Friday, March 14, 2014

...

I know at the end of last year I made this grand announcement that I would be "taking back my blog" and writing more here since I wasn't really writing professionally. I also know that that's not what happened. It wasn't for lack of trying, but more times than not, when I sat down to publish something new, I stopped myself before actually letting my words go live. I started to feel like I was just contributing to the noise without a real reason. For example, after seeing just how much weight the most recent Biggest Loser champion lost and how drastically different she looked, I thought about writing something about the competition (as opposed to health) aspects of the show. But why? Is my opinion, as an untrained non-professional in the areas of health, wellness, and exercise, necessary? Is it revolutionary or even a little bit different than what countless of others probably said first (east coast feed ends hours before we on the west get to view, which often means by the time we see and comment on things, our comments are just redundant to the ones that came before from other time zones. Is it benefiting anyone (other than the oddly thrilling validation I feel when I get into a discussion with someone about what I wrote)? These are all similar questions to the ones I started to ask myself about the productions on which I worked. It's really easy to keep putting stuff into the bottomless pit that is the internet, but that doesn't mean you should.

So right now I'm reevaluating this blog-- what I wanted it to be when I started it, if I accomplished that, if I got too sidetracked, if there's still interest and possibility to accomplish it now. I have accepted a full time position with a PR firm here in Los Angeles, so I will be transitioning professionally but will probably still contribute the occasional article (review or interview or video) to other (read: paying/professional) sites. This blog therefore may sit dormant for a little while as I settle into this new position/corner of the industry, but I am still continuing to put random crap up on shorter form platforms of social media, so if you want, follow me over there:

Twitter: @danielletbd

Madison's corner of the internets:
Twitter: @MrMadisonC

Monday, March 10, 2014

Danielle Does 'Dallas'...

Did you miss any of my video interviews from my recent set visit to Dallas down at Southfork? Do you just love the actors so much you want to look at them over and over while they talk about season three on TNT? Here is a handy-dandy round-up of all of my chats!

Emma Bell

Jordana Brewster 

Patrick Duffy

Julie Gonzalo 

Linda Gray 

Josh Henderson 


Jesse Metcalfe 

Juan Pablo di Pace 

Mitch Pileggi


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

'Revolution' Round-Up...

Did you miss any of my video interviews from my recent set visit to Revolution down in Austin, Texas? Do you just love the actors so much you want to look at them over and over while they talk about the back half of season two? Here is a handy-dandy round-up of all of my chats!

Billy Burke

David Lyons

Elizabeth Mitchell 

JD Pardo

Tracy Spiridakos

Mat Vairo
 


Saturday, March 1, 2014

This May Be The Closest To a Food Blogger I'll Ever Be...

What does a newly employed, still in her twenties, single woman living in one of the most colorful cities in the country do on a prime Saturday night? Well, if she's me (and in this case she obviously is), the answer is clearly go on a road trip looking for Ben & Jerry's new Core ice creams. 

If you follow my Tumblr, you already know that March 2014 is seeing four new flavors debuting for the ice cream conglomerate. Designed to be two separate flavors of ice cream separated by a thick, rich core in each tight package, these pints should appeal to everyone with a sweet tooth. The four flavors are Hazed & Confused (chocolate ice cream with fudge chips, a “core” of Nutella-like hazelnut fudge, and hazel nut ice cream on the other side), That’s My Jam (chocolate and raspberry ice creams separated by a raspberry jam core, Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge (chocolate and peanut butter ice cream flavors, mini peanut butter cups, and a fudgy center), and Salted Caramel (sweet cream ice cream, blondie piece, and a (duh) salted caramel core). Being that today was the first of the month, I didn't think it was too much to ask that my local supermarket have a full shelf in stock.

Unfortunately my local supermarket (Ralph's) disagreed. When doing my regular grocery shopping this afternoon, I stopped in the frozen aisle with Hazed & Confused on my mind...only to find they had no Core flavors. Not completely deterred (because there is a Gelson's right across the street), I figured I'd be spoon-deep in no time. Gelson's did not have any Core flavors either. Neither of these supermarkets had tags for the Core flavors, showing that they were once in stock and now just sold out. The absence of tags led me to believe they had not been delivered to stock yet at all. Things were starting to look a little bleak. 

Yesterday a friend Tweeted that she found the Core flavors in her local Target. She lives over the hill from me in Los Angeles, and I was not about to get on a freeway for some ice cream (apparently I have some limits and they involve the 101), but I thought my local Target would surely have what hers has, being that we're in the same general metropolitan area and really only about two dozen miles apart. When I arrived there in the early evening, I found three favors, and not my beloved Hazed & Confused but one called Karamel Sutra that had not even been on the initial new flavor release. Suddenly my energy was reinvigorated. What other previously unannounced flavors might I find if I soldiered on!? I was up for the adventure!

As I went along, I Tweeted about my stops, and in doing so my friend Jean alerted me that Karamel Sutra was actually an old flavored that they re-branded with the Core label, probably to drum up some new interest. I had never seen it before, though, and not only did it sound like the original Core but also flavors that were right up my alley, so I took this as a sign I was on the right track.

Normally I would start at my closest stores and expand a small circle outward (a trick anyone who has ever had to find street parking surely knows), but my friend Diane pointed me in the direction of the Vons on Laurel Canyon in Studio City. She had visited earlier in the day and purchased a pint there, so rather than make a bunch of stops that might be closer but also might be busts, I headed east to what I thought was a guaranteed purchase point.

They only had Karamel Sutra.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I popped into the Ralph's on Coldwater Canyon (an old stomping ground of mine), but they did not have any Cores either. Apparently Ralph's didn't get the memo that these are a must stock!

Another friend tipped me off to the Target on Victory in North Hollywood. He assured me they had the Cores, but it is a location that is usually outside my radius for errands-- and a location that smells oddly of an airport inside, which just makes me uncomfortable-- so I put it off, thinking there was no way I wouldn't find a closer option first. It turns out, I should have just listened to him and skipped all of the in-between stops because sure enough, it was a sure thing.

I mean, jackpot, right!? All the four Core flavors! 

Could I have found them closer if I stuck to my original, usual strategy of checking all of the half a dozen different supermarkets in my neighborhood and the directly adjacent ones first? Perhaps, but let's pretend that's not true. Could I have saved myself time if I didn't make the stops I did but instead went only to the ones I was told definitely had them? Of course. If you feel the need to learn a lesson with each blog post, the one here is clearly to stick to one strategy when tackling a project, not try to mix and mash up two or more. But I had nothing else to do on a rainy night, and at least my car got a free wash as I drove around.

And just which flavors did I bring home? Well the coveted Hazed & Confused, of course, considering I could have stopped after my trip to the first Target if I wasn't looking specifically for that one. But I snatched up Karamel Sutra even though it "doesn't count" and the Salted Caramel Core, which is the only one to offer only one flavor of ice cream in the pint, and I'm curious if it works better in that more simple recipe. I passed on Peanut Butter Fudge because I'm just not that into peanut butter, and I passed on That's My Jam because the raspberry jam core has seeds, which is a texture I just don't need in my ice cream.

I expect them all to be delicious and well worth the drive, and maybe I'll just have to review them on video ala Community's Leonard next...


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Unboxing the 'Hollywood Game Night' Home Edition...

Martin Short. Jason Alexander. Julie Bowen. Rosie O'Donnell. Penny Marshall. Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Chris Colfer. Matthew Perry. Lisa Kudrow. Felicity Huffman. Angie Harmon. These are just a sampling of the celebrities that have played Hollywood Game Night on NBC, and now YOU can play, too!



The Consumer Products division of NBC Universal has created a Party Game home edition board game that combines some of your favorite Hollywood Game Night games in one small box, bringing big laughs and hours of fun into your living room for your very own game nights. The game is available at Walmart and on nbcstore.com and fits the parameters of a classic, throwback board game, meaning it comes with a scoreboard, hourglass timer, and stacks of cards that feature each round's game. Unfortunately there is no DVD component for some of the more technical games like Facial Fusion-- though you can probably rig your own bowl if you want to turn any of the included games into a round of Clue Boom.

I took a look inside the Hollywood Game Night Party Game in a very special unboxing video. Below I explore just which Hollywood Game Night games made the cut of this Party Game, which perhaps obviously and of course ends with a round of classic Celebrity just like on the show. Of course seeing that prompted me to launch into a few anecdotes about my own game nights, as well, which really just amount to tips on how (or how not) to play with your own friends.


Hollywood Game Night returns with all new episodes on February 27th at 9 p.m.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Report from the Set: NBC's 'Revolution'...

It was an overcast morning in Austin, Texas. I had been in the "weird" and wonderful city for just over 12 hours and still had the previous evening's barbecue dinner on my mind when I pulled up to the state capital building downtown.* Just off to the side of the landmark political attraction-- through which Segway tours rolled tourists-- bleachers and a podium adorned in the Texas flag had been erected and a few dozen bystanders hung around, some with tinier versions of the Texas flag waving in their hands, awaiting a speech from their leader at a very special cadet ceremony. Just a bit further away from those bleachers were a table of weapons-- some rifles, some side pieces, some hand guns-- that a lone guy in black checked out for safety before carrying them off to the action. It seemed a fitting welcome to the set of NBC's Revolution, the post-apocalyptic drama in which all the electricity in the world went out 15 years prior. I may not have actually been allowed to personally play with the weapons this time around, but watching a stunt involving a very excited featured player and strategically placed squib was equally enjoyable.


The cast and crew of Revolution were working on the 18th episode of the season when I spent the day observing production and talking with everyone who was filming that day plus Elizabeth Mitchell who was gracious enough to come over on her day off to help promote the show-- which means that they were much farther ahead in their stories and locations than I had last seen. The action on Revolution moves fast, even if the characters often have the same arguments and stand-offs (for the record, both Billy Burke and Mitchell admitted they did not believe their characters could ever kill Monroe, despite threats otherwise and despite all of the terrible things he has done to their family-- maybe blood is not truly thicker than water...). As this begrudging familial fighting unit moves forward together, dynamics between them are constantly shifting. While it is not uncommon to see characters pair up and go off on little detours or side tasks, on this particular day the majority of the show's heroes were working together to stop a terrible act. What was most interesting was watching the placement of each individual as the five of them literally walked side by side out of a building together. Some whom you might expect to be front and center, puffing chests out to command and acting as leaders were actually trailing further behind, perhaps implying more "along for the ride" with this particular mission.

A lot can certainly change in a short amount of time, as evidenced simply by the fact that the post-Olympic return episode that I was on set to preview had these five characters off in three different directions. The one thing that seemed to be remaining a constant, though, was that Aaron (Zak Orth) was separated even further-- still on his mission to figure out what exactly is going on with him and the nanotechnology. Orth was not one of the actors I spoke with on set, so admittedly I wasn't able to obtain any insight into just how big a part the sci-fi part of this story was going to play into the final episodes. The industry savvy side of me knows the implication is most likely that Aaron will work stoically, coming into his own as a hero, and then rejoin the group for the tail end of the season with new knowledge and a new, bigger picture mission that includes the tech. Sitting on set and watching the much heavier character and relationship driven work that was being done, though lets me hold out hope that the fact that it's so isolated now is the show's way of containing it and phasing it out. What inspires the most connection, after all, are the character and relationship (read: human) stories. These people were all disconnected enough with technology before the blackout; I don't want to see it consume them again, even if it's on a much larger scale or profound level. My life is consumed by enough technology as it is, too!

Revolution is an extremely location-heavy show-- both in terms of where the production actually goes to film and the utilization of changing landscapes as a part of the physical journeys the characters make. Therefore most of the sets Revolution houses at South Side Studios are wild, which means the walls are easily changeable into something new on any given week. With a show that keeps its characters on the road, anything from local bars to hotel rooms to cave-like hideouts may be built one week-- for one episode-- only to be repurposed for the following one. That's not all that unusual for a post-apocalyptic show but it's also really not unusual for creator Eric Kripke. What makes Revolution a bit more unique, though, is that while the locations are ever changing, the wardrobe the characters wear is not. 

A tour of the costume department not only showcased the nuances in different cities' military uniforms but also the sheer volume of the same outfit that had to be created for each character. Since the characters can only fit so much in their backpacks (or in the case of Burke, just likes to keep things simple and comfortable), they only have a few changes each. But as episodes go on and the actors get dirtier-- or bloodier, as is more often the case-- versions of their outfits need to be created with the appropriate amount of wet or dry elements. And then the looks need to be duplicated for their stunt doubles.  

Revolution's wardrobe department leaves no new piece of clothing clean, either. Since everything is supposed to be taking place after 15 years without electricity and therefore washing machines or dry cleaners, the various department personnel may purchase brand new items (which usually cost a couple of hundred dollars each) but then spend hours tirelessly aging them. This is done not only for the principle actors like Burke, Mitchell, David Lyons, Tracy Spiridakos, etc but also the extras, who are all also given their own unique look.

Hearing the kind of care and detail the wardrobe department pays even to the extras (who are sadly all too often instead treated with the attitude of "no one will notice" when it comes to things like moving actors from one side of the scene to the other in coverage, effectively duplicating the person in the scene) was certainly a bonus, but I have to admit that the highlight of visiting Revolution was sitting down with Jeff Wolfe the show's Emmy award winning stunt coordinator. Next to weapons I am most personally interested in stunts (I guess it's the whole wish fulfillment of watching people do things I know I never could personally), and Revolution has some of the most varied kinds between hand-to-hand, martial arts, horses, wagons, guns, swords, and this season, people being set on fire.

Wolfe shared that Kripke often just writes into the scripts "The best damn action sequence we've ever seen", which gives Wolfe free range and creativity to choreograph something new each time. Wolfe feels that for Revolution what matters the most when it comes to these fights is the style of the character-- that each weapon involved and each move made feels like something the character would do based on how they feel in the moment and who they're fighting.

Again I have to point out: with character driving so much-- everything from allegiances to goal detours to the stunts-- that means we can drop the surreal, slightly supernatural smart tech and focus on the grounded everyday people, right? RIGHT??

My formal write up on the return to Revolution (NBC, Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. starting February 26) will be on Studio System News.

Interested in checking out my relationship heavy (with light spoilers) video interview chats with the cast? Keep an eye on my YouTube page!


** Travel and hotel accommodations provided by WBTV


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

REVIEW: "Something Real", what every YA novel should aspire to be...

I am the first to admit that I usually shy away from reading Young Adult literature because I often find the themes repetitive and the writing style too simplistic, but with new authors like Heather Demetrios, the market is a whole lot more creative, interesting, and intelligent!

Yes, "Something Real", Demetrios' debut novel, does draw on many themes common in YA: her main character is a teenager who is dealing with all kinds of issues and pressure from her family, her school, her friends, and her budding first love/relationship. But Demetrios sets her story in a world so rich that it immediately springs up around you and sucks you in. The world is also somewhat larger than life in the way many YA stories tend to be, but instead of being a downer in dystopia, Demetrios chooses to showcase her story in a world that is happening in reality as you read, which grounds even the craziest seeming parts of the story.

"Something Real's" heroine Chloe Baker is a former reality show star, but not by choice. From birth, she was a part of a reality program about her large and somewhat unorthodox family-- a family that features a "Baker's Dozen" worth of people with kids adopted from all parts of the globe. She thinks (and therefore Demetrios writes) in "seasons" rather than years, in that "In season 7" instead of "When I was 7" sort of way that is heartbreaking but yet still lends itself as just another incredible detail to immerse the readers in Chloe's world. Additional such details are specially stylized chapters that are "lifted" from various interview transcripts or show episode transcripts.

When readers meet Chloe, her show has been off the air for a few years, and she has managed to change her name (to Chloe) and live a normal life in a real high school. She has kept her upbringing and family a secret from her new friends and somewhat miraculously has managed to go unrecognized by anyone in her new California town. But that is all about to change as her mother has signed a new deal for the show to restart, exploding Chloe's new life and bringing the most painful parts of her past to the surface once again.

"Something Real" does a remarkable job of depicting the truth behind reality TV in an insider's look sort of way without making the book about exposing reality TV. That is the setting, the world for Chloe's story to take place, but it does not define Chloe. We spend a lot of alone time with Chloe, so we get to know how she thinks and feels better than anyone, as we would with any good protagonist. But "Something Real" features an ensemble that rivals even "Baker's Dozen" and *all* of her characters-- from Chloe's older brother and confidante Benny, to her new, almost too good to be true boyfriend Patrick, to her image-obsessed mother-- are so finely crafted the astute reader can anticipate how they, individually, will act in most situations, too. Everything and everyone has its place and purpose within the story; no one gets lost in the mass; there is no filler, and there is no pandering or expository repetition. Demetrios trusts her readers, but perhaps most importantly, she respects her readers.

Personally, I want to read novels about interesting characters who happen to encounter unique and equally interesting situations, scenarios, and events. The plot is always less important to me than the characters themselves because "where" they get to doesn't really matter if I haven't enjoyed spending time with them and therefore actively rooting for them to get to their destination in the first place. Demetrios has certainly created characters with whom you will want to spend a lot of time (I would love to read a whole separate book from Benny's perspective, for example, but there is certainly room and interest warranting each Baker child to tell their story in individual novellas, should the publisher so choose). But obviously Demetrios has also created a complicated story with unique markers to match.

Good YA has its protagonist "coming of age" and learning some lessons along the way-- lessons that the readers can take to heart, too. But great YA has its protagonist empowering his or herself and inspiring change. "Something Real" does that in spades as Chloe refuses to just play into the reality TV game and adopt the character "type" the show wants her to be but instead decides to stand up for herself and what she-- not her mother, not the cameras-- really wants her life to be. Today's youth should all be so brave.

"Something Real" is available in Hardcover and e-book form now.