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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Howard Stern, sporting a silly gray beard in order to give his pal David Letterman a hard time, sits for a terrific interview in the latest installment of Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.

Stern, who got his big television break on Letterman’s show many years ago, is shown in footage from their first meeting together on TV—sporting a terrible mustache and somehow looking older than he does now. The action then skips to present-day, with Letterman sporting that crazy beard and Howard with shades—but without upper-lip hair.

The two talk about broadcasting in general, Howard’s upbringing, and the hazards of celebrity. Stern is his usual self-conscious self, complaining about his looks and worrying he’s ruining Dave’s show. He looks fine, and he’s a great guest.

Of course, they touch upon Donald Trump and his many visits to each of their shows, including Trump’s gross bragging about his own daughter’s hotness. Letterman invites Howard to visit Utah with him, and not surprisingly, Howard declines.

The show—the final episode of the first and possibly only season of My Next Guest—ends with Letterman riding off into the sunset on a horse. Is this the symbolic end to Letterman’s TV days? Gee, I hope not. This show is proof Letterman has plenty left in the tank.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Even if you are a David Letterman fan, let’s face it: You probably decreased your viewing of his Late Show in the final years of its run. As with most late-night shows, you caught some glimpses of it the next day in video snippets—but without a concentrated viewing of Letterman doing his thing.

Letterman’s new Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman, is a blessed reminder of how damn good of an interviewer the man is. The show is slated to be a monthly program, featuring an hour-long interview. The format loses the desk, the set and the band (although Paul Shaffer does provide the theme music). The result is marvelous.

The first guest of the initial six-month run is some unemployed guy named Barack Obama, a charming, funny, well-spoken guest who Letterman clearly admires. Obama does not directly attack the current president, but he sends some thinly veiled messages to Mr. Trump about doing the job with dignity. It’s an absorbing glimpse at Obama’s life a year out of office—as well as a welcomed return for Letterman.

Other late-night stars—like Johnny Carson and, to an extent, Jay Leno—disappeared after their runs. Thankfully, Letterman is back, and it’s a real treat to see him doing something worthy of his talents when he could just be puttering around his ranch.

Future guests will include George Clooney and Howard Stern.

The first episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Ray Wylie Hubbard’s career has been an up-and-down adventure spanning five decades.

In the ’70s, he was a well-known figure in what was called “cosmic country.” However, low record sales, addiction and other bad elements that plague musicians brought him down in the ’80s and early ’90s. Fortunately, he’s been enjoying a career resurgence—and he’ll be stopping by Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, June 13.

During a recent phone interview, Wylie said he had just returned home to Wimberley, Texas—an area that’s been stricken by terrible floods in recent weeks.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “We’ve lived here for about 18 years and haven’t seen anything like this. But it’s a good community, and everyone is here cleaning up the best we can and helping people.”

Regarding his career, I asked Hubbard if “resurrection” is a proper term for its current state. While Hubbard never really stopped performing, he said the term is appropriate.

“I was always a working musician, even though I never put out any records that sold,” Hubbard said with a laugh. “… In my 40s, when I did an album called Loco Gringo’s Lament (in 1994), that was the first album that I did where I could look at people in the eye and not have any excuses taped to it. That was kind of a resurrection, at a time when Loco Gringos came out, where I could let people know I wasn’t dead or drunk. But I’ve always been around, and it’s amazing right now, because of the internet and satellite radio playing the whole Americana thing, along with Facebook and Twitter. I’ve never been a mainstream guy at all, so we’re doing pretty good right now.”

Hubbard said Americana music has been on a comeback as well, helped in part by the DIY nature of today’s music business. “A while back, in order to do a record, someone had to say ‘yes’ and give you the money to do it, like a record label. But now, you can do a lot yourself and put it out there, not needing a distribution or the big promo budget.”

The Americana world, however, will miss the recently concluded Late Show With David Letterman. Many Americana acts, old and new, performed on The Late Show, including Hubbard, who played on the show in 2013.

“I got a phone call saying David Letterman would like me to appear on the show. My agent said, ‘Well, let me make sure Ray isn’t doing a happy hour gig in Fort Worth, and we’ll see if we can make it work,’” he said. “It was really cool. We went did the sound check and the camera walkthrough, and we didn’t meet him until the show was on. He walked over from his desk and said, ‘Thank you so much for being on my show. Do you know Guy Clark?’ And I said ‘Yes, I know Guy Clark.’ He said, ‘I like him; how’s he doing?’ I told him that Guy and I were around that age where we could hide our own Easter eggs, and he laughed and went back to his desk. After it was over, he came back over and was so gracious.

“He had people on his show like Elizabeth Cook, Dale Watson, Billy Joe Shaver, and a lot of people who no one really knew anything about. … He was very instrumental in showcasing Americana and not the mainstream guys.”

On the subject of addiction, Hubbard said the late Stevie Ray Vaughan helped him through his troubles.

“He was the first cat I knew who got sober and was still edgy and cool,” he said. “I’ve seen some friends of mine get sober and end up on the 700 Club or something like that—I thought they were squares. But with Stevie Ray, he was still cool. He was fun, and he was still great to be around. He had this aura of coolness and he didn’t end up on the 700 Club, and I’m not knocking that, but at that time, that was the kind of the mental state. All the things he said to me are still very, very important to me.

In April, Hubbard put out a new album, The Ruffian’s Misfortune. Hubbard said his love of old American literature inspired the title.

“I wanted a title for it that sounded like a book you’d find in an old used bookstore,” he said. “The title would be like Last of the Mohicans or Tale of Two Cities, and I wanted it to sound like an old American novel from the 1800s. The Ruffian’s Misfortune seemed like the perfect title, like if I saw an old book next to Last of the Mohicans (which made) me say, ‘Oh, I wonder what this is.’ It was just a title that I really kind of imagined that would be a great book title. It just felt right for the songs I wrote at the time.”

These days, his career is a family affair: His 21-year-old son, Lucas, backs him on guitar during his live performances, and his wife, Judy, is his label’s president.

“It really feels good. I can’t recommend this for everybody, but sleeping with the president of a record label, for me, it’s great,” he joked. “I’m not talking about Clive Davis; I’m talking about my wife. It’s great for me, because she says, ‘You go write these songs. Anything you want to write. You record the albums you want to make, and I’ll try to sell them and keep you working.’ I’m not writing songs trying to get Tim McGraw to cover them. It’s great I can be in that place to write these songs without thinking about their future. … Going out with my son playing guitar—he’s on the gig, plays really tasty, and he doesn’t show off. I feel very fortunate to be able to do all of that.”

Ray Wylie Hubbard will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, June 13, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

Happyish (Sundays, Showtime), new series: Showtime’s current Sunday lineup is no match for the hype steamroller of HBO’s Game of Thrones/Silicon Valley/Veep trifecta, which makes it the perfect-ish place for a throwback midlife-crisis comedy—even if it is sandwiched between a running-out-the-clock dramedy (Nurse Jackie) and a steampunk creepshow (Penny Dreadful). Happyish, starring British comedy MVP Steve Coogan (taking over for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), does what he can with a done-to-death setup: A 40-something guy hates his job—advertising, of course; it’s always advertising—as well as the annoying younger crowd moving up to force him out, but where else can he go? He’s hit his “joy ceiling.” There are plenty of funny moments from Coogan, as well as co-stars Kathryn Hahn and Bradley Whitford, but Happyish feels like a circa-1999 take on “edgy.” How about just bringing back Beggars and Choosers, Showtime?

Penny Dreadful (Sunday, May 3, Showtime), season premiere: Season 1 of Penny Dreadful crammed a lot of story into a mere eight episodes—so much so that you have to wonder who/what’s left for Vanessa (Eva Green), Ethan (Josh Hartnett), Dr. Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and the rest of the Victorian X-Filers to battle. The answer: Witches, of course; it’s always witches. They’re out to get Vanessa, and there are a handful of scenes in Season 2 opener “Fresh Hell” that are as creepy the entire Coven run of American Horror Story. But, unlike that and WGN’s visceral period horror-show Salem, Penny Dreadful relies on atmospherics that tend to meander; there’s a satisfying story here, but it requires patience. And more candles—19th-century London is ridiculously dark.

Family Guy (Sunday, May 3, Fox), 250th Episode: Yes, only 250—it seems like Family Guy has produced at least twice that many episodes, and even more jokes about how it’s “not as good as it used to be.” Thing is, Family Guy is as good as it’s ever been, but we’ve become so numb to the delivery system (setup, cutaway scene, commentary on random modern inconvenience, etc.) that it makes the traditionally linear storytelling of cartoons like Bob’s Burgers more appealing. It could also be that Bob’s Burgers is a far, far, far better show than Family Guy. Let’s go with that—happy 250th, Griffins!

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (Monday, May 4, HBO), documentary: Brett Morgen’s doc Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck arrives long enough after Cobain’s 1994 suicide (sorry, no cover-up conspiracy theories here) that it seems fresh—more importantly, this deconstruction of The Man, The Myth, The Grunge Superstar is fresh, like nothing that’s come before it. Beyond the usual Behind the Music mix of childhood home movies, Nirvana concert footage and talking-head testimonials, Morgen uses stylized animation to illustrate the journal passages of a young Aberdeen, Wash., weirdo who didn’t fit in anywhere, as well as Cobain’s own artwork and appropriated pop-cultural imagery, all mashed up into a narrative almost as dizzying as the mixtape after which the documentary is named. The kitchen-sink visual technique Morgen used for 2012’s expansive Rolling Stones doc Crossfire Hurricane, surprisingly, works just as well in the intimate inverse, shattering the decades-fostered grunge-cartoon image of Cobain and replacing it with a real human being. Courtney Love-haters will be glad to see that she, however, doesn’t come off nearly as well—and Montage of Heck has a stamp of approval from her (and daughter Frances Bean Cobain). Just as curious: Present-day Dave Grohl is absent, making this the only rock-doc in recent memory minus his participation.

David Letterman: A Life on Television (Monday, May 4, CBS), special: A 90-minute special marking Dave’s 30-year TV career and upcoming retirement, and there’s no space to include that one time he read my letter in the Viewer Mail segment on NBC’s Late Night? Fine, what-ever.

Published in TV