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


Photos from Around the Block (The Return of the More)

Previously on Photos…

The Lizard is Back

The Geico plane is back and so am I.

Here are some more pics from over near my doctor’s office. I had to go back for my test results today. No surprise. I’m healthy as fuck. Of course I am. I eat right. I exercise. I try my best to remain stress free. And I haven’t seen any of my relatives in almost a decade. You know the drill.

It was nice out, so I did a little people watching. Train watching. Took a few pics. And yes, I need to post them to my blog or it’s like it didn’t happen.

Woman asked me, “Debit or credit?”

And I accidently said, “Facebook.”

I seriously need to log off.

To the pics…

By the way guys. It's August 19th.

By the way guys. It’s already August 19th.

A bit of the abstract.

A bit of the abstract.

A little still life.

A little still life.

A big bike.

A big bike.

A big truck.

A big truck.

... and this guy. Where is going?

… and then there was this guy. Where is he going?

What's he waiting for?

…and what’s he waiting for?

He's not waiting for her

Well, he’s not waiting for her.

The Iceman Cometh

The Iceman Cometh

Finally! Where you been? I'm hot. I need ice.

“Finally! Where have you been? I’m hot. I need flavored ice.”

... and so do these kids.

“…and so do these kids. Everybody needs to stay cool.”

That's not my plane. Got more pics.

That’s not my plane. Not cool. I got more pics.

A message from a message board.

A message from a message board with sunflowers. STAND OUT. That’s cool.

Towering Crane

Towering Crane is cool

This guy is not afraid of heights.

Towering crane guy is not afraid of heights. Very cool.

Cool building. Cool sky.

Cool church. Cool sky.

Cool apartment building.

Cool apartment building.

Through the stairs 1

Through the stairs (a series)

Through the stairs 2

Through the stairs 2

Through the stairs 3 (with sex)

Through the stairs 3 (of sex)

Through the stairs 4

Through the stairs 4

Reflections 1

Reflections (a couplet)

Reflections 2

Reflections 2

I can't drive 25

I can’t drive 25. (too cool)

Through the abstract

Through the abstract

Through the abstract 2

Through the abstract 2

The elevated one

The elevated one

The train platform people

The train platform people

Church Rules

Church Rules.

No Church

No Church. No Rules.

Have a Candy

Have a Candy. That’s cool.

My plane? nope

That’s not my plane.

I'm on a train.

I’m going home on a train.

That’s all I got.

See you guys next time.

– Mel

Empty by The Cranberries

Empty (Dolores O’Riordan)

Something has left my life,
And I don’t know where it went to.  
Somebody caused me strife,
And it’s not what I was seeking.

Didn’t you see me? Didn’t you hear me?
Didn’t you see me standing there? 
Why did you turn out the lights?
Did you know that I was sleeping?


Say a prayer for me,
Help me to feel the strength I did.
My identity, has it been taken?
Is my heart breaking on me?

All my plans fell through my hands. 
They fell through my hands on me.
All my dreams. It suddenly seems. 
It suddenly seems empty.







(- Mel)

Goodnight Robin

Robin Williams

For many years you were my favorite actor.

Before that, one of my favorite comedians.

And most recently your spiritual transformation and honesty in interviews has made you one of my favorite people 

You starred in four of my favorite films; films that changed my life, and no one would doubt that you brought much of yourself to these characters, and these projects, and you left your heart on the screen.

The World According to Garp

The Fisher King

Dead Poets Society

Good Will Hunting

I will miss you madly.

but of course I can always throw one of these movies into the player and see you in your prime.

So… I guess I’ll see you in the movies.

– Mel 

Photos from Around the Block (The Walking Returns)

I went to my doctor’s office. Long story short,  he told me, I had to get out more. (no duh, professor. Med school wasn’t wasted on you). He’s good people.

So I walked home. I figured, I’m out – I’ll stay out. I took some pictures along the way. It was a beautiful day. Here are the ones… that are not the worst… ones.

To the pics…

No Barbecueing

No open fires or the police will open fire… typical.

I had a dream I was on 125th street.

I had a dream I was on 125th street.

First I had to take the subway.

But first I had to get on the subway.

No pictures.

No pictures in the subway please… typical.

Elevated Station

Elevated train stations are cool.

Fresh Fruit

Fresh Summer Fruits… on sale.

My doctor had this in his waiting room... very cool.

My doctor has this in his waiting room… “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” by Rembrandt… for a doctor’s office it’s very… sinister.

I'd rather have an understanding Heart Disease than one that was cold and aloof.

I’d rather have an understanding Heart Disease than one that was distant and aloof.

Time to go

I gave my fluids and then I ran… typical.

If I were less lazy, I would crop this one to isolate those eyes.

If I were less lazy, I would crop this one to isolate those eyes. They are so…


… Sinister

Searching for Charlie Rangel, my representative. He hasn't answered his phone since the primary.

Searching for Charlie Rangel, my district’s representative. He hasn’t answered his phone since he won the primary election… typical.

I'm just going to leave this here. (why is the O on its side? Is it dead? What are they really trying to say?)

I’m just going to leave this here. (but tell me, why is the O on its side? Is it dead? What are you really trying to say, West Harlem Group?)  … sinister.

Hot day... closed pool.

Hot day… closed pool… typical.

Congressman Rangel, why are the pools closed? Mr. Rangel, answer the question.

Congressman Rangel, why are the pools closed? Sir, answer the question… typical.

Sweep the house clean in 2014.

Sweep the house clean in 2014… (Oh now you take my call)

This was in one of the offices.

This was in one of the offices. This post’s gotten strangely political.


Harlem buildings are gorgeous in the hazy sun.


This Harlem neighborhood could use some color.


Harlem block with Harlem kids and trees.


Harlem Street. How many ways can they tell you you’re not welcome.


Harlem people doing Harlem stuff.

New York City

The Harlem View

Jack hammer dude is ...sinister.

Jack hammer dude is not sinister… he’s working.

Empty bleachers are always sinister.

Empty bleachers are always sinister.

Flower Gardens are never sinister.

Flower Gardens are never sinister.

Moon Dome is sinister.

But that moon dome sure is sinister.

"Stop pretending to be the moon!"

“Stop pretending to be the moon you… DOME!”

Cars and Trees

Cars and trees and folks

More cars, more trees

More cars, more trees… no folks







I don't know why I love this picture.

I don’t know why, but I love this picture.

Empty Street

Empty street. Guess everybody went home… typical.

There's my ride home.

And there’s my ride. (brought to you by a lizard with a British accent… sinister, yet also oddly typical)

And that’s all I got.

Stay healthy America.

– Mel

My Top Ten Favorite Things about Guardians of the Galaxy

Just got back from Guardians of the Galaxy. It is the quintessential summer blockbuster crowd-pleaser did-you-see-what-just-happened major event film. And so quotable. Infinitely quotable. So good, I’m going again.

To the list…

Guardians of the Galaxy (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)


Directed by James Gunn

Written by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman

Starring Chris PrattZoe SaldanaDave BautistaVin DieselBradley CooperLee PaceMichael RookerKaren GillanDjimon HounsouJohn C. ReillyGlenn Close & Benicio del Toro

My Top Ten Favorite Things about Guardians of the Galaxy:

10. It is funny. It is funny, from (almost) the beginning until the end. It is, at its heart, a comedy. A very funny movie.

9. The First Scene. The first scene is the second most heart wrenching scene in Marvel movies. (the first one being Magneto separated from him mother at that concentration camp in one of the X-men films). After that, however, it is a hysterically funny movie. It was the perfect way to start a comedy… by pulling the audience’s heart out through their chest.

8. Rocket. Rocket Raccoon makes this movie great. He’s just a little wise-cracking badass who likes to blow shit up… and that’s just awesome.


7. The Movie is Very Funny. It is, in fact, the second funniest movie I’ve seen all year. (after The Lego Movie) Guardians of the Galaxy made my sides hurt.


6. Nova Core. I collected Nova comics growing up. (from the first issue) So it was fun seeing them in action.

5. Groot. Groot is beautiful. Groot is a gorgeous creature. I knew NOTHING about Guardians going into the theater. Groot is amazing. I love Groot. Groot is my boy.

I am Groot

4. Casting. The entire cast is fantastic. (especially Chris Pratt. Who knew that guy was a star?) Lee Pace as the baddie and Karen Gillan (who freaking disappears into her role) as his sidekick are exceptional. And Michael Rooker… Michael Rooker is outstanding.


3. Badassness. There is a lot of bad-ass-ness in Guardians of the Galaxy. So many of the characters are just basically badasses. It boasts an abundance of badass.

2. The Music. Not just the music but what the music represents… to the movie and to the characters. It is the best use of music in a movie soundtrack that I have seen in a long time. Star Lord’s Walkman is one of the film’s main characters.


and the number one thing…

1. The Movie is Very Fucking Funny. That’s right. I said it before and I’m saying it again. Funny action. Funny fights. Funny dialogue. Funny characters. Funny situations. There are so many jokes in this movie that you miss a few while you’re laughing. I think what I’m trying to say is Guardians of the Galaxy is hilariously funny.

So, I liked it. And I’m not a big James Gunn fan. I think the dude is over-rated. But this is his best and I hope they give him the Howard movie (oh right… spoiler alert). Because that is right up his alley.

The CollectorI’m adding Guardians of the Galaxy to my collection.

– Mel