Kent in the News
2.6 million people read about Kent this week thanks to a feature story in USA Today that touted Kent’s 4 game football winning streak for “generating considerable buzz.” Coach Martin was quoted as saying “the whole school is excited” but I’d take it even farther and say the whole community is excited. I know I’m excited, not just for the football victories, but for the buzz Kent has received as a result of the football team this year. You can’t pay for that kind of publicity. People and businesses want to be part of winners and this year Kent’s football team has made us all winners. Speaking of winners, one of this year’s best new comedy series, “30 Rock” has a Kent connection as well. Read more to see how.
Kent State showing ‘flashes’ of contention
By Eddie Timanus
Three phrases not often used in the same sentence are “Kent State football,” “first place” and “winning streak.”
Understandably then, the fact Kent State’s football team is in first place in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference and riding a four-game winning streak is generating considerable buzz on the Ohio campus known historically for infamous political protests and football futility. The Golden Flashes (4-2, 3-0 MAC) hope that positive energy turns into another win Saturday as they host Toledo and try to start 4-0 in the MAC for the first time in school history.
“In the past we were just trying to get a win,” says third-year Golden Flashes coach Doug Martin. “Now, we have a lot to play for. The whole school is excited. The student body and the football team are maybe joined together for the first time.”
Streaks of the other kind have been the rule at Kent since its last bowl appearance more than three decades ago. The Golden Flashes last won the MAC in 1972 when Don James was coach. Since playing in the Tangerine Bowl following that season, the Golden Flashes have endured six double-digit losing streaks, including a 21-game skid from 1981-83.
One of those long slides extended into the current campaign that began looking like more of the same. The Golden Flashes dropped nine in a row to end 2005 1-10. A 44-0 opening loss to Minnesota and an overtime setback at Army ran the string to 11 before the Golden Flashes finally got over the hump with a 16-14 win at Miami (Ohio) in their MAC opener.
“It’s tough in a culture like ours because there’s no tradition like some programs have to fall back on,” Martin says. “We couldn’t talk about how Kent State was really good in the ’90s or anything like that. …We had a lot of players who were buying what we were selling on credit.”
Convincing victories against Bowling Green and defending MAC champion Akron followed. Next is Toledo, usually in the mix for the MAC crown but struggling at 0-2 in the conference. Rockets coach Tom Amstutz says Kent’s success wasn’t completely out of the blue.
“Their defense was getting stronger the last couple of years,” he says. “They just needed a player or two to help them get that spark. They’ve got that now. Their quarterback is playing very well.”
That would be Julian Edelman, who is leading the MAC in total offense at 248 yards a game. Martin acknowledges finding Edelman, a transfer from the College of San Mateo (Calif.), involved a little luck.
“He was (an academic) qualifier out of high school, so he didn’t get recruited,” Martin says. “We knew we needed some athleticism at the quarterback position. We were the only school that stepped up and offered him a scholarship. … We were fortunate to find Julian.”
Another flashy Flash is wideout Najah Pruden, who has 25 receptions with four touchdowns and is averaging 22.6 yards a catch.
With Kent State playing meaningful football in October for the first time in recent memory, Martin isn’t about to change his approach.
“We’re really taking every MAC game as a one-game championship, starting with this one,” he says. “It’s homecoming, and it should be a great crowd.”
Sharp ’30 Rock’ one of season’s best
Plain Dealer Television Critic
30 Rock What: The premiere of writer-producer-star Tina Fey’s comedy series about a network sketch show. When 8 tonight. Where NBC (WKYC Channel 3).
NBC is playing the numbers game tonight, premiering two comedies with numerical titles: “30 Rock” and “Twenty Good Years.” Place all bets on the higher number.
This time, it comes down to a case of simple math – “30” is greater than “Twenty.” Indeed, it’s much greater when you factor in all the comic pluses and minuses emerging from these two NBC newcomers.
So go with “30 Rock” because it has the higher laugh quotient, the higher level of writing and the much higher IQ. Both titles may feature even numbers, but “Twenty Good Years” isn’t even close.
The odds-on favorite, therefore, is “30 Rock,” which debuts at 8 tonight on WKYC Channel 3. Tina Fey is the writer, executive producer and star of this behind-the-scenes comedy about a live network sketch comedy show. Sound familiar?
Yes, NBC already has premiered writer-producer Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” a behind-the-scenes drama about a live network sketch comedy show.
The 60-minute “Studio 60” and the 30-minute “30 Rock” have something else in common. Each ranks among the best rookie shows of the fall season. And that’s because each places sharp scripts in the hands of winning stars, allowing them to freely score satiric points at television’s expense.
Fey knows this territory, having just completed her sixth season as the head writer and “Weekend Update” co-anchor on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” In “30 Rock,” she plays Liz Lemon, the head writer on “The Girlie Show,” a successful comedy-variety program.
Since the show is successful, with Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) as its star, Liz is stunned when NBC’s new vice president in charge of programming and development, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), orders changes. That’s right. To add to the fun, Fey is using the NBC world as the setting for her fictional show about a fictional show.
“Sometimes, you have to change things that are perfectly good to make them your own,” the supremely confident, incredibly egocentric and possibly deranged Jack tells Liz.
Jack’s claim to fame is having invented the trivection oven for NBC-Universal’s parent company, General Electric. His reward was to be put in charge of network programming.
A micromanaging meddler, Jack orders Liz to hire Tracy Jordan (“Saturday Night Live” veteran Tracy Morgan), a comedian with a wild and crazy track record that stops just short of a police record. Liz brings up his history of unpredictable and unhinged behavior with a simple question: “Isn’t he . . . crazy?”
Never flinching, Jack responds, “The important thing to remember is that he was never charged with a crime.”
Jack might be the one who is crazy. Or he might be a genius. Or he just might be a crazy genius. The same applies to Tracy, and Liz must make it all work with an emotionally unstable Jenna and a shell-shocked writing staff.
The cast is very strong, yet shining brighter than all are Fey’s writing and Baldwin’s hilarious portrayal of Jack. The very presence of his character seems to say, “Network television is, as you suspect, crazy, and the lunatics are running the asylum, but, somehow, in the midst of his lunacy great work gets done.” Great work like “30 Rock.”
Fey’s husband, Jeff Richmond, is a producer and composer on the series. Also a gifted writer and performer, Richmond co-authored musicals staged at Kent State University when he was a student there in the 1980s.
Not enough laughs in ‘Twenty Good Years’
“Twenty Good Years,” which premieres at 8:30 on Channel 3, also has a Northeast Ohio connection. It stars John Lithgow, who won three Emmys for his magnificently silly portrayal of Dick Solomon on NBC’s “3rd Rock From the Sun.” Lithgow lived in Akron during the early ’60s.
In 1963, after his senior year of high school, he spent the first of two summers in Lakewood, where his father, Arthur Lithgow, had started the Great Lakes Theater Festival. And the fictional college on “3rd Rock,” 40 miles from Cleveland, was based on Kent State University, which the show’s co-creator and executive producer, Bonnie Turner, attended.
Despite Lithgow’s undeniable gift for lunacy, however, “Twenty Good Years ” fails to roll to the comic heights of either “3rd Rock” or “30 Rock.” Teaming Lithgow with the wonderful Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”), it seems like a can’t-miss premise for a comedy.
At one point in tonight’s opener, Lithgow’s character declares, “Fun! Of course, it will be fun. It’s me!”
That’s precisely what you’re thinking, given his credits. But there’s shockingly little fun to be found in “Twenty Good Years.”
Lithgow plays impulsive, self-absorbed New York surgeon John Mason. His best friend is the ever-cautious Jeffrey Pyne, a widower judge. When John is forced into semiretirement, he decides that he and Jeffrey should make the most of the 20 good years they have left.
But Lithgow and Tambor can’t make much of this material, which lacks art and heart. To say they deserve better is an understatement of massive proportion. The obvious and vulgar jokes are so clunky, they seem to have been chiseled from granite.
“Well, that was just rude,” Lithgow’s character says during a party scene.
Crude would have been the more apt choice of words.