Gnome Again, Gnome Again, Jiggity Jig

There is no explaining the wanderlust of the common garden gnome and no way to know when they might pick up and jaunt across the globe for a few months. You can only hope they will return and share their travel stories.

Which is what Nancy Ubell's gnome Simon did this month, reappearing on her stoop after a two-month absence, bearing a travel journal and photos from Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge, Oman, Jordan and "391 metres below sea level."

"He had such a good trip," Ubell told The Province. "I'm very envious of him. He sure changed our life. He gave us something to talk about. What a busy gnome."
Despite her praise, Simon won't be hitting the road anytime soon as his residence has been upgraded from the yard to the house.

Simon's story is not uncommon, playing out on the big screen in Amelie and little screens as the mascot for Travelocity. There are several Garden Gnome Liberation Fronts who are dedicated to liberating gnomes from their unjust imprisonment.


I am doing some blogging at work as well and the above post came from yesterday's National Post Posted blog. It's hard work, but somebodies got to do it. Be sure to check out the newly renovated and relaunched website - I would say it looked good even if I wasn't paid to work there.

The Friendly Giant Has Left the Building

The children of Bob Homme, the creator and star of the long-running CBC kid's show The Friendly Giant, are taking their toys and going home.

The progeny of Homme, whose show went off the air in 1984 after a 26-year run, are offended by the use of Rusty the Rooster and Jerome the Giraffe in a skit for this year's Gemini Awards. The puppets, who were the Friendly Giant's companions in his castle, were portrayed as retirees in an old age home for bored, randy puppets from cancelled TV shows. Gerome, who would poke his head around the edge of a castle window was shown poking his head around beer taps.

"The appearance of the puppets, alone, shocked me, as the CBC is required to get our permission to use them in any way... This is the last straw (a big one) and I feel I have to address it," Ann Homme, Bob's daughter, wrote to the Globe and Mail.

She wasn't kidding. Yesterday the CBC announced to staff that the puppets were being pulled from the CBC Museum in Toronto. "After a lengthy stay with us here in the Broadcasting Centre, these iconic creations and other Friendly artifacts, which have been on loan to the CBC Museum for many years, will be going home - at the request of the family of the man who made them famous," the memo said.

So who has done more of a disservice to a beloved childhood icon? The reason that the skit got laughs 22 years after the show went off the air is people still remember the characters fondly. You can't subvert the image of a character that nobody cares about. And it is doubtful that anyone whom the show is aimed, if were still being aired, would be watching a Canadian TV awards show.

The skit itself (see below) follows in a line of shows that show puppets have a life outside of their TV life - see Greg the Bunny, Puppets Who Kill, Robot Chicken and even The Muppets.

This humour was clearly lost on the Hommes' children who are pulling the puppets from anyone who wants to go wandering down memory lane.

Update: CBC Arts has further quotes from the family and the audio from the As It Happens interview. "I'm sorry this whole thing happened, but we felt we had no choice," Richard Homme told CBC Radio's As It Happens, saying the skit was "misrepresenting the puppets. They seemed like aliens to me with their different voices. It occurred to me that this is not anything we would have approved of, as far as the script goes."

Are You Ready For Some Football?

I finally get football. I don’t mean I understand how the game is played – I don’t – or its appeal, but I think I know have some insight into the mindset of the fans thanks to Steve Murray’s comic strip, excerpted above.

Murray, an illustrator for the National Post, is drawing his impressions of the week-long hoopla leading up to the Grey cup – the championship game for the Canadian Football League – taking place in Toronto this week. The CFL is our version of the NFL, and there is some difference in the game. What that is, exactly, is lost on me.

Anyway, you can comics one, two and three here.

Save the Writers, Save the World!

Leave it to Hollywood to produce such an entertaining strike. With all the machinations, scheming and backstabbing, it’s like one of the reality shows they are so worried will take over the airwaves if the writers stay out for months. Which, it seems, could very well happen.

With everyone’s heels dug in, some nastiness is emerging. Fox aired a new Family Guy today, but without the participation or approval of creator Seth MacFarlane, who joined the picket lines when the Writers Guild went on strike on Nov. 5. There was only one complete episode in the can at the time, but three that were near completion. So the network, which has cancelled the show before, is moving ahead without MacFarlane, who also voices Peter, Stewie, Brian, Glen Quagmire and Tom Tucker. Ingrates.

Not surprisingly, this is not going over well with MacFarlane. "It would just be a colossal dick move if they did that," he told Variety. "They've never done anything like this before, in which they've said, 'We're going to finish a show without you. It's really going to be unfortunate and damaging to our relationship if they do it."

Obviously they know that and clearly they don’t care. The networks and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have known this strike was coming and they are prepared for it. If that means stepping on a few writers and creators, then so be it.

On the other side of the picket line is the cast of 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, who are staging live performances at a New York improv theater and donating the proceeds to production workers who will be out of work while the strike continues. Doesn’t get much more black and white than that, does it?

Some other interesting tidbits:

- My friend Nik, a TV blogger extraordinaire, is speculating that if the strike goes long, it could mean the end of Lost.

- Another friend, who works at a Toronto production house, says there is renewed U.S. interest in Corner Gas. Already airing on the cable station WGN, it seems the strike has at least one of the big four networks sniffing around.

- Perhaps they’d better settle this strike soon, or my pals at Dose will have to keep pumping out their replacement versions of 24 and Ugly Betty.

Bunnies on a Plane

So I've finally seen Snakes on a Plane, more than a year after the web-hyped, box-office dud ran rampant over the pop culture zeitgeist. Ok, not the actual film, but the 30-second version, re-enacted by bunnies.

I resisted the film because I was bothered by the attempt to create a cult classic, a mantle I believe is bestowed by the audience, not manufactured in advance. Ultimately it appeared most people agreed and the film slithered away, only to be remembered for Samuel L. Jackson's prodigious use of the word "motherfucker."

But now that the Bunnies have hopped all over it, perhaps I need to give it a look, if only so it doesn't become another one of my pop culture blind spots.

TV's Greatest Icons

In the midst of a writers strike that could reduce the TV landscape to a wasteland of reruns if it lasts, TV Land and Entertainment Weekly's list of The 50 Greatest TV Icons is a reminder of some of the best of what television has created.

The U.S. cable show will count down and profile the icons as will EW later this week, but the list is out now, so why wait to pick over it?

The list is topped by the King of Late Night, Johnny Carson and the man who venerates him, David Letterman, comes in at No. 16 while the man who inherited his chair, Jay Leno, didn't even crack the extended Top 100.

Modern-era icons Jerry Seinfeld and Homer Simpson made the Top 10 (No. 8 and No. 9, respectively), with the rest of the top slots taken by Lucille Ball, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Walter Cronkite, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Clark.

It's a good list, though I would question the inclusion of George Clooney (No. 37), who really wasn't a huge star until he switched to films and John Stamos shouldn't be on the list, even at No. 90.

What's interesting to contemplate is that most of these icons are the creations of writers. Even though the list does not include their characters, most of these actors are known for one show. They brought their abilities and personalities to bear, but without the writers they would have had nothing to work with.

Cartoon characters like Homer, Kermit (No. 21) and Cartman (No. 84) first came to life with words. Hawkeye Pierce, Carrie Bradshaw, Alex P. Keaton, The Fonz, Rachel Green, Buffy Summers, J.R., Magnum and Gilligan sprung from a pen before the actors brought the characters into our living room.

In fact there are a lot of writers on the list: Carson, Cosby, Seinfeld, Letterman, Rosanne Barr, Alan Alda, Jon Stewart and Paul Reubens, to name a few.

So if we have to go without for awhile to make sure new names keep getting added to this list, then I can wait.

The 100 Greatest TV Icons

100. Marcia Cross
99. Delta Burke
98. Meredith Baxter
97. In Living Color cast
96. Shannen Doherty
95. Richard Dawson
94. Melissa Gilbert
93. Neil Patrick Harris
92. Judge Judy
91. Dennis Franz
90. John Stamos
89. Robert Guillaume
88. Gavin MacLeod
87. Phil Hartman
86. Jerry Mathers
85. Rod Serling
84. Cartman from "South Park"
83. Isabel Sanford
82. Ted Knight
81. Dick Cavett
80. Adam West
79. Angela Landsbury
78. Art Carney
77. James Garner
76. Candice Bergen
75. Peter Falk
74. Joan Rivers
73. Tony Danza
72. Cher
71. Rosie O'Donnell
70. Bob Denver
69. Barbara Eden
68. Don Cornelius
67. Tom Selleck
66. Kelsey Grammer
65. Pamela Anderson
64. Phil Donahue
63. Ed Asner
62. Redd Foxx
61. Pee Wee Herman
60. Merv Griffin
59. Ted Danson
58. Don Knotts
57. Charlie Brown
56. Betty White
55. Fred Rogers
54. Florence Henderson
53. Ed McMahon
52. Ron Howard
51. Bob Hope
50. Larry Hagman
49. Calista Flockhart
48. Jimmy Smits
47. Simon Cowell
46. Lassie
45. Sarah Michelle Gellar
44. Susan Lucci
43. Flip Wilson
42. James Gandolfini
41. Jon Stewart
40. Sally Field
39. Jennifer Aniston
38. Bea Arthur
37. George Clooney
36. Diahann Carroll
35. Michael J. Fox
34. Bob Barker
33. Ellen DeGeneres
32. Henry Winkler
31. Sarah Jessica Parker
30. Alan Alda
29. John Ritter
28. Howard Cosell
27. Regis Philbin
26. Farrah Fawcett
25. Heather Locklear
24. Michael Landon
23. Barbara Walters
22. Milton Berle
21. Kermit
20. Carroll O'Connor
19. Andy Griffith
18. William Shatner
17. Bob Newhart
16. David Letterman
15. "Not Ready for Primetime Players"
14. Ed Sullivan
13. Jackie Gleason
12. Dick Van Dyke
11. Roseanne
10. Dick Clark
9. Homer Simpson
8. Jerry Seinfeld
7. Mary Tyler Moore
6. Carol Burnett
5. Walter Cronkite
4. Bill Cosby
3. Oprah Winfrey
2. Lucille Ball
1. Johnny Carson

Pop Art

Who says celebrities aren't high art? Toronto artist Joanne Tod's Tone Poem (2001) arranges celebrity portraits in order so that their first names can be read as a nonsensical marching rhyme.
Sean John John John/
Sean John John John/
Sean Dave Patty Ron/
Dolly Dolly Ling Don
You can buy Tone Poem this week at a fundraising auction for the Power Plant gallery (look under Art Auction). It is expected to sell for between $30,000-40,000, after the $1,000 ticket to get in.

Celebrities - they give and they give and...

Bits 'n' Bites

• It's the future of personalized news, the Facebook News Network. It makes me laugh and sad at the same time. I'm such an addict...

• Ever wondered who all the people standing behind The Beatles on the cover of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band? The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has an interactive version of the famous album, with bio links to everyone pictured.

• Seems Heroes creator Tim Kring realizes that his once hot show is now ho-hum and he's promising to do something about it. A sampling:
"We took too long to get to the big-picture story."
"In retrospect, I don't think romance is a natural fit for us."
"The message is that we've heard the complaints — and we're doing something about it."

Punch Lines to Picket Lines

"No money, no funny! No money, no funny!" - strikers chanting outside Rockefeller Center in New York.

The Writers Guild of America put down their pencils today and picked up placards, vowing to stay on strike until Hollywood producers open up the vaults and share the wealth. It can be hard to feel sympathy for a group whose average member pulls in $200,000, with the top tier pulling in millions yearly, unless you examine the industry in which they work. Many actors, directors and executives receive staggeringly large paycheques and, according to Reuters, the motion picture and TV industry generates $30 billion in annual economic activity for Los Angeles County alone, so there is a lot of money to go around. Why shouldn't the creators, the ones who put the words in actors' mouths be getting their fair share of the gold?

It's much like sports - professional athletes get paid millions, but the people who pay them earn billions. Somebody has to get the money and it would be nice to see it go to the actual talent. The sports analogy is echoed by Chris Albers, a writer for Late Night With Conan O’Brien.

“The majority of writers are barely making a living, and the majority of writers’ careers are very short-lived,” said Albers, a past president of the East Coast branch of the Writers Guild. “So we feel that if these companies are going to be making a lot of money off of what we create, and we only have a few years to be in the game, then it’s fair to compensate us so that we can support our families.”

Sure, some of those in the game are writer-producers like Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, and Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, the lead writers and show runners on Lost, so they aren't hard done by. But I'd rather see them with a larger piece of the pie than some nameless corporate exec.

Now whether or not the strike will work is another question. Often these labour disputes are settled based on whose pockets can hold out the longest. For now the studios and producers can afford to wait. Sure, the late night shows from The Daily Show to The Late Show with David Letterman will be showing repeats starting tonight, while sitcoms and serials should be fine for a couple of months before they start running out of stockpiled scripts.

It will take even longer for the labour dispute to hit the film industry, but the last strike lasted 22 weeks, so it could happen. When it does the studios will really start losing ad and ticket revenue and may be forced to settle. Until then some of the lower-rung writers may find themselves getting squeezed.

While I hope they get what they are after — as someone who has been paid to write before, I say get whatever you can — I won't mind a bit of a break to catch up on my PVR backlog. With a one-year-old I can barely keep up. Even though I will eventually burn thorough what I have stored, don't rush back on my account.