Sunday, September 28, 2008

New fall TV leaves me as cold as an Alberta winter

Sadly, it looks like this fall season is going to be a total wash for me. Except maybe The Mentalist, which I'll still sample not because it's a great show, but because it's just good enough, and Simon Baker is so dreamy. Don't judge me.

Fringe I wanted to give more of a chance than I did, wanting to scratch the X-Files/4400 itch, but after the boring pilot and the excruciating writing of the second episode, I sat down to watch the third episode and found my finger had hit delete after 5 minutes. Deletion of the series recording soon followed. Life's too short to hope a crappy, dour TV show gets exponentially better with time.

I loved the pilot of Privileged but the second and third episodes had me fidgeting. It was always a long shot, since I've never been into The OC/Gossip Girl/90210 territory, but I was enjoying the heart this one displayed. However, the well-assembled story of the pilot was by far the most engaging of the plots, and I'd been there, done that, grown out of it long ago with the other storylines. I feel downright mean saying this, but the series is handicapped by a couple of very, very bad actors (the sister and the friend Charlie) and while I still find lead actress JoAnna Garcia charming, that wide-eyed, head-bobbing charm wore off a little with repetition.

Gary Unmarried wasn't as horrible as I was expecting (I know, go crazy with the praise there, Diane) but Jay Mohr's descent into According to Jim Belushiness makes me sad, and I need more than a few laughs to make me put a show in regular rotation.

I recorded Worst Week and deleted without even watching. With some series, you just know it's not going to be for you, and I hated this one when it was a movie called Meet the Parents.

I might still check out Life on Mars and The Ex List (though the acrimonious departure of creator Diane Ruggiero makes me hesitate on that one), but I'm not holding out hope that any new shows will be added to my PVR this fall.

I'll write my thoughts on my favourite returning series when enough of them have come back – Pushing Daisies this week! A sneak peek: so far, House is breaking my heart. And not in the good, killing Wilson's girlfriend kind of way.

Anyone want to adopt a TV, eh? internet radio show?

No TV, eh? Blogtalkradio show this week either, due to yet another stand-up. Can I just say I've never been actually stood up by any of my Hollywood interviewees? I've had last-minute calls to reschedule, but never complete stand-ups. And this makes 4 for TV, eh?, not counting the guy who was in Italy and had phone issues.

So I'm honestly not saying this in a fit of pique - I have no idea what happened with the no-shows, but it's not necessarily the interviewees' fault. But I've been thinking about this for a while, monitoring how much time I'm spending on the show. The next 18 months are going to be very busy for me and while this is a project I wanted to make time for, I can't justify the wasted time of watching screeners and preparing for interviews that don't end up happening. I will continue the show until I hit the end of the currently scheduled and in-the-works guests, but I'm going to have to abandon it after that. If anyone out there wants to take the show on - from scheduling to hosting - I would continue to promote via TV, eh? Let me know.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I guess I have an OK head for the Emmys

I meant to give the rundown of my Emmy prediction success earlier (and by success, I mean failure) but I'm only now coming out of the coma that embarrassingly bad ceremony put me in.

First, clearly I hoped Hugh Laurie would finally win, but all I can say about the overwrought people who are whining he was "robbed" is that they either haven't seen Bryan Cranston's performance or they have drunk too much of the House fandom Kool-Aid. Besides, since Laurie didn't attend the ceremony, we would have been robbed of an acceptance speech, and while it's all about the recognition, blah blah blah, it's really all about the witty acceptance speech.

Anyway, out of 12 categories, I got 7 correct if you combine all 3 of my opportunities to guess (which you shouldn't, but it sounds better if you do). My heart got 2/12, head got 6/12, random number generator got 3/12.

Heart: House
Head: Mad Men
Dice: Boston Legal
Actual: Mad Men (head gets it)

Drama Actor:
Heart: Hugh Laurie
Head: Jon Hamm
Dice: Gabriel Byrne
Actual: Bryan Cranston (didn't get it, though I'd said he was amazing)

Drama Actress:
Heart: Glenn Close
Head: Glenn Close
Dice: Mariska Hargitay
Actual: Glenn Close (heart and head get it)

Drama Supporting Actor:
Heart: Michael Emerson
Head: John Slattery
Dice: Ted Danson
Actual: Zeljko Ivanek (didn't get it)

Drama Supporting Actress:
Heart: Rachel Griffiths
Head: Sandra Oh
Dice: Sandra Oh
Actual: Dianne Wiest (didn't get it)

Drama Writing:
Heart: The Wire
Head: Mad Men Pilot
Dice: Battlestar Galactica
Actual: Mad Men Pilot (head got it)

Comedy Series:
Heart: 30 Rock
Head: 30 Rock
Dice: 30 Rock
Actual: 30 Rock (got it, got it, got it)

Comedy Actor:
Heart: Lee Pace
Head: Alec Baldwin
Dice: Alec Baldwin
Actual: Alec Baldwin (head and dice got it)

Comedy Actress:
Heart: Christina Applegate
Head: Christina Applegate
Dice: Christina Applegate
Actual: Tina Fey (didn't get it)

Comedy Supporting Actor:
Heart: Neil Patrick Harris
Head: Neil Patrick Harris
Dice: Jeremy Piven
Actual: Jeremy Piven (dice got it)

Comedy Supporting Actress:
Heart: Kristin Chenoweth
Head: Kristin Chenoweth
Dice: Vanessa Williams
Actual: Jean Smart (didn't get it)

Comedy Writing:
Heart: Pushing Daisies
Head: 30 Rock - "Cooter"
Dice: 30 Rock – "Rosemary's Baby"
Actual: 30 Rock – "Cooter" (head got it)

Interview with Brigitte Nielsen

I've got another interview up on Blogcritics now, this one with Brigitte Nielsen (Red Sonja, Celebrity Rehab), who is a featured speaker at the PRISM Awards, airing today on FX:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Yes, it's Canadian content

This Sunday, actor David Alpay -- Mark Smeaton on The Tudors -- will talk about the show's second season coming to CBC on Sept. 30.

Listen live Sunday, September 28 at 11 am Pacific/2 pm Eastern and join the discussion by calling 646-200-4063 (or sign in and look for the Click to Talk button on the show site). Or catch the podcast afterward.

Listen to TV, eh? on internet talk radio

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yet Another Interview with House Writer Lawrence Kaplow

Before I duck back into semi-retirement from House writing, I just had to do this interview. Larry Kaplow, who left the show after three seasons -- and two previous interviews with me -- returns for season five. His first episode back (co-written with David Shore) airs Tuesday.
  • Home to House: An Interview With Returning Writer Lawrence Kaplow
    "It was like coming into a new show. It was really hard writing the first episode back. The others had been with these characters for a year -- well, a truncated year because of the strike, but 16 episodes, so they had a feeling for them. I came in almost like any new writer coming into a show. The structure of the show had changed." Read more.
For simplicity, I did this one as a Q&A so it's mostly the edited transcript of our talk. And, um, in my defense re: the "full of shit" comment ... the man cannot take a compliment and there's only so many times you can reassure that someone gives good interview, so that was a compliment in Kaplowese. I do not say that kind of thing to all my interview subjects (though sometimes it's tempting for a whole other reason).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

No TV, eh? show today

Because no Sitara Hewitt called in and while I managed to babble about Canadian TV news, I don't want to leave that up as a permanent podcast. Don't judge Sitara - I don't know what happened but there are many possible reasons for her not appearing that wouldn't be her fault.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Emmy predictions

Not that anyone's counting, but my third annual Emmy prediction silliness is up on Blogcritics, where I decide on the winners using my heart, head, and a random number generator. Last year, my success rate was 8/12 correct predictions if you combine all three (which is cheating, but whatever), or 5/12 for my head, 2/12 for my heart, and 2/12 for random number generator.
  • Rolling The Dice on the Emmys
    "Heart: Hugh Laurie definitely has my heart. For the Emmy Award, I mean.
    Head: Laurie is overdue, and Michael C. Hall and Bryan Cranston were amazing, too, but my head's going with Jon Hamm. Mad Men has the buzz and the momentum, and Hamm brings nuance to a role where so much is below the surface. I have turned into a pessimist and have come to think that one day, when House is limping along in its 10th season, voters will finally realize they haven't yet given it to Laurie and reward him when someone else has had stronger material. As long as James Spader doesn't win, I think I can deal with the disappointment. But I don't want to test that theory." Read more.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Upcoming guests on TV, eh? Blogtalkradio

I will soon have some meatier posts, but for now, check out the upcoming guests for the TV, eh? show on Blogtalkradio and see the site for more info on this Sunday's show.
  • Sept. 21: Sitara Hewitt -- Rayyan on Little Mosque on the Prairie
  • Sept. 28: David Alpay -- Mark Smeaton on The Tudors
  • Oct. 5: Amber Marshall -- Amy Fleming on Heartland

Listen to TV, eh? on internet talk radio

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Listen now: To Hell With Manners! The Decline of Civility on TV, eh? Blogtalkradio

Filmmaker John Curtin discusses his funny and insightful CTV documentary To Hell With Manners! The Decline of Civility, airing Sept. 20 at 7 pm. We chat about infuriating BlackBerry use and road rage and anonymous Internet commenters, among other examples, as well as the free hug movement and "Karmageddon," the brainchild of the Join Me group that practices random acts of kindness.

Listen in the player below, visit the show site, or subscribe via iTunes or with any other program via the TV, Eh? feed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Signs I may need to update my pop culture references

I consider myself reasonably current in the pop culture world. I’ve never seen an episode of The Hills, but I know about the infighting between Lauren and Spencer and whatsherface. I’ve only ever seen part of a season of American Idol, back when Fantasia won, but I bet I can name every winner. (I can’t say the same of Canadian Idol, but I refuse to accept that means I’m out of touch in any way.) I know John Mayer is a man-whore and Nicole Richie has cleaned up her act post-baby. I’m hip. I’m happening.

Yes, I realize the fact that I use the word hip means I’m totally not hip. But I’ve smacked into a few examples lately that made me confront just how unhip I might be.

But how else do you say it concisely?
I recently told a couple of people an anecdote that ended with the revelation that a friend had been “gaslighting me.” One knew what I meant by the phrase because he’d seen the movie, but the other had to use Wiktionary to figure out what the hell I was talking about (“To manipulate someone psychologically such that they question their own sanity”). In my defense, this is a reference that way predates my birth, to 1944’s Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman. Wait, is that actually a defense? Whatever. It’s a great movie, a great concept, a great word, but I fear I need to stop using it as if people know what I mean. I probably won’t though, since I love it so much.

The pinnacle of beauty
I was trying to make an analogy about something and reaching for a comparison with the perfect example of perfect beauty, so I went to my long-time go-to example, Michelle Pfeiffer. Now, I will spit on you, virtually speaking, if you try to tell me she’s not one of the most beautiful people in the world -- and forget any qualifiers about age. But the woman hasn’t been making a lot of movies lately, having retreated to some beautiful Northern California ranch with her beautiful family or something, and doesn’t appear much on the cover of magazines or tabloids. She’s not exactly a current reference, is what I’m saying, not that her beauty isn’t current. I can’t make myself use obvious example Angelina Jolie, who is undeniably gorgeous but scares the crap out of me. That does not coincide with my image of beauty.

Was it that long ago?
A very white 20-something coworker was briefly wearing his hoodie with the hood up in the office the other day, so another coworker commented on the oddly casual look for our not-quite-that-casual office.
20-something: I’m going for the gangsta look.
Me: You look more like the Unabomber.
20-something: [blank stare]

Decisions, decisions. Do I make the effort to update my pop culture references, or do I accept the fact that people might not have a clue what I'm talking about? I'm leaning toward the latter -- after all, the outdated references are only the tip of the "what the hell is she talking about" iceberg anyway.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Listen now: Chris & John to the Rescue on TV, eh? Blogtalkradio

Chris and John from OUTtv's Chris & John to the Rescue talk about their upcoming Summer Camp series and the DVD release of Provincetown, plus they share anecdotes about saving the world ... one gay at a time. Hear how they saved Christmas, their haunted house encounter, and more.

Listen in the player below, visit the show site, or subscribe via iTunes or with any other program via the TV, Eh? feed.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fall TV according to me

Last TV season, critics were grumbling that there were no break-out new series to keep an eye on, calling it a lackluster crop of new shows. Even the eye-poppingly original series, Pushing Daisies, was forecast to have an early death, supposedly unable to sustain a series out of the whimsical "Pie-lette".

They weren't entirely wrong about the season as a whole, long before it was derailed by the writers strike. This fall will see some shows return for their sophomore year, but for most it was more a reprieve than a whole-hearted renewal. Even Pushing Daisies, given an early second season order on the basis of its unexpectedly solid ratings, faltered in the Nielsen's towards the end of its brief strike-truncated run.

This season, critics are grumbling that they haven't even seen most new series, largely because the pilot season was delayed by the writers strike and networks didn't send out many screeners for reviews. So they are handicapped in their attempts to handicap the series' chances of success.

I'm not sure it matters. I strongly believe in the role of the professional critic, but it's a huge stretch to say their positive or negative opinions have a corresponding effect on ratings. And their prognostications about success or failure are about as accurate as my Emmy predictions (translation: really, really not). I'm perversely happy about it, since I'd decided to bow out of doing reviews this year anyway.

The CW chose not to send preview copies of 90210, causing critic conniptions. Conniptions they wrote about, at length, along with speculation and casting news, creating big buzz for a series no one had seen, helping lead to The CW's best ratings for a scripted series ever. (Though keep in mind "forever" in CW terms is two years.) I'm apparently old: I watched the original semi-regularly but couldn't muster even a smidgen of excitement over the remake. I did catch a bit of the pilot, but I seemed to catch a really boring bit. Tell me they weren't all boring bits.

Fringe has buzz, though the scary sci-fi people (TM Lisa de Moraes) tend to buzz about anything "genre." (Don't get me started, as a former English lit major, on how much I hate that scary sci-fi/fantasy people have taken over the word "genre" like it means a specific genre.) I'll probably give it an extended try since I miss The X-Files, and the movie sure didn't help relive its glory days. I thought the leaked Fringe pilot was a snooze, but they've tweaked it since then, and it's not the kind of show I can necessarily judge all that well from a pilot anyway. Will it become a convoluted mess? A ponderous bore? Or spooky entertainment? Time will tell.

I don't get Movie Central, the Canadian broadcaster for True Blood, and the leaked pilot helped me decide I'm not sad about that, though there was a lot to like. I can do without this hodgepodge though.

I do have my DVR set for Privileged, which doesn't seem like my kind of show at all, but the promos have me sucked in; it looks like it could be fun escapism along the lines of The Nanny Diaries - the book, not the horrible movie version.

(Let me interrupt for a scary thought about those promos: network marketers may not have seen the shows they're promoting, either.)

The pilot of Do Not Disturb was dreck. Turns out they won't be airing the pilot first, but with writing and acting that bad, I can't imagine it'll make much difference and I'm not planning to find out.

I didn't hate the leaked pilot for Life on Mars as much as most, though Jason O'Mara felt like a weak link, and he's the only cast member to survive the retooling. I don't have much interest in watching the drastically revised series, though. The original British series was a great concept that I had enough of after a few episodes - I Googled to find out how it all ended. I know, shameful, but it saved me a lot of time.

The Mentalist does not look like something I'll stick with -- cop shows tend to leave me cold, hence my bailing on Life on Mars -- but I have to check it out just because it stars Simon Baker (The Guardian) and he seems to have developed the ability to smile. Swoon.

There's more of course, but those are the only ones I've seen or intend to see. Other new series I'm hearing a lot about include Knight Rider (ugh) and sitcoms (always a hard sell for me) like Worst Week, The Ex List, Kath & Kim, and Gary Unmarried (when did Jay Mohr - Action - become so toothless? Oh yeah, way back when he did a romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston).

The TV Addict has a great printable calendar with all the new and returning premiere dates: download it here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Coming up on TV, eh? on Blogtalkradio

This Sunday, Sept. 7, I've got Chris and John of Chris & John to the Rescue on the TV, eh? show on Blogtalkradio. Tune in at 11 am Pacific/2 pm Eastern for the live show or catch the podcast later. These guys are hilarious and I have a soft spot for them because they send me information for TV, eh? regularly. Their 3rd season is in production for OutTV in Canada and here! Networks in the US, and Chris & John To The Rescue: Season 2 is coming to DVD on Oct. 14.

Listen to TV, eh? on internet talk radio

Sept. 14, filmmaker John Curtin guests to talk about his CTV documentary To Hell With Manners! The Decline of Civility (airing Sept. 20 at 7 pm). As an Internet denizen (where civility isn't inflammatory enough to be valued), a previous resident of Mexico City (whose female-only subway cars are featured in the doc), and a fan of House (the long-distance runner of incivility), I'm looking forward to this one.

Coming up, some of the returning fall series will make an appearance on the show, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

House writer Doris Egan – deleted scenes

Here's the promised deleted scenes from my conversation with House writer Doris Egan that I transcribed but didn't make it into the article (see Don't Mess With The Iconic Moment: An Interview With House Writer Doris Egan).

On what season four would have looked like without the strike, if "House's Head"/"Wilson's Heart" had been aired post-Superbowl as originally planned:
"I think from our point of view it didn't really make a difference. You knew story-wise you'd have to pick it up with the aftermath of her death. Whether we called it episode one (of season five) or we called it episode 17 (of season four), in a way it didn't really matter."

More about the actors, specifically Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard, but seeming to encompass the entire ensemble:
"Again, it is wonderful just to be able to trust utterly with the people who are taking your material away. You know at the end of the day there may be something different here than what was in my mind, but there's no way it's going to be worse."

On whether she has a bit of House in herself, and whether there's a little House in all of us:
"I think there may be. I think it's a good thing. That is what people respond to when they like him, that he's saying things they might want to say. When it comes to writing, I've never written a character that I didn't on some level understand and identify with even when they're wildly different characters. It's like there's some aspect of it where I can say OK, I understand that part of it. There may be people in the world who can write from the outside perspective, but I'm not one of them."

On spoilers:
"I actually want to do an essay at some point about spoilers, but I'm coming to believe in what I think of as normal spoilers and spoilers that really spoil. I mean, I am kind of a spoilerphile myself. When there's a show I like and someone has some information about what's going to happen on it, I'm like ooh, spill it, tell me. And yet there are a few things that I regret I knew, and I know I would have enjoyed them much more if I had not known."

"I was on a show once where we put out a fake part of a script. It was Dark Angel, and for the season finale there were two scenes they put out and that transcript went on the Internet. I was like, my god, that's diabolical. But even then, to me that was still a fun kind of spoiler. The world wouldn't have ended if that had gotten out."

(I mentioned that scenes from an early draft of the season one finale, "Honeymoon," were leaked and caused fan consternation over a bar fight that wasn't even in the final script:)
"That's another danger with spoilers. Again, I'm a spoilerphile so I'm not in any position to throw stones. But there is a danger when you hear a spoiler: in your mind you immediately put it in a certain context and then you react to that, whereas when it actually happens it could be in an entirely different context. But in a way it's too late, because that trip wire in your brain has already gone and you've already made a judgement about a character or a situation or a choice and it's too late now to take that back."

On whether with all the teasing over various pairings, we'll ever see House in a romantic relationship with any of them:
"The short answer to that would be you never know. I personally would like to believe that when the day comes, a long time from now when the show is over and we reach the end, I would like to believe that House is as ornery and alone as he has ever been. That's just me personally. As to anything that happens along the way, I do not know." (Me: "And if you did, you wouldn't tell me." Egan: "If I did, I wouldn't say.")

On her favourite of the episodes she's written:
"'House vs. God,' because the story structure of that one worked so well. Everything supported everything else, which rarely happens. I'm a big believer in doing what you have to do to get to the interesting scenes, but that particular structure seemed to all work out. I described it once as 'providential.'"

More on fanfic:
"It's also wonderful to see what people can do by taking different worlds and melding them. I don't just mean, let's take this movie and put it in this movie's world. For example, there was an X-Files fan fiction story that was in the form of a novel, and it was just so not what you would expect. It was internal and thoughtful and it was just very differently written. The take was just so different than the take on the TV show. And yet they were at core the same characters. It was as if you were using similar mythology."

On what television she watches:
"I don't have time to watch a lot of TV. It's so sad. My TiVo is so full, and I'm always trying to create room on it."

Me: "But not by actually watching the shows."

Egan: "Not by watching the shows. I did, over the last several weeks, make a huge effort and I'm almost up to date on Dr. Who. I haven't watched Mad Men. I haven't watched any of Heroes and it's exactly the kind of show you would think I would love. But I've got the DVDs."

Me: "So some day."

Egan: "Some day."

Monday, September 01, 2008

Interview with House writer Doris Egan

My latest from Blogcritics. Hardcore spoilerphobes might want to stay away for now, though nothing in it fits my own definition of a spoiler. We do talk about a piece of information that's already been made public and that only the most naive fan wouldn't have assumed anyway, but she also gives a hint of when that particular detail will occur.
  • Don't Mess With The Iconic Moment: An Interview With House Writer Doris Egan
    "I feel like House and Wilson, they deserve mythology. They're larger-than-life characters. There was one moment when I was typing the script where Wilson does something and I wrote: 'This is an iconic moment.' I thought someone would make me take that out, but they didn't." She feared the scene itself might be omitted since it was scheduled after the main shoot. "Hugh said, 'How could they do that? I believe you called it an iconic moment.'" Read more.
In the interest of time and therefore my sanity, I'm not going to do a transcript as I've done with some interviews in the past, but in a day or two I'll post some "deleted scenes" – quotes I transcribed but didn't end up using in the final article.