News of the Week: Tom Hanks’s Novel, the Vast Wasteland, and a 37-Year-Old Jeopardy! Mystery Is Solved

In the news for the week ending May 12, 2023, are a rock ’n’ roll pup, sandwich-flavored chips, World Cocktail Day, and more.


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Read This!

In the current issue of the Post,’s Steph Opitz picks 10 books you should read. Below are a half dozen more. Buy them, read them, collect them all!

The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks. The Oscar winner goes behind the scenes of a fictional blockbuster superhero movie, based on a comic strip created by the nephew of a World War II veteran. Lots of Hollywood insider info, illustrations, and of course typewriters make an appearance.

Cheerfulness by Garrison Keillor. The beloved writer and radio host’s newest has him “drawing upon personal anecdotes from his young adulthood to his eighties … to shed light on the immense good that can come from a deliberate work ethic and a buoyant demeanor.” (Cable Neuhaus interviewed Keillor last year about aging and what he was working on.)

To Anyone Who Ever Asks: The Life, Music, and Mystery of Connie Converse by Howard Fishman. Converse was one of the first singer-songwriters — certainly one of the first females — who wrote a lot of great songs and even made an appearance on the CBS Morning Show in 1954 with Walter Cronkite (the tape no longer exists). Things didn’t quite work out so she moved to be with family and find a new career. In 1974, disillusioned and depressed, she packed up her car and simply vanished, never to be seen again, leaving behind music and goodbye notes. The recordings were discovered years later and released and have found a new audience.

Uploaded to YouTube by Connie Converse – Topic.

The Time Has Come by Will Leitch. The sportswriter and film critic’s new novel is about “seven strangers and one very intense evening at a small-town Georgia pharmacy.” If it’s anything like his last novel, How Lucky, it’s going to be great. (Full disclosure: I say that not only because Will’s a friend of mine, but more importantly, because he paid me to.)

Eddie Muller’s Noir Bar by Eddie Muller. What a great idea: The Turner Classic Movies host pairs up cocktails with the films noir that inspired them. He also tells you how to stock your home bar, and the book is filled with photos from the movies and behind-the-scenes info. (More full disclosure: I’ve written for Eddie’s Noir City magazine.)

Beware the Woman by Megan Abbott. Several of Abbott’s novels could probably be called noir, and this latest thriller focuses on what happens when a pregnant woman and her husband visit the husband’s family cottage in Michigan. It’s probably not going to be a fun vacation.

Buddy Holly Wins the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.

Buddy Holly is the name of a petit basset griffon Vendéen, and he won the Best in Show award at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

If you had said the phrase “petit basset griffon Vendéen” to me before this week, I would have assumed you were talking about a fancy dish or wine at a high-end restaurant.

The New Matlock Trailer Really Bugs Me

Some of the networks unveiled their new schedules and new shows this week, which may be wishful thinking because the writer’s strike is still going on. But the strike will end at some point (though a director strike may be looming!) and new and old shows will be on our TV screens.

They’re remaking Matlock with Kathy Bates. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t even care about the gender swap. But there’s a line in the trailer that irritates the heck out of me. Here it is, right around the 22 second mark. Take a look and we’ll catch up on the other side.

Uploaded to YouTube by CBS.

Did you hear it? She says her name is Matlock, “yes, like the old TV show.”


Is this a reboot or not? If she’s not playing the same character, or a version of the same character, she’s just a lawyer who happens to have the same last name as a character on an old Andy Griffith TV show, then this isn’t really a reboot, is it? Couldn’t they have just had Kathy Bates play the daughter of the Andy Griffith character? Or maybe just play an older lawyer and give her a different name?

We know why they didn’t do that. Matlock was a popular show and they want to benefit from the name recognition and nostalgia. But it just doesn’t make any sense. Or maybe she’s crazy and decided to change her name and become a lawyer because she’s a fan of the old show?

No One Can Eat Just One

I know that there are many events happening in the world that are more important, but can we talk about what’s happening in the chip aisle?

Once upon a time there were just potato chips. Sure, sometimes they came in different shapes, sometimes there were low-salt versions, and maybe there was an exotic flavor like barbecue or cheese or sour cream and onion. But it wasn’t confusing.

The other day at the store I noticed two new Doritos flavors, tangy ketchup and hot mustard (quick review: both are good and live up to their names, though after a few of the hot mustard chips your lips will be numb), and that got me wondering what other experiments the mad scientists in food labs are working on.

Lay’s — which, like Doritos, is owned by PepsiCo — has a line of sandwich-flavored chips. That’s right, the side snack you have with your sandwich now is your sandwich (which I guess was inevitable after the introduction of dill pickle-flavored chips). The lineup includes buffalo chicken sandwich chips, BLT chips, and even one that tastes like a Cuban sandwich.

Next up: sandwiches that taste like potato chips!

Potato chips are now like Oreos or cereal or toothpaste. You used to be able to just go to the store and grab what you needed. Now there are so many choices you actually have to stop and think.

What Is a Jeopardy! Mystery?

Why did all of the Jeopardy! episodes featuring 1986 five-time champ Barbara Lowe vanish? Why was she not invited to the Tournament of Champions competition? Did she do something wrong on air? Did she do something against the show’s rules? Did she incur the wrath of Alex Trebek? The Ringer writer and Jeopardy! expert Claire McNear answers the questions that have left hardcore fans baffled for almost four decades.

RIP Newton Minow, Vida Blue, John Roland, Bruce McCall, Sam Gross, Heather Armstrong, Judith Miller, Don January, and Bill Saluga

Newton Minow was the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission during the John F. Kennedy administration who called television “a vast wasteland.” He died Saturday at the age of 97.

Vida Blue pitched for the Oakland A’s and helped them win three straight World Series. In 1971 he won both the Cy Young and American League MVP awards. He died Saturday at the age of 73.

John Roland was a veteran journalist and anchor at WNEW/WNYW for over 30 years. He died Sunday at the age of 81.

Bruce McCall was an artist known for his “retrofuturistic” illustrations. He did several covers for The New Yorker, worked for The National Lampoon magazine and radio show, wrote several books, and even wrote for Saturday Night Live for a short time. He died last week at the age of 87.

Sam Gross was a veteran cartoonist for The New Yorker, Good Housekeeping, Parents Magazine, National Lampoon, and many other publications. He also wrote several books. He died last week at the age of 89.

Heather Armstrong — also known as “Dooce” — was one of the early bloggers and one of the first known as a “mommy blogger.” She was extremely popular and authored several books. She died Tuesday at the age of 47.

Judith Miller was a regular on the British version of Antiques Roadshow as well as the author of several books on antiques and collectibles. She died last weekend at the age of 71.

Don January won the 1967 PGA Championship and several other golf tournaments. He died Sunday at the age of 93.

Bill Saluga was a comic known for his “You can call me Ray …” catchphrase. He died in March at the age of 85.

This Week in History

Lusitania Sinks (May 7, 1915)

A German U-boat torpedoed the British cruise liner, killing 1,195 passengers and crew. It was one of the events that led to the United States’ decision to enter the war two years later.

Newton Minow Calls TV “A Vast Wasteland” (May 9, 1961)

That’s the only line ever quoted from Minow’s speech, and while he had some good things to say about TV (“when television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better”), he cast way too wide a net when talking about the things he thought were bad, which included “game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, Western bad men, Western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, cartoons, and endless commercials.” In a June 3, 1961, article in the Post, TV critic Harriet Van Horne shared Minow’s view.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Zenith TV (May 7, 1960)

This is just one of the many TV sets you could have watched that vast wasteland on in the early ’60s.

Saturday Is World Cocktail Day

When you like to drink, every day is world cocktail day!

In addition to the recipes you’ll find in Eddie Muller’s book (above), how about making some exotic concoctions you may have never heard of before? How about a Show Me the Monkey from the Monkey Shoulder site? To access the site, you have to give them your age (don’t lie!), but on the plus side you’ll find out what “monkey shoulder” is. The Educated Barfly has an Iceland Dill Martini (yes, it’s made with dill pickle brine), and has the Corpse Reviver No. 2, made with gin, Lillet blanc, and an absinthe rinse.

Note: I cannot personally vow whether or not that last drink will indeed raise the dead.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Mother’s Day (May 14)

Your annual reminder that you either go see your mom today or you call her on the phone; you don’t text her or send her a message on Facebook.

PGA Championship (May 15-21)

ESPN, ESPN+, and CBS will have coverage from the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York.

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  1. In the early 60s, Newton Minnow was given a “shout-out” in a T. V. pilot and his name became part of American pop culture: The S. S. Minnow was named for him. Yes, “Gilligan’s Island!”

  2. Good grief Bob, this new version of ‘Matlock’ looks wonderful to me! The gender swap here is brilliant. Kathy Bates is fantastic. I want it to be successful and run as long as the first version. This has the vibe and flavor of ‘Boston Legal’ that combined the serious and outrageous so flawlessly.

    The 2018 to present version of Magnum P.I. I love in large part due to the fact they made the ‘Higgins’ character female (Perdita Weeks) and a useful partner to Magnum, who himself was switched from tall Tom Selleck, to Jay Hernandez. A far superior show now.

    I’m still bothered by the fact Kathy’s show ‘Harry’s Law’ was cancelled by NBC after only one year. NBC, the lowest rated network, cancels their highest drama. I know you don’t think you’ll like her new show now, but give it a chance. This is KATHY BATES, bro. Have I ever given you one bad piece of advice, ever? Of course not!

    I didn’t know about all of those sandwich-flavored chips. They do sound good, but they’re not healthy. Maybe a small bag of the BLT one. Saturday is World Cocktail Day, huh? Show Me The Monkey. Now I’ve got ‘Shock The Monkey’ stuck in my head. Really, if I did ‘drink’ and eat lots of potato chips, it could speed up the aging process. Poor Tom Hanks. That’s a cheap shot. Maybe I’ll delete it before I click POST.


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