August 15, 2019

postmodcast | Quentin Tarantino

Listen to this episode of postmodcast.

host | Kevin Brewer | @RealKevinBrewer
stunt double | Chris Harrell | @ChrisHarrell5

1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (0:00)
2. Bad internet opinions (16:00)
3. Best (and worst) Tarantino films (37:00)
4. Casting flexes (57:00)

July 16, 2019

Battle Q&A | Judy Norton-Taylor

Judy Norton-Taylor will forever be known as Mary Ellen Walton, the oldest daughter to John and Oliva on The Waltons (1972-81), the earnest television series about a Depression-era family in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The family drama was watched by more than 20 million viewers a week.

To millions less, Norton-Taylor is simply the greatest women’s athlete in the history of Battle of the Network Stars (1976-85), the biannual made-for-television special in which stars from the three broadcast networks competed in various sporting events. “A female superstar,” Howard Cosell said.

Norton-Taylor could do it all — and play through pain. Her signature events: the obstacle course and 3-on-3 football. She won the women’s obstacle course in each of her three appearances — beating Kristy McNichol (thanks to a 3-second penalty), Susan Richardson and Randi Oakes — and she holds the all-time record for touchdown catches. Battle IX was her masterpiece, arguably the best individual performance in the show’s history, helping CBS win six events, three with a broken finger. “It was a good weekend,” she said. Battle X was nearly as good: five wins, two with a sprained ankle.

June 25, 2019

Hey, 19, it’s Luka Doncic: 2019 player rankings

Luka Doncic won the NBA Rookie of the Year award last night at the NBA Awards — an anticlimactic made-for-television event that most fans don’t care about because they are thinking about Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and free agency and not trophies for the regular season, which ended more than two months ago.

Anyway. Doncic’s award was the most anticlimactic. The Mavericks polymath — who averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists last season — received 98 of 100 first-place votes.

Even more impressive: Doncic might be the best 19-year-old in NBA history.

June 17, 2019

Kawhi Leonard and every playoffs MVP

Kawhi Leonard has been called a cyborg, because of his supernatural two-way excellent and mechanical laugh. Except he’s not. Leonard is a dynasty-stopping, two-time NBA Finals MVP cyborg with the highest winning percentage in NBA history.

Leonard four-bounced a game-winning shot in Game 7 of the Eastern conference semifinals, guarded the freakish Giannis Antetokounmpo in the conference finals and snuffed out a possible three-peat by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals on Thursday night, leading the Toronto Raptors to their first championship in franchise history.

January 7, 2019

Zen and the Art of Mark Harmon

If Mark Harmon did not exist, man would have to invent him — out of necessity or desire for someone so good and true that he seems too good to be true.

Harmon has played many roles on television and in life. Quarterback at UCLA. Dr. Bobby Caldwell on St. Elsewhere. Special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS. And one that is more obscure: the greatest athlete in the history of Battle of the Network Stars.

But make no mistake. Every part of this story — from the obstacle course to the Tug of War to the time he saved a young man’s life by pulling him from a burning automobile — is true. That’s the way Thomas Mark Harmon would want it.

Like some sort of half-athlete, half-actor mythological creature, Harmon was born in Burbank, Calif., the son of Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon and Vogue model and B-movie actress Elyse Knox. Which meant he was perfectly cast in Battle of the Network Stars (1976-1985, 1989), a biannual made-for-television special in which stars from the three broadcast networks competed in various sporting events.

Harmon was not allowed to play quarterback in the 3-on-3 football event, because that’s the position he played at UCLA, where he led the Bruins to an upset of No. 1 Nebraska in his first game.

Instead he did everything else. In four Battles over four years, Harmon won the obstacle course four times, the running relay three times, the swimming relay twice and the kayak and tandem bike relays, and he was the lead man in two tug of war victories.

Harmon’s finest Battle might have been Battle XI, back when he played Fielding Carlyle on Flamingo Road, helping his team win five events, including an epic tug of war in a record 12:53. Or maybe the following spring, when he broke the obstacle course record in 17.50 seconds. But it was probably Battle XVII in December 1984, when he led NBC to six wins — including an interception in the football game — and dunked future love interest Heather Locklear twice in the baseball dunk.

As Battle of the Network Stars ended, Harmon’s run as the most reliable television actor of the past three decades was just beginning. He closed his three-season stint on St. Elsewhere by playing the first television character with AIDS, then played an astronaut in four episodes of Moonlighting (1987), a police detective on Reasonable Doubts (1991-93), a private detective on Charlie Grace (1995-96), a doctor again on Chicago Hope (1996-2000) and a secret service agent on The West Wing (2002) for which he received an Emmy nomination. Since 2003, he has played Leroy Jethro Gibbs in NCIS, television’s highest-rated drama for nearly a decade.

But that’s the resume of a mythological creature. Not the measure of a man.

It was said of James Bond: Women want to be with him. Men want to be him.

James Bond couldn’t carry Mark Harmon’s luggage.

Women want to be with him because he was the Sexiest Man Alive and he has been married to the same woman for 30 years. Men want to be him because he restored a 1972 Vintage Airstream and found the rugged poetry in Coors beer in the 1980s.

Mark Harmon makes the Most Interesting Man in the World seem banal.

He was accepted to law school but became a carpenter instead.

He used to run 60 miles a week and now does Pilates.

He knows sign language. He plays guitar.

But this is the showstopper. On Jan. 4, 1996, a car crashed into a tree, flipped over and burst into flames next door to Harmon’s home in Los Angeles. Harmon broke the passenger window with a sledgehammer and pulled Colin Specht, then 16, to safety. The driver escaped on his own.

“I won’t take credit for it,” he told CBS in 2013. “Because if the card explodes and I’m there next to the car, then you’re talking about two young boys who don’t have a father. And you’d be doing this interview with my wife and talking about how stupid it was.”

That’s the essence of Mark Harmon. In the tug of war, on television’s highest-rated drama, when saving someone’s life, he does the heavy lifting but won’t take any credit.

On NCIS, Harmon’s character has these rules, pieces of advice he dispenses to those around him, a code by which he lives. He keeps them at home in a small tin.

Rule 11: When the job is done, walk away.
— Kevin Brewer