NOTE FROM LB: I’ve enjoyed watching Star Trek: Picard on CBS All-Access, but have to admit feeling guilty about doing so. In fact, I’m often truly ashamed of myself.
I love seeing so many Next Generation and Voyager characters again, but I hate seeing the way the stories (actually only one overarching story) treat them. And, in the process, treat Gene Roddenberry, creator and Great Bird of the Universe.
I’m not objecting to the way the characters are portrayed, per se, but to the context we see them in. This ain’t a Roddenberry universe, my friends, not by a longshot. As far as I’m concerned, Michael Chabon and company have royally screwed my early ’70s mentor, the aforementioned Great Bird.
Which is why I’ve taken quite a fancy to the following review.
It’s a show that flies in the face of fan service, that rejects nostalgia, to push its beloved character into uncharted territory. It’s meant to look different from any “Trek” that’s come before, feature characters like we’ve never seen before, and feature a level of danger like we’ve never seen before.
But in practice, the reality of “Star Trek: Picard” has missed the mark of its intent. Instead of looking different from any other “Trek,” so much of this show has just looked ugly: sets that are just different shades of gray. It looks like any of the now-canceled Marvel Netflix shows. We have indeed gotten ourselves new characters, and for the most part they’ve been enjoyable — when their arcs actually go somewhere — but it’s hard not to think Picard himself is now the least interesting personality we’re watching. We did have big stakes, down even to Picard himself on death’s door from a “brain abnormality” — but the show pulls its punches.
By trying to be so different from the “Trek” that has come before, “Star Trek: Picard” has dispiritingly ended up looking like most other serialized shows in the streaming era: overlong and overplotted with a sense that everything is forgettable. And it’s not even that different from some more recent “Trek”: the J.J. Abrams reboot films are bright and candy colored, while “Picard” is dark and gloomy, but both “Picard” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” end the same way — with the resurrection of a character whose “death” is meaningless as you’re watching it because you know he’ll be revived five minutes later. And he is….
In chatting with Herbie J Pilato, there’s a moment when you realize that you just might be talking with an angel.
A professional of the entertainment and publishing industries, the host of his own TV talk show, the author of several critically-acclaimed books about pop-culture, and the founder of nonprofit dedicated to the positive influence of classic TV shows, Herbie J is as endearing, as he is prolific.
As an author, screenwriter, actor, singer/songwriter and executive, Herbie J heads his own TV production company, Television, Ink. [which, along with Joel Eisenberg and Steve Hillard, of Council Tree Productions, and producer Lorie Girsh Eisenberg], presents Then Again with Herbie J Pilato, a classic TV chat show streaming from Shout! Factory TV on Amazon Prime (and several other media outlets).
Where does Herbie J find the time to do it? Where does he get the energy? Exactly who is Herbie J Pilato?
“I guess the answers have to do with making the time. Whatever energy I have is filtered through the Universe because I am open to embracing it. Basically, I’m just a guy trying to do some good,” he replies, smiling.
His career began in 1984 as a Page for NBC in that network’s former legendary Burbank studios. Herbie J went on to write the original Bewitched Book (first published by Dell in 1992), followed by later revised editions titled, Bewitched Forever. Other TV companion books followed including The Kung Fu Book of Caine, The Kung Fu Book of Wisdom, The Bionic Book, Life Story – The Book of Life Goes On, NBC & ME: My Life as a Page in a Book, Twitch Upon Upon a Star, a critically-acclaimed biography of Bewitched icon Elizabeth Montgomery, and Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Story, the latter of which is being rebooted for the fall of 2020 (the 50th Anniversary of TV’s groundbreaking sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show).
After performing in several minor roles on television shows like Highway to Heaven, The Golden Girls, General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful, Herbie J began serving as an on-screen cultural commentator and the behind-the-scenes consultant on TV and DVD documentaries, such as 1999’s Bewitched: The E! True Hollywood Story, which remains one of the 7th highest-rated True Hollywood Stories in E!’s history.
Herbie J has served in the same capacity for A&E’s Biography segments on Elizabeth Montgomery and Lee Majors, TLC’s Behind the Fame special on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show, Bravo’s hit five-part series, The 100 Greatest Characters, and the DVD release documentaries of retro shows like CHiPs, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Kung Fu.
“I love what I do,” Herbie J says. “I love my work, and I love my life, and in many ways, my work is my life, and vice-versa.” He thinks his work “…focuses on the positive. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“I’m very conscious of and sensitive to my following,” Herbie J continues, “…whether they stem from social media, or my books, or some of the shows that I’ve been fortunate to be associated with or appeared on. When you’re in the public eye, or manifesting a presentation of some sort that will be observed in the public eye, even in the smallest of ways, I feel you have an obligation to speak with or present a positive voice.”
That positive voice includes many family-oriented, fantasy-geared completed scripts that Herbie J has “waiting in the wings,” he says with a wink, as two of those projects have to do with angels. (There’s that word again!) The others, he promises, are also family-oriented, including an action-geared sci-fi drama, a comedy, and even a few reality shows.
“It’s all about diversity,” he says, “…just like life, which at times, can be quite magical…if we let it be.”
Certainly, life has its challenges, and Herbie J has experienced his, along with what he defines as “countless flaws.”
“I’ve made many mistakes,” he explains, “and I am in no way perfect. But I try to do the best I can because I care. I care about what I do. I care about what other people do. I care about people. I care about my family…my friends…my colleagues…my country. I care about this planet. It’s in my make-up to feel that way. It’s my nature. It’s how I was raised.”
Herbie J grew up in the inner city of Rochester, New York in the literal shadow of Kodak’s global home office, within a large and loving Italian family. Both of his parents had ten brothers and sisters in each. According to Herbie J, his mother Frances (maiden name “Turri”) and father Pompeii (which he later changed it to “Herbie”) are both now “dancing in Heaven.”
“They were hardworking, sweet people,” he says. “And whatever good is in me was placed there by God through my beautiful parents. They were and remain a blessing to me.”
“We can cherish the past,” he concludes, “…but we must embrace the present, and look forward to the future with as much loving-kindness for others as possible.”
Everybody Mumbles And Looks The Same — Everything Is Too Edgy
I watched some new television show the other night because I always try to watch new TV shows and at least give them a chance.
But those chances are becoming far and few between because, sorry — I am simply and sadly repelled by the way some of these new shows are produced, presented and performed.
Exhibit A: What I Observed
Some dark character, on what is a dark show, was being tormented by some other dark character. And the one being tormented said something to their tormentor, though I’m not sure what — because the tormented character was grinding their teeth through every line of dialogue, amidst the scene being filmed in bleak, dingy cinematography with the constant annoying music score (i.e. “noise”!) that usually blares in the background of all new TV shows today.
So, much so, I screamed at the set, and said, “What? What are you saying?!! I can’t understand one word you’re saying…!
Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host of the TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime and the author of several pop-culture/media tie-in books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for over 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE
The Great Ken Levine gives us the inside scoop on the writing of MASH in one of the best -how-to columns we’ve ever seen.
by Ken Levine
MASH episodes tend to be complicated and I’m often asked how we plotted out stories. So here’s how we did it.
First off, we chose the best stories we could find – the most emotional, the most interesting the best possibilities for comedy. Plotting is worthless if you have a bad story. Chekhov would pull out his hair trying to make “B.J.’s Depression” work.
(Side note: stories where your lead character is depressed generally don’t work in comedy. Moping around is not conducive to laughs. Better to make them angry, frustrated, lovesick, impatient, hurt – anything but depressed… or worse, happy. Happy is comedy death.)
We got a lot of our stories from research – transcribed interviews of doctors, nurses, patients, and others who lived through the experience. But again, the key was to find some hook that would connect one of our characters to these real life incidents.
Some of these anecdotes were so outrageous we either couldn’t use them or had to tone them down because no one would believe them….
THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
A couple of weeks ago I did something embarrassing.
I mean really embarrassing.
I dyed my hair.
And it’s all the fault of…well, I’d like to come up with some universal symbol of evil, but even though I’m as out of touch with myself as the next guy I know the sad truth: My own vanity’s to blame.
Thanks to the recent holidays, plus my birthday and requests for pictures from readers of this space, I’ve been forced to see myself through the lens of a variety of cameras. And my reaction every time has been the same:
“Who the !@#*! is that?”
Because—guess what?—that old boy with the dingy, washed out gray hair is not who I see in my mirror in the morning when I brush my teeth. Or reflected in the window of Sweet Jane’s antique shop whenever I peer into it to wave as I go by.
He couldn’t be.
What I see there is a man I know well. Myself. Thin face, slight smile, dark lines. A touch of my father in the mouth and jaw. A bit of my mother around the eyes.
Oh…and light brown hair.
So what’s this gray business in pictures? Is it a trick of the light—no matter where I am? A product of the flash going off—even when no flash is used? Do wicked little invisible Anxiety Spirits gather ‘round every time someone gets me in their rangefinder and do a quick tint just to drive me nuts?
It’s not that I mind aging. On the contrary, I’m proud of myself for having survived as long as I have considering the obstacles just plain old everyday life thrusts into our paths.
I’ve got no objection to the new spots on my face or the softening of my belly or the creasing of my skin. I’m aware of these and so many other symptoms of the fatal condition that is life. And I don’t think I’d mind the hair thing so much if it was, say, white or silver. Definitive. Strong.
Right out there.
Anything but this insidious, invisible-to-me-except-when-snapped gray.
Learning that other people have seen my hair in this flawed coloration for quite a while hasn’t exactly made me feel better either.
“Gray? Well, I guess I’d describe you as having gray hair,” said Sweet Jane said when I asked her. “But it’s not something I’d dwell on.”
Beside her, Brannigan the Contractor snickered. “Gray? Gray? Absolutely right your hair is gray! What do you mean you can’t see it? It’s right there all around your face!”
Then there was Gwen the Beautiful. “Yes, your hair is gray,” she said. And then, quickly, seeing the look on my face: “A beautiful shade of gray that I get to look at everyday.”
“How have I missed it?” I said. “Am I that blind to myself?”
“As a mother,” Gwen said, “I’ve learned that the best answer to that question is in an old poem. Something about ‘What a rare gift it is to see ourselves as others see us.’”
“The poet who wrote that didn’t mean it literally,” I protested. “He meant that we should know ourselves better. Our hearts. Our souls.”
“Well, then let me tell you what I’ve learned as a woman,” said Gwen. “If you don’t like what you see when you look at yourself, change it. And that’s pretty easy to do when all you’re talking about is the color of your hair.”
Which is how it came to pass that two weeks ago we went to Wal-Mart and laid out six bucks for a box of #60 Light Brown Acorn hair color. After which we came home and Gwen did the deed.
When she was finished I looked at myself in the mirror.
I looked the same.
Out came the digital Nikon. Snap. Snap. Snap.
And presto! There I was. Larry B with the light brown hair.
“I look the same,” I said.
But I don’t feel the same. And instead of feeling more like myself I feel less.
Because now, everywhere I go, without saying a word, I’m lying about how I look. About who I really am.
And you know the problem with telling a lie. Once you’ve started you’ve got to keep going, just to keep from being found out.