From a simple start, Clark's "Rockin' Eve" has soared

Forty years after the start of "New Year's Rockin' Eve," the show has its first Eve since Dick Clark's death. Here's the story I sent to papers. The previous blog profiles Greyson Chance, 15, one of this year's performers. The one that follows will be an overall list:


For “New Year's Rockin' Eve,” the
start was quite modest. It was Dick Clark on a restaurant roof.

“Dick stood on a ladder,” producer
Larry Klein recalled, “while his wife Kari held the cue cards ….
We had to go through an Iranian restaurant's window to get there.”

Now, 40 years later, “Rockin' Eve”
is taken for granted. “I think it's always been there,” said
Greyson Chance, born 25 years after that first one. “We always have
it on and wait for the ball to drop.”

Along the way, the show has grown in
length and ambition. This year, it will be almost six hours long,
mixing live performances at Times Square (Taylor Swift, Carly Rae
Jepsen, Neon Trees, Psy) with a taped party that includes Chance,
Pitbull, Flo Rida and more.

One bigger change: With Clark's death
(April 18, at 82), Ryan Seacrest became the sole host.

Clark had missed the 2004 show after a
stroke, with Regis Philbin filling in.”I knew Dick wanted to come
back …. It was something he looked forward to,” Klein said.

Seacrest was the prime host after that,
but Clark did the countdown … which is how this started.

“New Year's Eve was always a night
for big-band music,” Klein recalled. “But when Guy Lombardo quit
doing it, Dick thought there was a possibility for rock music.”

There were two years on NBC, then 38
(so far) on ABC. Only in recent years has the show added live
performances. “We try to get people who are joyful and upbeat,”
Klein said.

Ever since “American Bandstand”
began in 1952, Clark's people have looked for the hot new teen. Swift
was 16 and 17, a songwriting whiz, when she did their Academy of
Country Music and the American Music Awards shows; she was 20 when
she did “Rockin' Eve.” Klein recalls one show when taping stopped
for 10 minutes and someone said, “That's time for Taylor to write
another song.”

Now Chance arrives at 15. He grew up
watching the show, he said, with Clark doing the countdown for what
was only 11 p.m. in Oklahoma. “We'd do it up right and stay up
another hour.”

For Klein – born a year after
“American Bandstand” – this has been a fun ride. He reached
Hollywood in the mid-'70s, fresh from doing concerts at the
University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. “I BS'd my way into a job with
Dick ….It was just a little office then, with eight or 10 people.”

The AMA show had just started, he said,
and “they only had one go-fer.” He became the second, then went
on to producing and to a long friendship with Clark.

“Dick was just this everyday guy,”
Klein said. “We'd sit down at lunch and just talk about silly

Clark even felt foolish about the
limousine rides that are part of Hollywood life. “He'd have them
drop us off a block away, in the pouring rain, and we'd walk the rest
of the way.”

It was Clark's route to a long and
rockin' career.


He's 25 years younger than the show he's on

"New Year's Rockin' Eve" was already 25 years old when Greyson Chance was born. Tonight, he's on the show. Here's the story I sent to papers; right above this are two other stories, a TV-Eve overview and a list:


It might seem easy to plunk Greyson
Chance into a familiar category.

He's a pleasant-faced, pleasant-voiced
kid from Oklahoma. He was famous before he was a teen-ager; it's
convenient to see him in a line that runs from Bobby Sherman and Davy
Jones to David Archuleta.

Or not. “I was a really rebellious
kid in school,” said Chance, one of the performer on this year's
“New Year's Rockin' Eve.”

Sure, he was snatched from mid-America
at 12, when Ellen Degeneres saw a tape of him doing a Lady Gaga song
at a school talent show. But he also professes a fondness for the
Johns (Lennon, Legend and Elton); and at the MTV Music Awards, he did
a Gnarls Barkley song.

“I'm a major vinyl-records
collector,” Chance said. “I love going around and finding old

School held less interest for him, he
said. “I really like learning about new things and finding out
about things, but some of it didn't hold my attention.”

Instead, there was music. Neither
parent – a nurse and an insurance salesman – is musical, but his
siblings are.”My brother is into a lot of alternative music; my
sister is into weirder music.”

As the youngest, he absorbed some of
this. “There was always this rinky-dink piano around the house,”
he said. He started piano lessons at 9; after a couple years, he
decided to be on his own. “I just liked to play whatever I really
liked at the time.”

That led to the talent show, with
Chance singing Gaga's “Pararazzi” and his dad holding a video
camera. His brother sent it to DeGeneres; a month after the talent
show, Chance was on national TV.

“He's amazing,” said Larry Klein,
the producer preparing for the first “Rockin' Eve” since Clark's
death. “I saw him on 'Ellen' and was very impressed.”

Others were, too. By June of 2010, a
month after “Ellen,” Chance had had more than 30 million YouTube
views. By the end of the year, his first single was on Degeneres' new
record label; his album followed, reaching No. 29 on the Billboard

Reviewers didn't dismiss Chance as
kid-pop. Entertainment Weekly called him “surprisingly mature
vocally”; People magazine said his sound is “as much Coldplay as
Bieber.” Klein seems to agree. “You hear that and look at a
15-year-old and you're really surprised.”

Chance switched to classes-by-Internet
and toured. He had 20-minute sets as the opening act for Miranda
Cosgrove, which was a tad frustrating; “I had to put so much into a
short time.” He did 40 minutes as co-headliner with Australian teen
Cody Simpson and did club dates on his own.

There have been four more stops with
Degeneres and three acting roles in “Raising Hope” flashbacks as
the young Jimmy – including one in which we learned Jimmy was once
a musical whiz. And there's new music; the five songs on his upcoming
EP are ones he wrote, Chance said.

First, he'll do “Sunshine & City
Lights” on “Eve,” visiting some music traditions. Chance was
born 25 years after “NewYear's Rockin' Eve” began … 45 years
after “American Bandstand” began … and 67 years after the birth
of Clark, who started both shows and began this notion of teen stars
on TV.


Classy start, solid show

In an unusual move, NBC will have two "Saturday Night Live" reruns on Dec. 22, the first in prime time.

That one, at 10 p.m., is a shortened version of the excellent Dec. 15 episode. (It will be followed at 11:29 p.m. by the Bruno Mars episode.) Here's the mini-review I wrote after it aired:


It's not easy to do loose comedy the day after a national tragedy. Tonight's "Saturday Night Live," however, was a classy effort.

The show started with a kids' choir doing a beautifully uncomplicated rendition of "Silent Night." Then, after going dark for a second, "SNL" boomed ahead with its usual nonsense.

"SNL" has always been erratic, but last week's show (with Jamie Foxx) was one of its best and this one came close. Martin Short had a  zestful song that saw him meet Tom Hanks, Tina  Fey, Kristin Wiig and Samuel L. Jackson. Sir Paul McCartney did three songs (instead of the usual two) and appeared in a sketch as Short's triangle player.

There were some so-so sketches (there always are), but one was masterful. A British protocol expert visited Kate Middleton's gynecologist to inform him of proper procedures. If you forget its poor finish (please do) this was a superb sketch, comparable to when Hugh Laurie played a palace representative, setting up the queen's requirements for her hotel stay.


Bad guys can relax; our protectors may be finished

One of TV's smarter shows may be leaving soon. Here's the story I sent to papers:


For five years, the “Leverage”
people have been smiting bad guys.

They've scammed the scammers, cheated
the cheaters. They've made life fair again, fictionally.

And now they may be ending. On
Christmas Day, the show airs what it expects to be its final episode.

“When were were doing the pilot film,
(series creator) John Rogers said, 'This is the way the show should
end,'” said Dean Devlin, the producer. That notion is being used or
the maybe-finale.

It's always possible that the show will
return, but Devlin's not counting on it. Each renewal has been a
close call, he said; “to get a Season Six is incredibly difficult.”

So “Leverage” ends with a case tied
to the death of Nate Ford's son. That goes back to its beginning.

Nate (Timothy Hutton) was a smart and
honest insurance investigator. Then the company he worked for refused
to pay for the procedures his son needed. The boy died; the dad
became an alcoholic … then was snapped out of it by a chance to
avenge another victim.

So he assembled people he used to catch
pulling scams. “At the start of the show, these were incredibly
lonely people who were without family,” Devlin said. “They became
a family.”

They started scamming big forces. “If
'Leverage' is about anything,” Devlin said, “it's about justice.”

And viewers seemed to want that. They
felt big-money people had crippled the economy, while retaining their
own wealth; now they had a sort of justice league on their side,

– Nate. Devlin said he knew that
Hutton (an Oscar-winner) could handle the drama and the intensity.
“What really surprised me is how good he is at comedy.”

– Hardison, the computer guy. That
requires Aldis Hodge to spew lots of high-tech verbiage. “It is all
learned, because he is so not a geek,” Devlin sai

– Parker, the cat burglar with
acrobatic skills. After getting the role, Beth Riesgraf put herself
through two months of intense gymnastics training.

– Eliot, the muscle guy. That went to
Christian Kane, who is also a singer and a man of diverse skills. “He
choreographs most of those fights himself,” Devlin said.

– And Sophie, the master con woman.
Devlin discovered her on a trans-Atlantic plane trip.

“They were showing a marathon of this
British mini-series 'Jekyll,'” Devlin said. “By the time we
landed, I said, 'That's who I have to cast.'”

He soon learned that Gina Bellman is a
comedy star in England, thanks to the “Coupling” series, but
didn't have a work visa or the U.S. She barely arrived in time.

These became friends, lovers (at times)
and modern crusaders. They battled bankers, businessmen, big-box
stores, politicians and more. “We've always been a sort of
subversive show,” Devlin said.

They kept coming up with solutions for
everything – except, of course, a way for TV shows to comfortably
be renewed from one year to the next.

– “Leverage,” 10 p.m., Tuesdays,
TNT; that episode reruns at midnight and then at 10 a.m. Saturday

– Other episoes rerun at 11 a.m.

– Final two new episodes of the
season – and maybe forever – are Dec. 18 and 25

Iranian Americans? TV offers opposite views

Think of them as two relatives -- the fun uncle and the serious one, the noisy party guy and the one who paid for the party.

That, roughly, is "Shahs of Sunset" (10 p.m. Sundays on Bravo) and "The Iranian Americans" (9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, on most PBS stations).

"Shahs" is a typical reality show, with lots of misbehavior by people who have comfortable lives. "Iranian Americans" reminds us how that comfort was nurtured. Here's the story I sent to PBS papers, about the PBS film; one of the previous blogs has my story about "Shahs."


For Andrew Goldberg, this was like
stepping into a a totally new – yet familiar – world.

He was working on “The Iranian
Americans,” for PBS. That started with food and fellowship.

“I gained 15 pounds on the project,”
Goldberg said. “I'd arrive and see all this food laid out and ask,
'Who are you making dinner for?' And they would say, 'You.'”

That's similar to cultures he knows
well. Goldberg has done two documentaries on the Armenians, four on
the Jews; he grew up in Chicago, with an Eastern-European Jewish dad
and a Christian mom.

“We were gregarious, friendly Jews,”
he said. “We would have family gatherings of 10 or 20.”

For the Persian culture of Iranian
Americans, that's minor, Saba Soomekh, a Loyola Marymount professor,
says in the film. “You have first-, second-, third cousins who are
(like) your siblings …. You have Iranian weddings with 5-600

In the film, Firoozeh Dumas, an author,
recalls her disbelief that a non-Iranian friend has a cousin she's
never met. And like generations before her, Dumas brings out food
whenever people arrive. “The more they eat, the more I like them.”

Historically, Goldberg said, Persians
have shared something else with Armenians and Jews: Their main
religion (the Shiah sect of Islam) differs from neighboring
countries. “They had a culture that did not fit with the people
around them.”

Persia and Iran thrived for more than a
millennium, started a gradual decline in the Middle Ages, then soared
anew with the discovery of oil. Educated and prosperous, many people
studied in the U.S.

Then the 1979 Iranian revolution
changed everything. Some people felt unwelcome because of their
government jobs, their religion (including Iranian Jews) or their
education. They fled to the U.S.; students who were already here
simply stayed.

“This segmented out the best and the
brightest,” Goldberg said. “The people who had all the advantages
… are the people the Ayatollah had an eye on. There was a brain
drain and a skill drain.”

In the U.S., some people had little
money and couldn't speak English, but they had contacts. “They
created communities,” Goldberg said.

No one's sure how many
Iranian-Americans there are, he said. Some estimates have gone as
high as a million, but one expert told him it might be half that.

About half of them live in the Los
Angeles area, he said. “It's been called 'Tehren-geles.'” That's
also the site of “Shahs of Sunset,” a cable show that emphasizes
the usual reality-show antics.

Goldberg has a different approach. He
did about 27 interviews, emerging with about 60 hours of film. He met
a lot of people, asked a lot of questions … and ate a lot of food.

– The Iranian Americans

– 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, PBS
(check local listings)