Month: June, 2012

Survivor vs Battle of the Network Stars

“Gather round Guys .. See what you’re playing for”.

The Competitors

Long before there was anything in our TV lexicon referred to as  redemption island, there was a competition that pitted angels and sweat-hogs vs hulks and wonder women. An early reality TV pioneer: Battle of the Network Stars showed the prime-time heroes from the three major networks (NBC ABC CBS) competing against one another in various  sports and athletic  challenges. It premiered in 1976 and ran until 1988.

Survivor is a trailblazing game show that has influenced countless knockoffs and become ingrained into the fabric of pop culture. Being voted off the island became the model for all to follow. It is part physical challenge, part head game and a whole lot of drama. The american version premiered in 2000 and is still going strong.

The Challenges

Battle of the Network Stars‘ competitions covered a wide range of activities. The teams would face off against each other in running, cycling and swimming relay races, tennis, volleyball, golf, boat races, dunk tank, tug o’ war and of course the obstacle course. All events being highlighted and played back in wonderous slow motion.

Feats of endurance, target shooting, mind bending puzzles and obstacle courses that look like they were designed by NASA scientists are the day in day out activities of food and sleep deprived contestants in the tropical heat of Survivor.

Advantage: Survivor

The Hosts

Howard Cosell played it straight. He announced the tug o’ war like it was a heavyweight prize fight. He referred to the stars facing their personal demons and digging into the recesses of their souls to accomplish the near impossible. On a show full of shining stars he was the sun.

No other person working in TV today could do what Jeff Probst does. His commentary during challenges adds both encouragement and ridicule in equal measures.  During  tribal council, his ‘you haven’t seen anything yet’ attitude all the while dangling a million dollar carrot is  pure gold.

Advantage: Battle of the Network Stars

The Contestants

The alumni of Battle of the Network Stars reads like an ultimate version of Dancing with the Stars but with real stars: Gabe Kaplan, Linda Carter, Farah Fawcett, Ron Howard, Penny Marshall, Billy Crystal, Telly Savalas, Robert Conrad, Adrienne Barbeau, Kristy NcNichol, Scott Baio, Ricky Schroder, Valleri Bertinelli, Rob Reiner, William Shatner, Gil Gerard, Heather Thomas, Heather Locklear, Michael J Fox, Lisa Bonet, Kim Fields, Jimmy Walker and Tony Danza.

Survivor has its share of memorable characters: the sneaky one, the annoying one, the forgettable one, the sweet one, the religious one, the uber religious one, the hot one, the cold one, the jerk, the villain and so on.

Advantage: Battle of the Network Stars

Winner: Battle of the Network Stars

All in all Survivor stills survives and another season is right around the corner. Their formula of battle of the sexes, personal testimonies, scantily clad contestants and engaging personalities that become completely forgettable once the cameras stop rolling is a winning one. Their production values can make an isolated crab on a beach a harbinger of foreshadowing and doom. Blatant product placement finds it way into the most remote places on earth. Thank you Survivor for reminding us  that just because you are stranded on a desert island doesn’t mean you have to stop being a consumer.

 Youtube has become the unofficial television archive. Many fabulous things can be found there if you have the time and inclination. It has helped to spur on the  current  nostalgia renaissance. We want our Titanics in 3D, our movies recycled – 21 Jump Street,  Spiderman again and our TV stars battling it out. Watching  the stars of the Big Bang Theory go head to head with Community and Modern Family could be a ratings bonanza.

6 Degrees of Harry Potter

This is a little thing I like to call 6 degrees. According  to the theory – everyone on earth is separated by only 6 people (The trick of course is finding the right six people). This game is a variation on the old six degrees of Kevin Bacon from a few years back. The premise is simple: find a pop culture reference and trace it back to a particular point – in our case the cast of the Harry Potter franchise.

We’ll start with the subject of my last post 1. Minnie Riperton.

Along with being an influential soul singer with songs to her credit such as I am the Black Gold of the Sun ( The link is actually a cover by Nuyorican Soul. I usually say go with the original but this an exception.) and Want You to Know ; Minnie is the mother of  Maya Rudolph.

2. Maya Rudolph was a regular on Saturday Night Live. She is married to the director Paul Thomas Anderson – who’s movies include Boogie Nights, There Will be Blood and the upcoming The Master. Maya starred as the bride in the movie BridesMaids along with Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper *, Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm .

*Jon Hamm started his career as a high school drama teacher. One of his original students was his Bridesmaids’ co-star and Office regular Ellie Kemper. 

3. Jon Hamm plays one of the most enigmatic and dynamic characters on television. He is Don Draper of Mad Men. The superbly written and executed show produced by Matthew Weiner follows the lives of Madison Avenue ad men in the 60’s. Season five of Mad Men finds Don’s fifties sensibilities being tested by the sweeping tide of sixties counter culture where youth is king. Apparently Tomorrow Never Knows and that has left our Mr. Draper struggling to maintain his power in his self-made world.  Jon Ham stars along Jarred Harris who plays the displaced Brit Lane Pryce.

4. Jarred Harris also plays Dr. James Moriarty; the arch nemesis of  Sherlock Holmes. It takes a minute to wrap your head around the fact that Lane Pryce is Dr. Moriarty but it becomes a testament to Mr. Harris’ acting chops. Purists have criticized Guy Ritchie’s handling of  Sir Arther Conan Doyle’s original material but audiences have embraced the chemistry between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.

5. Jude Law has played among others a repo-man, a sex-bot and a sky captain. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was a film that depicted your grandfather’s view of the future. Its cinematic mixed message failed to resonate with audiences but lavish visuals engage the imagination. Continuing with this past/future thing -the cast includes: a page right out Brad Pitt’s past with Gwyneth Paltrow as Polly Perkins and a page from his future- an eye-patched Angelina Jolie  as Franky. One more person who stars in this film is Michael Gambon.

6. Michael Gambon plays Albus Dumbledore. This is how we play 6 degrees of Harry Potter.

to be continued…….

Rotary Connection

Rotary Connection 2012

Here’s another Ipad painting. The name is inspired by an experimental soul group from the sixties coming out of Chicago. One of its members was a singer by the name of Minnie Riperton. Minnie was originally discovered while working as a receptionist at Chess Records. She went on to have a successful solo career. Her biggest hit would probably be Lovin’ You. Here’s another gem to check out.

Les Fleurs