Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
This past Sunday, we saw the seventh elimination of this season (following Arthur & Anita, Anthony & Stephanie, Bill & Mark, Marisa & Brooke, Ty & Aja and Kelli & Christy). That team, of Terence Gerchberg and Sarah Leshner, was comprised of two very different people. She is (like me), a graduate of the Wharton School of Business, while Terence is an accomplished runner and physical trainer. As I sat with the duo this past spring -- on the day the teams got their first glimpses of each other -- I immediately warmed to their fun, sharp senses of humor, their smarts, and the aggressive vibe which I, as a fellow New Yorker, share. Below, we talk about their relatively new relationship, and just why they were so sure they would win The Amazing Race.
Terence Gerchberg: Same place we’re going to finish!
MHTV: You seem pretty sure of that. So why are these other contestants bothering to compete, really?
Sarah Leshner: I understand they need to make a TV show. It wouldn’t be fun to just feature Terence and Sarah winning the race. So that’s fine.
MHTV: Should they just call it “The Let’s Give Terence and Sarah Prize Money Show?”
SL: We can make it exciting, but they don’t know us well enough to know how exciting that would be.
TG: They will, afterwards.
MHTV: What are your skills that you two have, that make you sure you’re going to win?
SL: I think what’s great about us is that we’re perfect complements. So everything that he’s good at, I’m a little bit weaker at. And the things that I’m good at, I won’t say he’s weaker at, but I have to be good at some things. So anything physical or having to do with directions, anything having to do with gut instinct or perception, he’s amazing and unstoppable.
MHTV: So it’s the stereotypical boy thing?
SL: Totally the boy thing. But he also has the girl thing, like anything having to do with emotion and love – that’s also him.
TG: And Sarah’s great at grasping languages. She’s very sharp, book-oriented, and smart. She’s good with words, and –
SL: -- cultures. I’ve traveled a lot.
TG: She’s really well versed in all of that. it’s absolutely amazing to watch her break down languages and pronounce words. Any tough word, any country we’re going to, and I can say “Read that word,” because otherwise I’ll be lost. But she’s great at it.
SL: And we’re both very low maintenance, very fearless, very unstoppable.
TG: Sarah’s great like that. You just throw her in anything and she’s like, “I’m cool.”
SL: And I don’t think they’ve had many women like that.
TG: She’s lower maintenance than me. No question.
MHTV: Does she use less hair product than you?
SL: 100 percent. Do I look like I put anything in my hair?
TG: She stays like this.
MHTV: Have you traveled together?
TG: I have to tell you about this. She had gone to school, Wharton. All business, all the time. And everybody spoke languages and was very international. Her two friends, one was getting married one weekend in Latvia, and the other in Moscow. She explains this to me – I know I’m telling this story, but it’s from my heart and my soul -- she tells me about it, and I’m like, “Is this your way of inviting me? Because it’s really awkward. I don’t feel like I’m really invited.”
MHTV: But you hadn’t been together for too long.
TG: Two months. So she was like, “Well, do you want to go?” But she hadn’t even gotten the visas, and there were a lot of things that needed to get done. So I said I’d get everything done and get it all happen. We got it done – we had the visas on Tuesday and took off on Thursday.
SL: This is another reason we’re going to be good for the show. We’re very accustomed to running late and doing things last minute.
MHTV: In other words, you’re New Yorkers.
SL: Yes. So that’s definitely how I travel. For the last couple of trips we’ve done -- he also came to visit me when I was traveling for work in Argentina -- we made all of the plans at the last minute. We weren’t sure we were going to go, and everything came together super quickly. He got our tickets for Latvia and our visas for Moscow in 24 hours.
MHTV: You’re good with the stress, or does it tear you apart?
TG: It doesn’t, and that’s the thing. We got to the airport, and I wondered, “Should I take this international trip with this girl? I’ve only been with her for a short time.” But it was an incredible opportunity, to go to Latvia and Moscow. And people had said, “You’re going to know whether or not you want to be with her. Traveling either makes or breaks it.” Later I sent an email to my friend, and said the more time I spend with her, with each minute, I like her more and more. We hadn’t even said we loved each other – none of that. But traveling with her was fun.
SL: We have the same energy level, the same attention span – short.
MHTV: When it comes time to make a split-second decision, will you waste time bickering over whose way to do it, or do you have a conflict resolution strategy?
SL: We don’t have a decision-solving strategy, but if we start getting on each other ‘s nerves or bickering, we do “Get in the groove. Get in the groove.” [rubbing their knuckles together] You know when you put your knuckles directly in top of each other it doesn’t work, but if you put them in the groove, it slides easily. So no more fighting.
MHTV: So you even have shtik for the camera.
SL: Yes, but it’s mostly for each other. Because when we get ourselves into a funk, we really get ourselves into a funk. So this is like snap out of it. We started doing it for the Race, but now for the last two weeks we’ve been doing it and it works. We got in this fight yesterday, and then we were like, “No way, get in the groove!”
MHTV: Have you sized up the other competitors?
SL: Yes. They’re amateurs. We can go through every team. First of all, nobody here is as physically fit as he is. No way. Not even close. So you figure he’s so much above everybody else, that even him carrying my backpack and having to compensate for me, we’re still going to demolish everybody.
MHTV: Is he going to have to carry your backpack?
SL: Yes. Look at me. Am I going to be able to carry a 20 pound backpack? It’s amazing. We went on a run where we tested each of us running with our backpacks fully packed, or him running with his pack on his back and mine on his front, and we were better that way. He with both backpacks is faster than me with no backpacks. So literally when we were trying on backpacks, we tried them on with him carrying both. It’s not going to be a split-second decision to have to carry the backpack. He has already anticipated it, he’s ready, and we know how it fits.
TG: As long as I’m prepared, and that’s the whole thing, being prepared. I run, and it’s all mental preparation, and it’s also matching with the physical preparation we’ve implemented.
MHTV: So you’ve already done prep, and tested?
SL: We’ve done stair climber, rowing machine… We went through past seasons, and said what are the tasks they’ve done that have really freaked people out? We went to a farm and practiced milking a cow.
TG: And we rappelled. I don’t know if you’ve ever rappelled.
SL: It’s really scary! And you don’t want to be scared doing it on national television.
TG: Same thing with preparing for a race or a marathon. You need not necessarily to run the exact course because we don’t know what the course is…
SL: But you mimic it as best you can. There is nobody here who is as well-prepared as we are. Who here went and milked a cow? Nobody.
TG: We sized them up, little things. When you still have your price tags on your backpack, that’s a sign. You essentially just bought it. But you need to have practice stuff in it, and know where things are going. It’s great that you have matching things, but is it a technical piece of clothing that will be functional in warm and cold weather?
SL: He’s so street smart. I always say he should be a spy. He goes somewhere and says did you observe that thing in the corner?
TG: And that’s what they said about Uchenna, who won season 7, that he was very perceptive. It definitely helps, because I’ve already seen certain people’s weaknesses by things they’ve done.
MHTV: It says in your bio that you two are very different in terms of your jobs and sometimes your temperament. “This dating duo is determined to prove to themselves that they belong together while on this race.”
SL: That’s it 100%. It’s amazing.
MHTV: So your relationship is new enough that you’re not at the completely sure point yet?
SL: No. But I believe at the end of this race we’ll know if we’re going forward.
TG: It’s our first Passover together tonight, and it’s going to be our first of many things this year. And our one year anniversary will be on May 20, which is potentially when we think the finish will be. So we will win $1 million on our one year anniversary. But to have the opportunity to travel the world with someone who has become my best friend, and someone I love to talk to and be with…
SL: And be put through so many challenges. We’ll be stressed, fatigued, hungry…
MHTV: After that, planning a wedding will seem like nothing.
TG: I’ll be planning that anyway. Don’t kid yourself.
MHTV: Are your families proud about you going on this Race, even though they can’t tell anybody?
SL: This is also an example of how we’re so different. He’s so much more of a free spirit personality, that his family is really embracing it. And I’m much more conventional, and goal oriented, and career minded, so my family is freaking out. Like until the very last day. I was like, “Are you excited? And they were like not really. We’re nervous. We don’t think this is a good idea.”
MHTV: But now they’re going to see you on television. Are they going to have all the relatives watching?
SL: I hope they do. I don’t know about the relatives. My grandmother would die if she knew. I had to explain I was going on a very long vacation. And she was like, “Why? Please! Stay home, get married.”
TG: It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It’s not like you’re gone for a year.
SL: The other amazing thing about the show is that they’ll get to see that even though he doesn’t look on paper like what they might want for me, he’s so amazing for me in all these other ways. And I think his family has concerns because he tells them that I’m not loving or emotional enough. And they’ll get to see that I totally am.
MHTV: Or they’ll get to see you screaming your head off at him. You know that happens on the Race.
TG: She’s not that big of a screamer, which is nice.
SL: But yes, when you get stressed, it brings out the worst in you, and who knows what that’ll be?
MHTV: Were there things you learned in Wharton that are specifically applicable?
SL: Yes. When I did my MBA I also got a masters in international studies. That involved all kinds of cultural immersion, and how to interact with different types of people. And I had this Wharton class on negotiations, and I think that will be super useful. Some of the softer skills. I don’t know that I’m going to need to do accounting and statistics.
TG: We’re both pretty good at that stuff, like puzzles. I have an accounting/finance degree too, and that’s the thing. When you think of us, you think of me just kind of like a sporty, jocky type. Her, brainy…
TG: But actually, I’m actually, whatever, wicked smart and good like that. And she’s actually very strong and fast. It all comes together. It’s crazy.
SL: We are very, very, very confident.
TG: In a good way.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Back in April, Leslie launched his tour here in New York City, with a performance to benefit the Harvey Milk High School. At the party afterward, I was briefly interviewed for this segment of Clover Honey and Tony Sawicki's fun cable show, Under the Pink Carpet, about just what makes every character Leslie plays -- now including Brother Boy on Del Shores' campy and addictive Southern sitcom Sordid Lives, which I hope LOGO has the good sense to renew! -- so much fun to watch.
Monday, October 27, 2008
This past Sunday, we saw the fifth elimination of this season (following Arthur & Anita, Anthony & Stephanie, Bill & Mark and Marisa & Brooke.) Ty White and Aja Benton are college sweethearts from the University of Michigan, who have had to go it as a long-distance couple ever since Aja moved out to LA to pursue her dreams as an actress and makeup artist while banker Ty remained in Detroit. As I sat with them this past spring -- on the day the teams got their first glimpses of each other -- I observed them snuggled close, holding hands, just happy to be in the same room again together. I asked about their relationship, and just why they thought they would win The Amazing Race.
Must Hear TV: You guys have been dating for nine months but never lived together during that time. So this will be your first chance in a while to spend a good chunk of time together. Is that a good thing?
Aja Benton: It’s a good thing.
Ty White: We’re looking forward to it. We’re very positive.
MHTV: What if you find out you’re not compatible?
TW: We’re hoping that that’s not the case, but if it is, friendship is always a possibility.
MHTV: What are your strengths as a couple and as a team?
TW: We’re determined.
MHTV: Yeah, they all say they’re all determined. Come on. What else?
TW: I’m competitive. I don’t like to lose. I’m going to stick it to the other teams in order to win.
MHTV: What does that mean? Will you go as far as sabotage?
TW: Absolutely. I’m not going to do it outright, because I don’t want to, by sabotaging one team, make nine other teams say, “Look out for them!” It will be underhandedly, and there’ll be a time and place where one team will unfortunately discover my wrath. And hopefully they won’t take it too personally. It’s all in the spirit of the game.
MHTV: What are your other strengths? You’re younger than a lot of the people on this race. And you seem physically fit.
TW: I’ve noticed that. I think that some of the older teams, they’re going to be more methodical, more calculating and maybe not have the instinct that we might have, where the impulses just kick in.
MHTV: Or the strength. This game requires a lot of running around.
TW: Yes. And I’m hoping that pays off for us. I don’t know what they have in store for us, so maybe all of that won’t really matter. Or maybe if it does, it’ll come into effect and help us out a lot, because we’ll be able to use that to our advantage.
AB: And we’re extremely intelligent too. And we work really well together. Because we’re in a long-distance relationship, we communicate in a way that isn’t as easy. Other people see each other every day, so for us, it might be easier for us to work together, because we haven’t gotten tired of each other. Or we haven’t argued as much as the other people have.
MHTV: And you’ve probably had to do a little bit more soul-searching about the relationship to keep it going.
TW: Absolutely. We have to come up with creative ways of being together and staying together. It’s easy when you see someone every day to take them for granted. And us being far apart, we have to come up with all different kinds of ways. Sleeping on the phone together, trying to get closer. Talking. She calls me all the time at work, and text messages. You wouldn’t want to see the amount of text messages we send.
MHTV: Have you traveled abroad together?
AB: We haven’t done much of that. We went to Vegas together once.
MHTV: That doesn’t count, drunken revelry. I mean hard stuff.
TW: Nothing difficult.
MHTV: Have you traveled individually a lot? What did you learn in other countries to apply here?
TW: She has, but I wouldn’t count where I’ve been – Canada and Puerto Rico.
AB: I studied abroad in Ghana for 5 months. And I know how to adapt and assimilate to a certain extent, and submerge yourself in a culture. Especially when you’re trying to accomplish tasks, you have to be careful not to offend people and not to insult their culture.
TW: I’m sure that’s going to play a role.
MHTV: Of the teams I’ve met so far, you’re the only African-Americans. Will that be an advantage or disadvantage?
AB: We’re the only people of color. I was surprised.
TW: I would say I was very surprised, but I like to put a positive spin on it. I’m a glass half full guy. I look at things and I try to figure out how that might play to our advantage, as opposed to disadvantage. And I see us being in other countries where they won’t automatically just assume that we’re American. I’m sure there is some country where we, just the way we carry ourselves, will be obvious.
MHTV: Well, you’ll be carrying around giant backpacks, and followed by a cameraman, so I think they’ll figure it out…
TW: Exactly. But I like to think that it’ll help us out. Especially I like to think somewhere in the African countries. That’ll definitely help us out and play to our advantage. It might be a disadvantage in other countries. I’m looking forward to being everywhere and I think that I’m looking at it and thinking our race may help us.
MHTV: How do your families back in Michigan feel about this?
AB: They’re excited.
TW: Mom is thrilled, my sister is thrilled, and Dad isn’t so excited.
AB: He’s a real skeptic.
MHTV: Well you’re leaving a good job to go do this, in banking.
TW: Yes, and he’s conventional. He does everything by the book, and he’s always been like, “This is my life, this is what I’m going to do.” They’ve always known me to be the one who’s eventually going to take some risk and do something crazy. This just happened to come up, and he’s like, “Rather than working, you’d like to chase this?” But I say, work will be there. I’m coming back. Maybe, hopefully, in a more advanced role. You’ve got to chase some dreams, and you’ve got to do some things to try to leave a mark somewhere.
MHTV: How did you get time out of your lives to do this?
TW: By coming up with a crazy story for work for why I had to leave. I had to tell them – it was the most ridiculous story. I was like, Mom’s sick, and I have to go help.
MHTV: What a horrible, superstitious lie to have to tell!
TW: I just had to come up with the most ridiculous thing I could tell them. And luckily my boss’ boss likes me, and so he was like take care of what you have to take care of, and just come back when you’re ready.
MHTV: So when he tunes in, will he be pissed?
TW: He’ll probably be a little peeved, but I’m going to tell him in a fashion, probably a couple of weeks before we’re on the air. When they tell us we can tell, I’m going to tell him.
MHTV: What was your audition video like?
AB: I was on the beach. It was really silly. I was talking about how I was going to swim to him if they didn’t put us on the show. How I was just going to get over there to him. And how we really needed to do [the show] so that we could spend time together.
TW: I think that’s what actually gave us a leg up on everyone else. I don’t know the dynamics of anyone else’s relationship, but I believe that us being in a long-distance relationship, I think them wanting to see us together and how we interact. I’m sure they want to see if we argue. But I’m excited about it. This whole experience has already been great and wonderful, and I wouldn’t want to spend it with anyone else.
Friday, October 24, 2008
That might seem like a problem for Lipstick Jungle, which now inherits the Friday night berth, but the news might not be so bad; "chick shows" like Ghost Whisperer on CBS and, in years past on NBC, Providence tend to be the things that work best on the first night of the weekend.
In fact, Lipstick Jungle now unfortunately will go head-to-head with another new "chick" show I like, The Ex List. I want 'em both to make it, and I'll be rooting for Brooke Shields and Co., with their show which is fun and shot right here in NYC. But NBC, did you have to give this sexy, urbane Jungle a desert island of a lead-in, with ancient demographics, like Crusoe?
Okay, everyone -- time to go reorder your season passes on your TiVo!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NBC ANNOUNCES PRIMETIME SCHEDULE CHANGES: ‘LAW & ORDER’ PREMIERES WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 5, FOLLOWING ‘KNIGHT RIDER’ AND ‘LIFE’ IN ALL NEW CRIME BLOCK LINEUP AND ‘LIPSTICK JUNGLE’ JOINS FRIDAY LINEUP ON OCTOBER 31
‘Momma’s Boys’ Premiere Moves to Tuesday, December 16 After ‘The Biggest Loser’ Finale
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- NBC adds more drama to its Wednesday night schedule when an all-new season of "Law & Order" premieres Wednesday, November 5, (10-11 p.m. ET), following "Knight Rider" (8-9 p.m. ET) and "Life" (9-10 p.m. ET) in its new day and time period. Likewise, the network also re-shapes Fridays with "Lipstick Jungle" stepping in behind "Crusoe," (9-10 p.m. ET) beginning Friday, October 31 (10-11 p.m. ET).
In addition, "Momma's Boys" – from executive producers Ryan Seacrest and Andrew Glassman -- will now debut Tuesday, December 16 (10-11 p.m. ET) after the season finale of "The Biggest Loser" (8-10 p.m. ET). The alternative series will then return in its regular day and time of Mondays beginning December 22 (9-10 p.m. ET) after "Heroes" ends its current volume on December 15. ("Momma's Boys'" previously announced debut date was Wednesday, November 12).
The announcements were made by Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff, Co-Chairmen, NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios.
"These moves will play to the shows' mutual strengths and will help us to reinforce our lineup," said Silverman and Graboff. "A Wednesday night with wall-to-wall satisfying mysteries and great dramas -- paced by the return of the original 'Law & Order' to its home on Wednesdays – will provide creative continuity that night. Fridays will feature escapist drama with 'Lipstick Jungle' joining 'Crusoe.' Additionally, this strategy for 'Momma's Boys' offers the show a more favorable launch platform."
"Law & Order," the longest-running crime series and the second-longest-running drama series in the history of television, enters its 19th season with returning characters Detective Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and partner, Detective Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson), who investigate crimes and apprehend suspects under the supervision of their precinct lieutenant, Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson). Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) and the Executive Assistant District Attorney Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) are back maneuvering within a complicated justice system to prosecute the accused under the guidance of District Attorney Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston). The show is a Wolf Films production in association with Universal Media Studios. Dick Wolf is creator and executive producer; Rene Balcer, Fred Berner and Peter Jankowski are the executive producers.Airing in the Wednesday 10-11 p.m. (ET) hour last season, "Law & Order" averaged a 3.3 rating, 8 share in adults 18-49 and 10.8 million viewers overall, a 22 percent increase in 18-49 and a 20 percent jump in total viewers versus its results for the prior season, when it ran on Friday nights.
The Wall Street Journal called "Life" "...a steady burn – of talent, of smart writing, of chemical reactions." The New York Daily News called it "brilliant" and "sizzling" and the Dallas Morning News called it "a new-age 'Rockford Files.'"
The New York Daily News said "Lipstick' stands alone this year as heir to the 'Sex and the City' legacy - glamorous, successful women living, losing, loving and most of all bonding in the big city." In Touch Weekly said of "Lipstick Jungle": "The sexy, stylish show hits its stride in its second season."
Thursday, October 23, 2008
On the easy-to-use site, you can send out either a pre-written or your own customized email to friends and relatives in California, explaining just why this ballot measure has to be defeated. Please, everyone -- this is the time to explain to that elderly aunt on the West Coast why she needs to stand up for equal rights for all!
The other important things we can all do, all of which are available on the No On Prop 8 site, are of course to contribute financially, to enable the No campaign to counteract those horrible pro-Prop ads running incessantly on TV.
And also, you can volunteer to work the phone bank, reaching out to CA households.
Let's step up, all of us -- Californians or no. (And no, I'm not forgetting that anti-gay amendments are up for vote in Florida and Arizona as well!)
As Evan signed off his email to me,
"We can win -- but it's close."
This past Sunday, we saw the fourth elimination of this season (following Arthur & Anita, Anthony & Stephanie, and Bill & Mark.) Marisa Axelrod and Brooke Jackson are two best friends from South Carolina, who brought to the race a blend of Southern charm and dogged determination. As I sat with them this past spring -- on the day the teams got their first glimpses of each other -- I asked about their friendship, and just why they thought they would win The Amazing Race.
Must Hear TV: How do you two know each other?
Brooke Jackson: We’ve been friends for 4 years.
Marisa Axelrod: We met at football game, where we were wearing the same outfit.
MHTV: Was it a pink outfit?
MA: No, it wasn’t pink. It was jeans and little black boots and a black top. The same exact outfit. Brooke had her hair all curled, and the same kind of makeup.
MHTV: You do look a lot alike.
MA: We get people thinking we’re sisters a lot.
BJ: You’re not going to be able to miss us. All of our outfits are hot pink. We match the whole time.
MHTV: So on the Race, you two are going to stand out and make a statement. What will that statement be?
BJ: We’re a lot rougher than we look.
MA: We are the sweet southern belles who smile and giggle, but when it gets down to it, we’re competitive. We’ll fight and do whatever.
MHTV: When you talked about outfits, will this trip require you bringing a lot of clothes and makeup that will take up a lot of space in your pack?
BJ: We’re not going to be worried about looks.
MA: Not at all. I think that’s going to shock a lot of people too. They’re going to think Brooke and I are these two blondes.
BJ: They’re going to think the whole time we’re freaking out because we can’t get our makeup on.
MA: But they’ll be surprised. She went to Spain, and knows how to speak Spanish. I know a little Swahili, and speak a little Hebrew from going to Israel a few summers ago. So we’re not dumb.
BJ: They might think we are.
MHTV: Can you use that to your advantage? The blonde girly girl thing?
MA: Let them think that – that’s one of our strategies.
BJ: We’re a lot tougher. We’re very deceiving and aggressive. We are these sweet little girls, but this is a race and we want to win.
MHTV: Have you sized up the competition? Who will be your friends, or your enemies? How do you think you can beat them?
BJ: We did spot two guys, we think they’re younger than us. [Andrew & Dan] We think we can flirt with them and form a little alliance.
MA: I think the guy in the red [T-shirt] and his mom [Dallas & Toni]. I think the guy is hot. And his mom, she’s a sweet little mom.
BJ: And she can be our mommy on the trip. I’m sure there are people who are not going to like us. I’m not even afraid to go in the guy/girl relationships, and… [After all], there are going to be the ones who are going to be fighting.
MHTV: Are you willing to flirt with the guys on other teams in front of their Race partners?
MA: I think that’s one of our advantages. Brooke is a graphic designer. She’ll pay very close attention to reading the clues and all the important details. As far as me, I dance and am very athletic. I am kind of the blunt one. I don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing. I use my mouth when I shouldn’t. I’m not afraid to do things like that, and she’s not either.
MHTV: Will you use your feminine wiles to get ahead?
MA: Oh yeah.
BJ: In certain countries, they worship blondes. So we’re hoping we go to some of those countries.
MA: We’re very friendly. You’ll always see us smiling -- unless we miss a flight.
BJ: Then we’ll cry. That’s one of the weaknesses. We’ll bust out a tear in any situation.
MHTV: Have you traveled together to foreign countries before?
BJ: We’ve never been out of the country together. We came out here to California for a week together before this.
MA: We don’t live together but are pretty much together every day. We’ve never had a fight. Ever. If Brooke yelled at me I think I might start laughing.
BJ: I never fought with any other friend either.
MHTV: So what if you get freaked out by having your first fight, and get distracted? How will you resolve conflict between you?
MA: Communicating is going to be the main key for us. And encouragement. We’re definitely going to encourage each other.
BJ: We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
MA: Exactly. And I won’t have to say anything. We look at each other and know what each other is thinking.
MHTV: What do your families think about you two competing in The Amazing Race?
MA: They are so excited. I think our moms are a little nervous.
BJ: We talk to them like ten times a day, so the idea that they won’t know where in the world we are, what we’re doing, where we’re sleeping at night -- they’re kind of freaked out. But they’re really excited for us.
MA: I think we’re going to shock a lot of people who think we could never bungee jump or skydive.
MHTV: Have you practiced anything? Have you trained for the Race?
MA: We’ve been running, working out. Brooke learned how to drive stick shift. We’ve watched about five seasons of show and taken notes. We’ve definitely prepared both mentally and physically. I think this is more of a mind game. I don’t think you have to be that physically fit. It’s more about how your mind works, and thinking out of the box.
MHTV: That’s true, because in past seasons some of the older competitors have gotten very far. You’re among the youngest not only this season but ever. Will your youthful strength be one of the things that carries you to the million dollar finish?
BJ: We’re hoping that it’s our strength and energy.
MA: We have a lot of energy.
MHTV: Anything else you have to predict about the Race?
Both: Only that we’re going to be the first all-girl team to win!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Way to go, Ellen! And of course I agree: I don't see how your relationship with Portia -- or mine with Frank -- has any affect at all on the "institution" of marriage, or any individual straight couple's union. Does my getting married here in NYC suddenly make some Iowa couple's marriage certificate burst into flames?
The Constitution of the United States is a sacred document. It's right up there with the Bible in the short list of the greatest works of God or Mankind. So far, apart from that dalliance we had with Prohibition in the '20s, it has remained unsullied, an ideal for civilizations across the globe in providing and maintaining our inalienable freedoms.
What the Constitution is not is a blank canvas to be sprayed with hate graffiti. We as a nation and as a species cannot support any politician who advocates writing hate speech, writing discrimination, into this sacred text. Or, for that matter, scapegoating any particular group in order to secure power; have we learned nothing since WWII? Remember, if today it's the gays losing their rights, who's next? It could be you, via whatever ethnic or religious group to which you belong by accident of birth, or via whatever sexual identity or handicap you were assigned, as even the right-wingers who hate gays would have to admit, by God.
Forty-some years ago, the ignorant among Americans expressed concern -- or did worse -- to suppress another supposed marital sin, "miscegenation." Today, those people are the villains in our history books and in our hearts. This election season, the state of California, which recently by state supreme court decree legalized gay unions, faces a new challenge: ballot referendum "Proposition 8," which aims to override that decision, and roll back the rights of so many citizens. To those Californians inclined to support the hateful Prop 8, I implore you: don't repeat the mistakes of the past. Save your future self the shame of this misplaced suspicion and hate. Save yourself the apologies you'll have to make, to your country, to your friends, and to the scared gay members of your own family, in this generation and the next.
Sarah Palin has gone to great lengths to put forth that she has a lesbian friend -- a best friend, she says. And yet, even as she professes her love and support for her friend, Palin is ready to strip away her rights, and make her a permanent second-class citizen in the highest rule of law in the land. Professing loyalty while all the while betraying; isn't this just what Judas did? Sarah Palin is at the very least a bad friend. Let's not make her a bad VP or, God forbid, president.
But Palin aside, we must realize we are living in historic times. And for better or worse, Proposition 8 will be part of that history. We Americans -- and you in California in particular -- have the chance on November 4 to stand up for freedom, and to set this country and by example the world on the course to true peace. Please, California -- vote No on Proposition 8, and show the world why we Americans deserve to call our country the Home of the Free and the Brave.
Click here for the story.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
It wasn't the first time the island, "sheltered" in between the north and south forks of New York state's Long Island, was used as a sitcom setting. Back in 2002, the gang from Will & Grace invaded the normally peaceful place, when Will rescued Karen from certain humiliation at the hands of Beverly Leslie by providing her with a partner for their country club's annual "spotlight dance" at Valentine's Day. Then, three seasons later, they returned and integrated the place with homos, as Will danced with Jack, and two closeted lesbians played by Chita Rivera and Michele Lee dared to tango.
But if you've ever been to the actual Shelter Island, you know that both shows took some liberties and/or got some things a little bit wrong. The place has very few commercial establishments, save for a few restaurants and a supermarket in a strip at its center, and I think one small restaurant/hotel in the ritzy Heights section. So it's not too likely that there would be a hippie/vegan lodge of the sort seen on HIMYM last night, with its hellish prohibitions on meat and ale. Moreover, Ted and the other characters kept saying they were going "up" to Shelter Island, which would imply north -- but the Island is several hours due east of Manhattan. When we New Yorkers venture to Long Island, we say we're going "out" to the Hamptons, Shelter Island or Montauk, not "up."
And I think poor Robin would be a little more pissed than she seemed to be at having traveled all that way, only to be uninvited upon her arrival. Yes, she was relieved not to have to watch her ex get married. But not only did she spend 24 hours, as she said, on a flight from Japan, but then, being that she probably flew into JFK, she then also spent several hours in a car to either Greenport (on the North Fork) or North Haven (on the South Fork.) From there, she had to wait for the passenger/car ferry service (the show got this part right), which would dump her at the base of Shelter Island Heights. Then, it's a hard-to-find taxi to wherever that hippie-dippie hotel was. And then, Ted uninvites her? I was pissed for her!
Poor Ted. He never should have shlepped a funny guy like Jason Jones out to see Stella. And poor Robin. As she watched Stella and Tony hug it out, that must have been one long ferry ride home.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Executive Producer, ABC's Samantha Who?
Back in May, ABC announced a fall 2008 primetime schedule which notably and unfortunately contained only one regularly scheduled comedy. Then, in September, a few weeks before the network’s lone laffer Samantha Who was set to make its second season debut, I caught up with the show’s head writer/showrunner Donald Todd at the New York Television Festival.
Pre-Samantha, veteran TV writer Todd had been the man in charge of the short-lived but beloved Life As We Know It, and was most recently a writer on the first season of Ugly Betty. A few days after our talk, one of Todd’s actresses, Jean Smart, would go on to win a Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Emmy for her role as Samantha’s mother. Here, Todd talks about the process of producing this star vehicle for Smart and Christina Applegate, ABC’s sole sitcom success of the season.
Must Hear TV: Now that Samantha has survived her first season of amnesia, what are some of the things we can expect from her for season 2?
Donald Todd: One of my favorite episodes is the one we’re leading with, and that came from Christina. The dance episode ["So I Think I Can Dance."] Christina said to me last year, “Wouldn’t it be funny if she forgot how to dance?” That was it. So we developed this entire story that involved ballroom dancing and a massive amount of rehearsal. And she said to me during it, “I meant in the club, if I looked like a dork.” So we added that scene, too. The whole thing took two weeks of rehearsal. And it was very emotional for Christina, because she had not danced since Sweet Charity [on Broadway, in 2005], which had been such a high. So when we did this it was a big deal. And then Jean Smart who’s not a dancer has the fear of people who aren’t dancers of looking silly, so we worked very hard, and they did a great job. Cybill Shepherd, who had also never danced before, is in this episode. Dancing is scary. It’s exposing yourself. And people don’t like to do that. That episode was an example of amnesia playing into the story, but we also have episodes coming up that have absolutely nothing to do with that – it’s just a woman who’s naïve.
MHTV: So for that dance episode, you took something specific about amnesia – people can forget how to speak French, play the piano, how to dance – and turned that into a springboard for comedy. Is that a case where you researched that those are real, possible side-effects? Can those things happen?
DT: Absolutely. Oliver Sachs has written so much about the mind, such as how people can suddenly play music that they could never play. That kind of thing is bizarre. And we had to answer a lot of questions internally, and with the studio and network. They said, “Well how can you forget how to dance?“ And even in the room we discussed it a lot – does “forget how to dance” mean you don’t have the moves? Can you re-learn the moves, or is dance in your soul? Is it about innate talent? Those are big things -- that we then dismissed. In our rooms we have a lot of discussion but then at the end of the day we say, “we decide this” and now we move on. But at least it gets discussed. We want the show to be based in a reality. It’s not a fantasy. There are people who say that the audience will allow a show or movie one “fantasy buy.” And right now our buy is that this woman has amnesia. For example, Jason O’Mara’s character in [ABC’s new time-travel cop drama] Life On Mars. He’s going to get hit in the head and have a fantasy. But if he also met an alien, then you’re out of the show.
MHTV: You mentioned Oliver Sachs’ work. Do you have any medical or technical advisors on the show?
DT: Like most shows, Wikipedia is our technical advisor. They’re footnoted, so you can at least find the stuff. Amnesia is a condition that has so many manifestations that it’s hard to be wrong with what we do.
MHTV: So you have a big playing field. But how long can amnesia last? Does it force an expiration date for Samantha Who?
DT: We do have a lot to play with, but we also stay pretty much away from amnesia as a device for the stories. The character has amnesia, and we try to get some stories from that, but primarily it defines who she is. The fact that she doesn’t know who she was and has to redefine herself – that, you can do stories about forever. That’s what most series are. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a good example. [Mary Richards] moved to Minneapolis, but she didn’t have to learn to speak. She just had to learn Minneapolis. And once she was in Minneapolis and had friends, it was a show about a woman who had friends but was still trying to find her way in the world. Samantha has an extreme version of “moving to Minneapolis.” And that allows us to tell stories that have an energy at the top right away. We’re not in 1970 anymore. We can’t just drift through and have people enjoy the characters. You have to fire into a story much more aggressively.
MHTV: So you have to ramp up the energy these days. Is that a function of our shorter attention spans?
DT: That, and the 50 years of watching television. We can easily talk about how the internet has ruined our attention spans, but I’ve seen a lot of sitcom stories before. I’m not going to watch them all again. So where do you get to your ideas? In this particular situation, we start with a core every single week of “Samantha needs to do something that was foreign to her.” And you could do that same show by putting someone literally in a foreign land, or just say she is in a foreign land every single day. So amnesia as a condition doesn’t affect her stories every single week, but she has it no matter what. So in season 7 she won’t be saying, “You know, I have amnesia.” Hopefully we’ll know in season 7 that her desire to change herself is moving along incrementally.
MHTV: And by season 7, will she ever become the bitch she once was? Is this a progression towards becoming a bitch again, or is she forever changed?
DT: I hope it’s a progression towards integration. I think that the fun dynamic in the show is the tension between who you want to be and who you are at the core. And the question is asked all the time: can I change who I am even if I want to? I think that’s what appeals to so many people. People often say, “Oh, I would do that so differently.” Maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe your life would go exactly the same way and you have no control over it. Maybe your life is predestined. That’s a big question to ask every single week, so we try to ask it silently of ourselves. If we ask the audience that, they would not watch. But that’s essentially what’s happening every week, the most existential question of being-ness – not a good title for the show, by the way. We rejected “Existential Being-ness” as a title.
MHTV: Test audiences didn’t respond to that, huh?
DT: I’ve been around long enough to know that test audiences like to know the name of the character. Hence “Samantha Who.” This season on the show, we have Samantha in a more aggressive approach to her life. Season 1 was – I hesitate to use the word “passive,” but she was in a receiving mode. She was finding out who she was. People came up to her and said things and she didn’t know if she had done these things. But in season 2 she says, “I can’t wait around forever, so I’m just going to make some choices.” And each week she’s going to make strong choices that are uninformed by any knowledge of who she was.
MHTV: When you talk about Samantha’s life as a voyage of self-discovery, that’s something so many people can relate to – particularly gay viewers. And with others shows on ABC like Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives, the network seems to be showing quite a gay sensibility lately. Is that something you’re conscious of?
DT: Is there a gay sensibility? Yeah. Relatability, though, is what it comes down to at the end. There are shows that are fantasy escape shows, but at the end of the day the successful shows are relatable on some level. Mothers and daughters, gay men, single women – whoever it is -- have to see themselves in the show. And if our show had some wilder elements, it might have even more gay appeal. But it’s not the kind of writing that I do.
Mondays at 9:30 PM Eastern
Friday, October 10, 2008
Take a look at this latest press release from the Writers' Guild, about how Fremantle is trying to chip away at hard-won fair wages for writers across the entertainment industry -- and let me know if I made the right call on the title.
To Our Fellow Members,
Last week, you may have become aware of our ongoing dispute with Tyler Perry's production companies, which fired four writers because of their efforts to organize Perry's series, House of Payne. Pickets were up at his new studio's grand opening Saturday night in Atlanta.
Now, we write to inform you of another labor dispute.
Fox has ordered a primetime comedy-variety show featuring Ozzy Osbourne and his family, and has engaged FremantleMedia North America, the company behind American Idol, to produce it. Because they wanted to hire WGA members to write the show, Fremantle contacted the WGAW to see if we would agree to a sub-standard contract. Attempting to pay as little as possible to the writers on the show, Fremantle asked to treat it as "half-scripted" and pay greatly reduced writing fees to those writers who wrote skits, interview material, intros, and "outros." Although all of the writing on the show is of a type traditionally covered by our MBA (in such shows as The Carol Burnett Show and Laugh-In), Fremantle wanted to treat certain portions of the show as "reality content," not cover the writers who create it, and lower the compensation of the WGA-covered writers, arguing that they would only be responsible for writing part of the show.
We refused to agree to such a deal because it would drastically undermine hard-won minimums and standards. While we have covered some shows produced by Fremantle, they insist that other shows, including American Idol, The Price is Right, and Million Dollar Password, do not have writers and should not be covered by a WGA contract.
Now it is clear that Fremantle's intention is to bring their low cost, non-union business model into traditional genres – first game shows, then comedy-variety. Soon, no WGA-covered writing will be safe from their aggressive undermining of our contract. We cannot allow this encroachment to continue.
Accordingly, WGA East and West members may not write for the Osbourne variety show (working title: The Osbournes: Loud and Dangerous). Any members who perform writing services on that show do so at their own peril as they will be violating WGA Working Rule 8 and could be fined up to 100% of their compensation for that work. Both Guilds notified agents and other representatives of this development through an Action Alert issued yesterday.
The alert also reminded agents that they cannot send clients who are members of either Guild to write for Tyler Perry's production companies. The WGAW has filed unfair labor practice charges based on the unlawful discharge of the House of Payne writers and continuing bad faith bargaining. Members who accept these jobs will also be in violation of Working Rule 8.
We believe that denying Fremantle and Tyler Perry members of the Writers Guilds East and West may convince them that they will be unable to produce professional quality entertainment content and that they will see the wisdom and creative advantages of signing a WGA contract.
There is already far too much writing done in our business by men and women without WGA benefits. We cannot let writers of sitcoms and comedy-variety programming join their ranks, as we also work to reduce the amount of animation, reality, nonfiction, and other so-called "non-scripted" writing not covered by a WGA contract.
Thanks for your attention and your continued support.
Patric M. Verrone
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Okay then. I know Bill was so hungry on his return home from battle that he and all his senses were concentrated on the yummy eggs and toast that the "widow" was cooking up on the hearth.
But didn't he at any point smell the three or four rotting corpses up in the loft? That must have been a pretty overwhelming stench.
Oh, by the way, I just want to go on the record and say: I'm pretty sure I've figured out who the killer is (and no, I've never read any of the Sookie Stackhouse books. But if you think about the last few episodes, it's actually quite obvious!)
And did anybody notice the guest spot by William Schallert -- i.e., Patty Duke Show dad Martin Lane -- as the mayor of Bon Temps?! It's a long way (and it's been more than 4 decades) between Brooklyn Heights and Louisiana!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Actor, USA's The Starter Wife
Back in July, NBC and its sister cable network USA paraded the stars of the new series The Starter Wife in front of the press at the Television Critics' Conference. I quickly cornered handsome Chris Diamantopoulos at the networks' party, to ask about his experience in this series version of the hit miniseries, where as a straight actor -- in real-life he's married to the fabulous Becki Newton of Ugly Betty -- he's taking on one of this season's highest-profile new gay characters.
As The Starter Wife goes to series, Diamantopoulos' Rodney finally has gotten his interior design business back on track. But his personal life, as always, is another story. He's got a new crush, which would be fine if Felix Jones, the hunky action movie hero, wasn't straight or Rodney's newest and biggest interior design client for that matter. I asked Chris whether maybe this time Rodney can just get the job done without losing his shirt—or his heart.
Must-Hear TV: Chris, first of all -- Becki Newton! You're married to gay favorite Amanda. Is Marc jealous?
Chris Diamantopoulos: Yes, my wife Becki is the amazing Amanda on Ugly Betty. Let us all bow down now. And as fabulous as you think she is watching her, that isn’t the one one millionth of how fabulous she is in person. She’s spectacular.
MHTV: In the promos that USA will be running for The Starter Wife, your character Rodney is right in there -- just as the voice-over says the words "coming out." What can you tell us about Rodney's upcoming life?
CD: Rodney is one of Debra Messing’s character Molly's very best friends. I’m an interior designer, and I find myself in a very clandestine affair with someone whom I can’t name. But what I can say is that if the affair were ever to come out, it would destroy this person’s high-profile career.
MHTV: Well can you tell us -- is Rodney's lover character Felix played by a high-profile actor?
CD: He's played by a wonderful actor. I’d like to think that he’s a high profile actor, but... We won’t be having Mel Gibson on the show.
MHTV: One of the criticisms gay audiences in particular often leveled at Debra's last series, Will & Grace, was that gay character Will never got any action with boyfriends. Will we see Rodney gettin' some?
CD: [On this show] I am shirtless and half naked for more than I’ve ever been in my entire life. In the miniseries, because it was so nuclear about the Molly character, Rodney could have been seen as sort of a satellite, and there wasn’t too much delving into what was going on into his life. [But now that we've gone to series,] the first item of business that Sara [Parriott] and Josie [McGibbon], the creators, worked on was creating real three dimensional characters out of these satellites, and they’ve done a wonderful job. Now, Rodney gets to be one of the girls when he’s with Joan and Molly, but you also see him in his business life, and his romantic life. What I love that they’ve done with Rodney is they’ve created this real gay character. In that yes, he’s gay, but his sexuality is only one part of who he is. That having been said, it’s not like it’s a non-existent part. We definitely see what Rodney wants, and what he wants to get.
MHTV: As far as you know, on USA are there any limits as to what Rodney can or cannot do -- for example, physically, on a date?
CD: That's a very good question. We’re pushing it. I’ll say from an actor’s perspective, they’re challenging me appropriately. They do a great job in the writing of both Debra’s romantic trysts and Rodney’s romantic trysts, and actually Joan’s romantic trysts, creating a dance that makes, I believe and I hope, the audience want to tune in and see more. Showing just enough and then maybe going over the line, and then making you expect more.
MHTV: Pre-Rodney, had you ever played a gay character before?
CD: I have. I played a gay character on Broadway and I’ve played a gay character on TV. I was in The Full Monty on Broadway.
MHTV: Actually, then I must have seen you!
CD: Then you saw all of me. That was good fun. Then in the season 2 premiere of Nip/Tuck I played a gay character.
MHTV: I've heard that even in 2008, agents will sometimes advise an actor not to play gay more than once. Did you experience any pressure like that?
CD: I could be totally wrong, but I think that that’s so passé. I think it should always come down to the writing. If it’s in the writing and you can create something that’s interesting for you as an actor to play, if you can have a good time at work, if you can say something that you feel is the right thing to be said, then that’s how you should pick the role. I forget who it was that said it’s location, paycheck and script. If you can get 2 of those, you’re in a good place. And I always look at the script first.
MHTV: That's what attracted you to The Starter Wife?
CD: Yes, that they’ve written Rodney as a real person. The first time it was a real opportunity to work with Debra, to work with Judy, to go to Australia. "This is great fun." At the time we had no idea that it was going to be a series. Then, when they came to me and said, "We’re shooting a series in LA," the first thing I thought was, “I get to say Josie’s and Sara’s lines again.” And yes, there weren’t many of them in the miniseries, but boy whatever there were were very well crafted. I knew that they weren’t going to let me down. If they were going to create this character for real, they were really going to create a lasting character, someone to whom gay audience and straight audiences could relate.
MHTV: Do you have gay friends relating to the character, or even thanking you for the portrayal?
CD: I have plenty of gay friends, and none of them thanked me for it, that’s for sure.
MHTV: Jealous actors, cursing you for getting the part they wanted?
CD: Absolutely. But they enjoyed it. I think the miniseries really served a function of entertainment. Maybe from Debra’s perspective of being the Starter Wife, there was probably some sort of therapeutic angle for women who find themselves in that sort of situation. But as far as my character, I was there to support Debra. This time around, I think there's going to be something more.
The Starter Wife
Friday, October 10
9 PM Eastern