Thursday, March 31, 2011

From LA Examiner: HBO Cancels 'In Treatment'; 'The Paul Reiser Show' Is Cable-Ready But Will Air on NBC; More Betty White?; CBS Plans Week of Tweets..

"HBO decides it no longer needs counseling and cancels In Treatment"

HBO announced today that they will not be ordering any more sessions from In Treatment. The therapy drama which completed three seasons kept dipping in the ratings, with its third season finale only drawing about a quarter of a million viewers. That finale episode, created only to close out the season at the time, will have to act as a series end now... [MORE]

"The Paul Reiser Show is cable ready but coming to NBC"

We will be the first to admit we were more than skeptical about The Paul Reiser Show fitting in on the Thursday night line-up, especially after Community, which is aimed at and embraced by a young enough demo that the nostalgia factor about having “The Mad About You guy” back on their television may be lost. But funny is funny, and we must point out that the premiere is pretty funny! ... [MORE]

"What retirement? Betty White books another gig!"

Betty White is putting the rest of us to shame. The woman is almost ninety years old and her career is hotter than ever! Starring in TV Land's first original sitcom, Hot in Cleveland, which is about to enter its third season isn't enough for her. She is also writing two new books simultaneously and taking roles in comedic films, as well, currently recording a voice for the new animated feature The Lorax. But now she is also heading to NBC to executive produce and host a new hidden-camera reality show that is tentatively titled Betty White's Off Their Rockers... [MORE]

"CBS to look for youth viewer with week long Tweetathon"

CBS announced today the launch of #CBSTweetWeek, starting this Sunday, April 3 and running through Monday, April 11. During the eight nights, fans of the CBS Television Network's primetime series, entertainment specials, and sporting events will be able to log on to their Twitter accounts or to watch some of their favorite actors, musicians and sports analysts tweet live during the broadcast of their respective programs. Throughout the shows, fans will be given special first-hand commentary and the opportunity to submit questions... [MORE]

"Parker Posey hops from one comedy to another, joins The Big C in season two"

Parker Posey may not have had a series of her own since the short-lived Amy Sherman-Palladino helmed The Return of Jezebel James a few years ago, but she has made her mark by guest starring on others. Before the end of this season of the acclaimed NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation she will make an appearance, and today Showtime also announced her joining the cast of The Big C when it returns on June 27th... [MORE]

"Mad Men showrunner Matthew Weiner officially signs on for more"

Following AMC's decision to renew Mad Men earlier this week, today the network, along with the studio behind the series, Lionsgate, announced it will return for seasons five and six with its series creator Matthew Weiner definitively on board as showrunner. Weiner signed a long-term deal which will extend the hit period drama into a possible seventh season as well... [MORE]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'The Good Wife' Spoilers; Elizabeth Mitchell Returns to 'SVU'; 'Supernatural' Rewrites History; 'Breaking In' Advance Review...

"The Good Wife writers offer spoilers, casting news during live-Tweet-a-long!"

Tonight LA TV Insider Examiner had vowed to stay off Twitter during the 7 to 8 (local L.A. time) hour because the writers of CBS' acclaimed legal drama, The Good Wife were Tweeting along with the episode, and we didn't want to be spoiled. But we happened to log back on a little early and caught wind of a breaking announcement regarding an upcoming guest star. Ready for it? ... [MORE]

Elizabeth Mitchell has guest starred in Law & Order: SVU before. But the series, which is in its 12th year, has already developed a habit of reusing guest stars and returning the most interesting ones in new roles, so it is really no surprise they would want to bring back someone of her caliber. And Executive Producer Neal Baer had just the role... [MORE]

Supernatural has been known to play with the boundaries of a lot of things. Heaven and hell, for one; the concept of death, for another. But when the fan favorite CW series finally returns from an extended hiatus on April 15th, it will change the course of history as we always grew up knowing it... [MORE]

To some, it seems Bret Harrison may have been rode hard and put away wet by Hollywood, but like any true artist, he refuses to give up, and his most recent venture, a half-hour comedy for FOX entitled Breaking In, has him playing to type as a tech-savvy college kid using his smarts to hack into the system and sell term papers and passwords. But he isn’t smart enough to cover all of his tracks and a top-notch security firm finds him hiding in the holes within the university’s system. Instead of ruining his life traditionally, the quirky head of the firm (played by Christian Slater) makes the kid come work for him. Breaking In is one part Chuck and one part Ocean’s Eleven for the small screen and all kinds of oddball excitement for Harrison’s Cameron Price and his audience by extension... [MORE]

"Bravo picks up 11 new reality shows and returns 5 faves for 2011-2012"

Bravo really is the leading network when it comes to reality television, isn't it? After all, it specializes in lifestyle programming and has created franchises whose models have been mimicked on competing channels. Today Bravo announced how they are planning to push forward and become even bigger and better: with the addition of eleven-- count 'em; eleven!-- new reality programs including new docuseries and spin-offs from some familiar faces. Bravo is truly about branding a personality, but how many of these will you find fabulous? ... [MORE]

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From LA Examiner: AMC Officially Orders More 'Mad Men'; 'Falling Skies' Trailer Crash Lands...

"More Mad Men to come! In 2012..."

AMC announced this morning that they have ordered a fifth season of their acclaimed period advertising drama Mad Men. The series, which is produced by Lionsgate Television, has been delayed thus far due to contract negotatiations stalling with the show's creator, Matthew Weiner. However the network knows what a gem they have and is ready to push forward. New episodes won't be able to air until 2012, though, due to this late start... [MORE]

"Sneak peek: Falling Skies offers a new kind of hope this summer"

In the devastating wake of an all-out invasion of the planet by an alien military force, ordinary people must do extraordinary things to survive in TNT’s powerful new drama Falling Skies, which is produced by DreamWorks Television and Steven Speilberg, stars Noah Wyle, and is set to premiere on Sunday, June 19th at 9pm only on the network that knows drama (TNT). Now you can get a special sneak peek at this series through the just-released trailer for the soon-to-be-summer blockbuster! ... [MORE]

Will 'United States of Tara' Ever Disband So She Can Take Full Dictatorship-- Err, Control??...

As episodes of United State of Tara-- like life itself-- go on, we get glimpses of elements we think may help her finally heal. Earlier they included the introduction of Shoshanna, the bohemian Manhattanite who just happened to be a trained psychiatrist and could have quite literally caused a breakthrough. Even Chicken, the version of Tara that she lost after and because of her abuse, could have forced her finally confront those feelings of loss and pain. But as each emerged and Tara got close, the show would zag instead of zig, and something would pull Tara in another direction. She, and the audience in turn, would be distracted and set down another path-- one that wasn't always as clear but could have offered a light through the trees, too. Until the cycle started all over again. She just wasn't ready to fully move on yet; she just wasn't ready to face up to all of the demons in her past.

Or maybe that is giving the show a bit too much credit. Clearly Tara is damaged; clearly Tara could not cope with an atrocity in her childhood and formed walls and personas and barriers to protect herself-- even from herself. But let's face it: this is also a scripted series that has no definitive end yet. And to allow Tara her end-- her breakthrough-- too quickly would suck all of the stories out of it and knee-cap it prematurely. Because just like Tara herself worries when the third season begins, she may be the least interesting personality, and without her alters around, from where would entertainment come?

(Mild Spoilers Ahead)

For me, though, it is actually Tara herself, even in the parts of herself that she doesn't recognize or acknowledge or even experience consciously, that are those most interesting and entertaining parts. After all, alternate personalities are really just extensions of one's true self, even if sometimes in their most primal or literal states. Their behaviors are exaggerated and manic, but they often act out of long-suppressed desires, thoughts, and emotions. In the simplest terms, and perhaps ones that undercut the severity, they are a defense mechanism, a copy mechanism, a crutch. It is an unhealthy mind that creates them, and once healing begins, they dissipate.

From the third season premiere episode, the fact that Tara is not ready to lose them just yet, though. It is evident in her words when she tells her sister she doesn't need to think about their past anymore, but it is even more evident with her actions when she, for the first time, actually allows her alters to take over her body, afraid or otherwise unable to deal with life and the stress and curve-balls it has been throwing.

This new season follows the same pattern of taking Tara down one road, leading her (and the audience by extension) to believe it could help, only to have lightning strike and her world be disrupted again. That chance at salvation first comes through Tara's new professor, a man who admits he does not believe in D.I.D. as anything but such a crutch-- until he meets Tara. At first he fights her transitions, calling her out for just seeking attention or trying to get her way. Surprisingly his own transition in thinking comes when she slips inside her mind during an exam, and he watches her frantic, manic behavior as she scribbles all over her arms and desk and shirt and every blue book on which she can get her hands. Is her episode really the evidence he needs to prove his pre-existing qualified theories about D.I.D. short-sighted? Or did Tara's psyche play it up to get what she wanted all along: an extension? Regardless of her intentions, he somehow sees her actions for what they truly are: "fucking crazy" (to quote Tara herself) and a real cry for help.

It's been a while since I saw the second season of United States of Tara, so perhaps the distance has skewed my memory, but it certainly feels like in season three Tara flits in and out of her different alters' personas in much more rapid of cycles. She hides behind her alters more than ever; she gets triggered easily and often, most probably because of the truth having been shed on her childhood abuse, but instead of sabotaging her or each other and fighting for control of her body, they actually work together toward a common goal. That could be considered progress to some, too, even if it's a really, really tiny piece. But it becomes kind of moot kind of fast anyway...

Just as the professor is starting to get somewhere with her, including unearthing even another alter-- the most sinister, scary, and somewhat absurd (to the untrained viewer) one to date-- something happens that causes him not only to pull back but pull out and cut off contact completely. I screened the entire third season in a mini-marathon last week because it was just so good I couldn't stop, but I won't spoil what it is for you because it might lose some of its emotional impact if you see it coming.

So when the door toward healing closes with the professor, a window opens somewhere else in the form of this new alter that he may or may not have unleashed to begin with. The alter is angry, violent, and self-loathing. It is the worst parts of Tara but the worst parts of humanity, too. But even though it wants to tear down Tara, it first starts by picking off her other alters. And theoretically isn't that a positive thing? If the alters disappear, willingly or not, from Tara's mind, won't she be forced to finally face up to everything? That's my thinking: they're symptoms of the problem, and if the symptoms are treated the problem can finally be tackled head-on. Unfortunately neither Tara nor the show in general seems ready for that and so just as quickly as they vanish, and you have an odd sense of relief come over you that Tara's mind is clearing (plus the fact that they each have really poignant "good-bye" scenes), the baby-steps forward get a giant shove backward.

Oddly it is Max' mother, a woman who never liked Tara and has emotional troubles of her own, who holds a shot at cracking through after the professor, too. "Crazy knows crazy," right? To a degree, maybe, but she doesn't care enough to push through their differences to even really try. And speaking of this woman, Max has always been the stable force in Tara's life, trying whatever he can, even if it's simply trying to shake her back into control of her body, but when we see what he must have went through with his own mother, well, it suddenly seems a little less like love as the real reason he puts up with all he does. And that's kind of a shame because their relationship was always especially sweet and inspirational. They are mere mortals without any formal training anyway. Tara's true best shot is delving into the depths of her own mind.

Tara still isn't strong enough yet to want to go head-to-head with this new alter, though, let alone have the tools to actually be able to. The inner workings of her mind tried something, but very quickly she's going to revert once again. Whether or not this alter will vanish or just be added to the group may be yet to be seen, but in the grand scheme of things it only did harm, no good, because Tara didn't even have time to focus on what it meant that this alter wanted her to confront it directly. She's back to hiding once again.

Maybe not all of these instances or characters are supposed to represent a finally fresh start for Tara-- a way out. Maybe Tara is never supposed to fully heal. Maybe to fully heal for Tara would be to lose so much of who she is as a person-- because she has lived her life very specifically-- that she wouldn't really be "better off" but just scarred in a different way. But I like to see them, even if it means I'm reading into things more than the average viewer, because I like to believe in hope.

I think Tara (both the person and the show) likes to believe in hope, too. That's why regardless of the crap she goes through in each short season we get to watch her life play out, she comes out the other end still resilient, still trying, and this time, actually smiling. She sees the light, even if its just the headlights of the next train that will try to run her down.

And I like to think that though Tara may never have that so-called normal family life with a white picket fence and two-point-five kids (I count her sister as an extension of her own children since she has been taking care of her for so long, too), she can still find happiness. Even if her happiness is only looking around and learning to embrace all of her pain. But she can't embrace it until she can acknowledge it. And as long as her alters are around, there is no one forcing her to acknowledge it because they absorb the brunt.

Maybe in season four...

Monday, March 28, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'Cougar Town' Slumber Party Sneak Peek; Alan Alda Scrubs Into 'The Big C'; The 5th Annual Soup Awards Air on April Fool's Day...

"Cougar Town sneak peek: A slumber party coming for the cul-de-sac crew?"

There is still a little over a week to go before Cougar Town will grace our televisions with its presence yet again but LA TV Insider Examiner has a little sneak peek for you at one of the fun adventures the gang gets up to in the next few weeks: a slumber party of sorts! ... [MORE]

"Alan Alda returns to TV doctor roots with new role on The Big C"

SPOILER ALERT! The somewhat experimental treatment that Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney) attempted during the season one finale episode of Showtime cancer comedy The Big C did not take. Thankfully it didn't fail so terribly it killed her while she was under, though if the series hadn't been granted a second season we may have been inclined to interpret her imagined pool sequence as meeting Marlene (Phyllis Somerville) up in heaven. But we digress. The point is, she is a woman desperate to try something else. And that's where guest star Alan Alda comes in... [MORE]

"Not an April Fool's joke: Joel McHale's "The Soup Awards" hits its fifth annual"

Who said awards season is over? We here at LA TV Insider Examiner says they really saved the best for last! And "last" just happens to take place this Friday, April 1st over on the E! network. No, this is not an April Fool's Day prank! It is when Joel McHale will host the notorious and pop culture classic The Soup Awards! ... [MORE]

Important News! The Cast of 'FNL' Speaks!...

This time next week I will own the fifth and final season of Friday Night Lights on DVD and will probably be up to my waist in snotty, used tissues from sobbing so hard at the final episodes. But for those of you who don't want to buy before you get a taste, NBC will begin running the season in its entirety, week by week, beginning April 15th at 8pm. I'm considering staying in and live-Tweeting the "live" airings as I do with Supernatural... But first, the peacock network got the cast back into character one last time to talk about their experiences growing up in Dillon:

The golden boy Zach Gilford:

The sweet Aimee Teegarden:

The inspiring Adrianne Palicki:

The ultimate bad boy with the heart of gold Taylor Kitsch:

Where Are They Now: Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield of "Sweet Valley High" Edition...

Whatever happened to those seemingly perfect Sweet Valley California blonde twins, who even through stealing each other's boyfriends, rivalries, moves, weight issues, and even comas, managed to convince those of us tagging along on their adventures like dull but wide-eyed little sisters that they had the best lives ever? No, I'm not talking about the Daniel twins who portrayed Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield in the mid-nineties television adaptation of the oh-so-popular young adult book series. But Elizabeth and Jessica themselves, the characters by which we-- or at least I-- grew up enamored, dreaming of a sunnier, more eventful life, as well. Sometimes as I would scroll through Amazon or scan the shelves at my local Barnes & Noble, trying to find even one book written for adults that would capture my attention and demand devouring the way the series of my youth did, I would often wonder what happened after the "Sweet Valley High" graduation caps were tossed in the air. And I guess I wasn't alone in my questionings because Francine Pascal, the author and creator of the girls and the series has offered a new book that catapults the girls into the here and now. New generations have been seeing them stuck in adolescence for decades as hundreds of ghostwritten volumes and spin-offs were churned out, but now "Sweet Valley Confidential" actually showcases the women they have become-- women who you will come to find still haven't matured past many of the problems from which they have always seemed to suffer.
"Sweet Valley Confidential" takes Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield ten years in the future from last we saw them in the original "Sweet Valley High" series. After tumultuous ups and downs, the tension proved to be far too much for them to bear, and they have had a falling out of "epic" proportions that leaves Elizabeth fleeing to New York to try to forget the pain of her sister's betrayal. She reinvents herself as a serious reporter (hmm, maybe this book really was written just for me!), and she manages to create a pretty good-- albeit new-- social circle on the other side of the coast. Still, she's angry, and her anger just festers in the giant hole her sister left in her life.

Once the always "good" twin-- you know, except for that one time she was in a coma and woke up with Jessica's characteristics instead-- Elizabeth decides that this time starting over includes redefining her relationship with her once-closest confidante and friend. And in doing so, she goes right for the jugular: for revenge.

Jessica, meanwhile, is still living a sweet and peaceful life in the community of her upbringing, just trying to put the sins of her past behind her and move forward in a more mature way.

"Sweet Valley Confidential" is very much written for the current "Sweet Valley High" audience in that its tone and pacing and language does not stray from all of the other editions. Pascal capitalized on the voice that made her franchise famous, and well, a franchise to begin with. You can't pick up this book and expect deeply emotional events or flowery, poetic, or otherwise descriptive narration. Those Wakefields were fully formed when we first met them, and though their behaviors and even locations may change through the years, who they are never will. Similarly the style of this book hasn't changed, either: it is written for those who want nostalgia-- to open the cover and be transported back to the simpler times of their own youths.

This of course means it is chick lit at best, and even the central catalyst for the rift between the sisters has been done before. Though now that they are twenty-seven (!), "stealing" one's boyfriend becomes "sleeping with" one's boyfriend. Although I'm not entirely convinced that wasn't what it meant way back when, too... There are cheesy moments; there are silly moments; there are unbelievable moments. It is escapism, not high-art, just what we have come to know and expect and even love from the series after all of this time. It is a simple story with a predictable ending, but there is some maturity to the Wakefields that arises within. The melodrama of their past certainly caused Elizabeth to regress and react so hastily with this new "earthquake" in her life, but when you really stand back and look at them, they aren't nearly as flawed as they could have been-- or even as I might have expected from today's "over the top shock" style story-telling. They are still struggling to be good sisters, friends, women, but aren't we all?

"Sweet Valley Confidential"
now certainly has me considering what the lives of the "Babysitter's Club" look like!

When Stunts Don't Distract From, But Actually Enhance, A Story...

Times they are ever changing, right? Especially within mediums that can greatly utilize new technology, it is more and more common for so-called “smaller” projects to impart big-scale techniques. With each new piece of technology to make it easier and more affordable, more and more can embrace new story-telling methods accordingly. This is perhaps best evident in television, where the evolution of stunt sequences have gone from simple fisticuffs to full-on in-flight fights thanks to the aid of wire work, computer generation, and of course, top notch stunt coordinators. Gone are the days when one’s imagination is limited by the confines of a small 4x3 box in one’s living room; nowadays the stunts that play out there (albeit it usually in 16x9 now) easily rival anything you might see on a cinematic scale.

Stunt work in television is rarely used as a device simply to wow an audience. Since a television series is on week after week, the simple “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” entertainment of watching someone run from an exploding building or fall from a window is an easy gimmick or marketing tool employed to pique the more adrenaline-fueled attention spans, but it cannot sustain that audience if there is nothing deeper under the high-octane surface. The true beauty of stunts on television, therefore, is when they are used as plot devices to get an integral character not only from one physical place to another but also from emotion to emotion.

After four years, the stars of NBC’s Chuck like to joke that it “pretty much” is second nature to them to take on their action sequences and stunt work. Series star Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah Walker) admitted that having a background in physicality certainly helped her take on the role, which more often than not has her shooting guns and chasing bad guys while running in high-heeled boots (in fact the production has taken to outfitting said boots with an extra rubber ball on the end of her spike heels for safety, silence, and to avoid having to repair the actual heel with each new episode).

“I think I’ve always been comfortable with the physical side of it because I grew up very active. I was a dancer; I did a lot of rock-climbing; and it all [lends itself]. The more I do it, the easier it comes, and it takes a shorter amount of time now,” Strahovski shared.

But what is most impressive about the stunt work on Chuck is not the lengths to which its actors can shove off their doubles and actually stretch themselves but instead how every action scene is centered on an intensely emotional and poignant moment for the series’ titular hero, and as the years have gone on, they have evolved as he has.

Chuck Bartowski started out a lovable man-child, a nerdy goofball who seemed more intent to screw around with his life than take on anything that would require him to be serious for more than five-minute intervals. Once he was programmed to have the Intersect in his brain, he became a lean, mean, fighting machine who could literally look at any object, scan it, and know immediately how to use it to the best of his ability. But in the beginning he was full of more shock and awe at the scenarios he found himself in than anything else, and that meant the man behind the myth, Zachary Levi, had to perform precise, machine-like motions with his body while maintaining a quite literal wide-eyed wonderment about his face.

Being in over his head in the beginning allowed Chuck to have epiphanies of sorts during what would otherwise seem to be the most inopportune of times. It allows the audience to project their greatest superhero desires onto the screen in their own home. Chuck seemed to start off as a pretty regular guy-next-door, but he channeled his potential and rose to great heights. As he has grown and matured and gotten more comfortable with his lifestyle, he has demonstrated the ability to have deep and meaningful conversations while delivering kung fu blows. Chuck doesn’t simply showcase style or technique to be flashy; it uses the stunts to create “interesting busy work” for an actor to take on while delivering important dialogue.

Some television shows use stunts as catalysts to provoke emotional moments, even if the breakthroughs don’t happen until after the action is over but before the heart stops pounding. The CW’s Nikita and Supernatural probably do these best, as nothing seems to clear the heads better of those characters than kicking a little ass.

In Nikita, the combination of hand-to-hand and gun play proves an effective and (sometimes literally) killer hybrid. Deep attention to detail is placed onto each movement from each actor so that even with varying levels of prior training, they all come off as believable opposition for each other. Nikita’s core cast trains with fight coordinators and stuntmen and women for up to six hours a day for the bigger, more involved choreography.

For series star Maggie Q, some of this work comes a bit more easily than usual. After all, she has a background in Asian cinema, where there just aren’t enough resources to wait for an actor to be “comfortable” to get the shot. She had to learn to think and move quickly, then, and that immediately reactionary response lends itself perfectly to the way Nikita fights.

But it is also because of her work ethic. She often goes into rehearsal on her scheduled days off to make sure she not only nails her movements but also her chemistry with her fight partner. After all, when physical combat is involved even a small misstep can end up in a big mishap.

“With stunt guys, you can punch them in the face because it’s, you know, just part of work,” Maggie Q explained just before Nikita was set to premiere, when actors were still rehearsing with separate stunt coordinators to save time. “[The other actor] went through the choreography with my stunt double. I went through it with someone else. They brought us together and I thought we would be fine but he was a massive guy and when he didn’t duck as quickly as I had planned, I hit him.”

Nikita leads the pack these days when it comes to the amount of stunt work the actual actors in the series perform compared to their doubles or more specialized stunt performers. Admittedly situations like the one above are why some productions are still reluctant to follow suit. With stunt doubles taking over, production for those sequences can be done with the second unit, an additional team of talent both in front of and behind the camera who can shoot simultaneously with the first unit, name stars. Doubling up keeps a production on schedule and keeps its main actors out of harm’s way, even if it isn’t necessarily any cheaper. But having the actual familiar faces that fans have come to know and love take on as much of the physicality and really own each and every sequence protects the integrity of the story.

Sometimes it’s still just not possible for them to do it all, though. On shows like the aforementioned Supernatural or ABC’s No Ordinary Family-- both of which enhance many of their stunt sequences with FX like wire work, CGI, trick photography, and acting against tennis balls-- extra performers are often hired for having unique and detailed specialties and experience, and other details still get filled in later, in post. Since new software has emerged in the last few years to allow even the at-home, amateur cinematographer an affordable way to show a house burning down, a person flying across a room, or a giant gaping hole left in the Earth after a massive explosion or natural disaster, a lot more can be accomplished within a moderate budget. This literally opens up the world of story telling to not only new devices but new worlds, as well. No Ordinary Family often features one of its stars (Julie Benz) turning into a blur as she runs across cities to retrieve something special from a lab across the country. Benz runs along a green screen (or during one potentially hazardous occasion, on a semi-closed down freeway in Los Angeles), and the blurring streets and fields and desert roads get filled in as her backdrop later. Supernatural has been able to literally send characters to hell (and soon heaven) and back by utilizing a half-practical rig/half green-screen CGI concoction. Production finds the right field and shoots its actors falling onto a mattress on one plate and then layers it with another plate in post, replacing the mattress with a fiery abyss meant to represent the underworld.

Still the more seasoned an actor gets with stunts, the more he or she is so inclined to actually perform them, even when they are dicey or visually complex. Southland’s Ben McKenzie, who admitted he was in “quite a few TV fights” in his day on his previous project The O.C. has been eager to prove he can handle the intensity ever since landing his new gig.

McKenzie gets to partake in a little bit of everything with Southland-- vehicle chases, foot-pursuits, on-the-ground scuffling, and in one extremely memorable scene in the third season finale, an actual leap across rooftops. It is the kind of action that only a pure adrenaline high would justify, and McKenzie admitted that even simply acting in the scene put him in the mentality to just want to go for it. He managed to convince his producers, director, and stunt coordinator Chic Daniel to allow him to perform the dangerous action himself.

“There was no netting or anything below but there was a wire about 130 feet up so there was a crane-- a 150 foot crane-- that had a wire attached to it that was hooked to my back and a couple of guys on a pulley,” McKenzie offered some insight into how such a specific stunt can be pulled off with a relative layman at the helm. “There was no one, you know, pushing me over or catching me on the other side but there was a pulley there was a wire on my back so I was safe. Even doing that was a bit of a battle with the Warner Brothers safety officers who were none to pleased that an actor would actually do this but it was actually a hell of a lot of fun!”

Southland is shot in the verite style, as if the viewers are simply a passenger along for the ride, so any action seen, however minor on the page, is that much more amplified due to the voyeur effect. Though those are the exception, not the rule, these days, the stunt work therefore becomes that much more heightened and must therefore be that much more impressive in order to be "bought" by the mainstream audience who is used to a little more flash and sizzle. The world these characters live in is not coated with a glossy Hollywood sheen unlike some of the others; stakes are greater because the typical "happily ever after" safety net is not implied, nor expected.

For that reason,
Southland could potentially come under even greater scrutiny when debating how “real” a television program looks. After all, many of the viewers actually know the world in which it takes place; they live and work on the Los Angeles streets that the show films such harrowing stunts. They may not be intentionally looking for a slip up, but they can easily catch them-- especially when considering the pressure of delivering poignant, powerful stories week after week. Employing Daniel, a member of the LAPD himself, as their stunt coordinator certainly helps alleviate the pressure a bit, but it is not often enough to have a knowledgeable consultant on the team: the powers that be also have to be sure to listen to their recommendations. A film like Black Swan can ask its lead actresses to learn stylized dance techniques for months leading up to the start of production, but a television series that does not have the luxury of so much prep time isn’t so lucky.

“We don’t run down the street 12 times; we might run down the street three times maybe but usually we run down it once or twice,” McKenzie pointed out how Daniel helps Southland keep the stunts look and feel as fresh and “in the moment” as possible.

“We need to go quickly; we need to go fast; it fits the aesthetic of the show. It’s very natural…we just get in the rotation and we suit up and we roll. And the brilliant thing about the show is that the cameras that we use allow us to go with this sort of breakneck speed, and if the actor shows up prepared, which we all do there, isn’t a lot of sort of fussing around and arguing over script changes…The DP puts the camera on his shoulder or on one of his camera operators and we roll and we only do it a couple of times and that allows you to keep your energy very high. And I think it shows on the screen.”

Southland also uses actual off-duty officers to portray other uniforms to act alongside their main cast and drive that realism home even more. But the true beauty about any and all of these shows is that though you inevitably have to suspend a bit of disbelief when stunts are involved, they all manage to marry the exact right combination of elements to not only capture your attention but make you feel the gravity of each and every situation. Fight sequences and stunt work in general are often dark and downright (literally) dirty, but they can have a grace to them, as well-- making them more like a vicarious, vivacious dance. And for the best in the business you no longer even have to look outside your own home!

Friday, March 25, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'Lights Out' Canned But 'Archer' Renewed; 'The Killing' Deserves 5 Stars; ABC Summer of Reality TV; L.A 'X Factor' Auditions...

"FX knocks out Lights Out but renews Archer"

It's kind of bittersweet news that NY Magazine is reporting that FX' sardonic spy homage Archer has been renewed for a third season. We absolutely love the show and think it is severely underrated and deserves more mainstream fans, so we're happy to hear it will be returning (especially after this air-tight second season!). However the network, just hours before, cancelled its freshman family boxing drama Lights Out, which really put the pick-up into perspective... [MORE]

"AMC and Veena Sud have a Killing of a new crime drama"

Veena Sud may be the queen of the crime mystery thrillers. Cold Case still holds up as one of the most intriguing, and at times gut-wrenching, procedural series of all time. She knows how to take basic formulaic elements of suspense and violence and marry them together with rich characters, each experiencing his or her own emotional arc, in order to churn out creative and clever one-of-a-kind television. Give her the freedom of a cable channel, especially one that allows their talent to shine as freely as AMC, and her instincts truly know no bounds. Sud’s newest endeavor is The Killing, a murder series based on a Danish crime drama that is out to push the boundaries of strong storytelling on the small screen... [MORE]

"ABC's summer includes Rookie Blue return, Bachelor Pad + 5 new reality shows"

The alphabet network has finally revealed the premiere dates for some of their most anticipated summer programming, including the return of scripted cop drama Rookie Blue, only one new original drama, but the premieres of half a dozen new reality shows. Which ones have a shot at longevity? Read on for summaries, dates, and times, and weigh in in the comments about which you'll check out! ... [MORE]

"Attention Los Angeles area singers! Audition for The X Factor this weekend!"

Are you a singer or part of a vocal group here in the Los Angeles area? Are you and every member of your vocal group older than the age of twelve as of the beginning of this month? Are you a U.S. citizen or eligible to work in the U.S.? Are you currently unsigned? Then you can head down to the open casting call for The X Factor! ... [MORE]

Pop Culture Winners of the Week (March 21-25)...

Fringe! The show was on the bubble and had been pushed to Friday evenings, which angered a lot of fans, assuming the network was just dumping it on a dead night. But it held decent ratings and proved that Friday nights at 9 don't have to be a wasteland for TV shows anymore. So not only was it picked up for a fourth season this week, but it was picked up for a FULL fourth season (twenty-two episodes). That's not too shabby for something that seemed permanently on the brink of cancellation. In other news, this is the next show I will marathon (because I have to start from the beginning or I might miss something important); want to tell me why you love the show? Email me for a "Why DanielleTBD Should Be Watching."

My Generation
alumni. First series star Michael Stahl-David started rehearsals for his run in an off-Broadway play for the spring and summer; then Noah Hawley sold his next novel just a few days after he even began to pitch it to publishers. But the kicker had to come when Keir O'Donnell turned up in the second half of the new season of United States of Tara as a frequent traveler, single dad, and new love interest for Kate. While you can't catch the play ("Picked") unless you're in NYC after April 6th, and Hawley's book won't hit shelves for a few months, O'Donnell will be airing on Showtime in just about a month.

How I Met Your Mother. Thanks to John Lithgow, the intricate weaving of more than one poignant story, and keeping Ted on the periphery, Monday's "Legendaddy" episode actually seems to have steered the series back on the right track. The moments between friends where they were pointing out each other's pitfalls were funny and truthful; Marshall confronting the gang about the "kid gloves" used on him since his dad's passing was timely and impactful; and both Lithgow and Neil Patrick Harris delivered emotional and heartfelt performances. Plus I really like the fact that they are keeping Ted's house around. For awhile there it seemed like they just dropped it from rotation.

Ben Rappaport. The adorable star of NBC's Outsourced was cast in a new venture capital firm workplace half-hour comedy pilot for CBS. Granted, I haven't read the script yet, and this news doesn't mean Outsourced is officially dunzo, but let's face it, even the chance of playing another role in another project-- any other project-- is an upgrade!

Fans of CW shows, especially Smallville and Supernatural. This week uber-publicists from the network gave away swag to lucky fans of their programs that were following them on Twitter. Since new items come through often, follow them for your chance at the next prizes (@Chico6 and @HeyJude012)! And it's all free!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

From LA Examiner: Danny Pudi Pitches Ideas For 'Community' S3; Do You Ship 'Parks and Recreation'?; 'Chaos' Feels Misplaced on CBS...

"Community's Danny Pudi calls "Critical Film Studies" his most challenging ep"

Tonight is a big night for Community’s Abed (Danny Pudi)! It’s his birthday, and his pals at Greendale have already proven they know how to party numerous times over, so he is sure to have a fun time, right? Well, maybe. When we caught up with Pudi at the Paley Center for Media’s PaleyFest panel honoring the second season sitcom, he shared that he’s not really “in it” as much as you might expect-- you know, considering the party is for him and all... [MORE]

"Chris Pratt and Nick Offerman weigh in on "shipping" Parks and Recreation"

In a show about a small branch of a small town’s government, one might expect many dry, satirical moments at the mundanity of the daily grind, as well as some overtly quirky characters that just happen to find themselves in desk jobs. And Parks and Recreation certainly delivers that and then some. But what one might not expect-- or at least we didn’t expect-- was to find couples to root for as hard as we would any specific romantic comedy. And yet, Parks and Recreation delivers that, too... [MORE]

"Chaos feels like a USA Network show misplaced on CBS"

A spy within an organization of spies? Well, maybe more like a mole. There are so many things that go wrong on Rick Martinez (Freddy Rodriguez)’s first day at the CIA in the new CBS hour-long spy comedy-drama not-quite-a-hybrid-but-more-of-a-mess Chaos, most notably and immediately his name accidentally being on the known terrorist (instead of the new hire) list at check-in, that it’s a wonder he still wants to work there after all. But for the kid who grew up learning Arabic while his brother was outside playing baseball, it is the opportunity of a lifetime: it is what he has literally trained his whole life for, and the only thing he really knows how to do. So when his new boss basically hires him just to report back on the inner workings of the department, he takes it, even if he isn’t jumping at the chance he once was. And that can say it all about the series: many will just accept it, because it’s there and it’s easy, but it isn’t something about which to be excited... [MORE]

Music Makes My Head Go 'Round...

Earlier today I stepped out of the shower singing "Do-Wacka-do." Judging from the look on my dog's face when he finally lifted his head out of the corner of the bathroom that he apparently tried to hide in, I had been singing it for awhile. Clearly, despite currently being on hiatus, Raising Hope was on my brain. But it was hardly the first time, nor will it be the last I'm sure, that a song I heard on television randomly got stuck in my head.

It used to be that commercial jingles were the most common threats to my mental sanity because they were on so often that through sheer repetition alone they would stick. But with the invention of the DVR, ad campaigns had to be a bit more clever or consumers could skip right over them. Somehow managed to seem charming enough in the beginning, with a "guy next door" type singing and slinging guitar just as any aspiring artist would on your street corner, and to indulge his dreams, you give a little listen. Only that was the gimmick after all: if he seems harmless enough, more people will give him a shot, even if it its one of pity, and their victory will be that much more sweet when they seed their song in your mind.

These days, though, music gets integrated much more commonly into episodes of series, in part as score to showcase the emotional weight of a scene, and in part as source music to amplify a big event playing out for the characters. No Ordinary Family just used a "live performance" by Sara Bareilles as a plot device in their most recent episode, and I am thanking my lucky stars that it wasn't a catchy enough tune to haunt me the morning after. However, with other shows I am not nearly so lucky.

After glee and Chord Overstreet took on Justin Bieber's "Baby," I woke up with those sophomoric lyrics swimming around in my head for a full week. There's an original song in tonight's Parks and Recreation sung by one Andy Dwyer that I was repeating in the immediate aftermath of viewing the screener NBC sent me a few weeks ago and I suspect the behavior will be continued after I watch the episode again when it airs tonight. And it may have been a while since Supernatural chose to spend a big chunk of its production budget on classic rock, but who can deny that in the times it has, you haven't played the invisible drums or some ass-guitar of your own in the following days after viewing?? I certainly have, and I don't know anything about music!

What songs have gotten stuck in YOUR head recently??


Back in college, in the good ole days of Xanga (oh dear...), I was a sucker for a good survey. Friends would post those "25 Things About Me" pieces, and I would giddily copy and paste the questions and spend more time on my answers than my actual schoolwork. I am nothing if not adept at the art of wasting time! These days, though, attention spans have gotten shorter, and yet somehow Twitter has found a way to put its own spin on such things: #100factsaboutme. I'm now an official adult (though I still live in the same damn apartment I had in college), and I am employed. At least part time. So I really shouldn't have that much time on my hands! And yet I procrastinate more now than when I was a kid. But since I wrote a memoir, I'm not sure there really are that many things about me (especially pop culture wise) that people don't know, so I'll just fill out as many as I can before something shinier catches my attention...

  • In high school I spent an exorbitant amount of time and money trying to find the clothes I saw my favorite actors and TV characters wear so I could have a "Hollywood wardrobe." This was before Internet shopping was as easy and common as it is today, so it included a lot of weekend trips to SoHo, scouring everything from designers' boutiques to retail outlets to those chintzy hole-in-the-wall places. This also resulted in me owning everything from red leather pants to a backless bandana shirt (please don't ask).
  • All of my TV character crushes seem to be guys who are in bands or have some musical inclination or aspiration. I wrote about this a bit in my book, but I was surprised when I realized it has stretched past Zack Attack's Zack Morris and the California Dreams' Mark Winkle and into John Corbett, who performed recently on Parenthood and even Jeff Winger's terrible George Michael impression. It probably has something to do with vulnerability.
  • I can't watch Breaking Bad because the show is about a guy, however well-intentioned, who makes and deals hard drugs-- and yet I am completely enthralled by Nurse Jackie, a show where the protagonist is an addict herself.
  • Since I was so into film and television at such a young age, and because no one else in my class seemed to get it, I was designated the "AV Kid" for substitute teacher days, asked to set up the VCR for videos and the projector for slides or special presentations. I secretly relished those days, even though I'd roll my eyes and pretend like it was such a big chore.
  • That being said, as much as I enjoyed new technologies, I became disenchanted with the fact that I had to constantly keep teaching myself how to use them. So I pretty much stopped focusing on the intricacies with developments like AOL and blogging. I had no interest in detailed HTML; even though I know how to use a DVR, I still fight the inclusion of one in my house. I don't know if it's because I don't like change, if I am pining for a simpler time, or if I just got lazy.
  • I am deeply envious of the mother-daughter relationship Tara and Kate have on United States of Tara
  • As much as I have given up with glee the television show, I still like some of their singles better than the original artists' renditions. And as much as I think Darren Criss' presence is stealing screen time from characters we should have gotten to know much earlier, his singles top that list, most notably "Teenage Dream" and "Misery."
  • If a film or television show features a dog, I will love it unconditionally. But if a film or television show kills off or otherwise harms a dog, I will never watch it again. And I will seriously re-consider watching the next piece of work from its creative talent.
  • It's not professional, but whenever I need a little pick-me-up, I look for new photos to add to this website.
  • Shows like Community make me want to go back to college. Shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation make me re-consider corporate desk jobs. Shows like Modern Family and Friday Night Lights make me consider suburbia. Shows like 30 Rock make me wonder why I left production. But really they all have one very important thing in common: their cast of characters is a crazy, quirky, somewhat dysfunctional, but still very fun-loving, family. Where the family is formed doesn't seem to matter, but as many of those above situations and locations as I've tried, I am still searching for my own.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From LA Examiner: TCM Plans Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor; 'Glee' Releases Details on All-Warblers Album...

"DVR Alert: TCM sets 24-hour Elizabeth Taylor marathon on April 10"

It is a sad day here in Hollywood today as beloved screen (and tabloid) legend Elizabeth Taylor has passed away, succumbing to illness in a Los Angeles area hospital fifty-three years after she almost passed away in a plane crash. The Gods of Fate have a weird sense of humor sometimes, don't they? ... [MORE]

Say what you will about glee (and believe us, we have!), but those kids can sing! And one of the most beautiful voices to come out of the series is Blaine (Darren Criss)'s. Blaine is a Dalton Academy Warbler who gets all of the solos and has also managed to catch Kurt (Chris Colfer)'s eye romantically. Some criticize him for stealing too much of the spotlight of that particular glee club, while others think his short story lines just detract too much from New Directions in general. But one thing most fans agree on is that when he opens his mouth to sing, none of that matters. When he was introduced, singing Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream", he managed to steal quite a few viewers' hearts as well.... [MORE]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From LA Examiner: Marcel Vigernon Stars on Syfy; 'Body of Proof' Advance Review; 'Southland' Renewed & 'Perception' Picked Up...

"Q&A with Marcel Vigneron of Syfy's Marcel's Quantum Kitchen"

Marcel Vigneron made his mark on Bravo and the new wave of cooking reality programming when he appeared on Top Chef, but now with his new Syfy series Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen, he is out to take what you thought you knew about fine dining and catering creativity and slice it up, throw in his own brand of flavor, and reassemble it into something bigger and better than you could have imagined. You will learn a lot, you will be in awe a lot, and you may just look at Vigneron a bit differently, maybe even like the modern day Shaman he would ever presume, but most definitely appears, to be... [MORE]

"Every body tells a story but Body of Proof isn’t worth watching"

Dr. Megan Hunt (Dana Delaney, ABC’s Body of Proof) appears to be vying for the “Smartest TV Doctor” title. In fact she seems to be vying for the “Smartypants TV Doctor" title, if the pilot of her new series is any indication of her character’s journey throughout the first season. This woman prides herself on knowing everything, being hardened to her surroundings, and not feeling the very human desire to be liked. Needless to say, she is a very specific personality, hard to deal with, and that latter trait is beneficial for her because no one seems to like her much-- not her family, not her co-workers, and not the audience... [MORE]

"TNT renews Southland and gives Perception a chance"

Turner Networks' TNT proved their network really lives up to its slogan of knowing drama today by renewing its hit series about troubled LAPD officers and their even more troubled streets, Southland, as well as giving the green light to the new series from Eric McCormack, Perception... [MORE]

"Perfect Couples to be replaced on NBC's line-up by The Paul Reiser Show"

What's going on, NBC? After we professed our somewhat surprise love for Perfect Couples, you cut our courtship short by replacing it on April 14th...and with The Paul Reiser Show? Really? ... [MORE]

"Syfy unveils summer series: Alphas, Haunted Collector, etc"

Syfy has quite a lot of new programming coming to genre fans' televisions over the next few months! While they have over a dozen new series and just as many original made-for-TV movies in the works, only the following have been officially added to their immediate upcoming schedule.... [MORE]

Who Wants To See Paul Reiser Play Himself?...

NBC announced earlier today that they planned to replace episodes of Perfect Couples starting in April with the premiere of The Paul Reiser Show, which is self-explanatory in that it puts the veteran comedian actor and former NBC star in his own right into a role where he plays a version of himself. He's not nearly the first actor to take on such a feat-- Jerry Seinfeld most famously did it before him, and for the same network, when the actors of Unscripted all tackled a less slapstick and more serious version of it on HBO about half a dozen years ago. But I can't help but wonder: Why Reiser? Sure, he had a legion of fans over a decade ago who probably would have followed him onto the next project regardless of what it was, but NBC's Thursday night comedies are much younger skewing now and much hipper. Putting him on after the sardonic and often self-referential Community is like telling a college kid they can spend half of Spring Break week in Cancun and half in Boca, at their grandparents' retirement community. It doesn't compute. Besides, there's at least half a dozen other actors I'd rather see play versions of themselves on TV before Reiser. Here are just a few of the names that made my list.

Any one of the Friends. If you're looking for someone on the top of their game in the nineties, who else is there but these guys? Sure, you could argue Matt LeBlanc is already doing it on Showtime's Episodes, but though he is the biggest name, the show really isn't about him. It's a small step in the right direction, but I personally think Lisa Kudrow could take the idea and run with it like no other. Just look at what she did with a could-have-been-one-note-Valerie Cherish, for example!

James Franco
. I'm not sold on the whole "he's a genius" thing the way so many else in the media are. I can't tell you how many artsy kids in high schools and colleges all over the country are doing exactly what he's doing: dabbling in every artform possible just because they can't keep their creativity in. But he already has fame, so he is put on a pedestal and made out to be an example. I'd love to see him take on his greatest role yet: himself. I'd love to see if he really does have a good sense of humor about the whole thing or if he's too in his head to even notice. I'd love to see what his process looks like when he's working on an Oscar-worthy film, a soap opera, a short story, and I'd really love to see if it varies even the slightest little bit or if he just is a true artist in every sense of the word.

A news anchor like Anderson Cooper. He has such grace and poise, whether he's doing live stand-ups from war-torn countries or standing in below freezing weather on a three-foot platform with a no-holds-barred comedienne. Does he really have the knowledge that he appears to about each and every suspect-- or does he have someone talking in his ear the whole time and is really just an airhead? After seeing so many terrible things in the world, how does he manage to keep smiling, keep going, and relax at the end of the day? And how does he keep his hair so luxurious and such a shiny shade of gray!?

Angelina Jolie. I don't care what people (*coughBradandJenfanaticscough*) say about her, she has been an inspiration to me for years not only as a really talented actor but also as someone with genuine compassion for those who need it most. A show about someone in show business who for once isn't just all about the work and rewards would be much appreciated. You can't really make fun of humanitarian work without looking like a dick, but you can portray it in a way that is a bit more light-hearted and maybe even moves others to get involved. Television is there to entertain, but we don't have to set our sights so small; we can also hope to make people think...and maybe even act.

Child stars like Macaulay Culkin or Jonathan Taylor Thomas. If networks are going for the whole "they had a taste of fame but now their lives are relatively normal" thing, why not look to those who had the most chance of being really affected by the drastic change in lifestyle? Children grow up a certain way and get much more easily attached. They fall harder at times-- but at others they still cling to the little fame they have left, such as selling memorabilia or making webisodes about themselves. The humor there is found in part by the tragedy but also by the willingness of the particular actor to poke fun at the cute catchphrases and bad hair and clothes they made national trends.