Thursday, July 31, 2008

Uh-Oh Those Summer Nights...

Hollywood swayed under the pressure of much more than just the ripple of a Southern California earthquake this week. First there was the LA TV Fest which had been going on at the Hollywood & Highland complex, in the heart of the city, all week, and then Thursday evening Samsung and AT&T presented their second annual Summer Krush Groove Concert series. Tied into a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live, Babylon Court was transformed into a somewhat subdued white and purple stage for a mini-concert from none other than Ms. Mariah Carey.
As usual the fans came out in droves; some waited in line for twelve hours just to be ensured to be front and center. How many opportunities will they have to see their idol up close and personal for free? Well the die-hards carry signage and scrapbooks to each event, eager to share with other Lambs just how dedicated they really are, and there was no shortage of that at this event, either. The luckiest ones may have been those who arrived early, though, as Mariah’s back-up singers (including solo artist Trey Lorenz!) performed a sound check and gave everyone a sneak peek at the evening’s set list, which included four tracks from E=MC2 and two from fan favorite The Emancipation of Mimi. A combination of Honey B. Fly VIPs and radio contest winners filled out the “pit” at the base of the stage, aglow with camera phone screens, but fans snaked all around the walkways on each level to watch the incomparable performance. A few lucky dinner patrons even managed to just “happen by” the event while dining outside. Definitely something to write in your “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” report!

Jimmy Kimmel crossed the street at 8:30 PST to introduce the first song of Mariah's set, and he could barely be heard over the echoing screams and cheers. As always, she was in top form, performing “I’ll Be Lovin’ You Long Time” (despite some of the hard hits its been getting in recent media for its stereotype), “Side Effects” with special guest Young Jeezy, and “I’m That Chick” before closing the show with "Shake It Off" and the always hauntingly stunning "We Belong Together.” Husband Nick Cannon was nowhere in sight, but longtime manager Benny Medina was seen taking in the crowd just briefly before Mariah made it to the stage. Even fellow Kimmel guest Dan Abrams got in on the action and was escorted to the stage to meet the pop diva. But stereotypical diva she most certainly was not: in between set-ups, Mariah talked to the audience and read some of the signs aloud. Though only the first two songs were set to air on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Mariah amazed her crowd of thousands with five full tracks.

Even the fans that braved the Hollywood heat for hours on end came away smiling (if a bit sweaty) and calling their friends to tell them how great the experience was. Though it's only the second year, with the success of booking such a big name artist, Summer Krush Groove has proved it has the chops to become a Must See summer concert series. Obviously it will be around for years to come, though it's a little hard to assume it could be any bigger or better than it was tonight.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In Odder News: Pedophilia Is Now Sought After (Apparently)...

Reportedly, Lifestyles condoms has made a one million dollar (and as many of their products as you can use in a lifetime) offer to teen star Miley Cyrus if she agrees to become their new spokeswoman. Ignoring the fact that Miley has vowed to stay a virgin until marriage (because let's face it, Britney made the same promise and ignored her own), Lifestyles feels she could have a great influence in teaching the young girls who look up to her that if you're going to have sex, you need to do it safely and responsibly. WTF???

Okay, look: I know kids today deal with sex at an increasingly younger age, but do we really want a freakin' fifteen-year-old being the face of a condom? Isn't that just a little creepy for anyone over the legal age? And what does that say, then, about Lifestyles: doesn't it seem like they are targeting the young'uns by picking their idol and saying "she thinks these are cool, so should you?"

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Last American Comic Con Virgin...

That's right, I said it, and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one left. Well, I was the only one left until this weekend. Back in March, fresh off my Creation Entertainment event high, I signed up as a member of the press to "cover" this year's Comic Con in San Diego. Though the process was long and intense (I have never had anyone ask me to mail them copies of my bylines before), I was finally accepted into their elite group. I was given a two-page document with my barcode and driving instructions just like anyone who bought a weekend pass on their website, and that was that. Then sometime in early July I was reading yet another entertainment blog, and I stumbled across the complete Comic Con schedule for the first two days of events. I had almost forgotten about it, but right away the excitement began to wash over me, much the way the rumbling waves of people in the San Diego Convention Center consumed me this weekend.

So armed with a highlighted print-out of events and a map of downtown San Diego to help me find parking, I set out uber-early Saturday morning to pack in two full days of rubbing elbows with stars and getting free swag tossed my way (sadly, I am part of the masses who has a day job and could not take off from work early to attend the first two and a half days worth of stuff-- and even more sadly, that means I missed out on Mark Wahlberg, Hugh Jackman's "surprise" appearance, and the Dr. Horrible... panel). The drive down to SD was quick, and since I arrived before the butt-crack of dawn, parking wasn't nearly as hard to find as I thought, though I was extremely glad I wore my Blochs because as I found out early, I would be walking a lot. Already, though, there was a huge line snaked in front of the Convention Center of tee-shirted (and yeah, a few costumed) fans waiting to pick up their tickets. Though I had a press badge waiting for me, I had to wait in line like everyone else, but thankfully it moved pretty quickly once official check-in time hit. People were chatty, and though many raised their eyebrows when I said it was my first time, and I was looking forward to wandering from booth to booth or panel to panel (apparently there's a rhythm to these things that requires anyone attending alone won't get the full experience of), they offered a lot of great advice, such as: never buy any food in the Convention Center unless it's from Starbucks! Not a problem, as that was where I headed right away... and smack into another line of people. This time a guy dressed exactly like The Joker was waiting in front of me, fixing his ultra-red lips with a hand mirror. I didn't ask him if I could take a picture (of or with him) because it was so early in the morning, and I know how I usually feel about photos before my make-up is completely applied, but now I kind of wish I had just gone for it. How often will you see that?? Well, at Comic Con, at least three more times (by my count, anyway).

My original plan was to use Saturday to wander around and collect free stuff-- I had a list from friends and co-workers of things to get them-- but there were actually some really interesting things going on in some of the ballrooms (which only sounds like it's the right term if the Con was held in a hotel... which for the longest time I thought it would be), and I opted to sit in on some instead. Okay, when I say "sit in," I should explain that I ended up in the back of each and every single room. Though my press pass got me into everything and every day, it was up to me to fight the people who were camping out in one chair, in one room, all day watching different panels filter in and out in front of them. My strategy had me flitting in and out a lot of cool stuff for shows with which I wasn't familiar (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Pushing Daisies, Chuck) but whose panels were inspiring and fun enough to make me want to get into them, but unfortunately my pictures are something to be desired.

For the filmmaker in me, I attended what I thought would be less popular, and therefore less crowded, panels (they didn't have the draw of big name stars, for example), like "Film School 103: Working with Actors and a Crew," "Podcasting Superheroes" (mainly because I want to start a podcast to help promote a web series I'm working on, and "Writing Characters." I was going to attend "TV Guide's Hot List," but by then I was exhausted, sweaty, and starving, having only subsisted on one tall Frappuccino, bottles of water, and a pack of Trident gum. I had also learned that while the fans are really friendly, and the ones in costume act like celebrities themselves and are always willing to stop and pose for a photo with you in the middle of the floor (can't tell you how many times I almost slammed into one!), there is very little time to get from one panel to another if they are far away from each other (let alone stop and interview anyone), so you find yourself weaving through the crowds like you're in high school and racing the late bell. Or maybe I was just a bit overwhelmed.

The majority of "fan event" experience I have had leading up to this were some much more controlled Days of our Lives fan club weekends in the late nineties, where there were usually one hundred people-- max. So I figured in order to get the most out of the two panels I just absolutely had to see on Sunday, I needed to come up with a better plan. The Supernatural screening and panel, which featured my beloved Jensen Ackles, was set to overlap the Harold & Kumar 2: Escape From Guantanamo Bay one, which featured my beloved Neil Patrick Harris (I'm sorry, it's hard to call him NPH with a straight face) and would probably deliver news about the next installment. And as I learned the first day, they were on practically opposite sides of the facilities; my only hope was that the SN screening would be last so I could duck out early and run downstairs, somehow offloading my hundred-plus photo collage of Jensen's beautiful face so I'd have a blank memory card for Neil Patrick Harris' beautiful face. Did I mention I wasn't really prepared for the magnitude of these events???

After stressing myself out in the morning, I spent the afternoon of Sunday at the Fraggle Rock panel and trying to find the things on my friends' freebie list. It was like a scavenger hunt! Though as I passed many booths, people would thrust stickers and pins and flyers and iron-ons at me left and right, I actually had a hard time finding for what they were asking. Perhaps it was because I waited until the last available moments, and they had run out of stuff-- the four Star Trek posters, for example, were supposed to be handed out one to a fan, but since when you put the four together, they formed one mega poster in the shape of the ship, there's no way fans didn't go back until they had one of each, and there's also no way the guys at the booth would have been able to remember them. Hell, even if they were dressed like a Storm Trooper, they certainly weren't the only ones!

The drive back on Sunday night was insane, but I used the three plus hours to come up with a stronger plan of attack for next year, which brings me (finally!) to the main point of this article: a few words to the wise for any of you thinking of going to Comic Con for the first time next year (basically, I guess I'm talking to all the pre-teens whose parents didn't want to shell out the cash for something they assume is a fleeting interest because everyone else appears to be regulars there!):

1) And this is the most important: BRING FRIENDS! Having a group of people there with you not only ensures a rotating bathroom/snack fetching/saving seats schedule throughout the day, but you can split up at some points and therefore not have to miss out on some free stuff or pictures of a favorite star, even when the panel may overlap another you want to be in. Then you trade stuff at the end of the weekend.

2) Bring your own snacks and bottled water, and lots of them: All of the walking, sitting in close quarters with so many people, the general summer heat, and level of excitement which causes lots of smiling and laughing and animated talking, are things that make you hot, sweaty, thirsty, smelly, and tired really quickly. Keep your energy up so you don't poop out on a later panel.

3) If you're not staying in a hotel in walking distance, be sure to leave extra time to find parking, especially if you don't know the San Diego area. I drove in circles for a few minute on the first day, trying to find an open lot closest to the Convention Center.

4) Be sure to scope out where the bathrooms are ahead of time. I thought it would be fine: I'd just look for a long line, but then I realized everything has a long line! People line up for panels hours before they start sometimes just to guarantee a seat. Some shows have fanatical followings, and the panels aren't always in the best equipped rooms (ahem, Supernatural schedulers!).

5) If you want to do something (see an exhibit like the Movie Memorabilia one or a specific FX booth), do it first. Time gets away from you really quickly, and you don’t want to risk missing it all together.

6) Bring your laptop or an extra memory card or two. You end up taking tons of photos of random signage and other fans just while you're waiting for the stars to arrive, and you want to have plenty of "film" for the actual panelists. Depending on where your seats are, you may have to take half a dozen shots before you get a decent one. Remember: the longer zoom you have to use, the more light you end up cutting down on.

7) HAVE FUN! So many fans are so intensely focused, they look more stressed than like they're enjoying themselves. For the money you’re plunking down, and the insanity you’re dealing with, it’s just not worth it if it’s not fun.

Oh yeah, and if you're picking up a Press badge when you arrive, don't assume anyone will be impressed. Most people are bloggers who are pissed that Comic Con doesn't yet recognize them as legit members of the media, and they will give the shiny plastic rectangle dangling around your neck the stink-eye... especially when they realize how much more prepared they are than you.

Friday, July 25, 2008

What Becomes Of Us Now?...

American Teen is every bit as stereotypical as it is real, and it is only stereotypical because it is real—if that makes any sense. In the new documentary from Nanette Burstein, the 2006 senior class at Warsaw Community High School looks like any teen dramedy set: the rich kids are the blonde popular ones; the jocks are the big beefy ones; the geeks are pimply-faced and spend the majority of their time playing videogames. The popular kids don’t suffer many consequences for their actions when they mess up, but the “outcasts” most certainly do—even the adults in their world treat them differently based on their social standing, no matter how minute it may be. The kids end up paying not only for their parents’ mistakes and shortcomings but also by living the vicarious life they truly want. And it all rings so close to home you will spend the entire hour and a half nodding along, regardless of whether you graduated five years ago or fifty.

Hannah, the artistic one, admits she doesn’t really fit in anywhere in her community, let alone her school. She has her one close friend, and she has her boyfriend, and then she has her music and art supplies. She talks of getting out of Indiana—of not having the life her parents have—with wide-eyed optimism that looked just a little too familiar. She wants to go to California to make movies that will touch people and be remembered for years and years and long after she has died. That, too, sounded just a bit familiar.

While in the American Teen screening this week (it’s only out in select theatres right now, in NYC and LA), I couldn’t help but be struck in the face (not unlike how Megan slaps her supposed-best-friend Geoff) with all of the things I wanted and all of the things I believed would happen. Six short years ago, I was this young girl, full of hopes, dreams, and goals for my life in California. Then I screwed it all up by going to college.

At one point Hannah (who really seems to be the star here, as if Burstein took the budding filmmaker under her wing) tells her parents that not everyone has to go to college, but she will get herself out to California. She is determined and will do whatever it takes to get where she wants. When her mother warns her against the dangers of a young girl moving to the big city alone, she doesn’t care; she knows what she has to do. Six years ago, I was in the same mindset, only I opted to get myself there by enrolling at U.S.C. I thought as long as I had somewhere to be everyday and a roof over my head (even if it was on campus), it would be enough of a start. Really, I needed to grab life by the balls and pack my crap into a U-Haul and just go, but instead I took utilized a safety net.

All three years in film school taught me was how difficult the industry was to break into, and with every waking day (and every new unpaid internship that had me photocopying articles of celebrities in tabloid magazines for “research” should they ever come on the show as a guest), I grew a little more disenchanted. The ambitious dreamer I once was slowly suffocated, and I lost the love of the art and got sucked into the business side of things. And as I watched Hannah, still innocent enough to believe and to love, I couldn’t do anything to salvage my teenage self but hope she wouldn’t befall a similar fate. American Teen may not cause the audience to suddenly wish they could transport back in time and redo high school, but it certainly makes us long for the exuberance (and resilience) of youth. It only makes me wonder how much more interesting these "subjects" would have been if the movie started where it actually left off: when they all went off, forced to act and live on their own after eighteen years of coddling and succumbing to their parents' wants and desires.

American Teen opens with a few simple words about how it’s the first day of senior year and that means they only have a few short months left to figure out who they are and where they want to go in life. Hannah speaks the words with a kind of chuckle in her tone that leads me to believe she doesn’t truly believe them. Because I think in order to survive high school these days, you have to know who you are and where you want to go long before your senior year, and though your immaturity may allow for some bumps and detours along the way, your path is destined once you recognize it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Riddle Me This...

Why is it that on Big Brother the majority alliance is always the most reprehensible one? Was it just me or as children did we think the cool kids were... well, just that: cool? Have things really changed so much in two decades, or is it only with time and perspective that we can see them for what they really are? And if we, as adults, can, why can't those in the house? Case in point: tonight on Big Brother 10, four of the housemates ganged up on another to talk crap about her because she was a "floater," and apparently they didn't respect the strategy of being on friendly terms with just about everyone in the house.

When I was in college I was told I should try out for Big Brother. One of the clients at the television station on campus had connections at the show and told me I had the type of personality they look for in casting (now I don't know if I should be offended by that remark!), and at the time, I thought I should go for it. In fact, since the show mainly involved lounging around a house in the valley, I figured it was the only reality show I'd have a shot at winning. Ultimately what stopped me from sending in a tape was the age requirement on the application: it said 21, and I was 19 at the time, though a few years later they seemed to bend those rules for another Danielle (Donato). Anyway, the point is that I have been a floater my entire mature life: in seventh grade I got really turned off by the whole "mean girls" mentality and begin to distance myself from my "clique." In high school, then, I followed my own path and hung out with people in various groups, never too closely aligning with any of them. Reality stars are not known for maturity, though, and since I can't stomach the idea of reverting to a junior high attitude, I guess I don't stand a chance at that half a million after all.

And PS: what was with the Power of Veto game? CBS showed us more of the squinting players than the actual clue board. Then they cut to extreme close-ups of the license plates like they assumed America was too stupid to figure it out for themselves. I'm beginning to hate this show again.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Five Cents: Not A Has-Been Yet...

Explain something to me please: isn't Las Vegas where sought-after careers go to die?

The city of sin has been much more like the city of chintz lately, attracting divas who have fallen a bit off their perch: Celine Dion and Cher. Now People Magazine is speculating that Mariah Carey might follow in those high-octave footsteps and take up semi-permanent residence in Las Vegas. I don't get it. Mariah is back on top-- in every sense of the word. She has one of her highest selling records to date with E=MC2; she is taking the beauty world by storm with two hot fragrances; and she has finally found love again with former child star Nick Cannon. A few years ago after her debut film flopped, and she had a mild "breakdown," this move would have almost made sense; she could revitalize her career after all (though I don't know how five shows a week would be conducive to ensuring she doesn't have another bout with exhaustion!). But today, she is far from the has-been that seems to be required to take the stage in Vegas.

I normally steer clear of talking about gossip or rumors because so much of what the rags report turns out to be unfounded and therefore untrue, but when Mariah Carey's name is involved, I feel almost obligated to offer my five cents. Besides, after she was spotted in a home furnishing store in Malibu, I was kind of hoping if she'd finally leave New York City behind, it would be for the sunny sands I so often frequent. Madison needs to be besties with Jack and J.J. after all! Needless to say, I like the rumors of her being the Fashion Week guest judge on Project Runway much, much more!

... of course if this proves to have some merit, I may have to rent out my new townhouse and look for a cheap rental just off the strip. That or take bi-weekly road trips! Ooh! Do you think there will be a store? Like the Cirque Du Celine shop that had mugs and clocks and pencil cases and stuff with Celine's face on them?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Someone's In The Kitchen With...WHO???...

Scripps' The Next Food Network Star always boasts a wide variety of characters, and every season I tune in to see how these very talented chefs compose (or crack) under the pressure of hot lights, tough time crunches, and insane rules and regulations that they would never have in their own kitchens. The simple idea that the winner gets crowned and goes immediately to work (no American Idol press tour for them!) the following day in order to get the premiere episode of his or her show on-air in one week is daunting, to say the least. From the very first minute of this (fourth) season, though, it was clear who thought she was already more than ready: one Ms. Lisa Garza.

Now, Gordon Elliott basically told Lisa at one point that he doesn't want her to "come off as a smarty pants," and all I could think was: "Where the hell was this guy in the beginning of the season!?!?" That was Lisa's problem from day one: she walked into the studio with her overly orange self-tanned skin, her blunt bob haircut, and her chic designer clothes. Her lips were pursed; her eyes were squinty; her arms were crossed. She seemed serious and unapproachable: a bitch with a ladle. Right off the bat, judges and other contestants raised eyebrows about her "Culinary Point of View." Quite simply, they just didn't understand it. She used big fancy culinary terms and created sophisticated dishes that looked like they belonged in a five-star restaurant in any big travel destination. I thought she was a goner-- nay, I wished her to be a goner.

As the season went on, though, the well-put-together Lisa we all met on day one began to unravel. Perhaps it started when she slipped in the kitchen and spilled a jar of sauce all over her "three hundred dollar blouse,"but she seemed to focus less on the competitive desire to win and actually have a little fun. While her food was always on point and just as dressed up as she herself in her three-inch heels and custom aprons, she began to exhibit a semi-goofy side and showcased some of her lesser-known talents by singing for an auditorium of patrons. When Lisa loosened up, the audience (or at least I) warmed to her.

Lisa is me, just in a couture apron. She is driven, focused, passionate, and perhaps a bit misunderstood at first glance. She is also A.D.D., but she channels that energy into something creative and lucrative (no small feat and one which I'm still working on).

Having already seen the finale, I won't "give away the farm," but I will say that I was a bit surprised by who it boiled down to in the end-- though I was not surprised that this season's last second "twist" that was "unlike anything they had ever done before" was just to have three semi-finalists instead of the usual two (too obvs. for this savvy reality TV connoisseur!). Needless to say, I was pulling for Lisa's Beautiful Basics. Not only did she grow over the course of the ten-episode season, she was the most consistently comfortable with the cameras. She also seemed the most prepared to actually shoot her own show, preparing three detailed pitches for her pilot demo; clearly she's savvy enough to know in this industry, half the time the hits come from the "So, what else do ya got?" pile. Her confidence seemed to be bordering on superiority in the beginning, but that just proves that first appearances can often be deceiving, as in her actual show she managed to combine educational techniques with personal stories to welcome strangers into her kitchen.

Lisa may put on a hardened exterior when she has her "game face on," but she is a true softy underneath, and she even managed to make the Crayola Rachael Ray set look a little less cartoonish and a little more mod. Definitely a show I would watch! But I will I get to; was Lisa the one Brooke Johnson, President of The Food Network, chose to join their family? You'll have to tune in for yourselves to find out!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

An Open Letter: I Don't Like Change!...

Dear TPTB @ Entertainment Weekly:

A few weeks ago, you guys seemed so excited to unveil a new, more modern, slightly sleeker layout. In fact, you were so tickled by it, you dedicated a full page in your precious publication to explaining the new features to us, the loyal readers. You seemed so proud, and so happy, with your accomplishments we couldn't help but smile a bit for you, too. Until we flipped to the back page and found the pop culture editorial was no longer there.

Now, I get it, guys: you don't want to bury the lead. You had to have been receiving hundreds upon dozens of letters from readers just like me praising the columnists we find there (I did not know who Mark Harris was, but I fell in love with him through his witty words and quirky cartoon headshot) and admitting we often flip to that page first.

And I gave it a few weeks; I did. I tried to get used to it; I didn’t want to jump down your throats just because I am stuck in my ways, but I cannot hold my tongue any longer. It was my routine on Friday evenings to pull the newest issue out of my mailbox and take it into a bubble bath in order to unwind from a long, tedious workweek. I would always read cover-to-cover, a ritual I cannot say I have been consistent in doing with other publications. Getting to the last page was a journey, with that column as my reward. I looked forward to it, excited to find out whose words I would be privileged with this week.

While that column still holds all of my dreams of the perfect entertainment writing gig, there’s just something lacking—some of the fun is gone—in coming to the grand finish dozens of pages too early. Sure, I could skip it and go back to it when I finish the rest of the sections, but it’s still not the same: I’d have to go backwards, flipping through stories to which I already knew the endings. There was something just inherently satisfying of knowing that back page would always be there, waiting for me, so I must make my plea to you here and now before this madness goes on any longer: I understand the desire to reinvent your design to compete with all of the other gossip weeklies, but please think of your loyal customers and fans-- ones who did not complain-- did not even whisper a word-- when you gave such a powerful piece to just an “it” writer of the moment-- ones who have scheduled plans around your product and are only asking for you to maintain a sense of tradition.

Editors, designers, and higher-ups at EW's parent company, you can keep the rest of your layout as it is now. You're right that it is pretty snazzy. Just please remove the "Must List" (slide it back in the middle of the magazine or dump it altogether; it's usually redundant anyway!) and put the Pop Watch piece back where it belongs!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Nothing Is Impossible...

This was supposed to be one of my USC 290s. Missed out again. Gah!

My Five Cents: Stripping Away The Unions...

Though the June 30 contract deadline came and went without incident, now SAG is saying they are holding firm and not caving to the AMPTP current stance on Internet and other New Media contracts. Now, there us already a rift between SAG and AFTRA because the smaller (latter) union just wants to keep their people working and is being more flexible with negotiations, and after a non-productive meeting in Hollywood yesterday, producers are weighing their options.

Now, I have a bunch of friends who are actors-- and at varying levels of success. Some have been working steadily for a decade and have held their SAG cards for just as long; some have just started, fresh out of school; and some fall somewhere in between: on the scene for a few years but still holding a "day job" to make ends meet. There are two kinds of non-union actors, and yes, I have friends that fall into both categories: there are the ones who are hardworking, passionate, and very focused on the art of the craft but who just don't know the right people and can't get the big auditions or always lose out to a "bigger name," and then there are the ones who may be just as hardworking, passionate, and focused on the art of the craft but who just aren't that good and therefore are still non-union for a reason. Is it realistic to assume big studio AMPTP producers will suddenly start to look at these unknowns and see potential in them that maybe has always been there? No; producers are lazy as hell! When actors go into auditions, they are told to "be" (aka "look") the part as much as possible because no one wants to think or extend their imaginations anymore; no one wants to (or has the time to) dig a little deeper and try to nurture a budding star. As a sometimes producer-- and even fewer times director-- I pride myself on the fact that I separate myself by searching for that unique, undiscovered talent. I think it's a much bigger accomplishment to find a "diamond in the rough" or an up-and-comer who you can give a big break and then say you knew when, rather than just use the same oversaturated faces time and again.

So where does that leave the state of films, though? Well, should SAG decide to hold their ground and strike, we will most likely start to see our favorite soap stars on the big screen come Summer of 2009. Go Jason Cook!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm Not The Only One!...

After completely forgetting to tune into CBS’ The Greatest American Dog last week despite having a reminder on my calendar, I made sure to be in front of the television at ten to eight tonight to be sure not to miss a minute. From the recap of the premiere episode, it was clear Madison could have very easily made it on if I had known about the program in its casting stages. While challenges consisted of basic obedience (timed for greater intensity), the sit/stay and “leave it” commands were nothing he hadn’t mastered by six months. Sure, shaking hands with his right paw only would have been a bit of a challenge, but considering one dog actually bit another dog in the house, I thought he would be the star. As it is, he wins over complete strangers just by being adorable.

What was so empowering about the show, though, was how it truly did bring people together simply because of their love for their four-legged friends—as Bill said, “they are not just dogs; they’re companions.” Just sitting at home, alone, months after the episode was shot, I felt a connection to Beth Joy (even with the face of her dog tattooed onto her calf and the fact that she dresses her dog up in literal dresses) and Travis (cutie!) simply because they, too, used the “eyes on me” focus hand signal. Everyone I know always gives me such weird looks when I do it, but clearly it works, as Travis’ Presley is one of the best-behaved dogs (at least so far). I must admit I felt somewhat vindicated watching on-screen, national reinforcement that I am not the only one who can love a dog wholeheartedly and more than anything else in this world; I am not the only one who gets the greatest joy out of playing with her dog and watching him succeed.

When Bill’s Star returned from the vet after getting cut up in the yard, the fear and affection felt by everyone else over whether or not she was okay was genuine and touching and emotional. The fact that she was going to be okay was not a sign of distress for those who were competing against the duo but rather something about which to be relieved. She is such a sweet, gentle, happy dog, and the love between her and her master is obvious. Yes, it’s a competition show, and for a quarter of a million dollars, its no small prize, but what’s refreshing to see is that for these people, the money seems to be just a nice bonus prize. Really why they are there is to show off their dogs to the rest of America; they are the simply proud parents, and they want everyone to relish in their gifted children.

What I love most about the show, though, is how it is quick to show you whenever you see a dog acting out or acting badly, it is never because the dog is a bad dog; it is because the owner is stressing the dog out or confusing the dog with contradictory commands or being just plain lackadaisical about consistency with training. There is a lot to be learned from The Greatest American Dog, and I only hope Madison and I can use that hour each week while we watch the show together to not only form a stronger bond but also to work on new tricks, all which will only help us to take season two by storm!

Put Your Hands Together...

Let's all exclaim a Very Happy Birthday to Mr. Eric Winter who turns 32 today, as my iCalendar just "bing-bonged" to remind me. Birthday cake; Eric... birthday cake; Eric... now my headline makes a bit more sense, right? Well, if you're a Friends fan, it does. If not, I'll just shut up and let you stare at the pretty.

Yes, I took this one myself... in his apartment. Be jealous :)

Okay this one's just gratuitious, but yum ;)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mid-Week Round-Up...

Only hump day, and already too many things are going "down" (no pun intended) in Hollywood that I feel are worth a mention... however brief it may be:

- Fresh off a viewing of VH1's "100 Greatest Teen Stars" (it was produced in 2005, but if I caught it on an original airing, I don't remember it-- and how the hell did Screech get a higher billing than Zack? Oh yeah, he was the only one actually willing to come on and be interviewed...), it has been announced that mid-nineties scream-queen Neve Campbell's biggest success to date (the Scream franchise, duh!) will be back for another installment. The fourth film, taking place a decade after the last, which was apprently now mistakenly deemed the final chapter of a trilogy (so you know, all bets were off), has not yet announced a director, a cast, or even a writer. So basically they're holding out for a puffier, not nearly as funny Jamie Kennedy to come back as a severely P.O'd and slightly deformed Randy, after being mistakenly buried alive?

- Though I have yet to actually screen an episode of CBS' Baby Borrowers, thanks to these recaps (oh, okay, thanks to these captioned screencaps!), it is already my new favorite summer show.

- In an interview about Transformers 2, Megan Fox spilled the spoilers that the sequel would pick up two years after the first one left off, with her and Shia LaBeouf's characters deep enough into a relationship that they "bicker like old married people." So basically, they're redoing Mr. & Mrs. Smith but throwing in some giant robotic enemies instead of just other dude and dudettes with Uzis. Greeaat.

- William Petersen is leaving CSI. Again and semi-for-good (he'll still make the occasional Sweeps guest appearance, I-- and the good people at Entertainment Weekly-- am sure. If this were even two years ago, I would totally care.

- Kiko Ellsworth finally got a mainstream gig... but sadly, more notably, he got old. :(

- Amy Poehler is being tapped for an Office spin-off. While I'm one of maybe four people left in this country who don't watch that show-- either in its original British form or its American counterpart, but this sounds like an office I want to work in!

- Andy Dick has been arrested yet again-- this time for drug posession and some sort of sex abuse. And to think this guy was the "celebrity mentor" on the last season of The Real World, on which a castmember actually had to leave to go to rehab.

- Comic Con San Diego is screwing with me! They have scheduled the only two panels I really want to see to overlap each other. Now I'll have to sacrifice my love for NPH for my love for Jensen Ackles. Or, you know, just arrive late. What? It's totally fine; no biggie...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Suspense: Another Lost Art...

I know I talk a big game about loving independent film; I know I pride myself on the fact that I opted to go that route straight out of college instead of working my way up as some d-bag producer's assistant, picking tomatoes out of salads, ordering espressos at 150 degrees, and paying multiple cell phone bills; but I am also woman enough to admit that not all independent film is a gift from God. In fact, some of it is just crap that no legit company wanted to produce, and after awhile, you have to think that maybe there's a reason for that...

There's a new horror/thriller film that just premiered in London but is getting a small release here as well called (wait for it...) Donkey Punch. Yes, Donkey Punch. Apparently it is a tale of a few young, wealthy kids who party on a yacht, drink too much, do some drugs, and have some random sex (so basically it's like The Real World on the water, or the behind-the-scenes of The Hills). Something goes horribly wrong for one couple during a very specific sex act, and the rest of the group decides to pull an I Know What You Did Last Summer: they dump the body overboard and (assumedly) vow to never speak of what happened because hey, it was all just a "tragic accident" anyway. I wonder if liability insurance covers rich a-hole syndrome? Anyway, then paranoia or fear or whatever sets in and begins pitting friend against friend (or at least against new acquaintance), and they begin to kill each other one at a time, in a "last man standing" sort of theme.

My question is, though, what exactly is the draw of a movie when you don't even have the suspense of wondering during what sex act the girl will die?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Five Cents: Everything I Hate About Catholics...

First I have to say that my father's side of the family is Catholic, and therefore I feel it is within my rights to talk about the hypocritical parts of that religion that I think are an abomination, not only to God but to modern ways of life in general. In one episode of Big Brother 10, Dan, the twenty-four year old Catholic schoolteacher, has already epitomized all of said things.

First off, he actually packed an American flag to bring with him into the house. He said that if liberals were running the country during this time of war, we would not be winning. Well, I will give him the fact that he's half right because if liberals were running this country for the past four years, we would not still be at war. Then when he got into the house he admitted that he knows things will "go down" that are contradictory to his faith, but he'll be okay because when he leaves, he'll just go to confession. Right there-- that attitude-- is everything I've always hated about Catholicism. Basically as kids, we're taught that if we sin, we just have to atone for it by telling a priest what we did, say a few Hail Marys, and all will be okay. It's pretty much a free pass to be a douchebag, one with which Dan seems to be very well versed.

At one point he said he thought he saw a lot of himself in Bryan. Now, it's too early to really know anything about Bryan (other than the fact that he actually refers to himself in the third person), and yes, they are both white men, but I still think that's insulting. Ugh, Dan actually makes me want to head to CBS-Radford and toss a match at the house.

Jerry, the grandfather of the show, perhaps said it best when he talked about nominating Dan because he is a "loose cannon." Zealots are crazy; they feel they have the spiritual law on their side, and therefore they do and say whatever they want without fearing consequences. The thing is, though, the dude is still young. Whatever his influences are at home, he will undoubtedly come into contact-- and therefore conflict-- with those who have opposing views, like Libra, a self-proclaimed "Obama supporter in Bush country." She's in a biracial marriage, and she has twins, but one is black and one is white. Dan is probably praying for her as I type this, but I hope she can straighten the boy out. He could stand to learn from the different personalities in the house, and maybe this show will do something to change someone's life other than give them an STD.

Also, I’m pretty sure Ollie was praying during the nomination ceremony. If so, that’s not cool either, and though he seemed pretty chill (though also religious, just not combative or in-your-face with his beliefs), if this crap continues, he’ll be next on my list.

Support Your Childhood Dreams...

Though his long, wavy, dark hair more resembles John Corbett (and the slightly greasy, My Big Fat Greek Wedding John Corbett at that) than Zack Morris, it's still good to see Mark Paul Gosselaar back on television!
In another Stephen Bochco production, Gosselaar has signed onto Raising The Bar, yet another law show, though this one focuses on opposing counsel who have been friends since law school. It's your typical smart and highly charged drama with Gosselaar playing the "idealistic one," a public defender who will stop at nothing to help those who cannot help themselves. Gloria Reuben (ER) will co-star as his passionate and protective boss; Teddy Sears (Ugly Betty) is the spoiled rich kid with a conscience: he forgoes a cushy job at his father's firm to work for the public defender’s office. However, on the opposing counsel is Melissa Sagemiller (Sleeper Cell) as an attorney in the D.A.'s office who is almost militant about justice and morality; Currie Graham (feeling right at home from a run with Boston Legal), who is a lecherous D.A. with razor-sharp knowledge of the law; J. August Richards (Conviction), who sounds like the typical "wildcard:" that one guy on the team who will stop at nothing to put criminals behind bars. Jane Kaczmarek (Malcom in the Middle) is the dictator-like Judge who will oversee the young lawyers' work.

Will their different stances on the same cases create rifts in their personal relationships? Will one of them have a secret from their past that will come back to haunt a case? Will any of them hook up? If you know Bochco, you know the answer is yes! Bring on the drama!

Raising The Bar will air on TNT, too, so here's hoping for some more male nudity! The cable censors are far more forgiving than network, after all. :) I've already added this to my "Must See" list for the fall. More on that shortly...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

They'll (Still) Be There For You...

During the ten years Friends spent breaking ratings records and seeping so far into pop culture that hairstylists all across America learned to perfect a style known only by a character’s name, the NBC phenomenon had its fair share of notable guest stars. And with such an abundance of comedic talent flocking their way, it should be no surprise that even now, four years after they stopped producing new episodes, Friends is still one of the most-quoted programs in history. When talking to diehard fans-- you know, the kinds of people who own the trivia game and can make it all the way around the board, winning the game, in one turn-- some of the most memorable, still chuckle-worthy lines of dialogue were ones that came out of the mouths of guest stars.

When speaking to fans in Los Angeles, of course one of the first quotes that gets mentioned is Brad Pitt’s “Look at her standing there with those yams. My two greatest enemies, Ross: Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates.” In the ninth episode of the eighth season of the series, Pitt certainly made his mark in “The One With The Rumor” as the sexy, smoldering-- but once fat and dorky-- friend of Ross and Monica’s from high school that comes to dinner. The episode was a big one not only for the characters but the actors as well, as Pitt was the last real life spouse to make a guest appearance, and of course his A-list movie star status was anticipated and rumored long before he appeared. Having him play opposite his then-wife Jennifer Aniston as someone who didn’t particularly care for her was an expected twist that offered even more laughs.

However, there are dozens upon dozens more one-liners that are not only still quoted religiously today but are enough to elicit a callback to the episode as a whole. Elliot Gould as Monica and Ross' loud and slightly inappropriate dad is perhaps most responsible for such lines of dialogue, but his best moment has to have been when, in Episode 4.24 "TOW Ross' Wedding: Part 2," upon reading a bill that sounded more like redecorating a house than having a party, he lashed out with: "I'm not paying for your wine cellar, you thieving, would-be-speaking-German-if-it-weren't-for-us, cheap little man!" Not exactly the best way to endear himself to his new in-laws, but that bluntness is Jack (and Elliot) in a nutshell).

Some of Friends' most snort-worthy lines were somewhat obscure and somewhat simple, but they all epitomized the show's tone, sense of humor, and therefore essence. Just by hearing these one-liners, the surrounding scene is set up perfectly, and it is easy to hear what follows verbatim... or at least those are the voices in my head anyway. Here are the Top Ten, in order of appearance:

"Well you know, you have to take a course otherwise they don't let you do it." -- Jessica Hecht, Episode 1.9 "TOW Underdog Gets Away"

"I could have birds." -- Larry Hankin, Episode 2.3 "TOW Heckles Dies"

"The way I feel about you, it's like I finally understand what Lionel Richie is singing about. I mean, what we have, it's like movie love." -- Maggie Wheeler, Episode 3.8 "TOW The Giant Poking Device"

"I like her; she seems smart." -- John Bennett Perry, Episode 4.18 "TOW Rachel's New Dress"

"You're the prettiest fake undercover whore I've ever seen." -- Michael Rapaport, Episode 5.16 "TOW The Cop"

"I think he's stoned again." -- Christina Pickles, Episode 6.9 "TOW Ross Got High"

"Maybe I passed out, and you did stuff to me while I was sleeping." -- Winona Ryder, Episode 7.20 "TOW Rachel's Big Kiss"

"I have to tell you, being here with all of you in Event Room C, I feel so lucky. To think of all the good times that have happened here: the birthdays, the proms, the mitzvahs-- both bar and bat-- none of it will compare to tonight. My God, I don't want to forget this moment: it's like I want to take a mental picture of you all... click!" -- Alec Baldwin, Episode 8.18 "TOW Massapequa"

"How about this? If you guys die and the crazy plate lady dies, do I get the baby?" -- Christina Applegate, Episode 9.8 "TOW Rachel's Other Sister"

“I climbed like a billion stairs... its not like I can take them two at a time.” -- Danny DeVito, Episode 10.11 “TOW The Stripper Cries”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Now THAT's What I'm Talking About!...

Just in time for VH1's I Love Money, which I've been saying since previews looks like a trashier version of The RW/RR Challenge (if that's possible), the trailer for the real deal has been released... and it looks like Dave from RW XX: Hollywood has finally found that one thing he's really passionate about and "really kicks ass at.

Coming to a television near you this fall. Check your local listings.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I'm You! Just Ten Seconds Later!...

If wasn't enough that Danneel Harris (not to be confused with Danielle Harris, one of the stars of Don't Tell Mom The Baby Sitter's Dead) stole my name-- and butchered it, I might add-- but then she stole my men:

Danneel and Jensen in Ten Inch Hero

Danneel and Eric in Harold and Kumar 2:
Escape from Guantanamo Bay

This is bullshit!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Another One Bites The Dust...

Just as I was gearing up to write another hard-hitting "Where Are They Now?" piece about former child star Zachary Ty Bryan (best known as the oldest brother Brad on Home Improvement), TMZ (of all people!) actually went and scooped me! However, their focus on his legal troubles makes it seem like Mr. Ty Bryan (oh, excuse me, he dropped the Ty sometime around 2002) has been MIA since 1999, when the show that made him a household name went off the air. Though that did mark his last starring role, Bryan has been involved in much more than just altercations at what sounds like a pay-by-the-hour motel type hotel down in San Diego.

After being cast as the tween heartthrob and then perhaps surprisingly pushed to the backburner in favor of his younger, shorter, spunkier on-screen brother J.T.T. (that's Jonathan Taylor Thomas to those not in the know), Bryan's time on Home Improvement was spent mostly dealing with girls and dating and the occasional soccer game. He seemed fit to be the next Andrew Shue... or at least the reverse Andrew Shue, even taking the title of Youth Spokesman for the World Cup in the mid-nineties, at the height of his success. However, the sport seems to be still just a hobby for Bryan, who has taken two and three episode arcs on little known programs like Opposite Sex, Family Law, and Center of the Universe before moving onto two and three episode arcs on better known programs (Boston Public, Veronica Mars, Shark). His characters rarely evolved past the jock or the frat boy, though, with Bryan succumbing to the limitations of his surfer look and past performance rather than his passion.

I guess Bryan doesn't think he's doing well enough for himself, though, because without any projects on the horizon, he has opted to sue said hotel for $25,000. Maybe he hopes to have a "comeback" with a trial covered by the paparazzi-- and unfortunately that's the exact kind of story that would once again land him on the covers of magazines. Or maybe he just has an old hot rod he wants to fix up... you know, for the nostalgia.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Come So Far (Got So Far To Go)...

I've been taking a good, hard look at my more recent entries lately, and I've noticed a disturbing pattern: increasingly they have taken on the omnipotent voice/entertainment journalism angle rather than the personal diatribe ranting with which I once began this blog. The intended purpose of this site was to talk about how pop culture influenced who I was growing up, what goals I might have set for myself, and how its presence is still deeply rooted in my life even though I am finally old enough to go out and get, in the real world, all the things I wanted from the reel world. And if I'm being really honest, each entry was supposed to serve as a teaser to (or one chapter from, if you will) my memoirs.
I've never been a "glass half-full" sort of person, so the fact that I am writing again is not enough for me; now I've started to beat myself up over the fact that what I'm writing (and how I'm writing it) is off-track. Maybe the detour from personal entries was so I could use this site as an on-going writing sample for any professional writing job to which I may apply. But sometime along the way I can't help but feel like I lost the distinctness of my voice, so with the second half of this year, I will work to get back what I had at the second half of last year. With any luck, hopefully I'll compile a solid rough draft of said memoirs... but I've never really been a "lucky" sort of person, either.

Why, Bravo, Why?...

Top Chef has just announced casting for their new season, and this time around it will be in the "new and exciting location" of Brooklyn NY, paving the way for film (or at least reality television) production for ninety-day seasons to come. While they will reportedly tape some segments at the As The World Turns studios, the contestants will live in a townhouse or loft in the gentrified area of Park Slope, not unlike MTV's plans for next year's seven d-bags from The Real World. Have you ever heard the expression "you can spray perfume on a turd, but it will still smell like sh*t" (That might not be a real thing)? Well, congratulations, reality show producers!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Five Cents: Last Comic Standing Season 17...

Who even knew this show was still on!? Well, apparently the good folks at On Demand did because they thought it was smart to buy the season from NBC for all of the diehards who have better things to do on a Thursday night than sit home and wait for this to pop on... you know, all five of us.
I personally love stand-up comedy. Always have, always will. I have never laughed so hard tears have started streaming out of my eyes more than when catching a Robin Williams or Chris Rock special on HBO or Comedy Central. Last Comic Standing then should have been a goldmine for me-- a chance to learn about up and coming comedians who I'd want to check out at the Laugh Factory or UCB or whereever. And at times, it was: it brought me Kathleen Madigan, Alonzo Bodden, Chris Porter, and Michele Balan. I was willing to overlook the few (ahem, Doug Benson) who clearly had moderate success but were still put forth past the semi-final rounds because I was convinced the return would be great. But sadly, the show buried some of its greatest talent just as the network buried the show in the middle of the summer with few promos. Last week was the first round of semi-finals on this season (which is actually only (?) the sixth), and it showed great promise (Jeff Dye, Ron G, Erin Jackson and Andi Smith)... but then Bill Bellamy announced who actually made it through, and to quote NPH, it was "a sausage fest" in there. Not one woman made it through. A woman won the last season of The Biggest Loser, and a woman just won this season of Top Chef, so surely it should be a woman’s time to shine on Last Comic Standing, no?

Now, I'm not saying they should pass a woman through if she isn't as funny as the men she is competing with; affirmative action doesn't work when an audience who has to be entertained is involved. However, even if every other one deserves to get the boot, it was only because Shazia Mizra blew them all out of the water. But she didn't make it. Neither did Erin or Andi, and though I admit I need to hear a bit more from Andi (hard to pass a judgment on three minutes, especially when the show... trims some comedians' sets), Erin was certainly funnier than Paul Foot, a stringy haired Mr. Bean, and God's Pottery, who we've seen three times, and thus far they've performed the same one song about virginity over and over. My jaw actually dropped as an audible "Aw, hell naw!" spilled out of my lips.

Tonight we had a few more funny women (the stoned Mary Mack, the banking on stereotypes Esther Ku, and Iliza Shlesinger, who, if editing is to be believed, got the hardest laughs of the whole group) and some only okay guys (Dan Cummins, who is the Oliver Stone of stand-up, putting the emphasis on the exact word he finds to be the "funny point" of the joke, lest you miss it; Sean Cullen, who did like twenty minutes (or two) of "What Happens In Vegas," chanting and then sang about porn (he actually has a decent voice and maybe should go for America's Got Talent instead; and Stone & Stone, another duo who resued the same jokes from multiple episodes past and who I never personally found funny). There was a much smaller percentage of women who even made it to these semi-final rounds than men, so I guess it's just basic math that fewer would get to take the next step, but to put it bluntly, it still sucks. I mean, really, the Lurch-looking dude with the giant cello? Really? At least Iliza made it or one of us would have had to cut a bitch (Bellamy)!

I admit Marcus is a genius for his impressions, and I'm glad to see him step outside the box and do some "regular" material, as well. He also looks like a less douchebaggy Dane Cook, so that doesn't hurt. While I would normally boycott LCS based on principle, let's face it, TV is slim pickins these days, and as long as there's some eye candy for me, I'm pretty much a guaranteed pair of eyes. NBC, you've been warned: assuming you're planning to fix the votes anyway, fix them in Marcus' favor or lose me much sooner into the season than the pitiful ratings can stand.

Transitioning From Child To Adult In Front Of The Camera...

We saw it with Drew Barrymore and then again, years later, with Lindsay Lohan, and perhaps most recently with Mary Kate Olsen. Current “it” stars like the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus will undoubtedly follow suit in the next few years. They are child stars that want to turn more legit as they get older, hoping the fans that are, too, growing up will follow them into more adult ventures. They take on roles in what they perceive as “serious, artsy” films; they change their look to try to separate themselves from their younger image; and they often take behind-the-scenes hybrid titles as producers to get taken more seriously. Some fail; some succeed; some do one and then the other; and some fall into obscurity somewhere in the middle. With squeaky-clean Nickelodeon star Josh Peck’s star-turn in this Friday’s gritty coming-of-age drama, The Wackness, he may just be another one in a long line, but undoubtedly he is just the first of this generation to test the waters.

When Josh Peck first came into tween girls’ consciousnesses in The Amanda Show almost a decade ago, he was a quick-witted, cheerful if chubby kid. Well-groomed and seemingly polite in his real life, he was non-threatening enough to warrant Nickelodeon to offer him a starring role in a partially self-titled sitcom called Drake and Josh. After three years acting alongside Drake Bell, who very quickly got the “teen heartthrob” title of the duo, both boys decided to go their separate ways and try to branch out as much as they could. For Drake, that meant capitalizing on what was already working (the swoon factor) by turning to music and a small role as the cute older brother in Yours, Mine & Ours, but for Josh it meant completely reinventing himself, which is a risk for any actor to do, let alone one who had cultivated a very specific, very fickle fan following for a number of years. After losing a bunch of weight, Peck looks like a new person and that will definitely be an advantage to transform him into the slang-slurring, drug dealing, kid from the wrong side of the city in his new venture. For Peck, it is undoubtedly a pet project and has its roots in his own childhood, and that daring passion is not only something to be admired but also a recipe for success.

Peck may be out to prove he’s not just comic relief and can actually handle a meaty character piece, and he wouldn’t be alone in that. Cole and Dylan Sprouse may be best known for their roles on the Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, but they have been working since they were babies, sharing roles in Grace Under Fire, Big Daddy, and Friends. As they’ve matured from elementary school-age to pre-teen, they’ve already expanded their horizons simply by branding themselves and creating a line of clothing and comic books. In 2004, they took on one of those aforementioned artsy films with The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, but the attempt was premature, as their youth and inexperience really showed through their one-note interpretation of the confused character. It was just too much, too soon for such a jump in material, and with a script that was colorful with drugs, sex, cross-dressing, and violence, little girls and boys who watched them religiously on the Disney Channel certainly weren’t brought into the theaters. Though it is only four years later, in terms of adolescent maturity that practically makes them and their fans brand new people, with new interests, new knowledge, and new boundaries. Yet, the boys are regressing and returning to material made especially for the under ten crowd with The Kings of Appletown, a modern-day interpretation of “Tom Sawyer,” and a Suite Life movie. Sure, they are exposing themselves to a whole new slew of young fans, but they are most likely alienating some of the ones who are now teenagers and ready to see the boys take on some high school comedies.

Miley Cyrus’s over-exposed (pun intended) photo spread in Vanity Fair was certainly an attempt to be looked at as a more mature star than the tween sensation she has recently become. However, like with the Sprouse twins, it’s a blip on the radar because immediately after the one detour, she has reverted back to entertaining her typical crowd. Her newest music video, “7 Things,” invites other young girls to share in her bubblegum pop, nonthreatening world. She is holding onto childhood and those young fans with both hands, perhaps learning a deep lesson from that precocious pictorial.

Jamie Lynn Spears started her career late in the game, especially compared with some of her peers, who have been acting since they were barely out of diapers. Starting with a cameo in her big sister’s own acting debut, Crossroads, she went on to get primed for life as a young network star with a stint on the sketch comedy show All That. After getting her feet wet and paying her dues, Spears was given her own series, Zoey 101, about a group of friends living on a boarding school campus. Zoey placed the young characters in some very adult situations from the beginning, such as the mere fact that they live in dorms and wander the campus unsupervised and unsegregated from the opposite sex, and Jamie placed herself in a very adult situation when she got pregnant earlier this year, forcing her to take some time away from Hollywood now, even if it isn’t nearly as extended a break as perhaps it should be (she has already signed on to voice the title character in Unstable Fables: Goldilocks & Three Bears Show).

Jesse McCartney is one tween star who has taken a few breaks in his career. After spending his twelfth year on the daytime hit All My Children, he made a few guest appearances, but really didn’t pop back up again until the primetime soap Summerland in 2004. During that peak of his intrigue to pre-pubescent girls, he released an album (“Beautiful Soul”) that couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Aaron Carter, both in similar sound and look for the young men. Though he tried darkening his hair, he opted to take on voice-over work in animation and videogames rather than attempt any darker on-screen roles, which led many to assume he had no interest in appealing to a more mature audience. And even though today he boasts the singer/songwriter title and has claimed he has written a track he wants Mariah Carey to release, “Departure,” his newest body of musical work is just as fluffy and simplistic as his first two, poking no holes in the theory that McCartney is today’s Peter Pan: he will rely on his floppy hair, freckles, and dimples to remain the Tiger Beat poster boy for as long as he possibly can.

With the increasingly critical eye of today’s audiences, let alone today’s youth, perhaps it would be best if the majority of these stars (emphasis on Spears) took a page out of Natalie Portman’s book, who once said that she didn’t care if it was the “popular” decision, but she was going to take some time off from acting and go to college. She said it was more important to be smart than a movie star, and because in reality many child stars can’t get past the typecasting of their youth, perhaps the smartest thing they can do to have a shot at being a bona fide movie star in their adult career is to take some time away. They need to learn who they are and what they want for themselves and their career away from the blinding lights and obscene paychecks or else it will be all too easy for them to just settle for roles that pigeonhole them due to past success.

Transitioning from child to adult in private and coming back a fresh, new person and in turn a fresh, new actor may be my advice, but one young star who probably wouldn’t agree is Shia LaBeouf. Starring on Even Stevens when he was only thirteen labeled him as the curly-haired goofball who seemed to annoy more than draw admiration. In 2006, just three years after his Disney Channel run came to an end, he had his own star turn in the meaty indie, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, where he played a foulmouthed confused kid from the streets, and suddenly casting directors saw him as a man (and more importantly a leading man) at only twenty years old. Taking on psychological thrillers (Disturbia) and big budget action films (Transformers) even garnered him attention from Steven Spielberg, who has been so adamantly vouching for the young star’s talent and work ethic, it seems not even an odd, late night Walgreens arrest or a few smoking citations can hamper his plans as the first of his young peers to join the A-List (unlike how it ostracized Edward Furlong). LaBeouf has certainly set the bar high for what can be accomplished (and it appears Peck hopes to follow in his footsteps), but now the pressure’s on to see if he can stay consistent for the rest of his career. That’s a nearly impossible for thing for any actor to do, let alone ones who start so young!