Friday, November 25, 2022

Some of the most interesting things I’ve learned about Seinfeld, part 1

Jennifer Armstrong wrote a fascinating book about the ultra-classic TV comedy Seinfeld. The book was released in 2016 and I started it when it was released but only now got back to finish it. Although it’s certainly worth reading on its own, here are a handful of the endless nuggets of interest (part 1):
  • Seinfeld's first TV role was as a mailman on Benson in 1979, but the gig only lasted three episodes before he was fired. His only line each time had been, "Give a cheer, Frankie's here."
  • Before his first appearance on Johnny Carson in 1981, he started jogging and constantly listening to the Superman theme to get himself ready.
  • After writing for the late-night comedy Fridays, Seinfeld co-creator Larry David was hired for Saturday Night Live, where he only got one skit on air. That said, his one season was 1984-1985, which just happens to be my all-time favorite year, with Martin Short, Billy Crystal, and one Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
  • Seinfeld was a little annoyed when he was asked to take some of his free “day” time to come in for a meeting with NBC network executives. After all, as a stand-up comedian, he was only supposed to work nights.
  • Kramer was based on a real-life neighbor of Larry David’s named Kramer who lived across the hall from him in a midtown Manhattan subsidized high rise for struggling artists.
  • It took Jason Alexander two lines of reading for the producers for them to know he was the right choice, pitting an established actor against the more raw Jerry Seinfeld.
  • Rosie O’Donnell was one of the other actors in the running for the Julia Louise Dreyfus, Elaine part. Brad Hall was one of those in the running for George Costanza.
  • Alexander realized early on that his character was supposed to be like Larry David. At that point, he stopped trying to make the character like Woody Allen.
  • Michael Richards' costars felt like they never really knew him very well. One thing was for sure about the guy who played Kramer, his costars would often die laughing from his acting, and he would get very angry at them for messing up his momentum.
  • Elaine’s legendary awful dancing at the J Peterman party was inspired by SNL head Loren Michaels' equally bad moves.
  • The Soup Nazi was influenced by a Manhattan soup shop where people lined up and were berated by a staffer, and there was also something similar in the film Sleepless in Seattle.
  • Jerry’s on-screen dad had been Jackie Gleason's stand-in on The Honeymooners. He had also been a real-life policeman and movies like Dudly Moore's Arthur. His on-screen mom had been the first real-life steamy love affair of James Dean’s.
After I read the second half of the book, I'll post the rest of the nuggets of interest.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

TV Snide: October 2022

Novel of the Month: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Perhaps my favorite beach-read writer of the past few years, this author does not disappoint, coming out with a story about my favorite sport, tennis. Soto is an unlikeable striver who comes back from retirement to defend her record for most Grand Slam tournament titles ever. Carrie’s complicated but close relationship with her coach father, Javier, is deeply explored and readers wonder which tabloid romance with male players will bloom. It seems the details of the tennis world might even be more interesting to people who don’t know about it than to people like me who do. 4 out of 5 stars

TV Show of the Month: Mindhunter - Season 2 (Netflix): Season 1 of this show was so good that I was savoring waiting to watch Season 2 for years. Netflix is unbelievably not offering a Season 3 of the David Fincher crime drama about the founding of the FBI's serial-killer investigation unit. Jonathan Groff (who played King George III in the original Hamilton production!) as the cerebral young agent and Holt McCallany as the grizzled veteran bring a perfect balance as they interview the likes of Charles Manson and Son of Sam to build an understanding of why some people kill over and over. The pressures of the job play a toll on all the agents' personal lives, as this season focuses on an active investigation of dozens of dead Black children in Atlanta and a serial killer on the loose in Kansas. 5 out of 5 stars

Servant - Season 1 (Apple TV): This is a slow-burn creeper about a girl who comes to help a wealthy couple in their Philadelphia rowhouse. They have recently suffered a baby-related tragedy, but they haven't seen nothing yet. You rarely see the twists and turns coming, and Rupert Grint is particularly great as the wine-swilling brother/fixer. But things are far from fixed, with two more seasons already produced to try to make things right. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Movie of the Month: The Talented Mr. Ripley (Sling TV): This Matt Damon classic is for lovers of Alfred Hitchcock. Ok, that actually mean it’s for everyone. Damon is the character in the title and, although he’s a simple tuner in the university piano shop, Ripley concocts a personal narrative that get him sent to Italy to check on a supposed wayward classmate. Anyone in his path ends up suffering the psychological terrors burbling under mr.-nice-guy. Jude Law and Gwenyth Paltrow also star. 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

A short history of nearly everything … special edition: geology

I started reading legendary author Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything years ago and, like with everything he writes, it’s so good. But I somehow didn’t finish it. You could give this book to every high-school student and they would learn more than they’re probably learning in their science classes.

Here are some great tidbits from the section on geology that I learned or relearned:

  • The idea that the continents were once all connected, in a landmass called Pangaea, was not originated until the early 1900s, and not fully accepted as scientific fact until the 1950s.
  • There was long a belief among geologists that there was a continental drift causing the continents to shift, but that shifting wasn’t really just along the shorelines. The world’s largest mountain range extends underwater throughout the Atlantic and Pacific oceans (Hawaii is one of its mountain tops), and runoff sentiment from above land is coursing throughout the whole range. These findings led to the establishment of plate tectonics, and a shifting under ground and water throughout the entire Earth, which is a large part of the reason why the planet has earthquakes and a shifting climate.
  • Still, tectonics can’t explain everything. Denver doesn’t appear to have been formed by plates. When dinosaurs roamed the earth, it was much lower, as part of an ocean bottom, and it has only recently slowly been “baking like break” up to its current Mile High status. An opposite example is that Indonesia has been slowly sinking and taking Australia with it, with tectonics not being a likely part of the explanation.
  • Meteor Crater in Arizona is the biggest, well, meteor crater in the United States. And, believe it or not, scientists didn’t really know until research in the 1980s just how imperiled we actually are by meteors from our own solar system.
  • Very few scientists are actually studying asteroids, but these tiny chunks of rock (one the size of a house could destroy a city) pass by Earth a few times a week. Relatively speaking, they are like a bullet that passes through a person’s shirt on her arm but misses the arm.
  • It’s amazing to recall that paleontologists pretty much always thought the dinosaurs had died off over a long period of time. It was not until the 1970s that the current science has them all dying at once from a meteor hit.