Thursday, December 02, 2004


True to Oscar season tradition, the National Board of Review was the first out of the gate to announce their "Best of 2004" movie awards. "Finding Neverland" took home the top prize. I saw the movie tonight and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a very sweet movie, celebrating imagination and youth with a lot of heart, great costumes, and a bunch of excellent performances. I'm reluctant to admit it, but I teared up repeatedly during the third act, and that simply doesn't happen very often for me.

As far as the best film of 2004 is concerned, I'm still sticking with "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." How that didn't make the NBR's Top Ten (listed below) is beyond me.

National Board of Review's Best Films for 2004:

1. Finding Neverland
2. The Aviator
3. Closer
4. Million Dollar Baby
5. Sideways
6. Kinsey
7. Vera Drake
8. Ray
9. Collateral
10. Hotel Rwanda

There were no real shockers in the acting nods. Jamie Foxx for "Ray", Annette Bening for "Being Julia", Thomas Hayden Church for "Sideways", and Laura Linney for "Kinsey". I know the NBR announcement is usually treated with a grain of salt by the critical community, but if nothing else, the acting awards will only serve to solidify these four actors as the Oscar favorites in their respective categories. However, the biggest lock of the Oscar season has to be Charlie Kaufman and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" for Best Original Screenplay. I'd mortgage the farm on it, that is, if I had a farm.

Michael Mann winning for "Collateral" surprised me. I think it's a good movie with a ton of style, but it's not in my personal Top Ten and I seriously doubt that it'll be nominated for Best Picture. In a year likely to see Oscars spread out over a large number of films, can Mann really win for Best Director even if the film isn't up for Best Picture?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Whenever I see the word "piker" in a mass media print publication, a charge of electricity runs through my body. Yesterday, I came across my favorite word in Todd McCarthy's review of "The Aviator" in Daily Variety. Shockingly, it was used in reference to Katherine Hepburn.

Once the startling impact of her impersonation has subsided, the relationship successfully defines itself as a pairing of two completely self-absorbed misfits. The bond is strengthened by the rarefied air they share as two of the most famous people in the world, romanticized in a lovely "date" on Hughes' plane over Los Angeles at night and unsettled in a brilliantly funny sequence in which Hepburn takes her beau to the family compound in Connecticut, where the eccentric clan's air of self-obsessed superiority makes the famous daughter look like a piker (Frances Conroy's cameo as Mrs. Hepburn is indelible).

If Kate Hepburn is a piker, I'm honored to call myself one. Ah, who am I kidding? I've always been a proud piker.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


My social life consists of very little besides the cinema these days. I've been attending a lot of screenings for upcoming movies, a lot of them with Q & A sessions with one of more of the involved principles. Often times lately, I've prefered the post-movie discussions more then the movies themselves. However, I've continued to track my ten favorite movies of the year. At this point, there a few contenders left that could challenge for a spot on this list. They will be listed below. Lots and lots of choices at the multiplex this time of year. So far, not much has impressed. Don't let that spoil your turkey feasts now, ya hear? Everybody have a good Thanksgiving.


1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Sideways
3. Touching the Void
4. The Incredibles
5. The Five Obstructions
6. Before Sunset
7. Tarnation
8. DiG!
9. Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle
10. (TIE) Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall... and Spring
10. (TIE) I Heart Huckabees


Born Into Brothels, The Bourne Supremecy, Closer, Collateral, Dodgeball, Garden State, Harry Potter 3, Hero, Kinsey, Spiderman 2, Team America


The Life Aquatic, A Very Long Engagement, The Motorcycle Diaries, In Good Company, The Aviator, Spanglish, Finding Neverland, Ray, House of Flying Daggers, Million Dollar Baby

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


I've been a bad, bad, bad little blogger. I don't want to make excuses, but... I will. My day job is all-consuming these days, and it's not a standard desk job that offers blogging opportunities. In fact, I spend most of the day in story meetings and writing sessions, and I barely even have the time to check my email. By the time I get home at night, the last thing I want to do is turn on the computer. And if I do, it better be to get my own writing done. That being said, we're entering into my favorite time of year for movies and I've begun my annual movie binge. I'm hoping it'll get me bloggin' more. In an attempt to kickstart things, I'm posting my preliminary Top 10 for 2004. Admittedly, it's a bit too early. I missed some flicks that have already been released and there is a slew of interesting movies on the way that could shake up the top ten in a big way. But, as I am prone to do, I was reviewing the year in cinema to date and jotted down a little list that got me motivated enough to post.


1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Sideways
3. Touching the Void
4. The Five Obstructions
5. The Incredibles
6. Before Sunset
7. I Heart Huckabees
8. Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle
9. Dig!
10. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring

Honorable Mention: The Bourne Supremecy, Born Into Brothels, Garden State, Hero, Team America, Dodgeball, Harry Potter 3, Spiderman 2, Collateral

Yet to Be Seen: The Life Aquatic, The Aviator, Alexander, Closer, A Very Long Engagement, Spanglish, Finding Neverland, Ray, Beyond the Sea, Proof, Bad Education, The Motorcycle Diaries, Kinsey, Tarnation, Primer, Maria Full of Grace, Napolean Dynamite, Open Water, House of Flying Daggers, Hotel Rwanda, Ocean's Twelve, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Thursday, August 26, 2004


What are you guys still doing hanging around here? I thought this joint closed up ages ago. I'll tell ya, though, the old place doesn't look half bad. Lots of memories...

Since the last post, the Piker organization has been in a constant state of flux, unable to actually produce any posts. However, we here at Piker have grown confident that the new regime will be a highly productive well-oiled machine, cranking out posts almost daily. All right, maybe that's a bit too ambitious. Let's say almost weekly. Hey, that's a vast improvement over the current turnover rate. You people are just lucky this dump hasn't been taken over by squatters during the long absence. There may not have been any new material, but I'm proud of the fact that the integrity of this fine publication is still intact.

I'll be seeing you people soon. In the meantime, stay gold, Pony Boy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Can you dig it?! Shaquille O'Neal is now officially a member of the Heat. The most dominant player in the NBA today has been traded by the Los Angeles Lakers to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, Caron Butler, and a first round draft pick. Essentially, the Heat gave up their starting front line to acquire the Diesel.

Can you blame them? Odom is finally coming into his own as a player and has a huge upside, Grant can't jump but works his ass off in the paint, and Butler could be a solid starter for a long time in this league. But the opportunity to get a player and box office draw like Shaq just doesn't come around very often.

Luckily, Pat Riley and Heat management were wise enough to take advantage of it. What I like best about the trade is that the Heat didn't have to give up Dwayne Wade, their star guard who will now play the role Kobe played alongside O'Neal. Will a happy Shaq and young Wade be enough to dethrone the World Champion Detroit Pistons in the East? Will the Heat supporting cast be any better than the Lakers subpar supporting cast of this past season? Who will take control in the Western Conference? KG and the Wolves? Duncan and the Spurs? Nowitzki and the Mavs? Will Kobe return to the Lakers, and if so, can they still contend for the Western Conference crown? Lots and lots of questions linger, but it's a very exciting day to be a fan of the NBA and a euphoric one to be a Heat fan.

Welcome to Miami, Shaq Daddy.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Want to read a rabbit's impression of "Farenheit 9/11"? Check out the Intelligencer section of the current issue of "New York" magazine. On newsstands now! Or, if you can't find a newsstand or are too lazy to leave the house, you can just read it here. The Rabbit takes a refreshing slant in commenting on the hot doc that seemingly everyone has weighed in on. If, after reading the article, you agree, help yourself to a free carrot!

Monday, July 05, 2004


Those neutral bastards ruined our 4th of July sports weekend. Saturday, Swiss cyclist and Tour de France rookie Fabian Cancellara took the Prologue podium from Lance Armstrong, nipping him by two seconds in the individual time trial. Sunday, Switzerland's Roger Federer defeated American Andy Roddick to take home the Wimbledon title.

Federer's championship point celebration was remarkably reminiscent of Bjorn Borg's signature move. I suppose there's nobody better for Federer to emulate than Borg, who won Wimbledon five times in a row. Federer says his idol was Pistol Pete Sampras, and I suppose his game and his demeanor reflect both legendary grass court champions. Federer has now won two in a row at the All-England Club. Is Borg's record in jeopardy? Is Sampras's all-time Grand Slam record within reach? The overcast British sky is the limit for the stylish Swiss player.

You had to feel Andy Roddick's frustration in yesterday's match. Roddick came out blazing, serving like a madman and breaking Federer early in the first set, eventually winning the set 6-4. At that point, it looked like Federer was vulnerable. Roddick was pushing all the right buttons, breaking him again in the second set. But Roger broke back, and from the second set through the fourth set, Federer got all the breaks and all the bounces. On the big points, Roddick went for it and barely missed or Federer caught the line, even when he mishit the ball. Roddick's energy did not let up. But if for a split second, his concentration slipped, Federer was there to take advantage. This match really did swing on a handful of crucial points. It may not have gone the distance, but it was a close a tennis match as your likely to see. And this was the finals of Wimbledon. The number one seed versus the number two seed. The two best players in the game today. As finals rarely do, this one lived up to its billing.

Maria Sharapova, the Anti-Kournikova.

Saturday, July 03, 2004


I love summertime in Europe. Granted, I'm not there right now, but I love the idea of it. I also love the great sporting events that take place in Europe during the summer. Really, it starts in late May with the French Open. But, right now, it's in full swing. Today, 17 year-old Maria Sharapova upset Serena Williams to win Wimbledon, her first Grand Slam title.

Maria beat Serena at her own game, using her powerful backhand and serve in combination with great confidence and superior control of emotion. It's hard not to like the young, lanky Russian who left her mother at age 7 to train in Florida. She's pretty, she's powerful, she seems nice, and nobody expected her to win this tournament so early in her career, let alone dethrone the two-time defending champion and best player in the women's game. Her win, coupled with Russian Anastasia Myskina's victory in the French Open, signals the arrival of some serious competition for the formerly-dominating Williams sisters and the Belgians Justin Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters.

And on the men's side... the dream final. #1 Roger Federer vs. #2 Andy Roddick.

Hope it's one for the ages, because these guys are clearly the best two grass-court players in the world, as well as the best two players period in the men's game. Can't wait to watch the Roddick power and the Federer finesse collide.

Oh, and don't think for a second I would neglect to mention that the Tour de France began today.

Lance Armstrong, in his quest to become the first rider ever to win six Tours, sent a message in the Prologue, with a lightning fast run in the time trial. Armstrong, the American, finished second (just two seconds back) to Swiss newcomer Fabian Cancellara, but immediately put some distance between himself and his main competition. I'm sure all the other riders got the message that Lance looks strong and somebody's going to have to been damn good to deny him his sixth Tour.

Tomorrow, the American and the Swiss will do battle again, but this time for the Wimbledon championship.

Saturday, June 19, 2004


Last night, by paying a scalper $35 for a $23 Field Level seat, I earned the right to claim to be counted among the largest regular season crowd to ever witness a Los Angeles Dodger game. The hometown heroes took advantage of an off night by Javier Vazquez and the New York Yankees, sending my buddy from Westchester County and I away disappointed. Then, to add insult to injury, after the game we were trapped in the worst parking lot logjam I've ever encountered. We sat idly for forty-five minutes, moving only a few feet forward as the line of cars ahead of us formed a steady stream of brake lights. Stuck in the back corner of this Dodger deathtrap, we listened to the post-game show on 980 AM. One call after another conveyed a gross group overreaction to one single early to mid-season victory. Somehow this game turned Dodger fans into cockeyed optimists, and gave them the freedom to speculate that a 6-3 win over the Yankees could be parlayed into a division title and a possible World Series showdown with the best team that money can buy. Perhaps these fans calling in to sports talk radio felt inspired by what they perceived to be a playoff atmosphere last night, and I'm unable to deny crowd was energetic and a possible factor in the game. However, it seemed to me to be a case of Dodger fans sniffing Blue. The Yankees beat themselves last night. Jason Giambi made a throwing error on a possible double-play ball and Javier Vazquez compounded that mistake with three wild pitches and a throwing error of his own. The Dodgers compiled a fair number of singles, but only had one extra-base hit the entire game. This was not a late-inning comeback filled with drama and grit. This was the Yankees coming off a Friday night loss in Arizona and a flight to Los Angeles for a Saturday night game, and the Dodgers coming off a three-game sweep of the mediocre Orioles and a peaceful night's sleep in their own beds. It was as if the call-in superfans started to believe the hype of the "Yankees suck" chant heard scattered throughout the stadium. I found myself tempted to answer the crowd back with "Yankees suck? Really? What is the basis for your argument? They currently have the best record in baseball. They've been to the World Series the last five out of six years. And they've more championships than any franchise in any major sport. Plus the fact that without them, Major League Baseball wouldn't be very interesting or profitable. The New York Yankees most certainly do not suck." However, I held my tongue and let these hyper Los Angelenos have their moment, their first taste of victory over the Yankees since 1981. Their hunger for even a small victory seemed palpable in the wake of an embarrassing display by their Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Their collective hopes for a championship dashed only days ago, those Laker fans saw their Dodgers vanquish the mighty Yankees, and a transference took place. Down came the Laker flags and up went the Doger banners. My Westchester buddy couldn't contain himself any longer and used his cell phone to call in to the 980 AM post-show to voice his Yankee opinion and give the Dodger fans who surrounded us a little dose of reality. I couldn't contain myself any longer either, and eschewed the stagnant line of cars for the open space of the littered parking spots in hopes of a better way out of the nightmarish parking lot gridlock. After dialing and dialing, my buddy got through to the station, cleared the screener, and was placed on hold to talk to the host. In true Houdini fashion, I found a seam and hit the hole hard to magically free us from the stranglehold Chavez Ravine so viciously held us in. We hit the 110 and headed home, but as luck would have it, the radio host ended his show just when my buddy would have been the next caller on the air. Turns out the only thing that brought Dodger fans back down to Earth last night was the news that Phil Jackson was not coming back to coach the Lakers, Kobe opted out of his contract, and Shaq demanded a trade. The Lakers had imploded. All that was left was the hope that the Dodgers can somehow manage to outlast the San Diego Padres for the NL West Division crown. For good measure, the Yankees sent a rookie pitcher making his Major League debut to the mound today and beat the Dodgers 6-2, reminding the L.A. crowd that by no means do the Yankees suck. Hate to say it, but Dodger Dogs kind of do.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


It was twenty years ago today... I had my Bar Mitzvah. Sgt. Pepper was a no-show, but I did read from the Torah at Temple Beth Israel, my Jew Fro was kickin', and my family and friends threw down at a huge bash in my honor at the Palm Aire Country Club. I felt like a Jewish rock star that day.

Are there any Jewish rock stars?

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


My 1989 Toyota Celica GT Convertible, which I bought a year and a half ago for $2500, hit the 150,000 mile mark on my drive home today.

Monday, June 07, 2004


Returned to work on Will & Grace today. All in all, it's a pretty great job in a fun atmosphere. But I don't like working. I don't like having to go to the same place every day. I know, I know, everyone does it. That's the way the world works. You go to work five days a week to earn money for food and shelter and entertainment and consumer products and everything else. It's just so monotonous. At least there's a built-in break for two months in the television industry. If not for that, I'd go out of my mind, convinced I was stuck on a merry-go-round I could never dismount.

I will confess that I'm unsatisfied by my career. If I felt I was successful and achieving and on my way to achieving more, perhaps I would feel differently about going back to work. Maybe I wouldn't mind the grind nearly as much. But I've been doing the same purgatory-level job for eight or nine years, and I've never in my life had the experience of being promoted. I'm aware that my chosen field doesn't exactly work that way, however I'm craving a feeling of progress. Starting yet another season of sitcom television without having advanced at all, I'm left with a dissatisfaction that will not be cured by my job. I must fulfull myself with activities and projects outside of work. And of course, with my home life, family, and friends. It's not about money. Well, not entirely. It's about accomplishment and recognition. Those things are important to me. Even though I don't particularly like working, I must put in the effort to achieve them.

For some reason, I love clean breaks and fresh starts. Knowing I was starting work today, I had to find a way to service that need this past weekend. So, yesterday, I watched the entire three and a half hour French Open Men's Final between Guillermo Coria and Gaston Gaudio, culminating two weeks of religious viewing. Not only did I enjoy watching a marathon match that contained all the drama one could want from tennis, I also got a sense of completion. I watched the entire tournament from start to finish. Done. And I watched the season finale of "The Sopranos," which I thought was fantastic. Coupled with the penultimate episode, "The Sopranos" finished off the season in powerful fashion, and in the process, following the recently-concluded May sweeps period, "The Sopranos" finale closed out the 2003-2004 TV season. Done. Sure, it bothered me a little that the Calgary Flames lost in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, failing to win the Stanley Cup and pushing the series to a Game 7 tonight. Not because I'm a big Calgary fan, but because the hockey season didn't end before I went back to work. Having watched almost every single game of the NBA playoffs during my two-month hiatus, the fact that the NBA Finals started yesterday also prevented me from getting the clean break I so desired. That's the way life goes. No matter how much I want things to be neat and clean, it can never be perfect. The French Open and "The Sopranos" will have to suffice in the clean break department. As far as a fresh start is concerned, it's a new season. New people are running the show. New writers are starting tomorrow. And I have a new opportunity to try to get what I want. Clean and fresh. Kind of.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Today, June 1, 2004 marks my ten-year anniversary of living in Los Angeles. Sure, there's been some extended leaves of absence for periodic sabbaticals in New York, Fort Lauderdale, and One Great Summer in Europe, but it's been ten years since I first moved out West with my brother on June 1, 1994. My brother peaked quickly, outearning each of his three college graduate housemates, including myself, while still only eighteen. But after quitting the cush gig following a dispute, he had a rough go of it, selling coupons door-to-door before packing up and moving back to Florida. All that in six months. And those same six months kicked my ass, too. I lived with my brother in a very hot apartment in Hollywood, right down the street from Rock 'n Roll Ralph's while attending a summer program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for six weeks. I did not yet have a car. Then, my brother and I moved into a four-bedroom house in Brentwood Glen with two of my friends from college, and I partnered up one of them on the money-making scheme of buying a car at auction and selling it for a profit. But, hindsight being 20/20, the car we bought was a dud and we couldn't sell it. Nevertheless, that crappy 1990 Volkswagon Fox that refused to stay in third gear allowed me to lie about having experience as a waiter to get a job at Country Star Restaurant, a Hard Rock Cafe-type place for country music fans at Universal CityWalk. But, after a month poorly waiting tables in my personal Museum of Hell, I took a bad spill rollerblading around the neighborhood, broke my wrist and busted up my chin. Without health insurance, I hesitated before finally going to see a doctor and paying out of pocket (and debt) to have him put a cast on my right arm past the elbow and leave it there for ten weeks. Bye-bye, rollerblades. Bye-bye, Country Star. I tried taking the Level One class at The Groundlings, but the instructor politely instructed me to take the class over when I got the cast off. So I slipped into a foggy, dopey, bad-movie watching depression for several months before deciding to go home for the holidays to Florida to regroup. I returned in late December and shortly thereafter my brother announced that he was moving back home. On January 5th, the cast was removed from my arm once and for all and a friend/guardian angel I met out here through my college friends got me an interview at Castle Rock, and they gave me the job. Once again, possession of that 1990 Volkswagon Lemon qualified me to perform the functions of the job, namely messengering packages from one end of this massive city to the other during a perpetual rush hour, and sure enough, the Fox eventually died on a Castle Rock run, blowing a head gasket while delivering a package to Rob Reiner's house in Brentwood. I had the car towed to a nearby gas station and the owner of the garage bought the car for something like three hundred bucks. I know I handed over the proceeds to my partner, and I know he really wanted to strike it rich in the car auction business, but I can't really repay him for eating his half of the money so that I could drive this crappy car and try to make a life here. I can thank him though. Deep down in his blackened soul, he knows who he is.

Ultimately, upon fleeing the Hotel California after failing to be discovered while working at the Burbank Airport location of Alamo Rent-a-Car, my brother proved he was not that invested in his Show Biz Dream. Whereas I stayed here to nobly pursue my SBD (Show Biz Dream, not Silent But Deadly) of becoming a filmmaker. Hey, I knew the odds were long when I moved out here. I knew if I didn't get discovered quickly, I'd probably have to work my ass off for a bunch of years to become one of those overnight success stories publicists like to concoct. I knew the shot. And while I haven't exactly outwitted, outlasted, and outplayed, I've endured. I've persevered. Granted, in ten years, I've written only a couple of screenplays and neither of them even got within sniffing distance of what you would call "interest," and really, when you break it down, following a lengthly stint in the Castle Rock Mailroom, instead of movies, I've been working in sitcom television for eight seasons and have yet to land that coveted breakthrough bottom-rung job known as staff writer, but have been making my living as a writers' assistant, though everyone who wants to manages to hear it as as assistant writer -- Dammit, I'm still here. There's no adequate way to summarize or justify what I've been doing here in La-La Land for a full decade. There's no neat 'n easy recap. Hell, I couldn't even remember half of it if I tried, and I bet that's still a good percentage compared to most. However, I have a confession to make, and me being a Jew, you know it's serious.. I Love L.A. I've grown to love this doomed city. Not all of it, but a lot. There are still things about it I despise and will probably never come to terms with -- the traffic, the pollution, the natural disasters, and the Dodgers to name a few -- yet I've learned to live with those things. At least enough to not want to move away. No city is perfect. You have to learn to accept the city for who or what it is. I still don't know who or what L.A. is, but I've accepted L.A. And L.A. has accepted me. Now if I could just get a fuckin' break already...


Nova wins! The Nova High School baseball team won its first state championship over the Memorial Day weekend.

While that may not mean shit to most of you, I'm pretty amped about it. Nova High School in Davie, Florida happens to be my alma mater and I happened to be on the baseball team for a season and a half during my sophomore and junior years. During my rookie year on the team, aside from the very rare plate appearance (I went 1 for 3 with a single, a RBI, a groundout, and a strikeout), I sat the bench and watched as our outstanding team won the district and sectional championships before blowing a late lead and losing the regional game to crosstown private school powerhouse Cardinal Gibbons. A double-play ball through the legs in the last inning cost our Nova Titans a trip to the Final Four and a chance to play for the state championship. Cardinal Gibbons went on to win the title that year.

In the middle of the next season, I started to get the sense that I was never going to be a starter on the team and I decided to quit. I retired from baseball and joined my buddy David Lazarus in the broadcast booth for the remainder of my high school life. In the years since, I've read and heard that Nova baseball has continued a tradition of excellence, reaching the final four twice, but failing to come away with that elusive state title.

Pat McQuaid, the man who made me run laps for joking around and didn't try to talk me out of quitting is still the team's coach, and now he finally has his state championship after 30 years of trying. McQuaid is an excellent baseball coach who knows the game inside and out, teaches it well, and works his ass off for the program. I'm happy for him and I congratulate him and the rest of this year's Nova Titans -- State Champions.

Looks like the student body hasn't changed all that much since my days at Nova.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Apparently, the Big Brother house was ripped up and lifted off the ground by a huge tornado of networks and plunked down right in the middle of Sitcomland, crushing the stale genre and killing it dead. From coast to coast, including a guy named Goodykoontz, the demise of the sitcom dominated the analysis of the upfront presentations from the Big Four and Little Two. Last week in New York, the six broadcast networks announced their schedules for the upcoming year, trotting out their new ponies, and wooing billions of dollars in advertising money. Arguably, the biggest story was how reality television has taken over the airwaves and the sitcom has faded into oblivion. Working on sitcoms for the past eight years has allowed me to see things from the inside out, and I'm afraid I've seen this coming for some time. I may have even written about it here on Piker, I honestly can't remember. Either way, the sitcom is in crisis and here are several reasons why:


Situation comedies have now been around for 50 years. Their heyday has come and gone and come and gone again. Times have changed. Audiences have become more savvy. They've seen just about every sitcom plot imaginable. So have the writers, and so have the network executives. It's a tired medium. Exhausted, in fact.

While shooting on a soundstage offers great control over production and the ability to shoot in front of a live studio audience, the artificial feel it creates visually feels like a vestige of another era. Video games, action movies, and iPods offer visceral experiences the sitcom simply can't compete with. The rhythms of sitcom dialogue are repetitive, dulling the senses, while the plots are predictable and pedestrian. And quite frankly, the ever-present laughtrack is annoying, pandering, and insulting, and never fails to detract from the viewing experience.


Getting a sitcom on the air is ridiculously hard. You would think that with such a rigorous system in place the best material would naturally come to the surface. It doesn't. The networks don't take enough chances. Fox takes some, but their taste is iffy. The funniest shows on TV are on cable. "Curb Your Enthusiam", "The Office", "The Daily Show," "South Park," "Significant Others", etc. And "Dave Chappelle's Show" might just be the funniest thing anywhere on the dial. I know it's stating the obvious, but you can get away with more on cable. And not only is getting away with more funnier, but not getting away with more handcuffs the networks from delivering a product that will appeal to their desired demographic.

And that's just getting a show on the air. Once you land on the schedule, you're forced to deal with the incessantly meddling presence of network executives in every decision you make. The axiom "Too many cooks in the kitchen" was never more applicable, except of course in an overstaffed restaurant. With only a handful of exceptions, network executives don't have very good creative instincts. It's not that there aren't funny people writing for sitcoms. There are many talented showrunners who simply are not free to communicate their visions to the mass audience because of all the network interference. By far, HBO has taken the best approach to building a comedy brand for it's network. They've done it by hiring good executives and making deals with singularly talented writers, actors, and directors. And the good executives know not to get in the way of the singularly talented creative people. They contribute, but they don't hover, and that leads to creative freedom.


"Seinfeld" set the bar too high. With it's stated objectives of "no hugs" and "no learning," that wicked show turned the traditional sitcom on its head. And not one has approached the "Seinfeld" stratosphere since in terms of hilarity. "Frasier" and "Friends" snuck in before "Seinfeld" slammed the door shut, and "Everybody Loves Raymond" decided very early on to embrace tradition and make hugging and learning funny in spite of being old-fashioned. Now "Frasier" and "Friends" are done and "Raymond" is about to embark on its farewell tour. After that, all bias aside, the show I worked on last season and will be working on next season will be the funniest traditional sitcom left. And don't think I'm kidding myself, I'm aware that "Will & Grace" is no "Seinfeld."

But Larry David and several other brave comedy pioneers are showing us the way. The future of the network half-hour most definitely rests on the shoulders of the single-camera comedy. Shows like David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Sex and the City," "Scrubs," "Arrested Development," and "The Office," have demonstrated how the sitcom can evolve. And evolve it must. Despite the fact that all of the above shows are critically successful, none of them is what you would call a ratings juggernaut or anything close to a cash cow. In fact, not one single camera comedy has proven to be a franchise player. "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Bernie Mac" flirted with Nielson success before leveling out, and they may represent the closest things to single camera network hits. Until a single camera comedy strikes ratings gold and sells into syndication for piles of money, the sitcom's transition from the stale-old traditional format to single camera will not be complete.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


The Dwayne Wade era has officially begun in Miami. The spotlight may have been on rookies LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony during the regular season, but the Heat rookie used the post-season to give the basketball world a glimpse of how bright his star shines. Wade was unstoppable. Even in yesterday's disappointing Game 6 loss to Indiana to end the Miami Heat season, Wade carried the Heat on his rookie shoulders by making one amazing shot after another, just as he willed Marquette to the Final Four a year ago. And all this while no one else on the Heat could find a way a score. Make no mistake about it, the Heat is now Dwayne Wade's team, and will be for a long time.

My hope is that the Heat keep their nucleus intact. Wade, Lamar Odom, and Caron Butler are outstanding young players who gained immeasurable experience in the playoffs. Brian Grant has the heart of a lion and is very valuable to this young team. In my opinion, Rafer Alston has the ability to develop into an excellent backup point guard. However, Eddie Jones must go. He does not have that X-factor that you need from one of your highest paid players. Call it heart. Call it will. Call it clutch. Whatever you want to call it, Eddie Jones doesn't have it. He doesn't carry that confidence that he can step up big when he needs to. He doesn't have that swagger. Keeping him around might actually hold this team back from progressing next season. Instead, I'd like to see the team acquire a point guard to free up Dwayne Wade to play the 2-guard spot. Although talented enough to play the position, Wade is not a natural point guard and can better utilize his scorer's mentality on the wing. And without a doubt, the Heat need to get bigger. Brian Grant is a woefully undersized center. He should be playing power forward, ideally alongside a post-up, shot-blocking center. I know that's a lot to ask for, but that's what this team needs -- a point guard and a center. Those players don't have to be superstars because the Heat has two potential All-Stars in Dwayne Wade and Lamar Odom. And while we're at it, I'd love to see the Heat pick up a couple of veteran guys to come off the bench. Guys with experience who know how to do the little things necessary to help their team win playoff games. The Heat won a lot more playoff games this year than anybody thought they would. Especially after Pat Riley announced right before the season started that he was stepping down as head coach. Stan Van Gundy came in, struggled through an 0-7 start and some growing pains, then eventually got the most out of his talented but inexperienced team, and led them to a first round win in the playoffs. I'm proud to be a Heat fan today. The future is quite bright indeed.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Peter Gammons disects the first month of the baseball season like a relentless surgeon with an undying passion for the OR. Besides that first Yankees-Red Sox game of the season, I didn't watch a lick of baseball in April. But, after reading Gammons, I feel like I'm all caught up. Good thing he was on call and not afraid to pick up a double shift.


As a rule, I don't watch much of the NBA regular season. It's long, it's tedious, and the stakes usually aren't that high. This past season, I watched a little bit more than usual because of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony coming into the league and giving it a much-needed shot of adrenaline. However, when the NBA Playoffs roll around, I start itching and twitching if I miss even one game. I love the intensity and the sense of urgency. There's tension. There's excitement. There's pressure. It's a chess match. It's a war. It's do or die. And never more so than in a Game 7 situation. Tonight is exactly that for the Miami Heat and the New Orleans Hornets. The home team has won each game of the series, and Game 7 is in Miami, where the Heat have won fifteen straight. The Heat earned that advantage by being one game better than the Hornets during the regular season. Now, they have to use it to be one game better than the Hornets in the playoffs. Miami won the first two games of the series on their home floor, the first on a buzzer-beater by rookie sensation Dwayne Wade, and the second in a thirty-point blowout. But the Heat's inexperience and lack of muscle inside showed in two consecutive losses in New Orleans to even the series. In those games, it was readily apparent that the Heat are in fact a tiny team by NBA standards, with an undersized, spazzy Brian Grant at center and rookie Udonis Haslem as his only backup. But, the Heat returned home and squeezed out a Game 5 victory by four points, then were almost run out of the building in Game 6 by the irritating and intimidating Hornets. Desperate to prolong their post-season, the Hornets set out to get inside the young heads of the Heat and for much of the game, they succeeded. P.J. Brown completely outplayed Lamar Odom, outscoring him and dominating him on the boards. Because the Heat are small they need Odom to get in there and rebound, especially on the defensive end. But Brown, who picked up his sportsmanship award during the game, trash-talked and bullied Odom into his worst game of the series. However, the Heat regained some self-respect by attempting a furious comeback at the end that brought them from eighteen down to within four, but no closer. In order to win Game 7 tonight and advance to the second round, the Heat must keep their composure and force the Hornets to play their game on their home court. They definitely need to box out better on the defensive boards and avoid long stretches without a field goal. Baron Davis is going to get his. Besides Davis though, the Heat are younger, faster, and more talented than the rest of the Hornets. Luckily, they seem to remember that in the comforts of their own home.

Let's Go Heat!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Tonight was to have marked the first time a "Written By Barry Langer" credit appeared on a network sitcom. However, as previously reported, CBS cancelled "The Stones" a few weeks ago. Instead of "The Stones," CBS will be rolling the dice for big ratings with a rerun of "Yes, Dear." I suggest you avoid that pitiful excuse for comedy like the plague and head over to Fox for some soapy fun on "The O.C.", which thankfully just received a pick up order for next season. And don't worry, I'm confident that you'll be seeing the "Written By Barry Langer" credit plenty in the future. Then one day... "Created By Barry Langer"

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Believe me, I'm well aware that I've been slack in my blogging... duties, but a couple of items caught my attention today and I'm bloggin' the hell out of 'em.

The first item is a press release announcing Blender magazine's 50 Worst Songs Ever! The list will be published in Blender's upcoming issue, and will be the basis for a VH1 special called -- I'm not making this up -- 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever.

The second item is an outstanding photo essay on Rem Koolhaas by Christopher Hawthorne on Slate. I'll admit to possessing only a superficial knowledge of the world of architecture, but it's a subject that fascinates me and I'm always looking to learn more. On instinct, I find Koolhaas' buildings and designs to be dazzling and daring, but I want to have a better understanding of the ideas behind the concepts. On the recommendation of the photo essayist, I'm planning on reading Rem Koolhaas' Delirious New York. Then I'm going to build my own city. But, under no circumstances will I be using rock 'n roll as my foundation.


I got the flues. And I got it bad. Caught the flu bug from My Girl and have basically been bed-ridden since Friday. Between the two of us, we've gone through nine boxes of Kleenex, two bottles of Dayquil, and a bottle and a half of Nyquil in five days. It's ugly. It's phlegmy. It's mucousy. It's complete lethargy.

While laid up, I've taken advantage of the downtime to catch up on some sitcoms. I must admit, one of my greatest pleasures these days is deleting things off TiVo after I've watched them. We have two TiVo's in our household, with a maximum of 115 hours of storage capacity, yet we're still fighting a losing battle. So, forced by illness to sit still, I watched the entire season to date of "Scrubs". Now, I'm not going to claim that "Scrubs" is the best show on TV, but I have a soft spot for it. I really enjoy the characters and the tone, and it's a great show to watch when you're sick. Despite having to continually lobby to keep saving the episodes, TiVo allowed me to create my own "Scrubs" marathon when I really needed it. So, now I'm up to date and I'm looking forward to Turk and Carla's upcoming wedding.

In addtion to about twelve episodes of "Scrubs," I also watched three episodes of "Arrested Development", which just cracks me up. Quite possibly the funniest show on television right now. It's a shame nobody watches it. Unless you're "The X-Files" eight years ago, 9:30 Sunday night on Fox is not a great place to be. Also, "Arrested Development" is not broad comedy. It's unfamiliar and unique, and if you're going to do that kind of comedy, generally you want to be on HBO or Comedy Central or BBC America or Bravo or some place on the dial where smart, curious people are actually looking for quality stuff. These days, the networks aren't particularly known for breeding hilarity. I just hope Fox shows some patience and sticks with this wickedly funny show until the people show up. On a personal note, I think Buster is my favorite character on the show.

So, if you're scoring at home, that's 12 for "Scrubs," 3 for "Arrested Develepment," and you can add 3 for "Significant Others". Airing on Bravo, this show about four couples in therapy features a gifted group of improvisational actors who do a skillful job of finding truth and humor in portraying seemingly real relationships. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend checking it out. They only made a total of six episodes, and Bravo repeats them frequently, so it won't be difficult to get up to speed if you so desire.

To round out the scorecard, you can chalk up 3 God-awful "Friends" episodes from this season, and 3 funny "Will & Grace" episodes from the current season that I worked on but never saw cut together. Add it all up and you get comedy overload. By the end of it, I couldn't even bring myself to laugh at the things I thought were funny. But, I did manage to mix in a ton a of sports along the way. Watched a very disappointing Yankees-Red Sox game, a special Friday night telecast on Fox. The Yanks were listless and lifeless, playing a poor brand of baseball and not having much fun doing it. They wound up losing three out of four to the detested Red Sox, culminating in yesterday's late inning collapse on Patriots Day. So the Red Sox win Round 1. But I wouldn't write the Yanks off just yet. They have too much payroll and too much talent. I mean, come on, A-Rod's not going to hit .150 for the entire season.

Besides baseball, I also watched some playoff hockey and portions of each of the opening round games in the NBA playoffs. The only game I was truly invested in was the Miami Heat game. I've been a Heat fan since they were born, having attended the first ever regular season Heat game -- a twenty-point loss to the Clippers. I was excited to see them back in the playoffs for the first time in a while, and they've got a really young, athletic, and exciting team. True to form, they took control of the game against the New Orleans Hornets, only to show their youth and inexperience in a horrendous scoring drought down the stretch. The Hornets came all the way back from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game in the final minute. It took a driving, curling, twisting clutch play by Miami rookie phenom Dwayne Wade to win the game with one second left on the clock. Unbelievably frustrating to watch them squander the lead with such inept play, then tremendously exciting to see them pull it out in such dramatic fashion.

All this from the comfort of my own bed. Armed only with the TiVo remote. And some Dayquil, and a few mugs of Cold Care tea, and a bag of Halls Mentho-Lyptus cough drops, and an endless stream of Kleenex with Aloe...

Friday, April 09, 2004


The Stones? Cancelled.
The party at our house tonight? Cancelled.
My subscription to the Restoration Hardware catalog? Cancelled.

With little fanfare, "The Stones" was taken off the air by CBS on Tuesday. The episode I wrote for the show, my first to be produced, was scheduled to air on April 21. Suffice it to say, it will not be airing on April 21, and is unlikely to ever see the Judith Light of day. I can't say I'm shocked. The show never got off the ground creatively, failing to match the quality of the pilot (which was "pretty good" to begin with), and the ratings reflected that. I would have liked to have seen a credit read "Written By Barry Langer" on the TeeVee, but I'll have my day. Just wrapped the season on "Will & Grace" and now I'm going to make a run at finally getting staffed on a sitcom for next season. Anybody want to hire a funny guy with two great specs and over a 100 episodes of writers room and production experience?

Wednesday, March 31, 2004


I've been really slack on blogging the NCAA Tourney this year. Let's fact it, I've been really slack on blogging anything. I'm not much of a blogger anymore. My workday is full and efficient and I share a community comuter with the rest of the office, so I'm not very connected to my online life. However, we begin filming the season finale of Will & Grace this evening and my cush gig here will be ending next week. So, that means that if I so desire, I will have the time to blog in the near future. But, in all honesty, I'm not that into it anymore. I know some people have been incredibly loyal readers (or at least they've come by to check to see if I posted anything knew, even though most days I haven't), but most of the time I feel like I'm really just doing it for myself. Does anyone really care what I have to say about the NCAA Tourney? I'm not sure. But I'm also not sure I care. I once thought of this site as an place to exercise my writing. I have to get back to thinking of it that way. I'm going to start now.

On this final day of one of my favorite months, I find myself looking forward to a phenomenal Final Four and looking back on an exciting tournament. Last weekend in particular offered two excellent games and one for the ages. Duke/Xavier was a tight contest throughout and played at a very high level, with Luol Deng coming up with two huge plays down the stretch to secure the victory for Duke and send them to antoher Final Four. Georgia Tech/Kansas was a much scrappier game, but equally as competitive and gripping. Surprisingly, Kansas failed to utilize their star Wayne Simian when it mattered and Georgia Tech pulled it out to make two ACC teams in the Final Four. UConn blew out Alabama with a flawless performance which suggested that the Huskies could take it all. And then there was St. Joseph's/Oklahoma State. What a game. Cleanly played by a collection of talented players and several legitimate stars. John Lucas stepped up and hit two huge shots after a horrible shooting spell in the first half. Jameer Nelson showed great body control and a deep knowledge of the game in carrying his undersized team as far as they could go. Both teams played unyielding defense and left it all on the court, showing so much combined heart that the end of game had a heavy sadness that one team had to lose. And what a shame that Jameer's college career had to end that way, with his fallback jumper to tie it falling short at the buzzer. Heartbreaking. I expect Oklahoma State to beat Georgia Tech soundly and advance to the Final Game against the winner of the Duke/UConn game. I'd give a slight edge to UConn in matchups, but something tells me it's going to be Duke and OK State in the final. We'll see how it plays out.

Friday, March 19, 2004


The tourney is underway. All in all, while there were a few upsets, there were not a lot of surprises on the first day of madness.

Everybody picked Manhattan to upset my alma mater Florida. After reaching number one earlier in the season, only to lose twice that same week, the Gators never really recovered. Later in the season, solid swingman/point forward Christian Drejer defected to play pro ball in Spain, and left Florida a bit thin. Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh can light it up, but neither of them are the type of players who can carry a team, and they lacked the talent inside. David Lee is an okay inside player who won't dominate anyone, and the other guys are average big men. Overall, they didn't have a leader and didn't play with a lot of confidence, getting blown out three times this season by conference rival Kentucky. Very disappointing. I like Billy Donovan, but Gator fans are calling into question his ability to get the best out of his talent after Florida was upset today in the first round for the second time in four years. The other two years, the Gators lost in the second round, and have failed to advance to the second week of NCAA play since they went to the final game against Michigan State in 2000.

Nevada upset Michigan State, but I have to admit I picked that game and I bet a lot of other people did too. The Spartans played too tough an out-of-conference schedule early in the season and struggled just to get back to respectability from then on. They looked like they had control of the game, but Nevada made a run and took it over late and appeared to be the better team. Tom Izzo will not be happy with his underachieving team after being thrilled by his overachieving tourney run last year.

Speaking of underachieving, the Arizona Wildcats had a season to forget. Once an early season favorite, the Cats played themselves down to a number nine seed, then couldn't knock off number eight seed Seton Hall in Round One. The Pirates, coached by former Knick Louis Orr, outplayed Lute Olsen's team down the stretch with fundamentally sound basketball and more heart. And to think, I actually got excited when Florida beat the Wildcats in a great game at the beginning of the season. That win certainly doesn't mean much now.

My second favorite team, the DePaul Blue Demons played the tightest game of the day, finally defeating longtime rival, the Dayton Flyers in double overtime. Exciting game. Great to see the Blue Demons back in the tourney and into the second round. Now their coach gets a shot at his mentor Jim Calhoun and the Connecticut Huskies. And with the Gators out, at least I still have a team close to my heart to root for.

I'm pulling for St. Joseph's and Gonzaga to go far into the tournament and prove that smaller school, "mid-majors", can play the favorites and hold their own against the big bullies of the major conferences. I'm also looking forward to the weekend when I can actually sit down and watch games all day. Today, all I got to see was the end of Nevada's upset over Michigan State and Arizona's weak finish in losing to Seton Hall and the conclusion of DePaul's slugfest win over Dayton. But still, it's tourney time. My basketball blood is pumping and I'm finding hard to think about anything else.

I tend to rely on, Dickie V, and Andy Katz during the tournament, because they love college basketball more than any other news source, and because I started watching college b-ball on the cable station when ESPN was born and I was eight years old. That's how a Jewish kid from South Florida came to adopt a Roman Catholic school in Chicago as his early favorite team.

We are... DePaul! Go Blue Demons!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Any self-respecting loyal reader of Piker knows that I quickly become obsessed with the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. It is, without question, my favorite sporting event. Unfortunately, all thoughts of a Will & Grace office pool have evaporated, and the games begin tomorrow morning at 9 am PST. Thus, I'm going to post my picks here to serve as an official record of my predicted bracket.

I'm going to assume that any college B-ball fan has already gone elsewhere to print out a blank bracket, so I'm not going to bother linking to one. I wish I had the time and the know-how to post my completed bracket to this site, but alas, I do not. So, I am simply going to list my picks below. Oh, and by the way, I'm refusing to give up the old names of the regions, so you'll see both in the headers.


MIDWEST (St. Louis)

(1) Kentucky
(8) Washington
(12) Pacific
(4) Kansas
(6) Boston College
(3) Georgia Tech
(10) Nevada
(2) Gonzaga

EAST (East Rutherford)

(1) St. Joseph's
(9) Charlotte
(5) Florida
(4) Wake Forest
(6) Wisconsin
(3) Pittsburgh
(10) South Carolina
(2) Oklahoma State

SOUTH (Atlanta)

(1) Duke
(9) Arizona
(5) Illinois
(13) ETSU
(6) North Carolina
(3) Texas
(7) Xavier
(2) Mississippi State

WEST (Phoenix)

(1) Stanford
(8) Alabama
(5) Syracuse
(4) Maryland
(11) Western Michigan
(14) LA Lafayette
(7) DePaul
(2) UConn



(1) Kentucky
(4) Kansas
(3) Georgia Tech
(2) Gonzaga


(1) St. Joe's
(4) Wake Forest
(3) Pitt
(2) OK State


(1) Duke
(13) ETSU
(6) NC
(2) Mississippi St.


(1) Stanford
(4) Maryland
(11) Western Michigan
(2) UConn



(1) Kentucky
(3) Georgia Tech


(1) St. Joe's
(2) OK State


(1) Duke
(2) Mississippi St.


(1) Stanford
(2) UConn


(1) Kentucky -- MIDWEST
(2) OK State -- EAST
(2) Mississippi State - SOUTH
(1) Stanford -- WEST


(1) Kentucky
(1) Stanford


(1) Stanford

Let the games begin.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Hello Pikers,

I've been profiled! If you are interested... You can hear a summary of my career and work life in four
short minutes. All you have to do is follow the link
below and scroll down to near the bottom of the page. There you will find the headline: A Day in the Life:Writer's Assistant, "Will and Grace." Simply click and listen.

Note: Depending on your computer setup, it'll either
start downloading or begin playing right away.

Hope you like.


Sunday, February 29, 2004


The Producers Game is the movie equivalent of Fantasy Baseball. The player speculates on the box office hits and the Academy Award nominations for the upcoming year. This is the second year in a row I've played the game. Last year's game, which ends tonight, was a great exercise and a real learning experience. The aptly titled game forces you to put yourself in the shoes of the executives and creatives who play the game for a living. Last February, I correctly predicted that The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World would both be nominated for Best Picture. Conversely, I also predicted Mona Lisa Smile, Cold Mountain, and J.M. Barrie's Neverland would also be nominated. My best pick, which was honored as the Clutch Pick of the Year and one of the clutchest of all time, was Keisha Castle-Hughes for Best Actress. I don't know how, I don't know why, but somehow in my research I had a hunch that it would happen. But, a lot of people picked LOTR: TROTK to win Best Picture, so even if it does, I'm going to lose the game. Doesn't matter. I love the game and yesterday (five days after it was due) I sat down to do my picks for the 2004 season. Again, I loved the process of familiarizing myself with the Sneaks (a list of every movie set to be released), release schedules, prestige, budgets, etc. in order to be properly informed when making my selections. And without further adieu, my selections (and a little treat at the end):

1. TOP TEN HITS OF THE YEAR (2 points each)
For movies released between: 2/23/04 - 1/2/05

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

2. Spider-Man 2

3. Shrek 2

4. I, Robot

5. Catwoman

6. The Incredibles

7. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

8. Troy

9. Van Helsing

10. Anchorman

Alternate: The Day After Tomorrow


My pick: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Reason: The surest of the sure things.

Alternate: Spider-Man 2

3. THE NUMBER ONE CHRISTMAS MOVIE (3 points) For movies released between: The first week of November and New Years Weekend.

My pick: The Incredibles

Reason: Positioning. An early November release date gives it a chance to pick up steam before Thanksgiving and run all the way through the holidays.

Alternate: Meet the Fockers

4. TEN ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATED FILMS (maximum 2 points each) All nominated categories are acceptable.

1. The Aviator

2. Alexander

3. Closer

4. J.M. Barrie's Neverland

5. Spanglish

6. An Unfinished Life

7. The Terminal

8. The Incredibles

9. Shark Tale

10. Vanity Fair

Alternate: The Brothers Grimm

5. BEST ACTOR/SUPPORTING ACTOR NOMINATIONS (Name the actor and the film. Each worth 3 points + bonus point if your pick actually wins)

1. Tom Hanks - The Terminal

2. Leonardo DiCaprio - The Aviator

3. Jude Law - Closer

4. Dustin Hoffman - J.M. Barrie's Neverland

5. Liam Neeson - Kinsey

Alternate: Daniel Day-Lewis - Rose and the Snake

6. BEST ACTRESS/SUPPORTING ACTRESS NOMINATIONS (Name the actress and the film. Each worth 3 points + bonus point if your pick actually wins)

1. Reese Witherspoon - Vanity Fair

2. Kate Winslet - J.M. Barrie's Neverland

3. Gwyneth Paltrow - Proof

4. Lauren Bacall - Birth

5. Meryl Streep - The Manchurian Candidate

Alternate: Anne Reid - The Mother

7. BEST DIRECTOR NOMINATIONS (Name the director and the film. Each worth 3 points + bonus point if your pick actually wins)

1. Martin Scorsese - The Aviator

2. Oliver Stone - Alexander

3. Mike Nichols - Closer

4. James L. Brooks - Spanglish

5. Terry Gilliam - The Brothers Grimm

Alternate: Lasse Hallstrom - An Unfinished Life

8. WORST PICTURE NOMINATED FILMS As determined by the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. (Each worth 3 points + bonus point if your pick actually wins)

1. Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

2. The Chronicles of Riddick

3. Son of the Mask

4. Alien vs. Predator

5. Catwoman

Alternate: New York Minute

9. BEST PICTURE NOMINATED FILMS (each worth 5 points)

1. The Aviator

2. Alexander

3. Closer

4. J.M. Barrie's Neverland

5. Spanglish

Alternate: An Unfinished Life

10. BEST PICTURE (worth 30 points)

And the winner is: The Aviator

Reason: It's going to come down to Scorsese vs. Stone. Stone has won before, Scorsese hasn't. Scorsese takes home his first Best Picture.

Alternate: Alexander

2004 Films I'm Most Excited About (Aside from some of those mentioned above.)

1. The Life Aquatic - Wes Anderson directs Bill Murray as a Jacques Cousteau-like oceanographer on the trail of a mythical beast.

2. I Heart Huckabee's - Team of detectives helps clients with their existential issues. David O. Russell (Flirting With Disaster, Three Kings,) directs Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Naomi Watts Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg, and Isabelle Huppert.

3. Kill Bill: Volume 2 - Revenge-minded Uma Thurman continues her quest but must still dispatch Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah before she gets to Bill (David Carradine). Quentin Tarrantino directs.

4. The Ringer - Johnny Knoxville (Jackass) stars in this this Farrelly Brothers-produced enterprise about a man desperate enough to try to fix the Special Olympics.

5. Soul Plane - You are now free to dance about the cabin, on a new black-owned airline packed with funky amenities. Kevin Hart, Method Man, Tom Arnold, and Snoop Dogg star.

6. Garfield - The comic strip cat sounds a lot like Bill Murray as the lazy feline makes his computer-generated film debut.

7. Untitled Dodgeball Comedy - Habitues of a neighborhood gym suit up for a Dodgeball match to save their haven from a giant fitness center. Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller star.

8. Wimbledon - Journeyman tennis pro Paul Bettany hits a hot streak, profesionally and romantically, winning matches and wooing U.S. Star Kirsten Dunst, at the presitgious All-England championship.

9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Writer Charlie Kaufman and Director Michael Gondry cook up a memory-erasing procedure that leads to desperate mind games for estranged couple Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet.

10. The Bourne Supremecy - Matt Damon is back as the assassin in the sequel to The Bourne Identity.


I'm a creature of habit. And I've become accustomed to the Academy Awards contributing to March Madness year after year, working in tandem with the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament to make March my favorite month that doesn't contain my birthday. But, here we are on Leap Day, hanging out with the security guard assigned to us to make sure we don't lose or damage all that expensive jewelry we've been loaned for this evening's Big Event. I love the Oscars. It's not so much the ceremony that gives me so much pleasure as the handicapping. Tonight marks the culmination of an Oscar tracking process that began last year at this time when I entered a little handicapping venture called The Producers Game. (More on The Producers Game later.)

Before I make my predictions, I must credit David Poland, who practically makes his living charting the ups and downs of Oscar season, with any inside knowledge I might have in the matter. And away we go...


Sean Penn - Mystic River
Although I'm secretly rooting for Bill Murray.


Charlize Theron - Monster


Tim Robbins - Mystic River


Shohreh Aghdashloo - House of Sand and Fog
But really I'll be happy with anyone but Zellweger.


Peter Jackson - The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King


Mystic River


Lost in Translation

And finally...


The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Enjoy the festivities, but you know, don't take it too seriously. I mean, really, it's still about losing yourself to another world in a darkened theater to get some distance from reality and gain some perspective on the human condition.


Wednesday, January 28, 2004


You know, after reading over the list of nominations a bunch of times, I really don't have that many complaints. As always, you don't get everything you want. So, naturally, I'm disappointed in a few things. "In America" should have gotten that fifth Best Picture slot over "Seabiscuit" and Jim Sheridan could have been nominated for Best Director. And I wanted to see Scarlett Johansson nominated for "Lost in Translation." But, besides that, I think the Academy did an admirable job. Loved the mulitiple nominations for "Lost in Translation" and "City of God." Ecstatic about Bill Murray. Happy for "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King", which capped off what will be rememberd as the best trilogy ever when all is said and done. And, on that note, I'm done. Gotta go to the show with the Will and Grace and the Jack and Karen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Yeah, I know, I'm a piker. I've been neglecting this site in a major way for some time now. Just cut me some slack, man. My life has changed, my routine is completely different... I've changed. So, if you pikers are still checking here for new stuff, that means that you've missed me, or at least you've missed my writing. That's a good sign. To be honest, I've missed my writing.

As usual, I don't have much time to post anything in depth. But, I do want to list a few things I've been enjoying recently:

-- Attended the Second Annual Grilled Cheese International at Theory Labs this weekend. What a fantastic event. I mean, it's a competition to see who can make the best grilled cheese. There were two categories: Missionary and Kama Sutra. Missionary meant you just make a standard grilled cheese and Kama Sutra meant you can get as funky as you want as long as the thing was still at least sixty percent cheese. Lots of cheese. Lots of fun.

-- Watched the Men's Snowboarding Super Pipe Finals of The X Games last night. My favorite boarder Danny Kass finished second even though he did not perform his patented Kass-a-Roll maneuver. This has got to be the coolest sport on the planet. The aerials these guys pull off are incredible to watch, the participants are as colorful as can be, and the whole vibe is just flat out stoked.

-- Obviously, if you've been reading Piker at all in the last few months, you know I've been following the NFL season extremely closely. So, naturally, I'm psyched for Super Bowl XXXVIII this coming Sunday. Most likely, I'll be attending Nitrous Bowl IV, the Super Bowl party where I met My Girl two years ago. But, there's a groundswell for a sea change this year, and Nitrous Bowl could very well morph into something a little different, say Shroom Bowl I...

-- Eagle Rock and Pasadena, Los Angeles. My Girl and I have been living together in Eagle Rock for the past three months. I have fallen hard for our little small town within a big city and I'm loving living there. I have also come to dig on Pasadena, where My Girl and I seem to gravitate to every weekend. Whether it be for the great restaurants like Yujean Kang's or the great shopping at Paseo Colorado or movies at the Academy 6, we're feeling blessed to live one exit down from this amazing city within a city.

-- The Academy Award Nominations and the Golden Globe Awards. As a ceremony, the Golden Globes was rather ho-hum, although My Girl and I had a great time watching it, but for the most part I got the feeling the awards went to the right people. "24" was kind of a shocking win. "Six Feet Under" should have won. And Anthony LaPaglia winning for Best Actor was questionable. Actually, Kiefer Sutherland should have won that one. I'm going to do a full rundown of the Academy Award noms either later tonight or tomorrow.

I'm writing again. Check back for frequent updates, pikers.

Saturday, January 10, 2004


Here we are at halftime of the Carolina-St. Louis game with the Panthers leading 10-9. Obviously, Piker missed the deadline to pick this game, but for what it's worth, Carolina getting 7 points would have been the pick. But, that point is moot.

Last week, Piker went 3-1 in his playoffs picks. However, the one loss was a bad one. Piker picked Denver +3 against Indy, but would have lost that game even if it was Denver +30. What an embarrassing loss for Denver. After dominating the Colts in Indianapolis two weeks earlier, the Broncos just couldn't do a single thing right. Indy come out playing with a lot of emotion and Denver never got into the game. Peyton got his first playoff win and poor Mike Shanahan still doesn't have a playoff win since John Elway retired after winning two straight Super Bowls.

On to this week's picks before Piker misses any more deadlines. Whenever Piker has picked against New England this season, Piker's been burned, but....

1/10 4:30 PM ET


1/10 8:15 PM ET


1/11 1:00 PM ET


1/11 4:45 PM ET

Green Bay

Saturday, January 03, 2004


1/3/04 4:30 PM ET

Tennessee -1.5

1/3/04 8:00 PM ET


1/4/04 1:00 PM ET


1/4/04 4:30 PM ET



So close. Piker pined to end the 2003 NFL season with a record 20 games over .500. Piker fell one game short, going 9-7 in the final week of the regular season to finish with a 125-107-8 record. However, Piker is pleased as punch that this season-long experiment resulted in a winning record. If Piker had placed bets on every regular season game after Week 1, provided it was the same amount of money on each game, Piker would have won money over the course of the season. That impresses Piker, precisely because it's un-Piker-like.

WON: New England, Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston, Kansas City, New Orleans, Tennessee, Green Bay, Arizona

LOST: San Francicso, Washington, St. Louis, Miami, N.Y. Giants, Oakland, Baltimore

Just as Piker did, Piker's Miami Dolphins came up one game short as well. They finished 10-6 on the year and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. They are the first NFL team in 10 years to win 10 games in the regular season and fail to qualify for the post-season. But, it's inexusable. The Dolphins simply failed to play up to their talent level. They lost close games at home that they had chances to win. They turned the ball over at deciding moments in games. They rarely dominated the line of scrimmage. They didn't use Ricky Williams like the superstar that he is. They didn't make big defensive plays at the end of games. And besides an ugly 9-6 win over Baltimore and a thrilling Thanksgiving Day victory over Dallas, they failes to beat playoff teams. Then they decided to retain Dave Wannestadt. That did not make Piker happy. Piker does not believe that Dave Wannestadt can lead the Dolphins to the Super Bowl. And Piker does not believe that Jay Fiedler can lead the Dolphins to the Super Bowl. On those notes, Piker believes that Jay Fiedler will not be the Dolphins starting QB at the beginning of next season and Piker believes that Dave Wannestadt will not make it through the 2004 season as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. And, unless the Dolphins find their own Jack McKeon miracle in Miami, they will not win the Super Bowl next season.