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Presidential TV Shows for 2016

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Here at the close of Presidents’ Day, we take a moment to envision a TV landscape filled with programs about our illustrious Commanders-in-Chief, past and present.

DOWNTON ABIE (Lincoln)

HOUSE OF CARBS (Taft)

THE BIG BANK THEORY (Jackson)

HYANNISPORTLANDIA (JFK)

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE AROUND THE SENATE WATERGATE HEARINGS? (Nixon)

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK TUESDAY (Hoover)

GAME OF DRONES (Obama)

MEDICAREDEVIL (LBJ)

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 1ST GRADER? (George W. Bush)

FEAR THE WALKING TED (Theodore Roosevelt)

TERM LIMITLESS (FDR)

UNDER THE TEAPOT DOME (Harding)

BETTER CALL PAUL REVERE (Washington)

LONGMIRED IN WHITEWATER (Clinton)

THE AMAZING 1876 RACE (Hayes)

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN KENNEBUNKPORT (George H.W. Bush)

RIZZOLI & IKE (Eisenhower)

What will next year bring? Hillary Street Blues? F Trump?

The Muppet Show – Rebooted

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Well, it seems “The Muppet Show” is returning to the small screen. The honchos at ABC recently gave the OK for an updated version of the classic, 1970s-era variety show. All we know so far is that it will have a fake documentary style, like “The Office.” With that in mind, here are some suggestions for updated characters:

THE SEXTING CHEF

KERMIT THE DRONE

STATLER AND AIRBNB

GONZO THE GR8

SELFIE BEAR

DR. BUNSEN PHOTOBOMB

RETWEETUMS

FREE RANGE ANIMAL

They wouldn’t dare update Miss Piggy.

More Stuff Brian Williams May Have Exaggerated

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As the Brian Williams fiasco continues and the NBC anchor’s career heads into free-fall, people are starting to question a few other claims Williams may (or may not) have made:

RODE SHOTGUN ON THE MILLENNIUM FALCON

CAUGHT THE LAST HELI OUT OF SAIGON IN ’75

HAD TO DUCK WHEN THE WRIGHT BROTHERS BUZZED HIS BACK YARD

WARNED AMELIA EARHART THE WEATHER LOOKED “IFFY”

BEAT EDWARD R. MURROW IN GIN RUMMY DURING THE LONDON BLITZ

SCORED THE FIRST INTERVIEW WITH SNOOPY AFTER HE TANGLED WITH THE RED BARON

COINED THE TERM “WARP DRIVE”

BEGGED AARON BURR AND ALEXANDER HAMILTON TO SETTLE THEIR BEEF WITH A GAME OF FOOSBALL

WAS THE LEFT SHARK DURING KATY PERRY’S SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW

Say it isn’t so, BriWi.

Son of Sharknado

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Not sick of “Sharknado” yet? Good, because SyFy announced it will be repeating the hilariously lowbrow movie again next Thursday. In the meantime, here are some suggestions for new material:

ARACHNALANCHE

THUNDERATS

WORMQUAKE

PIRANHACANE

TICKTWISTER

GATORWAVE

PYTHONAMI

ALPACALYPSE

God, that felt good.

The Best Workplace Sitcoms

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“The Office” sauntered into TV history last night, leaving longtime viewers wondering when another great workplace sitcom will come along. Actually, one is already going strong (I’m talking to you, “Parks and Recreation”) on the same network. Perhaps now is a good time to revisit the very best workplace sitcoms of all time.

30 ROCK

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The halls of NBC aren’t your typical workplace, but who cares? The office antics of Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy and Tracy Jordan are as hilarious as anything TV has ever seen. Blerg.

BUFFALO BILL

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In one of the all-time best bits of casting, Dabney Coleman played the vain, sexist, sarcastic, needy host of a daytime TV show in upstate New York. “Buffalo Bill” was filled with razor-sharp writing and excellent performances by Joanna Cassidy, Geena Davis, John Fiedler and others. Can you imagine a scene between Coleman’s Bill Bittinger and Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy?

M*A*S*H

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I almost left M*A*S*H off the List, since the workplace here is an Army hospital. Still, the 4077th’s ever-changing personnel and aura of difficult, noble work is a good fit. Great banter by people thrown together in a confined, insane situation.

NEWSRADIO

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“NewsRadio” had a classic workplace structure, masterfully executed. You had the endearingly odd Everyman (Dave Foley), the eccentric executive (Stephen Root), the egotistical talent (Phil Hartman), the nutjob (Andy Dick) and the dumb guy (Joe Rogan). There were no wasted moments on this show.

FAWLTY TOWERS

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Rarely has the small screen seen as brilliant a bumbler as Basil Fawlty, played by John Cleese. He presided over a wonderfully sketchy inn and restaurant in Britain, where pratfalls were common and visits by German tourists invariably led to inadvertent comments about Adolph Hitler.

THE OFFICE

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So many excellent characters populate the American version of “The Office,” including plucky Pam, dorky Dwight, ice queen Angela and always-joking Jim. But by far the most amazing thing about the show was Steve Carell’s carefully modulated performance as man-child boss Michael Scott. It didn’t happen all at once – the audience got to see Carell find exactly the right combination of stupidity and humanity during the first season. It remains a marvel.

THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW

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My fear is that with each passing year, this show becomes more of a museum piece. The pace, the look, the social themes, all seem antiquated now. Take my word for it, though, the crew at WJM pioneered the TV idea of an office being like a family.

THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW

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Where Mary Tyler Moore’s comedy flowed from sincerity, “Larry Sanders” emerged from a sublime sense of insincerity. Garry Shandling took his own observations about show business, mixed them with memories of Johnny Carson, and created one of the best shows ever. Plus, how could you go wrong with stellar support from Rip Torn and Jeffrey Tambor? Hey now!

BARNEY MILLER

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Each character in “Barney Miller” was a tiny gem of comedy craft. What a great ensemble, from Hal Linden and Ron Glass, to Jack Soo and Abe Vigoda. There was real affection in the writing and the acting, plus a healthy dose of absurdity.

MURPHY BROWN

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One thing tends to be forgotten when people recall the success of “Murphy Brown.” It was very funny. True, it had a progressive edge to it, with a galvanizing main performance by Candice Bergen. But it wouldn’t have lasted a full season without its sharp wit and genuine character development.

WKRP IN CINCINNATI

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Here’s a great example of a sitcom that started as a collection of stereotypes and gradually gelled into something special. The cast, playing employees at an Ohio radio station, beautifully blended and contrasted their many quirks. I particularly loved Howard Hesseman as Dr. Johnny Fever.

PARKS AND RECREATION

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Amy Poehler had a similar challenge in “Parks and Recreation” to what Steve Carell faced in “The Office.” How do you play a sitcom’s central character as an eccentric, rather than an Everywoman? But she’s done it, and done it very well. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this is the best workplace comedy ever set in an Indiana municipal government building.

CHEERS

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“Cheers” is another great sitcom that you don’t automatically think of as a workplace sitcom. My argument would be that the best interplay on the show stemmed from Sam Malone’s intermingling of business, pleasure and friendship.

WINGS

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“Wings” was treated almost like a second-tier sitcom, but I defy anyone to watch a few episodes and not laugh. It was about a collection of odd characters working at a tiny airport on Cape Cod. Dynamite cast, too, including Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Crystal Bernard, Thomas Hayden Church and Tony Shalhoub.

TAXI

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There was an incredible creative spirit at work within the confines of the Sunshine Cab Co. Here were truly original characters (Louie DePalma, Latka Gravas, Rev. Jim Ignatowski, etc.) brought to life by expert actors, terrific writers and gifted director James Burrows. Beyond that, “Taxi” was soulful. It followed Alex Reiger and his fellow cabbies as they sorted out the territory that exists in-between our dreams and our actual daily lives. When you can laugh at that, you’re golden.

THE OFFICE (U.K. VERSION)

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Even though it yielded a great American remake, the British version of “The Office,” to my mind, was the best workplace sitcom ever filmed. Not only did it have a singularly brilliant central character (Ricky Gervais’ David Brent), it also NEVER pulled its punches. “The Office” is riotously funny, excruciatingly painful and deeply touching.

There you go, workers of the world. Be sure to add a few favorites of your own.

William Hurt – Superb Supporting Player

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Actor William Hurt did a rather incredible thing about 20 years ago. After more than a decade as a dashing leading man, he took a sharp turn into character acting. He wasn’t too old to play a lead; he hadn’t lost his box office stature. He simply went in another direction. Here’s a little gallery of some of his more remarkable supporting roles.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005)

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Hurt earned an Oscar nomination for this role, playing a menacing, yet oddly engaging, gangster who confronts his estranged brother, played by Viggo Mortensen. The amazing thing is how effective he is despite the fact that he doesn’t appear until the end of the movie. I love seeing Hurt in more demonstrative parts, because it’s such a contrast to his subdued characters.

DARK CITY (1998)

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Here’s a case where Hurt’s star stature works subtly to elevate a small role and add a new dimension. This is a sprawling, weird, engrossing sci-fi movie with constantly-altered realities and manipulation. Hurt wisely doesn’t try to amplify his role – a detective – but his mere presence is like a welcome anchor of sanity for the audience.

MR. BROOKS (2007)

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Kevin Costner is a successful businessman who also happens to be a serial killer. He’s trying to tamp down his homicidal urges, but there’s one problem. Those urges constantly talk to him, in the form of William Hurt! It’s brilliant casting. Hurt is sarcastic, confident, critical and persistent.

MICHAEL (1996)

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In the Nora Ephron fantasy, “Michael,” Hurt is at the center of the story, playing a jaded tabloid reporter. Yet there’s never any doubt the star of the movie is John Travolta’s angel. This is perfect, because it allows Hurt to smolder and slowly unspool a bunch of emotions, big and small.

SYRIANA (2005)

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The challenge in a complex, political ensemble piece is to be believable and memorable without distracting the audience from following the story. In “Syriana,” Hurt deftly blends in as George Clooney’s CIA buddy. It’s a crucial role, in that Hurt fills in some important info to propel Clooney through the rest of the movie.

ONE TRUE THING (1998)

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Complicated, distant characters are a Hurt specialty. This is one of his best, playing the scholarly husband of Meryl Streep, whose character is dying of cancer. We see his fear, his anger, his conceit and his aloofness, but also his concern and his own self-loathing at his failings.

DAMAGES (2009)

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This could have devolved into simple stunt casting, having Hurt guest star in a show headlined by his co-star from “The Big Chill,” Glenn Close. Instead, Hurt invested himself in a meaty, intricate part as a scheming scientist.

SMOKE (1995)

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A quirky little movie, to be sure, but one with a very good performance by Hurt. He’s one of the customers of a Brooklyn cigar shop owned by Harvey Keitel. As the story unfolds, each character gets a chance for emotional healing, by virtue of slowing down, seeing the simple beauty of human interaction and understanding that life is as fleeting as a wisp of smoke.

INTO THE WILD (2007)

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What a thankless job, playing the conflicted, controlling, stern father of a young man who tragically wanders out west and up to Alaska to find the meaning of life. And yet, Hurt is remarkable. In particular, he has an emotional scene in the middle of a street which is powerful and intelligent.

Mr. Hurt, we salute you.

6 Good Actors Whose Careers Confound Me

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There are times when I’d like to take certain good actors aside and simply ask them, “What the hell is going on with you?” Clearly, something has happened to pull them into a lengthy rut of bad or mediocre projects. I’d just like to know what it is.

MATTHEW BRODERICK

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At some point, several years ago, Broderick’s film work downshifted from intelligent/neurotic to intelligent/low-key. Then he continued on to intelligent/wake-me-when-my-scene-starts. Perhaps the former star of such brilliant films as “Election” and the iconic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” decided to confine his charisma to his much-lauded stage work. Even so, I’d love to see him fully engage in a movie part that offers a wider range of emotions than self-loathing and ironic detachment.

ANDRE BRAUGHER

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I’ll start by acknowledging that Braugher, one of my favorite actors, continues to do fine work, primarily on TV. He was excellent in “Men of a Certain Age,” and some guest appearances on “House,” for instance. My quibble is that this guy has the gravitas to do Shakespeare, “Death of a Salesman” – or at least a big-time project on HBO. Anyone who saw even one of his scenes in the old “Homicide” series knows what I mean.

WINONA RYDER

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It pains me to think there are people who know Ryder more for her personal problems (shoplifting and the like) than for her excellent performances in such films as “Heathers,” “Reality Bites” and “Little Women.” Her talent back then was considerable, and presumably it still resides within her. Why, then, was she playing Spock’s MOM in the “Star Trek” reboot?

ADAM ARKIN

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I think Arkin is a brilliant actor, a rare combination of intelligence, sarcasm, physicality and soulfulness. Yet he seems to pop up only fleetingly, such as his wonderful character work in last year’s “The Sessions.” He tends to play smaller roles as bosses, husbands, lawyers and shrinks. Just once, I’d like to see a project that revolves entirely around him.

PAUL RUDD

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You know what I can’t figure out about Rudd’s career? It’s that he’s terrific in splashy, supporting roles (“Anchorman,” “Knocked Up”) but kind of bland in leading roles (“Admission,” “Dinner for Schmucks”). There has to be a way to take his supporting actor spark and expand it when he’s carrying a whole movie.

JOHN CUSACK

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I watched “The Grifters” not long ago and found myself wondering what happened to that John Cusack guy. The guy who was amazing in “High Fidelity” and “Being John Malkovich.” God knows I have a ton of respect for Cusack’s disdain for conventionality, but I humbly think it’s time for him to move beyond stuff like “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “The Raven.”

Fingers crossed that better films and TV projects are in the works for all of them.

Beer TV

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The staff at The Jimbo List has struck upon a fantastic idea. What would happen if you combined two of the greatest things in the world – beer and television? Why, you’d have Beer TV. The programs would be awesome.

BAND OF BREWERS

GAME OF SUDS

DISTILLING WITH THE STARS

TWO AND A HALF MUGS

BREAKING BUD

CSI: OLD MILWAUKEE

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ANHEUSER-BUSCH

NYPD BLUE MOON

BARLEY MILLER

THE FACTS OF LITE

THE SAMUEL ADAMS FAMILY

IT’S ALWAYS FOAMY IN PHILADELPHIA

The only problem might be the commercials.

Best Veeps in Movies & TV

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A new season of HBO’s wacky, wonderful “Veep” is upon us, which is a golden opportunity to celebrate some great political second bananas from TV and movies. You might even recognize a couple of them from history class – and the evening news.

PAUL GIAMATTI IN “JOHN ADAMS”

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Our first example is our first vice president. Paul Giamatti gave a towering performance in the TV miniseries “John Adams” in 2008. It was no easy job, because Adams was a feisty, fussy character while also being an intellectual powerhouse and a true patriot. The section where Adams is vice president is wonderful, showing just how uncomfortable that position has been from the very beginning.

GLENN CLOSE IN “AIR FORCE ONE”

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Here’s a great popcorn movie in which the vice president is faced with something the Founding Fathers never envisioned: terrorists have kidnapped the president aboard his airplane IN MID-FLIGHT. Close does nice work showing us her character’s shock, confusion, hesitation and resolve.

TIM MATHESON IN “THE WEST WING”

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Aaron Sorkin has given so many actors a chance to show their dramatic range. In this case, Matheson, normally a comic actor with a light touch, got to be wonderfully complicated and prickly as President Bartlett’s VP on “The West Wing.” I think it’s the best work he’s done. Well, aside from “Animal House.”

BEN KINGSLEY IN “DAVE”

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No nuance here. In the comedy “Dave,” about a guy who happens to look exactly like the sitting president (Kevin Kline), Ben Kingsley is the straight-arrow vice president who has been shunted aside because he’s not corrupt.

POWERS BOOTHE IN “24”

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TV’s “24” offers us an array of complex vice presidents – many of them quite devious. My favorite of the bunch is Powers Boothe, who came on later in the series’ run. Boothe just has an incredible intensity.

JOAN ALLEN IN “THE CONTENDER”

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Technically, Joan Allen’s character was only in the running to become vice president in “The Contender.” Still, it was a role that indicated the symbolic importance of the office and also the thankless nature of it.

RICHARD DREYFUSS IN “W.”

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Say what you will about Vice President Dick Cheney, he never approached the position as symbolic. In “W.,” Richard Dreyfuss played Cheney as a politician with immense influence in the George W. Bush White House.

DAN ZISKIE IN “HOUSE OF CARDS”

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Sure, Ziskie’s VP is a fictional character, but he does bear some passing resemblance to a certain folksy, gaffe-prone vice president we all know. In “House of Cards,” the vice president becomes something of a pawn in an overall scheme by a Congressman yearning for more power.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS IN “VEEP”

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She is simply brilliant in “Veep” as a vain, egotistical, paranoid vice president. Anyone who thinks they’ve seen all the tricks Ms. Louis-Dreyfus has to offer in “Seinfeld” needs to see this show. Here, she’s a classic fast-talker. She’s also hard-edged, foul-mouthed and completely in charge. I believe this performance puts her solidly in the handful of best comic actresses in TV history.

Hail to the Almost-Chief!

Mad Men Forever

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TV’s “Mad Men” returns on Sunday, and I, for one, am psyched. So much so, that I’m envisioning what it would be like to see these characters continue into the 1970s, and beyond.

1970: DON DUSTS OFF HIS OLD, “I’D LIKE TO BUY THE WORLD A SMOKE” CAMPAIGN, REWORKS IT, AND SELLS IT TO COCA-COLA

1971: JOAN BURNS HER BRA AT A PROTEST IN TIMES SQUARE; ROGER TAKES THE DAY OFF TO ATTEND

1973: BERT RESIGNS HIS PARTNERSHIP TO TAKE A POST AS IMAGE CONSULTANT TO RICHARD NIXON AS THE WATERGATE SCANDAL UNFOLDS; HE ADVISES NIXON TO “ACT LIKE AN ADULT”

1974: ROGER ROBS A BANK WITH PATTY HEARST

1977: HARRY BUYS A LEISURE SUIT; JOAN FIRES HIM ON THE SPOT

1981: PETE LANDS THE DELOREAN MOTORS ACCOUNT

1983: PEGGY PERSUADES BILL GATES TO REBRAND HIS “INDIVIDUAL COMPUTING DEVICES” AS “PERSONAL COMPUTERS”

1984: BETTY DIVORCES HENRY FRANCIS AND MARRIES GLEN, WHO NOW OWNS A CHAIN OF WATERBED DEALERSHIPS

1988: ROGER RETIRES AND SAILS AROUND THE WORLD ON HIS YACHT, THE REGINA

1993: KENNY WRITES A BEST-SELLING MEMOIR, “IMPERFECT PITCH”

1998: DON’S FINAL CAMPAIGN, FOR VIAGRA, WINS NATIONAL AWARDS

2000: PETE LANDS THE ENRON ACCOUNT

2001: JOAN ACCEPTS A JOB AS SENIOR ADVISOR TO U.S. SEN. HILLARY CLINTON

2005: SALLY, A SUCCESSFUL VENTURE CAPITALIST, STARTS A FUND FOR RETURNING IRAQ WAR VETERANS; SHE CALLS IT THE “DICK WHITMAN FOUNDATION”

2009: PETE LANDS THE BRITISH PETROLEUM ACCOUNT

2013: DON IS VOTED SEXIEST OCTOGENARIAN OF CORAL VISTA ESTATES

How do you see it playing out?