Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'The Voice' Returns to LA; 'Community' Cross Over With 'Chuck'; Rob Huebel Reminisces Over 'Childrens Hospital'; 'Castle' Photos...

"The Voice kicks off season two with auditions in Los Angeles"

The Voice has been traveling all around the country this summer, first with the semi-finalists from the first season hitting select cities on their first ever musical concert tour, and then with season two audition stops from coast to coast. But let's face it: season two really didn't feel like it was officially beginning until they touched back down on southland soil, hitting Los Angeles' own The Forum for two days of non-stop crooning... [MORE]

"Nerds rejoice! A Community and Chuck cross-over coming to NBC!"

Last season on Community Abed (Danny Pudi) took his love of all things pop culture a step farther than most. In "Critical Film Studies," an episode that was kind of one big misdirect as NBC kept hyping a Pulp Fiction birthday extravaganza when the "real" party was a much more low-key dinner for two ala Dinner for Andre, we learned that Abed had yet another side adventure-- this time one we didn't get to see-- and this time one that took him right out here to Los Angeles, to the set of the ABC comedy Cougar Town. It was a hit with fans, especially when we learned later in the television season that it wasn't just a glib remark. Abed-- and Pudi-- did pop up in the first half of the two-part Cougar Town season finale, and two actors from that series (Dan Byrd and Busy Philipps) reciprocated, popping up at the paintball-drenched Greendale in "For A Few Paintballs More." It was such a hit that now it appears they are doing it again... [MORE]

"Rob Huebel reminisces over Childrens Hospital season three + plans for more"

Can you believe we're coming up on the season finale of Childrens Hospital already!? Perhaps it is because the episodes are only fifteen minutes long, still timed for the web it seems but airing now on Adult Swim, but they go by far too quickly. We didn't want to let the finale pass without acknowledging the brilliance that came out in this season's episodes-- from the old-timey play the gang put on to the undercover work in a children's psych ward, to the adult bar mitzvah and the fact that Valerie revealed herself to really be a man last season but still carried on this year as herself, as if nothing had happened. So we caught up with Rob Huebel to reminisce a bit, but also to look ahead to what's to come next year... [MORE]

"Castle's season four premiere sees Beckett back on her feet + return of Josh!"

Sometimes a show you love and are eagerly anticipating returning with brand new episodes remains a mystery almost up until its return date. Thankfully, though, Castle is not one of those shows! ... [MORE]

Megyn Price & Bianca Kajlich Offer Philanthropy Updates...

During the promotion for the fifth season of Rules of Engagement, I visited the set to interview the stars for my LA Examiner page, but while I was there I was thrilled to get the two fabulous women of the show-- Megyn Price and Biana Kajlich-- onto the topic of charity work. Both are extremely involved in a number of causes, and I was eager to profile their philanthropy perhaps even more so than their acting work. There are just so many causes that deserve to have a spotlight shone on them!

You can read that initial interview here

Earlier this week I went back to the Rules set to do some interviews for the sixth season and I just had to check in with Price and Kajlich to see where their charitable adventures have taken them over the past three hundred and some odd days.

"I actually just got back a couple of years ago from camp, which was a blast. It was basically the product of the Twitter campaign that I did, and we raised about thirty-six thousand dollars, which was incredible," Kajlich shared, speaking of the Amputee Coalition of America's project in Ojai that brings together kids who need a break-- or just a boost-- from their daily lives and a chance to be around others going through similar issues and experiences that they are.

"This year I think just more fundraising," Kajlich continued, noting that the camp is run solely on donations so every little bit helps and anything she can do, she will. "We're really trying to gear to open a second camp here on the west coast."

And Price is also once again hard at work with a cause she has supported in the past, collecting handbags signed by celebrities for an auction to benefit a care facility for adults with down syndrome. Price has a personal connection to this cause; the facility is actually one that helps her uncle, and she is happy to use her Hollywood connections to help them any way she can.

"I just got Betty White to commit," Price said excitedly.

And of course she's tapping her Rules co-stars on the shoulders for their help, as well. Her on-screen hubby Patrick Warburton signed a wallet but may just have to go the extra mile this time because last year he threw a bonus item into the auction lot that made the price shoot up.

"He did an amazing thing last year. Not only did he sign a wallet but he also did an outgoing voicemail message for the lady that won the auction," Price shared. "And I met that woman and she was so in love with him. It was great!"

The daily life and schedule of a working television actor is not one that breeds a lot of spare time, so it is always refreshing to see such selfless devotion to something they don't do for fame, riches, or rewards of any kind.

Win A 'Necessary Roughness' Summer Essential Kit...

Made Possible by Pop Culture recently learned that the guy who sold Necessary Roughness as a TV show was a family friend. Obviously that has had no bearing on my coverage of the show, considering it was about seven episodes in before we even found out that little piece of good news. By then Dr. Dani, T.K., and even Nico had won me over completely of their own merits-- just as they have many of you. Now, partially as a thank you to everyone who has made my interviews with the various cast and guest stars of Necessary Roughness' first season a hit on my LA Examiner page, I have a very special USA giveaway for one of you!

Necessary Roughness and USA have put together "summer essential" kits, including a sports bag, a beach towel, a football, and an autographed photo of series star Mehcad Brooks (among a few other things!). It's still summer in Los Angeles, and I think you should make it last wherever you are, as well. So this kit is all yours simply by doing one of two things:

1) Make sure you are following me on Twitter and then Tweet the following to your followers any time between now and Friday, September 2nd at noon:

"Dr. Dani knows what you need-- but so does @danielletbd with's #NecessaryRoughness summer essential kit!"

2) If you're NOT on Twitter, you can leave a comment below with why Dr. Dani is the therapist for you. Get creative, have fun, and make sure you leave a valid email address so I can contact you if you're the lucky winner.

Miss any of my Necessary Roughness coverage? Catch up here!

Necessary Roughness pilot review

Mehcad Brooks interview

Marc Blucas interview

Orlando Jones interview

Austin Basis interview

Author, Critic, Reporter, and Now VODcaster?...

I know I've been neglecting this blog lately. I feel bad about it, too. All day long I work on pitching interviews, conducting interviews, transcribing interviews. Then I throw in some TV watching and reviewing and some email tag with publicists to get confirmation on news and rumors. When writing is your day job, and you work from home, it becomes harder and harder to set aside time to write for yourself. At least it does for me. I like to take breaks. I like to diversify. I like to mix it up. And occasionally I even like to socialize. But I still love television more than just about every other thing. So combining all of those elements, what do you get? Why, a brand new VODcast, of course!

Teaming up with my friend Marisa from Give Me My Remote, the VODcast is something we can do to further talk about television and engage our respective (and sometimes overlapping) audiences. She and I watch and write about a lot of the same shows, but there are also a few that she covers much more in-depth than I do and vice versa. There are only so many hours in the day! And we often find that we spend time telling each other why she needs to carve out time to catch up on something like Fringe (and because of her, I did!) or Community (I'm still trying to convince her of that one).

We won't be breaking news on this VODcast, and we probably won't feature special guest stars. But we will take requests from our Twitter followers; we will answer your questions and take into consideration the shows you want us to talk about. Some of the shows we will cover on the VODcast may be ones we don't have time to write about on our sites at all. It's easier to talk for ten minutes sometimes than to write an in-depth feature.

So far we turned our attention to fall TV-- what we like that's new and what we are anticipating that's returning. But so many big things are coming up that we're sure to tackle them all (assuming you all want us to, and show us that by tuning in!). That means the Emmys, exciting new performers, season premieres, new seasons of reality shows with lots of young talent making their debut on our radars, special holiday episodes, pilot season, etc, etc, etc. It's fun; sometimes it will be informative; sometimes it will even be snarky. Please stay around!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

'Happy Endings' Hits the Paley Center: A Panel Write-Up...

When Happy Endings first premiered I was all about comparing it to Friends. Let's face it: any half-hour comedy about twenty-somethings in a big city, going through personal and professional ups and downs with each other, treating each other as family, is going to be compared to Friends. And though I meant it as a compliment, after seeing the full first season, I have to admit that the comparison was an under sell. In many ways I feel Happy Endings is stronger-- and funnier-- than Friends. The snarkiness of certain situations, the pop culture references, the nuances and details revealed about characters as episodes unfold, it all feels much more grounded in reality and much more modern. And furthermore, I could always (maybe too) easily pick out my favorite Friends character-- the one I related to the most, but with Happy Endings in any given episode I may select someone new. I see a piece of myself in each of them-- I think the majority of the audience of this certain age range would agree-- and that connects you even more. Needless to say when I heard the Paley Center for Media was hosting a night with the cast and creative team, I knew I had to be in attendance. The truth is, though I've been on the set of this show and seen the cast speak at TCA, those moments are always about finding the scoop, and it's a much different mindset than just being able to sit and listen to funny behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes from early in the casting or shooting of the first season. But it is those moments-- those slices of Hollywood life-- that always made me want to be a part of the industry, and I imagine many of you love getting that "behind the magic curtain" peek, as well.

And the cast of Happy Endings at Paley certainly did not disappoint with such tidbits and tales. Many fans in attendance did not realize why ABC (or even that the network) decided to air the episodes of the first short season out of order, but as the panel, moderated by director Fred Savage, discussed it, Adam Pally wanted everyone to consider that since the episode that should have aired after the pilot, "Bo Fight," actually didn't come until mid-way through their season, it looked like everyone "had a psychotic break." Seriously, go back and watch it originally aired order again. At first they seem like the most well-adjusted group of people, still all hanging out and friendly after Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) ran-- or rollerbladed-- out on Dave (Zachary Knighton) at the alter, but then about six months later, in their time, they start having double brunches and trying to get their revenge. Pally pointed out that was like all of a sudden they snapped and wanted to still be mad about something that happened months ago. But thankfully, the DVD has the episodes in production order so they can seem a lot more mentally stable.

(For those wondering, the episodes were aired out of order because ABC wanted to put what they thought were the funniest ones at the beginning of the season to hook the audience faster.)

Part of why Happy Endings has hit so hard is because the way the characters relate feels like it has been plucked from your own life. Much of that is thanks in great part to the cast itself, who are allowed to riff and adlib on set. Sometimes they come up with new lines (and catchphrases) for themselves, but sometimes they end up offering something to a co-star. Damon Wayans Jr., a stand-up comedian in his own right, can not only take credit for "sex nose," and along with his on-screen wife Eliza Coupe boast that the "boxing mice" tangent was all additional to what was originally on the page, but also a line from Dave that he whispered to the director after he had already walked out of the scene, asking if they could try something. The line was "She's going to freak out when she sees Brad in the hotel" after a character says her grandmother thinks it's the 1950s. The line stuck because it's that kind of smart comedy that hits you a second after you hear it, when the full implication sets in.

For Casey Wilson, a comedy writer and former Saturday Night Live player, that kind of collaborative environment is what breeds the best working situation, but also the most creative end result. She shared that a lot of performers don't feel comfortable changing it up at last minute in that way, let alone being able to make suggestions for another person. It takes something selfless in a performer to hand over such a killer line.

It's also somewhat selfless for an actor to be able to take a few chucks on the chin in front of a room full of people, but with a group like this, messing with each other just comes with the territory. When Cuthbert was asked about tapping into her inner funny for a show like this, she was in the middle of giving a very thoughtful answer about how she eased in at first but then came to realize what she loves most is to get physical with it (like in the taser scene of early first season). Then she even got a little sentimental, saying that the moment where you do riff and "it works out right, there is nothing like it." But Pally, as if channeling Max, stole her thunder maybe just a little bit, ribbing her with a dead-pan: "What, you didn't improvise on 24?"

Pally played roast master of sorts to Wilson, as well, pulling out the "Our own Meryl Streep" sarcastic jab as Wilson was talking about learning to speak Italian for "Like Father, Like Gun." She didn't speak any before the episode; the show got her a dialect coach who worked with her phonetically and at the end of it...she still didn't understand a word she ended up saying. "Just funny enough to be Max. That's what's on my business card," Pally said.

Watching the Happy Endings cast hang out together on stage is just a little taste of what it must be like to be on set with them daily. Obviously Pally is the class clown, and perhaps most like his character in that he is quick thinker and can always pull out a one-line zinger than cuts the crowd up. "I am the voice of gay America. You're welcome," he shrugged to the crowd when it was pointed out that Max is not stereotypical in any way; he's simply a guy who happens to be gay, not a guy who has nothing going on but his sexuality.

But Coupe could barely give a straight answer either, always dropping a dry joke in there in her own right. When discussing how she came to the show, she shared she originally auditioned for Alex and was super excited to get a call back, only to find Cuthbert in the room when she returned. It turned out Cuthbert had already been given the role, and they wanted Coupe to read for Jane, opposite her potential on-screen sister. "I didn't like Jane," Coupe seemed so serious the night could have taken a dark turn. But thankfully she was just being playful. And she came to make Jane her own anyway.

Wayans Jr., in his soft-spoken way, also dropped a couple of gems that may have been hard to hear because they often came after Pally's much louder punchline. My favorite was when the cast was talking about getting to party at the Playboy Mansion and joking about signing a lot of autographs. Wayans Jr. found the set up perfect and brought it home with "No pens." Ruminate on that one for a second... Coupe and Wayans Jr. seem to have such similar sensibilities, it is no wonder Brad and Jane are such an intriguing couple. Wayans Jr. called them "very method" when it came to finding the chemistry...even after Savage suggested they were such a seemingly normal couple on the outside but had a secretly "really freaky" sex life. If you go back and watch the first thirteen episodes, you certainly do see a lot of that subtext, even though Jane turns down the threesome. I can't help but wonder how much of that was intentionally on the page and how much of it was just Coupe and Wayans Jr. messing around on-set, not expecting as much to make it into the final cuts as actually did...

And speaking of final cuts versus original versions, the gang shared that the original version of the pilot started in a much different way: on Bo, the rollerblader who stole Alex at the alter. In a sardonic homage to formulaic rom-coms, the episode originally started on him at work, giving another boring speech in another boring meeting but having a revelation that he had to go for what he really wanted: the woman he thought was the love of his life. He bolted out of the office, into his car, where he promptly got stuck in traffic worthy of the 405, and ends up ditching his car in the middle of the road, strapping on his skates-- or blades, as they were-- and hightailing it to the church. But the test audiences really disliked it. They thought it was too mean, especially as an intentional misdirect, that he didn't end up being the protagonist after all. So they scrapped it, leaving it on the cutting room floor of the episode. At least until the DVD release!

In truth it certainly seems the comparisons to Friends really may have been unfair. On paper the shows seem similar, and in some of the broadest, most archetypal senses, there are certainly parallels. But series creator David Caspe admitted that he didn't even remember the Friends pilot had a runaway bride in it when he was writing Alex' situation in the Happy Endings opener. And honestly? We can't hold that against him. Friends was such an institution it has ingrained itself deep in our psyches so that in the moments we think we're being really clever with a particular line or event, we will inevitably remember we actually heard it there first. It happens to me personally all of the time, and what I think Caspe has going for him and his show most is that the next series I fully expect to do that to me is Happy Endings.

From LA Examiner: 'Happy Endings' Season Two Spoilers; Austin Basis Guests on 'Necessary Roughness'; 'Parks and Rec' Ron Swanson Preview...

"Happy Endings' Casey Wilson talks Megan Mullally, choreography & Penny's dad"

In the first season of Happy Endings, Penny (Casey Wilson) takes a "jazz kwon-do" class after her self-defense workout gets too intense. By the end of the episode she has all of her friends in leotards and leg-warmers trying out a brand new routine. Fans of the ABC comedy series who were in attendance at the screening and panel at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles last night were treated to the little trivia nugget that esteemed feature film director Ann Fletcher actually came in to choreograph the number. It seemed she had a few days in between projects and wanted to work. But in season two when Wilson slips on her dance pants once again, this time the choreographer was just as esteemed...just in a different area... [MORE]

"The Happy Endings cast spills season two spoilers"

What do you get when you bring the candid cast of Happy Endings, along with the show's writers and executive producers, out to a panel in front of almost two hundred fans in Los Angeles? One hell of a good time, that's what! ... [MORE]

"Austin Basis flies into Necessary Roughness"

Sometimes being “just” a guest star on a network drama has its perks, especially when said drama is Necessary Roughness for USA, a show that shines a weekly spotlight on a revolving door of patients of sports therapist Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne). Her patient of the week is given a full, and often times deeply emotional, arc in the mere forty-five minutes of screen time the episode runs, and that is prime real estate for any actor, let alone one like Austin Basis who has spent the last few months rotating from character to character on auditions for his next big project... [MORE]

"Nick Offerman and Mike Schur preview Parks and Recreation's Tammy I"

Ron Swanson is an incredibly unique character. We have come to know and love (and want more of him!) on Parks and Recreation over the past three seasons, and in many ways he has been a breakout character, even inspiring a fictious flavor of ice cream. Series creator Mike Schur isn't surprised by this embrace by the public because "he is played by Nick Offerman and has a big bushy mustache." In other words, if Schur was a betting man, he would have bet that the old-fashioned, oddball (well, at least for TV characters) would have been the one most gravitated towards... [MORE]

"Rules of Engagement commits to Wendi McLendon-Covey in season six"

What happens when a crazy cat lady gets married? Well, most of her friends probably pinch themselves to make sure they’re not still asleep, right? We guess we shall see. Because in the season premiere of Rules of Engagement, that is exactly what happens for Liz (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Russell (David Spade). Record scratch; wait, what? The man-child took some baby-steps toward adulthood last season, mostly because he had to when he was cut off from mommy, but this is a big leap! ... [MORE]

Is It Too Early To Worry About Showtime's "Under The Dome?"...

In Los Angeles we are in deep in the middle of development season, that blissful for a few and stressful for the masses time of year when studios partner with writers and producers to begin planning the future of their programming. It is still really too early to get too excited (or too upset) about any of the announcements because many of these projects never make it past the earliest stages. Still, today when Deadline reported that Showtime was taking on Stephen King's "Under The Dome," I could help but prematurely wet myself.

I know, I know; that can be taken either way.

In this particular case, though, you have a top tier cable network attempting to adapt a thousand plus novel into a long-running series. It should be a slam dunk. But anyone who has read the book knows that is not true. There is a very finite amount of time in which the story can be told. Look at it logically, from a "real world" point of view: if you're trapped anywhere, sealed in with no ventilation, no matter how large a coffin that may be, it is still basically a coffin. And eventually your air is going to run out. It is not a story of hope. And considering Steven Spielberg is behind this television adaptation, we have to wonder if he's going to candy coat things just a little bit.

Showtime, even without the "happy Hollywood ending" Spielberg attached, delivers some of the more out of the box dramas on television today, but they aren't doing "gritty" now the way they perhaps once were. This story is about the downward spiral of civilization-- of humanity, and of the life force itself-- as pollution and corruption take over, slowly killing off every living thing in its path. It's a dark story, even if at the end there is a too-good-to-be-true way out that honestly seems to pop out of nowhere just to end the book before it officially becomes an anthology.

Within the book, a force field forms around a small New England town, trapping them within its confines. This would be bad enough, even without all of the looting and violence and general disarray that follows as society crumbles and people turn on each other. But it's visually very gruesome, as well. The depiction of the wall of the dome all of a sudden appearing happens instantaneously, slicing birds and cars in half, causing a plane to hit one side, the pilot assuming he had clear air in front of him. It snaps you into this crazy, somewhat supernatural world immediately. Normal rules no longer apply. It is true escapism television, but you are not escaping into a world in which you would want to be.

The team coming together to bring this story to television include Dreamworks Television producers Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank, the latter of whom is behind Falling Skies, Spielberg's post-alien invasion human drama for TNT. That series was strong in its first season but took a turn in its finale episode, perhaps falling prey to the belief that leaving the audience on a big cliffhanger will leave them (and the network) wanting more...and cause a renewal. But that can be a risky little game.

Here's the thing: I have loved King's work long and hard for so many years (there's a chapter in my book dedicated to it), but I very rarely think the adaptations work. They usually cut out too many details, too many subtleties, and often the subtext gets totally erased in favor of shock value. I already have so much invested in the story, it's almost impossible not to be disappointed. Maybe I'm just a cynic. But "Under The Dome" is one of my favorite King novels, in recent years and across decades, so there is a lot riding on this project for me personally. Everything about it should be my new favorite TV show. But everything about it could go oh, so wrong, oh, so fast.

In this case, I actually don't think the on-going story will lend itself well to the rich source material. It is the kind of project that needs to know when and where it ends so it can effectively build the tension there properly (assuming also, of course, that the ending of the TV show mirrors the ending of the book). I always wanted to see this one adapted, but I was always hoping for a mini-series. Like the dome itself, the show needs to have a clear arc from its creation-- especially since unlike the characters, we can actually see it coming.

Still, any TV with a Stephen King project on-air is better than TV with no Stephen King at all, so you know I will be keeping a close eye on the developments of this project!

You Should Strive To Settle Down, But Never To Settle...

So after having two separate discussions about two different elements in pop culture (and with two different people), where I made the same argument, I decided it might be a good idea to address it here. Yesterday, in my "Who Did It Better?" column, I wrote that I was giving the edge to Brave for not having its main character of Merida settle with some guy at the end of it. That came out sounding harsher than perhaps I planned without going in-depth into the story. It seems a number of you thought what I was saying was that I considered settling just partnering up with someone, but that is not what I intended at all (though I do see why it comes across that way).

I still don't want to spoil too much of either Brave or The Hunger Games, but I'll say this: I am anti Peeta and Katniss as a couple. I believe that he may have really loved her (or at least had a deep crush on her), but I don't think she really loves him. I think being with him was something she ended up having to do because of the situation in the games and the show they ended up putting on for the cameras, and let's face it, a little bit of guilt over what he goes through after the games. They now have to live with that as a reality, but I hold true that it's not something she really wanted, just something she got used to over time. She leaned on him, sure, but that does not equate true love. At the end of the third book, she gives in to something that he wanted but that was something she always specifically said she never wanted. We aren't given a real glimpse as to the life they may have together that would explain or justify a genuine changing of her mind, so it just seems like she is giving in to what he wants. And that is what I am anti; that is what I am against; that is the mixed message I think a character who can be so strong in so many ways but still submissive or deferring to the man gives off. It's a subtle way to swipe at young girls' self-esteem, showing off that it's still better to be with someone (anyone, apparently!) than on their own.

You can absolutely fall in love. You should try to fall in love; the key to life is finding relationships that matter. But you should actually fall in love with someone and not just stay or attach initially because it seems like you may never find what or who you really want. Settling is the act of not going for what you really want, in many parts, because you feel you are not truly worthy of it or for other reasons think you will not receive it.

I haven't seen Brave in full; I don't know how it ends. I don't know if Merida ends up with someone at the end of it. I almost imagine she must because it's still a Disney fairytale, and those heroines always live "happily ever after" with their princes. But the three suitors we see selected for her are very clearly not right for her, and to "have" to pick one of them because tradition or your situation dictates it is an extremely arcane idea.

I have felt this way about characters in pop culture for years, and what spurred this response was actually the fact that I was having this debate with someone just yesterday about another show-- Veronica Mars. I said that I was never a fan of Logan Echolls; he never really wore me down, so to speak, the way he won over Veronica. I was asked, then, who did I want her with, and I said no one-- no one that the show presented. First of all, it was a time in her life where she was still finding out who she was and what she wanted, and though she seemed so mature, and she could handle herself in many aspects of the quote-unquote adult world, relationships are much more complex. I didn't think she had met the person she was meant to be with. I understand the need to "ship" and to want to see a relationship unfold on-screen; I subscribe to it in many shows myself, and in truth I think Veronica and Logan had to be a couple for awhile. I just didn't think he (or Duncan or anyone she dated) was someone she was meant to be with or should be with forever. They were early relationships in her life; they were puppy love, high school crushes that had their time and place, but I like to imagine now she has learned from each of them and moved on and is actually with someone who is right for her, not just because he seems the best option at the time.

I have felt this way about other characters throughout time as television has unfolded, including Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls. Though I though Jess was the best match out of the three choices the show presented-- Dean, Jess, and Logan-- I respected the show for taking us on those relationship journeys with her as she explored and matured and found her way. They were each guys she had to "experience," so to speak to help shape her; they were right for certain stages in her life; but they were not soulmates. Jess and Rory were the most alike, right down to the brilliance when it came to literature and other education aspects but the immaturity when it came to love. But sometimes you do need someone who is unlike you to push you and to inspire you to do better and to be better.

And let's face it: in all of these examples, these girls are kids. Yes, in some of them they are living in different times and different worlds, but they are still so young, and part of my biggest objection is the fact that we feel the need to pair them up, and so permanently, at all at that age!

This is an on-going debate. It's something I don't know that I can adequately express on a blog because here it is just me trying to make sense of the mess in my own head, and perhaps this is better served as a dialogue with a back-and-forth and multiple opinions being aired. Perhaps this is fodder for a VODcast down the road. We'll have to see where this crazy career takes me!

'Dexter' Ice Cream-- Now With More Body Part Chunks?...

I can more than get on board with Ron Swanson-inspired ice cream because even if it tastes partially like eggs, the bacon flavor would make it all worthwhile. And delicious. But now Jon Defreest wants us to consider Dexter inspired ice cream, and as much as I love the man behind the murders, I'm just going to have to say it: he deserves better here!

blood-red strawberry swirl is a bit obvious but should provide just the right amount of syrupy sweet, and chunks of chocolate shaped like body parts (even if some of those have to be white chocolate because, you know, he's an equal opportunity killer) are always welcome. But the base of the flavor is still key lime-- significant to the story because of that "perfect" slice of pie he was sent to get for his dying friend, but just plain not a flavor I enjoy. I think Ben & Jerrys needs to retool a bit before seriously considering this pitch!

(disclaimer: this is not real. ben & jerrys is not actually entertaining the flavor as an option. an artist whipped it up for fun and shits and giggles. please do not send me anti-cannibalism emails.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

From LA Examiner: Interview with Eliminated 'Great Food Truck Race' Truck; MTV VMAs Gallery; 'Ringer' Casts Another Hottie; 'Dexter' Draws New Blood

"Sky's Gourmet Tacos is out of The Great Food Truck Race but they're not down"

Food trucks can be such a localized endeavor. They travel around the city delivering delicious, and usually hot, meals to local patrons of a particular business, but they don't cross state lines, let alone city lines. So what's a girl (or guy) to do when they flip on The Great Food Truck Race and see a style of cuisine they want to try...only to learn that truck is thousands of miles away in another city? Furthermore, what's one of those food trucks to do when they start receiving Tweets and email inquiries about their food, intrigued by the show and wanting to taste for themselves? If you're Sky's Gourmet Tacos from right here in Los Angeles, you revel in the time you spent on-screen because that exposure was what it was all about... [MORE]

"Photo Gallery: MTV's television stars on the VMAs red carpet"

Remember when MTV used to play music videos? That's okay; we barely remember it ourselves. But every now and then the network that made its mark for putting music on television likes to remind itself (and its audience) of how it got its start. Even if now the celebrities that come out to celebrate are as much television stars as they are musical performers... [MORE]

We just...don't know quite what to say right now. Ringer not only keeps adding extremely attractive men to it's cast, but also these are actors from beloved (and still mourned) shows. It is becoming the place to be for anyone with a legion if fans hoping for something as culty as their last program. And today the net has caught none other than Veronica Mars alumn Jason Dohring... [MORE]

"Jordana Spiro joins the cult of Dexter"

Jordana Spiro's television career has had its ups and downs of late. Her TBS sitcom My Boys was beloved, but unfortunately not by enough people. It seemed she'd be okay when it was canceled because she had shot a brand new pilot for NBC, Love Bites, but then that didn't quite work out either, and she was actually recast before the show even went to series. She had an arc on Harry's Law for a little while, but let's face it, we were all a little bit surprised when that got renewed, weren't we? But it looks like things may finally be turning around for Spiro! Today TV Line was first to report that she will be joining the cast of favorite Showtime serial killer drama, Dexter, shooting its sixth season in Los Angeles right now... [MORE]

"School's back in session on NBC's Community"

Look, we're not going to lie. We really can't tell what the hell is going on in these promotional photos NBC released for the return of Community, episode entitled "Biology 101." All we see is that Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) is having a diva moment while Jeff (Joel McHale) appears to be in the middle of yet another crisis. And honestly? That's enough for us! ... [MORE]

Who Did It Better: Independent Archer Girls Edition...

I know this may be a bit premature-- a bit unfair-- to compare because neither The Hunger Games nor Brave have been released as theatrical films yet. "Hunger Games" certainly has the edge as it stands because it (and its two sequels) has been out in book form long enough for fans to become rabid. For those of you who went to D23's second-ever Expo earlier this month, you got a longer look at Merida, the heroine of Brave, especially concerning what she can do with a bow and arrow. The timing just seems too coincidental that both Katniss and Merida are being shown on the big screen, projected as role models to little girls all over the world, around the same time, especially when they share such similar traits. Do you need to see both; will you see both? It all comes down to which tells the tale of such a strong, independent, forward-thinking girl "better" in your own personal estimation, doesn't it?


The Hunger Games

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I don't want to give too much away and run the risk of spoiling either project for you. And in the act of full disclosure, there is still some I don't know about Brave, having only seen snippets. But so far I am giving the edge to Merida. Both girls have to take a stand to decide their own fate. But Merida does something that no heroine in a Disney film-- let alone a heroine in most films, including The Hunger Games!, has done before by refusing to give in to societal pressures or traditions and select a suitor. You can say Katniss does what she does with the Games simply to stay alive, but as time goes on, she does give in; she does "settle." And to present a character so strong who still settles is to send very mixed messages.

Screw Lady Gaga; Baby Hope is the Cutest Little Monster!...

I know you've probably all seen this season two Raising Hope promo by now. And if you haven't, shame on you!! But I just can't get enough of it. Baylie and Rylie are the cutest babies I have seen in a long time, and I am in even more awe of what they can do as budding actresses. Oh, Lucas, there is no question about it: this IS the cutest video ever!

Friday, August 26, 2011

From LA Examiner: Two Of My Fave TV Writers Developing New Shows; More 'American Horror Story' Casting News; Ryan Reynolds Returning To TV?...

"Eric Kripke keeps it in the WB/The CW family with new project, Deadman"

For all you Supernatural fans who feel like Eric Kripke can't be felt as heavily in recent episodes of Supernatural as he could when he was the showrunner...would you settle for having his voice strongly on The CW on another show? ... [MORE]

"Caprice Crane should be feeling "lucky" today; NBC adapts her novel"

Caprice Crane may have just released a brand new novel ("With A Little Luck," a big-hearted exploration into one woman's romantic life when she is trapped by an almost obsessive-compulsive belief in rituals, superstitions, and lucky pennies), but today she has even bigger things coming her way as Deadline has learned NBC is adapting a previous novel of hers into a brand new television show... [MORE]

"American Horror Story scares up a part for Zachary Quinto"

It's official: we're worried about American Horror Story. The brand new thriller from Ryan Murphy and FX has yet to even air, and already casting announcements are taking over the media. Though many of the big television names this series is snagging are only signing on for short arcs, we can't help but look at shows that came before it-- and with already well-established fan bases-- that have suffered because of the addition of too many new people and mini (even if just weekly) plots... [MORE]

"Ryan Reynolds & Sandra Bullock get animated for FOX"

Question: if you had Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock and once-TV-star-turned-blockbuster-action-hero Ryan Reynolds willing to come to the small screen, wouldn't you want it to be in a live-action series? It may be shallow, but we would imagine you could capitalize even more on their faces than "just" their names (and voices). But then again, perhaps their busy movie star schedules wouldn't allow for them to head to the time-consuming medium of television if it was live-action. So we should probably just be thankful for what we can get. And today what that is is And Then There Was Gordon, an animated comedy that Reynolds also co-created with his new company DarkFire... [MORE]

Thursday, August 25, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'Breaking In' & 'White Collar' Renewed; Chandler Massey & Christie Clark 'DOOL' Interviews; 'Castle' & 'Happy Endings' Cast Shots...

"It's official: Breaking In secures a second season on FOX"

Well, alrighty then. Yesterday there was still a question about Breaking In's fate for FOX, but less than twenty-four hours later, there is a decision. That's how fast things can change during development season, folks! ... [MORE]

"Chandler Massey dishes on the Will/Sonny "bromance" on Days of our Lives"

Remember when Freddie Smith told us he would have ample opportunities for his clothes to come off in Salem? We're starting to wonder if he was just being a tease. His Days of our Lives character, Sonny Kiriakis, is the first out gay character the show has seen, and the internet has been all abuzz with excitement and rumors about Sonny's love interest every since co-star Camila Banus "outed" the character of Will Roberts to journalist Jim Halterman during the Daytime Emmy Awards a few months ago. But so far? Will (Chandler Massey) is still sleeping with Gaby (Banus) herself. So what gives? ... [MORE]

"Christie Clark wants BOTH Austins back on Days of our Lives"

Christie Clark may owe her return to Days of our Lives to Twitter. Well, to co-star Alison Sweeney, too, but mostly to Twitter. When she was visiting her Salem family last year to pay respects to Frances Reid and Alice Horton, who had passed away, she, Sweeney, and Patrick Muldoon ended up having lunch together on the lot. Sweeney Tweeted about it, and it set long-time fans into a frenzy. Could it be a spoiler that Austin Reed would soon be returning to Salem? Well, low and behold, that's inevitably, unexpectedly, what happened... [MORE]

"Matt Bomer shaped hole in TV schedules soon to be filled; White Collar renewed"

White Collar has been off-USA for a few weeks now, and the Matt Bomer shaped hole in our television schedules has not gone unnoticed. But today we can breathe a little easier because at least we know that void will soon be filled. USA has announced today that they have renewed White Collar for a fourth season! ... [MORE]

"Photo Gallery: The Castle cast cleans up nicely!"

The third season of Castle left quite a few characters in some less-than-stellar shape, but judging from the promotional photos ABC released of the cast, season four may see them sitting pretty. At least physically. We don't doubt that the new Captain (Penny Johnson Jerald) will stir up trouble in a lot of other ways... [MORE]

"Photo Gallery: Happy Endings season two cast shots"

ABC certainly knows how to tease us! First they aired a never-before-seen "lost" episode of Happy Endings last night, and now they have released some brand new images of the stunning cast to help promote season two. There are very few "friends as the new family," shots, and no "couple" portraits or even a sneak peek at special guest star Megan Mullally, who is on the Los Angeles set filming her stint as Penny (Casey Wilson)'s mom this week. Still, what they have shared should be enough to keep fans "happy" for a little while. And if they don't tide you over until the second season premiere, they should be good at least until the first season is released on DVD in two weeks... [MORE]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'Breaking In' Renewed After All?; 'The Big Bang Theory' Preview; 'All My Children' Alumni Return; More ABC TV on DVD...

"Is FOX Breaking [Back] In to Adam F. Goldberg's comedy?"

Once again a FOX show is making the news, perhaps a bit too early, but with a big "fate of the show" announcement nonetheless. Breaking In, Adam F. Goldberg's off-beat comedy about a high-security firm who tests systems by, well, seeing if they can break in to buildings alarmed with them, was cancelled in May...or was it? ... [MORE]

"The Big Bang Theory season five pays respect to paintball, too"

Can we tell you a secret? Sometimes we worry about Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar). Well, at least we worry about their paintball team. For four seasons we have seen glimpses of them playing pretend war games on The Big Bang Theory, but more times than not video games win out over actual in-person strategy fights. And what's worse: Community, which shares their time slot, has already done two huge paintball-centric episodes, taking the game to a whole new level... [MORE]

"Eva La Rue & Sarah Michelle Gellar shooting All My Children in L.A."

Earlier this month during the TCAs, Sarah Michelle Gellar offered the media, LA TV Insider Examiner included, a sneak peek at her return to All My Children before the long-running ABC soap opera comes to an end. But today Eva La Rue tweeted the first look... [MORE]

"Desperate Housewives: The Complete Seventh Season coming to DVD"

It was raining drama on Wisteria Lane last year between big time promotions that turned once-sweet men into giant d-bags (we’re looking at you, Tom Scavo!), featured a May-December romance we couldn’t help counting down to a demise the second it started, saw the return of an old foe (welcome back, Paul Young), introduced a new illness for Susan (Teri Hatcher), and re-opened an old wound of Gaby (Eva Longoria)’s we never really knew existed. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. So much happened last year you may need to watch again (and then again) to remember it all... [MORE]

"Grab Big Carl and your own Council; Cougar Town season two is coming to DVD!"

If you’re not already watching Cougar Town, we’re out to shame you into picking up the DVDs and starting now! What’s not to love about this group of Friends (see what we did there?) who like nothing more than to gather ‘round, drink wine, and snark on each other? ... [MORE]

From LA Examiner: Photo Previews of All 3 New CW Series...

"Sarah Michelle Gellar's many men of Ringer"

There are still two weeks before The CW debuts Ringer, the new thriller about a woman (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who assumes the identity of her twin only to learn that life may be even harder dealing with the secrets and skeletons in hers sister's closet. But today the network released a few additional photos from the pilot episode, as well as promotional stills of the cast. And the one thing that has to be mentioned? Surrounded by such good-looking gentleman, Gellar must have the best job in the business! ... [MORE]

"The magic of The Secret Circle comes to life on The CW"

The magic that the characters of The Secret Circle possess simply because of their lineage is really only scratching the surface in the pilot episode of the brand new CW supernatural genre. But it's still pretty amazing to watch the abilities take shape as Cassie (Britt Robertson) lifts a forest full of dewdrops, holds them hovering in the air, and commands a rainstorm to stop. What else is to come? With Kevin Williamson at the helm, we can only imagine greatness... [MORE]

"Take a trip down south with Hart of Dixie"

Hart of Dixie makes us want to move to the south as much as Friday Night Lights did. There. We said it. And we don't have any shame about it. Sure, the pilot was the only episode that actually shot in the south (the production is currently housed on the Warner Brothers lot right here in Los Angeles), but it is so much more than just the setting that shines through with southern hospitality. It is ingrained in the characters-- people who are sweet and down-to-Earth and simple-- not in the "slow" sense but in the anti-materialistic sense. It's a fresh breath of air compared to the smoggy superfluousness of Hollywood! ... [MORE]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

From LA Examiner: Photos from 'The Vampire Diaries' Premiere; Food Network Offers Free Lunch; TNT Sets Return Dates; Colin Egglesfield Interview...

"Meet David Gallagher on The Vampire Diaries 3rd season premiere"

Last LA TV Insider Examiner personally saw David Gallagher he was just a skinny, somewhat scruffy college freshman who had wandered over to USC's campus television station booth during orientation...Okay, that's not entirely true. Technically last we saw him was on-screen in this summer's blockbuster alien family drama Super 8 as the still somewhat skinny, very scruffy stoner who drove the getaway car when the kids snuck back into the school. But soon both of those memories will be in the distant depths of our mind because come September 15th, he will be taking a turn on The Vampire Diaries, and let's face it, everyone who ends up on that show becomes an epic character forever ingrained in our minds. And hearts... [MORE]

"Food Network to offer free Friday lunch, courtesy of The Great Food Truck Race"

Remember when free lunch was almost a stigma of your youth in the school cafeteria? We never really understood why that was such a big deal; free stuff is awesome, and free food? Well, there really is nothing better. The Food Network knows that, so as a promotion for the new season of The Great Food Truck Race, they are teaming up with select food trucks in select cities to offer free Friday lunches! ... [MORE]

"TNT dramas Leverage, The Closer, Rizzoli & Isles take a siesta, return Nov"

We don't know about you, but the whole "summer finale" thing is starting to get to us. It's one thing when ABC Family does it; those kids have short attention spans. But TNT is known for such character-rich dramas, we don't want to wait too long to see the relationships and the tension play out! ... [MORE]

"Bad boy" Colin Egglesfield shakes up relationships on Rizzoli & Isles"

Every now and then you meet a character long before the actor who gets hired to portray said character does. It usually only happens in the most intricate and soon-to-be infamous of cases, when reputation precedes physicality, but when it does occur, you know history is being made. So when Rizzoli & Isles first started alluding to another Rizzoli clan member early in the first season of the show-- one that was in prison, no less-- we sat up and took notice, patiently waiting for the little drips and droves of information that would be given through expositional dialogue. Until the second season when troublemaker Tommy got out of prison, and Colin Egglesfield made his seemingly nonchalant, but subtly layered with secrets, entrance onto the show... [MORE]

"Isaiah Mustafa heats up Charlie's Angels"

Oh Isaiah Mustafa, we'd watch almost anything for you. And now that category includes ABC's "candy" reboot of Charlie's Angels... [MORE]

"Pan Am takes flight-- to a mall near you!"

Couldn't make it to San Diego Comic Con this year? That's okay, neither could we. But if you were bumming that you missed the Pan Am flight experience booth, you're in luck! ABC has designed to have Pan Am land for a limited time in malls around the country in order to allow fans to relive the glamor and excitement of the jet age explored in the brand new drama... [MORE]

Monday, August 22, 2011

D23 Diary: I Want To Be A Part of The Imagineers' World...

When I was a kid there was a part of me that wanted to go to work for Disney. It isn't an insane dream, but for some reason it seemed more unrealistic to me than wanting to move out to L.A. and make it in the television industry. In truth, Disney is a fiercely loyal company. If you start working for them, and you work hard and prove you're a valuable asset to the team, you can move up very quickly. And they truly take care of their own; every executive these days self-identifies as a Disney nerd, having grown up greatly immersed in the earlier works and holding onto memories made from sweet and seemingly innocent storytelling. Unlike me, they didn't grow cynical when they realized the real world wasn't full of destined happy endings. Instead they pushed through the sometimes brutal realities and chose to keep creating hopeful escapism for new technology and new generations.

This past weekend was only the second D23 Expo, celebrating all of these visionaries, as well as their stars and shows. Once again I headed down to cover it, and once again it only took the first hour of walking the show floor to fall back into old patterns and imagine myself picking up my life as I know it and starting a career with Disney. Doing what, I have no idea. I didn't go to art school; I can't draw worth sh*t; but then again writing is writing, storytelling is storytelling, and producing is producing. I could figure out the specifics later.

For me personally the highlight of the weekend was certainly sitting in on a behind-the-scenes session with the three imagineers who designed and brought to life the new Little Mermaid ride at DCA-- Larry Nikolai, Lisa Girolami, and Chris Crump. In doing so my desire to watch that movie again skyrocketed, but so did my mind race with ideas for designing rides of my own, based on other favorite cartoons (or shows in general). It wasn't the first time I got such an in-depth look at what will inevitably become my new favorite ride because of my extra knowledge, but it was one that held a lot of extra special meaning since Ariel was always my favorite Disney princess. Nikolai, Girolami, and Crump took D23 members and Disney fans from the conceptualization stage-- when animatronics were mere blue line sketches-- through the sculpting and painting stages and into installation and lighting design. They explained bits of trivia (like why they had to flip Prince Eric's statue so that his left leg is the one propped up, unlike in the movie) and gave us lots of small details (like the 20 thingamabobs in Ariel's grotto-- ones that are plucked directly from that scene in the movie) to look out for the next time we're on the ride. But they also talked a lot about the process of cutting down an hour and a half film to a four minute ride, keeping the story intact and focusing most on the musical numbers. These guys are truly geniuses, and I am in awe of what they can do!

Years ago, it was one thing to work with wood and steel and robotics in order to make characters turn their heads, blink, and wave. But today the process is much more intricate than that. Rides, just like films, use a mixture of techniques and technologies in order to make their characters come alive in the most realistic way. Yes, some pieces are still hooked up to motors the "old-fashioned" way, but now instead of creating mechanical eyelids, like on Sebastian, who would look like he was having a seizure with the eyeballs rolling back as the eyelids raised, Imagineers are able to use computer technology to project the eyes onto the character, or from within. These days they tend to go with within so they can move the character at a moment's notice and not have to move an entire set-up. And Girolami shared that is exactly what she did: in testing out Sebastian, she carried him around the office, having him greet her staff, his little eyes blinking all on their own thanks to the technology his body housed.

Utilizing a specific space can be tricky. DCA had a specific area for this ride, and the Imagineers were asked to make it work. Since they had a traditional "dark ride" set up, and they admitted that you never want to try to do daylight in a ride like this one because it takes away the magic and allows you to see every mechanical bolt and track line, that meant tweaking a few well-known story points to fit their needs. Their ideas were grand but often had to be scaled back to accommodate their reality. For instance, an early design of the ride had a point where Ursula's tentacle would spring out and slap the sea shell in which you are riding, spinning you around. That wasn't exactly possible at this stage in the game, so it was turned into a much more moderate (though still creepy) menacing statue of the villainess. Additionally, the end of the film, which every little girl (and okay, maybe a few little boys) remember as their dream wedding, was drawn during the day, on a boat. That wouldn't fly for the ride, for the reasons already mentioned. So ultimately, [spoiler alert!] these guys changed the end of the film.

Okay, it's not as bad as it sounds. Eric and Ariel still get married. They just do so on land and at night. And with fireworks because let's face it, who doesn't love fireworks? It was a way for the Imagineers to stay true to the heart of the film but still work out their own creativity by designing an entirely new set piece. Diehard fans won't be able to ignore the differences, but even the film's directors took a look at the end of the ride, then at each other, and exclaimed that it was the ending they "should" have made.

Just like the movie itself, The Little Mermaid ride took almost four years to complete. So it is no surprise that the storytellers and designers and producers there were so immersed in the tale that they were able to see the best of it-- and even some beauty that did not yet exist. Walt Disney always said that his theme parks would never be done. And that was not meant to be a threat of constant construction but instead an idea of hope that the parks, resorts, and attractions themselves were alive and ever-changing to fit the evolving world in which they live so they would always be the best. Stories are not truly over just because the book gets closed; when the characters are rich enough, they live on-- in our imaginations, in their own little worlds, and thanks to the talented Imagineers, in Disney all over the world.

Imagination and creativity just begets more imagination and creativity, an even though there are certainly moments I can't help but lament the loss of some of my own, all I need is a quick hit of Disney (it really is like magical fairy dust!), and I feel like I, too, can tell stories that will shape children and change the world.