Ann Curry Shows NBC What Class Is

June 28, 2012

By Adele

This morning Ann Curry announced her departure from Today, and they actually let her speak for a whole 2:10 uninterrupted minutes, which may be a record.

It happened at about 8:55 a.m., after Ann had gamely logged her 2 final hours as co-host.

Ann said she’s staying with NBC to do news, and it’s unfortunate the ingrate network will still reap the benefit of her journalistic skills.

Speaking of journalism, Today is right on track to realize it was already down the crapper long before Ann became co-host. Immediately after Ann’s heartfelt farewell and a commercial break, they switched gears by launching Savannah Guthrie’s hour with cake-decorating with Martha Stewart.

On the other hand, earlier they had let Al Roker talk to popular authors Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series) and Janet Evanovich about summer reading, and let them mention 6 or 8 books apiece, although the last few got one-word recommendations for the usual reason — more commercials.

(Evanovich recommended Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw. She said she loves him, but hates him for being a better writer than she is.)

It was a feeble attempt to raise the bar on content, but too little, too late.

I hope Ann is just staying on while she considers other opportunities, and the day comes soon when she leaves NBC’s stinking corpse to rot.

(We’re also pissed at NBC for stupidly canceling Kathy Bates’ Harry’s Law, its second most-watched drama, behind Smash, but ahead of Law & Order: SVU.)

Talent and quality mean absolutely nothing to those people. They’re worse than Travel Channel.

Meanwhile, CBS, here we come!

‘Today Show’ Producers Have a Death Wish

June 26, 2012

By Adele

It’s like watching a slow-mo train wreck on the Today Show. Ann Curry somehow manages to carry on with grace while NBC execs continue to crap on her good name rather than take responsibility for their own failures in the ratings.

And now it seems they’re seriously considering the vowel-challenged Hoda Kotb to be Matt Lauer’s new sidekick.

REALLY??!! Can anybody even pronounce “Kotb?”

Thanks to NBC, Hoda’s image is of a middle-aged mid-morning drunk who dresses like she thinks she’s a hot 25-year-old.

Just the type to play Matt Lauer’s straight man — NOT.

And where does that leave Hoda’s booze-buddy, Kathy Lee Gifford? Will they pull Regis Philbin and his creepy perm out of retirement and prop him up beside her?

The people at Good Morning America must be dancing for joy. NBC is as hard-pressed to find a decent morning host within its ranks as the Republicans are for a presidential candidate who doesn’t make you hurl hairballs.

Giving Hoda more prominence will be the kiss of death to the Today Show — and it will be well-deserved.

Ann Curry Not Today Show’s Problem

June 25, 2012

By Adele

I’ve been watching the Today Show since I was a kitten, and it’s been going downhill for years. But this hatchet job on Ann Curry is the last straw. Can you say…

Hello, Good Morning America!

You know things are bad when I’m driven into the arms of Oprah’s BFF, Gayle King.

Reportedly, they’re paying Ann Curry $10 million to take a mid-contract hike, blaming her for Today’s sagging ratings.

But the NBC suits seem conflicted on how Ann is single-handedly destroying the show. They do agree she makes a dandy scapegoat.

To stroke Matt Lauer’s massive ego, Ann has dumbed it down and smiled through cringe-worthy drivel they keep throwing at her. I’d like to see her go back to serious news. She’s more of a Christiane Amanpour type anyway.

And here are some suggestions for NBC to salvage Today

  • Cut the inter-cast banter. They should take a backseat to the news.
  • Tell the cast to SHUT UP and let guests answer interview questions (Meredith Vieira was the worst; nobody could get a word in).
  • Present actual news. Too often, what comprises a “story” is nothing but reiterated teaser fluff. You make viewers wait and wait…and wait to FINALLY see stories, but too often our reaction is, “That’s IT?”
  • Speaking of teasers, cut the BS “Up next, but first…,” and “Straight ahead, after this…” The delays are maddening, and you usually pull a bait and switch and don’t even show the next freaking story next. Say a story is “coming right up” and mean it, damn it.
  • Don’t imply you’ve got a live body there, and then air some stale canned footage from last night’s Brian Williams newscast.
  • Accept that 2-3 minutes is not enough time for an interview. When you cut everybody off in mid-sentence for more stupid commercials, you reveal your priorities—and they’re not with interesting content.
  • Screen out everyday yahoos who speak in monosyllables. They’re the interviews from hell.
  • Cut the stupid, obvious questions. We KNOW how somebody who’s lost a limb or a child or survived a catastrophe feels. You don’t need to ask.
  • Just say no to celebrities in their own minds, like Octomom, Kate Gosselin, and the Kardashians. They’re only “famous” because faux-news organizations like you keep them alive.
  • Discontinue cooking segments unless the chefs have enough time to actually cook a recipe viewers can follow.
  • Fire your panel of so-called “professionals” Nobody gives a flying f**k what Star Jones or Donny Deutsch think about anything.
  • Cut that hour with Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda whatsits. They give washed-up, middle-aged drunks a bad name.

Ann Curry, take the money and run. You were too good for those self-centered rat-bastards. When GMA mops up in the next ratings sweep using Today as a Swiffer, you’ll have the last laugh.

Microsoft’s Next-Gen Doorstop – Surface

June 19, 2012

By Karen

Yesterday Microsoft introduced a tablet computer to beat Apple’s iPad. They call it Surface, and it comes with a thin keyboard that doubles as a cover.

Why isn’t it named Wall, to go with Windows?

I wish my iPad had a keyboard, though. On-screen typing stinks, so when I need a keyboard, I use my netbook.

I do love my iPad for being always “on” so I can play games, watch videos, and surf the ‘Net on the fly. It’s also my e-reader because my Nook’s e-ink display is too dark indoors.

Microsoft might have a winner with Surface if it didn’t run Windows — Windows RT (ReTweet?) — apparently a watered-down version of the unreleased Windows 8, which you will be able to get on pricier, heavier Surfaces.

After torturing users forever with the “Blue Screen of Death,” unintelligible messages that all mean, “Your software crashed and we have no clue why,” and the nonstop torrent of updates and security patches, if we’ve learned anything, I hope it’s that Microsoft sucks at running computers.

And since the Surface will be entirely a Microsoft product, instead of their typical strategy of ruining some third-party manufacturer’s decent hardware with their crappy software, this venture seems to have “Fiasco” written all over its…surface.

Microsoft’s playing coy on pricing, and interestingly made no mention of battery life — sidestepping two basic user deal-breakers.

When I bought my tablet last year, I passed on Android models and paid nearly triple for the gold standard — iPad. But it’s been as close to brilliant as these things get.

I’m still trying to shake Microsoft’s brainwashing to fully embrace my iPad’s ease of use, but I can say it’s never driven me to the utter frustration and despair Windows has — in nearly every version back to MS-DOS.

Surfaces are supposed to go on sale this fall, which in Microsoft-speak means probably sometime in 2014. While a Surface won’t have the heft to prop a door open, once it craps out inexplicably and often enough to make itself useless, you can probably wedge it UNDER a door.

Here’s a review from CNET.

Trying to Keep Up with Bourdain

June 18, 2012

By Karen

After so many years of following him as relatively obscure, niche cable star, with Cats Working the worldwide destination for the scoop long before he became a fixture at Eater and Grub Street, it’s gratifying to see Anthony Bourdain finally reach critical mass. Lately, it seems, you can’t swing a cat without hitting him.

I must be recovering from my Bourdain overload, because I must confess that all his new endeavors are piquing my curiosity like a fresh catnip mouse.

Once again, Travel Channel has suspended No Reservations in mid-season, but Tony’s kept himself busy shooting The Layover (in Paris and Dublin he’s tweeted — Yes!!) and making the media rounds to talk up his new shows on CNN and ABC (both of which are still unnamed) and his upcoming graphic novel, Get Jiro!, in general release July 3.

Before I again make the mistake of letting some good links stack up and go stale, here are my latest for whatever Bourdainiac readers I have left…

Tony wrote an extremely uncharacteristic and personal guest blog for Bon Appetit about his father’s influence on him. Pierre Bourdain died of a heart attack at age 57 (Tony will be 56 on June 25). It’s illustrated by many new-to-us childhood photos, courtesy of Tony’s mother Gladys.

Bloody Elbow got a lengthy interview with Tony and Ottavia, published as part 1 and part 2. We learn that one of Ottavia’s favorite snacks is tuna packed in oil with pickled onions. Lupetto the cat probably can’t begin to compete with her tuna breath.

Tony reveals in this interview that he and I basically agree on NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to ban enormous sodas, and for the same reasons.

Tony did a personal appearance on June 9 in Brooklyn, and Food Republic captured the highlights. I learned that Paula Deen’s also a shill for Serta mattresses. Who knew, and why? Maybe they lured her in with their “soy-infused poly foam core,” which sounds like a concoction from Top Chef.

In case you missed Tony talking to Jimmy Fallon on June 8, here’s the video. Fallon completely overlooked the latest-breaking news that day, which was Bourdain’s ABC show with Nigella Lawson, and Tony didn’t bring it up.

And last, Tony talked to the NY Times about his gigs on CNN and ABC and publication of the graphic novel all hitting at the same time.

Why Stop at Limiting Sugary Drinks?

June 15, 2012

By Karen

I’m with the cats on this one. No human needs more than 16 oz. of any sugar-laced crap drink. Just ask Paula Deen, who credits her recent dramatic weight loss partly to no longer drinking sweet tea every waking moment.

Now they’re saying New York City could take the next step down the “slippery slope” by banning huge milkshakes and ginormous tubs of movie popcorn.

So be it.

Purveyors of unhealthy, oversized foods are just as evil as cigarette manufacturers. They know what they’re pushing can ultimately kill their customers, yet they try to get people hooked anyway.

Ironically, it’s the snack-makers who are on board with limiting size, putting fewer cookies or chips in a bag. But there’s nothing altruistic about it. They just want to screw consumers by charging the same for less product.

I mostly blame the fast food and restaurant industries with totally distorting our perception of a “reasonable portion.” Three weeks ago, I began the Weight Watchers’ regimen (stay tuned, I’m still gathering intel), and it was a needed wake-up call on portion sizes. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • 2 tablespoons of oil and vinegar CAN acceptably coat every bite of a pound of salad vegetables.
  • 3 oz. of meat or fish are enough when the rest of the dinner plate holds vegetables (and I’m not talking potatoes or corn).
  • 1/2 cup of JELL-O® fat-free, sugar-free pudding is just enough dessert.

Many of us were raised to clean our plates because “children were starving in China,” or “it’s a sin to waste food.” But as portions have grown and our thinking hasn’t changed, we’ve become chronic overeaters.

When dining out, I personally don’t need a serving that could feed a family of four for a couple of days.

I remember the days long ago, before McDonald’s went nuts with Quarter Pounders and Angus Burgers, when a full meal there was what they now package as a child’s Happy Meal. And I weighed about 90 lbs. soaking wet.

When Anthony Bourdain visits Singapore or Hanoi and orders a bowl of noodles, they don’t roll it out a 50-gallon drum like we would. But as American fast food crosses continents, populations in other countries are getting as fat as we are. It can’t be a coincidence.

So I say, let Bloomberg do his worst. And may it catch on. Many lives depend on it.

Bloomberg’s Got it Right on Sugar

June 14, 2012

By Adele

The only reason people have their knickers in a knot over New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s idea to limit sugary soft drinks to 16 ounces is that more than two-thirds of them are overweight or obese, and gallons of soda may have helped some of them get that way.

To keep from acknowledging the 800-lb. gorilla in the room (holding a Big Gulp), people are screaming that limiting drink size is a slippery slope. First, they segregated smokers into limited areas to pollute, then deadly trans fat got banned, and now sweet little sugar’s on the hit list. Where will it end?

Well, there’s nothing slippery about this. The 3 things I just mentioned can either kill you or make you so sick you wish you were dead. Since most people seek medical treatment rather than quietly curl up and die, self-inflicted ailments become another drag on the healthcare system.

If you’re too weak or stupid to realize a beverage loaded with sugar and served in a vat is too much for you, you need an intervention.

There’s absolutely no reason anybody needs to consume more than a pound of sugar-laced fluid in one sitting. Period. Show me somebody who does, and I’ll bet Richard Simmons would like to give them a body makeover.

I’m taking a stand on this because I know I represent all cats — and dogs — who want our owners to live long lives (so we don’t end up in shelters because you croaked).

You go, Bloomberg! Down with super-sizing!

Time to Get a Grip on ‘Mad Men’

June 12, 2012

By Karen

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Every time I read another Mad Men analysis and wonder if I watched the same program, I’m reminded of this William Carlos Williams poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” and English teachers who commanded me to “Dig deeper. What and how much depends on that red wheel barrow?”

For me, it was the chickens’ birdbath, and one of the lamest poems ever written. Williams himself said he saw the wheel barrow in some old fisherman’s backyard. Period.

Just as reams of drivel have been written about that stupid wheel barrow, so has speculation about Mad Men. But Shakespeare nailed it, hundreds of years ago…

“…it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Macbeth (Act V, Scene V).

Creator Matthew Weiner conceived an intriguing story about advertising in the 1960s, with compelling characters fortuitously played by perfectly cast actors.

And now everybody’s killing themselves looking for the meaning beyond the meaning.

Season 5 just wrapped, and the talking heads are drawing a parallel between the finale and Season 1, where Don Draper sat alone in a bar, about to pick up a woman. In Season 5, he even ordered an Old Fashioned (hint, hint!).

Weiner’s getting credit for brilliantly placing these moments five seasons apart in some grand design (ignoring the post-Season 4 contract dispute that threatened to kill the show altogether — why would he waste time plotting future seasons for an iffy paycheck?).

I think Weiner sees Draper as a womanizer who haunts bars. And now Weiner’s being swept along on this wave of analysis, humoring fans who think they have “insight” by pretending it’s all by pre-ordained plan.

Yes, it’s fun to guess what might happen next, but this endless dissection of each character’s every utterance, movement, and expression has completely jumped the shark.

People, it’s a good story, well told. Get a life.

Even Anthony Bourdain succumbed the other day, tweeting “Pete Campbell arc veering deeply into Cheever territory.”

OK, so maybe Weiner’s evoking some Catcher in the Rye, The Merchant of Venice, The Sound of Music, whatever. That’s what writers do. They soak in, reinvent, and regurgitate.

Watching Mad Men for obscure references so I can wax profoundly about it sucks all the fun out of it for me.

“But what did Lane Pryce’s suicide really mean?” you ask. “Did Weiner name him Pryce because he knew Lane would pay the ultimate ‘price’ with his life?”

Here’s another one for you: Does Don Draper’s name mean his last scene will be in a coffin, “draped” with a flag because he’s a veteran? Will it signify that all “Mad’ men” are soldiers in suits, serving a mission to win the American war of the wallet by selling people stuff they don’t need?

The silliness could go on and on. But let’s not.

I’m waiting for some character to actually recite the Williams poem, sending all the gazers into Don Draper’s navel into a tailspin of speculation.

Meanwhile, Matt Weiner is laughing all the way to the bank — but what is he really laughing at? The fans, or their weird need to morph Mad Men into something much bigger than he probably ever intended it to be?

Belmont: Torn Between Two Horses

June 8, 2012

By Adele

UPDATE: Hours after I posted this, I’ll Have Another got scratched from the Belmont Stakes, and it sounds as if he’s injured enough to never race again. This only reinforces my position that the Triple Crown races should be held at least a month apart. So now I’m predicting my original favorite, Dullahan, will win. We wish I’ll Have Another a speedy recovery.

The oddsmakers finally seem to be paying attention to my astute predictions. Dullahan, my pick for the Kentucky Derby (who came in third), is favored second to win the Belmont Stakes tomorrow.

The favorite is, of course, I’ll Have Another, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner. He now has a shot at being the 12th horse ever to win the Triple Crown.

I would love to see Another do it, but things have a way of going haywire at Belmont. Remember a few years ago when Big Brown was two for two like Another, and then he totally blew it at Belmont, walking last across the finish line?

This will be Another’s third — and longest — race in only 5 weeks. Will he have the stamina to pull off another win, especially from the far outside in post position 11? (There are only 12 horses running in all.)

Dullahan sat out the Preakness, and he’s known as a distance runner, so I think he has a pretty good chance at pulling off an upset.

If there’s no Triple Crown winner again this year, I hope the powers that be will take a serious look at spacing these races out at least a month apart to give the horses a chance to rest and recuperate.

Running these magnificent horses ragged on an unrealistic time table isn’t sport. It’s stupid.

I’ll be cheering for I’ll Have Another and Dullahan. May the best horse win, and may they all stay safe.

Anthony Bourdain to Host Cooking Game Show

June 7, 2012

By Karen

This just in – In addition to his new 2013 show on CNN, Anthony Bourdain is pairing with Nigella Lawson for an as-yet-unnamed “cooking reality show” on ABC.

A few Cats Working readers began discussing it under my previous Bourdain post, so let’s bring it to the fore and see what the rest of you think.

I’m happy for Bourdain to have this opportunity to monetize his culinary experience. But much of the initial reaction on the Web among fans seems to be that he’s selling out. I’ll have to see the show to have an opinion, but I do agree he’s walking a fine line.

Foodies, try to spin it as you will but, basically, Tony’s going to be a game show host. But instead of having Nigella flip letters, they’ll be playing with food.

And let me state that there’s no such thing as a “cooking reality show.” The participants cook in some tricked-out kitchen. They’re usually using a bizarre set of ingredients someone else selected to prepare a dish 99.9% of home cooks wouldn’t touch.

There’s nothing real about any of it.

In the video promo, Bourdain implies the cheftestants will receive “help” preparing for the challenges. This is obviously where all his celebrity chef BFFs come in, scoring more easy TV gigs like some of them did in scenes Tony wrote for HBO’s Treme.

But does that mean viewers will actually learn something about cooking, or will it be like Top Chef, where the footage get so butchered in post-production, you rarely see a recipe a normal person could actually reproduce?

I picked up a few more tidbits about the show from the open call registration info at ABC:

  • The show will be in production for 4 weeks in August or September 2012 (subject to change)
  • It will be shot in various locations
  • All the contestants will be legal U.S. residents

The requirements for the casting call already amount to bullshit if they’re serious about judging cooks based on their cooking…

You MUST bring one prepared dish to be served to the food judges. You will be given a few minutes to plate your dish at the given casting location, but there will not be a kitchen in which to cook or warm the dish, so come prepared!…It is your responsibility to preserve your food to avoid spoilage. We advise transporting your dish in a portable cooler to keep it fresh…You must bring your own utensils including the plate, knives, forks, spoons, etc….You may not bring any equipment (heating or cooling) that needs an outlet. You may bring battery-operated food prep equipment that can heat/cool food.

I’m picturing heaps of potato salad and JELL-O molds, but I’m kind of hoping some idiot brings in sushi and lightly poisons them all.

They’re recruiting cheftestants in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago (Cats Working reader Adele (the human), could this be your chance to showcase your talents?), but no dates have been set yet.

Since they’re recruiting anyone with “the passion and talent for cooking, whether you are a restaurateur, executive chef, sous chef, line cook, culinary student or home cook,” the innate unfairness seems already written on the wall. Will they make any attempt to level the playing field, or use it as a premise for Tony to become the Simon Cowell of cuisine?

And what will a network gig, with its extreme sensitivity to foul language, do to Bourdain’s wit? Will he feel tongue-tied without profanity? Stifled?

Since Travel Channel will probably continue to churn old episodes of No Reservations and The Layover ad nauseum long after he’s gone, with additional shows on CNN and ABC, will channel-surfing viewers get sick of saying, “Oh, hell, not THAT guy again!”

And now that he’s sunk to doing a game show, could a season on Dancing with the Stars be next in the cards for Bourdain?

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