Monday, April 27, 2009

The Best Comedy on Television

Last time, I shared with you my choice for best drama on television. Now it is time to reveal the best comedy (among the ones I watch) on TV. The candidates: King of the Hill, The Simpsons, Scrubs, My Name is Earl, The Office, 30 Rock, Best Week Ever, Entourage, and Everybody Hates Chris.

The winner is The Office. But the competition is tight. So much so, that I’ve decided to say a few words about each of the shows:

The Office: Boss Michael Scott, both buffoonish and brilliant, keeps me cracking up and cringing (often at the same time). Indeed everyone at Dunder Mifflin has their eccentricities and personality quirks. Yet the goals they pursue and the problems they face are relatable. The workplace interactions among these office colleagues (and often rivals) are consistently hilarious. Strong writing has kept the storylines interesting through five seasons now. My Dwight Schrute bobblehead is nodding in agreement.

30 Rock: I didn’t like this show at first, but now it is among my favorites. The humor is quick and sharp. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin are comedy geniuses. Kenneth the Page is one of the funniest characters on TV.

Everybody Hates Chris: Easy to overlook because of its Friday night time slot, this show is one of the best comedies going today. I love Chris Rock’s narration and the contrasting yet complimentary personalities of the parents (Terry Crews and Tichina Arnold). There have been some great episodes this season as Chris faces “older” teenage issues.

The Simpsons: Debuting in the Bush administration (the first Bush administration), this is one of the greatest comedies of all time. The show is not as strong today as it was in the early 1990s, but Springfield remains a very funny place.

King of the Hill: Another animated legend. Now in its final season, Hank and company show that there is still much humor to be found in propane, drinking beer, and a boy who just “ain’t right.”

Scrubs: Perhaps the best comedy on TV in its early years. Fell into a couple of so-so seasons, before regaining its punch this year. Janitor rules. Wonder if we will ever learn his name.

My Name is Earl: Another show that started strong (it too was once my favorite), then lost momentum, and now is back on track.

Entourage: Comedy, thy name is drama. Johnny Drama.

Best Week Ever: I like the new format with Paul F. Tompkins as host, though the show is hit or miss with its pop culture commentaries. And why is it so rare for an actual person to have the best week ever?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Best Show on Television

What is the best show on television? Since I don’t watch all the shows on TV, I can’t definitively answer that question. But I can tell you the best (drama) program among the shows I watch. The candidates include: Lost, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, Reaper, Monk, Psych, and Kings. (I’ll save comedies for a separate post)

And the winner is . . . Breaking Bad. I must admit, I almost did not give this show a chance. All I knew about it before the first episode aired was this: The guy from Malcolm in the Middle is a high school chemistry teacher who finds out he has cancer, so he starts cooking meth to pay for his treatments and provide for his family. Cancer, chemistry, and cooking meth. I’m not a fan of any of those three subjects. But the pre-pilot critical buzz for this show was unusually high, so I tuned in. I’m glad I did.

What is so great about Breaking Bad, you ask? The acting and writing, of course. Beyond that, what stands out to me is the exquisite use of imagery. Unique angles and memorable shots of the seemingly innocuous convey a sense of foreboding—a consequence of the precarious path the two protagonists have dared to walk. And then there is the “shock and awe” factor. In the last episode, for example, there was a severed head crossing the desert on the back of a tortoise. Now that’s something you won't see on American Idol.

Watch Breaking Bad on AMC Sunday nights at 10:00 Eastern / 9:00 Central.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Eastridge High School

The All-American King opens in 1973 with the central character, Dave King, a sophomore at Eastridge High School in Des Moines, Iowa. I had originally planned to start the book with Dave as a freshman at Eastridge. After I had written nearly four chapters, however, I remembered that high schools in Des Moines did not include a ninth grade until 1979. Because I wanted my settings to be historically accurate, I could not let this detail slide. So I adjusted my outline and rewrote parts of the first four chapters, and Dave became a 10th grader. This change was well worth making since it yielded benefits beyond conforming to historical reality. Specifically, condensing the high school material from four years to three improved the pacing of the first part of the book.

Now, about Eastridge High. It is a fictional school that does not actually exist. Given that I attended East High (a real school in Des Moines pictured above), you might be tempted to think that Eastridge is a thinly disguised version of my alma mater. My response to such thinking is: What?! No! How can you entertain such a ludicrous idea? The two schools are as different as night and day. For starters, Eastridge is spelled E-A-S-T-R-I-D-G-E. East, on the other hand, is spelled E-A-S-T. See? Two completely different words, with different spellings and everything.

The difference between the fictional school and the real school is further underscored by their sports teams. The Eastridge High teams are the Braves, and thus are named after Native American warriors. The East High teams are the Scarlets, and thus are named after, uh, well there is an Indian chief on the cover of my yearbook. But that could mean anything. For all we know, the East High teams take their name from that Pimpernel guy who rescued people from the guillotine during the French Revolution. So again, as you can clearly see, no similarity between East and Eastridge.

I think I've proved my point. Next time I will explain why the mild-mannered reporter for our newspaper is NOT the caped superhero who flies around the city fighting crime.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Book Review of The All-American King

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, a review of The All-American King appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, Nebraska). The review, written by Cindy Conger, is available at the newspaper's Web site.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nintendo DS of the 1980s

Hand-held games are everywhere. But what today's gamers probably don't know is that it all began with Microvision. Yes, Microvision, the Nintendo DS of the early 1980s. I received my Microvision game system sometime around 1982, when I was in middle school. Requiring only one 9-volt battery, the console supported a variety of interchangeable game cartridges. My collection inlcuded: Sea Duel, Star Trek Phaser Strike, Cosmic Hunter, Baseball, and Bowling. My favorite game was the one that came with the unit: Blockbuster. You know, the game in which you use your paddle to hit a ball into the wall above. Each hit knocked a block out of the wall. Hitting a block in the top row caused the ball to move faster.

Okay, so the graphics were primitive. The liquid crystal display screen was actually just a grid of squares that darkened to represent submarines, Klingon warships, alien monsters, etc. But with a little imagination, the games could be sort of fun.

Alas, Milton Bradley pulled the plug on Microvision not long after I received my console. I recently decided to retrieve my old game unit from its dusty, beat-up box. Amazingly, though nearly three decades old, it still works! Remember that when you discover your long-forgotten Nintendo DS in the attic in the year 2035.

You may be wondering what happens in Blockbuster when you clear all of the blocks out of the wall. Another wall appears, of course.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Many readers of The All-American King have expressed curiousity about the location of the restaurant owned by Jesse King, the father of the main character. Actually nobody asks me about that, but it's fun to pretend. Anyway, the restaurant is called The Royal Court and it's located on the east side of Des Moines, Iowa. Though The Royal Court is fictional, I placed it at an actual location on Hubbell Avenue, just south of the intersection with University Avenue. When I started writing my novel in the summer of 2006, this site was a vacant lot. In 2008, a Taco John's opened there. Des Moines residents may remember that there was once a Sambo's restaurant at that spot decades ago. I have faded memories of eating pancakes there when I was a kid.

A stone's throw north of the site of the fictional restaurant is the Anderson Erickson Dairy, and the famous AE cows. Annie, the larger of the two bovines, took up her post in front of the dairy in 1966. Eleven years later a calf named Eric joined Annie. The two cows are still there today watching the traffic pass by on Hubbell and University. Visit the Anderson Erickson website to learn more about Annie and Eric.


Sunday, April 5, 2009


Hello. Welcome to my first blog post. I am Kent Krause, author of a new novel titled The All-American King. The book is a modern retelling of the King David story, with a quarterback as the central character. More information about the book (including a free preview of Chapter 1) is available at my Web site:

You may be wondering if my novel is anything like the television show, Kings. The answer is no--not really. Aside from drawing from the same Old Testament source material (1 & 2 Samuel) and addressing a few of the same themes, the two works are quite different. The All-American King is a work of contemporary Christian realism (assuming such a genre exists) set primarily in the Midwest. Kings, on the other hand, is a political/science-fiction/religious/Shakespearean soap opera set in an alternate universe. The show might be what you get if you threw Dynasty, Rome, and Battlestar Galactica into a blender. Plus, there are butterflies. Lots and lots of butterflies. If you want to check it out, the show is on Saturday nights on NBC at 8:00 Eastern / 7:00 Central.

So, what will my blog be about? Um . . . well, I have a few ideas:
  • behind the scenes stuff from The All-American King (kinda like the special features on a DVD)
  • writing fiction (On Writing is a good place to start)
  • reading fiction (yes, I count Mick Foley as one of my influences)
  • trying to get your work published (visualize driving a camel through the eye of a needle)
  • why self-publishing might be right for you (because a camel doesn't easily fit through the eye of a needle)
  • my current/future writing projects (I'm thinking that a modern-day novel about Balaam's donkey might be too much like Knight Rider)
  • miscellaneous ramblings about the flotsam and jetsam of life (just like at the end of 60 Minutes)

Thanks for stopping by. Hurry back.