Sunday, June 30, 2013

'Dexter's' Final Season Premiere Review...

Everything you need to know about the plot of Dexter's eighth and final season premiere on Showtime, you can actually glean from simply watching the promotional trailer the network released weeks ago. But that is not to say that you shouldn't watch the opening hour, nor that said hour isn't still leg-jiggling and nail-bitingly intense. Though you may know everything that's coming story wise, you still can't adequately prepare for the amount of tension and anxiety you feel when you're thrust back into the world of Miami Metro alongside these characters you have gotten to know so well for the past seven seasons.

It is six months later when we rejoin Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). He and his sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) are now somewhat estranged, and LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) is being honored with a ceremonial bench, while her job in the precinct has already been filled. Batista (David Zayas) is back on the job, pushing retirement because he was so fired up by his ex-wife and ex-boss' death, while Deb has quit and is working as a freelance P.I. We get most of this information through exposition at the top of the hour because the show wants to spend much more time propelling the characters forward into new situations than rehashing their pasts (even if their most recent past was off-screen for us).

Dexter's life hasn't changed much since his sister shot LaGuerta in that seventh season finale. He's still analyzing blood spatter and crime scenes, still raising Harrison (who has been replaced with a new actor this season) on his own, and still sleeping with the occasional blonde. Without LaGuerta breathing down his neck at work or about his "other" work, he actually seems a bit lighter than usual and has even let his hair down, so to speak, to get the bowling team back together (if we were you, we'd look for lots of fun nods to the earliest days of Dexter in this final season-- another one comes later with an air conditioning unit). Miami Metro's newest case has even dumped another serial killer in his lap-- someone who scoops out little pieces of his victims' brains as souvenirs. He's clearly someone worthy of Dexter's table and yet, his interest in the psyche might make him someone Dexter can learn from, as well.

But in many ways all of those things are just distractions because Dexter has one very big problem: Debra. She's not answering his calls; her voicemail is full; and she hasn't shown up to her new job in a few weeks. Dexter's life may have been unchanged by adding another body, if not blood slide, to his collection, but Debra's was forever altered. She's jittery; you can literally see her mind and heart racing behind her eyes, and from more than just the drugs she's been doing while on her new "case." She's spiraling, on an emotional and literal bender, and when Dexter sees just how bad of shape she's in, it's sure to break him a little bit, too.

There is a brief allusion that Batista, in his hoarding of LaGuerta's things, may inadvertently stumble onto her evidence against Dexter-- and even Debra-- at some point in the season, too. While this is nowhere near on Dexter's radar right now, it is something to consider as a member of the audience. Often it is when you think you've truly gotten away with something that the hammer is dropped after all. After every time that Dexter has outsmarted or outworked Miami Metro to get their guy first, it might just be poetic for him not to see one of them coming this time. Or it may mean nothing at all.

For a brief moment, Dexter's eighth season premiere also appears to be playing by the rules of a trilogy: a number character pops up to potentially rewrite part of that past-- another detour for Dexter just when he thought his life was finally perfectly back on track. This comes in the form of a trusted confidante of Dexter's dear old dad, Harry (James Remar). It turns out he did not write the code by which his son acted out his "Dark Passenger urges" after all; instead, it was the work and perhaps experiment of sorts of a psychologist, Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), who first turns up at the precinct to help lend expertise on the new serial killer stalking the residents of Miami, only to reveal herself to know exactly who and what Dexter is-- because she helped make him that way. Though the majority of the people who have learned the truth about Dexter have turned up dead, this particular one doesn't pose herself a threat but rather a vulnerable older woman who actually needs his help because she is being stalked. If he wanted to eliminate the problem of exposure, he'd just let the serial killer take her out; he wouldn't even have to get his own hands dirty. Dr. Vogel isn't here to be a repetitive part of Dexter's story, though; she labeled a much younger Dexter Morgan years ago, and through her surprised eyes now, meeting the man he became, she may have to face the fact that she was wrong about him and how "doomed" he was.

The audience of Dexter has spent seven years watching this man grow, even if slowly. He has had his moments of lashing out, of making mistakes, of putting others or even fear of what could befall others ahead of himself and even his code. He has proven himself not to be the pure sociopath he once had resigned himself to be-- most likely because of what Harry had ingrained in him while teaching him the code. We have seen the whole package of Dexter, but he has never granted himself the same objectivity. Through Dr. Vogel's eyes and expertise, though, he just may have to. And then what? Will it be too late for him? Will he regret the way he lived his life and become obsessed with the "What if?" Or will he finally find peace having more tangible proof he is human after all? Really this show could reboot itself with any one of those possibilities after this season, and we'd want to watch more to see where it goes. But since we know this is the final season for sure, it just seems that much more special that it's still going out on such a strong note while still bringing the character and his internal struggle full circle with where it all began.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

From LA Examiner: Katie Leclerc Talks 'Switched at Birth'; Tara Summers On Stage in L.A...

The first season and a half of ABC Family's Switched at Birth saw Daphne (Katie Leclerc) as a pretty well-adjusted teenager, effortlessly fitting into her new family while still maintaining all of her old relationships, too. She was strong and self-assured and knew how to fight what she thought was right, let alone what she wanted, as best evidenced by the take-over of Carlton. But now that she is living squarely under the Kennish roof, bonding deeper with Kathryn (Lea Thompson) on the tennis court and volunteering in John's (D.W. Moffett) political office, she is getting a taste of a slightly different world and with it may just come some more questioning. After all, she has already realized her politics and her biological father's don't line up, and Regina (Constance Marie) isn't really around to help her work through the issues. Instead, she's turning to a new friend, Jace (Matt Kane), and perhaps for the first time will be tested on just how strongly she knows herself and what she believes and how far she's willing to go for them... [MORE]

You probably best know Tara Summers from Boston Legal, Sons of Anarchy, Monday Mornings, and Ringer, but often-seen-on-television actress actually has deep roots in theater, having trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, as well as having studied at the National Theater Institute. Though she is about to grace the screen again with FOX's upcoming legal drama Rake, also starring Greg Kinnear, she is spending her summer in Los Angeles as a part of the American cast for Yes, Prime Minister... [MORE]

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

From LA Examiner: Jane Seymour Returns to 'Franklin & Bash'; 'Whodunnit's' Butler Didn't Do It...

Sex surrogacy is quite the hot topic amongst pop culture these days. Helen Hunt starred in a movie about it, and now TNT's legal drama Franklin & Bash is taking it on, as well, with the return of Jane Seymour as Peter's free-spirited mother Colleen... [MORE]

Most things are cliches because they have actually been proven to be true time and time again, but in the case of ABC's new murder mystery competition series, Whodunnit?, the old adage most certainly is not true: the butler definitely didn't do it. How are we so cocky to proclaim that as fact? Well, for one thing, Gildart Jackson, who plays the somewhat dry and dark butler is a decorated actor from shows like General Hospital, Providence, Charmed, and most recently Hellsing Ultimate. He's not a one-season wonder but rather a bridge between incarnations of this story... [MORE]

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

DanielleTBD's Director's Blog: 'Dating in L.A.' Day 1...

Technically it started back in 2006, but I wasn't aware of it for a few years. My friend Patricia, who I was working with on a short film at the time, used a tote bag that said "L.A.: Where Dating Comes to Die" screen-printed across the front with a blog address underneath. I was intrigued immediately but had no idea she was the one writing the blog, let alone that it was loosely based on her own life and experiences, right away.

The blog was about two years in when I started reading it, clicking on the homepage to check out the topics of the moment before going back to the beginning and reading everything, chronologically, in one sitting. I was hooked. I loved the characters, the voice, the themes, the stories. I wanted to see it come to life.

Patricia and I began adapting the blog and developing it as an original series around 2008. It was broken into web-sized episodes, back when the web was the wild, wild west and people had no idea how long a "webisode" should be. I guess technically that's still kind of true but only because censors and corporate bureaucrats have mostly still left the web alone, keeping the content in the hands of the creators, allowing more artistic freedom than even the most progressive cable networks. But because the internet was then, and is even more so today, such a vast ether of content where anyone and everyone can throw something at the wall and hope it sticks, we crafted a half-hour, more traditional pilot, too, to pitch to networks like Starz and USA (the former which ultimately decided to stop doing comedy, the latter which promised it would start...but didn't for a few more years). 

When I say Dating in L.A. and Other Urban Myths has taken years to come together, I therefore literally mean it. But it has finally come together, and the teenage me who used to believe everything happens for a reason has been fighting the even more jaded me to let that slip out of my mouth a couple of times. All of these years later, the work is richer from more experiences-- both in the industry and outside-- and the team we were able to assemble is that much more accomplished and amazing, too. 

Yesterday I stepped back on set from a production stand-point for the first time in well over a year and for the first time in the director's chair for the first time in many years to shoot two key scenes from the pilot presentation of Dating in L.A. and Other Urban Myths. Leading up to it, a couple of friends asked if I was nervous, and one said he, specifically, would be so stressed out if he were in my shoes. Honestly, to me, it felt like coming home.

I moved out to LA to create. I got into the entertainment business to create. When I wasn't able to do so as quickly as I wanted in the field of production, I moved into blogging where I would literally create dozens of pieces of new content a day, even if it was a compromise. I mean, let's be honest, I was really just writing about other people's creations, so it's a stretch to call such content creative, let alone artistic. Teenage me is knocking on the inside of my head, telling me that this revelation is happening now because I have been flirting with the idea of leaving the industry, leaving LA, and apparently when you try to get out, it finds ways to pull you back in. If that means something will finally come of Dating in L.A. and Other Urban Myths, I will happily stay. Patricia deserves that kind of success, and I care too much about the project and its message to just walk away now, on the brink of it all finally coming together. 

That's what this business does, though. It gives you just enough of a taste, a temptation, to keep you riding high for awhile. When you come down and look around and realize your life is not what it could be or should be because you were distracted by the blinding lights, you may make plans for something more "normal" and "steady", but the industry can sniff that out a million miles away and reels you back in. Few are strong enough to resist it; few want to resist it. Let's face it: we all get into this business because we're chasing something outside of ourselves, and by the time we find some semblance of it, or something else that makes us equally whole, we may be dug too deep to ever fully leave.

Today I feel like I got hit by a truck. And yet, that's a good thing. See, the thing about production that most people don't tell you is that it's a non-stop adrenaline rush while you're on set. At least for the director, anyway. There's so much to think about, from the actors' looks, to the dialogue, to any minute action to capture, to the actual look of the set and the shot composition. And being a producer/director hybrid, the back of my mind is filled with making sure everyone's happy, having fun, being fed, and that we're not going over-budget or off-schedule too terribly.

I was on my feet for ten hours yesterday, bouncing between the set and the monitors, actors' holding and make-up. My regular days are spent on the couch with my computer on my lap writing about other people's creative works. Yesterday, I actually got to be creative in a way I had just come to terms with never being able to. It's a tricky little game, an emotional roller coaster.

I came home wired and impossibly excited to shoot the next few scenes. But today was not our second day of production. Instead, we have to pick up in July, so the crash that comes after the highs of production has hit suddenly and hard.

I can't wait to get back on set with our amazing cast (two core actors whom we haven't shot with yet at all). I can't wait to play in the beautiful L.A. locations we found that perfectly showcase why this story is set here and why people put up with the smog and the traffic and the industry b.s. to live here at all. I can't wait to collaborate with our rock star crew, some of whom I worked with before, too long ago, and some of whom I just met for the first time yesterday but all who helped make something really special. And mostly, I can't wait to share the pilot and some key bonus footage with the world so that we can make even more of this story and this show!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

DanielleTBD the Director...

It is the day before I am about to embark upon my first directing adventure in a long time, so naturally instead of refining my shot list for the pilot presentation of Dating in L.A. and Other Urban Myths, I am instead reminiscing about projects past.

When I first moved out to L.A. in 2003 I wanted to be a writer and director. I was armed with a number of independent film scripts (mostly of the crime drama nature) and a resume of directing student musicals and and other theater productions in high school. I entered into USC's film school with tons of ideas but few that could be condensed down into the short film requirements of my classes. One, though, managed to stand out.

Define Justice was a feature film script I wrote based around one-half of the Sunset Strip Murderers, Carol Bundy. The very true crime case caught my attention during my John Douglas and Mark Olshaker phase, and I became fascinated with the psychology behind such a woman. Partially because obtaining life rights are expensive and complicated when surviving family members don't want to be constantly reminded of the black mark on their family tree and partially because of my interest in the psychology, specifically, behind such cases and killers, my version of the story followed dual narrators, a version of Carol and a version of the cop who ultimately caught her. Two women with almost parallel lives, one who chose to go down a road of criminal activity and one who chose to go down the road of catching criminals, always begging the question of just how much one could take before ultimately snapping. It wasn't a cat-and-mouse, with each one closing in on the other; rather it was a look at very twisted, almost surreal relationships and the tolls they take.

I shot a teaser trailer using friends and past co-workers (one of whom went on to co-star in Justified!) for a film class.

Very quickly after college graduation, I realized I had no ability to actually raise a couple hundred thousand dollars to shoot this film, though, so I adapted it as an hour-long pilot instead. I turned my attention to trying to pitch television shows, but admittedly I quickly began to focus on Stars in their Eyes instead. A half-hour comedy set in Hollywood at a time when Entourage backlash had not yet started, I thought it was an easier sell. Not to mention it was a lot lighter and therefore more fun, but also more traditionally focused on relationships and their nuances. So I created a teaser trailer for that, too.

I never had expectations to direct that if it got picked up for a network, nor did I want to climb the DGA ladder. At some point, I pushed dreams of directing aside for what I thought would be more practical and steady work. Obviously my life and career took a few major detours along the way, but last year, just for fun, some friends and I jumped on-board the "Shit People Say" video craze. I did one for the "Hollywood Adjacent" (read: wannabe celebrities) and "NYers in LA". And now, here we are, everything coming full circle as I embark on a new project with oh-so-familiar themes.

Friday, June 21, 2013

'On Writing' with Jenji Kohan...

With a resume that includes writing stints on modern classics like Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls, and Tracey Takes On, not to mention of course her eight year run as showrunner of Showtime's Weeds, Jenji Kohan has spent years cultivating a career on the fact that women don't have to be seen as merely pretty faces, girlfriends or assistants-- on-screen or behind-the-scenes. Kohan claims she never set out with the agenda to focus solely on female-driven stories, but her next project, the adapted Orange is the New Black for Netflix, seems the absolute perfect next step in the evolution of such a voice and artist.

"I don’t set out to write female lead shows necessarily. I like characters. I like deeply flawed characters. And when they come to me or when I’m introduced to them, I follow the stories, and I follow the people, more than setting out to do a “female lead thing.” You know, Weeds was a one-line pitch: ‘suburban widow, drug-dealing mom,’ and I was like, ‘This is something good’. And when I read Piper’s book, I immediately thought this is a way into a really interesting world," Kohan said during the Los Angeles Orange is the New Black press junket.

Based on Piper Kerman's autobiographical book of the same name, Orange is the New Black follows an upper middle class woman as she turns herself in for her part in a drug ring a decade earlier. She is sentenced to a year in a minimum security prison, and the story explodes from there as she has to acclimate to her new surroundings, adjust to those from very different walks of life, and find herself in the process.

"It’s kind of the yuppie’s eye view to get you in there because if you go to a network and say, ‘I want do to prison stories about Latina women and black women and old women’, you’re not going to make a sale. But if you’ve got this blonde girl going into prison you can kind of get in there and then you can tell all of the stories. I just thought it was kind of a great gateway drug to get into all of the stories I wanted to get into," Kohan said.

Some of the stories that Kohan gets to offer her take on with Orange is the New Black are relationship concerns, sexuality, race relations, religion, and gender identification. But she's not shoving an agenda down anyone's throat, instead focusing to showcase how so many of these "issues" manifest themselves within personalities, creating exceptionally unique and colorful characters.

Kohan refuses to paint anyone with a stereotypical brush, even though many of the characters judge each other that way. She allows her audience to see the deep layers behind people's exteriors and places they've carved out for themselves by spending alone time with them and going home with them, so to speak, through flashbacks to their lives before prison. It's just another way her female characters are as fully-formed and fleshed out as humanly possible.

"We fell in love with different people; there was sort of a flavor of the week sometimes…We got invested and we really wanted to do the flashbacks, partially because we wanted to explore who these women were on the outside versus the inside and get a fuller picture of the masks they wear, but also this was our lives for a good part of the year, and we did not want to be in prison 24/7. It was too oppressive, so how could we get out? Let’s see their lives a little bit!" Kohan said.

"They’re not shopping, and they’re not talking about the guys they’re fucking; they’re full people, and yeah, they’re incarcerated. It’s also hard to find these crossroads where you can bring in all these different groups and have them all in the same place, and I’m always looking for those…where you can put all these diverse people together and see how they respond to one another."

Though the topics Kohan chooses to explore in her writing seem heavy when seeing them listed in print, she never writes strictly from the dramatic side of things which saves her sanity as a writer but also keeps the audiences' intact, too.

"I think that shows that are completely dramatic are a lie because people use humor to cope. That is how we deal with things. In the darkest situations, there is humor. And if you don’t show that, you’re not being true to real life. I think it would be exhausting and depressing to write, to watch, and to live if it was just focused on drama. Also, I think the humor really highlights the pathos and the struggle, and you can slam it up against drama, and it makes both shine…I think it reflects reality; I think people use humor to survive the most horrific situations," Kohan said.

Since this was a project obviously not born from Kohan's own mind, though, there was a slight added challenge-- or at least an extra step-- in selling the idea. She first had to sell herself to Kerman as the writer before even bringing the concept to any network that might consider airing it. But by just being herself and letting her strong point of view and personality shine through, she obviously got Kerman's blessing. While most people would walk into such a meeting and list their impressive credentials, Kohan engaged with the content, knowing even subconsciously that her resume is readily Googleable but what gets pitches bought in the room is the passion shown behind them.

"She came in and I was supposed to sell myself and tell her why I should do this, and instead the entire time I was like, ‘Well, what happened to this character?’ and ‘Do you still know her?’ and ‘What are the toilets like?’ but apparently because I had all of these questions and I was enthusiastic, that’s what made her say yes to me. Because other people were like ‘I’ve done this and this’, and I didn’t even get to that because I was mostly interested in the narrative, and we just got along, and it’s an amazing story," Kohan said.

In a way, Orange is the New Black could be seen as the story Weeds opted not to tell by skipping ahead in time and the story after Nancy Botwin turned herself in. Kohan had more freedom at Showtime to tell dark and sexy stories without the concern of network censors' breathing down her neck, but even she couldn't deny that Netflix is a whole new world (or the "wild, wild west," as she literally put it) when it comes to allowing the creators to have creative freedom and therefore tell the story the best way for the realism of the story.

"I want to be there first. It’s the next frontier; it’s how my kids are watching TV; it’s how I’m watching TV. I remember how one of my writers on Weeds had gotten a new apartment and didn’t get cable and didn’t get a DISH, just hooked his computer up to a TV, and immediately it was like, ‘Okay, this is it; this is how it’s happening’. And to be able to be there first, I love the pioneer thing. It’s exciting to me. And you know, they pay full freight; they’re really nice; they support the work; what could be bad?" Kohan said.

Needless to say, Kohan would be up for keeping her partnership with Netflix as long-term as her previous one with Weeds-- but only if the story called for it. Thankfully she is not a writer who is just trying to stretch and milk for monetary gain but instead to honor the story and not only how it should be told but also for how long it should be told.

"I could stretch this shit for years! There's no question! We looked at the end of the first season, and I think we covered about four months. I could keep going; I could go off with other characters; I have no problem, we could go ten seasons with this as long as there are still interesting stories and interesting people we want to meet, I could keep going," Kohan said.

"But we all have to be invested. If the room starts getting bored, or I [do], then we either have to change something in the show or maybe end it. I like the challenge of ‘How can we stretch this out and where can we go with it?’ because it’s an open road, especially at Netflix; you can take it anywhere you want."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

From LA Examiner: 'Wilfred' and 'Dexter' Advance Reviews; 'Whodunnit' Preview; 'Web Therapy' Comes to Paley...

For two seasons fans of FX's Wilfred haven't been able to shake, even if only in the back of their minds, the idea that maybe, just maybe, Ryan (Elijah Wood) as a few screws loose and that's why he sees Wilfred (Jason Gann) as a human-sized, upright, talking man in a dog suit instead of a cuddly little four-legged buddy. It wasn't until the end of season two that Ryan had to consider the same thing for himself, though, after realizing he was drawing Wilfred even as a child. So season three picks up immediately with that same theme, but true to Wilfred whimsy and form, it doesn't dawdle on "what ifs"... [MORE]

"Whodunnit? EP Anthony Zuiker previews his new "reality meets fiction" series"

Do you ever sit at home watching network procedurals or other crime dramas and find yourself screaming at the investigators that you have known who committed the crime since act one? It's okay, you aren't alone. But now ABC is about to embark upon training other viewers to be just as active as you. The new reality competition series, Whodunnit? pits thirteen strangers against each other in a Southern California mansion, asking them to piece together the details of a crime and figure out which one amongst them is a killer-- or pay with their own lives (in the game, that is). But will any of them, with backgrounds in everything from journalism to law enforcement to Homeland Security, get to the bottom of the case before you, the at-home, extra savvy audience who has access to all clues and information when the contestants only have bits and pieces? ... [MORE

"Summer 2013 TV Preview: Showtime's Dexter eighth & final season"

Everything you need to know about the plot of Dexter's eighth and final season premiere on Showtime, you can actually glean from simply watching the promotional trailer the network released weeks ago. But that is not to say that you shouldn't watch the opening hour, nor that said hour isn't still leg-jiggling and nail-bitingly intense. Though you may know everything that's coming story wise, you still can't adequately prepare for the amount of tension and anxiety you feel when you're thrust back into the world of Miami Metro alongside these characters you have gotten to know so well for the past seven seasons... [MORE]

"Paley Center for Media to host an evening with Web Therapy in L.A."

On a personal level, we're not ones for therapy. But when it's Web Therapy with Dr. Fiona Wallice, we're all over it. Three minute sessions just doesn't seem like enough, so we were thrilled when Showtime picked up the online series to air as a half-hour comedy. But even still, there was something a bit impersonal about getting therapy through a screen, so the Paley Center for Media's announcement today that they're hosting an evening with Web Therapy in L.A. this July is just what the doctor ordered! ... [MORE]

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

From LA Examiner: Avan Jogia's Charity Work; 'Ray Donovan' and 'Franklin & Bash' Advance Reviews; 'Dexter' Ice Cream...

ABC Family’s Twisted’s Danny Desai (Avan Jogia) is a murderer (he strangled his aunt with his jump rope while she baby-sat for him and his two childhood friends), but that doesn’t automatically make him a sociopath. Motive is a major factor in the “why” behind murder, and Danny isn’t talking about his particular why. It didn’t matter to the cops who were just happy to put away the (right) suspect, but it matters to his childhood friend Jo (Maddie Hasson) who is deciding whether to stand by him as he is accused of a second murder, years later. And it should matter to the audience because how you think of his character will determine what you hope to see happen to him, and those around him, in the course of the show... [MORE]

"Summer 2013 TV Preview: Showtime's Ray Donovan"

There are a lot of things about Showtime's Ray Donovan, the premium network's new drama about a Hollywood "fixer," that are misleading from the jump. For one thing, it's not just a darker, sexier Scandal, set in the world of celebrities instead of politicians, and though Ray (Liev Schreiber) "handles" a number of cases just in the pilot alone, he and his team do so swiftly, never spending too much time digging into people's backgrounds. He's not there to act as an image representative, after all, but to quite literally come in and clean up messes like a married athlete finding a dead girl in his bed or a Hollywood golden boy caught with a transvestite. Only when he has a personal relationship with someone attached to a "case" does he linger, taking more time but arguably not more care than he should... [MORE

"Showtime and Coolhaus to offer Dexter FYC ice cream in L.A."

Dexter only has one season left on Showtime, and to mark the launch of the eighth and final season, the network has teamed up with Coolhaus to create a custom ice cream sandwich called the Killer Combo, available at all Coolhaus retail outlets and trucks in Los Angeles this month... [MORE]

When Franklin & Bash first premiered on TNT there was a lot of buzz about Mark-Paul Gosselaar getting bare-assed in a hot tub in the pilot episode. But now the show is returning for its third season, and we’ve come to expect the wild and crazy antics of these frat boy style lawyers, so they are stepping it up and raising the bar (sorry, I had to) by having both Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer drop trou within the opening scene of the season premiere—and while their characters were on live television to boot. Buckle up because the premiere episode may argue nudists’ rights for a case, but it sets a precedent for a whole lot more skin overall within the season... [MORE]

Monday, June 17, 2013

From LA Examiner: Robert Sean Leonard Talks 'Falling Skies'; 'The LA Complex' DVD Details; 'Devious Maids' and 'Under The Dome' Advance Reviews...

"Robert Sean Leonard dissects his Falling Skies recluse"

Take a good hard look at Roger Kadar, the reclusive and distrusting guy who keeps Charleston's lights on, on TNT's Falling Skies; that's a star turn if we ever saw one for the usually clean-cut, and just plain clean!, Robert Sean Leonard. Leonard joined the cast of Falling Skies for this third season as an all-important new ally to Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and the former 2nd Mass, but he's not the kind of character who takes too kindly to strangers, or anyone really, getting in his space... [MORE]

"Summer 2013 TV Preview: Lifetime's Devious Maids"

Lifetime's Devious Maids, the new mysterious melodrama about Beverly Hills maids from Marc Cherry, starts with a kick, but instead of zipping right along, it begins to meander, lingering and eavesdropping on each individual home. It's a great way to introduce all of the various "maids" and the stereotypical rich people for which they work, but it slows the story down considerably and even feels like it is dragging in some spots. In that respect, Devious Maids feels like a throwback to the months-long story lines of soap operas from yesteryear. Yet today requires a much quicker pace, especially if the series is going to lack eye-candy (the criminally underused Grant Show and Matt Cedeno aside), a department in which we expected Lifetime to absolutely excel... [MORE]

"First Look: The L.A. Complex Complete Series DVD cover art & details"

Just a few weeks ago, we broke the news of The L.A. Complex's Complete Series DVD release coming later this summer. But today, we have even more information on that very special box set for you... [MORE] 

"Summer 2013 TV Preview: CBS' Under The Dome"

What would you do if you suddenly and inexplicably found yourself completely cut off from the outside world? That is the main question posed in CBS' summer series, Under The Dome, adapted from Stephen King's novel of the same name, and it is the most relevant question one can ask today. With our increasingly reliance on technology and social media sites, we are in almost constant conversation with friends, family, and strangers-- about everything from politics and television to looking at hundreds of food and pet photos. We would be lost without it all. But Under The Dome doesn't shut the power of Chester's Mill off ala Revolution. Instead, an electrified dome is dropped over the town, trapping the residents as if in a giant snow globe. They can see those on the other side, but they cannot hear them. And radio signals are not permeating the barrier, either, so it should only be a matter of time before other means of communication shut down-- even if by choice or force from those who rise to power from within. Under The Dome certainly sets up the fear of the unknown. Like with every King project, there are already hints and elements of something slightly supernatural involved, but the scariest thing is not where this dome came from or why but instead how it will warp the seemingly everyday... [MORE]

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

We Have Thoughts: New Fall 2013 TV By The Network...

It's still a few months before the new fall shows debut on their various networks, and yes, the pilot cuts are subject to change, and in a few cases recasting, before they air. But even from the trailers you can kind of get a sense of which shows you think you'll like and which you wonder how they got passed the initial pitch anyway. Naturally that means it's time for We Have Thoughts to bring you our Fall 2013 Pilot Snap Judgements*. 

Marisa and I selected one show per network to discuss (since our end of season report cards were way too heavily focused on ABC!),  combination of comedy and drama, not discriminating against the ones we loved or the ones we hated. Some of our early assessments may surprise you.

ABC's Super Fun Night

CBS' Crazy Ones

FOX' Almost Human

NBC's The Michael J. Fox Show

The CW's Tomorrow People

* Disclaimer: Actual reviews will come closer to pilot premieres. These are just first impressions.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

From LA Examiner: 3rd Annual Critics Choice Winners; Avan Jogia on the Psychology of 'Twisted'...

"Game of Thrones, Tatiana Maslany win 3rd Annual Critics Choice Awards"

Tonight, live in Los Angeles, the 3rd Annual Critics Choice TV Awards were handed out in the Beverly Hilton ballroom. For those of you who want to learn some really behind-the-scenes stuff, the annual summer TCA is always held in the Beverly Hilton Ballroom, and today TCA Awards nominations were announced. Both ceremonies consist of critics picking their favorites across all categories, though the Critics Choice TV Awards has more, keeping the male and female actor awards separate from each other... [MORE]

"Go inside the mind of ABC Family’s Twisted killer with Avan Jogia"

Avan Jogia has the tough job of portraying the dark, secretive, and psychologically complex character of Danny Desai on ABC Family’s Twisted. As the young man sent to juvie five years earlier for killing his own aunt, Danny returns to his hometown and into the school system as a boy with the label of “socio,” short for “sociopath. But whether he is actually unable to emphasize and only mimic true emotions or if he’s just a young man who has learned to dictate his behavior based on what will get him the best results while still keeping a lot of cards close to his chest, the show will slowly unfold over time... [MORE]

Monday, June 10, 2013

What's In A Pitch? My Experience at ATX...

I didn't faint or pee myself or completely forget my words at the ATX Television Festival Pitch Competition, so I guess I can call that a moderate success, right?

I didn't win, either, but for a handful of industry big wigs whom I respect and admire (and a couple who are personal inspirations because they've actually managed to make the kind of content I not only love most but also would want to do, too, even in an increasingly "big event," stunty world) to say mine was at least good enough to hear in person was a thrill.

As a finalist in this competition, I was given three minutes to "sell" my show to a panel of judges of both buyers and sellers. That means there were show runners on the panel, people who pitch their own material all the time, as well as studio and network executives who are used to hearing pitches all the time, responsible for buying them. I was told I could use my three minutes with costumes or visual aids or even a partial performance, but that's not my show, nor is that indicative of a real network pitch, so I decided to forgo the audience engagement stuff (sorry, those of you who were out there) and just talk. In fact, every time I even turned to address the audience a bit more than the panel of judges, I lost my place slightly, but we'll get to the actual pitch in a minute.

Prepping for the event, I wrote out a quote-unquote formal few paragraphs to explain what my show is in the pilot and what it will become over the course of the first season. I'm not the most comfortable person on a stage, especially if I'm on a stage alone, though, so my strategy was to take the pitch copy from the video that got me to the finals and expand on it.

You can see my original video here:

The festival didn't have A/V capacity in the theater, unfortunately, or I would have spoken for 30 seconds to intro my pitch video and then wrapped it up with a few more seconds and words since the live pitch allotted for double time what the initial pitch video did. I wanted to treat it like the upfronts in style, though still getting into a modicum of depth with the characters and their arcs. Since I didn't win, you can take my advice with a grain of salt, but I feel like using adjectives and buzzwords doesn't actually tell anybody anything. "Edgy" or "emotional" mean different things to different people, and you have to prove what sets yours apart from others but also just that you know this world and these people so well it feels like you're talking about your friends. It's a tough thing to do in three minutes. I had six pages I would take into a network that I had to condense down, and anyone who reads me on a regular basis knows I like to be thorough!

Anyway, I wrote out what I wanted to say, but I also let it be a living organism in that I understood I didn't have to have it memorized verbatim and could just let things flow conversationally as long as I hit all the right bullet points. As I was preparing, I kept hearing Jeff Winger in my head ("This feel so formal. Let's just talk...") and used that as a sign I was on the right track. 

Unfortunately, though, I didn't hit all the right bullet points. There was a festival volunteer in the front row who was supposed to hold up a yellow card when we were half-way through our time and then a red one at 30 seconds left. I completely missed seeing the yellow card because I didn't want to look at the audience too much or I'd stumble and get more nervous. I don't even know how I managed to catch the red one, but I basically had to skip right to my closing logline of sorts and skip the paragraph that was the "first season will..." paragraph. I got out all the character details I wanted (everything you will see in the pitch video above plus some additional info on how the pilot opens and the family conflicts), but as I asked for feedback after, they needed to know I had a plan for what would happen when my main character, Kris, came out and overturned all the work they had been doing to that point (If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the video above). 

I admit I was purposely holding back some details. With only three minutes, I couldn't avoid that, but also the audience factor played into it a lot. I didn't know who might Tweet what out of context. I guess I still run that risk. But that was one detail I meant to point out-- that in episode he is at the point where he is finally comfortable enough to come out, and then a whole new can of worms opens up. First of all, there's the issue of whether or not a person should have to come out: No straight person sits down and tells their parents they are straight; they merely start dating people of the opposite sex, so the rules shouldn't be different if you just want to start dating someone of your own sex. But for this character, it's also an issue of publicness because he is a celebrity, and he has been willingly and actively perpetuating a lie for so long. He was so worried about coming out and being mistreated in a number of ways by a number of people, but now he may actually have to face a backlash from gay and straight fans who feel betrayed by the lie. How much of that is his fault; how much of it is the media's; how do you clean up that mess, and what does it do to you as you try? 

When I realized I had skipped something so important, I was just crossing my fingers that the question would be raised during the judges' Q&A, but unfortunately it wasn't. I did get a question about "Hollywood" the show would be, but I was hoping for more. I like Q&As, no matter what side of them I'm on, because I like to directly engage. It's really hard to basically do a monologue for people, some of whom know immediately the show is not right for them and therefore don't look all that interested when you're talking. I don't envy actors at all. It is a skill, an art, a craft, absolutely, but it's also a mastering of self-confidence to even continuously put yourself out there. I guess the flip-side could be that few questions means my initial pitch was clear enough that they "got" the show, and it was just a matter of whether or not they liked it, and me, enough.

I have to give a big "THANK YOU" to those judges, though, especially the ones who subbed in at last minute and had no idea what they were getting into. The fact that the festival was able to get such busy people to devote time and interest to this is a huge deal, and the festival organizers really need to be given a lot of credit for pulling that off.

I was originally developing The It Couple two years ago with The CW in mind. The trends of pilot season have seen that particular network no longer pick-up shows about "real people", meaning there's always a super power or supernatural or futuristic "hook." In many ways, these "smaller" shows that are "just" about people and their problems are hard sells in general these days, and I've known that separately from knowing how hard a sell can be for a show that basically pulls the curtain back on a practice no one in Hollywood should feel like they have to do, let alone be told they have to do. Not to tangent too much (though that's what I do) but Hostages coming to CBS in the fall wouldn't have gotten picked up if it was "just" a show about a family who felt emotionally held hostage by their marriages or overbearing parents or whatever; it was the element of being literally and physically held hostage that got everyone to sit up and take notice, with the other stuff becoming the deeper layer. I actually really loved the Hostages pilot, but that kind of "big event" television is just not what I do.

So though I do have networks I'd still like to pitch The It Couple to (ABC, Netflix, and Bravo, especially, please call me!), I've also tried adapting it as both a online series and a novel. The online series might be the best way to go, especially after this weekend and how inspiring it was to hear people talk about embracing that content. The winning pitch actually started as a web series, and I encourage you to check it out now and follow along in their journey, too.

For The It Couple, it would be a whole separate process to attach talent and find the money and write smaller-form scripts, taking third and fourth lead characters and spinning them out into their own little side arcs and episodes. I certainly see the potential there (and there was always supposed to be a big web component if the show was on a network, with Kaley's roommate's blog being a real thing that would go live at the upfronts announcement to bring fans deeper into the world and make it feel legit). So while I can't quite say this pitch competition was the first step in my road, at least it wasn't officially the last.

From LA Examiner: Vanessa Marano Talks 'Switched at Birth'; Sinqua Walls Returns to 'Teen Wolf...

"Switched at Birth's Vanessa Marano talks Ty's return, living with Regina, & the "What If?" episode"

When we rejoin the Kennish and Vasquez families on ABC Family's Switched at Birth this summer, the sit-in at Carlton may be far behind them, but the fallout from it is still hanging over characters' heads as they struggle to find their new places yet again. But it is summer time in the story, too, so there are a few months before they have to worry too much about facing the drama at school, left instead to focus on issues at home and with summer jobs. Daphne (Katie Leclerc) is firmly under the Kennish wing while Regina (Constance Marie) is in rehab, and she takes to it nicely, interning for her father and hanging out at the club. Bay (Vanessa Marano) on the other hand, is asserting her independence, as we have come to expect, but also trying to reign in her own sense of family and support system after feeling like she was just burned yet again... [MORE

"Sinqua Walls talks Boyd’s Teen Wolf season three transformation"

MTV’s Teen Wolf let the truth about Boyd (Sinqua Walls) dangle a bit. In the third season premiere, Derek (Tyler Hoechlin) had been looking for him and Erica for months but to no success. At the very end of the episode, we saw him, from behind only, tied up in a remove Beacon Hills location. So he was alive, but he clearly was still in danger. And now that we’re all caught up as to his whereabouts, it won’t be long before Derek and Scott (Tyler Posey) are, as well. But the sweet, somewhat desperate to fit in, malleable Boyd they want to rescue may not be who they find... [MORE]

Friday, June 7, 2013

We Have Thoughts: End of 2012-2013 Season Report Cards...

We Have Thoughts has been very busy with a lot of new television, but before we get into all of that, we wanted to take a second (read: an hour) to check back in with old favorites we don't always get to spend as much time on as we'd like.

Above and beyond what we personally enjoyed about the recent television season, how did shows match up in their production values and storytelling? We tried not to grade them against previous seasons, but let's be honest, some of these End of Season Report Card grades may have been affected by additional factors.


Modern Family

Parks and Recreation



Thursday, June 6, 2013

From LA Examiner: Exclusive Photo Mark-Paul Gosselaar on 'Men At Work'; 'Franklin & Bash' Season Three Scoop; 'Falling Skies' Scoop from Noah Wyle, Drew Roy, Connor Jessup & Maxim Knight + My Advance Review...

"Exclusive First Look: Mark-Paul Gosselaar on Men At Work's season finale"

Turner is keeping it all in the family this summer with TNT's Franklin and Bash star Mark-Paul Gosselaar popping over to TBS' Men at Work for their second season finale episode, and LA TV Insider Examiner has your first look at that special TV event... [MORE]

"Franklin & Bash's Malibu move means guest star Rob Lowe is season three"

Your eyes are not deceiving you. That *is* Mark-Paul Gosselaar all grown up and hanging on the sands of Malibu in paparazzi photos from the filming of TNT's Franklin & Bash's third season. But it's not a full return to the Malibu Sands of his youth. Instead, he and Breckin Meyer have to move into a new house after someone burns down theirs... [MORE]

"The Mason men of Falling Skies preview amplified family & alien drama in S3"

TNT's epic alien invasion drama Falling Skies has always had a very sweet family story at the center, as once-history professor Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) fought to keep his boys alive and together as a unit. Season three, though, sees the Mason family ripped apart, even if not physically, at least with various new and ever-growing responsibilities that take them all in different directions. Tom is now President of the new United States, while eldest son Hal (Drew Roy) is dealing with paralysis by day and too-eerily-real alien dreams by night. Middle son Ben (Connor Jessup) still has spikes in his back from his time among the Skitters, and little Matt (Maxim Knight) isn't so little anymore, fighting alongside the rest of the soldiers and falling in with the wrong crowd. Add to that a new baby in the family, an alliance with the Volm aliens who are building a top-secret piece of technology, and a mole within this community of Charleston in which the Masons are living and ruling, and the stakes have never been higher... [MORE]

When Falling Skies first debuted on TNT three years ago, it depicted a whole new world: aliens had invaded, tearing apart families, destroying communities, and kidnapping the youth for their own labor purposes. But humans are nothing if not adaptable, relying on survivor instincts and their own, even if limited, intelligence and technology to get a handle on what the aliens wanted and which ones could even surprisingly be trusted. They rebuilt and restored—maybe not physical structures or cities but infrastructures and social order. So when the third season starts, it’s something of a brand new world again... [MORE]

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2012 Emmy Dream Ballot: Comedy Edition...

With the traditional television season safely in the rear view mirror, awards buzz has already begun. Just next week the members of BTJA will present their third annual Critics Choice TV Awards, while "For Your Consideration" Emmy packages have been mailed out to academy members and industry professionals for weeks now. What better time to pop up with My Five Cents and Emmy Dream Ballot*, then?

The official nominees won't be announced until July 18, so perhaps this will give voting members time to take another (or in many cases, first) look at these names for honoring. 

You've seen my take on Drama and Miniseries/Movies/Miscellany, but I saved arguably the toughest (most subjective) categories for last. Comedy!

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
  • Carly Chaikin, Suburgatory
  • Elisha Cuthbert, Happy Endings 
  • Elizabeth Perkins, How to Live with your Parents (for the Rest of your Life)
  • Eden Sher, The Middle
  • Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie 
  • Julie White, Go On
  • BeBe Wood, The New Normal

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
  • Tony Hale, Veep
  • Simon Helberg, The Big Bang Theory
  • Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation
  • Adam Pally, Happy Endings
  • Danny Pudi, Community 
  • Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation
  • Rainn Wilson, The Office

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
  • Courteney Cox, Cougar Town
  • Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
  • Tina Fey, 30 Rock
  • Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project 
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep 
  • Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope
  • Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
  • Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
  • Louis C.K., Louie
  • Jake Johnson, New Girl 
  • Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
  • Ed O'Neill, Modern Family 
  • Andrew Rannells, The New Normal
  • Jeremy Sisto, Suburgatory

Outstanding Comedy Series 
  • 30 Rock (NBC)
  • Happy Endings (ABC)
  • The Mindy Project (FOX)
  • Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  • Raising Hope (FOX)
  • Veep (HBO)

+ Honorable Mention to Lisa Kudrow, whose Web Therapy was originally produced for the internet and only acquired and repurposed for a Showtime half-hour.

* Dream Ballots are strictly wishful thinking and based on personal preference, not calculated odds or predictions.

The 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, live from Los Angeles on September 15th 2013. 

Who would YOU vote for??

2013 Dream Emmy Ballot: Misc. Edition...

With the traditional television season safely in the rear view mirror, awards buzz has already begun. Just next week the members of BTJA will present their third annual Critics Choice TV Awards, while "For Your Consideration" Emmy packages have been mailed out to academy members and industry professionals for weeks now. What better time to pop up with My Five Cents and Emmy Dream Ballot*, then?

The official nominees won't be announced until July 18, so perhaps this will give voting members time to take another (or in many cases, first) look at these names for honoring.

Now, you may have noticed from my drama wishlist that a few long-time favorites were MIA. Don't worry, I didn't forget about them! But their projects fall under the "Miniseries or Movie" categories, which is included in the next block up to explore.

"Miscellaneous Emmy categories" are the ones I never used to care about at all-- from miniseries, to reality TV. In all honesty, I still don't care much about some of them, but the fact that some have grown on me simply because of the talent they have attracted, not to mention the way traditional television has begun to embrace shorter-term series (in what I hope to be a long-term trend!), is a big step up.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
  • Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals
  • Holly Hunter, Top of the Lake 
  • Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Asylum
  • Lily Rabe, American Horror Story: Asylum
  • Jessica Walter, Netflix's Arrested Development
  • Alfred Woodard, Steel Magnolia

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
  • Gabriel Basso, The Big C: hereafter
  • John Benjamin Hickey, The Big C: hereafter
  • Rob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra
  • Evan Peters, American Horror Story: Asylum
  • Zachary Quinto, American Horror Story: Asylum
  • Jeffrey Tambor, Netflix's Arrested Development

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
  • Gillian Anderson, The Fall
  • Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum
  • Laura Linney, The Big C: hereafter 
  • Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
  • Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake
  • Sigourney Weaver, Political Animals

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie 
  • Billy Campbell, Killing Lincoln
  • Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
  • Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra 
  • Jamie Dornan, The Fall
  • Toby Jones, The Girl
  • Al Pacino, Phil Spector
  • Dominic West, The Hour

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie 
  • American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
  • Arrested Development (Netflix)
  • Behind the Candelabra (HBO)
  • The Big C: hereafter (Showtime)
  • The Fall (BBC/Netflix)
  • Top of the Lake (Sundance Channel)

Outstanding Variety Series
  • The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
  • Kroll Show (Comedy Central)
  • Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC) 
  • Saturday Night Live (NBC)

Outstanding Reality 
  • Boston's Finest (TNT)
  • House Hunters (HGTV)
  • Shark Tank (ABC)
  • Tabatha Takes Over (Bravo)
  • Undercover Boss (CBS)

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
  • The Amazing Race (CBS)
  • The Biggest Loser (NBC)
  • Face Off (Syfy)
  • Masterchef (FOX)
  • RuPaul's Drag Race (LOGO)  
  • So You Think You Can Dance (FOX)
  • Splash (ABC)

Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program 
  • Tom Bergeron, Dancing with the Stars
  • Tabatha Coffey, Tabatha Takes Over
  • Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance
  • Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race 
  • Gordon Ramsay, Hell's Kitchen/Masterchef
  • RuPaul, RuPaul's Drag Race

* Dream Ballots are strictly wishful thinking and based on personal preference, not calculated odds or predictions.

The 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, live from Los Angeles on September 15th 2013. 

Who would YOU vote for??