TV

The Guilty Pleasure Television of 2010

As if it wasn't already a lamentable leisure time suck, here are ten more reasons why TV rules our daily routine - perhaps more than it should.

TV Show: Pardon the Interruption

Network: ESPN

Cast: Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon, Tony Reali

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Display Width: 200Pardon the Interruption
ESPN

They've been doing it so long that it's like second nature. Give them a topic and they riff like old school stand-ups, routines and regular catchphrases peppering the always accurate (if occasionally, narrow) insights. Oh, and did we mention these guys are talking about sports? Indeed, for the last nine years, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon have gone bald head to head, arguing over such esoteric topics as the post-season baseball "hot stove", the ever-present pressure of big money in athletics, and perhaps most importantly, the various player personalities that make up America's many past times. Within their gimmicky set-up (they occasionally take "Five Good Minutes" for an interview, and play games with names like "Word Up" and "Report Card"), the duo delivers that rarity in real TV, passion and personality. Oh, and did we mention they are talking about sports? Bill Gibron

 

TV Show: The Apprentice

Network: NBC

Cast: Donald Trump

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Display Width: 200The Apprentice
NBC

There wasn't much edification in the 10th season of The Apprentice even though iron-eyed winner Brandy Kuentzel gave us something to root for. A season that gasped along on life support was, however, precisely what made the show entertaining. In fact, this season's ratings nosedive was complemented by a parade of grade-D tantrums, as every boardroom showdown came within a credit-card width of full-blown fisticuffs. And the Donald acted thoroughly pissed off about having to participate -- calling the female team "bitches" and yelling, "You couldn't f*cking read!" at another contestant before shit-canning him to the elevator. The show was a cabwreck from start to finish, with one hopeful, Anand, fired at the beginning of an episode (for cheating, an Apprentice first) and with the morbid fascination of watching David Johnson, the biggest jackass in the show's history. Steve Leftridge

 

TV Show: The Goldbergs

Network: NBC/DVD

Cast: Gertrude Berg, Philip Loeb, Harold J. Stone, Robert H. Harris, Eli Mintz, Larry Robinson

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Display Width: 200The Goldbergs
NBC/DVD

You don’t have to be Jewish to love The Goldbergs, and you don’t have to be a fanatic for old-time television either. Originally broadcast 1949-1956, The Goldbergs is still enjoyable to watch today. The show’s episodes capture the reality of life in a working-class Jewish family in the Bronx in a way recognizable to strivers everywhere, regardless of ethnicity or geographic location. Family matriarch Molly Goldberg, played by series creator and scriptwriter Gertrude Berg, embodies the distilled essence of a real type of person -- the Jewish mother who is the emotional center of her family and the go-to person when anyone has a problem. Molly is a stereotype, but she’s a comforting one, and Berg projects the kind of warmth and sincerity which makes you feel that she could also solve your problems if you gave her a chance. Sarah Boslaugh

 

TV Show: Criminal Minds

Network: CBS

Cast: Joe Mantegna, Thomas Gibson, Paget Brewster, Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler, Kirsten Vangsness

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Display Width: 200Criminal Minds
CBS

As far as so-self-serious-they’re-hilarious crime procedurals go, CSI: Miami and the overwrought David Caruso get most of the love, but for my money, Criminal Minds rules the roost. As awful as it can be, I continue to stomach its slick mediocrity for the reliable comedic fixes. I return for the contrived last-minute rescues, the ludicrous interpretive leaps, the pretentious literary quotes, the incorrect weekly assumption that the “unsub” is impotent. And that wonderfully mismatched cast! The washed-up comic-actor leads Thomas Gibson and Joe Mantegna, their line deliveries so monotone they border on Method. Shemar Moore’s aggressive, over-compensatory masculinity. Kirstin Vangsness’ aggressive, over-compensatory quirkiness. And Matthew Gray Gubler’s ambling, nasal-talking personification of geek cred bait. An impending spin-off with Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo threatens to siphon off its vital oxygen, but the original fire will always burn brightest and best (by which I mean corniest and worst). Ross Langager

 

TV Show: Say Yes to the Dress

Network: TLC

Cast: Roger Craig Smith

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Display Width: 200Say Yes to the Dress
TLC

Brides-to-be tune into TLC's Say Yes to the Dress, a reality show that takes place at the tony Kleinfeld's bridal salon in Manhattan, for the sheer thrill of seeing a barrage of thousands-of-dollar dresses paraded across the screen. Mermaid, fit-and-flare, A-line, and ball gown confections float across the screen, and home viewers have the guilty pleasure of critiquing gowns that they might never afford to try on in the first place. "This one is too over-the-top," you might think. "The first one flattered her figure better." Yet even after the excitement of seeing new Pnina Tornai and Vera Wang gowns has waned, it's still mesmerizing to see the way that women sell to other women. Other television shows -- The Apprentice, for example -- celebrate the hard-hitting, hard-sell approach that men take with each other in business. It's much more rare to see the approach that female saleswomen take with female clients, and observing those intricate operations is the true guilty pleasure of Say Yes to the Dress. Marisa LaScala

 

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In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

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