It's hard to say what pushed last night's Bravo upfront over the top -- perhaps it was the duelling entrees served by the two "Top Chef" finalists. I was in the minority and really dug Richard Blais' cutlet of black cod served with pork belly, beets and mustard caviar, but the consensus among journos and ad buyers was that the pork shoulder with pepperoni sauce, cabbage and turnips was the winner. (Blais won the competition overall, though it was said to be an off night for him)
Or it might have been the cotton candy trees -- wire-and-alligator-clip contraptions holding blossoms of blue-raspberry-flavored candyfloss. Or it could have been the Snickers lollipops.
But that was all just the food. The venue was 82 Mercer, an exposed-brick loft space of 25,000 square feet that Bravo festooned with colored track lighting, televisions showing the network's programming (occasionally live, as the satellite truck outside beamed shots of Andy Cohen and friends into the cablesphere), and what looked like huge wads of crumpled paper blocking the porticos into the dining area. At net topper Frances Berwick's signal, the paper doors crumpled neatly upward, and awed diners went in to feast their eyes.
Little did the shock jock know back in February when he live-tweeted his way through his own movie, "Private Parts," that he would accelerate a trend that seemed reserved to the occasional one-off stunt.
Fast-forward a few months, and everyone is getting in on the trend. Mark Cuban is doing it to accompany episodes of ABC's "Shark Tank." Travel Channel is pushing same for "No Reservations" and "Bizarre Foods." Oprah Winfrey supported the launch of the OWN series "Behind the Scenes" with a rare Twitter appearance on Sunday, and Dana Delaney got her social-media savvy going for the debut of her new ABC series "Body of Proof" on Tuesday.
Maybe the fact that "Proof" and "Scenes" did decent ratings is the reason that CBS is now prepared to top them all with an entire "Tweet Week." Every night beginning April 3, there will be live-tweeting accompanying the Eye's biggest programs, including the Academy of Country Music Awards, the NCAA basketball championship, "NCIS," "Survivor," "The Amazing Race," "The Big Bang Theory," and "Hawaii 5-0."
Naturally, this Tweet-a-palooza will likely bring the trend to a crashing halt. But in all fairness to Jeff Probst, he's been live-tweeting his way through "Survivor" episodes for a while now. When this overburdened bandwagon starts to creak, don't blame him.
Confirmation came Wednesday that he joined the untitled Emily Spivey comedy pilot at NBC (first reported last week by blog Splitsider), effectively ruling out what seemed a more enticing prospect: Arnett replacing Steve Carell on "The Office." That probably wasn't ever a real possibility but given that the actor is scheduled to appear in the finale, speculation was only natural.
Instead, he will be joining Christina Applegate in the untitled pilot, which is being executive produced by "Saturday Night Live" mastermind Lorne Michaels. He'll play a stay-at-home husband married to Applegate, an acerbic working woman who finds herself home, too.
Is it just me or does that kind of pairing bring to mind this season's disappointing pairing of Arnett and Keri Russell on Fox's short-lived "Running Wilde"? Let's hope his new pilot is at least better than that.
If I had my druthers, I would keep Arnett on "30 Rock," where he proved just last week how brilliantly funny he is as the not-quite-closeted executive Devon Banks. Arnett is terrific in just about everything he does, but he takes it to a whole other level in his rivalry with Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).
After seeing him in multiple episodes in previous seasons, "30 Rock" is depriving us by just giving him one shot this year. Bring him back...or at least put him alongside his wife, Amy Poehler, on "Parks and Recreation." It would be smarter for NBC to bolster an existing comedy with Arnett rather than risk losing him on the always dicey pilot front.
HBO has officially ended its sessions with “In Treatment.”
Series, which ran for three seasons on the pay cabler, will not go forward with a fourth. “In Treatment” was based on an Israeli format in which a psychologist saw a range of clients, as well as seeing his own therapist. The Israeli version ran for only two seasons and the HBO version used the same storylines.
What made the show unique was its rotating cast as well as having a new showrunner every year. Gabriel Byrne appeared in each season as Dr. Paul Weston, who conducted therapy out of his home office. Byrne won the Golden Globe in 2009.
Showrunners for final season were Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman. They exec produced with Stephen Levinson, Mark Wahlberg, Paris Barclay and Hagai Levi. The season one showrunner was Rodrigo Garcia, with Warren Leight coming aboard for the second season.
Levi created the show in Israel and remained an exec producer for the show’s U.S. run. Noa Tishby, who was a co-exec producer in the third season, was instrumental in bringing the show from Israel to America. She introduced the project to Levinson, who had a working relationship with HBO at the time with “Entourage.”
The series helped launch the career of Oz actress Mia Wasikowska. In the first season, she played a gymnast who had an inappropriate relationship with her coach and had family issues. Glynn Turman and Dianne Wiest won Emmys for their perfs in the show’s first season as well.
Byrne, who was twice Emmy nominated and appeared in all 121 episodes, said the role was demanding in that it was often difficult to memorize long stretches of dialogue in a short amount of time.
“In Treatment” was never a ratings winner, drawing only 259,000 viewers for its season three premiere. However, HBO execs felt the series was creatively strong enough to run three seasons.
History is premiering new hourlong series "How the States Got Their Shapes" on May 3, and I have to admit, this looks like a fun one to me. It might even be a way to get my kids to watch something educational for once. (Don't ask.)
From the press release:
Why does Montana look like it took a bite out of Idaho? Why is Georgia plotting to re-draw its border with Tennessee? Why does Florida have a panhandle? Why isn’t Chicago in Wisconsin? The map of the United States is a jigsaw puzzle of crooked lines, right angles and odd shapes. Some pieces are outsized; others are minuscule. The reason for our jagged geography? American history.
On "How the States Got Their Shapes," a new one-hour series premiering Tuesday, May 3 at 10 p.m. on History, journalist and former Daily Show correspondent Brian Unger criss-crosses the nation in search of the stories behind our boundaries – and discovers not only how the states got their shapes, but how the states have shaped us.
When the founding fathers drew the first map of America, they confronted many of the same challenges that unite and divide us today. "How the States Got Their Shapes" explores how our borders evolved – and continue to change – in response to religion, transportation, communication, politics, culture clashes and even Mother Nature.
This is no textbook-style documentary series. Local experts and everyday folks lead Unger to insights about some of America’s most baffling questions. How are flying fish threatening to re-draw the shape of Illinois? What does the use of cell phones by Pennsylvania’s Amish have to do with the shape of their state? How is the phrase “sold down the river” linked to the shape of what might be our 51st state? Why did the invention of air conditioning change how America picks its Presidents? Unger uncovers the answers, hidden in our map.
Lifetime has renewed hourlong unscripted hospital series "One Born Every Minute," set in an Ohio maternity ward, for a 10-episode second season.
The Feb. 1 premiere gave Lifetime its biggest unscripted launch in key demos in more than a year. Airing at 10 p.m. Tuesdays, "One" is averaging 831,000 viewers overall.
“The unexpected moments of childbirth brilliantly captured in One Born Every Minute -- ranging from intense drama to the sheer joy of having a child – immediately struck a chord with our viewers,” Lifetime prexy/g.m. Nancy Dubuc said. “Reveille worked tirelessly to make a great show, and we look forward to working with them and the team at Riverside Methodist Hospital on season two.”
Howard T. Owens, Robin Ashbrook, Sanjay Singhal and Elisabeth Murdoch are exec producers. The format originated in the U.K. and also has versions in France and Sweden. Shine International distributes internationally.
These latest pictures from the filming of NBC pilot "Wonder Woman" not only show the evolution of the costume from the first look we saw earlier this month, they also show the magic of Adrianne Palicki transforming into her stunt double.
Folks online are saying that WENN.com first published the pics, though they don't appear to be anywhere on the site itsself.
Here's a trailer for what might be TNT's most ambitious original drama series to date: "Falling Skies," starring Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood. Its two-hour premiere is June 19.
Steven Spielberg, who is exec producing a similarly fantastical series for Fox in "Terra Nova," is also behind "Falling Skies" — as are Graham Yost ("Justified"), Robert Rodat (writer, "Saving Private Ryan"), and DreamWorks' Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank, among others.
Greg Mottola has been tabbed to direct the HBO Aaron Sorkin pilot.
Helmer, whose current bigscreen pic "Paul" is playing in theaters, has plenty of TV experience, including working on HBO's Lisa Kudrow series "The Comeback." His other smallscreen projects include Fox's Emmy-winning comedy "Arrested Development" and the net's Judd Apatow laffer "Undeclared."
Prior to "Paul," his theatrical efforts were "Adventureland" and "Superbad."
Pilot examines the behind-the-scenes look at a cable news network with Jeff Daniels in negotiations to star as the host of his own political show who, from the network perspective, can be difficult to handle. No other casting has been set.
In preparing the pilot, Sorkin spent time with a handful of cable personalities, including Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, to get a sense of what a typical day is like at MSNBC.
HBO debuted the five-part miniseries "Mildred Pierce" Sunday night and is prepping to roll out its highly touted fantasy drama "Game of Thrones" April 17.
After having found a toehold with its "Real Housewives" franchises in New York, New Jersey, Beverly Hills and Orange County, the NBCUniversal cabler is moving to Texas for "Most Eligible: Dallas."
Set to be announced at Bravo's upfront Wednesday -- taking place simultaneously in Gotham, Chicago and Los Angeles -- the new docuseries will examine the Dallas dating scene among local socialites. Pink Sneakers will produce with Kimberly Cowin and John Ehrhard serving as exec producers.
In other programming news, Bravo is set to debut its newest series "Pregnant in Heels" April 4. Show follows maternity concierge, fashion designer and pregnancy guru Rosie Pope as she guides expecting mothers through the joys and perils of preparing to have a baby.
Of its returning series, the femme-skewing cabler will roll out new seasons of "Top Chef Masters" and "The Real Housewives of New York City" next week. Second season of "Bethenny Ever After" premiered in late February.
This is my favorite picture to run in Variety this year: A shot of future CBS News and Sports topper Sean McManus by the side of his father, Jim McKay — at the World Barrel Jumping Championships in Grossingers, N.Y., no less. The hand on the shoulder as Dad calls the action is what slays me.
The picture accompanies my feature on McManus, which can be found here. After nearly six years running both CBS' news and sports divisions, McManus last month began focusing entirely on sports as the division's chairman. An excerpt:
... Nevertheless, it's not as if there weren't any shadow memories of his news days for McManus as crises have unfolded in Japan and Libya.
"I miss not being very involved in the news and knowing exactly what is happening," he says, "When something big happens in the world, my first reaction is to call the newsroom and get an update."
Though it was long before his career began, McManus' news baptism came that unthinkable day, four decades ago in Germany at the 1972 Olympics, when McKay served as the voice of a horrified world.
"I remember vividly that I was supposed to spend the day with my father, because it was his one off day," McManus recalls. "I was going to spend (time) with him sightseeing or just relaxing in Munich, and he called me and said, 'I've got to go to the broadcast center. (ABC Sports president Roone Arledge) just called, and there's something happening at the Olympic Village. You want to ride over with me?' "
As McKay (who changed his name from McManus in 1950 at the behest of a CBS producer who wanted to title his show "The Real McKay") began 16 consecutive hours anchoring the nightmare of Israeli athletes held hostage and ultimately killed by Arab terrorists, McManus stood off to the side with Arledge and his team, witnessing a broadcast that Walter Cronkite would later say made his profession proud.
"It was just a horribly tragic day," McManus says. "It had an enormous impact on me. … In some tiny way, if through osmosis, I learned some lessons about journalism and reporting that served me very well my entire career.
"I walked away with an enormous sense of pride of what my father accomplished under the most grueling circumstances."
McManus' bond with his father, who passed away in 2008, is unmistakable -- he takes pride in pointing out that because of McKay's weekend-tilted schedule, he was always at McManus' weekday youth football and baseball games. ("On away games, it was four mothers and Jim McKay driving the station wagon," McManus says.) ...
Here are two clips, taped this weekend, for Comedy Central's April 10 presentation of its first presentation of "The Comedy Awards." Jon Cryer gets busy, while Tina Fey throws down against Helen Mirren:
A 500-episode idea can come out of nowhere. Just ask Bruce Nash, the prolific producer whose many TV credits include the cable staple that is "Modern Marvels."
Nash created the unscripted series in 1994. After a brief run on A&E Network, it's been a staple of History's daytime and primetime sked. Earlier this year, the show logged its 500th episode, prompting Nash (pictured left) to remember his visit to the St. Louis' Gateway Arch that inspired the concept.
It happened while Nash was on a book promotion tour in 1986. During his stop in St. Louis, he visited the riverfront architectural wonder that commemorates Thomas Jefferson and the westward expansion of the U.S.
"Inside the arch they had a documentary about the men and women who sacrificed to build this amazing architectural achievement. I was so moved by it I wrote down 'modern marvels' on a slip of paper and put it in my pocket," Nash recalls.
Though the memory of his run on “24” has barely faded, and the prospect of his return to Fox via drama pilot “Touch” is highly likely, the actor just isn't going to run the risk that his mug might slip your mind.
What other explanation could there for an actor of his stature starring in a mere Web series, right? Beginning Monday on Hulu and elsewhere on the Internet, "The Confession" is a short-form 10-episode series with the kind of star power rarely seen online.
Sutherland plays a merciless hit man whose amoral ways are confronted by a priest (John Hurt) in a conversation inside his confessional. Think "The Phone Booth" crossed with "Collateral."
True, it's not the first time a former primetime fixture has deigned to perform in a webisode. Recall "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow taking a lead role in "Web Therapy," which will be replayed on Showtime later this year.
But as with Kudrow and "Therapy," "Confession" delivers a bigger surprise than just who its star is; the real shock is that the series is actually quite good judging from the three episodes I got to see ahead of their release.
A nicely produced and scripted webisode is a real rarity, as anyone who follows this woeful genre can tell you. It will be interesting to see whether the online video marketplace has evolved enough to make this a viable enterprise after too many false starts.
"Confession" is produced by Digital Broadcasting Group.
I've read with interest the wide-ranging reviews of HBO's "Mildred Pierce," the five-part miniseries that debuts its first two segments tonight. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times called it a "revelation," while Alan Sepinwall of HitFix.com called it a "slog." Variety's Brian Lowry praised its audaciousness.
My take is very much in the middle. As ravishing as its look and as intriguing as its themes are, "Mildred" gets off to such a slow and stilted start in its first hour that the entire project feels like a basketball team trying to come back from an early 20-point deficit (excuse the March Madness influence). And though it goes on some runs, I can't say that in the end that Team Mildred is triumphant.
Kate Winslet is someone I almost always adore onscreen, and one can sense, regardless of the miniseries' reviews, that she's already shaping up to this year's Claire Danes – as it was with the "Temple Grandin" star from the Emmys through the SAGs, it's going to be one long awards tour in 2011-12 for Winslet. But her performance to me was remarkably mannered, and I found myself wrestling with it for most of the miniseries. She and director Todd Haynes made the calculated choice to keep Mildred in a soft monotone most of the time, and it comes across as self-conscious and ironically showy. In the final two parts, Winslet's performance peaks, but her best moments are probably when she's reacting instead of talking. It's problematic work.
Then there's the problem with "Mildred" that everyone, including McNamara, has latched onto: the character of Mildred's daughter Veda (60% Morgan Turner, 40% Evan Rachel Wood) is so unredeemingly loathsome that you're not sure if you're watching a family drama or a horror movie. Little cause for this is given: Maybe the split between her parents in the opening moments lit the fuse, maybe she was just spoiled beyond redemption. But mostly, the film's argument seems only to be that she's a bad seed, and what are you supposed to do with that? It'd be one thing if this were a 90-minute movie, but in a project more than six hours long that takes pains to lay out everything that makes Mildred what she is, it's hard to accept that, to call back Jessica Rabbit, Veda "was just drawn that way."
The remaining supporting cast of "Mildred" – led by Melissa Leo, James LeGros, Brian F. O'Byrne, Guy Pearce and Mare Winningham – is strong, and I was never that close to giving up on the entire thing. Part of that was just enjoying strengths of "Mildred" despite its flaws, and my curiosity over which, in the end, would win out. The final score? I don't really regret the time I spent watching "Mildred," but I wouldn't necessarily say it was worth it.
That's "influential" in quotes because the formula Twitalyzer settles on to to measure such an amorphous characteristic isn't exactly iron clad.
You would have to have joined Twitter yesterday if you believe that the number of followers an account has is entirely indicative of influence. That much Twitalyzer gets right.
But the research firm doesn't really get that much more sophisticated. As the NYT describes it, the secret sauce behind its Influence Index is "the number of times somebody’s Twitter name is mentioned by other users."
That's it!? It's amazing that the cottage industry of companies devoted to Twitter analytics--Klout, Trackur, Twinfluence, to name a few--that have sprung up in recent years have yet to hit upon a compelling strategy to convincingly measure what could be a fascinating metric.
As for O'Brien, Twitalyzer has him well ahead of other TV types including Ryan Seacrest (No. 5), Rainn Wilson (8) and Kim Kardashian (9). Only two individuals have surpassed his influence: Chad Ochocinco (who in all fairness is somewhat of a TV-bred celebrity given his VH1 show, but better known from the girdiron) and at No. 1, Brazilian comedian Rafinha Bastos (never heard of him, either).
Fox Sports Net will launch "Ball Up," its 10-night coverage of the 2011 Professional Streetball League season, on April 3.
The hourlong broadcasts will typically air every other Sunday on FSN at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. and feature the ProSBL's Ball Up All Stars, an elite squad that will take on different teams of top streetballers from around the country each game.
One game (June 12) will feature as an opponent an All-Star celebrity team from Hollywood's E League.
Past and present NBA players including Rick Fox, Matt Barnes (pictured) and Tracy Murray are also taking part as coaches or guest coaches.
The Ball Up All Stars’ roster includes The Professor, Air Up There, Sik Wit It, AO, Bone Collector, Springs, Mr. Afrika, Pat the Roc, Violator and Special FX.
Former NBA player Bryon Russell and radio/TV personality Roger Lodge will be the broadcasters, with streetball legend Duke Tango handling courtside reporting duties.
“We are thrilled to partner with Fox Sports Net to present a new basketball franchise the whole family can enjoy,” said Demetrius Spencer, CEO and Commissioner of ProSBL. “ 'Ball Up' is jam-packed with excitement, including 30 plus dunks per game, phenomenal showmanship and just pure fun. Imagine having the annual NBA All-Star exhibition jammed in every episode of a series — that’s Ball Up.”
Spencer exec produces (through his shingle One Media) with Shane Duffy of Entertainment League Prods. Paul Kalil of Big Screen Networks produces the live game coverage.
I gave the show my attention over several weeks, but ultimately, I found lead actor Holt McCallany's performance in this to be mostly bland, and I actually quit on "Lights" with about four episodes to go. It just didn't feel like McCallany had many other gears besides stoic and earnest. He wasn't without any subtlety or fire, but it really became a lot of effort to care about what happened to him, much less his wife and daughters, whose storylines never truly clicked.
There were some likable things about the show, but in some ways, the things I liked most were also problematic. Reg E. Cathey and recurring guest Eammon Walker infused "Lights" with electricity, but at the same time, I was very conscious of the acting being done. With Cathey's over-the-top showmanship and Walker's forced rasp, they weren't exactly disappearing into their characters.
They're obviously not the same show, but between this and FX's other one-season wonder this season, "Terriers," I just don't think there's any comparison. "Terriers" never failed to surprise and delight, while with "Lights," I usually felt like I was in training for a big fight that in the end, I didn't need.
All this being said, "Lights" was solid entertainment, better than almost every other network produces. FX has taken some blows this season, but I hope they don't abandon their risk-taking mentality on character-based drama. I still believe it can find an audience again.
Two months before its official premiere, Showtime will offer a 30-minute sneak preview "The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants" on April 13. Eight months of shooting time on the series are expected to conclude at the halfway point of the 2011 regular season, leading up to the program's July 13 launch.
My latest piece on the Charlie Sheen saga focuses on a little-discussed aspect of his lawsuit against Warner Bros. and Chuck Lorre — his repeated accusation that Lorre had quit on "Two and a Half Men" weeks before Sheen's outlandish public rants and his ensuing termination.
... Sheen declared himself ready to return to work Feb. 14. But, according to Sheen's attorney Marty Singer, the actor was told that no scripts were ready.
Singer notes that during that hiatus, a decision was also made to reduce the 24-episode order for "Men" to 20 and end production of season eight on March 25 instead of the original April 8 date. This was ostensibly in response to Sheen's condition, but Singer emphatically maintains that Sheen was always completely capable of working, and that for no reason should Sheen be held accountable for any reduction in "Men" episodes.
"This is called Spin City," Singer told Variety last week. "That is a ridiculous concept. Nobody said (at the time) there was a problem with Charlie. All they said was Chuck was going to work (only) another four weeks, and that's it. It's a ridiculous, absurd excuse."
Singer argued that because the next scheduled production week for "Men" was originally set for Jan. 31, Lorre should have had no problem having a script ready by Feb. 14.
The suit reads, "Lorre had no right to unilaterally discontinue the production of shooting scripts, and thereby interrupt the production schedule."
Insiders with "Men" and Warner Bros. rebut this argument. They say that scripts were in progress and that one would have been ready for the Jan. 31 return date, but that the suspension of production on Jan. 28 included the series' writers.
Once Sheen went into rehab, Lorre and Warners appear to have had no intention of resuming production on "Men" before Feb. 28 -- that just because Sheen decided Feb. 14 was the day did not mean that it was so.
Implicit in WB's reasoning is the belief that two weeks wasn't sufficient rehab and recovery time for Sheen. Though Singer said Sheen was sober, others had concerns about taping based on his condition as well as his appearance. ...
Below, here's a timeline of events leading up to where things stand today:
Charlie Sheen Timeline 2009 March 18: CBS and Warner Bros. TV announce three-season pickup for “Two and a Half Men,” though lead actor Charlie Sheen is signed for only one of those seasons at time. Dec. 25: Sheen arrested for allegedly threatening wife Brooke Mueller with a knife, charged with domestic violence.
2010 Feb. 23: “Men” production put on hold as Sheen checks himself into rehab as “preventative measure.” March 15: Sheen pleads not guilty to domestic violence charge in Aspen. March 16: Sheen returns to work on “Men.” March 23: Lorre says in New York Times interview that plans to produce 24 episodes of “Men” in 2009-10 are scuttled, with order reduced to 22. April 1: Sheen lets it be known that he’s ready to exit “Men.” May 17: Barely 24 hours before CBS upfront presentation, Sheen signs two-season pact with Warner Bros. TV that will pay him for approximately $1.8 million per episode (including back-end revenue), up from $850,000. Aug. 2: Sheen reaches deal to plead guilty to misdemeanor, with no jail time. Oct. 25-26: Sheen goes on reported bender at Plaza Hotel that is explained by publicist Stan Rosenfield as an allergic reaction to medication.
2011 Jan. 9: Lorre tells Television Critics Assn. panel that show taping two nights earlier with Sheen, “a true professional,” went without incident. That same weekend, Sheen is on what is reported to be massive party spree in Las Vegas. Jan. 14: CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler tells TCA that network has “a high level of concern” about Sheen’s recent behavior. Jan. 27: Sheen hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai for reported “severe abdominal pains” after reported wild night of partying during hiatus week for “Men.” That night, Lorre’s “Men” vanity card tells viewers, “Please keep in mind that we employ a highly-paid Hollywood professional who has years of experience with putting his life at risk. And sadly no, I’m not talking about our stunt man.” Jan. 28: “Men” goes on abrupt production hiatus following announcement that Sheen is going into rehabilitation. Feb. 2: Striking contrite tone, Sheen issues statement saying “I have a lot of work to do to be able to return the support I have received from so many people. I want to say ‘thank you’ to my fellow cast members, the crew of ‘Two and a Half Men,’ and everyone at CBS and Warner Bros., especially Les Moonves and Bruce Rosenblum for their concern and support.” Feb. 14: The beginning of the end: Sheen, who says on “The Dan Patrick Show” that crack is OK “if you can manage it socially,” says that he is ready to go back to work on “Men,” but no one else was. Feb. 14: That night, Lorre vanity card concludes, “If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I’m gonna be really pissed.” Feb. 16: Reports indicate “Men” will resume production Feb. 28. Feb. 24: Sheen takes tirade against Lorre to new level of vitriol on interviews with syndicated radio host Alex Jones and TMZ. Feb. 24 (5:30 p.m.): CBS and WB issue joint announcement that “based on the totality of Charlie Sheen’s statements, conduct and condition,” production on “Men” is canceled for remainder of 2010-11 season. Feb. 25: As Sheen vows in radio remarks to win the “war” over “Men,” taking on CBS topper Leslie Moonves in the process, Anti-Defamation League condemns Sheen for his pointed reference to Lorre as “Chaim Levine” in insulting rant. Feb. 28: Nonstop series of Sheen interviews airs on NBC, ABC, TMZ.com, CNN and elsewhere. Rosenfield resigns as Sheen’s publicist. March 1: Moonves tells conference audience that CBS will save money in short-term with “Men” out of production but expresses hopes for show’s eventual return. March 1: Sheen opens Twitter account, rapidly moves past a million followers. March 7: Warner Bros. sends Sheen 11-page termination notice. March 10: Sheen files suit against Warner Bros. and Lorre for an amount “in excess of” $100 million over his termination and loss of wages. Later that day, he announces plans for live “Fastball; My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option Show” tour, starting in Detroit on April 2. March 23: An L.A. Superior Court rejects temporary restraining order request from Sheen's camp to keep arbitrator from refereeing case rather than a jury trial.
I was nearly 16 when National Lampoon's "Vacation" came out in 1983. That's a year older than Jane Krakowski of "30 Rock" was when she played Cousin "Daddy says I'm the best" Vicki.
I'm usually pretty good at connecting present-day actresses with long-ago roles, but I have to admit, when I caught a few minutes of the movie on TV tonight, it was the first time I put two and two together in this case.
"Dr. Drew's Lifechangers," in preparation for its daytime premiere on the CW, has picked up an exec producer in Rachel Miskowiec.
Miskowiec, who won two Daytime Emmys with "The Tyra Show," joins series creator Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey ("Extra") in guiding the show, a halfhour strip that will air twice a day beginning at 3 p.m. The series will look at personal issues including relationships, health and addiction.
"Rachel has a proven track record in daytime, creating shows that resonate with female viewers, and her varied experience in talk, lifestyle and court shows will be a true asset working alongside Lisa," said Telepictures Prods. president Hilary Estey McLoughlin.
Added Pinsky: "Rachel is a consummate professional with a great deal of experience. I've so enjoyed working with her in the past and can't wait to collaborate with her on this show," said Pinsky.
The renewal of “Southland” came as a great relief to the cast and crew of the TNT drama, even though most everyone on board expected it.
The season four pickup was championed by TNT/TBS programming topper Michael Wright, who brought the show to Turner after NBC decided it wasn’t drawing strong enough ratings. The first season ran on NBC while the next two aired on TNT.
Exec producer Christopher Chulack said he considers the cop drama as good a show he has ever worked on, and that includes his tenure on “ER.”
“I’ve been blessed with some great television and I have to say this is right up there with any show I’ve done, both collaborative and familial,” he said, calling this last season “our best effort.”
“Southland” averaged 3 million viewers an episode, which was good enough for TNT to give it a go-ahead. Cabler scores well with procedurals such as “The Closer” and “Rizzoli & Isles” and that allow skeins such as “Southland” and “Men of a Certain Age” to not have to be near the top of the ratings scorecard to survive.
While aware of that fact, Chulack was still nervous about the show going forward. Series that don’t get out of the gate exceptionally well can often feel they’re fighting for their lives when it comes to renewal time.
“Either you’re a hit right away or your not,” Chulack said. “But for all the tumult, it’s worked for us.”
Another advantage for “Southland” is that it’s an extremely lean production. Shot nearly 90% on location in Los Angeles and only 10% on a stage, the average cost of an episode is approximately $2 million. That’s far less than most dramas.
“We’re fiscally responsible,” he said. “I can tell you for a fact that we make the show on budget.”
Writers are expected to gather in early summer and production for the new season should begin in the fall.
Said actor Michael Cudlitz upon hearing the news: “We were cautiously optimistic, but optimistic nonetheless. We know it’s a business but hopefully the business for our show makes sense.”
ABC has set finale dates for its primetime series including a one-hour version of "Cougar Town" and a two-hour "Desperate Housewives."
While "Cougar" will have to face off against the final half-hour of "Idol" on May 25, the additional 30 minutes will give it some breathing room at 10 p.m. "Housewives" will close its season May 15 after the finale of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
Here's the rundown:
Sunday, May 8 10:01-11:00 p.m. Brothers & Sisters
Wednesday, May 11 8:30-9:00 p.m. Better With You
Sunday, May 15 8:00-9:00 p.m. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition 9:00-11:00 p.m. Desperate Housewives (Special Two-Hour Finale)
Monday, May 16 10:01-11:00 p.m. Castle
Tuesday, May 17 8:00-9:00 p.m. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution
Thursday, May 19 8:00-9:00 p.m. Wipeout (Spring Edition) 9:00-10:01 p.m. Grey's Anatomy 10:01-11:00 p.m. Private Practice
Friday, May 20 8:00-9:00 p.m. Shark Tank
Sunday, May 22 7:00-8:00 p.m. America's Funniest Home Videos
Monday, May 23 8:00-9:00 p.m. Dancing with the Stars (Performance Show)
Tuesday, May 24 9:00-11:00 p.m. Dancing With the Stars The Results Show
Wednesday, May 25 8:00-8:30 p.m. The Middle 9:00-9:31 p.m. Modern Family 9:31-10:30 p.m. Cougar Town (Special One-Hour Finale)
Trying to launch a new singing competition show beneath the looming shadow of "American Idol" presents a problem: how do you not look like a blatant knock-off?
NBC deals with that difficulty in its first promo for "The Voice" with gutsy pluck, positioning its unscripted series as something of an "Idol" antidote.
While the 60-second clip just released on YouTube doesn't mention a certain Fox show by name, it's clear what show Carson Daly is referring to when he says of the "Voice's" celebrity "coaches," ""They're not willing to just go, 'You suck, you're great, good luck out there, kids.'"
Ditto for one of those celebrity panelists, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, who puts a finer point on distinguishing "Voice" from "Idol": "The biggest difference between this show and other vocal competition shows is that it's a blind audition."
As the promo depicts, a "blind audition" involves the judges listening to aspiring contestants with their backs turned so that they can concentrate on the voices, not the appearances. For you see, as fellow celebrity panelist Christian Aguilera explains, "I love that it's based purely on their voice."
Cue the show's tagline: "Close your eyes. Open your ears."
"Voice" fancies itself as some kind of comparatively purer take on a singing competition than "Idol"; this show focuses only on vocal talent and aims to nurture its contestants rather than verbally lacerate them on air.
NBC had to find some angle to differentiate "Voice," but is this the right marketing strategy? To counter "Idol" as a kindler, gentler adaptation of the genre doesn't quite resonate in the post-Cowell era, and the Fox series has record-industry guru Jimmy Iovine on staff this year as in-house mentor to do just the kind of nurturing Daly is suggesting is lacking.
And to set up "Idol" as some kind of superficial foil hung up on surface beauty also rings hollow. Yes, "Idol" always has its share of lookers, but of all the criticisms that have been leveled at the juggernaut over the years, it's tough to recall accusations of the Fox hit being a beauty contest.
Besides,it's a little strange to have lamentations directed at the music industry's obsession with looks coming from the likes of Levine and Aguilera, who aren't exactly trolls (Note: that's "trolls" in the pre-Sheen understanding of the word).
No doubt "Voice" producers are hoping to hit upon some kind of Susan Boyle-like sensation who triumphs over his or her own homeliness to capture America's hearts. Otherwise, it's the ratings that could get ugly.
OWN has set a premiere date for its docu “Becoming Chaz.”
Pic, which will debut 8 p.m. May 10, examines the transformation of Chaz Bono from a woman to a man and will be the first entry in the cabler’s Documentary Film Club.
Immediately after the movie ends, Rosie O’Donnell will host a special in which she will interview Bono, girlfriend Jennifer Elia, directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, and a handful of folks who have undergone transgender operations.
“Becoming Chaz” unspooled at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
NBC has set its lineup for summer premieres, including a June 26 debut for the second season of “The Marriage Ref.”
Peacock will begin the sixth season of “America’s Got Talent” with a two-hour episode May 31. Show has been a staple for the network during the summer when reality floods the broadcast nets.
“Talent” will run two hours on Tuesdays and 60 minutes Wednesdays, similar to the formula “American Idol” began on Fox. Howie Mandel, Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan return as judges while Nick Cannon remains host.
As for “The Marriage Ref,” the Jerry Seinfeld exec produced reality skein — in which couples discuss their problems to a voting audience who determines if the husband or wife is correct — was supposed to begin again in mid-March in an 8 p.m. Sunday timeslot leading into “Celebrity Apprentice.” However, NBC decided to put “America’s Next Great Restaurant” in that hour and bumped “The Marriage Ref” back to summer.
Other shows announced for summer but don’t have firm start-up dates include gameshow “It’s Worth What?,” newly acquired Israeli import “Still Standing” and adventure dating skein “Love in the Wild.”
NBC has high hopes for singing competition “The Voice,” which will launch April 26 and continue through the end of June.
On the scripted side, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” will begin its final broadcast season May 30.
“We want to make it clear that NBC considers the summer as an important part of its overall season and will continue to offer a varied lineup of original programs,” said network entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt.
NBC also has a handful of comedies in the can that may pop in summer. Hourlong “Love Bites was supposed to be originally be on the fall calendar but was pushed back because showrunner Cindy Chupack left the series and actress Jordana Spiro had other commitments.
There’s also singlecam half-hour laffers “The Paul Reiser Show,” from Warner Bros. TV, and “Friends With Benefits,” from creators Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and Twentieth Century Fox.
This is the kind of Friday afternoon news you want to get in your inbox. The great Abe Vigoda has signed on to perform at the March 28 "Stars in Their Eyes" benefit in New York for Xavier Society for the Blind's Veterans Outreach Program.
He'll join Joyce Randoloph, Trixie from "The Honeymooners"; Michael Badalucco, late of "The Practice"; and others in what is billed as an evening of "Broadway, jazz and opera." (No word on which discipline Abe will be practicing but, really, does it matter?)
Event at Playwrights Horizon on west 42nd Street is chaired by Elaine Stritch.
They say all good things must come to an end, but ending with a good show is nice way to go. The "Raising Hope" panel Thursday concluded the 28th-annual William S. Paley Television Festival at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.
The 13th and final night of the fest was moderated by KTTV Fox 11's "Good Day LA" host Steve Edwards, who occasionally pops up on the show created by Greg Garcia. Garcia, as well as Garrett Dillahunt, Martha Plimpton, Lucas Neff and Shannon Woodward sat on the panel, but one member of the Chance family was noticeably absent.
"Where is Cloris?" inquired Woodward.
"She was with us when we came in," Neff joked.
Cloris Leachman was unable to attend for reasons that remained unbeknownst to the audience. As what seemed to be a small tribute, the Paley Center chose 1963's "Sunset Strip" starring a young Leachman as the opening clip. The audience was also treated to the season finale of the skein. The endearing and hilarious episode, without giving too much away, brings us full circle with the lovable cast of characters.
The cast touched on their audition processes: Neff had begun cleaning houses for a living when he heard he got the audition for the show Garcia originally wanted to title "Keep Hope Alive."
"I like to say we plucked Lucas from obscurity and when we're done with him, we're going to put him back," Garcia joked.
Said Neff: "It was a miraculous sort of nexus point. I'd scrubbed my first two toilets like the week before I got this audition, and when you're elbow deep in someone else's toilet, you know, you just got to imagine things are going to go up from there."
Garcia knew he'd found his Jimmy when he watched his audition tape.
"And then when he came to L.A. for his in-person audition at the studio, he was going up and down the hallways on the lot where there's pictures of Kiefer Sutherland and all these other people, taking pictures of himself," Garcia said.
All of the cast members are getting used to being recognized because of the show. When Edwards asked Dillahunt how he was enjoying it, he responded, "You mean because I'm not killing people?"
The jokes were endless for Dillahunt's less than funny roles in such works as "Last House on the Left," "Burn Notice," "Criminal Minds" and "Deadwood."
"(Fans) are certainly approaching me more than usual. And they're not scared," he added.
Another added bonus is having steady work, Plimpton said: "I certainly don't mind being out of debt for the first time. Ever."
What seems to be most important for Garcia and the cast is that they've brought something genuine to the smallscreen that viewers really care about.
"People have been so kind about the show. They respond to it in a way that is very warm and genuine," Plimpton said, "and they remember scenes and they remember lines. It's great!"
Woodward's experiences with fans have made her feel like she's making a difference.
"It wasn't like they were recognizing me, it's like they saw a part of something they really loved," she said. "I felt proud, you know, almost like I worked for a great charity or something."
"It's wonderful that people care about it so much," Garcia added. "I think that a lot of people who watch the show do love the show. I think the network would like a few more people to like it and a few more million people to tolerate it."
From TV Squad comes this montage of Olivia Munn's absolutely unapologetic St. Patrick's Day bender during the fourth hour of NBC's "Today." I'm not sure we've seen this much drunkenness on daytime TV since Foster Brooks circled "Hollywood Squares."
Elsewhere in the world of television ...
-- As part of its "A Thin Line" campaign against cyberbullying, MTV has planned an original movie on Abraham Biggs, a 19-year-old who battled bipolar disorder and ultimately webcast his suicide after being egged on by a digital mob.
-- TLC sure loves it some Broward County. In addition to returning series "Police Women of Broward County," the cabler will premiere "Unleashed: K-9 Broward County," spotlighting an elite K-9 man-tracking unit, on April 7. ThinkFactory Media is producing.
-- OWN will launch hourlong unscripted series “Why Not? with Shania Twain” at 11 p.m. May 8, following the finale of "The Judds." "Why Not?" will then move to a 10 p.m. timeslot the following week. Series focuses on Twain bounces pack from personal heartbreak and professional struggles to rebuild her career, and will feature one-on-one conversations with Gladys Knight, Lionel Richie, David Foster and others. Twain exec produces with Gay Rosenthal and Bryn Freedman.
-- No, we haven't forgotten him. “Charlie Sheen: Bad Boy on the Edge” will air on Bio at 9 p.m. Sunday.
-- "Give It Up for Greg Giraldo," airing at 11:30 p.m. Friday on Comedy Central, will salute the late comedian with unseen footage and interviews as well as conversations with Jon Stewart, Jim Gaffigan, Conan O’Brien, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Sarah Silverman, Colin Quinn, Nick Swardson and more.
-- This is old news, but I did want to get around to it: Keira Knightley will be part of the cast of Syfy's four-hour "Neverland" as the voice of Tinker Bell.
-- CBS senior advisor Nancy Tellem is hosting a fundraiser April 7 at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills to help support women and children affected by sexual violence during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
HBO will premiere “Cinema Verite," its original film about the family who became the subject of what is said to be TV's first reality series, on April 23. The clip above offers a pretty stirring preview.
Diane Lane, Tim Robbins and James Gandolfini star in the pic, directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. David Seltzer scripted. Patrick Fugit, Lolita Davidovich, Kathleen Quinlan, Shanna Collins and Thomas Dekker co-star.
USA will launch new seasons of "Covert Affairs" and "White Collar" on June 7, a particularly quick turnaround for the latter.
"White Collar" (above) just ended its second season on March 8, but production is beginning this week on its third season, as well as the second season of "Covert Affairs."
"White Collar" will air leading into "Covert Affairs" beginning at 9 p.m. Starring Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay, "White Collar" is cables top drama to date in 18-49, while "Covert Affairs" (featuring Piper Perabo) was the No. 1 new cable series in the 18-49 demo last summer.
Above is a clip of ABC's Ashleigh Banfield interviewing self-proclaimed potential presidential candidate Donald Trump on "Good Morning America," an interview that kicks off almost immediately with Trump offering: "Part of the beauty of me is that I'm very rich."
As the conversation continues, Trump makes a series of statements that it's reasonable to think are at least worthy of further discussion: from what should be done in Libya ("If we could surgically strike to stop that from happening, I'd be for it — but not to get into a war."), to offshore piracy ("The pirates — they're nothing. ... Give me an admiral and a couple of ships; I would wipe them out of the sea so fast.") to Obama's origins ("The reason I have a little doubt — just a little — is because he grew up and nobody knew him.")
Not once does Banfield ask a follow-up question. Not once does Banfield challenge him. Or if she did, she and ABC chose not to show us, which amounts to the same thing. I suppose there's some value in letting the country see Trump unvarnished, but really, as a news reporter, shouldn't you feel some duty to say, "But ..."?
Not even in the "GMA" post-interview wrap-up do Banfield or host George Stephanopoulos evaluate the quality of his statments — all they're interested in is whether he will run for office and how much attention he draws. No, this isn't "This Week" or "Meet the Press," but come on — give a fella at least one hoop to jump through.
Rather quietly, CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" has undergone a transformation that could affect its long-term future much more than last fall's headline-grabbing shift to a Thursday timeslot.
When the show began, the cast featured four guys and one gal, and the gal was a character whose airheadedness one critic said made Suzanne Somers' Chrissy Snow on "Three's Company" look like the president of Mensa.
Now, not only has Kaley Cuoco's Penny rounded nicely into a three-dimensional person who is thoughtful (if on her own terms), but three other women have taken on prominent roles on the series. Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik are now series regulars, and of late, Aarti Mann (as new girlfriend of Johnny Galecki's Leonard) has made a great impression and doesn't seem to be going away soon. The producers aren't shy about devoting significant story time to the new actresses, a possibility that wouldn't have even occured to most viewers a couple of years ago.
"Big Bang" is still told mainly from the guys' point of view, principally that of Leonard and Sheldon (Jim Parsons), but the female presence has definitely given the show an extra gear as it heads toward the end of its fourth season. There was a time not long ago when "Bang" looked like it might become mainly a showcase for the immensely talented Parsons, but now its ensemble seems stronger than ever. All the more reason to look forward to future seasons ...
Sunday's ESPN broadcast of "The Fab Five" became the network's highest-rated documentary ever.
The two-hour film drew 2.7 million overall viewers, topping ESPN "30 for 30" docs "Pony Exce$$" (2.5 million) from December 2010 and "The U" from 2009.
“The Fab Five captured the essence of the ESPN Films’ mission as we launch a new series of documentaries following the excellence established by the acclaimed ’30 for 30’ initiative,” said Keith Clinkscales, ESPN senior vice president, ESPN Enterprises. “Our director Jason Hehir, capably worked with our own Jalen Rose and executive producer Connor Schell's team to deliver an unfiltered look at the team that changed college basketball forever.”
Rose, an ESPN NBA analyst, exec produced though his shingle, Three Tier Entertainment.
NBC’s “The Voice” is bringing itself to the singing competition show space not as an 18-year-old from Nowhere, Ark., but with the confidence of a seasoned pro.
“The level of talent that has been found for this show is above and beyond -- leaps and bounds -- a level I’ve ever seen on any other competition show,” said host Carson Daly. “And that includes winners of any other show.”
At a Tuesday press conference at Los Angeles Center Studios, exec producer John De Mol said “The Voice,” which premieres April 26, is an “exact copy” of his “The Voice of Holland,” except that “The Voice” will air more episodes. He and fellow EP Mark Burnett seem confident that they can re-create that show’s success, though Burnett says “only an idiot producer” would try to formulate a show based on ratings.
“I can’t control that,” he said. “I can just assemble talent and try to make magic.”
"Voice" coach Christina Aguilera spoke up the most, above her fellow coaches Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine. The four will each choose contestants to coach – not judge – for “The Voice,’ and all four noted that that’s what drew them to the show.
“This isn’t about tearing people down and making fun of them,” Aguilera said. “I’m about bringing people up.” Levine seconded: “‘Judge’ is kind of a dirty word here,’ he said.
But without snarky Simon Cowell comments, will America watch? Burnett explained that the show’s format is what makes it exciting: Coaches will choose the talent they will help mold based on vocals alone: Their chairs will be turned backwards when they hear contestants sing, so they can’t factor in looks or personality to their choices.
“We’re getting the opportunity to go back to the roots of music – before MTV and videos and the Internet,” Aguilera said. “I want to be moved by raw talent.”
Added Shelton: “It’s the same way you listen to the radio – you spin the dial and stop on something you like – you just know there’s something special about it. We’re going to try to figure out who those people are in this group, then wean them down and let America decide. Our job is just to bring out the most unique thing about that person.”
Contestants will sing both covers and original material, and will be coached not only by the four stars, but potentially by their publicists, stylists, etc. “I can’t do what I do without my team,” Aguilera said. “We’ll also be bringing in other artists and writers we like to work with.”
Daly says it’s that level of expertise that makes “The Voice” stand out.
“This is four major artists who are in their prime,” he said. “ 'Credibility’ has been the big word for all of us.” That “in their prime” status also makes the show different; while reality and competitions shows have largely been used as comeback vehicles for the formerly famous, Shelton, Aguilera, Green and Levine are all in the middle of their careers.
“None of us were looking for jobs,” Daly says. “But Mark Burnett came to the table and NBC, and we all thought this was going to be credible top to bottom. And, they’re not just sitting back and judging – that’s a huge part of it.”
Levine, who said he would “absolutely” come back for future seasons, agreed. “I never would have considered one of these singing competitions, until I met with Mark and discussed this show,” he said.
Aguilera, who has been tabloid fodder of late, hinted that part of her reasoning was for audiences to see a different side of her.
“We’re only seen sometimes through the microscope of the media and what people have gossip about,” she said. “They’ll be getting a firsthand look at us as human beings and who we really are, aside from who we appear to be in sometimes in the media.”
Confused by the chain of events at the nuclear disaster in Japan? You're not the only one. But you're in better shape than you would have been 30 years ago, according to Dick Hoxworth, one of the first reporters on the scene for WGAL in Lancaster, PA during the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.
"The March, 1979 accident at Three Mile Island was a wake-up call not only for the devleopment of nuclear energy, but for the general public - we realized that we've got to start paying more attention to what goes on at these nuclear power plants," says Hoxworth. "The general public became much more conscious of nuclear power and nuclear energy. And you'll want to check me on this, but I believe that since the accident in 1979 at three mile island, there has not been a new nuclear plant started (he's right)."
More than a year after his personal problems became a media sensation, Tiger Woods is venturing back into talkshow territory.
Wednesday, Woods will make an appearance on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," where he will play miniature golf with the host. Then Thursday morning, Woods will sit down for a 10-minute interview on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive,” which airs between 7-9 a.m. Eastern.
Annika Sorenstam will also make an appearance on "Morning Drive."
"Welcome Back, Kotter" and "The Facts of Life" will have cast reunions at the "TV Land Awards 2011," which tapes April 10 in New York City for an April 17 airing.
A full list of "Kotter" regulars, minus the late John Sylvester White (Mr. Woodman), are scheduled to reunite for the 35th anniversary of the series (which actually premiered in 1975): Gabe Kaplan, John Travolta, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Ron Palillo, Robert Hegyes and Marcia Strassman.
For "Facts of Life," which will receive TV Land's Pop Culture award, scheduled to appear are Charlotte Rae, Mindy Cohn, Kim Fields, Nancy McKeon and Lisa Whelchel. No word on whether season-seven regular George Clooney will show up.
Michael Levitt is exec producing the show, with Glen Weiss directing.
It all seemed to be coming together for "Big Love."
After a misfire of a fourth season in 2010, and a fifth season this year whose recovery has been hit-and-miss at best, the March 6 episode produced a scorching final halfhour that held the promise of redeeming the entire show.
In that episode, the issue of cults came up, first with Margene's willing participation in what has clearly been a pyramid scheme of a business. Moments later, the tables were turned, and Margene confronted her family and the audience with the question of whether lead character Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) was himself a cult leader in his unyielding, destructive bid to promote polygamy ("The Principle") at all costs.
It was stunning, and yet it made so much sense. Bill's humanity had helped make the first three seasons of "Big Love" so compelling, but since then, he has been so megalomaniacal that he has become loathsome, raising the question of why anyone should be on his side. That March 6 episode raised the possibility that Bill might be headed for his comeuppance in a profound way.
That reckoning day might yet come, but Sunday's most recent episode, the last one before the March 20 series finale, took all the air out of the balloon. WIthin the first five minutes, the cult storyline was abandoned, as Margene meekly quit working for the Goji Juice company that launched the entire arc. And the rest of the hour continued in the sensationalistic and often nonsensical manner that has plagued "Big Love" the past two years.
How many characters behaved in ridiculous and unsympathetic ways Sunday? Well, there was Bill, Barbara, Nicki, Margene, Ben, Rhonda, Cara Lynn, Alby — a list that pretty much includes all the ones who count. And how many didn't? Heather, Lois, maybe Frank — all of them minor characters appearing in a scene or two.
There's one more episode to go, one more chance to salvage a series that once was one of the best on television. Faith in the face of your family's utter collapse is the lead theme heading into the finale, and perhaps "Big Love" will bring it home in a meaningful way, and not in a way, as many of the characters on the show must feel, that all this suffering has been for naught.
Here's how Next Media Animation tells the story behind HBO's "Game of Thrones" and George R.R. Martin, the writer of the book series it is based on.
The title: "George R.R. Martin: Fantasy Blueballer."
The PaleyFest used to travel back in time much more than it does today, revisiting TV programming from 10, 20, 30 years earlier. In recent years, the television festival has tilted much more toward the new kids on the block, and while that certainly plays to current tastes, some of the potential appeal and value of the event is lost.
Saturday, however, brought a rare look at two long-gone series – and so much the better that they were the tremendous "Freaks and Geeks" and the underrated "Undeclared," in a 3 1/2-hour doubleheader moderated by Judd Apatow.
After Iris Apatow, the daughter of Apatow and Leslie Mann, came on-stage and welcomed the crowd with the words, "Good evening, nerds," "Undeclared" kicked off the night with a lively panel that not only featured series regulars Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Monica Keena, Carla Gallo and Timm Sharp but also a number of recurring guests including Jason Segel and "Parks and Recreation" star Amy Poehler, who played a dorm RA.
The first fun revelation was that Segel, coming off "Freaks," was the original choice to play underdog lead Steven Karp on "Undeclared" but was rejected by Fox. "People didn't believe that I couldn't get laid," said Segel.
"They really did want someone who was more of an underdog and couldn't get a girl," Apatow added.
That diverted the role to Baruchel, who still was getting ribbed by the cast at Saturday's panel. Baruchel became engaged to Alison Pill this past week, leading one panelist to joke that this meant he might get to have sex by September 2012.
Rogen and Apatow told the story of how the series premiere "Undeclared" in 2001 was derailed by the attacks of September 11, putting a show that figured to have a challenge drawing an audience even further in jeopardy.
The funniest exchange of many in the panel may have been after an audience member asked Apatow if he would get back into TV. Apatow mentioned "Girls," a show created by and starring Lena Dunham that he is producing for HBO.
"But HBO isn't TV," Poehler joked.
"I would go back into TV," Apatow then said."I just don't want to see Jason get rejected again."
"I'm super-rich now," Segel deadpanned.
The "Freaks" panel followed a screening of the series finale, which was actually filmed midway through the show's only season – not a good sign, as far as Segel was concerned. Recurring players Busy Phillipps, Natasha Melnick, Steve Bannos, Sarah Hagan, Stephen Lea Sheppard and Shaun Weiss joined creator Paul Feig, director Jake Kasdan and all of the series' young regulars except James Franco, who sent along a videotaped message featuring him and a picture of Anne Hathaway on his iPad. Franco apologized that he couldn't be there, joking that it was because he and Hathaway were preparing to host the Emmys.
The series' origins got early play: Apatow had a TV deal in place and asked Feig if he had any ideas - Feig passed along a completed "Freaks" script that completely sold Apatow.
"Paul had just hundreds of the most humiliating stories," Apatow said with wonder.
Casting stories abounded (with a fond shoutout to casting director Allison Jones). One interesting tidbit was that Sheppard, who was discovered reading a book at a casting session in Vancouver and ultimately got the part of recurrning guest Harris, was asked to read for the part of Daniel that ultimately went to Franco.
As with Baruchel, underdog lead Daley (now a series regular on "Bones") was the source of lots of laughs. Rogen said that Daley was so young when he was cast, he still believed in Santa Claus.
"I also didn't have pubic hair," Daley offered.
Apatow and Feig said that the relative youth of the cast was a major concern of theirs. The youngest actors were still so impressionable, while the slightly older ones were skipping out on college to do the show.
"(Were) we going to ruin all these kids lives," Feig said they wondered. "Judd was (already) a parent ... We decided we're going to treat them like they're our own kids."
Apatow said that feeling of responsibility continued after the quick cancelation of "Freaks," as he tried to do all he could to make sure the cast continued working.
"Judd has taken amazing care of this entire group," Segel said.
Story of the night involved a sequence that never made it to air. Philipps talked about how, unbeknownst to anyone else, Franco had built an entire history for his character that included Daniel having been abused as a child. And so when Philipps touched him while delivering a line, "Damn it, Daniel, do something!", Franco whipped around screaming, "Don't you fucking ever touch me!" and threw her to the ground. Everyone on the set was in utter shock.
The show's all-too-soon end came right as Cardellini was about to tape an appearance on David Letterman's latenight show. When Apatow called her with the news that the show was canceled, Cardellini said with a laugh that her initial response was, "Letterman's canceled?!"
But no. "Freaks and Geeks" was gone in the year 2000. Fans have never stopped wondering what the remarkable storytelling and acting could have yielded had it run for more years, but it was great to take a look back at all the great work that survives today.
Watching Jimmy Fallon during his early years on “Saturday Night Live,” it would’ve been hard to imagine that the Brooklyn native would become not only a permanent fixture at NBC, but maybe its brightest star.
Well, if Friday’s night two-way lovefest at the William S. Paley Television Festival is any indication, Fallon is not only adored by the fans who watch his latenight talkshow — and those who admire him through the viral periphery — but the host is quick to acknowledge how much of an influence those followers have made upon him as well.
Fallon’s bits — many of which were shown at the Saban Theatre — are some of the most inventive in all of television. Maybe none more so than having Bruce Springsteen put on a fake mustache and beard and back up Fallon, who was doing his spot-on Neil Young impression, in a hilarious take of Willow Smith’s “Whip Your Hair.”
Fallon, who says it can often be difficult for him to keep a straight face during a comedy routine dating back to his “SNL“ days, had to dig deep down to not laugh and stay focused during the song.
Yet while that skit was an absolute gem, others rocked as well. His “Jersey Floor” parody — with the help of head writer A.D. Miles, announcer (and “Saturday Night Live” producer) Steve Higgins, comedian Rachel Dratch, and a handful of others — was spot-on. in. Other bits were just as ingenious: “The Real Housewives of Late Night,” the “Glee”-inspired “We’re Not Gonna Take It” featuring a very pregnant Amy Poehler, and, just this past week, an dead-on impersonation of Charlie Sheen selling his newest fragrance, “Winning.”
What’s so appealing about Fallon is that he seems genuinely excited about how the show is created from scratch each night, and he appreciates his hard-working staff who all team to make it look effortless.
In talking about what he wants to deliver to his TV audience, Fallon said, “You’re stressed all day and all you want to do is go to bed with a laugh.”
He reiterated that one of the biggest turning points in both his and the show’s success was his gig hosting last year’s Emmy Awards. The opening number — a TV-star filled version of Springsteen’s “Born to Run” — was an unquestioned knockout.
Like David Letterman and Conan O’Brien before him, Fallon has made the 12:30 a.m. slot his own. His bits are a reflection of his own sense of humor, and that’s what television needs — more distinct personalities.
Not everyone can stay up til the wee hours and watch the host and segue into stardom, but in our Twitterfied viral universe, that’s not particular necessary anymore.
NBC would be smart — no matter the cost — to keep Fallon in their universe for years to come.
Other tidbits from the panel:
-- Event was moderated by “Web Soup” host Chris Hardwick, who did a terrific job of keeping Fallon lively, segueing into clips in a breezy manner and generally having a good time with both the man of honor and the Saban crowd. Their longtime friendship was a benefit to all, and the on-stage chemistry was evident.
-- Fallon, who was sweating a bit, said it’s important to keep his 30 Rock audience chilly, or as he called it, “Letterman cold.” It’s widely known that you can literally hang meat in the Ed Sullivan Theater.
-- His impressions are wildly underrated. Besides Neil Young and Charlie Sheen, Fallon offered up Jerry Seinfeld, Robert De Niro, Bill Cosby and his own mentor, “SNL” guru Lorne Michaels.
-- His self-deprecating description of the time period between leaving “SNL” and launching “Late Night”: “The movies didn’t work out.”
-- On his house band, the Roots: “They’re like family. I don’t know what I would do without them.”
-- There’s no latenight wars between him and CBS’ 12:30 a.m. host Craig Ferguson. They’re both big fans of one another and, actually, the two did a simultaneous bit by waving a Mickey Mouse hand to each other on their respective shows.
-- Before each show, he recruits 50 people from the NBC Experience tour and rehearses his monologue jokes. He and his writers figure out which ones work best and he uses only those for the taping.
-- Immediately after out the panel, Fallon and his team arranged for the entire audience to get a scoop of his new ice cream flavor, Late Night Snack, that he created with Ben & Jerry’s. Who could say no to kettle chip balls mixed with fudge and vanilla ice cream?
No kidding, Charlie Sheen really is taking a page from Conan O'Brien's playbook.
The embattled actor has set live dates (no, not court dates) in Detroit and Chicago next month for shows billed as "Charlie Sheen LIVE: My Violent Torpedo of Truth." April 2 at Detroit's Fox Theater and April 3 at the Chicago Theater.
This explains his visit to the Live Nation offices earlier this week. I suppose with all of those billable legal hours ahead and no weekly salary coming in, Charlie probably needs the $$$. But will people really pay $$$ to see his brand of crazy on stage after getting an overdose on TV and the web for the past two weeks?
Here's how "Torpedo of Truth" is being pitched on Ticketmaster.com:
My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not An Option Show is coming for you.
I'm going on the road. LIVE.
Will there be surprises? Will there be guests? Will there be mayhem? Will you ask questions? Will you laugh? Will you scream? Will you know the truth? WILL THERE BE MORE?!?!
This IS where you will hear the REAL story from the Warlock.
Variety's Team TV -- Cynthia Littleton, Stu Levine, Jon Weisman, Andrew Wallenstein and A.J. Marechal -- provides a roundup of stories big and small, as well as opinions and analysis from across the TV dial.