Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Earth, Wind & Fire

By Paul Levine

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge. "

--Raymond Chandler, "Red Wind"

Actually, this week's Santa Anas are a lot worse than that. A HOME BURNS TO THE GROUND IN GREEN VALLEY LAKE

It’s 90 degrees outside with a desert-like 3 per cent humidity. The Santa Anas are blowing 50 m.p.h. with gusts to 70.

Fires are popping up all over Southern California. A quarter of a million people have been forced out of their homes. Those of us who live in the hills or in wooded canyons are alert for the smell of smoke and the sound of sirens. (Note: In California, the term “wooded canyon” is a synonym for “kindling.”) Below, our street:
Brave firefighters, seen here in protective gear, are doing everything they can in horrific conditions.

The wind is supposed to die down tomorrow, but what we really need is a monsoon, and there’s no rain on the horizon.

Last week, Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times began her review of the new CBS drama/musical with this appraisal.

"Viva Laughlin on CBS may well be the worst new show of the season, but is it the worst show in the history of television? It certainly comes close ..."

Yesterday, after a mere two airings watched by approximately 127 people nationwide (okay, maybe not that many), CBS pulled the plug, cancelling the series.


I TIVO these programs every week.


(Based on Jeff Lindsay’s “Darkly Dreaming Dexter,” the show features a witty and savvy serial killer to die for.)


(Set in 1960, when everyone smoked, guzzled martinis at lunch, and men chased their secretaries around the desk). JON HAMM, AD MAN WITH A TANGLED PAST, ON "MAD MEN"


(Don’t be put off by the sophomoric title or the gratuitous sex, which Jim Born assures me is the best kind. With the sharpest writing around, "Californication" has my Emmy vote).


(Larry David’s neuroses don’t seem as funny this season. He remains true to his theme, however. No good deed goes unpunished).


(Granted, Joe has been saying the same things since 1966, but then, so have I).

What’s on your list?



American Movie Classics has an on-line poll to choose the greatest “courtroom drama" of all time. You can vote for any of the following ten films.

Twelve Angry Men

A Few Good Men

The Rainmaker

Erin Brockovich

My Cousin Vinny

The Firm

To Kill a Mockingbird

Inherit the Wind



Whoever came up with the list must have flunked the bar exam. “My Cousin Vinny” is a terrific courtroom comedy, and the two films adapted from John Grisham books, “The Rainmaker” and “The Firm,” are pleasant potboilers, at best

So where are “The Verdict” and “Witness for the Prosecution” and "Anatomy of a Murder?" Nowhere to be found.

What's your favorite courtroom film?



“I lost 11 great-uncles on one day in the First World War, and yet more people died from the influenza pandemic of 1918 than in that entire war."

-- Peter Hudson, Willaman professor of biology, Penn State University.




  1. My TV List (I don't have a DVR yet,):

    1. SHARK

    (James Woods and Jeri Ryan in a show set in L.A. that actually shoots in L.A.)

    2. NCIS

    (Great ensemble chemistry still going strong after four seasons.)

    3. HOUSE M.D.

    (Where is Hugh Laurie's Emmy?)

    Stay safe, Paul.

  2. Paul, you're right; AMC did miss the mark. Those three that you pointed out, certainly deserve consideration.

    Ditto, Gerald...would add Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

    Now to what I know is really foremost in your mind, Paul:
    A real conflagration will occur this Saturday in a valley far from your digs in SoCal. Coming off last week's impressive showing by PSU's inconsistent QB, the Lions will really have to roar this week......and judging from their last 3 conference outings, they can. We'll also see if OSU really deserves that #1 rating. If the Buckeye's start off as ineptly as the Badgers did, then OSU will be in for a long night.

    Hope it'll be a game worth watching.

  3. As soon as I read that the terrfic UK series, "Viva Blackpool" was going to be Americanized, I thought, "Uh-oh, can't be done." And for once, I was right. "Viva Laughlin" was the disastrous result.

    There are so few TV shows that I like, I cannot even be bothered to watch the thing any more. West Wing has gone, Life On Mars is no more ...

    Take care, Paul, in your canyon, and fingers crossed that Nature decides to leave you well enough alone.

  4. I'm watching Gray's Anatomy pretty religiously, and my secret vice is American's Next Top Model. Can't stand reality TV normally, but ANTM reminds me a bit of trying to become a writer in a backhanded way. I'm also fascinated to watch which good looking girl has photographic presence.

    My two favorite courtroom dramas are Inherit the Wind and Judgment at Nuremberg. Just don't think you can beat those.

    We've been lucky here in Norcal, Paul, and gotten some rain over the last couple of weeks. I hope you and yours stay safe and don't get even a whiff of nearby smoke nor any sirens on your road.

  5. I rarely watch TV so I don't have a list of favorites. What was that movie with the military courtroom scene between Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise? Loved To Kill a Mockingbird, both book and movie.

    Keeping my fingers crossed that the fires are controlled. Some of my friends have already been ordered to evacuate.

  6. MAD MEN is fantastic, I can actually smell it. (ugh) The set design and costumes are so great that I just want to look at all of the surrounding "stuff."
    I happened upon a tv reality called, (I kid you not) THE WORLDS MOST SMARTEST MODEL. Ben Stein is involved and it is much like a train wreck, you just have to look.
    TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD....best ever.

  7. I'd rate Scrubs, Flight of the Conchords and The Ultimate Fighter as my must-watch-or-the-world-ends telly programmes that are currently showing here in New Zealand. I have to add 24 to that, but the poxy network that screens it here STILL hasn't started screening season 6, a delay that's starting to make me real cranky.

    Did The Firm even have any scenes inside a courtroom? The highlight of that movie for me was the fact that Tom Cruise spent so much time not smiling - a true blessing, for which the director should receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

    And how perverse is it that California's copping those killer fires, and earlier this year in Northland, NZ we got butt-raped had not one, but TWO 'once in a century' floods in the space of 6 months?

  8. Good luck with the fires. Bad ju-ju and I noted the news said 500,000 have been evacuated as of this morning.

    Most of your shows are on pay cable, so almost none are available to this cheapskape.

    Must-watch shows in the Terry household are:



    "House" by the female member of the family.

    "Star Trek: Enterprise" by the older, geeky males of the family. (Okay, mostly me. Maybe it's T'Pol).

    If you count the kids it would be "Avatar" and "Jake and Josh" and "iCarly" and "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody." But please, let's not count them.

    And in the category of I-really-like-it-but-never-get-around-to-watching-it category, Burn Notice.

    As for courtroom movies, I'd go with "The Verdict" and "Anatomy of a Murder." In a humorous mood, I've always sort of liked the courtroom scenes in "Michael" (with Terri Garr as the judge) and, going way back, a courtroom scene in "What's Up, Doc?"

  9. As I type this, fire engines are screaming outside the windows up Coldwater Canyon toward Mulholland Drive. Could be a cat in a tree or a fire in a ravine.

    Have to agree with Gerald about Hugh Laurie. He's the engine that makes "House" go. The delicate task of a curmudgeon as the hero.

    Jon's on the money with talk of the Buckeyes in Happy Valley Saturday night. Only way PSU can win is to keep the score down. Last year, the Nits led 3-0 at the half in Columbus, then the roof fell in.

    Patty's movie, of course, is "A Few Good Men," adapted from Aaron Sorkin's outstanding play. First rate courtroom scenes.

    Agree with Mark Terry on "The Verdict," screenplay by David Mamet, adapting Barry Reed's book. (Also, MWA members should catch Mark's article in The Third Degree on book promotion and related subjects). And yes, that courtroom scene with Barbra Streisand in "What's Up, Doc?" is memorable, even if the movie is not in the same league with the others.

  10. P.S.

    That's me, who just posted as "Naked Authors."

  11. I want the Papa Joe and Saint Bobby sitcom :"The Old Couple"

    I like



    30 Rock

    And Californication.

    I'll be thinking about you and the fires. We evacuated Central Florida in 1998 due to fires. I have never looked at fires the same way since I saw them up close.


  12. "The Verdict" hands down. Even over "Mockingbird."

    Paul Newman got screwed out of the Oscar then got a pity Oscar the year after. And that final scene when he belts Charlotte Rampling? You try to write that in a book nowadays and your editor will sic the PC police on you.

    Great film.

    Stay safe out there, left coasters.