5 Quick Reviews of 5 New DVD Releases for September (The Return of the Quick Review)

This month’s installment of 5 Quick Reviews is a little late. I hope you didn’t have to suffer through any bad films because of me. If so I’m sorry.

The Chief

“He’s sorry?”

I got a little carried away in last month’s installment of 5 Quick Reviews of 5 New DVDs. First of all there were EIGHT of them. The reviews weren’t QUICK at all. And actually they were more rants that REVIEWS. I’m sorry for that.


“Oh my god. He said it again.”

This month I’ve calmed it down a bit and returned to form. This time around there are only SEVEN movie reviews, only ONE could be considered a rant (well maybe two) and the rest are all pretty damn QUICK.

Party Time

“Woohoo! Party time!”

There’s a lot of sci-fi this time out. And half of these movies are pretty damn good. There are four (count ‘em four) science fiction films, one comedy, one animated and one love story. One… epic… love… story.

To the reviews!!!

Snowpiercer Banner

First up

Godzilla (2014) (Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho)

Godzilla Poster

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Written by Max Borenstein and David Callaham  Based on Godzilla
by Toho

Starring Aaron Taylor-JohnsonKen WatanabeElizabeth OlsenJuliette BinocheSally HawkinsDavid Strathairn & Bryan Cranston

Godzilla in the Water

Godzilla (2014) is a surprisingly good movie after a string of bad Godzilla films.

Ken Watanabe

A prehistoric and (perhaps) extraterrestrial giant fire-breathing lizard is tasked with saving the world. Godzilla is the king of all monsters. You better recognize.

Bryan Cranston

The cast is good. Including the amazingly versatile Bryan Cranston who plays a man obsessed with finding out what actually happened to create the nuclear meltdown that destroyed his life. The plot is good. The effects are good. The fights are epic.

Ashley Olsen

Finally!! someone gets Godzilla right. Well done guys.


“Woo hoo!”

Rent it. (Godzilla is a fun giant monster movie)

Next up… we learn that an epic love does not have to be a long one.

The Fault in Our Stars (20th Century Fox)

The Fault in our Poster

Directed by Josh Boone

Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber  Based on The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

Starring Shailene WoodleyAnsel ElgortNat WolffLaura DernSam Trammell & Willem Dafoe

The Fault in our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is a very good story. Well-written. You can tell it’s a great book. In fact, I’m pretty sure that anything I liked about the movie is likely straight from the book because I didn’t much like the direction or the screenplay. But the story and choice bits of writing; important quotes, (probably directly from the book) were sensational.

The Fault in our Sofa

The Fault in Our Stars is the story of a young girl dying of cancer who meets a boy in a support gr- You know what. It’s about the specialness of first love. And it’s about how life is temporary. So live it to the fullest. At least that’s what I got out of it, as I played a game with myself to see how long I could go without crying. And in my defense, I kept from crying for a while. I didn’t cry until the main character started to cry (that always gets me).

Shailene Woodley

I don’t like to watch tear-jerkers because I cry anyway. I don’t need to be made to cry with some heavy-handed emotional manipulations. It’s the same reason I don’t like Horror Films. a well-done thriller will scare the shit out of me already. I don’t need the contrivance. The whole thing seems too on the nose. Like we are going to make you cry now. But the love story in The Fault in Our Stars is amazing. The actors are fantastic. I was already falling in love with Shailene Woodley from her last few movies and this one just cements it.

The Fault in our Date Night

She is one of my favorite young actresses.

The Fault in our Cast

“Dude, you cried like a woman.” “Ha ha.”

Wow. What a good story. They tell you going in that it’s a sad one, so be ready. But what it actually is is a great love story. What it actually is is fucking Romeo and Juliet done well. Done REALLY well. Still I didn’t like the direction. And the writing is only good because the book is good. And the movie is only good because the book is good. And there’s this one added scene in the DVD where John Green makes a cameo and I just wanted to stand up and applaud him. Dude, well done. Great story. Don’t believe me? Listen to this guy.

“John Green, methinks thou hast written a greater love story than even I.”

- William Shakespeare

Rent it (OR read the book. Read the book. Just read the book)

Next up… there be dragons here…

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (20th Century Fox)

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Directed by Dean DeBlois

Written by Dean DeBlois  Based on How to Train Your Dragon
by Cressida Cowell

Starring Jay BaruchelCate BlanchettGerard ButlerCraig FergusonAmerica FerreraJonah HillChristopher Mintz-PlasseT.J. MillerKristen WiigDjimon Hounsou & Kit Harington

How To Train Your Dragon 2

Well guys, the first movie about a town that learns to co-exist with dragons did well? Time to make a sequel. Let’s see what kind of trouble little Hiccup can get his friends into.


Any plot ideas? Nope? Screw it. We’ll do a sequel anyway. We’ll just make Hiccup do something stupid and hope the characters from the first movie are lovable enough to carry a second one. Those idiots will see anything with loveable characters.

how-to-train-your-dragon 2

“I don’t like this guy’s attitude.” “It’s okay. He likes us. He likes us.”

And they are loveable. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a fun movie without much of a plot.

Rent it. (Fun with dragons)


Neighbors (Universal Pictures)

Neighbors Poster

Directed by Nicholas Stoller

Written by Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O’Brien

Starring Seth RogenZac EfronRose ByrneChristopher Mintz-PlasseDave FrancoIke Barinholtz & Carla Gallo


Neighbors is very funny and very very sweet. (Surprised the hell out of me).

neighbors frat house

“What you think a frat movie can’t have heart?”

A young couple gets into a hilarious feud with a college fraternity that moves into the house next door. This movie is a surprisingly sweet and a very funny film in spite of that hokey premise. Mostly because the cast is sensational.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne

“Does he mean us or them?”

The story is simple but the entire cast is amazing. From the young married parents who still live in their college town: Seth Rogen, and the incredible Rose Byrne, to their best friends played by Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo, to their next door nemeses played by two of the prettiest young comedy actors in film:

Zac Efron and Dave Franco

“You talkin’ to me?” “You talkin’ to us?”

The very funny Dave Franco (James Franco’s younger brother) and the lovely abs of Zac Efron (who spends much of the film without a shirt). No seriously, he does.

Efron and Rogen

Rent it. (It’s very funny and Zac Efron is very hot)

Next up a little indie sci-fi… (R U Agitated)

The Signal (Entertainment OneFocus Features)

The Signal Poster

Directed by William Eubank

Written by Carlyle EubankDavid Frigerio and William Eubank

Starring Laurence FishburneBrenton ThwaitesOlivia Cooke & Lin Shaye

The Signal

The Signal moves through movie genres at the speed of light. It starts off as a hacker thriller, turns into an indie horror, then slides through four more genres that would spoil the plot. It pretends to be about three college computer hackers on a cross-country road trip that are being harassed by a mysterious cyber stalker. And it is not much of spoiler to tell you that it ain’t true. That ain’t what it is at all.

The Signal Movie

The Signal is a grand mystery but with a weak pay-off. Literally, the film’s pay-off is a special effect. In fact every major discovery in this film is presented as a special effect.

The Signal Still

The movie is very interesting. And it’s intriguing. But it sets up these great mysteries and pays them off visually. It’s unsatisfying and kind of cliché. And yet, I kind of recommend it for sci-fi fans, even though the movie starts like it doesn’t know what it wants to be and ends like the writer and director never saw a Twilight Zone episode.

Hacking in the bathroom

“What’s Twilight Zone?”

Rent it. (It’s not that good but it’s interesting enough so that it’s not a total waste of time)

Next up… a very LOUD sequel…

Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount Pictures)

Transformers 4 Poster

Directed by Michael Bay

Written by Ehren Kruger  Based on Transformers by Hasbro

Starring Mark WahlbergStanley TucciNicola PeltzKelsey GrammerJack ReynorSophia Myles & Li Bingbing

Bad. Bad bad movie. Bad movie. Bad movie. Bad.


Transformers 4 is a bad movie. Not as bad as the last Transformers and there’s the beautifully sublime absence of Shia LeBeouf (Thank you for that). But the writing is horrible. The dialogue is unbelievably insipid. The plot is unfollowable. And the rules of the magic system are re-written somewhere in the middle.


Once again, the Earth is in danger and the big dumb robots have to destroy a city in order to save it from the other big dumb robots. It’s bad. But what really annoyed me is its inconsistency with the robot powers. How when a robot is broken all it has to do is scan an automotive of the same type and it’s all fixed. What?

Mark Wahberg

And the destruction. The awesome destruction of everything around. The death count is astronomical. But just as long as the three humans that we’re supposed to care about don’t die, it’s party time. And don’t get me started on the maddening fact that these are metal robots shooting metal bullets at each other. So since all of it; the gun, the bullets, whatever, are just a part of their body, in a sense they’re shooting their own DNA at each other. It’s all just one big circle jerk. One massive money shot.


Age of Extinction is yet another incredibly bad Transformers movie from a franchise that continues to make millions at the box-office releasing incredibly bad movies.

Transformers Age of Extinction

Skip it or Rent it. It really doesn’t matter. They’ve made a really bad movie but it won’t stop people from sending them lots of money. It didn’t stop me from wanting to see it.

Dino Bots

You win Michael Bay. You’ve made idiots of us all.

And lastly… half American, half Korean, All French and all weird…

Snowpiercer (RADiUS-TWC (North America), CJ Entertainment (South Korea))

Snowpiercer Poster

Directed by Bong Joon-ho

Written by Bong Joon-ho and Kelly Masterson  Based on Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette

Starring Chris EvansSong Kang-hoTilda SwintonJamie BellOctavia SpencerJohn Hurt & Ed Harris

Snowpiercer Cast

“You think he’s gonna like us?”

In Snowpiercer, based on the French graphic novel, the last of the human race, after a man-made global ice age, live on a moving train that takes a year to circumnavigate the global land mass. (Well that seems like a good premise doesn’t it?). There are major plot holes and logistic leaps of fancy in the movie. The movie glosses over much of the basics in the graphic novel and it is noticeably missing.


For instance: Who exists outside to repair the tracks? Where do all these people sleep? The director keeps the same number of passengers but shrinks the train down significantly to only 60 cars. (then he creates this silly spatially challenged inter-train-car shootout that just made me fucking angry).


Here the director attempts to explain the shootout and the logistics. He fails.

Snowpiercer is the story of a passenger revolt. The poor passengers in the back of the train, that live off of protein cubes made from god-knows-what, have decided to push their way forward. That’s the whole movie. (two minutes per car).


This movie makes me want to…

The plot is linear and so is the train. We start at the back and work our way to the front. It’s a fantasy so we’re supposed to forgive that the layout of the train makes no sense.


“I could help you with that.”

But what also makes no sense is the movie’s grasp of morality. The bad guy is the guy who makes the hard decisions about how to keep the population controlled (in more ways than one) and the train moving. While the good guy is the guy who wants to destroy the balance and possibly cause the extinction of the human race. It’s a madhouse!

The Tail Section

“What did he say?” “I think he said the movie makes him want a bullet in the head.”

Still the story makes you think even as it misses the mark logically. And it has a great cast. It feels at times like a fable or a fairy tale. A fantasy film that almost reminds me of the best of Terry Gilliam mixed with Ridley Scott mixed with Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train (a great movie) with some early Jean-Pierre Jeunet thrown in for good measure. But it misses the mark and is instead infuriatingly pedestrian and in the end just all kinds of fucking stupid. Did they even read the graphic novel?

Tilda Swinton

“Please end it well.”

But I guess they did the best they could with what they had to work with (three languages and an epic story). And it is kind of interesting… NAH

Skip it. (The movie is a total waste of time. We learn nothing. They learn nothing)

So to recap…

We had two movies about giants that either want to destroy or save the planet but end up destroying most of it; Transformers: Age of Extinction and Godzilla (2014). The first one is yet another bad movie in a series of bad movies and the other is pretty good.

We had two movies about a couple in love who fight against the odds while holding on to their sense of humor; The Fault in Our Stars and Neighbors. One of them may make you laugh until you cry. While the other one will make you laugh until you cry.  Both good.

We had two movies about a society trying to live in balance with destructive forces; How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Snowpiercer. Both of them cartoonish and silly. But only one of them takes itself seriously and thinks it’s trying to teach us something.

And we had a movie called The Signal. Where any description of it is a spoiler. But it’s worth a look for the clever special effects touches.

And that’s it for September (Captain America: The Winter Soldier was pushed back a month but I reviewed it last month)

Until next time, I’ll see you guys on the couch.

I’ve got a train to catch.

Snowpiercer The Escape

One thousand and one (not sixty).

- Mel

Photos From Around The Block (Return to University)

I had to make another appointment today. So I was forced to step outside my “comfort zone” (aka my home). As always I took my camera with me. Unfortunately, it rained and I didn’t get a lot of good shots but I will post the ones I got.

This time out, it was the eye doctor’s. I’m either reading or staring at a screen all day. And I don’t do enough eye stretching (when you look away from the screen and focus long focus short and focus long again). So my eyes are getting pretty screwed.

This is the way my camera sees the world…

Subway Candy Stand

How my camera sees the world.

And this is how my eyes see it…

Subway Bizzarro Candy Stand

How I see the world without glasses.

Not really but I still need new glasses.

My ophthalmologist is near Columbia University so most of these are of the campus and students. Even the more famous ones.

I saw this brave woman…

Raped on this Mattress

Emma Sulkowicz and her burden.

She was raped on this mattress and now she carries it with her everywhere to raise awareness and also in protest. As of my writing this, her alleged rapist has not been charged with anything.

It’s been two decades since I was in college but not a lot has changed.

To the pics…

Columbia Statue

First off. I saw this woman here. She really likes her book. What you got there, lady?

Yellow Bike

I saw a big yellow bike, today. With very tassely saddlebags.

Street Flowers

And of course, I saw the obligatory street flowers.

Oh yeah and I saw Batman

Oh yeah. And I also saw Batman.

Wait for him...

No seriously, I saw Batman. Wait for him…

There he is!

There he goes! Who knew Batman went here.

Keep off the grass. No seriously it kills brain cells.

Keep off the grass, students. Keep off the grass. No seriously, it kills brain cells.

Libraries don't kill brain cells. They promote brain growth.

Big beautiful libraries don’t kill brain cells. Nope. Quite the opposite.

Crowded Farmer's Market

There was a farmer’s market there. I’d show you If this guy would get out of the way.

Farmer's Market

It was crowded but there was lots of good stuff out there.

Farmer's Market

You can’t really see what they’re offering in this picture. I’ll try to get closer.

Journalism School

The surveillance state in full effect. Somehow, I think Joseph Pulitzer would approve.

She's not reading that book.

Just realized something… She’s not reading that book. She’s showing it to us.


The school of journalism… NO PICTURES!!!


I think I’ve snapped this church from a different angle before.


This pic is pretty gothic.

Creepy Building

If I were Batman. I would be up there. But I’m not…


Ooh exotic fruits & vegetables at the farmer’s market.

Farmer's Market

And the fruits & vegetables we’re more used to seeing.


I like this shot of the neighborhood buildings.

My Favorite Shot

But this one was my favorite.

That’s all I got.

It started to rain.

I went home.

Next time,

- Mel

Talk Shows – Variety Shows (Top Ten TV Mega Post Part Six)

The Mega Post continues with Part Six: Talk Shows

Most people, according to talk shows, get their news from talk shows. I don’t. I get my news from twitter like a sane person. But if you want to get a feel for what’s going on in the world all you have to do is listen to a late night talk show host try to make it into a joke. And then listen to the audience’s reaction.

Kristen Bell

I don’t watch TV live. More accurately, I don’t watch pre-recorded shows when they air. The only things I watch when they air are things that are LIVE when they air. I watch the news live. I watch sports live. I watch award shows live (and that’s about it). Everything else I record, Tivo, DVR (it’s a verb), wait for DVD, Download, find online and watch later…

Rhianna SNLHowever, the exception to this rule is the talk show. They aren’t really live. Most of them are taped in front of studio audiences in LA or New York at around 5 or 6 pm EST and broadcast six hours later. But what happens is, sometimes… sometimes a talk show is so juicy. A guest is so current or a news event is so interesting, that I have to watch a talk show when it airs. It just won’t wait.

Cher DeNiro Pfeiffer Saunders Norton

I grew up on Johnny Carson and I was into Letterman when I was in college. Me and my friends would smoke a bowl and watch Dave (it’s a cliché but there’s a reason it’s a cliché). However, even though a talk show is only as good as its guests, there are those rare shows that are even better when nobody good is on. The hosts and the comedy and the band more than make up for it.

So, here are ten talk shows where it does not matter to me who the guest is. I’m gonna watch it. And sometimes, if someone good is on, I even watch it live.

to the list…

First – my new favorite talk show…

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)


Hosted by John Oliver

30 minutes

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is the newest talk show on the list. He talks about current events. He does comedy bits. Shows some video clips. He has the occasional guest and even a band or two. But it is the host and the writers that make this show great. John Oliver is very funny. Very cute. And very likeable. His smile is infectious. And he doesn’t shy away from the big subjects. Hell, I think he’s tackled a major issue head on in every single show. Good job.

John Oliver

“In fairness, the world is pretty fucked up right now.”

John Oliver was one of my favorite correspondents on the Daily Show who really came into his own when he filled in for Jon Stewart who had left to make a movie. John Oliver was spectacular pinch-hitting. And even when Stewart came back, you could feel it. Oliver was different. He was just as good as Stewart and everybody felt it. They had to give that man his own show.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

And now that he’s on HBO, he doesn’t have to watch his language. He can go past the line of too controversial for standard cable. And since he’s only on once a week, he can pack a show with a weeks worth of comedy goodness. Recently he did a song about the prison crisis in the US with puppets that was pure genius dealing with rape and prison mortality and cost saving inhumane budget cuts and low-level drug offenses becoming a death sentence. It was amazing and he’s going to get an Emmy. Great show.

Watch it. Re-watch it. Share it. John Oliver does amazing work.


@midnight (Chris Hardwick/The Nerdist)

Chris Hardwick

Hosted by Chris Hardwick

22 minutes

I’ve only been a Chris Hardwick fan for maybe the last 3 or 4 years. But now I listen to the Nerdist podcast religiously. I like the questions Chris asks and the detail they go into with their guests. I really enjoy the “hostful” shows when they have no guest on and Chris and his two cohorts (Matt Myra and Jonah Ray) riff off of each other and talk about real life stuff. (Pretty much anything). A great set of guys.

The Nerdist

They did a show at the end of last year (2013) that some fans complained about because it was so serious and it dealt with loss and loneliness but I think it was the best hour of entertainment and information and emotional honesty I had experienced that entire year. I would love for them to take that show and transcribe it and bring it to the stage. I know there was a lot of “realness” there and it is hard to do that, but if great actors played the four roles (Chris’s GF joined in to the discussion) it would be a powerful and successful play about friendship, loss, love, and Christmas. (The feeeeeels… honestly I think I cried four times during that episode) Great stuff.


But Hardwick also hosts talk shows (and that’s what this post is about). He had four at one point and now he has two and possibly a third. @midnight, a very funny show where comedians come on to make jokes about social media and pop culture. And also Talking Dead where cast members and other celebrities talk about The Walking Dead (One of my favorite shows). And most recently he hosted a Doctor Who after show called After Who which I hope continues all season.

Here’s a segment from Talking Dead with Lauren Cohan and Sonequa Martin-Green…

Watch him. Listen to him. Follow him. Chris does outstanding work and I think it’s because he comes across as genuine, egoless and pure hearted… and you can’t fake that shit.

The man is one of my hero.


The Soup Live with Joel McHale (E!)

Joel McHale

Hosted by Joel McHale

22 minutes

I don’t watch reality TV… but I love the Soup on E! (Now The Soup Live!). It shows the worst (or the best – depending on how you look at it) of reality and daytime talk and even news and niche channels. It condenses a week’s worth of the funniest clips and allows me to see and know the references that everyone talks about without having to watch those god-awful shows that are destroying society.

The Soup

Reality Shows are a big part of what’s destroying society. It’s the Glorification of bad behavior. So when Joel McHale rips them a new one for some outrageous act or racist comment or train wreck of an over-share. I laugh my ass off. I guess it makes me feel better about myself. Mostly because these people are so self-absorbed, superficial and short-sighted that I feel sorry for them.

Here’s a Soup short called Comedians in Cars getting Cocaine…

But even while adults like me pity them, kids want to be them. Kids who don’t see that these pseudo-celebrities are miserable people. That you can try to collect all the superficial crap and money and fame and stuff and it will never fill the hole left from having no personality, no self-awareness, no emotional maturity or human compassion, self-respect or a fucking soul. (end of rant)

The Soup - Season: 9

But watch The Soup. (Because these idiots are fun to laugh at)

Next – The Great One…

Late Show with David Letterman (CBS)

Robin Williams David Letterman

Hosted by David Letterman

62 minutes (with commercials)

I started watching David Letterman when he was on NBC after Carson. And I watched him for the band. David Letterman has the best band in late night TV history.

Late Show with David Letterman

I love it when Paul Shaffer and The World’s Most Dangerous Band (or The CBS Orchestra or whatever they’re calling themselves), plays with the musical guest. Because other than that we only heard them for the opening song, the end song and before and after commercial breaks and that was it. The band is amazing. The band was nasty from the beginning. The drummer; Anton Fig, and the bass player; Will Lee, are two of the best around. And they’ve had a host of great guitarists and then a horn section that’s just filthy. And frequent guests who would sit in with the band. Seriously, I started watching David Letterman’s show for the band.

The President with Dave

But I also enjoyed his interviews. Mostly because he doesn’t take shit from anyone. A lot of people don’t like him because they say he’s mean to his guest. But if you watch, he is professional and respectful until they cross the line or try to make fun of him and then he lets them have it. And I love him for that.

Here he is interviewing Emma Watson from 2009…

Watch him while he’s still here. (When I was in college it was a nightly ritual to roll up a fatty and watch Letterman. I am sad to see him go. End of an era)

Next – Let’s get stylish…

Fashion Police with Joan Rivers (E!)

Fashion Police Cast

Hosted by Joan Rivers with Kelly OsbourneGeorge Kotsiopoulos & Giuliana Rancic

60 minutes

I’ve been a fan of fashion since High School. And I know Fashion Police concentrates more on celebrity fashion but I love it anyway and I’m not going to apologize for it. I’m a big fan of award shows already, but the red carpet pre-shows (just showing the celebrities arriving) have become these amazing celebrity fashion shows and that’s just awesome.

Fashion Police Banner

I have never been a fan of runway models showing clothes. You could roll out the clothing on a hanger and it’s pretty much the same thing (sorry ladies but it’s very cookie cutter). I like seeing the designs on real people. Beautiful people – yes – but with real bodies. To me, award shows are the best fashion shows. Hands down.

Fashion Police

So every week Joan Rivers and friends cover every major fashion worthy event in the world and they critique the styles and the different celebrities and then Joan makes fun of them in that Joan Rivers way that some people call mean but I think is plain funny. At least once a show she makes me spit out my coffee. I like Joan (she should have gotten The Tonight Show after Carson… I’m just saying). She is very funny. Although she is better with writers than without them because she tends to repeat herself (I’m still just saying).

Here she is destroying Justin Bieber…

Watch it. (I love this show and I shouldn’t even call watching Fashion Police a guilty pleasure. It’s just a pleasure)


Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)

Bill Maher

Hosted by Bill Maher

60 minutes

I love this HBO political chat show even if I think the host is a horse’s ass. Bill Maher is one of those guys who thinks he’s smarter than he is (takes one to know one).

Bill Maher and Dr Tyson

He is often overmatched in political discussions and allows his guests to talk circles around him. He is slow on the uptake (too much weed maybe) and even though I agree with many of his views, he has little idea on how to articulate them. It’s infuriating.

Bill Maher and Jay Z

But I still watch and on occasion he has a good panel, or just a panel that includes a smart liberal who can answer the repeated talking points on the right. And his New Rules segment can be really funny at times and always ends with a well-written rant. (Thank god for the writers… right Bill)

(Can’t embed your videos, Bill? Well screw you, sir)

Watch him anyway. (I’ll be over here yelling at the screen)

Next… Live from New York

Saturday Night Live (NBC)

Anne Hathaway

Hosted by a lot of very cool people through the years

93 minutes

I know it’s not a talk show. It’s a variety show. But there is a guest (sometimes more than one) and a musical act and a house band (a pretty good house band that was once led by the great Paul Shaffer) and comedy bits and jokes based on the news. So it has all the essential elements. I’ve watched SNL from the beginning.

SNL Original Cast

When I was a kid I would pretend to go to bed and then wake up and sneak watch it. Through the seventies and eighties it was all we talked about Monday at school. And though it has gone through some crappy periods. And shitty line-ups as well as writers, there were resurgent years and many great people who came through the cast and the writer’s room. Many many great people.

Saturday Night Live

The newest cast members (especially the women) are insanely funny and depending on the guest host, the show can feel just like it did when it was at the top of its game.

Jennifer Lawrence

But whether or not a show is good really has more to do with the host than anything else.

Here’s Louis C.K. on Black Jeopardy…

Watch it. It’s getting better. (Just no more Justin Bieber hosting… I beg you)


The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)

Stephen Colbert

Hosted by Stephen Colbert

22 minutes

In the last year of the Colbert Report (Stephen is taking over for the departing David Letterman) Stephen has softened a bit. His on-screen alter ego (with the same name) has gotten him into trouble and he has pushed the line a bit with his character’s uncomfortable views on race. However, he still has the best writers on TV. And he is one of the best deadpan comedians working. And no one is better at showing the absurdity of the right and the right-wing pundits on Fox News.

The Colbert Report

But for a talk show host, Stephen Colbert gives the worst interviews. They are the worst. The man is a genius (literally), so he is often able to use his persona to get his point across during the interviews (especially with right-wingers) but most of the time he fails and really only succeeds in being disrespectful to his guest. Because of this, I can’t stand his “Better Know a District” series. They are the most cringe inducing interviews of elected officials since The Ali G Show.

Stephen Colbert 2

And I love Stephen as a performer. I really love his voice work on Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law and on SNL (The Ambiguously Gay Duo). He is one of my favorite performers and I’m excited to see what he does with the Letterman time-slot and if people still like him once he drops the act. (Or if he even does)

Here he is addressing the #CancelColbert movement…

Watch his show while he’s still around. (He has the best writing staff on TV)

Next – we go across the pond…

The Graham Norton Show (BBC America)

Graham Norton

Hosted by Graham Norton

50 minutes

I love this British talk show because it throws a wrench into the one guest at a time classic talk show format and has all the guests come out at once and one by one Graham asks them a question each enabling the other guests to chime in on the discussion.

Depp Gervais

Graham Norton is an incredibly likeable host and the show’s open interview free-for-all is fantastic and even when I don’t recognize a guest or particularly like one, the other two celebs are always there to spice things up.

Lopez someguyidontknow Gillan

The Graham Norton Show is rarely if ever dull.

Graham Norton 2

The music guests are often very Britpop and most of the time I have no idea who they are. But then he ends the show with audience stories that are usually enjoyable and if they aren’t there’s a lever he can pull that flips their chair over and sends them away.

Here is a crazy conversation featuring Kylie Minogue, Russell Crowe, Cameron Diaz and Richard Ayoade that is hysterical…

Love it.


The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (CBS)

Craig Ferguson and Geoff the Robot

Hosted by Craig Ferguson

40 minutes

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson features the funniest side-kick in late night, Geoff the Robot. And a host; Craig Ferguson, who doesn’t play by your rules, man.

Craig and friends

I remember early in the show’s run when the fire marshal told him he couldn’t light a sparkler without a fireman present and he thought that was ludicrous and ridiculous, so he lit it anyway and lost his permit to have an open flame on the set. So that he couldn’t have cooking segments for years. And the only reason he did it was because they told him he couldn’t. That’s Craig Ferguson in a nutshell. He does not give a fuck and it’s not an act. And that’s why I watch the show. (And he’s also a big Doctor Who fan… so there’s that)

Karen Gillan

But his sidekick, Geoff; a robot, is the funniest, quickest, most entertaining sidekick in late night history (sorry Andy Richter). And that’s why I love it. From the songs that they make up on the spot, to the voices, to the running gags, it is just plain madness.

Craig Ferguson

There’s no band. So Instead two guys in a horse costume come out and dance during commercials. It is the silliest and craziest thing I have enjoyed seeing on TV since the old UHF channel 68 (before cable) Uncle Floyd Show in New York. Craig says he’s leaving with Letterman at the end of the year. Say it ain’t so, Craig. We are going to miss you.

Here’s a Doctor Who themed show opening song that never aired…

Watch Craig while you still can.

And that’s ten…

Now you may have noticed that one of my all-time favorite shows is not on the list.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)

The Daily Show

I love Jon’s work. And I’m a long-time fan of his show. Though I get angry with him sometimes for trying to show both sides of an argument that doesn’t have two sides. He tries to placate his critics on the right and he gives too much credit to people like Bill O’Reilly and viewers who hate-watch his show.

But he’s fallen off of this list because of a noticeable drop in quality as he has lost many of his long-time writers and several of his best correspondents. (John Oliver’s departure left a huge creative hole in the show and it shows) And now with Colbert leaving the channel as well, I wonder if Stewart will be able to keep up even this reduced quality. Or if he will instead hand The Daily Show reins over to someone else… Chris Hardwick perhaps.


But these are just my top ten. So don’t get me wrong, I’d still watch Fallon or Kimmel or Seth Meyers or Conan if someone interesting were on but none of those guys are breaking any new ground. They’re doing Letterman’s act. Even if you asked them they would tell you that they were all doing a fresher version of Letterman. Letterman Jr. And like I said I grew up on Dave and Johnny. So I already know what they’re going to do. I already know the punchlines before they deliver them. I already know the questions before they ask them. So guys, try to surprise me or I’m just going to be bored. (Okay? Good talk)

And in the end we’ve learned two things: A talk show is only as good as its host. And there are not enough women in late night. (News or Talk Shows). What’s up with that?

Drama is up next.

Bring on the drama.

- Mel