Wednesday, April 27, 2011

10 FAVORITES (31) - Tales of the British Royalty

The romance.  The drama.  The fashion.  The exorbitance.  The media obsession.  The good-looking young people.  No, this is not the premiere of the final Twilight movie, but time for the Royal Wedding: 2011 Edition!  It seems like only a month ago that Prince William was a tiny little boy hanging on to the hand of his beautiful mother, the late Princess Diana.  It seems like only last week we saw the very public demise of the marriage of Prince Charles and the Lady Di.  It seems like only yesterday we watched in horror as they pulled that totaled car out of the Paris tunnel only to announce that the People's Princess was, in fact, dead.  Now (14 years later), William is all grown up and ready to take the steps towards his future as King of the United Kingdom (and all its many territories).  He announced his engagement to his longtime lady-love Kate Middleton back in November of 2010 and immediately the date was set for the wedding.  On Friday, April 29 at 9AM London time (That's 4AM New York time and 1AM San Francisco time, people!), the Royal Wedding Live Coverage begins.  I will not be one of the many people staying up to watch (or setting my DVR for that matter), but I doubt I will be able to avoid any photographs or video feeds of the celebration that Friday afternoon!

Our culture has always had an odd fascination with the Royals.  This past Easter weekend, my family debated on whether the Royal Wedding coverage would be as pronounced here in the U.S. as it would be in the U.K. (I think we believed us Yanks would outshine the Brits as far as coverage goes, but that's cause we have more TV stations than any other country!).  As a child of the 1980s, I grew up seeing the footage of Charles and Diana's wedding and watching their marriage crumble (not to mention the crumbling marriage of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson!).  But when it comes to fascinating drama where British Royalty is concerned, these Windsors have got nothing on their predecessors!  As a history buff (a trait I come by honestly as my family is full of history buffs!), I have been intrigued by the stories of the previous Kings and Queens of England.  I have combed through their stories, trying to know everything I can AND learning new things in the process each time I do so.  With that in mind AND in honor of the upcoming Royal nuptials, this week's 10 FAVORITES are devoted to the stories that have made the British Monarchy so entertaining.  Here are: 


George III Goes a Little Mad
He was the King we led our American Revolution against and what happened afterwards seems to come right out of a daytime soap opera (or from Dr. Oz!).  In 1810, King George III's many physical problems (including rheumatism, partial blindness and irritable bowels) were causing such stress that his behavior was radically changing, and not in a good way.  His power-hungry son, Prince George (whom I call "Thicky George" thanks to BlackAdder!), seized this opportunity to be declared Prince Regent (meaning he would be the monarch with the power!).  George III's insanity had plagued him until his death 10 years later and Prince George became King George IV.  Below, is the trailer for the powerful 1994 film The Madness of King George starring the late Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren and Rupert Everett.

Edward VIII and the Nazis...I mean...Woman He Loved
A love affair is just the tip of the iceberg on this Royal scandal that helped shape the Windsors and who they are today.  Before he was King Edward VIII, the Prince of Wales (or "David," as he was called) had slowly begun to rebel against the stern guidance of his parents King George V and Queen Mary.  He began shirking Royal duties and carrying on clandestine relationships with several married noblewomen.  But it was one married woman that caused a fervor that would still be talked about 50 years later: Mrs. Wallis Simpson, an American.  Not only was she not impressed by the British monarchy's rules and rituals, but she heavily encouraged the Prince's pro-Nazi tendencies and admired the way Adolf Hitler pulled Germany out of its horrible Depression (Don't ask why!).  Of course, a marriage between the newly crowned King (George V died in early 1936) and Mrs. Simpson was out of the question as far as the Cabinet was concerned, so Edward VIII abdicated the throne in December 1936 for the "Woman He Loved" and became the Duke of Windsor (more on the remnants of this abdication in a bit!).  Below, is Edward's actual Abdication Address he gave over the radio to the British people.

Henry II and Thomas Becket: England's Tragic Bro-Mance
Who doesn't love a good Bro-Mance these days?  And this one is one for the "Middle" Ages (I know, I couldn't resist!).  King Henry II was a typical medieval king: carousing with many wenches, boasting about his triumphs and strutting his status as a great Norman king over the beleaguered Saxons.  One of his best friends and closest advisers, Thomas Becket, was a Saxon.  As Henry craved for religious independence from Rome and the Pope, he appointed his best friend Becket to the important post of Archbishop of Cantebury (still, the highest religious office in England).  Here is where the friendship began to sour.  When Becket's constant refusal to bow to Henry's every whim caused a riff between the two old friends, a drunken Henry (after a night of debauchery with his restless and violent soldiers) wept into his grog and said "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" (referring to Becket).  The soldiers, to drunk to realize he didn't mean it, took it upon themselves that this was an order from their king and made swift haste to Cantebury.  There, in the cathedral as Becket was completing services, the soldiers interrupted and brutally assassinated the Archbishop.  Afterwards, Henry II was never the same.  Below, is the 1964 Oscar-winning epic Becket starring Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton (in masterful performances as Henry II and Thomas Becket, respectively).

Oliver Cromwell Makes Charles I Lose His Head
It seems that Kings have it all and they enjoy keeping it.  I mean, we all know the Mel Brooks line "It's good to be the King."  Well, it seems that Charles I took that statement on as his montra.  In the 1640s, King Charles I was arrogant, exorbitant and insensitive to his people and his Cabinet ministers.  In addition to all this, he was married to a Catholic Queen (the French Princess Henrietta Marie) and allowed her free reign in the palace to live as a Catholic (which was a no-no in the very Protestant England, especially for the King).  The Cabinet became enraged with his dismissals and refusals to hear their advice.  They were further angered by his insistence on taxing the people high taxes to pay for his expensive (and seemingly Catholic) lifestyle.  Chief among these angry ministers was nobleman Oliver Cromwell, who stirred up enough fervor within the ministry to call for the Parliament to rebel against their sovereign.  Charles I was arrested, put on trial and sentenced to death (much like is grandmother Mary of Scotland, but more on that later!).  In 1649, Charles was beheaded and Parliamentary rule was put in place of the monarchy (only to be overturned a decade later with Charles II, son of Charles I, restored to the throne).  Below, is the beheading scene from the 1970 film Cromwell which featured Richard Harris in the title role and a brilliant Alec Guinness as the doomed king.

Henry V's Agincourt Triomphe
A young and impetuous Prince ascends to the throne and fights off the French in a battle that changed the way military leaders think about combat.  Sounds like some fantasy film or legend, huh?  But it really happened!  King Henry V wasn't always brilliant leader material.  In his youth, the young Prince Hal caroused and took nothing his father, King Henry IV, said seriously.  When Henry IV died, it seemed like a light bulb suddenly turned on in the new King's head.  He realized he had to be what his father wanted of him and he had to establish his dominance.  To fight off an impending invasion from the French, Henry needed to truly inspire his troops as his plan seemed inconceivable.  He placed his troops in a way the French never expected and defeated them mercilessly.  And what did he do to inspire his troops to such a feat?  Well, according to William Shakespeare in his masterful history play Henry V, Henry gave a powerful speech that stirs the very patriotic emotions that a soldier needs before going into battle (see below, in Kenneth Branagh's amazing 1989 film version of the Shakespeare work).

George VI's Stammering Success
This story was not as well-known until fairly recently (for obvious Oscar-winning reasons), but it is one of the most inspirational stories from the British monarchy (they can't all be scandals people!).  When King Edward VIII abdicated his throne (see above), it thrust the job onto an unlikely candidate: his brother, Bertie, who was now King George VI.  George had one major problem, though.  He had a severe stammer that plagued him every time he was to speak in public.  It tormented him and it frustrated him.  There was no hope in sight until his wife, Queen Elizabeth, took him to an Australian actor and speech therapist named Lionel Logue.  Logue's radical ways helped George discover the deeper meanings behind his stammer and they tackled every word of a speech before it was to be heard.  It was the jolt that both George and England needed as, right on the heels of Edward's abdication, the Nazis invaded Poland and World War II began.  King George VI (and his Queen and two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret) became symbols for the British people of strength and resolve in the face of true evil.  Below, the trailer for this year's Academy Award-winner for Best Picture (and Best Actor), The King's Speech.

Richard III Puts Princes in the Tower
When a man craves being the King, nothing stands in his way, not even children.  After the tumultuous War of the Roses (the battle for the English throne between the Lancasters and the Yorks), King Edward IV (of York) was dying and his young son Edward was poised to take his place as king.  But young Edward (and his little brother) did not count on their vicious uncle Richard to slash his way to the throne.  Richard already had his older brother, the Duke of Clarence, and various other noblemen (Duke of Buckingham, for example) disposed of before he set his murderous eyes on his young nephews.  He imprisoned the boys in the Tower of London (telling them it was "for their protection") and there, he had the two Princes killed in secret.  Nothing was in Richard's way when he was crowned King Richard III (only to be later defeated at Bosworth field by Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII, father of another important monarch!).  Below, William Shakespeare's play Richard III is by far the most adequate portrayal of the wicked Richard and there was no better Shakespeare interpreter than Lord Laurence Olivier.

Henry VIII Has Six Wives
Talk about Big Love!  Henry VIII makes some Mormons look like monogamists!  Okay, let's be a little objective, King Henry VIII was never married to all six at one time (only a couple of them at the same time but that's a debate for later!).  Henry VIII's obsessive quest for a male heir caused a religious quandary that basically founded the modern Church of England (or Anglicanism).  After his first wife, the Spanish Catherine of Aragon produced one healthy child (the female Mary, who later became Queen Mary I or "Bloody Mary"), Henry shifted his attentions to the sensual Anne Boleyn and petitioned Rome for a divorce from Catherine.  When Rome refused, Henry declared himself "Supreme Head of the Church in England," divorced Catherine and married Anne.  When Anne, too, only produced one healthy child (again a girl, Elizabeth, more on her soon!), he felt tricked by her seductive ways and had her beheaded.  He then married the plain Jane Seymour (No, NOT Dr. Quinn!), who died soon after the birth of his only living son, Edward (later Edward VI).  After Jane's death, he married three more times before his death, bringing the grand total of wives to six.  In the final three: there was the German Anne of Cleves (who he divorced after feeling deceived about her appearance), Catherine Howard (Anne Boleyn's young cousin, whose sexual escapades condemned her to the block) and the Puritan Catherine Parr (who became Henry's widow).  Below, is a compilation from Showtime's series The Tudors, whose four seasons took audiences through all six of Henry's marriages.

Victoria and Edward VII: Mother VS. Son
Some of the best stories in history are about the power struggles and dramatic tension between parents and their children.  When Queen Victoria's beloved husband, Prince Albert, died of typhoid in 1861, the Queen shut herself away from public life wearing black for the rest of her days (which went on for another 42 years!).  In addition to the self-imposed seclusion, she would never allow her son, the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII), to publicly appear in her place and she hated it when her son took it upon himself to do so.  To be fair to her, she had legitimate reasons to distrust her son's judgment as his many dalliances and extra-marital affairs had British society whispering and pointing fingers.  But to be fair to him, when his mother gives him nothing to do, why not try to make the best out of his life (although I am NOT condoning his cheating on Alexandra, Princess of Wales!)?  Their constant struggle for dominance and his need for his mother's approval were expertly dramatized in the 1976 British miniseries Edward the Seventh featuring Annette Crosbie and Timothy West (as Victoria and Edward, respectively).

Elizabeth I: The Golden Queen
In her 45 year reign, there is always something fascinating in the story of "The Virgin Queen," Elizabeth I.  Even her life before she became Queen is fascinating.  Let's face it, her birth (and her parents' marriage) caused a religious upheaval in the country that forever changed the landscape of Europe.  Her father had her mother beheaded when she was only 3 years old.  She was sexually molested by her brother's uncle.  She was almost sentenced to death by her own sister!  She refused suitor after suitor and poured favor on a man she adored (who was already married!).  She signed the death warrant of her cousin, Queen Mary of Scotland, after Mary was implicated in a plot on her life.  She defeated the invasion of the Spanish Armada.  And, although she was the last of the Tudor monarchs, she reigned in a time when England was at its most prosperous and most influential (just think of William Shakespeare or Sir Francis Drake or Sir Walter Raleigh!).  Below, a montage of one of the most recent and most poignant portrayals of Queen Elizabeth I: Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

10 FAVORITES (30) - Movies Get Biblical!

We are almost at the end of April and Easter is finally fast approaching (April 24th is the latest the holiday can be!).  This particular holiday can be just a tad controversial for some and cause the political correctness scale to go a little haywire.  But I shall brave the controversy and the political correctness to talk about movies.  In particular, movies that have drawn their source from quite possibly the most influential book in all of Western Culture.  But, since I couldn't get my hands on a copy of Snooki's book, we'll have to talk about the Bible.

The stories from the Bible have been some of the most difficult to depict on film.  Some films have gotten overly preachy (King of Kings), some get too ambitious for their own good (John Huston's massive flop The Bible) and some go too far in their dramatic interpretation (Samson and Delilah).  There have been few films that have that happy medium between knowing what they are (i.e. what genre they are!), knowing what they are based on (The Bible!) and knowing how to best serve their audience (who are really only looking for entertainment when they go to the movies!).  So this week's 10 FAVORITES are:


The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson's controversial and graphic interpretation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is one of the most poignant of the Bible films (and the most successful!).  I must admit that I avoided this movie for the longest time (pretty much because of the controversy surrounding it). But once I saw it, I discovered what there is to appreciate about it.  It's not the absolute best, but it is worth watching (especially around Easter time!).

The Ten Commandments (1956)
Talk about another must-watch! This film is the It's a Wonderful Life of Easter time (even though it's about Moses, not Jesus!).  And there is much to appreciate about it, especially considering what master filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille was able to accomplish in 1956.  The parting of the Red Sea scene is particularly fascinating.

King David (1985)
This film is little known and it does get a little overly dramatic, especially in Richard Gere's performance as the title character.  But it is nice to see a Biblical movie that doesn't involve Moses, Jesus or Noah!

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
The first of three musicals to appear on this list, this too also gets a little uber-dramatic in its interpretation, but it IS a musical (and a musical in the rock opera sense!).  Once you accept the genre you are in, you can thoroughly enjoy the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice score and the rockin' performances coming from Ted Neeley (in the title role), Yvonne Elliman (repeating her Tony-nominated performance as Mary Magdalene) and the late Carl Anderson (who was absolutely phenomenal as Judas).

The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Dreamworks wanted to prove they could do the animated musical as well as Disney and, in order to do that, they got Biblical! This film is quite enjoyable each time I see it, especially because of the songs by Oscar-winner Stephen Schwartz (Wicked).

Ben-Hur (1959)
Okay, technically it is not a Bible film, but it does incorporate Jesus' story with that of Ben-Hur's.  And the film is constantly pointed to as part of the "Biblical" genre.  Like DeMille's Ten Commandments (which also starred Charlton Heston), William Wyler's massive epic is quite stunning (especially the groundbreaking and thrilling Chariot race!).  It was the first film to garner 11 Academy Awards, a record that took almost 40 years to be tied (by Titanic in 1998).

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Before Mel Gibson tampered with controversy and Christ, there was Marty.  Martin Scorsese, who is quite possibly one of the greatest film directors of all-time, played with fire and directed a dramatic look at Jesus' inner struggle.  When it comes to storytelling, no one does it like Scorsese and this film is among his best.  It features jarring imagery and stellar performances from Willem Dafoe (as Christ), Barbara Heshey (as Mary Magdalene), Harvey Keitel (as Judas) and (in the role of Pontius Pilate) David Bowie!

Godspell (1973)
This one is like a mix of the previous two musicals: The story of Jesus with the songs of Stephen Schwartz!  Honestly, Schwartz' score is the major reason I love this film, but the movie does make great use of its New York scenery (especially the World Trade Center) and delightfully fits into the Biblical film genre.

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
Of all the Biblical epics (Ben-Hur, Ten Commandments, etc.), this one is truly the best and filled with an all-star cast.  George Stevens (who helmed legendary films like Giant and The Diary of Anne Frank) gives his audience a picturesque and dramatic narrative.  And the performances (led by Max Von Sydow's amazing performance as Jesus) are first rate.

Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
Okay, once again, people may think I'm cheating but I just love this film! And if Ben-Hur counts, then so does this one! There's not much I can say about this film that I haven't said already on this blog.  Everything about it makes me smile, especially the final song.

As I may have just angered a lot of people with my #1 choice, I will sign off now.  But I do hope my regular readers come back next week as we talk British royalty (in honor of Prince William's upcoming nuptials!).  In the meantime, enjoy your Easter holiday!  (And if you don't celebrate Easter, have a great weekend!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

10 FAVORITES (29) - GLEE: Musical Moments

It is one of the most popular TV shows in the past year.  It has dominated ratings, award shows AND even the music charts!  Of course, I am referring to the FOX musical smash hit comedy series Glee.  The show first made its high-profile appearance after an American Idol finale back in May 2009.  Over that summer, the series became the most anticipated show of the 2009-10 Fall Season.  It has created a fan-base (known as Gleeks!) that rivals that of Trekkies or Potter-heads.  The show has since garnered several chart-topping hits on iTunes (the cast has proven themselves over and over that they are very adept at covers!) and won several Emmy Awards (including one for standout "villain" - Jane Lynch).  The show, now very close to finishing its second season, was also honored as the Golden Globes' Best Series-Musical or Comedy two years in a row.  We are now less than a week away from the next new episode (the last new episode aired on FOX on Tuesday, March 22), and so I find it fitting to name off my 10 FAVORITE musical moments from this breakout phenomenon.  So, here are:


NOTE ON THE VIDEOS: No copyright infringement is intended by the use of the videos.  Glee is owned by the FOX Broadcasting Company.  And most of these videos can be found on YouTube.

Empire State of Mind
Episode: Audition, Season 2
Original Artist: Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys
When the second season began, the Glee club needed to recruit new members.  And to do it, they decided to perform for the school at lunch Jay-Z's anthem/ode to the City that Never Sleeps.  Even though I'm not a fan when the cast raps, Artie (Kevin McHale), Finn (Cory Monteith) and Puck (Mark Salling) do Jay-Z proud; but the song really takes off when the ladies (including the Mercedes of Amber Riley and Lea Michele's indomitable Rachel) add their lush harmonies to Alicia Keys' poetic refrain.

Push It
Episode: Showmance, Season 1
Original Artist: Salt-N-Pepa
If you were not sure Glee was a comedy series, then this musical performance (along with the reactions of Matt Morrison's Will Schuester and Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester) should make you a believer.  It is clear the writers knew exactly what they were doing!

Time Warp
Episode: The Rocky Horror Glee Show, Season 2
Original Artist: The Cast of The Rocky Horror Show
For their Halloween episode this season, the cast went all out and performed numbers from the cult musical The Rocky Horror Show.  And what kind of musical would it be if it did not have a smash-bang finale (using the most popular and requested song from the original show!).

Like a Prayer
Episode: The Power of Madonna, Season 1
Original Artist: Madonna
In their go-for-broke tribute episode to the Material Girl, the Glee creators delivered one of their best episodes both musically and plot-wise.  But it was the powerful and poignant finale (Madonna's religious and controversial hit) was the moment that had Gleeks dancing the night away.  Below, the cast performs the number at their very successful live concert.

Thriller AND Heads Will Roll
Episode: The Sue Sylvester Shuffle, Season 2
Original Artists: Michael Jackson AND The Yeah Yeahs
When Glee was announced as the show that would follow this year's Super Bowl, everyone knew that the show had to deliver something spectacular.  Their Christmas episode (the episode before it) was not universally well-received, so many critics had their doubts whether Ryan Murphy and company could pull it off.  But the New Directions not only delivered, but gave us a message about worlds colliding and making the best of things as the show's football half-time number displayed.

The Journey Medley (Faithfully, Any Way You Want It, Lovin' Touchin' and Squeezin' AND Don't Stop Believin')
Episode: Journey, Season 1
Original Artist: Journey
At their first Regionals performance, the New Directions relied on the band that inspired Mr. Schuester to keep the glee club going.  Their medley was one of the most exciting moments of season one (and shattered our hearts when they failed to win the top prize!).  Below, is the cast performing part of the medley at their sold out Glee Live! concerts in 2010.  To see the medley in context, click here.

Get It Right AND Loser Like Me
Episode: Original Song, Season 2
Original Artist: The Cast of Glee
For their second trip to Regionals, Mr. Schuester agreed that the New Directions needed to do something daring.  They needed to do their OWN original songs!  With Rachel belting out her poignant ballad followed by the group's catchy production number, the most recent new episode entertained audiences to no end and made Gleeks everywhere salivate for the next new episode.

Somebody to Love
Episode: The Rhodes Not Taken, Season 1
Original Artist: Queen
The Queen power ballad has been covered by almost everyone, but the New Directions showed their strength and took on Freddie Mercury's unmistakable (and almost intimidating) lead vocals.  The song became the cast's second signature number.

Don't Stop Believin'
Episode: Pilot, Season 1
Original Artist: Journey
This was the moment where you knew the show could be something special.  It also is the moment in the show where not only Mr. Schuester thinks that the glee club will survive, but arch-nemesis Sue Sylvester discovers that the club could pose a threat to her and her Cheerios.  The song has become so identified with the show and is clearly the cast's signature number (as the cast recently performed the song on the British hit series The X-Factor).

Don't Rain On My Parade AND You Can't Always Get What You Want
Episode: Sectionals, Season 1
Original Artists: Barbra Streisand AND The Rolling Stones
If "Don't Stop Believin'" was the moment where you knew the show was special and "Somebody to Love" was the moment you felt the show could last longer than a year, then it was this, the New Directions' Sectionals performance, where you knew that the show was great.  First of all, the cleverness to follow a Streisand number with a Stones song is not only exciting but extremely aware of the wide range of the audience.  Then, there are the performances of the New Directions themselves.  Their energy is so infectious and Lea Michele's powerhouse rendition of "Parade" was so phenomenal that it garnered her a well-deserved Emmy nomination.  Like their Original Song Medley later in Season 2, this is the format (Lea Michele ballad followed by high-energy group number) that works best for the show.

NOTE ON THE VIDEOS: No copyright infringement is intended by the use of the videos.  Glee is owned by the FOX Broadcasting Company.  And most of these videos can be found on YouTube.

When Glee returns on Tuesday, April 19, we shall see if the show can match some of their best moments as they head to their season finale: the Nationals competition in New York City.  Next week, in honor of the upcoming Easter holiday, I will discuss the Bible and its impact on film, television and pop culture.  Good Times!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

10 FAVORITES (28) - Sitcom Couples

Back in February, because of my month-long tribute to the Academy Awards (and my predictions, which were almost spot on, if I say so myself!), I missed the opportunity to dedicate a 10 FAVORITES list to Valentine's Day (one of the most popular holidays of the year - especially for greeting card and candy companies!).  So, I decided that this week's 10 FAVORITES should be a sort of "make-up" one (No, it is NOT about cosmetics!). It's about love and couple-hood, more importantly SITCOM couple-hood (so technically, fake love, but whatever)!  In most sitcoms, there always seems to be a "core" couple that everyone in the series (and everyone who watches the show religiously) wants to emulate or see get together or make it work.  So many of today's current shows (Glee, Modern Family, Chuck, The Big Bang Theory and more!) have fans that have dedicated their "blogosphere-lives" (if you can call it a "life," but that's another post!) to promoting the central couples online (via Facebook, Wikipedia, etc.).  So it is safe to say that being a Sitcom couple has the potential to be a pop-culture phenomenon.  But who are the best Sitcom couples?  I know there have been several articles that have pontificated and given their opinions, so why not add mine to the pot?!?!  Here are: 


Ralph & Alice Kramden, The Honeymooners (CBS)
They are the couple that many other couples have been based on or inspired by (The Flintstones, The King of Queens, etc.).  The great Jackie Gleason and the lovable Audrey Meadows infused the blue-collar marriage with hilarious timing and unmatchable delivery.

Kevin Arnold & Winnie Cooper, The Wonder Years (ABC)
Growing up and watching ABC's groundbreaking sitcom (one of the first major "dramedies"), everyone was rooting for awkward Kevin (played by Fred Savage) to make it work with "girl-next-door" Winnie (played by Danica McKellar).  The two became teen icons and forever embodied "first love."

Jim Halpert & Pam Beesly (later Halpert), The Office (NBC)
When the show first began, these two were the most endearing characters mainly because of sales rep Jim's (seemingly) unrequited love for receptionist Pam.  When they finally did get together (and get married AND have a baby), they became the TV's biggest power-couple.

Roseanne & Dan Conner, Roseanne (ABC)
This Sitcom couple proved that you could stay together through anything (and NOT just because of mere necessity).  The brash Roseanne and her big bear of a husband Dan (the highly underrated John Goodman) were never living the high life (except in the last season...and the less said about that, the better!), but through all their blue-collar troubles, they had each other.

Carrie Bradshaw & John James Preston (AKA Mr. Big), Sex and the City (HBO)
It took an entire 6 seasons (and one movie!) for these two disparate lovers to finally come together and tie the knot.  Sarah Jessica Parker's chic sex columnist spent many a sleepless night and a saucy brunch or dinner with her 3 best gal pals pining over Chris Noth's aptly named businessman, sparking a fan base that inspired the creators to make  a second (and really horrible!) movie!

Archie & Edith Bunker, All in the Family (CBS)
Just watching them together singing the iconic theme song to the show demonstrates how these two felt about each other.  Good-hearted bigot Archie and his ever-so-sweet-but-scatterbrained wife Edith (played to perfection by Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton, respectively) were in one of the most groundbreaking sitcoms of all-time, where nothing was off-limits.

Cliff & Clair Huxtable, The Cosby Show (NBC)
He was a doctor and she was a lawyer, now talk about your power-couples!  What always struck me about their relationship was how much they not only loved each other, but respected each other, which is what every person wants in their marriages and relationships.  We could all take a lesson from Mr. Cosby and Ms. Rashad!

Marge & Homer Simpson, The Simpsons (FOX)
As most of you know (from my Simpsons posts earlier this year), I am a huge fan of this couple.  Homer may be a simpleton and Marge may be slightly neurotic, but their love is strong and pure.  I think of them every time I hear The Carpenters' rendition of "Close to You" (only true Simpsons fans would understand that reference!).

Ross Geller & Rachel Greene, Friends (NBC)
More so than Jim and Pam or Carrie and Big, this couple had fans salivating and asking "Will They?" or "Won't They?" everywhere.  It has been 7 years since Friends ended (and almost 17 since it began, man I'm old!), but David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston will forever be remembered for the relationship that set '90s pop-culture a-buzz (now matter what bad movies they make now!).

Lucy & Ricky Ricardo, I Love Lucy (CBS)
Even though the show was on long before I was born and I never really cared for the show (but I will never deny the influence and fanbase it has), this was the couple to which every other TV couple was compared.  It didn't hurt that the two actors (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) were really married at the time and were television's first major power-couple (they ran their own studio!).

Sam Malone & Diane Chambers, Cheers (NBC)
No other couple matches the chemistry between these two and you felt it the minute the sweet and snobbish college student first walked into the ex-pitcher and smooth ladies' man's bar.  Shelley Long and Ted Danson were perfect in their roles and audiences tuned in every week to see if one of their long childish arguments would end with a passionate kiss.

Special Thanks have to go out to the fans of these show who create FanVids on YouTube dedicated to some of these couples.  It makes it easier to find videos that best define these couples' relationships even though some of the respective production companies don't allow their property on the site.  Next week, we stay in the Television realm by talking about the "buzziest" show in the last year: the FOX musical phenomenon that is GLEE!

Friday, April 1, 2011

10 FAVORITES (27) - Stand-Up Comics

Happy April Fool's Day all! Today's 10 FAVORITES will be all about the funny!  We all love to laugh and there are certain people in this world who can make us laugh to complete satisfaction.  This week's 10 FAVORITES is devoted to the stand-ups who have done that for me.  I won't be saying a lot this week as I want to let the videos speak for themselves.

VIDEO DISCLAIMER: The videos below are solely for entertainment purposes only.  Some of them contain some very graphic language and material that may be too offensive for some readers.  No offense is intended by sharing the videos and discretion is strongly advised.


George Lopez
The stand-up comic turned sitcom star turned late night host has gotten in some trouble recently for comments he made about the new Dancing With the Stars cast, but his comedy has always made me laugh.  Anytime he's talking about the cultural differences in our society or imitating his tough relatives or talking about his passion for golf, Lopez knows exactly how to entertain his fans.

Billy Crystal
He will ALWAYS be my favorite Oscars host and, after the debacle that was this year's choices, that fact has never become more prevalent.  His comedy, like Lopez', centered in ethnic diversities and the many cultural differences he grew up around in New York City.  But coming from that endearing face and that sincere smile, you couldn't help but laugh.

Whoopi Goldberg
She is original, unapologetic, controversial and the only woman on this list (sorry ladies, Ellen didn't make it!).  Though now she is known for her outrageous Viewpoints (sorry folks, I couldn't resist!), her comedy is the thing I've admired most about her.  The best thing about stand-up is her delivery and her timing.  It seems so natural to her and so Whoopi!  Those qualities have probably aided her in her Oscar-winning acting career as well (like in Ghost or The Color Purple or as Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation).

Jerry Seinfeld
His sitcom probably helped to define my generation and his delivery is unlike any other (some would liken it to  a whinier Woody Allen!).  Jerry Seinfeld was at his best when he was talking about anything and nothing (much like the premise of his sitcom!).  He, much like several comics of his time, would kill the audiences just musing about everyday things.

Steve Martin
I first saw Steve Martin in The Muppet Movie and then his guest appearance on The Muppet Show.  Both that cameo and that episode were two of the funniest things ever involving the Muppets (whom I adore!), and I figured it had to be their common theme: Steve Martin!  Later, my brother introduced me to some of his stand-up and his performances in hilarious films like The Jerk, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Parenthood.  He is truly a "Wild and Crazy Guy" with no boundaries and we love him for it.

Richard Pryor
So many of today's comics point to the late Richard Pryor as their biggest influence and for several reasons.  But the first reason that always comes up is that he would say anything.  Nothing was off-limits with Pryor.  Not race, not his drug use, not his many brushes with death and not even his sex life were left out of his hilarious routines.  And we are all the better for him.

Bill Cosby
His sitcom was my favorite sitcom growing up and I adored his Fat Albert tales (and the animated series had some of the coolest music EVER!).  Cosby knew how to make his family universal while sharing their funny quirks.  When he talks about his parents becoming grandparents and the problems that arise, my parents completely identified with that.

Robin Williams
Zany, outrageous, mile-a-minute and flamboyant are just a few of the adjectives that can be applied to Robin Williams.  The first time I saw him was on the successful TV series Mork and Mindy where he played an alien from the planet Ork.  That should tell you a little bit about Williams' out-there personality.  He is one of the few comics who as also managed to be one of the most respected actors.  After all, "Dying Is Easy, Comedy Is Hard!"

George Carlin
The late George Carlin seemed to step right out of the hippy-era 1960's laughing.  Carlin was my father's favorite comic and when it came to groundbreaking, there was no one like him.  Just watch his notorious "7 Dirty Words" talk below (Parents read the DISCLAIMER above!).

Eddie Murphy
There is NO ONE better than Eddie Murphy for me.  He is quite frankly the best stand-up comic from my childhood!  He is the best and funniest parts of Disney's Mulan and Dreamworks' Shrek series.  And Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places are two of the funniest films of the 1980's.  There's really not much more I can say, so watch him talk about ice cream.

So I hoped you enjoyed this tribute to stand-up comedy on this hilarious April Fool's Day!  Next week, we'll take a look at some of TV sitcom's best lovers! Isn't that the way? One week: We're funny and the next week: We're sexy!  We're all over the place!