I’m looking forward to a trip I’m taking with the First United Methodist Church – Shelbyville middle school youth next month to Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.
I’ve heard of Lake Junaluska for years and always wanted to visit; it’s one of the most famous Methodist retreat centers and headquarters of the World Methodist Council. It’s owned by the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.
This being a youth trip, we will get to enjoy some of the surrounding area in the mountains. This will include tubing and white-water rafting, neither of which I’ve ever done before, and a natural rock water slide. We’ll also have some programming with a special guest speaker.
There’s a museum at Lake Junaluska about the history of Methodism, but the musuem closes at 4 each day and, according to the agenda our youth director has sent out, our free time periods all seem to start around that time. So I may not make it to the museum. That’s sad, because — by sheer coincidence — I’m currently reading Wesley And The People Called Methodists, by Richard P. Heitzenrater, a history of the origins of Methodism which was recommended at the last lay servant class I took. But, hey, there’s always next time.
I had a great time as a chaperone with our youth (both middle and high school) at Warmth In Winter in January, and I expect to have a great time on this trip as well. We have a great group of kids at First UMC. This trip will be in partnership between First UMC and our youth director’s home church in Savannah, Ga., Isle Of Hope UMC. So we’ll meet new people as well. We’ll all be staying at the Lagoalinda Inn at Lake Junaluska.
I posted last week about a new version of “Match Game” which will air this summer, and in passing I mentioned, and included a YouTube clip of, the mid-1980s “Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour,” one of the most notorious flops in game show history.
I actually liked both “Match Game” and “Hollywood Squares,” but despite sharing lots-of-celebrities gimmick they’re actually quite different shows, and I think that’s one reason the attempt to put them together did not work.
One thing that differentiated the original 1970s shows from each other was the matter of whether the celebrities got any advance preparation. On “Match Game,” for better or worse, they did not. Any answers given by the panelists were their own, and any tomfoolery was their own. As I mentioned last week, five shows were taped in a day — that’s the norm for half-hour game shows — and the celebrities had access to Adult Beverages during the lunch break, which is why the Thursday and Friday shows tended to be more, um, free-spirited than the Monday and Tuesday shows.
“Hollywood Squares” was a different matter. If you’ve seen any version of the show (except the “Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour”) you know that the normal pattern was that the host (Peter Marshall, John Davidson, Tom Bergeron, and Peter Rosenberg from MTV’s “Hip Hop Squares”) would ask the celebrity a question, and the celebrity’s first answer would normally be some sort of joke, but then the celebrity would give his or her “real” answer. Whether the celebrity’s answer was right or wrong was not the determining factor, of course, because the contestant would then get the chance to either agree or disagree with the celebrity’s answer, and that would determine the outcome of the question. In some ways, the contestant was helped by a too-obviously-wrong answer from the celebrity, and so the producers had an interest in prepping the celebrities to the extent that they could at least give a credible wrong, or “bluff,” answer. In any of the versions, the host would usually read a disclaimer at the top of the show that “the stars were briefed before the show to help them with their bluffs.”
According to most sources, virtually all the joke answers were written in advance, even from some of the stars who have been complimented over the years for their quick wits on the program. In the Tom Bergeron / Whoopi Goldberg version, head writer Bruce Vilanch — who had not really been known as a performer up to that point – was made one of the squares. Vilanch had worked for years with center square Whoopi Goldberg. His placement on the tic-tac-toe board put him right next to Whoopi. Vilanch, who’s written for at least a dozen Oscar ceremonies and numerous other awards shows, has been known for writing jokes on the fly backstage, so that the host could refer to and build on some blooper or running gag from earlier in the show. I’m guessing he probably wrote some on-the-fly jokes for Whoopi on “Hollywood Squares” as well.
I’m not saying there was anything at all wrong with this; it’s entertainment, after all, and some of those scripted “ad libs” were pretty funny, no matter who actually came up with them or when. But it was a different type of humor than “Match Game,” and therein lied one problem with trying to mash the two shows together.
The “Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour” was one of the game shows run by Mark Goodson, the creator of “Match Game,” who simply licensed the “Hollywood Squares” name and format from its original creators or whoever owned it at the time. Goodson had taken pride in the fact that the celebrities on “Match Game” were unscripted and wanted the new show to be unscripted as well.
In order to facilitate this, without all the celebrities looking like idiots in an SNL “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch, the trivia questions on the Hollywood Squares portion of the “Hour” were largely limited to true-false or multiple-choice formats, which limited the chances for the celebrities to look stupid. There were also, of course, no scripted joke answers.
This meant that the “Hollywood Squares” part of the show wasn’t very much like the “Hollywood Squares” people had come to know and love in the late 60s and through the 70s. To make matters worse, it was hosted by Jon Bauman of Sha Na Na, who lacked the kind of polish that Gene Rayburn brought to “Match Game” or Peter Marshall brought to the original “Hollywood Squares.”
ABC is bringing back not one but two of my childhood favorite game shows this summer. Well, three, actually.
I grew up in the early 1970s heyday of daytime network game shows, before syndicated talk shows and expanded morning shows took over. I was, and am, a game show geek. Deal with it.
First up, on June 14, will be a revival of “To Tell The Truth” hosted by Anthony Anderson. This show has been on and off various times over the past five or six decades. The original was hosted by Bud Collyer, but the version I remember, from the late 60s and early 70s, was hosted by Garry Moore (and then, in its last season or two, by Joe Garagiola, due to Moore’s health problems). The movie “Catch Me If You Can” begins with an actual clip from the Garagiola era, only with the real Frank Abagnale digitally replaced by Leonardo DiCaprio.
The three regular panelists during this era were Bill Cullen, Peggy Cass and Kitty Carlisle, with the fourth seat on the panel filled by a different celebrity each week. Betty White, who will be a regular panelist on the new version, was sometimes a guest in that fourth seat. (She was connected to the Goodson-Todman game show empire through her husband, the wonderful “Password” host Allen Ludden.)
The most recent version, in the 1990s, was hosted by John O’Hurley and had Paula Poundstone and the late Meshach Taylor as panelists.
If you’re too young to remember this show, the premise is based on a guest with an unusual occupation, experience or story. Let’s say that someone named John X. Kadiddlehopper was the first person to swim the length of the Mississippi River upstream. At the start of a game, three people would be brought out.
“Number one, what is your name?” the host (or, in some versions, the announcer) would ask.
“My name is John X. Kadiddlehopper .”
“Number two, what is your name?”
“My name is John X. Kadiddlehopper .”
“And number three, what is your name?”
“My name is John X. Kadiddlehopper .”
“Well, panelists, all three of these men claim to be swimmer John X. Kadiddlehopper, but only one of them is sworn to tell the truth.” The host then reads a first-person affidavit, signed by John X. Kadiddlehopper, describing who he is and what he’s done. Each of the panelists then gets a period of time to ask questions of the three people on stage, in an attempt to figure out which one is actually John X. Kadiddlehopper.
The three players – the real John X. Kadiddlehopper, and the two impostors – are trying to fool the panel. The real John X. Kadiddlehopper is supposed to answer questions truthfully, but the impostors can say whatever they think will be believable.
Once all four panelists have had a chance to question the players, each of them casts a vote for who they think is the real John X. Kadiddlehopper. Then, the host asks, “Will the real John X. Kadiddlehopper please stand up?”, a phrase which started on “To Tell The Truth” and went on to enter the lexicon. The three players earn money for each wrong vote by the panel, usually with some sort of bonus if they manage to fool all four panelists. In some later versions, including the John O’Hurley version, the studio audience was also polled, and their collective response counted as a fifth vote.
I enjoyed O’Hurley, Poundstone and Taylor in the 90s – Taylor was a razor-sharp interrogator, almost too good. But the producers, in an attempt to compete with salacious daytime talk shows, seemed obsessed with booking players with sex-related stories – the sex coach to the stars, that sort of thing. They just went overboard.
The Anthony Anderson version sounds like its angle on freshening up the format is more comedy-related. Anderson’s mother Doris will serve as scorekeeper (why do you need a scorekeeper?) and get to ask a question during each game. The celebrity panelist with the worst record at the end of each show will have to tweet a lie about themselves. NeNe Leakes will be the other regular panelist besides Betty White.
I’m keeping an open mind.
Later in the month, on June 26, ABC will premiere a block of back-to-back summer game shows. There will be “Celebrity Family Feud,” hosted by Steve Harvey; “The $100,000 Pyramid,” hosted by Michael Strahan; and “Match Game,” hosted by Alec Baldwin.
“Pyramid” has been on TV several times lately, so even though it’s another of my childhood favorites it’s not as much of a novelty to have it back. Donny Osmond hosted a syndicated version from 2002 to 2004, while Game Show Network did its own version in 2012, just four years ago.
No, the big news here is “Match Game,” hosted by Alec Baldwin. Whether or not it’s successful will no doubt depend on the celebrity panelists, and I don’t think ABC has announced them yet. In fact, on the promo that ABC ran tonight, they had actual clips of “Feud” and “Pyramid,” while “Match Game” was represented by generic footage of Baldwin standing before a white background.
“Match Game” has become a part of popular culture, such that even young people are vaguely familiar with it, through reruns on GSN, parodies on “Saturday Night Live,” and so on. So I don’t really need a long and detailed explanation, but the basic idea is that the game is based on sentences like “Dumb Dora is so dumb, she thinks the Golden Globe Award is presented to the person with the best [BLANK].” The players try to match the answers written down by a panel of celebrities.
The secret of the iconic 1970s version of the show, of course, was the byplay among the celebrities – particularly the three regular panelists (out of 6): Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly and Richard Dawson. As with most game shows, a week’s worth of shows were shot in a day, and apparently alcohol was available with lunch, so fans of the show have noted that the celebrities are considerably less-inhibited for the Thursday and Friday shows for a given week than they were on Monday and Tuesday, if you catch my drift.
We’ll see what celebrities turn up on this new version, and whether or not there’s any chemistry.
By the way, there have been several attempts to revive “Match Game” over the years, and one of them is widely-acknowledged to be one of the worst game shows ever: “The Match Game / Hollywood Squares Hour,” an unfortunate and poorly-executed attempt to mash together two incompatible celebrity game-show formats. Gene Rayburn, who had hosted “Match Game” back in the 1970s, hosted the “Match Game” half of the program, with Jon “Bowser” Bauman of Sha Na Na as one of the celebrities. Then, for the “Hollywood Squares” half of the show, they would switch places. Bauman hosted, awkwardly, and Rayburn served as one of the celebrity squares.
Think I’m making this turkey up? Think again:
Ivy Hogan was entertaining me on Facebook a few weeks ago with her adventures in homemade yogurt. Ivy uses a multi-cooker, one of those programmable jobs that performs a variety of different functions – rice cooker, slow cooker and in some cases pressure cooker. Her multi-cooker has a setting for incubating yogurt.
At the time I had my original conversation with Ivy on Facebook, I told her that Alton Brown has a method that uses an electric blanket to hold the proper 110-degree temperature while the yogurt incubates. I thought about borrowing an electric blanket and trying that method, but I’ve been busy with the play and haven’t had much time for culinary experimentation.
I got a couple different Amazon gift cards for my birthday, and I was trying to think of a fun way to use one of them. I happened to think of a multi-cooker, thinking I could replace my current rice cooker. But the multi-cookers, if you use them to make rice, make a lot more than I would eat by myself! And the price range is so broad that I was suspicious the cheapest units – the ones I could afford with my gift card – might be sub-par. (The cheaper multi-cookers do not have the pressure-cooker function, either. Someday I’ll get one of the nice multi-cookers which does include a pressure-cooker function.)
So I did something that TV chef Alton Brown would deplore and looked at a “unitasker” – a dedicated yogurt-maker. And I found several low-priced models. Most were the type that allow you to make individual jars or plastic cups of yogurt, six or seven at a time. But I liked this one, which lets you make a quart in bulk and then parcel it out however you like.
I know, it’s a gadget. But I’ve actually had good success with kitchen gadgets. And Alton Brown doesn’t have to know about it.
To make the yogurt, you heat milk on the stove, then let it cool down slightly and add some sort of culture – you can buy freeze-dried culture online, but the simplest thing to do is to use a little bit of plain yogurt (provided it’s the kind with live and active cultures) as a starter. Then you put the inoculated milk into the yogurt maker (or a multi-cooker, or a bucket lined with an electric blanket, or whatever) and hold it at 110 degrees for a period of 4-8 hours or more. Shorter times result in milder, looser yogurt; longer times result in tangier, thicker yogurt. If you like something with the even-thicker consistency of Greek yogurt, you wait until after it’s fully cultured and you put it in cheesecloth in a colander (in the fridge) to let some of the whey drain out. You can let it drain even longer to produce yogurt cheese, a good cream cheese substitute. (Try draining your favorite full-fat store-bought yogurt this way some time. Low-fat or non-fat varieties may not work as well because of the artificial thickeners.)
I am very anxious to try this and see how it works. The machine should arrive by the end of the week. Next weekend will be another busy one, but maybe I’ll have time to try a batch next Sunday.
Not a sponsored post.
I enjoy store-bought hummus and have also enjoyed making my own. It’s quite simple — canned garbanzo beans (a/k/a chickpeas) are just fine. You drain them and throw them into the food processor with other ingredients, the traditional base being olive oil, lemon juice and an expensive and hard-to-find sesame paste called tahini. I don’t believe I’ve ever had tahini as an ingredient. Sometimes, I’ve just made the hummus without that component, but then I discovered TV chef Nigella Lawson’s tip: you can substitute peanut butter. Don’t laugh; it works just fine.
I was just commenting on this tip a day or two ago. Then, today, I found out about another way to make hummus. Knoxville-based Bush beans, famous for their baked beans, also cans garbanzo beans. Now, they’ve introduced Hummus Made Easy, a line of liquid hummus flavorings in pouches. You just drain one can of beans as you would normally, throw them into the food processor, add one pouch of Hummus Made Easy, and then process to hummus consistency.
They have three flavors: Traditional, Roasted Red Pepper, and Southwest Black Bean, which (as the name implies) is meant to be used with a can of black beans instead of a can of garbanzos. I found all three at Kroger just now and have purchased a pouch of Roasted Red Pepper, which I’ll play with tonight.
Happily, the ingredient list is promising: the only thing even remotely artificial-sounding is citric acid. There’s water, tahini, olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, sugar, garlic, paprika, onion powder, citric acid and garlic powder.
If you go to the website you can download a coupon for $1 off the combination of one pouch plus one can of Bush’s beans. (You can get store brand beans for almost 50 cents less than Bush’s, and that might be the way to go on your next purchase, but even so the coupon still saves you 50 cents this time around.)
Here’s one of the strangest coincidences I’ve been involved with in a while.
As you know, I’m in rehearsals for “The Foreigner,” which opens Friday at The Fly Arts Center in Shelbyville. For more information, go here.
“The Foreigner” is being directed by Tony Davis, who normally heads up the outstanding drama program, Smokestack Theatre, at Community High School. I occasionally talked to Tony in the past about getting one of Community’s plays into the newspaper, but I can’t say that I knew him, and I’d never worked with him on a play before.
I certainly didn’t know that he has an identical twin brother. At today’s rehearsal, the first time we’ve gone through the full play, start to finish, we had a special guest in the seats: Tony’s twin brother, whom he introduced as Jerry Davis.
I, too, have a brother who shares my love of the theater. My brother Michael and his wife, Kelly, live in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Mike has appeared in plays at the Gilbert Theater and with Sweet Tea Shakespeare.
However, his most recent project was an hour’s drive away from Fayetteville … he was one of a number of actors, from a number of North Carolina theater groups, who participated in a Shakespeare festival organized by … wait for it … the Burning Coal Theater in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Isn’t that cool?
Without getting too much into personal matters, I’m looking forward over the next few months to completing some changes to my financial situation that I’ve been working on for several years, and – eventually – getting some reliable transportation. The first thing is only a couple of months away, but then it will take months of scrimping and saving before I can follow it with the second thing. It’s encouragingly close, but frustratingly far. I want it to be over right now.
Lately, I’ve been dreaming about a particular make and model of car. I printed a photo out on photo paper. I’ve been surfing the company’s website, and a nearby dealer’s website, and I was thrilled to see the car – in my preferred color! – drive through the McDonald’s parking lot the other day. I wanted to flag it down and ask the driver how she liked it.
This week, PBS has been re-running “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” Ken Burns’ outstanding documentary series. In some ways, I think it may be my favorite thing he’s done except for “The Civil War,” and in some cases “The National Parks” is even more relevant and has even more to say.
But what it’s instilled in me on my repeat viewing this week is a yearning to hit the road. Last night’s episode, especially, was about the dawn of the age when many people had cars and could drive themselves to one National Park – or even make a challenge of visiting multiple parks. When I have a car I can trust, I want to get in it and drive somewhere. Not necessarily a national park – although there are certainly some I’d like to see – but just somewhere.
Most of the cast of “The Foreigner” worked on the set today, but I begged off. I feel guilty about this. I think people probably assumed I had a specific conflict, but the fact of the matter was that I just have a crazy weekend, and sometimes I’m sort of self-conscious about being old and out of shape.
In my defense, I did work on my lines today. I have worked on my lines five different times today, spending 25 minutes or so each time. I would start by reading through — once — the parts of the play for which I’m already off-book, then I would read the parts I’m still trying to memorize three times. I’m still not quite comfortable with a couple of things from the part I’ll need to have memorized by Tuesday night. My earlier scenes were mostly dialogues between my character and one other character. This scene is a big group scene, where I’ll go for a page or two without any lines at all, and so I’ve got to make sure I’m listening for my cue lines. And I have one big emotional monologue just before leaving the stage, and it has three parts to it — one to Charlie, one to the group, and one to David. I like the monologue, because I think it shows a little of where my character’s negativity comes from, but I am still trying to nail memorizing it so that I can do justice to it when I speak it.
Another reason I wanted to protect today is that tomorrow is going to be a little crazy. I will start it teaching my normal Sunday School class and going to church. Then, I will go to my father’s house for lunch to celebrate my nephew James’s birthday. The rest of the family will then proceed to Cascade, where James’s brother T.J. is in a production of “Seussical Jr.,” but I won’t be joining them — because I’ll be at rehearsal tomorrow afternoon. Then, after rehearsal, I’m up in the rotation this week to be one of the adults at youth at church tomorrow evening. This will be the busiest Sunday I’ve had in quite a while.
We had a good rehearsal for “The Foreigner” tonight, except that our lead, Aaron Gaines, wasn’t there. He had a good excuse: tonight was opening night for “Once Upon A Mattress” at Motlow College, in which he’s a cast member.
We started the evening working on one scene and finished it working on a different scene. In between, while we were taking a break, our director, Tony Davis, had us sit and tell our favorite non-musical play, our favorite musical, and our favorite moment from any play. In some cases, what we were remembering fondly were film versions of the plays in question, but in other cases they were plays that we’d seen, performed in, or dreamed of performing in.
Anyway, here were my answers, which are subject to change without notice:
Favorite non-musical play: “The Man Who Came To Dinner,” by George S. Kaufmann and Moss Hart
I remember this from two sources: the movie version starring Monty Wooley, which is one of my all-time favorite film comedies, but also the video of a Broadway revival version which starred Nathan Lane. The late Julio Francesconi, when he had stopped by the Times-Gazette to drop off one of the wonderful short stories he wrote for us at Christmas, Halloween or Easter, once told me he thought I’d be perfect for the starring role in the play. I’d love to do that someday. It’s too large a cast for The Fly, but maybe they’ll do it one day in Tullahoma.
I’ve blogged about this before, so I probably don’t need to ramble on too much about it, but it’s a comedy about a pompous, sharp-tongued and self-centered radio comentator and columnist, Sheridan Whiteside (a thinly-veiled parody of Algonquin Round Table member Alexander Woolcott, a friend of the playwrights). Whiteside, with his harried secretary in tow, storms into a small Ohio town for a speaking engagement, but breaks his hip and is forced to stay a while, taking over the house of the hapless family that had only planned to serve him a pre-lecture meal. When his secretary starts to fall for the local newspaperman, Whiteside fears losing her and schemes to break up the romance.
Here, you can see a little bit of Monty Wooley followed by a little bit of Nathan Lane. Coincidentally, I think the Lane clip takes place immediately after the Wooley clip:
Favorite musical play: “Guys And Dolls,” music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, based on short stories by Damon Runyon
I have long said that if I had any vocal talent at all, my dream role would be Nicely Nicely Johnson in “Guys and Dolls.” He’s a supporting player, but gets to sing my two favorite songs in the score, “Fugue For Tinhorns” and “Sit Down (You’re Rocking The Boat).”
I know this one only from the movie version, but I think it’s supposed to be relatively faithful to the play.
The movie is set in Runyon’s world of lovable and relatively-harmless gangsters and gamblers. Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra, in the movie version) runs “the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York,” but he’s running out of places to hold it and needs some cash to put down as a deposit on a possible location. In hopes of a windfall, he bets high roller Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando) that Masterson can’t seduce strait-laced Salvation Army* missionary Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons).
Technically, Sky Masterson is the lead role – and Sinatra was furious when he had to settle for the part of scrappy Nathan Detroit instead of the ladies’ man Masterson. But a good Nathan Detroit can actually steal the show, as Nathan Lane did in the 1992 Broadway revival that launched his career.
*They don’t actually call it “The Salvation Army,” choosing the movie-generic “Save-A-Soul Mission” instead, but the intent is clear.
Favorite moment from a play:
You will find it at the very end of this clip, after the song. George Hearn, playing the title role in “Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” is obsessed with revenge. When Mrs. Lovett (Angela Lansbury) gives him back his old barber tools, he sings to them, holding aloft the straight razor with which he hopes to strike down the man who ruined him. He then says, in a growl-like scream, “at last my arm is complete again.” Chills ran down my spine the first time I saw this, on public television in 1985. Johnny Depp was not even in the same ballpark.