Archive for the ‘Ray Romano’ Category

Best 2012 recap you’ll ever read: MY year in TV

December 24, 2012


NEW YORK, Dec. 24, 2012 — Let other critics waste their time on year-end lists of the Top 10 this and the Top 10 that.

My long experience in this business tells me readers aren’t interested in any of that.  What they really want to know is: How was my year in TV?

My year amounted to just shy of 600 stories.

Dennis Farina and Dustin Hoffman in HBO's "Luck" (Photo: HBO)

Dennis Farina and Dustin Hoffman in HBO’s “Luck” (Photo: HBO)

My favorite: The story of the HBO horse-racing drama “Luck,” and how it was cancelled due to the deaths of three horses.  I’ve been covering the TV business as a journalist for the better part of 29 years, and this one was a first — a TV show ceasing production due to animals being injured so grievously that they had to be put down.  It was a shame — for the horses, certainly, and also for anyone who, like me, happened to like the show.  Alas.

Odd as that story was, another one was even odder, and also sad: The attempted suicide of character actor Daniel Von Bargen, who’s been in a lot of movies and TV shows but was best known for playing George Costanza’s boss, Mr. Kruger, in the final season of “Seinfeld.”  There have been no updates on his health since the incident last February, and I hope he’s doing better.

The TV phenomenon of the year was Honey Boo Boo.

Warwick Davis in "Life's Too Short" (Photo: HBO)

Warwick Davis in “Life’s Too Short” (Photo: HBO)

My favorite scripted show of the year was “Life’s Too Short,” the reality-style comedy series about a dwarf.  Produced for HBO by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, this show had dwarf actor Warwick Davis suffering humiliation and embarrassment everywhere he went.  It was just savage.

The year’s most memorable TV event was Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk over Niagara Falls on a Friday night last June.  ABC aired it and everybody watched.

My favorite non-scripted show (though it may have been scripted just a little bit) was “American Colony: Meet the Hutterites,” seen last summer on National Geographic Channel.  Though the Hutterites are not Amish, they were part of the whole “Amish” trend this year in “reality” TV shows.  “Meet the Hutterites” was by far the best of them, though, and I won’t soon forget plucky Claudia, her brother Quentin, their mother Bertha and all the rest of them.

I watched a lot of late-night TV this year, recapped “Saturday Night Live” after practically every show and endured, along with everyone else, the presidential campaign.  The nightly dissection of the battle on the news channels every night was a tough slog.  By contrast, the four debates this past fall — three presidential and one vice presidential — were among the year’s TV highlights.

I also watched too many violent TV shows — “Boardwalk Empire,” “Sons of Anarchy,” Dexter” and heaven knows what else.  It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?  The real world is violent enough.

I would like to thank the following personalities for illuminating interviews: Ray Romano, Chuck Lorre, Jonathan and Drew Scott (the HGTV twins), Mark Feuerstein, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Danny McBride, and Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” (great guy).  I loved encountering about two-thirds of the “Celebrity Apprentice” participants last winter at 30 Rock.  Shout-outs to Lisa Lampanelli, Dee Snider, Clay Aiken, Paul Teutel Sr. and Victoria Gotti for a great afternoon.

I met Aaron Sorkin for the first time this year too, and he was a great interview.  I also came face-to-face with Wilson Phillips and all three of them were a pleasure to talk to, though their reality series on TV Guide Channel was short-lived.

You get the opportunity to meet a great many interesting people in this business — and two of the most interesting personalities I ever encountered were among the TV personalities who died this year.  I loved meeting Sherman Hemsley back in ’96, and years before that, Dick Clark, who posed for a picture with me back in ’83 when I was very young and very green, and he treated me like I was the most important person in the world.  This was a guy who knew how to be a celebrity.

"The TV Guys," WOR, New York, summer 2002. Bert's the one seated and holding a pair of headphones up to his ear (Photo: personal collection)

“The TV Guys,” WOR, New York, summer 2002. Bert’s the one holding a pair of headphones up to his ear (Photo: personal collection)

We lost Bert Gould this year, my co-host on the radio show we threw together in the summer of 2002 on WOR in New York.

For 13 glorious weeks, we were “The TV Guys,” two self-styled experts on the TV business who talked about television, interviewed a couple of celebrities (Larry David and Michael Chiklis, most notably) and took viewer phone calls.

Short-lived as the show was, it was a highlight of my professional life and in no small way I have Bert to thank for it.

Without his brashness and enthusiasm, this idea for a radio show about television — an idea he concocted while we were talking randomly about TV on a bus to midtown one weekday morning — would have gone nowhere.  As it was, it went somewhere, if only for a short time.  Thanks, Bert.

As 2012 comes to a close, I ask myself the same question I ask every year at this time: A year from now, will I be doing this again?  Really?  Surely, there is something more to life than television …

Contact Adam Buckman:


Ray Romano’s search for the meaning of life

December 4, 2009

Ray Romano (with Scott Bakula, left, and Andre Braugher) is the center of attention in “Men of a Certain Age” on TNT. Photo: Alan Markfield/TNT


NEW YORK, Dec. 4, 2009 — What do we do, we men of a certain age, when we try to make sense of the new world?

Some of us try to find meaning in the past, which sometimes means attempting to mine significance from old music.  It’s a tactic applied repeatedly in Ray Romano’s new drama series about men in mid-life — “Men of a Certain Age” (premiering Monday, Dec. 7, at 10 p.m. on TNT).

In the five episodes TNT provided for preview, the show’s eclectic playlist ranges from the obscure — “Do You Know What I Mean?” by Lee Michaels — to the sentimental — “This Magic Moment” by the Drifters.  And the show’s theme song is “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” by the Beach Boys (with its lyrics “Will my kids be proud or think their old man is really a square? . . .”).

Pop songs — especially those forgotten by most of us — may seem like unlikely destinations for an exploration into the meaning of life, but I’m here to tell you, when you’re 50, the search can take on many forms and take you to many unlikely places.

For example, my own search has taken me recently to this priceless video — on YouTube — of Hurricane Smith performing his one and only hit, “Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?” on the Johnny Carson show in 1972.  Smith, formerly a sound engineer who worked on a string of Beatles albums (up through “Rubber Soul”), was 49 years-old when he made his first trip to the U.S. to appear on the Carson show.  What does the story of Hurricane Smith’s personal triumph in middle age have to do with the meaning of life?  I don’t know — you tell me.

Meanwhile, on “Men of a Certain Age,” Romano plays Joe, a 48-year-old man (Romano himself will be 52 later this month) in the midst of a divorce.  He lives in a motel and runs his own business — a store selling party supplies.  In the store, Joe plays music from his youth — the album rock and Top 40 songs that his generation — my generation — first heard on the radio, which, in the era before the Internet, was the only source of music anybody really had.

Ray’s great in the role — the kind of performance at which cable has been excelling these last few years, the “surprise” performance so strong and sensitive that it astonishes, like Bryan Cranston in “Breaking Bad” and before that, Michael Chiklis in “The Shield,” both of whom won Emmys their first seasons out.

In “Men of a Certain Age,” intentionally or not, the Romano character emerges as the central figure in an ensemble of three; the other two are Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula.

Music of a certain age plays a central role in “Men of a Certain Age,” as if the show’s creators — Romano himself, along with one of his co-producers from “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Mike Royce — are embarking on their own search for meaning in middle age and have decided, through the medium of this TV show, to take interested parties along for the ride.

These might include all men over 45, but should also include anyone — grownups primarily since this new series shatters all kinds of language taboos for basic cable — interested in checking out a new drama series produced with brains, humor, maturity and respect for its audience.

And once again, it bears mentioning that this is the kind of series that only cable TV has the courage to attempt these days.

Contact Adam Buckman:

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