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Ask 411 Movies for 2.25.13: A Good Day to Read This Column!

February 25, 2013 | Posted by Leonard Hayhurst

Since I post the column before Sunday night, you will have to wait until next week for my Oscar thoughts. You can read my predictions elsewhere on the site and read 10 Oscar trivia questions, I put together with the help of my friend Shawn Israel. For my predictions, I will either look like the smartest man on earth or a complete idiot. There is no middle ground. I’m putting money on Ben Affleck not receiving a best director nomination for Argo being more significant than others think. I’m also giving more credence to the Hollywood royalty involved with Lincoln than others are. As I’ve said time and again, the academy is not the other award organizations and I think they reprove that this year.

What Leonard Recently Watched
A Good Day to Die Hard is a vexing film for me. I hated Live Free or Die Hard and due to that I liked this outing better, even though I think it’s worse in some key ways. I believe Bruce Willis is trying harder this time out, but he has less chemistry with Shia Courtney as his son Jack than he had with Justin Long as his last sidekick. The reveal and villain here is also the weakest of the series. It’s a flick that when you’re in the theater watching it, you get wrapped up in the action and kind of roll with it. Upon reflection, you realize how illogical and shoddy it was. The biggest sin is that it’s not really a Die Hard movie, even though it was the first in the franchise to have a script written specifically to be a Die Hard film. You could take John McClane out of the movie, replace him with any other character and actor, and it’s the same thing. I can’t be as harsh as some on it and will go 5 out of 10.

Producers at Comedy Central have always been lazy, but they’ve reached a new level with The Jeselnik Offensive. It’s the very blatant bastard love child of The Burn and Chelsea Lately with two main faults. First, it’s offensive for the sake of being so without any attempt to be funny. It’s just coming up with the most inappropriate things they can think of and hoping that in itself will be funny. The “who wore it better segment” (which is a ripoff from Fashion Police) below is a prime example of that. Second, it’s host, Anthony Jeselnik, has the charisma of a sweat sock. He lacks the charm and personality of Daniel Tosh or even Greg Giraldo. The only reason The Jeselnik Offensive made it to air might be to make The Burn look better in comparison.

The Obscure Television Series of the Week
Title: Double Trouble
Air Dates: April 4, 1984, to Aug. 21, 1985
Network: NBC
Cast: Jean Sagal as Kate Foster, Liz Sagal as Allison Foster, Donnelly Rhodes as Art Foster, Patricia Richardson as Beth McConnell, Jon Caliri as Michael Gillette, Barbara Barrie as Aunt Margo, Jonathan Schmock as Billy Batalata, James Vallely as Charles Kincaid, Michael D. Roberts as Mr. Arrechia, Anne-Marie Johnson as Aileen Lewis
Premise: Even at the age of 5, I knew teen twins were hot. The Sagal sisters came to fame thanks to a series of Doublemint gum commercials. Allison was the smart and responsible one, while Kate was an energetic troublemaker. The first season of the show had the girl’s widow father dealing with raising them along with a little help from their dance instructor, Beth. In the second season of the show, the girls moved to New York to live with their Aunt Margo. Kate was trying to be an actress, while Allison was going to fashion design school.

Curious as to what happened to the girls, I looked them up and was kind of surprised. Jean went into directing and is currently an associate director on Two and a Half Men and 2 Broke Girls. Liz got into writing and was a story editor on Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Parlor and Charmed and currently has that role on Sons of Anarchy.

On Our Last Episode…
When asked about television series starring criminals and killers in the leads, my mind immediately went to older shows. Due to that I overlooked several newer and current programs that fit the bill such as The Sopranos, The Shield, Breaking Bad, Knights of Prosperity and Sons of Anarchy. Thanks to readers for pointing that out in the comments last week.

Q: Aren’t they also planning a Hannibal TV show? There’s another killer in a staring role.

A: Hannibal, a television series about the relationship between FBI profiler Will Graham and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, is set to debut April 4 on NBC. It has a 13 episode order and, unlike most network shows, is only targeted to have 13 episodes a season if it would continue on. Hugh Dancy will play Graham with Mads Mikkelsen as Lecter. It’s kind of a prequel to the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.

Q: Speaking of Terry Funk and acting, I recall Mick Foley mentioning that he wanted the Funker to portray the father in a filmed version of his novel Tietam Brown. Instead, someone connected with the film rights (be it a screenwriter or producer type) insisted on Sean Penn instead. Foley couldn’t argue with an Oscar winner over Terry and seemed to give his blessing on the casting. My question is whatever became of that conversation? I know it sounds like a Hollywood type being full of it, but is there still a film version of Tietam Brown in the works and, if so, is Penn still attached?

A: Last week we talked about Terry Funk’s acting career. Tietam Brown is a 2003 novel by wrestler Mick Foley. It deals with a sexually abused boy who is finally rescued from a series of foster homes by his father. Foley once noted in his blog “Foley is Blog” that Oscar winning director Paul Haggis of Crash was interested in adapting the book for the screen. While doing a press junket for his novel Scooter, Foley said Tietam Brown was going to be an independent movie by Vietnamese brothers Timothy Lin Bui and Tony Bui. It’s to them Foley suggested Terry Funk for the dad role and they came back with Sean Penn. There’s no word on this time of the Buis still developing the project.

Q: Question regarding contractor Mike Holmes’ shows, Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspection:
Who pays for the home renovations featured on his shows? Is it the homeowner or HGTV/DIY Network?

A: For most series of that nature materials and labor are paid for either by the network out of a set budget for the show, or materials are given by sponsors in exchange for promotion. The homeowner doesn’t pay for anything up front. Where the home owner gets stuck is after all the improvements are made and the program leaves them on their own. They were barely able to afford what they had before and now have to pay increased property taxes and utility bills because of the renovations made.

This article on profiles how one couple from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition had to sell their home after little more than a year, even though it was specifically designed for their special needs child, and another couple fell behind on a $405,000 loan they took out to keep utilities running.

Q: Hi, Leonard. Two completely unrelated questions:

1. The mention of “Life with Louie” and “Bobby’s World” made me think of this. It seems that, for at least the last 40 years or so, the vast majority of successful comedians have pretty racy and adult-themed acts. Bill Cosby is obviously the most notable exception. I guess my questions are basically who some of the earliest stand-up comics were who got their own sitcoms (or even children’s shows), and what your thoughts are on how big of a gamble it would have been early on for a network to give a series to a comic with a very adult act and little acting experience. Even through the 80s and 90s, a lot of family-themed shows were given to comedians with very adult acts (like Tim Allen and even Bob Saget – the first time I heard his stand-up act, I couldn’t believe that this was Danny Tanner). Are there any examples of series that didn’t make it, for which part of the blame was placed on the star not being funny enough without the crutch of a too-adult-for-primetime act?

2. I swear that when the sequel to “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” came out in theaters (or direct-to-video or whatever), it was called “Honey, I Blew Up the Baby.” But I’ve seen that it’s been on cable as “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid.” Post-production name changes are common enough, but after the movie was already released?! Why a name change, and are there other notable cases where a movie’s name was changed between theaters and video/etc. release for whatever reason?

How about television series? I recall “Three Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place” and “House, MD” changing names slightly, but are there any others?
Mike R

A: Usually when an edgy stand up comedian is brought to television, it’s a creative clash between the star and network executives that defeat the program, not toning the comic down in and of itself. From Redd Foxx to Bob Sagat and more, if they take to the watering down, they do fine usually.

Richard Pryor was given a sketch comedy and variety series in 1977 on NBC. Pryor and the network frequently clashed on material as NBC found what Pryor wanted to do too controversial or racially charged. On the first episode, right before air, the opening was cut where Pryor told the audience he would do anything to get a show on the air. The camera then panned down to show a naked Pryor with his genitals removed. He wore a body stocking as to not show nudity. NBC set the show up for failure as it aired it in the family friendly 8 p.m. hour and opposite two of the most popular programs on the air at the time, Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days on ABC.

Pryor returned to television for CBS in 1984 with a children’s show called Pryor’s Place. It was similar to Sesame Street in that it featured puppets and humans living together on a New York street. Pryor played several characters. The series lasted 13 episodes.

Next Caller was announced to join the NBC fall lineup in May 2012. In October, after four episodes had been made, NBC announced it would not be airing the show at all due to creative differences with star Dane Cook. Cook starred as a shock jock forced to share the radio airwaves with an innocent former-NPR host in a relationship centered call-in show.

Wanda Sykes has done well in supporting roles on Curb Your Enthusiasm and The New Adventures of Old Christine, but not so well as the lead. Wanda at Large had 19 episodes air on Fox in 2003. This six episode first season of the show did well with American Idol as a lead in, but it tanked in the second season when moved to Friday nights. Sykes has said in interviews that if the show did poorly on Fridays Fox was supposed to move it to another night, but they cut it instead. She also said she wished the show would have aired on UPN, which would have allowed her to do more risque and black centered humor.

Christopher Titus also had a show on Fox that was based on his standup act centering on his dysfunctional family and terse relationship with his father, played on Titus by Stacy Keach. The series ran from 2000 to 2002, but was never a ratings winner. Titus has said in interviews Fox wanted to break up the characters of Chris and Erin, because doing the same on ABC’s Dharma & Greg made its ratings go up. He refused. Titus has also said Fox was against the controversial nature of the show and would often censor material or show episodes out of order that were deemed too edgy, such as one where Erin’s niece Amy is shown to have been sexually molested and another that displayed violence at a church, which disrupted the continuing storyline of Titus having been injured in an accident on another episode.

Big Baby was an unrelated movie Disney had in development about an oversized toddler. Due to the huge success of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the script was reworked into a sequel. The below commercial for the film’s release has star Rick Moranis saying “honey, I blew up the baby,” but the title is Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. I couldn’t find where ‘blew up the baby’ was ever in the title and I think it’s just confusion from that language being used in the movie.

Name changes even after a movie has been released are pretty common. It’s either to distance itself from a poor theatrical run, to capitalize on a hot star or trend, avoid confusion with another similar title or because certain titles don’t translate well in international markets.

You’ll often find foreign movies have different titles in the U.S. or American movies having different titles overseas. It’s because certain slang terms or word definitions don’t translate. I remember in high school Spanish class playing a Spanish language version of Trivial Pursuit. A question was, what movie did John Wayne win the best actor Oscar for? I said True Grit, but the title on the card was Long Arm of the Law. A little research discovered this was the international version name, because many countries didn’t have a concept of the American term of ‘grit’ for determination and perseverance.

The language barrier also hurt the 1971 Sergio Leone film Duck, You Sucker! Somehow, the Italian director thought this was a popular English saying, but it wasn’t and the movie did poorly on first release. It was re-released as a Fistful of Dynamite to play on Leone’s earlier success A Fistful of Dollars.

Quentin Tarantino took the name of his movie Inglourious Basterds from the 1978 Italian war picture Inglorious Bastards. Because the word bastard is profanity, the movie is known under many different titles, such as Counterfeit Commandos, Deadly Mission and even Hell’s Heroes, which is also a swear word. The movie was also re-cut at one point to emphasize Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and marketed as a blaxsploitation movie called G.I. Bro.

Similarly, the 1975 movie Diamonds was renamed Diamond Shaft and promoted as if it were a Shaft sequel, because of the success of the blaxsploitation film franchise that starred Richard Roundtree, who is also in Diamonds.

The 1989 Christian Slater movie Gleaming the Cube is sometimes known under the generic title of a A Brother’s Justice or Skate or Die after the video game, because people didn’t know what Gleaming the Cube meant. While it was supposed to be a skateboarding term, it was actually just made up.

There are plenty more, that’s just a few examples.

Q: Rules of Engagement is coming back on CBS tonight, and it is has built pretty much its entire run as a mid-season replacement. Yet it has gone on long enough that is has warranted the vaunted syndicated package number. Are there other shows out there in history that have limped along long enough to get into syndication despite never being a big hit or getting full season runs? Maybe ‘Til Death?

A: Rules of Engagement has actually started in the fall of the year a few times during its seven season run. The second season debuted September 2007, but only had nine episodes air due to a writer’s strike. Six more episodes aired that April. The fifth season started September of 2010 and was the only one to date to receive a full season order of 24 episodes. The sixth season started in October 2011, but was still a replacement as it took over for the quick failure How to Be a Gentlemen.

‘Til Death aired four seasons of 81 episodes, pretty much full season orders, and always debuted in the fall of the year.

It’s popular now for many cable shows, especially on the USA Network, to have small seasons and debut at certain times of the year. It’s not so much that they’re mid-season replacements, it’s just how the network is dividing up material to have fresh programming.

Many programs have debuted as mid-season replacements to go on and have great success. Some examples include All in the Family, Barnaby Jones, Barney Miller, Batman, Castle, Coach, Grey’s Anatomy, Happy Days, Hill Stree Blues, The Jeffersons, Laverne & Shirley, Night Court and many more. As for a show to be successful by always being a mid-season replacement on a main network, I couldn’t really find any prime examples.

I’m back to being caught up on questions. Your mission if you choose to accept it is to send more.

Don’t die.
“There’s one thing every little kid knows. Daddies mean fun; mommies mean business.”

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Leonard Hayhurst

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