Thursday, September 29, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'The Vampire Diaries' Spoilers; May The Best Tammy Win on 'Parks and Rec'; Can Chris D'Elia Save 'Whitney'?...

"5 things we're excited to see on The Vampire Diaries this fall"

In case you’ve grown somewhat tired of Stefan (Paul Wesley) or Damon (Ian Somerhalder), this year of the originals on The Vampire Diaries will bring a lot of new faces to the screen. Look, we're not saying we are tired of them or anything, but we appreciate the fact that the show stays five steps ahead of what its audience thinks it wants, thereby delivering some fantastic surprises and (in the words of series executive producer Julie Plec) "all kinds of crazy shit that hits the fan." And we wouldn't want it any other way, right? Well, if you don't mind being spoiled about some minor plot points coming up, keep reading because we have some juicy scoop for you! ... [MORE]

"The fight for Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation: May the best Tammy win!"

If you thought Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) became a different man when Tammy II (Megan Mullally) was around, just wait to you see what time spent with his first wife Tammy (Patricia Clarkson) does to him! Actually, don’t wait at all: just tune into Parks and Recreation tonight when “Ron and Tammys” airs, giving you a look at a new (surprisingly hairless) side to Swanson... [MORE]

"How Chris D’Elia can save

You may not know Chris D’Elia by name. In fact, you may not know him by face, either. Unless you’re a frequent comedy club patron, the last time you would have seen the star on the rise was in TBS’ short-lived 1980s college comedy Glory Daze, and his super senior stoner Stankowski was so baked, scruffy, and glazed over he was barely recognizable as the same guy shaving in the mirror behind Whitney Cummings in ads for their new NBC sitcom. But D’Elia is a name we believe you should know; he is swift and smart, witty and charming. He deserves time to shine on television, and we fear that without some retooling he will only be dragged down by Whitney, not thrust forward into the spotlight... [MORE]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

From LA Examiner: Devon Sawa Returns to 'Nikita'; 'Supernatural' Photos; Alan Tudyk Sounds Off On 'Suburgatory'; Preview 'American Horror Story'...

"Devon Sawa returns to Nikita but Owen is anything but a third wheel!"

Now that Michael (Shane West) and Nikita (Maggie Q) have traded one surrogate child for another on The CW’s Nikita, do they really have room to let yet another person into their team? When the person in question is Devon Sawa’s Owen, our vote is unequivocally yes! Owen will bump into “Mikita” on a mission in the upcoming “Falling Ash” episode of the series, and with all of them tracking the same guy-- a doctor who was the mastermind behind the drug that took control of Owen last we saw him-- so they decide to triple-team him for the best shot at taking him down. But Owen obviously has something very personal at stake-- he hopes the doctor can provide a cure since he is currently running out of last vial of the regimen-- and Sawa shared with us that it won’t be super smooth sailing, even if there may be strength in numbers... [MORE]

"PHOTO PREVIEW: Supernatural S7, Ep 3: "The Girl Next Door"

Call us a little bit masochistic but we kind of love it when Supernatural beats up the boys. Not when their faces are bloody or pummeled, mind you, but when they've been put through the ringer in other ways they just seem that much more rugged and handsome. Scars really are sexy, okay? ... [MORE]

In the fish-out-of-water tale Suburgatory for ABC, Jeremy Sisto is the proverbial fish. Well, and his on-screen daughter Jane Levy is, too, but we’ll get to her in a bit. Sisto is a big city architect who picks up his whole life and moves to the suburbs and once he gets there realizes he may be in a bit over his head. But thankfully he has a long-time friend (played by Alan Tudyk) to turn to for a little help and support. Tudyk is Noah, a buttoned-up, upper middle class husband, father, and country club member who relishes in the suburban life. He is the comic opposite of George, and funnily enough, quite the opposite to how fans of Tudyk’s might remember him best from TV... [MORE]

"Fall 2011 preview: FX' American Horror Story"

Ryan Murphy is an idea man, and admittedly a great one at that. He has been given so many amazing opportunities to create original television, and he delivers every time with something new and fresh and unlike what the landscape of programming has to offer. But even the best ideas can quickly turn sour when Hollywood gets involved and the desire to “sell” a story greatly overpowers the desire to actually tell a story. Sometimes it is because there are too may cooks in the kitchen-- too many notes to see to-- while others it is because there are too many “yes men” just telling you your idea is so brilliant you don’t need to tone it down or simplify it or focus it. And in the case of Murphy’s newest endeavor, American Horror Story for FX, the latter appears to be true, and what we are left with is an ADHD-riddled shock fest that starts out with promise but quickly runs off in a million different directions with no indication of ever finishing a coherent thought, let alone character arc... [MORE]

"New Girl receives permanent full season residence on FOX"

After strong showings for its first two episode, New Girl has been given a full season order from FOX, with an additional eleven episodes announced today, bringing the series to a twenty-four episode first season... [MORE]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One to Watch: Matthew Gumley...

When you saw Matthew Gumley on the season premiere of Modern Family as the big-balled New Yorker who stole Alex (Ariel Winter)'s first kiss, you probably assumed he really was just a kid from New York who got cast because his accent charmed the producers. After all, when you're planning a "family vacation" episode, it's Screenwriting 101 to have them encounter another family who is clearly from a different geographic region simply to showcase differences in behavior and culture. But if you assumed he was just a little mook in training, you'd be sorely underestimating this young talent.

In truth, Gumley, who hails from Florida, is an accomplished voice actor and has been for a number of his young years. He has done characters for kid-friendly Nickelodeon hits like Dora the Explorer and The Wonder Pets, as well as more adult fare, like the Grand Theft Auto videogame franchise. He has appeared on Law & Order: SVU twice-- in two separate and distinct roles-- and to further solidify his chameleon status, he will also be appearing in the Psych season premiere on USA in mid-October as the son of an English ambassador. Though his cherubic face never changes, his voice certainly does.

Gumley has been focusing a good chunk of the last few years on Broadway work, in addition to voice acting. Certainly theatre training such as Mary Poppins, Elf: The Musical, and The Addams Family has helped him smoothly transition not only to the small screen but also to various genres within that other medium, and we can only hope he'll stick around in front of the camera for the time being so that audiences outside of New York City can continue to fall in love with him, too!

From LA Examiner: 'Hart of Dixie' Love Triangles; Cat & Mouse Games on 'Ringer'; Brett Davern on 'Awkward'; Behind-The-Scenes on 'The Middle'...

"Cress Williams weighs in on love triangles in Hart of Dixie"

The Hart of Dixie pilot very clearly set up a potential love triangle between Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson), Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel) and George Tucker (Scott Porter) right off the bat. We don't need to tell you; you all watched when it premiered last night. RIGHT!??? But the love triangle between George, Lemon Breeland (Jaime King) and Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams) was not one we saw so obviously. So now that it has been introduced, we needed to know just how much the show would explore it and the ultimate quint-angle (?)...uh five-some (?)...complicated relationship entanglements that comes from it! ... [MORE]

"Nestor Carbonell on why he enjoys playing the outsider in Ringer’s cat & mouse game"

Last we caught up with Nestor Carbonell, we had only seen the Ringer pilot episode so we assumed his character might be the biggest threat to Bridget-as-Siobhan aka “Siobette” (Sarah Michelle Gellar). After all, he spent months locked in pretty close quarters with Bridget while they awaited the trial in which she was testifying. Not only did he undoubtedly get to know her rhythms and mannerisms well enough to notice when the pop up in her supposed twin sister’s life, but surely their connection managed to run a little bit deeper after such heightened situations, right? After seeing the second episode, in which Bridget really only managed to stand up for herself around Machado (Carbonell) because she felt comfortable enough, knowing him well, too, we just had to get him to weigh in on what exactly is going on there... [MORE]

"Q&A: Awkward.’s Brett Davern wants YOU to be Team Jake"

Jake (Brett Davern) seems a little bit too good to be true on MTV’s Awkward., doesn’t he? Of course, we mean for Jenna (Ashley Rickards), not the girl he ultimately cheated on to be with Jenna instead. But he just seems so nice, so all-American, so vanilla that he dares you not to love him, too. We caught up with Davern to get the scoop on whether or not this is all just an act of Jake’s in order to get the girl and if we would be seeing a new side to him any time soon... [MORE]

"Atticus Shaffer schools Chord Overstreet on the set of The Middle"

We brought you a first look (through photos) at Chord Overstreet's guest appearance on ABC's The Middle, but now how about some video? ... [MORE]

"Jeremy Sisto:
Suburgatory’s misguided but well-intentioned straight man”

The last few television shows-- or entertainment projects in general-- you have seen Jeremy Sisto in have been much darker, more serious dramatic tales than his new ABC series Suburgatory. In part, Sisto claims that was due to the fact that people just didn’t find him very funny, but he also acknowledges that for a time he truly wanted to challenge himself with deep and intense roles. Nowadays, though, he is more open to material, and he points out that comedy is a challenge in its own way because it takes him out of the element he has grown accustomed to. LA TV Insider Examiner visited Sisto, who plays George, an architect and single dad who moves himself and his teenage daughter to the suburbs, on the Los Angeles set of Suburgatory to find out directly from him how he was finding stretching his comedy muscles and what we can expect from the series to come... [MORE]

Monday, September 26, 2011

Who's That Girl?: Grace's 'The Good Wife' Tutor Edition...

The story line on The Good Wife where Grace (Makenzie Vega) needed a tutor in the third season premiere seemed to be a bit of a yawner at first glance. Especially after the sexually tense second season finale and the steamy promos promising lots of sexy drama from Julianna Margulies and Josh Charles this year, I was one of those viewers who didn't want to "waste time" watching the kids. But the minute the girl, who was already shall we say, exhibiting some quirks?, pulled out a boombox on the bus, we knew something big was coming. The random improv dancing in a public place, filmed for online consumption, of course, opened Grace's eyes to a less-than-buttoned up way of living her life, but it also will open the sometimes stuffy Good Wife audience up to a young talent.

So who is that girl? Anne Marsen, who played Grace's tutor has no IMDb footprint. Yet. She has no formal, official website of her own (but she is on Facebook, Tumblr, and of course Vimeo). But she will now that she has this more than legitimate credit underneath her belt. The twenty-something interpretive dancer once trained in ballet at Lincoln Center but has since gone a more modern route, mixing styles and often performing in public to utilize the reaction of the unprepared crowd around her in her pieces. She choreographs based on instinct, it seems, because so many of her videos are improvisational. But a few months ago, in the spring of 2011, she became an overnight online hit by appearing in an extended music video for photographer Jacob Krupnick.

The season premiere left it seeming like Marsen, who lives in New York City where The Good Wife films, will be back for at least another episode. Grace may have thought she was weird at first, but by the end of the "Bollywood" number, she found a new respect for her classmate and a lightness to her that I thought was not possible for the sometimes whiny, always dull "good girl." Who knows? Maybe she'll be inspired into some performance art of her own or even a career in video direction or photography. Surely her father's campaign could have benefited from such an approach towards getting the youth vote!

I Want To Live In 'Pan Am'...

ABC is advertising their new period drama Pan Am as putting the glamor and excitement back in flying, and while I don't necessarily agree that it makes flying look glamorous (but I could see how it would feel that way at the time), it definitely gets me all riled up, wanting to take a trip in the sky somewhere. But the second I head to an airline's website to actually book something, I am slapped in the face with the cold, hard reality that air travel is now a chore, not a privilege.

But with Pan Am, all of the magic is back, even if this time it might be the magic of Disney instead of an actual reflection of the time period. I want to live in Pan Am-- in the time that seems to stand still within the plane. I imagine that's a testament to what one who actually got to travel on those jets felt-- the joy of soaring through the air, the giddiness at being able to have a party in the sky, the endless possibilities on the other end of the world, wherever they landed. The show truly captures the spirit of excitement, of "we're on the verge of something great and we're lucky enough to be along for the ride" that the young men and women who controlled the planes experienced.

Pan Am is everything I ever wanted in a story about an airline. See, from a young age I was always obsessed with all things aviation-- from the airplanes themselves to the airport. When I would travel, flight attendants would hand little boys my age or maybe even a bit older pairs of plastic wings and escort them to see the cockpit. I was a girl, though, so it wasn't expected that I would want those things. The sexism of the sixties should have been long-dead, but somehow it got stuck in the circulation in the steel tube in the sky. It was okay, though. I would lift the shade on the window and stare out at the clouds, daydreaming about where I was going-- and where I could someday go-- and all that would happen when I finally got there.

Years later when I was on my screenwriting kick, writing script after script that lived somewhere in between the world of tepid independent film and epic TV pilot, I drafted one about airline workers and the passengers that sat before them. You never really know what's going on in a person's head, but suddenly, there you are, shoved into a tiny vestibule of space for hours at a time with no escape. I thought it could breed exciting drama while set in a world that always fascinated me.

But I set it in present day, which at the time, was still post 9/11, when the security regulations had already been beefed up and the faces you saw shuffle along the seemingly endless lines at the metal detectors, at the corner newsstand, at the terminals were all scoffing and grumbling. Hardly a place one wanted to be. Hardly a place one would choose to spend time, even if just an hour or so each week. So I put the script aside, feeling like I had used my once legitimate love of flying as just another gimmick, designed to tell the same old story in a new setting.

Pan Am has now succeeded at what I could not, though, so I must tip my imaginary stewardess hat to them. Even if I can't pin on wings of my own while I watch each week.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

From LA Examiner: Preview 'Bedlam' and 'Dexter' season six...

"Fall 2011 preview: BBC America's

Two good-looking men are driving down a dark, weathered road in the middle of the night, having a heated conversation about something a bit otherworldly. During a pivotal moment when one man gets angry, his eyes go black until the other man can convince him to just “let go.” Sounds familiar to many of you Supernatural fans, right? But though imagery in BBC America’s Bedlam may remind you of some of the lore and genre stories that have come before it, the characters are colorful in their own special way... [MORE]

"Dexter Morgan tries to find purpose but religion muddies S6"

Everyone’s moving on. But not Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). Then again, do we really want him to change?? No, we don’t! At least, this reviewer does not. And we don’t want to see the show change either, but unfortunately the sixth season premiere alters a lot of what we have come to know and love from the serial killer series... [MORE]

Friday, September 23, 2011

Musical Numbers 101 with 'Community'...

Is anyone else insanely excited that Community's opening was a huge misdirect? I mean, who would want that group to be less weird!?

My Five Cents: I Don't Want To Work In An Office, And Now I Don't Want To Watch 'The Office' Either...

I finally sat down to watch the new season of The Office-- well, at least the premiere-- to see how the new manager was handling things, and I have to say...It was not worth the wait. It was not even worth coming back, in my opinion.

You can say that The Office has rebooted to a bit more of a mature show now that Michael Scott is gone. The new manager is not nearly as much of a buffoon as Michael was. But Michael was a lovable buffoon, and in many ways his own wacky brand of creativity and optimism is what inspired others to be the same way. Who else wouldn't have fired Ryan Howard for mouthing off, slacking off, and basically usually company resources and company time to pursue other endeavors? Who else would hang his employees' "doodles" in the office and participate in skits, sketches, and fake Olympics?

The energy in The Office has been changing for awhile now. It wasn't just that Michael Scott left and sucked the fun out of the room. But in his absence, there were certain key people I expected to step up and fill that void. One was Andy, a guy who was well-meaning and equally as wide-eyed as his former boss but something of a screw-up. Another was Jim, the guy who was so sweet and caring he created those damn Olympics to boost morale. Both used to goof off with video games or other invented things on a daily basis. But both of those guys have had to step up and accept leadership roles, and in doing so all of their once-whimsy is gone, barely a distant memory of the excited youthful guys with big dreams that they were mere seasons ago. You could say it is within their maturity as men that they cast aside silly games, but really it appears to be conformity.

Jim, especially, is a shell of his former self. The guy who had audiences everywhere falling in love with him is unrecognizable as a drone who follows the herd like the rest of them. He used to make me want to stick it out longer in my own crappy corporate job because I felt if I could harvest my desire to do something more even in the simple ways he did, I, too, could make a boring office a better place to be. Where is that guy now? Sure, having a house, a wife, a kid, and another on the way means he has more responsibility than ever before and the weight of that probably means he needs to focus more on having strong numbers. But honestly the fact that he's still in this job at all is disconcerting for the character. The job has changed him-- the environment has changed him. He used to drop everything-- sales calls and all-- to whisper with Pam over by the reception desk, and he'd do anything to make her smile, like creating games where they tried to throw things in Dwight's coffee mug. Now he wants her to wait while he wraps up work and simply scolds her for watching YouTube videos that make her feel things. Perfect guy Jim has become Corporate Drone Jim, and I don't like it one bit!

The Office as a show used to be funny and poignant all at the same time simply because its characters were stuck in a horribly dull, and right now antiquated, work environment. But they were all colorful and quirky enough to make you want to hang out in the stale air and fluorescent lighting anyway. They breathed new life into a place that would be a chore to have to step foot in every week. But now it is feeling like a chore to have to pop by once a week, when The Office airs on NBC as part of the Thursday night comedy line-up. The paper business is dead (long live the digital age!), and honestly, The Office should have gone out with it. When it was still on top, when we could still hold out some hope that these characters would be able to live on. Instead, they have been relegated to returning to this soul-sucking place, and they appear more and more like zombies every time we see them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

From LA Examiner: Joshua Jackson's 'Fringe'-Adjacent; Preview 'Community', 'Supernatural' & 'How To Be A Gentleman'; Nick Wechsler Dissects 'Revenge'

Okay, so Peter Bishop may be non-existent in the current Fringe universe, but LA TV Insider Examiner has found Joshua Jackson...and he has written a story in Fringe's new digital comic series! ... [MORE]

"Community turns over a new season but not a new leaf"

…And we have to be thankful for that! Though the third season premiere of Community, “Biology 101,” starts out promising changes unlike any other you have seen (including the Dean aka Jim Rash in a suit!) but very quickly reverts back to its old ways. As well-intentioned as the characters may be toward changing, that is not a process that can take place over night, and at their core they are the same quirky goofballs they have always been... [MORE]

"Sera Gamble previews what's to come for Sam in Supernatural S7"

Okay, Sam (Jared Padalecki) fans, you know we couldn't keep you waiting for Supernatural season seven news on your favorite Winchester brother for too long! With the wall breaking in his head, there is a lot to discuss, right? And earlier today, that is exactly what we did-- with the woman in charge, Sera Gamble, to get the scoop on what's about to go down as episodes unfold... [MORE]

"Revenge’s Nick Wechsler reconsiders young love"

For Jack and Amanda, Revenge’s Nick Wechsler and Emily Van Camp, life started out with such promise. Both were just kids spending their lazy, hazy days of summer running around docks and playing on the beach, maybe not quite falling in love, but certainly finding a connection that ran deeper than just vacation buddies. But everything changed when Amanda was ripped from the Hamptons lifestyle. Reinventing herself as Emily Thorne and stepping back into the life so many years later, she immediately bumps back into Jack and can’t shake the memories from her youth. But Jack isn’t so lucky to have closure of what happened to his dear old friend... [MORE]

"Fall 2011 preview: CBS' How To Be A Gentleman"

Is Andrew Carlson real? Or is he just Barney Stinson in an alternate universe? When CBS’ newest comedy, How To Be A Gentleman, begins, Andrew Carlson (David Hornsby) is seen only in pieces. Very well dressed crisp suit pieces, but still. His voiceover explains how he may be the last of his kind, someone who holds doors without being a doorman, for example, but that he is out to ensure he is not fully extinct. The voiceover is a theme continued on, as Andrew offers his own tips and advice for how to conduct one’s self. But the problem is, other than being a snazzy dresser, Andrew is kind of a mess, so who would want to learn from him? ... [MORE]

"FOX re-teams with Kiefer Sutherland for mid-season 2012"

It's official. After speculation and rumors, FOX has announced today that they will be picking up Touch, a new drama from Kiefer Sutherland for mid-season. They are granting the series thirteen episodes to start and surely have high hopes from the former 24 star... [MORE]

Emmy Talk...

There is no bigger time of year for a true television lover than the Emmys, right? Officially kicking off the fall season, each ceremony pays honor and respect to the shows that came before-- the year before, in fact-- by giving out statues to the most "Outstanding" across comedy, drama, reality, variety, and mini-series. Or so they say. But sometimes the Academy just doesn't get it completely right. Not in my book. And not in my fellow bloggers' books either. Here my friend Marisa Roffman from Give Me My Remote and I rant about this year's Emmy winners-- and losers.

First up? Comedy!

Okay, as you can see, we didn't have much to gripe about there. Though I would have loved my own personal sentimental favorite Parks and Recreation to win, I knew it was truly a long shot. But hey, maybe next year! If someone from Mike & Molly can take a top prize, anything can happen...

But when it came to drama, things were not nearly so neat and tidy. I always feel like I have more at stake with comedies, but I couldn't help but feel like the Academy did a huge disservice to Friday Night Lights by only honoring one of the acting nominees. The show was always about the Taylors together! Singling one out over the other is as bad as Joe McCoy! So if you like rants, you're going to love this next vodcast!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'Awkward.'s' Carefrontation Letter; Gordon Ramsay and FOX; Preview 'Supernatural', 'Happy Endings' 'Gossip Girl' & 'Suburgatory'

"So, wait, WHO wrote the letter on MTV’s Awkward.?"

First Awkward. on MTV drops the bomb that Jenna (Ashley Rickards)’s BFF Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) wrote her that terrible care-frontation letter, and now it takes it back and says she didn’t write it, but she knows who did? Should we trust Tamara, or is she just trying to get herself out of hot water now that they’re besties again? ... [MORE]

"Gordon Ramsay gets another show on FOX, this one fixing hotels?"

Gordon Ramsay is known for his tough-love style in the kitchen, whether it's readying young chefs to become executives at one of his glamorous restaurants on Hell's Kitchen, or inspiring home chefs to greatness on Masterchef, or gutting family restaurants to give them a new lease on life on Kitchen Nightmares. But now he is broadening his attention a bit and will be focusing his efforts on hotels. Not just restaurants within the hotels, which is something he has been doing already, but looking at the hotel as a whole and telling those who manage them how to make their business better. Hotel Hell indeed... [MORE]

"Supernatural's seventh season premiere introduces an extreme power shift"

Lucifer was so powerful his vessel could not hold him, so why would God be any different? If God truly is all-powerful, than he should tear his vessel apart at a much faster rate. And if you’ve seen the promotional photos for the seventh season premiere of Supernatural, you know Castiel (Misha Collins) is in bad shape. But things aren’t so simple as they may appear, and the reason for his situation will prove to be something of which we should all be afraid... [MORE]

"Sera Gamble & Bob Singer preview what's to come for Dean in Supernatural S7"

In season six of Supernatural, Sera Gamble took over as showrunner and kept the Impala under a tarp for a few key moments in the show's re-introduction. In season seven of The CW series, she starts with the Impala garaged in a similar manner. After being flipped over and half-crushed in the season six finale, Dean (Jensen Ackles) has a lot of work on his hands to get his baby back up and running again. He basically has to rebuild the car completely in order to make it "as good as mint." You might think this is an odd, nit-picky piece of minutia to focus on when such larger issues are at hand-- you know, like Castiel (Misha Collins) being God now and ultimately being on the opposite side of things from the boys. But in truth, the Impala's state can be seen as a metaphor once again. This time, though, for the way in which Dean will have to build himself back up after he unravels a bit this season... [MORE]

"We’re about to learn so much about the gang on Happy Endings!"

If you thought last season doled out quirky little details and odd-ball habits and eccentricities a few in an episode, then get ready for the storm because in the season premiere, “Blax, Snake, Home,” information comes like a flood, and you’re just going to want to try to keep up. If the rest of the season is anything like the premiere, prepare to choke on your own laughter... [MORE]

"Gossip Girl goes Hollywood for its fifth season premiere"

Gossip Girl has gone Hollywood! Okay, not exactly. But Serena (Blake Lively) has! Over the last few weeks in her world, she has come west, to right here in La-La Land, and gotten a job on a film set. But life in L.A. for Serena is not nearly as glamorous as life in New York was. Here she is fetching coffee, sorting mail, and running errands. Hardly a socialite's life, let alone one you might imagine for the starlets of Tinseltown. But the odd thing is that Serena doesn't mind the hard work. She is extremely willing to roll up her sleeves and do any seemingly ridiculous or impossible task to prove she can. She is eager, but more importantly, she is willing to work hard and make something of herself and not just rely on her name or background or "family money" to float through life. She is truly not your typical L.A. girl. And when she owns up to a mistake she makes in the season premiere of the series, you realize she is not your typical Serena, either. She is Serena 2.0... [MORE]

"Fall 2011 preview: ABC's Suburgatory"

If you’re a single dad raising a teenage daughter in the heart of New York City and you find a box of condoms (unopened, but still) in her dresser drawer, what would you do? Freak out and uproot your entire life to ship her out to the suburbs where she will be so unlike the other kids that at least you’ve bought some time before she finds someone to have sex with? If you answered yes, then you and George (Jeremy Sisto) in ABC’s new half-hour comedy, Suburgatory, should start some kind of sad dad’s club. It's a nice sentiment but pretty misguided...But the good news for the rest of us is Suburgatory takes the best part of that insanity-- the real heart and depth that drives it-- and exploits that just as much as it does spray tans and Red Bull... [MORE]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Want To Love 'Ringer' But It's Not Making It Easy...

If you have been following my writing, or even my Tweeting, for any amount of time you know the kinds of stories I gravitate towards are the ones that are deeply nuanced character tales. I don't care what medium; I don't care what genre; I don't even care what demographic-- for the most part. As long as the characters are developed enough to feel like they could exist in the real world-- in my world-- I'm invested. And what makes them feel just that real? It's the little anecdotes and details, things that make them tick-- things that are unique to them and only them-- and the things around them in their world that just seem to fit. In Hollywood there are half a dozen shows at any given time that all have the same theme or premise ("different stages of relationships" comedies, for example), but what makes each one interesting enough to live and breathe all on its own, even when up against all of the others, are those nuances.

I want to love Ringer; I really do. I love the cast and want to see them succeed, but I also love the idea of the show. I love that there is a woman so damaged and broken she thinks the only way out is to run, quite literally, from her problems and hide in someone else's life. I love that the show deals with recovery from addiction and paints a picture of a flawed woman who is just trying to get better and do better, even when crazy external circumstances and situations pull her apart. But what I don't love is that so many of the little details that could make or break this show are unfortunately being glossed over, rushed, or just otherwise considered an afterthought. And that means the show is unfortunately falling apart before its foundation can even really be built.

Let's skip over the pilot because those are notoriously tough, especially when dealing with such complicated characters and relationships as the ones that come from a character pretending to be another character and hoping no one around her notices. But the second episode, "She's Ruining Everything," should have launched the show into intense, intriguing, and most importantly insane thriller we have been promised. Instead here are the seemingly small, some might say nit-picky details that went overlooked and worked against it, completely taking me out of the story.

  • Bridget wore white to clean up a bloody mess. White. Was that a commentary on how dumb the character is? Or an oversight by the production team who just through Sarah Michelle Gellar looked extra good in white?
  • I understand that Bridget is new to this kind of deceit, and we are new to this story in general, but the amount of times she looks dumbfounded enough that another character has to give her a piece of exposition through dialogue, or the amount of time she flat-out asks what someone is talking about, is enough to make everyone around her suspicious. And yet they are all over-looking the complete 180 in behavior.
  • When Bridget confronts her step-daughter in the hall, she asks her to think of her father and what her behavior is doing to him. But any recovering addict knows you're not going to truly change your behavior or get help if you're doing it for someone else.
  • Bridget stuck an ATM card into a machine without knowing the pin. Why bother? Why not just march up to the bank and pull the "I'm so rich I can't be bothered to withdraw my own money" card that Siobhan clearly would have?
  • The bacon truck wasn't going to be downstairs forever, and yet she still seemed to take her sweet time moving that body. Again.
  • The dead body was dripping blood out of the trunk, like, a day after he died. That's not how that works. Watch CSI.
  • In the flashback, Siobhan went to pick up her drunk sister from a bar. So at one time she was a lot nicer than she is today. That's fine. But a jean jacket? I don't buy that she'd ever be caught dead in a jean jacket.

Perhaps the Powers That Be just need some guidance from an experienced showrunner who can step in when they are too close to the material to point out its shortcomings. Perhaps they are too caught up with other show elements, like dealing with the network notes, the production notes, etc etc, to focus on minutia. Perhaps they aren't used to the pace of churning out a new script every week, having come from the world of staff writing where they often work one on, two off. Perhaps they just bit off more than they can actually chew with the premise. But in the end no one stops to think of the millions of things that pull at their attention from behind-the-scenes; all they see is sloppy writing playing itself out on-screen.

Now, where the show did redeem itself still in the same episode was in the last scene with Bridget and her step-daughter. This scene seemed to be handled with more care than any other that preceded it across the first two installments of the new show. We got to see Bridget actually think about how Siobhan would have handled the situation-- we got to see how she actually did handle a nearly identical situation years earlier-- and when we sat with Bridget for a second while she weighed her options and ultimately decided to do the opposite, blowing her cover be damned. It is thoughtful moments like that which will make this show something truly special and spectacular, not simply a campy soap opera, if they become the norm and not the exception. Hopefully that last scene will be the jumping off point for the true start to the show. So I will be eagerly holding my breath, awaiting that crucial third episode.

From LA Examiner: 'Supernatural' Photos; Gabriel Mann Gets 'Revenge'; Zooey Deschanel on 'New Girl'; Greg Garcia on 'Raising Hope'; Kris Polaha Again

In the second episode of the seventh season of Supernatural, "Hello Cruel World," the wall breaks in Sam (Jared Padalecki)’s head, and he begins to experience hallucinations. But we saw that in the season six finale, didn't we? So perhaps more importantly, Castiel (Misha Collins) struggles with his new power, and Bobby (Jim Beaver) worries about Dean (Jensen Ackles) going up against the new God... [MORE]

"Gabriel Mann on why his Revenge role might be Emily’s perfect match"

Revenge’s Nolan (Gabriel Mann) is a man of mystery. The rich kid may rub many Hamptons residents the wrong way, but he is the kind of tech genius who you might want on your side, lest he turn his talents against you. And pretty early on he sets his sights on Emily Thorne (Emily Van Camp). But just why does he want to partner with her? Does he have deeper motives than just being a friend to her father-- perhaps even romantic motives? ... [MORE]

"Zooey Deschanel on the evolution of Jess on New Girl"

In the pilot episode of New Girl, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) is a girl on the edge. After finding her boyfriend cheating on her, she hastily moves out-- and in with three other guys, where she lies on the couch, often in tears, singing along to “Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing. But as visually comical as that may be for a minute, soon you realize you’re laughing at a girl’s despair, and things take a turn. So how long before Jess picks her life up and gets it together? ... [MORE]

"Greg Garcia prepares Raising Hope fans for the “year of secrets”

Right off the bat in the second season premiere of Raising Hope, fans will learn a lot more than they bargained to about the Chance family. It turns out there are some musical talents hidden deep within a number of them-- something you most likely didn’t expect from this particular brand of under-achievers, right? But then in episode two, we go outside the family a bit to find out a deep, dark secret of Sabrina (Shannon Woodward)’s. But Greg Garcia, the series creator, feels that’s exactly how it goes when you meet new people and get to know them gradually, so fans should expect many more slices of the Chances’ lives to come... [MORE]

"Noah Hawley re-teams with ABC for Courtroom 302"

This time last year, we were singing the praises of My Generation, ABC's drama set ten years after high school graduation but utilizing footage from both the "good ole days" and present day. The project came from Noah Hawley, and like his previous drama, The Unusuals, it was unjustly canceled after just a few episodes (in our not so humble opinion). But today there is reason for Hawley and his fans to celebrate: he has sold another new pilot to ABC! ... [MORE]

"Kristoffer Polaha explores the “dark matrix” of deceit that is Ringer"

“This is either going to make me sound like an a—hole, or it’s going to make me sound really clever,” Kristoffer Polaha laughed during our chat about his new CW drama Ringer. “But most television is made for C students, but our show is a solid, like, B+/A- student television. You’ve got to be watching; you’ve got to be paying attention; you’ve got to tune in every week. Because what we’re showing are little tiny things, little ways, a look that a character gives when she says something small. And if you’re not listening, and you didn’t hear, or you didn’t realize that something was answered in a flashback, like, two episodes ago…you’ll miss [even more].” ... [MORE]

Television Is Back To Being A Boys' Club...

Is it too much to ask for a show entitled The Playboy Club to be about something-- or someone-- other than the quote-unquote titular playboy? You know, perhaps the women who tucked and sucked themselves into the bunny suits, luring men in, enticing them to stay, and basically selling the brand? Apparently-- unfortunately-- for NBC, yes, that is too much to ask.

The Playboy Club does have dynamic female characters, but it chooses to allow them to fall to the side, supporting the man in the power position, no matter how incapable he may be. On one hand, it's a nice subtle homage to the way the women of the time period really did "stand by their men," even if they knew better. But that is reading more subtext within the piece than is warranted from the presentation. Eddie Cibrian in the lead male role of Nick Dalton, lawyer, former mob member, husband, ladies man, Number One keyholder, and all around "dude to be" in the moment, is dull, dumb, and vacant. And if those women aren't careful he will drag them down, too.

Amber Heard, as the new cigarette bunny Maureen, is absolutely enticing and intriguing, but it as almost if the show is as intimated by that as the men of her time would have been. The original pilot saw her defending herself against violent unwanted advances from a customer in the club who turned out to be a mob boss, but the retooled version that is airing on NBC has a man-- Nick-- coming to her rescue instead. There are moments later when she shows promises-- fear flickers out of her eyes when faced with other members of the mob as she regains composure and realizes she can have the upper hand, assuming she is willing to use her sexuality to her advantage, of course, but those moments are quite thin-- and few and far between.

The same can be said for the new seemingly complex Bunny Mother (the equally fascinating Laura Benanti), a woman who society is desperately trying to cast down and out in favor of the younger crop of girls like Maureen. But she won't go quietly into the night. In fact, she does all she can not to avoid confrontation-- and to make her mark to actually help those who will come after her. But thus far the dynamic between the two is competitive, when really they should be banding together to take down guys like Nick, not by force, and not because he's an inherently bad guy but because for too long guys like him got all the praise and props just because they had a Y chromosome, while women of actual substance were tossed off and not taken seriously.

It's hard to tell at this stage of the game where the fault lies. In truth, characters within a pilot, especially when there are as many players as within The Playboy Club, are hard to flesh out in such a small amount of time. It is expected and understood that some supporting players have to evolve over time, but these characters show so much promise and instead the show chooses to puff up the lackluster character of Nick.

With a different actor in the role, Nick could be charming; he could be captivating; he could have me eating out of the palm of his hand the way all of the other characters seem to be. But Cibrian, with his tiny dead eyes just isn't cutting it. And part of the reason we resent that so much of the show is centered on him is the fact that he just can't live up to the hype of the time period. It was the swinging sixties, after all; each and every scene should be alive, exploding off the screen, with excitement of change in the air. But every time he comes on (and that is about seventy percent of the pilot because NBC is just so desperate to make this man a star), he sucks the air out of the room. On-screen and off, in the viewing room.

A great actor can take a small (or thin) part and create someone you still can't take your eyes off of. Suddenly a character who would be normally considered a fourth or fifth lead might become a "breakout." I have all of the faith in the world that the cast assembled here can be those actors/characters, but the fear is that they won't even be in the script enough to make great strides. And what makes it so much worse is that, unfortunately, that is not an uncommon fear for fall television this year.

Though Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story does not separate the male characters from the females as the masters and submissives, so to speak, it still feels uneven simply because Murphy is limited as a writer in being able to express situations through the male gaze. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. And in this particular case, where he is trying to mix and mingle genres, what we end up with is a frenetically paced pilot that works harder to shock you with visual images of creepy dead kids, creature hands, and a spirit in head-to-toe latex than to offer you glimpses into who these people really are.

The imagery alone seems to beckon the boys hither, not in the same way prancing scantily clad women in front of them will, but still. Reaching for the cheap tricks: the overtly loud screeching or the flashing images of fire or blood or death and mayhem of other kinds doesn't ask that you think too hard, if at all. It's all adrenaline and all action. Even when we're about to get into something real between the Harmons-- whose relationship has been on ice ever since the wife (the "can affect you with just one shift of the eyes" Connie Britton) caught her husband (the boyish Dylan McDermott) cheating-- the scene shifts and the discussion they have been screaming out each other gets thrown out the window as they just start having raw, guttural sex. It may be an "in the moment" move, but it just feels like the show's attempt to shut up a woman it considers to be nagging. And Britton-- and the audience-- deserves so much better than that.

There are forces to be reckoned with within this story, but perhaps the biggest and baddest of all really are the women. And perhaps that is why they are used so sparingly right now; Murphy can't handle them, so he fears his audience will be just as ill-equipped. Britton and Jessica Lange have just the right kind of intense antagonism in their short scenes opposite each other that they show extreme promise, but it appears American Horror Story can't see that with all of the noise around them. Instead the show chooses to focus on McDermott-- his needs, his struggles, his changes, and of course, his temptations. He is pushed forward to the center simply because the house only seems to affect the men who come within its walls. That is a plot point indicative of the time period that American Horror Story tries to evoke, that it pays homage to and is based on. And that would be fine, even for a modern telling, if the way the women were brought into it weren't simply to be used as objects, sometimes literally tossed around, and then discarded "over there" to deal with their own

Though there are glimmers of hope-- especially with the history that Lange's character has with the house (our theory is she is actually selling her neighbors' souls to the house for the low, low price of eternal youth)-- there are also some of television biggest offending moments within, as well. Alexandra Breckenridge's "Young Moira" is only there to be objectified-- by the one character who sees her and the audience by extension. She is not a woman of substance; she's barely a person at all-- just a pair of legs designed to make Ben (McDermott) "fall." It's hard not to get angry when you see her on-screen-- because her pornstar drop-out dead face is devoting screen time to salaciousness when we could have a shot at actual plot, actual development. But the stereotypically male audience who this is made for stereotypically don't care about such matters.

The only reason the audience sees Breckenridge at all is because we are looking at things through Ben's eyes anyway, and if we're going to watch this story unfold through his eyes-- a man who is slowly going mad due to external forces beyond his control-- well, then, we can't imagine what kind of a skewed, probably partially misogynistic view we're going to get of these women, when they're not simply pushed to the back burner.

Britton didn't want to resume her role of Tami Taylor in Friday Night Lights when it moved to the small screen because she remembered how little there was for her to do other than sit on the sidelines and cheer on her husband in the film. Of course, even that little bit, she did well, but the point is more than valid: an actor can layer a performance with subtext-- but not if there is no text at all on the page. An actor is there to enhance the words, to bring them to life, to shape a character and give them qualities the audience can see in themselves. But it should not be an actor's job to create something from nothing, and if American Horror Story continues at the pace at which it is currently, everyone is just going to disappear into the abyss as walking, talking props in the whore house that is the horror genre.

Monday, September 19, 2011

'The Big C's' Clock Runs Out On Lee & My Ability To Keep A Dry Eye While Watching...

Damn you, Jenny Bicks and Darlene Hunt!

I thought experiencing the shocking death of Marlene (Phyllis Somerville) in the first season of The Big C prepared me for your eleventh hour twists. The fact that you gave The Hollywood Reporter an interview admitting three people, one of whom was a series regular, would die before the end of the second season should have eased the blow even more. But even though I fully expected Hugh Dancy's Lee to be one of the three, the impact was still a bullet to the heart that had my own lungs gasping for air as hard as his were in his final moments.

And this one wasn't even the season finale. Getting me earlier and earlier every season, showrunners!

When we learned that Lee's body wasn't reacting as positively to the treatment as Cathy (Laura Linney)'s was, that should have been the first sign things were taking a turn for the worse for him. But he remained pretty healthy (at least looking) throughout subsequent episodes. He coughed more, but he still ran, and he seemed to be in pretty good spirits, or at least at peace with his situation. It was Cathy, and the audience by extension, who didn't get to grieve for him until the last possible second.

But that wasn't what hit me the hardest. When it was Lee's time to go, he made his call so he could say his good-bye; Cathy came over and sat with him; he coughed some more; and he sputtered out. That was it. That was it!? That is not how people die. I mean, in movies and on television it is, but not in real life. Not when they have a terminal illness. That is what we should all hope happens. Even if Cathy wasn't ready-- even if the audience wasn't ready-- Lee was. And at least he didn't suffer (that much).

Yet when I sat down to watch, I couldn't help but slide into Cathy's shoes and feel the anger and hurt at how quickly he was gone. I couldn't tell if I was affected so hard because Cathy didn't get to make her own peace with the situation; she had barely made up with him when she went over to his place or if because residual issues from watching my own mother shut down at a much slower rate made me resentful that he-- this fictional character-- got to die with his dignity still intact. As someone who always looked to pop culture, especially television, for examples on how life would, let alone could, be, I couldn't help feeling somewhat betrayed-- somewhat let down. Lee's death, while poignant, poetic, and beautifully crafted, was just not indicative of the horror cancer, when incurable, wreaks. And in that recognition, the tears became about what could, or should, have been.

Did I want to see Lee wither away slowly over the course of episodes, Cathy losing her own hope in the process? Of course not. Did I understand that by Lee dying as quickly as he did it served a greater purpose as a direct message to Cathy in her story, about her own journey and the way she must treat the precious time she has left? Of course I did.
Life is a ticking clock. That should be the first thing to be learned from The Big C. You never know when your clock is going to stop, but you can bet on the fact that it will be at a time you didn't expect. But when it happens, it is still harsh. I imagine there is no way it wouldn't be.

And I'll admit it: I expected Cathy to walk out of Lee's apartment, head home, and find her husband on the floor after having suffered a heart attack or seizure of sorts from doing too much cocaine. I expected him to be the last in the trilogy of deaths (hey, they really do come in threes!). But had that been the case, I really don't think I would have recovered at all.

From LA Examiner: Advance Reviews of 'Terra Nova' & 'Hart of Dixie'; Q&As with Kris Polaha, Jillian Rose Reed & Ali Vincent...

"Fall 2011 preview: FOX' Terra Nova"

From Falling Skies to the Holocaust, Terra Nova feels eerily familiar...A show like Terra Nova, coming from a producer as prolific as Steven Spielberg, is expected to debut in a bold way, so we would be remiss if our review didn’t do the same. They say go big or go home, right? So though we fully acknowledge what we are about to say is most likely not going to be popular opinion-- and may even be accused of reading a bit too much between the lines-- we stand behind it. After all, a show that deals with such complex subjects as time travel and the human condition is bound to be rich with subtext. We’re just focusing on one particularly disconcerting part... [MORE]

"Fall 2011 preview: The CW's Hart of Dixie"

Hart of Dixie makes us want to move to the south as much as Friday Night Lights did... A young, slightly jaded, fast-talking New York doctor’s life is turned upside down when the plan she had written for herself can’t come true, so she packs it in and moves to a small town in the south to take over the practice she just learned she inherited. Sounds a bit too convenient, right? Admittedly it did to us at first, but we implore you to get over the initial, simple fish out-out-of-water concept of Hart of Dixie and dive right into its charming characters. Because Hart of Dixie’s greatest strength really is in its charm. A mix of Southern hospitality, gentlemanly ways, and an old-fashioned storytelling rarely seen on this network gives the show, even in just the pilot stage, a more methodical feel to its unlikely coming-of-age story... [MORE]

"Kristoffer Polaha on leaving Baze behind, embracing Ringer"

Kristoffer Polaha’s career may be coming full circle with his new role on Ringer—one that he was sold on, in great part, because of the comparison his executive producers drew to John F. Kennedy Jr. (more on that in a minute). Polaha played that guy before-- literally, in a made for TV movie called America’s Prince-- but it has been awhile since he has tapped into such decadence. Most recently Polaha starred as Baze on The CW’s Life Unexpected, a character who was one of the most beloved guys on television we came across in a long time. In large part that was due to Polaha himself, who just infused so much charm into the guy you couldn’t help but root for him. Henry, his role on Ringer, though, is a married struggling writer who is having an affair with his wife’s best friend. On paper he may not be quite so loveable. And yet you will find yourself drawn to him in many of the same ways as his previous parts. Here Polaha weighs in on what he loves so much about Henry and hopes you will, too... [MORE]

"MTV Awkward.’s Jillian Rose Reed on catchphrases, "Team Jatty" & Ricky Schwartz"

Jillian Rose Reed has some of the best lines on MTV’s Awkward., but she isn’t about to take credit for them. Her character of Tamara comes straight from the mind of series creator Lauren Iungerich, who leaves a little bit of herself in every character but mostly in Tamara. In fact, many of the terms and catch phrases are ones she uses daily herself. That very specific reality adds itself nicely to Reed’s particular brand of spunk within Tamara, making her a standout for the fans. But the tide turned recently, with her reveal that she actually wrote the infamous “care-frontation” letter to her supposed best friend. What gives, right? Well, we wanted to find out! ... [MORE]

"FOX preps two new Animation Domination holiday specials"

It may still be "just" fall here in Hollywood, but FOX is already hard at work planning for their fourth quarter of programming. Today the network has announced two brand new holiday specials airing on November 24th. Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas and Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown are scheduled to air back-to-back at 8pm and 8:30pm, respectively, putting brand new spins on old classics... [MORE]

"The Live Well Network & ABC-7 are helping Biggest Loser Ali Vincent Live Big"

Ali Vincent, the first female Biggest Loser (season five) and now an author, triathlete, and host of Live Big with Ali Vincent for the Live Well network, likes to point out she is not a trainer, nor a nutritionist, but “simply” someone who has figured out what works for her healthy lifestyle. But she is also quick to point out that what works for her might not work for someone else, so she will eagerly work with you to figure out what can work for you. After spending a long few years on a somewhat solitary journey of traveling the country, writing, and speaking to strangers about her own weight loss, she looks forward to working with others on their own. And her new series is the perfect way for her to live out that dream... [MORE]