From The Published Archives: Morrissey’s Years Of Refusal

This week, Morrissey cancelled on Jimmy Kimmel.  The former Smiths frontman apparently didn’t realize he was booked the same night as the guys from A&E’s Duck Dynasty and announced he was backing out of his booked appearance for moral reasons.  (He’s been a longtime animal rights proponent.)

On Tuesday, Kimmel and the Robertson clan made fun of him because of his cancellation.  The Mopey One was not amused.

Since then, they’ve been trading barbs.  Kimmel’s been alternating between jokes and sincerity through his show and official Twitter account while the old-fashioned Morrissey prefers venting through press releases.  Despite the comedian’s hope he’ll change his mind, The Mozzer will probably never appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live ever again because of all of this.

Regardless, the 53-year-old singer is once again back in the news for his outspokenness.  It’s too bad it’s not for his music.  (He’s currently back on a U.S. tour after being briefly sidelined by an illness.)

It’s been four years since he released a new CD.  Once again without a record deal who knows where he’ll sign next.  Maybe he’ll pull a Radiohead or a Nine Inch Nails and eschew the corporate music business altogether to become what he once was:  independent.  Either way, he’s not going away any time soon.  He’s written an unpublished autobiography and continues to work on solo material.

In the meantime, let’s go back to 2009 to reflect on his last proper studio album.

Years Of Refusal was probably his best-reviewed disc since Vauxhall & I.  When I heard a public library copy, I immediately understood the critical acclaim and decided to add to it.  (I want to buy my own copy but I can’t find it anymore.)  A review was submitted in October 2009 to MonkeyBiz.ca who proceeded to sit on it for many, many months.

After a long period of silence, I finally worked up the nerve to find out what was taking so long.  When I did, I was told to re-submit the review (along with a few others that were in limbo) and they would publish it.

Four pieces, including that review, were originally emailed to a contact that my old Employment Hamilton job counsellor had put me in touch with during one of our many sessions.  (He called her for her contact info and passed it on to me.)  She was very enthusiastic about my involvement and told me to submit pieces directly to her.

I should’ve submitted them to the editor instead because at some point, my contact suddenly quit the website.  (The editor told me in an email reply which my job counsellor confirmed shortly thereafter in one of our meetings.)  Despite being annoyed about all of this (why wasn’t this brought to my immediate attention?) the good news was my first four submissions were finally going to be showcased on MonkeyBiz.

On June 28, 2010, more than eight months after it was written and submitted, my review of Years Of Refusal finally surfaced on their website.  There were numerous structural changes beyond the routine breaking up of big paragraphs into much smaller ones.  Several of these alterations I’ve maintained for this re-posting because they improved the original text.  But not every editorial change was welcome.

One of my pet peeves with MonkeyBiz was their tendency to delete bracketed asides in my reviews.  I understand why this was done (to make the lines flow more smoothly) but I don’t like having any of my thoughts erased.  There were only a couple such asides dropped from this Morrissey critique but I’ve reinserted them.  They’re necessary and should never have been dropped in the first place.  All other changes I’ve made are of the nitpicky variety (a restored contraction here, little words added there).

For the most part, I was pretty happy with the MonkeyBiz version, all things considered.  But I’m much happier with this updated version.  I hope you like it, too.

Morrissey – Years of Refusal

Posted on June 28 2010 under Arts & Entertainment
By Dennis Earl

Seven years. For his most loyal fans, it probably felt like an eternity. But taking that much time off to break away from his exhausting write, record, tour routine was clearly one of the smartest decisions Morrissey ever made.

The permanently woeful singer disappeared for nearly a decade after a succession of solo releases and a humiliating legal defeat (ex-Smiths drummer Mike Joyce successfully sued him over unpaid recording and performance royalties in the late ’90s).

As a result, his return to full-time music making in 2004 was not only surprising but triumphant. Of all the comebacks this decade, his was the most welcome.

Years of Refusal is the 50-year-old singer’s ninth proper studio release and the followup to last year’s solid but unnecessary Greatest Hits. For the most part, it’s reminiscent of Southpaw Grammar with its frequent use of military drum patterns, energetically driving guitars and mostly tight running times.

Lyrically, it’s not much different from past offerings (the album could’ve been called More Songs About Death And Loneliness), but Morrissey continues to find interesting variations on his favourite themes. Overall, this is one of his most confident-sounding records to date.

Being middle-aged hasn’t eased his sense of cruelty. On It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore, which sounds like a cross between With or Without You and My Hero, he coldly informs a potential love interest, “There’s no need to be kind to you/and the will to see you smile and belong has now gone.”

On Sorry Doesn’t Help, an ex-lover is scolded: “You lied about the lies that you told/which is the full extent of what being you is all about.”

During the Spanish-flavoured When Last I Spoke to Carol, which features an entertaining horn section, he bluntly kisses off the title character: “I can’t pretend I feel love for you.” You don’t want to know what happens to Carol at the end.

When he’s not being brutal, he’s the spokesman for the forlorn generation, terminally resigned to the idea of a life without true love. Black Cloud’s chorus steals its rhythm from Monster Magnet’s Powertrip and features Jeff Beck on guitar. No amount of effort on Morrissey’s part can lead to a successful seduction: “There is nothing I can do to make you mine.”

The drug-addicted protagonist in Something Is Squeezing My Skull wearily observes, “There is no love in modern life.” I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris is Morrissey’s solution to an “absence” of “love” and “human touch.”

There’s also the self-explanatory and gripping I’m OK By Myself whose only flaw is some excessive vocal scatting near the end.

That’s How People Grow Up features the lovely soprano of Kristeen Young at the top and showcases a philosophical Morrissey bemoaning the whole idea of romance as a complete waste of time.

And then, there are the eulogies:  The matriarch driven to suicide and greatly missed by her family in Mama Lay Softly on The Riverbed (“It’s just so lonely here without you.”), which features a guitar section that would make Captain Beefheart raise an eyebrow.

And the mysterious, bedridden sufferer in the gorgeously heartbreaking You Were Good in Your Time (“You made me feel less alone”) which suddenly changes track in its final two minutes.

After Morrissey sings the final lyric, the music stops and the French dialogue that has been playing in the background throughout can be heard a bit better. A more unsettling arrangement begins, like something you would hear just before a kill scene in a horror film. It reminded me of Someone’s In The Wolf by Queens Of The Stone Age.

With no bad songs (the darkly biting All You Need Is Me rounds out the track listing) and plenty to sing along to, Years of Refusal offers endless emotional delights. Here’s hoping Morrissey never disappears again.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, February 28, 2013
3:48 p.m.

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 3:48 pm  Comments (2)  

More Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Sixth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD

21. In The Secretary and The Scofflaw, during a couple of New York street scenes you’ll notice a Kal’s Signs sign posted on a building in the background.  That’s a tribute to Jerry’s dad, Kal, who ran a sign business during the comedian’s childhood.

22. Despite the show’s reliance on real stories there are some notable fictional elements in season six.  For the record, there are no Mackinaw peaches that are only ripe for two weeks, no Breulein tennis rackets that transform amateurs into professionals, there’s no hot-tempered baseball player named Steve Gandason, no big band artist named Stan Herman, no swing songs called Honeysuckle Jump or Next Stop, Pottersville and no organization called Able Mentally Challenged Adults (AMCA).

23. Olympia Dukakis’ brother, Apollo, plays Estelle Costanza’s laser eye surgeon in The Fusilli Jerry.  Todd Bridges’ brother, J.D., is the paramedic who wheels the injured Jimmy out of the mens’ locker room in The Jimmy.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ half-sister, Lauren Bowles, is the waitress who appears to be giving George the finger twice in The Pledge Drive.  (She also pops up in The Race and The Big Salad.)  And Edward Albert, the son of Green Acres star, Eddie Albert, came very close to playing J. Peterman.

24. In The Face Painter, for the first time in four seasons, George says “I love you” to a girlfriend, a zookeeper named Siena.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t acknowledge his declaration which leaves him deflated.  After Kramer learns from her boss that she doesn’t have great hearing in one of her ears, George goes for take two but learns that one, Siena heard him the first time and two, she doesn’t reciprocate.  In a revealing deleted scene, after telling her “I love you” for the second time she actually says it back.  So stunned by this, he then proposes marriage.  She accepts.  As they embrace, he suddenly starts looking worried.  One wonders how season seven would’ve turned out if this had made it into the episode, the second-to-last of season six.

25. The Understudy is the only season six episode not to feature any stand-up routines.  One was actually recorded but cut because the show was about ten minutes too long.  Jerry does a funny riff on the absurdity of believing everything you see in a live play.  It’s included in a collection of stand-up outtakes.

26. Buddy Rich was a notoriously hot-headed big band drummer who often yelled at his musicians while on their tour bus.  Someone in the group made secret recordings of these now infamous rants which eventually circulated among greatly amused comedians like Jerry Seinfeld who memorized his verbal venom by heart.  Three lines from these tapes were thrown into three different Seinfeld episodes.  The first is mentioned here.  (It’s number nine.)  The second pops up in The Understudy when Frank Costanza tells Elaine in the coffee shop that the father of his ex-girlfriend (a woman he met in Korea) didn’t like him very much.  Roughly translating from Korean, he says, “This guy…this isn’t my kind of guy.”  (I’ll save the third for later.)

27. In The Diplomat’s Club, Jerry becomes distracted by an airplane pilot at a comedy show in Ithaca, New York after his very annoying assistant mentions that he’s sitting in the audience.  The extra who played the pilot was actually a delivery man for Sparkletts water who arrived at the Seinfeld office one day to learn that he had the perfect look for the character.  After his two non-speaking scenes in the episode, he actually quit his job to become an actor.  It must not have gone very well because his name is not mentioned.

28. In The Chaperone, during the talent portion of the Miss America pagent there’s a quick shot of the audience.  Pay close attention to the white-haired man who claps once and briefly fixes his hair.  That’s the late Merv Griffin.  Also, Regis Philbin is the voice you hear emceeing the competition.

29. In The Face Painter, Elaine, her mechanic boyfriend, David Puddy, Jerry and Kramer go see game one of the New York Rangers/New Jersey Devils playoff series in Madison Square Garden.  Look closely behind Puddy and you’ll see the real Kenny Kramer, Larry David’s old neighbour, with his long hair in a ponytail wearing a blue Rangers jersey cheering for the home team.

30. In The Race, we learn that Jerry ran a footrace in high school that made him something of a legend, even though he got away with a false start.  For years, in order to preserve this proud myth, whenever asked to run again, his response was always the same:  “I choose not to run.”.  This is an homage to former American President Calvin Coolidge who said pretty much the same thing (“I do not choose to run.”) when asked by reporters if he was planning on running for re-election in 1928.

31. When George walks into Monk’s with his new hair piece in The Scofflaw he immediately spots a beautiful woman sitting alone and asks her, “How’s your life? Alright?”.  This was something the real Jerry Seinfeld heard Keith Richards say once which he added to the rewrite of the script.  Also in that episode, Kramer gets into a misunderstanding with a cop who thought he was calling him a “pig”.  (The hipster doofus was really yelling at a passing motorist who was littering on the street.)  In a later scene, when he explains himself the cop is suddenly sporting an eye patch that is never explained.  That’s because the explanation – he has a sty – was cut for time.

32. Jerry Stiller has a unique ability to consistently crack up two members of the main cast.  In the last scene of The Doorman, Frank Costanza climbs into bed with his son, George, and then offers him some Kasha.  Jason Alexander kept cracking up at that point in the scene.  It took a dozen takes to get the shot.  In a pivotal scene of The Fusilli Jerry, Frank enters Jerry’s apartment looking for Kramer.  (He’s upset with him because he believes he “stopped short” with Estelle.)  Elaine is there, as well.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus had a very difficult time getting through various parts of this long scene without laughing, especially when the corkscrew pasta gets stuck up his ass.  (Several bloopers are shown and she even laughs during the audio commentary.)  If you look closely during the episode she is clenching her fists very tightly which finally, over numerous takes, allowed her to persevere without spoiling the scene.

33. In The Understudy, after Bette Midler (actually a stunt double contrary to Jason Alexander’s assertion) gets pushed off home plate by a charging George during a key moment in the softball game, Kramer holds her very close and starts to sing her big hit, The Wind Beneath My Wings.  During the location shoot, Michael Richards couldn’t remember how to sing the song’s melody correctly so he had to dub it in later during a looping session.  Cher, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews were other possible celebrity choices for the episode.

34. In The Diplomat’s Club, George is determined to find some black friends to ease the tension between himself and his Yankees colleague, Mr. Morgan.  He bothers the family that incredibly allowed him to watch Breakfast At Tiffany’s with him in The Couch.  He rents another Audrey Hepburn movie hoping they can “bond” some more.  The movie is My Fair Lady which was mentioned in the script but not used.

35. The show had an inconsisent policy on accidental sneezes.  There’s an odd moment in The Label Maker where George and Jerry are walking down the street.  Out of nowhere, the slow-witted bald man suddenly sneezes.  This was a mistake that was curiously left in because it was perceived to be a natural moment that didn’t detract from the scene.  However, Jason Alexander also sneezed in The Race during the scene where George Steinbrenner confronts him about possibly stealing Yankee athletic equipment.  Larry David, who voiced Steinbrenner, actually blessed him which Jason thanked him for.  But then Larry told him, in character, that maybe they should do the scene over again.  The final version of the scene that ended up in the episode doesn’t feature the sneezing or the ad-libbed exchange.

36. In The Race, George lies about being deflowered by his high school homeroom teacher, Miss Stafford.  Jerry Seinfeld had a crush on a real Miss Stafford but she taught first grade and he was 6 at the time.  Mr. Bevilaqua, another high school instructor who ran both of Jerry’s controversial foot races, was the name of another of Jerry’s real-life teachers.  Coincidentally, Claude Earl Jones, the actor who played him, used to teach in high school himself.

37. In The Doorman, Kramer develops a male bra prototype he calls The Bro after seeing George’s father with his shirt off.  When he pitches the idea to a receptive Frank, the elder Costanza dislikes the name (“too ethnic”) and counters with The Mansiere.  Their bickering over what to call this rather ingenious idea was inspired by a real-life argument between Larry David and the episode’s writers who wisely decided to put it in the show when they couldn’t agree on what to call the male undergarment.  The male bra storyline came from a series of Ann Landers columns that co-writer Tom Gammill read as a kid that featured women complaining about their husbands’ breasts.

38. In the sixth season, as the show reached its 100th episode, NBC executives shared the original test results for The Seinfeld Chronicles pilot with the supporting cast for the first time.  The reviews from test audiences in late October 1989 were less than encouraging.  They thought George was a “loser” and a “wimp”, that Jerry’s everyday life was “boring” and his character “powerless”, “dense” and “naive” and that Kessler (Kramer’s original name), although sometimes “mildly amusing”, was also underwhelming.  They found the storylines a distraction from the stand-up segments which was the only part those familiar with Jerry’s brand of comedy liked.  Their overall view of the performance of that first show: “weak”.

39. Comedian/writer Carol Leifer plays Wendie Malick’s receptionist in The Kiss Hello.  In the scene where George is signing a check to pay for his appointment Leifer claims he wrote obscene messages to her during every take.

40. In The Doodle, Jerry has to call an exterminator to get rid of some fleas that have somehow burrowed their way into his couch and on his body.  He later determines that Newman had been sneaking in his apartment to eat Chunkies.  (He leaves the wrappers in between the cushions.  Classy.)  Jerry eventually confronts him.  In a deleted scene, we learn how Newman acquired the fleas.  While doing his mail route he had a run-in with a bulldog named Buford who was loaded with them.  That’s the same dog that Kramer unleashes on the mailman after he eats his last Mackinaw peach.

(Special thanks to Rob Kerr.)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
2:38 p.m.

Published in: on February 27, 2013 at 2:38 am  Comments (1)  

Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Sixth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD

1. In The Chaperone, George and Jerry are having a difficult time sleeping in their Atlantic City hotel room because of Miss Rhode Island’s trained birds cooing too loudly outside.  After Jerry dumps a bucket of water on them (which doesn’t just quiet them down it actually kills them) he returns to his single bed and says to George, “Well, good night, Ollie.”.  In his own single bed, George replies, “Good night, Stan.”.  This is a reference to Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, AKA Laurel & Hardy, the famous comedy team from the early days of the American cinema.

2. The Big Salad was directly inspired by a real-life incident involving Larry David, a writer’s assistant and the show’s editor, Janet Ashikaga.  While in the middle of editing another episode David asked Ashikaga if she wanted anything from this restaurant he was going to.  She requested a big salad.  With the writer’s assistant tagging along David bought the big salad.  Unfortunately, he let the writer’s assistant give it to Ashikaga who proceeded to thank her, not David, for buying the big salad.  The assistant never mentioned David’s generosity and cheerfully accepted the thank you.  This irked David so much it inspired the George story in the episode of the same name.

3. The Chaperone was originally entitled The Birds.  The Switch was supposed to be called The Bulimic.  The Diplomat’s Club’s working title was The Admirals Club (the change was needed because the first title, which is a real club run by American Airlines, couldn’t be cleared).  The Understudy was first going to be The Injury.  And The Fusilli Jerry had two alternate titles:  The Move and The Assman (that last title specifically rejected by NBC). 

4. In The Mom & Pop Store, George is talked out of buying a used ’89 Volvo.  The salesman convinces him to buy an ’89 Chrysler LeBaron instead after revealing that it used to belong to actor Jon Voight which turns out not to be true.  (The former owner was really John Voight, a periodontist friend of Tim Whatley’s.)  The exact same thing happened to episode co-writer Tom Gammill who was absolutely certain that he was driving the Oscar-winner’s former vehicle.  In fact, that’s his real car, the Voightmobile if you will, used throughout the episode.  The actual Volvo George almost buys belonged to his writing partner, Max Pross, who, in real life, never believed the LeBaron belonged to Voight.  George and Jerry’s arguments about this were directly taken from Pross and Gammill’s own debates.  Furthermore, the episode was conceived as a way to actually settle this argument once and for all.  Incredibly, Voight agreed to do a cameo in the episode.  When the writers finally asked him if he used to drive Gammill’s LeBaron, he said he had never ever seen that car before in his life. 

5. In The Label Maker, after a terrible misunderstanding in The Mom & Pop Store, Elaine starts dating Tim Whatley.  Near the end of the former she confronts the dentist about re-gifting her label maker she gave him, because he didn’t charge her for dental work, to Jerry.  After Whatley tells her that it was the worst gift he ever got (the labels wouldn’t stick for longer than 10 minutes), she breaks down and they kiss.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus was either suffering from a terrible cold or scarlet fever (she had a temperature of 103, according to one of the writers of this episode) during the production that week.  Knowing full well they had to go through with this mercifully quick kiss, Louis-Dreyfus apologized beforehand to Bryan Cranston.  Sure enough, two days later, he spent a week in bed and lost three pounds after catching whatever it was she gave him.

6. Before being introduced at every audience taping, Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards and Jerry Seinfeld would be huddled together inside TV Jerry’s bathroom set to perform a superstitious ritual.  Each would place their hand on top of the other and as they released their hands they would collectively make a quick, very loud yelping sound like basketball players coming out of a time-out.  They called this “The Circle Of Power”.  The silly gesture ended up in a couple of episodes of Seinfeld, most notably The Contest.  (Remember the Monk’s scene where they agree to make the “no masturbation” bet?)

7. In The Soup, George goes on a walk-and-talk date with a pretty waitress from Monk’s.  The sequence was shot in the lagoon area of the CBS Radford Studios in Los Angeles, the same place where Gilligan’s Island was filmed.  The lagoon doesn’t exist today because it was destroyed sometime in the late ’90s.  (The DVD doesn’t explain how or why, unfortunately.)  In a deleted scene, Kenny Bania arrives at Monk’s to pick her up for a date.

8. Ian Abercrombie, who played Elaine’s supremely fussy boss, Mr. Pitt, really couldn’t figure out how to see that 3-D art picture in The Gymnast until the audience taping where he declared that he could see The Statue Of Liberty.  Larry David told him to calm down, they had a show to tape.

9. In The Couch, Jerry buys a new couch for his apartment but it’s ruined after Poppie, the unsanitary chef from Season Five’s The Pie, pees on one of the cushions when he stops by to pick up the tab for the duck the comedian didn’t eat at his restaurant.  If you look closely, as Poppie moves a newspaper off that particular spot on the right cushion, you can clearly see the fake pee stain already in place as he’s about to sit down.

10. At the end of The Chinese Woman, Noreen, Elaine’s easily manipulated friend, tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge but before she leaps a man in a cape talks to her thereby saving her life.  Larry David played the man who was Frank Costanza’s divorce lawyer.  In an outtake, he actually carries her in his arms but he accidentally loses his balance and falls off the set.  Fortunately, neither was seriously hurt thanks to the short fall they both took.  (David landed on his feet with actress Kelly Coffield (In Living Colour) still in his arms.)

11. In The Scofflaw, Jon Lovitz plays Gary, a duplicitious friend of George and Jerry’s, who lies about having cancer just so he can get free hair pieces for life.  (Jerry bought him a lifetime supply through The Hair Team For Men.)  Before we see him with the rug, he has lunch with George.  After he gets the piece, in a later scene he talks to a solitary woman at the back of Monk’s who has a reputation for being unfriendly.  All she does is read and not talk to anybody.  He succeeds where every other man has failed.  But in a deleted scene (actually an extension of the first lunch scene with George), he tries picking her up without the toupee ignoring George’s warnings of inevitable doom.  (50 men have been unable to break the ice with her.)  He halfheartedly approaches her, waves quickly and when she doesn’t look up he walks right back to George, head dejectedly downward.

12. In The Doorman, Kramer pretends to mug George out on the street while a bus full of German tourists look on in horror.  Max Pross and Tom Gammill, the writers of the episode, used to do the same thing for years when they lived in New York.  Unfortunately, they never quite got the same outraged reaction from the real-life tourists they performed for.  Later on, when Kramer is carrying his record player down the street the same tourists spot him and chase him on foot.  That’s a goof on a similiar scene from Marathon Man when Nazi doctor Laurence Olivier is spotted by a Holocaust survivor on the street.

13. In The Kiss Hello, Wendie Malick plays Elaine’s physical therapist friend with a bad hairdo.  Brenda Strong auditioned for the role.  She would go on to play Sue-Ellen Mischke, the woman who wore a bra as a top, in numerous season seven episodes.  In The Race, Jerry runs into his old high school track rival, Duncan Meyer, at his girlfriend’s office.  (Duncan is actually her boss.).  Ryan Stiles (The Drew Carey Show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show) failed to land that part.  Former Bond girl Carey Lowell (who also played a lawyer on Law & Order) read for Lois.  In The Doorman, Jerry’s real-life best friend, comedian/actor Larry Miller, plays the title character, a devious doorman who works in Mr. Pitt’s building.  Stephen Root (Newsradio, Office Space) was a strong contender for that part.  Debra Jo Rupp (That 70s Show) played Katie, Jerry’s mothering assistant in the Diplomat’s Club.  SNL alumni Julia Sweeney and Molly Shannon tried out for the role.

14. In The Big Salad, Elaine is annoyed by the advances of a stationary store salesman.  Styles and Dave Foley (The Kids In The Hall) couldn’t secure the part.  In The Pledge Drive, we meet George’s fellow Yankee colleague, Mr. Morgan.  Phil Morris, the future Jackie Chiles, auditioned for that role.  Tim Whatley, Bryan Cranston’s dentist character who was introduced for the first time this season, could’ve been played by John O’Hurley.  Instead, the future Family Feud host got a better gig playing J. Peterman, another new character in season six.  In The Secretary, George hires the red-headed Ada to work for him.  Vicki Lewis beat out Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson) for the short-lived character.  And in The Chinese Woman former MuchMusic VJ Angela Dorfmann beat out Kristen Johnston for the role of Donna Chang.  Johnston would go on to play one of the aliens on 3rd Rock From The Sun a year after her failed audition.

15. In The Jimmy, Jerry is deeply disturbed by Whatley’s dental office reading material.  (While waiting to see him Jerry spots a couple of Penthouse magazines among copies of Fortune and Entertainment Weekly in the waiting room.)  Before he sits down he’s spoken to by the receptionist.  She’s played by real-life Playboy Playmate Elan Carter (June 1994).  After slowly coming to after breathing in some gas Jerry thinks he sees Whatley and his beautiful hygenist buttoning up their clothes, implying something untoward happened when he was incapacitated.  Cheryl, the hygenist, is played by another Playboy Playmate, Alison Armitage, who actually used the name Brittany York when she posed for the October 1990 edition.  In a couple of deleted scenes, we learn that Cheryl posed for Penthouse.

16. In The Doodle, Christa Miller returns to play a new character, an artist who likes George.  (She previously had a brief cameo in a season five episode where George wins and loses his bra salesman gig in a matter of seconds after touching the fabric of her top.)  Shortly after appearing on Seinfeld she auditioned for an upcoming sitcom featuring another stand-up comedian.  The people at the new show weren’t certain she could do comedy so this episode of Seinfeld was sent to them before it even aired which ultimately led her to landing the part of Kate on The Drew Carey Show co-starring Ryan Stiles and, for numerous episodes, Katy Severstone who played George’s slightly deaf zookeeper girlfriend in The Face Painter.

17. In The Scofflaw, Gary tells George that a woman named Debbie said hi to him so he calls her for a date.  Unfortunately, she didn’t know she was on a date and claims she only meant to send her regards to him.  Debbie is played by Barbara Alyn Woods, best known for playing the pill-addicted cougarific Deb Scott on the underappreciated One Tree Hill.

18. There are two very noticeable continuity errors in two different episodes.  In The Secretary, Kramer sells his vintage suit to Kenny Bania while he’s wearing it.  Stuck in a lady’s dressing room in a high-end clothing store, he’s wearing nothing but boxers, socks and shoes.  When Jerry arrives looking for women’s moisturizer, he ultimately finds Kramer wondering what the hell he was thinking.  Notice Kramer’s wallet tucked into the front of his boxers when Jerry first walks in the room, then shortly thereafter it disappears never to resurface again.  In The Label Maker, George goes to visit his girlfriend Bonnie at her apartment as she’s packing up the belongings of her soon-to-be-former roommate, Scott, whom the bald man viewed as a threat.  At one point, his hands are free.  Then, out of nowhere, he’s holding Scott’s mini Television. 

19. George’s fascination with wearing velvet originally popped up in a deleted scene from The Couch.  It was initially part of a much longer opening involving Jerry shopping for a new couch.  George isn’t immediately sold on Jerry’s choice (the couch that Poppie ultimately pees on) because he doesn’t believe it’s “comfy cozy”.  He would much rather his comic friend buy a couch made of velvet which leads to his comment about how he would love to drape himself in that particular fabric.  Jerry ultimately ignores his suggestion and tells him he needs professional help.

20. The Reggie’s set was originally used for Newhart in the ’80s.  The late Marjorie Gross (she died of ovarian cancer in 1996 at age 40), a writer/producer/creative consultant on seasons six and seven, briefly wrote for that show in 1988.

(Special thanks to Rob Kerr.)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
2:24 a.m.

Published in: on February 27, 2013 at 2:24 am  Comments (1)  

Unsolved Mysteries Of The Sixth Season Of Seinfeld

1. In The Big Salad, who was calling Jerry to let him know that Kramer was on TV driving his golfing buddy (baseball catcher turned murder suspect Steve Gendason) in a White Bronco in a slow speed chase with the NYPD?

2. Who was the real voice of Dan, the high talker, in The Pledge Drive?

3. Why is Jerry’s phone number different in season six than it is in season three?

4. Where did Karen, Miss Rhode Island, place in the Miss America pagent?

5. Where did Kramer get that videotape featuring Jerry’s Romanian gymnast girlfriend performing at the 1984 Summer Olympics?

6. In The Gymnast, what causes Kramer’s kidney stone?

7. What happened to Kramer’s golfing buddy Steve Gendason and did he ever get charged with killing Pinkus the dry cleaner?

8. How is it possible that the night George wants to rent Breakfast At Tiffany’s, a movie that was then more than 40 years old, the five video stores he visits don’t have a single copy available for rent?

9. What are Katya, Jerry’s gymnast girlfriend, and Misha, the high-wire acrobat, saying to each other in Romanian?

10. In The Chinese Woman, how did Donna Chang and George’s parents’ phone lines get crossed and when did they get uncrossed?

11. In The Mom & Pop Store, why does Kramer’s nose keep bleeding?

12. In The Soup, what does Simon, Elaine’s freeloading British boyfriend, mutter under his breath after she says she loves airline food?

13. In that same episode, why were Elaine and her boss, Mr. Pitt, in England for 5 days?

14. Why is Kramer holding his right elbow when Jon Voight bit him in the wrist?

15. When Babs Kramer says she’s been clean for two years, to what is she referring to?

16. Why is Jerry asking for women’s moisturizer in The Secretary?

17. What happened to Eva, George’s super efficient, red-headed secretary?

18. How many customers are on Hop Sing’s “no delivery” list?

19. How does Jerry keep getting away with these false starts during his foot races?

20. Why are Kramer and Mickey still wearing their Santa Claus and elf costumes, respectively, in The Race when they’ve just been fired?

21. Why did Whatley invite his mailman Newman to The Super Bowl when he didn’t invite him to his pre-Thanksgiving party?

22. How and why did Denise, George’s bald girlfriend, lose all her hair?

23. What’s the plot of Jake Jarmel’s book, What’s With The Pepper?

24. Which Melrose Place actor had to do a polygraph in the New York Police Department?

25. Instead of dumping water on Miss Rhode Island’s magical birds, why didn’t Jerry just close the glass door to the balcony?

26. What did Wendy the big-haired physical therapist change her hairstyle to that turned Kramer off of dating her any longer?

27. What was in the Fed Ex package that Jerry signed for and who was supposed to get it in The Doorman?

28. Who stole the couch from the lobby of Mr. Pitt’s building?

29. Why was Mr. Pitt in Scotland?

30. Did Elaine ever buy that elusive, perfect pair of white socks for Mr. Pitt?

31. Why does Jimmy constantly refer to himself in the third person and has he always talked like that?

32. Who was really stealing all that Yankee equipment in The Jimmy?

33. What happened to that manuscript Viking Press sent to Elaine that Kramer was reading in Jerry’s fumigated apartment?

34. In The Pledge Drive, George follows a driver to a gas station because he thought he was giving him the finger.  How did that driver’s hand get hurt in the first place and how long has it been in that cast?

35. Why didn’t Elaine offer Jerry’s parents her own apartment which would still allow her to stay in the Plaza?

36. What the hell is Jerry’s sex move that David Puddy uses on Elaine and what exactly is “the pinch”, “the knuckle” and “the swirl” (clockwise and counter clockwise)?  How come when Puddy does it Elaine orgasms but when Jerry performed it Elaine faked it?

37. How did Kramer end up with Dr. Cooperman’s “ASSMAN” vanity plates?

38. What caused Estelle and Frank Costanza to temporarily split?

39. How did the elderly couple in the shoe repair shop not notice those dangling electrical wires for 48 years?

40. Why was Hildy, Kramer’s overly demanding waitress girlfriend, so dependent on him for food?

41. Why is Newman’s apartment number in The Doodle 5F when it’s usually 5E?

42. What is Mr. Morgan’s first name?

43. Who voiced the last line of the banker who was talking to Jerry’s Nana on the phone in The Pledge Drive?

(Special thanks to Rob Kerr.)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
2:05 a.m.

UPDATE:  I caught a rerun of the season three episode, The Nose Job, recently and forgot about the revelation that Kramer’s mom, Babs, used to have a drinking problem.  This likely solves the mystery of number 15.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
6:30 p.m.

Published in: on February 27, 2013 at 2:05 am  Comments (7)  

Pretentious Snob

You loath the music I endlessly adore
And overpraise nonsense I’m happy to ignore
How have you lasted all of these years?
Are you really responsible for launching great careers?

You gave a four-star review to a shrieking groupie
What were you snorting that made you so loopy?
Your paragraph reviews are far from insightful
You’re such a crank even your raves sound spiteful

Reading your blather provides few rewards
What’s wrong with playing more than three chords?
It’s so easy to laugh at your questionable taste
You’re like an ignorant child who loves to eat paste

Why sign up for a gig you clearly can’t handle?
Eighteen-hour-days burning both ends of the candle
The contents are no deeper than the cover of this book
Does Peter Bogdanovich know you stole his look?

There are genres you detest for reasons I don’t get
There are talents you deplore who’ll you never fete
I’ll never understand why The Joshua Tree
Is an album you felt only deserved a B

You were right about the global emergence of rap
But that doesn’t excuse your frequent endorsement of crap
Yes, you’ve loved records by Bowie and Dylan
But your closed-minded attitude still makes you a villain

You panned Achtung Baby without an explanation
A cartoon bomb rating shows your lack of imagination
Is there anything worse than an out-of-touch knob
Who is nothing more than a pretentious snob?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
12:05 a.m.

Published in: on February 27, 2013 at 12:05 am  Comments (1)  

The Loop

A loop of bad thoughts continuously plays
Flooding my mind in the scariest of ways
Silencing the joy and drowning the light
Crushing my future with all of its might

The temperature is cold, the atmosphere is bleak
Ashamed of the darkness that forbids me to speak
Emotionally crippled and willfully blind
Still yet to realize it’s all in my mind

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
11:35 p.m.

Published in: on February 26, 2013 at 11:36 pm  Comments (1)  

85th Oscars Round-Up

He won me over.  Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane was the real big winner at the 85th annual Academy Awards.  I’ve never been a fan of the first-time host’s work (Family Guy is the poor man’s Simpsons) so my personal expectations were dampened considerably this year when his name was announced as the emcee.  But right from the opening monologue (which, as an aside, was a bit long at 18 minutes) I was loudly laughing much more than I ever expected to, especially during the bit about Best Actresses.  And who knew the man possessed such a fine singing voice?  I sure didn’t.

As for the awards themselves, there were some notable surprises.  Christoph Waltz won his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing Jamie Foxx’s compadre in Django Unchained beating out Tommy Lee Jones (who hilarously smiled during McFarlane’s very first joke) and Robert De Niro in the night’s very first award.  Speaking of that film Quentin Tarantino won his own second Oscar for writing its original screenplay, also not expected.  He last won for co-writing Pulp Fiction 18 years ago.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was Ang Lee being named Best Director a second time for helming Life Of Pi.  With Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck not even recognized in this category, it was wide open.  Many expected Steven Spielberg to carry the day.  Lee won his first Best Director Oscar for Brokeback Mountain in 2006.

Some will also consider Brave’s victory in the Best Animated Feature category to be an upset, as well.  (Not me.  I picked it to win.)  It beat out what many thought was a shoo-in, Wreck-It Ralph.  Perhaps the weirdest moment was the announcement of a tie for Best Sound Editing.  The sound editors for Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty shared the award.

Other than that, it was business as usual.  Daniel Day-Lewis made history by winning his third Best Actor Oscar for playing Abraham Lincoln (and was very funny in his acceptance speech), Jennifer Lawrence, who had an unfortunate fall while en route to the podium, secured Best Actress, Anne Hathaway took home Best Supporting Actress, Adele’s Skyfall won Best Original Song, Searching For Sugar Man won Best Documentary Feature, Amour was named Best Foreign Language Film and Chris Terrio won Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on Argo.

Although the show dragged in spots (if they took out all the production numbers and tributes, this thing would be done in two hours, not three and a half) and much of the presenter bantering was lame, those surprise winners and McFarlane’s very funny antics kept me interested. 

Here’s the complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE – ARGO

BEST DIRECTOR – Ang Lee (LIFE OF PI)

BEST ACTRESS – Jennifer Lawrence (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK)

BEST ACTOR – Daniel Day-Lewis (LINCOLN)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Anne Hathaway (LES MISERABLES)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Christoph Waltz (DJANGO UNCHAINED)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Quentin Tarantino (DJANGO UNCHAINED)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Chris Terrio (ARGO)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – BRAVE

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – AMOUR

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – LIFE OF PI

BEST FILM EDITING – ARGO

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN (ART DIRECTION) – LINCOLN

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Mychael Danna (LIFE OF PI)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Skyfall (SKYFALL)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – LIFE OF PI

BEST MAKE-UP – LES MISERABLES

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – ANNA KARENINA

BEST SOUND MIXING – LES MISERABLES

BEST SOUND EDITING – ZERO DARK THIRTY/SKYFALL (tie)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – PAPERMAN

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – CURFEW

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – INOCENTE

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 25, 2013
12:49 a.m.

Published in: on February 25, 2013 at 12:49 am  Comments (1)  

2013 Oscar Predictions

BEST PICTURE – ARGO

Politics and romance are dominant themes in this year’s crop of nominated features.  The academy is sticking with the nine-or-ten rule and as a result, most of this year’s short list doesn’t stand much of a chance of winning.  That means the producers of Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Amour, Life Of Pi, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook, and Django Unchained can all breathe a sigh of relief.  None of them will need to prepare a speech for Oscar night.

From the beginning, this has been a three-picture horse race between Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and Ben Affleck’s Argo.  Originally, I thought Lincoln had the inside track (it was the most nominated film this year) but it’s not looking like the favourite any longer.  The reprehensible ZDT, the only Best Picture nominee I’ve seen, doesn’t even belong here.  Nevertheless, I suspect all the torture controversy has effectively killed any chance of victory.

That leaves Argo which Roger Ebert predicted back in September would actually win this category.  I have a feeling the man is right again.

Argo for Best Picture.

BEST DIRECTOR – David O. Russell (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK)

Here’s something that’s exceedingly rare.  The winner of this year’s Directors Guild of America prize is not nominated for a Best Director Oscar.  This is particularly puzzling considering that Ben Affleck’s Argo is going to win Best Picture.  Also of note is the absence of Kathryn Bigelow who became the first woman to win in this category two years ago.  In my view, her lack of a nomination this year is a welcome snub.  Zero Dark Thirty was an irresponsible piece of shit not worthy of any positive recognition.

So, that said, who did make the cut this time around?  Well, there’s first-time nominees Benh Zeitlin (Beasts Of The Southern Wild) and Michael Haneke (Amour), two-time nominee David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), and former winners Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) and Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan). 

Without Affleck and Bigelow, this is a wide open race.  But I suspect it’ll come down to either Russell or Spielberg.  Although it’s been 15 years since the latter won his second gong for Private Ryan, could he possibly take a third for Lincoln?  It’s possible but really, does he need another dust collector?  The mercurial Russell, best known for those scary outbursts on the set of the dreadful I Heart Huckabees that leaked out on YouTube several years ago, who was last nominated for The Fighter, really needs this win more than anybody on the list.  I’m going with him.

David O. Russell for Best Director.

BEST ACTRESS – Jessica Chastain (ZERO DARK THIRTY)

Three previous nominees compete with the youngest and oldest performers ever recognized in the race for Best Actress.  In her very first movie nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis picks up her first Oscar nod for her acclaimed performance in Beasts Of The Southern Wild.  Kids winning Academy Awards are pretty rare occurrences so Wallis, in my mind, is a real long shot.  I’m sure she’s thrilled enough with the recognition.  Honestly, how many little girls can say they’re a Best Actress nominee? 

85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) could be a sentimental favourite but I doubt she has enough Academy support to win.  Naomi Watts was last nominated almost 10 years ago for 21 Grams but I don’t believe this is her time of triumph.  That leaves two other two-time nominees, Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain.  Lawrence’s 2011 nod for Winter’s Bone basically put her on the map as did Chastain’s Supporting Actress nomination for The Help last year.

In my mind, the winner of this category is the young woman who needs it the most.  Since Winter’s Bone, Lawrence has been in big commercial hits like X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games and will likely continue to be cast in mass appeal studio pictures for some time to come.  She could very well win here but it really wouldn’t be a big deal if she didn’t.

Chastain, on the other hand, is only now becoming a viable leading lady thanks to some of her recent films.  Even though I hated her deeply annoying performance in the infuriating Zero Dark Thirty, more than enough Academy members have likely checked her name on their ballots.

Jessica Chastain for Best Actress.

BEST ACTOR – Daniel Day-Lewis (LINCOLN)

A couple of two-time winners battle it out with a three-time nominee and two newcomers to the Oscar party in the race for Best Actor.  Joaquin Phoenix struck out twice before with his nods for being the evil emperor in Gladiator and Johnny Cash in Walk The Line.  The third time will not be the charm for him this year.  Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper could pull upsets on their first attempts at Oscar gold but I doubt it.  And Denzel Washington won’t have to find shelf space next to his Academy Awards for Glory and Training Day.

That leaves Daniel Day-Lewis who stunned audiences and critics alike with his portrayal of the 16th American President.  I don’t expect Lincoln, the movie, to take home too many trophies (and yes, I realize I’m challenging conventional wisdom here) but it would be a real shock if this eccentric actor doesn’t receive his third Best Actor gong for this particular performance.

Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Anne Hathaway (LES MISERABLES)

This might be the surest bet of them all.  Do we even need to talk about previous winners Sally Field (Norma Rae, Places In The Heart) and Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets) or perennial nominees Amy Adams (Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter) and Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook)?  No, we don’t.

Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Robert De Niro (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK)

Here’s a rather unique situation.  All the nominees in this category are previous winners.  Furthermore, Philip Seymour Hoffman is the only one not to have won this specific award.  (He won Best Actor back in 2006 for his acclaimed portrayal of Truman Capote.)  So, with that being said, how in the hell do you pick the victor here?

In my view, it’s the guy that’s long overdue so Hoffman is out.  Ditto Little Miss Sunshine star Alan Arkin who upset Eddie Murphy in this category in 2007.  Recent SNL guest host Christoph Waltz won just three years ago playing a Nazi in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds which takes him out of the running, as well.  Although it’s been nearly 20 years since the permanently grumpy Tommy Lee Jones won for playing the relentless Gerard in The Fugitive, I don’t see him winning, either, although many will disagree.

That leaves Robert De Niro, one of the most universally respected actors of all time.  He’s the only multiple winner here:  Best Supporting Actor in 1975 for playing a young Vito Corleone in Godfather II and Best Actor in 1981 for portraying boxer Jake La Motta in Raging Bull.  Yes, it’s been more than 30 years since Bobby D took home a trophy.  That slump ends in 2013.

Robert De Niro for Best Supporting Actor.

Here are the rest of my picks in the remaining categories:

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – BRAVE

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Roger Deakins (SKYFALL)

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – OPEN HEART

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – MIRROR MIRROR

BEST FILM EDITING – ARGO

BEST FOREIGN FILM – AMOUR

BEST MAKE-UP – THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

BEST ART DIRECTION – LIFE OF PI

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Thomas Newman (SKYFALL)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Skyfall (SKYFALL)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – PAPERMAN

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – DEATH OF A SHADOW

BEST SOUND EDITING – SKYFALL

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Chris Terrio (ARGO)

BEST SOUND MIXING – LES MISERABLES

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Mark Boal (ZERO DARK THIRTY)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

The 85th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Seth McFarlane, airs this Sunday, February 24th on ABC and CTV starting at 8:30 p.m.

(Follow me on Twitter @DennisCEarl.)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
6:57 p.m.

Published in: on February 19, 2013 at 6:58 pm  Comments (1)  

2013 Elimination Chamber Predictions (Part Two)

Six-man tag team match:  The Shield vs. John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback

Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins made a surprise debut at last year’s Survivor Series when their attack on Ryback allowed then-WWE Champion CM Punk to retain his title.  Ever since, they’ve been strictly booked to attack mostly babyfaces on Raw and Smackdown and do the occasional live or pre-taped promo.  Curiously, they’ve only had one high-profile match to date:  a victory at TLC over Ryback and the tag team champions, Hell No.

Now they’re facing the top three babyfaces in WWE at Elimination Chamber:  John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback.  There was an internet rumour suggesting this might be re-booked in the actual Chamber but that appears to be unfounded.  Unlike the TLC match, it’ll be a regular tag encounter minus the furniture.

It’s really hard to see the good guys lose here considering how each of them rarely lose cleanly.  When The Nexus came on strong in spring/summer 2010 all roads led to a major loss at SummerSlam that year which clearly derailed their momentum.  Would a loss for The Shield here have the same impact?  It all depends on how they lose.

At any event, this is not an easy outcome to foresee.  The company needs to protect The Shield in some way without their good guys taking a major hit.  Ryback, in particular, needs a pay-per-view win badly.  He wasn’t won in this situation since Money In The Bank last July.  In the end, give this one to the babyfaces with some kind of inconclusive decision.

Prediction: Cena, Sheamus & Ryback by either disqualification or countout

Elimination Chamber match to determine number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship:  Jack Swagger vs. Chris Jericho vs. Mark Henry vs. Randy Orton vs. Kane vs. Daniel Bryan

Every one of these participants is a former World Heavyweight Champion (the Smackdown version) vying for a future title shot at WrestleMania 29 which hopefully won’t be the curtain jerker for the third year running.

Obviously, the tag champions, Kane and Bryan, have their own program going so they cancel each other out.  Orton, who has two Wellness Policy violations, is probably still in the doghouse.  That leaves Jericho (who replaces an injured Rey Mysterio), and the returning Swagger and Henry.

The World’s Strongest Man is sticking with his brilliant monster heel character which makes him a great candidate to push.  Swagger is now some kind of a right-wing “real American” who has recently aligned himself with the returning Zeb Colter who delivered an eye-opening promo on Raw that hinted at a possible future feud with Alberto Del Rio and other minority superstars.  The new mouthpiece allows the Oklahoma native to focus strictly on his stiff wrestling skills, the only thing he does well.  Jericho is now a babyface thanks to last summer’s feud with Mr. Money In The Bank, Dolph Ziggler.  They rekindled their rivalry last month as the first two competitors at the Rumble match.

Either one of these guys will likely get the push but for some reason I think Chris Jericho is going to win.  The angle in his resumed feud with Ziggler is that he can’t win the big one, that his days of being the man in WWE are over.  What better way to keep that going than have him become the number one contender for the WHC and possibly beat Ziggler for it at WrestleMania?

Prediction:  Chris Jericho

World Heavyweight Championship:  Alberto Del Rio vs. The Big Show

It was a major surprise when Del Rio suddenly became a good guy at TLC last December.  But eight days later, he ran over Mick Foley in a Santa outfit on Raw temporarily turning him heel again.  Then, when The Big Show was picking on his ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez, on Smackdown, the guy who once ran the giant over with one of his boss’ fancy cars two years ago, Del Rio became a permanent ‘face and went on to become the WHC by beating Show during a Last Man Standing match on Smackdown.  (Crazy booking.)

They’ve been feuding ever since.  Del Rio won their LMS rematch at the Royal Rumble (thank you, duck tape) but this time there appears to be no special stipulation.  The angle this time is that Del Rio has never pinned The Big Show and therefore has his work cut out for him.  In the end, I don’t think Big Show will be pinned.  But he will submit to the cross arm-breaker.

Immediately afterward, though, Show will get so pissed off about this he’ll go on to incapacitate both Rodriguez and Del Rio to the point where Dolph Ziggler, after countless teases in the past, will finally cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase and become the new World Heavyweight Champion which will set up the WrestleMania title match with Chris Jericho.

Prediction:  Alberto Del Rio retains by submission but Dolph Ziggler pins him for the title.

WWE Championship:  The Rock vs. CM Punk (If Rock is counted out or disqualified, the title changes hands)

Ever since his infamous June 2011 pipe bomb on Raw I’ve been a major champion of CM Punk (although truthfully I also enjoyed his previous Straight Edge Society shtick).  I’m an even bigger fan now that I’ve seen his superb (albeit flawed) DVD which I highly recommend.  As you can imagine, I wasn’t thrilled when I learned that he lost the WWE title at the Rumble last month.

The feud with The Rock started at Raw 1000 this past July (a war of words between the two followed by an exhilarating show-concluding attack by Punk) before cooling off significantly for much of the rest of 2012 and then firing up again in the build to the Rumble.  Since losing the title Punk’s been in complete denial of his setback going so far as to actually steal Rock’s belt and not return it.  Put simply, he’s not been a happy camper claiming he was screwed by Vince McMahon.  (He had Rock beat but the chairman restarted the match at Rock’s insistence because of the sneaky way he won.  The Shield triple powerbombed Rock in the dark.)

Because John Cena won his second Rumble match last month, it’s inevitable that he’ll be facing The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29.  Depending on whether The Undertaker is going to work with Punk at that event or not Punk might still be in the hunt for the belt.  The idea of a triple threat sounds good but doesn’t a potentially historic WM match with The Dead Man sound better?

In spite of the added stipulation of giving Punk plenty of opportunities to skunk away with the title (like any true villain would take advantage of), even though I honestly hope the Straight Edge Superstar becomes champion again, it’s just not going to happen.

Prediction:  The Rock retains the WWE Championship by pinfall.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 17, 2013
5:27 p.m.

UPDATE:  I was right about The Rock, Alberto Del Rio, Antonio Cesaro (even if it was a DQ not a pinfall finish) and Kaitlyn retaining their respective titles and Brodus Clay & Tensai winning the pre-show tag match.  I got the Chamber result wrong (it was Jack Swagger who won, not Chris Jericho, which doesn’t surprise me since I did say he was definitely a contender), The Big Show didn’t attack Del Rio or Rodriguez in a fit of rage and The Shield did in fact beat the team of Ryback, Sheamus and Cena, not the other way around (which is a good thing).  I was also wrong about Dolph Ziggler cashing in his MITB briefcase.  (There was no tease.)  He ended up winning his one-on-one with Kofi Kingston which wasn’t announced beforehand hence the lack of a prediction. 

So, in the end, I went 5 for 7.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 17, 2013
11:25 p.m.

Published in: on February 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm  Comments (1)  

2013 Elimination Chamber Predictions (Part One)

It’s a fool’s game loaded with landmines, an unrelenting temptation that can never be resisted.  Unfortunately, no matter what anybody says, only the supremely intuitive can clearly see the future well before it becomes the present.  (Sadly, it’s not a very big group.) 

Despite one’s best efforts, no one, not even the world’s most sophisticated minds can always know exactly how everything will turn out.  (Life would be horrifyingly predictable if that were the case.)  But does that ever stop any of us from pretending to have an insight no one else possesses?  No matter how many times we’re completely off-base with our prognostications are we ever dissuaded from making more “educated guesses” about people and events both trivial and significant? 

Of course not.  Humans are a stubborn lot.  We think we know it all.  In the end, we know very little, if anything.

I’m living proof of that.  I once predicted The Ottawa Senators would win the Stanley Cup (whoops) and that Avatar would win Best Picture (whoops again).  At the risk of looking like a dummy once more, it’s time to do something that’s never been done in this space before.

I’ve been a fan of professional wrestling off and on since I was 10 years old.  At some point in the ’90s my seemingly unextinguishable passion for it (which had been going strong since the summer of 1985) started to flame out.  Although I had continued to watch it on occasion, for the most part I wasn’t following it as intensely and continuously as before.  Movies and music ended up filling the void.

But gradually, as far back as 2004, I’ve found myself slowly getting sucked back in again.  Around 2009, Raw and Smackdown were just programs to watch (joined in progress) while I ate my supper.  But now, I’m pretty much watching these shows (plus Vintage Collection) on a full-time basis and I’m borrowing countless WWE DVDs from the library.  (I just reserved eleven more new titles the other day.)  I now know all the storylines and match-ups heading into every pay-per-view (even though I never order them).  Hell, even my Dad’s tuning in again.

Tonight is the fourth annual Elimination Chamber.  Originally, a concept match introduced at the 2002 Survivor Series and booked on a semi-regular basis on other supercards in the years that followed, the Chamber eventually found a permanent home in 2008 at No Way Out.  By 2010, that February event was renamed after the match itself.

The 2013 edition is most unusual.  No titles will be defended inside the Chamber this time around.  And, unless there’s a last-minute change, there’ll only be one Chamber match, period.  But based on the bookings we know will be taking place it still has the potential to be a terrific show.  (Last year’s Chamber matches were very entertaining even in this bloodless PG era.)

So, let’s look at the card and see what I think will actually happen:

Pre-show tag team match:  Brodus Clay & Tensai vs. Team Rhodes Scholars

Since WrestleMania 28, the WWE has started airing what would normally be a dark match for the live crowd as a free-for-all bonus during a special 30-minute pre-show presentation before the pay-per-view begins that you can see smoothly (if you have high speed internet) on YouTube and WWE.com.  Once in a while, something important happens like Antonio Cesaro winning the U.S. title from Santino Marella.  But usually, it’s just a convenient way to get more wrestlers on the card.  (WrestleMania aside, why aren’t these matches included on the DVD versions of these shows?)

When he returned to the WWE nearly a year ago, Matt Bloom (formerly A-Train and Prince Albert) was repackaged as a Japanese-influenced villain named Lord Tensai.  He had a cool outfit, lots of tattoos (real and fake), a worshipper who he didn’t treat very well and a tendency to destroy guys in the ring to the point where the match would sometimes be stopped before a possible pinfall or submission.

Unfortunately, the audience never responded to him the way the company had hoped.  (They kept chanting “Albert” over and over again.)  So, after losing the worshipper, the cool outfit, even the “Lord” from his name and a brief period where he was losing to guys he used to easily annihilate (like R-Truth), he became the butt of jokes.  The most recent one (dressing up in women’s lingerie; don’t ask) has somehow led to a babyface turn teaming with The Funkasaurus Brodus Clay.  As someone who needed time to get used to a big monster like Clay dancing around for reasons I still don’t understand, I love this new pairing.  Watching Bloom dance around unabashedly with Clay and his back-up dancers slays me.  (But it could get tired over the long run.)

At any event, they’ll be squaring off against a team that actually announced they were splitting up not that long ago.  Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow (funny old-school villains that I have a lot of respect for) looked like they were going to be pushed for the tag titles but that didn’t happen.  I’m actually disappointed by the split and hope that this match changes the minds of the bookers who probably have more single-oriented plans for them.

Regardless, because of the size difference and the fact that this is likely a one-time reunion, expect the big men to prevail.

Prediction:  Tensai & Clay by pinfall.

U.S. Championship:  Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz

The Swiss-born Cesaro who cut his teeth in the indie circuit for years has really come into his own since he split from Aksana and became the United States Champion during the pre-show at last year’s SummerSlam (but not in that order).  His in-ring work has been increasingly impressive and the company clearly believes in him since he’s been champion now for about six months.  The Miz, on the other hand, has been floundering.

I used to love his villain character when he had a sense of humour, less so when he started variations of “the most must-see superstar of all-time” schtick which he is still using despite being a good guy now.  Once in a while, he still knows how to be funny and acerbic but it’s hard to root for a guy who hasn’t really changed his personality that much.

Miz and Cesaro have been feuding for a while now and thanks to the champion’s astonishing series of leg swings during a recent Raw assault that sent the challenger reeling against the thankfully padded railing at ringside there is some interest in this return booking. 

Two years ago, Miz was heading into WrestleMania 27 the WWE Champion.  Now he’s back to where he was before Money In The Bank 2010, a mid-carder hoping for a B title. 

I wasn’t happy when Miz beat Christian for the InterContinental title at Raw 1000 last year.  And I won’t be happy hearing of him winning the U.S. title tonight.  Something tells me though that Miz is just another guy booked to make Cesaro look more impressive than he already is.  There’s always a chance of a title change here but truthfully, with the possible exception of Ryback, no one but Cesaro really deserves to be U.S. Champion right now.

Prediction:  Antonio Cesaro retains the U.S. title by pinfall.

Divas Championship:  Kaitlyn vs. Tamina Snuka

Easily the lowest-profile match on the show.  You know you’re in trouble when the set-up for this title match is only seen (and probably not very widely) on a phone app and only talked about in passing on free TV.  Kaitlyn, who has potential, is essentially champion by default.  With no Kharma, Beth Phoenix, Eve Torres, Kelly Kelly or the Bella Twins in the company anymore, she’s anchoring a division in dire need of recruitments.

I like Tamina Snuka a lot.  The fact that she’s a heel again and using her father’s Superfly splash as a finisher is fantastic.  (It always looks nasty when she hits it.)  But I would hate to see her get the inevitable push for the Divas title in a situation that’s given little to no importance.  By all means, have these two fight over the title for a while.  But for God’s sake, give it some TV time and some much-needed emphasis so it feels like it matters.  Anyway, regardless of its under-the-radar status, I don’t see a title change here.

Prediction:  Kaitlyn retains the Divas title by pinfall.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 17, 2013
5:10 p.m.

Published in: on February 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm  Comments (1)