Month: February 2016

…ly Ballou Out. RIP Bob Elliott (1923-2016)


Long before there was Monty Python or Mr. Show or Tim & Eric or The Kids in the Hall or Comedy Bang! Bang! (and its extended podcast universe) or any of the awkward comedy that feasts on laughter in the silent spaces in between and mistimed cues and odd dissonant interactions and mismatched characters conversing past one another, there was the comedy team of Bob & Ray.

Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding started as members of the Boston radio community in the 1940s. Their casual banter on one another’s shows earned them their own show by 1946. Bob & Ray’s broadcasts were mixtures of largely improvised running soap opera parodies that would go on for years, downright bizarre man on the street interviews, and whatever else captured their comedic whimsy.

Goulding passed away in 1990, but Bob Elliott continued to show up around television. Elliott revived classic roving reporter Wally Ballou, still jumping the gun on his intro, for Al Franken’s short-lived series Lateline. He backed up his son Chris in the inimitable and grossly under-appreciated Get a Life, portraying, fittingly, ne’er-do-well protagonist adult paperboy Chris Peterson’s begrudgingly tolerant dad. I was lucky enough to see him, alongside Chris and his granddaughter Abby (they are almost certainly the only three generations of a family to appear on Saturday Night Live) at NYC’s Paley Center talking about his career in radio.

While it feels a bit silly to be sad over the death of a 92-year-old man I never met (other than a quick handshake at the aforementioned Paley Center event) — especially one whose worldly accomplishments were so lofty and lasting. Part of it is that he’s one of the last living links to a long-ago era. More so, it’s the fact that tapes of grainy recordings of Bob & Ray’s sketches lent to me by my superfan uncle got me through many a long car trip, and cheered me up at many a low moment — as great comedy should — so it feels almost like the loss of a cherished friend.

Here’s Bob (& Ray) improvising as NASA mission control reporters in a forgotten great TV Movie from 1972, Between Time & Timbuktu, with a fittingly kooky plot of a citizen astronaut being launched into Kurt Vonnegut’s stories…



What to Watch: 02/02/2016

It’s a densely packed little Wednesday, as the darkest Muppet timeline returns, critically heralded The Expanse hits the end of its season (and contracts?), we begin to relive the Crime of the 20th Century: 90s Edition with all its speeding vans and Kato Kaelins, and we all anxiously await the shadow judgments of Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Chuck, and all the other revered rodents across this great land. Our recommendations are a couple of ongoing programs of excellence and one perfectly on-the-twitchy-nose holiday movie classic. But we better get going with this What to Watch if we want to stay ahead of the weather.

Groundhog Day [Comedy Central, All Day]
It’s a Groundhog Day marathon! Watch Phil live his life over, and over again. (Only three months until spring!).

New Girl [FOX, 8p]
Last week’s first edition of New Girl minus the new girl was so wonderful, partially due to the brilliant pairing of Cece and Winston. This week promises more of that, as the duo hunts down her wedding dress. It also implies farce and…”wife” swapping(?!) in its title “Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt

Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce [Bravo, 10p]
Things are heating up as Jo’s English playboy baker professes his feelings for her and Abby puts Dr. Harrie through the ‘boyfriend test’.


As seen above, ABC brings back a revamped Muppets, Syfy closes up the first season of The Expanse, and the highly anticipated true crime mini-series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story commences on FX…there’s continuing faithful shows like The GrinderiZombie (our hero takes on the characteristics of an erotic fiction author tonight — could be fun), Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fresh Off The Boat and Marvel’s 

Monday’s Best Reviewed: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Last night’s reviews were all over the board, as all four major shows earning review got at least one rave and at least one downright pan. The winner by default is burgeoning cult classic musical Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s return to camp (with Josh, of course).

Monday, February 1’s Best: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (8.0/10)

besyescrazyMost liked this quirkiest of “love” stories as CEG sent Becca an Josh back to camp. Present in A- praise was AV Club calling it the “latest in a line of strong episodes” for “how nimbly it balances not one, but three big storylines.” Christine Laskodi at TV Fanatic is less enamored, dipping the show into the mid-3s for its “slow start,” but loves the revelations.

The Rest of the Night:

Jane the Virgin – 7.9

JTV‘s 32nd chapter got almost identical grades as Crazy Ex from all comers, save a tenth less of a star from TV Fanatic‘s Amanda Steinmetz who felt “nothing about [Jane’s] two potential suitors interested [her].”

Supergirl – 7.1

Supergirl‘s introduction of their take on the classic Bizarro character was polarizing to say the least. Caroline Siede at AV Club found it “elevates” the series and loved its feminist twist and how Supergirl saw her doppelgangerly opponent as a “victim not a villain.” On the other end of the spectrum, IGN‘s Cliff Wheatley, while recognizing the show caught some of its new villain’s “inherent tragedy,” unloaded on the episode as “rife with melodrama, hammy acting, odd character choices, and relationships we simply aren’t invested in.”

The Magicians – 6.7

IGN, on the other hand, loved the third episode of The Magicians for its penchant to “allow for nice touches for each of the characters.” AV Club was more tepid, issuing a warning to viewers who thought the initial pair of episodes “tore through plot too quickly…that problem is not going away.”


What to Watch: 02/01/2016

We’re halfway through the bitterest Winter months, and there’s a full complement of shows on the air, but sometimes the best call is to bask in classic 1990s movies of all varieties for a few days.

Angie Tribeca (TBS, 7p)
Yes, I know I have been hawking AT at every week’s beginning, but this episode where Tribeca & Giles go undercover as a pair of newlyweds to bring down a coke-smuggling wedding planner is the Naked Gun-esque’s series high point so far.

No Mas Bebes [PBS, 10p]
This doc discusses how Mexican mothers were coerced into getting sterilized in hospitals during the 1960s and 70s. I’m interested to see if they mention how it was also happening in Puerto Rico at the same time but under false pretenses, which is even more devastating.

Dick Tracy [TMC, 6p]
When this violent trainwreck came out in 1990, I wasn’t allowed to see it (for good reason–sex! a muddled plot! violence! terrible acting!), even though all the kids had bright yellow Dick Tracy lunchboxes. Hindsight, paired with Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This has resulted in relief that I can view this film with a critical, adult lens.


The X-Files improved from its tenth season’s first to second episode, and tonight we see if it can rise anywhere near the delightful insanity of its 1990s episodes (on FOX, of course)…if you enjoy awkward rich Brits, you have a couple choices: if you desire highbrow, Downton Abbey‘s final season marches on over at PBS, but if you feel like descending down to a floor above Benny Hill, check out the delightfully bizarre mock-reality show Almost Royal on BBC.