The past few days My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture spent running back and forth between two separate ballrooms in the beautiful Langham Hotel in Pasadena CA, sitting in on various panels for new television shows to hit your screens this new year. And what panels they were! Not only did they feature greats of today but also of yesterday-- at least my yesterday.
The Bayside High Comeback Kids
Mario Lopez has spent the last few months on a reality show on VH1 as well as down at the Grove in Los Angeles, interviewing random celebrities and occasionally signing books for his entertainment news “reporting.” Tiffani Thiessen had a baby and we are about to see her embark upon the second season of her USA series White Collar. That’s all well and good, but what My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture really wanted to see is everyone’s favorite bad boy with a heart of gold, Zack Morris aka Mark-Paul Gosselaar, back in a series. And TCA has given me a preview of that with the Turner legal dramaedy Franklin & Bash. Gosselaar (with his co-stars) was on stage bright and early to take questions about his new role, one half of a buddy-lawyer duo whose relationship he has compared to that of the guys in the Hangover but who may prove to be a bit more Defenders-like to mainstream America.
But enough about Zack…err, Gosselaar. What about the one who almost stole Kelly away, Professor Lasky aka Patrick Fabian? My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture got a nice surprise on Wednesday morning when Fabian turned up behind me on the breakfast buffet line. It turns out he is co-starring on the new CMT original sitcom Working Class, playing the charming and well-off (but perhaps not entirely well-meaning) boss to Melissa Peterman’s struggling single mom character. It's certainly nice to see him in a role in which you know he won't turn out to be some sort of murderer.
The Betty White Factor
She’s turning eighty-nine years old and is smarter and sharper than everyone in the room….regardless of what room she’s in. Due to her appearance on the Hot in Cleveland panel none of the other women really got a word in, but that was because the media put the spotlight on White, not that White shined it on herself. In fact, she downplayed her success and her recent surge of popularity, saying that by now we should all be sick of her and joking that she may decide to go away for a little while. But during the rare moments when White wasn’t being questioned, she still managed to pipe up with quite a few zingers, drawing huge laughs from the somewhat surly journalists in front of her. She may not own a computer, but her witty one-liners were all over the Internet nonetheless. And I’m sorry but she’s writing two books right now; how the hell is she doing it without a computer?? I know I'm in awe, aren’t you?
Life really does "Go On"
Kellie Martin has had a remarkable career, but thanks to my mother's love of primetime melodramas, she will always be Corky's brother to me. These days, though, in addition to being a wife and a mother, she is taking a crack at rom-com with Hallmark's original movie, Smooch, a piece about a young girl who believes she brought her lab frog to life and now wants her mother (Martin) to fall in love with the mysterious stranger. The fact that she has worked steadily since she was around her young co-star Kiernan Shipka's age and managed to still live her life in some version of privacy is a true testament to how the media has evolved over the years. But additionally, Martin was smart about her choices, both script-wise and outside of the business (she went to Yale, for example), and now she is helping, even unintentionally, to shape the youth in Hollywood today. When Kiernan said she didn't feel stressed by acting, Martin pointed out that she's only eleven. But she also believes you have to have an education and encourages Kiernan to attend a good university so if she decides they no longer want to act, they can go do something else.
I'll never let go, but I'm right on top of that, Rose!
When I was in junior high, Titanic was all the rage. We didn't have customized ringtones back then, but we all had Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" single in our Discmen; some of us had replicas of Rose's necklace; and we all wanted to be Kate Winslet for getting to steam up a car with Leonardo DiCaprio. We wouldn't have even minded having to spend our sixteenth birthdays in a giant vat of water, freezing, while James Cameron shot the rescue/death sequence over and over and over...because he's James Cameron. Today, though she barely looks a day over sixteen, she is playing the infamous mother Mildred Pierce in HBO's mini-series of the same name. Addressing us via satellite, Winslet was as youthful as she must have been back then, eager to add to the end of everyone on stage's answers, going so far to apologize for taking up too much of our time. So sweet!
Representing Stuyvesant (High School, not Bedford)...
I've said it before, and I will say it again: the fact that Tim Robbins came from where I did and not only succeeded but also happened to be in one of my favorite films of all-time (Shawshank, hello!!!) was a huge part of me feeling "safe" enough to risk moving out to LA and embarking upon a career in entertainment myself. He continues to inspire me as an actor who maintains a strong intellectual level (so much so that even while chewing gum on the TCA stage, he still seemed dignified). He was there to promote Cinema Verite for HBO, an original movie in which he portrays the patriarch of the family featured in An American Family, which really spearheaded the reality genre. He shared that he researched by getting a suntan-- without sunblock since they didn't have it back then. More than an inspiration, he and I are also apparently a lot alike! But also, in this film he acts with Papa Soprano (James Gandolfini) and Fudge himself (Jake Richardson): worlds colliding; mind blown!
And also, I love Fonzie.
Sitting on the far end of the Childrens Hospital panel, Rob Corddry introduced the fabulous Henry Winkler as a man who apparently can only afford one blazer because what he was wearing just happened to be his on-set and promotional wardrobe. But it was all in good fun, and the veteran actor took it in stride, used to it from these comedians. At this point in his career, he shared that he is really happy to be in this place, with these people. Obviously he can have his pick of certain kinds of work, and the fact that he picked this speaks volumes about the quality. The series is shooting its third season now, which will air in the summer of 2011, and while there will be a Tron-like parody world, an episode set in the seventies, lots of nudity, and even more wigs, we can expect much more of the same hated bureaucratic behavior from Winkler’s character. If you ask me, it closely resembles his Scream principal character, a guy his Happy Days rebel teen probably would never imagine he could be.
...I kind of feel like I need to mention Jason Priestley and Luke Perry's joint appearance for their Hallmark original movie (which Perry hopes to turn into a franchise), Goodnight For Justice, but from the clips it just isn't for me. And honestly, I was always more of a Melrose Place girl than 90210. But for my good friend Marisa, it was perfect, and for any true child of the nineties, it couldn't go ignored. And oddly, I was also a big Touched by an Angel convert, so seeing Roma Downey at the OWN party was a mini-squee moment in its own right, too.
And that was just cable! Next week begins major networks' presentations, which will include even more notable names from my own personal childhood, including two former Friends Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow, Jason George (who I knew from his Sunset Beach days), and more. Stay tuned!