Friday, June 29, 2012

From LA Examiner: The CW Fall Premiere Dates; Early 'Bethenny' Review; Post-'Awkward' Premiere Talk; 'Dallas' and 'Rizzoli & Isles' Renewed...

"The CW announces fall 2012 premiere dates for TVD, Supernatural, Arrow, etc"

It's the day you've all been waiting for, CW fans! Though the network announced October premieres for all of their fall 2012 shows previously, now we have the specific dates you can expect your old favorites to return and new favorites to begin. Check out the schedule below and let us know what you'll be watching! ... [MORE]

"Bethenny struggles to find its footing, despite strong start"

Here at LA TV Insider Examiner, we are big fans of Bethenny Frankel’s big, “tell it like it is” personality and intense work ethic. We admire her ability to build an empire that all seemed to stem from a stint on reality TV. In fact, we think more of Los Angeles could use Frankel’s refreshingly honest take on everything from sex and relationships to fashion dos and don’ts and other “girl talk” topics. Therefore, we were thrilled to hear she was getting her own talk show. But unfortunately, said show has yet to live up to our expectations... [MORE]

"Nikki DeLoach and Ashley Rickards talk Awkward’s “carefrontation fall-out”

The cat’s been out of the bag for a while that it was Jenna’s mom Lacey (Nikki DeLoach) who wrote her daughter the infamous “carefrontation” letter that changed Jenna’s (Ashley Rickards) whole view of herself and her high school life in the premiere season of Awkward. But it hasn’t been known that Jenna knows. Until the series returns for its second round, that is. Faced with the truth about her mother, and unable to see past the action to the motivation and intentions behind it, Jenna tapes the letter up on her wall and then decides how to confront her mother accordingly... [MORE]

"TNT renews Dallas and Rizzoli & Isles"

Good news, summer TV fans! TNT has renewed two staples of this season's television: Dallas and Rizzoli & Isles... [MORE]

Katie Holmes Out; 'The It Couple' In?...

So People Magazine is reporting that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are divorcing, and naturally, my Tweet response to this article was "Contract's up!" Now, it's not professional to speculate on the private goings-on in a marriage or other kind of Hollywood relationship, but let's face it, there have been rumors floating around about these two (and the woman who came before Holmes) for years. And this isn't a professional site anyway. This is my personal blog, and as I stated for legal reasons on my bio page, all opinions, thoughts, and posts are my own. And I am entitled to them.

I don't really care one way or the other if Cruise and Holmes are divorcing because they fell out of love or because the five-year terms they agreed to expired without being able to come to a consensus on renegotiation. I feel badly for their daughter, who is too young to understand divorce, let alone complicated Hollywood politics, either way. But I'm sure they will do their best to make sure she's happy and healthy and relatively unscathed. If nothing else, I'm sure she may get a fascinating memoir out of her life, even if just to set the Suri's Burn Book fans straight. 

(After all, you can't make a three year old sign a confidentiality agreement. Kids are always the greatest wildcards in Hollywood!)

But where I do care about this "news" is in how it may affect me. As many of you know, I have been working on a pilot pitch about an unconventional relationship. In my scenario, it's a "classic Hollywood tale of boy meets girl...where the boy is gay and the girl is ultimately his hired help." Sound familiar? It should, and yet television has never tackled the story before. 

Now, you can say that in 2012 the idea of hiring a beard should be moot. No one should have to lie about who they are-- and in truth, I agree with that on a personal level. But I also can't argue with the fact that some people are still just insecure and will allow themselves to be led (by others' opinions or by fear). Many still put professional aspirations in front of personal ones. It's much more detrimental in the long-run, in my opinion, than simply staying quiet and keeping a private life private. But those are the themes and conflicts my show would explore.

Of course, they're just some of the themes and conflicts. I would also look at how two people, when thrown together in such intimate circumstances, entrusted to keep each other's secrets, bond deeper than your average "regular" couple. Affection and respect must be formed almost immediately or the charade is exposed. People can be perfect for each other as soulmates but not sexually compatible. Modern relationships can be much more complicated, especially when you consider the heightened expectations of Hollywood.

And now, more than ever, I think it's time to pounce with the pitch. I could blame it on art imitating life. After all, we're about to watch a shitstorm of media spin this divorce story how the publicists want them to, not what is actually fact or newsworthy. And that is half my story right there anyway. We can't define limitations of love, but for some reason, we're still happy to define what constitutes a "real" relationship in our society. No matter what went on behind closed doors, Cruise and Holmes were very much a team for the past five years, and that should still count for something.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

From LA Examiner: Elijah Wood Talks 'Wilfred'; Kathleen Rose Perkins Talks 'Episodes'; 'Men At Work' Renewed; WIN Taping Tickets for 'BrandX with Russell Brand'...

One of the things we have loved most about FX’ “talking dog” comedy Wilfred is its complicated blend of humor and mental instability. Some episodes are devoted seemingly entirely to Ryan (Elijah Wood) sitting around with his neighbor’s dog (Jason Gann) and getting stoned, but there always appears to be a therapeutic lesson within-- even if Ryan can’t see it as clearly through stoned eyes as maybe the audience can. Occasionally, though, an episode with a bit more heavy-handed introspection will break through, after the show has lulled you into an unorthodox but certainly still valid sense of security. It is these moments that Wood has admitted to responding the most to, and it is these moments that he promises are still to come in abundance now that Wilfred is back on FX with its second season... [MORE]

As Carol Vance, the pot-smoking-but-still-serious-about-TV number two at the network that gambled with British import-adaptation Pucks!, Kathleen Rose Perkins can be considered an unsung hero of Showtime’s Episodes. After all, she has the tough task of taking a Hollywood studio suit and not only making her understandable to those outside of the business, but she also has to make her fun enough that the audience likes her-- even when she’s delivering bad news or sleeping with a “pretty deplorable” guy (her words!). With the right amount of heart and humor, though, Perkins added warmth to the business side of the entertainment industry in Episodes’ primary season, and now she’s back to win you over even further with all-new episodes... [MORE]

"TBS renews Men At Work; The cast weighs in on season two"

TBS' new buddy sitcom from Breckin Meyer actually already wrapped production on its freshman season last week, but today the guys behind Men At Work have another reason to celebrate: the network has announced a second season renewal... [MORE]

When Russell Brand sat down with the media to promote his new FX late night show back in January of this year, we have to admit, we were a bit skeptical as to what exactly his show would be. Sure, we knew he was funny (and he did his best to remind of us that by riffing on some surprisingly serious hot topics of the day six months ago (Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, the misbehavior of American soldiers during war times), but usually TCA is a time reserved for networks to present their new shows. In this case, FX just presented Brand... [MORE

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"You Take It From Here" Should Come With Therapy-- Or At Least A Box of Kleenex...

Don't let the cover of Pamela Ribon's new novel, "You Take It From Here," fool you: the picture may literally be painted of two women seemingly casually strolling through a small, sleepy town, but the story that unfolds is anything but just another chick lit beach read. The novel starts off with an apology-- one that comes from narrator Danielle "Danny" Meyers in the form of a letter to a young girl named Jenny. She knows Jenny has been (perhaps irrationally) angry with her for years, and she wants the chance to explain the way things really went down-- the secrets that were kept from the child at the time. It is a clever device that allows Ribon to bring her readers directly into the action and emotion, writing "you" in the subsequent chapters and stabbing us directly in our hearts each and every time. Ribon has undoubtedly made you laugh in the past-- on Television without Pity, her own blog Pamie, or the sadly short-lived Samantha Who? starring Christina Applegate-- but with "You Take It From Here," she will make you cry. Buckets.

The perfectly titled "You Take It From Here" starts out innocently enough: Danny heads back to her childhood hometown to pick up her BFF affectionately nicknamed "Smidge" before they embark on their yearly adventure together. In the past they have gone to exotic beaches or traveled to foreign continents. This time, though, Smidge instructs her to drive to just another Southern state and take a photo of her in front of the world's largest chair. It's goofy, but it's Danny's clue that things are not right. As it turns out, Smidge has lung cancer. Well, she had it a few years back; she beat it; but her remission was not permanent, and it has returned, metastasized, and will take her life sometime within the year. And she has one great adventure she needs Danny to promise to see out: taking it from here-- with the "it" being her life.

Smidge is a wife and a mother, and she doesn't want her family to dissolve in her absence, so she makes Danny swear that she won't tell anyone about the cancer and will instead stay with her to learn the ins and outs of her household so she can calmly slip into place after she has passed away. It's kind of an unreasonable, insane request-- one that seems to be born from the stages of grief at facing one's own mortality-- but Danny agrees. In part she may be placating-- in part she may be feeling guilty over how she wasn't as there for Smidge as she should have been with the first round of cancer-- but Danny does it. Even when she shouldn't.

The set up for Ribon's novel is a little quirky, but the women explored are extremely rich. Smidge is a big, loud, at times bullying personality. She tells it like it is, and despite her use of "y'all," seems like she, not Danny, was the one who spent a few years living in New York City. She has an abrasive, almost hardened way with her loved ones, and it's a bit of a shame we don't get to meet her before the cancer has already started corroding her. It's clear by the end of the novel she was doing attempting to push some specific people away-- and to compartmentalize those in her life-- so they don't get hurt later, but it's also clear that she has always been an acquired taste, and I couldn't help but wonder how much of that personality trait is just a reaction to her diagnosis.

Smidge's final request to Danny is a selfish one: she effectively wants Danny to give up everything about who she is and what her life has become-- including the mundane details, like how she makes a bed and how often she goes to church-- so that a version of Smidge can live on. The two joke that if Danny doesn't do it right, Smidge will "haunchoo" (haunt you), but there is something very somber about the fact that a woman is choosing not to fight her disease but still trying to live on potentially forever through her friend. There are little to no questions raised about how it would affect Danny-- emotionally or even publicly, when all of a sudden the doting best friend was trying to move in on the grieving husband. Cancer causes a lot of people to overlook a lot of things; he or she who has been diagnosed often becomes a saint in everyone else's eyes.

But in truth, it is Danny who is the saint, the selfless one, especially in Smidge's final final days. I'm not sure if Ribon has ever lost someone to cancer-- I know her mother is still with her, as evidenced by Tweets that prove she should have been the one given a sitcom!-- or if she just did a ton of research, but she has beautifully mastered the complexities to relationships stricken by disease. We are never greater tested than when someone close to us is going through something horrendous because it is then (a point Ribon eloquently makes within her pages) that our own true colors come out. "You Take It From Here" raises the tough, introspective questions we hope we never have to actually answer in our own lives: Can we keep the "I" out of thinking or speaking about our friend's situation? Can we keep her secrets, even when we know it is wrong, simply because they are not our own secrets to tell? How long can we ignore blatant signs of distress before we stand up and say 'I'm here for you' in whatever way we think will go over best? Can you sit with pain, yours or hers, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it? 

Ribon has written a new kind of buddy tale-- one that could easily be adapted for the big screen. Smidge and Danny are the life force of "You Take It From Here," and if you combined them, the way Smidge is trying to do in her death, you may actually have one perfect protagonist. If it was just the two of them in life, it wouldn't be so hard for Smidge to just retreat and die quietly-- the way you often hear dogs or cats do by going out to the garage to be alone. But there are other key players around them-- ones who factor into Smidge's life greatly and should also factor into this part of her journey. Smidge's husband Henry or teenage daughter Jenny (the one to whom Danny is writing this epic of a letter) or even old pal Tucker, who strikes up a new flirtation with Danny once she's back in town, are all unfinished works who get pushed aside, despite being deeply affected by Smidge's secret-- while she's keeping it and long after it's told too late.

I admit I almost couldn't finish the novel; it hit just too close to home. I knew Smidge [spoiler alert!] wasn't going to have a miraculous recovery at the end, and I wanted to learn if the purpose of the letter was because Danny, too, was now sick and trying to make some amends, but she was being asked to do some new things I was once asked to do and at which I failed. It stung, and it will sit with me-- as it will you, even if you have no firsthand experience with cancer so close in your own family-- for a good, long, uncomfortable while.

"You Take It From Here" will be released on July 3rd 2012. Though I highly recommend you run out and buy it immediately, I suggest you wait until after the celebratory holiday weekend to dive in. Otherwise you will be blubbering over your BBQ.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bulding a Summer Camp out of District 12...

Ever since I was a little kid, I wondered if I was best suited for a small town lifestyle. I tend to thrive when I'm a big fish in a little pond, but seeing as how I've always lived in cities, I've never been able to test the theory. During a random marathon of Hollywood Treasure that I found on Syfy VOD today, though, I learned that the actual town that served as District 12 in The Hunger Games film is available for sale. Joe Maddalena and Profiles in History will be auctioning the property, complete with little ramshackle homes that serve as creepy movie cabins but wouldn't work for a permanent place of residence without some major fixing up. And I have decided I need to buy it.

The property is in North Carolina, on seventy-two acres of land, surrounded by woods identical to the ones the film production went deep into for filming. Sure, it is a tourist spot now, with random drivers by pulling over, trekking in, and taking a photo (usually posing with a loaf of bed or bow and arrow) in front of the building that still reads "_ASTRIES." Sure, it will probably always be a tourist spot, what with The Hunger Games Tour that takes people around to the various locations used during filming. But I have a dream. That land is perfect for a themed sleepaway camp (one which I promise all of the kids will actually survive), and if I had a spare million and a half dollars lying around, I would scoop it up in a second and start my new life as camp proprietor. 

I wasn't the biggest fan of The Hunger Games as a movie, but I can see so much potential in that location-- a rarity simply because it is one complete, still standing place, rather than one free-standing structure duplicated through CGI. To give those die hard kids a real experience, I keep seeing a week or two long stays for kids who want to live like Katniss (but with more plentiful snacks and less fighting to the death). They can learn archery in the woods, play more current games like Capture The Flag on the lush grounds, make Mockingjay pins in arts and crafts, and crush over their own versions of Peeta and Gale in their cabins at lights out.

 And naturally, there would be s'mores every night!

Maddalena is a movie buff and a fan first, and that is why he started his company, but Profiles in History is very much a business, and there is no doubt in my mind the spiel he gave the current land owners about wanting the property to go to someone who had a deep emotional or otherwise personal connection due to the films. They'll take the highest bidder, as anyone in any real estate deal ever would be inclined to do. I respect that. But I have to admit I fear for what that land-- and the town outside it-- may turn into depending on who purchases it. Will it become a theme park, complete with overpriced snacks and reproductions of the film's more classic props? Will they allow fans to experience what life in District 12 would have been like with overnight stays in the tiny, not-well-insulated structures? Or will someone come in and bulldoze it all, not caring about the part of Hollywood history it has now become and instead simply seeing its worth in the development possibilities for condos or hotels or both? 

You don't have to be super into The Hunger Games at all to enjoy this kind of camp experience. Really, I just think the property is the perfect setting for summer freedom. It's certainly the kind of place I would have wanted to check out when I was a kid! The movie tie-in is a bonus for those who are into it, but excess capitalization on the lucky Lionsgate connection would not occur on my watch. 

So, if you want to get me a belated birthday present, consider bidding on District 12 for me here!

From LA Examiner: "Six Seasons and a Movie" Art Show Photos; 'Weeds' Starts Its Final Season with a Superfluous Episode; 'Lovin Lakin' Trailer Debuts; 'Awkward' Photo Gallery + Relationship Talk...

"Dan Harmon and his Community come together for Six Seasons & a Movie in L.A."

Local Los Angeles fans of NBC comedy Community received a special treat this weekend, as the "Six Seasons and a Movie" art show put on by Mark Batalla and the PixelDrip Gallery opened for all to see. Made up of hundreds of submissions from prints, to paintings, to plush dolls and Russian Nesting dolls, the art show celebrated Greendale Community College, as well as the people behind it... [MORE]

"Weeds’ final season starts slowly and with a lot of dust to settle"

There isn’t much we can say about the Weeds season eight premiere. Out of respect for Showtime, we’re not going to reveal who was shot (and whether or not it was fatal, though this is still a comedy, so keep that in mind) in the seventh season finale. Nor will we reveal who the shooter is, though the episode does. What we will say, though, is the first episode back after such a could-have-been-series-finale cliffhanger is much more of a wrap-up episode of the events and effects of last year than it is a true season premiere, and for that, we have to admit the action of season eight and the beginning of the good-bye to Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) and Co. doesn’t come for another week... [MORE]

"Christine Lakin debuts her Lovin' Lakin trailer"

ABC is spending Fall 2012 trying to bring back TGIF, but former TGIF star herself, Christine Lakin, is getting a jump-start on that by staging a comeback...for herself... [MORE

"Lauren Iungerich talks Awkward S2 themes + hope for Team Matty"

There’s an elephant in the room on MTV’s Awkward, and according to series creator Lauren Iungerich, it’s not going away any time soon! The fact that Jenna (Ashley Rickards) had a secret relationship with Matty (Beau Mirchoff) throughout the first season is certainly not forgotten just because she is now with Jake (Brett Davern). And because of this, Iungerich felt anyone out there still staunchly Team Matty could still see some hope for him to get the girl (again)... [MORE]

"My Letter To Fear" Inspires Conversation, Creates Connections...

A couple of years ago my friend Patricia Steffy let me in on a little secret: she was a blogger, too. Only, her blog was written in secret, under an alias, and exaggerated slightly for comedic and narrative effect. It started out as a very real and raw way for her to explore a past relationship and the still-present marks it left for her future, but occasionally it diverged into commentary on issues that piqued her interest in current events or celebrity happenings. She first told me about the blog, "Dating in L.A. and Other Urban Myths," about two years after she started writing it. The night I learned of its existence, I went back and read every entry to catch me up to the day, and then subscribed to her updates so I could read her new pieces immediately. I was so inspired because at that point, my own blog here was taking a tangent, and I was dealing less and less in my own personal stories. So rather than rectify that, I sat down with Patricia to flesh out a first season pitch for her blog as a web series centered on her "Kate Dating." The web series still has yet to come to fruition. Long story short, we have kicked around many ideas for how to get it off the ground, including creating a half-hour cable comedy series pitch for the show, as well. But over the weekend, a version of the blog came to life in another, even more amazing way: as a staged reading charity benefit for the East L.A. Women's Center, thrown by the charity of which Patricia and I serve on the board, IBG Inc.

Though Patricia's blog and initial script dealt very specifically with one woman's relationship and dating concerns while living in this land of plastic beauty and ridiculous expectations, she incorporated additional elements for what ultimately became the script called "My Letter to Fear." Some pieces were still silly (anal bleaching, really?), and some were lighter in tone based on personal spin a particular actress provided (Jennifer Aspen especially made the serious "Worry" extremely accessible and fun), while others were deeply emotional and at times dark ("Shorthand" and "The Next Night" both dealt with abuse of various kinds). "My Letter to Fear" also incorporated actual stories from survivors who work with the East L.A. Women's Center, capping the afternoon off even more personally and poignantly.

Though while workshopping the web series, we often heard Patricia's words read aloud by friends helping out with table reads, "My Letter to Fear" was the first time they were ever fully performed. And thanks to the ten amazingly talented and gracious women who donated their time to partake in the event, said performance was extra special. Our headliner, Constance Marie, went above and beyond by getting into a few very specific characters-- including a 74 year old woman for one third of "Perspectives," in which three women of three generations wonder which is the true golden age, as well as "Gas Money," in which a woman who had a one-night stand finds a very special gift in her purse the next morning. 

I have to admit, "Gas Money" and other such "girl talk-y" pieces were my favorites. Despite being monologues, they sounded extremely conversational, and even if the topics (vajazzling!?) weren't something I personally obsessed over, I certainly know a friend or two who have. I think we all do.

I don't like to believe I am jaded beyond repair, but I know that I am certainly jaded. That is why, when I found myself standing in the back of the room yesterday, holding my camera still by my side instead of snapping photos, just completely lost in the moment and immersed in the words, I knew "My Letter to Fear" truly was something special. A piece I had read a hundred times and heard aloud a couple had caught me off-guarded, anew, simply by that extra something the women of the reading brought to the words. I am a writer, so I know just how important it is to start with solid, strong material. A show will suck without it, no matter how talented an actor may be; you can't polish a turd or whatever that expression is. But when the words are already good, and you bring great actors in to bring them to life, the result is magical. 

"My Letter to Fear" was designed to feed the soul of the women in attendance-- to lift them up and remind them just how much they're worth-- but it inspires the artists, too. I wouldn't be surprised if a few women who never sat down to write anything that wasn't school or work assigned went home last night and felt a deep desire to tell their own stories anyway they knew how. I've already begun telling my story, and I felt that powerful pull. This event, exactly as we hoped it would, stirred conversation; it created connections. More than ever, it gives me great hope that Patricia and I can actually (finally!) get that web series off the ground!

And honestly, among our "My Letter to Fear" cast, I think we found our "Kate!"

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Am The Nerd of Greendale...

"I hereby pronounce you a Community!"

This weekend, some very special (and talented!) Community fans got together and threw an art show honoring Greendale in a way of which Dean Pelton can only dream. Hundreds of artists from all over the world submitted pieces to be displayed in a one-of-a-kind (but potentially annual) art show here in Los Angeles. Even those who work on the show got in on the fun, not only by coming out for drinks and gushing at the opening night reception, but also donating some work to be displayed.

For a look at the opening day of "Six Seasons and a Movie," please click here.

When I was at USC I did a senior thesis documentary about fan culture. It was primarily focused on daytime dramas and Days of our Lives specifically, but it was my kick-start into this part of my career-- attending and writing about fan events. I never wanted to be someone who just walked into someone else's fandom and observed from the outskirts; I wanted to deeply explore those fandoms of which I was already, genuinely, a part. And thankfully thus far (knocking on wood), I have been blessed enough to do so-- writing about shows I genuinely love and events I would attend even if not "for work."

Fandoms rally. That is what they are known for. It's not enough to just enjoy a show; it's not even enough to log into forums and talk about a shared love for a show with virtual strangers. These days fandoms are proving to be effective marketing and publicity sources, as well as grassroots fundraisers and other organizers. Chuck fans stormed Subways all over the country to get their favorite spy show renewed year after bubble year; Flash Foward fans staged a "blackout" in front of ABC's offices to show their support for the freshman drama being kept from getting a sophomore season; and GCB fans have created a "Save GCB" campaign and petition to ask other networks to pick up the show that ABC canceled. Some of these approaches are more effective than others, but Community fans have dabbled in just about everything to make their voices heard. From sending in yogurt lids, to staging flashmobs, to the "Six Seasons and a Movie" art show, Human Beings have more than shown off their value.

Hanging out at the "Six Seasons and a Movie" art show for six hours yesterday (yes, literally, but it was just so much fun to take in all of the art and mingle with all of the other die-hards!), it was beyond just loving a show or the people who created it (though it's always nice to see that the true fans care enough to learn about the behind-the-scenes people, like the writers, so they get much deserved love, too!). "Six Seasons and a Movie" was a true testament of just how much one piece of art can inspire more. Because what Dan Harmon created with Community truly was art. He took what could have been an easy premise and stereotypical characters and gave them heart, soul, quirks beyond quirks, and of course a positive message week after week. He poured himself into each page and proved that when you get so personal, so raw, that is when you create something most relatable.

In one of Jeff Winger's classic speeches, he calls Abed a "shaman" because when you ask him to pass the salt, he gives you a bowl of soup instead. Because soup is better; it is more plentiful and nutritious, and it literally feeds you. As I stood in Monk Space yesterday, looking around at all of the excited, and in some cases, awe-struck faces (not unlike my own; I wish I had even an ounce of the talent those who displayed pieces do!), I was reminded exactly why Community is better-- than just about every other comedy on television right now. It feeds you in equal, though not literal, ways.

People can find the good in just about anything but themselves, but "Six Seasons and a Movie" certainly showed us all how to do-- and be-- better.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Love Letter to Lauren Iungerich and MTV's 'Awkward'...

The advice everyone seems to give writers is to write what you know. When you come from a place of authenticity and vulnerability, you can't help but connect with your audience because undoubtedly a good portion of them have gone through similar thoughts or experiences, or even if they haven't had first-hand accounts, they will respect and sympathize with the material for being so open and honest. To that note, Lauren Iungerich has said that creating her MTV teen comedy, Awkward, was an act of creating a love letter to herself, but then that must make Iungerich an "every woman" if there ever was one because she gets right to the heart of important issues (regardless of place in adolescence) that has transformed the teen comedy genre from simple love triangles and uncomfortable moments to a place of nurturing. If we could all go to Iungerich's school (of writing, or just of life), we'd all be better people.

(Disclaimer: This may get gushy. It's a personal blog, my personal opinion, and I offer no apology for that. If it's not your cup of tea, you can find my professional articles (read: episode reviews and interviews with cast and creator), by clicking here.)

The strongest kind of writing seems to be the kind that can hit you with the "one, two punch" of emotion. One minute you may be holding your breath as a character breaks down on-screen, and the next you exhale in one big laugh as another character says something so quippy or off-the-cuff it catches you off-guard with its drastic tonal change. Sometimes it works the other way, too, as you're neck-deep in some wacky antics that take a surprising turn for the serious. When these moments are real and raw and earned, they remind you just how complicated characters, let alone the lives and worlds they share, can be. Iungerich does this every week on Awkward, mostly utilizing the mother-daughter relationship to punctuate the deepest emotions. In some ways it seems a commentary that romantic relationships in high school-- no matter how powerful you may think they are at the time-- really aren't all that big a deal. 

Guys will come and go-- hell, even other girls may come and go in your friendship circle-- but your family, especially your mother, is supposed to be forever. Yet what high school aged girl didn't butt heads with her mother most of the time, even if only over stupid, petty things? I can only speak for myself, but I can remember full weeks where my mother and I didn't say one word to each other. It wasn't even always a result of a dumb fight, either; sometimes it was simply because I didn't have anything to say to her. I didn't confide in her; I didn't think we had much in common; and she wasn't the type to pry about non-superficial things (and believe me, prying about superficial things was what sparked most of our arguments because honestly, who cares if I didn't want to go to a dance or only ate Pop-Tarts for lunch again!?).

What is so beautiful about Iungerich's writing in Awkward, to me at least, though, is how carefully Iungerich has arced out her characters and her plot points for the whole season, not just episode to episode. It is no secret how I feel about straight-up situation comedies, but somehow, with a teen show, my expectations were admittedly pretty low going into Awkward. I expected it to be funny, but I expected it to be pretty simplistic and easy to anticipate, as well. The fact that Iungerich has blown my expectations out of the water and consistently made me laugh and cry is one thing. The fact that she respects her actors, and her audience, enough to challenge them is a whole other.

The perfect example of this is again with the mother-daughter relationship. The fact that Lacey wrote the carefrontation letter to her daughter speaks volumes about how Lacey feels about herself, as well as how she feels and what she wants for her daughter. For many showrunners, even those who work on much more mystery-based shows, telling the culprit who they were could have been a last minute thing. Hell, deciding to commit to who the culprit was could have been a last minute thing. But Iungerich had a plan from the beginning, and she stuck to it, letting little clues pop out all along the way, but perhaps much more importantly, letting the character with the secret process the action in her own way all along the way. Iungerich has explained Lacey's season one arc as "going through the five stages of grief," and she pointed to specific episodes to highlight key moments that embody them. From anger, when Jenna doesn't want to join the Knickknacker, to acceptance, when she finally gives Jenna the dress in the first season finale, if you go back and (re)watch season one, the signs are all there. 

Iungerich doesn't underestimate her audience-- however young those who are watching may be. And because of this, Awkward ends up challenging every other teen show that comes after it to do better, too. Writers don't have to pander, and Iungerich is proving that you can teach and inspire while still having fun. Absolutely what makes Awkward unique are also the specific voices of all of the characters, and the color Iungerich has infused in very typical behavior. Come on, the uber-confidence in those who don't really deserve it; the stereotyping of kids who can't be bothered to get to know the other kids; questioning everything from love and sex to race and religion-- all themes explored in just about every high school project. But each character in Awkward feels one hundred percent original, despite literally hundreds of amalgamations of the same "type" having come before it. Certainly the lexicon Iungerich creates helps set them apart, but honestly, simply fully fleshing the characters out means they're so much better than the mold, too.

Take Matty and Jake, for example. Both are jocks, but neither are your usual, run-of-the-mill high school movie jocks. Neither is just out to hook up with Jenna and move on. And the fact that we know that-- because we actually get to see their side of the story-- is unique in and of itself. Awkward centers on Jenna and could very easily be written solely from the female perspective, but the show goes one step farther and explores what guys in high school are going through, too-- at least, these guys in this high school. We get to know Matty and Jake on an intimate level outside of their interactions with Jenna, and though they both mean well, they're at different levels of maturity (as throw a stone and hit any two high school guys in the real world would be), and therefore they both have their own issues and shortcomings.

Iungerich also considers those who are no longer of high school age but still very much dealing with insecurities held over from that time. We see it with Lacey, of course, a woman who's been stunted by having a child while still in high school and therefore being forced to grow up too fast in some areas while still being suspended in adolescence in others, but we also see it with Valerie, a woman still trying to fit in well past the point that she should care about things like that. And it is being hinted at that in season two, we will see it with Kevin, too. After all, he may seem like he has it all together, but those are the people who usually crack, aren't they? He became a dad young, too, and maybe the "emotional anchor" the character is considered to be is who he has had to be, not who he really wants to be.

None of these things should be remarkable or revolutionary. They should be the norm with stories as intricate as ones told over ten or twelve or twenty-two weeks on television. Yet, these days it seems like writers like Iungerich, especially in this genre, can be in the minority when it comes to the kind of thought and preparation put into their shows. Awkward truly is Iungerich's baby right now, but the love and care she takes with it just makes me want her to adopt me! Awkward gives us great parallels between the "kids'" journeys and the "adults'," that you can be rounding thirty, like I am, and enjoy the show unironically or as a just a pleasure, instead of a "guilty pleasure." It's the kind of show that should make actual teenagers today glad to still be young-- because they have a solid role model to look up-to, on-screen and off.

It's My Pop Culture Birthday...

This is seriously the best birthday card I have ever been given. It almost makes me feel okay about still being where I am in life on this particular birthday. 

Only almost, though. If one of these dudes was popping OUT of the cake, it would be a different story...

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Life, Made Possible by the Movies...

I know I neglect what the theme of this blog started out to be. I know I neglect most parts of pop culture that aren't television. So today I am going to try to rectify both of those wrongs by taking a page out of this week's Entertainment Weekly and filling out the movie survey they gave Emma Stone. 

The First Movie I Remember Watching - Since I have no concept for chronology, I know The Neverending Story wasn't the first movie I saw, but it is the first theater experience I actively remember. I didn't like the movie, but it was a birthday party, and sitting in a theater, surrounded by ten or so of my little, giggly friends was one of the better experiences in a group outing to a movie I've had!

The Movie That Inspired By Fashion Sense When I Was a Kid - I really, really wanted to be like Courteney Cox in Scream. Yes, the over-the-top Gale Weathers. I was twelve when the first Scream first came out, and I didn't realize she was supposed to be seen as so over-the-top. I really liked her chunky highlights and sharp layers; I genuinely though it looked good. I also genuinely thought I looked good trying to copy her. I guess that's more a "hair sense" than full-on fashion, but I'm still counting it.

The Movie Character I Wanted To Be - There have been a lot of fictional characters whose lives I liked better than my own through the years, but I'm going to answer this question using the first one I was conscious of, and that was Ariel The Little Mermaid. Ever since I was a little kid and my mother forced me into swimming lessons, I felt more comfortable in water than on land. The fact that Ariel got to live under the sea and go shopping for cool (free) treasures found on the ocean floor-- a mix of the natural beauty from shells and long lost, or attempted trashed, items from ships, made me so jealous! And you know, the handsome prince and awesome singing talent didn't hurt.

The First R-Rated Drama I Ever Saw - I honestly have no idea. I know my dad used to watch a lot of films that were deemed inappropriate for my young eyes after he thought I had already fallen asleep, and I know most of the time, even if I didn't plant myself on my bedroom's side of the louver doors to peek through the slats, I could usually hear a good chunk of the cursing and explosions before I actually fell asleep. But I don't remember specifics.

My First Move-Star Crush - I guess Jonathan Taylor Thomas shouldn't count, even though I was quite obsessed with Man of the House. After all, I was already in love with him thanks to Home Improvement before he turned his attention to the other medium. And Prince Eric shouldn't count either, because he was a cartoon. So I think that leaves Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic.

The Scariest Movie I've Ever Seen - I was honestly haunted by Frailty. There's something really dark and twisted about a man who believes he is getting messages from God, telling him who to kill because they are already horrible people or because they have a high probability of doing a horrible deed. But there is something even creepier about him instilling the same work values into his sons, punishing the one who doesn't believe. Now, if you are a person of faith, who desperately wants to believe there is a God communicating with some of His children and for good, then you may not see this movie the same way. No part of me ever thought Bill Paxton's character wasn't crazy, regardless of what was written on the page or played out on-screen, and because of that-- because I saw him as a man who snapped, I saw how scary people could be.

The Movie That Made Me Want To Be A [Writer] - The very first movie that made me want to be a writer was Camp Nowhere, simply because the concept was one that was so perfect for where I was personally, I couldn't believe someone else thought of it. I hated my summer camp, too, and my dream was to just go away for the summer with some friends, hanging out by the water all day and eating s'mores by the fire all night. But the very first movie that made me want to write (and direct) movies was Traffic. That film spoke to me in a number of ways, and I was extremely impressed with the interweaving of storylines from the simple, every day human stories, to the much larger scale government issues.

The Last Movie I Bought - I really don't buy movies. The last one I purchased was probably Toy Story 3, and that was a while ago. The last screener film I received was Morgan Spurlock's Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope, but I really don't receive many films on screener loan, either.

The Remake I'd Love To [Write] - I've always been curious at how Fight Club could/would (if it could/would) work if the protagonist was a woman. In such a hypothetical remake, the actual "fight club" would be more of a metaphor; I wouldn't want to do an exact replica, and I would be curious to see what kind of alternate persona a woman who felt so trapped would create. I'm sure Hollywood would want her to be a madam of some kind, using her sexuality even freer than Brad Pitt did, but that would be the challenge-- to avoid the cliches and still make something compelling. Of course, there are other movies I'd love to remake simply because I feel they were great ideas with poor execution (or casting), but that's really a whole other blog entry!

The Movie I Can't Turn Off When It's On TV - Mean Girls. Hands down, even though it's usually on TBS, and they choose weird points for their edits and commercial breaks, I can never turn this movie off. It's become a bit sadder these days, looking back at what Lindsay Lohan could have been had she listened to Tina Fey more, but it's just such perfection in so many ways, and a timeless representation of teenage life.

The Movie I've Seen More Times Than I Can Count - I think this has to be a tie between Troop Beverly Hills and Miss Congeniality. Most of the other movies I watch over and over, I can actually count because I watch them during designated times. Every summer, for example, I mark the new season by screening Camp Nowhere, so that's once a year for X number of years, while every Thanksgiving I watch Home Alone, so again, once a year for X number of years. But randomly when I'm home on a rainy afternoon or not feeling so well or just need an escape after a particularly stressful time at work I'll put on these two for some easy laughs. I know them so well, I know them through walls.

The Movie Musical I Know All The Words To - This maybe shouldn't count, but RENT. Obviously. I've been singing those lyrics, and saying it should have been a movie, since well before Christopher Columbus actually butchered it on the big screen.

The Movie I Quote All The Time - This may not be the most intellectual answer, but I think it might be Clueless. I used to quote The Sweetest Thing with some friends from college-- mostly to annoy one friend in particular who hated the movie-- but the majority of my quotes, when used unironically come from television. Cher Horowitz is a rare gem whose wisdom crosses mediums and generations.

The Last Movie That Made Me Cry - Through the lack of volume of movies I actually consume and my proclivity to reach for a comedy over a drama any time, the last time I cried at a movie was way back with The Descendants. It was mostly because of how close to home it hit when George Clooney's wife was wasting away in her hospital bed, especially when compared to how the promos made it seem like a much lighter-hearted tale. Jim Rash is a genius and a gentleman.

The Movie I Can't Wait For - I'm really excited to see Safety Not Guaranteed, which I know is technically already out, but I haven't had time to get to it yet. It's the kind of quirky indie film with a somewhat existential message that is right up my alley. But I'm also excited for Magic Mike for completely gratuitous reasons.

The Movie I'm Always Telling People To See - Since I went to USC film school, I know the "appropriate answer" is something cinematic and artsy like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Shawshank Redemption (which I do tell people to see, but most already have), or even The Godfather, but in all honesty, the most truthful answer is a little-known and even lesser remembered 1980s made-for-TV movie, Dance Til Dawn. It has a sophomoric plot (the Hoover High senior class preps for prom, including taking the glasses off of a nerdy girl to see she's really pretty underneath), but it featured the biggest names in sitcoms at the time-- from Kelsey Grammer to Tracey Gold to Christina Applegate.

From LA Examiner: "Six Seasons and a Movie" Art Sneak Peek; Joey Pollari Previews 'Inbetweeners'; Ryan McPartlin Talks 'Daybreak'; Air New Zealand Hires TV Actors For In-Flight Safety Ad...

All right, Community fans, so NBC won't be bringing season four goodness until October. If you're in L.A. this weekend, though, you can celebrate your fellow Human Beings (and favorite show) by attending the "Six Seasons and a Movie" art show. Fans from all over the world have sent in artwork-- from paintings, to sketches, to vinyl sculptures, and dolls!-- and it will all be displayed at Monk Space (4414 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90004) on June 23 and 24... [MORE

MTV has a fan favorite on their hands with Lauren Iungerich's Awkward, a tale of not the most popular girl in school, but not a lost cause either, and now they are attempting to do it again-- this time for the boys. MTV ordered Inbetweeners, an adaptation from the U.K. series about high school guys just trying to get through adolescence and get laid. Though Inbetweeners won't be premiering until later this summer, we had a chance to catch up with star Joey Pollari at the Paley Center for Media last night to get a little taste of what to expect when diving into the boys' high school minds... [MORE

It's been a while since we had a chance to chat with Ryan McPartlin. Sure, he spent a good chunk of this year appearing on CSI: Miami and in guest spots from Hot in Cleveland to Necessary Roughness and Rizzoli & Isles, but we, probably like many of you, were still mourning Chuck. And then his name popped up in the cast of Tim Kring's Daybreak, a short-form series presented by AT&T and exclusive to their U-Verse customers (and now also living on the web). The series mixes some strong action elements-- ones that McPartlin laughed "they never let me do" on Chuck with a completely different, but still Awesome in his own way, character for McPartlin to embody. And we have to admit, we think we've seen the future of his storytelling... [MORE]

"SNEAK PEEK: Ed O'Neill & Melanie Lynskey for Air New Zealand in-flight safety"

Step aside, Virgin America! Your cheeky cartoon in-flight safety videos may have been the hippest ones around for awhile, catering perfectly to your domestic clientele, but Air New Zealand is taking things to the next level by employing Modern Family's Ed O'Neill and Two and a Half Men's Melanie Lynskey for their own instructional airplane videos... [MORE]

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

From LA Examiner: Lisa Kudrow Talks 'Web Therapy'; A Glimpse Inside 'Awkward's' Love Triangle; 'Anger Management' Advance Review...

"Lisa Kudrow brings Web Therapy back to Showtime for season two"

“If you’ve just seen it online, it’s the same…but not many people have seen it online, I don’t think. I don’t know that that many people know about it. We’re not very savvy about getting it out because we’re too old!” Lisa Kudrow laughed to LA TV Insider Examiner when we caught up with her at the Episodes premiere party in Los Angeles to talk about the second season of her Showtime series, Web Therapy... [MORE]

"Awkward’s Ashley Rickards, Beau Mirchoff & Brett Davern talk S2 love triangle"

At the end of the first season of MTV’s Awkward., Jenna (Ashley Rickards) made her choice, and it was Jake (Brett Davern). They held hands at the Winter Formal, and that marked their announcement of becoming a couple, much to Matty’s (Beau Mirchoff) disappointment. If that was a series finale, we could imagine them going off to live happily ever after or whatever all we wanted, but in truth, after thirteen short episodes, the story was really just getting started. And now in season two, the cast assured us that just because Jenna made a decision doesn’t mean you should count on the drama to stop-- or count Matty out just yet! ... [MORE]

If you want to tune into Anger Management to see Charlie Sheen further spiral down some kind of self-aggrandizing, narcissistic hole, you honestly shouldn’t waste your time. Despite FX' tongue-in-cheek promos (see the video to the left), this is not trainwreck television. If you want to tune in to see Sheen doing what he made routine for eight of the last nine years, however, this new FX sitcom picks up perfectly where he left off... [MORE]

From LA Examiner: Kate Flannery Talks 'StandUp in Stilettos'; 'Franklin & Bash' DVD Review; WIN 'Necessary Roughness' Essentials; Laura San Giacomo on 'talhotblond'...

Most of you probably best recognize Kate Flannery as Meredith on NBC’s long-running paper sales sitcom, The Office, but she has had her ear to the ground in comedy in many other ways, for many years. One-half of the dynamic duo, The Lampshades, the best fake lounge act you’ve ever seen, Flannery is now paying it forward and honoring some other great comediennes (both already establishing and a couple more up-and-coming) with her new TV Guide series, StandUp in Stilettos. It is the first time any stand-up showcase has devoted its entire set to all women, and Flannery tells us it's about time! ... [MORE]

If you’re the type of TV viewer who can appreciate those characters who never lose their sense of whimsy, you’ve undoubtedly been watching Franklin & Bash on TNT. The guys may slip on suits for their day jobs as lawyers, but they are anything but stuffy, uptight, or conventional! And now, the Man Cave party can continue because the first ten-episode season starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer is available on DVD... [MORE

The fact that Necessary Roughness airs during the summer creates quite the predicament, doesn’t it? On the one hand, the weather is so beautiful, you want to spend your nights outside, grilling with friends, sitting by the pool, or otherwise exploring the outdoors. But the show is so dramatically juicy and enticing, you can’t bear to tear yourselves away from your television on Wednesday nights, are we right? So unless you are one of those obscenely wealthy people who have a flat-screen built into an outside patio wall, you have to make a Sophie’s Choice. Obviously USA network wants you to stay in-- at least that one day a week-- and watch their hit programming. And now, they’re making it even easier for you to make that choice, as well... [MORE]

"Laura San Giacomo on the dramatic, dark, but still delicate talhotblond"

When diving into a project that is based on a true story, many actors prefer to read packets and books of information on the real people involved, oftentimes also sitting down with them for hours to learn all of their little nuances-- both physical and verbal-- that make them tick, in order to better embody them. But Laura San Giacomo, who stars in Lifetime's new movie of the week, talhotblond, didn't have that luxury. The movie, not to be confused with the documentary of the same name, is a fictionalized re-telling of Thomas Montgomery's web of deception-turned-murder on the internet. San Giacomo portrays his wife, a woman who has kept herself far away from the media storm that surrounded his case. And while that is certainly understandable, it created a unique challenge for San Giacomo, who put her own spin on a woman who is very much still out in the real world, without knowing much about her at all, let alone consulting with her directly... [MORE]

Monday, June 18, 2012

From LA Examiner: 'Episodes' Premiere Review; FOX Fall Premiere Dates; Kaitlyn Jenkins Dances Onto 'Bunheads'; Leonor Varela Talks Down 'Dallas's' John Ross...

"Episodes returns with a lot more heart and a surprise hit on its hands"

The first season of Episodes, the meta-comedy from David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik was short and sweet, introducing the world of colorful Hollywood players to its audience through the eyes of two British transplant writers, in town to adapt their series for an American audience. They hit up against come cultural differences, butted heads with studio execs who didn’t listen to them, let alone actually watch their show, and learned to love (in their own very specific ways) a big TV star trying to make a comeback (Matt LeBlanc). It was over just as things were starting to heat up, and it has been a long wait for the second season. But its return proves the wait was more than worth it as it expands upon all of the elements the first season gave us just a little taste of-- from subtle Friends comparisons, to deeply flawed but still lovable characters, to a relationship you can’t help but root for, even if you’re of the “once a cheater, always a cheater” mindset... [MORE]

"FOX announces Fall 2012 for Fringe, Raising Hope, The Mindy Project, more"

Hold on tight, television fans! Fall 2012 is about to get crowded with FOX announcing today their premiere dates for all new and returning series. Is your DVR overheating yet? ... [MORE]

"Q&A: Kaitlyn Jenkins discusses Bunheads’ dancing and friendship drama"

Kaitlyn Jenkins has a great story about wanting to be an actor since she was a little girl of probably no more than five, turning to her mother and asking ‘When can I please be on TV?’ Most parents probably would have told the story as an anecdote at parties and looked back on it as a phase, but Jenkins’ parents took note of their daughter’s special interests and abilities-- which didn’t start and end with acting, either. And it’s probably a good thing because her talent in, and passion for, both acting and dancing have landed her a plum role on ABC Family’s new dance drama, Bunheads... [MORE]

Leonor Varela didn’t really grow up with television in her household, but even she admitted she couldn’t escape the “cultural phenomenon” that was the original Dallas series. With everyone talking about “Who shot J.R.?”, Varela wanted to be a part of the conversation and holds onto “glamorous” memories of the series. But these days she is bound to have much more intimate memories of TNT’s new Dallas, as she has a seven-episode arc in the first season as Marta Del Sol, a businesswoman in on an oil scheme with John Ross (Josh Henderson) who is about to reveal some even more colorful secrets... [MORE

Friday, June 15, 2012

Snakkle Stories: Best TV Graduations; 'Franklin & Bash' Flashes Back; 'Dallas' Men Discuss Their Reboot; Colin Cunningham Previews 'Falling Skies' S2...

They say high school is the best time of a young person’s life, and when looking back over the famous high school classes of television’s past, it’s hard to disagree. So flip back through television’s high school yearbook with Snakkle as we explore our favorite graduation episodes of all of TV time... [MORE]

Snakkle catches up with Franklin & Bash stars Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as they take a trip back to their '80s and '90s roots... [MORE]

"Dallas cast previews on-screen tension!"

Thirty-plus years ago, when Dallas wrapped up its impressive 14-year run, the Ewings went out being known for their complicated romantic entanglements, their strong family, despite dueling brothers at the center, and, of course, a zeitgeist shooting mystery. Now Dallas is back, and because it’s a whole new millennium, all of those elements that once made the franchise famous are about to make it infamous... [MORE]

"Snakkle Dishes with Colin Cunningham on Falling Skies Season 2"

Falling Skies series star Colin Cunningham teases the second season of the hit sci-fi drama for Snakkle: "The first season of Falling Skies, Tom was a teacher and Anne was a pediatrician, and they were sort of still themselves, just thrust into this situation. Now Anne is a seasoned medic on the battlefield and Tom is far more of a warrior, and the kids are soldiers. They’re not necessarily what they used to be. The first season, they got honed and hardened, and the second season is way darker. There’s more loss; there’s more blood; there’s more everything"... [MORE]