Tag Archives: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Sleepaway camps for kids: Are they a cult, or an awesome maturing experience? A new pro wrestling character is genius. And “Curb Your Enthusiasm” back in October, whoo-hoo!

A few weeks ago my wife excitedly came to me with news: Her old sleepaway camp in Monroe, N.Y., was having an alumni reunion. And we should go!

My wife is an enthusiastic, wonderful person, and she has many passions. One of those passions that I learned about VERY early on in our relationship was her worship of sleepaway summer camp, particularly, her sleepaway summer camp, Camp Monroe.

If you’re not from the Northeast, or maybe it’s the whole East Coast, you might not be familiar with the sleepaway camp phenomenon. Basically, instead of the more traditional day camps that I and maybe many of you attended, sleepaway camp is like college for 9-year-olds.

You sleep in bunks with other kids, you do activities, you have freedom from your parents, and most importantly, for four or six or eight weeks every summer, you’re hundreds of miles away from your parents.

Thousands of kids, every year, take leave of their home and happily go to sleepaway camp; I only did one two-week stint at tennis camp and loved it, except six hours of tennis a day were too much for me.

Anyway, growing up I thought this was a totally normal option, sleepaway camp, but when a few friends of mine from other parts of the country have heard about it, they’re horrified.

“You’re sending your kids away for 6 weeks, or 8 weeks, all by themselves, with strangers???”” they would shout. “That’s so mean! Aren’t you going to miss them? What kind of parents would do that?”

Seriously, that’s what they’ve said. And I guess they have a point; it does seem like a radical concept if you’re not familiar with it, and of course some kids go to sleepaway camp and hate it (my sister went once and said “never again.”)

But the vast majority of parents and kids who do it love it. It teaches the kids independence, life skills, shows them again how to make new friends and get along with people, and gives everyone in the family a chance to experience new things. Heck, I know lots of kids who look at school as the 10 months a year thing you have to endure just to get back to the fun of sleepaway camp.

I have very little doubt that when Nate and future Lewis children are old enough, we’ll ask if they want to go have fun in the woods, meet new friends, and learn to make S’Mores.
And if they say yes, then one day they’ll drag their kids to an alumni reunion. And if it’s as fun as ours was on Sunday, their children will be thrilled.

**Next up today, I used to be a big pro wrestling fan as a kid; totally into Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair and Rowdy Roddy Piper and all that (still mad that I left a beautiful, black WWF satin jacket on a bus in 8th grade. Man, I loved that jacket). I don’t follow the “sport” anymore unless something truly genius or strange catches my eye, and this is genius. In a minor-league wrestling promotion in Kentucky, there’s a new “bad guy” character called  The Progressive Liberal, a Democrat who wears Hillary and Bernie Sanders T-shirts, spouts off about backwoods people, and gets fans all riled up. He also says stuff like “I want to help you people get jobs in clean energy!” and “Use some ObamaCare and get a hearing aid, you moron!”

Above is a video of him in action, and here’s an MSNBC report on the guy, named Daniel Edwards. This is perfect; I really hope the WWE scoops him up soon.

At first I was thinking they ought to also have a conservative bad guy, a cartoonishly awful figure saying stupid and crazy things, too, but then I remembered: Sean Hannity already exists, and plays the part so, so well.

**And finally today, I’m a huge (yuge) fan of the HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” so I was thrilled when it was finally announced this week that Season 9 will begin on October 1, and released this trailer to go with it.

Cannot wait!

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The five best TV sitcoms of all time (well, my five favorites). And a scary sex-ed documentary

miles.murphybrown

Because I’m a man, and I’m a sports fan, I’m a compulsive list-maker. I think it’s a guy thing, but sports fans do it more than anyone.

Who are the top 5 QB’s of all time? Who’re the 10 best hitters of all time? Who is your all-time starting 5 basketball players (for me, that last one is very difficult. But I’d say Jordan, Magic, Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Kareem. I hate leaving Oscar Robertson and Wilt off the team).

Anyway, during a boring lunch-duty period at school last week (seriously, junior high lunch duty is not exactly rocket science, you just have to make sure the kids don’t stab each other with plastic knives), I came up with my Top 5 favorite TV shows, both dramas and sitcoms.

I was bored, so I actually argued with myself for a while to narrow it down to five. Would love to hear your kudos or vehement disagreements, that’s the whole fun of lists!

So here goes, first my Top 5 sitcoms, and next week sometime I’ll do dramas…

5.  Family Ties: The first show, post-cartoons, I ever loved and made a point never to miss. Thursday nights at 8:30, I was in front of my TV watching hilarious young Republican Alex P. Keaton, his former-hippie parents Steven and Elyse, their beautiful air-head daughter Mallory, and their brainy but often overlooked daughter Jennifer.
“Family Ties” brought the funny every week, and even the guest stars like Mallory’s boyfriend Nick and, famously, Tom Hanks as Uncle Ned were great. Every time I catch a re-run, I still laugh.
A clip from one of my favorite episodes, when Alex has a money-making scheme to turn the family house into a hotel for the weekend:

4.  Murphy Brown: Wildly underrated and underappreciated (much like “Coach,” and “Mad About You,” which I hated to leave off this list), “Murphy Brown” brought you into the world of the fictional newsmagazine FYI, and the cast was perfect: Miles (above), the nebbishy Jewish neurotic producer; Jim, the straight-laced anchorman with a dry wit, Frank, the insanely funny investigative reporter with an awful love life, Corky Sherwood Forrest (love that name), the bubble-headed blonde who couldn’t find a story if it smacked her in the head, and of course, Murphy, tough-as-nails, hilariously sarcastic and still with a good heart.

Really hard to find this show on cable these days, which stinks.

3. The Wonder Years: As my wife has just pointed out when I told her my list, “The Wonder Years” isn’t really a sitcom. But it’s a half-hour show and it’s my list. This show was so perfect, hitting so many high notes between drama, humor, and heart.
So many classic episodes that moved me; when Paul first makes the basketball team and becomes popular, and how that changes his relationship with Kevin; the ones where Wayne and Kevin stop their bickering and realize they love each other; my all-time favorite episode “The Teacher,” when Kevin gets close to math teacher Mr. Collins, only to see him get sick and die, and of course, this one below, when Kevin and Winnie’s long love affair pretty much ends.

Truly a groundbreaking show, one that moves me still. And every time I think of Jack Arnold yelling “Dammit Wayne!” I laugh pretty hard.

2.  Seinfeld: I have some friends, like Scott and Phil, who will scream “Blasphemy” at me having Jerry and Co. only at No. 2. And don’t get me wrong: At its best, like with “The Marine Biologist,” “The Opposite,” “The Contest,” and the Keith Hernandez/second spitter episode, “Seinfeld” was better than any sitcom, ever.
But in the first season and then the last three years, there were way too many episodes where they mailed it in. Where Kramer was doing the same schtick over and over, where George was his pathetic self, where Elaine made up yet another reason to screw up a relationship, etc.
“Seinfeld” was incredible at its peak, and no show could make you laugh harder. But it really stayed far too long at the party in my opinion. Still, I’m really glad its sense of humor has lived on in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

1. Cheers: The granddaddy of them all, and never in doubt as my No. 1 choice. Sam, Diane, Carla, Cliff, Norm, Coach, Woody, Frasier, all integral parts of making the bar in Boston I visited on TV for a decade the most exciting, funniest place to be.

I could go on for hours about the comic timing, the brilliant acting, the writing that was great every single week, but you don’t have that kind of time. Instead, I’ll just leave you with some “Normisms.”

**Finally, I saw this on Upworthy.com and it scared me quite a bit; it’s a trailer for a documentary called “Daddy I Do,” and it’s about girls who pledge to their fathers that they’ll keep their virginity until they get married, and make these pledges at “Purity Balls.”

Creepy, and kinda indicative of how badly we do sex-ed in this country. I know from working at junior highs and high schools that sex-ed is far, far down the list of priorities, and it really shouldn’t be.

The 61-year-old lifeguard fired for NOT wearing a Speedo. A remarkable display of multi-tasking. AndA super-cool subway video from 1905.

**I love this story so much. Roy Lester, a 61-year-old Long Island man, has been a lifeguard at Jones Beach for three decades. He was fired recently because, he says, he refused to wear the required Speedo suit for his yearly swim test.
“Come on,” he said. “There should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo.”
Could NOT agree more, Roy. Could not agree more. (that’s not him, above, that’s Giorgio Armani. Still looks pretty good for an old guy.)
We’ve all been at the beach and seen older men, men well beyond Speedo-wearing years, showing off almost their whole body with only that tiny piece of fabric covering their private parts.

Nobody wants to see that. Nobody. (There was once a very funny “Curb” episode where Larry David stopped seeing his therapist because he saw the Dr. at the beach in a Speedo. Speaking of “Curb,” the episode Sunday night featuring Bill Buckner? Brilliant. It’s been such a great “Curb” season. But I digress).

Anyway, Roy is suing Nassau County for age discrimination, and two weeks ago an appeals court ruled his lawsuit can go forward.

If Roy needs any money for his legal defense, I will gladly pony up a few bucks.

**This one may only be impressive/interesting to men who can relate.
So in the men’s room at the U.S. Open Monday I saw a remarkable, impressive and yet somewhat disturbing scene.
Standing at the urinal next to me was a guy who was texting on this phone with both hands.
While peeing.
At first I only noticed him out of the corner of my eye, because men don’t usually look at each other during such activities. But once I saw what he was doing, I admit, I looked at him (above the waist) for a few seconds.
I was at once horrified and impressed. Like, dude, you can’t wait 10 seconds to text that person? But also, I was like, “That’s impressive multi-tasking.”

That’s all. Just thought I’d share.

**Finally, I leave you with something very cool. This is a video from a 1905 subway ride in New York City. There’s no sound, and of course it’s grainy, but I just found it fascinating and oddly soothing. Enjoy.

Irene slams N.C. and N.J., but leaves us New Yorkers pretty OK. The MLK speech turns 48. And “Curb” gives us a holy trinity of guest stars

And so Hurricane Irene has come and gone, leaving destruction in its wake from North Carolina all the way up the coast.
New Jersey is mostly flooded. Millions of people are without power in their homes.  And good luck driving in Vermont, where so much of the state is under water.
So don’t let anyone tell you this storm was overhyped. No, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. But it still was devastating.
Fortunately, my fellow NYC brethren and I got off reasonably OK. My neighborhood in Queens had some downed trees, and fortunately my basement apartment stayed un-flooded.
Some other scattered thoughts from my brain after 48 hours of all Irene, all the time:
— CNN showed some “geniuses” on their boats in Newport, R.I. before the storm, and one father was saying how safe it was on the boat, and that even though it was a mandatory evacuation area he was staying put. And his 11-year-old son was right there smiling and nodding, too.
That father should’ve been arrested for child abuse on the spot.
—  Can someone explain to me how Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York can still have a Boston accent after 10 years as the mayor here? He still sounds like Mikey from Worcester.
— Had never been woken up out of a deep sleep before Sunday morning. But damn at 3 a.m. it was howling outside.
— I know its easy to bash the TV networks for overhyping Irene, and sure I think its goofy that they make those reporters stand out there on the beach in 100 miles per hour wind. But honestly, no sarcasm intended, I thought TV did a really good job covering this storm.
— That’s a picture of Cape Hatteras, N.C. from Sunday. Tell those people the storm was overhyped.

**Sunday was the 48th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, “I Have A Dream.”
One of the greatest oratories of all time. Enjoy:

**Finally, another pretty solid “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was on Sunday. Not nearly as good as some of the other ones this season (last week’s “juicing” episode was an all-time classic), but Sunday brought the most awesome guest starring trio ever.

It was: Tony Soprano’s sister (Aida Turturro),  Miles Silverberg from the late, great “Murphy Brown” (Grant Shaud), and the awesome Max Medina from “Gilmore Girls!”(Scott Cohen). For you Gilmore fans, here’s a link to the Max proposal (an awesome scene) and the Lorelai acceptance (also a great scene)
Three totally random but awesome actors in one tiny little Curb episode. Awesome. And now a classic scene I just found on Youtube featuring Aida Turturro and James Gandolfini; watch the slow burn on her face around the 2:10 mark.
God that was a great show.

R.I.P., Ken Ober, the greatest Irish-French fight ever, and a truly superb “Curb”

There was a time, boys and girls, when I would rush home from school to watch a game show.

No, not “The 25,000 Pyramid,” my favorite game show ever. Not “Card Sharks” or “The Joker’s Wild” or “Sale of the Century,” all awesome in their own right (whatever happened to Summer Bartholemew, anyway?”

I’m talking about “Remote Control,” still the single-best thing MTV has ever foisted upon our popular culture. For those of you too young to remember (and I weep at that notion), “Remote Control” was a 30-minute trivia contest about music and pop culture. There were fantastic categories like “Sing Along with Colin,” “Inside Tina Yothers” and “Dead or Canadian” (where you had to guess, of course, if someone was dead or Canadian).

There was the wry humor of Colin Quinn. The saucy sexpot assistant, Kari Wuhrer (I totally loved her and her 80s outfits). The questions were hilarious, and when the contestants, sitting in oversized BarcaLoungers, were eliminated, they would be plunged backward through the set. Denis Leary and Adam Sandler, very early in their careers, were briefly on the show, too.

And of course, there was Ken Ober, the host. It often took my teenaged brain a few seconds to get his jokes, but he was funny, smart, and always kept the show moving. Seriously, “Remote Control” was awesome, and I’ve often wished the series would come out on DVD.

It’s been a rough year for us Generation Xers. First John Hughes, and now this. Ken Ober has died, at age 52. I haven’t thought about Ober in years, but it still makes me sad that he died. He was a very happy memory from my childhood, and now he’s gone.

Go ahead, people of my generation. Watch the “Remote Control” clip above. It’ll make you feel better on this Tuesday.

***OK, I’m not 100 percent sure this is real, in fact it’s probably not, but it’s one of the funniest damn things I’ve read in a long time. Here’s the background: Ireland and France are scheduled to play a World Cup soccer match soon in Ireland. So a guy from the French consulate writes a letter to his counterpart in Ireland, asking if a luxury box could be made available for Nicolas Sarkozy, who wanted to attend the game.

And from there, the hilarity and misunderstanding ensues. Seriously, this is awesome.

**Finally, a few words about Sunday night’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” I’ve been hard on the show before, because I felt like the last two seasons just weren’t that funny. But this year has brought several fantastic episodes, and Sunday’s took the cake.

I was wondering all season how they were going to work Michael Richards’ real-life racist rant into the Kramer storyline on the “Seinfeld” reunion, and never in a million years did I think it would present itself like it did. The scenes with Marty Funkhauser were, of course, wonderful, and the African-American, Leon acting like a Jew named Duberstein (“of course you’ve got to re-charge the mitzvah!”) was sublime. I’m glad Richards had the guts to confront the real-life demons in his life. Or maybe Larry David said he couldn’t possibly ignore it and just put it out there.

The final scene? I won’t ruin it for you. Go watch it. Seriously. Brilliant stuff.

Great fall TV, the power of LeBron helps the Jets, and Rush Limbaugh as NFL owner?

bedwards_560x375So the braincurb-your-enthusiam08‘s a little fried tonight, too fried for any deep thoughts. So, I figured it’s time for a post about the television I’m watching. It’s really been a great fall season; I usually get depressed after the summer when “Rescue Me” and

“Weeds” go off.

But a bunch of my favorite shows have been really good this year:

**”Curb Your Enthusiasm.” I’ve been pretty hard on this show the last two seasons; it was so incredibly awesome for the first four years, with so many classic episodes (“Krazy Eyez Killer,” the one with Larry humming Wagner, the last “Producers” episode, just to name a few), and then I really feel like it fell off a cliff the last two seasons. It was like Larry David ran out of ideas and was just doing anything silly without a point.

But after three episodes the funny is definitely back. The reunion of the “Seinfeld” cast is bound to be hilarious, and good ole’ Leon still won’t leave Larry’s house (he was the only one of the Black family that I liked). It’s been almost as good as it’s ever been, which is good enough for me. And Susie Greene has been screaming at Larry, which I always enjoy.

**”Glee.” I’ve already raved about this show a bunch here, but it has gotten even better as the season has gone along. Jane Lynch is so perfect as the cheerleading coach, the scene with the gay kid Kurt trying out for the football team to Beyonce’s music was pee-in-your-pants funny, and the music is, of course, fantastic. If you’re not watching this yet, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.  If you like “Weeds,” you would definitely like “Glee.”

**Mad Men:” Outstanding start to Season 3. I dislike Pete Campbell as much as ever, especially after Sunday night. I totally don’t get the Duck-Peggy shtupping thing, but maybe she sees in him someone who can make her a star in the ad world. I’m really surprised they still haven’t really explored Sal’s homosexuality in an intelligent way; this is one show I trust wouldn’t fall victim to stereotypes and cheap, stupid jokes.

And the John Deere tractor accident in the office? Too damn funny.

**”Desperate Housewives:” Solid start, though once again I wonder, “Do any of these people ever work at their real jobs?” Love having Gabby and mini-Gabby (her niece) in the same house. So many of these characters are bordering on pathetic to me, though; Susan, Bree (come on, sleeping with Carl???), and now they’re making Katherine a psycho.

Gotta love having Adrianna from “The Sopranos” on, though. I still can’t look at her and not hear her saying “Chris-to-fuh.”

**And of course, my new fave, “Modern Family.” Three episodes in, all hilarious. Wednesday night’s was freakin’ brilliant. Ten-year-old Manny sitting at the kitchen table counseling his “sister,” played by Julie Bowen? Phil and Ed O’Neill’s character flying a model airplane together? This show is so good.

**I got a hilarious voice mail from my sports-obsessed friend Tony Jones this morning, before I’d heard the great news. Well, great news for Jets fans.

“How big is LeBron James in Cleveland? He can get a Cleveland Brown traded! That ain’t even his sport!

I laughed, but Tony’s dead right. Braylon Edwards has been a malcontent for years, missing meetings, fighting teammates, loafing on the field, all of it. And nothing happens to make the Browns want to get rid of him.

But then he punches one of LeBron James’ friends outside a club, and three days later, bye-bye Braylon! You DO NOT mess with a member of the James posse and live in Cleveland to tell about it. I’m sure it was just a coincidence, right?

Anyway, as a Jets fan I’m very happy. Yeah, Edwards comes with some baggage (he drops a lot of balls, has some off field issues) but he’s in a new, winning situation now, and he knows he has to behave and play well if he wants a big new contract. This could do so many things for the Jets offense: take pressure off Jerricho Cotchery, open up the field for tight end Dustin Keller, and give Thomas Jones and Leon Washington some running room by not allowing opposing defenses to stack the line of scrimmage.

(By the way, my mother and my wife, the two women I love the most, didn’t understand a word of what I just wrote. But it’s all good.)

This is a great move made by a bold Jets franchise that’s been making good moves for a few years now (including firing Eric Mangini).

**Finally, it looks like Rush Limbaugh is trying to buy the St. Louis Rams. All I can say is, if it happens, expect the Rams to run a ton of plays to the right.

Thank you. I’m here all week. Try the veal.