Merry Christmas from HBO: “The Life & Times of Tim” to return in 2010

Christmas has come early to fans of HBO’s animated series “The Life & Times of Tim.”

Variety reports that the series – the first season of which aired way back in the fall of 2008 – will finally return at 10:30 p.m. Feb. 19, following “The Ricky Gervais Show.”

“Tim” – in case you haven’t heard – is the brainchild of Steve Dildarian, an East Brunswick, N.J., native. In addition to thinking up the painfully awkward situations Tim frequently finds himself in (think an animated “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Steve is also responsible for bringing us the Budweiser lizards and the happy-school-is-starting father in that Staples commercial. You can learn more about Steve by reading my 2008 interview with him on my website.

Meanwhile, posts on the show’s Facebook fan page (which include comments from Peter Giles, who hilariously voices Tim’s boss) indicate the first season will be available on DVD around the same time as the second season premiere. 2010 is looking brighter already!

“Jersey Shore”: Stupid is as stupid does

Just when I thought that maybe – just maybe – the cast of “Jersey Shore” was putting on an act and just pretending to be dumb, Jay Leno invites Snooki, Pauly D and The Situation on for a little “Jeopardy”-like competition.

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I don’t think there’s any question now about their intelligence. However, I do think they all have bright futures in comedy. This was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time!

“Jersey Shore”: Here’s The Situation

So here’s The Situation:

MTV’s “Jersey Shore” has people divided into two camps; there are those who love the *reality* show for its pure entertainment value, and those who hate it because they believe it – like its predecessors “The Sopranos” and “Real Housewives of New Jersey” – reinforces negative stereotypes about Italian-Americans.

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Obviously, Conan O’Brien is in the former camp. And after watching the first three hours of this train wreck (during which I couldn’t bring myself to look away, no matter how inane the conversations), I have to say I agree. Hey, I’m from Jersey, and I certainly don’t like the idea of people actually believing that everyone in the Garden State behaves like Snooki, J-Woww and Pauly D, et al. But then, you’d have to be pretty ignorant to think that in the first place.

For the record, Sammi is the only cast member who’s actually a Jersey girl. (Though her behavior toward BFF Ronnie was pretty atrocious last week, I’m willing to give her a chance to make her home state – and hometown of Hazlet and alma mater of William Paterson – proud. I have a feeling I might be waiting a while…)

Meanwhile, here’s the rest of Conan’s interview with The Situation and Snooki. Alas, no mention was made of the punch felt around the world – or the New York schoolteacher who threw it:

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Not to be outdone, Jimmy Kimmel (who is of Italian descent and says he doesn’t find the show offensive) also invited The Situation, Snooki and Pauly D on his show. Check it out:

No matter what the controversy, you have to realize that a show is having an impact on popular culture if two late-night talk show hosts have featured “Jersey Shore” cast members before the third episode of this series has even aired. I’m certainly impressed. Plus, I think you can definitely say the show has its first genuine breakout star: The Situation. From what we’ve seen here, he’s actually pretty charming.

In the meantime, if you want to try out the Guido/Guidette name generator Conan was talking about, go here.

Update

If you think these videos of the “Jersey Shore” cast are amusing, then check out this video from “The Jay Leno Show.”

What’s in a name? A lot, when it comes to Ava

Over the course of my years on this Earth, I’ve come to accept that people are going to mispronounce my name. It’s inevitable, really.

It’s not my last name that I’m bemoaning. Not at all. Believe it or not, it’s my first name that frequently gets people’s tongues all twisted.

It doesn’t seem to matter that Ava has officially cracked the Top 10 baby names this year – many people still don’t know how to say it. And I should know, because I run across a lot of them.

It’s a palindrome, for heaven’s sake, and all of three letters long. Regular “Sesame Street” viewers should be able to spell it after one adorable lesson (preferably with Ernie and Bert or Grover).

I’ve heard it all – Ahhh-va, E-va, Aaa-va.

(Apparently, none of these people have ever heard of the above screen goddess Ava Gardner.)

So you can imagine my reaction when I saw Jersey girl Chelsea Handler interview Jersey girl (Edison, to be exact) Susan Sarandon’s daughter, Eva Amurri, on “Chelsea Lately” last night.

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It wasn’t the interview itself I had a problem with; the “Californication” star is pretty and pleasant enough. It’s just that she – or, to be more exact, her mother and father (Italian director Franco Amurri) – decided to put the accent on the wrong syll-ah-ble, if you get my drift. Because Eva doesn’t pronounce her name E-va or even A-va (as Eva Mendes and a whole bunch of Europeans do), oh no.

She pronounces it Eh-va.

You’ve got to be kidding! The last thing we Avas – and that’s A-vas – of the world need is another goofy pronunciation to further muddy the waters.

Enough, already!

“As The World Turns”: Thanks for the memories

2009 has been a banner – oops, I mean bummer – of a year for me.

2009? See ya later!

First off, I turned 40.

Blech.

But the powers that be decided that scary number wasn’t enough of a reminder for me that I’m getting O-L-D. Oh, no.

A month before my big 4-0, Michael Jackson died. One of the biggest entertainers of all time – and perhaps the biggest symbol of my generation – gone. Poof.

And now, as 2009 draws to a close, comes the disturbing news that another fond memory of my teen-dom is biting the dust:

The daytime soap opera “As the World Turns” – which has been turning for a whopping 54 years – has been canceled by CBS.

Be still my beating heart.

Though I haven’t watched “ATWT” in probably about 20 years, this news still pains me. I have many fond memories of the residents of Oakdale, Ill.: Holden, Lily, Dusty, Craig, Lucinda, Iva and Josh/Rod, to name but a few. The show launched the successful careers of several actors, including Meg Ryan, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Parker Posey and William Fichtner, all of whom were on the show when I watched it.

And I’ll never forget my wonderful yet all-too-brief correspondence with one of its biggest stars of the ’80s: Frank Runyeon. Frank played Steve Andropoulos, a hot-to-trot Greek whose romance with Betsy Stewart drove fans wild. Betsy, by the way, was initially played by none other than the adorable Meg Ryan (from 1982-1984). Lindsay Frost took over the role from 1984 to 1988 (according to Wikipedia).

Frank sent me this autographed photo (note my name at the top- yay!) during our brief correspondence in 1986./Photo by Ava Gacser

But I digress. My correspondence with Frank began as an assignment for my journalism class at Franklin High School. I was a junior at the time and a staff writer for the school newspaper, The Beacon. I remember our teacher, Mrs. Fama, instructing us to write letters to celebrities requesting interviews. I was amazed when Frank actually wrote me back and suggested we be pen pals.

This is the final letter Frank wrote me, dated October 1986, in which he let me know he was leaving "As The World Turns."/Photo by Ava Gacser

I received six letters from Frank – all of them typed (I recall hearing somewhere he was a quick typist!) – beginning in March 1986 and ending in October. Even cooler, he composed each one on the back of “ATWT” scripts!  Check it out:

This page from an "As The World Turns" script includes scenes with Steve, Betsy, Lily, Lucinda and Sierra./Photo by Ava Gacser

By now you might be thinking that there’s actually no Jersey connection to this story. But that’s where you’d be wrong:  Frank is a Princeton University graduate!

And my Jersey love for “ATWT” doesn’t end there, no sirree. When Jon Hensley came along – playing the “buck naked” bad boy Holden Snyder opposite Martha Byrne’s sweet-as-pie Lily Walsh – I was head over heels. So imagine my teenage reaction when I discovered that Jon was going to appear at the opening of the Wick Plaza strip mall in Edison, N.J.!

"As The World Turns" star Jon Hensley signed autographs for fans at the grand opening of Wick Plaza in Edison, N.J., on April 30, 1988./Photo by Ava Gacser

In addition to meeting Jon (a Browns Mills native) and snapping some great pictures like the one above at the event, I also got this autographed photo of him.

Another personally autographed photo. Score!/Photo by Ava Gacser

In case you haven’t read between the lines yet, “ATWT” is responsible for awakening my teenage lust. And with these hot actors – and their relatively close proximity to me – how could it not?

Alas, as the ’80s turned into the ’90s, my interest in “ATWT’ waned. But even though 20+ years (good grief!) have passed since my obsession with the show, I still remember it fondly and am sorry to see it go.

(In fact, to this day, every time I drive down Route 1 in North Brunswick and pass the Oakdale Mobile Home Park, I think of the show.)

Fortunately, I have all of these great experiences and memories to hold on to. Thanks, “As The World Turns.”

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