Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mystery Science Theater Miracle

It seems that no sooner was I mourning the recall of the latest Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD set than I was gifted with the exciting news that three members of the old gang are plotting to release a new bad, old movie -- with their witty and acerbic commentary, of course -- on DVD in April. Christmas certainly is a time to believe in miracles!

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy are calling themselves The Film Crew these days, and they're asking their devoted, and perhaps mildly maladjusted, fans to pick the movie from a pool of four. You can watch the first two minutes of each film -- with their cracks already inserted -- on the Film Crew site.

Despite the star power of the other three films -- which feature fan favs Steve Reeves and Peter Graves and even a young Rue McClannahan -- I had to vote for The Wild Women of Wongo. The title alone was reason enough, but add to that the opening narration from Mother Nature and … need I say more?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

End of Year Notes

Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays. Since one of my reasons for creating this blog was to use it as a promotional tool, I'm using some of my post-holiday down time to direct you to some of my recent Broadway reviews for

Mary Poppins, which owes much of its charm to star Gavin Lee, choreographer Matthew Bourne and the design team.

Butley, a disappointment. See if you can get your hands on the Alan Bates movie version instead.

And last but not least, the shuttered Jay Johnson: The Two and Only, a cute little memoir and love letter to the art of ventriloquism that didn't stand a chance on Broadway. Joining me for that show was a friend who's a little on the young side, and she wanted to know if Soap was a real show.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mystery Science Theater Misery

Perhaps the only thing that I enjoy more than a good Match Game rerun is a beloved epsiode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a show whose cancellation I am still mourning. So imagine my surprise today when I decided to treat myself to their lastest DVD compillation set for Christmas and discovered that it was no longer available on (except for some independent sellers who wanted $140 or more)! Ebay bidding for copies was up to $80, and one seller said there had been a recall due to copyright issues surrounding one of the films, Godzilla vs. Megalon.

I thought that once these films were released on DVD they could never be taken away from us. But when I went to Satellite News, MST3K's official web site, I learned that we have more than just Godzilla vs. Megalon to be concerned about. Rhino Home Video has lost the rights to the four movies in Vol. 1 (Catalina Caper, The Creeping Terror, Bloodlust and The Sky Divers), and in March the rights to The Sidehackers go kaput. (And that's the one that's based on an award-winning play by Lillian Hellman, don't you know?)

Remember kids, investing in real estate may be risky, but invest in a Mystery Science Theater DVD and a substantial return is almost guaranteed!

Thursday, December 7, 2006

What's in a Name?

Why did I decide to call this blog "Blank New World"? Because the night I was trying to come up with a name for it I happened to be watching The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blank on the Game Show Network. As I reminisced about the impact that show had on my upbringing, I decided to pay tribute to Gene Rayburn, Richard Dawson and the rest of that zany bunch.

I used to come home from elementary school in the '70s and watch Match Game while I ate my afternoon snack of Oreos and milk. (I think I secretly wanted Richard Dawson to be my father.) These days I tune in before going to bed — it's on GSN from 11 pm to midnight — and though I'd like to pretend that these days a sip a nice glass of wine, many nights I still snack on milk and cookies as I watch. It's a great way to unwind, and there's something about comedy that's a mixture of the silly and the sophisticated that's always appealed to me, whether it's Match Game, Mystery Science Theater 3000 or Family Guy. And it's also wonderfully representative of what the '70s were all about. Color had really come into TV, both figuratively and literally. But the naughtiness was mixed with a certain restraint as to what was acceptable on TV. Although the questions and answers were funny at face value, often the panelists and contestants seemed to be laughing harder about what they were thinking but couldn't say.

For some reason GSN has frighteningly little about Match Game on its website, but I found this lovely fan site with some great images, including the Match Game home game and a ticket stub from a taping.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Dating Expert

In addition to my own writing, I try to help out my colleagues when I can. (When you're a freelancer, especially, you need all the help you can get.)

So when Kimberly Dawn Neumann, who's also a talented Broadway hoofer, was looking for help with an article about snagging a date during the holidays, she naturally called me. Actually, the thought of me doling out dating advice is rather amusing (I haven't been terribly successful on the dating scene), but I do know how to deliver good quotes because it's something I'm always grateful for. I just made it in to this recent story.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Getting Serious and Going Crazy

For those who complain that there's nothing but fluff on the New York stage these days, I beg to differ. Yes, Broadway is in danger of becoming Disneyfied (although I have to confess to enjoying "Mary Poppins"), but last week I had the pleasure of seeing two dramas that were engrossing, provocative and boasted some great acting: "The American Pilot" at Manhattan Theatre Club and "Two Trains Running" at the Signature Theatre as part of the company's August Wilson season. (Tickets for the latter are on $15, so there's no reason not to check it out.)

I was especially moved by the performance of Leon Addison Brown, who plays an off-balance character known as Hambone. He's spent every day of the last nine years trying, and failing, to get the ham he feels the proprietor of the deli owes him. It's not clear whether he's retarded or has a mental illness, but the character really grounds the play and the other characters around him.

It got me thinking about how challenging it is to play a character like that without looking like you're "acting crazy." I had a similar reaction to Daniel Davis' wonderful performance in the Off-Broadway show "Talking Heads" some years ago, and I think Tony Shalhoub does a terrific job making his character's OCD believable on "Monk." On the opposite end of the spectrum was Matthew Broderick struggling valiantly and failing miserably to convince as a madman in a Broadway revival of "Night Must Fall" some years ago.