You cheeky little monkeys

I was impressed with Craig Ferguson as the host of CBS’s “The Late Late Show” from the outset. But I have to say, he’s only gotten better as time has gone on.

Ferguson has dropped the normal current-events monologue followed by his late night peers in favor of a funny little monologue on a particular theme or subject — as much storytelling as joke-telling. And he’s begun doing little one-man skits and impersonations. Some of his impressions are better than others, but that’s not really the point; the skits are, as far as I can tell, supposed to be a little bit goofy. Ferguson, like the better late-night hosts, can laugh at himself when a joke flops or a skit seems to be going off-track. (Johnny Carson was such a master at this that his occasional misfire turned into a special treat.)

Earlier this week, he did a pretty funny Michael Caine impression in a bit predicated on the outlandish notion that Caine was supposed to have been the fifth member of the “Fantastic Four” and was cut out of the movie. Earlier in the night, Jay Leno had done a skit with an almost identical “Fantastic Five” premise, proposing his bandleader Kevin Eubanks as “Chrome Dome,” who deflects bullets with his bald pate. The Leno skit was mercifully short — almost a blackout gag — but Ferguson’s bit was much funnier.

I have to watch “The Late Late Show” on tape the next day, especially since my local CBS affiliate delays it by half an hour. I fear that a lot of people who would enjoy Ferguson are missing him.

Civilization down the tubes

I had been watching “Jeopardy!” and didn’t get up to change the channel soon enough, so I saw the first 30 seconds of the incredible waste of electrons that is “The Insider.” This was the portion of the show where they were previewing what tonight’s broadcast would contain.

“Where,” the host asked, “were Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when the bombs went off in London?”

I cannot possibly fathom what type of worthless excuse for a human being can look at a tragedy like the London bombing and wonder where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were. The people who produce this show, the television stations that air it, and the people who watch it need to be ashamed of themselves. I am ashamed to be a part of the culture that produced this steaming heap of manure.

My left feet

Yes, I admit it. I watched most of the finale of “Dancing With The Stars” tonight. So shoot me.

I actually had the show on last week, but my nose was in the computer and the show was mostly background noise.

I have to admit some disappointment that John O’Hurley didn’t win. Most people know him from his recurring role as Elaine’s boss, J. Peterman, on “Seinfeld.” I’ve liked him ever since he hosted a remake of one of my favorite game shows, “To Tell The Truth,” a few years back. The show was a disappointment, but that mostly had to do with the producers’ choice of guests. O’Hurley was great as the host, and so were Meshach Taylor and Paula Poundstone as regular panelists. Taylor was a razor-sharp interrogator who always took the game seriously; Poundstone, prior to her legal problems, was a madcap who punctured everyone’s expectations and never took the game seriously. They balanced each other perfectly.

O’Hurley was clearly having the time of his life on “Dancing With The Stars.” He obviously relished his progress, and the ability to sweep a woman off her feet on the dance floor. It was the kind of thing that a guy could appreciate — and envy.

A week or two ago, I watched a documentary on PBS about Gene Kelly. That was a different kind of dancing, of course, but Kelly always came across as a normal guy — just a normal guy, except that, boy, could he dance.

I am 43 years old, overweight, badly out of shape, and I was clumsy even when I wasn’t overweight. But it’s fun to imagine being the kind of guy who could impress the ladies on the dance floor.

A real-life “Terminal” — in Kenya!

During our pre-field training for the Kenya trip, we watched a clip of the Steven Spielberg / Tom Hanks movie “The Terminal” as part of a unit on crossing cultural differences.

Well, the blog Mission Safari has pointed out a newspaper story about a real-life situation in which a man had to camp out for a year at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi! (Free registration is required to read the story.) He had renounced his Kenyan citizenship but was not accepted in the U.K., where he planned to move, and so was in a legal and diplomatic “no man’s land” similar to Hanks’ character in the movie. Now, however, he has finally been allowed to become a British citizen.

According to the dates in the newspaper article, he would have been at Jomo Kenyatta during our trip last year. I might have walked right past him and not realized it!

‘Our Very Own’ premieres

I’ve posted several times about Our Very Own, the independent film shot here in Shelbyville last year. It’s an autobiographical tale by director Cam Watson, who was attending the big high school in Shelbyville at the same time I was attending Cascade High School out in the rural part of the county. We’ve never met, and as it happens I haven’t really been involved in covering the movie for the T-G. I am anxious to see it, of course, as is everyone else in Shelbyville.

The movie had its premiere this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival. There have been several stories — one from as far away as London — highlighting Mary Badham. Badham, as a child, played Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird” — until now, her one and only movie role. But Watson talked her into playing a part in his movie.

Allison Janney of “The West Wing” is another of the stars of the movie; she appeared Monday on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and the movie was mentioned several times, but there was no real conversation about it and they didn’t show a clip.

Watson is hoping to do a Shelbyville premiere some time next month.

Celebrity Charades

I’m watching “Celebrity Charades” right now on AMC and enjoying it quite a bit.

The show is inspired by some real-life charade dinner parties hosted by actors Chad Lowe, Hilary Swank and Bob Balaban. Some of you are immediately flashing back to “Win, Lose or Draw,” the cheesy 80s-era game show produced by Burt Reynolds and Bert Convy and based on the Pictionary-like game Burt & Bert played among friends and family. But “Celebrity Charades” is nothing like that. It’s not shot as a game show, in a TV studio, with a live audience. It’s shot in documentary style in a New York loft, with handheld cameras following the participants as they run from room to room.

The running is required because of the rules of this particular game. There are two teams, each composed of five celebrities (there are actually 11 participants, since the actors take turns playing tournament director). The teams are playing simultaneously in separate rooms. Each team sends a player to run to the tournament director for a movie title. Each room works on the same five titles, in the same sequence. After a title is guessed, the person who guessed it must run to the tournament director for the next title. After a team has guessed all five titles, they must then guess the common thread that connects them. The first team to guess the theme wins the game.

The players on tonight’s episode included Balaban, Steve Guttenberg, Julianna Marguiles and Robert Klein. Amusingly, in one of the cinema verite mingling-around shots at the beginning of the show, Balaban innocently introduces Fisher Stevens to Guttenberg. After Stevens and Guttenberg give each other a friendly hug, Guttenberg explains to Balaban that they were in the movie “Short Circuit” together.

That, actually, is what makes this watchable; obviously, there were cameras present and the celebrities realized they were playing on a TV show for charity, but nobody acted like game show contestants. They cursed (bleeped out, of course) and kibbitzed and self-deprecated and seemed to be having a genuinely good time.

The show is running every night this week at 9 p.m. Eastern / 8 p.m. Central on AMC. It’s worth checking out.