Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Remembering Kaye Ballard, 1925-2019


Yesterday, the world awoke to the news that the singer, actress and comedienne Kaye Ballard, famous for originating roles in Broadway’s “Carnival” and “Golden Apple,” and on the TV sitcom The Mothers-in -Law, had died at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, at the age of 93.

Kaye’s death comes just a week after that of one of her best friends, another beloved Broadway and comedy legend (and another fixture in the Palm Springs area), Carol Channing, who died just short of her 98th birthday.

with Kaye Ballard in the New York studios
of Sirius XM for "The Frank DeCaro Show"
September 28, 2010
I had the pleasure of meeting both Carol and Kaye when they guested on Sirius XM’s “The Frank DeCaro Show,” as well as in interviews celebrating many of their famous projects.  For my upcoming book on The Love Boat, I was fortunate enough to get a fun story out of Carol.  And two years ago this month, I spoke by phone with Kaye about The Love Boat and so much more of her career.  My fellow paesana, Kaye and I got along famously – and we even compared notes about Southern Italian cuisine.  After all, as Kaye would point out when giving out her phone number, the digits even had the word EAT embedded within.

Below, just a bit of our fun conversation, which I’m so glad I had the opportunity to have with a show business legend.


Must-Hear TV:  Tell me about the documentary you’re working on, about your life and career.

Kaye Ballard:  You will be shocked with some of the people who spoke on it! Hal Prince and Woody Allen – who never talks about anything.  I’m so thrilled he said yes.  I knew him when he first started. He’s been wonderful.  And I always write him after a movie and rate it.

I have worked with great, great people, honey.  All the people I worked with on The Perry Como Show.  Being this old and never stopping to win an Emmy or anything like that, I just kept working and meeting all these people, and getting to know them.


MHTV:  A few years ago, I saw a lot of your talented friends join you on stage in Palm Springs, when you gave your “Going Out of Business” retirement performance.

Carol Channing and Kaye Ballard
at the Camelot Theater in Palm Springs
following the performance of
"Kaye Ballard: Going Out of Business"
March, 2014
KB:  Oh, Carol Channing!  My Carol Channing.  She did a number in that show.  Oh god, I love that number [Cecilia Sisson].  And I genuinely laugh that hard at that number every time I hear it.  The audacity of her taking that long, and to keep whistling – she’s one of the most wonderful people in the world.


MHTV:  Other than The Love Boat, you’ve had so many great TV roles.  I talked with Bernie Kopell about working with you on The Doris Day Show.

KB:  And we worked with Billy DeWolfe, who was a very close friend of mine.  He was one of the funniest men who ever lived.  He called me “Rose Boozy,” and he called Doris “Clara Bixby.”  He was just wonderful, and had the kind of wit that I think is missing today.


MHTV:  And of course, it was on for only two seasons, but people still remember and love The Mothers-in-Law.

KB:  That was my favorite thing, because I loved Eve Arden and I loved my first husband, Roger C. Carmel.  Oh my God, what a great actor he was.  Do you realize that that show went off the air because they wouldn’t give us a $250 raise?  Isn’t that funny?  It was amazing.  Eve Arden and I said, “Forget the raise – we want to keep going!”  But Roger said “No, it’s the principle of the thing, Cutes,” and they replaced him, which ended up being a mistake for the show. 


MHTV:  In addition to this documentary, a few years ago, you also published your memoir, How I Lost 10 Pounds in 53 Years.

KB:  Every word is true, and I think you can get it on amazon for either $5 or $10.  It’s wonderful what happened last year -- I had sent it to [theater and book critic] John Simon, and he threw it aside.  But then he wrote in his blog, “I picked up a book that Kaye Ballard wrote 6 or 7 years ago, and I’m so sorry I waited that long.”  And he just loved it.  And so he made my old age!


MHTV:  Tell me more about your documentary [titled Kaye Ballard: The Show Goes On, which premiered earlier this month at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, after which Kaye, suffering from heart problems just weeks before her death, received a standing ovation.]

KB:  At the moment it’s called “Medium Rare and Well Done.”  Because I’ve been in every medium of show business, and it’s called “Rare” because Carol Channing and I were maybe two of the people living who performed for the princess before she was queen.  So that’s pretty good.


MHTV:  Is that Princess Victoria, you mean?

KB:  Elizabeth!  Not Victoria, you cruel little person.

I say “Well Done,” because I think I have done it well.  Even though I didn’t win a Tony or an Emmy – that frustrates me to death.  Everything is politics, not only in show business, in every business.  Because I deserved one.  I certainly deserved nominations.  For “Carnival,” for “Golden Apple” – I should have won.

At that time, I was doing every medium, and they didn’t have respect for people who could do every medium.


MHTV:  Was there a stigma back then against actors who appeared on TV?

KB:  It’s not like that anymore, but it was then.  If you were kind of a hit in supper clubs, they didn’t think of you seriously as an actress or anything else.  But since then, I’ve proven it to myself, because I’ve done plays with Imogene Coca, Sandy Dennis – I could name many other people.  And so therefore, I know I was good.  That’s why I say “And Well Done.”

I thought I was pretty damn good in all the things I did, and I never resorted to any kind of vulgarity.  That’s what I resent today.  It was Jack Benny who told me that – he said, “Funny is funny, and you don’t have to go that far.”

And you know what was funny -- when I did The Mothers-in-Law, and I bit my fist, [the network censors] called the Italian embassy.  And when the Italian embassy came on the set, they asked them, “Hey, what does that mean?”  but you know, I say “Va Fa Napoli.”  That sounds like it could be vulgar, but it means “Go to Naples.”

I did the movie The Ritz, and I had to say “FUCK” in the last scene.  My mother wouldn’t talk to me for months.  I had to do that.  I said it once, and I got this long grief in this f-ing family.  My mother went into shock.


MHTV:  Was your mother very proper?

KB:  She was from Calabria.  She came over from Italy when she was about 8 or 10.  And talk about grief, my grandmother came over with five kids and one of them died of diphtheria on the ship.  It took them 30 days to come across.  It was the cattle boat.  I’ve had an interesting life.


MHTV:  Which we’re about to see on the big screen.

KB:  The documentary has all these interviews, and now the filmmaker will piece it together.  Michael Feinstein, Rex Reed, Liz Smith, wonderful people.  Donna McKechnie, Jerry Stiller – my best friend.  Oh, I love him more than I can tell you.

I’ve been lucky.  I’ve met all the people I’ve really admired, and got to know them, like Bette Davis and Cary Grant and Barbara Stanwyck, and another idol, Irene Dunne.  Clark Gable, I asked him for an autograph, and he said, “The heck I’ll give you an autograph, but I’ll give you a kiss.”


MHTV:  Did you take the kiss from Gable?

KB:  Yes.  It was when I first performed with [bandleader] Spike Jones, in 1947 or ‘48.  We were playing the Trocadero, and I went up to Gable and said “Oh my God, I’d love it – can I have your autograph?”  And he said no, but he stepped and kissed me on the cheek.  I thought “Oh my lord!”  It was wonderful.

I think people are going to say, “Oh, you didn’t know all those people” – but I knew much more than that!  When I went to England, I turned down a date with Richard Burton, because I was doing two shows a day.  But then I met his wife and Jean Simmons and Glynis Johns and Michael Wilding.  I was fascinated with anybody in show business who achieved excellence.


MHTV:  You mean you could have had those diamonds instead of Liz Taylor?

KB:    I doubt it.  I wouldn’t even know how to be a glamour queen.


MHTV:  They say that passion for something, like your appreciation of excellence in a performer, is what keeps people going.

KB:  That’s it.  I can get jaded today with some of the performances.  But I still admire.  I’m a fan.  I’m an eternal fan.



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

An Evening with Sunday Morning, a Night with CBS Sports

The stage is set for "An Evening with CBS Sunday Morning"
October 1, 2018, Town Hall, New York City
In 2014, Netflix reconstructed Friends' Central Perk coffeehouse in Manhattan's East Village.  The following year, Hulu recreated Seinfeld's Monk's Diner on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood.  And this past spring, PBS brought Downton Abbey to life in the 21st Century, with an exhibition of props and memorabilia that has toured from Manhattan's 57th Street to its upcoming next stop in Florida's West Palm Beach (opens November 10.)

Jane Pauley interviews The Front Runner director
Jason Reitman (l) and star Hugh Jackman
Town Hall, NYC, October 1, 2018
Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS
Now CBS is the latest network to get in on the action -- and it has created a whole new division to do so.  With TV audiences becoming ever more fragmented, one of the best ways to bond with viewers -- and in some cases, start a new stream of revenue -- is via "interactive television," giving audiences a chance to experience aspects of their favorite shows live and in person.

On October 1, CBS Experiences (or CBSX) debuted its first presentation, a live version of its well-heeled newsmagazine CBS Sunday Morning at Manhattan's Town Hall.  "An Evening with CBS Sunday Morning" was hosted by some of the morning show's famous correspondents, and featured interviews with the likes of the director and star of the upcoming film The Front Runner, Jason Reitman and Hugh Jackman; the cast of Murphy Brown; subjects from favorite past stories such as Georgia widower Dan Peterson and Norah Wood, the little girl who asked to hug him in the supermarket; plus live performances by Late Show with Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste, David Yazbek of the Broadway show The Band's Visit, David Brown's The Harmony Project, and more.

The cast of Murphy Brown (l-r, Grant Shaud, Joe Regalbuto,
Faith Ford, Candice Bergen) with Lee Cowan
NYC's Town Hall
October 1, 2018
Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS

Next up, CBSX tackles an even bigger demographic, putting together a program for sports fans called "CBS Sports Friday Night Tailgate."  Featuring the networks' famed sportscasters Phil Simms, James Brown, Bill Cowher, Nate Burleson and Boomer Esiason, plus gourmet "tailgate food" from Bareburger, Mighty Quinn's barbecue, Tao and more, the program will take place at Times Square's PlayStation Theater on Friday, November 9 at 7 PM Eastern. (Click for more info.)

Stay tuned for more announcements of unique CBSX experiences, which I hear are planned thru 2019 and beyond.


Musician David Krauss kicks off the evening
with a performance of the CBS Sunday Morning theme
"Ablassen," by Gottfried Rieche.
October 1, 2018, Town Hall, New York City
Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS

Correspondent Mo Rocca introduces his fellow CBS Sunday Morning Journalists
October 1, 2018
Town Hall, New York City
Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS

CBS Sunday Morning correspondents:
(l-r), Tracy Smith, Lee Cowan, Rita Braver,
Martha Teichner, producer Rand Morrison,
Jane Pauley and Mo Rocca
Town Hall, NYC, October 1, 2018
Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert's Jon Batiste
performs at Town Hall, NYC,
October 1, 2018
Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS

A performance by The Harmony Project, led by David Brown
 From left: Candace Haynes, Nicole Jie, Sybil Scoby, Joshuah Campbell,
 Jamie Leonhart, Damaras Obi and Chanté Odom.
Town Hall, NYC, October 1, 2018
Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS

Charles Osgood, host of CBS Sunday Morning from 1994-2016,
waves to the crowd at NYC's Town Hall,
October 1, 2018.
Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Last Chance to Join Will & Grace on Set

Since the start of the series' "reboot," the producers of Will & Grace have been doing something extraordinary, partnering with a different charity each week and providing a pair of tickets to the show's taping, complete with VIP access.

For the taping on September 26, the show joins with the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBTQ advocacy group, providing not just tickets to the show and a tour of the iconic sets, but also round-trip airfare to Los Angeles and a two-night stay at the super-luxe new Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Beverly Hills.

Each $10 donation to HRC buys an entry into the ticket drawing, and all entries must be completed by 11:59 PM tomorrow, Monday September 10.  Good luck!

Info below:

I'll keep this brief, James —
Next Monday is your LAST CHANCE to win a trip to Los Angeles for you and a guest to attend the taping of “Will & Grace”! Donate $10 before 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, September 10th and be entered to win before it’s too late.
Your chances of attending the taping of “Will & Grace” in LA just DOUBLED – we now have two sets of tickets to the September 26th taping with hotel and flights on us!
And remember, you can enter more than once – each $10 you donate gets you another chance to win. But hurry, we’re closing entry Monday at 11:59 p.m. ET!
James, if attending the taping of NBC’s hit show wasn’t exciting enough, the two winners also receive:
  • A tour of the iconic set
  • Round trip airfare for you and a friend
  • A two-night stay at the new Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, an urban oasis in one of the world's most glamorous cities
Even if you aren’t selected, you’ll still be helping Will, Grace and rest of the beloved cast and crew promote LGBTQ acceptance. Your donation also invests directly in HRC’s work to protect our civil rights and to secure equality for all. So can we count you in?
Good luck,

Zack Hasychak
Deputy Director of Membership Outreach
P.S. The more times you contribute $10 by 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, the more times you’ll be entered for a chance to win. Boost your chances of winning ASAP.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Born This Way Continues to Unite and Uplift

The Housewives certainly have their place.  But if, like me, you're also looking for something a little bit kinder and more uplifting in your reality TV, check out tomorrow night's season 4 premiere of A&E's groundbreaking series Born This Way.

Born This Way is the continuing story of seven adults living with Down Syndrome as they strive for more independence, career success (cast member Megan Bomgaars is the force behind a fashion collection, Megology) -- and in this season, marital bliss.

The show debuted in 2015, and has been an important force in changing public perception of people with disabilities, and what they can achieve if given the chance.  Cast member Elena Ashmore's mom, Hiromi, told me how much the show has helped Elena grow in her understanding that "Down Syndrome" need not be a label used to hold her back, and has helped the two of them grow closer together.  And this series has had a powerful effect in depicting people with disabilities not only in the U.S., but as Hiromi reminded me, around the world as well.  When Born This Way showed their visit to their native Japan last season, Hiromi was pleased to see how that country's attitudes about disability have also improved.

Today, A&E Networks, in association with the fantastic group Best Buddies International, threw a wedding-themed premiere event at Catch restaurant in West Hollywood, to celebrate the union of cast member Cristina Sanz with her new husband Angel. Celebrities such as Maureen McCormick and Kelly Hu, each with a personal connection to intellectual disability, came out to help celebrate.  And as part of the festivities, A&E has posted a "registry" for Cristina and Angel, allowing fans to donate to one of several related charities.


Kelly Hu (top, center) with Born This Way cast members (l-r)
John Tucker, Megan Bomgaars, Angel, Cristina Sanz, Rachel Osterbach,
Elena Ashmore, Sean McElwee, and Steven Clark.)

Maureen McCormick with the Born This Way cast

Cast members Angel (center) and Cristina Sanz (right) with
Born This Way executive producer Laura Korkoian

Born This Way has shown us Cristina and Angel's relationship as it began and as it progressed, and now season 4 will conclude on September 5 with the episode showing their wedding.  As one A&E executive told me, it's such an emotional episode, be prepared to cry. 


Congratulations to newlyweds Cristina and Angel!

Born This Way
Season 4 debuts Wednesday, August 15, 2018
8 PM - 10 PM Eastern/Pacific (two episodes)
A&E

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Marvelous Campaign

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's instagram
post from earlier today, depicting its
FYC "MARVELOUS" installation
at Glendale's The Americana at Brand
shopping center.
Despite assertions to the contrary, life in Los Angeles is indeed measured in seasons -- awards season, pilot season, staffing season, and in the past few years, an ever growing "For Your Consideration" season, during which just about every show on peak TV throws a celebration of itself, in hopes of reeling in an Emmy nomination.

Most of these events consist of a panel discussion, followed by some sort of cocktail party.  And while they're a great way for both journalists and fans of a show to get a fun glimpse behind the scenes, these soirees do all tend to blend together come nomination time.

Occasionally some shows cut through the clutter by doing something a bit different, as in the case of the fabulous Amazon Prime show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  Yes, Mrs. Maisel creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, plus actors Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Marin Hinkle, Tony Shalhoub and Michael Zegen already participated in a panel at Amazon Studios' temporary exhibition at the Hollywood Athletic Club this spring.  But the show is just beginning another campaign, drawing attention not just itself but to some deserving female-run enterprises as well.

As announced today, Amazon Studios has selected eleven "women-led companies, individuals with a voice, and those who continue to usher in change and progress" as honorees.  In front of each place of business in New York and Los Angeles, Amazon will be erecting, starting today and lasting for one week, an installation of letters spelling out "MARVELOUS," in reference to the series' trailblazing stand up comic and heroine.

I devoured the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and am excited that production on the series' second season is currently underway in New York.  But I'm even more excited that among the honorees is Lizz Winstead, the co-creator of The Daily Show, the founder of Lady Parts Justice League (advocating for and safeguarding women's reproductive rights), and the officiant at my wedding in 2011.  Hopefully, this recognition will put a spotlight on women like Lizz, doing amazing work, and empower them to keep up the fight.

Lizz, by the way, kicks off her 2018 "Vagical Mystery Tour" tonight in Bethlehem, PA, and will continue to six more cities through early August.  Check out the Vagical Mystery Tour schedule here.


Below, Amazon's official announcement: 


AMAZON PRIME VIDEO CELEBRATES EMPOWERING AND INSPIRING INDIVIDUALS WITH A UNIQUE EMMY FYC CAMPAIGN FOR THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL

Eleven sets of eight-foot-tall “Marvelous” block letters are being installed across Los Angeles and New York to celebrate women-led companies, individuals with a voice, and those who continue to usher in change and progress

SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 12, 2018 – Amazon Prime Video today announced it is launching a unique Emmy FYC campaign for the series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel celebrating empowering and inspiring individuals. Starting today and lasting for one week in Los Angeles and New York, Amazon is installing eleven sets of “Marvelous” eight-foot-tall block letters in front of businesses that are founded and led by women, as well as locations where individuals are driving positive change in the world. These illuminated installations are a recognition of the honorees’ achievements and their innovative businesses. They celebrate women with a voice and those who are leading change and progress. 

“The character Midge Maisel is a strong, talented woman who strikes out on her own to forge a new path, and in the spirit of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, we are excited to shine a light on other fantastic, entrepreneurial women,” said Mike Benson, Head of Marketing, Amazon Studios. “We hope that this campaign will inspire others to find their unique voice.”

Fans of the series are encouraged to take photos with the letters and join the conversation on social media by using the #Marvelous and tagging @MaiselTV across all social media platforms. Not only can they share the unique things that make them feel “Marvelous,” but they can also nominate another person in their lives who they feel embodies what it means to be marvelous as well.

The women being honored include:  

  • Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, co-Founders and co-CEOs of theSkimm – Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin are the co-Founders and co-CEOs of theSkimm, a membership company that makes it easier for millions of female millennials to live smarter
  • Whitney Wolfe Herd, Founder of Bumble – In 2014, Whitney Wolfe Herd founded Bumble - where women make the first move - in order to challenge the antiquated rules of dating. Now, that idea has expanded into BumbleBFF and BumbleBizz. Bumble users can connect with confidence whether in dating, networking, or meeting friends online. Bumble prioritizes kindness and respect, providing a safe online community for users to build new relationships. In just over three and a half years, Bumble has 33 million registered users, who have made 561 million first moves and over 165 billion swipes! 
  • Katie Rosen Kitchens, Founder of FabFitFun – Katie Rosen Kitchens has led the evolution of FabFitFun as a leading female-focused media brand, curating fresh and exciting products for FabFitFun members and overseeing all brand partnerships and product development 
  • Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code – Reshma Saujani is the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, the nonprofit dedicated to closing the gender gap in tech that has already reached 90,000 girls of all backgrounds in all 50 states
  • Payal Kadakia, Founder of ClassPass – Payal Kadakia is the Founder and Executive Chairman of ClassPass, the leading membership to the world’s largest fitness network with over 9,000 partners in 50 cities worldwide
  • Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne, James Beard Foundation award-winning Chef and Restaurateur – Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne are founders and owners of The Lucques Group, a Los Angeles hospitality company that comprises three fine dining restaurants – Lucques, a.o.c., and Tavern – and four marketplace restaurants – The Larder at Maple DriveThe Larder at Burton Way, The Larder at Tavern and The Larder at Tavern at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Along with these culinary enterprises, the company also operates Lucques Catering, the Larder Baking Company and comprehensive food and beverage services for the Hollywood Bowl
  • Florence Shin and Athina Wang, Founders of Covry – Florence Shin and Athina Wang are the founders of Covry, an eyewear company embracing and celebrating diversity. Their innovative approach to comfortable eyewear goes beyond the standard fit by catering to diverse face shapes
  • Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson, co-Founders of The Kind Campaign – Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson, co-Founders of The Kind Campaign, are the internationally recognized nonprofit that brings awareness and healing to the negative effects of girl-against-girl bullying 
  • Lizz Winstead, Founder of Lady Parts Justice League and co-Creator of The Daily Show – As co-creator of The Daily Show and co-founder of Air America Radio, Lizz Winstead has helped changed the very landscape of how people get their news. Known as one of the top political satirists in America, Winstead was recognized in Entertainment Weekly’s “100 Most Creative People” issue. Lizz currently spends her time at the helm of Lady Parts Justice League (LPJL), a comedy-driven reproductive rights organization she founded
  • Cecile Richards, Former president of Planned Parenthood and author of Make Trouble – Cecile Richards is a national leader for women’s rights and economic justice, and a lifelong activist

Amazon will have the “Marvelous” block letters in the following locations:
  • Westfield Century City
  • The Grove
  • The Americana at Brand
  • 9200 Sunset Blvd.  
  • Santa Monica Pier 
  • The Four Ladies of Hollywood Statue adjacent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • 8500’s The Larder at Burton Way (Caruso’s luxury residential landmark which is also at 8500 Burton Way at the intersection of La Cienega will be turning its iconic cloud light pink for the campaign)
  • FabFitFun Offices
  • Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center 
  • Time Warner Center 
  • 10th Ave. and 33rd St. in New York City

About The Marvelous Mrs. MaiselThe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel from renowned creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) and Executive Producer Daniel Palladino (Family Guy), written and directed by Sherman-Palladino and Palladino, stars Golden Globe winner Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1958 New York City woman who has everything she’s ever wanted—the perfect husband, two kids, and an elegant Upper West Side apartment perfect for hosting Yom Kippur dinner. But her perfect life suddenly takes an unexpected turn and Midge discovers a previously unknown talent—one that changes her life forever. 

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel also stars Golden Globe winner and three-time Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub (Monk) as Midge’s father Abe Weissman, Alex Borstein (Family Guy) as Susie Myerson, Michael Zegen (Boardwalk Empire) as Midge’s husband Joel Maisel and Marin Hinkle (Two and a Half Men) as Midge’s mother Rose Weissman.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the winner of two Golden Globes (Best TV Series, Comedy and Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy (Rachel Brosnahan)), two Critics’ Choice Awards (Best Comedy Series and Best Actress in a Comedy Series (Rachel Brosnahan), a 2018 Peabody Award, a PGA Award (Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy), and was nominated by the DGA and Costume Designers’ Guild.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sex and the City is almost old enough to drink a cosmo

With much fanfare this morning, Sex and the City is celebrating the 20th anniversary since its debut on HBO in 1998.

Popping up around the web have been stories about the show's place in the late '90s zeitgeist -- and critiques of how episodes don't hold up to our current standards when it comes to LGBT and other minority depictions -- plus click-through galleries of Sarah Jessica Parker's best and worst Carrie Bradshaw fashions.  A blog at cabletv.com has compiled a list of dozens of New York eateries patronized by the fab foursome of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha.

But for me, the best way to reminisce about Sex -- and its huge impact on pop culture, on depictions of women on TV, and even on the world's view of New York (sorely needed after the crisis of 9/11) is via a brand-new book published today, Sex and the City and Us, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.

The author of two other fabulous TV behind-the-scenes companions -- Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted (2013) and Seinfeldia (2017) -- Armstrong takes the reader step-by-step through Candace Bushnell's early years in New York, the origins and evolution of her Sex and the City column, and the development of that material with producer Darren Star into a new half-hour comedy for HBO.  From there, we go behind-the-scenes to learn how characters and storylines were conceived, and how everything changed once the show blossomed into a mega-hit.

Armstrong doesn't shy away from criticisms of the show as well, pointing out places where its conceits haven't quite aged as well as one would like.  And yes, there is mention and some explanation of the Parker-Cattrall "feud," the back-and-forths of which, as the planned Sex and the City 3 feature film met its premature demise, were only becoming public as the book went to print.

Personally, I'm still hoping all differences will be ironed out and SATC3 will eventually happen -- I guess that makes me an optimistic Charlotte.  Yes, some of those over-the-top Sex and the City 2 Dubai moments were more cringeworthy than fun -- oy, those outfits as they walked the desert dunes! -- but one of the things we've always loved about Carrie is her willingness to take chances, including with her fashions.  I, for one, would never have advised wearing a tutu on the Manhattan streets -- especially if there's a chance you'll be splashed by a bus (with your face on it) -- but Carrie somehow made it work.

Yes, some of Carrie's voiceovers or Samantha's double-entendres may no longer seem exactly cutting edge.  But twenty years ago today, Sex and the City was a show that changed the way single women were perceived, and perceived themselves.  It brought whole new glamour to their world, and to New York as a whole.  So let's sit back, binge-watch, and follow along in Armstrong's fabulous new book.  Because after all, as with pizza, even imperfect Sex is better than no Sex at all.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Designing Women Reboot? If so, Annie Potts Wants In

PaleyFest's Young Sheldon panelists:
(back, l-r) creators Chuck Lorre and
Steve Molaro, moderator Jessica Radloff,
stars Montana Jordan, Annie Potts,
Zoe Perry, Lance Barber and
Jim Parsons, and (front)
Iain Armitage and Raegan Revord
March 21, 2018, The Dolby Theater, Hollywood
Photo by Michael Bulbenko for the Paley Center
Last night at Hollywood's Dolby Theater, the 35th Annual PaleyFest presented two related panels, featuring the creators and stars of both the 11th season sitcom megahit The Big Bang Theory, and its freshman prequel Young Sheldon, which in its debut season ranks as the top new show on TV.

As Young Sheldon stars Iain Armitage, Raegan Revord, Montana Jordan, Zoe Perry, Lance Barber and Jim Parsons also walked the blue carpet prior to the panel (expertly hosted by Glamour's Jessica Radloff), I was most excited to talk with Annie Potts, who of course had already portrayed one of the protypical Southern women on TV on the '80s-'90s CBS sitcom Designing Women, and now was playing a slightly older model as Memaw on Young Sheldon.

Ironically, Young Sheldon is set in the late '80s, when Designing Women was one of the sitcoms ruling CBS' airwaves.  During the panel, the cast was even asked if Raegan's character Missy, always parked in front of the TV, might end up watching Designing Women, but the show's creators, Steve Molaro and Chuck Lorre, and particularly Annie, think that might be too bizarre.

But clearly, with the return of Will & Grace and the impending returns of Roseanne and CBS' own Murphy Brown, the idea of somehow rebooting Designing Women is in the air.  In fact, when I asked Annie if she had any interest in a Designing Women reboot, she noted that someone earlier on the carpet had already asked the same thing. 

So, would Annie like to juggle her current role as Memaw with a reprise of her beloved Mary Jo Shively?  "Yes, I would," the actress immediately answered.  "I'd love to!  I don't know when I'd do it, but if Linda Bloodworth[-Thomason] wanted to write six episodes or something, that could be done during a hiatus period, yeah, I'd do that!  Because I think it's important. Those were strong characters, and we got to say stuff that women haven't been able to say since. I mean, we took on Donald Trump long ago!  We were speaking truth to power."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Will & Grace Renewed -- Again

At PaleyFest at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood:
l-r, moderator Dan Bucatinsky, NBC president Bob Greenblatt
Will & Grace director Jimmy Burrows, stars Sean Hayes,
Debra Messing, Eric McCormack and Megan Mullally,
co-creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan.
As of tonight, it's official: Will & Grace is back for the long haul.

As the cast of the popular rebooted sitcom took the stage at Hollywood's Dolby Theater for a panel on night two of the annual PaleyFest, it was Megan Mullally who urged co-creator Max Mutchnick to announce the official news:  not only will W&G's rebooted season 2/overall season 10 be increased from a planned 13 to now 18 episodes, but NBC has already renewed the show for a third (or eleventh) season.

After a day on a photo shoot at the W Hotel in Hollywood, the cast assembled -- along with Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes, plus Mutchnick, co-creator David Kohan and director/executive producer Jimmy Burrows -- at the Dolby for an interview conducted by Scandal actor, writer/producer and W&G super-fan Dan Bucatinsky, who recently reprised his character Neil, from the original series.

Below, NBC's official announcement of its pickup of the series for season 3:

‘WILL & GRACE’ EXTENDS ITS TRIUMPHANT RETURN WITH SEASON THREE PICK-UP

Additional Season Two Episodes Ordered as Critical Acclaim Builds for Original Cast and Production Team


UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – March 17, 2018 – “Will & Grace” is giving you more, honey!

The return of “Will & Grace,” which began as an Internet reunion that turned into a one-season order and then a two-season order before it even went back on the air last fall, has just been ordered for a third season to premiere in fall 2019. With its razor-sharp wit intact and all four Emmy Award-winning actors back at the top of their game, one of the best NBC Must See comedies will return for an 18-episode third season.

In addition, the network has increased the season two order, which will begin again next fall, from 13 to 18 episodes. The announcement was made by Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment.

“As far as I’m concerned, we can’t get enough of ‘Will & Grace’ and 23 more episodes is music to my ears,” Greenblatt said. “We’re eternally grateful that Debra, Eric, Sean and Megan feel the same way and wanted to keep this good thing going. I’m overwhelmed by the euphoric response the new show has received from the press and the audience, and my hat is off to the unrivaled writing team of Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, as well as the brilliant directing of Jimmy Burrows, for consistently delivering one of the best shows on television.”   

So far this season “Will & Grace” is averaging a 3.1 rating in adults 18-49 and 9.8 million viewers overall in “live plus seven day” figures from Nielsen Media Research. “Will & Grace” is NBC’s most-watched primetime comedy at this point in the season in eight years and has improved its Thursday timeslot by +48% versus NBC’s year-ago results for regular non-sports programming in 18-49.

“Will & Grace” has received critical acclaim since the show’s return in September.  “Watching it is like running into an old flame who looks fantastic and is as bright and fun as ever,” said The New York Times. Entertainment Weekly wrote that 
“‘Will & Grace’ has been just as incredible as the original series: hilarious, poignant, contemporary” while USA Today added, “Watching the foursome is like taking in a tango by professional dancers.” 

Season one has been highlighted by an array of top guest stars, including Jennifer Lopez, Alec Baldwin, Minnie Driver, Ben Platt, Molly Shannon, Jane Lynch, Andrew Rannells and more.

“Will & Grace” stars Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally. Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, who co-created the series, write and executive produce. James Burrows directs and executive produces. “Will & Grace” is produced by Universal Television.