Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What’s Next For Bobby Goren?

Robert “Bobby” Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) has had a rough two years:

1. His partner Alex Eames (Kathryn Erbe) is kidnapped by the murdering daughter of his mentor, Declan Gage (John Glover).

2. His mother Frances (Rita Moreno) was a head case, and died from cancer.

3. He found out his real father was a serial killer Mark Ford Brady (Roy Scheider).

4. His drug addicted, gambling, jerk of a brother Frank (Tony Goldwyn) lays a guilt trip on Bobby in order to enlist Bobby’s help for his son who is in prison. Bobby goes under cover, is tortured, and does help expose the corruption at the prison but ends our getting suspended for 6 months.

5. Bobby alienates his partner and his boss, Captain Ross (Eric Bogosian), and also finds someone left a dead rat in his desk.

6. Bobby’s brother is murdered, apparently by his old nemesis Nicole Wallace (Olivia D’Abo). Wallace is then apparently killed by Goren’s mentor Declan Gage, who set up all whole mess just to offer Bobby a puzzle and set him free.

Whew! That’s a lot of drama for just one man. It’s not that Vincent D’Onofrio isn’t up to the challenge. Far from it. D’Onofrio, who really gets into his roles (the best example is his 70 pound weight gain for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket ), seems very well suited to play the angst-ridden Detective Goren. Of course, he was “thanked” for his efforts with an Emmy snub, which I wrote about here and am still trying to rationalize.

But as the season finale ended and Goren is told by his mentor Declan Gage that he is free, the question is, what does “free” mean next season for Goren? And is Declan going to come back and create more problems for Bobby? And is it possible that Nicole Wallace is not really dead, having perpetrated a hoax by arranging somehow for a heart transplant so she could leave her heart – literally – for Declan to give to Goren?

Personally, I miss the Bobby Goren of the past, who had a serious yet sometimes playful approach to the job. He danced (sometimes with a man as he did in “Pas De Deux”). He got up close and personal to invade a person’s space during interrogations. He played with anything he could to put a suspect or anyone else he was questioning off kilter. He trusted his partner and his boss. He seemed much more alive inside, yet still with a mysterious edge.

There are some fans out there that like the troubled Goren because it brings out a whole new dimension for the show and for D’Onofrio. There are some who, like me, wish for the more mentally and physically agile Goren who always had a surprise maneuver up his sleeve. I have hopes that next season, with new crew of producers and a new addition (Jeff Goldblum), that we see something more like the earlier seasons, while still leaving in some lingering leftovers from Goren’s troubled past. But I don’t want them to leave in so much that we see Bobby spiral further downward into a mental dark abyss. Instead, I would like him to be able to draw on his past to be an even better detective, whose instincts have been sharpened by his own life experiences. In a way, I hope that the psychopath Nicole Wallace and the mentally diminished Declan Gage really have been able to set Bobby free. Because after all he’s been through, he deserves it.

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Jon Hamm Primer and a Mad Men Wrap

That's a wrap!

Yes, I know Mad Men just recently started their second season. But for them it's over; they just had their wrap party on August 23 in Los Angeles. The party was at the Cicada Restaurant, and was sponsored by Heineken. Here are a few photos that include Jon Hamm and series creator, Matt Weiner. (Hmmm….Hamm and Weiner. Suddenly I have an appetite for cured meats.) And yes there were other people there, but really, who cares about anyone else on that show?

And for all you Hamm fans, here’s some reading material. The first is a piece (undated) that ran in GQ Magazine about Jon. Below that is a feature article in the August Best Life Magazine, with some great photos at the link for the article.

The Man In The Gray (Indestructible) Suit
Mad Men’s Jon Hamm displays the power of the gray business suit (cutthroat attitude not included)
By Michael Hainey; Photograph by Nathaniel Goldberg

A business suit should be as tough as the guy wearing it. Here’s why the steel gray suit is more durable (and striking) than ever.

Let’s start with his head. When’s the last time you saw a profile like that? Blasted out of granite. The kind of square-jawed profile that stars used to have—before leading men were all replaced by wispy boys who had faces that had never seen a razor, let alone a five-o’clock shadow.

Not Jon Hamm.

The man’s got a head on his broad shoulders.

And everyone who watched AMC’s Mad Men was mesmerized by that mug. Not only the Brylcreem-loving handsomeness of it but also trying to figure out just what the hell is going on inside it-—inside the head of Hamm’s instantly iconic character, Don Draper.

“Don Draper is my father,” Hamm, 36, tells me over breakfast in Los Feliz, California, where he lives. “My dad was that guy. He was that guy living the American Dream in 1960s America. He owned a trucking company in St. Louis. Everyone in town knew him. He was the life of the party. But there was an incredible sadness inside him, too. Unfortunately, he died when I was 20, so I never got to know him man-to-man. Draper is my attempt to know him better.”

Now Hamm is adjusting to being recognized in public. “Brylcreem tends to make the difference. If I have it in, it happens. If not, I can usually slip in and out.” He pauses. “Though less and less. The nice part is that I’m getting meetings I never used to get. It’s like that line in the show: ‘A man is whatever room he is in.’ I’m in the right rooms a lot more now.”

Hard Sell

By: Joel Stein; Photograph: Richard Phibbs
Aug 17, 2008

I am hoping Jon Hamm will be wearing a concert T-shirt, reading a comic book, or eating a cupcake.

Maybe in person he'll be a little nervous about being interviewed for the cover story of a national magazine, emitting a Beavis laugh at everything he says. I sincerely hope that he'll be nothing like the Brylcreemed, three-piece suited, silent, confident character he plays on Mad Men—not only because I have no idea what to say to that guy, but also because that kind of guy makes me feel bad about myself. Every time I watch the show and see him playing Don Draper, quietly bossing around the other people at his 1960s New York advertising firm, I look at my T-shirted, cupcake-eating self and wonder how confused Darwin would be to see how man devolved so quickly in half a century.

So I am none too happy when Hamm suggests we meet at the driving range. The driving range? Is the bull-fighting stadium closed for the day? Worse yet, despite how conspicuously chiseled-handsome Hamm is, did he need to pick the one place where he'd be camouflaged by other rich-looking athletic white guys?

But there he is in front of me, 6-foot-2 in Levis, a polo shirt, a St. Louis Blues hat, and perfect stubble, thwacking dead, public-park driving-range balls 200 yards with a three wood. This is going to be a long day.

The meeting progresses just as expected, with me playing the hapless slacker and Hamm fixing my stance and teaching me to keep my eye on the back of the ball, which actually allows me to hit the thing pretty well. He was taught by his grandfather in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, a tiny town on the Mississippi, about an hour south of St. Louis. His grandfather also taught him, of course, to fish and hunt. "I like shooting guns, but killing shit wasn't for me," he says. "Seeing a deer get trussed from the rafters of a garage was a little visceral, to say the least."

Seeing my struggles with the golf balls, Hamm suggests we bail on the golf and go to the tennis courts, since that's a sport I at least know how to play. I won't belabor the match, which sounds a lot better than it was at 6 to 3 (my three wins are due to a shocking amount of double faults and unforced errors that I attribute to the pressure of my occasionally pretending to write cruel observations in my notebook). Hamm does, however, get a little bit of a workout, so afterward, we go to lunch at the Mustard Seed Café, a lunch spot whose sidewalk tables he frequents regularly with his Shepard-mix mutt. Inside, we find his tall, blond girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt, finishing a salad and working on a script (she is an actress-writer-producer). As soon as Hamm introduces us, I lie and tell her I kicked his ass at tennis. She looks confused, like I must have misspoken, and then takes another look at me and goes from confused to horrified, as if she might end their 10-year relationship right there at lunch. I confess the truth and her brow smoothes out.

Hamm and I leave her to get our own table, and he orders—classic man-style—a BLT and potato salad before railing like a sensible Midwesterner about other L.A. restaurants. "I went to a place that had an $18 omelet," he says. "Come on. An $18 omelet? I remember going out in St. Louis and thinking I'd get in trouble if I ordered the thing that costs double digits."

I find out Hamm plays poker regularly and never goes to the gym, preferring to play baseball or other competitive sports, and am braced for a litany of other man pursuits. But instead, he starts talking about video games. "Growing up, the bowling alley had a pretty sick arcade," he says. "I was a Donkey Kong guy, big time. But I'd play anything. I still go. If I walk by an arcade, I'll walk in just to see what's new." He's telling me about his favorite Atari games (The Activision Decathlon, Pitfall) and his first computers (TI-99, Apple IIC), and I'm thinking, This guy isn't all that whiskey jock after all. Better yet, when he explains that the reason men looked better in the Mad Men era is that they dressed up, combed their hair, and tucked in their shirts, and I ask him if the show has improved his wardrobe, he says no. "It's the f--king 21st century," he says. "I'm comfortable." And, watching him pour two entire sugars into his Arnold Palmer, I'm incredibly relieved to know that, at 37, unmarried with no kids, he is the same kind of rejuvenile as every guy I know.

Right then, a woman in her sixties gets up from her lunch with a friend at the next table and walks over. Her cell phone is out, opened to camera mode, and I think, She is not the Mad Men demo. But it turns out she has no idea who Jon Hamm is.

"Can you help me find the photos to look at?" she asks, handing him the phone. And he takes it, no greeting taken or offered, so I figure he knows her.

"My Stuff. Let's look in there," says Hamm, punching buttons.


"There. Pictures."

She shakes her head in self-disapproval. "I've been trying to do this all day."

"My thumbs are too big," he says, smiling. "Ah. There's your pooch."

"Thank you so much."

As she leaves, still without introducing herself, contentedly heading off to show photos of her dog to her friend, I realize that Hamm is the man I feared from the get-go; it's just that the definition of being a man has changed from 1960. The guy just did the modern equivalent of helping a little old lady carry groceries to her car. Everything about him is a modern interpretation of adult. He may not be married, but he lives with his girlfriend of 10 years. He is politically progressive, but for him, it's about responsibility. "I'm for raising taxes. I like nice flat roads and schools you can send your kids to. I don't mind paying my share and someone else's share," he says.

It's that part of Hamm that he's able to translate into Don Draper, the Mad Men character he won a Golden Globe for in his first season, beating out Hugh Laurie and Bill Paxton. It's the quality that Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who wrote for The Sopranos, was looking for when, in the pilot script, he described Draper as a James Garner type. "Jon has an old-fashioned leading-man quality," says Weiner. "They're really out of style. Now he's the bad guy or the doofus or the other man. Because in a movie like Knocked Up, the witty chubby stoner guy is the leading man. Jon isn't snotty or childish. He's an adult. He has a lot of Gregory Peck in him."

Hamm has been an adult for a long time, maybe not since his parents divorced when he was 2, and maybe not even after his mom died suddenly of cancer when he was 10 and he went to live with his dad and his grandmother, but probably since he was 20 and they died too, and he became one of those kids who spend college breaks and summers living with a series of friends' families.

The weird thing is the kind of people he met there in St. Louis, through those families: They're people you've heard of. Some of this can be explained by the fact that Hamm's dad was pretty successful, and some can be explained by the fact that Hamm's mom left him money to go to a really good, progressive private school. But most of it can be explained by the fact that Hamm has that quiet, athletic, good-looking confidence, and it draws other confident people to him.

In fact, Hamm's ability to attract famous people is Forrest Gumpian. His high school girlfriend, Sarah Clarke, whose family he remains close with today, later played the villain on the first season of 24. And he lived with the family of Mary Ann Simmons, whose husband, Ted, played for the Cardinals. He's still really close with the Simmons's son Jon, who was coming to stay with him the day after our tennis outing. And Hamm didn't make these friends through loyalty. When Simmons went to the Brewers and played against the Cardinals in the 1982 World Series, Hamm rooted against him. "Nothing personal," says Hamm, "but, dude, it's the Cardinals."

"He was the cool guy in high school," says Joe Buck, the baseball sportscaster. "He was the cool guy in college. He's not the before-and-after pictures where he was the nerd in high school with tape on his glasses. He was always the guy you noticed." Buck, a couple of years older, got to know Hamm through Sarah Clarke's brother, Preston. And Preston introduced Hamm to his college buddies, including Paul Rudd, who helped Hamm find a manager when he arrived in Los Angeles.

"I found him to be somewhat intimidating," says Rudd. "I played Trivial Pursuit with him, and he was a senior in high school and I was a freshman in college, and he went straight for yellow. He wanted history questions. If going to yellow in Trivial Pursuit is your first choice, impressive. And how not Jewish is Jon Hamm? But Jon Hamm can throw out a kugel joke and do it the right way. Smart, handsome, and athletic. But he's also very funny. Guys like that are usually not funny."

In fact, Hamm filled in as the host of E!'s reality-show roundup, Talk Soup. He got the job when Joe Buck bailed on the gig at the last second after reading the snark-filled script left under his hotel room door and panicking that it would interfere with his sportcasting gravitas. He quickly suggested Hamm.

But Hamm is also somehow friends with Jimmy Kimmel and got tight with the members of the band Rilo Kiley when he met bass player Pierre de Reeder through another friend. And remember, until Mad Men, the 37-year-old was more a waiter than a successful actor. "He knows every single place in town, but doesn't go out a lot," says January Jones, who plays his wife on Mad Men. "He knows the jazz bars. He'll go to Jeffrey Katzenberg's Oscar party and know all the people in the room. I'm like, 'How do you know all these people? I've been here a long time too, and I'm freaking clueless.' He's a good talker. He works a room, that guy. He's like a politician."

All those skills might help him now, but until this job, Hamm struggled. Unlike George Clooney, who started cute on The Facts of Life and manned up later, Jon Hamm has always looked older than he is. When Hamm drove from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 1995, with only $150 he had saved after a year of interning in the drama department of his old high school (like some superhandsome version of Welcome Back, Kotter where the teen boys hated him), he couldn't get auditions. All the other 25-year-olds were playing teenagers on Dawson's Creek–type shows. He lost his car when, after $1,600 in parking tickets, the city decided he'd be better off without it.

He met Westfeldt at a friend's party, and she thought he was an arrogant prick. But when she needed to cast an unpaid part in her off-off-Broadway play, and that part was kind of arrogant pricky, she auditioned him over the phone. Hamm was working as a set dresser for a soft-core porn film. "A friend of mine from college—a girl—couldn't take working on the creepazoid downtown toxic set anymore," he says. "It seemed like a wonderful way to spend 12 hours a day five days a week for $150 a day…nonunion, no benefits, just a shitty job with a lot of boobs and sad people. Hollywood, baby! Suffice to say, when Jen called with an actual acting opportunity, my days as a set dresser—all told, about a month—were over."

Hamm called a friend in New York and asked if he could sleep on his couch for six months. The play, which later turned into the 2001 movie Kissing Jessica Stein, started Hamm's and Westfeldt's relationship. Around the time they shot the movie, Hamm finally quit waiting tables, thanks to a recurring role on The Division and then Providence, which are both shows for women. He played a fireman and then a cop and, I'm assuming, acted sensitive and not at all Don Draper-y. When Providence ended, he kept getting close to landing TV jobs—seven network tests in which the part had been whittled down to a few actors—but other than a role in the movie We Were Soldiers, he was back to not working. "When you're on a show and going to work every day, and then it is taken away, it gets hard," he says.

Mad Men didn't seem to be the kind of vehicle that could propel Hamm into the higher realms of Hollywood casting (he is now getting movie roles such as this winter's remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, with Keanu Reeves). When Mad Men was launched, AMC—the old-movie channel that is constantly on at your dad's house when nothing is on Fox News or the History Channel—had never made a scripted one-hour drama series. Even if it was good and was marketed well, it's tough to get people to try out a serious period drama without cops, lawyers, doctors, or the mafia. Worse, the main character is an antihero who's short on likability: He's coming up with cigarette ads after looking at studies that link cigarettes to cancer, cheating on his wife, and saying things to his mistress like, "What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons." And even though critics and Golden Globe voters love it, ratings have not been all that high.

"Any success I have has not been a steep ramp," he says. "I've been doing this for a long time. But it's an adult show. It's not Hannah Montana or Indiana Jones. It's this interesting thought piece that strikes a chord with a particular segment of our culture."

Hamm sells his character Don Draper with his smile. It's a smile that hides more than it reveals, which works well since he has been lying about everything: his real name, his background, his two mistresses. Wayne Salomon, Hamm's high school drama teacher, recalls that, of all the gifts Hamm has as an actor, his smile was the most fun to work with. "He doesn't have a glamour-boy smile," says Salomon. "It's a quirky smile. It communicates something you'd like to know that he's not telling you. That's his cool. He seems to have a greater knowledge than anyone else does."

Draper, though, doesn't have that knowledge. Just as Faulkner's novels are about the confusion and sadness of Southern aristocracy watching its corroded empire crumble, Mad Men is about white men becoming aware that the patriarchal era is crumbling. Draper has slightly more awareness of this than do the other men in his advertising firm, which only makes him less happy. It looks, unlike everything I'd ever thought about the pre-Vietnam era, like a much harder time to be a man.

"That's what our show is about," he says. "They were full of shit. They didn't know what they were doing. It makes you look at what that definition of 'being a man' really means and is there a happy medium. Instead of subscribing to this definition of a man or dude or guy, do what you want to do, buy a f--king yellow Mini Cooper. Get over it. It's a f--king fun car to drive. You can do all the other man stuff and be unsatisfied."

It isn't until right then, to be honest, that I understand what everyone likes about Hamm, why he isn't the bad guy or the doofus that guys like me are supposed to beat out for the girl in this age of geek chic. He's a more complicated hero, the high school quarterback who gets the other jocks to leave the nerd alone. He's old-school not because he's secure about who he is, but because he makes other people feel secure about themselves.

On the way home, for maybe the first time in my three and a half years since buying it, I take down the top, gun it through some turns, and feel totally confident driving my f--king yellow Mini Cooper.

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

CSI Miami: The Return of the Sunglasses

If you recall, I wrote in my blog on July 2, “CSI Miami’s Horatio Caine: Undead” (here), that as the season premier for CSI Miami was titled “Resurrection,” it probably meant Horatio (David Caruso) wasn’t dead. It was also reported that he had staged the shooting on the tarmac in the season finale.

More details on this season premier have been made available, along with a promo trailer that shows that not only is Horatio alive, but he is also sporting a new pair of sunglasses. Well, I assume they are new, because there is no way that even the super-human Horatio could have revived those shattered lenses in his old pair of shades. What is disappointing is that the alien-looking Elizabeth Berkley (Ho’s ex-girlfriend and mother of his son) and Evan Ellingson (the weird and dysfunctional son) are returning. And (gasp) that “one of their own” may be hiding a dark side. (Sigh, can’t they come up with something more original than that overused plot device?)

Still, I will probably find myself glued to the TV for my weekly dose of the show that almost everyone loves to hate. And by the preview clip below, we’re going to get a lot of action with those sunglasses, which are the real star of the show!

Here are some details from BuddyTV:

'CSI: Miami' Premiere Details

As the top-rating CSI franchise returns to television screens this fall, needless to say, its horde of loyal fans cannot wait to see their favorite forensic experts take on complex cases (as well as each other). While there have been some changes that aren't very popular with fans(read: Fishburne in, Petersen out), it's safe to say that the world's biggest franchise will still be welcomed with open arms.

First to return is CSI: Miami, which will premiere its 7th season on September 22 at 10pm ET/PT, with an episode called “Resurrection.” CBS gives us these nail-biting, curious details:

Minor spoilers ahead.

In “Resurrection,” the CSI team will be on the hunt for the person who shot Horatio Caine. The results, however, lead them to something they didn't quite expect. As they follow the trail of evidence, they find themselves encountering some of the most dangerous people in Miami. As if that wasn't bad enough, they are shocked to find that one of the folks are actually one of their own.

Among those gracing the CSI: Miami premiere episode is returning cast member from season 6 Elizabeth Berkley, who will play Julia Winston, Horatio's ex-girlfriend and Kyle's mother who reappears during the murder investigation of her current husband. Kim Coates will also be back, as Ron Saris, one of the prime suspects in the shooting of Horatio. Meanwhile, Evan Ellingson, who plays Horatio's long-lost son Kyle Harmon. If we look back, Kyle looked for his mother even while in prison. Also returning is Sofia Milos, who will portray Colombian homicide detective Yelina Salas, also the widow of Horatio's brother.

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Laurence Fishburne Joins CSI: I’m Underwhelmed

The news is out, Laurence Fishburne will be joining the cast of CSI. And despite the fact that I can be a somewhat resilient TV watcher, this change doesn’t thrill me.

Yes, he’s a big name. Yes, he’s well known by many people. But I’ve never been much of a fan. To me, it seems that Fishburne always plays the same type character: the tough guy or the bad guy or the mean guy or the dark, angst-y guy, or all of the above. He has always seemed one-dimensional. He's quite unlike William Petersen before Petersen came on CSI to play Gil Grissom. Sure, Petersen had done films, but he wasn’t quite a household name, and he seemed to be cast in varying roles with varying persona. Sometimes adding a big name to a show just means big expectations that never get fulfilled.

I’m willing to give the cast change a chance, don’t get me wrong. After all, if I’ve weathered the years of the revolving door with the Law & Order franchise, I think I can handle some cast changes at CSI. It’s not like I’m not prepared for it. But I’m just disappointed in the cast selection AND in Fishburne’s character background (below). Can’t we just have someone in charge that doesn't have some weird, wacky twist to his or her psyche?

So while I will still watch the show, I feel I need to come clean and say that I’m not happy about it. Believe me, it’s not about Petersen leaving. While he was critical to the show in it’s earlier years, he actually seems a little more dispensable now, seeing that he’s almost been a background player for a while. But Fishburne just doesn’t light any fire for me. In fact, I feel like his presence may be a little too heavy for the show. OK, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll watch…but it better be good.

Here’s the story from

It's Official: Laurence Fishburne Joins 'CSI'

by Michael Ausiello

Talk about the worst-kept secret in the TV biz: More than a month after we first brought you news of the talks between Laurence Fishburne and CSI, CBS is now confirming that the Oscar-nominated actor is joining the cast this season as William Petersen's pseudo replacement.

Says CBS: "Fishburne will play a former pathologist who is now working as an itinerant college lecturer, teaching a course in criminalistics. His focus is on understanding criminal behavior, how and why people commit acts of violence -- tendencies he disturbingly sees within himself. In the course of a murder investigation, he comes into contact with the CSI team and ultimately joins the Las Vegas Crime Lab as a Level-1 CSI."

Says me: He's got some funky serial killer DNA!

"CBS asked us, 'Who's at the top of your dream list?' CSI executive producers Carol Mendelsohn and Naren Shankar said in a joint statement. "Without hesitation, we said Laurence Fishburne. He is a powerful and intense actor, with an incredible range....If you distill CSI down to its essence, it's a collaboration -- and we are so looking forward to collaborating with Mr. Fishburne. For all of us at CSI, this is truly a dream."

"I am elated and delighted to be joining the cast of CSI," said Fishburne. "I look forward to a wonderful collaboration with the creative and talented team of such a successful and distinguished show."

Fishburne will debut in this season's ninth episode, right around the time Petersen departs.

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mad Men “Three Sundays”:The Tension Builds

Last night’s episode of AMC’s Mad Men, ‘Three Sundays,” is an interesting snapshot of Don Draper’s (Jon Hamm) family life and work life, showing the ups and downs of both. His day starts out fine, well, with the exception of getting caught in the early stages of foreplay with his wife, Betty (January Jones). The day seems to progress well, with the Drapers enjoying drinks and some music on the hi-fi. But later when Bobby starts acting up, like typical little boys do, Betty is all in a lather about his behavior and expects more support from Don to address it. But Don is reluctant to use forceful methods to make his point, and Betty just doesn’t get it. At work, and after much hard work on the American Airlines campaign, they find that the person from American that the thought gave them an edge to getting the account was just fired right before they were to make their pitch, essentially killing any prospects at landing the account. Since they dropped the Mohawk account to go after American, now they’re out one solid client and one potential client.

Meanwhile, Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) finds herself getting ill while attending church with her family. She gets little sympathy from her sister, who says she knows Peggy was drinking too much the night before and can smell it on her. Peggy still excuses herself and walks into the church vestibule, where she meets the new church priest, Father Gill, who seems to take an interest in Peggy. Later at her mother’s home, Father Gill has arrived for dinner with the family and learns more about Peggy. He also offers her a ride home and asks for advise about next weeks’ sermon for Palm Sunday. She gives him some tips but makes it brief and excuses herself. But Peggy’s sister makes a pointed confession to Father Gill, spilling the beans about Peggy’s illegitimate child

Crunch time with the American Airlines proposal comes, but at a bad time for Don. He’s stuck taking Sally to work because Betty had to take Bobby to the emergency room for a burn on his hand. While Sally is at Don’s office, she announces to Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) that she will have “big ones” like Joan and like her mother. But while Sally tries to keep herself occupied, everyone else at Sterling Cooper is too preoccupied in the pitch to American Airlines that Sally had picked up an alcoholic drink that was left on a desk.

Of course, there is plenty of cheating going on, with Don getting a visit from Bobbi Barrett (Melinda McGraw) and she locks the door so no one can interrupt. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) is paying a call girl for his entertainment. I hope he had fun, because by dropping Mohawk and the sinking of the American Airlines deal, they’re now behind the eight ball.

In between these core stories, we see that Betty Draper feels overwhelmed about taking care of simple family issues. Bobby seems to relay his need for this father by voicing to Don that they need to find HIM a new dad since Don’s had died long ago. And Don also confesses to Betty that he doesn’t want to strike Bobby because that what his dad did to him, and all it did was make Don wish he could murder him.

But what makes the episode is not what happens on the surface. While everything seems fine taken at face value, there are undercurrents of unhappiness, dissent, and sexual tension with almost every action that take. Betty looks like the perfect wife, but it seems to be getting rattled at not being able to handle simple discipline with Bobby, almost as if she is intimated by her own son. Don looks sharp and on top of things, but he is also feeling the pressure of her expectations. Not only must he do all the work to earn all the money that pays for her nice things, she expects him to be there to fix all the children’s issues. The children both are showing signs that their parents aren’t really paying attention to them. Peggy’s sister carries some animosity towards her, enough to “tattle” about Peggy to a priest during her own confession. Father Gill seems to feel something for Peggy, we don’t know what, but Peggy seems to be aware of something too. And Roger is playing with fire, not just with a call girl, but his risky management of the business, almost as if he thinks he’s indestructible.

And that’s what makes this show so different. It’s all those feelings and behaviors seething underneath everyone that creates the drama. And while the show is not action packed, it is still one of the best hours of drama that you’ll find on television. It’s just a matter of time before someone crashes and burns – and it wouldn’t surprise me that when it happens, it will be more than one person involved. It’s like watching dominoes fall in slow motion, except with people’s lives at stake.

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, here.

The Bizarro World of CSI Miami

All Orange, All the Time

I admit it, I was tired of the Olympics and decided to watch a few episodes in a row of CSI Miami (the show I sometimes love to hate) on A&E last week. I came to the conclusion that CSI Miami is set in some Bizarro-like world. This series has become so stylized that it’s not even real anymore. This partly has something to do with the story lines, which I’ve commented before are somewhat laughable. But there is a lot more to this show that makes it hard to accept that it’s set anywhere near reality. I state my case with these facts:

Fact #1: All the women are dressed to the nines (often in white) when examining bloody, messy crime scenes, and have perfect posture while collecting evidence. Everyone knows that no real woman would wear such nice clothes if there were a chance that a speck of dirt would get on them, much less blood. And why is it that the women are constantly showing cleavage, even when examining dead bodies, and men are always conspicuously covered up, wearing jackets or long sleeved shirts? Don’t the guys get a little hot wearing all those clothes in the Miami heat? And what man would wear dark colors all the time, as does Horatio, in Miami?

Fact #2: In one episode, they had a tidal wave that floods a bank, but the streets everywhere else look perfectly normal and the city itself looks virtually normal after that. Not to mention that Horatio only seems worried about one singular crime that he doggedly follows, despite the fact that there must be tons of other things the police should be doing in a disaster like a tidal wave. I guess in Miami they have super duper drains that helped all the tidal wave water drain right off, and along with it, all the debris was cleaned away as well.

Fact #3: The sky always has an orange glow, from the top down. It doesn’t matter if the sun is high in the sky, rising, or setting, the sky is often completely orange. In fact, everyone else has an orange color to them, like the whole cast was dipped in a self-tanner every day for six weeks.

Fact #4: It almost never rains. In fact, I have a hard time remembering when it every really DID rain on the show.

Fact #5: The medical examiner performs autopsies almost like she is making love to the bodies, and calls the dead people "baby girl" and "baby boy" even when they are adults. It's sickening, actually. And the morgue looks lighted like a Hollywood set.

Fact #6: There are never any overweight people in town, all the women have perfect bodies and wear designer clothes. They have the best looking criminals in the world.

Fact #7: The fact that Horatio Caine (David Caruso) has a son staggers the imagination. The thought that any woman would have sex with him is beyond belief. In fact, just look at the women that seem to be so smitten with him. They must have some sort of vision problem. There is no way in the real world that women would be even remotely attracted to someone like Horatio. Or, maybe it's his sunglasses that exude special pheromones that make him so attractive? Now that his sunglasses of magical powers are broken, maybe all the women in the world are finally free of his spell? We can only hope.

Fact #8: Miami is supposed to be such a large, vibrant city, so why is it that when a crime is committed out in the open on the streets, there are almost never any witnesses? Do the people living in and visiting Miami have a sixth sense that tells them to get off the streets or go indoors before any crime is committed?

Fact #9: Everyone lives in spacious homes or apartments, often on or overlooking the beach. People work in beautiful offices or trendy nightclubs. There is no “bad neighborhood” in Miami, and crimes never happen anyplace other than designer homes and offices. Well, sometimes there are warehouses by the docks where crimes happen, but even those look overly clean.

Fact #10: They always seem to find a magic piece of evidence that ties the whole case together.

If one looks at other crime dramas, such as Law & Order or even the other CSI shows like CSI and CSI NY, they all seem to have some level of believability. While the Law & Order franchise seems to be truest to the grittiness of crime in a big city, even CSI and CSI NY seems to be able to transmit some feeling of reality amidst the glitzy effects and sets.

So, you be the judge. Watch a few episodes of the Law & Order franchise (they are hard to miss), or CSI or CSI NY, and then take a look at CSI Miami. I think you’ll agree that the only place Horatio Caine and his band of criminalists can exist is in Bizarro world. And, maybe that’s a fitting place for them. But I’m not sure it’s a safe place anymore for any viewers who like good television. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate the show. But I do think it's only fair to help viewers see what it is and what it's not. It's not real drama, and it's not all that good. But it can be fun to highlight how bad it really is. In fact, some people make that their own cottage industry. Me? I just like adding fuel to the fire, because it just adds to the orange glow.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

The CSI Miami Sporting Event of the Year

With all the excitement over the Olympic games in Beijing, did anyone even realize that that CSI Miami equivalent, the world class CSI Miami Mount Olympus Games were going on? It was only open to a select few of the famous faces of CSI Miami: David Caruso, Emily Procter, and Eva La Rue.

You won’t want to miss Horatio Caine in his finest, fittest form as he takes on rhythmics, diving, and weightlifting. The Olympic games pale in comparison. Well, not quite, but it is fun to watch.

Note: The Law & Order version can be found here.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Law & Order Criminal Intent Is Reinventing Itself

There are few things that seem certain for Law & Order Criminal Intent for next season. It will still be on the USA Network. It will still have Vincent D’Onofrio, Kathryn Erbe, Julianne Nicholson, Eric Bogosian, and of course, Dick Wolf is still Top Dog in the franchise.

But with the departure of Chris Noth, who played Law & Order franchise favorite Detective Mike Logan, coming up in Sunday’s episode titled “Last Rites”, and the addition of Jeff Goldblum to replace him, we’re assured of getting a new take on at least half the episodes. Goldblum should bring his own version of quirkiness to the show, maybe giving Vincent D’Onofrio’s Robert Goren, the current King of Quirk, a run for his money.

But the biggest change may be coming in the form of the production team, which appears to be almost completely revamped. Many of these people have been involved in the Law & Order franchise is one way or another, so they are no strangers to ways of the Law & Order Universe. The series will still be divided in two, but with separate people at the helms of the D’Onofrio/Erbe and the Goldblum/Nicholson pairings.

The big question is – will this revitalize the series, or will it kill it? Will the look and feel of the episodes based on which detective pairing is at the helm make the series as schizophrenic as Bobby Goren’s mother? And what will it do to the somewhat blank persona of Captain Danny Ross (Bogosian) who may be at the mercy of different writing and producing styles? It’s hard to tell right now, but at least we won’t have to wait too long to find out, as the series is slated to return in November.

Being a big Law & Order franchise fan, I’m keeping an open mind, and hoping that only good things will come of all these changes. I’m also keeping my fingers crossed for a departure for Mike Logan that keeps the door open for a return to the franchise.

USA Network has New Showrunners for Hit Show LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT
Series to premiere in November with new cast member Jeff Goldblum

NEW YORK, Aug 04, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX

Walon Green, Robert Nathan, John Coles, Michael S. Chernuchin, Andrew Lipsitz and Timothy J. Lea will be the new production team when LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT returns for its eighth season in November on USA Network. The announcement was made today by Jeff Wachtel, USA's executive vice-president of original programming and co-head, original content, Universal Cable Productions and Dick Wolf, executive producer and creator of LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT.

USA recently picked up an eighth season for the hit series produced by Wolf Films and Universal Cable Productions and cast Jeff Goldblum as the latest detective to join the major case squad. Created and executive produced by Emmy Award winning producer Dick Wolf and developed by Rene Balcer, LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT veers from the traditional "Law & Order" format by taking viewers into the minds of its criminals while following the psychological approaches the Major Case Squad uses to solve the crimes. The seventh season of LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT airs every Sunday at 9/8c on USA Network.

"Walon, Robert, Nooch [Michael Chernuchin] and I have been working together for most of the last two decades," said Wolf. "Between them, they have written hundreds of episodes of the brand's various iterations. By joining CI, they are providing the best of both worlds -- a new perspective and a wealth of experience with the brand. John [Coles] is one of the most respected producer/directors on the east coast. I could not ask for a better team as we embark on our eighth season," said Wolf.

"LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT has been a great success in its move to USA," said Wachtel. "We are excited to have this wonderfully talented and experienced team at the helm and are looking forward to fresh takes on the show's creative as we head into season eight."

The entire production team will work with Wolf and Executive Producer Peter Jankowski, who serves as executive producer of all three "Law & Order" series, as well as president and chief operating officer of Wolf Films, Inc.

Walon Green will serve as executive producer, showrunner and head writer, and Michael S. Chernuchin as co-executive producer for the D'Onofrio/Erbe episodes, with John Coles as New York based executive producer and director, and Michael Chernuchin as co-executive producer for the series. Green has executive produced numerous episodes of the original "Law & Order" and several episodes of "ER." He also has written for "Law & Order," "ER" and "Conviction." Coles served as co-executive producer of the FOX series "New Amsterdam" and the CBS series "3lbs." He has directed numerous hit television shows including "Sex and The City," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Damages," as well as episodes for the "Law & Order" brand. Chernuchin has produced and written for both "Law & Order," and "24."

The producing team for the Goldblum/Nicholson episodes includes Robert Nathan as executive producer, showrunner and head writer. Nathan has been a member of the "Law & Order" family working on both the original and "Special Victims Unit" as co-executive producer. Coles will again serve as New York based executive producer and director, with Andrew Lipsitz ("CSI", "CSI: NY") and Timothy J. Lea ("The Riches", "CSI: NY") as co-executive producers.

In its unique way of dividing the series into two distinct parts, with Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe as partners, and the other with new cast member Jeff Goldblum and returning actress Julianne Nicholson, the production teams will be equally separate. Eric Bogosian will continue on all episodes as Captain Danny Ross.

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

2008 Olympics Opening Ceremonies: A Spectacular Spectacular!

Spectacular, spectacular
No words in the vernacular
Can describe this great event
You'll be dumb with wonderment
(From the movie “Moulin Rouge”)

I was able to watch a portion of the 2008 Olympics opening ceremonies, held in Beijing China, on the Internet yesterday, live. It wasn’t on a big screen mind you, but the impact was still the same.

It was probably the most spectacular Olympics ceremony ever. In fact, it is probably one of the best things ever shown on television for any Olympic event.

Of course, I still had to watch it in HD when NBC finally aired it, hours later, in prime time. While I admit that I am still a little miffed that NBC didn’t show it live, I can understand why they wanted to save the showing for prime time. Even though I had seen a good part of it on my computer screen, there is nothing that compares – well, maybe except for seeing it live – to the visual experience of this event when shown in HD. In fact, it is possible that television viewers had the best seat in the house, being able to see the faces of the thousands upon thousands of Chinese people who participated so skillfully, and even joyfully, in this event.

The initial portion of the ceremonies depicted part of the lengthy, and rich, history of China and its people. The event opened with 2008 drummers, using Fou, a 3,000-year-old percussion drum-like instrument, banging in precise rhythm on drums that lighted with their touch. They also used it to form the time clock counting down the final minute to the opening. Using a large LCD screen with an image of a giant unfolding scroll, participants formed precise circles, made large drawings using the movements of their bodies, had thousands of boat rowers with oars in formation, made Chinese characters with giant character blocks, and also had a giant world globe with people running, some of them upside-down and sideways, on the surface. Images were projected on a giant screen like structure at the top of the “Bird’s Nest” stadium; in some cases the faces of people were projected, in other cases, waterfalls that looked almost real.

The interior of the Bird’s Nest was also flooded with various colors for each segment, and the crowd held colored lights, giving the backdrop a colorful, shimmery effect. And the fireworks were phenomenal, probably the most stunning and artistic display ever seen.

Of course, nothing could top the actual lighting of the Olympic flame, which was done by former Chinese gymnast Li Ning, who carried the torch while suspended in air as if he were both flying and running to the flame. This was topped by a spectacular array of fireworks.

It was a performance that will certainly be hard to beat in the future. It also provided a breathtaking view of the depth of the history of China and its people, and also how far the country has come over even just the last decade. It’s being described as China’s “coming out” party, and it certainly got the message across.

It was a television event worth the wait. It also re-sets the bar for Olympic ceremonies for years to come, and I am not sure how it could be topped. But I am sure right now, those involved in planning future Olympic opening ceremonies are already working on trying.

My score for this event – a perfect 10!

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Friday, August 8, 2008

The “I Like To Watch TV” Olympics

No, these aren't the Olympic rings!

No, this is not about the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which opened today, on 08-08-08. I mean my own Olympics, based popular TV shows. Here are some of the events that you won’t want to miss:

CSI Miami
The CSI Miami Scream: Participants much watch five episodes of CSI Miami and scream after every line that they think David Caruso gives that is scream-worthy. Unfortunately, there has never been a winner since all participants seem to be screaming the entire episode.

Horatio Caine Sunglasses Maneuvers: This competition is artistic, with participants vying to display the most flamboyant method of putting on, and taking off, one’s sunglasses.

Park the Hummer: Competitors must park a Hummer in a parking garage in a space fit for a compact car, without going over any of the parking space lines. Both skill and speed are measured.

Law & Order Franchise
The Doink Doink Challenge: Participants are given their choice of 5 household items, three musical instruments, 100 sound effects of their choice, and a recording studio, to attempt to recreate the Law & Order sound. The one who comes closest to the sound, wins. This competition started 3 years ago and no one has come close yet.

The Sam Waterston Eyebrow Lift: Thick, heavy eyebrows are placed on the competitors, and they are rated on how fast they can raise their eyebrows and yell “Your honor!” or “Objection!” within a set period of time.

The Ham Sandwich Sprint: Competitors are given a ham sandwich, the first one to indict one, wins. Note: The Ham sandwich must have meat in it.

The Elisabeth Rohm Scavenger Hunt: Viewers in this event much watch every Law & Order episode starring Elisabeth Rohm, and the one who finds the most scenes where Elisabeth actually can act, wins. Unfortunately, this competition goes on every year and no one has been able to find anything yet.

The Vincent D’Onofrio Scenery Chewing Competition: Participants star in an episode of Law & Order Criminal Intent, playing Robert Goren. The person who overacts the most, wins.

Other Shows
The Greg House Cane Run: Competitors run one mile with one leg up and tied behind them, and use a cane for support. The cane is partially sawed through. Speed is measured. If the cane breaks before the finish line is reached, the competitor is disqualified.

The Weather Channel Forecast Competition: Participants must pick the exact date, time, and place a hurricane, which is still forming in the Atlantic Ocean, will hit the United States. Those who predict incorrectly are forced to pay for the clean up of whatever area the hurricane did hit.

The Medical Examiner Exam: Medical examiners from shows like CSI, Law & Order, NCIS, etc. have to examine bodies while the bodies are in black body bags, and determine cause of death. CTs and X-Ray machines can’t be used. Competitors are measured on the number of bodies that can correctly diagnose within a set time period.

The Business Channel Stock Market Plunge: Talking heads from CNBC, Fox Business, and Bloomberg invest $500,000 of their own money in 10 stocks for one week. Any participants that made money win, those that lost anything must jump off the Empire State Building, with no parachute or net.

The NCIS Juvenile and Sexist Remark Relay: Competitors are given 10 lines of normal, harmless dialog and must come up with a juvenile or sexist comeback for each one. The one with the most and best comebacks is immediately sent back to grade school to grow up.

The National News Headline Challenge: Network news anchors fist-fight over the top story of the day. The winner gets to cover the story on their national newscast. The losers are forced to take jobs in small cities and are never heard from again.

The Morning Show Wake Up Call: Hosts of national network morning shows are forced to interview someone who only gives one word responses. The person who is able to get the most responses in five minutes from the interviewee that isn’t “yes”, “no”, or “absolutely.” wins.

Have fun with the competition, and good luck!

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I’m Crazy About “Mad Men”

Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), Don Draper (Jon Hamm)

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a little late to the party. I didn’t realize that the TV series Mad Men even existed until recently. It’s not because I’ve been living under a rock, it’s because I never watch AMC as I don’t get the channel in HD, and also because AMC floods their movies with commercials.

But after watching a few episodes, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably the best real drama that’s come to television in a long time.

The show is set in 1960s New York, and the AMC web site describes it as a “sexy, stylized and provocative AMC drama [that] follows the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Madison Avenue advertising, an ego-driven world where key players make an art of the sell.”

The show centers on the lives of the people working at the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency. One of the main characters, top ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is fighting internal conflict and has a secret past. It seems that while in Korea, he switched his identity with another soldier who was killed. His secret was discovered by his brother, and, after Don rejects him, Don later is told that his brother hung himself. In the meantime, he keeps being a ladies man – despite being married – and has to constantly fight off younger ad men at the firm from knocking him off his throne.

There are more stories besides Don’s. There is plenty of cheating, smoking, drinking, dirty tricks, with some 1960s classic fashion thrown in. Women are treated badly, and some women act badly. It depicts very well the swept-under-the-rug 1960s family values, and it’s NOT Ozzie and Harriet. The show weaves in real 1960s history which adds even more depth to each episode. And with the 1960s being as turbulent as I recall, this can only made for a solid foundation for many stories to come.

What I also enjoy about the show is not just the stories, but it’s the whole look and feel of the 1960s. While I was only a teenager in the 1960s, Mad Men seems to describe the world of the early 60s that kids always heard about, but could never see on television. Those were the years that if even the hint of what happens in Mad Men were to happen in a movie, the movie would be considered “banned” for viewing by any Catholic adult, much less kids. While watching Mad Men, I get the feeling of being a fly on the wall, watching the lives of people as I thought they probably happened, but was never allowed to talk or speculate about as a kid.

Of course, one can’t mention the show without focusing on the fashion. There is something about the classic and clean style of the early 1960s that I’ve always liked, and this series has it down pat. In fact, I find myself wishing some of those styles would come back. Still, I have to laugh at one character that works at the agency, Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), who seems to wear those old style, almost pointy brassieres that lift and separate, in her case, mostly lift. It just looks so 60s that it makes me laugh every time I see her, although I don’t think that is their intent.

So if you haven’t had a reason to watch Mad Men, I suggest you look for any excuse to give it a try. After all, this is the summer doldrums where most shows are in reruns, so what’s the harm in setting your DVR the show to watch it wherever you’re looking to fill an hour? It’s great drama with a fantastic cast. And, as evidenced by the 16 Emmy Nominations the show received, you can’t go wrong, even if you did somehow miss the 1960s.

If you didn’t catch the first season, a link to the AMC site with a video that will bring you up to speed is here.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Should CSI Miami Go “Green”?

With the price of gasoline being so high, and with the members of the Miami Dade Crime Lab always driving those gas-guzzling Hummers, Horatio Caine (David Caruso) and Company must spend a fortune on fuel.

Maybe it’s time for the constant orange glow of the CSI Miami universe to switch to “green” – meaning changing over to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Let’s see…how would Horatio look with some new wheels?

Horatio Caine and the Prius

Horatio Caine and the Yaris

Horatio Caine and the Mini Cooper

You know, it could work.

Seriously though, it does seem a little over the top for the Crime Scene unit to drive Hummers. After all, it’s not like they do a lot of off-roading, and it’s not like the flat terrain of Florida warrants such a heavy-duty vehicle, even in the Everglades. Likewise, the weather conditions there are not so awful they need such huge vehicles to get around in when the weather turns bad. While they could get a hurricane, a Hummer isn’t much better than a normal size SUV in high winds and storm surge if it came to that. And it’s not like they are transporting tons of equipment and people in those Hummers; it seems that we usually only see one person driving on vehicle at a time, and all they bring are their fancy little tackle boxes with their crime scene toys and tools. It looks like all they need to do the job can fit in the standard trunk of a car. Is it also possible that the orange glow we always see on this show is from the suns rays hitting all those exhaust fumes from those Hummers?

So how about it, CSI Miami fans? Should Horatio and his crew switch to more environmentally conscious vehicles? I think it’s long overdue. Besides, I’d sure like to see Horatio in a Mini Cooper, wouldn’t you?

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Jim “They Know Nothing” Cramer Was Right

My husband and I watch Jim Cramer’s Mad Money on CNBC almost every day. I previously wrote about Jim here. He still has probably the best business show on television.

He is sometimes criticized for his not always accurate stock predictions, but let’s be honest, not everyone can foresee the future every time. Critics pounced when, one year ago today, Cramer had his infamous “they know nothing” rant about Ben Bernanke and the Fed, Bear Stearns, the SEC, and the housing market. (See video below.) It was the talk of the business sector, some people dismissing Cramer of overreacting.

I turns out Jim Cramer didn’t overreact at all. He had foretold the future as if he’d gone there in a time machine before that show and took notes and reported on what he saw.

Think about what happened since Cramer seemed to go off the deep end. Ben Bernanke completely messed up the interest rates, the US dollar virtually collapsed, Bear Stearns went belly up, and real estate dove into a death spiral. It's almost as if Jim Cramer knew these things would happen.

I know, I know, people say that even a broken clock can be right twice a day, but if you listed to Jim Cramer’s commentary last year, you will have to admit that his predictions are not based on just wild guesses. He knows how the market works, and also about how other happenings in the US and world that can affect the market. He’s not just a TV talking head, he knows his stuff.

Maybe it’s time that we get people in high positions in our government that have actually practiced what they preach. Maybe Jim Cramer should be Fed Chairman. Maybe people that work for our government financial sectors like the Fed, the SEC, and other organizations that monitor business and industry, should spend some time watching Mad Money if they can’t get the real life experience. Either way, if you want to be one leg up on what’s going on in the business world – or just the world – it could be worth your while to check out his show and maybe you will learn something. That way, you won’t be one of those people who “know nothing” and you can be better at protecting and managing your money.

They Know Nothing!

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