Monday, May 30, 2011

From LA Examiner: Advance Reviews of 'Red Faction: Origins', 'Teen Wolf' and 'Switched at Birth'...

"Syfy searches for redemption with Red Faction: Origins"

In a move that seems to hand-select and marry elements of Serenity and TRON: Legacy, Syfy's Red Faction: Origins is a tale of mis-representation, second chances, and redemption. Based on the popular video game franchise, "Red Faction," this made-for-TV movie takes the action and imagery to the next level (and fits in between the third and fourth games in the chronology of the story) but makes it even more approachable by following not the gruff rebel who has been cast out by the new society, Alec Mason (Robert Patrick), but instead his clean cut, boy-next-door, likeable but still a bit damaged son, Jake (Brian J. Smith). By begging the question of how much we base our decisions on what we only think to be truths, Red Faction: Origins sets up an extremely relatable existential struggle set on an unbelievable backdrop... [MORE]

"The Teen Wolf pilot isn’t superfluous but does lean toward style over substance"

If you were a fan of the somewhat cheesy, now very dated Teen Wolf from the 1980s, you may be shocked to see what the MTV version for the new generation looks like. It really isn’t a reboot so much as a complete rewrite. Naturally the effects have come alone way in just a few short decades, but with the evolution comes an adaptation of the now classic werewolf tale. No longer are they chained to the curse of the full moon; now werewolves can use their agility and speed as a gift to live fuller, more enriched lives. It is a darker, more weighted tale than ever before, and surprisingly it is coming from usually fluffy MTV. But still, it is nothing new in today’s television landscape and where it’s greatest strength lies is in knowing that and not trying to reinvent the wheel-- or the werewolf lore, as it were-- and instead focusing on creating a mini movie every week... [MORE]

"The Switched at Birth pilot feels too polished but perfect for ABC Family"

In a plot that feels plucked from the most recent season of ABC’s Desperate Housewives, ABC Family’s Switched at Birth tells the tale of teenage girls who learn they went home with the wrong families when they were first born. Bay (the refreshingly toned down Vanessa Marano) is an affluent, artistic teen growing up in a gated community, attending private school, and generally getting ahead in life when her blood type assignment in biology class has her confused about her own genetics. Somehow she convinces her parents (Lea Thompson and D.W. Moffett) to take her to a blood testing facility to get to the bottom of her “magical” blood type results. And it is all downhill from there. Well, at least according to Bay. And anyone who’s not your typical ABC Family audience... [MORE]

"With Just One Click..." Is A Quintessential Modern Day Relationship Novel...

Like any television show that is perpetually on the bubble, Amanda Strong ends each chapter in her new novel "With Just One Click..." in a way that could satisfy the end of the book as a whole, creating a sense of stand alone scenes worthy of short film or web series episode adaptations all their own.

"With Just One Click..." follows the lives and stories of three women, each narrating their own chapters, and each of whom are experiencing virtually the same exact relationship issues as they navigate the new online waters, specifically Facebook. Chloe is a single girl living and working in Manhattan who joins the site simply to be a lurker in the lives of her friends but ends up reconnecting with her first love from high school; Morgan is a happily married stay-at-home mother of two who finds herself growing increasingly jealous over her husband's dealings with a flirtatious ex on the social media site; and Brynn is a less happily married stay-at-home mother of two who begins a flirtation of her own on Facebook-- with a man who just happens to be the one that got away when she was in high school. At first it just seems a bit too easy that they would all have such similar stories, and at times it is just as easy to get lost in the narrative, forgetting momentarily which woman's tale you are currently reading until you get to a proper name, but the sameness becomes even more eerie when you learn the familial way in which their stories actually do intersect. This is a fact that doesn't become explicitly clear until the final chapter, and admittedly Made Possible by Pop Culture would have loved to see what it looked like earlier in the story, so a part of the journey could have become about them leaning on each other and learning to deal with the changing technology and changing relationships together.

But perhaps that would have been a completely different story. What is really refreshing about "With Just One Click" is that you can read it traditionally, cover to cover, or you can read just every third chapter (one woman's entire story arc) at once before moving on to the other two. They hold up completely as individual novellas within the larger book, and because Strong's writing is so visual, sculpting a clear picture of each woman and the world in which she lives, they comes across as vignettes, too. If modern communication is all about Facebook statuses and wall posts (i.e. online), then modern story telling should be all about short form web featurettes, too!

At over three-hundred large paperback pages, "With Just One Click..." looks more daunting than it is. Never dense and never dull, it is true light-hearted fare perfect for these coming summer months, whether you're enjoying some down time away from your own kids or relationship or simply looking for something fun to pass around your group of girlfriends or read for book club.

This is not a "how to" guide to online dating or Facebook or anything in between, though Facebook very easily becomes a fourth protagonist-- not the only link that connects these women but arguably the strongest in today's modern world. There are also no deep, cautionary messages to take away from "With Just One Click..." (though the setting seems ripe for a tale of befriending someone who isn't what he (or she!) appears to be, Strong is not that cynical). But if you are willing to think a bit about the mentality behind what might possess someone to post certain kinds of cryptic, passive aggressive, or simply T.M.I "sharing," then you may certainly think twice about your own online behavior.

Now I just have to wonder what Strong has to say about Twitter...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Can Glee Live! Just Air on FOX Every Tuesday?...

It's no secret that I no longer watch glee. But that doesn't mean I don't still enjoy the music or think those kids are enormously talented. So when a friend asked me if I wanted to go to their second year tour at the Staples Center, I jumped at the chance. Last year we hit the Gibson Amphitheatre stop, and though this was bound to be way less intimate and much more show-stopper-y, I still felt like it couldn't be missed. And I was right on all accounts.
If you, too, have a chance to see glee Live!, you need to do it. The concert not only takes the best (and most consistent) part of the show and highlights it on stage in a brand new way but it also showcases amazing talent that unfortunately the show glosses over time and again. I'm talking most notably about Ms. Amber Riley, the young diva like no other. Not only does her amazing ability to hit the high notes get featured at the end of "Somebody to Love"-- which prompted co-star Cory Monteith to be in so much awe on stage he bowed down to her-- but she also gets a few solo and spotlight duet moments to shine this year, too, most notably when she took the small stage on the other side of the stadium and belted out an emotional ballad dedicated to her mother and late grandfather. But "River Deep - Mountain High" with diva in her own right, Naya Rivera was incredibly powerful, too.

It's hard to tell if the much bigger venue or the fact that the show is now in its second year of breaking records was the key culprit, but this glee Live! was exceptionally visual. Almost to the point of hair band theatrics. From the pyrotechnics and smoke puffs that went off around as they danced around the stage, almost shrouding them from view to the fluorescent flooring that lit up as the performers danced on each piece of the grid, and most distractedly the giant projection screen behind them that would sometimes project words, colors, or fireworks (for Katy Perry's "Firework," naturally) but would sometimes use the camera close-up on the soloist...with an echo trail behind them, nothing about New Directions felt trapped in the William McKinley budget or show choir confinements. Sure, the music was as pure and crisp and as perfect as the tracks you might download from iTunes as ever (Chris Colfer's "I Want To Hold Your Hand" never sounded more haunting and Lea Michele was flawless performing "Don't Rain on My Parade" once again), but for some reason the director felt it necessary to distract from the vocals with over-the-top imagery. The thing is, for many performers, that is necessary. Britney Spears puts on a show because she has trouble singing live. Janet Jackson is a dancer first, so she would rather showcase some killer moves that worry about vocal perfection. But that is not what glee is nor should be about. The sold-out Staples center was filled with kids of all ages who would have been happy to just see these performers stand on stage with a microphone on a stand and sing. No theatrics necessary.

Of course, seeing Morris rip off her dress to reveal the "Slave 4 U" bikini underneath kind of negates my point because that was one true showstopper that couldn't have been done any other way. Not only did she pay perfect homage to the original artist but she actually did it better. She's a cleaner dancer and genuinely seemed to be having a blast on stage doing it. I've seen Britney Spears live, and she has nothing on HeMo! In fact, had you just wandered into Staples at that moment, you might have marveled to yourself that Ms. Spears has really been working on her craft. If Morris decides to pursue a pop career post-glee, there will be absolutely no need for Spears anymore.

The Warblers featuring Darren Criss (but sadly no Telly Leung) came the closest to giving us the more intimate, "it's just about the vocals" feel by performing three of their boy band-esque numbers, including leading their mini set off with the sensational "Teenage Dream." Criss, who got the loudest screams out of anyone, also got to do a little skit on the main stage that was a take off last year's surprisingly declaration from Brittany that she loved Kurt, and then he came back out for an acoustic performance of "Friday" with just the guys. My sources tell me this is not a feature on every tour stop but that the original, uh, artist was in the audience so they surprised her. Regardless of the number, listening to the range from Criss, Mark Salling, Kevin McHale, Chord Overstreet (who looked damn fine with his new haircut), and Harry Shum Jr. was inspiring and gave me chills. I would pay a LOT of money to sit in on some sort of jam session they may hold in the future.

And speaking of McHale, I was kind of bummed to see him wheeled out once again. I get that they are supposed to be performing in character, and this tour certainly has more of a them of practicing all your big glee club numbers to crush the competition, but for him performing in character goes to a whole other level. He isn't allowed to show off one of his greatest assets. McHale proved he can really move from the top up with "P.Y.T." and of course the backing dance story of Shum Jr. and Morris was beautiful to watch, too. But you couldn't watch both sides of the stage at once, and you just knew that McHale was itching to get up and show what he could do, too, so when he sat alone in his chair in the middle of the stage and said that "everybody has a dream," I may have squealed. "Safety Dance" may not be the most contemporary song, but it was a chance for McHale to shine, just another opportunity the concert took to prove that all of these kids have star quality.

Naturally as a life-long Puck fan, I would have liked Salling to get more of a spotlight than the one short song he walked through the crowd to sing ("Fat Bottomed Girls") but it was a fantastic performance, nonetheless with Monteith never looking happier, drumming is little heart out, and Overstreet on backing guitar. What works best about the music of glee is when everyone is working together and firing on all cylinders to craft a creative performance. That is the point of a glee club in general, in my opinion: to act as a cohesive group that shows off each member in a rotation, not a solo act with a handful of back-up singers!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

'Supernatural' Saturdays: What If Writers Were Heroes Enough For Action Figures?...

Supernatural may be on hiatus-- or hellatus, as we like to say-- but I have a brand new "Supernatural Saturdays" thanks to Jess, who you may remember was the woman from whom I commissioned custom action figures from the show almost exactly one year ago today.

Back in October I ordered a figure that she told me was her most challenging one to date. She put it aside around the holidays to get the more simple ones out to me first because the original package was for six figures in six months, and by those parameters, I should have received everything a long time ago. But Chuck Shurley proved to be quite the feat, so he only showed up on my doorstep last week.

Yes, Chuck Shurley (Rob Benedict).

See, when I was a kid I began building my dream house in doll house form when I was around ten. All of the pieces came from a shop a short drive from my house, so I couldn't just walk over after school and peruse what I wanted next. Plus all of the pieces were handmade, so they were pretty pricy. A bowl of cookie dough with a cookie sheet with unmade cookies, ready to go in the oven, cost $5 at the time. It was barely bigger than my thumb is now, but I had to have it and happily spent the money on that instead of an actual piece of furniture, or, you know, doll to live in said house. Anyway, the point is, I had purchased a desktop computer back then (this was 1994). In four pieces: a CPU, a big bulky monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse, I saved it in a ziplock bag and haven been keeping it on my coffee table, to remind me that it is my work station and that just because I'm sitting around in pajamas watching television, it doesn't mean I can slack off!

So when I was thinking about the fifth figure I wanted to commission, my mind didn't go to one of the great demonic villains like Rub or Azazel or even Lucifer (after all Mark Pellegrino already has his own action figure from his LOST character). I looked at that little computer, and it clicked: why not Chuck?

Chuck was an inspiration to me because he had a gift for the written word. Sure, it was a bit more of a curse for him, and sure, it didn't seem to help with his self-confidence (well, not at first) or his bank account, but he was writing a story that was once in a lifetime and enough to touch even a small group of very devoted people. That's all a writer can really ask for. The fact that it turned out he was much more important to the story than he let the Winchesters, or the audience in general at first, know was just a bonus.

So I asked for a Chuck figure from when we first meet him: disheveled, in his bathrobe, experiencing writer's block. It pretty much sums up at least 40% of my average work week, and I thought looking the figure on my coffee table might remind me of the greatness that lived within Chuck, regardless of the mess he sometimes appeared to be.

Yes, it took much, much longer to receive Chuck than I expected. Yes, I thought it might be a lost cause-- something that would never actually arrive because it proved to be too much for the artist but she just didn't have the heart to tell me. But then there he was. And he came with his own accessories which really went above and beyond! The desk, the chair, the little wadded up pieces of paper, and the notepad with the words "The father kills the son" on the top page. It all fit perfectly. Good things do come to those who wait.

And along with Chuck came the sixth figure I had commissioned: one of know, if I was a Supernatural character.

Now, I know what you're saying: it's a bit narcissistic to have an action figure of yourself displayed in your house. It might even be right up there with those giant (and often times naked) painting-portraits the women of the various Real Housewives installments display in their foyers. But I can't make excuses other than to say I look pretty kick-ass as a hunter! And putting the figure of me on the shelf right next to the figure of Dean (Jensen Ackles), and well, we do make a cute couple!

Plus, I came with my own little laptop, too, proving that action figures don't always have to be about those who pull guns or samurai swords or even high kicks out when things get tough. Writers can be powerful, too; writers can be inspirational, too!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Top Ten Pilots for the 2011-2012 TV Season...

Entertainment Weekly printed a list of the most promising new fall shows in their most recent issue. But Entertainment Weekly had to go to printers before most networks had even sent out their pilots, so their list was based on the loglines, clips, probably some scripts, and of course the hype that each network built for potential advertisers. And since Made Possible by Pop Culture has actually had a chance to view each and every single new show-- fall and mid-season alike-- I am ready to make them (and you, fellow TV heads!) a counter offer. I'd really rather not stop and consider how many of hours of television that meant I watched this week, by the way! Anyway, this list is not made up of the most promising in terms of what I think will hit the hardest with the widest audience but instead what hit me the hardest and what invigorates me to the point of actually excited to see week after week. Ready? Then go forth and read!

10. The River - ABC, Mid-Season - It's super creepy and just stylized enough to make me wonder how they will manage to sustain the pace and tone week after week; it certainly feels more like a mini-series thus far. But the idea of LOST set on the Amazonian River is a bit too good to pass up. When an adventurer goes missing and his family and crew set out after him, it is quite clear quite early on what he was trying to keep from getting out, but the real mystery comes in with how they will manage to keep themselves alive-- or if they will manage to keep themselves alive. The handheld and otherwise "surveillance" camera angles put you right in the heart of the action, the darkness, and the fear, and make a common story about things that go bump in the night all the more suspenseful.

9. The Secret Circle - The CW, Fall - I'll watch Britt Robertson in anything, but it definitely helps that this new supernatural drama about a coven of budding witches sucks you in so damn quickly! Cool FX aside (and let's face it, the scene in the woods when the dew drops lift in mid-air is amazing), you know this one will keep you on the edge of your seat week after week with twists and turns and conflicts between characters. There will be typical teen drama amplified ten-fold by the fact that mystical powers are in the mix, but then of course there are those that want to stop them from realizing what they are capable of, and those who want to exploit what they are capable of. It's a giant metaphor for the potential every child has, but it's set on a surreal backdrop that lets you just escape into another world. And it's a world full of pretty, shiny people with flawless skin and gorgeous leather jackets, to boot!

8. Ringer - The CW, Fall - This thriller seems to beg a larger budget than the network that scooped it up is used to handling, but those types of production issues are intriguing in themselves because they force the show to be even more creative. But really what is so fascinating about this tale of twin sisters (both played by Sarah Michelle Gellar who is better and more understated than I've ever seen her), one who is on the run so she assumes the other's identity, is that secrets are going to unravel weekly. There is the classic "good twin, bad twin" idea set in the audience's mind right at the start, but by the end of the pilot that has exploded in your face like a dye pack tucked into some stolen money. But stolen money is not anywhere near the severity of what's at stake here. And if one sister isn't who she appeared, is the other? Is anyone??

7. Up All Night - NBC, Fall - This one hasn't had me laughing out-loud the way a few other NBC comedies have as of yet, but I have no worries that the amazing cast-- Will Arnett, Christina Applegate, Maya Rudolph, and the cutest baby on network TV since Hope Chance-- will get me there in the second or third episode. So far it is just a really beautiful story about two young parents trying to figure it all out-- raise their new baby, keep their professional edge, and still make time for each other. It's sweet all the way around, and that sense of optimism in a half-hour comedy is refreshing these days!

6. Alcatraz - FOX, Mid-Season - Thanks to LOST I no longer trust any character in any J.J. Abrams project at their word when they explain who they are or what they are planning to do. I'm not entirely sold on the central character as of yet, but I am completely sold on the mystery of what went on to not only make those inmates and guards disappear but also where they went, why they're being brought back now, and most importantly: why they haven't aged even a day. I also am completely infatuated with Jeffrey Pierce, who plays the inmate being tracked in the opener, and I hope they find a way to bring him back in a more serialized manner.

5. Suburgatory - ABC, Fall - Comedy has always been my main wheelhouse, and this one speaks to my anti-conformity sentimentality nicely. A single dad packs up his kid and their life and moves out to the suburbs, afraid she may be growing up too fast, but once they arrive, it is as if they have entered some foreign land-- a land usually only inhabited on those Real Housewives of whatever shows. The father-daughter relationship reminds me of an opposite sex Gilmore Girls, and the cast, notably Cheryl Hines, is hands-down amazing. But so far what really draws me in most is the idea that it might be a televised version of Mean Girls because the lead (an extremely fresh-faced Jane Levy) is certainly a tamer, more unassuming Janis Ian. Every young woman should have Janis Ian as accessible as possible, and what's more accessible than on your TV weekly?

4. Once Upon A Time - ABC, Fall - I fear for this one a little bit in its time slot, I do, but I was so absolutely taken with the pilot and all of its beauty and majestic images, colors, and grand scope of story that I am just going to throw myself into the project and hope for the best. I love Disney's fairy tales, and I love the imagination and wonder involved in the idea that one little boy knows the truth about a town that no one else wants to believe. It leaves me wanting to know more-- how he managed to figure it out; how he even got to the town in the first place; and how his birth mother will push aside the very adult self-consciousness she will have to in order to believe herself.

3. Hart of Dixie - The CW, Fall - This is everything I've wanted in a new series, and quite honestly, everything I'd been working on for a new novel, too. It's part fish-out-of-water when a big city girl moves to a small town to take over a medical practice, but part "learning to thrive instead of just survive," too. Sometimes we need to be that big fish in a small pond to get our confidence back, especially after going through a tumultuous time, and that is certainly where the protagonist is here. Having a young girl looking up to her already will help, even if there are the inevitable distractions of two very cute, though not entirely available, Southern gentlemen. It's also one of the only pilots to have such a moving story it made me cry. Winner.

2. Scandal - ABC, Mid-Season - The opening scene of this new Shonda Rhimes series about a political crisis manager feels ripped out of an Aaron Sorkin screenplay. That alone sold me. But as the episode went on, both cases were woven so seamlessly around the lead character that her personal drama had to take a slight backseat. And such is the case with that kind of work. I worried at first it would be too soapy, too melodramatic, too similar to Rhimes' medical dramas that take liberties on the job in order to serve the characters' crap, but no. And with so many characters to juggle, too!

1. Smash - NBC, Mid-Season - I think this climbed its way to number one simply because it blew my expectations out of the water. Everything about the pilot was on par, and that is insanely hard to do. The musical elements are stronger than Glee's, in that they actually relate to the story and don't completely come out of nowhere, but moreover, the story around the music is exceptionally strong. Nothing feels forced. Immediately you are drawn into this world, and more importantly, you feel like you already know this world. You belong there. I belong there. It certainly made me miss my own early days in theater!

'The Real Story' Behind The Biggest Blockbuster Films...

Though at times it certainly feels like I have turned my back on my greatest strength (my film school training and education), I am still a deep, deep lover of all things cinema. I just chose not to focus on writing about them because my time in film school jaded me to the point where I no longer wanted to spend $15 to be disappointed at the theater. That is really neither here nor there right now, though. Two weeks ago the Smithsonian Channel began airing a program entitled The Real Story, looking at the phenomenon behind topics in history and nature that inspired blockbuster films-- films that have inspired millions and certainly influenced me, as well.

Admittedly I tuned in assuming it was going to be some kind of behind-the-scenes at the making of such films as Pirates of the Caribbean, Jaws, and Jurassic Park, but what I got instead was an in-depth analysis of the real-life inspirations behind them. History class was never this fun, nor looked this good, and I found myself more than eagerly awaiting the tales of sea-faring legends (things I always thought were simple myths), the comparison of what really happened on April 14 1912 from eyewitness accounts and old newspapers to what James Cameron said happened that fateful day, and interviews with Dr. Jack Horner, the inspiration behind bringing dinosaurs into modern day.

And though I know first-hand the amount of preparation and research and planning that goes into such documentary projects, I can't help but let my imagination wander to what more recent films they could tackle. Some of my own biggest inspiration has come from seemingly small films, and I'd love to delve into the back-story to learn what could have inspired their own filmmakers to tackle the topic, as well. Certainly there has to be tons of material from psychological twister-thrillers like Inception, even if the end result may end up stripping some of the magic out of the cinematic, fictional tale. And what about an expose into the bridal industry or drug trafficking or famed psychiatric hospitals or street racing or espionage? My mind is racing with so many ideas for future episodes, and I can't wait to see what they dive into next!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

From LA Examiner: Tyler Posey Is The New 'Teen Wolf'; 'Love' Does Not Bite on NBC!; 'Weeds' Shakes Up Its Seventh Season...

"Tyler Posey talks the unexpected challenges of Teen Wolf"

Tyler Posey grew up on the set of Teen Wolf. Sure, his character of Scott McCall had his own coming-of-age moment when he was bitten in the woods and began a transformation from somewhat quiet and unassuming high school boy to hyper-sensitized wolf-man. But for Posey, who is the “baby” of the cast at nineteen, it was much more than that. The original pilot for the series was shot last year, and it just took MTV awhile to get it ready for series, so not only was Posey becoming an adult in his own right on set but he also had a few defining moments in any young man’s life while there... [MORE]

"The vignette style of Love Bites will leave you wanting more"

We've been waiting for the premieres of Love Bites on NBC ever since the peacock network announced they were ordering it to series just about a year ago today. But then it didn't show up on the fall schedule...or even the mid-season one, and we'll admit it: we got a little scared. First that it would never show up at all, and second, that if it finally did, it couldn't possibly be worth the wait. Well, today we are happy to report that we were wrong on both accounts! ... [MORE]

"Another Lights Out star heads to Showtime; Weeds nabs him, Martin Short, more"

As if it wasn't enough that Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) will be incarcerated (at least for a short period of time) when the seventh season of Weeds begins airing on Showtime this summer, Jenji Kohan decided to mix it up even more by introducing a number of new characters! ... [MORE]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'Modern Family', 'Cougar Town', 'Happy Endings' Season Finale Previews; More 'Dexter' Casting; Interview with Newest 'Biggest Loser'

"Modern Family’s season two finale sees big changes, but family still remains"

Modern Family has enough characters that we often see them split off, in their own microcosm of familial units rather than all together at a big event. After all, navigating all of those characters in one place, at one time can be tricky, and coming up with reasons to thrust them upon each other can be even more complicated. But it is in the moments when they form one large, and at times awkward, “super” family that comedy gold is surely spun, and what better time to go out on such a high note than a season finale? ... [MORE]

"Cougar Town hopes you’re up for any adventure in its second season finale"

Taking a vacation with the Cougar Town cul-de-sac crew is bound to be a great, wine-soaked time. But taking an island vacation with the cul-de-sac crew is going to be even better, and in the second season finale we get to go along for the ride as Jules (Courteney Cox) and “friends” head to Hawaii! ... [MORE]

"Happy Endings' first season finale lives up to its title"

When a series isn’t sure if its season finale will end up being the final episode they ever share with their fans, it’s always a bonus when they manage to bring it around full circle. And in twelve short episodes that is exactly what Happy Endings does. But thankfully their end is not permanent; it is merely the turning of one chapter page to another. No longer will the show be a freshman comedy on ABC, and no longer will its characters be as unsure and somewhat lost as they have been... [MORE]

"Billy Brown K.O's the competition for coveted Dexter role"

The Hollywood Reporter has printed that a former Lights Out star has joined the cast of Dexter in season six. As one Twitter user commented to us yesterday, "Who isn't joining Dexter in season six!?" But this particular piece of news comes as an exciting one for LA TV Insider Examiner as the deeply layered but of course flawed role he portrayed in the short-lived FX boxing drama will undoubtedly only be amplified under Dexter's lights... [MORE]

"The latest Biggest Loser, Olivia Ward, credits her trainer for her new life"

Olivia Ward started on her Biggest Loser journey at 261 pounds and with her best friend and sister Hannah right alongside her. Worried that she would never be able to have children at such a weight, and that her opera singer career would be one of typecasting, she set out to make a change and ended up making a mark on her other contestants and the audience in the process... [MORE]

VH1 Returns to Its Roots, Rejuvenates Music Videos, With Return of "Pop Up Video"...

It's been a long time since MTV lived up to its name, but at least come fall its sister network VH1 will! Returning to a nostalgic fan favorite, the Viacom music-turned-reality-TV channel will be producing sixty new episodes of its famed 1990s "Pop Up Video" series. Through the resurrection, they will single-handedly breathe new life into old music videos.

VH1 is known for its snark (remember Best Week Ever?), so though the decade has changed, we expect the sentiment to remain the same. Or perhaps be even more sarcastic and comical. The trivia facts for some bands, after all, border on the "who the hell cares?" feelings for anyone who isn't a diehard fan. Regardless, unlike all of its mindless lifestyle and dating "reality" drivel, Pop Up Video ensures its audience is paying attention (all eyes and ears on the screen), lest they risk missing a particular gem of information. I, for one, used to love to squint at my old nineteen-inch rounded set top box in my bedroom on an early weekend morning, sometimes learning, but always laughing, and a song that otherwise should have had no business still being played on a countdown. Pop Up Video gave them new relevance and appealed to the budding critic in me.

Though VH1 has not yet announced what videos will receive the pop-up bubble treatment, they have announced that for the first time ever they are expanding their genre to include hip-hop and expanding their commentary to include user-generated quotes and polls. I'm not really sold in that online interactivity (if I wanted to read what fans had to say, I'd just watch the videos while logged into Twitter), I am super excited to see what they can dig up about which artists and songs. I only hope they delve more deeply into the behind-the-scenes of the production of the track, rather than reaching for more general statistics.

Which artists or videos do you want to see given the Pop Up treatment? I feel like Eminem or Britney Spears or even Lady Gaga's are ripe with Easter eggs all on their own and might make for a very crowded screen image with word bubbles added. But how about long-lost one-hit wonders? I, for one, would love for the videos to include a bit of where they are now, in addition to what they once accomplished way back when!

'Summer Eleven' Keeps The Innocence in Coming-Of-Age Tales...

When I was growing up, looking for some filmic friendships to which to aspire, there was Now and Then, a tale that followed four friends as they reunited and reminisced over a summer that had bonded them together forever. A later generation, though, was offered The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, based on the book of the same name about four teenage girls who are united by a pair of "magic" pants that they send to each other along with detailed letters of their summer lives to stay in touch while they are miles apart. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but for the young ladies of today, Summer Eleven more than does the job.

Summer Eleven takes its audience back to a simpler time, a time when kids about to enter middle school were still sweet, innocent and unassuming, despite being set in Los Angeles and revolving on Vanessa (Alice Ziolkoski) who actually is spending her summer auditioning for various MOWs. These four friends each have their own stuff going on-- Lizzie (Meagan Hughes) fear for her brother who is deployed overseas, Peri (Sydney Fox) is living out of her car with her mother and younger brother, and Jess (Sarah Butterworth) has a new father figure who is making too many changes to her comfortable little life-- but they band together to not only get each other through but also help each other escape in some purely child-like ways.

What is refreshing about Summer Eleven is that in a world in which girls this age appear constantly on the cusp of cattiness, these have managed to hold on to their generous spirits and precocious instincts a little bit longer than others. The film is extremely somber, and slow paced at times, but it, nor the girls themselves, is never sullen. Any "easy" or perhaps innate cynicism is stripped away, and through all of the hardships and adversity, they manage to hold onto hope that with each other, they will be okay. But at times it seems a bit unreal, especially when Lizzie asks her friends who a woman gets pregnant (Um, she's ten, and this is 2011, and well, I just don't believe that if you don't already know by then, you're willing to admit that to your classmates, no matter how friendly you may be). Summer Eleven feels like a freeze-frame of time before outward pressures and self-confidence complications set in.

This movie is strongest in scenes when all four girls are together and just left to their own devices to be kids who are trying to find their way as young women. A favorite of mine? The impromptu headshot session during a birthday party, if for no other reason than the mostly likely unintentional Friends reference within.

Summer Eleven
was released in a very limited theater run in 2010 and is now available on DVD.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'Parks and Recreation' Plans Season Four; 'Dexter' Catches Another One; 'Franklin & Bash' Raises The Bar For Legal Shows...

"Mike Schur sounds off about Parks and Recreation season four"

Last night the cast and producers of Parks and Recreation came together at the TV Academy in Los Angeles to catch up (they are currently on hiatus) over a screening and Q&A. But for Mike Schur and his writing staff, it was just another day at the office. Literally. Yesterday marked the first day the writers sat down to break stories for season four. So while we got to talk with a number of the actors about what they want to see happen, Schur was there to set the record straight on what actually might happen... [MORE]

"Edward James Olmos heads to Showtime's Dexter"

Like little drops of blood, information about the new season of Dexter has been pricked from Showtime. And we gather them up hungrily, methodically, needily, just as Dexter himself (Michael C. Hall) collects his own samples and tucks them safely away in between two slides in an old wooden box. Today the premium cable network has announced they have added Edward James Olmos to the cast of season six, beginning production in Los Angeles tomorrow! ... [MORE]

"TNT’s Franklin & Bash is to legal drama what ABC’s Castle is to police procedurals"

We’re just going to say it: we want to hang with Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar)! ... [MORE]

It's Official! I'm Moving To Pawnee!...

If you're an aspiring comedic actor in Los Angeles, the show you should be trying to get on is NBC's Parks and Recreation. Not only do they deliver some of the most memorable and quotable lines that will leave you chuckling for days after the episodes have aired, but they are also really good to their cast-- stars, recurring, bit players, and extras alike. They will often bring an actor back and expand on their quirky characteristics that make them the perfect colorful Pawnee citizen (see: Jean-Ralphio, Marcia Langman, etc). My own acting aspirations died long, long ago, but sometimes I find myself wanting to give it the ole college try just to get on the set and be shrouded in such creativity. Plus, it doesn't hurt that they are one of the nicest casts on television today!

Parks and Recreation is planning for its fourth season right now; you can see what co-creator Mike Schur is thinking for that right here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'Rookie Blue' Season Two Premiere Sneak Peek; Mitch Pileggi Speaks About His 'Supernatural' Experience; 'Nurse Jackie' Renewed...

"Sneak peek at the Rookie Blue second season premiere"

Rookie Blue won’t be premiering its second season on ABC until June 23rd, pushed back a week from its original start date. This will allow the alphabet network to air rebroadcasts of its first fan favorite season beginning on May 26th. But if you don’t want to have to wait a month for some new footage, check out the promotional photo slideshow from the second season premiere to the left... [MORE]

"Guess which Supernatural star Mitch Pileggi called a “physical specimen” + more set secrets"

When Mitch Pileggi’s Samuel Campbell was brought back into Supernatural season sixth, tons of fans rejoiced, LA TV Insider Examiner included. The patriarch of the Campbell family who at least one of the Winchester boys had just gotten to know had been stripped from the story so quickly (and in true Supernatural fashion, so violently) that it was exciting to see what they’d do now that they’d found a way to bring him back from the dead. Unfortunately, though, once he was there he was shrouded in such mystery they didn’t get to do a whole lot with him. And once the fans learned of how he got there, many (again LA TV Insider Examiner included) felt the character was done a disservice. But for Pileggi, the chance to head back up to Vancouver, a town he spent almost a decade in for another little genre series (The X-Files), was welcomed nonetheless, especially because of the crew... [MORE]

"Showtime renews prescription for Nurse Jackie but not United States of Tara"

Knock, knock. Who's there? Nurse Jackie with a season four! Per the Hollywood Reporter, Showtime has announced today that they are moving forward with a fourth season of their Emmy-winning half-hour comedy Nurse Jackie starring Edie Falco. The series is currently in the middle of airing its third season on the premium cable network, and we have to show our bias right now and tell you that after screening the season finale early (it will air in June 2011), we would have been up in arms if the network had decided any other way... [MORE]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

'Supernatural' Saturdays: "The Man Who Knew Too Much" Tweetathon Round-Up...

- Using the song in the "Then" does not count.

- Oh, Sam, what did you do NOW?

- Last we saw Sam was driving away with Dean. So how much time has passed and why isn't he kept on a leash?

- I like this bartender. That means she's probably going to die. I have to stop getting attached.

- Wow, that's lucky. I thought only my friend Jamie brought books to bars.

- He wants to use WebMD, duh.

- The fact that this woman is still standing in the hotel room even after seeing the serial killer wall & multiple IDs... Demon? Or monster?

- "You don't know anything about anything." Truer words have never been spoken on this show.

- I wonder why it took so long to let Padalecki play opposite himself. Ackles has done it a number of times already.

- Two questions: if you die in a dream, don't you die in life? And also: if you kill a part of yourself, what hell are you bringing next?

- I've been making comments about the gun continuity but I guess none of it matters since it's not real.

- Where did you find a virgin in this day and age? An elementary school? These shows usually don't kill the kids!

- I think Cas is the POWER bottom now, Crowley. A bit sorry to say.

- Holy hell indeed.

- All this double agent stuff makes me miss my Council.

- Dude, you are not a good liar, Balthazar. You sealed your own fate with your wavering voice and your cutesy words.

- I don't know; that smoke cloud doesn't look much bigger than the ones we saw in or even

- We could probably use right about now. I fear Sam is too weak to do the job that needs to be done.

- Goose egg. I'm going to infer this means there is no such thing as the rapture. Yea us!

- Shit. And I thought it was cool the first time I saw Castiel walk in all tough with his wings.

- Dean looks like he realizes he bet on the horse right about now. He's like those victims who placate their capturers to keep themselves safe

- KNEEL BEFORE CASTIEL! ...wait that sounded wrong

- Question: would YOU want someone's plea of devotion if it's only under duress and therefore not sincere?

Closing Remarks: Was it just me or back during "Let It Bleed" when Sam (Jared Padalecki) got sprung from the shed and drove Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Lisa (Cindy Sampson) to the hospital, did it seem like he wasn't quite himself-- like maybe he didn't recognize the people or the situation he was in? Well, clearly I was already thinking ahead to what was to come in "The Man Who Knew Too Much!"

It became clear that I was mistaken when it turned out that Sam's inability to remember what was going on was all apart of his Inception-like state. I thought that whole internal battle to figure out what was going on and who he was and what he went through in hell was fascinating, and I really enjoyed Padalecki getting to play opposite himself. All three of his faces were out in action in this one but not long enough.

Personally I was hoping for less exposition and more action. I wanted to see more of a struggle between Sam, and well, other Sam(s). Every time Ackles has gone up against himself in the past we've been given eerie, methodical, emotional back and forth that leaves us with a lot to think about. This time it felt a little rushed. And furthermore, we saw a more interesting dream world in "Dream A Little Dream Of Me" seasons earlier. I wanted to see some of the other likenesses of innocents Sam had sacrificed during his time without a soul; I wanted more of a confrontation for Sam to actually grab his life, his body, and his destiny back by the balls rather than just have it handed to him because another part of him just quit. Quitters can't win! But if a part of Sam has that mentality, then maybe more of him does, and we need him as strong as possible. Quite frankly, I like #NoSoulSam; he can get the job done in a way regular ole softy Sam unfortunately can't. I bet #NoSoulSam would have known Castiel (Misha Collins) wasn't an angel anymore!

So though I was slightly disappointed with the wrap up of the wall in Sam's head (and if repercussions don't rear their ugly heads in season seven, I will be even more so! That couldn't possibly be all there was to that element of the story!), I am more and more in love with Castiel's journey.

In the way that Dean and Sam were always bonded by brotherhood, tested at the end of each and every season, this time around it was Castiel and Dean's relationship that was not only being tested but being possibly pushed beyond repair. Castiel's family in heaven was aggressive and at times abusive. It's why so many angels fell; it's what created Lucifer. So it's really no surprise that Castiel has been trolling Earth looking for a connection, looking for a new family to call his own. He desperately wanted that with Dean, and he thought he had it; he thought he was owed it after "raising him from perdition." So when Dean turned his back on him and refused to "fall in line" like the good little soldier he was with his own, actual father, Castiel took it extremely personally.

One of the things I find so fascinating about Castiel's new rise to power is that now he can literally demand the loyalty, and he did in the final moments of this season finale, telling the boys (and Bobby) to kneel before him and pledge their devotion. Upon the penalty of death. But even if they do it, it won't be because they mean it; they will just be placating him so they can walk away and live another day. That's not how a family should treat each other, and if Castiel was really concerned with being a family-- being loved and respected and cared about-- he wouldn't be doing things this way. But he is on a power trip, and that is not a good color on him, or anyone really. And I can't imagine it will end up well for him, either. The Winchesters are the heroes of this story, and Castiel has gradually inched away from being a part of their team, a part of their family, to being the thing they need to hunt and take down.

Now, much the way the season started with Sam being a different version of himself because he was without a soul, chances are good that Castiel is not himself right now because of all of the souls floating around within him (do souls float? or are they trying to claw their way out?). When he told Dean of the amount of Purgatory's finest "warming" him, he had his look on his face like maybe he didn't know this is what he'd be getting into-- maybe something didn't quite feel the way he expected it to-- and maybe he just doomed his own fate by absorbing these things that he had no place taking on.

I have this idea that though Castiel became the big bad of season six, in season seven it's going to turn back around and he's going to struggle much the way Sam did this past year. The souls are going to eat him alive. Perhaps literally. Suddenly he will find he needs Dean and Sam just as much as they have needed him. It is their story, after all, and no matter how powerful Castiel is now, that all can change in an instant. We've seen it before; we'll see it again. The Winchesters have always taken down the big bad, but this time they have a very human connection to him. We've seen them hesitate before when it comes to taking down someone they care about, even if that someone standing in front of them isn't really the person from their lives but a demon in their meat suit. If we're not confident they can or will go after Castiel with all they've got, then they must be feeling even more doubt swimming around inside their own "grapefruits." And doubt and hesitation are the Winchesters; two actual biggest enemies on this show. So unless Cas goes AWOL or someone ends up actually needing someone else's help, I just don't see how they will all be able to coexist long-term. They are stronger in numbers, but right now their relationship doesn't even seem reparable.

Regardless, though, everyone is walking away from this particular season finale relatively (at least physically) unscathed. Even with the wall down Sam appears to be back to normal-- well, as normal as Sam can be. Would I like it if in season seven we realize that no, he's not really fine, and it was just a temporary fix? Yes, I actually would because I feel like his story wasn't really done justice in the end. But that's the common theme of season six: a lot of delicate pieces of the puzzle to fit together and in the end it seemed like they just needed to finish before the timer dinged so they jammed in what they could but it still feels like there are some holes.

No one other than Raphael exploded this time, so that's a plus, too, right? Sure, Cas was cold to Balthazar (
Sebastian Roche), but Crowley (Mark Sheppard) managed to slink away quite easily. Maybe even too easily. Maybe there's still something between them that we don't know. I certainly hope so on that account, too. I really like Sheppard and I would like to see him return. Still, I was expecting something a little different, and after last year, a little bigger.

So Supernatural didn't quite deliver the cliffhanger I was expecting-- certainly not as big as last year's, but one thing that struck me was how quiet Bobby (Jim Beaver) was in those final moments. I certainly hope he has something being worked up his sleeve, but I have a feeling the silence was just out of pure shock. How do you react when you are told there is a new God in town? Some might turn and run, but these guys are much too macho for that. Instead he stood stoically, a bit slack jawed, ready to fight. He's the soldier Castiel should have bet on.

I didn't love season seven, as anyone who has followed my commentary along since the beginning can tell you, but I think this season finale did justice to the greater story they wanted to tell but didn't always succeed at weaving through this whole time. It definitely feels like a new show now that Sera Gamble is in charge, but hopefully this first year has been her working through any kinks and come September Supernatural and its characters will be back to its regular fighting weight!