Greg Stacy’s FAT LOT OF GOOD

February 16, 2007

EYEBALL FOOD: NO GNUS ARE GOOD GNUS

Filed under: Eyeball Food,Geekery,TV,Weird — gregstacy @ 10:08 pm

Here’s one for my fellow aging Gen-X’ers. You know that crazy-ass kiddie show that was on in the morning when you were a kid, the one that nobody but you seems to remember? With the kids on the asteroid and the weird-looking puppets and the cartoons and stuff? Well, here are the psychedelic credits. And here’s Knock Knock the bird busting Goriddle Gorilla’s balls. And one of those freaking cartoons about the the little line man with the gibbering baby nightmare voice. And finally, Gary Gnu! (“I’m a gnu! How do you do?”)

Weird bit of trivia: Kevin Clash, the guy who did the voice of Goriddle, went on to do the voice of Elmo. While normally Elmo would be enough to earn somebody a piece of prime real estate by the Lake of Fire in Hell, it’s possible that Clash has earned a free pass through the pearly gates thanks to Goriddle. We’ll just have to wait until the Day of Judgement to know for sure.

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December 28, 2006

To Infinity and Beyond!: The Naked Cosmos

Filed under: Art,Geekery,OC Weekly,TV,Weird — gregstacy @ 1:53 am

(Printed in OC WEEKLY, June 23, 2005)

Once in a great while, usually when it’s very late at night and you’ve been restlessly flipping around the more disreputable end of the TV dial, you come across a show of perfect, transcendent strangeness. It could be Dr. Gene Scott’s mix of fierce televangelism and dancing bimbos. Or Dr. Franklin Ruehl at his desk in outer space, discoursing on the Phantom Army of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Or some forgotten Spanish-language B-picture where fat guys in wrestling masks battle vampire babes. Or even (you lucky dog) your first Ed Wood movie. Whatever it is, you wake up the next morning wondering if it was real, or if you dreamed the whole thing.

Gilbert Hernandez’s new, straight-to-DVD TV series, The Naked Cosmos, is like all of those shows put together into one mind-frying package; this is concentrated public access weirdness and should not be taken without first consulting a physician. Hernandez, the justly acclaimed cartoonist who co-creates the Love and Rockets comic book series with his brother Jaime, made his name crafting bittersweet stories of life in the fictional South American town of Palomar, stories that are often compared to the works of such writers as Carson Mccullers and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But with The Naked Cosmos, Hernandez lets a different side of himself out to play, cutting loose with a wild parody of/homage to all the kitschy TV he grew up loving as a dorky Oxnard kid.

The Naked Cosmos is a kind of surreal kiddie show hosted by Quintas (Hernandez), a Beatle-wigged, pop-eyed, psychic dandy who takes us on an unforgettable journey through inner and outer space accompanied by the lovely Mistress Velda (Hernandez’s wife, Carol Kovinick) and Ego (Hernandez again), a mellow hippie boozer with the power of teleportation. Quintas faces opposition at every turn from his masked clone, the seethingly envious Kalisto (Hernandez yet again), and both are rivals for the affections of the cheerfully oblivious Velda. All of them report to the Chief (Kovinick), a lady who wears a bondage cat hood and issues her orders over the phone in Spanish. Every now and again the action stops cold for a short film presented by Zansky, a jolly expatriate from another dimension. Hernandez portrays Zansky via the old summer camp trick of drawing a face on your chin and standing on your head, a perfect example of the show’s nutty, low-budget ingenuity. The budget for this thing is so low, in fact, that Hernandez doesn’t even use split screen effects when he holds conversations with himself: the camera just cuts back and forth between Hernandez in different costumes, emoting with hammy gusto and clearly having the time of his life.

The DVD features four 22-minute episodes, bloopers, portraits of the characters by Hernandez and other artists, and an original, 20-page comic book, making this an absolute steal at $15.95. Issued in a limited edition of 2,000, The Naked Cosmos is only available for purchase online (at http://www.brightredrocket.com/nakedcosmos) or at America’s very hippest comics shops. The next time you’re restlessly flipping the TV dial in the dead of night, fire up this thing and you’ll go to sleep a few hours later confused but happy.

December 21, 2006

Ashes to Ashton: Kicking Kutcher to the curb

Filed under: Humor,Movies,OC Weekly,TV — gregstacy @ 11:13 am

There he was, staring at me with those dead, stuffed-animal eyes from the cover of every magazine at the supermarket that didn’t have a pretty, undernourished girl on the cover, from every channel on TV that wasn’t busy trying to show me reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, from bus benches and newspaper pages, from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam: Ashton freaking Kutcher. Oh, how I loathe him. Now, there’s nothing odd in and of itself about disliking the star of such fare as That ’70s Show and Dude, Where’s My Car? Such persons are to be despised as a matter of course, and to do otherwise is no doubt evidence of some potentially dangerous psychological disorder. But my feelings for Kutcher were not simply the reflexive distaste typically earned by his ilk; no, mine was an actual hate, seeing his detestably pretty face made my fists clench and my spleen twist up like a balloon animal. But why? Why does Kutcher inspire my loathing where most of his Hollywood, himbo compatriots inspire a vague disdain at most?

Certainly, the fact that he is younger, better-looking and wealthier than I shall ever be does play a part; it’s no fun to see the ladies swooning over a guy whose talent and intelligence could by all evidence fit in an aspirin bottle without taking out the aspirin (or the cotton). But it’s not like the sight of Freddie Prinze Jr. makes me double over with barely suppressed rage. Besides, while I wouldn’t weep if Ashton’s face suffered an untimely run-in with a belt sander, in some ways, it’s kind of nice to see the ladies swooning over a guy who is obviously and inarguably not ugly; after watching women go ga-ga for Russell Crowe, Benicio Del Toro, Vin Diesel and other surly guys who look like they’re made of mashed potatoes, it’s reassuring to know America’s women are not, in fact, suffering from an epidemic of early-onset glaucoma. I respect women less for thinking a lunk like Kutcher is hot, but I suppose I can’t begrudge them their lust when I’m working on my seventh scrapbook of Jennifer Connelly photos. (I have her covered through Dark City, and my source in Tokyo says he has a lead on a cache of Rocketeer pics.) I wouldn’t bother to cross the street to spit on the shoes of most wealthy young stars, yet I’m working on a loogie right now just in case Kutcher crosses my path. And why?

Well, I’m tempted to simply cross my arms and churlishly pronounce that I don’t like what he stands for, but it’s no simple matter to figure out what Kutcher does stand for. The man is simply a void. It is my custom to watch TV in the tub (I’m practicing in the event that I ever become an eccentric millionaire), and recently, I was midway through a prolonged sitz when The Simpsons ended, and I got stuck with the opening 20 minutes of That ’70s Show. Flipping channels would have been a soggy and potentially electrifying ordeal, so I had little option but to sit back and take in the horror of Kutcher in action. My lord. He calls to mind something Family Ties director Gary David Goldberg once said about the casting of Michael J. Fox, back when Fox was just some anonymous Canadian little person: Goldberg said that Fox could take a script page with two laughs and give you five. Kutcher does not give you five; he gives you exactly two, and he wouldn’t give you any without the laugh track. As meager as That ’70s Show’s scripts are (I’ve recently subjected myself to a few more episodes for the purposes of this article), Kutcher’s talent is not up to them. He plays stupid convincingly (assuming he is in fact “playing”), but it’s hardly the beguiling stupid of a young Suzanne Somers or even a Keanu Reeves. No, Kutcher’s is the true witlessness of some third- or fourth-billed horny dork in a Porky’s movie, and yet through some ghastly quirk of fate, he has been elevated to leading-man status. And given the heartbreaking success of Just Married, odds are we’re stuck with him.

Sometimes I get the feeling that I was born in the wrong universe, that I’ve somehow traded places with another me, and at this moment, the opposite Greg Stacy – a hip-hop fan in a backward ballcap and a Hard Rock Café T-shirt – is wandering around an America where people like Kutcher pump the gas and Steve Buscemi is a national treasure. I hope that other me has a better time in that universe than I’ve had in this one.

Emma Caulfield on BUFFY’s final days

Filed under: Darkworlds.com,Geekery,Interviews,Movies,TV — gregstacy @ 11:11 am

(Originally posted on DARKWORLDS.COM)

 The following interview with BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and DARKNESS FALLS star Emma Caulfield caused a lot of controversy with the show’s fans. This surprised us, given her reasonable, non-gossipy tone and the fact that she never even names names. Still, we just couldn’t resist revisiting this story…

DW: By some accounts you were pretty determined to leave BUFFY by the end, and you wanted Anya killed in the series finale so that even if there was a BUFFY movie or whatever, it’d be clear that you would not be back. Is that true?

Caulfield: Well, that’s all been exaggerated. I had a fantastic experience on BUFFY and I thought it was a great show, but in some ways I didn’t feel that character was reflective of everything I could do. And by the end, I felt very unappreciated by certain people. Almost everybody was great, but certain people…

DW: You don’t want to name names? Even off the record?

Caulfield: No. No reflection on you, but I’ve been burned too many times! It wouldn’t be smart for me to say, but the people I’m talking about know who they are. By the end it was just no fun to come to work and be continually disrespected. But if they ever do a BUFFY movie and (BUFFY creator Joss Whedon) wants to bring me back as a ghost or something, I’d be glad to do that.

DW: Now, I’m sure you’ve been asked this to death, but what the hell. Can you tell me anything about if there’s a BUFFY movie on the way?

Caulfield: Honestly, I don’t know anything. I know that Joss is busy doing the FIREFLY movie right now, but that’s all I’ve heard.

DW: Do you do the conventions and fan cruises and stuff like that?

Caulfield: I have, sure. I’m doing a con in England at the end of the month.

DW: I’ve been to conventions myself, and fans can be so gushy. If strangers are coming up and telling you you’re the best thing ever, how do you keep that from screwing up your values?

Caulfield: Well, I guess if anybody comes up and says anything like that to me… I just don’t really believe them. I mean, I’m just not that impressed by anything I’ve done, acting-wise. I think I do good work as an actress, but in some ways I’m not sure acting is what I’m best at. I’ve always said that if acting doesn’t work out I’ll move on and do something else, I’ll make my mark some other way.

A chat with BUFFY’s Clem the demon

Filed under: Darkworlds.com,Geekery,Interviews,TV,Weird — gregstacy @ 11:01 am

(Originally posted on DARKWORLDS.COM in 2003)

When Clem the demon first made his debut on UPN’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER in a scene where he and a group of other vile-looking creatures were playing poker for kittens, it was immediately clear that a floppy-eared, saggy-skinned star had just been born. Hideous though he was, Clem’s cheery, homespun personality immediately won the hearts of both the show’s characters and fans; he’s since become something of a regular on the series, frequently babysitting Buffy’s younger sister Dawn and advising the tortured vampire Spike on the mysterious ways of the human heart. Clem is a true stand-up guy, the kind of demon anybody would be glad to call a pal, even if they did have to keep a close eye on the cat whenever Clem dropped by.

Whatever Clem fans imagine the actor who portrays him looks like under all those pounds of rubber, they’re not imagining James C. Leary, a slim, young fellow who looks like he just stepped out of a toothpaste commercial (and possibly just did, given all the commercials on his resume). We sat down with Leary at the 2002 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in LA, and the actor proved to be every bit as charming as the character he portrays. (Interview for Darkworlds.com by Greg Stacy)

DW: Can you give us any spoilers for the coming season of BUFFY?

Leary: Nope. I would, but honestly, I don’t know anything! Right now they’re filming the second episode and they’re still writing the rest of the season.

DW: Can you say if we’ll we be seeing Clem again anytime soon?

Leary: I hope so! But honestly, I don’t know yet. I’m not even sure if (BUFFY’s creators) know, it’s still just too early in the season. They’ve told me that they’d like to use me again, though.

DW: Clem is such a great character. He’s been really popular with the fans.

Leary: Yeah, (BUFFY’s creators) originally only planned to use him for one episode, but apparently he was pretty well-liked, so they’ve kept bringing him back.

DW: Clem looks like a character who would require a lot of time in the makeup chair, with that saggy neck and the floppy arms and everything.

Leary: Ah, it’s about two and half hours, it’s not too bad. I’m a lot better off than some of the people who work on the show.

DW: I’ve heard that after a while under the hot studio lights, heavy prosthetics can really begin to stink. Is there any truth to that?

Cleary: Not so I’ve noticed, no. Although the rubbery smell can be pretty strong when I first put the makeup on.

DW: Looking up your bio, I didn’t see many credits besides Clem. Is he your first onscreen role?

Leary: I’ve done a lot of commercials and lots and lots of theater. My biggest part before this was on a Telemundo sit-com called LOS BELTRAN, I was on there for a couple of years as the gay neighbor.

DW: Oh, so you speak Spanish?

Leary: No! It was all completely phonetic for me. It worked out ok, because I was supposed to be kind of the token goofy gringo on the show anyway, so my language skills weren’t really a barrier.

DW: Would you prefer to continue working in genre projects like BUFFY, or do you hope to work on more mainstream fare eventually?

Leary: Oh, I’ve always been a big sci-fi and horror buff, I was a fan of BUFFY before I got on, so this has been great. Mainstream, genre, I’m fine with anything. Right now, I’m just happy to work on anything I can get paid for!

November 26, 2006

A Paler Shade of Green: Tom Green – an Andy Kaufman talent in a Carson Daly age

Filed under: Humor,Movies,OC Weekly,TV,Weird — gregstacy @ 1:22 pm

(Originally printed in OC WEEKLY, September 26, 2002)

The comedy of Tom Green is just about impossible to defend. If somebody catches a rerun of his MTV series and sees Green dressed up like a cop, sucking milk out of a live cow’s udder in the middle of a supermarket filled with bemused onlookers, and that aforementioned somebody then declares that Green’s antics are absurd, sub-juvenile and disgusting, well, there’s no point in trying to convince them otherwise; after all, they’re right. Green’s comedy is all of those things—and sometimes worse. This is a man who once livened up an interview on a Canadian talk show by plopping a dead animal onto the desk of the show’s clearly horrified host, a man who has made actual vomiting a semiregular part of his art, a man who rubs his ass against the elderly for laughs. If intelligent Adam Sandler or Howard Stern fans (and to be sure, there are a few) have a hard time justifying their affection for these purveyors of dumb-ass, gross-out humor, well, they should try defending a guy whose idea of comedy includes rolling around on the ground for uncomfortably prolonged periods of time while making noises like a retarded gorilla getting a blowjob . . . usually while covered with something sticky.

But while you’ll probably never convince one of Green’s detractors that the guy is anything more than an annoyance at best and a sign of the apocalypse at worst, Green’s singularly odd talent remains worth defending. For despite their superficial resemblance to the spazzy noises and pratfalls of the Carrot Top school of comedy, Green’s antics (and here we’re talking about his TV show, not the stupid, stupid movies we’ll get to later) are something else altogether. At their best, a segment from The Tom Green Show is true performance art that blows away most of the stuff you’ll ever see in a gallery or on PBS. Hell, yeah, I’m serious.

Consider for a moment one infamous segment that aired on Green’s show: after months of harassing his parents with pranks that ranged from filling their home with wall-to-wall, noisy, poopy livestock to painting the entire house plaid, Green upped the ante by a factor of thousands when he had the word “SLUTMOBILE” spray-painted on his father’s car along with a mural depicting a scene of XXX-rated lesbian love. When his parents understandably went completely apeshit, Green “apologized” by surprising them with a statue on their front lawn depicting themselves in a position that made the lesbo porn look tame. Oh, and for good measure, the statue was a fountain. And yes, that means exactly what you probably think it means.

Now, putting aside the truly vicious cruelty of such an act (Green’s parents are somehow persuaded to forgive their boy again and again), there’s no denying that if Green had filmed all of this for the gallery crowd instead of for MTV, he would have been an art-world superstar overnight. Forget Karen Finley and her tired old yams; forget Annie Sprinkle and her speculum—Green would have been the shit. But instead he went the TV route, and now we read articles about his divorce from Drew Barrymore instead of articles about how some particularly gross stunt has gotten the Republicans in a twist about his NEA grant.

While Green could have easily parlayed his talents into art-world acclaim, he was a Gen-X, TV baby, and his heroes growing up were people like Andy Kaufman and David Letterman, men who created anarchistic, surreal, ironic and sometimes genuinely sadistic TV comedy. (It may be hard for our younger readers to believe, but time was when serious critics routinely used the words “Letterman” and “postmodern genius” in the same sentence.) Green set out to emulate such men and made a damn fine job of it for a time, heedlessly and artfully pissing people off and having a high time doing it.

But with success, Kaufman and Letterman both lost their way. Kaufman appeared in a slew of wretched movies (remember Heartbeeps?) but at least kept up his fascinatingly odd conceptual pranks right up to his untimely death from lung cancer, while Letterman gradually became the kind of glitzy, unchallenging talk-show host he’d once parodied. So far, Green’s trajectory has been more troubling than either of his heroes’, with his forays onto the big screen making Kaufman’s movies seem like deathless classics by comparison.

Simply put, while there is undeniable fascination in watching the horrified reactions of everyday people as they watch Green behave like an idiot in public, there’s no fascination of any kind in watching actors pretend to be everyday people horrified by Green acting out stuff from some dopey script. Green’s film career has thus far consisted of exactly such fare, with his own directorial debut Freddy Got Fingered serving as the nadir. With Stealing Harvard, Green seems to be settling (perhaps for the long haul) into the goofball sidekick roles that Harlan Williams has turned down.

As I write this, it’s too soon to tell how Stealing Harvard will fare at the box office. Green sorely needs a hit after the fiasco of Freddy Got Fingered, but I would wager that once word of mouth on this thing gets out, people will stay as far away from Stealing Harvard as possible. If they do make the film a hit, I fear Green’s fate is sealed, and for the rest of his life, he will be far less interesting than he could be.

But while the failure of Stealing Harvard could just bounce him out of entertainment for good, it could also be the best thing that ever happened to him; after all, without the deodorant and soda commercials to fall back on, without the gigs playing the thirtysomething hanger-on in mangy teen comedies, Green might just get back in touch with the freaky little demon in his belly that made him such a talent to treasure in the first place.

If I were Green’s parents, I’d start locking my doors now.

November 25, 2006

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar: Of starlets and Super Bowls

Filed under: Humor,Movies,OC Weekly,TV — gregstacy @ 11:32 am

(Originally printed in OC WEEKLY, March 21, 2002)

I once heard Howard Stern refer to the annual Oscar telecast as “the Super Bowl for women and gay guys.” I haven’t been a gay guy or a woman recently, so perhaps that explains why I’m powerless to understand the appeal of the Oscars. (Then again, I can’t abide the Super Bowl either.)

I’m a movie geek. I watch films for a living. I plow through silly magazines about movies; I watch silly TV shows about movies; I have a bookcase threatening to implode from the weight of the DVDs packed onto its shelves. I hold strong opinions about movies I’ve never seen. So why would I rather eat a live skunk than sit through Sunday’s big telecast?

I’d like to ask you a question: Why do you want to watch? Do you really believe that if the Academy declares anything “best,” that makes it so? If so, I have five words for you: Titanic, best picture of 1997.

I suppose if you were actively employed in the film industry, if you were nominated for an Oscar yourself or one of your friends was, then it would make sense that this show would interest you. But otherwise, unless you have some personal stake in it, why would you willingly subject yourself to a show that plays like a three-hour-long, hugely expensive high school assembly? Few among us would have the patience to sit through the entire Nobel Prize ceremony, a genuine celebration of the best humanity has to offer, so what is the appeal of watching a bunch of millionaires presenting each other with little golden trophies to celebrate their ability to cry on cue? For Christ’s sake, people, what’s in it for you?

The more I think about it, the more Stern’s football comparison makes sense. There’s a commercial making the rounds just now where a guy opens up his morning paper, sees the sports page headline, and mutters to himself, “How are we going to win the game on Sunday?” I always get stuck on that word we. On a fundamental level, I can’t understand how this little schlub would think of some football team’s victory as his own, any more than I can understand why some checkout girl in Des Moines gives a damn if Jennifer Connelly wins an Oscar. Are we all so alienated, so desperate to belong to something that we’ll whip ourselves into a frenzy of identification over shows that could not be more boring if they were broadcast backwards and in slow motion?

If the Super Bowl is a celebration of the ghastliest aspects of conventional masculinity, a day when the people of the nation are expected to sit around in dark caves, drinking themselves into a collective stupor and bellowing like apes while they watch big men break each other’s bones, the Oscars could indeed be said to represent the worst aspects of conventional femininity run amok, a license for people to gather in little covens and make bitchy remarks about who has gotten fat and who is wearing what. Both of these extremes are simultaneously horrifying and tedious, and I just wish we could achieve some sort of middle ground. Wouldn’t the Super Bowl be infinitely more compelling if it were played by glamorous folk in fancy evening wear? What if when a starlet’s name was announced at the Oscars, she had to make a daring end run up to the podium, dodging other contenders as they tried to tackle her? Then we could all gather – women and men, gay and straight – and enjoy a spectacle that would be truly worth our heartiest bellowing and our bitchiest remarks.

But until then, you can count me the hell out.

Roddenberry: The Next Generation

Filed under: Interviews,Movies,OC Weekly,TV — gregstacy @ 11:06 am

(Originally printed in OC WEEKLY, July 28, 2005)

Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, son of the late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, is currently at work on Trek Nation, a documentary exploration of Trek’s legacy as well as his own complex, sometimes difficult relationship with his father. Rod recently spoke to us from his home in LA.

OC Weekly: Do you prefer Rod or Eugene?

Roddenberry: Well, it’s complicated. These days, I think I prefer Rod. My given name is Eugene Roddenberry, but that can confuse people, especially when you’re getting into merchandising and things like that.

I’m a big Trek dork, and I call myself a Trekkie. I know there’s this controversy in fandom about whether we’re Trekkies or Trekkers, or whatever . . .

I think it’s nonsense. That Trekker stuff is people wanting to make themselves sound cooler. “I’m not a dork! I’m a Trekker, not some Trekkie.” Well, I’m a Trekkie, and I’m not ashamed to say it.

Okay. What’s the current status of Trek Nation?

We’re going to look at the rough cut in a few days. We’re submitting the film to Sundance, and we won’t hear back on that until mid- to late December. 

I’ve read early PR stuff saying you were going to talk to some huge names for the film, people like the Dalai Lama and Steven Spielberg. . . .

We didn’t get the Dalai Lama, but Spielberg hasn’t said no yet. The people at his office keep saying he’s interested, but we haven’t been able to set up a time. We did get a lot of really big names, though: George Lucas, Dennis Rodman, Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane, Tammy Faye Messner . . .

Hang on! Tammy Faye? Wouldn’t Trek be a little too secular humanist for her?

Well, we didn’t just pick people at random; we wanted contrast. See, people have this idea of Trek fans as 35-year-old guys living in their parents’ basements . . . and I just moved out of my mom’s place, so I can relate. But we wanted to get past that stereotype and show that Trek transcends all those high school stereotypes: that yeah, nerds are into Trek, but so are jocks, so are the hot chicks. We found a biker gang, and they were Trek fans. We have a couple of Playboy models in the film, and they’re complete Trekkies—they really know their shit. Excuse my language.

What was your take on the two Trekkies documentaries?

I was inspired by Trekkies, but in the opposite way. See, I was a late bloomer as a Trek fan. Growing up, I was into The Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky and Hutch, and frankly, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about Trek. It wasn’t until my dad’s memorial service, when I heard these stories about how Trek had changed so many lives, that I really started to understand and be proud of what he’d achieved. He’d really changed the world, in a way that’s more than some politicians manage. I think this film tells a story that’s fairly universal, about a son struggling to understand his father. You can relate to that if you’re a son or a daughter, especially if your parent left you before you were old enough to ask the questions you’d maybe want to ask.  

As I understand it, Star Trek: The Next Generation is the last of the shows your father was directly involved in before his death. What do you think he would have thought of the Trek shows since then?

Well, I don’t want to put words in his mouth. He might’ve felt like having caught lightning in a bottle twice, it was best to stop there. But it’s entirely possible that if he’d told Paramount, “No, I don’t want you to continue this,” they would have gone ahead with the franchise anyway. My father was a big proponent of the idea that if you’re going to do something, you have to do it right. He walked away from a lot of really big deals, even other shows that weren’t Trek, when he felt like the people involved were lowballing their expectations or they were gonna do a shitty job. Excuse my language again.

In William Shatner’s autobiography, he talks about your father trying for years to sell Paramount on this movie idea where the original Enterprise crew goes back to 1963 and they accidentally prevent Kennedy’s assassination, and then Spock has to assassinate Kennedy in order to preserve history.

[Laughs] Wow! I never heard that idea before! Well, it sounds a bit like (the original Trek episode) “City on the Edge of Forever” to me, and that was a time-travel story that really worked. A story like that could be really interesting. I’ve had ideas like that: What if somebody went back in time and killed Hitler, and then you had to go back to save Hitler’s life to preserve history? In a situation like that, I’d be tempted to say, “Hell, let Hitler die.” Because no matter what it did to history, we could hardly be worse off than we are now, so let’s see what happens. But of course that’d be a really controversial idea, and it’d probably just piss people off.

In the past few years, it seems like people have really turned against Trek. All you ever hear is how much it sucks, and people are acting like they never liked it. I keep thinking, well, somebody made all those movies and TV shows into big hits! Do you have any idea where all this hostility comes from?

I’m not sure I’ve noticed what you’re talking about . . .

Well, the worst was probably this thing where an LA Times story about a police anti-child-molester unit mentioned that a lot of molesters had Trek memorabilia in their homes. People jumped on that and made all these jokes about Trekkies being child molesters. It seemed so obvious to me that these molesters were probably complete shut-in nerd types, and they probably had all kinds of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings stuff, too.

Wow. Well, I believe it; it’s possibly true [that molesters are often Trekkies]. Star Trek attracts all kinds of different people, including the shut-ins in the basement. But I don’t let myself get bothered about what the press is gonna say. If I’m successful—and I don’t want to say when I’m successful because I don’t want to sound like an arrogant asshole—I’ve no doubt that eventually some embarrassing stuff will come out in the tabloids. I’ll admit to everything and say that aliens gave me the idea. 

I’ve wondered if Trek being seen as this very left-wing, secular humanist thing has something to do with why it’s fallen out of favor lately. America has swung so far to the right.

Well . . . that’s a big question. With Bush being as religious as he is, and the people we’re at war with being as religious as they are . . . I can’t answer your question. [Considers] See, I’m a humanist. I believe we should embrace different ideas, including Christianity, including Islam, and even including people who hate those religions. I hate to get all Trek-y, but I believe in [the Vulcan motto] Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, that we should celebrate our differences. I’m not sure if I answered your question. I’m not sure if I remember your question!

Do you think Trek will rise again?

Definitely. I was in favor of canceling it [Enterprise] and letting it take a break for a few years. I think [producer] Manny Coto coming aboard Enterprise in its last season was the best thing that could have happened to Trek, but it was too little, too late. He’s the one person who I thought could justify keeping the franchise going. But there are like 700 hours of Trek now for people to watch. I say let it go for a while, give it time for the hierarchy at Paramount to change. Maybe give it time for the world to change.

All the Things That Make Us Laugh and Cry: Lucky there’s a Family Guy

Filed under: OC Weekly,TV — gregstacy @ 7:00 am

(Originally published in OC WEEKLY, September 15, 2005)

There was a time about six years ago when it seemed I was the only person in the entire world who liked Family Guy. During the show’s 1999-2002 run on Fox, my fellow Americans didn’t simply not like it; they actively, loudly despised it. The one thing conservatives and hippies could agree on was that Family Guy sucked serious ass. It was routinely cited as an example of the sorry state of modern TV, and in 2001 Entertainment Weekly ranked it No. 5 on their list of the Top 10 worst shows. The Simpsons repeatedly singled it out for abuse, dismissing it as “crude, lowbrow programming” and including Family Guy’s fat, drunken patriarch Peter Griffin in a group of Homer Simpson clones. Fox itself treated the show with little respect, constantly changing its time slot and canceling it several times. I didn’t consider myself a fan, but I enjoyed Family Guy’s surreal, rapid-fire comedy and couldn’t fathom why everybody else seemed to hate it so much.

When Cartoon Network started rerunning the show in its late-night Adult Swim block, I discovered something strange: episodes that were fairly amusing the first time somehow became a lot funnier on a second viewing and muscle-pullingly hilarious on a third. I also came to appreciate how astonishingly fearless the show had been. There were jokes about race and religion that would have given South Park pause, there was the sinister old man who tried to coax teenage boys into his basement by offering them Popsicles, there was that episode where the Griffin clan engaged in an epic living room fistfight—with husband turned against wife, sister beating the hell out of brother, and baby and dog going at it like Ali and Foreman. There were spooge jokes, shit jokes, drug jokes, incest jokes, jokes about AIDS and the disabled. Most of Adult Swim’s original lineup (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2021, etc.) seemed created by bitter potheads for bitter potheads: it could be quite funny in short doses, but it could also be nonsensical to the point of tedium, and often cruel. Family Guy was shocking, especially for a show that began on a network, but there was a bouncy charm to its nihilism. This was wonderfully stupid comedy for smart grown-ups, and it seemed criminal that this show had died young while The Simpsons will still be airing long after most of us are dead.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who rediscovered Family Guy in reruns. DVD sales were so strong that Fox actually brought it back this season, airing new episodes Sunday nights alongside American Dad!, a new show from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. At first fans and critics hailed MacFarlane as a returning hero, but it wasn’t long before the predictable grumblings began that Family Guy isn’t as funny as it used to be and that American Dad! sucks serious ass. I suppose it’s pointless to remind these people they had to see the original run of Family Guy three or four times before they fell in love with it.

Personally, I find MacFarlane’s comedy as sharp as ever, but now it has a welcome political edge: American Dad! depicts Karl Rove as a hooded, satanic figure who can’t enter a church without his skin smoking; Family Guy portrays W. as, literally, an infantile idiot. In an age when lefty satire should be thriving, we’ve been stuck with politically muddled fare like The Simpsons, SNL and The Daily Show. The creators of those series plainly despise Bush, but they constantly hedge their bets and make a big show of going after both sides. Family Guy and American Dad! make no pretense of being even-handed, and God bless them for it. With their violence, their AIDS jokes, their spooge and their Bush-bashing, both shows are too good to last. Family Guy has already returned from the dead; if it goes once more, we shall not soon see its like again. Any day now the FCC will probably find some excuse to yank both shows off the air. So treasure them while you’ve got them.

November 23, 2006

Emma Caulfield’s Demons

Filed under: Interviews,Movies,OC Weekly,TV — gregstacy @ 9:43 am

(Originally published in OC WEEKLY, 15 April 2004)

In Bandwagon, one of the standout pictures in this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival, former Buffy the Vampire Slayer regular Emma Caulfield portrays herself as a self-absorbed starlet who distracts herself from her career’s downward spiral by throwing her energy into various causes, chief among them trying to make a star of Tubie (writer/director Karri Bowman), a fumbly aspiring actress who may or may not be retarded. It’s a scathingly hilarious mockumentary guaranteed to piss a lot of people off, and in it, Caulfield demonstrates more bravery than in all the seasons she spent lopping the heads off vampires.

 

OC Weekly: What was the genesis of this project?

Emma Caulfield: I’d been friends with Karri Bowman for years; she’s an actress I met through a mutual friend. She’d been doing this character, Tubie, since she was, like, 14 years old. You could never figure out if Tubie was retarded or what was going on, and I thought she was hilarious but also really endearing. We’d sit around in my living room for hours, and she’d do Tubie, and I’d do Emma Caulfield, asshole celebrity, and they’d interact. At some point, I said, “You know, we should do a Tubie movie.” So, Karri got together with a friend, and they hammered out a script, and then we also improvised some things around that.

How much does the Emma in the film reflect the real you? You’re politically conservative in real life, and I wondered if the film’s Emma is meant as a conservative caricature of do-gooder, Hollywood lefties. I know you really do endorse animal rights, so obviously you have some things in common with her.

Well, let me tell you my take on the Emma in the film: she’s not very bright. She’s well-intentioned, very passionate and self-righteous, but she’s easily distracted when a new cause comes along. In some ways, she reminds me of the character I played on Buffy because she’s extremely focused and she doesn’t always consider the consequences of what she does. Anybody who knows me would tell you that the Emma of the film is not me. Well, she’s what I could become if the worst part of me went unchecked. She’s what I easily could be, but I’m not.

In this movie, you allow yourself to look like this self-absorbed, pushy, desperate woman whose career is falling apart. Weren’t you worried that this could backfire on you professionally and cost you work?

I was. But I wanted to do this film more than I was worried. I’ve been working in Hollywood long enough and I know enough people that I hoped people in the industry would know that the Emma in the film is not me. I wanted Emma to be always right on this precipice between big things happening for her and absolute disaster. I don’t think I’m really on that precipice, but . . . it’s fun to pretend. I hoped the people I respect in Hollywood would recognize that this is my take on the industry, where it seems like everybody’s out for everybody. It’s just a joke; it’s not the real me.

Have you gotten any flack from advocates for the retarded because of this film?

No . . . but nobody’s really seen the film yet! There have been some angry people on the film’s message board: “Emma Caulfield is making fun of the retarded!” “My cousin is mentally challenged! How dare she?!” “Emma played a demon on Buffy. . . . Is she a demon in real life?” But these are people who haven’t seen the film. Hopefully when they see it, they’ll see it’s not attacking retarded people. But I did want to challenge people and make them think. I mean, really, if somebody’s funny, whether they’re retarded or whatever, why isn’t it okay to laugh?

Of course, the people at my agency were very concerned when I decided to do this film. They told me we couldn’t go ahead until we got the mentally challenged groups to sign off on it, and I told them, “No, I don’t want them to sign off on it! That’s not what this movie’s about—it could ruin it.” I mean, I look at what’s been happening with free speech in this country, at the way Howard Stern is being treated by the FCC, for instance, and it appalls me. I wanted us to make a really strong statement against this whole repressive climate.

I wondered if, on some level, this movie was your attempt to throw off any of that teen-role-model stuff left over from Buffy. I can imagine some young Buffy fans being really outraged by this.

So can I. I’m big on irony—maybe that’s something I got from working with [Buffy creator] Joss Whedon. . . . So when Buffy ended, I wanted to do something risky. I didn’t set out to offend people really, but hopefully, they’ll see a new side of me. I’m very grateful to the fans. They’re loyal people, and when you do something new, there’s already a lot of people with some interest in it. That’s a great thing.

Can I ask you a question? What did you think of the Emma Caulfield you saw in Bandwagon?

Of your performance? Or the character?

Both.

Well . . . the Emma in the film was very complex. She was kind of dumb and self-serving, but at the same time, you couldn’t help but root for her. She did mean well. And I was honestly impressed by the bravery of your performance. You went to such dark places, and you let yourself look so awful.

Yay! [Laughs] That’s pretty much what I was going for.

Really, you should be proud of this thing. Since Bandwagon could be kind of a tricky sell, I wondered if there was anything you wanted to say to people to get them to come out and see it?

[Long pause] I would say that whether they love or hate the film, they won’t be bored. I’m prepared for some people to hate the film, or maybe they’ll love it and hate it, and I welcome that. It’ll make you think. It’s like watching a train wreck . . . but in a good way!

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