Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year, New Show. Wake Up, World!

In late 2007, Daily Show with Jon Stewart co-creator Lizz Winstead, along with her "Shoot The Messenger" troupe of New York's best comic writers and performers, mounted Wake Up, World, a live stage show ostensibly bringing you America's first six-hour morning talkfest. (I was honored when the Shoot The Messenger people brought me on board, too, to help with publicity, and was thrilled to hear the few jokes I did contribute coming out of the mouths of these hilarious performers.)

The show became a downtown sensation, and in its one-year-plus run at the Green Room Theater on Bleecker St. (where the troupe just did a fabulous reunion Christmas performance a few weeks back), attracted high-profile guests like Rachel Maddow, Susie Essman, Roseanne, Sarah Silverman, Mo Rocca, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Kate Clinton, Michael Stipe, Ed Schultz, and Ed Begley, Jr.


Following the regular run of the show, Winstead and Co. shot a pilot for a TV version of Wake Up, World, which shows us not only the on-air antics of vapid hosts Hope Jean Paul (Winstead) and the Bryant Gumbel-esque Davis Miles (comic Baron Vaughn) and buxom newsreader Emily Rackcheck (Darbi Worley), but also the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of its crew and network execs. Think The Today Show meets The Colbert Report meets The Larry Sanders Show.

The pilot is available in four parts on youtube; the link to the first part is below. For the new year, I encourage you to check out Wake Up, World, and pass it around!


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Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Men of Blanche's Boudoir

In honor of Christmas, I want to present one of my favorite clips from The Golden Girls, where a certain slut gives her housemates a special, homemade gift -- no macrame potholders here! -- a calendar featuring "The Men of Blanche's Boudoir."

The episode is particularly interesting if you know the back story behind its production -- namely, the prank the show's crew members decided to play on their four stars. As the show's director Lex Passaris and its script coordinator Robert Spina told me in my research for The Q Guide to The Golden Girls, the crewmen decided that, for the episode's dress rehearsal, they would replace the calendar prop with a creation all their own. And so, they stayed up late that night, when everyone else had left the stage, photographing themselves in various states of undress and debauchery. (Let's just say, in one photo, one crewman rode another, and a saddle was involved.)

Passaris prizes the resulting chaos that occurred when, at rehearsal the next day, the ladies opened their gifts. One thing about beloved Bea Arthur: once she would "break," and start laughing, there was almost no coming back. And so Bea opened the box, and then laughed until she cried.

At this holiday season, having lost Bea this year and Estelle not long before, it's nice to remember the laughs, both on screen and off. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, Bernice, You Little Fruitcake!

Among the many talents we've lost in the last few years was one of my favorite actresses, Alice Ghostley. Charmingly bumbling as Esmeralda on Bewitched, farcically funny as Max's neighbor and KAOS spy Naomi Farkas on a guest spot on Get Smart, and of course as the delightfully daffy Bernice Clifton on Designing Women. It wouldn't be Christmas without me thinking about Bernice wearing her Christmas tree skirt, which she had a devil of a time getting on.

Merry Christmas, Bernice, you little fruitcake!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Get Carried Away

An early Christmas gift: The Sex and the City 2 movie trailer is here! It looks like the rumors of the girls traveling abroad are true, if this brief camel-bound clip is to be interpreted. This movie sequel, Carrie's voiceover says, takes place two years after the first film. I'll be eagerly awaiting its opening on May 28 -- because as the lady says, "Sometimes you just gotta get away with the girls!"

Brittany Murphy in "Der entsesselte Mann!"

In what may be admittedly the strangest tribute to actress Brittany Murphy, who died on Sunday at age 32 of cardiac arrest, below is a clip from one of her early roles, a guest spot on the NBC sitcom Frasier.

This was, of course, before Brittany found huge success on TV, ultimately voicing the role of daughter Luanne on FOX's animated sitcom King of the Hill for 13 seasons. But by this point, Brittany had already done quite a few TV shows for her young age: regular roles in the short-lived sitcoms Drexell's Class and Almost Home, and guest spots on Murphy Brown, Parker Lewis Can't Lose and Blossom.

Here, she appears as a teenager in some kind of theatrical production in which Frasier Crane is involved. I say "some kind of" because I don't remember the episode's specifics, and from this I really can't tell; the clip is in German. Which is what makes this one of the strangest tributes to the talented Murphy, whose life was cut short so tragically. But you can see here that, even at her young age (she was around 17) in this 1994 clip of episode "Give Him the Chair!" (or "Der entsesselte Mann!"), and even though she is dubbed in German, you can see that there is something special about her that makes you take notice when she enters the scene. RIP, Brittany!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jury Duty Hell Continues

As I find myself looking at a 6th day of jury duty -- on a case that the judge had promised would have been over long before now -- and deal with obstreperous fellow juror(s), I wish I could be Julia Sugarbaker in the following Designing Women clip. Just another way that if I ran the world, life would be one big sitcom.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

As the Stomach Turns

In honor of the recently announced impending demise of CBS' long-running soap As The World Turns, here's a fun clip from another CBS hit, The Carol Burnett Show, which back in the '70s presented its own recurring spoof, "As The Stomach Turns."

Watch here as Carol, as a frustrated housewife, meets Cher, in full Indian headdress regalia. (You just know this show must have had some gay writers!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Don't Miss Better Off Ted, tonight on ABC

Last Tuesday, Scrubs returned to ABC with a double-episode premiere of its new "2.0" format, set in a medical school. The ratings, unfortunately, were abysmal.

Tonight, following Scrubs, is the return of my favorite new show of last season, Better Off Ted. If you haven't yet sampled the show, set in the hilariously amoral corporate offices of conglomerate Veridian Dynamics, you're missing some of the edgiest, most pointed and yet silliest writing to be found in today's TV comedy. And some of the best performances, like standouts Portia DeRossi, as the driven and icy blonde boss Veronica, and Andrea Anders as the neurotic and moral underling Linda.

Yesterday, on Sirius OutQ's The Frank DeCaro Show, another of the show's stars, out gay actor Jonathan Slavin, who plays the hilariously put-upon lab researcher Phil, noted that ABC hopes that the pairing of Scrubs and Ted will click, since they both have such a smart comic sensibility. (I would also add that if you are/were a fan of either Arrested Development or 30 Rock, you should check in tonight with Ted.)

Personally, I wish ABC had given Ted the berth in its more successful Wednesday lineup which used to be occupied by Kelsey Grammer's now-cancelled Hank, and which now temporarily houses repeats of this season's best new comedy, Modern Family. Let's hope that Scrubs and Ted, two shows worth watching, can cause some uptick in the numbers at ABC -- although with CBS' combination of NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife catching fire this season, it's going to be a tough battle.

So check out the following clip from last season's finest half-hour, entitled "Racial Sensitivity" (in which Veridian's new automatic light sensors are unable to sense the presence of black people, effectively locking them in dark rooms at work) and then, if you still can't miss your LL Cool J fix -- and who could blame you? -- set your DVRs for a season pass of Ted.









Better Off Ted
Tuesdays at 9:30 Eastern
ABC

RIP ATWT

Coming just months after the demise of the 72-year-old institution Guiding Light, CBS announced today that another of its three remaining soaps, As The World Turns, will be coming to an end in September 2010, at the end of this current season.

The move marks the end of an era in many ways: first for the 54-year-old soap and its actors, quite a few of whom have been with the show for decades, including Helen Wagner, who spoke the show's opening words on the first episode way back in 1956. The move also leaves CBS with now just two soaps, The Bold and The Beautiful and The Young and the Restless, which does happen to be the top-rated daytime drama -- so let's hope it's safe for a while. And lastly, the move leaves New York, once the home to almost all soaps in decades past, with only one show left. With Guiding Light gone, and ABC's All My Children moving production to Los Angeles just after the new year, New York will have only One Life to Live.

And most disappointingly for me, the cancellation also means we'll have to say goodbye to supercute supercouple Nuke, aka Luke and Noah, played by Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann. ATWT won a GLAAD Media Award this year, in fact, for its sensitive portrayal of the young gay male couple.

All hail this new media world!

As The World Turns Ends on CBS in September 2010
Show Entertained Fans For Half Century

[08-December-2009]

NEW YORK, Dec. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- As The World Turns, the long-running daytime drama, will complete its final season on the CBS Television Network in September 2010. CBS has decided not to renew the show for the 2010/2011 broadcast season, thereby ending its 54-year run on the Network.

"Throughout our history, As The World Turns has remained dedicated to sharing compelling stories that have entertained fans for more than five decades," said Executive Producer Chris Goutman. "We are disappointed and saddened by the news that the show is not being renewed. It will certainly be a loss for all of us, and for the show's loyal audience."

"As The World Turns has been a cornerstone of our business and a tremendous asset to the company," said Brian T. Cahill, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, TeleNext Media, Inc. "We are proactively seeking a new outlet to carry the show, and are open to exploring innovative formats and relationships that will enable the future success of ATWT."

The epitome of multi-generational, serial storytelling, As The World Turns has been entertaining generations of fans for more than half a century. The show boasts a well-loved and long-tenured cast, including actress Helen Wagner (Nancy Hughes) who spoke the first words on the premier broadcast of ATWT in 1956. To this day, Nancy is still at the helm of the Hughes family, earning Wagner the distinction of portraying the longest-running character in television history.

Other veteran cast members still on the show today include Eileen Fulton (Lisa Grimaldi) and Don Hastings (Dr. Bob Hughes) who each have played their characters for 49 years; Marie Masters (Dr. Susan Stewart) with 41 years; and Kathryn Hays (Kim Hughes) who has starred on the show for 37 years.

As The World Turns has tackled many contemporary themes over the years, including AIDS, Alzheimer's, alcoholism and more, while remaining true to the show's rich history and realistic characters. In 1988, the serial made history by introducing daytime television's first gay male character, Hank Eliot (played by Brian Starcher), for which it was honored at the first annual GLAAD media awards in 1990.

Created by Irna Phillips, As The World Turns premiered on April 2, 1956 as a 30-minute live television show, unprecedented at the time for a soap opera. Top-rated from 1959 to 1971, it was the first daytime serial with its own spin-off, Our Private World, which aired in prime-time. The show switched to color on 1967, and expanded from a half-hour in length to one hour in 1975. Over the years, ATWT has been awarded numerous accolades, including 58 Daytime Emmy awards.

Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Oakdale, As The World Turns launched the careers of many now-famous Hollywood celebrities, such as Dana Delaney, James Earl Jones, Julianne Moore, Parker Posey, Meg Ryan, and Marisa Tomei to name a few.

About As The World Turns

As The World Turns tapes in Brooklyn, New York and airs weekdays on the CBS Television Network. (Check local listings.) Christopher Goutman is the Executive Producer; Jean Passanante and David Kreizman are Headwriters. For more information, visit www.astheworldturns.net.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Meredith Baxter, the Frank DeCaro Show Interview

For those of you who missed Meredith Baxter in her radio exclusive interview on The Frank DeCaro Show this morning, here are a few clips from the interview:





Elyse Keaton, Lesbian Mom

This morning on The Frank DeCaro Show, on Sirius XM OutQ Radio, fabulous Family Ties star Meredith Baxter stopped by, to make the announcement that she is indeed a lesbian.

Baxter says that although she's an extremely private person, she decided to make the announcement in order to help the community, in order to put a friendly face on the lesbian label and to do her part hopefully to convince voters not to continue to take away our rights.

The 62-year-old actress, famous for her TV roles from Bridget Loves Bernie (which, Baxter playfully suggested at Frank's prompting, could now be "Bridget Loves Bernice") and Family in the '70s through, of course, '80s iconic series Family Ties, had pre-taped an appearance for NBC's Today, which aired earlier this morning -- but had recorded her interview with Frank even before that, making Sirius XM her first stop in breaking the news.

Congratulations, Meredith -- we loved you back then, and love you now -- if possible, even more. And now it all makes sense -- no wonder Elyse was such a beautiful, understanding mom!

(Catch a replay of the interview during Frank's 3rd hour today, at 1:15 PM Eastern/10:15 AM Pacific, as well as during the 10PM Eastern rerun of the entire show tonight.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You'd Be at the Free Clinic all the Time

In honor of World AIDS Day, below is one of my favorite clips in all of television.

Back in the fall of 1987, when so many people -- even in Hollywood -- remained ignorant about the disease, Designing Women became the first sitcom I can think of (yes, even
before The Golden Girls) to tackle the issue. And as Linda Bloodworth-Thomason always does in her writing, the show did so with grace and class. (Bloodworth-Thomason wrote from experience; her own mother Claudia had at that point contracted HIV from a blood transfusion and had died, inspiring the writer to create episode "Killing All the Right People," the fourth in the show's 2nd season.)

Tony Goldwyn guest starred as Kendall, a rival decorator who hires Sugarbaker's Design Firm to redo a room at the local funeral parlor in a New Orleans theme, to be used for his own unfortunately impending service, and as a gift to future AIDS victims who die without the resources for proper burial. The storyline dovetails nicely with the B story, in which Annie Potts' Mary Jo Shively is tasked with debating a local tight-ass in front of the PTA, and advocating for the dispensing of condoms to teens to save lives.

As Julia Sugarbaker, Dixie Carter practically patented the angry rant, and seeing her get "fired up" was the highlight of any Designing Women episode. Here, watch her rip evil Imogene a new one -- and deservedly so.

And if you have the Designing Women season 2 box set, I urge you to check out the full episode of "Killing All the Right People." I defy you to make it through, to the "Closer Walk With Thee" sequence at the very end, with a dry eye. Like all of Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's writing at its best, the episode entertains, informs, and once you've seen it, it will remain forever in your heart.

One Big Gay and Happy

Tune in tomorrow to The Frank DeCaro Show, when in the first hour, Frank will host a beloved TV icon who has an important announcement to make!

That's The Frank DeCaro Show,
Wednesday, December 2
11AM-12PM Eastern, 8-9 AM Pacific
OutQ
Sirius 109 / XM 98

Monday, November 16, 2009

SNL's "A Lady's Guide to Throwing a Party"

On this past weekend's SNL, Mad Men's January Jones starred in this brilliant short film skit, spoofing her own perfect '60s Barbie doll image in this supposed 1952 instructional on hosting a cocktail party. (And just remember, if it turns out to be diarrhea, you must leave society and live in the woods as an animal.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

CBS Watch November/December issue on newsstands NOW!

Now on newsstands and in your mailboxes: the November/December 2009 issue of CBS Watch! Check out my cover story on NCIS: Los Angeles and its stars LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell, as well as other pieces like my experience at Neil Patrick Harris' L.A. theater show, Accomplice Hollywood, and Frank DeCaro's reminiscence of a CBS classic, Designing Women.

Watch! can be found on newsstands in stores like Target, Barnes & Noble, and Hudson News -- and you can subscribe for free! Just go to www.cbswatchmagazine.com and sign up for your free subscription -- no strings attached!

The Ranch Fence Goes Up, The Wall Comes Down

It was a strange coincidence the other day when, conscious that we were approaching today's 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was researching a piece for CBS Watch! magazine, and came across an interesting anecdote. I was interviewing Guido Meyer, who, Frank and I discovered on a press trip to Florida with the handsome German journalist last fall, is an expert on all things Dallas.

As Guido explains, one Stuttgart-based Dallas fan club, of which he is a member, is currently planning to build a replica of the Ewing family’s Southfork Ranch as a tourist attraction in
Bavaria. "Germans have always had a thing for Westerns, for Texas, and for cowboys," he says.

But the lingering affection for the series, he notes, also arises in part from the fact that for some of his countrymen, the show was particularly inspiring. Even though Dallas was never aired by the state-owned broadcasters in the communist former East Germany, viewers there were able to receive the show via West German signals. “For the people in Eastern Europe, Dallas was the West,” Guido explains. “Rich people, driving fancy cars, living on a luxurious ranch. They saw this lifestyle, and wanted it for themselves.”

I checked into his theory, and found that in his 2001 memoir Hello Darlin’, the series’ star Larry Hagman agreed. “I watched CNN’s coverage of the Berlin Wall being torn down and realized that Dallas had impacted that side of the world,” Hagman wrote. “I honestly believe that as Dallas crossed the borders into Soviet-controlled countries, it played a big part in the downfall of the Soviet empire. When people from the Eastern bloc countries saw what they were missing, they realized what a farce communism was.”

It just goes to prove: never doubt the power of television!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Talking About... Me! (And The Golden Girls)

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of appearing on Talking About..., a fabulous local New York gay talk show hosted by the handsome JC Alvarez and, for this episode, substitute hosted by the lovely and talented comedienne Cara Kilduff. I was sorry to miss regular host Jonathan Griffith as well -- but hopefully, I'll soon be invited back, whether to discuss The Q Guide to The Golden Girls... or whatever else they want!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vote No on Prop 1 in Maine!

Such a simple, elegant message from the No on 1 Campaign in Maine, to protect marriage equality. I worry, though, that it doesn't counteract the lies the enemy is spreading, about how schools will be forced to teach explicit gay sex lessons, etc.

Still, it's nice to present the non-scary faces of some of the families desperately counting on voters in Maine to preserve their equal rights. If you live in Maine, please go to the polls on Tuesday and vote No on Proposition 1!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Birdie Bonus

Tonight's performance of Broadway's Bye Bye Birdie was sailing along well -- until, just a few numbers in, a panel came crashing down from the wall of the MacAfee living room set. The scene progressed, and as the next began, Conrad Birdie's screaming girl fans were forced to get in place to lament their idol's departure while Birdie's agent Albert Peterson sings "Put on a Happy Face." The problem was, the show's scenery appeared to be stuck, and the train station set had not rotated into place. And so, out popped Peterson -- aka the show's star, John Stamos. "Girls, I'll be right out to make you feel better," he ad libbed. "As soon as they fix this mess." The curtain came down -- and the best part of the show was about to start.

"I was just about to sing 'Happy Face,' and then this shit happens," Stamos mock complained. Then, as he vamped for time in front of the curtain, he first pointed out comedy legend Don Rickles in the audience. "These seats are terrible, and the show stinks!" Rickles yelled back from the orchestra.

As female audience members shouted out for Uncle Jesse, Stamos noted his Full House co-star Bob Saget, just a row behind Rickles and sitting with both family members and Paramount CEO Brad Grey. Saget initially just shouted back a hello, but as first Gina Gershon and then a clowning Bill Irwin came out to apprise us of the further delay, Stamos was able to lure Saget to jump up on stage with him and speak into his forehead mic. "You say this show opens tomorrow?" Saget was quick to joke.

And my favorite interchange of the evening: Stamos urged Gershon, "Come on -- do something from Showgirls." To which Gershon replied, "You know, I had never seen Full House before, and now I finally did -- the other day, at the dentist." Without skipping a beat, Stamos asked, "Which was more painful?"

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two New Must-Reads

On today's Frank DeCaro Show on OutQ (Sirius 109, XM 98), author Randee Dawn discussed her new book, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Unofficial Companion. And I can tell you, for any fan of show -- and of the yummilicious pairing of Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni -- the book is a must-read.

Dawn and her co-author Susan Green spent a week on the show's NYC set, and saw firsthand how an episode goes from script to screen. The book contains synopses of all 224 episodes in the show's first 10 seasons, covering right up through this past June. (As someone who has written 2 books about sitcoms, one six seasons' worth and one seven, I can tell you that covering 10 years of an hourlong show is a lot of work!) There are also bios, ratings and awards info, web links, and anything else you'd want to know about this most personal show in producer Dick Wolf's vast empire. (And the book, by the way, has Wolf's seal of approval -- he even wrote the foreword.)

And a few weeks back, Brady Bunch star Susan Olsen appeared on the show, promoting a new book she has co-authored with Ted Nichelson and the amazing "Bradyologist" Lisa Sutton, about a chapter of Brady life not everyone out there might know about: the ill-conceived but campy and hilarious-for-all-the-wrong-reasons follow-up series, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

The book, Love to Love You Bradys: The Bizarre Story of the Brady Bunch Variety Hour, is chock full of fun, behind-the-scenes photos and factoids about a show which you just will have to see to believe. Closeted Robert Reed, now playing not just America's favorite dad, but a singing and dancing architect to boot? All the Brady members (except with Geri Reischl as a new Jan) -- often including Alice -- tap-dancing around an indoor pool in spangled '70s getups? Who doesn't want to see that?!

(2 of the 8 produced episodes of this unsurprisingly unsuccessful 1976-77 series are available on DVD.)

And this just in from Lisa Sutton: this coming Sunday, October 4, meet the authors (and perhaps some special guest Bradys!) at the West Hollywood Book Fair. A panel discussion and book signing starts at 11:15 in the People, Places & Politics Pavilion.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Munchkins Take Manhattan

During these past few days in New York City, I've felt like I'm a witness to history.

Last night, at Central Park's historic restaurant Tavern on the Green (itself on the endangered list as it is undoubtedly due for an overhaul on 1/1/10 when it will no longer be run by the LeRoy family, the descendants of the film's producer, Mervyn), Warner Brothers and its home video department gave a big bash to celebrate the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz -- and a new blu-ray DVD box set coming out this coming Tuesday, 9/29.



In the restaurant's parking lot, a hot air balloon, much like the one belonging to the Great Oz, hovered, bearing the likenesses of the iconic film's stars. Later, inside, Oz star Judy Garland's daughter Lorna Luft performed a medley of songs from the film. As she explained in her intro to the medley, she had always resisted singing Oz songs, but had put together this arrangement just for last night's party. But as she elaborated this morning on "The Frank DeCaro Show" on OutQ (Sirius 109, XM 98), the songs she sang last night -- including "If I Only Had a Brain," "Optimistic Voices" and even the number cut from the film, "Jitterbug" -- were all deliberately chosen because they were songs Judy didn't sing in the film.

Following Lorna came Ashanti, who recently starred in The Wiz on Broadway. She deftly belted
out a loving rendition of "Over the Rainbow," and followed with another catchy song, from her new album.

But here's the part about being a witness to history: posing in front of the balloon, with stand-ins of Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and Lion, were five of the six surviving Munchkins. As John Fricke, who has authored three books about the film, explained in his intro, 124 little people worked on The Wizard of Oz. Today, six remain, the youngest, Margaret Pellegrini, at age 86.

They are the only people who remain from the cast of this iconic film. And as five of them gathered in one room, both last night and today on Frank's show on Sirius, I couldn't help but feel like I was witnessing the last of a great era. 70 years later, these performers, who came to Hollywood practically as kids, hearing of a rare big break for Little People, are still with us; and if the reaction of everyone gushing around them in these past few days is an indication, they're getting their due as living American treasures. I was happy to hear, for example, that back in November 2007, the then 8 surviving Munchkins got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Pictured below are at left, author John Fricke (holding the sign), and at right, Lorna Luft.

And in between, Meinhardt Raabe (in wheelchair), the Munchkin coroner. He is the last remaining cast member who had actual solo lines in the film. And at age 94, he performed them today on the air. We'll all always remember:



As coroner, I must aver
I thoroughly examined her.
And she's not only merely dead
She's really most sincerely dead.





Next to Raabe, with the lollipop, is 89-year-old Jerry Maren, the center member of the Lollipop Guild. After Oz, Maren went on to do quite a bit of work in Hollywood, including the "Yada Yada" episode of Seinfeld, and has two films slated for release later in 2009-10. All together now:
We represent the Lollipop Guild
The Lollipop Guild, The Lollipop Guild
And in the name of the Lollipop Guild
We'd like to welcome you to Munchkinland.


Next to Maren is Ruth Duccini, 91. She met her husband on the set of the film, and was married for a little over 50 years. She has 2 children, 4 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren -- and got a laugh on Frank's show today when she said the family doesn't really care too much about her iconic status.

In the flowerpot hat, that's Margaret Pellegrini, 86. At only 15, she took a train, by herself, from Mississippi to Hollywood for a role in the film. Make that two roles. Not only will you see her in the film in that flower pot hat, but she's also one of the "Sleepy Heads."

And at right, in the tie, that's Karl Slover, who just turned 91 on September 21. Slover says he's the smallest cast member, at 4'4". "I couldn't reach the doorknobs," he says with a laugh. Slover had the talent, though, to be cast as 4 different Munchkins -- including one in drag. Catch him as the First Trumpeter, a Munchkin soldier, the sole Sleepy Head boy, and a singer urging Dorothy to Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

As author Fricke mentioned last night, some of these people had had some rough experiences in their lives before the film. But now, they're beloved by generations well into the future, well past their time, and undoubtedly mine. That's why I feel lucky I was able to express my gratitude (and perhaps drooling fandom) in person, to be able to thank them for their roles in creating a work of art that has inspired the imaginations of many millions.

(And P.S. -- if you missed the Munchkins and Luft on this morning's "Frank DeCaro Show," catch them again tonight on the rebroadcast. They're right at the top of the show, which means 10 PM Eastern / 7 PM Pacific.)

Lenny Clarke live at Comix Tonite

At least since the underrated and prematurely cancelled ABC sitcom It's All Relative, I've been a huge fan of comedian and actor Lenny Clarke. This afternoon on "The Frank DeCaro Show" on OutQ (Sirius 109, XM 98), Clarke was hilarious as he discussed his momentous weight loss, and his great work on FX's highly regarded series Rescue Me.

If you didn't catch it, you can hear Clarke again during the rebroadcast of Frank's show, in the 2nd hour -- so I think that would be at 11 PM tonight. But here's the thing -- if you're here in NYC, you can also catch Lenny live, tonight and tomorrow at Comix, the really hip, comfortable club in the Meatpacking District. So for more Lenny tonight, tune in -- or show up!

Flash Forward again tonight

In case you missed last night's premiere of ABC's intriguing new sci-fi series Flash Forward -- it's being called the new Lost -- and in case you also missed attending that episode's screening on Wednesday night at the New York Television Festival -- here's another chance to get in on what may be this season's most mysterious hit right from the start. (Don't do what I did with Lost, which was wait until it was too late.)

Tonight at 8 PM Eastern/7 Central, ABC is showing an encore of the series' pilot -- and this time, the network's publicists are hinting -- the episode "might just contain some added material" -- whatever that means!

If you're like me, a Virgo who tries to figure out the mystery as far in advance as possible, thus driving his husband crazy, check this out. The show is already full of clues as to what caused the "Global Blackout." But in addition, a new video series at ABC.com gives us viewers access to the show's creator/showrunners David S. Goyer and Marc Guggenheim as we try to solve the mystery of just what everyone sees up ahead on April 29, 2010:


Also, ABC advises, be sure to check out the FlashForward Experience, share your FlashForward on the Mosaic Collective’s site, and watch exclusive clips in the Augmented Reality experience.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Here's a goodie from today's broadcast of The Frank DeCaro Show that's headed straight for our collective pop culture archives: original Munchkin Karl Slover sings "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Check it out!


The Frank DeCaro Show
Monday to Friday, 11AM - 2PM Eastern, 8-11AM Pacific
Sirius OutQ
Sirius 109 / XM 98

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Modern Family and Cougar Town at the 5th Annual New York Television Festival

I was all set to blog today about last night, the opening night of the 5th Annual New York Television Festival, and its screenings of, and subsequent talk-back about, the new ABC shows Modern Family and Cougar Town, set to debut tomorrow night.

I'll post more thoughts on both shows later -- and since they're both good, I urge you to check them out tomorrow. But for a really fun assessment of last night at the Festival, check out Bryan Reesman's blog, Attention Deficit Delirium. There's even a photo of me with the Fest's founder, Terence Gray. (I think I'd rather be Q. I love the gadgets.)

One thing more -- at last night's talkback alongside her Modern Family co-star Ty Burrell and Cougar Town star Busy Philipps and moderated by EW's Tim Stack, Julie Bowen said she'd love to do a Cougar cross-over episode. Considering how hot Bowen looks (especially now that she's not 8 1/2 months pregnant with twins, as she was in the Family pilot), I'd tune in for that!

In Memoriam

With all the amazing talents we lost in 2009 -- as we've all noted, seemingly more this year than in any typical other --Sunday night's Emmy telecast contained a particularly moving In Memoriam segment, accompanied by Sarah McLachlan singing "I Will Remember You."

Thanks to a viewer who, it seems, uploaded the segment to YouTube from Canadian TV, here, again, In Memoriam 2009:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rue McClanahan and the Archive of American Television

This morning, September 14, 2009, the Archive of American Television launched a new web site, www.emmytvlegends.org, containing links to their complete, hours-long archival interviews with over 600 legends from all aspects of TV.

I have had the privilege of conducting quite a few of these interviews, and many of those are now available online. For example, there's my chat with Rue McClanahan at her home in New York -- the interview which did double-duty for me as research for my book, The Q Guide to the Golden Girls.

Having just attended Bea Arthur's memorial service here in New York this afternoon, where other giants we recently lost were evoked, like Larry Gelbart and Dom DeLuise, it's in the front of my mind that the people who brought this medium to life are fast leaving us. I'm so thankful that Karen Herman and her Archive of American Television have preserved some of their knowledge -- not to mention funny stories! -- for the generations to come.

Take a look at Rue -- who by the way, brought the house down at Bea's memorial. After telling at first a touching personal anecdote, she went on to tell a story of what Bea said to her husband a few years back about former Golden Girls co-star Betty White.

Let's just say, there's a certain c-word which was among Bea's favorites. There were plenty of f-bombs on stage today. (And off -- like Anne Meara, after she stumbled into me on her way up the aisle afterwards, yelling at me "move your fucking foot!" She's a charmer.) But in quoting Bea, Rue became the first and only tribute payer today to break the "c-word barrier."

Here, in the link below, Rue talks about her entire career -- she was even beginning at the time, I believe, to prepare to do Del Shores' Logo series, Sordid Lives. And there's plenty of Golden Girls dish, not to mention Rue's seamless transition into Blanche-speak. Enjoy!

Rue McClanahan | AAT

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Watch for Watch!, the September/October issue

Any day now, you subscribers to CBS Watch! should be getting your September/October issue -- with a new twist. This issue features 7 different collectible covers, featuring each of the five stars of the red-hot Big Bang Theory and two with group shots from our day at New York's glam Hotel Pierre.

Me, I just got a whole box of copies today, featuring Mr. Howard Wolowitz himself, Simon Helberg. Inside, check out the interview with Helberg, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco and Kunal Nayyar, and the gorgeous photos expertly styled by our own Angelique O'Neil and shot by the amazing Mark Mann.

Also, more from yours truly: a tribute to the legendary Bea Arthur, Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan talks about his cross-country bike race to raise money for MS research, and a preview of each of CBS' four new fall series: Accidentally On Purpose, The Good Wife, Three Rivers and NCIS: Los Angeles. On the last page, there's also a job "application" which purports to tell you how to break into the business as a wardrobe supervisor.

If you're not already subscribed to CBS Watch!, the issue should also be arriving on newsstands right about... now! And for the future, to subscribe -- for free! -- just visit our web site, www.cbswatchmagazine.com.

It's the best entertainment that meets the eye. (That's the slogan I pitched, anyway. They didn't go for it. :)

Bored to Death in NYC

Last night, HBO premiered its latest comedy series, Bored to Death, with a screening of its first two episodes at the Chelsea Clearview Cinemas on 23rd Street, followed by a party at the Tribeca Rooftop. In addition to the show's cast (below), the night lured such celebs and HBO stalwarts as Jason Bateman, Sofia Coppola, Glenn Close, Steve Buscemi, Vanessa Carlton, Mary Steenburgen, comic Todd Barry and SNL's newest addition, Jenny Slate.

Before the screening, HBO President Sue Naegle set a confident tone by noting that "we have so much faith in this show that we called it 'Bored to Death,' despite how tempting that title will be for critics."

Then the show's creator and well-known author Jonathan Ames addressed the crowd. On visits to L.A. to visit his sister, he said, he would always be asked to take meetings with Hollywood networks and production companies. But he never knew why, because although the meetings would be perfectly convivial, full of discussions about favorite books and leaving him with the hilarious impression that L.A. is "incredibly literary," nothing would ever come of them.

Then came a meeting at HBO in New York, where one of the network's producers Sarah Condon asked what he was working on. The answer was a short story called "Bored to Death," in which a hard-drinking and drugging author and freelance journalist, named Jonathan Ames, decides to moonlight as an unlicensed private eye. "I told her I thought it would make a great movie," Ames admitted last night. "Then I remembered where I was, and said, '...or TV series."

The results of that meeting were on the big screen at the Clearview, with the incredibly likable Jason Schwartzman playing Ames' amiable small screen alter-ego, Zach Galifianakis as his bearded slacker artist friend, and Ted Danson as his pot-addicted, id-driven employer at a New York-like magazine.

While watching the pilot episode, I was struck by how different the show starts out from HBO's other recent comedy launch, Hung. I had felt the Hung pilot started out way too slow, taking forever to launch its hero into the escort business because it wanted to make sure to convince us how desperate he was, by serving up blow after blow to his financial and emotional security. Bored to Death takes the opposite tack. Jonathan gets dumped by his girlfriend, who does mention that he should be more of a man of action. He loves Raymond Chandler novels. Boom! Before you know it, he places an ad on Craigslist advertising himself as a private eye. No explanation given.

If you're willing to buy this, however -- and to be fair, maybe we'll get more back story or motivation in episodes to come -- stick with Bored to Death after the pilot. Hung got better and better after that first episode, finally freeing Ray to see clients and have hilarious complications ensue. Rome, too, took 3 or 4 episodes to get juicy after being front-loaded with setup; I have a few friends who quit that show too early, and now regret it. And The Comeback got really good only at the end of its first and -- unfortunately, because by then the show had alienated too many -- only season. More than with broadcast TV, where if a pilot sucks the show may forever suck too, it seems that HBO has a pattern: stick with the show at least through its 3rd or 4th week. You'll usually be rewarded.

Indeed, Episode 2 of Bored to Death is fantastic. Kristen Wiig shows up as Jonathan's client, with the wavy hair and vintage dress of a film noir femme fatale, but the hilarious neuroses and comic delivery that are by now Wiig's trademark. Her story -- and Danson's too, allow for Schwartzman, in his character's puppy-dog dorkiness, to have some really fun comedic and even slapstick moments. And Galifianakis provides, as you would expect, some great sidekick comic relief.

Bored to Death is HBO's broadest comedy in years, and is a refreshing surprise. I heard from some normally tough media critics -- albeit, yes, a lot of women with crushes on Schwartzman -- that the series only gets better through at least the 5 or 6 episodes they've already seen in advance. So check it out, Sunday, September 20 -- up against the Emmys, unfortunately -- at 9:30. It's inheriting the second half of True Blood's time slot, so all you have to do is continue your HBO habit.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's a Living

In today's random thought... Maybe it's that I've been holed up at home for a week now, going a little squirrelly while writing on deadline. And maybe this has something to do with the DVD for the first season of Castle which arrived today, which features Susan Sullivan.

But I got to thinking: I'm lucky enough to get to write about new and classic TV as my job, and to talk to people I've always admired. But then, I have to sit home and turn hours of interviews into a coherent article. There are the pros and the cons, but overall (and now maybe you won't be able to get the theme song out of your mind either) It's a Living!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Will Earl Live on in Spirit?

Q: I started to call you on Frank's show today, but I am sure you have had this question often: Is My Name is Earl coming back? My partner and I love that show; it has such great messages and was so gay-friendly. I used to love watching and knowing that rednecks and republicans were watching it too! Any good news? --Tim

Well, Tim, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the short answer is: No. Earl is almost certainly dead. After NBC cancelled the series in May after four seasons, there had been brief speculation that Fox or even TBS (which already airs syndicated episodes of the show's previous seasons) might pick it up, but the deal never happened.

But the good news is, I spoke with Earl's creator Greg Garcia last month, who told me about the comedy pilot he's currently writing for Fox. The still-untitled show would center on a 25-year old who has to raise a child -- the product of a one-night stand with a woman on death row for murder (!) -- with the help of his quirky family. As Greg described it to me, the single-camera show is My Name Is Earl meets a family show like Malcolm in the Middle.

Maybe not coincidentally, and showing Fox's tastes of late, it also sounds tonally like the network's own comedy on the bench for midseason, Sons of Tucson -- about three parentless kids who hire a local drifter to pose as their dad. And in fact, Sons boasts a number of writers it snapped up when Earl went down.

Garcia's new show is just at the pilot stage, meaning we won't know until possibly May 2010 if it's ever going to hit the air. So stay tuned!

V is for NoVember

In answer to your question, Philip from Atlanta, from today's Must Hear TV segment on The Frank DeCaro Show on Sirius XM OutQ, V is coming to ABC, starting November 3.

According to the network's press release, "'V' is a re-imagining of the 1980s miniseries about the world's first encounter with an alien race. Simultaneously appearing over every major city in the world, the Visitors (or V's) promote a message of peace. Through their generous offer to share advanced technology, the V's build a following that may actually hide a more malevolent agenda, one that twists a very deep component of human nature -- devotion."

The original show's baddies -- led by the vixenish, appropriately named Jane Badler -- were a bunch of rodent-gobbling lizard people covered in fake human skin, here to harvest us for food. And so the series was not, I learned with some disappointment back in 1982, about my strict 8th grade math teacher Mrs. Vastola, as had been widely rumored around Schuyler-Colfax Junior High School in Wayne, NJ.

The cast of this new remake boasts quite a few viewer favorites, including Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell as resistance leader Erica Evans, and Scott Wolf (formerly of Party of Five, and not to be confused his costar from that show, Lost's Matthew Fox -- got that?) as journalist Chad Decker.

I'm excited for the remake -- if only to see the concept executed better this time around. Because let's face it -- if you're around my age, you may have nostalgia for the original, but if you think back on it, it was pretty bad. But meanwhile, these days, remakes of sci-fi -- witness Battlestar Galactica -- are smarter, deeper, and lavished with impressive special effects. So will this new V delve deeper into the allegory of fascism as depicted in our relationship with our new alien overlords?



And more importantly, will Morena Baccarin, as the Visitors' leader Anna, unhinge her jaw a la the original alien baddie Diana to swallow a rat whole? Come to think of it, even if this new V is spectacular, a part of me will always miss the cheesy special effects (and Mrs. Vastola, who turned out to be an amazing teacher.)

PS -- I know she was on Falcon Crest afterwards, but whatever happened to Jane Badler? Anyone?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nitpicking Peggy Olson

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Mad Men. But something about Peggy Olson just... bugs me. Maybe I'm too close to the Catholic thing, but I just don't believe that a Catholic girl in the 1960s would do the things Peggy does. Not that there weren't Catholic girls sleeping around and getting pregnant in 1962. But doing so as seemingly guilt free as Peggy?

And even if Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) were to be so "liberated," I find it even more doubtful that, having given birth, she would be able to forget about the child so easily and continue on pursuing a career. Back then, for right or wrong, a girl would consider her life forever altered by this unintended pregnancy, perhaps even "ruined." She would be stuck in Peggy's outer borough, now forever a mom. I just don't buy Peggy's attempts at moving at this stage to Manhattan.

As my friends in the past few days have discussed this past Sunday's episode, "The Arrangements," everyone seems to be coming down really hard on Mrs. Olson. They read this week's scene where Peggy tells her mother about wanting to get her own apartment in Manhattan as the older woman's resentful attempts to stifle Peggy's burgeoning independence and liberation. And yes, I agree, Mrs. Olson was quite passive-aggressive and cruel. But here's the thing -- can you blame her? Her daughter Peggy has proven that the moment she is given free reign, she gets indiscriminately pregnant -- and worse yet, is in denial about it right through the moment she gives birth, unable to care for herself or the child. Peggy has shown not only questionable judgment, but questionable sanity as well. Shouldn't we empathize with Mrs. Olson for fearing what will happen if she lets her clearly judgment-impaired daughter so far out of her sight?

I guess my point is, I don't root for the character as much as many fans seem to, because at the core of it I often don't believe that a Peggy Olson would exist in her time. She often seems to be a cipher, a device for the show's writers through which to illustrate the week's theme of sexism, of filial duty, etc. And here's where I get nitpicky, but these little details are the types of things the show is supposedly famous for getting right, and this one from this
past episode rang false enough to pull me out of the story:

Norway is not a Catholic country. It's overwhelmingly Lutheran-Protestant. In fact, Catholics make up less than 1% of the population; there are fewer Catholics than Muslims. We've seen how Catholic Peggy's mother and family are -- again, it seems to me, merely as a device to show the Church in America and its influence over the times. But had the writers been more careful, they might have named the family something other than Olson, to make their ethnic/religious combination more likely.

Still, I used to try to rationalize, maybe Peggy's mother is of another ethnicity, which would explain the Catholic roots. However in Sunday's episode, she tries to appeal to her mother by saying her new roommate is also Norwegian. (Peggy's lie really is a hilarious little payoff from the writers, since we know the roommate is of Swedish descent.) So wouldn't that mean Mom is also Norwegian? Otherwise, why would Peggy think the lie would assuage her?

I certainly look forward to seeing what happens with Peggy in episodes -- and seasons -- to come. I hope she achieves great things, because I'd love to see what happens in a place like Sterling Cooper when a woman really does have some power and some say. I just wish "Peggy" were a little more believable all along the way.

Sordid Lives comes to DVD

From the moment I first saw the series' premiere at Los Angeles' Outfest in 2008, I was hooked on Sordid Lives. Del Shores' comedy, based on his earlier film and play about an extended family of Texas trailer trash, was hilarious, moving, and completely addictive. Too bad Logo didn't get that -- as far as anyone knows, they haven't ordered a second season of the show. (Of course not -- it was too expensive. And too smart for them.)

Not that Del hasn't tried to nudge the network along, even touring the country with his husband, the show's Jason Dottley, and some of his series' other stars. (You can find more information on the tour dates and locations on Del's Facebook page, and also on this Facebook page for fans of the series: Save Sordid Lives.)

The silver lining in all this is that, as of October 13, Sordid Lives will be on DVD -- in Canada. But worry not -- now you can pre-order a Canadian copy (it's Region 1, so it's the same as the U.S.) here. The DVD contains all the goodies Logo bleeped and/or edited out -- including a censored sex scene with former Golden Girl Rue McClanahan.

With Leslie Jordan, Caroline Rhea, Beth Grant, Ann Walker, Bonnie Bedelia, Olivia Newton-John and so many more -- it's an amazing cast in a show which may (still hoping, Logo, still hoping) have been cancelled far too soon.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Neil Patrick Harris talks about our trip on the Orient Express

On tonight's Late Show with David Letterman, Neil Patrick Harris spends the majority of his time being teased for taking a trip on the Orient Express with Watch! magazine.

Wow, we could not have asked for better promotion for Watch! -- thanks, Dave!

Check it out below. And for a FREE subscription to Watch!, go to www.cbswatchmagazine.com.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Watch for Watch! with Neil on Dave!

Check out tomorrow night's Late Show with David Letterman, where Neil Patrick Harris stops by and talks about his trip with Watch! magazine aboard the Orient Express. And watch Dave get jealous -- I've heard he's hilarious in his jealousy of the likes of Larry Hagman in the pages of our July/August issue.

That's tomorrow night (Friday, 9/4) at 11:30 PM Eastern on CBS.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And Then There's Maude

How fun is my job at CBS Watch, that I had to dig this up for a story I'm working on. I thought I'd share!


Maude TV Opening Theme - The best video clips are here

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mad Men yourself

Hey, everybody! If you're a huge fan like me of AMC's signature series, why not Mad Men yourself? Here I am, pitching a new '60s sitcom. It's Get Smart meets The Munsters by way of Green Acres. Guaranteed 100 episodes, 40 share (this is the 3-network days of the '60s, remember?)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Night Among the Ladies of L.A.

Tonight I was lucky enough to have to make some tough choices about what to do in L.A. I had originally planned to attend a taping of Jenna Elfman's new CBS sitcom Accidentally On Purpose.

But then, I ran into the showrunner for Lifetime's Rita Rocks, now filming episodes for its upcoming second season. That show's taping, he tipped me off, would feature guest star Swoosie Kurtz. I hatched a plan to attend both tapings, since their soundstages are right near each other on CBS' Radford lot. I'd slip back and forth between the two shows, and compare which had better craft service catering.

But ultimately, due to a snafu with the audience list at Rita Rocks, I ended up spending all my time on the Radford lot at Accidentally on Purpose. The show was created by former Knots Landing actress and now prolific sitcom writer Claudia Lonow, based on a memoir by San Francisco-based writer Mary Pols about getting knocked up after a one-night stand. And it's quite fun, relying heavily on Elfman's quirky charm as lead character Billie and some really great supporting players like Lennon Parham as Billie's sister. The episode taped tonight will air as the show's 4th, and features Elfman's character padded as to look slightly visibly pregnant. Of course the irony is that co-star Ashley Jensen is actually pregnant, but spent this episode hiding her much larger belly unconvincingly behind a file folder, a shopping bag, etc.

But although I was enjoying Accidentally on Purpose, I couldn't stick around to see how this particular episode works out, so I'll just have to catch it on TV this fall. Because tonight here in
L.A., the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented a program that was too good to resist (and I'd have to turn in my gay card if I even tried.)

I've been obsessed with the 1959 Lana Turner-Juanita Moore-John Gavin film Imitation of Life for as long as I can remember. For a while there in the '90s, it was on cable seemingly every day, and I must have watched it 20 times. Well tonight, in honor of the Douglas Sirk film's 50th anniversary, the Academy screened a restored print -- and presented a talk-back panel afterwards with the 86-year-old Moore, who played black housekeeper Annie, and Susan Kohner, aka Annie's white-looking mixed-race daughter Sara Jane. Both actresses were nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for their roles.

The incredible Moore, who got a long standing ovation on her entrance and applause for every sentence she said, talked about being chosen for the film by producer Ross Hunter despite the studio's insistence on a bigger star name like Pearl Bailey, Ethel Waters or Mahalia Jackson (who still does appear in one of the film's most famous moments, singing Gospel at Annie's funeral.) And even more revealing, Moore recounted how when Lana Turner was enduring her daughter Cheryl Crane's trial for murdering gangster Johnny Stompanato, she would come in to work every morning crying, and asking her co-star for advice -- while calling her by her character's name, Annie.

After the panel, which was hosted by Kohner's son, film producer Paul Weitz, and film critic Stephen Farber, the crowd descended on the two actresses, overwhelming them for autographs. Among the crowd, I spotted a few famous faces, like Everybody Loves Raymond's Doris Roberts, and a favorite of Frank's, David Hedison from the '60s series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. And here's an exclusive: I overheard Roberts being asked to return September 25, when the Academy will be hosting a similar evening for the 30th anniversary of the film The Rose. Bette Midler, who will be on a break from her show in Las Vegas, will be there. And if the night is anywhere near as fabulous as tonight, so should you! (For the Academy's event and ticket info, click here.)