Today's News: Our Take


Question: Can you tell me the ...

Question: Can you tell me the title and artist for the song that played at the end of the West Wing episode in which Agent Donovan (Mark Harmon) is shot? — Leslie, Hollister, Mo.

Televisionary: I can and will, especially since it's a song that keeps coming up in different versions on various shows. (The last time I wrote about it was, I believe, in reference to a Without a Trace episode.) You're looking for Jeff Buckley's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," which is on Buckley's album Grace. (And as I've written before, a very good Rufus Wainwright take can be found, surprisingly, despite the song's racy content, on the Shrek soundtrack.

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Question: Do you know who ...

Question: Do you know who played the oceanographer on the TV series Flipper? — Michelle, Norfolk, Va.

Televisionary: That was Swedish stunner Ulla Stromstedt, who was a junior ice-skating champ in her native country and an art student at the Sorbonne before breaking into American TV. And it was a shame she had to memorize scripted lines since what she came up with on her own was far more bizarre and fascinating (even after allowing for the slight language barrier). A sample of how her mind worked:

"I am conscientious and I want to come through tops," she told TV Guide in 1966. Flipper doesnt' really demand much of the actor, it doesn't have much to say. I think it was Voltaire who said, 'There are two types of people: the worried and the bored.' I'd rather be worried. Being an actress, I worry with a smooth face. Very often I feel like crying. I have been crying a lot because I like it. But when you cry, you ruin your face. I ha read more

Question: Some of the early ...

Question: Some of the early advertising I have seen for the Academy Awards says that the start time is 8/7c. Are we talking 8 pm eastern time? — Linda

Televisionary: Yep, 8 pm/ET, per usual, with a half-hour of arrivals followed by the ceremony itself, which starts at 8:30 pm. (Starting at 8 pm/PT would mean 11 pm/ET in the east, a late hour for even the hardiest film buff.)

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Warning: Tonight is a reality...

Warning: Tonight is a reality TV type of night. So if you can't handle a manipulated, heavily edited, prime-time version of truth, just skip this night all together. I probably should have.

Airline
A good thing: That supervisor Mike is some kind of saint. Truly. Because, and this is awful, but I don't know if I could have helped a strange man change his pooped-in pants. Alzheimer's or not.
A bad thing: Southwest apparently runs its airline like a beauty shop and intentionally overbooks flights supposedly to "save us money." According to this show, "many" airlines do it. What?! A&E needed to not tell me this. Life was better when I did not know.

American Idol 3
Jesus and Noel are going to Hollywood, dawg! So is Scooter Girl. Like I care.

Chasing Freedom
OK. Here's the deal. Movies like this make me proud to be an American and feel guilty about it at the same time read more

Question: How do I find not ...

Question: How do I find not only the title of a particular Frasier episode, but get a copy of it as well? It aired the week of Valentine's Day several years ago. Niles is ironing his pants, spills water, cuts himself, then faints on the couch. Daphne and Martin go to dinner together to lament their mutual lack of "someone special" in their lives. I'd like to get a copy for my "someone special" for this Valentine's Day. — Di, Davenport, Iowa

Televisionary: You're thinking of the Season 6 episode "Three Valentines," which first aired Feb. 11, 1999. Unfortunately, you're probably going to have to wait a few years to buy it since season two just came out on DVD this month.

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Question: Who was the genius ...

Question: Who was the genius behind the amazing essay Ephram Brown wrote on that episode of Everwood? — Elizabeth, Baltimore, Md.

Televisionary: The Oct. 6 Everwood episode, "East Meets West," was written by John E. Pogue. And for those of you who missed it, here's "My Fatal Flaw," the essay written by Ephram (Gregory Smith) on the show:

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm not sure who the first person was who said that. Probably Shakespeare. Or maybe Sting. But at the moment, it's the sentence that best explains my tragic flaw: my inability to change.

I don't think I'm alone in this. The more I get to know other people, the more I realize it's kind of everyone's flaw. Staying exactly the same for as long as possible, standing perfectly still. It feels safer somehow. And if you are suffering, at least the pain is familiar. Because if you took that read more

Question: Why did Tattoo ...

Question: Why did Tattoo leave Fantasy Island? It seemed like a good setup. — Phoebe N., St. Augustine, Fla.

Televisionary: It was, but late actor Herve Villechaize wanted to make it a better paying one and asked for a raise when the series, which launched as a big hit for ABC in January 1978, had already begun to fade in the ratings. So he was voted off the island and replaced by the considerably taller (6-foot-2) Lawrence, a British butler played by Christopher Hewett, who joined the cast in 1983 and stayed until the series left the air in August 1984.

Even before that episode, however, producers were casting about for a replacement for the diminutive (3-foot-11) Villechaize. A couple of years earlier, the actor asked for a cut in hours for medical reasons (he had breathing problems) and then made a fuss when his request was granted and a new character, a goddaughter (Wendy Schaal) for Fantasy Island head honcho Mr. Roarke (Ricard read more

POLLY WANT SOME CASH?

Turns out audiences will see a movie with the names Jen and Ben above the title. Along Came Polly — the romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller — debuted atop the box office with $27.6 million. That ended the four-week reign of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which slipped to No.4 with $10.2 million and a total haul of $326.8 million. Tim Burton's family fable Big Fish held steady at No.2 with $10.4 million, followed closely by the motorbike thriller Torque at No. 3 with $10.3 million. read more

Ben Stiller Bites Back


Ben Stiller has bad luck with his animal costars. In Meet the Parents, he chased after a sneaky cat that had defiled the ashes of a dead relative. In Along Came Polly — currently in theaters — his on-screen girlfriend, Jennifer Aniston, has a blind pet ferret that roams free in her apartment, bumping into stuff. But Polly's feisty ferret got into even more trouble off screen — the critter attacked Stiller!

"I was bitten by the ferret, but I didn't do anything, I swear," Stiller insists. "I was holding him up and he did this crazy turn-around thing. He literally attached himself to my chin and he didn't let go.

"It was a surreal thing where it's like, 'OK, the ferret is on my chin,'" he continues. "Their teeth are sharp like razors. read more

Revenge of the TV Nerds


Pity poor Urkel and Screech. Clearly, they were born at the wrong time. Today's TV geeks are such a far cry from the walking punch lines of yore, we're laughing with them more often than at them. And how's this for progress? Some — like Everybody Loves Raymond's unlikely newlywed, Robert Barone — even get the girl. Read on and see for yourself: The tube's new breed of geeks has made it hip to be square.

Seth Cohen, The O.C.:Though his own mom has called this green wallflower a late bloomer, it wasn't long before he put away his toy horse to sow his own wild oats. After all, in the span of a Summer (pun intended), the Chrismukkah elf went from Newport's Most Unwanted to the guy atop two — count 'em, two! — hotties' to-do lists.

Marshall J. Flinkman, read more

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