Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis Mondays and Fridays, 3-6pm CT

Friday, November 17, 2017

On My Friday Radio Show


I'll be back on KTRS today for my regular 3-6pm CT show (listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com).

In the first hour, I'll talk with Andy Friendly about his book, "Willing To Be Lucky: Adventures In Life and Television."

In the second hour, Max and I will review the new movies "Justice League" and "Wonder," plus other showbiz stuff.

In the third hour, you'll get a chance to test your topical trivia knowledge with my Harris Challenge, and I'll have another batch of Knuckleheads In The News®, too.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Al Franken Harassment Story


I'll admit that I was quite surprised to see Al Franken's name appear on the list of men charged with sexual assault -- not because I know him, but because he never seemed to be that kind of guy. Shows you what a judge of character I am.

I only know Leeann Tweeden from seeing her host "Poker After Dark" on NBC for many years, but I don't doubt her story one bit -- it's awfully hard to deny when she has posted the above photo. She's now the morning news anchor on KABC-AM/Los Angeles, and what she says Franken did to her during a 2006 USO tour is disgusting and worthy of scorn.

Franken's original apology was lame, but he must have had staffers help him re-draft it, so in the new version, he sounds sincere -- particularly these paragraphs:
Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.

For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.

Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.
Franken has a political reputation as a strong advocate for women. It doesn't matter, any more than Louis CK's history of helping women like Pamela Adlon and Tig Notaro get their own TV shows. None of it erases the ugliness of what they've done, which says so much more than their words.

I can hear the right-wing laughing hysterically as it equates Franken's misdeeds with those of Roy Moore, but there's no comparison because the charges against the latter amount to pedophilia, which will always rank higher on the List Of Horrible Things Men Have Done. That doesn't mean Franken gets a pass, of course, but I honestly don't know if the Tweeden story should mean he's expelled from the senate, or what the other options might be. I can predict that you won't hear many comments about the political angle that aren't tainted by agendas.

Here's another difference between Franken and Moore. The former has shown that he understands that what he did was wrong and apologized for it. That doesn't make it okay by any means, but it is much better than the latter, who has not even acknowledged that he did any of the acts he's accused of. Neither has the current occupant of the White House.

One other point. I've read terrible comments online about how Tweeden should have expected to be treated that way because she'd been a model for Frederick's Of Hollywood, FHM, Maxim, and Playboy. That's nothing less than victim-blaming, in the same manner as idiots who say, "She deserved to be groped because she was wearing a mini-skirt." Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

On my radio show today, I had originally booked Jen Chaney of Vulture to talk about three new TV pilots Amazon has made. We eventually got around to them, but not before we discussed the Franken story, some old accusations against Sly Stallone that have just come to light, and new info about Kevin Spacey, too.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Charles Brandt, "I Hear You Paint Houses"


Martin Scorcese's next movie is "The Irishman," starring Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, as well as lots of other names you'll recognize (Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Jesse Plemons, Harvey Keitel, and Ray Romano). It will be released on Netflix early in 2018.

It's based on Charles Brandt's book, "I Heard You Paint Houses," about Frank Sheehan, a mafia hitman who was involved in the death of Jimmy Hoffa. On my show, Brandt explained how he got Sheehan to reveal his secrets, whether he was ever afraid of mob reprisals, and what happened to Hoffa's body (spoiler: it's not under Giants Stadium). As you'll hear, Brandt is a helluva storyteller.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Keith Humphreys -- Have Anti-Drug Ads Worked?


That is arguably the most famous anti-drug commercial ever made. But was it effective?

I asked Keith Humpreys, professor at the Stanford School Of Medicine, who has reviewed lots of studies about all sorts of anti-drug ads -- and the results might surprise you. We talked about what worked, what didn't, and what was wrong with the messaging.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

There's also this, a brilliant parody of another ad produced by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. It starts with the original version, starring actress Rachel Leigh Cook, then extends it with a lookalike and a few family members...

Steve Smith -- Can The Senate Keep Roy Moore Out?

With even more women accusing Roy Moore of sexually inappropriate behavior several decades ago, can the US Senate keep him from being seated if he wins the Alabama special election next month? I put that question to Steve Smith, Washington University professor of social science and political science, and author of "The Senate Syndrome."

He explained that the answer has two components -- exclusion and expulsion. The first is about whether the Senate could refuse to seat someone who has legally won an election. The other is about whether the Senate could throw someone out whose ethics it felt were not worth of that seat.

But there's more -- what can Republicans do to try to guarantee they retain that seat, and thus a two-vote majority over the Democrats? Would a write-in candidate work? What if Luther Strange (who was appointed to that seat on a temporary basis when Jeff Sessions left to become Attorney General) quit tomorrow so the governor of Alabama could appoint another temporary senator until a new special election was scheduled?

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

On My Thursday Radio Show


I'll fill in for John Carney again on KTRS today 1-3pm CT. My guests will include:
  • Keith Humphreys on how anti-drug ads aren't keeping people off opioids or other drugs;
  • Charles Brandt, whose book "I Hear You Paint Houses" is being turned into a Martin Scorcese movie for Netflix called "The Irishman";
  • Jen Chaney from Vulture on three new Amazon pilots you might want to check out.
Listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Movie Review: "Murder On The Orient Express"


"Murder On The Orient Express" was one of Agatha Christie's most popular novels. Written (and based) in 1934, it's the tale of a dozen people -- including a mobster, a princess, a governess, a doctor, an American loudmouth, an Italian car salesman, an English butler, a German maid, a French conductor, and a Swedish nurse -- on a luxury train ride from Istanbul to Calais. The trip is interrupted by two events: an avalanche that knocks the locomotive off the tracks, and the murder of one of its passengers. Fortunately, the famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is on board, and it's up to him to determine which of the other passengers is the killer.

Kenneth Branagh plays Poirot, complete with the kind of mustache that, in 1934, was a masterwork of whiskery, but today would only be worn by a man desperate to proclaim himself ironic. Branagh also directed, and the movie looks beautiful, from the claustrophobic interiors to the shots of the train stuck atop a trestle. In one scene, he uses a very clever overhead angle of several people in conversation. In others, the snow-laden route really pops off the screen, thanks to CGI, but that sort of movie trickery don't make its pace any quicker.

That is the biggest problem with "Murder On The Orient Express." If you were reading Christie's book, she could elaborate on each of the characters, and you'd have time to put the book down between chapters to absorb all that information. Unfortunately, on the big screen, all of that character detail is left out -- and still the plot doesn't move any faster than the train stuck in the snow. Without all of that exposition about the suspects, the mystery comes to a conclusion in which Poirot reveals information about each of the passengers that was never shared with us as viewers.

I was reminded of Neil Simon's "Murder By Death," in which the world's most famous mystery writers were gathered for a dinner by someone who was sick of them keeping vital information from their readers until the last few pages, when their detectives whipped out a miraculous revelation and solved the crime. By the time we reach that point in "Murder On The Orient Express," it's not anti-climactic, it's just boring.

Aside from Branagh, the cast includes Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley ("Star Wars: The Force Awakens"), Leslie Odom Jr. ("Hamilton"), Josh Gad (so good in last month's "Marshall"), plus Johnny Depp (doing a ridiculous gangster accent), and Michelle Pfeiffer (who also sings the song heard over the closing credits that you won't stick around for and will never hear again).

Compare that to the cast of the last all-star version of "Murder On The Orient Express," directed in 1974 by Sidney Lumet: Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Richard Widmark, and Albert Finney as Poirot.

I saw the Lumet version, so I knew what to expect at the end of this remake. But the beginning takes far too long to get us into the adventure, and that long yawning trip the rest of the way isn't worth the price of the ticket. While this adaptation of Christie's story may have had a good opening weekend, I'd bet that word of mouth will not be good, and its box office numbers will drop dramatically going forward. In that case, the "Death On The Nile" sequel that's teased in the final scene may be dead before its arrival.

I give this "Murder On The Orient Express" a 4 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lenore Skenazy, "The Fragile Generation"

Lenore Skenazy was back on my radio show to discuss a piece she wrote for Reason about why we're raising such a fragile generation of children. She argues that millenials' demands for "safe spaces" on college campuses is because they were told by their parents that they can never be too safe. They were protected in everything they did, so they weren't prepared for any kind of conflict or interpersonal problems.

We got into that, as well as kids' lack of free time to just play, without adult supervision, and how even if your kid does want to go outside after school, there aren't any other kids out there because every minute of their lives has been scheduled by their over-protective parents. Lenore says (and I agree) that this makes children less resilient and woefully unprepared not just for a college campus but the real world at large.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Lenore Skenazy is founder of Free Range Kids and president of the nonprofit Let Grow Foundation.

Amanda Marcotte, "Why Alabamans Will Still Vote For Roy Moore"

As another woman came out to publicly accuse Roy Moore of sexual assault -- in this case, Beverly Nelson says he tried to rape her when she was 16 -- there's an open question of whether these reports will change the minds of Alabama voters when they go to the polls for the special election on December 12th.

My guest, Salon columnist Amanda Marcotte, says we shouldn't expect them to turn against Moore. After all, they already knew that he was an extremist evangelical Christian. Moreover, there are many others like him who believe that teenage girls are ripe for the picking (i.e. that's the age when it's best to marry them and make sure they understand that a man is the head of the household in all matters). We discussed all of that, plus the implications of Mitch McConnell saying Moore should step aside.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!


Previously on Harris Online...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Another Radio Monday


I'll be back on KTRS today for my regular 3-6pm CT show. Among my guests will be Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids, about how we've raised such a fragile generation of children, and Amanda Marcotte on why Alabamans will still vote for Roy Moore.

I hope you'll listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com. Today’s guarantee: neither I nor any guest or caller will run with scissors, except during commercial breaks.