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Saturday, November 26, 2005 ( 10:08 AM )

You'll excuse the lack of originality, but I ran across the below piece that I wrote in the spring of 2004 for a defunct website and much like the guy that can't make it through his own joke without laughing, I decided that I'm amused enough with myself to want to share. So here you go:

"I don’t mention it all that often but I am a Hollywood insider. I’ve worked for major movie studios. I’ve written, acted and directed – even though what I really want to do is produce. I’ve hung out with the beautiful people and can tell you which ones need lots of help with that beautiful look. Just like the Philip Seymour Hoffman character in “Boogie Nights,” I’m right there on the front line soaking it all in.

As such, I’m sometimes privy to information that others aren’t, something that dawned on me this week as I watched the broadcast television networks announce their new fall lineups. I’m sure that a lot of people know that for every new show that the networks put on their schedule there’s another ten shows that were under consideration that didn’t make the cut. That’s in addition to the hundreds of pitches for new shows that the studios entertain every year.

We all know that sports have been a source for story ideas and talent for just about as long as Hollywood’s been around. Sports fans and writers wouldn’t know what to do if they couldn’t quote lines from everything from “Pride of the Yankees” to “Caddyshack” to “The Longest Yard” to “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.” And where would Hollywood be without the contributions of athletes turned actors like Johnny Weissmuller, Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, and Shaquille O’Neal?

What’s not widely known is that there were a number of television pilots shot this year that had ties to the sports world. Now, normally a pilot that doesn’t get picked up by a network is treated about the same way as Phil Jackson’s famous gift books to his players – ignored and discarded. However, I thought it might be worth a look to see what might have been, so below are some of the show ideas that you won’t be seeing on your TV screens this fall:

Grateful Dad: Sitcom about a young basketball player whose career is cut short by a chronic hangnail problem, forcing him to live in a teepee with his loud mouth, eccentric father. Starring Luke and Bill Walton.

The Rocket: Made by the folks that brought you “Walker Texas Ranger” this pilot was shot during Roger Clemens’ two week retirement. Clemens plays a former baseball player turned detective who’s undergoing a midlife crisis, spars with his new young partner, and occasionally brings down fleeing perps with the help of his lucky baseball.

Ruffin’ It: Yet another reality show premise. This one would’ve taken a group of professional athletes and stranded them on an island with no entourages, strip clubs, or, worst of all, cell phones. Each week contestants would compete for the right to be rescued from the island by their private jet.

Like Glue: Produced by Will Smith and based on Sacramento Kings guard Doug Christie, this sitcom follows the exploits of a henpecked professional basketball player who’s world revolves around his wife…whether he likes it or not.

The Shaq and Kobe Superstar Hour: Quickly shot on the heels of the stunning success of “The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour,” this variety show concept stars the Lakers bickering twosome, along with the talents of Sid & Marty Krofft, in an hour of skits, singing and dancing. The pilot’s segments included Shaq trading rhymes with the Wu Tang Clan and Kobe ordering his bodyguards to read his cue cards for him. With guest appearances by Jack Nicholson, the Smothers Brothers and Shecky Greene.

The Rickey: Still under consideration by HBO, this reality show would follow Rickey Henderson through a minor league season as he tries for just one more chance at the big leagues, while his new young teammates try to figure out what the hell he’s talking about.

Los Gemelos: Set against the sexy backdrop of Miami’s South Beach, this drama stars Jose and Ozzie Conseco in a story about a drug kingpin and his twin brother, a DEA agent charged with bringing him down. Interestingly, the pilot was shot entirely in Jose’s backyard to comply with house arrest restrictions.

CIU (Compliance Investigations Unit): Compelling drama, with stories ripped from the headlines, about a team of NCAA investigators who travel from campus to campus checking for possible compliance violations of university sports programs. William H. Macy and Mario Lopez headline the ensemble cast.

Now and Zen: Produced by Jeannie Buss and starring Ken Howard (“The White Shadow”). A philosophical former basketball coach travels across the country on his Harley, stopping to assist people with their problems and helping them gain inner peace.

Finally, while not up for a spot on any of the network’s schedules, there is a talk show being pitched around the syndication market starring Lakers’ forward Rick Fox and his wife Vanessa Williams. “At Home with Rick and Nessa” would feature discussions of issues facing the modern family, with topics such as “How Many SUV’s Are Enough?”, “How to Throw the Perfect Charity Gala”, and “Private School vs. Boarding School: Which Is Best For Your Child?”.

Sadly, with schedules along with midseason replacements pretty much set, it looks as though all of these pilots have already been forgotten by the crass Hollywood machine, just like so many that have gone before them. Thankfully, just like in sports, there’s always next year – and I’ve got my pitch for a reworking of the old HBO hit “1st and Ten” all ready to go as soon as my agent gets me that meeting."

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Sunday, November 20, 2005 ( 8:10 AM )

Do you ever see those women with children that look as though they're just barely holding on to their sanity? Like at any point they might come unglued and be taken away for a little vacation at a psych ward? Well, try to show a little compassion. What I've learned in my time as a father is that it takes a special kind of mental toughness to be a parent.

This, by the way, has nothing to do with misbehaving children. Those people on that Super Nanny or Nanny 911 or whatever that show is most likely have only themselves to blame for the behaviour of their children. No, what I'm talking about is the damage caused by one seemingly innocent word...repitition.

For the uninitiated, let me explain with a little example. On Thursday, my son received the DVD of the movie "Madagascar." I had taken him to see it in the theater, he has some of the toys and it was a belated birthday present. The DVD entered our home around 7:30 p.m. that night and to present, this now being Sunday morning, my son has watched the movie about 9 times and would've watched it even more if we'd have let him. As a matter of fact, he's watching it right now as my wife tries to wake up. And this isn't an isolated incident. We've gone through the same thing with "The Incredibles," "Lilo & Stitch," "Monsters Inc.," "Toy Story 1 & 2," and probably a couple of others that I've blocked out. At this point, I've just about got every line of dialogue from every Pixar movie memorized.

It goes beyond just movies and TV. My son will latch onto a game that he likes and want to play it nonstop for days or weeks at a time. There was the fun phase where he liked to pretend that he was the Big Bad Wolf and walked around trying to blow everyone over (we had to keep explaining why our son was huffing and puffing at them).

Same thing goes for music. There's a singer named Laurie Berkner that does children's music and appears on Noggin, the kid's cable channel. Her music isn't bad, in fact, some of her songs wouldn't be out of place on the kinds of CD's that I've reviewed for 2Walls. But now that my son has a couple of her CD's it's just about the only thing we're able to listen to during car rides. I can't listen to the same Beatles CD every day without it getting old fast, so how do you think a daily dose of "Froggy Went A-Courtin'" goes over?

It's enough to drive someone that isn't expecting it insane. Luckily, I have nieces that aren't much younger than me and I remember what they were like. One of them spent an entire summer watching a continuous loop of the Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell movie "Overboard." Close exposure to that will prepare you for just about anything.

So, next time you see that young harried mother in the store that looks like she's about to lose it, don't judge her too harshly. Just give her a friendly smile, a wide berth, and push your cart away humming the new tune you heard at the club last night, thankful that it's not you.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005 ( 10:20 AM )

I wanted to wait a respectful amount of time before I wrote this, even though I've been thinking it for a while now...and a month after the Chicago White Sox won the World Series seems like enough time. After being in Chicago most of the time for the last few months -- and listening to Chicago sports talk radio even when I'm not -- I would just like to state for the record that I find Chicago sports fans to be the most annoying lot that I've ever run across. And I know from annoying sports fans having grown up around Philadelphia.

It's hard to be whiny, arrogant and paranoid all at the same time but the Chicago fans manage the feat on a much more consistent basis than their brethren in Philly, Boston or New York. Take the White Sox run to the World Series...people did so many about faces regarding the team during the season and playoffs you could put a HMO out of business with whiplash claims. They were the biggest choke artists ever and probably wouldn't win another game one minute and the next they were the best team in the history of baseball, easily surpassing the '27 Yankees. Before the season began the Bears faithful were torn between worrying if their team would even win a game and writing angry letters to any sports publication that dared pick them for last. Now that the team has made the most of a weak schedule and is in first place in their division...well, now it's hard to see how they're ever going to lose a game. The best part is that the same attitude permeates the media in Chicago. All of the columnist tend to write daily variations on the same theme. And if there's a city with more 'homer' sports announcers doing local broadcasts, I have yet to go there.

Don't get me wrong, all sports fans are like that to some degree. The difference is that in other cities, at least some of the time, there's some level of perspective. Sure it's lacking with say, Yankees and Red Sox fans or Eagles and Cowboys fans, but it's there with other sports. There's almost none of that in Chicago. Everything is either the best ever or the worst ever. Back in the early '90's when Saturday Night Live used to do their "Da Bears" skit, I thought it was funny just like everyone else. I just didn't have any idea just how true a representation of Chicago sports fans it was. All you have to do is ride the "L" prior to any game in town and you're sure to hear conversations eerily similar to the SNL dialogue.

Chicago's still a great city, it's just not the best place to sit around talking sports with the locals. Well, unless you're able to really concentrate hard on your hot dog or braut and ignore them. I may find the sports fans annoying but I'll be damned if I'll say anything bad about the Windy City's way with sausage-type products.

On a side note, I did take my 3-year-old son to the White Sox ticker tape parade. I might think that master of ceremonies Hawk Harrelson is the most obnoxious broadcaster in the country now that Johhny Most has past and Myron Cope has retired, and the Steve Perry appearance can only be described as brutal, but how often do you get to take your son to World Series ticker tape parade in Chicago? He probably won't remember it but it's a guarantee that I will.

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Friday, November 18, 2005 ( 7:32 AM )

I'm not a violent person and despite my own beliefs, I actually tend to be more bemused by politics than anything else. I mean, let's face it, most politicians are given to self-serving theatrics and are more interested in their own self interest than the common good. Taking what they say too seriously is giving them more credibility than they really deserve.

That said, every time that I hear Vice President Dick Cheney trot out the administrations mantra that questioning the actions of their administration and their motives is both un-American and means that you don't support the people in our armed forces...well, I want to punch him. Much like I'm sure that I would've wanted to punch Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon during their Red-baiting heyday. To suggest that it's un-American to question a government that is at least circumstantially corrupt and that repeatedly fails to act in the best interest of it's people is so asinine that it makes my head almost explode. It's the very principle that our country was founded on! If the British crown hadn't exploited its power and driven our Founding Fathers to action we'd basically be Canada now. Questioning the actions of our government is not only the right of every American...it's our responsibility. To begrudge that right, to me, is more un-American than any criticism could ever be.

My wife is a former military officer who still has plenty of friends serving. Do I pray for their safety while also wanting to know who in the current White House lied about what and when? Absolutely. The two things are only related in the minds of the people who are selling the lies and the people that are buying into them.

Someday, hopefully after the next Presidential election, I'll be able to turn on CNN without flying into a rage. It's just not good for my heart, people.

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Saturday, October 29, 2005 ( 9:41 AM )

OK, so just like the 2Walls webzine for which this blog was created, I took a little bit of a hiatus this summer...and, yes, part of the fall. It wasn't like I was slacking though. What do you think, we're sleeping in Dusseldorf? We're napping in Cologne? No, we're up nights with sick children watching Muppet movies.

Actually, I moved not once but twice. My wife gave birth to our second son (Ben Casey to go along with Dean Martin making our household squarely the number one option for 1960's television viewers). And I spent a lot of time in Chicago.

The thing about having a second child is that, just like before you have any children, nothing anyone can tell you can prepare you for how things are going to change. The actual birthing process and all of that is much easier because this time you know what's going on, but man, no one can prepare you for what life at home is going to be like with a toddler and an infant. Tasks that you could manage with one child -- like cooking dinner -- become Herculean tasks with two. Since I've been typing this my 3-year-old son has interupted me 5 times which he can get away with because his mother is taking care of the baby and there's no lock on the door to keep him out. I'm not complaining, since I know there are plenty of people that want children and can't have them, etc., etc., but boy, is there a big adjustment period.

Chicago on the other hand took very little adjustment. For most of the second half of summer, I was staying at a friend's condo in Wrigleyville (or Boy's Town, depending on if you're a baseball fan or a clubbing enthusiast...I never did meet someone that was both, but I'm sure that there would be all sorts of wordplay about 'bats' and 'balls' if I had). I was about 4 blocks from Wrigley Field and had to walk past the ballpark every day, which is kind of like manna for a sports fan. I don't even like the Cubs -- as a Phillies fan, I still haven't forgiven them for hiring Dallas Green away from Philadelphia in the early 80's so that he could then pilfer Ryne Sandberg and Larry Bowa away from my Phils for Ivan DeJesus -- but there's something to be said for casually strolling by a park while a major league game is going on inside.

I hung out with the guys on Waveland with their gloves hoping to catch a home run (seriously, how often does someone put one out of Wrigley...can someone from the Elias Sports Bureau get in touch with me on that). I checked out the "W" and "L" flags on top of the roof as I got off the Red Line L at Addison. I was even enticed to go into Wrigley for a couple of meaningless late season games by scalpers trying to get rid of their wares in the second inning. I mean, if all you're going to do is watch television is there really any excuse for not going to a baseball game if someone's offering you a ticket for $10?

One night, as I was walking past Wrigley on my way home a lovely young lady handed me a full size Snickers ice cream bar as part of a promotion. The rest of the way, I munched on ice cream, listening to the sounds of a big league game, breathing in the summer breeze from Lake Michigan, and I spent not one thin dime for it. Try as you might, it's hard to top that.

But now I'm back from my self-imposed hiatus and hopefully back on a normal writing schedule. Please feel free to let out the bated breath now.

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My son is currently sitting in my living room in footy pajamas, playing with a toy garage and watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. So basically my son could at this moment be comfortably situated in any Saturday morning of the last 40 years. Well, except for the part where the Bugs Bunny cartoons are on DVD, but you get my drift.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005 ( 9:27 AM )

I just finished reading "When the Colts Belonged To Baltimore" by the Washington Post's William Gildea. Put simply, it's the story of the author's relationship with his father against the backdrop of the city of Baltimore's uncommonly close relationship with the Colts teams of the '50's and '60's. It's a good read, at least for someone that has some familiarity with the area (which I have since I spent my early years only a little more than an hour north of Baltimore). I'm sure that it's even more affecting if you were a Colts' fan and had strong memories of watching those teams.

However, I'm not mentioning this to review the book...I have a different purpose. In the book, Gildea talks about Colts' Hall of Fame defensive lineman Gino Marchetti. As a matter of course, he writes about Marchetti's business interests, which included the Gino's fast food restaurants. While much of the book's discussion of Baltimore didn't stir long dormant memories, the mention of Gino's nearly brought a tear to my eyes. See, Gino's was just as prevelant where I lived in Delaware as it was in Baltimore.

Gino's was my favorite fast food place, topping Wendy's by a smidge. There was a Gino's right next door to my junior high that we used to sneak off campus to go to for lunch. One of my first introductions to professional football was the plastic minature helmets with NFL logos that my childhood friend Jeff Cox and I collected from Gino's. I haven't been there in a while, but I can still pinpoint the location of that Gino's (which, ok, isn't that hard since last time I checked it was a Popeye's Chicken). There are a ton of area specific things that people who grew up in and around Philadelphia back in the '60's & '70's -- Captain Noah, Sally Starr, Chief Halftown, Larry Ferrari, etc. -- but Gino's is something that's frequently overlooked...probably because there weren't that many of them. However, I think that it's high time that changed, so...

If you've got any memories about Gino's that you feel like sharing with me, send them along to BMcCullin@2Walls.com or BMcCullin@aol.com. If anything interesting comes of it, I'll be sure to share that in this space.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005 ( 8:24 AM )

I just got back from a quick trip to my beloved Los Angeles where I had a short job interview with a company attending E3. I'm not sure that this happens with other people but during my brief stay in the land of painfully thin actresses, I noticed that I did nothing but eat. In-N-Out, Islands, Carl's Jr., Mel's Drive-In, Acapulco's...and I was only there for about 48 hours. If I hadn't had lunch at the Warner Bros. commissary, I would've also fit in a trip to Baja Fresh or Panda Express or one of the other fast food places that apparently I ate at a lot in LA without realizing it.

Were it not for an evening spent at an actor friend of friends, where dinner was a chicken, rice and broccoli casserole prepared by some current members of young Hollywood I would've eaten abolutely nothing that was in any way healthy. I was reminded that I'm no longer a member of that "young Hollywood" group -- and really almost never was since I didn't move to LA until I was 27 -- when one of the cohabitants of the house told me that I looked exactly like his "bass player's dad." I'm not sure that anyone is quite prepared for the first time they're told by someone in their 20's that they look like one of their friend's parents. The only saving grace was that it was coming from a very talented musician, which hopefully speaks well for the bass player who's father I'm twins with. It's not much, but at a certain point you just try for any positive that you can find.

(The healthy dinner was at the home of the ABC sitcom Less Than Perfect's Zac Levi, a fact that is being mentioned solely for shameless search engine leeching once he really breaks big...and what the heck, one of the friends that I was with was writer/producer Jeremy Danial, in case he hits big first...sure, it's not the least bit interesting, but the site could always use more traffic.)

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Sunday, April 10, 2005 ( 11:48 AM )

Yesterday while listening to the radio for some reason I heard the studio version of Cheap Tricks' "I Want You To Want Me." It made me immediately wonder why they were playing the studio version when everyone prefers the live version. In fact, I'm pretty sure that most people have never even heard the studio one since it was the live version of the song that was a hit.

My second thought then was, seriously, how many songs are better known from a live recording than from a studio cut? I came up with the above example and then, well, pretty much anything by Peter Frampton. Let's face it, how many people have heard much by Frampton that wasn't on "Frampton Comes Alive"? At this point more people have heard crappy remakes of "Baby I Love Your Way" than even remember when Frampton, with his white guy 'fro, was a major rock god.

I mean, I can think of some songs that have live versions that are fairly well known. "Detroit Rock City" by Kiss, comes to mind. (I don't know why it's the one that comes to mind...I'm tired, maybe?) The live version of "If I Had a Million Dollars" by Barenaked Ladies might be better known than the original, but I've heard the studio version often enough.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but I know that it's still rare. So, I guess kudos to Cheap Trick for making a kind of boring studio song sound kick-ass in concert.

(On an almost completely unrelated note, I can't hear the name Cheap Trick without thinking of Demone in "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" attempting to scalp tickets to one of their shows to a reluctant student. "Dream Police? I Want You To Want ME? Mommy's alright, daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird..." Sure he was scuzzy, but admit it...you liked him just a little bit better after his stirring defense of Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen, didn't you?)

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005 ( 7:31 AM )

While watching CNN's coverage of Pope John Paul II's imminent demise a few days ago, I saw a commercial from a committee attacking Congressional Democrats for their reluctance to accept President Bush's plans for overhauling the Social Security system. I wanted to take a bat to the TV. Not because I disagreed with the ad's message -- even though I do, since last time I checked in a democracy political disagreement was allowed -- but just because I was seeing the spot at all. During an election year bullying political ads drive me to distraction. When it's not an election year bullying political ads cause me to want to perform acts of destruction.

Just leave me alone during the non-election years. Let me watch the news without being told that one of the two main political parties is evil incarnate. Why don't we just have political committees start running ads to tell us which politicians are "soft" on terrorism? Hell, let's bring back the House Un-American Activities Committee and give them an advertising budget.

President Bush makes speech after speech about fanning the flames of democracy across the world, yet in our country the President and the Republican party use every tactic short of imprisonment to squash anyone that disagrees with their political agenda. I heard this morning on NPR that Congressional Republican's are so mad that they weren't able to get their way in the Terry Shiavo case that they're looking into ways that they can gain more control of the Federal Judiciary. Apparently they all missed that Government class where "checks and balances" were explained and why we have three separate branches of government. The President and Congress both already have more power than any of our Founding Fathers really meant for them to have (well, John Adams accurately predicted what the Presidency would become and wanted to just cut to the chase and give the office a bunch of power, but most everyone thought that he was wrong).

Guess what? I don't want any branch of our Federal government to have any more power than they already do. And all of those pundits that screamed about "smaller government" seem to be readily in favor of a bigger role for whatever side they agree with.

And while I'm on this rant, I don't get the Terry Shiavo case. It was a family dispute -- admittedly an extremely painful family dispute -- and suddenly we've got every politician, talking head and preacher in the country taking a position on it.

In particular, I don't understand the religious argument that life is sacred and must be preserved. Isn't death also supposed to be sacred? Isn't death part of God's plan and the natural order of things? Isn't that what every minister, rabbi and priest says at every funeral? Then how is it a sin to want to let someone die a natural death and go on to their reward (since if this is a religious argument I'm assuming that there's a belief in a reward after death)? It seems to me that if you believe in life after death and you're keeping someone alive past the point when they really should be then all you're doing is trapping their soul. I'm not saying that medicine shouldn't keep people alive or anything, but there does come a point where, in a complete absence of quality of life, for loved ones, doctors, whoever, keeping someone going is more a selfish act than one of love and compassion.

At least there might be some good out of that particular story, since from what I understand interest in living wills has gone up a few thousand fold.

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