Friday, October 17, 2014

More Grist for The Millers

When Sean Hayes got the call from TV legend James Burrows about joining The Millers, “it was probably the easiest ‘yes’ I’ve ever said,” the actor recalls.  Already a fan of the Thursday night sitcom, Hayes relished the chance to reteam with his former Will & Grace director  Burrows (and former W&G  guest star Beau Bridges; papa Tom Miller was once Jack McFarland's dad, too)  and to join friend Will Arnett on screen. 

This season, Hayes’ character Kip becomes Miller matriarch Carol’s new friend – and thus a nascent rival for her son Nathan.  “It’s been really fun turning our friendship into an adversarial relationship,” Arnett says.

“Just the thought of Sean and Margo Martindale as BFFs makes me smile,” adds Millers creator Greg Garcia.  “We’re only getting started, and writing this season’s stories has been a blast.”

The Millers
Returns Monday, October 20
8:30 PM EST

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Follow "Stalker"

It’s a dance,” Maggie Q says of her character Lieutenant Beth Davis’ work on CBS’ new crime thriller Stalker.  Stocked with the nail-biting suspense for which its creator Kevin Williamson (Scream, The Vampire Diaries) is famous, Stalker depicts the duties of the LAPD’s Threat Assessment Unit, as they work to save the targets of obsessive criminals before the worst might happen.

But the job is tricky, the former Nikita star explains, because as no-nonsense unit commander Davis has learned first-hand as a victim, “stalking is one of those subject areas we don’t know a lot about. We know there’s a high correlation with mental illness, but it’s hard to predict which lines get crossed, and when, and why.” 

Her co-star, HostagesDylan McDermott, reveals that years ago he himself used to get threatening letters from prisoners.  “But the problem is, the threat has to become real. Someone can follow you all day long. But the law can’t really prosecute until he or she does something that physically harms you.”

That’s an ironic loophole for McDermott’s character, Detective Jack Larsen, who has transferred from New York partly to pursue his estranged wife.  As he settles in among fellow detectives Ben Caldwell (Victor Rasuk) and Janice Lawrence (Mariana Klaveno), the usually confident Larsen will have to demonstrate dedication to the cause, all while keeping his own personal passions at bay.  As McDermott explains, “that’s a twist I found really interesting.”

Wednesdays at 10PM
beginning October 1

Monday, September 22, 2014

NCIS returns to the Big Easy

After the high ratings and excited fan feedback NCIS scored after airing its two-episode arc set in New Orleans last spring, it was clear we had not seen the last of Special Agent Dwayne Pride, aka “King” (Scott Bakula), or his unorthodox ways in policing the Big Easy.

“King just loves this town so much, every aspect of it,” says Bakula, star of the new NCIS: New Orleans, in explaining what drew him to the character. “The real character he’s based on, Dwayne Swear, says ‘I don't care how we get it done.  I just want to work with the people. I’ll help them, they’ll help me, and we get it done.’”  As Bakula explains, King leads his team, which includes Special Agents Christopher LaSalle (Lucas Black) and Meredith “Merri” Brody (Zoe McLellan) and is aided by Jefferson Parish Coronor Dr. Loretta Wade (the venerable CCH Pounder) with an ethos typical of the laid-back city. “We don’t worry about rules, but we take care of business.’”

As New Orleans showrunner and captain of the NCIS flagship Gary Glasberg explains, King is very different from Mark Harmon’s NCIS leader Jethro Gibbs, as he’s “much more outspoken and emotional, reflecting the different rhythm and energy in that part of the country.”  Glasberg remembers that in conceiving the spinoff series, he was excited to discover that New Orleans has a real-life NCIS office, due to the significant military presence along the Gulf of Mexico.  “There’s so much color and vibrancy in this city, so it made sense to take some extraordinary characters and tie it all together.”

NCIS: New Orleans
Tuesdays at 9PM
beginning September 23

Enter "Scorpion"

When writer Nick Santora first heard about real-life genius Walter O’Brien and his think-tank company, Scorpion Computer Services, he immediately saw the potential for action.

His resulting show for CBS, Scorpion, casts Elyes Gabel as O’Brien, whose IQ is ranked the world’s fourth-highest, and surrounds him with other brilliant specialists in mechanics, statistics and behavior analysis.  As the brainy new team, guarded by federal agent Cobe Gallo (Robert Patrick), works each week to defend the U.S. against the high-tech threats of the modern age, Scorpion will be “a little bit of X-Men, a little bit A-Team,” Santora promises.  And with producers like Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (The Amazing Spider-Man 3) and director Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious) behind the scenes, Scorpion will boast feature-level special effects that literally jolt these geniuses with a Big Bang.

Katharine McPhee, who plays the waitress mother of an autistic young boy whose gifted intelligence O’Brien discovers, says she was “enthralled by all the stories the real Walter was telling us on the set.  This show brings us into some real, top-secret areas we don’t necessarily know about.”

Scorpion, Santora adds, combines adventure with the dramatic, interpersonal workings of a group of outsiders striving to fit in.  “There will be self-doubt and self-discovery, because so many of these guys are insecure,” the writer explains.  “We’re going to see how being a genius can be tough.  Because when you’re 1 in 1.47 billion, that can be a lonely feeling.”

Mondays at 9PM
beginning September 22

Friday, September 19, 2014

Meet Madam Secretary

When Téa Leoni first read the pilot script for Madam Secretary, from renowned show creator Barbara Hall (Joan of Arcadia), “I knew right away who this woman was going to be.” In contemplating taking on her first regular dramatic series, Leoni admits that three role models immediately came to mind: Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Condoleezza Rice.  So as an actress, “I’m in a great position, where I can steal from those women, and the show can imagine more.”

To that point, Leoni explains that Madam Secretary will show not only the high-stakes working world of brand-new Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord -- amid an administration boasting Keith Carradine as the president, and Emmy winner Zeljko Ivanek, multiple Emmy/Tony winner Bebe Neuwirth and Tony winner Patina Miller among his staff -- but the other half of her life as well, with husband Henry (Tim Daly) and two kids.

The highly-sought actress reveals she was already a big fan of the similarly multi-faceted The Good Wife (and indeed CBS' President Nina Tassler and the network's scheduling guru Kelly Kahl both joke that Madam Secretary is perfectly positioned among its new Sunday night neighbors, because "the show looks like what would happen if 60 Minutes and The Good Wife had a baby.")  With Julianna Margulies’ Alicia Florrick now following Leoni's Elizabeth McCord, the 48-year-old actress is excited that “we have strong, complex and dynamic women on television.”  So while in real life, Leoni hopes that Mrs. Clinton will leverage her years of experience into a presidential bid in 2016, for now, regarding her character, a former professor and CIA analyst, “This is the woman I want to see in office.”

Madam Secretary
Sundays at 8PM
beginning September 21

Monday, July 21, 2014

Two and a Half Married Men

At the Television Critics Association convention last week, CBS President Nina Tassler was excited to make an announcement about the storyline for the twelfth and final, 13-episode season of Two and a Half Men.  After surviving a near-death experience, Walden (Ashton Kutcher) becomes determined to raise a child.  But as a single man, his chances for an adoption getting approved seem slim – so he and Alan (Jon Cryer) stage a sham gay marriage.

On Thursday night, at CBS’ star-studded TCA party at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center, I caught up with the show’s executive producer Chuck Lorre, and asked about the inspiration for the storyline.  Chuck is always a fun and candid interviewee, and here he gives some honest assessments of where the long-running show has been, and where it hopes to end up.

Must-Hear TV:  What inspired the gay storyline for Two and a Half Men’s final season?
Chuck Lorre:  It was a brilliant idea that was proposed by Jim Patterson and Don Reo, who are the head writers on the show.  I thought it was both very funny and very heartwearming, that these guys would go to such great lengths to take a kid out of the foster system and give him a home.  Yes, there’s some subterfuge involved in doing that, gaming the system.  But the intention is to give a child a home, and it brings the series back full circle, to where it’s about two men trying to teach a young boy how to become a man.

MHTV:  Any chance the concept could go so well, it could become a spinoff?
Lorre:  I have no idea.  I just fell in love with it the minute they said it.  And I hope it breathes life into the show.  This is the end of Two and a Half Men this season.  But whether this concept goes beyond that, I have no idea.

MHTV:  Whose idea to get married?
Lorre:  It’s Walden’s. 

MHTV:  Does Alan think he’s crazy?
Lorre:  Alan doesn’t want to sign a pre-nup.  He’s no fool.  The guy’s a billionaire!

MHTV:  Wasn’t Alan’s dream always to marry a billionaire?
Lorre:  Yes.  And now, there are issues of money, and a joint checking account.  And hopefully we can play this for comedy.  Their basic intention, I think, is wonderful.  They want to have a child.  And sexuality is irrelevant.  If you’re taking care of a child, who cares what you do in the privacy of your bedroom.  Isn’t that the whole point?

MHTV:   Or what you don’t do.   You have played with the gay subtext over the years.
Lorre:  Oh absolutely.  We have dominated the cheap laughs in that arena.  I know what the show is.  The show is what it is.  But it’s been hilariously good fun to do it.

MHTV:  Does this marriage and fatherhood preclude the guys from ending up in happily-ever-after relationships with women by the end of the show?
Lorre:  I think their romantic travails will go forward.  It’s a TV series, not a movie.  Their lives go on.  They’re going to be cheating spouses.

MHTV:  Like green card spouses “cheat” on each other?
Lorre:  Yes.  There’s no effort here in our last and final season to try to reach for any dignity.  It’s too late for that.

MHTV:  Has the child been cast?  How old is he?
Lorre:  We have not cast the child yet.  But we’re looking.  Probably between 5 and 10 years old. 

MHTV:  Definitely a boy?
Lorre:  We’re thinking a boy right now.  Because that was the essence of the whole idea in the beginning.  These two very different men raising a young boy, and trying to have an impact on his maturation.  And really the combination of the two of them was the best parent.  

MHTV:  When a show touches on LGBT themes in a comic way like this, there’s a potential for blowback.  Do you anticipate people having a problem with the storyline?
Lorre:  I hope there’s none.  The show has always caused controversy.  There’s no intention to insult or diminish anyone.  The intention is to create laughter.  That’s it.  Create laughter, and if it’s got a heartbeat in there somewhere, that would be nice, too.

MHTV:  Are you hoping to bring back any characters for the final season who were part of the show earlier?  Might we see Charlie or Charlie’s ghost?
Lorre:  We haven’t discussed that.  We were really focused on finding a storyline that puts Jon and Ashton front and center in a really interesting, hopefully funny and provocative story.  That was our priority going in in this last year.  What’s the storyline that puts these two guys right in the middle of it?  So outside characters will come in as they do, but that’s the focus right now.

MHTV:  It’s a storyline that has generated the most interest in the show in years.
Lorre:  Yes – in year twelve!

MHTV:  You’re like the SVU of comedy!  And the gay marriage storyline couldn’t be more timely.
Lorre:  Yeah, it’s timely, and again, it has a heartbeat.  Ashton Kutcher himself is a man with a huge heart – he’s very engaged in social welfare, and puts a lot of time and money into making things better.  And getting a little of that spirit in the show – rather than having him do what the show used to be – has been a journey.  This seems like the next logical step.  Not romance, not sex, but raising a child.  We had enough sex on this show.

MHTV:  Really?  There’s sex?  There are sex jokes?  I didn’t catch those.
Lorre:  I think adding any more sexual jokes on this show could actually be a misdemeanor of some sort.

Two and a Half Men
Returns Thursday, October 30
9 PM

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Let's get Enlisted on Yahoo Screen!

After yesterday's announcement that Yahoo's budding TV service, Yahoo Screen, is picking up the NBC-canceled comedy Community for a sixth season, fans had a great idea:  why not also pick up Enlisted, which in its single season on Fox earned a loyal audience, for a one-hour comedy block?

Yahoo Screen and 20th Century TV, the studio behind Enlisted, have yet to comment on this idea -- but if you like the idea of saving the show, tweet your support!

Click here for the full story on TheWrap.

Designer John Bartlett Wins Humane Society Award

When I heard that designer John Bartlett was a fan of The Golden Girls, that fact became, believe it or not, just the third-most fabulous thing I've come to learn about him: John is, of course, a designer of beautiful clothing, and a longtime advocate for the rights and care of animals.  His company logo, in fact, is in memory of the three-legged pit bull he had rescued and raised, Tiny Tim.

Congratulations, John, on this latest award for your good work!

JB Logo

hello, friends!
i recently found out that i received
the tremendous honor of the

henry spira humane corporate
progress award

from the humane society of the united states!
this is a huge honor and i'm thrilled to be
sharing it with you.

from pj smith, corporate outreach
manager for the humane society:

"John Bartlett continues to lead the
way in furthering the fur-free message
in the fashion world. From working with
local animal shelters to speaking to
other fashion designers about the cruel
fur trade, Bartlett's passion for
animals knows no bounds."

click here for the full story.
as i said, i'm incredibly honored to have
received this incredible award. the choices
we make as individuals can make a difference!
thanks for letting me share!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Enlisted's Last Stand

Of all the shows cancelled this past month at the broadcast networks' annual upfront presentations, one that the critics are already mourning most is Fox's short-lived Enlisted.  The story of three brothers on a military base in Florida, Enlisted was a sweet and funny comedy with the potential to grow into a solid hit -- but Fox has always had an itchy trigger finger when it comes to their comedies.  (Another worthy new comedy, Surviving Jack from Cougar Town producer Bill Lawrence, met the same cancelled fate.)

Starting this Sunday, June 1, Fox is bringing back Enlisted for its final four -- and, according to the show's creator Kevin Biegel -- best episodes.  Biegel and his fellow producers are holding out hope for this last ratings battle, pointing out that if Enlisted experiences a ratings bump, it will help their case in being able to sell the show to another network or platform.

Below, a message from Biegel asking you to check out Enlisted -- and I'll add my voice to that, too.  Catch this worthy comedy before it's too late.

New episodes of Enlisted start this Sunday, June 1 at 7/6c on Fox.  

There are 4 new episodes, and they will be on every Sunday in June with the finale airing on June 22. 

These are the best four episodes we did.  The episode airing June 1, our first one back, is one of our funniest, and the finale is one of the best pieces of TV I've ever been lucky enough to be a part of. 

Here's a recent article from Foreign Policy that speaks to how much the military community has embraced the show:

If we get any even the slightest rating bump, it can help us live.  This may seem like a fool's errand, but even a little bit of hope is still hope.  I love this show and believe in this show too much to give up.

If you can, spread the word about the show coming back.  Forward this email to your friends, ask them to do the same.  If anyone knows or knows of a Nielsen family, beg them to watch.  Beg, really? That's strong. How about ask?

I do hate asking favors, but I fear no one will know Enlisted is coming back on the air for the final 4.  If we can get even a slightly decent rating we can show a new home that this show has a real fan base.

Thank you so much,

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Save Enlisted

Remember how they sent peanuts to CBS to save Jericho?  (Or how, 30 Rock hilariously joked, they sent douchebags to HBO to save Entourage?)  Well, it's time to save Fox's underappreciated Friday night military comedy Enlisted.  In this case, I don't know what gimmicky gift you should send Fox's president Kevin Reilly, but a plain old letter of support is a good place to start.

In an exclusive Must-Hear TV interview yesterday, Enlisted's creator Kevin Biegel said he's pleased that fans have already begun writing to the network prez to show their support.  For one thing, he pointed out, there's a glitch in the TV ratings system that may be causing Enlisted's true fans to be undercounted.

"We know the show is reaching a giant audience of military folk that literally can't be measured by Nielsen boxes because they don't allow boxes on post or in military housing," Biegel explains. "It basically discounts any and all military audience."

"Basically, fan support is what has kept us alive, and as the very vocal community of fans continues to be vocal, it gives the show a shot at Fox or even at a new network," Biegel said.  "We believe every voice matters.  And because actual letters seem to speak much louder than emails," he continues, "if you have two seconds and a stamp," why not write a letter of support to:

Kevin Reilly
Fox Broadcasting
10201 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90035

In another great show of support, some fans have had an even better, win-win idea:  they've started donating to the Wounded Warrior Project in Enlisted's name, and have listed Kevin Reilly's information as the contact.  (

Enlisted has fought a tough battle, getting stuck with a January premiere (despite what the poster here says; it was pushed from November, signaling scheduling troubles from the start) in an unenviable Friday night time slot, paired with the fading (and now cancelled) Raising Hope, and then suffering from changing lead-ins, including the low-rated Rake.  Let's show Kevin Reilly we'd love to see Enlisted live to fight another season.  (Sorry, I'm not good with war metaphors, but you get the idea.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Functional Design is Elementary

Sherlock Holmes’s Eclectic Décor Reflects a Mind in Motion

Sherlock Holmes may be a highly decorated detective, but he's not about to win any awards from Good Housekeeping.

Holmes is, after all, usually too busy solving crimes to clean up around the place – never mind to pore over the latest Pottery Barn catalog for the perfect throw pillow.  “Sherlock’s philosophy is one of function over form.  He lives to do what he does, and eating and sleeping are totally secondary,” explains Andrew Bernard, the production designer for CBS’ hit sophomore series, Elementary.  And so, it becomes Bernard’s job to make sure Holmes’s home reflects the great man’s passions – and lack thereof – all while still making it an attractive space where more than 12 million viewers want to spend an hour every Thursday night.

For Elementary’s pilot episode, producers picked a classic brownstone in New York’s Harlem as Holmes’s office and abode, and still use that location for scenes of the house’s exterior, supposedly in Brooklyn.  But when Holmes and his sober companion-turned-sidekick Joan Watson, played by Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, became permanent fixtures on the CBS schedule, Bernard and his team replicated the structure’s somewhat deteriorated interior on a Queens soundstage, with some enlargements and other concessions to allow for ease of camera movement and improved sight lines.

"Sunlight" streams through the windows
of Holmes and Watson's brownstone,
in reality inside a Queens soundstage.
Bernard explains that, having scouted many brownstones throughout his career, “I often find that the woodwork usually holds up, and it’s the plaster walls and wall treatments that have fallen away.”  So he and his team set out to replicate authentic  19th Century carvings, with fluted moldings and medallions they ordered from a nearby lumberyard experienced in catering to TV and film.  The team outfitted several rooms with built-in pocket shutters and transom windows which are not only authentic to the brownstone’s Victorian vintage, but also allow the show’s director of photography to get creative with patterns of sunlight and shadow to suit the mood of any scene.

Lacking a bed, Holmes sometimes sacks out
on this beat-up leather couch.  The show's
set designers imagined that this midcentury patterned
rug would have been left by previous tenants;
 it's actually new, but they stained and frayed it.
As Elementary has explained, Sherlock’s building is one of many owned by his wealthy father; and as Bernard and his team further surmised when setting out to decorate the space, many of Holmes’s pieces of furniture would actually be items left behind by previous occupants.  For these pieces, like a purple velvet couch for the living room or a turn-of-the-20th-century settee for under the stairs, they combed area thrift shops, as well as online sources such as ebay and craigslist.  For other items, they relied on reproductions of classic designs from throughout the last century, like a brown leather club chair from Restoration Hardware for the living room, and a space-age patterned rug – which they then stained and frayed.

Watson and Holmes around their
rococo "kitchen table."
As Bernard explains, he got some instruction on Holmes furnishings straight from the Elementary scripts; for example, the show’s creator and executive producer Rob Doherty insists that
Sherlock have no bed or formal bedroom, preferring instead to crash on a midcentury black leather-cushioned couch in what was originally the brownstone’s billiard room.  And still other items, Bernard adds, were chosen mostly for their shapes, from the sleekness of an aluminum desk to the rolling curves of the wooden rococo desk Holmes and Watson use as a kitchen table.

Holmes and Watson amid the distressed,
"unfinished" walls and built-in pocket
window shutters of their brownstone.
In all, before starting production, Bernard’s Elementary team had just four weeks to create a space that looks like it’s been standing for well over 100 years.  The overall aesthetic they strive for, he says, is a type of shabby-chic.  “In fashion, there’s a tradition of putting models in front of distressed, messy backdrops, of the beautiful and stylish versus decrepit walls and peeling paint,” the designer explains.  So when Holmes and Watson spontaneously spread out on the floor to create one of his physical crime scene models –with Miller and Liu, of course, providing the physical beauty – they’re leaning on a parquet pattern which is actually 1’-by-1’ self-stick tiles Bernard has aged by beating them with chains.

The team spent considerable time on the treatment of floors and walls, deliberately cracking their plaster and
creating effects like remnant wallpaper paste with mottled paint.  “The unfinished effect is certainly interesting, and it can be done with the right craftspeople.  It can look dirty but not be dirty,” Bernard explains.  “It’s all done with paint,” he notes, by people who, like Holmes, have spent years perfecting their craft.

Dusting For Clues:

To say something special, add your own character, Bernard advises. “Reflect your own interests, as opposed to hiring someone to decorate based on the latest style.”  Here is what Sherlock Holmes’s possessions reveal about their owner – along with tips on how to solve your own space.

"Red is one of our accent colors on the show," Bernard explains.  "We try to keep the color palette fairly muted, to let Holmes and Watson stand out -- but then we'll have a little accent, like in Holmes's tie or a particular piece of furniture.  Bernard found this particular turn-of-the-century mauve settee for under
Holmes' stairs on Craigslist.

“Christopher Reiter is a New York artist who makes these lamps out of paper.  We rented this one for the pilot, and then had to have it back for the series because it’s so distinctive,” Bernard says.  “It has an organic quality that matches Sherlock’s interest in nature – and we get many requests asking where it came from.”  ( phrenology skulls were popular in the Victorian era, and can still be found in many thrift shops. This one is plastic, its skull whacked in with a bat as part of one of Sherlock’s experiments.  He then named it Angus – “it’s become a kind of mascot for him,” Bernard explains.

Brown leather pouf.  “I like that this can be moved around,
 so that it suits whatever Holmes is up to,” Bernard explains.

Brown leather club chair from Restoration Hardware.  It comes already weathered –
 “but then we ‘scenic-ed’ it a bit more to show more wear.”

“Another theme of our show is the old versus the new, Sherlock with his Victorian roots being in present day,” Bernard explains. “So we mixed a lot of modern furniture into this 19th Century brownstone.”  Here, a white cloth midcentury Saarinen armchair from Brooklyn thrift store Two Jakes.
"This green lacquer cabinet provides another pop of color,”
 Bernard says of this Haller customizable media cabinet by USM

“We found an artist who makes these ballistics displays,” Bernard says,
 “and it was not only decorative, but perfect for Sherlock,
 who has to know about every type of bullet.”

This supposedly surviving blue and gold wallpaper looks ‘20s,
but it’s actually a modern reproduction from Astek in Los Angeles.
  “We liked the bit of reflection from its gold dots.
  The pattern’s not overwhelming, but yet it makes a statement,” Bernard explains.

Rob Doherty’s pilot script described this collage of locks of all shapes, sizes and origins, “which Sherlock uses almost as a meditative exercise,” Bernard explains.  “It’s a way to for him to gather his thoughts and practice his lock-picking skills.”  Now, as a piece of wall art, it’s become one of the show’s most famous visuals, and was requested for display along with other Elementary props at the "The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes." (That traveling show debuted at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, OR in October, 2013 and will next be at COSI in Columbus, OH from Feb 6 to Sept. 8, 2014.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Californication's Final Fling

RIP Californication.  Showtime just announced that this upcoming, 7th season of the David Duchovny-led half-hour, premiering in April 2014, will be the show's last.  Read the official announcement here:


To Conclude Its Remarkable Run with 12 Episodes –
Season Seven Premieres in April 2014

Photo: Jordin Althaus/SHOWTIME

SHOWTIME viewers will take one last romp with Hank Moody when the hit comedy series’ seventh season premieres in April 2014 (date TBD), it was announced today by David Nevins, President of Entertainment, Showtime Networks Inc. The final 12 episodes will neatly wrap up our unforgettable time following Hank (David Duchovny), Karen (Natascha McElhone), Becca (Madeleine Martin), Charlie (Evan Handler) and Marcy (Pamela Adlon) in their audacious comic mis-adventures and sexcapades. “With its unique blend of lyricism and excess, CALIFORNICATION has been one of our groundbreaking signature series,” said David Nevins. “We will always be indebted to Tom Kapinos for leading the creative charge on this memorable comedy, and to David Duchovny for making us root for an unapologetic hedonist like Hank Moody. Tom has carefully planned the final chapter of Hank’s journey and has brought it to a beautiful and satisfying conclusion for new and long-time fans alike.” Created and executive produced by Tom Kapinos, CALIFORNICATION stars David Duchovny (also an executive producer) in his Golden Globe®-winning role as the hedonistic writer who fights to balance the demands of his insatiable libido, unpredictable career, ex-girlfriend/muse Karen and beloved daughter Becca. He’s aided (and sometimes abetted) by best friend/agent Charlie and Charlie’s bawdy wife Marcy. Over the course of its run, the series has been honored withmany accolades, including five Emmy® nominations and two wins, six Golden Globe nominations and one win, and a Screen Actors Guild® Award nomination. CALIFORNICATION had its highest-rated season ever with season six last year averaging 2.9 million weekly viewers across platforms.  An incredibly consistent performer for the network, the series grew steadily over its six seasons on the air, and last year saw a growth of over 20 percent On Demand as well. From his debut in August 2007, Hank Moody quickly became everyone’s favorite unflinchingly honest, self-destructive lothario who bowed at the altar of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. The final season will find him joining the writer’s room as his never-released film “Santa Monica Cop” now becomes a television series of the same name. He’s riled frequently by his boss, the show’s old-school executive producer Rick Rath (guest star Michael Imperioli), and his fellow writing team members, including Goldie (guest star Mary Lynn Rajskub) and Alonzo (co-star Alonzo Bodden). But he’s thrown by the reemergence of old friend Julia (guest star Heather Graham), whose arrival causes chaos in Hank’s already hectic life, and with his on-off relationship with Karen (McElhone). Meanwhile, Charlie (Handler) and Marcy (Adlon) grapple with the aftermath of their reunion and an enticing offer from her ex-husband, Stu Beggs (guest star Stephen Tobolowsky). Rob Lowe, Brandon T. Jackson, Oliver Cooper and Mercedes Masohn will also guest star.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An Exclusive Interview with Linda Bloodworth-Thomason

In 1986, just as writer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason was preparing the pilot for her classic CBS sitcom Designing Women, her mother, Claudia, contracted HIV from a blood transfusion.  Soon after, Designing Women became one of the first network shows to tackle the topic of AIDS in its landmark 1987 episode “Killing All the Right People,” for which Bloodworth-Thomason was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series.

As Linda explains, the experience of watching her mother and her fellow hospital patients being treated with scorn stayed with her, and has been one of the reasons she feels bonded to the often similarly ostracized gay community.  Now, she hopes that her latest project, the documentary Bridegroom [see yesterday's post, below] will focus attention on same-sex marriage and equal rights via a beautiful, though tragic, real-life love story.

After years of dreaming of meeting this iconic TV writer, I finally got the chance last week to sit down with Linda, and with her passion for the LGBT community and equality – not to mention her wit – the lady did not disappoint.

Frank and me with Linda Bloodworth-Thomason
at the Los Angeles premiere of Bridegroom, October 15, 2013

Must-Hear TV:  You must have had, in the past 20 years, thousands of people, particularly gay men, come up to you and gush about Designing Women.

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason:  There have been a lot who say that the show affected them – especially Dixie.  Her strength gave them strength.  Recently I was at an event at a design showhouse.  A young man, 28 years old, came up to me and said, “I’ve been wanting to run into you, and tell you that I was an only child of very religious parents in a small town in Kansas.  I had never been able to tell them that I’m gay.  But they loved Designing Women, and the night you did that show [about AIDS], when Dixie told that bigoted woman off and said ‘You’re going to have to move your car, Imogene,’ I found a strength I’d never felt before.”

It makes me so sad that there are so many young gay people, particularly young gay men, who think that they have no right to their own life, who have to ask permission to be who they are.  Most of us never would think, “I need to go get permission to be who I am and love who I love.” It’s such an outrageous concept, and that’s what we want to end.  That’s the point of Bridegroom.

MHTV:  You first met Tom and Shane at a wedding, where they, too, told you they loved Designing Women.  Yet they obviously made a particular impression on you, because years later when you heard about Tom’s death, you wanted to get involved.  There’s some magic to this story, how they stayed with you, it seems.

LBT:  I think the magic was them.  I don’t think Shane was that familiar with Designing Women.  Shane is younger than Tom, and Shane wasn’t trying to be an actor -- even though he said he was, it wasn’t really a burning desire with him.  Tom was more familiar with the show, and Tom sat right next to me.  They were both charming and unforgettable.  As a couple they were really captivating.  And that night, when I drove home with my husband, I said, “Those boys, that’s the real deal.  I hope they will get married someday.”  Later, I heard that Tom fell off the roof, which I thought was devastating.  And then I saw Shane’s YouTube video [about being shunned and threatened by Tom’s family], and I got really really angry, because I’d had the experience of losing my mom in ’86.

It was an experience with this kind of prejudice and ignorance.  When my mother got AIDS, nobody knew how to deal with the disease, and so [hospital workers] would throw the medicine in buckets and kick it into the room.  Everybody was in a Hazmat suit, and we were just treated horribly.  I had never known what it would be like to be rejected and ostracized.  We couldn’t even find a funeral home to take my mom when she died.  During that period, 17 young men died on my mother’s floor.  Game shows played while young men died alone. 

MHTV:  That’s such a chillingly mundane detail, but it shows how for people working there, it was just another Tuesday.  And as you said, they didn’t really care as these certain patients were dying.

LBT:  I think they were glad to see them go.  But there was one angel doctor, Dr. Jeffrey Galpin, who had been the head of infectious diseases at Cedars-Sinai and who happened to take on these cases of AIDS.  And by now he’s treated thousands.  There was nobody there for the patients but him to hold their hands.  Late at night [with my mother], I would often feel so depressed, but then I would hear this tap tap tap coming down the hall.  Dr. Galpin was in an iron lung as a young man, and he’s still on crutches or in a wheelchair.  He’d already been there in the morning, but every night, he’d come back, because he didn’t want anyone to be alone.

I was starting to think that that was a unique experience in my life, and that things are better now, 27 years later.  But then I started seeing what Shane was experiencing.  I saw that video, and I thought, “Can this really be true?”  I realized nothing has changed.  Hatred is passed down just like love in generations, and now we are a generation later, and things really haven’t changed that much in a lot of people’s hearts and minds.

MHTV:  It has in some, and I think by bringing attention to some issues as you did with Designing Women, you should take credit for having helped.

LBT:  A tiny bit.  I don’t want to paint a bleak picture, but a lot of people stay mired in ignorance and intellectual infancy.  [They hew to] things that were written thousands of years ago, before science.  And things that were never written – for example, there’s nothing about homosexuality in the Bible.  They cling to this, rather than admit that God gave you a Bible and God gave you a brain.  Use it.  If the Bible came from God, why doesn’t science come from God?  Now you have an opportunity to take the good things from the Bible and from science and come to a really informed, loving solution for all human beings.

So I felt it kind of was a full-circle thing for me, 27 years later, to get involved with [the struggle for equality] again.  When my mother was in the hospital, one day I overheard a woman say, “If you ask me, this disease has one thing going for it, it’s killing all the right people.”  That made me so angry, I wrote that episode [and quoted the remark], and Dixie Carter told that woman off on television.

MHTV:  I was 18 at that moment, and it meant a lot to see someone stand up to ignorance like that.

LBT:  I never felt like my response in that show was satisfying, though.  I never felt like it had been on a big-enough scale.  It was targeting one woman for one comment, and I knew there was a bigger picture.  But I never did see a vehicle through which to do something.  Then Shane’s story came along, and I thought, “This is it.”  Then I found out Tom’s name was Bridegroom.  I had never known that, but it just seemed like a sign.  I said, “I’m in!”

MHTV:  It seems that often great good comes from tragedy or evil.  That woman’s evil comment about “Killing the Right People” led to a TV episode that shed light on the disease.  And Tom’s death – look at all the good that’s coming from people hearing his story.

LBT:  The Designing Women episode was a little story with an ugly woman who represented an ugly idea, and we answered that.  But it was just the prelude to something bigger.  And the something bigger is, now we have the internet, and now we have a movie.  Designing Women won’t be on Netflix, and won’t be available in over 154 countries, but Bridegroom can be.  We can get this into the Middle East.  It’s going to be in South America, where there’s a lot of prejudice against homosexuals.  And I feel if we can get enough attention worldwide, it could even end up in Russia.

And the reason I’m excited about that is that it’s not just another gay story, but it’s the love story that I think can tip people.  I know most people in my little hometown who are against homosexuals or same-sex marriage think that every gay man is that man with the jumper cables on his nipples, wearing a thong in the Gay Pride parade.  And God bless that guy, he has the right to do that, but they’re scared of him.  But I think they’ll see in Bridegroom, “Oh, this is a love that I wish I had in my life.  I see now that not only is this as good as what heterosexuals have, this is something we should all strive for.” [In this movie] you fall for Tom and Shane. They’re great emissaries for love.

MHTV:  So much of this story seems preordained, that it was meant to be, in a way.  Tom’s name is Bridegroom.  He and Shane had captured all this footage of themselves, not knowing it would be used in a documentary after Tom’s death.  I hate to say it, because it’s horrible about losing Tom, but it almost seems it was meant to be.

LBT:  It does seem like it was meant to be.  I might have seen the YouTube video, but if I hadn’t already met Shane, I don’t think I would have called him.  We had so many instances in the film where it seemed like Tom was kind of with us.  Where things seemed like they weren’t going to work out, and then they did.

For example, Tom had sung only a couple of Christmas songs.  He’s dead, and he will never sing another Christmas song, and I really wanted a Christmas song for the film to juxtapose with the description of Tom’s father getting a shotgun out and trying to kill him.  But you will never find anybody in this business who is going to just give you a Christmas song – these songs are enough to generate huge trust funds for the writers' families forever, because they’re all over the world.  And often [the heirs] feel they can’t risk their Christmas song being associated with a gay love story.  But we had [the recording of Tom singing] “The Christmas Song,” which Mel Tormé wrote.  My editing people laughed at us, and our lawyers said, “Come on, they won’t let anybody use this song.”  So I called Tracy Tormé.  He’s not gay, but he went to every member of his family and to his lawyers.  Then he called me and said, “My dad was friends with Nat King Cole.  My dad believed in tolerance.  I’m going against all the lawyers’ advice, and you can have this song.”  He had seen Shane’s YouTube video, and because Tom was part of that, it felt like Tom had come through.  I’m not a very mystical person, but I feel that Tom is involved in this, no question.

MHTV:  The final reveal of Tom’s last name, Bridegroom, hits hard, because it wraps it all up.  You get that sense of preordination, of irony.

LBT:  It’s kind of Shakespearean.  [In that shot, you see Tom’s headstone, and] there’s so much symbolism in it.  [His parents] had chosen this concrete, impenetrable monument to their son.  And I was blown away when I saw they had placed spots for themselves on either side of him, so that no one will ever go there.  That’s just astonishing to me, that they think that’s the monument to their son.

We had invited [Tom’s family] to participate [in the film], and also Shane and I agreed at the very start that we didn’t want to demonize them, because they loved their son.  And when people are behaving badly, you don’t need to say anything.  All you had to do is shine the light on them.  They hung themselves.

I had wanted a different ending for them, because being Southern, I believe in redemption.  Through a conduit, I told them Tom is gone, and we cannot bring him back.  But there’s an ending we haven’t written yet for this movie.  Shane’s going to be at the cemetery in Indiana.  We’ll be there filming on this date.  And you, Norman, have never met your son’s greatest love.  You can honor your son now.  You can start an evolutionary process that will give hope to all the other parents who are on the same journey.  You can have a huge impact now, and make Tom’s and your life meaningful.  Come out to the cemetery, and extend your hand.  That was my fantasy, but it didn’t happen.

MHTV:  I actually think this ending does the world more good.  If everything seemed wrapped up in a happy bow, people could leave the theater and think—

LBT:  “That’s taken care of.”  This is the realistic ending, because people like Norman and Martha Bridegroom aren’t going to change.  But hate can die out, if the next generation is willing to change.  And Tom’s sister, I think, shows hope.  She might not take that step in her father’s lifetime, but I think she might take it in her own, and I feel sure that her children will have a different legacy.  So there’s hope for all of us.  And I feel that Tom and Shane are a part of [that hope].  They did it without knowing what they did.  It’s great that just their loving each other could have such a reverberating result. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

See Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's "Bridegroom"

This Sunday, October 27 at 10 PM ET, Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network will present the television premiere of a powerful new documentary, Bridegroom.  It’s the story of an impossibly handsome young couple in Los Angeles who were also perfectly, almost impossibly so, in love.  Tom Bridegroom was an aspiring actor and talented musician who had relocated from rural Indiana; Shane Bitney Crone a sometime actor and filmmaker from rural Montana.  The ambitious duo traveled the world together, documenting their adventures in video series they posted to the web.  They had big plans.

But their time together was cut tragically short in 2011 when at age 29, Tom was killed in a freak accident, falling four stories off the roof of a friend’s apartment building.  The film arising from the couple’s devastating story – of pain and loss, of hurt and forgiveness, of homophobia and yet also family bonding – is sure to make you cry throughout.  (And it doesn’t hurt that Bridegroom was assembled largely from Tom and Shane’s own homemade footage by executive producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, of Designing Women fame, who is certainly a pro at evoking laughs and tears.)  In their attempt to whitewash Tom’s entire post-college life, and thus hopefully erase the sin of his gayness, the Bridegroom family banned Shane and in fact all of the couple’s Los Angeles friends from attending their son’s Indiana funeral.  The immediate family has had no contact since Tom’s death with either Shane or with the filmmakers who sought their comment.

Bridegroom first screened at the TriBeCa film festival earlier this year, where it won the Best Documentary prize, and also this summer at Outfest, where it also won an award for Outstanding Documentary Feature.  Last week, the film had its Los Angeles premiere.  And the following afternoon, I had the chance to sit down with both Shane and Linda, to talk about the project’s genesis and more importantly, its impact.

Must-Hear TV:   I can’t imagine what your feelings are, seeing this completed film about your life and love.  I know you’re a producer of Bridegroom -- how many times have you seen it so far?

Shane Bitney Crone:  I’ve probably seen it 50 times now.

MHTV:  Does it ever not evoke a visceral response in you?

SBC:  It can be very intense, going from festival to festival with it.  Lately, I’ve just waited outside the theater.  I don’t necessarily sit there the entire time, because it is emotional for me.  Sometimes it’s good for me just to step outside and take a break.

MHTV:  But you know when everyone leaves the theater, they’ll be crying.  And for audiences, in a way, getting to meet you offers them consolation after having cried through the film.  I know that getting to express my feelings to you made me feel better.  But is that hard for you to relive every time?

SBC:  That’s one thing that a lot of people ask me.  “Isn’t it hard to continue telling this story?  Do you think that it’s good for you?”  But meeting people and sharing this story has been healing, and has helped me in so many ways.  There’s so much positive coming from it that it makes it not depressing, and it makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing.  It’s great to have support on my facebook and social networks, to hear from people that way, but meeting people face to face has definitely been one of the best parts of all of this.  I’ve met some incredible people, and heard some amazing stories.

MHTV:  People must want to pour their own stories out to you, people who had either supportive or unsupportive families.  What have been the most amazing stories you’ve heard, where people have said, “This changed my life?”

SBC:  I never realized before that what I’ve gone through has happened to so many people.  I didn’t realize thousands of couples have gone through horrible experiences.  So for me, it wasn’t until after I posted the YouTube video [called "It Could Happen To You," which sparked Bloodworth-Thomason’s interest in making a film, and a kickstarter campaign to finance it] that I realized that.  So in a way, as much as this is my story, or my film or Linda’s film, it’s really not.  It’s the people’s film, because it represents so many.  I’ve heard from teenagers who said that the story has prevented them from taking their own lives.  Just to hear things like that, it just makes you feel so grateful that it’s connecting with them on such a deep level.

And then to hear at some festivals from some really big men who come up to me and say, “I’m a straight man.  Someone dragged me here and I didn’t know what to expect.  I had never understood or supported marriage equality – and now I’m sorry.”  When I hear things like that, wow!  It makes me think that this isn’t about me.  It’s so much bigger than me.  And if sharing my story is having that effect, then that’s what I have to do, keep sharing.

MHTV:  I hate to suggest that there was a benefit from Tom’s death, but at least his death has brought about this change, to open people’s eyes and their hearts, and to save lives.  At least his death wasn’t in vain.

Shane Bitney Crone
SBC:  The year after Tom passed away, I spent so much time just trying to make sense of it, and I couldn’t.  When I posted the YouTube video, it was the first moment when I felt that something good came from it.  And then that also helped me to understand better who I am, and helped me stand up for what I believe in.  And to not be so ashamed of being who I am.

MHTV:  It seems like this whole experience has galvanized your family, too, around you.  They were always supportive, but now they really have your back.

SBC:  My mom is an amazing mom.  It’s funny, because on facebook, she posts everything that I’m doing, everything that’s happening.  People text me and say, “You know your mom is so proud,” and that makes me feel so good.  I’m happy that people get to see my family, and see how important it is for families to support each other.  It’s interesting, because my family and Tom’s family, they’re really not that different. 

MHTV:  As we see in the film, they started in the same place, anyway.  Conservative, rural, Republican…

SBC:  Exactly.  It’s such a powerful part of the film, to show how important it is for parents to love their children unconditionally.

MHTV:   What a contrast between them.  One family says “We don’t understand this, but we’re going to try to accept it,” and the other goes backward, stagnating and threatening violence.  What made the families react so differently?

SBC:  Someone asked me this morning, “Why do you think your mom is so accepting and so supportive?” I was trying to come up with the reason, but I don’t necessarily have an answer as to why my family is like that.  I’m just lucky that they are who they are, and that they have the hearts that they do.

MHTV:  Are they religious people, your family?  The film has pictures of both you and Tom and your families in churches growing up.

SBC:  Kind of, but not too much.  We went to church growing up, a Lutheran church.  But we weren’t like Tom’s family, who talked about the Bible every morning at the table.  They’re very religious.  Maybe religion has a lot to do with it, but at the same time, I don’t necessarily know what can cause people to decide to be more accepting.

MHTV:  This film will.  I defy anyone, even if he or she doesn’t stand up for gay marriage, to see a film depicting the death of this beautiful young man, and the end of this loving relationship, and not cry.  You’re not human if you’re not moved by it.

SBC:  But I don’t really know how we’ll reach the people we want to reach.  I have a feeling it’s going to be a situation where people who are struggling with being gay can ask someone to watch the film.  I hope that that way, we can reach the people we need to.

MHTV:  Could the film be a tool for coming out?  Send it to your parents and say, “Watch this, then we’ll talk.”

SBC:  Yes.  Growing up, I wish there had been something like that for me, to help me say, “This is me.  I need you to love me unconditionally.”  Of course there are shows now like Glee and Modern Family, which do help a lot of people.  But at the time, I didn’t really have any shows like that.  It just goes to show how much film and television can influence people.

MHTV:  You and Tom were both really into film and television from the beginning of your relationship.

SBC:  I had convinced my family I’d wanted to move to LA to be an actor, but I quickly realized it was more that I just wanted to get here.  I really just wanted to be in a city where I could be me.  But if growing up I’d said, “I want to move to LA,” they’d ask why – so at least acting was a reason I could give.  But Tom and I did film a lot of our life together, and planned a lot of projects.  We did talk about making a documentary, but I never imagined this would be the documentary we would make.

MHTV:  You and Tom first met Linda Bloodworth-Thomason at a wedding – and as she remembers, you said you were big Designing Women fans, as are lots of gay men.  I know she meets thousands of them, in fact – but you guys made such an impression on Linda that she remembered you years later, when she saw your video on YouTube.  Do you know how that happened?

SBC:  I’m not really sure exactly, other than that we had conversation with Linda about how we so desperately wanted to get married someday when it was legal – but also, when we were ready.  Because there was a short window when we could have gotten married [in California], but we also didn’t want to go down to the courthouse just because everyone was doing it at that moment.  We wanted it to be special and spontaneous like it is for other people.  But to think, though, about meeting Linda that night, and then four years later meeting with her to talk about making a documentary about Tom – it’s kind of surreal.

MHTV:  We know from the film what Tom’s mother did and didn’t do, and his father.  But Tom also had siblings.  Did you have a relationship with any of them?  I’m wondering why they didn’t stand up for you, or for what was right.

SBC:  I think it has a lot to do with being in a small town, and the whole idea that blood is thicker than water, like my mom has always said.  Family is all you really have at the end of the day, and do you want to potentially risk losing your relationship with your parents?  I think maybe that’s not worth the risk sometimes, so I try to be understanding and respectful of that.  And there are [more distant] relatives of Tom’s who are supportive, who support me, and the film, and the relationship.

MHTV:  Does any of them have the name Bridegroom?
Tom Bridegroom
April 22, 1982 - May 7, 2011

SBC:  Yes, there are some Bridegrooms.

MHTV:  It is an unusual name.

SBC:  It is, and honestly I didn’t think about Tom’s last name too much until I met with Linda.  She said, “Shane, do you realize the irony in his last name?!”  And I realized, “You’re right, that’s pretty crazy.”

MHTV:  The way the film saves the double meaning of the word for the reveal in the last shot, it’s like a gut punch.  The irony hits you at that moment.

SBC:  In fact, some people thought that we [the filmmakers] put the name on the gravestone.  No!  It just makes me feel like maybe it was meant to be.

MHTV:  You still haven’t heard from any of the main Bridegroom family, though?

SBC:  I haven’t.  I don’t know if I ever will hear from his parents.  I want to send them the film, and hopefully they’ll watch it.  This could potentially be the opportunity for them to help a lot of people.  They could turn this around.  Even if they just said, “Look, we made some mistakes while struggling and trying to be okay with it.”  Because a lot of people are struggling with that.  People evolve and can change, and I think they could really make a difference if they wanted to.

MHTV:  You're still just 27.  Where do you want to go from here?

SBC:  I’m not sure what happens next.  All I know is I’m trying to be in the moment, and trust that everything will happen the way it’s supposed to.

MHTV:  In terms of career?  Are you a filmmaker?

SBC:  Maybe, if there’s something I’m really passionate about.  This has turned into my full-time job, just sharing this story.  I partnered with some organizations, like GLAAD and HRC.  I might do a speaking tour of campuses, and meet people.  It scares me – I don’t like the idea of public speaking.  But if it can help people, I feel like I can do it.

Bridegroom airs this Sunday, October 27, at 10 PM ET on OWN, and on the same date, will also be available on Netflix.

In addition, Shane Bitney Crone can be heard this Friday, October 25 at 1 PM Eastern / 10 AM Pacific on “The Frank DeCaro Show” on Sirius XM’s OutQ radio.

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