Superfluous 7 – Best Picture Winners That Matter

Did you watch The Academy Awards last night??

 

oscarNeither did I, but from catching up online it looks like the powers-that-be predictably followed their usual patterns. American Sniper, a film that normal people love because it celebrates American heroism and doesn’t try to minimize the evil of radical Islam, was overlooked. Some British dude won Best Actor because a) he’s British, and b) he played a handicapped character. Meanwhile, Michael Keaton…freakin’ Batman…gets squadoosh. Julianne Moore, an atheist who is all about abortion and wants to take away your right to bear arms, was awarded with a Best Actress statuette. The dude from the Farmer’s Insurance commercials was named Best Supporting Actor, probably in part because he’s old. A rapper won the award for Best Song. Presenters apparently included Kevin Hart (the only way he’ll ever be on the Oscar stage), The Rock (really??), and noted liberal assclowns Sean Penn, Liam Neeson, Gwyneth Paltrow, & Satan’s favorite talk show host. Tim McGraw took his lips off President Obama’s manhood long enough to perform a song, and somebody thought it was a good idea to give Lady Gaga a microphone, although to be fair the general consensus is she was quite good (see what happens when you toss aside the gimmick and just sing?). All in all I’m glad National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and a really interesting Billy Joel biography kept me entertained.

 

The truth is that I haven’t had Oscar Fever for several years. That begs the question…why??

 

There are a hundred different answers to that question, mostly to do with personal preferences & lifestyle, but one big issue is the huge disconnect theaterbetween Hollywood’s definition of quality and the public’s idea of popularity. A quick look at some of the highest grossing films in recent years is revealing. The Pirates of the Caribbean series. Iron Man. The Harry Potter series. Twilight. The Spider-Man movies. The Star Wars prequels. Popular?? Yes. Profitable?? Obviously. Award winning?? Not really. This isn’t a recent development though. Look back at the 80’s. Top Gun, Back to the Future, & Batman made a ton of cash and were all cool flicks in my opinion, but the “experts” didn’t shower them with trophies. Same deal for pretty decent stuff from the 70’s like Grease, Blazing Saddles, Dirty Harry, & The Poseidon Adventure. Meanwhile, The Academy has given Best Picture statuettes to the likes of Crash, The Artist, Dances with Wolves, The Hurt Locker, Out of Africa, The English Patient, & No Country for Old Men. What’s up with that??

 

So this train of thought led me to ponder…what films cross over?? What are some of the movies that I appreciate as a fan that were also rewarded by folks who (theoretically) know what makes a movie “good”?? There are only two requirements that qualify a movie for this list…a) I like it, and b) it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Therefore, without further ado, it is my pleasure to present…..

 

from the home office in Hollywood, FL…..

 

The Superfluous 7 Best Picture Winners That Matter:

 

 

 

 

7 Rain Man
Rain Man won Best Picture for 1988. Dustin Hoffman won Best Actor and Barry Levinson won Best Director as well, among other awards. Hoffman beat out Tom Hanks rainman(nominated for Big) for his trophy, which in retrospect is pretty darn impressive. His turn as an autistic savant is poignant and amusing, but not histrionic. It is still one of Tom Cruise’s best performances, and the film itself holds up well thru repeated viewings.

 

 

6 The Silence of the Lambs / The Greatest Show on Earth
lambsI’m not generally a horror/suspense/thriller fan, and I still maintain that the book is even better than the movie, but the success of Lambs can’t be greatestshow5overlooked. It was the 5th highest grossing film of 1991 and won Best Picture, Best Actor (Sir Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodi Foster), & Best Director (Jonathan Demme). I became familiar with The Greatest Show on Earth many years ago because I am a big Jimmy Stewart fan. The film also stars Charlton Heston and is kind of a soap opera set inside the circus. It was the top grossing movie of 1952 and won Best Picture, beating out High Noon (starring Gary Cooper).

 

 

5 American Beauty
American Beauty is a strange film. It falls into that dramedy category that I seem to enjoy so much. It was the 13th highest grossing film of 1999, but when one realizes abthat the #1 hit at the box office was Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace the often stark contrast between quantity & quality becomes clear. American Beauty overcame competition from The Green Mile and The Sixth Sense to win Best Picture, and the brilliant Kevin Spacey beat the likes of Russell Crowe, Sean Penn, & Denzel Washington for Best Actor. Spacey is hilarious thru much of the film, making it exceedingly entertaining & watchable, but its darker elements (especially toward the end) and the weird next door neighbors, while adding the gravitas that Hollywood loves, intensifies the eccentricity.

 

 

4 Titanic / Rocky
titanicTitanic not only topped the box office in 1997, it is the 2nd highest grossing film in the rockyworld…of all time. On top of the obvious mass appeal & financial success it is actually a really good movie that pretty much swept the Oscars and made huge stars out of Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and director James Cameron. Sadly there was never a sequel. Conversely, 1976’s Rocky spawned numerous sequels, but none were as good as the original, which was written by Sylvester Stallone himself. Good sports films are almost always treasured by the masses but rarely receive high critical praise. Rocky broke the mold and has stood the test of time.

 

 

3 Casablanca / The Godfather Part II
casablancaWhen folks converse about the greatest movies ever made there are a handful of names that almost universally get denirotossed around. One of them is Casablanca, a romantic drama set against the backdrop of Nazi controlled Morocco during World War II. Casablanca has an elegance & sophistication that almost all modern entertainment lacks and is as great today as it was 70+ years ago. Maybe better, if that’s even possible. No car chases. No explosions. No CGI. No illicit sex or celebration of deviant lifestyles. Just good acting and fantastic writing. Hollywood should try that more often. Some say that The Godfather Part II is superior to the original film. I don’t quite agree, but I understand the sentiment. Part II seamlessly tells two different stories at the same time. Al Pacino returns as Michael Corleone, who is determined to make his “family business” legitimate. Robert DeNiro also stars as the younger version of Don Vito Corleone, as we see how he came to America and rose to power as a mob boss. In essence The Godfather Part II is a sequel AND a prequel…a pretty neat trick. DeNiro and Marlon Brando are the only two actors to win Oscars (Best Supporting Actor for DeNiro, Best Actor for Brando) for playing the same character, and the film was the first sequel to ever win Best Picture. Al Pacino was robbed of the Best Actor statuette…one of the most criminal snubs in the history of film.

 

 

2 Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump is kind of a divisive movie. Lots of people love it. Some people hate it. Many feel that, in hindsight, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption were Forrest-Gumpsuperior films and one of them should have won Best Picture. Those same people think that either Morgan Freeman (for Shawshank), John Travolta (Pulp Fiction), or Paul Newman (Nobody’s Fool) might have been more deserving of the Best Actor award. I disagree on both counts. I adore Forrest Gump. I have watched it dozens of times and find it enchanting. Hanks has had a fantastic career, having been in a plethora of solid romantic comedies & animated features, but Gump remains his pinnacle.

 

 

1 The Godfather
For those familiar with my 100 Favorite Movies series the top two choices here come as no surprise, as they capped those rankings as well. I have called The GodfatherThe Godfather a “nearly flawless” film and I stand by that proclamation. Francis Ford Coppola is a legendary director. Pacino, Brando, James Caan, Talia Shire, Robert Duvall…all legends. The cinematography is brilliant. The music is extraordinary. The Godfather won Best Picture over Deliverance, which is kind of like saying the winner of a free meal at a restaurant chose surf & turf over cold pizza and a bottle of ripple. Brando had zero legitimate competition for Best Actor, but shockingly Francis Ford Coppola did not win Best Director. I am sure there is an “inside baseball” story about that, but I’m far too lazy to do the required research. Needless to say that The Godfather has aged more than well and it is a rare example of the rank & file in flyover country and the elitists in the film industry completely agreeing on something.

Superfluous 7 – Favorite A Christmas Carol Adaptations

CTVIt has become an annual tradition the past few years for me to kvetch about the peculiar entertainment options offered on TV during the Christmas season. If I were to own or run a station like American Movie Classics or Turner Classic Movies the entire month of December would be dedicated almost exclusively to the plethora of holiday favorites that have been produced over the past several decades. Instead what has become the norm for these channels is to show a meager smattering of Christmas films here & there while still using the majority of their time to broadcast movies that have absolutely no relationship to the holiday season. Who in the heck wants to turn on a classic movie channel in December and watch some crappy 90’s rom-com, a western, or anything starring James Dean?? Not this humble Potentate of Profundity. Anyway, one holiday classic that you will usually see somewhere every year is A Christmas Carol, based on Charles Dickens’ wonderful 1843 novella. The question is which adaptation is being shown?? And for the purposes of this exercise a more important query is which version is worth watching?? In an effort to clarify the matter The Manofesto presents…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Dickens, TX…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Best Adaptations of A Christmas Carol:

 

 

 

 

 

7 Scrooge (1970) starring Albert Finney
I know a lot of people love this version. I like it well enough. However, there are issues. The music isn’t horrible, but no one in the cast is especially talented at ScroogeAFsinging. They are the kind of vocalists that get laughed at during the auditions on America Idol. When we are introduced to young Ebenezer’s girlfriend Belle it is said that she is Fezziwig’s daughter. The source material never states that and it seems like an unnecessary alteration. When Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present it is said that the year is 1860. The book was published in 1843 and almost all other films acknowledge that. Why change it?? The Ghost of Christmas Present sequence leaves out the child specters of Want & Ignorance and also skips over visits to a lighthouse, coal mining shack, & a ship at sea…omissions that aren’t uncommon among Carol films. And let’s talk about Scrooge’s visit to Hell. What kind of cheesy sci-fi schlock is that? However, all things considered, this is an entertaining movie that retains the essence of the story even if it is a bit liberal with the details. Albert Finney was only 34 years old when this film was made yet plays a fairly convincing Scrooge. Sir Alec Guinness…known primarily nowadays as Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars…plays the ghost of Jacob Marley, a bit of trivia that I find rather amusing.

 

 

 

6 A Christmas Carol (1999) starring Patrick Stewart
I am a self-proclaimed Trekkie, so of course any adaptation starring Captain Picard is going to make the cut. Stewart has done a one man stage production of Carol ScroogePSin the UK for many years, therefore it makes sense that he’d star in a full scale movie. This was a made-for-TV film on TNT about 15 years ago, and unlike another television version we’ll get to eventually this one feels…small. The supporting cast is fine but not particularly notable. Stewart’s performance is extraordinary…as are most Stewart performances…but still not especially memorable. It is a fairly faithful re-telling of the story and even includes the scene where the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge people celebrating Christmas in a lighthouse, on a ship at sea, and a small cabin with coal miners. That is a part of the book left out of too many film adaptations for no particular reason. If you’re a Patrick Stewart fan you’ll probably like this movie. If you’re not a Star Trek: TNG enthusiast and have little affinity for Stewart you may be unimpressed.

 

 

 

5 A Christmas Carol (1938) starring Reginald Owen
This particular adaptation of the story is what most will remember as the cheery one. Some might say it is a bit too jovial, which is seemingly intentional on the part ScroogeROof the filmmakers. Tiny Tim is quite peppy for a terminally ill child and Bob Cratchit looks pretty content & well-nourished for a man who can barely feed his family and is constantly on the verge of losing his job. At worst he’s kind of a jittery guy, like someone who might want to consider downsizing his daily caramel macchiato from venti to grande. Melancholy aspects of the tale like Scrooge’s fiancée that dumps him when he becomes a greedy money-loving jackass and the ghastly child apparitions of Want & Ignorance are not in the film at all. This is definitely a sanitized version of Carol, but on some level it still works. Owen’s take on Scrooge isn’t particularly noteworthy but neither is it dreadful. I seem to recall seeing this movie on TV a lot as a child which probably explains my affection toward it.

 

 

 

4 Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009) starring Jim Carrey
This version hasn’t really had time to find a foothold in the collective pop culture consciousness just yet. It may get there one day or maybe it won’t, but I assume it ScroogeJCwill receive ample opportunity in the next several years due to its $200 million budget and the hours of effort & skill it had to have taken to put together such a high tech project. I saw the film in a theater upon its release in 2009 and it is a dazzlingly beautiful piece of work from director Robert Zemeckis, the man who gave us the brilliant Back to the Future trilogy. I am a big fan of motion capture animation, and although this movie doesn’t measure up to 2004’s The Polar Express one can clearly see how much the technology has advanced over the years. Jim Carrey…much like what Tom Hanks did in Express…plays multiple roles and does a nice job. I like animated Carrey a lot more than I do real Carrey. The movie stays quite true to the book and that fact alone probably makes it more appealing to me. It is actually a rather dark film at times because the format allows the ominous aspects of the story to be portrayed more artistically than a live action movie might allow. It is kind of surprising how menacing some scenes are. This isn’t a kids’ movie. The filmmakers probably had a little too much fun with their toys and there are moments when I wish they would have dialed it back just a bit, but it’s a small nit to pick.

 

 

 

3 A Christmas Carol (1984) starring George C. Scott
It is my humble opinion that legendary British characters…Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Harry Potter, & yes, Ebenezer Scrooge…should be portrayed by British ScroogeGCSactors just as beloved American characters…Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer, Jay Gatsby, Batman, Superman, & Spiderman…should be played by American actors. It’s kind of a hang-up with me. That being said, due credit must be given to George C. Scott for a portrayal of Scrooge that has aged quite well and has been shown on television with some frequency only since 2007 when Mr. Scott’s estate sold the rights. Perhaps that two decade time lag is what makes this one of the lesser appreciated versions of Carol. Originally a TV movie on CBS, it has a big screen vibe that makes it feel significant. Scott’s Scrooge is more of a cunning & merciless business tycoon than a bitter old geezer, a subtle yet intriguing departure. It is a fairly austere, decidedly gimmick-less version, which is a refreshing rarity. There are minor omissions & variations from the source material, but nothing that is glaring or unforgivable.

 

 

 

2 The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
I pondered whether or not to include this movie at all, but ultimately decided that its magnetic charm cannot be overlooked. My preference for the perfect A ScroogeMCChristmas Carol adaptation is a straightforward, high quality, authentic rendering of Charles Dickens’ story. No animation. No song & dance numbers. No gender bending. No omissions of key characters or plot points. No additions or “fleshing out” of things barely alluded to in the book. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, that seems to be an almost impossible task to accomplish. Having said that, I have, over the years, opened my mind just a bit and accepted some unique interpretations on their own merits. Those of us that grew up in the 70’s & 80’s were blessed to have Jim Henson’s Muppets as a ubiquitous part of our childhood, and probably one of the greatest Muppet productions of all time is this take on A Christmas Carol. Is it faithful to the book?? Well…more than one might expect. I mean sure…it is so family friendly that it makes the 1938 Reginald Owen version look like a snuff film from Sam Peckinpah, but that’s okay. It’s fun, which isn’t a bad thing. I love the narration & running commentary from Gonzo the Great (as Charles Dickens) and Rizzo the Rat. Kermit the Frog is a fine Bob Cratchit. Michael Caine…one of the few “real” actors in the film…gives quite possibly one of his best performances as Ebenezer Scrooge. Music adds some unobtrusive levity yet the dark nature of the original story isn’t completely lost. Like most Muppet movies this one is amusing & will warm the cockles of even the coldest heart.

 

1 Scrooge (1951) starring Alastair Sim
This is generally considered one of the best adaptations of the Dickens novella by most critics…whoever “they” are. For me it rises to the top spot kind of by default.ScroogeAS I won’t award an animated/musical/cartoon version the #1 spot. I just can’t do it. That narrows it down quite a bit. The 1938 Reginald Owen movie leaves too much out and gives the source material a tonal lobotomy. It is a fine film on its own merits but cannot be #1. It is a testament to George C. Scott’s brilliance that his Ebenezer Scrooge is thought of by many as definitive, however I cannot give the honor to a made-for-TV movie that was largely inaccessible to the public for over two decades and stars an American actor in a uniquely British role. So we are left with the film that would probably win most polls anyway. However it is not without flaws. An entire subplot is added in which young Scrooge & Marley thrown in with a shady businessman named Mr. Jorkin and leave old Fezziwig in the dust. Later on the crooked Jorkin’s legal problems lead to success for Scrooge & Marley. It’s not horrible background material…it just isn’t in Dickens’ novella. For some reason Scrooge’s maid Mrs. Dilber gets a lot of airtime in the movie as well. Again it isn’t necessarily bad character development…just not faithful to the book. And for no apparent reason whatsoever young Scrooge’s fiancee’s name is Alice instead of Belle. I am sure that someone somewhere had a reason for making that change 65 years ago, but I hate stuff like that. It makes it seem as if the people who were getting paid to make the movie couldn’t be bothered to read the book first. At any rate, even with those issues this is still a great film. It retains the solemn (at times forbidding) tone of the story, and Sim is uniquely memorable in the titular role. He has a singular appearance that allows him to convincingly exhibit both sides of the Scrooge coin…the bitter & lonely old miser who is then transformed and joyously embraces a second chance. The supporting cast is solid if not all that remarkable. If/when Hollywood ever decides to do another big screen remake of A Christmas Carol this is the one they should emulate.

Superfluous 7 – Best & Worst TV Spinoffs

TVThe television landscape is littered with spinoffs/sequels/continuations/reboots both good & bad…mostly bad. Logically one can conclude that any series worthy of a spinoff must be pretty good itself, which right away means the new show has high standards that it must live up to, something that oftentimes proves to be difficult. The spinoff needs to provide viewers with a sense of comfort & familiarity while at the same time standing on its own as a fresh and different entity from the original. It’s tricky and usually doesn’t work. However, there have been a handful of notable spinoffs that have achieved a certain amount of success. Sometimes folks forget that a show is even a spinoff, and on rare occasions the spinoff equals or even outshines its parent show.


We are going to try something a bit different with this installment of Superfluous 7. For each slot I have listed a good & bad…a yin & yang…a hero & villain. It’s a TV2twofer, a BOGO, a double feature!! But first let me offer a few qualifiers. In all cases I am familiar…on some level…with both the parent series and its spinoff. Y’all know that I love, love, love The Andy Griffith Show, and I am well aware that it is a spinoff of The Danny Thomas Show (aka Make Room for Daddy). However, the only episode of the original show I’ve ever seen is the one that was a “backdoor pilot” for TAGS (you can find it on YouTube) so that particular spinoff doesn’t make this list. Ditto for Happy Days, which was a spinoff of Love American Style, a show I’ve never seen. I am also aware of the plethora of spinoffs of shows like CSI, Law & Order, & NCIS, but since I don’t watch those shows nor their “offspring” you won’t find them here. They just aren’t my cup o’ tea. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. Something else you won’t see here…reality shows. I know that The Bachelorette is a spinoff of The Bachelor, but since I am of the opinion that such programs are contributing to the decay of society they aren’t worth the time & energy to even talk about. Also let me take this opportunity to say that narrowing this list down was harder than I expected. There are shows that I rather enjoy like Mama’s Family (a spinoff of The Carol Burnett Show), Trapper John M.D. (from MASH), Mork & Mindy (one of a few spinoffs from Happy Days), Benson (a spinoff of Soap), Family Matters (a spinoff of Perfect Strangers), and The Simpsons (spun off from something called The Tracey Ullman Show) that just didn’t make the cut. There are others, such as That 80’s Show (a follow-up to…of course…That 70’s Show), Just the Ten of Us (a spinoff of Growing Pains), Flo (a spinoff of Alice), and Living Dolls (a spinoff of Who’s the Boss? notable for kicking off the careers of Halle Berry & Leah Remini) so inconsequential that I’m surprised I remember them at all. At any rate, without further ado, The Manofesto ambitiously presents…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Mount Airy, NC…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Best & Worst TV Spinoffs:

 

 

 

7 Best – The Facts of Life      Worst – Three’s A Crowd
facts_of_lifeIn the middle of the second season of Diff’rent Strokes housekeeper Edna Garrett leaves the Drummonds to become the housemother at a private girls’ school in upstate New York. And so The Facts of Life was born. At first we were shown the lives of a large group of 3crowdstudents at Eastland Academy (including a very young Molly Ringwald), but eventually the show focused on just four: rich girl Blair, tough girl Jo, funny girl Natalie, & Tootie, who spent most of the first season on roller skates. Facts was one of those sitcoms that didn’t shy away from heavier topics & issues that a typical teenager might face. It was also a very adaptable show, going with the flow of cast changes and realistically putting the four girls in different settings as they grew up. The show was never a ratings juggernaut but quietly stuck around for 9 solid seasons. More than 25 years after it left the air I can still sing (badly) the theme song. On the flip side we have what was intended to be a continuation of Three’s Company. Crowd had Jack Tripper settling down with a lovely stewardess and their relationship being constantly meddled in by her father. Not even the comedic brilliance of John Ritter could save Three’s A Crowd though. It wasn’t all that funny and the cast just never seemed to gel in the way that its predecessor’s had. Three’s A Crowd lasted just one season.

 

 

6 Best – Knots Landing      Worst – Joanie Loves Chachi
knotsPrime time soap operas were a big thing in the 80’s & 90’s. Dallas and Dynasty were the kings of the genre and forerunners tochachi shows like Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, & Desperate Housewives. During the third season of Dallas Jock & Miss Ellie’s middle son Gary Ewing & his estranged wife Val (parents of Lucy Ewing Cooper) reunite and move to a cul-de-sac in California. Friendships, rivalries, business deals, & love affairs amongst the various neighbors were the basis of Knots, which was more grounded & realistic than its parent show but just as soapy. It lasted an astonishing 14 years and survived a plethora of cast changes as well as all manner of ratings competition. Conversely, Joanie Loves Chachi did not last anywhere near as long. The idea was that the Happy Days lovebirds relocate to Chicago to pursue a music career. But without Ritchie, Fonzie, Potsie, and Mr. & Mrs. C the twosome just weren’t all that interesting. The show was cancelled after two years and Joanie & Chachi made their way back to Milwaukee for Happy Days’ final season.

 

 

5 Best – Gomer Pyle, USMC      Worst – The Golden Palace
gomerI was fortunate enough to grow up in the 70’s & 80’s when syndicated reruns of popular shows from the 60’s like The Beverly palaceHillbillies, Hogan’s Heroes, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, The Munsters, Batman, The Addams Family, & Bewitched were shown on television a lot. Thank God I was provided the opportunity to appreciate such classic programs that had originally aired long before I was born. One of those shows was a fish-out-of-water spinoff of The Andy Griffith Show that saw dimwitted but good-natured mechanic Gomer Pyle leave Mayberry and enlist in the Marines. Gomer’s contentious relationship with drill instructor Sgt. Carter was hilarious and his penchant for inadvertently screwing up drove many of the plots. NBC’s The Golden Palace was, much like Three’s A Crowd, a failed money driven attempt at prolonging a show that had run its course. When Bea Arthur decided that she wanted to leave The Golden Girls after its seventh season the powers-that-be simply had Blanche, Sophia, & Rose buy a Miami hotel and build a show around their interactions with the establishment’s staff & guests. Not the worst idea in the world I suppose, but it’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice and the concept just didn’t work. The Golden Palace was cancelled after one season but is notable for being one of the early entries on the resume of actor Don Cheadle. The Golden Girls did launch a more successful spinoff called Empty Nest about a doctor and his two grown daughters.

 

 

4 Best – Laverne & Shirley     Worst – Saved by the Bell: The College Years
lsJoanie Loves Chachi may have been a bust, but Happy Days did have two successful spinoffs. I liked Mork & Mindy and became a huge Robin Williams fan, but it just doesn’t quite make the cut for our current purposes. However, Laverne & Shirley most Saved-Bell-College_400definitely deserves a spot. It retained the 1950’s Milwaukee setting of its parent show but otherwise stood out on its own merits. The supporting cast (Lenny & Squiggy, “The Big Ragu” Carmine Ragusa, Laverne’s father Phil & his gal pal Edna) was solid. Laverne & Shirley isn’t one of the greatest shows in the history of television and it kind of limped to a finish in its final two years (the entire cast inexplicably relocated to California together…as if that is realistic…and Cindy Williams, aka Shirley, isn’t even around during the last season), but amongst spinoffs it has to be considered a tremendous success. The prime time spinoff of Saturday morning staple Saved by the Bell, on the other hand, can’t be called successful by any metric one could possibly use. Now let’s be honest…the original show wasn’t a high water mark of artistry or excellence. But for what it was…a Saturday morning show meant to appeal to teenagers…it did the trick. The problem with shows set in high school (besides the fact that the powers-that-be always seem to cast 25 year olds to portray characters that are supposed to be a decade younger) is the fact that they should realistically only last 4 years. What to do with a successful (i.e. profitable) show after that?? Follow the kids to college of course!! It’s been done multiple times and almost always bombs. In this case only half the cast moved on to the spinoff and characters were added (most notably a dorm advisor played by former NFL player Bob Golic) that just didn’t pan out. The other issue was that for some odd reason The College Years aired in primetime instead of Saturday morning. Big mistake. The show only lasted one season. I should mention that I didn’t forget about Saved by the Bell: The New Class (although I wish I could) but chose to aim my scorn & derision at The College Years if only because the original cast should have known better.

 

 

3 Best – The Jeffersons      Worst – Mayberry RFD
jeffersons-castI am a little too young to remember the sociopolitical climate of the mid-1970’s, but I do remember that at the time black folks were still being portrayed in pop culture as poor, uneducated, & usually living in the ghetto. Shows like Good Times, Sanford & Son, & What’s Happening! all seemed to…unintentionally…perpetuate a stereotype that African-Americans (a term I don’t particularly rfdlike…we are all Americans) are doomed to a struggling blue collar existence in “the projects”. Diff’rent Strokes was about two orphaned boys that only make it out of Harlem because a rich white man adopts them. Even Saturday morning cartoon Fat Albert had the kids hanging out in an inner city junkyard. But George & Weezie Jefferson were different. George owned a chain of dry cleaning stores. They lived “in a deluxe apartment in the sky” (after they’d moved from Queens where they were neighbors of Archie Bunker and thusly spun off from All in the Family). They had a maid and a doorman. The Jeffersons showed that The American Dream is accessible to everyone. It is a formula that was later followed by shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, and especially The Cosby Show. On the other side of the coin we have Mayberry RFD, a show still set in Mayberry but missing key elements like Sheriff Andy, Barney Fife, and little Opie. To be fair many of the supporting characters from TAGS were a part of the spinoff. Aunt Bea, Goober, Howard Sprague, & Clara Edwards were all in the cast. However, Ken Berry (who would go on to play the hilariously dimwitted Vinton on Mama’s Family in the 80’s) as farmer & town councilman Sam Jones was a poor substitute for Andy Griffith. Mayberry RFD…in my opinion…didn’t differentiate itself enough from its parent show and instead was a watered down copycat. The show had solid ratings but was cancelled after three seasons as CBS tried to overhaul its image and distance themselves from rural themed shows like Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, & Hee Haw.

 

 

2 Best – Star Trek: The Next Generation     Worst – The Love Boat: The Next Wave
TNGOftentimes spinoffs have a “backdoor pilot” within the parent series and usually run either concurrently or immediately following the demise of the original. TNG is odd in that it premiered nearly two decades after the cancellation of TOS. What the two shows…set a century apart…have in common are the starship Enterprise and really cool tales of space exploration and adventure. TNG gets the formula exactly right. There is a certain amount of familiarity that makes the viewer feel as if we are revisiting an old friend, but the characters are not at all carbon copies of their predecessors. Captains Kirk and Picard couldn’t be more different. Doctors McCoy and Crusher are nothing alike. Engineers Scotty and Geordi LaForge?? No. Spock & Data?? Well…maybe just a little bit but not really. As a trifling Trekkie I must say that the TOS movie franchise was far superior to the tepid TNG films, but as far as the TV shows go the spinoff gives the original a real run for its money. I didn’t really follow any of the other Trek shows that came after, but I loved The Next Generation. Conversely, I, like the majority of the population, barely recall that The Love Boat had a spinoff. The Love Boat was a product of its time. It’s not going to rank anywhere near the best television shows, but as Saturday night comfort food in the 1980’s it boatworked well enough to last a decade. But the spinoff had a few issues that it couldn’t overcome. First off it debuted over a decade after the original bid us a fond bon voyage. That kind of delay may have worked for Star Trek: TNG but that is the exception to the rule. Secondly The Next Wave aired on UPN, a network that only lasted a decade (in comparison to CBS, ABC, & NBC that have all been around since the dawn of television), never offered a full prime time schedule, and only had mild hits including forgettable shows like Moesha and Veronica Mars. Now I’m not saying that The Next Wave would have been successful on a real network, but it never had a chance on UPN. And much like Mayberry RFD the spinoff tried too hard to be exactly like the original only with actors and characters that couldn’t hold a candle to their predecessors. The concept…perfectly acceptable in the 80’s…was far too trite for the edgier 1990’s. The Next Wave lasted two seasons only because UPN had no better options.

 

 

1 Best – Frasier     Worst – AfterMASH
frasierThere are many people that are of the opinion that Frasier actually outdid its parent show Cheers. That’s a fun little debate, but amongst spinoffs Frasier stands alone. Rather than try to replicate its predecessor the show took the titular character of Dr. Frasier Crane and transplanted him to a completely new setting and surrounded him with a whole new cast of supporting players that weren’t anything like the bar crowd on Cheers. Dr. Crane himself developed quite nicely as a character without undergoing any drastic changes from what we knew of him as a recurring bit player on the original show. About the only thing the two shows have in common is the superb writing that made me fall in love with both. Frasier is such a good show that it probably would have found an audience and been a ratings success on its own merits, but having a built-in audience of faithful Cheers viewers certainly helped it get off on the right foot though. However the tone of the two shows are so vastly different that I’d be willing to bet that there were a decent amount of Cheers fans that tuned out after realizing the spinoff wasn’t going to blindly follow the trail blazed by its forerunner. If that’s true then Frasier deserves even more kudos for building an audience and lasting 11 seasons…just as many as Cheers. Now when one considers the success of Frasier then it is fair ponder the question of why AfterMASH was such an epic failure (other than its stupid & uncreative title). Afterall, it tried the same thing…transplanting characters from one show and spinning them off into a show that had a totally different setting & tone. So what was the difference?? Well, for one ting AfterMASH took Col. Potter, Cpl. Klinger, & Father Mulcahy from The Korean War to working together at a aftermashhospital in Missouri. Whereas Frasier relocated one character in a totally logical way (he moved back to his hometown to be near his family) AfterMASH clunkily reunited three characters in a completely unbelievable manner. It just didn’t work. Otherwise there are a lot of possible explanations. If TV industry people knew why some shows failed and some were smash hits they’d run for political office and fix the nation’s more important problems. AfterMASH actually had decent ratings in its inaugural season (I am assuming due to curiosity from loyal MASH fans) but then crashed & burned in its second season in part due to brutal competition from The A-Team. But if that were the only issue they could have just put it in a new time slot. I think people were just over their MASH love and ready to move forward. The writing and storytelling obviously wasn’t compelling enough for folks to stick around, and when those things aren’t good no amount of nostalgia will keep a show alive. Not only is AfterMASH probably the worst spinoff of all time but it is largely remembered as one of the worst television shows in general.

Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. If you are blessed enough to still have your own father around please take some time out of your day to call or visit and tell him you love him. I daddon’t have any children myself (that I know of), but I’d like to think that I would have been a pretty good father just by following the examples of my own Dad and his father, my Papaw Jim. At any rate, I thought today might be a good time to take a look at some fun examples of fatherhood as presented to us thru the prism of literature, movies, & television. So it is with deep admiration & respect to all good fathers out there that I present…..

 

from the home office in Worth County, Iowa, which contains the cities of Manly & Fertile…Worth County, where Manly men meet Fertile women…..

 

The (Supersized) Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads:

 

 

 

7 Sam Baldwin (Sleepless in Seattle) & Danny Tanner (Full House)
sbTwo widower Dads. 1989’s Sleepless in Seattle ranks 45th of my 100 Favorite Movies, and even though it is a rom-com there are no shortage of scenes showing Tom dtHanks’ Sam interacting with his young son. The sting of the death of the wife/mother is addressed and it is touching how father & son are getting thru the loss together. Okay sure…Sam loses points for his kid hopping onto a plane for a cross country trek to The Big Apple by himself, but all is forgiven when he chases after the boy and lovingly embraces him after he finds him at the Empire State Building. Bob Saget’s Danny Tanner may be the most unrealistically sweet father in TV history and he too loses points for needing his brother-in-law Uncle Jessie and best friend Joey to move in and help raise three young girls, but who the heck wouldn’t want such a nice guy for a Dad??

 

 

6 Daniel Hillard (Mrs. Doubtfire) & Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch)
doubtfireA divorcee & and the patriarch of one of entertainment’s first blended families. All that needs to be said about Robin Williams’ eponymous character in 1993’s Mrs. bradyDoubtfire (43rd on my list) is that the dude is willing to dress up like an old woman in order to spend time with his children. That’s devotion. I like the fact that Mrs. Doubtfire addresses divorce realistically. The parents don’t magically get back together, but they do find a way to focus on the children and do what is best for them. One thing that always struck me about The Brady Bunch was how the boys called Carol Brady Mom (she was their stepmother) and the girls called Mr. Brady Dad (he was their stepfather). Blending families is rarely that easy in the real world, but in the 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s the powers-that-be understood that folks watch television to escape from reality…a fact that seems to have been all but forgotten these days. I was dumbfounded when as an adult I learned that Robert Reed was a) gay and b) hated his role as Mr. Brady.

 

5 Bob Cratchit (A Christmas Carol)
Cratchit is mostly known as grumpy old miser Ebenezer Scrooge’s underpaid & overworked clerk in Dickens’ tale, but he is also shown to be a dedicated husband and father to six children. One cratchitof those children is Tiny Tim who is what we might call a “special needs child” in modern parlance. It is never explicitly stated what Tiny Tim suffers from, although it is likely to have been rickets, kidney disease, or tuberculosis. The problem is that Bob only makes about $2 per week and can barely afford to feed his family let alone pay for the medical care his son needs. Despite these struggles Bob Cratchit keeps a smile on his face and forges ahead, doing what must be done to provide a decent & happy life for his children. He reminds me just a bit of my own father, who had a demanding job that paid the bills but certainly never allowed us to be wealthy, and also had to spend a disproportionate amount of time, energy, & resources on me because of my disability.

 

 

 

4 Clark Griswold (The Vacation Series) & Howard Cunningham…aka “Mr. C.” (Happy Days)
cgYes Clark Griswold is a dufus. And yes he had a weird flirtation with a nameless babe in a convertible. But when you watch the Vacation movies one thing that is very clear mrcis that Clark loves his children and is devoted to his family. That’s nice to see, especially these days. Howard Cunningham forgot that his eldest son Chuck even existed, but otherwise he is the quintessential sitcom Dad. He was always around to give sage advice to Richie & Joanie, put up with Richie’s goofy friends Ralph Malph & Potsie, and even became a father figure to Fonzie. And let’s not overlook the fact that Mr. C was a business owner as well. Role models rock.

 

 

3 Cliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show) & Vito Corleone (The Godfather)
Cliff HuxtableSpeaking of role models, I have commented previously about the interesting way that the Huxtable family was presented on The Cosby Show. No housing projects or blue corleonecollar jobs for this upwardly mobile & well educated black family. Mom was an attorney and Dad was a doctor. As a father Heathcliff was patient & funny, and even when he became exasperated by the trials & tribulations of raising five children he exhibited an enviable level of composure & mercy. Now I know that mob boss Don Corleone seems like an odd choice (especially paired alongside Dr. Huxtable), but though his…imperfections…are far different from those of the aforementioned Clark Griswold I think there is a lot of similarity in the love & devotion they show their family. When eldest son Santino is gunned down and Vito sees the body in the funeral parlor he completely breaks down, distraught over “what they did to my boy”. He is clearly unhappy about Michael becoming involved in “the business” because he had higher hopes for his youngest son. Don Vito opines that “a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man”, and I think he’s pretty spot on.

 

 

2 Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
What can I say about Atticus Finch that hasn’t already been echoed by a plethora of fans of both the Pulitzer Prize winning novel and the Academy Award nominated film?? Atticus is kind,  atticus-and-kidspatient, wise, intelligent, honorable, & decent. He has been hailed as a hero by some…maybe the only time in history that lawyer & hero have intersected. His two children, Scout & Jem, love and respect the man to the moon & back. The entire town of Maycomb, AL admires him. Author Harper Lee based Atticus on her own father, and I have to say that if he was half the man that Atticus is shown to be then Ms. Lee was a lucky girl indeed. Gregory Peck brought Atticus to life in the 1962 movie, and his portrayal is a nearly perfect reflection of the man we see in the book. However I would strongly urge anyone who has seen the film but not read the book to go out right now and buy the book!! As good as the movie is the book is 10x better. And if you have not partaken of either then you need to do so ASAP. The subject matter is far from pleasant, but it is presented in such an accessible way by Harper Lee that anyone who enjoys reading even just a little bit will breeze right through it in a few days. Heck I think I might just have to read the book again myself.

 

 

1 Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)
No one knows exactly what Heaven is like, but I’d like to think that somewhere up there a TV room exists where The Andy Griffith Show plays on an endless…dare I say eternal…loop. Sheriff atTaylor is a widower with one child, 6 year old Opie. Opie’s mother is never named and barely mentioned. We only know that she died when Opie was a baby. The relationship between Andy & Opie is probably one of the purest, most accurate, & honest father/son interactions we have ever seen in television, books, or movies. I say that because Andy isn’t always saccharine sweet with Opie and he doesn’t treat his son like he’s a perfect angel. Opie gets into mischief occasionally, and when that happens his father exhibits slight anger & disappointment. However Andy isn’t mean. He is always fair with Opie and desires for his son to learn from mistakes. There are times when Andy jumps to the wrong conclusion and discovers that though Opie may have technically done the wrong thing he did it for the right reasons. Sure Aunt Bea moves in to do the cooking & cleaning and to manage the household, but Andy never dodges his responsibility to raise his son. He spends time with Opie, whether it is fishing at Myers Lake, chillin’ on the front porch, or just hanging out at the courthouse on a slow day in Mayberry (which is pretty much every day in Mayberry…a huge part of its charm). He disciplines Opie, but he also talks to him, providing valuable lessons about honor, integrity, love, respect, friendship, accountability, & courage. As a matter of fact Sheriff Taylor seemingly teaches those lessons to the entire town of Mayberry. He doesn’t scream, shout, show off, or crave the spotlight…he just leads by example and does what’s right.

Superfluous 7 – Favorite Pies (Happy Pi Day!!)

piToday is March 14…aka 3/14. Geeks, nerds, dorks, neo maxi zoom dweebies, & other assorted inhabitants of The Island of Misfit Toys happily embrace it as National Pi Day in honor of the mathematical definition of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter, which is approximately equal to 3.14 (and then a bunch of numbers afterward that don’t really matter). Let me assure you that I don’t really understand what I just wrote. Math was never my thing. I’m more of a right-brain kind of guy. However, National Pi Day seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about pi…uhhh…I mean pie. Because in The Manoverse dessert is a much more beloved topic than mathematics.

A physician would likely tell me that I’d be better off writing about (and eating) fruits & veggies rather than sweets, which have always been my kryptonite. My weight loss efforts are rarely torpedoed by chips or other assorted salty snacks. I have proven myself capable of giving up pop (or soda for those of you outside of Appalachia, Dixie, & The Bible Belt). Even fast food is more of a lazy convenience than a true addiction. However, put any kind of cookie, cake, ice cream novelty, pudding, or candy in my general vicinity and I crumble like a Kennedy at an open bar. So in honor of 3/14, aka National Pi Day, your humble Potentate of Profundity ravenously presents…..

 

 

from the home office somewhere off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea…..

 

 

My Superfluous 7 Favorite Pies:

 

 

 

7          Key Lime

I have never been to Florida, but someday when I do finally make it there I hope to pass thru Key West and eat some genuine key lime pie. Until then 754 AI suppose I will just have to settle for what passes as key lime pie elsewhere. I am told that true key limes are more tart & fragrant than what most of us find on the shelves at the local supermarket. At any rate, I am a huge fan of cheesecake but decided not to include it here because it is neither pie nor cake…it is its own special thing. However, key lime pie uses a very similar custard base and is just plain yummy. I could do without the usual meringue topping, but that’s a small nit to pick. Oddly enough I do not like lemon meringue pie (though my father loves it).

 

 

6          Blackberry

What is the difference between pie & cobbler?? What about bettys, crisps, & grunts?? Heck, I don’t know…and I don’t really care!! If anyone feels blackberrydifferently and is offended by me including blackberry cobbler here then I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. There is an annual Blackberry Festival just down the road from here that is always one of the highlights of summer, and the blackberry cobbler there…topped with your choice of vanilla or blackberry ice cream…is sinfully awesome.

 

 

5          Pumpkin

What would Thanksgiving be without pumpkin pie?? It’s as essential to the tradition as turkey, stuffing, & the Macy’s Parade. The pies one purchases pumpkin-piein stores or at restaurants are decent and what probably 90% of America consumes, but if you have someone in your family that bakes the pie themselves…even if they are using canned pumpkin (they probably are)…then that is a special treat indeed. Personally I like to slather my slice with a heaping spoonful (or two) of whipped cream, but if you don’t have any of that on hand it’s all good…the pie will be just dandy on its own merits.

 

 

4          Pecan

Is it pe-khan pie (beloved by Trekkies everywhere), or is it pee-can pie?? Who knows?? This is the only pie on the list that I have actually dared to pecanmake, and it was darn tasty if I do say so myself!! The secret to pecan pie is the gooey “sauce” made with brown sugar, corn syrup (or molasses), eggs, butter, & vanilla. Otherwise you’d just have nuts in a crust, which sounds kind of prosaic. It’s a wee bit on the sweet side, but well worth the sugar stupor. I prefer to eat my pecan pie warm with a tall, ice cold glass of milk.

 

 

3          Apple

This is America, right?? There is no way that I could leave apple pie off the list. I am not sure how it became a symbol of patriotism and liberty, but apple-piethat is exactly what it has become. I prefer my apple pie warm and a-la-mode, which is a fancy French way of saying “with a big ol’ scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream on top”. I am not particular about a decorative lattice top, and it really seems like a lot of work for something a person is just going to devour anyway. Actually I am just fine with a crumb topping. One has to be careful with the cinnamon & nutmeg, flavors that should be present but not overwhelming. My grandmother used to occasionally make something called an applesauce pie, which is exactly what it sounds like. I wasn’t a big fan. I need some texture and crunch.

 

 

2          Peanut Butter

Out of all of these pies it seems like peanut butter pie is the hardest to find. It is rarely on any restaurant dessert menu. It doesn’t seem to be easily peanut-butter-pieavailable in any grocery store. No one ever brings one to the family reunion or covered dish at church. But when it is available I do not hesitate to jump all over the opportunity. Maybe the scarcity is what makes peanut butter pie so good?? Interesting query to ponder, eh??

 

 

1          Chocolate

My grandmother…the same one that used to make the dubious applesauce pie…used to come to our house every Thanksgiving with my single chocolate-cream-pie-lfavorite food item of the day in tow…a homemade chocolate cream pie. She made her own crust too, which elevated the whole experience off the chain (I think that’s what the kids say nowadays). I have had many chocolate pies since, but nothing will ever compare to that. There are two key elements of a great chocolate pie. First of all the chocolate filling has to be right. I’ve had chocolate pies that were too chocolaty. If the color of the filling is too dark…almost black…then the flavor balance will be off. Oh…I’ll still eat it…but I won’t enjoy it quite as much. And there must be whipped cream on top. This is going to sound trivial, but unlike pumpkin pie, onto which a spoonful of whipped topping is added to an individual slice of pie after it has been cut, whipped topping should be considered as an ingredient of the chocolate pie and spread on top of the entire thing before it is ever presented for public consumption. And then if you really want to take things to the next level add some chocolate shavings on top of the whipped cream. That, ladies & gentlemen, is Heaven on a plate.

Superfluous 7 – Ways To Fix The Pittsburgh Steelers

This weekend fans across the nation of teams like the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and five others will sit down in front of their big ol’ flat screen TVs or gather with friends & fellow fans at a local watering hole or wings eatery and cheer on their favorites as they compete in the conference semifinals of the NFL playoffs. As a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers I steelwill pay casual attention to the games but spend the vast majority of my time reading a book or watching movies. This is unacceptable. However, since I am a solutions oriented type of guy I have decided to offer a fan’s perspective on what the folks in the Steelers front office need to do so that this time next year…okay, maybe the year after next if I am being perfectly honest…I may once again enjoy the playoffs and look forward to my Steelers making a legitimate run at a 7th Vince Lombardi Trophy. Therefore, it is with all due respect to an organization that has dominated the NFL for most of the past four decades and won more Super Bowls than anyone else that I humbly present…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Latrobe, PA…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Ways To Fix The Pittsburgh Steelers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7       A Legit #1 RB

When people talk about the Steelers the conversation traditionally goes in one of two directions…the awesome defense or the strong running game. The Steelers have always been primarily a running team until the past few years. Even when Swann & Stallworth were catching balls from Bradshaw in the late 70’s & early 80’s there was still the specter of Franco Harris & Rocky Bleier, who combined for 1500 yards or so for several years. More recently there was The Bus Jerome Bettis, who ran for over Franco-Harris-reinstated-as-charity-chariman-TMME7L9-x-large1000 yards annually from 1996 to 2001 until injuries and time share situations decreased his role. There have also been a whole host of guys that maybe didn’t make a long term impact but were pretty darn good for a short time…Bam Morris, Frank Pollard, Willie Parker, Merrill Hoge, Barry Foster. Does current starting RB Rashard Mendenhall measure up to Franco, Rocky, & The Bus?? Hell no. Is he as good as those second tier guys?? Maybe, which is why I am not ranking this as a primary need…yet. But since BettisMendenhall was a 1st round draft pick there is a heightened level of expectation. Since beginning his NFL career in 2008 Mendenhall has only exceeded 1000 yards twice, and in 2012 was hampered by injuries. Backup Isaac Redman is exactly that…a backup, and it became clear this past season that he cannot be counted on to carry the load. I do not think the Steelers should jump thru hoops or make any crazy trades to snag a back, but if the opportunity presents itself I would not be heartbroken to see Mendenhall shown the door and someone new be given the chance to tote the rock.

 

 

6       Backup QB

It is not unusual to see an NFL team floundering like water deprived fish on a warm sidewalk when roethlisberger-out-browns-jkjpg-7dab2c5a751ea52b1their starting quarterback goes down. But most teams have gotten the message that in the modern NFL a decent backup QB is essential. The Steelers brass is far from clueless and until now have had the situation covered, but it has become obvious that this has evolved into an area of need. 38 year old Charlie Batch is believed to be retiring, and Byron Leftwich is an injury waiting to happen. And the elephant in the room is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger is now 30 years old and, because of his freewheeling style of play and the fact that a porous & injury prone offensive line has left him hung out to dry far too much in the past few seasons, usually misses atleast a game or two every year due to injury. At the very least a reliable veteran backup is needed that might be able to lead the team to a couple of victories now & then, and it may not be a horrible idea to groom a youngster to take the helm in 3 or 4 years. Kirk Cousins anyone??

 

 

5       Faster Linebackers

Lawrence Timmons & Lamarr Woodley are both fairly young players, but the two had a total of just harrison-sack10 sacks between them in 2012. That has to improve. James Harrison & Larry Foote are both in their 30’s and have obviously lost a step, The jury is still out on Jason Worilds (although it doesn’t feel to me like he’ll ever become anything more than a complimentary player) as well as youngsters Stevenson Sylvester & Sean Spence. It seems likely that the team will need to add atleast one, maybe two linebackers. As a Steelers fan it is odd…and a little disconcerting…when a discussion of the best linebackers in the NFL includes names like Patrick Willis, Clay Matthews, Terrell Suggs, and DeMarcus Ware with nary a Steeler in sight. This must change. Would Jarvis Jones or Manti Te’o look good in black & gold?? Maybe.

 

 

4       Younger Defensive Line

Brett Keisel & Casey Hampton are in their mid-30’s and likely finished. Will Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward, & Steve McClendon step up and become a new Steel Curtain for the 21st century?? It is possible. However, it is likely that one or two additional pieces are needed. Alameda Ta’amu was 91506_feature_mediumsupposed to be Hampton’s replacement, but he was cut then re-signed to the practice squad in the wake of a felony arrest for drunk driving, aggravated assault, & fleeing law enforcement last autumn. I suppose Ta’amu could potentially still evolve into the second coming of William “Refrigerator” Perry, but one can fairly assume that he is on a v-e-r-y tight leash and will have to work extremely hard to cajole himself into the lineup. The Steelers front office has always had the knack for knowing when to cut veterans loose who had nothing left in the tank while simultaneously having their replacements ready & able to step into the spotlight, but one has gotten the feeling over the past couple of years that they may have held onto a couple of these guys a bit too long and haven’t been as prudent as usual in laying out a succession plan.

 

 

3       Depth on the O-Line

I must give proper credit where it is due. Last year the Steelers drafted guard David DeCastro in the 1st round and tackle Mike Adams in the 2nd, so it isn’t as if they have not addressed the problem. And it is no one’s fault that a pre-season knee injury derailed most of DeCastro’s rookie campaign. Steelers-offensive-linemenHowever, there is still work to be done. Various injuries plagued the offensive line throughout 2012, exposing a few players as either injury prone or just not worth the effort. Some tough decisions are going to have to be made about who to keep around and who to cut loose. Obviously salary cap issues will play a significant part in these decisions as well. Since I am far too indolent to do the necessary research about such mundane issues as salaries & contracts, I’ll just go with the eye test. I’d jettison guards Willie Colon & Ramon Foster, as well as tackle Max Starks. That means drafting atleast one or two offensive linemen again as well as signing a couple in free agency. It might make for a rough 2013, but since that is probably going to occur anyway they may as well look ahead to having a solid line ready for the following season.

 

 

2       Offensive Coordinator

It was clear from the very beginning that Todd Haley and QB Ben Roethlisberger weren’t on the same page. And even though head coach Mike Tomlin did a fine job of keeping egos in check most of the season that discord never completely disappeared. At this stage of his career I think Big Ben has earned a certain amount of influence in the direction of the offense. I didn’t have a problem with Haley’s ideas about getting back to traditional Steelers smashmouth football, but the fact is that when you have a quarterback with the unique skill set of Roethlisberger, a group of pedestrian & injury hi-res-6587156_crop_exactprone running backs, an average at best & also injury prone offensive line, and a fine receiving corps like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, & TE Heath Miller you dance with the one who got you to the soiree. It is my understanding that Haley is being interviewed for some of the various head coaching & offensive coordinator positions available throughout the NFL, and I wouldn’t be heartbroken if he took off for greener pastures. Maybe Norv Turner would like to recapture some of his offensive coordinator mojo by working for a fine organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers & with another future Hall of Fame QB like Roetlisberger. And even if Turner is a pipe dream I still think there’s got to be a better answer than Todd Haley. Heck, I’d even welcome Mike Mularkey back into the fold.

 

 

1       A Shutdown Corner

I’ve been saying this for it seems like forever. I must again give due credit though. Kudos to both Keenan Lewis & Cortez Allen for stepping up in 2012 and being decent enough corners. Between them and Ike Taylor things weren’t horrible this past season, but they can & should significantly improve. The Steelers only forced 1.3 turnovers/game, which ranks near the bottom of the league. Theyaaa intercepted 14 balls…far less than 19-21 range where the league leaders reside. The defense accounted for 37 sacks, which puts them in the middle of the rankings for that category, not near the top where they should be. This obviously has more to do with not getting enough pressure on the opposing QB, but I also think it means that the pass coverage needs to be better. Look, I know that some people might look at this and say “Dude…the Steelers statistically had the top defense in the league in 2012…what are you complaining about??”. I get that. But one thing that no one seems to ever account for is the fact that the Steelers offense always ranks near the top in time of possession, which means that the defense is on the field less. I believe that helps to mask certain issues. Is it a bad defense?? Of course not. Are these cornerbacks that atrocious?? Not really. But if the opportunity arises to draft Dee Milliner from the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, or sign a free agent like Leodis McKelvin or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie then I think it would behoove the suits in The ‘Burgh to do so.

 

 

 

Superfluous 7…..Great Movie Scenes

It goes without saying that I am an aficionado of great movies. The dearth of quality cinema in the era of CGI, rampant sex, and fascination with werewolves & vampires is regrettable. At any rate, there are many components that comprise a good film, and while oftentimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, occasionally there are parts that are noteworthy. Within good movies there are sometimes memorable scenes that stand out. I suppose there are individual scenes that are the only thing anyone ever remembers about a particular film, although the examples I have chosen to highlight all happen to be from movies that were in my 100 Favorites list. I tried to find the best available videos for each selection, but a few are somewhat truncated beyond what I’d prefer. In the process of compiling this entry it became immediately apparent that a sequel (how fitting) will be necessary, so be on the lookout for that. But in the meantime, first & foremost, I humbly present…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Rosebud, NM…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Great Movie Scenes:

 

 

 

7 The Motivational Speech in Glengarry Glen Ross

I can’t stand Alec Baldwin. Out of all the smug, emptyheaded, obnoxiously liberal celebrities in Hollywood he is among the most irritating. However, in this one scene he absolutely nails it…hits it out of the ballpark. The cast amassed for this film…Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon…is sublime, but Baldwin manages to outshine them all and two decades later this is the scene everyone remembers and still talks about. The language is pretty harsh, but within the context of the scene I can forgive the indiscretion.

 

6 The Prologue in Halloween

Brilliant. From the tracking shot to the visual of seeing the scene thru the killer’s eyes to the revelation that the knife wielding murderer is a little boy…sheer perfection. No scene in any other horror film can even hope to compare. We expect a twist at the end of a movie, not at the beginning…but this may be one of the most shocking twists in film history.

 

5 The Parade in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…lots of people play hooky, but I doubt if anyone has ever done it quite like Ferris Bueller. I have a feeling that in real life…especially in 21st century America…if anyone attempted to commandeer a parade float like Ferris they’d be wrestled to the ground and be thrown in the pokey. During the scene he sings both Wayne Newton’s Danke Schoen and The Beatles Twist & Shout, although this clip doesn’t show all of the former.

 

4 The Re-Entry in Apollo 13

This movie is based on a real event. We know what happens. But despite that fact the tension in this scene is incredible. One is on the edge of the seat the entire 3 minutes. And when those parachutes open & the astronauts announce their presence…wow. The music swells and the crew at mission control erupts with joy & relief…and we erupt right along with them. Well done Lil Opie Cunningham…well done.

 

 

3 The Soliloquy in Scent of a Woman

Al Pacino is amongst the finest actors that have ever graced the silver screen, and this is his shining moment. The Godfather was a better film, but this is Pacino’s best performance.

 

 

2 The Baptism in The Godfather

Widely considered to be one of the best movie scenes ever. The imagery of a child’s baptism interspersed with multiple violent murders is stunning. The organ music & the voiceover of the priest speaking in Latin while men are shot to death takes the scene to a whole other level.

 

 

1 “Dad” in Field of Dreams

I may be in the minority, but I consider this to be the single most beautiful 10 minutes I’ve ever witnessed in a movie theater. I cry every single time…still. When Costner says “It was you” and Shoeless Joe replies “No…it was you”, it has quite the psychological connotation. Suddenly we realize that this story was never about baseball…it was about something much deeper. And then when Costner…almost reluctantly…says ‘Hey…Dad…wanna have a catch??”…..my God what a moment. I am fighting back tears just writing about it.

 

 

 

 

Superfluous 7…..Things West Virginians Like

My favorite morning drive DJ recently made reference to a website that had posted a list of 10 things that West Virginians love. And while their list is not necessarily inaccurate, I just find it kind of odd and uninteresting. So, since I just happen to have a forum to express my thoughts & ideas, I think I can do better. Therefore, in honor of my home state of West Virginia’s 149th birthday, I humbly present…..

 

from the home office in Huntington, WV (home of my alma mater & The Thundering Herd!!)…..

 

The Superfluous 7 Things West Virginians Like:

 

 

7       Pittsburgh, PA & The Carolinas

Pittsburgh is only a couple of hours away from most folks in the northern half of the state and it’s the nearest place where one can find culture and great shopping. Plus it’s the home of the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates. Places like Charlotte, Raleigh, Hilton Head, and Greenville are where everyone flees to for gainful employment once they graduate college after having taken advantage of cheap in-state tuition, and every West Virginian has to vacation at Myrtle Beach atleast once in their life. I’m pretty sure that’s decreed somewhere in The Bible.

 

 

6       Hot Dogs w/everything (ketchup, mustard, onions, & chili)
Unlike other parts of the country where it is a mortal sin to put ketchup on hot dogs, here in West Virginia we full embrace the concept. Hot dog chili is NOT the same thing as the chili one eats with a spoon on a cold winter’s evening. There are no beans in hot dog chili!! Cole slaw is an acceptable though uncommon condiment, but we’re not really relish or sauerkraut people.

 

 

5       Don Knotts, Soupy Sales, Mary Lou Retton, Jerry West, Peter Marshall, Kathy Mattea, Stonewall Jackson, John Kruk, David Selby, “Hot Rod” Hundley, Sam Huff, Homer Hickam, Nick Saban, Gunner Gatski, Lou Holtz, Lawrence Kasdan, John Corbett, Red Sovine, Bob Denver, Joyce Dewitt, Jennifer Garner, TD Jakes, Brad Paisley, and Randy Moss

The vast majority of West Virginians over the age of 35 would easily be able to identify this group of actors, athletes, singers, and other sundry luminaries as natives of our state. Most folks under the age of 35 wouldn’t be able to tell you who the hell ¾ of them even are. FYI…infamous criminal nutjob Charles Manson lived in WV as a child, but we try to keep that on the down low.

 

 

4       Pickup Trucks, Cheap Beer, & Cigarettes

It’s the ultimate redneck triumvirate!! It is WV Man Law that every guy must own a pickup truck atleast once in his life. I am currently in the process of fulfilling my obligation. And no matter how long some people have been unemployed or struggling to feed their children they will always manage to afford their $30 carton of cigarettes and $20 case of Natural Light.

 

 

3       Sucking the government teat

Welfare, food stamps, HUD, SSI. Generations of West Virginians have found a way to get around that whole work thing by just sitting on their lazy hump and waiting for the monthly entitlement check to arrive in the mail. Thank you Democrat Party.

 

 

2       WalMart

I have to give credit where credit is due…Sam Walton was a mastermind. Sure most every product is probably made by 8 year olds in Indonesian sweatshops making 3 cents/week, but that means that the fantastic savings are passed on to us…the American consumer!! And the place has everything!! Where else can one purchase a can of motor oil, a 50/50 cotton-rayon blend Hawaiian shirt, some buckshot, a jar of Miracle Whip, and the entire Harry Potter DVD collection all under one roof, then get a haircut and buy a new pair of prescription sunglasses on the way out?? I’ll tell you where…nowhere. Pure genius.

 

 

1       Country Roads

It doesn’t matter that John Denver was from Colorado, that the lyrics of the song (Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River) clearly refer to landmarks in the state of Virginia, or that the songwriters themselves once stated that the road that inspired them is in Maryland…West Virginians have latched onto this song like Lindsay Lohan in a crack house and made it the unofficial state anthem.

 

 

 

 

 

Superfluous 7…..Things That Annoy Me For No Apparent Reason

First of all, let me just say that I had a hard time trimming this list down to seven things. I smell a future sequel. At any rate, even though I am a mostly pleasant, easygoing, amiable guy, I have my pet peeves just like everyone else. I have decided over the course of the past few years to embrace my inner curmudgeon because even my dark side is pretty much harmless, and I kind of figure that if there are going to be things that tick me off those things may as well be completely neurotic & trivial. So, it is with lighthearted malice in my big ol’ cuddly heart that I scream at you pesky kids to get off my damn lawn & turn down that noisy rock n’ roll music, and present to you…..

 

 

from the home office in Burlington, VT (America’s angriest city…seriously, Google it)…..

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Things That Annoy Me For No Apparent Reason:

 

 

 

7   Going “up” instead of down (or vice versa)

I hear people doing this all the time. For example, Morgantown, WV (home of the Mountaineers) is a city approximately 50 miles north of me, but I’ll hear a person say “I am gonna run down to Morgantown”. No, you’re not. You are going to go UP to Morgantown. Buy a compass for God’s sake.

 

 

6  Songs with sirens

You are driving along, enjoying your day, running your errands, and enjoying the lovely sunshine. You are rockin’ out to your local rock station when you hear it…”WOOO WOOO WOOO”. Your heart jumps into your throat. You do a mental checklist…license, registration, proof of insurance, cell phone so the cops can call 911 since you are having a coronary. And then you realize that you aren’t about to be dragged away to the pokey like OJ Simpson trying to see if he can luck out with two idiotic juries in one lifetime. No, it’s just the song on the radio. I’d like to lock the “artists” who record such purported “songs” in a room with ol’ OJ for an hour or two.

 

 

Toddlers on a leash

I do not have any children (that I am aware of). I may never have children. I realize that those who do have children hold their safety in the highest regard. But leashes are for dogs. If you cannot protect your baby in a more humane fashion than to tether them to you like the family pet then may I suggest you leave them at home until they are of such an age that you feel comfortable that they won’t run away from you like band members fleeing Van Halen.

 

 

Unpunctuality

You know what time you need to be at work, church, or any other social engagement or meeting. Be there on time. Heck…get crazy and be there 10 minutes early. Don’t be the person that walks in 5 or 15 minutes late e-v-e-r-y s-i-n-g-l-e w-e-e-k. Eventually the excuses ring hollow and you become a running joke. It becomes obvious that the task at hand is not at all important to that constantly tardy person.

 

 

Lady & Lil Man

Maybe it’s just me…maybe I am imagining things. But I am pretty sure this is a fairly new trend. It seems as if everyone now refers to all male babies & toddlers as “Lil Man”. “I’m taking Lil Man to the circus tonight!!”. “Lil Man isn’t feeling very well today…I think he has a tummy ache”. “Lil Man doesn’t really look like me or any of the dozen guys I slept with last year…I am beginning to think there was a mix up at the hospital”. I cannot be totally sure because…well, I was a baby, plus I can’t remember what I had for breakfast let alone things that happened nearly 40 years ago…but I’d be willing to bet that when I was a child no one called me Lil Man. Close behind this irritating trend is this one: one female says to the other ‘I tried to call you last night lady!!” or “What’s goin’ on lady?? I haven’t talked to you in forever”. Who are you…Jerry Lewis?? And right up there on the irk-o-meter are middle aged white guys who think they are some smooth blend of LL Cool J, Jamie Foxx, and Barry White and refer to their lovely female friends as Baby Girl. Please stop it…you are embarrassing yourself.

 

2  Group Shopping

I live a rather solitary life. I live alone, sleep alone, eat alone, go to the movies alone, and shop alone. I realize this skews my perspective. However, when I am at the grocery store, the mall, or any other retail outlet I want to be able to get to where I am going and peruse the aisles with as little interference as possible. That is why I become exasperated by 3 or more people walking beside each other like Dorothy and her crew skipping down The Yellow Brick Road. Getting behind such a group is the pedestrian equivalent of following a school bus at 7am on a weekday in the fall. Your task will take you three times as long because these assclowns are oblivious to the fact that the world does not revolve around their juvenile merriment. Get out of my way!!

 

 

1  Obnoxious Facebook Pics

You’ve seen them. We’ve all seen them. This is an open plea to all females under the age of 50 who post photos on Facebook or any other site. I absolutely guarantee that if one is a friend of a person that fits that demographic then they have seen their gal pal post two specific types of pics. The first is what I would call “Look at me…I’m gangsta!!” – two fingers pointed like a horizontal peace sign, with a look on their face as if they are having some sort of convulsion and may need immediate medical attention. The second, even more aggravating pic is what I guess the kids these days are calling The Ducky Face, which is some sort of weird puckering thing. Please…ladies…I beg of you…please, for the love of God & all that is holy, stop. It is not attractive, it is not cool…it is obnoxious.

Farewell Whitney

I was watching  The Hangover.

It was a snowy night in February. One of those lazy Saturdays where one slowly melts the hours away reading, napping, snacking, and watching movies. Then I decided to check out Facebook and see if others were having an equally exciting weekend. That is when I saw the news.

Whitney Houston was dead.

I turned my TV on to CNN and spent the next few hours watching their admittedly awkward coverage. As unprepared as I was for the news of Whitney’s death, I was even more surprised by my reaction. I am normally somewhat dismissive or at the very least unemotional in a Vulcanic kind of way about celebrity deaths. Michael Jackson is dead?? Ehhh…he was a freak who likely molested little boys. Great songs though. Princess Diana is dead?? Ehhh…her greatest accomplishment was marrying well. And the news coverage was obscenely excessive, especially given that Mother Teresa died the same week. Amy Winehouse?? You didn’t exactly have to be Miss Cleo to see that coming. But this…this is different. At one point, as CNN went to commercial and was playing some of Whitney’s songs, I found that tears were streaming down my grizzled face. Dismissive?? Unemotional?? No…this time, for some odd reason, I was profoundly sad.

I was SO in love with Whitney Houston when I was 14 years old. She, along with Who’s the Boss? star Alyssa Milano, were among my first celebrity crushes. Whitney was beautiful and her songs were awesome. I didn’t necessarily understand it on a conscious level at the time, but I think I was in the early stages of truly understanding talent and developing good taste in music.

Then in the early 90’s, when I was in college and had moved onto other interests and my musical palate was evolving, Whitney Houston married Bobby Brown and the magic was gone. She became a cliché. Domestic violence. Drug abuse. Rehab. Embarrasing appearances. Erratic behavior. Oh there were flashes here & there, but for all intents & purposes her brilliant career ended somewhere around 1997. It’s staggering to think of the music & films the world was robbed of in the past 15 years.

And now there will be no dazzling comeback. That beautiful voice has been silenced forever. We don’t yet know the “official” reason, but of course most have jumped to understandably logical conclusions. However, I come not to bury Whitney but to praise her. The who’s, what’s, and why’s don’t really matter anyway. I will let others assign blame. The fact is that the life of one of the most intensely talented performers in recent memory has been senselessly, needlessly, tragically cut short.

Fortunately, we do have a solid library of music produced by Whitney before Bobby Brown dragged her into the abyss. And that is my purpose here today…to celebrate the life & music of my dearly departed celebrity crush. To Whitney…wherever your soul currently resides…I can only say that I will always love you. So, without further ado, I give you…..

 

from the home office in Angel City, FL…..

 

The Superfluous 7 (in no particular order) Favorite Whitney Houston Songs:

 

One Moment In Time


How Will I Know


So Emotional


Where Do Broken Hearts Go


All At Once


Didn’t We Almost Have It All


I Wanna Dance With Somebody