Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Do You Mean 'The Voice' Is Over Already!?...

"Live from Los Angeles: It was The Voice finals!'

Prior to the final round of The Voice, the remaining contestants had never actually competed against each other. Consider it: any time their coaches or the American audience had to vote, it was always on the sub-groups of the teams, leaving them to feel free to bond as friends. Each one-- Vicci Martinez, Javier Colon, Beverly McClellan, and Dia Frampton-- rose to the top, the cream of their respective crops, and had to face off against each other live on-stage in Los Angeles during the final round... [MORE]

In case you were stuck in ticket queue hell and never actually got into the audience for the first short season of NBC's new breakout reality hit, The Voice, you don't have to feel like you completely missed out. Thanks to Sprint and LiveNation, the eight semi-finalists (two members of Team Adam, Team Cee Lo, Team Christina, and Team Blake) will hit the road on a mini-tour. And their very first stop is right here in Los Angeles at the Gibson Amphitheater! ... [MORE]

"The Voice champion shares artistry advice"

Javier Colon might as well be crowned as America’s prince. The soulful singer who can play the hell out of an acoustic guitar and a piano won over audiences weekly with his smooth vocals, crooked smile, and sweet sentiment. Colon poured everything he had into each and every The Voice performance-- each and every song-- and his emotion was felt by everyone listening. Even if you flipped on NBC absentmindedly and were distracted or busy multi-tasking during Tuesday night viewings, you couldn’t help but stop anything you were doing and be entirely immersed in Colon’s sultry sound. He commands your attention; he commanded your votes; and now all of that hard work has finally paid off, walking away with the $100,000 and a record deal with Universal Republic win... [MORE]

"Dia Frampton, sitting pretty after coming in runner-up on The Voice"

Okay, we’ll admit it: after Frampton’s original song “Inventing Shadows” shot up to number one on iTunes (with Javier Colon’s “Stitch by Stitch” sneaking up to number two just before the voting closed), we thought The Voice outcome was a lock for her. Many of you probably did, too. But then again, most people who pay to download a song will only do so once, and voting online or via the 855 number could be done up to ten times each. But then again, things are rarely so neatly tied up in life, right? ... [MORE]

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

From LA Examiner: Teen Choice Awards and CBS' Fall Premieres Announced...

"2011 Teen Choice Awards nominees announced"

This morning the next wave in the Teen Choice Awards nominees were announced. Were your fave TV stars and shows on the list? ... [MORE]

"CBS announces fall 2011 premiere dates"

Oh we're having fun now, aren't we? In planning for your nightly fall schedule, please consider the following premiere dates for CBS' new and returning shows. Will any of these upset already made plans? ... [MORE]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What If 'Supernatural' Got The 'Glee' Treatment?...

No, Cartoon Network, I don't wish ANY shows could be like glee. But I have to admit, this is pretty frickin' funny!

And I think if Supernatural is going to do a musical episode, Guy Norman Bee or Ben Edlund are the guys to direct it!

Monday, June 27, 2011

From LA Examiner: Syfy Preps Season Two of 'Face Off'; 'True Blood' Make-Up Effects Uncovered; ABC Fall Premiere Dates: A Look Back On 'The Voice'...

"Syfy’s Face Off preps for a second season"

Though production on Syfy’s second season of their reality make-up competition program, Face Off, isn’t set to start in Los Angeles until the middle of September, the judges and former contestants are already highly anticipating what they will see from the new slew of up-and-coming artists passing the audition round and making it onto the show... [MORE]

"A peek behind the curtain with the True Blood make-up effects team"

There is a lot of talk in the television industry about what is “better”: physical effects or visual ones. For producers, studios, and network, it so often comes down to the bottom line-- what is most cost effective for the budget-- instead of what would more effectively serve the story. But for True Blood’s Alan Ball, it is in fact the opposite, and the show ends up being stronger for the willingness of all of its crew to collaborate, rather than see each other as competitors in the market... [MORE]

"ABC announces fall 2011 premiere dates"

The alphabet network was the third network to release their fall 2011 premiere dates for all new and returning programs. Favorite comedies are getting special one-hour premiere treatment, but so is a brand new sitcom that will start in a style not indicative of it's whole series. Will that pay off, though? You'll have to tune in to know for sure! ... [MORE]

"The Voice: A look back on the finalists' journeys"

Can you believe the finals of The Voice are already upon us!? It feels like just yesterday we were being introduced to these aspiring artists-- well, maybe not all for the very first time. But nevertheless, it was the first time we were seeing them in this arena, stripped down to just their vocals, allowed to actually finish their audition song before knowing their fate on the show. Let’s take a look back at where they’ve been and then sound off in the comments below about who you think will go all the way to be crowned the first winner of The Voice... [MORE]

"Angie Harmon & Sasha Alexander get personal in Rizzoli & Isles season two"

The first season of Rizzoli & Isles often seemed to lean much heavier on Detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) than truly embody the drama of the buddy duo. Sure, Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) had a few bones thrown her way, with the reemergence of an old college love who turned out to be quite the person of interest in a homicide investigation, and she learned an unsettling truth about her biological family, but we spent much more time within Jane’s personal life…or lack thereof. Jane’s loud, often overbearing family was always around, and her history with the guys in her precinct was even explored on a few levels. But this season, we can expect more of a balance... [MORE]

"From high fashion to high potency, Michelle Trachtenberg heads to Weeds"

Weeds season seven is in the middle of filming right now, and they have just announced an additional cast member to make trouble for Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker). New York's own Michelle Trachtenberg is heading to the Showtime dark comedy to play the sexy, intelligent, pot-dealing rival of Mama Botwin, who is back in the game, just in a new place. And now she's on Trachtenberg's turf, so things might not be so easy for her... [MORE]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

'On Writing' with Steve Johnson (yeah, you read that right!)...

You may not get a more unorthodox discussion about writing than hearing Steve Johnson discuss it. But you may not meet a more unlikely new writer than Steve Johnson at all! After all, the physical effects genius worked on classic films like The Abyss and Ghostbusters took a break not only from Hollywood for five years but also from society in general, it seemed. And where did he go? Into the jungle to write, surprisingly enough! Or, in his own words, he just "got sick of making monsters for other people's movies." Some might assume that he would pick up a camera and make his own movies, then, but Johnson is more surprising than that!

After being fired off Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are for just being too far outside of the allotted effects budget for the animatronic characters, Johnson dropped everything and went to Costa Rica. He changed his email; he took only the possessions he could fit into one suitcase; he closed up his shop; and he showed up in the jungle without even a place to stay. He fought off monkeys (literally-- he shared that they would often get into his hut and have food fights with each other); he lived two hundred feet above the water; and he wrote what he deeply believed was the next great American novel.

“I went down there and I told myself I would not leave that hut no matter how big the insects were, no matter how hard it got, no matter how many people didn’t understand or how many banditos I had to survive…until I finished the book, and that’s what I was going to do!” Johnson explained.

And true to his word, he did not leave that jungle until he finished the book. But whether or not anyone ever gets to read it is another story.

“Kind of delusionally I thought ‘When I get back to Los Angeles, I can be on Oprah’s show, on her list, and then I can…say f-you to the effects industry, but I couldn’t even get an agent! I couldn’t sell the damn thing…I haven’t seen a red penny from it; it may never be published,” Johnson continued.

But in the end, that’s kind of okay for him. Johnson said he approaches writing now the same exact way he spent so many years creating monsters: he revels in the excitement and the rush of the creative process. Of course he would love to share his work with the world, and he admitted that there were times he got so obsessive-compulsive about it that if he wasn’t going to be a literary success the way in which he was an effects success, he could just end it all.

“Oh my God, do you know what suicidal means?” His tone may have stayed jocular, but his story suddenly darkened. “I actually researched practical means of suicide online because…I didn’t want it to hurt; I just wanted to turn off. How do you stop this? I just threw away my whole career, now what will I do?”

Hindsight certainly is twenty-twenty and only now that Johnson is looking back on such an emotionally tumultuous time can he realize the positive lessons that have come out of it, perhaps most notably that he can’t completely run away from everything he knows but must instead embrace it because it has not only made him who he is today but also will grant him the means to cross over in art forms.

“I’ve been writing kind of very deeply spiritual, but still kind of Stephen King-based stuff, and all of the agents and all of the publishing companies said ‘Look, you’re a monster maker! You know you can get your foot in the door so easily; you know you can sell a certain amount if you write about what you know.’ So what I decided to do was dish the dirt out on all of the celebrities I worked with, because I know people love that!” He shared.

Using his celebrity in the effects world to sell a story about his life and his work will allow publishers to then give him more breathing room with the next story, the novel he has been working on for so long-- a novel that he still admits to tweaking every now and again. He calls it “very close” to being finished and again Stephen King-esque not only in tone and dark elements (it’s about a paraplegic trapped in a stilt house over a swamp as a hurricane approaches…who may also have an escaped convict seeking refuge from the storm in her house) but also in length (“I tend to write six, seven hundred pages,” he said). Even in his fictional works, he is staying true to what he knows after having worked on dozens upon dozens of suspenseful projects that keep their characters in harm's way for (no pun intended) emotional effect.

“I knew the lesson to be learned here is I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid, and I think that what writers do is that they write. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is continue once I started writing. It’s just been an incredible journey…You only get one shot, and when you’re on your deathbed, what are you going to regret? I’ll have no regrets,” he pointed out.

And really, you can't ask for anything more!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'The Voice' Finalists Revealed (& Reveal Their Secrets); Missy Peregrym Dissects 'Rookie Blue' Relationships; FOX Fall Premieres...

"The Voice announces finalists, one?"

The Voice
taped its live results show from Warner Brothers Stage 16 this evening in Los Angeles, and the finalists are... (Drumroll, please!) Everyone America voted through to the semi-finals! ... [MORE]

"Rookie Blue Q&A with Missy Peregrym: Sam vs Luke dissected!"

Missy Peregrym is as much of a fan of her ABC cop drama, Rookie Blue, as any of you. Actually, maybe more. Of course, she does have more at stake considering she works on the show, but she has such a genuine affection for the material and for her colleagues that she is a little afraid to see the second season premiere, just in case positive reactions aren't as strong for those watching as they were for her filming. After all, a lot is about to go down! ... [MORE]

"The Voice VIDEO: Javier Colon & Vicci Martinez share their stories through songs"

Is it any surprise that Javier Colon and Vicci Martinez made it into the finals on The Voice? Well, it may be for them (“I can only control what comes out of my mouth, and if I go home tomorrow, at least I know I’ll go home having sung a song that means something to me,” Colon told LA TV Insider Examiner after his performance in the semi-finals just last night), but it wasn’t for us! These two have been coaches’ and fellow contestants’ early favorites from the initial auditions, and the producers knew innately that would resonate with the audience. Their stories were crafted, allowing us a little bit more of back story each week, unraveling the personality along with the artistry... [MORE]

"FOX announces fall 2011 television premieres"

FOX has announced the premiere dates for their new and returning shows this morning. There are a few that we admit we'll believe when we see (*cough, Terra Nova), and a few that are starting later than anticipated, but for the most part September is about to get crowded! ... [MORE]

A Dog's Take on 'Wilfred', The New FX Comedy Starring a Dog (Sort Of)...

A Look at FX' Wilfred by Madison Chandler

It is my mama's birthday today, and because I don't have means to get to a store and get her a "real" present, I decided just to take over some of her workload. It can't be that hard. All she does is sit on the couch and watch TV. I sit on the coach anyway, so even if my attention span is short, I can get the job done. It just may take a little longer because-- ooh I think I smell bacon!

...Okay I'm back. Anyway, tonight on FX there is a new show called Wilfred starting. It's a show that my mama said she totally related to because the lead character of Ryan (some kid named Elijah Wood with really bright eyes)
starts to have conversations with his neighbor's dog. My mama says that the way Ryan begins to relate to this dog is really just an extension of how he relates to parts of himself he can't quite face up to yet. He has certain ideas or thoughts or beliefs in his head, but he can't justify fully subscribing to them so he needs to project them onto someone or something else telling him the things he already knows deep down-- to make it okay, to justify the changes he is going to make.

I don't really know what that all means. My mama has never put words in my mouth. She really doesn't take my advice at all! But she says that when she was growing up she did what Ryan does, only with another person instead of a dog. I think that's kind of dumb. Dogs are smarter; dogs have all of the answers; humans just don't really get to know us well enough to extract the information effectively.

Ryan and this dog, whose name is Wilfred, by the way, which should be kind of self-explanatory, sit on the couch a lot, just like my mama and I do. But sometimes they go out and have adventures, too. They go to Venice Beach in the first episode, which is a place I really like, and Ryan even shares his nachos with his new puppy pal. Ryan is my kind of people! They also had what seemed to be a pretty important conversation about a tennis ball and how it was the only thing that made Wilfred happy or friendly when he was in the shelter. I didn't quite get what was going on there-- maybe Wilfred was trying to teach Ryan a lesson about trust or security blankets or whatever, but really, all I saw was a tennis ball. And I wanted it. I can focus when I want to, but in that moment I wanted to focus on the ball, not the words.

At first I wasn't too sure about Wilfred. Mostly because I heard the show was all about this dog and I was all 'Um, I'm a dog; why aren't I on this show!?' But since Ryan sees this dog as a man (Jason Gann) in a big dog costume, and the two have full-on conversations, I guess a little dog like me couldn't make it work. I'm too small. Even when I stand on my hind legs, which I don't like to do unless I'm going to get something for my efforts, I wouldn't come anywhere near Elijah's eyeline. So I'm okay with it all now. Because
I have to admit that the guy in the costume looked super soft and cuddly, like my favorite blanket that my mama always hogs. But also because when my mama watched, she laughed a lot. And when she wasn't laughing she was smiling. One or two times her eyes got kind of sad, but in the good way-- when she's thinking about something deep and it's making her emotional. Those are the moments she gives me squeeze hugs, which sometimes last too long, but still make me feel really special.

If that wasn't enough to make you want to tune in tonight at 10 on FX, you may want to read my mama's take on the show and you can find that here.

About the Author

Madison Chandler is a purebred Shih Tzu, or so they say. He is four years old and lives in Los Angeles CA where he enjoys cookies, ice cream, cupcakes, short walks on the beach, napping on pillows, and barking at other dogs from afar only to run away when they get too close to him. He knows all of his toys by name, can pee on command, and wears the heck out of a tie. He also Tweets occasionally.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'The Voice' Interviews with Blake Shelton & Semi-Finalists; Advance Reviews of 'State of Georgia' & 'Necessary Roughness'...

"Live from Los Angeles: It was The Voice Semi-Finals!"

It’s been a long road for the contestants and coaches of The Voice to get them to the semi-finals. It may not feel that way to those watching at home, but it’s true. The show premiered on NBC on April 26th and is going to air its finale just two months later, but for many of these hopefuls, their careers have been years and years in the making. Not only were the battle rounds filmed before the show even started airing, giving those who made it through to the live shows a taste of the “hurry up and wait” environment to television production, but of course their journeys towards being professional musicians didn’t start with their auditions for The Voice anyway. Through living on the road, playing any and every small club or bar that would have them, to having previous record deals crumble before their eyes, they are all hungry-- not only for the prize but to be able to really make a living doing what they absolutely love to do. And The Voice is going to allow them that in so many ways... [MORE]

"Team Blake (The Voice) is more like a family than competitors"

There is a lot of chatter around The Voice about how great and warm and supportive each of the coaches is. And honestly, we don’t doubt that. But it certainly seems to us like the gold star for coaching should go to Blake Shelton. Not only has he truly taken his singers under his wing from a song choice and performance advice perspective, but he has become like a surrogate big brother two his two semi-finalists, Dia Frampton and Xenia, building up their confidence as young women, flying them out to see him in concert, and even bringing them up onstage during his solo shining moment on NBC. It is not something that he is required to do, but the fact that he genuinely wants to makes it all the more notable... [MORE]

"ABC Family's State of Georgia is unfortunately not so great after all"

Raven Symone is going back to her sitcom roots. Well, actually, she never truly left, though she did take a few detours in recent years. Getting her start on The Cosby Show when she was just a precocious little kid proved she had the chops (and the dead-pan facial expressions) to go up against one of the greatest, but now that she is starring in another sitcom of her own, State of Georgia on ABC Family, she may be hoping to prove she actually is one of the greatest. Unfortunately the material doesn’t offer much to back-up such a sentiment... [MORE]

"Necessary Roughness fills the Friday Night Lights shaped hole in our hearts"

USA truly knows their brand, as well as their audience. For the last few years, their summer shows have been inundated with colorful, quirky characters, and this season brings yet another set in Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne) and her newest hypnotherapy client, pro-footballer Terrence “TK” King (Mehcad Brooks) of Necessary Roughness. Through Dani we are allowed to see a softer side to TK, a more vulnerable and real side-- a side to big time athletes we thought we would only see on Friday Night Lights. And though those are some pretty mighty shoes to fill, Necessary Roughness eases in smoothly and with its own unique brand of charm... [MORE]

Ron F'ing Swanson SHOULD Have An Ice Cream Flavor...

Most of the time I don't really understand the need for Tumblr, but every once in a while, I come across a gem like this over there, and it all clicks. If Jimmy Fallon could put together an ice cream flavor, I don't see why Ron Swanson can't have one with his face on it, as well. After all, everything is better with bacon! And personally, I really think this could know, assuming the eggs are Cadbury.

I would be the first in line at the Scoop Shop to try a pint!

Who Did It Better: 'Glee' vs 'The Voice' Edition...

If you judged it by musical television programs, you would think there are really only a handful of popular songs these days. Maybe it's an issue of what's easiest to which to get the rights or maybe it's just producers being spread too thin and not having time to really research up and coming talent (but instead just reaching for whatever Ryan Seacrest is peddling), but I feel like I hear the same songs on every show, be it reality singing competition or actual scripted program. And yes, when I'm judging producers of scripted musical television programs, I can really only point to one (since there really only is one): glee. The show has kids that could sing a telephone book and make it beautiful and interesting and unique but so many times they choose to take on the current flavor of the month, and those are some big shoes to fill! When a song is all you hear on every "Top whatever" radio station countdown, you better damn well bring something new to it, lest run the risk of boring the audience. And the same can be doubly said for contestants on reality singing competitions. After all, they not only have the original songs to compete with, as well as the unknown factor of their own name and ability when first stepping in front of America, but now glee has done so many of the same songs first. But has glee done it better? The Voice may have only been on for two months, not two seasons, but immediately it seemed to have something to prove regarding that...

The Song: Adele's "Rolling in the Deep"

Contender #1: glee's acapella duet from Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff

Contender #2: The Voice's Vicci Martinez

Made Possible by Pop Culture's Verdict: Here comes the unpopular opinion: I absolutely abhorred the glee version and I am so glad that I have another version (well, besides John Legend's haunting acoustic) to download. Groff is too screamy, too Broadway rock, and though Michele flawlessly hits every note as usual, I just don't hear anything guttural about her performance. Martinez sings from the heart-- literally, pouring her soul into every song-- and this was the perfect way to be introduced to her style. Put it this way: there is no song that is more played out right now, but when putting together this article, I got so caught up in Martinez' version, I let it play all the way through.

The Song: Bruno Mars' "Just The Way You Are"

Contender #1: glee's Cory Monteith

Contender #2: The Voice's Tje Austin

Made Possible by Pop Culture's Verdict: There is just something really sweet and innocent about the way Monteith sings this song. Especially because in the context of the show, he is doing it to pump up the confidence of a young man who not that long ago he called a very bad word. Sure, the context is unfair, but it is not the only thing that pushed him forward as the winner of this round. His breathy vocals lend themselves well to a song no one would have expected him to sing. On the flip side, the song seems tailor made for Austin's voice, so the fact that Monteith can step outside of his comfort zone and really pull this one out is what makes him the winner in my mind.

The Song:
Cee Lo Green's "Forget You"

Contender #1: glee guest star Gwyneth Paltrow

Contender #2: Auditioning Nakia

Made Possible by Pop Culture's Verdict: Honestly both versions of this cover are so different I couldn't do anything but tie them. For one, I have never been a Paltrow fan...until she sang this song. There is something so inspiring about a woman who seems so conservative, reserved, and well, a bit haughty, having the balls to take on a gritty track like this. But then Nakia just really owned it, too. And he did it in front of the man who made it famous himself, so you know, talk about balls! Both voices were crystal clear, though tonally perfect in different ways, so I'm just happy to have them both to live side by side on my iPod.

The Song: "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and the Machine

Contender #1: glee's Amber Riley and Jenna Ushkowitz

Contender #2: The Voice's Vicci Martinez and a drumline

Made Possible by Pop Culture's Verdict: glee had a slight advantage coming into it here because of the powerhouse duet. Two strong females, blending their voices in all the right spots and creating beautiful harmony and melody is hard to beat, but once again I have to give it to Martinez' raw energy and passion because she connects so emotionally to the words and the music that she makes you feel the song deep in your bones. I dare you not to get so caught up you clap along within the first four seconds!

The Song: "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.

Contender #1: glee's cast, as led by Cory Monteith

Contender #2: The Voice's Dia Frampton

Made Possible by Pop Culture's Verdict: Frampton by a hair. Seriously, this one was tough! Monteith has the sexy gravel down here, and he digs down deep to get the right tone in this voice. But Frampton has an effortless way about her own style, and it just feels smoother and richer because it is so natural. Somehow she always manages to make songs her own, whether it's with twists on arrangements or simply little inflections you don't expect. She could be a sneak attack winner of the whole show!

And these are just a few! Weigh in with your opinions about these, plus Madonna's "Like A Prayer," The Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You," Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, etc, in the comments below!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Report from the Set: 'The Voice'...

Those of you who follow my professional work over at LA Examiner know that I have been covering The Voice during its live rounds. For the first two weeks I sat in the press green room, snacking on cheesecake bites and guzzling water by the plastic bottle to stay cool under the lights and with all the pyro, but during the semi-finals round I moved into the actual studio to watch the performances live on stage in front of me instead of live on a monitor and to get a little "peek behind the curtain" take on the production of the show. Since I used to work not only in production, on television shows-- but specifically live television shows-- I have a deep respect and admiration for all of the cogs in the wheels that are necessary to keep a spectacle like The Voice running. I would be lying if I said I didn't spend part of my evening watching the camera operators dance around the stage just as nimbly with their Steadicams as the performers themselves did with their mics and musical instruments. But I would be lying if I said I didn't spend part of it watching the subtle things snuck in before the live countdown began back from each commercial break, too. Come on, half the fun is in getting to spy what wasn't shown on TV, right!?

Right off the bat the three male coaches were ushered out to take their (super comfy looking, by the way) seats first, and they stood and toasted another successful show before getting situated. Cee Lo Green seemed cool as a cucumber in his crisp white track suit, over-sized shades, and double (yes, you were seeing that correctly!) blinged-out watches, but the drinks didn't go down as easy for Blake Shelton or Adam Levine.

Surprisingly The Voice went off without a lot of fan fare. At only the third week into these live performances, the crew certainly seems to have it down pat. I have no idea how stressed or crazy (or last minute, as the case was tonight with the eight semi-finalists staying around after the cameras shut down to prep for tomorrow's first-ever live results show) rehearsals usually are, but by the time the stage manager counts Carson Daly down for the final five seconds, everything is just on and ready and seemingly effortless. I have worked in live television (on talk shows, but still!), and The Voice's sense of efficiency puts them all to shame.

Daly is a pro. That really goes without saying. But I was most impressed by the length at which he could read his teleprompter. He didn't squint; he didn't stumble; he didn't even seem to read through the copy off to the side of the stage prior to being called back up to read live, on national television. Or maybe that's a normal skill. It might be timed for me to go back to the eye doctor...

As each performer walked off stage right, they had to pass the VIP audience section which resembles something of a mosh pit (or at least the VIP seats at any modern concert). Many performers, most notably Frenchie Davis and Nakia were quick to bend down and touch their adoring fans' hands or say a quick hi to anyone in their path. Many more still, like Vicci Martinez and Beverly McClellan, were so caught up in the performance high they waved to those up in the higher sections, throwing rock signs out and responding to cheers and catcalls.

But it really was the coaches that the audience seemed to have the most fun with. As the taping went on, cheers would go up from different sections for different coaches, seemingly unprompted by the audience wranglers or stage managers. Sometimes the coaches would have time to engage; Green got up and shook hands with one section of the audience, and Levine turned around and gestured for another section to really cheer and clap. When Levine rallies, you answer, I just have to point out!

And super producer Mark Burnett was on-hand, too, to whisper notes to the coaches in the commercial breaks. My seat was too far away to hear anything, naturally, or even try to read his lips, but after last week's mini filibuster at the top of the show, I wouldn't be surprised if he was giving them techniques to time their commentary before they speak to ensure everyone gets a fair turn. And perhaps he was also reminding them of how their judging process would work because at the end of the night, when they were asked to score the semi-finalists and then seal their official ballots, there appeared to be a few side-long glances occurring, as if to say one or two of the coaches didn't quite get it. But I won't say who.

Admittedly there were moments in the studio when it was hard to hear some of the things Daly or the coaches were saying. After all, they are mic'ed and told to speak at a normal volume for the cameras, but in a studio that holds close to one thousand people, some of the sound gets absorbed before it travels all around the circle. So when Daly announced that Shelton would be performing with two special guests, it was completely lost on me. But I'm kind of glad I missed the announcement because when I saw Xenia slowly making her way up on stage, followed surely by Dia Frampton on the other side, a warm smile crept across my face. More than any other show on television right now, The Voice allows for mentorship, and Team Blake truly seems to have formed a little family unit. By Shelton sharing the spotlight not only with his proteges but two young ladies who he has really brought out of their shells, he was showing off his soft, sweet side. Not that he ever really had a bad boy image, being a country king and all, but this took him to a whole other level.

While everyone sounded pretty good live, in the studio (no uber-heavy bass drowning out lyrics this week, thank goodness!), it was about so much more than just the vocals. The Voice is really out to put on a show and entertain. Aguilera has consistently told Davis to stay with dance anthems and big party songs to get the crowd excited. We already know she can hit and hold the high notes, but it is important to see personality shine through, too. Though with Davis' gospel take on "Like a Prayer," I admittedly enjoyed it more when I just watched her standing and singing and blocked out all of her back-up dancers, the outside elements did lend themselves well to performances like Martinez'. Her close-out "Dog Days Are Over" was a true anthem and had the entire audience a surrogate member of her drumline, tapping their feet and hitting their hands against their legs or chairs to get into the groove with her.

Seeing Nakia and McClellan get behind the piano was a nice way to see what else they could do besides rock out, but unfortunately no one seems to like to follow through with their musical instruments these days! Every performance that started with one-- and not just in the semi-finals, but earlier, such as Jared Blake tossing his guitar off-stage mid-way through his live show-- ended with a run around the stage. I never want to see a musician hiding behind an instrument, so to speak, but if you're going to use it to enhance a song or a vibe or an overall performance, then stick with it! Don't be as A.D.D. as your audience; be better than them! Since each and every performer, even Frampton who had strapped on a guitar, did it, it is most likely a note coming down from the producers, but it's a note I don't quite understand!

Personally, though, the performance of the night (both in the most anticipatory sense as well as the one that delivered the hardest emotional punch) was Javier Colon's. I'll just say it: I am super bummed I was on the wrong side of the stage to receive the hat he tossed into the crowd. The guy (guy!?) who caught it waved it around for the rest of the night, taunting the rest of us, including Shelton who joked that he wanted to catch it. Now you'll have to excuse me if you feel like this post is unfinished, but I'm off to eBay to hunt for it...

From LA Examiner: Advance Reviews of 'Weeds' & 'The Big C' Returns; Interviews on Emmys & 'Fringe' & W/ Terrell Tilford; Kristoffer Polaha & Ben Bass

"Weeds S7 is Nancy Botwin's age-old struggle, just in a new setting"

The seventh season of Weeds begins much like Ocean’s Eleven: Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) sits in a chair, facing the parole board after having served three years of her sentence for manslaughter (self-defense, really?) for killing Pilar. It’s not exactly kosher, nor is it expected, but someone wants her released and released to a half-way house specifically, not relocation as she seems to have been promised. It should be a fresh start nonetheless, though, right? Well, "should" certainly be the operative word here. After all, Nancy really has no marketable skills; that was what got her into this mess in the first place, and even though it is years later, it is to where she runs right back... [MORE]

"How Kristoffer Polaha went from CBS' Person of Interest to The CW's Ringer"

Kristoffer Polaha was the lead in The CW’s darling Life Unexpected and then got signed to a holding deal with CBS to basically find the perfect show for his star on the rise. So how did he end up on an ensemble drama back on The CW? Well, according to the star, the reasons were three-fold... [MORE]

"Emmy talk with cult comedy darlings Community and Parks and Recreation"

Sometimes the smartest comedies are the ones that kind of sneak up on you. They seem unassuming at first, and maybe you turn them on just for some background noise during dinner or to unwind at the end of a long workday. But soon they have you completely focused, completely immersed, and more often than not laughing out-loud and later quoting favorite lines and favorite characters. Two of those for LA TV Insider Examiner are NBC’s Community and Parks and Recreation. But will the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences agree and celebrate them with a few coveted Emmy nominations? Cast members from both series weigh in on their chances... [MORE]

"Ben Bass teases a love quadrangle and danger for Sam Swarek in S2 of
Rookie Blue"

It must feel really, really good to be Ben Bass right about now. The veteran actor (um, he was on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, hello!) has spent the month enjoying some time in London, is about to get married, and has the second season of his hit police drama, Rookie Blue, premiering on ABC. He should be able to kick back and relax, soaking up the rewards of all of his hard work, right? Well, not exactly. After all, the nature of his show is that the characters are placed in life-threatening professional situations each and every day, and just because Bass and his Sam Swarek are a fan favorite doesn’t mean they’re completely safe from danger-- both of the emotional and fatal kind... [MORE]

"Jeff Pinkner and Joel H. Wyman tease where
Fringe will go upon its S4 return"

Diehard Fringe fans were certainly in for a surprise at the end of the season three finale, but perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that the show’s writers and executive producers Jeff Pinkner and Joel H. Wyman are still able to pull things out that garner such strong reactions from the fandom at all. After all, after three years of alternate universes, mysterious cases of the week, and mind-bending science, we really should know that just about anything can happen. Expect the unexpected, as these guys like to say! But that doesn't mean we didn't want to try to get a little something out of them about what we could expect for Fringe in season four! ... [MORE]

"The Big C steps up the fight, and the funny, in season two"

Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney) spent the first few months of her melanoma diagnosis (during the first season of The Big C on Showtime) not quite in denial but still ignoring the importance nonetheless. She heard “Stage Four” and looked around at her life, realizing it wasn’t really what she wanted anyway, and she set out to make the most of her time left. But that can only last for so long. When she didn’t check out maybe as quickly as she assumed, she found her fighter spirit, and season two of the dark cancer comedy will be about her using “Stage Four” as a way to amp up everything about her—not just her struggle or her reserve but also her spirit... [MORE]

"Terrell Tilford unravels the mystery of Romeo Rush on The Protector"

So far Ramon “Romeo” Rush (Terrell Tilford) is the greatest mystery about The Protector. Sure, the Lifetime crime drama features a new murder WhoDunIt? each week, but thanks to the overly capable Detective Gloria Sheppard (Ally Walker), those come and go, expertly solved within the hour. We get more than just glimpses into Gloria's home life and family situation, and we even learn tidbits about her partner Michelle Dulcett (Tisha Campbell-Martin)'s love life. But Rush is another story. He stands strong and stoic on the street, in his LAPD uniform, first on the scene to preserve it for the homicide detectives, but his flirty banter with them hints at so much more underneath his tough guy stance... [MORE]

Monday, June 20, 2011

Saying Good-Bye Not Just To Her Alters, But To Tara Herself...

Back in March when the third season of United States of Tara was just starting to air on Showtime, I dissected all of the characters that were going to help Tara (Toni Collette) take baby steps towards getting control of her own life, and her own mind and body, back. But at the end of the day, and at the end of the article, I couldn't ignore the fact that every time she seemed to inch forward, she would fall back a much greater distance. Call it the mind's way of protecting one's self from dealing with painful memories and the emotions they would bring to the surface, too, or call it self-sabotage, but it is Tara's reality and has been since the show premiered. And at the end of season three, and at the end of that article, there is an allusion that Tara may be finally on the right road to recovery. My exact words were "maybe in season four."

If you want to read that psychological study, please click here.

But there is not going to be a season four. Showtime announced mid-way through season three's airing that it was going to be the last for the series; they would not be ordering any more episodes. At that point the season three finale had not only already been shot but also screened by critics (including Made Possible by Pop Culture), so what was meant to be a mild cliff-hanger, like every season the proceeded it, is going to have to hold up as a finite end. And looking back on it, we think it more than does the job.

Of course, whether or not you think Tara, seemingly stripped of all of her alters and literally riding off into the sun with Max (John Corbett) to get the fine-tuning help she so desperately needs a place surrounded by people equipped with medical degrees, not just unconditional love, to deal with her, is actually cured will come into play here. For some, the final episode leaves a lot of loose ends, and after three dozen episodes of getting to know and care about these characters, you will want more answers; you will want to continue the journey with them. But for others (Made Possible by Pop Culture included), the ending offers the exact about of hope and heart you would expect from a series about people banding around a severely damaged woman.

For everything Tara had working against her, for example, she was still able to take care of her family. Her kids Kate (Brie Larson) and Marshall (Keir Gilchrist) certainly had their ups and downs and rocky adolescent spots like any others on their block or in their class, but they're grown now, faced with decisions like moving away from home and going to college. They're not in jail or rehab or fighting demon alters of their own. She did something right. And then there is Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt), who was like Tara's first kid; she was protecting her even back when they were little kids in an abusive home. Charmaine seems more okay now than she ever has been; she is no longer willing to settle for the image of a perfect couple but instead has actually settled down with someone who is the right fit for her. She has her own baby now, a child of her own to protect, and she is leaving the protective nature of Tara's nest, too.
Tara's support system is flying the coop not because Tara is too much or they can't handle her but because it is their time and they are actually ready thanks to her.

Would I like to see some of those journeys and the rest of Tara's own struggle to find her true self-- who she really is-- now that the push-pull of the alters is not there to overtake her or mess up her progress? Sure. But I know that so much of the alters were really just parts of Tara anyway, holding herself back and burying fears under bad behavior. That was the most interesting part, even if at times the show chose to shy away from the controversy and only hint instead of really showcase. That was also the part that could be easily explained in an extroverted way. So much of what Tara is about to face is internal, and that may make for an interesting story, but it's tough to capture in a visual medium such as television without resorting to cheap and often expositional ploys like voice-over to explain her inner thoughts or weird POV tracking shots that distract and don't stay true to the original style of the show. What comes next, therefore, must really be a private journey for Tara, one that she must go on alone from her family, as well as away from an audience, as well.

When you look at it that way, it's hard to see this show going on at all. Though it is certainly a favorite in this household, it is a pleasure to at least see it going out on a high and happy note. For once, I'm going to choose to believe Tara really has rid herself of the alters that have plagued her and defined so much of who she is. I'm going to assume she is getting the help she needs (albeit off-screen) to be able to cope with just being her 24/7/365. And I'm going to imagine Max standing at the car with open arms waiting to bring her home once she is truly ready to just be.

From LA Examiner: Preview 'Leverage's Return; Interviews with 'Masterchef', Tisha Campbell-Martin, Sarah Carter, Veena Sud & Alison Haislip...

"The Leverage season four opener is certainly made for its diehard fans"

Leverage’s new season premiere is not necessarily for those who have not been following along all of these years. In fact, if you’re not a diehard fan of the show already, this episode may actually turn you off from tuning in in the future, rather than intrigue you into wanting to know more. Opening an over-the-top setting (on a literal mountaintop in Alaska) and telling its story through use of seemingly randomly paced flashbacks, even to just mere minutes ago, the Leverage season premiere is jumpy and disoriented for style’s sake... [MORE]

"Tisha Campbell-Martin: The sitcom queen cuts up the cast of The Protector"

“Me growing up, since I was three years old, I saw a need for my family members, that I could help in some way. And so, that little girl at seven years old [on stage in New York] was wanting to help my family keep the lights on and help put food on the table and get the telephone out my name!” Tisha Campbell-Martin said of her vast and varied career ambitions from such a young age... [MORE]

"Q&A with former Masterchef contender, Kristie Amobi"

Kristie Amobi might not still be in the Masterchef competition, having gotten eliminated before the Top 18, but she has such an inspiring story we wanted to reach out to her and learn about her culinary journey anyway. The Oncology VP of Marketing and young wife and mother has kind of a full plate even before deciding to go the reality TV route, but the home-cook who has been working in the kitchen since she was just a kid helping her own mother make dinner wanted to show other women that you don’t have to give up one dream to go after another... [MORE]

"Sarah Carter gets to the heart of the conflict on Falling Skies"

Sarah Carter knew from the beginning-- when Falling Skies was still called “The Untitled Steven Spielberg Alien Invasion Project”-- that it was going to be an epic project. Of course her expectations were high knowing of that involvement; after all, his track record has always been to deliver heartfelt drama, regardless of the backdrop. And when LA TV Insider Examiner caught up with Carter in Los Angeles last week, she admitted that her trust in the project has most certainly paid off... [MORE]

"The Voice digital correspondent Alison Haislip's Twitter hater advice"

“If you live on the internet, you know that haters, you know that trolls, they’re just—they’re the nature of the beast. They come with the territory,” Alison Haislip told LA TV Insider Examiner when we caught up with her at The Voice last week... [MORE]

"The CW's fall schedule 2011 is revealed right here, right now!"

This morning The CW released the premiere dates for all of their new and returning fall shows. They may not lead the pack when it comes to ratings, but by getting this announcement out before any other network, they are certainly leading in fans' excitement! Here is the complete list with more to come about each show as it gets closer to air! ... [MORE]

"The critics have spoken and the first-ever CCTA winners are..."

It feels a bit odd to squeeze the first annual Critics Choice Television Awards in on a random summer Monday (morning, at that!), but that is exactly how the brand new awards show kick-started its career. Over an intimate luncheon held in Beverly Hills CA, stars from both in front of the camera and behind the scenes at some of television's favorite came out to celebrate their shows, their peers, and the industry... [MORE]

"Veena Sud reflects on The Killing, responds to critics"

Let us just preface this by saying that we don't know what all of the fuss was about with the season finale of The Killing. The show is not called Who Killed Rosie Larsen?, it is just unfortunately being marketed that way. It is an intense dramatic piece, focused more on character work than WhoDunIt?, and after witnessing the very slow build of the entire first season, we had an inkling we might not get the killer handed to us (or Det. Sarah Linden) on a silver platter. But still, we admit we held out a little bit of hope. And so did so many others, it seems, from the way in which the internet exploded after the episode aired and we realized that we were going to be heading into season two-- after an extremely long and somewhat painful hiatus-- without having all of the answers... [MORE]

First There Were The Winchesters, Now There Are The Masons...

Drew Roy is the second-coming of Dean Winchester.

That got your attention, right? Well, I hate to say it but I *may* have been exaggerating a bit for effect. The actor himself doesn't necessarily embody my favorite demon-hunter, but his Falling Skies character most certainly does!

Roy is Hal Mason, the eldest son of Tom (Noah Wyle) in the TNT drama about the post-alien invasion world. Though we aren't privy to footage of the initial attacks, we certainly get the picture of what life is like with them walking among the rest of us. And perhaps a bit surprisingly, life in "Second Massachusetts" looks for the Masons a lot like what life traveling the greater United States has looked like for the Winchesters.

The Masons (and the rest of the "fighters" in this new form of society) have created their own law by which to live by. It is not simply a list of rules to keep hunters alive or a moral code to protect the innocent from what they always assumed was just fictional threats. In this case it is a very literal law, as there are no governments-- city, state, or otherwise. Just as John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) lead other hunters like William Harvelle or even Bobby Singer, Tom Mason is leading these troops, too. And what's a bigger battle: one against demons or one against aliens?

And just like how Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) followed in his daddy's footsteps to fight monsters while his younger brother Sam (Jared Padalecki) went off to school, such is the case with Hal and his baby bro Matt (Maxim Knight). The age difference between the Mason brothers is greater than the Winchesters, but the sentiment is the same. Tom and Hal strap on rifles and ride off on motorcycles to fight the demons of their day, but they keep Matt relatively sheltered from all of the evil.

Matt may know the kinds of things that are out there-- he witnessed the initial attacks, after all-- but during the day he goes to school (even if the subjects they teach are adjusted for the new world in which they are living); he gets a makeshift birthday party; he even sets up a game of catch with his dad. He just wants things to go back to normal, back to the way they were, while Hal is hardened to the point where you wonder if he really could turn back if suddenly things were brighter and sunnier tomorrow.

"He holds it all in," Tom says of his elder son. He worries about him, yet he still walks side by side with him on patrol, even though the boy is only sixteen. But when Matt asks to learn to shoot or to go along with his family, he is shut down. Tom wants to shield him, preserve his childhood as long as possible, keep him a kid. A courtesy he didn't extend to Hal. That certainly sounds familiar!

I am sure the first season of Falling Skies will be a lot more about simply surviving rather than really thriving as a family unit. And for that, any tension between the men is sure to grow and fester and provide for great brooding angst. Right now Hal is happy to protect his brother; he is willing to tell his brother to cut their dad some slack; but we all know how that weigh on a person after time! I can't wait to watch how it all unfolds!