Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Psych returns tonight
with a Leap into Adventure

Private eyes Gus Guster and Shawn Spencer own psych Psychic Detective Agency.

Psych, one of my personal favorite television shows, is premiering its one hour mid-season-6-opener tonight, Wednesday, February 29, 2012 (Leap Day) on the USA network at 10 PM EST, after a break over the winter holidays.

In tonight’s episode, “Indiana Shawn and the Temple of the Kinda Crappy, Rusty Old Dagger,” Shawn and Gus go on a hunt for a mysterious treasure – their only clue, an ancient dagger. It’s a bit of a fast paced, quick action episode, filled with drama and mayhem, funerals and art museums, old villains such as Despereaux (played by Cary Elwes), and a vapid new villainess portrayed by Madchen Amick, all set against an over-the-top Indiana Jones-esque sound track in a beautiful lush estate.

If you’ve never seen the show, be prepared to laugh. It’s a bit of a hoot.

Former childhood best friends, private eyes Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Burton ‘Gus’ Guster (Dule Hill) own their own ‘psych’ psychic detective agency solving difficult crimes and mysteries in the Santa Barbara, CA area.

Though Shawn pretends to be psychic, he isn’t really.

There’s nothing “magical” about how they work – it’s all based on science. Shawn, the son of retired police officer, now consultant, Henry Spencer (played by Corbin Bernsen) has inherited the unique and special gift of an eidetic memory, otherwise known as a photographic memory. Think of it as being able to play the tape of your life through your head, remembering fine specific details – smells, movements, tastes, and touches – some details you perhaps missed the first time through. By doing so, many of life’s greatest mysteries can therefore be solved. It’s a rare gift, but does exist in the real world to varying degrees.

Officer Henry Spencer, recognizing this trait early on in his son Shawn, drilled him incessantly as a child, teaching him to learn to pay attention and pick up details most of us would overlook, thereby improving his natural ability of excellent memory recall.

Add partner Gus Guster and his own peculiar traits and habits, combined with his endless knowledge of seemingly useless pharmacology chemistry and game trivia, and you have a recipe for a realistically quirky comedy.

Shawn and Gus are a riot. They are nerdy, good-looking intellectuals who play off each other, make stupid immature jokes, and argue back and forth over the most inane details.

It’s so insanely ridiculous, it’s funny.

Be sure to watch some of the previous episodes airing each Wednesday morning on USA.

“In for a Penny,” Season 6, Episode 7 introduces William Shatner as police detective Juliet O’Hara’s (Maggie Lawson) long estranged criminal mastermind father. He is so believable in this role, you will forget all of the other characters he’s ever played. Season 6 will bring him back again in new episodes, but I sincerely hope that Season 7 will add him in as a regularly appearing character. This role fits him like a glove.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Is Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice perpetrating fraud?

Performer Wyclef Jean wrote and sang a song for Team Forte during their first challenge, after donating $15,000 to the Wayuu Taya Foundation.

I set aside some time last night to watch the season premiere of Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice which aired from 9 PM to 11 PM on NBC on Sunday night. The show is great on many levels: It affords some lesser known celebrities more exposure and introduces the TV viewing audience to a few very worthy charities, reminding us how important it is to give what we can, when we can. However, the first challenge left a sour taste in my mouth as money raised for one charity was turned over to another.

At the start of the show, the eighteen contestants were divided into two groups of nine men and nine women. Each group chose a team name — "Unanimous" for the men, "Forte" for the women — then participated in their first challenge, selling heros for heroes — making and selling hero sandwiches to raise money for each team leaders' favorite charity.

Patricia Velasquez, known for her acting roles on movies such as The Mummy, eagerly volunteered to be the first team leader for Team Forte, so that she could begin raising money for a charity that is particularly near and dear to her, the Wayuu Taya Foundation, which serves indigenous peoples of Latin America.

In her bio, Velasquez says that she herself is Wayuu Indian. "I was one of those kids who grew up really poor, but was able to get out, because I got a chance. I got an opportunity."

At the time she started her charity exactly ten years ago, she says that one child within the Latin indigenous populations was dying each day. She constructed a school for thirty children where she could then use the school as a vehicle to provide them with food and medical care and now serves a thousand poverty-stricken children.

"Right now, I'm here because I have almost 500 kids that are literally sleeping under the trees waiting for me to finish a school. To build it, to finish it. And if I have a school, I can get two meals a day for them and medical attention. I can't turn them back. I have to build a school."

Velasquez led her team impressively, placing each of her nine members where they could do the most good for the team, some cutting up vegetables and slicing meat, some assembling sandwiches, some outside corralling donors inside, and some entertaining and hobnobbing with their guests.

A personal friend of Velasquez, Performer Wyclef Jean, came in to the cafe with his guitar to sing songs for the crowd, telling Velasquez, "I'm going to donate $15,000... for the kids. Because we could have been one of them. We are one of them." Wyclef himself is a native of Haiti and the son of a Nazarene pastor who moved to Brooklyn with his family when he was nine-years-old.

Through the generous donations of several good friends, Team Forte raised an impressive $126,962, for the Wayuu Taya Foundation, or so they thought.

However, Team Unanimous, led by American Chopper star Paul Teutul, Sr. also worked hard and called in favors from friends, inevitably winning the challenge and raising an even more impressive $332,120 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, primarily through the generous donation of one particular donor, restauranteer Carlos Urbaneja, who wrote a check for $305,000. The rest of the $27,120 was raised in the same manner that Team Forte raised their money for charity, through a few donations, big and small. In addition, the men's team also earned $35,000 from Rachel Ray who chose their sandwich to be superior in taste and presentation, earning them a total of $367,120.

Game over. Team Unanimous won fair and square and it was clear that one member of Team Forte would go home. Model and business entrepreneur Cheryl Tiegs admitted that this type of competition was not her cup of tea, and she left of her own accord.

However, in an odd maneuver, which I believe left a lot of us scratching our heads, Trump awarded the money raised by Team Forte, all $126,962 to Team Unanimous' charity, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, bringing their total to $494,120 and the money raised for the Wayuu Taya Foundation became, well... zero.

Broadway star Aubrey O'Day attempted to plead with Mr. Trump, asking him to turn over the donation that they raised for the Wayuu Taya Foundation to that charity. However, Trump cut her off, saying "No no, because I know what you're gonna say... and you really do have to give it to Paul, and also a great charity, Make-A-Wish."

However, is this even legal?

I believe it is neither ethical, nor legal, to raise money for one charity, then turn that money over to another. In fact, I believe this may technically be fraud.

Charitable giving is highly regulated by the IRS in order to prevent just anyone from claiming to be a non-profit. The percentage of a gift which becomes tax deductible varies by the type of charity. It is even on tape, that the donors believed that they were giving their money to the Wayuu Taya Foundation, and yet, their money has instead been turned over to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Even Make-A-Wish would probably find it difficult to accept a donation under such a premise. The cold hard cruel rules of the corporate world, which robs from Peter to pay Paul, cannot be applied here -- it is simply not correct.

The Trump Foundation itself should make good. They should pony up the missing money, all $126,962 to the Wayuu Taya Foundation, at no penalty to Make-A-Wish, nor toward Velasquez, nor toward any of the celebrity contestants, nor towards the NBC network.

It is the right thing to do. It is the ethical and legal thing to do.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Warp Speed ahead to Celebrity Apprentice

George Takai is featured on this season of Celebrity Apprentice.

I have to admit, that I simply do not like Donald Trump. I also don’t like the TV show, the Apprentice, either, because I feel that Trump is a male chauvinistic pig who endorses outdated stereotypes that males and females should play different roles in the workplace. I soldiered through the first season in 2004, gritting my teeth and biting my lip in anger over the obvious inequalities in his personal choices of winners and losers in each challenge. If I worked for him, he would undoubtedly dub me a witch.

However, this is Celebrity Apprentice, not the Apprentice and I’m pushing all of my feelings aside to watch the show this season. Why? It benefits charity causes rather than individuals. And this season, for the first time, it features famous people even I’ve actually heard of. And what awesome people they are!

Listed in no particular order:

George Takai (pronounced Teh-kay) — Perhaps the most well known of this season’s contestants is George Takai of Star Trek fame. Takai portrayed Lieutenant Sulu, the chief helmsman, piloting the gigantean Star Trek Enterprise throughout the galaxies, propelling the ship at full speed ahead, to warp 9. Takai is an avid publisher of jokes on Facebook, sharing hilarious cartoons, videos, and other humorous tidbits.
Charity: Japanese American National Museum

Debbie Gibson — Every girl wanted to be Debbie Gibson when I was a kid. She was a role model and idyllic teenager with a cute PG taste for fashion. Her songs still resonate within me, and I find myself humming along to “Lost in Your Eyes” in the drug store and reminiscing about old crushes when I hear “Only in My Dreams.”
Charity: Children International

Clay Aiken — Clay Aiken was the boy next door, crooning out a beautiful rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to earn 2nd place in Season 2 of American Idol.
Charity: National Inclusion Project

Cheryl Tiegs — I mostly know her for her pin up posters modeling swimsuits for Sports Illustrated and commercials where she peddled everything from Cover Girl makeup, Clairol hair color, cars, cigarettes, and her own clothing line at Sears. She currently sells a line of wigs and accessories through Revlon.
Charity: The Farrah Fawcett Foundation

Adam Carolla — What has Carolla not done? A guy with a packed resume, and a jack-of-all-trades, he’s currently an extremely hip and popular online DJ. He’s an avid car enthusiast, skilled carpenter, former boxing trainer, and real estate investor. On his online radio show, he is able to find humor in normally mundane everyday tasks, interviews top celebrities, and dissects the guts out of local Los Angeles politics.
Charity: Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters

Lou Ferigno — The Incredible Hulk! That big green guy who Bill Bixby turned into when he got angry. Yeah!
Charity: Muscular Dystrophy Association

Tia Carrera — A gorgeous actress who portrays beautiful intelligent women, I first watched her on General Hospital. She’s also been in movies, such as Wayne’s World and Lilo and Stitch.
Charity: After-School All-Stars

Arsenio Hall — Host of a fun TV show that never should have been cancelled. Arseniooooooo Hall! We want you back on late night!
Charity: Magic Johnson Foundation

Michael Andretti — Race car driver extraordinaire, he now owns his own team, Andretti Autosport. We love love love him here in central Florida where his team returns each year to participate in races in Daytona Beach.
Charity: Racing for Cancer

Penn Jillette — The speaking half of the famous magic act, Penn and Teller, I know him for his occasional drop in role as Drell on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
Charity: Opportunity Village

Dee Snider — At first, I didn’t recognize this handsome elegant silver fox. Then I clicked on his bio… Oh! He was that guy? That guy in the makeup in Twisted Sister? Well, of course I’ve heard of him. Snider is the lead singer for that great band who is responsible for writing the angry teenage anthem, “We’re Not Gonna Take It!’”...anymore!
Charity: March of Dimes

Paul Teutul, Sr. — Another Central Florida icon, Paul Teutul is best known for his role on American Chopper which brought him and his camera crew to Bike Week in Daytona Beach. He may be rough around the edges, but he can be a real sweetheart.
Charity: Make-A-Wish Foundation

Aubrey O'Day — Broadway star and former member of the hip hop band, Danity Kane, earning one gold and two platinum records.
Charity: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

Dayana Mendoza — Miss Universe 2008.
Charity: Latino Commission on AIDS

Lisa Lampanelli — Comedian.
Charity: Gay Men's Health Crisis

Patricia Velasquez — Latino Supermodel and actress, appearing in TV shows such as CSI Miami and films such as The Mummy.
Charity: The Wayuu Taya Foundation

Teresa Giudice — star of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."
Charity: The NephCure Foundation

Victoria Gotti — Best selling author.
Charity: Association to Benefit Children

I am personally unfamiliar with the following celebrity contestants: Aubrey O’Day, Dayana Mendoza, Lisa Lampanelli, Patricia Velasquez, Teresa Giudice, and Victoria Gotti, but hope to get to know them as I watch the show each week.

I’ll be rooting for all of the contestants in hopes that their favorite charity will receive some much needed attention and funding. I appreciate the good work that Donald Trump is doing with this show, and hope there are positive outcomes for all involved.

The show airs tonight at 9 PM on NBC. (Channel 4 or 1020 on Brighthouse Cable here in Orlando).

The Simpsons reach 500 episodes

The Simpsons as they originally appeared on the Tracey Ullman show in 1987.

Tonight features the 500th episode of America’s favorite primetime TV cartoon: The Simpsons. In 1987, the show debuted as silly shorts during the Tracey Ullman show, a one-hour comedy and music variety show. Drawn by cartoonist Matt Groening, it featured parodies of everyday middle class American life and features Homer, an employee of a nuclear power plant; his wife Marge donned with a stack of glorious blue hair; his brainiac daughter Lisa; his trouble-maker son Bart; and his adorable baby, Maggie.

In 1989, The Simpsons was given its own half hour time slot on FOX. It was an instant hit, and FOX television wisely capitalized on it’s popularity by repeating the same episode in additional time slots during the week, boosting ratings and revenue even further. It became the show that built FOX TV into the powerhouse that it is today.

Tonight’s episode shows the Simpsons being kicked out of town, and then trying to sneak back in.

It will air at 8 PM on FOX. That is channel 3 here in central Florida on Brighthouse Cable TV.

Some of the many characters who have appeared on The Simpsons.