Monday, July 18, 2016

KCRW's The Spin-Off: Sony's Steve Mosko Gives His Exit Interview

On the latest edition of KCRW's The Spin-Off, we've repurposed my recent Paley Center chat with outgoing Sony TV boss Steve Mosko:

In this bonus edition of The Spin-off, we're bringing you a conversation with Steve Mosko, who until about a month ago was the chairman of Sony Pictures Television--the production studio behind a wide range of shows--including Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Community, The Goldbergs, Shark Tank, and TV stalwarts Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.

Mosko had been president of Sony Pictures Television since 2001, and chairman since October 2015. He’d been at the studio in some form or another since 1992, so when he announced his departure in early June, it was a surprise to most people in the industry.

As we’ve talked about on this podcast before--more and more, broadcast networks like ABC, NBC and CBS want to produce and distribute their own shows. Since Sony doesn’t have its own broadcast network, Mosko had the difficult job of getting other networks--and cable and streaming outlets--to buy his studio’s shows. He succeeded, but as was revealed in the Sony email hack, and as you’ll hear in this conversation, he felt the TV side of Sony was frequently overshadowed by film business.

Michael Schneider recently sat down with Mosko at the Paley Center to talk about his long career in television. It was a conversation that had been on the books for weeks, but when Mosko suddenly announced his departure the day before the scheduled interview, Schneider wasn’t sure the former chairman would want to go through with it. But Mosko was still game.

Listen below!


and you can watch the chat here:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

'Ghostbusters': Our Boys Embrace a New Movie for Their Generation

Ghost blog

The boys had been looking forward to this weekend all summer. “Ghostbusters” has become as important to them as it was to me 32 years ago.

The 11-year-old and his buddies own “Ghostbusters” costumes – ordered off the internet – and have used iPhones to shoot their own homages to the franchise. The 6-year-old fell in love with the original movie when he was still a toddler (questionable parenting, yes), and helped me build a Lego set re-creating the Ecto-1. Along with “Back to the Future,” “Star Wars” and “The Simpsons,” it’s a joy to see their childhoods influenced by the same titles that influenced my childhood.

Saturday afternoon, after catching the brand-new “Ghostbusters” at the Burbank Town Center, I asked for their honest reviews.

The pint-size verdict from my mini-reviewers: The new movie is “funnier” and “more modern” than the OG, says the 11-year-old. The 6-year-old loves ‘em both. Equally.

Lost in all this talk of grown-ups accusing Paul Feig of robbing their childhood: Actual moviegoers in the middle of their actual childhood. For my boys, this is their “Ghostbusters.” The technology, the setting, the cars, the dialogue, the music — it’s theirs.

The fact that the new “Ghostbusters” are women? That’s also theirs. When my 11-year-old says the new movie is “more modern,” he’s not making a statement on feminism. He doesn’t have to. But that’s because he grew up in an age where there’s no question the “Ghostbusters” could be women.

The boys, after all, have just spent the last six months watching and re-watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” starring Daisy Ridley. Their favorite TV shows include Disney Channel’s “K.C. Undercover,” starring Zendaya as a kick-ass spy. Some of their favorite recent animated movies, “Zootopia” and “Finding Dory,” were led by female characters. And of course, they only remember a world where an African-American man is president, and a woman is a major party’s candidate to succeed him. These are kids who would be a bit baffled by the debate being held in some circles of social media. Can’t anyone be a Ghostbuster?

Lorne Michaels is fond of saying that your favorite “Saturday Night Live” cast is the group that starred when you were in your teens – which is why the Dana Carvey/Phil Hartman/Jan Hooks/Mike Myers/etc. group will always be my crew. And yes, I will always be partial to the 1984 “Ghostbusters,” because that movie came out when I was 11.

But now it’s my son who is 11, and he has his own “Ghostbusters.” That doesn’t negate my “Ghostbusters,” of course. And hey, what’s more exciting is I now get TWO “Ghostbusters”: The one that the pre-teen me adored, and now one that the fortysomething me enjoyed. (My one quibble: Not enough ghostbusting!)

The new "Ghostbusters" is an enjoyable ride, and one I look forward to visiting again. We'll see you at the sequel!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Rate-A-Restaurant #371: El Tovar Dining Room (Grand Canyon)

El Tovar dining

Restaurant: El Tovar Dining Room

Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Village Loop Dr (Grand Canyon, AZ)

El Tovar dining

Type of restaurant: American

El Tovar dining

We stipulated: We were staying for one night at the historic El Tovar Hotel, right at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Quite a treat -- and to get the full experience, we wanted to dine at the hotel restaurant. Our friends, also visiting the Grand Canyon, joined us for dinner; we also tried breakfast there the next morning.

El Tovar dining

El Tovar dining

They stipulated: "Located in the historic El Tovar Hotel, this celebrated and majestic Dining Room is constructed of native stone and Oregon pine.  The murals on the walls reflect the customs of four Native American Tribes – the Hopi, the Apache, the Mojave and the Navajo. The ambience is rustic, but classic and traditional. You can imagine the countless number of intriguing characters that have dined here in the past.  Guests such as Teddy Roosevelt, President Bill Clinton and Sir Paul McCartney have dined and shared stories within these walls. The menu is traditional, integrating both international and local Southwest influences." See below for more info:

El Tovar dining

El Tovar dining

What we ordered: Mike: Fresh pan-seared halibut — $26.45 (Kalamata olive tapenade, taboulleh salad, grilled lemon, seasonal vegetables); Maria: Chicken El Tovar — $20.20 (two boneless chicken breasts over angel hair pasta with snap peas); Blogger Kids ate off the kids' menu. For breakfast, I tried the Polenta Corncakes with Prickly Pear Pistachio Butter - $9.70
El Tovar dining

High point:  The view -- watching the sun set over the Grand Canyon as we ordered our dinner was a treat.

Low point:  The food itself is fine, but not quite worthy of the high-end prices. Service also was slow, but that was actually a positive, as we weren't in a rush (we got an early table) and were able to enjoy our time there.

El Tovar dining

El Tovar dining

Overall impression: It's honestly what you'd expect and hope from a high-end restaurant at a historic lodge at the Grand Canyon.

El Tovar dining

Will we return: If we stayed again up at the Grand Canyon, we'd want to revisit the El Tovar, and yes, eat there again.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

KCRW's The Spin-Off: Drama Problems at HBO, Which New Shows Will Score Emmy Noms?

On the latest edition of KCRW's The Spin-Off, Joe and I were joined by TVLine's Vlada Gelman, and we touched on some hot TV topics of the moment:

HBO has a problem with dramas--or lack thereof. Game of Thrones is still a massive hit, but that’s the only show the network has going for it right now, and it just wrapped up a sixth season.

Earlier in the year, HBO announced they’d renew Vinyl for a second season, even though the initial numbers were not great and critics’ reviews were mixed. But since then, there’s been a changing of the guard at HBO and we just learned a second season is now a no-go.

They’ve got the highly anticipated Westworld debuting in the fall, but that production has been plagued with problems and the premiere pushed back multiple times. However, HBO has endured dry spells before, and they’ve still having great success with comedies like Silicon Valley and Veep.

And on the Emmy front, the first nominating window has officially closed, so we’re waiting to see who made the list of nominees.

The Television Academy is known for nominating perennial favorites, and in the drama category this year, there’s not a ton of opportunity for new shows to break through. Lots of people would like to see The Americans or Mr. Robot to be recognized, but there may not be room for both.

The best comedy actress category is another one filled to the brim with opportunity. The question remains as to how far the Academy is willing to reach outside the tried and true.

Listen below!

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