Friday, April 30, 2010

Weekly Examiner Round-Up...

Win 'Party Down' Season One on DVD!...

It's really no secret that I am kind of obsessed with STARZ and all of their programming as of late. In watching the trends of pay cable, I think it has become apparent that HBO, once the golden child and the example by which everyone else wanted to model their own programming, has fallen into the bowels of irrelevancy and is struggling to float back up. Sorry, Entourage; I once loved you-- hell, I once created a show that was the female, more self-deprecating version of you-- but I got sick of seeing the same old sh*t every week and never having any of the characters grow, evolve, learn or change. Bless them, they're really trying with How To Make It In America, and though I love me some Bryan Greenberg, I just haven't been able to get into it. Maybe it's because it's set in New York; it's just not my cup of tea.

An argument can easily be made that Showtime is the new "queen bee" in class. Last year the combination of the strongest season yet for a long-running drama (Dexter) and the introduction of two brand new, super witty comedies (Nurse Jackie & United States of Tara) really put it on the map and caused many new people to obtain subscriptions. However, like many of the popular kids, I fear it may have peaked in high school-- err, 2009. One of its original ground-breaking programs, Weeds, is now something that you barely notice, let alone miss, when it's not on, and since Dexter cleaned house of its showrunner and many writer/producers, the show that returns this fall may be just a shell of its former self.

That brings us to STARZ. I fell completely head-over-heels for a little improv comedy called Head Case just a few years ago. Alexandra Wentworth introduced me to the witty humor of this "alternative comedy" network via neurotic Dr. Elizabeth Goode and her equally neurotic celebrity patients. That is why I stuck around when I heard they were releasing another original comedy-- acting at first only as a companion piece to the aforementioned program-- about cater-waiters in Los Angeles.

I was enamored with Party Down from the opening "teaser" of the pilot for its cast (Lizzy Caplan and Jane Lynch, that should say it all!) but what really won me over was all the back-and-forth banter. They were people just like me: people with Hollywood dreams, living and working in a town of opulence but always just out of reach from grabbing it for themselves. The show's first ten episodes came and went too quickly, and I admit there were times I didn't laugh as much as I thought I would (though the underlying sadness to the characters makes them all the more real and relatable, and that's admittedly a big part of the appeal now), but the material was always unique and quirky, and that's something toward which I gravitate, regardless.

Needless to say, when developing my own somewhat quirky comedy, STARZ was the first call I made. They passed, but there are no hard feelings. In fact, I am currently developing two more programs I hope to pitch them in the near future.

...This is all a very long-winded intro for a simple DVD giveaway, isn't it!??

Long, long story short: Party Down is now back on STARZ for its second season. I got to interview some of the show's stars, and I even attended the Paley Center for Media's premiere honoring the cast, the show, and the network. Now, they have been gracious enough to give me some copies of the season one DVD to giveaway to my loyal (and lucky!) readers.

All you have to do to enter to win is send me an email with a "party pitch" aka a one sentence to one paragraph description of a type of party you'd want to see the Party Down caterers take on next. Be sure to include your full name and contact information in the email. The winners will be drawn and notified on May 7th, just in time for the next all-new episode of the show! Party Down airs on Fridays at 10pm on the STARZ network, and Netflix is also streaming the episodes same-day.

And as for HBO and Showtime: prove me wrong. Or better yet, finally deem me worthy enough to include on your screeners/promos mailing list, and perhaps I will discover other new and exciting programming you have to offer and see the error of my ways.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Madison for 'Modern Family'...

Last night on Modern Family, Phil's dad (guest star Fred Willard) returned for a surprise visit, showing up in the Dunphys' yard with an RV...and a puppy. Once I got over the "aww" factor, I was seeing red. After all, I've been advocating for that show to get a dog in it's cast for months now-- MONTHS! Of course, I am biased: I didn't just want any old dog on the show: I wanted it to be my dog!!

Now, for those of you who saw it, you know that the dog in question goes back home with Willard's character at the end of the episode. This leaves Claire (Julie Bowen) feeling sad and empty, as she grew quite attached to the little fur-ball while fighting him for her underwear (don't ask; just watch the episode!). And it leaves me with the perfect opportunity to swoop right in there with my own little fur-ball!

This officially kicks off my campaign to get Madison on Modern Family! Hey, if Facebook could help get Betty White on SNL-- and now attempt to get Megan Mullally on glee-- I'd be remiss if I didn't at least try!! I will be Tweeting the cast and creators of the show, who I know are hard at work already preparing arcs for season two, in order to seed the thought in their heads now that they should write in a story about a cute little Shih Tzu who likes nothing more than to curl up on a pillow and eat cookies. I will also post blogs about the progress over at my sequel site: My Life, Made Possible by Madison. I will even consider making a Facebook group or some kind of online petition for the cause. Keep your fingers crossed for us and feel free to forward this link to your friends and any "powers that be" that you may know at Modern Family or ABC in general. I'm determined to make great things happen for my little guy!!

Guess Who's Back? No, REALLY Back!...

"I'm not afraid to take a stand (take a stand)
Everybody (everybody) come take my hand (come take my hand)
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that you're not alone
Holla if you feel like you've been down the same road

Yeah, It's been a ride...
I guess i had to go to that place to get to this one
Now some of you might still be in that place
If you're trying to get out, just follow me
I'll get you there

You can try and read my lyrics off of this paper before I lay 'em
But you won't take this sting out these words before I say 'em
Cause ain't no way I'm let you stop me from causing mayhem
When I say 'em or do something I do it, I don't give a damn
What you think, I'm doing this for me, so fuck the world
Feed it beans, it's gassed up, if a thing's stopping me
I'mma be what I set out to be, without a doubt undoubtedly
And all those who look down on me I'm tearing down your balcony
No if ands or buts don't try to ask him why or how can he
From Infinite down to the last Relapse album he's still shit and
Whether he's on salary, paid hourly
Until he bows out or he shit's his bowels out of him
Whichever comes first, for better or worse
He's married to the game, like a fuck you for Christmas
His gift is a curse, forget the earth he's got the urge
To pull his dick from the dirt and fuck the whole universe

I'm not afraid to take a stand (take a stand)
Everybody (everybody) come take my hand (come take my hand)
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that you're not alone
Holla if you feel like you've been down the same road

Ok quit playin' with the scissors and shit, and cut the crap
I shouldn't have to rhyme these words in the rhythm for you to know it's a rap
You said you was king, you lied through your teeth
For that fuck your feelings, instead of getting crowned you're getting capped
And to the fans, I'll never let you down again, I'm back
I promise to never go back on that promise, in fact
Let's be honest, that last Relapse CD was "ehhhh"
Perhaps I ran them accents into the ground
Relax, I ain't going back to that now
All I'm tryna say is get back, click-clack BLAOW
Cause I ain't playin' around
There's a game called circle and I don't know how
I'm way too up to back down
But I think I'm still tryna figure this crap out
Thought I had it mapped out but I guess I didn't
This fucking black cloud's still follow's me around
But it's time to exercise these demons
These motherfuckers are doing jumping jacks now!

I'm not afraid to take a stand (take a stand)
Everybody (everybody) come take my hand (come take my hand)
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that you're not alone
Holla if you feel like you've been down the same road

And I just can't keep living this way
So starting today, I'm breaking out of this cage
I'm standing up, I'mma face my demons
I'm manning up, I'mma hold my ground
I've had enough, now I'm so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now

It was my decision to get clean, I did it for me
Admittedly I probably did it subliminally for you
So I could come back a brand new me, you helped see me through
And don't even realize what you did, believe me you
I been through the ringer, but they can do little to the middle finger
I think I got a tear in my eye, I feel like the king of
My world, haters can make like bees with no stingers, and drop dead
No more beef flingers, no more drama from now on, I promise
To focus soley on handling my responsibilities as a father
So I solemnly swear to always treat this roof like my daughters and raise it
You couldn't lift a single shingle lonely
Cause the way I feel, I'm strong enough to go to the club
Put a corner pub and lift the whole liquor counter up
Cause I'm raising the bar, I shoot for the moon
But I'm too busy gazing at stars, I feel amazing and...

I'm not afraid to take a stand (take a stand)
Everybody (everybody) come take my hand (come take my hand)
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that you're not alone
Holla if you feel like you've been down the same road!"

This is what I love: people count you out (
myself included, to a degree), and you come back harder, stronger, smarter and prove them all wrong. Eminem's next studio album, "Recovery," is set for a June 22nd release. He has said that he scrapped plans for "Relapse 2" because he felt the songs he was writing were of a different tone and caliber than the ones that made it on the first album, and I think by listening to this one single alone, you can see how and why. Hell, he calls it out in the lyrics themselves that "Relapse" was far from his best work!

"Not Afraid," the first single released today off "Recovery," brings us all back to simpler times in the mid-2000s when he was just beginning to put away his characters and look inside himself. One might speculate that the sudden switch to introspection caused him to spiral down a rabbit hole, perhaps uncomfortable with what he found or even the simple fact that he was searching to begin with. Or maybe it just wasn't the right time. But maybe now is. Either way, if the rest of the tracks on "Recovery" sound like "Not Afraid," it will be the perfect birthday present for me!

Em's back!

Death Stopped By. He Says Hello...

Tonight on Supernatural, we learn a little bit more about the mystery that surrounds Sam Winchester's doomed life. Okay, it's not really a mystery anymore, but we get a bit of a clearer picture that nothing and no one in his life has been random when we meet the guy who introduced him to his doomed love, Jess:


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

L.A: A Cupcake Connoisseur's Dream...

They say addicts, when electing to get treatment, often just substitute one addiction for another. For some that comes with replacing alcohol with cigarettes or harder drugs with food. For me, it was taking all things television and pop culture and not quite replacing them but instead simply supplementing them with cupcakes.

Yes, cupcakes. They certainly are trendy nowadays, aren’t they? They’ve shown up on hit television shows like Modern Family, in the form of an after-school snack for little Manny and his family, and 30 Rock, on both Liz Lemon’s pajamas and a display at her “mandatory” party. But more often than that, they appear in my kitchen cabinets, in bags that boast logos from some of the best bakeries in Los Angeles.

They also appear at all of my parties-- parties, which-- I might add-- have never evolved past the group viewing of very special episodes or made-for-TV movies. When I was a kid, I had friends over for pizza and ice cream sundaes when Zack and Kelly got married after Saved by the Bell: The College Years had come to an end. I did the same during the first few Ashley & Mary-Kate Olsen original TV movies, like To Grandmother's House We Go. In college, I even hosted a Friends finale party. Now I just pick random weekends and random TV on DVD and do marathon viewing events for the aforementioned 30 Rock and Supernatural.

I like to pride myself on the fact that I’ve become something of a cupcake connoisseur of late, but really I think I’m more of a cupcake snob. At an office birthday party, an old co-worker of mine brought in pre-packaged pastries from the supermarket, and though I still ate one (I have a sweet tooth that knows no bounds), I complained about it until the last swipe of frosting had been licked clean from my fingertips.

So how do you know where to go when you’re looking for a sweet snack for a special occasion—or hell, just a Tuesday!? Starbucks and Cinnabon now offer options. Starbucks has three flavors to Cinnabon’s four, with the latter also offering a variety pack. But neither are made fresh everyday, and both require double doses of extra-sugary frosting to make up for it! Coldstone even sold limited edition ice-cream cupcakes for a while last year. Those were a bit pricey and only bite-sized but still a refreshing treat, and a great way for the ice cream conglomerate to stay “up” with the times!

But why settle? Los Angeles is known for decadent cupcake bakeries, which is something of an anomaly in and of itself considering this town is known for breeding starving artists and waify actors who appear to spend thousands of dollars to find ways to avoid eating. There’s something for everyone in just about every neighborhood! There are Yummy Cupcakes and Vanilla Bakeshop in Santa Monica, Big Sugar Bakeshop in Studio City, and even Mardy’s Munchies, which right now serves only at the Highland Park Farmer’s Market but is currently planning a retail space of its own. And of course there are the two biggest competitors, just blocks away from each other in Beverly Hills: Sprinkles and Crumbs.

Recently I got into a semi-debate with a friend over which one of the latter two was better. She claimed Sprinkles because they fly in ingredients from all over the world, making their products much more than something you could whip up at home. From Callebaut cocoa to Nielsen-Massey vanilla, their cupcakes are always rich and moist, and they even sell miniature versions for dogs! But I argued that Crumbs was superior for all of their specialty, filling in the middle, cupcakes like Baba Booey, Fluffernutter, and Grasshopper. Crumbs’ flavors are available anytime you walk in—and with more than one location in L.A. alone, you don’t have to drive twenty miles—and twenty minutes—out of your way just to get a sugar fix. With Sprinkles, you have to plan ahead if you want a specific kind because they offer only a handful of flavors on any given day of the week.

I have sampled cupcakes from all of these bakeries, and Crumbs still comes out on top every time, in my opinion. But I encourage you all to play for yourselves! My recommendation is to try a Red Velvet cupcake from each one for your comparison test. Whichever one uses the right ratio of light and fluffy cream cheese frosting to smooth chocolatey cake according to your own standards will be the clear winner across the board, guaranteed. Bonus points if they throw chocolate chips into their batter!

Woof Wednesday #50...

It's a milestone this week: fifty weeks of this column. That's almost a whole year! And how does Madison celebrate? By making himself super small and curling up on his old pillow. Well, some things never change. Let's see if he is feeling a bit more festive in two weeks when it is the year anniversary of Woof Wednesday...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cuckoo For Coco: A Fan Account...

I am pretty much the only person in Los Angeles who didn't even try to get tickets to Conan O'Brien's "Legally Prohibited (from Being Funny on Television)" tour stop at the Gibson Amphitheatre this past weekend. It's not that I don't find him funny; I just didn't have extra cash lying around after buying new patio furniture and anticipating the amount I would be spending on both National Doodle Day 2010 as well as the merchandise at Glee: Live in Concert next month. But one of my good friends went to the show-- on BOTH nights-- so I asked her to write a guest blog of her experience for me. Fair warning: she is a self-proclaimed "Coconut" (is that a real thing??) who got so excited about the show that she scoured Target the day before, looking for a bright orange wifebeater, and then bedazzling her Blackberry cover with orange rhinestones to spell out "I'm With Coco." Here is what she had to say:

"On Saturday and Sunday night, my friend and I decked ourselves in orange from nearly head-to-toe and headed to the Gibson Amphitheatre to see what this night of "music, comedy, hugging and the occasional awkward silence" had in store for us. We were not disappointed...

Conan O'Brien ran out on stage and immediately reminded us of why he is so loved, and what has been missing on television these past few months. His presence is commanding and his nature humble. He took in the standing ovation and began his monologue with an energy that matched the crowd's. Conan quickly tackled the elephant in the room, welcoming everyone to an "extremely awkward situation," as the venue sits on the same Universal Studios property where his Tonight Show filmed. What's interesting about seeing the show two nights in a row, is the opportunity to witness how brilliant Conan is when it comes to improv and crowd interaction. While clearly the show is scripted, he very easily adapts to different amusing circumstances that present themselves. On Saturday night as he prepared to launch into a musical number at the piano, the microphone wouldn't stay up. A stage hand rushed to adjust it, but Conan stopped him and said, "No, wait. It's funnier this way." On Sunday night a man in the first row was frantically taking photos and Conan's quick wit had everyone, including the man, in stitches.

Conan transitions flawlessly from the monologue into the first musical number, an hilarious recreation of an Elvis song about growing up poor in the south, reworked to ruefully fit O'Brien's upper middle class upbringing in the affluent Boston suburb of Brookline. After the first song, Andy Richter joined Conan on stage and I was transported back to my parents' living room, circa the mid-1990s. Another aspect of Conan as a performer that I truly appreciate is his ability to share the stage – Andy wasn't there to play "second banana." Both nights they riffed off each other, laughed with and at each other, and basked in that back-and-forth chemistry that drew so many of us in all those years ago. One of my favourite bits was "Groupie Cam," during which Andy scans the crowd looking for groupies for Conan. All of the women, and many men, stand up and wave, hoping to have their image projected onto the big screen. For his part, O'Brien grants us with his trademark purrs, meows, and other awkward responses to women. With each show the tour finds a popular local establishment and Andy creates a commercial spoof – LA's was Big Mama's & Papa's Pizza. He even took the stage solo at one point for a segment of the show called "What I Learned," during which he pokes fun at himself and show business.

The show progresses rather seamlessly between pre-recorded video bits, sketches, insane musical performances, celebrity guests and even a stand-up routine from popular
Tonight Show writer Deon Cole. I've seen Cole perform live a few times since January, and he never fails to bring the house down. One of the highlights, aside from the music, is a bit brought back from the old Late Night show. Longtime fans will recall with much enthusiasm the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever segment once featured frequently, which has been reenvisioned for the tour as the "Chuck Norris Rural Policeman Handle." It was at this point during both LA shows that numerous well-known faces came out to assist in pulling the handle to showcase ridiculous clips from the '90s series. On Saturday night Jack McBrayer, Aziz Ansari, Jonah Hill and Jon Hamm took the stage to assist in the bit, while on Sunday Sarah Silverman replaced Hamm. Perhaps one of the most notable and talked about guest appearances was during Conan's "power ballad," as he launched into Five for Fighting's "Superman." The first night Jim Carrey appeared from the backstage door, clad in a Superman costume and the pair shared a hilarious duet. The second night saw Conan don the Superman costume as Carrey appeared as Kick Ass, and both kicked the song up a notch with improvised antics.

As the show came to a close with a fantastic musical number, the crowd jumped up and cheered and chanted until the LPB returned to the stage, smiling and waving. The encore was a rockabilly number, a song that Conan said had no relevance or meaning to anything, he just happened to really like it. As he sang "40 Days," O'Brien leaped off the stage and ran through the crowd, high fiving as many fans as possible. He then stopped in the audience to jam for a moment, before finishing his run through the crowd and returning to the stage. Each night, all of the celebrity guests, as well as the Masturbating Bear, came out to dance with Conan's backup dancers, the Coquettes. Giant yellow balls with a cartoon drawing of O'Brien were tossed into the audience, and the entirety of the Gibson sang, danced, clapped and stomped through the number, cheering loudly as the show came to its final close.

I'm actually still trying to wrap my brain around how unfathomably incredible the show was, and perhaps cannot coherently recount my experience. I will say that, while I always knew Conan had musical talent, he really is a force of nature on the guitar. As a performer, he has a presence and energy that pulls one in. He seemed genuinely excited to see the fans, humbled by the enthusiasm, and even made it a point to speak about how wonderful the people of Universal were to he and his staff during their short stay on the lot. Both evenings were 100% about Conan and Co. having a great deal of fun with the fans – flash photography and video recording were even encouraged. [In fact, the tour's official website,
Team, scours YouTube for videos to post to the blog for other fans to see.]...

I strongly encourage anyone who enjoys fantastic live music and truly some of the best comedy in existence, to do whatever it takes to see this show. You will not be disappointed. Even if you are not a "Coconut," it's still an impressive spectacle of talent and an incredibly fun way to spend a few hours."

[Photo Credit: Caileigh Scott, 2010]

My RENT Hollywood Dream Cast...

Last night on the reunion show for Ru Paul's Drag Race, second runner-up JuJuBee publicly announced her desire to become a star of stage and screen alike. Specifically she said she'd love to play Angel on Broadway in RENT. Well, I hate to break it to her that RENT is no longer on Broadway (because reminding myself of it makes me oh so sad!)...but it is coming to the Hollywood Bowl!

Now, personally, I feel that Raven from the same season is who I could more easily picture as Angel just based on looks, but admittedly I don't know much about either of their potential as singers. Her declaration, nonetheless, got me to think about who else I'd like to see director Neil Patrick Harris cast alongside somewhat questionable ingenue Vanessa Hudgens (who, admittedly, if she manages to hit all the notes will solidify herself as the next true talent to emerge from the Disney machine since Shia LeBeouf!). Harris has already made some selections with which he cannot yet go public, so until he does, allow me my fun as I create my RENT Hollywood dream cast!!

Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mark. Ferguson has stage presence. He stole the show when I saw him perform in "Putnam County's Spelling Bee" a few years ago out here in Los Angeles. He's a theater kid, which means he has the chops, but he also understands the material and can connect in a way some of these "younger" up-and-comers will inevitably miss. There's also something about him that just gets the somewhat nervous, somewhat neurotic energy that encompasses Mark, and I love that about him!

Jared Leto as Roger. He has been in a band for years, becoming something of a staple of his own among fangirls in Los Angeles. He also has the "bad boy" image/ego down, and as long as he stays "toned down"-- i.e. no neon mohawk-- he looks the part on his own. He can rock, and he can actually play the guitar, which helps immensely when it comes to credibility. He may be a little harder than Roger usually is, but that adds an intensity and a seriousness that many performances-- especially after seeing Chris Columbus' watered down adaptation!-- seem to lack for today's Disneyified audiences. Roger is perhaps the most real character in the play, and that needs to be illuminated on stage in order to resonate fully with the audience.

Michaela Watkins as Maureen. Let's face it, it's tough to follow in Idina Menzel's shoes. It's also tough to follow in Eden Espinosa's shoes. And both those women crafted their own versions of this character to be completely iconic and incomparable. I've only seen-- err, heard-- Watkins sing in small doses in sketches during her short time on Saturday Night Live, but I know she has the big personality and comic timing to pull this role off. Maureen is intense, but she has to be enjoyable, too, and that Watkins can definitely do.

Amber Riley as Joanne. We all know her story. The girl tried out for American Idol and was rejected but hit pay dirt with glee. But on that show, her immense talent often gets buried behind that of Lea Michele, who is supposed to be the ingenue (much the way Mimi Marquez is the ingenue in RENT). So many others who got kicked off Idol ended up on Broadway (Frenchie Davis even co-starred in RENT already), but really I just want to see Riley get up on that table as a strong, independent woman and get in Maureen's face during "Take Me or Leave Me." Yes, she's young, but I think she'd bring a fresh energy to the role. And I think she would add a level of great humor to the tango, too!

Mehcad Brooks as Benny. I don't know if he can sing at all. Let's assume he can because the kid is nice to look at, let's face it, and he has the swagger that can make Benny believable but also somewhat likable. The problem with so many's portrayals of Benny (since Taye Diggs) has been that it's hard to imagine the swarmy, "putting himself first" guy was once best friends with sweet, sensitive artists Roger and Mark. But Brooks has layers as an actor and could pull that off through subtleties. Plus, did I mention that he's not bad to look at!?!

Chris Colfer as Angel. He hit the high note in "Defying Gravity." That should be enough said. If he can do that, he can easily jump up on a table in three-inch heels. And I welcome the chance to see it!

Elijah Kelley as Tom Collins. He proved he has the chops in Adam Shankman's remake of Hairspray three years ago, but he hasn't had much of a chance to show off his ability since. He has a natural charisma that would lend itself well to happy-go-lucky Collins. The boy can sing, dance, and has a killer smile. What more could you ask for to try to do Jesse L. Martin proud!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jason Manns Has A More Mature Sound And A New Role As Movie Producer…

Jason Manns is a singer/songwriter who has been dubbed “Angel Voice” by his fans. His self-titled album debuted in 2006 to only positive reviews, and since then he has toured the world alone and with his good friend Jensen Ackles, performing at various Supernatural fan conventions. Manns has such a deep, personal connection with his music that it is no wonder his newest album is titled Soul.”

The release party for “Soul” was held at King King in Hollywood late last week with an impressive line-up of opening acts, including Jesse Cole and Life of Riley, who performed to an excited crowd eagerly awaiting Manns’ new set. The clear crowd pleaser of the night was the encore, Manns’ cover of “The Weight,” which he had also recently performed as a duet with Ackles at the Jus In Bello convention in Rome. Ackles, though in the audience, declined to perform, allowing his buddy his full shining moment in the spotlight.

Manns said the evening was the first time he was able to play with a full band, whose layers complemented his warm sound perfectly. But for Manns, playing live in general is always fun. “The crowd is number one,” he told My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture. “To have all of that energy focused on the music right then and there is very addicting!"

The crowd at King King was lively, but in general Los Angeles can be a tough place for independent artists because there are just so many of them in a town where so many big acts pass through so frequently, as well. Manns enjoys the energy here but also pointed to the U.K. as a place in which he really loves to play live because “the crowds are really attentive and responsive.” He also hopes to make it back over to Rome to play again.

And since Manns mentioned Rome, of course it had to be asked if his “impromptu” performance on stage with Ackles really was as unplanned as they made it seem. Manns assured that it was. “I brought my guitar backstage, and he just kinda gave me a look like 'Nope,'" Manns explained. “We joked about how funny it would be to carry it on stage, do the stage talk, and carry it off stage, never really making mention of it, and never singing. We got down to the last question, and she asked if we would sing. We were laughing that we almost made it through, and you all know the rest!”

In case you missed it, you can see it here right now:

Manns admitted that his inspirations on this second studio release are definitely different from those of his first. “I really tried to…challenge myself to go beyond my comfort zone,” Manns shared. “There's still love songs on this one, but that's not the focal point quite as much. I think this album shows a bit of musical maturity-- at least I hope so!-- from the first. Some of the songs are a bit more complicated, and I dabbled a bit in some other musical genres [as well].”

Mann’s favorite track on the item is the title-one. He calls that “probably the most collaborative song I’ve ever written.” “Soul” was penned by Manns, his guitarist Henry O’Connor, his drummer Jonah Dolan, and his brother Matt. He mentions that when asking others their favorite song, though, he gets a wide variety of answers. “It’s been pretty evenly distributed between all of the songs on the album, and I really like that!” Mann exclaimed.

“Soul” is available now online (at CD Baby and iTunes). Manns also has an independent film available for downloading on iTunes or Video On Demand that he produced as well as co-starred in. Rock Slyde is a parody of old-school film noir about a “down and out detective who engages in a turf-war with an upstart quasi religious cult.”

“My buddy [writer/director] Chris Dowling is a funny guy, talented writer, and all around good dude,” Manns started when discussing how he got involved in such a project. “I read [the] script he wrote, and for some reason just knew we could make it. We put a great team together, raised some money, put in some of our own, and made this fun little comedy. We surprised even ourselves with the cast we were able to get. Patrick Warburton, Andy Dick, Jason Alexander, Eric Roberts, and a bunch of other fun cameos. I'd suggest seeing it...because it's funny and...interesting to see what some newbies can do with literally 1% of a Hollywood comedy budget!”

Dowling was also the mastermind behind Clownana, which Manns and Ackes acted in, alongside Kristoffer Polaha. It’s a small world, folks!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Girl Scout Cookies: Why So Delicious?...

Last night John Mulaney showed up on "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live to rant about Girl Scout Cookies. It wasn't the "crazy delicious" rant of Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell's previous rap but it was still the kind of editorial that we've all been thinking but for some reason no one (at least not me and no one that I've found) has taken to blogging about. Take a look:

Girl Scout cookies. It seems so simple. Why wouldn't I have written about them before? I've certainly had the same conversation with friends when I get down to my last frozen sleeve of Thin Mints or b*tch that my local chapter isn't selling the Thanks-A-Lots that I love so much.

When this blog started, it was supposed to encompass all things pop culture, not just television. But television (and its stars) has always been the one facet of-- well, the world in general-- that has so greatly influenced me that it easily became the focus here. So though as I was watching Mulaney, I was nodding along and maybe even saying aloud some of my own, slightly more severe commentary-- because let's face it, Mulaney has the schtick of the "nice guy" who still kind of seems like he should strap a backpack to his back and ride off on his bike so he's not late for homeroom-- I left it at that.

But it got me to thinking: maybe I need to open this site back up a little bit more or risk copycats getting all the glory for being the "first" to share their thoughts on newer pop culture staples like Crumbs cupcakes. I can't have that! After all, I'm a cupcake connoisseur; it says so on my Facebook profile. Though if I start with just one-- Crumbs-- I know I won't be able to stop (just like when I eat their actual cupcakes!), and then this site may take a whole different turn...

So for now maybe I should just stick to posting the clips that I feel resonate most with me and my opinions. Lord knows, I'm able to find enough of those!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Supernatural Saturdays: The Devil You Know...

A clip from next week's episode of Supernatural, entitled "The Devil You Know," in which Sam and Dean try to take down death itself and get an offer for help from a surprise guest.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Are You Ready For Doodle Day?...

I can't believe it's almost May! Do you know what that means? Sure, it's the end of semesters for those still in school, and it's the official start of the consistently warm weather of the summer season. But moreover, it's time for National Doodle Day! Since 2007, NF, Inc has been collecting hand-drawn, one-of-a-kind cards from various stars of film, TV, music, and sports in order to raise money for research to find a cure for the genetic nerve disorder.

There are so many awesome doodles this year-- regardless of who actually did them-- that I think all my money will be going to National Doodle Day auction items and NF, Inc. Oh well, at least it's a good cause! Here are just a few of my favorites:

Legendary comedienne Phyllis Diller

Cory Monteith, (glee)

Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost / V )

Kristoffer Polaha (Life Unexpected)

Jack McBrayer (30 Rock)

Kaitlin Olson (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine)

Legendary pop artist Charles Fazzino

The auctions begin May 13, but for now you can visit National Doodle Day and take a look at all of the celebrity items that will be available for bidding.

Where Does The Time Go??...

Last night on the New Adventures of Old Christine, the aforementioned Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) took her Prius into the dealer for a tune-up and was informed that her five-year lease was up. Since she got the car when she got divorced, this realization made her contemplate just what she was doing with her time for the last five years (you know, other than starring in her own sitcom, I guess :D). After all, her ex got engaged to someone else and got her pregnant; her brother went through medical school and became a psychologist; and her best friend became a U.S. citizen. Naturally, this all got me thinking because at a job interview this week I was reminded that next month it will officially be five years since I graduated from college. And just what do I have to show for it??

Right after college I was still pretty swept up in the "cloud of L.A.," so to speak (see my still unpublished pop culture memoir for further clarification) and focusing on trying to "get ahead" by producing. I was working on some pretty sh*tastic projects, admittedly, if I was working at all. I joined a union and then never worked within it. It really wasn't until the writers strike hit in 2007 that I was forced to re-evaluate-- you know, with all my epic time off-- what I really wanted and actually began writing again. So let's forget the first three years out of school; let's chalk them up to that time in everybody's life when they are hit with first freedom and don't really do anything productive with it. Let's only consider the last two then. I'm still not quite sure what the hell I've been doing!

Sure, I have been writing. This blog is going stronger than ever after two years, even though it has deviated somewhat from its original purpose about learning life lessons through pop culture (though I'm trying to get it back there little by little, with posts like this one!). It has taken off in new ways-- through interviews and more event coverage than I imagined and even with giveaways!! It's small steps forward toward feeling like a professional. I have completed three complete fiction manuscripts and the memoir based on this blog. I have even self-published one, albeit probably the one that could have most strongly used an editor. I still even write original scripts on occasion.

Sure, I quit my dead-end, miserable-making corporate gig, but the fact that I ever took it in the first place is still something of a misnomer. I was always more comfortable freelancing, in part because I greatly cherish my spare time, but more so because I hate to be told I have to do something that I feel strongly against. My time at The Corporation was one big compromise, and through that it's one giant leap backwards! More than anything, I feel my time there set me back yards at a time when I was finally remembering all I really wanted to do and to be. Taking that position was a personal struggle, but leaving it has been one, too. In doing so, the window in which I always thought I'd buy a house and adopt a child was closed on me, due to lack of financial security-- even if temporarily.

I still don't have a book deal. I fired my lit agent because I didn't think she was working fast enough but I can't seem to find a new one. I'm still not writing for a major publication-- internet or otherwise. I still can't get in the door at networks for pitch meetings. Hell, I'm living in the same apartment I inhabited while I was in college! I still measure the last five years-- or, let's still say, by the last two-- by the milestones of television and pop culture. And when we look at things that way, they don't seem so bad. After all, we now have the musical lexicon of glee, the throwback to old-school storytelling in Life Unexpected, the hotness of boys with rock-salt filled guns on Supernatural, and oh so many "Real" Housewives with their collagen-injected faces and extravagant shopping trips with black cards (or cash-- if you're in New Jersey!).

When I stopped doing production, it was because I was tired of the "hustle." It wasn't even that I thought-- or hoped-- I would have been somewhere bigger and better than I actually was. Although that probably weighed on the decision subconsciously, too. But I left because I was sick of having to scrounge for another job while I was still working the current one. Unfortunately, freelance writing seems to offer the same pitfalls, and I just don't have the drive to "sell myself" the way I may have once.

Maybe I'm just getting too old for this sh*t.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who's Ready To Vogue Tonight?...

Some of the covers in glee's homage to Madonna episode are better than the original versions of the songs. Jane Lynch's dead-pan, black-and-white, almost shot-for-shot remake of "Vogue" isn't musically superior, but it has the humor we have come to know, love, and expect from Lynch after all of her years as a cult comedic heroine. And watching her match the infamous suited dance sequence is definitely glee-ful!

"The Power of Madonna" finally airs on Fox tonight at 9pm. The soundtrack to the episode is available now on both Amazon and iTunes; it comes with a bonus track ("Burning Up" featuring Jonathan Groff), which was sadly cut from the episode, if you buy it from iTunes!

And if you were one of the handful of lucky fans who got a party pack delivered by Fox to host a viewing party for this very special episode, please send pictures tomorrow morning!! For now, though, enjoy Lynch's homage in all of it's glory:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ask @ActuallyNPH: RENT Edition...

Two weeks ago news broke that Neil Patrick Harris, who will be directing a very special production of RENT at the Hollywood Bowl, cast Vanessa Hudgens in the lead female role: young ingenue-stripper Mimi Marquez. Naturally eyebrows were raised for a few reasons, my own included, and many RENTheads across the country held their breath waiting for the announcement of the casting of Roger. And no one has been able to exhale yet, as no other news has been forthcoming.

Now, I was willing to give Harris the benefit of the doubt with Hudgens because he truly knows the material (he starred as Mark on Broadway). But of course when this weekend presented me with the opportunity to steal a few minutes with Harris himself, I had to ask what he was thinking-- both with Hudgens but also with those he may have already cast but not yet been ready to announce. Luckily for all of us, Harris is an intelligent, artistic guy who truly understands the message and meaning behind this unique piece of art in and of itself. And he cares enough to uphold its integrity.

Said Harris: "You know, it's important to me to honor the material and not really to make it an environment of how many celebrities can maybe sing the songs. I think that would be a detriment to the piece. There will be a lot of faces that you might not recognize if you didn't already know the show; there'll be some people that will be surprisingly refreshing, but paramount to it all will be having a good auditory experience."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Supernatural Saturdays: The First 99...

Another fan video, extremely well cut-together! This one features a brief shot from each and every episode of the first ninety-nine (that span the first five seasons) leading up to the 100th, "Point of No Return."

Hopefully I'll have some clips from next week's "Hammer of the Gods" ready soon.

Print Isn't Dead, But It Is Changing...

When I was a kid I was really good with technology. My elementary school didn't have an official A/V club, but by fourth grade, I was the kid the teachers asked for help with VCRs and projectors during "media" days. Naturally that carried over to junior high, where I was such a fast typist, I took the entrance exam to the typing class and did so well I was exempt from the class altogether. I spent that period helping out the computer teacher (i.e. sitting in his classroom playing Tetris and working on the yearbook).

But somewhere as I grew and developed, my knack for-- and to a degree, my interest in-- new and ever-changing technology stunted slightly. Maybe it was that I was getting older and learning new things weren't coming as easily. After all, I mastered AOL in the nineties and can find information on just about anything and everything via even the most obscure websites and search engines, yet I never thought to teach myself HTML code, which is now severely biting me in the ass since I'm a blogger. I'm not saying I couldn't learn if I tried now, but it certainly would take a little longer than if I had picked it up at age eleven!

I don't have a DVR. I know how to operate one; I just choose not to allow them in my home. It's a long story.

The other day on the set of a web series (talk about new media and technology!), I had a whole conversation with one of our actors about where we thought technology was headed when we were kids (I still don't have my robot-maid or flying car, people!) versus where we think it can realistically go now. This came out of a two-day discussion about the iPad in which one crewmember was trying to convince everyone and anyone on set to buy one, but I held firm that there was no need (or room) for it in my lifestyle. One could say again that I am just not keeping up with technology on that front. I instead prefer to think of it as choosing not to spend money needlessly. And that's something I do consider as growth...just of a different type.

One idea that was brought up in regards to advertising, especially since in an increasing-DVR-using world no one watches commercials unless they're during the Super Bowl (and even then I went to a party once through which those were fast-forwarded. As someone who hates football and only attended for the commercials and the dip, I was pretty pissed about half my fun being taken away!). Anyway, we were saying that someday our remotes will probably be mini-touch screens, not unlike an iPad, and when we're watching a show, we'll be able to click on certain items within that show, such as the car the family is driving or a dress someone is wearing, and it will bring us to informational websites about the brand, price, and where to purchase.

It's a way to make the TV-watching experience even more interactive than it has become in recent years with all those reality shows that allow you to call or text in your votes. Furthermore, it will open new departments within the world of entertainment and allow for many new jobs to be created, as a lot goes into collecting the data before it can be shared.

I bring this up now because the newest issue of Entertainment Weekly has brought us a sample of what this technology might be like, only they did it in a slightly different way. The Microsoft Tag App for Smartphones is displayed in their new Summer Movie Preview Double Issue (#1099/1100), and once it has been downloaded, one simply hovers their smartphone above certain coded images on the page and the phone recognizes them and redirects to the YouTube version of that film's trailer or product's commercial. It's ingenius, and for the first time in a really long time, I "Wow"-ed aloud and thought that new technology was something magical and revolutionary.

As a journalist, I admit I was a little worried past the "cool" factor of this App. If you can just code pages with images and then have people watch things on their phones, who's going to want to read the articles I hope to someday get in magazines like Entertainment Weekly!? But then I tested it out. After reading the interview piece with Angelina Jolie (which the author points out was conducted by e-mail!), I scanned the image and watched the trailer for her new movie, Salt. It was the perfect companion to seal the idea planted in my head from the interview: that I want to see this movie on opening night. When used correctly, this new technology has the power to bring more eyes onto a project and onto a piece of press in general. As long as it doesn't replace articles.

For example, using this technology, I could easily turn my Wii with the Stars videos into something I do for a print publication, should one hire me. I would write a half-page or so about the show and person who is playing along with me and then provide the coded image at the bottom of that intro piece to direct readers to the edited footage. There are already online components of every magazine out there on newsstands today, but this opens up the ability of magazines to create new and original content directly for their publications through another medium. Entertainment Weekly's own Michael Ausiello, for example, could develop an on-camera column, either a talk show from his home ala Ted Casablanca or more news style where he delivers his blind items from a teleprompter. A few years ago I would have said that's not necessary: the way the written word is crafted and manipulated from one article to another, even with the same information inside, is what makes someone gravitate toward one publication versus another. But things are changing, and to stay alive, one has to keep up. With Microsoft Tag, it appears print publications have found a way to keep a dying medium not only alive but relevant once again.

A few months ago I needed to return something to Apple, and I had the receipt saved in my email. The kid at the store tried to scan the barcode on the receipt on my iPhone with his little scanner device. It didn't work because of the iPhone's coating. He ended up having me forward the email to the store, and he printed it. It's amazing how far technology has come in such a short amount of time! And this time, I want in!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Megan Mullally & Ken Marino: Part of the New Comedy Mafia!…

Party Down returns to Starz next Friday night with a few cast and character shake-ups. Out is Jane Lynch who unfortunately could not reprise her role as character actor-turned-cater waiter Constance due to her extremely busy shooting schedule on a little Fox show called glee. In for Lynch is Megan Mullally, a veteran character actor in her own right, who plays a new transplant to Los Angeles who is trying to get her young daughter into film and television. Ken Marino (Ron) returns to the team after his Soup-R-Crackers franchise folds to find his one-time protege Henry (portrayed by the affected Adam Scott) now stepping into the leadership boss man shoes.

Mullally is a pretty hot 'get' these days and can pretty much book any job she wants (she is currently spending the spring and summer living and working in theater in New York), so how did Party Down manage to snag her? "You know Megan and I had worked together when I did a guest spot a long time ago on Will & Grace," Marino explains. "And then while we were shooting [the first season of Children's Hospital], I was also shooting a couple of guest spots on her show, In The Motherhood which got canceled. We got to know each other a little bit better, and then she sent me an email to say she was a fan of Party Down, and so when Jane [Lynch] wasn't able to [come back], I was like 'What about Megan?' They-- meaning the producers-- went off and made their choice, but I like to think I might have had something to do with it!"

Mullally herself says she just wants to "work with really great people. I want to work with people who I really like and who I think are really funny, and this is a big group of just those kinds of people!"

And it seems like there is a lot of crossover with these actors' current projects, forming something of a comedy mafia. Season two of Children's Hospital shot last month, bringing both Scott and Lizzy Caplan (Casey) over to the short form series for separate stints. "Martin Starr was supposed to do a stint, but there was a scheduling problem," Marino adds. Maybe next season, though? "There's only so much pull that I have!" He laughs.

This idea of actors bringing in their other actor friends for roles is something that doesn't happen that often in mainstream Hollywood, partially because actors-- unless they are hybrid producer or director actors-- don't have that much control. But mostly because actors see each other as competition. Improv comedies are different, though, because they rely on the group or ensemble dynamic and everyone has to feel completely comfortable with each other in any given scene. "There's this really, really big network of super funny and smart people, and they all support each other, and they all want to see each other succeed," Mullally explains. "They give each other jobs, and you do not find that in any other part of 'the business.' It reminds me of the only other time I've experienced something like this-- back in the early eighties I lived in Chicago, and it was at the apex of the Steppenwolf Theatre scene, and that was also a time when it felt like a community and everyone appreciated each other. That's what [Party Down] is, and it's been really great. I'm very happy to be a part of it."

The two projects may be similar in style, in that the actors pretty much have leeway to say and do whatever they want once they get one take exactly as it's written. Marino is quick to point out, though, that "there's a sadness to Party Down. There's a dark cloud looming over [them], but the comedy plays in that world, and there's a lot of heart to it."

Marino is excited to be promoting not only the return of his stoner screw-up character, but also his directorial debut for the show (he previously directed a few episodes of David Wain's web series Wainy Days). Marino steps behind the camera for Party Down's season finale, in which Jane Lynch returns to get married and hires her old pals to cater the affair...and apparently gets into it a bit with her replacement. "I got to direct Jane and Megan in scenes where they were going head to head," Marino spills. "It was awesome, and also, I didn't really have to do anything but make sure they were in the same frame together and then just let them do their thing...I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with both of them."

And just how much does Marino hate glee for stealing Lynch from his ensemble comedy? "Oh bottom line, I hated it!" He dead-pans. "I mean, I only watched a little bit to see Jane, but yeah, it sickened me." Marino is quick to point out, though, that the door closing behind Lynch was left cracked for Mullally, which is never a bad thing. "When you trade out Jane for Megan, you know, you're not really missing a step. It's a lateral move from one awesome comedienne to another, so thank God Megan wanted to do the show because she brought a whole new energy and freshness to a big void."

Starz doesn't announce renewals for series the same way most networks do, so Marino admits he doesn't know if they'll be back for a third season. "I hope we get to do more, but if we don't, well, it was a blessing to have gotten to do twenty of those. It's a great creative team; the producers are awesome, and the cast-- I love every one of those guys! Plus, I get to play a really stupid character with a really big d*ck."

For those of you who haven't subscribed to Starz yet, you can watch the season two premiere of Party Down right here, a week early!