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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

My Mad Men recap: Don and Megan ask, are we mostly the product of our parents' bad choices?

mm_rj_507_1020_0903a.jpgI fear the ultimate message of this year's Mad Men season will be that we all are the product of our parents' crappy choices.

That's the unmistakable not-so-subtext unveiled in Sunday's episode, "At the Codfish Ball," which introduced us to the miserable, French-Canadian parents of hero Don Draper's new wife Megan.

They have the discomfiting habit of speaking insults in French and arguing bitterly in public, as her father Emile Calvet struggles with the reality that his career is fading while his daughter has married in embodiment of everything he opposes as an intellectual.

Julia Ormond, just 47 in real life, shines as Megan's fading mother Marie, a woman so lonely in her bitter union she seems to wish she could marry Don herself (not surprising since, if the character is old as the actress, Marie is closer to Don's age than Megan is).

Given Emile's strict values, Communist politics, life of professordom and professional compromises -- he is, after all, a Marxist who had a Capitalist book deal -- it seems Megan's attraction to Don makes a bit more sense.

mm_my_507_1024_2039.jpgDrawn to Draper's success and power -- which dad likely never had -- but not put off by his strictness and emotional unavailability, Megan is, like so many children, a better version of the parents who produced her.

The showcase moment plot-wise is, of course, the business dinner where Megan and Don team up to deliver a new pitch to Heinz which saves their account. Megan divines the firm is about to get fired in a powder-room moment with a Heinz executive's wife, then dazzles them both by prodding her husband to pitch them her idea for beans served through the ages.

To these ears, the pitch sounded worse than their previous ideas. But the moment served its purpose -- demonstrating how formidable Mr. and Mrs. Draper can be when they work together; Don's authority and reputation burnishing her creativity and spot-on instincts.

The real question, as always, is how this affects the office. Peggy Olson congratulates Megan for sealing the deal, clueless to how Megan's ascension as Don's right hand will affect her own future. Already feeling overlooked and overworked, how will she react when Don turns to his wife for the kind of creative input she once provided?

Will the real irony here be that the woman who gets to become the female Don Draper turns out to be his wife?

mm_rj_507_1020_0273a.jpgThe moment everyone will discuss today is, of course, when Marie meets Roger Sterling at an American Cancer Society dinner for Don and winds up, um, pleasuring him in the women's bathroom lounge -- a moment Don's daughter Sally witnesses in one of those transformative accidents we often have as kids.

It's the instant when you recognize that adults you know and trust are capable of acting as awful as anyone you might meet on the street -- and its often the difference between seeing the world as a child and knowing it as someone more mature. Sally already has more than a touch of her father's merciless habit for self-preservation -- blaming her brother for an accident she caused which led her stepfather's mother to break her ankle. Lord knows what seeing her grandmother-in-law servicing Uncle Roger will do to her.

For Marie, it seems, a tryst with Roger is the next best thing to bedding Don. It is his fate, it seems, to be surrounded by maternal, sexually promiscuous women.

mm_rj_507_1020_0981a.jpgIn subplot-land, I wonder if Peggy's decision to move in with her boyfriend is a example of the two living a more modern life, or Peggy letting another needy man take advantage of her. Old fashioned as her mother may be, it's worth remembering this mom has seen her daughter have a child out of wedlock and shrug off traditional family-building for the world of work.

When Peggy's mom refuses to accept their arrangement, you're left wondering if she's giving the right advice for the wrong reasons.

In the end, Weiner manages to pull all the joy out of what should be a triumphant award for Don from the American Cancer Society. Draper learns no one in Manhattan's high-power business/advertising complex trusts him; Emile learns his daughter will never live the dreams he had for her and Sally learns the adults in her life are more screwed up than she ever could have imagined.

Somewhere, somehow, Sigmund Freud is laughing.

 

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Jimmy Kimmel and Barack Obama skewer Washington at the White House Correspondent's Dinner

obama-kimmel-1200.jpgWith no new Saturday Night Live on the tube this weekend, it was up to the infamous "nerdprom" -- the 2012 White House Correspondent's Dinner -- to provide the weekend's political-based laughs, including shots by host Jimmy Kimmel at everyone from Kim Kardashian and former Current TV anchor Keith Olbermann to the president himself.

"There's a term for guys like President Obama...probably not two terms, but..." joked Kimmel, who seemed both visibly nervous and gleefully insulting, skewering everyone in the room and beyond, pushing the limits of comedy just enough that a few people had pained smiles pasted on. "If you told me when I was a kid, I would be sitting on the same dais as President Barack Obama, I would have said...the president's name is Barack Obama?"

If you followed any prominent journalists in social media, you got a particularly interesting look at the dinner; folks such as New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter and media columnist Rachel Sklar sent pictures and messages via Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #nerdprom.

The result was an experience where followers could get even closer to the action, seeing photos and snippets of encounters close to real time -- like looking through a friend's photo album seconds after the pictures were taken.

It's an odd bit of pageantry, leaving critics like me to wonder what Kardashian, Zooey Deschanel and other celebrity attendees really have to do with the intersection of politics and media such events represent. But in today's super-connected media universe, we may have no better evidence how intertwined the worlds of entertainment, news media, politics and power have become.

(For a really acerbic take, check Alex Pareene's version here)

Hopefully, it's not a trend where the public ends up being to the butt of the joke.

Enjoy Kimmel's and the President's routine below:

 

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Weekend funny: Thursday's 30 Rock live episode (both East and West coast versions!)

30-rock.jpgIf you're like me and happened to be away from the TV on Thursday night, you're in luck; NBC has made 30 Rock's live episodes available online.

So give your Friday productivity a hit and check out these embedded versions of both the West Coast and East Coast renditions. There are some differences; the cameo appearances by celebrities in the first scene are different (one's a Beatle, one should be crushed like one).

The East Coast version has more mistakes -- look for a misplaced floor director's hand at the first scene after the theme song and Tina Fey flubs a line where she's arguing with Kenny.

The West Coast version has less energy -- did the same audience attend both broadcasts? -- and a cute bit where they tucked in info from the NFL draft in the theme song.

Sad as it is to see the show likely going away after next season, the lack of buzz for this stunt is indicative of how much viewers have taken the show for granted in recent years.

Still, take 40 minutes or so and check out both versions -- they're almost better comedy than the network morning newscasts, and that's saying a lot.

 

 

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WDUV-FM morning man Dick Ring retires Friday after 32 years on the job

dick-ring.jpgDick Ring may be the most successful personality with the lowest profile in Tampa Bay area radio.

While rivals on flashier stations talked to strippers or pulled stunts on air, Ring spent the last 32 years providing a friendly voice for the traffic, weather and news reports at WDUV-FM (105.5 The Dove), an easy listening “soft adult contemporary” music station which is also one of the most listened-to outlets in the Tampa Bay area.

At age 69, Ring has decided to retire, leaving WDUV as one of area radio’s longest-running on air personalities. And he’ll leave in much the same way he’s filled the station’s morning show; quietly and with a friendly dignity.

Today is his last morning show before heading to a home in North Carolina with wife Joyce, and he’s asked for no on air retrospectives or drawn out goodbyes. On Monday, Ann Kelly will take his spot while also filling the afternoon drive slot on WWRM-FM (94.9 Magic) from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“It’s tough walking away; I would rather go quietly,” said Ring, who decided to retire more than a year ago. “I attribute my long career to keeping a low profile. If they can’t find you, they can’t fire you.”

WDUV regularly scores as the top station among all listeners age six and above. Mention that the station is considered a haven for older listeners — its target audience is aged 35 to 64 — and general manager Wendi Power notes they have also ranked fifth in listeners aged 25 to 54.

On any day, you might hear Bob Seger’s Against the Wind or The Five Stairsteps’ Ooh Child; outside Ring’s show, the songs are played by a computer with a pre-recorded voice smoothing transitions.

Since 1981 Ring has been the station’s morning voice, welcoming listeners “with a Ring in their ear,” touting WDUV at personal appearances. He came to the Tampa Bay area in 1974 from Dover, N.H., landing first at WTRL in Bradenton and then WDUV seven years later.

“An on air personality becomes like family for so many people,” said Power, noting Ring will likely still appear in advertisements airing on the station. “We’ll miss him, but we’re happy for him.”

Ring credited the station’s steady, unobtrusive approach for its success, but he might well have been talking about himself.

“It’s not intrusive and people appreciate that, (so) I try not to be intrusive,” he said. “I keep the chatter to a minimum; our mantra is the music.”

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Join me for a talk on the history of jazz at the Carter G. Woodson Museum in St. Petersburg tonight

jam.jpegAs part of the Carter G. Woodson Museum's series of lectures in honor of Jazz Appreciation Month, I've agreed to host their last one, at 7 tonight, on the evolution of jazz through the 1960s and the creation of fusion jazz.

It's all centered on the last two episodes of Ken Burns' amazing Jazz documentary series, which we'll screen portions of and talk about.

The Woodson has had some great local players stop by to share their thoughts -- as a journalist, I expect to ask as many questions, as anything.

But I hope we'll have a really interesting dialog about the past, present and future of a great American music art form which doesn't get much attention anymore.

Hoping you care enough to stop by and join us.

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NBC on air correction could clear up confusion over misedited Zimmerman 911 tape audio

zimmerman-edited-call_1893.jpgIt's become a truism about modern big media journalism outlets: They want transparency and openness from every institution but their own.

The latest example seems to be at NBC, where the company has provided a relatively vague explanation of how it came to misleadingly edit audio of a 911 tape featuring George Zimmerman, the volunteer neighborhood watchman accused of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin in a Feb. 26 altercation.

And despite issuing public statements and interviews on the subject, the network's news department hasn't admitted its error in the one place where it is most important -- on the airwaves where the mistake was broadcast in the first place.

As New York Times media columnist David Carr pointed out, NBC executives have spoken publicly about the error, which they attributed to an unnamed experienced producer who they say was subsequently fired.  But they have not pointed out the editing mistakes on air, where the audience originally saw the mistaken edits (one edit made it seem as if Zimmerman volunteered information about Martin's race to a 911 dispatcher when he was responding to a question.)

Andrew Beaujon at Poynter.org revealed that a reporter at NBC affiliate WTVJ in Miami,  Jeff Burnside, has also been fired for making a similar edit to the 911 tape for a story aired there. The SFLTV blog, which first reported Burnside's firing, also originally said the story WTVJ aired was the same piece which eventually aired on the Today show.

But according to the Poynter story, WTVJ's version was different, though edited in a similar way.

All of this has added to confusion over how NBC broadcast the misleading video and what it will do to ensure such mistakes don't happen again. Given its connection to liberal cable news channel MSNBC, and the visibility of anchor Al Sharpton in leading protests calling for Zimmerman's arrest and prosecution -- it becomes even more important for NBC to tell its viewers how the mistake was made and what the tape actually said.

I'm not hopeful they actually will correct the mistake -- it aired on the Today show a month ago and has been the subject of numerous press accounts. And even though NBC News president Steve Capus told Carr "you're probably right" when the media critic said the network should have corrected its mistake on air, there was no indication that was actually going to happen.

Even though, as Carr also points out, they air four hours of the Today show every day.

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Ty Burrell and three castmates from Modern Family bring hit TV show to Clearwater stage tonight

modern-family-dunphy.pngBefore Modern Family became the meteoric comedy hit that scorches TV screens every Wednesday, Ty Burrell was the guy you often saw doing great work in not-so-great acting situations.

He was, to this critic's eye, the only funny character in Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton's unfortunate 2008 Fox sitcom Back to You. And he was the bound-for-irrelevance rebound boyfriend for Liv Tyler in the ambitious comic book movie The Incredible Hulk.

But now, Burrell's skill at looking clueless is put to good use playing Phil Dunphy, the dorkiest member of the hilariously dysfunctional extended clan on Modern Family.

And he has joined three of the show's most popular co-stars — you know, except Sofia Vergara and that guy who once played Ed Bundy — in a stage show offering some special video clips, discussion with the cast and an audience Q&A.

"It's essentially, I guess, like a live talk show," said Burrell, who will appear tonight with castmates Eric Stonestreet (Cameron Tucker), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell Pritchett) and Julie Bowen (Claire Dunphy) at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

"It's basically like, if we were in your living room," he added. "You know, if you wanted four idiots in your living room."

It's also part of a growing trend in which enterprising theater owners and booking agents are turning TV shows into live stage experiences.

modernfamily041_218841c.jpgBurrell said the cast members got the idea for their current appearances after he, Stonestreet and Ferguson did a similar gig at Ohio State University.

Their reception was so strong — the words "treated like rock stars" have been thrown about — the cast decided to try it in a few more venues while the show is on hiatus from filming.

"The affection for the characters has been so strong, it was a really fun night," Burrell said. "It's a silly, silly show, but we really value the heartfelt elements, too. And that's one of the aspects we enjoy talking to the fans about."

Bobby Rossi, director of entertainment at Ruth Eckerd Hall, explained that the Modern Family show is a new evolution of a longtime trend.

rutheckerd-pacino-on-stage.jpgThe hall has hosted special meet-the-star appearances for many years, featuring everyone from Carol Burnett and Cary Grant to, more recently, Goldie Hawn and Al Pacino (at right, with Times film critic Steve Persall).

And "reality TV" stars such as Dinner: Impossible host Robert Irvine have learned that stage shows can help them make more money off their TV fame.

But the Modern Family show is a rarity: the cast from a show in its creative and ratings prime hitting stages to greet fans.

"I think it really helps spread the word about what they do. . . . It's building the brand," said Rossi, noting press reports that the four cast members and Vergara are renegotiating their salaries with ABC (according to The Hollywood Reporter, they earn just $65,000 an episode and are seeking a bump to $200,000).

But with VIP tickets priced at $200 each (including dinner, prime seats and a meet-and-greet with the stars), along with regular seats going from $49 to $75, there's lots of revenue coming in.

modernfamily_s1_blu_e.jpg"It's easily the most lucrative part of what I do," chef Anthony Bourdain said back in 2009 to the Wall Street Journal, which noted that superstar chefs could earn anywhere from $10,000 to $75,000 per appearance at high-profile events.

In a way, it seems a bit odd that in the era of Twitter and Facebook, where fans can watch their favorite stars converse with each other online as if they were overhearing banter at a cocktail party, such in-person shows are so popular.

But they also draw the most intense fans, turning the evening into an ego-boosting encounter for the stars and a pep rally of sorts for a community of enthusiasts.

"It's easy money," Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the touring industry trade magazine Pollstar, told the Chicago Tribune last year. "It costs next to nothing to promote these shows because the fans are already there, and production costs could be cheap as a microphone. . . . They're like the world's largest meet-and-greets without pressing much flesh."

Rossi, at Ruth Eckerd Hall, said the venue even considered booking Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler for a evening called "Talk This Way," featuring obscure video clips and stories from the band's history.

But that was before Tyler started working on a little show called American Idol.

"Back in the days when we only had three TV networks, celebrities became these incredible culture heroes, bigger than life," he said. "This is bringing back that feeling, across multiple demographics."

modfam_post.jpgBurrell expects to share backstage stories, such as the way writers will hijack details from the actors' real lives for storylines on the show.

"When I get excited . . . either excited or stressed, I blink really heavily," he said. "And Jesse always makes fun of me for it, as he should. So the writers wrote a storyline for Mitch and Phil where Phil basically has to break some really bad news to Mitch and I go on this blinking binge. It's like my poker tell, but it's more like a wind farm."

At age 44, Burrell won an Emmy last year playing Dunphy, the high point of a successful run for the show that has included an Emmy for best TV comedy, a Golden Globe and a Peabody award.

"I don't have much to compare this experience to, because I had a handful of film and TV experiences that were really rewarding . . . (but) the audience wasn't there for them," he said.

"This is the first time that I've ever had this combination where all of us feel so creatively rewarded and the audience is really responding to what we're doing so strongly."

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President Obama slow jams the news with Jimmy Fallon; calls scandalized Secret Service agents "knuckleheads"

fallon-obama.jpgWho would have thought, watching Jimmy Fallon struggle to fit into Conan O'Brien's shoes just a few years ago, that he would grow good enough at his late night hosting job to welcome the President of the United States?

But on Tuesday, Fallon lodged another high water mark, welcoming President Barack Obama in a lengthy appearance which included a turn in the show's "slow jam the news" segment and lots of interview time.

It's a move which made sense for the president, pushing an extension to low interest rates for student loans and trying to energize young potential voters, which fills Fallon's audience.

And despite griping from political opponents that the appearance was beneath him, Obama also pulled off something his opponent Mitt Romney could likely never handle -- looking confident and relaxed in a talk show environment where he could poke a little fun at his own image and the stuffiness of political convention.

More than anything, this appearance was another sign that Fallon has ascended as a late night host, filling the job better than anyone except perhaps mentor Lorne Michaels may have expected.

Maybe now he's ready for his next big challenge -- bringing on Romney and making him look personable, too.

 

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Fester from MJ Morning Show denies rumor he is joining Bubba the Love Sponge's show

whpt-logo2.jpgHe first heard the rumors about 20 minutes before I called, but onetime MJ Morning Show castmember Domenick "Fester" Siciliano denied a story floating around the local radio scene that he was about to join former rival Bubba the Love Sponge Clem's program.

A slot opened up on Clem's show when onetime sidekick Matt "Spice" Lloyd moved to evenings on WHPT-FM (102.5 The Bone) after the station moved to an all-talk format on Monday.

The website Radio-Info.com published a story today saying Fester would fill that job, based on a rumor someone mentioned on the site's message boards.

But Fester said he wouldn't be filling the slot, hinting that he might hope to host his own show after a break.

"It's completely untrue," he said of the current rumors.   

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Can Clearwater native Juliet Simms keep Tampa Bay's reality TV hopes alive on The Voice?

the_voice_juliet_simms.jpgThe year started with such promise for Tampa Bay area fans of reality TV.

voice-juliet-simms3.jpgBut within a few months, we've seen folks with local ties bounced off Survivor, The Amazing Race, Fear Factor and American Idol, leaving Clearwater native Juliet Simms as our only hope for local redemption on NBC's singing competition The Voice.

She took the stage Monday with a strained version of Aerosmith's "Cryin'," dressed in a stage outfit garnished with huge feathers, as if she'd stepped off a Las Vegas casino stage.

Her rock 'n' rock spirit was evident, but a few of the notes weren't quite there to my ears; still, superstar coaches Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine were supportive and Simms has seemed a favorite for much of the show.

Green and Levine sent different singers home through an instant elimination Monday night, handing walking papers to James Massone and Pip.

But another elimination awaits tonight at 9 p.m.; voting is still open until 10 a.m. and you can vote by email or Facebook by clicking here.

Check out Simms' performance below, and ask yourself: Is she The Voice?

 

 

 

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Don Germaise, ABC Action News' longest-tenured reporter, to retire from the station May 25

don-germaise.jpgHe admits being much more comfortable reporting the news than being in it.

But Don Germaise will take center stage at least once more at Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28, following news that he has decided to retire from the station May 25, ending his run as the station’s longest-tenured reporter.

Germaise, 53, was the first reporter hired at WFTS and fronted the first story broadcast on the station, which debuted its news department in 1994 amid a massive affiliation switch among several stations in the Tampa market.

"All I remember is, it was a story about a child molester in Manatee County," said the reporter, noting he and his photographer had to rush to the station’s studios, then in Clearwater, to deliver the report because they had no satellite trucks. "(Anchor) Brendan McLaughlin mispronounced my name in my first story…We still joke about it."

dongermaise.jpgGermaise developed a reputation for boundless energy and attention-getting presentations, telling viewers to “hunker down” so much during hurricane coverage – he reported from most every major storm in Florida during the 2000s -- it became a catchphrase fans still occasionally toss at him in public.

When he held up a potato chip to show how Calgary’s Saddledome looked like a Pringle during hockey coverage, it sparked arguments among passionate fans in Canada (Germaise said a Canadian family even recognized him at Disney World).

He even got stung in the face while reporting on the removal of Africanized “killer” bees from a house in Tarpon Springs.

One dark spot: Germaise was suspended for a month in 2006 after the Times reported a white separatist claimed the reporter agreed to answer questions for his camera in exchange for the separatist’s cooperation with a story for the station.

But that was a small speed bump on an expansive local career. “There's no replacing a Don Germaise,” said WFTS news director Doug Culver, who called him "the Action News go-to guy" in an email to staff. He added the station will likely air some kind of tribute.

“If nothing else, we gotta run all those ‘hunker down’ clips,” Culver said. 

Though many experienced street reporters are getting pushed out of local TV, Germaise insists the decision to leave was his own; as his daughter Lexi graduates from high school in May, he wants to volunteer for local charities and work on his bucket list.

“I'm lucky enough that I don't have to work,” he said. “Now I feel I owe it to the community to give back.”
 

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WHPT's FM talk revolution could bring back bad old days of knucklehead radio

whpt-bubba-talk-logo.jpgIt’s your classic good news/bad news scenario.

whpt-tlak-logo.jpgOne the one hand, watching Cox Radio convert WHPT-FM (102.5 The Bone) into an all-talk station starting today feels like watching the local radio scene rise from the dead — trying something new after years of downsizing, cost-cutting and retrenchment.

But the talk format Cox Radio is splashing across its dial can be contentious and problematic.

Today the station debuted its new format, launching a host of jocks to join star personalities Bubba the Love Sponge Clem (6 to 10 a.m.) and Mike “Cowhead” Calta (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) weekdays at the station.

Drew Garabo, morning personality at Cox Radio-owned WSUN-FM (97.1), will pop up on WHPT from 10 a.m. to noon; Billy Madison, a morning host in San Antonio, offers a live show from noon to 3 p.m. for the Tampa market from Texas; and Matt “Spice” Lloyd will leave Clem’s show to host his own program from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Call it shock jock radio, or “hot talk,” but the format is male-centered, sometimes sexist, awkward on race issues and drawn to stunts of questionable taste.

This new lineup at WHPT, for example, doesn’t feature any female personalities. Program director Mike “Shark” Sharkey said they are talking to one woman who might appear on four different shows across the day.

“The Bone has always been a male-oriented talk station,” Sharkey said. “We’re not going to offend for the sake of offense … but we’re going to stir the pot.”

Many industry watchers remember the on-air boar slaughtering years ago that got Clem prosecuted (and acquitted) for animal cruelty when he worked for Clear Channel Radio.

And even though Clem hasn’t tried anything nearly as shocking at Cox Radio, he has aired a parody song about immigration titled “Those F------ Mexicans, They Gotta Go” and posted “f--- Haiti” on his Twitter feed after the earthquake there.

Here’s a list of the pros and cons at hand.

cowhead-ltng-logo_t960.jpgPRO: It’s live and local, mostly.  With a ratings system that seems to reward more music and less talk, FM stations have been cutting down the talk and amping up the music. It’s a shortsighted approach. If I want music, I have an iPod to jack into my car stereo; new cars will have Internet capability. Radio should offer unique content, which means live and local voices telling me things that aren’t on my smartphone or MP3 player.

CON: It can get out of hand quickly. When Tampa had radio stations filled with local talent, there was some pretty awful stuff on the radio, too. Mark Larsen had his “humpday” news segments with bizarre stories lampooning gay people; Ron Diaz and Ron Bennington’s Ron & Ron show had fake “week in race” reports from a supposed former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard; and WFLZ-FM had a bikini contest featuring pregnant women on Mother’s Day.

Cool as it will be to have a live talk alternative, those examples highlight the bad old days we really don’t need to revisit.

PRO: It shakes up commercial talk radio. For too long, radio listeners have had mostly three choices in local talk: political conservatives, sports and noncommercial hosts on NPR and WMNF-FM. Clear Channel turned the most powerful AM station in town into a megaphone for its syndicated conservative talkers Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.

But with audiences for those guys aging and shrinking, it’s time for a fresh approach.

CON: It increases the pressure to do something stupid. Hot talk formats work best when the host is pushing boundaries, creating buzz. In the case of WHPT’s Calta, that meant giving out the personal cellphone of late night host Conan O’Brien’s publicist during a feud, as well as joking with Charlie Sheen during the actor’s Tampa stage show about film critic Roger Ebert’s cancer.

And while the O’Brien thing was almost funny (to everybody but the publicist), who knows what the new guys might do to prove themselves? Is the Tampa Bay area ready for a station full of shock jocks unleashed?

PRO: It could reverse a seriously declining industry. Layoffs have pulled a string of great local radio personalities off the air, simultaneously shutting down the pipeline for new talent.

Of course, by writing all this, I’m making myself a target, too. There’s no better position for a hot talk radio personality than to rail against the establishment, especially a know-it-all media critic whose nose for prejudice and sexism sounds like political correctness to some people.

Believe it or don’t, I actually hope this all-talk experiment works. Commercial radio is a great platform, but its biggest success has come from smart programmers willing to take chances on new ideas.

Here’s hoping it works without inflicting too much knuckleheadedness on the rest of us.

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Mad Men recap: Don Draper's long, strange trip

 

mm_my_506_1011_2020.jpgOf all the strange trips we saw Mad Men characters take in Sunday's episode, the most bizarre was reserved for our hero Don Draper -- and considering one of the other characters dropped acid for the first time, that's saying a lot.

Producer Matt Weiner and his writers took the audience on  trip of sorts as well, playing with time as the stories of several characters jumped off from the same, fateful moment Draper decided to take his young wife Megan to Howard Johnson's for a workday getaway.

While it is interesting to see how much different their relationship is compared to Draper's first marriage, it also feels odd to see a show with four seasons of prior history suddenly spend so much time on a character we met for an instant over a year and half ago.

Still, it is obvious Megan is no Betty Draper. While first wife Betty tolerated and in some ways needed Don to be his controlling, decisive self, the younger, more independent Megan doesn't handle her husband's last-minute decision to pull her off an important account meeting for a trip to a family restaurant she's never patronized.

mm_my_506_1012_1131.jpgYou can sense how Weiner relishes putting these characters in even more intimate positions, making us uncomfortable even while showing us new sides to characters we've spent years dissecting. When their visit to the Howard Johnson's in upstate New York blows up after Megan pushes back against Don's insistence she eat their crappy food and pretend to like orange sherbet, she tells him to call his mother.

Longtime fans know that Draper's mother was a 22-year-old prostitute who died giving birth to him, something his stepmother never let him forget and an enduring wound the show seems to unearth at the oddest times. It seems to be the source of the deep hole of insecurity that Draper fills with his false identity and brash manner; Megan pulling that card in a fight was the psychological equivalent of kicking him in the naughty bits.

So Don drives away from the restaurant, feels remorse, goes back to find she's gone and waits for many hours before heading back to their home and having a borderline violent confrontation with her. There's lots of ways to defend this scene -- many couples have hidden lives of extreme emotion, Don's troubled upbringing leads him to abusive behavior when feelings run high, he is acting differently because he loves this woman in a way he never did with Betty.

mm_ja_ep506_1012_2011_0207.jpgBut this still feels like he's trying a little too hard to show us new sides of Don, a guy we've already gotten to know pretty intimately these past few years. And it also feels like an odd attempt to replace Betty with Megan for the audience -- showing us a wife more in tune with modern sensibilities as an avatar for our modern sensibilities.

Peggy continues her quest to become the new Don, pleasuring a stranger in a movie theater and trying to bully a client into accepting an ad campaign. But times haven't changed quite that much, leaving our Betty still stuck; a liberated woman still pushing to break out of her times.

Roger can only face his life's reality by doing LSD. Kind of amazing that, after dropping acid with his wife's therapist and her high-minded friends, that Roger is the one who keeps his wits about him best.

But most of this feels like window dressing around Don's journey; a tale of a damaged man trying to learn how to love a modern woman without losing his high-powered life.

My money's on the lifestyle.

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Jon Stewart takes on Rick Scott, Joe Biden and cable TV news' outrage machine in Clearwater show

stewart-shake.jpgSidesplitting as he was during his shows at Ruth Eckerd Hall Saturday, Daily Show host Jon Stewart was most poignant backstage, calling his wife and kids between shows to talk over how the day went and say goodnight to everybody.

You'd never guess that guy, striding the halls backstage to get better cellphone reception, was the firebrand who 75 minutes earlier ribbed Floridians for electing Rick Scott governor and voting for a legislature which gave us the Stand Your Ground law.

He had been in Florida for only a few hours, but Stewart already had us pegged.

"It's always fun to come to Florida because you never know what might kill you," he said onstage Saturday. "It's like, every time Arizona passes a f----- up law, Florida goes, 'We can top that,' " he said, laughing. "I understand the states are the laboratory of Democracy … but you don't have to turn it into a meth lab."

Of course, the insults didn't matter to the faithful crowded into the hall for a look at their hero, one of the world's best satirists of media and politics, who closed his show by noting he knew New York would survive 9/11 when he saw a hobo pleasuring himself on his apartment's front stoop.

"I'm Jewish, my wife is Catholic, and we are raising our kids to be … sad," Stewart cracked, before launching into a riff on how Christianity always wins because its big holidays are based on giving kids candy and presents from a jolly fat guy.

stewart-class-warfare.jpgEntering to wild applause from the capacity crowd of 2,054 people, Stewart cut a different figure than Daily Show fans might expect. Clad in khaki pants and a black sweatshirt, he left the suit and tie back in New York City, offering a show that sometimes dipped into bits aired previously on the show, but with new life on stage.

Comparing Vice President Joe Biden to an Amway salesman, Stewart wondered how a Democratic Party that got a guy named Barack Hussein Obama elected president couldn't pass a tax increase on millionaires that everybody supported — "except, you know, people who make over a million dollars a year."

The comic was equally mystified how media could treat former Vice President Dick Cheney with deference "when he's been wrong about everything for eight years" from weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to how long the war there would last.

"Try that where you work," he cracked. "Be wrong at your job for eight years, then toward the end of it, shoot an old man in the face by mistake. See how long you last."

urinesample-screen.jpgIn particular, Stewart had choice words for Governor Scott, noting how the Daily Show sent correspondent (and onetime Tampa resident) Aasif Mandvi to Tallahassee back in December, satirizing the drug testing requirement for welfare recipients by asking Scott and other state officials to provide urine samples.

Eventually, all Stewart or the crowd had to do was cap a punch line by shouting "Florida," and everyone knew — for a guy dedicated to rooting out absurdity in politics, he had hit the mother lode in the Sunshine State.

"It's just such a weird state," he said. "You have spring break, where you invite thousands of drunken frat people down. And if you feel threatened by them, you can kill them."

But just as he does on television, Stewart offered some serious messages, railing against cable TV news channels' "outrage machine" after noting the Catholic League boycotted him for a joke placing a manger between a woman's legs.

"I'm not going to censor myself to comfort your ignorance," he said, in a rare moment of seriousness.

Even while doubled over in laughter, we got the message. Professor Stewart had slipped us another powerful lesson, gilded with expert punch lines from a comedy master.

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Fanboy alert: Two new clips from superhero blockbuster The Avengers

avengers-movie-small.jpgHere's how much of a fanboy I am: When I met ace NPR film critic Bob Mondello Thursday in Washington D.C., I couldn't help gushing about the movie I can't wait to see this summer:

That's right. I gushed about The Avengers.

I also noted this summer is going to be heaven for geeks like me.

Along with The Avengers, we've got the last Dark Knight movie, the Spider Man reboot, the third Men in Black film and the movie which may or may not be a prequel for Alien, Ridley Scott's Prometheus.

If these films are nearly as good as they should be, we fanboys will have one heck of a summer.

Check out the new Avengers trailers below, featuring a fight between heroes which feels clipped right from the books I've been reading for longer than I care to remember:

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