Monthly Archives: April 2009

Hi, Cancellation – meet my new friend, Chris Isaak.

Apparently, the post that follows, which was written in April of 09, is still causing minor controversy with dedicated Chris Isaak fans, who have leveled some pretty horrendous attacks at TV Swami and in one case even threatened violence against him – violence, though! – for holding an opinion they don’t agree with. They also venture to suggest that he is not competent to offer his views about showbiz because he’s angry, he’s bitter, and he’s jealous about all TV performers on account of his own show being cancelled five years ago. 

Wow. That’s quite an indictment. But here’s my counter-argument:   

I really do like Chris Isaak. Honestly.

There. That should do it.

As weak as this might seem by way of a defense, it’s all I have. Isaak – again, in my opinion, so please don’t hit me – is an awesome performer, but not a good talk show host. Just as the Swami wasn’t a good travel show host – the viewers were right in both cases. 

Luckily, TV Swami recovers fast. Yes, sir.  He is not angry or bitter about the cancellation of his show (grrrrr) and will be back writing posts again in 2010 once he completes his book. 

In the meantime, I’m really, really sorry, Chris Isaak fans. You will bounce back, I just know it.  Chin up.

Here’s the post. Make your own mind up.

I’m still hung over. Not from booze this time, you’ll be pleased to hear, but from watching The Chris Isaak Hour on Bio last night.

Bio used to be the Biography Channel, a go-to place for human interest stories. Then, presumably after someone wrote in and said, “Hey, man, this documentary crap you’re putting out is waaaay too interesting,” they had second thoughts, shortened the name, and filled their schedule with boring shows instead. Let me try to think of an example.

Oh yes – The Chris Isaak Hour.  

The idea seems simple enough. Give a popular singer whose star has faded somewhat the opportunity to interview other popular singers whose stars have faded somewhat. Let him do it on a couch, give him a budget to dye his hair and eyebrows if he needs it, and pepper the interview with clips of the guest singing, wherever possible with Chris Isaak plucking at a guitar too, since he’s there already and might as well do something.

It’s basically a lot like any Jools Holland show in the UK. Only, Chris Isaak is no Jools Holland. In fact, I’d say he’s possibly the most boring interviewer I’ve ever seen on TV. In any country. Anywhere. And I’m including Antarctica, where  the interviewers on TV are all penguins. Yet even they manage to ask questions without mumbling them.  

I only watched it because Isaak wrote a blog for the Huffington Post yesterday, pleading with readers to tune in. And that doesn’t happen often. So, sensing desperation and the whiff of impending cancellation, I thought I’d better grab the opportunity while I had the chance. Now, of course, I wish I hadn’t. Oh my God, what a horrible show. 

The star guest was Cat Stevens, one of my all-time faves. If you recall, he became Yusuf Islam for a while, then, when the word Islam acquired a bit of an aftertaste in the West, and songs by an artist with Islam in his name would most likely be box office poison, there was a hasty rethink, I’m guessing, and he settled for just plain Yusuf instead. In any case, Cat – seriously, who’s going to call him Yusuf? –  is a brilliant songwriter.  Cute and a little chubby in his heyday, he now has a gray beard that goes straight down, and an old man’s voice when he speaks. Remarkably, though, when he sings – jeepers creepers! The magic comes rushing back again, like a tide that’s been out too long, and he sounds exactly like the records.  It was quite magical to hear.

But the problem is Isaak. When I made my travel show a couple of years back, a small number of angry, jealous viewers wrote in, saying, “What a terrible host. Replace him immediately with somebody better.” But they were wrong – obviously.

I, on the other hand, am not wrong about Chris Isaak.

He’s low-key to the point of comatose when he speaks. It’s like listening to a generator hum through a wall.  Almost as if he’s so intimidated when confronted with staggering (see below) accomplishment and talent that he clams up. At one point, he even brought his dog on and sat it on his lap, which was a sappy and silly moment and I wanted to rush in and confiscate it. Cat doesn’t like dogs, I’m assuming. By the look on his face, I think he’d have smashed it with his guitar if he could, and to hell with his peace-loving image.

Anyway, we learned fascinating snippets of background info about Cat’s old songs. (Moonshadow, for instance, was written after he stood out under a full moon one night and saw his “moon shadow.” His song Lost in Fog, about the time he got lost in fog, can’t be far off, I’m sure.) We also learned that his gift for writing magical tunes that haunt you for a lfetime didn’t extend into later years. His new stuff is a load of cock, quite honestly. Furthermore, last night he tried updating Peace Train, turning it into a laid-back blues number, managing at the same time to render it simultaneously boring and profoundly unlistenableto, which takes some doing. 

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was, top to bottom. Ghastly show, boring host, wishy-washy guest. I wanted to love it all, but I didn’t make it to the end. Switched it off, went to bed, and fell asleep oozing rivers of anger and regret at the hour I’d just wasted. Hopefully, Bio will take note and cancel this series before it does any more harm. The perfect example of life simply being too short.

The Chris Isaak Hour gets one magic carpet out of five.

TV Swami – he say NO.

UPDATE 4/14/09: I have amended one word in the above review, changing “real” to “staggering.” This was done, believe it or not, as a gesture of goodwill, to appease critics who’re insisting I was way too negative about the show and unfair to Chris Isaak.

For goodness’ sake! I’m not saying that Isaak is not a good or successful performer. He is very talented – of course – and his long track record proves that. It’s just that Cat Stevens is better. Period. What I am saying is that Isaak is not a good talk show host. He’s not peppy enough or effusive enough. That said, if Bio decides to renew the series, good. The TV Swami won’t be watching it, that’s all.

Now, let’s step over this difficult moment as if it were an injured pedestrian and move on with our lives.  I thank you for your attention.

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Everyday life in Celebrity Central.

Oh boy, did we strike gold yesterday or what?

Each day a fair number of people stop by to see what the TV Swami is up to, which is nice. But yesterday, thanks to a clever combination of the tag word ‘spanking’ and the names Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson, which are like catnip to celebrity-snoopers, apparently, traffic skyrocketed in previously unimagined ways, and was still heading into the stratosphere when I went to bed.

Why is this? Why are we, the general public, even the remotest bit fascinated with a guy in a yellow Mercedes putting the roof of his car down? Truth is: we’re not. At least, not generally. But fame is a magnifying glass and, as boring as it would be if you or I did it, Lord Darth Vader attempting the exact-same thing makes it seem a thousand times more interesting.

Given that I live in a nice, leafy, high-end part of Los Angeles, it’ll come as no surprise to you that our area tends to be Celebrity Central. I often mention it on my BBC broadcast, much to the annoyance of half the audience. We see them all the time.

For instance, Rachel Bilson’s house used to be owned by Noah Wylie, the ER guy. David Hyde-Pierce from Frasier still has the house on the hill. Danny Bonaduce was a neighbor too, until his divorce. Now he’s gone and the stark prison-camp-like house is sold.

Meanwhile, Courtney Love is holed up along the street. Our neighbors claim she came trick or treating a couple of Halloweens ago (then again, they also swear Robert Downey Jnr arrived at their door one night asking for candy, then danced away up the street when he got some – so I’m beginning to think they’re nuts, quite honestly, and not to be trusted!)

Probably our most famous celebrity residents right now, though, are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. According to several high-level sources (local gossips who can’t keep their mouths shut), they bought the house next door-but-one from David Hyde Pierce. It’s just a tiny fragment of their worldwide network of homes, so of course, if they do actually live there, we never see them, though I must say their Christmas lights last year were a feast of Hollywood self-indulgence. About twenty trees in the grounds and on the house itself, all lit up and visible from miles around. Stunning.  

Anyway, speaking of spotting people, which is the point of this post….

Yesterday, to celebrate the fevered Times-Square-like traffic of the blog, I had lunch at a local cafe. While I’m eating, in walks a black guy swathed in bandages. Poor thing, he’s obviously been in a horrendous accident, because his head’s wrapped up and he’s wearing a big foam neck brace.  Together with another guy, he sits at the table opposite, then – and here’s where things got strange – began chatting away as if he wasn’t hurt. Moving his head. Moving his neck. Getting up, sitting down. Extremely animated. Which was very suspicious, and led me to believe that he wasn’t injured at all and the bandages and neck brace were an affectation to get attention.

But then I realized – there’s a TV studio complex just behind the cafe. It’s where they film General Hospital and also Gray’s Anatomy. So obviously he was an extra on one of those shows. When he left the set, the continuity person must have told him, “Hey – you. You in the neck brace. Don’t take it off.”  He had to keep the pretend dressings on his pretend wounds, or they wouldn’t be able to match them later in the next shot. 

Or, just as likely, this being Hollywood, he kept them on to let people know he’s on TV. It’s so much more discreet than standing up and shouting,  “Everyone, look who’s just walked in – it’s ME. A total non-celebrity. That guy you wouldn’t notice otherwise, from that show you probably don’t watch anyway.”

Of course now I AM going to have to watch the wretched show to see if I can spot him. Hospital set. Guy in background on stretcher with head bandaged. Should be easy enough.  

TV Swami – he say YES to living a few doors down from Brad and Angelina.

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Attention! Celebrity Neighbor Alert.

Pssst. Listen up.

So last night I go for my usual evening walk. Around 9.30, after American Idol, to calm down and get my sanity and sense of perspective back. Anyway, I’m coming home again, mind wandering, mouth snacking its way on automatic through a bag of 65% reduced fat Kettle chips, when a car whizzes by and shudders to a stop some way off, just past Rachel Bilson’s house.

A yellow car.

A yellow two-seater Mercedes convertible car. With the roof down.   

And we all know who that belongs to, right?

Hayden Christensen!!! The Star Wars guy. Natch.

So immediately I do what anyone would do. I cross over the street to make sure I pass by as closely as I can. For research purposes.

It’s pretty dark at this point, therefore details are hard to come by. Also, I guess he’s on the look-out for paparazzi or reporters, being as he’s marrying Rachel Bilson ‘n’ all and those scuzzy press seem to care about the both of them way more than the rest of us do. All the same,  he sees me heading his way and hurriedly puts his roof up. One of those roofs that rich people keep in their trunk, and which unfolds at the press of a button, like an awning.  Or the weapons shield on an X-wing fighter, which I guess he’s more used to.

Now, bear in mind, he’s sort of parked in the middle of the street at this point, about twenty feet past his fiancees’s home. All very strange. And I’m walking towards him faster than the roof is closing.

Having sped up to beat the roof, I now slow down again for full effect, while pushing Kettle chips into my mouth in a remarkably casual way, like I’m waaaaaay too hungry right now to bother about celebrities sitting in the middle of the street in cars with the roof kind of open like an envelope flap. But then, suddenly – and here’s the thing – at the last second, when he thinks I haven’t seen him, I swivel my head and stare right into the vehicle. Bang boom bang. Just like that.

It’s like a scene from Star Wars, only without the drama, dark deeds, seductive dialogue, or rip-roaring green screen fights and special effects.

Quite obviously, he’s shocked by this turn of events. Maybe he was going to wait until I’d passed, then reverse into Bilson’s driveway. If so, he scotches that plan immediately and tears off down the road in a panic, disappearing from sight.

But wait! That’s not all.

When he turns at the end of the street, he turns right, not left. That’s a key sign. Left would take him towards the city. Right, on the other hand, takes him in a full circle around the block, bringing him back to where he started – Bilson’s house, only this time without all the hassle of passers-by walking along, eating Kettle chips, staring in his window and thinking, “Oooh, Hayden Christensen, you look so different when you’re not surrounded by droids.”

And that’s it. My exciting celebrity neighborhood exclusive for today.  There may have been more, but I had to rush into the house to pee. Made me think, though – what kind of life is that? Where you can’t even pull up at your fiancee’s house in the dark when there’s nobody around without fearing that that guy eating chips over there is secretly following you and about to pounce? I mean, come on. As it was, his instincts were right on and his fears totally justified. Still, that’s no way to go about things. That’s not freedom, it’s celebrity enslavement. I felt quite sorry for him, actually.

Of course, it might not have been Hayden Christensen at all. That’s possible. It might have been some guy in a yellow Mercedes convertible identical to Hayden Christensen’s who just happened to stop in the street outside Rachel Bilson’s home to put his roof up.

All the same, I am expecting competing bids from People magazine and US and Entertainment Weekly for rights to use this in their next issue.  And you know what I’ll say when they call? I’ll say, “No. This is for TV Swami. Please stop calling me.” And as I put the phone down I’ll be all cocky and puffed up with pride, followed by thoroughly despondent for the rest of the day when I realize how much money I’ve just lost by saying that.

I’m such an idiot sometimes.

TV Swami – he say NO to the pop media jackals.

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Boy. Spanking. Bad.

One of the most fascinating aspects of doing this blog is being able to see what many of the people who come here type into their search engines in order to be directed to one of the posts.

The other day, I wrote about Chopping Block, the ghastly Marco Pierre White’s unfortunately-named-in-the-circumstances reality cooking show, being cancelled. The title of the piece was “Bad-Boy Chef Gets a Spanking.” 

Well, that blog above all others received huge attention, and continues to do so, not because of Marco Pierre White or the show or what I said about either, but because there are readers out there, sitting alone in their one-bedroom condo with nothing but their computer and the rest of the world to keep them company, who slavishly type a combo of “spanking” and “boy” and “bad” into Google, often with some other words that have me slightly perturbed, and as a result find themselves  on TV Swami.

There was “naked sexy young boys” (ugh!), “bad boy hard spanking”, “spanking hard tv”, “bad boys need spanking,” and many more variations. There were also, by convoluted means, a couple that related to other posts: “Portia di Rossi naked” and “Chris Evans’ naked body”. They too ended up here, and probably cursed the whole system of tagging as they did so, because quite clearly it doesn’t work.

It’s remarkable, though. And in the case of the first one, disturbing.

But in the same way that merely mentioning that Rachel Bilson, a woman I couldn’t identify if she came to my door and said, “Hi, I’m Rachel Bilson”, was my neighbor brought floods of people checking out what I had to say, dropping the word spanking in a commentary acted as a magnet to pervs globally.

So let me give a shout-out to all the committed spankers out there who were misled into visiting this blog today, under the impression that it was going to be about their favorite fetish. And let me also, while I’m at it, say sorry for doing so.

Oh, and grow up.

TV Swami – he say NO to spanking hard TV.

Watch Cash’s video:

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A massive tease, an undeniable treat

Today a few lucky people get to take a peek at the video tease for my new book.  Bear in mind, it’s a low-grade version that may stop and start when you first run through it. But the second time – this assumes multiple viewings, possibly in awe – it flows like a dream. The high-grade version will be up there next week, inviting more viewings and more awe.  

The video is available only on a secret page of my website that nobody else can see. That’s because the book isn’t out yet, and won’t be for another two weeks. But on a slow but happy Monday morning, it’s my little gift to you.

This monumental event is spoiled only by an ABC promo I saw today for a new quirky cop show called The Unusuals, which was so good that it made me want to buy expensive software and invest time in learning how to make professional promos myself. I mean, how hard can it be, really? You stick a bunch of the best scenes together in a row and every time you think viewers are about to get interested, you do a quick fade to black and cut the thing dead. Simple.

The Unusuals marks Amber Tamblyn’s return to network TV after the demise of Joan of Arcadia. Her character joins NYPD’s Homicide Division, a smart, swift, jokey bunch of cops “to whom things happen” (a standard plot device in drama). Strangely, despite the title, it’s more in line with the usual kinda police drama stuff we get on TV, except more jokey, like MASH. But it’s well-written…

Two cops pledging allegiance to each other:

A: “I’d throw an old lady off a roof for you.”

B: “I’d throw an old lady off a roof for you too!”

…well-played, and looks a lot of fun.

The Unusuals gets four magic carpets out of five.

TV Swami – he say YES.

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What the hell has Mary Tyler Moore done to her face?

Living in Hollywood, I’m surrounded by face lifts. Half the people you pass in the street who are over 50 seem to have had a little something done.  A tweak, a lift, or a total overhaul that leaves their eyebrows locked in the “oooh!” position, their top lip fixed rigid like a ventriloquist dummy’s, cheeks as round and smooth as bobbing apples, and everything else pulled taut, stretched tight, and held in place around the back with a bulldog clip. It’s the norm here rather than the exception.

What these people don’t realize is that: a) face lifts sag, so eventually you have to have them re-done, and b) by the time you reach 70, all your surgical chickens come home to roost for the whole world to see, leaving you looking like a deflated party balloon.

I have a friend in her sixties who comes to dinner sometimes. She’s always tampering with her looks. You think you know her, then, boom, she’ll surprise you by turning up looking like a total stranger. A stranger with the same features, but in a different order. Or polished. Or with one eye slightly bigger than the other.

It’s highly disturbing, and I would never, ever do it myself, any more than I would have, say, Botox injected into my muscles and risk ending up with a stiff Frankenstein forehead like Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne, or Lasik surgery on my eyes, not after hearing Kathy Griffin say she’s now 30% blind, and after I read that the earliest pioneers of this technique in Japan have found their scar tissue ripping, also leading to partial blindness.


By the way, the reason I mention all of this is because 7-time Emmy winner Mary Tyler Moore was on Letterman the other night. She’s 72, and I don’t know what happened, but I’m guessing it’s a ton of surgery, because she looks terrible. Teeeerrrrrrible. Tweaked, stretched, gruesomely fiddled with, or something. Whatever she did – boy, how she must be regretting it now. If you ever wince when you see your own reflection, go look at photos of her and you’ll feel ten times better immediately.

Of course, you can’t assert that people have had plastic surgery when they might not have done, so I’m not definitely saying she has, you understand. But the signs are usually right there.

For me, the telltale pointer is your own shock when you next see them.

Take, for instance, Joan Rivers, who’s the nearest thing we have to, if not a comedy goddess, then certainly a living waxwork of one. According to her own recent reality show, she’s had….guess how many procedures. Go on, guess.


Is that even humanly possible? Has to be a joke, right? Did it actually say ’74’ and my eyes were blurred and saw triple figures? God, I’d like to think so, for her sake. But no, I went back and checked. 744.

And believe me, without make-up, the evidence of what Joan has done to herself over the years is right there: she has a face like an unbaked scone. It’s beyond sad. How lost, I wonder, how troubled, and how much must you hate yourself deep, deep inside, to do something like this to your face? That’s the question I ask when I see people like that. Especially if it turns you into a laughing stock. The irony is that her main claim to fame these days is Fashion Police, a horrible bitchy show in which she criticizes and jokes about the way celebrities look, which everyone laughs and thinks to themselves, “Jeez, with that face, how does she even have the nerve to attack anyone else?”

Then there’s Liza Minnelli. She was on Rosie O’Donnell’s variety show a couple years ago. The woman still seemed as ditsy and addled as ever, but now she’s a different Liza somehow. Thinner, more vibrant, and looking so rejuvenated that mere cosmetic tampering alone can’t be the answer. More likely, scientists secretly took her DNA 35 years ago, planted it in a petri dish, and started growing a second Liza as a back-up, in case the first one went right off the rails, which she looked like she might do for a while. It was a remarkable transition, and I still don’t know if I like it. Luckily, her bizarre routine with O’Donnell was a hokey, embarrassing, cringe-making debacle – so nothing’s changed on that score, at least.


UPDATE – 20th January 2011. Remarkably, Mary Tyler Moore resurfaced again last night on the second season opener of TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland. She was reunited with Betty White for the first time since 1977, when they played together in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

In Hot she was Betty’s cellmate, lying on a bunk, her face hidden from the camera, which, in hindsight was advisable, because when she turned round, my lord…well, it wasn’t good. 90% of the studio audience must have been going, “Er…who the hell is that?

At 74 years of age, Mary’s new face looks dark and evil. So completely different to the girl-next-door comedienne we once loved (and actually recognized). I know that many years and a whole lot of living have gone into that face, but you could say the same about Betty, who may have had a little something done years ago herself perhaps, but is otherwise untouched and looks natural and wonderful, and won’t send the children to bed screaming.

So a lesson for all of us there – leave your face alone. Grow old in your own good time. Love yourself for who you are and stop trying to be someone you’re not.

UPDATE – May 12 2011. Mary has a brain tumor and is going to have it surgically removed. Now this kind of surgery is probably justified. But in any case, she’s an icon and a legend. Let’s quit our showbiz sniping for a few weeks and pray she recovers and survives.

UPDATE – January 16th 2012. Tonight Mary Tyler Moore appeared on a very cheesy tribute show for Betty White’s 90th birthday on NBC, and she’s not aged well. Frail, shaky, distant. She’s only 75 but at first glance she seemed older than Betty herself. The poor woman has had a brain tumor removed, so we must be very kind and understanding. She’s also nearly blind due to diabetes.

On that ground, I refuse to comment further about her looks. Except to say, “Oh – my – god!” If nothing else, treat this as a PSA from the showbiz community. Stop going to plastic surgeons. If you have third degree burns, maybe. On the other hand, if you look just fine, but don’t want to end up looking like you once had third degree burns, leave yourself alone.

Oh, and since you’re here, don’t forget: Cash has two books out right now.

The first is a delicious mystery-thriller called Force of Habit: Sister Madeleine Investigates, which people are already calling ‘Dazzling’ and ‘Frightening’ and ‘So cool’. It’s hard not to love it, frankly. Right now it’s only $2.99, and GREAT fun.

The other is a quite stunning and fascinating chronicle of Cash’s 12-day journey to Brazil to undergo spiritual surgery from famed healer John of God. It’s a total page-turner. Called a little book about believing, the ideas it contains will blow – your – mind, as well as change your life. Now available on Amazon – Kindle or paperback.

REVIEWS: “Gripping. I couldn’t put it down. A book even skeptics can believe in.” – Len Richmond, director of What If Cannabis Cured Cancer?

”This book is wonderful, surprising, challenging, eye-opening, sensitive, touching…I’m running out of words. Just get it and read it.” – Caroline Lehman, author of Through the Moongate.

“An extraordinary book with a life-changing message.” – Andreas Moritz, author of Cancer Is Not a Disease.

And a reader: “Started reading the book last night at eleven. Read til 4am, passed out. Finished it today less than an hour ago. It’s hard to convey at how perfect a point in my life it came. I have you and your exquisite little book to thank for changing my life forever, intimately and positively.”



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