Welcome

Thank you for visiting 2nd First Look! Check out our latest article on our Home page. And for more articles on film, television, music, literature, and the arts, click on the 2FL Articles button. Please leave comments on your favorite articles. And make sure to share our site with others!

2017/06/04

Chris Isaak's Beyond The Sun

by Jav Rivera

There must be some kind of magic at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. The studio was home for musicians like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. There's a distinct sound that comes from that studio and it is unlike anything else. In 2011, Chris Isaak recaptured that magic in his album, "Beyond the Sun."


The deluxe version of the album consists of 25 tracks honoring some of the most iconic music that came from Sun Studio. There are also two original songs written by Isaak. Those two sound so much like that of Presley, Orbison, and Lee Lewis that I hadn't noticed they were written by Isaak until I read the liner notes.

Chris Isaak
"Beyond the Sun" is proof of how much Isaak cherishes the history of rock music, and the liner notes read almost like a mini-biography of the Sun Studio era. There's no question of the amount of respect he has for those musicians. It's also clear by the same liner notes, as well as in interviews, that Isaak regards his band to the highest degree.

To appreciate his sentiment, you might need some background on recording music. Today, just about anyone can plug in a guitar and microphone to a computer and record something. There are endless software programs that can tweak, improve, or flat out replace mistakes. Before this technology, however, bands had to rehearse a song until it was perfect. From there they would all gather in a small studio and record the song from beginning to end without error. Take after take, the band would play until they got the best -- most flawless -- version.

As easy as it would have been to use today's technology, Isaak and his band chose the latter. They booked time at Sun Studio, and recorded all 25 tracks just like Elvis or Johnny Cash would have. The result is a record that sounds so authentic to the Sun Studio era that if you didn't know any better, you'd think that Isaak and company hopped inside a time machine. Prior to "Beyond the Sun" any Isaak fan would have told you that he has one of the tightest bands around. They gel so well you wonder if they're just a bunch of clones. And for me, this album is the finest display of their talent.

L-R: Scott Plunkett, Hershel Yatovitz, Rafael Padilla, Rowland Salley, Chris Isaak, and Kenney Dale Johnson
Sun Studio is no stranger to historians and music aficionados. It's a place of legend and even a tourist stop. It's amazing how a small building has made such a huge impact on music, history, and America. I hate to think how different music would sound today if it weren't for this little space in Memphis.

Through the liner notes, I learned about Sam Phillips -- someone who seems to be under-appreciated by the general public. Phillips can be credited for creating the Rock and Roll sound, and also for finding some of the greatest artists, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Elvis. Isaak tells a wonderful story about an article he read about Phillips, but instead of repeating the end of his story, I'll entice you by saying that it's worth it to seek out the liner notes to read it for yourself.

 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103
Prior to "Beyond the Sun," there was another album that featured music from the Sun Studio era. Released in 2001, it was entitled "Good Rockin' Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records," and was produced by Ahmet Ertegun (founder of Atlantic Records). PBS' American Masters also featured Sun Records on one of their episodes. Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and many more can be found paying homage to the Sun Record Company. Chris Isaak even has a track on it -- his cover of "It Wouldn't Be The Same Without You." And though this record is full of wonderful artists, the tracks are, for the most part, covered in the artists' own style and not quite the authentic sound that Isaak captured for his 2011 record.

Album cover and back sleeve for "Good Rockin' Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records"
Given Chris Isaak's style -- which is highly-influenced by the Sun Studio era -- it makes more sense then that "Beyond the Sun" feels like a better representation. Below is a list of my favorite tracks from the album, beginning with my absolute favorite ("That Lucky Old Sun"). Keep in mind this album is great from beginning to end; the list below just happens to be of songs I crank the volume up slightly higher for:

  • "That Lucky Old Sun"
  • "My Happiness"
  • "Miss Pearl"
  • "Live It Up"
  • "How's the World Treating You"
  • "Trying to Get to You"





Ever since I was young, I've had a love/hate relationship with covers. Some artists know how to take someone else's song and make it their own, keeping the spirit of the song intact. Others just want to make a quick buck by covering a famous song. "Beyond the Sun" is all love. No one else but Chris Isaak and his band could have done what they did.

For more information, visit Isaak's official website: www.chrisisaak.com

TRIVIA: While in college, Chris Isaak was an amateur light heavyweight boxer.





2017/05/07

Here's Looking at You, TV Moms

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day here in the US, which got me thinking about some of the fictional moms on TV shows that I’m either watching right now or have loved in the recent past. TV mothers have evolved since the earlier days of television; moms like Donna Reed and Harriet Nelson are beloved matriarchs of a bygone era, but most modern moms are written much more realistically, making them more relatable. There are a lot of these modern TV moms that I could highlight, but I’ll stick with just a few. Whether they’re drinking coffee like a fiend, spontaneously bursting into song, or making their way through an enchanted forest, all of these fictional mothers have traits that would make them cool real-life moms; unless, of course, you're a teenager--then you're likely embarrassed by your parents no matter who they are.

Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White
Snow White/Mary Margaret (played by Ginnifer Goodwin)--Once Upon a Time

I had heard of the series "Once Upon a Time", but was a little hesitant to check it out. In all fairness, I didn’t know much about it, only that it was based on traditional and newer fairytale characters. I finally decided to give it a go though, and found myself sticking with it. The premise intrigued me, and there are some really fun CGI effects and scenery (not to mention lots of fantastic costumes). As I kept watching and became drawn into the characters and their storylines, I started to get emotionally invested and now have a handful of favorites. Among them is Snow White, a.k.a. Mary Margaret, played by Ginnifer Goodwin. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but on Once, Snow is a mom, and the kind of mom that earns her a place in this article.

Once’s Snow White is a departure from the Disney standard; rather than being a feathery-voiced damsel in distress, Snow White is pretty badass, and an example that a mother can be bold and self-sufficient. She’s kind and has the best of intentions, yet tough and more or less fearless. This Snow White is handy with a bow and arrow too; in flashbacks and in the present day, we see her facing off against the bad guys (and gals) and not shying away from going into a battle. One of my favorite aspects of “Snow White, the mom” is that she’s also the epitome of patience and encouragement. As a real-life mother, her children would be lucky to have her in their corner; understanding and reassuring, but fiercely protective when need be.



L-R: Louise, Gene, Bob, Tina, and Linda Belcher
Linda Belcher (voiced by John Roberts)--Bob’s Burgers

I’ll ‘fess up right away and admit that Linda Belcher isn’t my #1 favorite character from the animated series "Bob’s Burgers" (that distinction goes to Louise, the pink-bunny-ears-wearing, smart-aleck, always-makes-me-laugh younger daughter). However, Linda’s offbeat personality and let’s just say--somewhat unique--way of parenting makes me laugh every time I watch the show too.

I can’t say that I’d necessarily relish having a mom who adores dinner theater and has a penchant for breaking into song at the drop of a hat, as she often does. But as kooky and sometimes slightly annoying as she can be, her positive traits outweigh anything else. Linda accepts and encourages her kids tremendously, even when the situation is a little dubious and should have been thought through. She’s often misguided, which leads to all sorts of crazy misadventures on the show, but she has a certain optimism and joie de vivre that’s endearing. As a real-life mom, kids could do much worse than Linda. Even as a cartoon, there’s something about her lack of perfection and always-trying attitude that is incredibly realistic. And like Linda, the vast majority of mothers love their children beyond measure and are simply just doing their best.

Fun sidenote: Before he was on "Bob’s Burgers", John Roberts was a YouTube sensation for videos where he imitated his own mom. The voice he uses in those impersonations sounds a lot like Linda Belcher. Thanks, John’s mom!



Lorelai and Rory Gilmore
Lorelai Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham)--Gilmore Girls

I should probably be completely upfront that, though this list isn’t in any particular order, I’m a huge fan of the series "Gilmore Girls". That said, it may not surprise you that Lorelai Gilmore is probably my all-time favorite TV mom of the last decade or so.

To rein myself in (since I could talk about "Gilmore Girls" for days), the short version for anyone not familiar with the show is this: single mom Lorelai raises her teenage daughter, Rory, in a small town called Stars Hollow. Even though she’s independent, to quote Joe Cocker and the Beatles, she “gets by with a little help from (her) friends” and neighbors.

Quirky, fun, and armed with rapid-fire quips and sarcasm, Lorelai is a big personality. Having been a teen mom who left home to venture out on her own, Lorelai learned a lot of parenting skills on the fly, which helps make her another believable fictional mother. She, too, is just doing her best, and it’s her mistakes and doubts that make me appreciate her and identify with her a bit.

In Rory’s social circle, Lorelai is undisputably the “cool mom,” and even though they butt heads now and then, she and Rory have an incredibly close relationship. In real life, Lorelai would be the type of mother that most of us would probably want to have. Luckily, it's easy to "visit" Stars Hollow and hang out with her whenever we'd like through the magic of television.

So now that I’ve shared some of my favorite recent TV moms with you, let us know which fictional moms you can't help but love (and maybe secretly wish were your own), readers.





2017/04/02

One-Hit Wonders

by Dave Gourdoux

The ultimate one-hit wonder?

"In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes."             
                                                                            -Andy Warhol

For years now, one of the enduring iconic stories of the rock and pop universe has been the rise and fall of one-hit wonders. We’re all familiar with the story arc – the stars of time and fate and luck and talent all suddenly align in such a way as to propel previously unknown acts into fleeting and temporary superstardom, and then they crash and fade just as quickly as they emerged. As long as there is a pop music scene, there have always been and there always will be one hit wonders, either waiting on the fringe of the culture to rise to the top or spiraling uncontrollably out of the public consciousness.


Who are these fireflies that so quickly burn out, and what is their story? Well, as we’ll learn in this brief look at eleven of my favorite one hit wonders, with stories of rapid rises and fantastic falls, "the possibilities are endless."

About this list: as old as I am, the list is heavy with songs from my youth, the sixties and seventies. I’m old and grumpy enough to offer no apologies for that.  Obscure and cheesy as some of these selections may seem to younger generations, they all occupy permanent residence in my memory.

Hear then, in chronological order, eleven of my favorite one-hit wonders:




1. “96 Tears,” by ? and the Mysterians, 1966

With its infectious organ riff and low-budget production, "96 Tears" ranks right up there with the best of the '60s garage band songs. At the time the song was recorded, the band was exactly that: a completely unknown garage band, consisting of the sons of migrant workers who’d settled in the Saginaw, Michigan area. Somehow they recorded "96 Tears," and drove around promoting it to local radio stations around Michigan. It first became a regional hit  until they caught their break and signed a deal with a big record company, and the rest is history.

A couple of follow-up singles were moderately successful, reaching as high as 22 on the U.S. charts. The band has survived many breakups and lineup changes to persist to this day. The only constant has been the lead singer, Question Mark, or ?, who claims to be from Mars and to have walked with dinosaurs.




2. "I Fought the Law," by the Bobby Fuller Four, 1966

One of the most covered songs in rock history (most notably by the Clash, and in a politically charged 1978 re-write by the Dead Kennedys), the song also inspired John Mellencamp to write (or rip-off?) his 1983 single, “Authority Song." The song features the familiar, almost percussive guitar styling of the late, great, Buddy Holly.

The reason it sounds so much like Buddy Holly is that it was written by Sonny Curtis, who was a friend and high school classmate of Holly. After Holly’s death, Curtis replaced him as singer and lead guitarist in Holly’s band, The Crickets. He later penned the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, "Love is All Around."

The reason Fuller never had another hit was that a few months after releasing “I Fought the Law,” his dead body was found in an automobile parked outside of his Los Angeles apartment. There were no signs of physical trauma, and though an autopsy was performed, the cause of death remains murky, with both “accident” and “suicide” boxes checked with question marks after them on the death report. Speculation abounds that he was actually murdered. Theories have persisted that the culprits were either the Manson clan, the LAPD, or the mafia.  Whatever the cause was, Fuller’s death remains one of the great unsolved mysteries in rock and roll history.
   


 

3. "Israelites," by Desmond Dekker, 1968


Though Dekker had a long and distinguished career in Jamaica as a Reggae master, "Israelites" was his only entry on the U.S. charts. Aside from being a wonderful little piece of music, "Israelites" is noteworthy in that it is probably the first reggae song to hit the U.S. top forty, ahead of Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion” (1970), Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” (1972)  and Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” (1973).

Whether the song is technically reggae or its predecessor, ska, it is indisputably unique when compared to anything else we’d heard on American air waves before. The guitar work is subtle and accents the off beat, while the vocals are sung with a heavy Jamaican accent, making the lyrics difficult to understand.

Dekker said he wrote the song after hearing a young couple arguing about money, and how the work the young man was doing wasn't paying enough. This explains the opening lyrics, "get up in the morning slaving for bread, sir / so that every mouth can be fed." From there the song becomes something of a Rastafarian anthem, a lament for the impoverished and the destitute.

Dekker passed away in 2006. Although he didn't make the U.S. charts again, he remained musically active, and was held in high esteem in the reggae community.




4. "Pictures of Matchstick Men," Status Quo, 1968


The opening guitar lick to this weirdly infectious little gem is so ridiculously easy that even I could play it. But then the rhythm guitar, bass and drums kick in, and the effect is pretty cool. The lyrics are vague and psychedelic, and the chord progression and that silly little four note guitar lick are just catchy enough to stick in your head long after you’d ever want it to.

The song has been covered a few times, most notably by Ozzy Osborne in the late '70s. As for the band, Status Quo, it appears that they put out a few albums and vanished, and I couldn’t find much of anything of any interest about them. "Pictures of Matchstick Men" is so weirdly bizarre  that it speaks for itself.


                   

5. "Spirit in the Sky," Norman Greenbaum, 1968

One of the great guitar-driven gospel tinged songs ever recorded. The guitar riffs create a groove that evoke Jimmy Page, while the lead guitar fills in the spaces with just enough cosmic-ness to evoke the great beyond.

Lyrics like “I’ve got a friend in Jesus” bely the fact that Greenbaum was, and is, Jewish. He wrote "Spirit in the Sky" after watching Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner sing a gospel song on television. The song has since appeared in numerous Hollywood sound tracks, perhaps most famously in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13.

Greenbaum continues performing to this day, and has recorded a few albums over the years, but never had any level of commercial success that approached the  magnitude of “Spirit in the Sky.”




6. "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” Steam, 1969

This was just solid, mainstream pop music, performed by a band that never existed (similar to another great one–hit wonder, the fictitious “The Archies” and the big hit single, “Sugar, Sugar.”). The song was written and recorded by a couple of studio musicians who supposedly thought it was so bad they didn’t want their names associated with it. So the fictitious band “Steam” was assigned to the song, and when it surprisingly went to number one in the charts, a real band was hastily put together. This manufactured band lacked anything remotely resembling a stage presence (as the video shows).

Despite all that, I still love the song and the innocence it conjures up in me. It reminds me that I grew up in a time where not only such sweet and innocent music could chart, but also that times were so innocent that record companies would throw together a bunch of guys who had nothing to do with the recording of the song and send them out on tour to support it. For some reason I can’t adequately explain, now, almost fifty years later, it all feels more sweet than cynical.




7. "I Can See Clearly Now," Johnny Nash, 1972

Probably the biggest selling reggae song of all time, although the off-beat is buried a bit beneath a poppy arrangement, meaning you have to listen a little bit closer for the reggae rhythms than on “Israelites.” But the song, with Nash’s soaring falsetto and its hypnotic hooks, was a huge hit, dominating the top-forties airwaves for what seemed like months.

Nash had a long career, recording from 1958 thru 1985, and it’s a little bit unfair to call him a one-hit wonder, as he had several other songs hit the U.S. charts, with the follow-up single to “I Can See Clearly Now”, a song called “Stir it Up” that I have no memory of now, briefly reaching number twelve on the U.S. charts. He makes the list because “I Can See Clearly Now” was so huge that one is left wondering why in such a long career he never approached the top ten again.





8. "Last Song," Edward Bear, 1972

Some songs bring back memories that are so vivid they overpower any attempt to hear them objectively. “Last Song” is, for me, such a song. I know it’s terrible, schmaltzy pop, but it was on the radio at a time when I was susceptible to its gooey sentimentality, and hearing it now takes me back to the time when I’d just turned fourteen, at the height of my pubescent, shy and lonely misfit period, and the endless list of cute girls I had hopeless crushes on.

As for Edward Bear, it was neither man nor beast, but rather an unexceptional Canadian pop-rock band that was around for a couple more unexceptional years, years that included lineup changes and members dabbling in Scientology. The highlights of their career appear to be limited to achieving fame for “Last Song” and for once opening for Led Zeppelin. The name Edward Bear was taken from the “proper” name of Winnie the Pooh.





9. “In a Big Country,” Big Country, 1983  

For a brief time in the early '80s, Big Country was Scotland’s answer to Ireland’s U2, gathering critical acclaim for their unique sound, making electric guitars sound like bagpipes. They made it all the way to a guest shot on "Saturday Night Live" and a world tour, but were never able to follow the anthemic “In a Big Country” with a second hit single.  After playing on the Band Aid project “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and backing Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend in separate solo projects, they fell out of fashion, and found themselves dropped from their record company in 1991. They hung around for the rest of the nineties and finally broke up in 1999, with alcoholism playing a role in their dissolution.





10. "Take On Me," Ah-Ha, 1985

The song is unexceptional but catchy '80s new wave, notable for its keyboard-driven riff and the singer’s Roy Orbison-like, octave-crushing falsetto. What makes it stand out is the song's video, one of the great videos of the MTV era. A rare combination of art, charm and humor, the video transcends the song even while remaining faithful to its catchy rhythm. It's impossible to watch the video and not smile.

Although "Take On Me" has been the band's only U.S. hit, they are still together and have remained very popular in their native Norway, winning 10 "Norwegian Grammy" awards over the years.





11. “A Girl Like You,” Edwyn Collins, 1994

No, this song wasn’t, as is often assumed, recorded by Iggy Pop or David Bowie, although it’s an easy mistake to make, given Collins baritone vocals,the disco-punk rhythms, the infectious groove, and the hypnotic guitar licks.

Collins has never charted again in the U.S., but he still performs in his native U.K. This might not seem like a big deal until one considers that in 2005, Collins suffered and survived two cerebral hemorrhages that resulted in aphasia, an inability to comprehend and formulate language because of damage to specific brain regions. He was left able to speak only four phases (“yes”, “no”, “Grace Maxwell” (his wife’s name), and “the possibilities are endless”). Amazingly, he recovered and within two years was able to resume playing music and performing.

•  •  •

From the tragic mystery of Bobby Fuller to the rise and fall of Big Country to the steady perseverance of Desmond Dekker and Ah-Ha to the inspirational triumph of Edwyn Collins that renders any position on any top 40 chart as the meaningless distraction it really is, stories of one-hit wonders prove that the possibilities are indeed endless, that fate really is fickle, and that in the grand scheme of things, our fifteen minutes of fame aren't really that important.

So there you have it, my latest little list.  I know there are dozens of more one -hit wonders in the annals of popular music history ("99 Red Balloons" and "Chevy Van" immediately come to mind, although in the case of "Chevy Van," it won't leave soon enough), but these eleven have, to me, at least, some value, whether artistic (like "Israelites") or sentimental ("Last Song"), to me personally. I'd be interested in what one-hit wonders that you find any value or interesting stories in.






2017/03/05

Paul Feig's Other Space

by Jav Rivera


One of the main reasons this site exists is to showcase art that most people have never seen/heard. And in doing so, we hope that others will find something wonderful that may have never been discovered otherwise. Every once in a while I'll get asked how I find these hidden treasures. The truth is that there are a variety of ways. Sometimes it's a friend's recommendation. Sometimes it's by accident. And sometimes it's completely intentional.

"Other Space" was mostly intentional. I've been a fan of Paul Feig ever since I watched "Freaks and Geeks" way back when. Although Judd Apatow (40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) got most of the credit for the show, it was Feig who originally created it, and his fingerprints are definitely what make the series work. Being a huge "Freaks and Geeks" fan, I tried to keep tabs on what Feig was working on. His more famous film projects include Ghostbusters (2016), Spy (2015), The Heat (2013), and Bridesmaids (2011).

L-R: Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson, Milana Vayntrub, Eugene Cordero, Paul Feig, Karan Soni, Bess Rous, Neil Casey, and Conor Leslie
Feig has also directed episodes of popular television series such as "The Office," "Arrested Development," "Nurse Jackie," "Parks and Recreation," "Weeds," and "30 Rock," some of which he also worked on as executive producer. But for some reason, "Other Space" came in under the radar. Perhaps it's because of the whole Yahoo Screen debacle (more on that later), but this show deserves some recognition. And like most of Feig's projects, it's not just because of his involvement; his casting is (once again) spot-on.

"Past the moon. Past Mars. Let us sail to the stars!"

Released in April 2015, "Other Space" is set in...well...space, in the year 2105. But due to an encounter with a strange portal, the crew is transported to another universe -- or to an Other Space. It's been described as "The Office" in space, or even "The Office" meets "Lost in Space." It's also been compared to the much-loved British series "Red Dwarf."

The crew, within the UMP Cruiser, is a mixed bag of nuts. And though some of their characteristics can be traced back to stereotypical sci-fi shows, the cast of "Other Space" bring their own charm and talent. I honestly couldn't picture anyone else except these actors as their characters, especially given how easy these actors made it to love these oddballs.

L-R: Gypsy, Crow, Joel, and Tom Servo
And I'm elated that they're mostly unknown actors. I've written about the lack of attention to lesser-known actors before, specifically in my article about the series "Detectorists," and "Other Space" is another prime example of untapped talent finally being explored. In fact, the most famous of the bunch are Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu, both of whom achieved fame for their series "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (MST3K). And even that isn't all that famous outside of the cult fans (myself included). I'll even admit that my original reason for wanting to watch "Other Space" was because of Hodgson and Beaulieu. When I discovered Feig's involvement I thought, "Yup. This has a lot of potential to be great comedy."

Hodgson, who created "MST3K," and Beaulieu, who voiced (as well as worked as puppeteer for) the character of Crow T. Robot, bring some comedy weight to the show. Both are in perfect form as their characters Zalian (played by Hodgson) the crew's engineer, and A.R.T. (played by Beaulieu), Zalian's robotic sidekick. What's surprising is that it's hard to tell if the rest of the cast is keeping up with Hodgson and Beaulieu or if it's the other way around. And we probably can thank Allison Jones for that.

Jones has become the go-to casting director for some of the best comedic projects, including "Family Ties," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Freaks and Geeks," "Parks and Recreation," and "Curb Your Enthusiam." Some of her film credits include SuperBad, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldStep Brothers, and many, many more. To date, Jones has nearly 100 credits to her name, many of which have incredibly strong ensembles. Having worked with Feig on many of his previous projects, it comes to no surprise that the cast of "Other Space" is as tight as they can get. As I mentioned before, I can't picture anyone else in these characters' shoes. Jones was particularly important because Feig is known for creating shows that are character-based, and I'd say that most of "Other Space's" success as a series is because of this. The cast includes:
  • Trace Beaulieu as A.R.T. 
  • Neil Casey as Kent
  • Eugene Cordero as Michael
  • Joel Hodgson as Zalian 
  • Conor Leslie as Natasha
  • Bess Rous as Karen Lipinski
  • Karan Soni as Captain Stewart Lipinski 
  • Milana Vayntrub as Tina


If their names don't look familiar, their faces might. All of these young actors have been working for years, bringing their talent to TV and film in mostly smaller roles. But this will hopefully change in the near future because they each have unique comedic skills that more shows and movies could (and should) all be taking advantage of.

The Captain (played by Karan Soni), for example, might look familiar if you've seen Ryan Reynold's 2016 Deadpool film. Soni played the cab driver named Dopinder. I was so happy to see Soni in the film because, by that point, I had already seen him in "Other Space." All his scenes in Deadpool got some of the biggest laughs and I'm sure director Tim Miller and actor Reynolds were well aware. I wouldn't be surprised if Dopinder's character had been expanded for the film just because of Soni. On a side note, there's a rumor that Dopinder will be brought back for the Deadpool sequel, and the fans couldn't be happier. But Soni isn't the only one.

Milana Vayntrub in an AT&T commercial
Tina (played by Milana Vayntrub) might look familiar too. She's Lily, the really cute and friendly AT&T girl. Despite having over 40 projects under her belt (some of which I've seen), I've never noticed Vayntrub. And it's probably because she wasn't given anything with as much meat as she deserves. Now that I've seen her true talent being utilized on "Other Space" I'm a fan, and I'm looking forward to seeing her in future performances.

Eugene Cordero as Michael
Eugene Cordero (who plays Michael) has appeared in over 75 projects since 1999, including "Arrested Development," "House of Lies," "Parks and Recreation," and "The Good Place." Most of these parts are extremely small, which is probably why you can't quite remember if you've seen him or not. But of the entire "Other Space" cast, I'd keep a closer eye on Cordero because one day someone's going to realize his talent and make him huge. It's good to see that "Other Space" has created a bigger role for him. And though there's a running joke in the series that his character Michael is terribly forgettable, Cordero still makes him endearing. Whether Michael is getting yelled at or if he suddenly turns vengeful, Cordero transforms into whatever personality he needs at the moment -- often times flipping back and forth between them within seconds.

The character Kent (played straight-faced by Neil Casey) comes across as a combination of Spock and Data (both, of course, from the Star Trek universe). Kent shares the emotionless of a Vulcan and the intelligence of an android. Casey's take, however, plays with inappropriateness. He displays a lack of sensitivity by providing valid yet ill-timed information. Throughout the season Kent transforms into a (slightly) more human version but Casey doesn't lose all of his character's awkwardness. One of my favorite Kent moments involves him waking up and regurgitating a mucus-like substance. I won't say more because it's more of a visual and sound-based gag, but it was completely unexpected, especially since his character is typically the most composed of the crew.

Of course I can't leave out Conor Leslie and Bess Rous, who play Natasha and Karen Lipinski, respectively. Natasha is the ship's computer, but don't let the good looks fool you. She's just as out of place as the rest of the crew. There's an interesting development with her and another character throughout the season, but it's more than that. Her attempts to interact with each of the crew members are usually awkward, and, of course, fun to watch.

Karen, the crew's first officer, just happens to be the captain's older sister. As it turns out, UMP put her there simply because they're all terrified of her. That should tell you a lot about Karen. Every sci-fi crew has to have one of those strict, by-the-book characters. But Rous takes that stereotype into new territory. Instead of playing Karen as the average "B" word, Rous plays her more of an insecure and jealous sibling. Fortunately, the writers do a great job avoiding stereotypical sitcom storylines and characters. There is eventually a moment in each of the episodes when you can tell that the writers are just having fun or playing around with sci-fi standards and clich├ęs.

Captain Lipinski wearing UMP-issued pajamas
Staff writer Shelby Fero leads the series' writing crew of Matteo Borghese, Owen Ellickson, Ben Smith, Rob Turbovsky, Jacob Young, and of course Paul Feig, who wrote the pilot. It's tough to find a favorite episode but I'd have to go with the sixth entry, entitled "Trouble's Brewing." The scenes with Tina and Michael are so full of comedy gold that I didn't want it to end. It's once again proof that the writers on the show wanted to create something unique by playing off of stereotypes. They may use old sitcom tricks as a platform, but where they jump to is something no one can predict.

So with this writing crew, this cast, and a creator like Feig, why aren't more people aware of "Other Space?" I think the biggest reason is due to the fact that Yahoo's streaming app (Yahoo Screen) didn't take off. Unfortunately, by the time "Other Space" was released, Yahoo Screen was already dying. Not long after its release, the app was removed from the digital world, and all of Yahoo's shows were then "archived" on their site somewhere (note: At the bottom of this article, I provided a link to "Other Space" in Yahoo's archival location). What's worse is that it leaves Feig's labor of love in the vast vacuum of space. Now that Yahoo won't be creating original content, "Other Space" needs a new home.

My gut reaction is to hate Yahoo, which isn't hard since their email service continually gets worse. But interviews with Feig have me second-guessing. Apparently Yahoo gave Feig all the creative space he needed while producing the show. Furthermore, Yahoo went above and beyond when the production went over budget (due to the special effects). I still don't like Yahoo Mail but I've got to give it up for Yahoo's support for Feig and the show.

UMP Crusier
Feig is currently looking for someone to broadcast the show, as well as continue the series. Fortunately for Feig, the entire cast is eager to get back out into space. Feig has been proactively interviewing around cyberspace to explain his dilemma. The biggest struggle has been a lack of viewers. Those of us who couldn't wait for the show's release back in 2015 became instant fans. Upon hearing the news that he wants to get a season 2 made, fans around the world are starting to spread the word. Heck, I even bypassed a different article for this month (about Chris Isaak) just to help Feig get the word out sooner! The show needs a bigger audience and the best way to do that is to share this show with your friends and family. That's what I'm trying to do -- just like other recent articles and interviews about "Other Space" are doing. And you can help too!

If you like the show, use your social networking abilities. Make sure to use #ShareOtherSpace to get others on board. You may want to include Paul Feig's Twitter handle (@paulfeig) to let him know we're out there. Another way to help is to get onto Rotten Tomatoes (link below) and add a rating and maybe even a review.


There's no doubt that "Other Space" deserves more attention. When I re-watched the series to help write this article, it became clear to me that I didn't just like it back in 2015, I adored it! It's a shame that two years have gone by since it was released, and not many people in my social circle have even heard of it. But the show is wonderful, and it's even better the second time around. I know that I'll be watching it again. And again. And again.

For more information, visit their IMDb page: www.imdb.com/title/tt4561950

To watch the entire first season for free, visit: www.yahoo.com/tv/tagged/other-space. Most Smart TVs also have a Yahoo app which can play the series.

Don't forget to help the show's rating on Rotten Tomatoes by adding your rating here: www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/other_space/s01

TRIVIA: "Other Space" was originally created by Paul Feig around 2005 for NBC. This was one of Feig's only older ideas that he felt the need to bring back from the dead. Feig also insisted on having all 8 episodes released at the same time to take advantage of the binging trend.





2017/02/05

The Unparalleled Lori Petty

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless


Has there ever been a time that you thought about a TV star, singer, or actor who you haven’t seen much of recently and thought,”I wonder what she/he has been up to?” I’d heard the hype about the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black," so I decided to give it a try, and quickly found myself binge-watching it on a regular basis. During season two, a new character--but a familiar face--appeared, and I was excited to see that it was Lori Petty, who I’d adored from her acting in movies in the ‘90s. The roles that I remember her from most were the crime/action/surfer flick Point Break, the baseball comedy/drama A League of Their Own, the Pauly Shore comedy In the Army Now, and the film adaptation of the comic Tank Girl. Seeing Petty back onscreen was so much fun; like an unexpected visit from an old friend who you've been thinking about, but haven't seen in ages.


Lori Petty as Kit Keller in A League of Their Own
In all fairness, Petty didn’t exactly fade into the ether after the ‘90s; she was in quite a few TV series from then until now, including "Superman," "Star Trek: Voyager," "NYPD Blue," and "House," as well as several movie roles. Unfortunately, many of these were off of my radar, so I just nostalgically thought of her former roles and hoped that she’d be back around.


As I mentioned before, I'd seen her in some roles during the '90s, but it was the 1995 film Tank Girl, based on the comic book series created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin, that made me really fall in love with Petty’s acting. Checking out the comics is something I've always planned to do, but sadly, haven't gotten to yet, so I can’t speak to how faithful to them the movie was. But, I adored the frenetic energy Petty brought to the character of Tank Girl. The storyline is set in a somewhat futuristic, drought-affected Australia, with Tank Girl, her sidekick, Jet Girl (played by Naomi Watts), and hybrid soldiers called The Rippers fighting against an oppressive mega-corporation called Water & Power. Petty’s portrayal of Tank Girl is wild, crazy, and unapologetic--exactly how I imagine a person in Tank Girl’s situation would be. As a very young woman back then, I admired Tank Girl and Jet Girl’s “take no s***” approach, how they refused to be taken advantage of, and how they fought for what was fair and right. Add to that the outrageous costumes, the set designs, and a soundtrack that featured music by quite a few of the decade's well-knowns (including Bjork, Bush, Veruca Salt, L7, Hole, and Ice-T, who had a part in the film), and the entire movie was a non-stop romp of fun. Though it didn’t have a lot of financial success when it came out, it has a cult following to this day.

 Lori Petty as Lolly Whitehill in "Orange is the New Black"
But back to the excitement I felt when I saw Petty onscreen as Lolly in "Orange is the New Black": after seeing her handle both serious and comedic roles so well in the past, I was eager to watch her shine as she played this character too, and I wasn’t disappointed. Lolly is an inmate at Litchfield Penitentiary, where most of the show is set, and was also an inmate at a facility in Chicago. Though I don’t remember the show specifically stating what Lolly’s diagnosis is, it’s clear that she deals with mental illness. She believes that government agencies are doing surveillance on her, and shares conspiracy theories with anyone who will listen (and even those who won't sometimes). I don’t want to provide spoilers, but there are some poignant flashback scenes where the compassionate side of Lolly is on full display, as she cares for people in her neighborhood, especially those who are disadvantaged. Petty adds depth and layers to what could easily become a very cliche, stereotypical character. There are moments of humor, but it’s also tempered by the way Petty shows Lolly as a complex person struggling with mental illness who deals with loneliness and feeling isolated. Petty does this so well that, watching the show, there were times that I got emotional during particular scenes involving Lolly. The compassion I couldn't help but feel for her got me so caught up in the moment that it was easy to set aside that it was just Petty acting out a character.

Not only as Lolly, but in all the roles she’s played, Petty has a wonderful physicality and timing to her acting. In a close-up shot, viewers don’t even need to see the rest of her body to pick up what’s being conveyed; her eyes and facial expressions can say it all, and then some. Even then, don’t discount the scenes where the whole person is in view; with gestures, the way she walks or runs, etc., Petty adds personality to her characters that rounds them out into so much more than just two-dimensional.

I’ve seen that Petty has said she feels that the character of Lolly will be back for a new season(s) of "Orange is the New Black", and IMDb lists her in upcoming roles in the films Fear, Love, and Agoraphobia, a story about a female Marine and an agoraphobic man, and Dead Awake, a horror/thriller movie that’s in post-production. I'll definitely be on the lookout for new projects from her now, and can't wait to see what else she might be working on.

I wasn't able to find an official website for Lori Petty, but you can follow her on Twitter at @LoriPetty.

So, your turn, readers: What entertainers have you had that "I wonder whatever happened to them?" feeling about? We'd love to hear from you in the comments.