak loud and they speak long. As a TV personality, Rooney was always foremost a writer -- there, in his cluttered office-as-set was his typewriter for the world to see -- and even with the multiple digressions that were a hallmark of his style, he did not belabor a point. And he made his points quietly. His language was deceptively elegant, colloquial but precise.

Like his fellow video essayist, the late Charles Kuralt -- another longtime employee of CBS, for what that's worth -- Rooney paid exacting attention to the small and overlooked things of the world: The first of the video specials he wrote for Reasoner was titled "An Essay on Doors." Although he was reflexively called a curmudgeon -- not least because, with his beetling white brows, he looked the way we imagine a curmudgeon would -- he also spoke often of things he loved: elastic bands, dogs, New York weather. Even his complaints more often than not betrayed a general delight with the strangeness of the world, not a desire to be shut of it.

He was, of course, a performer; the person you saw leaning confidentially toward you on television was a Rooney edited and organized -- by Rooney -- for comic effect. (When he was simply serious, by contrast, as when commenting on the Oklahoma City bombing, the Challenger disaster or the death of Osama bin Laden, he was simply himself.) But it was a performance informed by real ideas wrought from years' experience.

That experience now includes the last experience of all: "I hate it. I mean, I'm gonna die," Rooney told Morley Safer, when asked how he liked old age in an interview that accompanied his final "60 Minutes" broadcast, "and that doesn't appeal to me at all." He would have gotten a good piece out of his own passing; it's a shame we won't get to see it.


Obituary: Andy Rooney dies at 92

Andy Rooney health 'serious' after surgery scare

Critic's Notebook: Andy Rooney signs off the way he signed on

-- Robert Lloyd

Photo: Andy Rooney in 1979. Credit: Los Angeles Times



Review: 'Steve Jobs -- One Last Thing' on PBS

GettyImages_72959782The death of Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Oct. 5 was not unexpected, and PBS has his video obituary ready to air. "Steve Jobs -- One Last Thing," which premieres Wednesday night at 10, offers a decent enough survey of the ups and downs and ups of his career and of the products he helped create or understood how to sell. But in broad terms it won't tell you anything about Jobs you couldn't have just assumed -- that he was a brilliant, difficult person whom some people loved and other people did not -- and in narrower terms offers nothing that has not already been discussed at great length elsewhere. (There is a small bit of unseen interview footage, from 1994, that is getting promotional play -- the gist of it is, don't let other people define your life -- but it contains no revelations.) Network press releases call the show "unflinching," and it's true that  the hour is not given completely over to praising him, but all in all it is a brief for Jobs' Promethean importance and makes him look cooler than his critics even when his critics have a point.

Which is, of course, what Apple itself does: Their computers represent not the triumph of the nerds, but the continuing hegemony of the popular kids who look down on the nerds from above the roll of their expensive black turtlenecks. Although the Mac is the favored tool of design and film and music professionals, the PC -- cheaper, customizable, easy to upgrade -- is the people's computer. (The company's fortune is founded on those other machines, the iPod, iPhone, iPad, the must-have heralds of the post-computer world.) That Jobs' drive and Apple's drive -- the two elements being virtually synonymous at least since Jobs' return to the company 15 years ago -- to constantly improve the product supports a business model based on rapid planned obsolescence is really not so cool at all. (For the record, I am writing this on a PC, and I don't feel one whit less groovy for it. Of course I am also a person who has just used the word "groovy" in a sentence.)

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Q&A: Felicia Day, from 'The Guild' to 'Dragon Age'


This week in Felicia Day news: Tuesday saw the premiere of "Dragon Age: Redemption," a Web series the actress-writer created as an extension of the video game Dragon Age II, and Wednesday that of the downloadable Dragon Age II adventure Mark of the Assassin; both feature Day in the role of Tallis, an elf with killer skills -- a skilled killer elf. On Thursday, the fifth-season finale of Day's "The Guild," the online comedy about online gaming that made her name, goes wide on the Web. (It has been an ambitious year for the series, with myriad celebrity cameos, a fully staged fan convention and a flying "dirigible boatmobile.") I spoke to Day, who is also known for her work on "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," Joss Whedon's Web musical "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" and the Syfy TV series "Eureka," for a Times profile last month. Here is a Q&A cut of some of the rest of our conversation.

We began by talking about women and the Web.

Felicia Day: There was a really good blog the other day about the huge decrease in the number of women on staff and women show runners in TV. When I go to a Web video meeting and look around, at least half the show runners are women. And a lot are actors-cum-writers, who are frustrated with the situation of being a woman actor in Hollywood and have decided to create their own show. There's definitely a higher proportion of women in Web series because, I guess the money's not there. [Laughs.] I think it's an outlet for people looking to create without waiting for someone to give them a permission slip.

You first wrote "The Guild" as a TV pilot.

FD: I did. I showed it around and got some compliments on my dialogue and my characters. People said, "You should write a spec script for whatever sitcom -- you could get on staff." I know a lot of writers and I knew that being a staff writer wasn't really what I wanted to do. But [future "Guild" co-producer] Kim Evey, who was actually my first writing teacher -- my only writing teacher, I did a sketch-writing class with her -- had done a lot of Web video. She had a show called "Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show" that took off a little bit that she sold to Sony for distribution. And after she read "The Guild," she said, "We should make this for the Web, because that's where the people who you're talking to are, not TV."

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