Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Beautiful Panel on Ugly Betty

Tonight, the Paley Center for Media in New York hosted an evening with the cast and crew of its hometown production, Ugly Betty.

Just over a week after the announcement of ABC's renewal of the series for a 4th season, the evening started with a screening of tomorrow night's episode -- which on the plus side features a beautiful, vibrantly colored Easter egg hunt scene, courtesy of production designer Mark Worthington, who was on the panel.  Of course, because the network put the show on an unexpected hiatus in order to air sitcoms In the Motherhood and Samantha Who? (both of which have since been yanked), this is one helluva late Easter.  And so, this episode -- the return of season 3, the first episode following that hiatus -- airs almost three weeks after the holiday. But never fear, because even late, this Betty is as fabulously funny as ever.

Also on the panel tonight, hosted by EW's Jessica Shaw, were series stars Vanessa Williams, Tony Plana, Ana Ortiz, Becki Newton and Mark Indelicato, as well as creator/executive producer Silvio Horta, EP Richard Heus, Co-EP Victor Nelli, Jr., and the show's now-famous costume designer Patricia Field.

Among the inside scoop divulged tonight:

  • Michael Urie's Mark, who has become such a core character on the show, was originally intended to be fired by boss Wilhelmina Slater in the show's pilot episode.  But when the show's writers and producers saw how much chemistry guest star Urie had with Vanessa Williams, they quickly abandoned their plan to have Wilhelmina fire an assistant every week a la Murphy Brown, and instead bumped the actor up to a series regular.
  • Producers originally had trouble finding just the right eyeglasses to make Betty so "ugly."  They went through about 100 pairs, Silvio Horta says, before they realized the ideal pair was right on Pat Field's face.  And so they borrowed them -- and kept strict care of them until duplicates could be found.  They felt, Horta recalls, "if they break, it's done!"
  • The show's writers considered incorporating Ana Ortiz's real-life pregnancy into the storyline for Hilda.  Their main reason for not doing so, Horta says, is timing:  by the time the story could be introduced, they would have had to hide Ortiz's changing figure for too long.  Then, ironically, they would have to pad the actress, long after she had really given birth.
  • Horta says that in creating his show, he didn't really follow too closely to Betty La Fea, the Colombian telenovela upon which the US' Ugly Betty is based.  That is, "except this idea of the fish out of water, the unttractive girl working in a fashion environment.  And using the glasses and braces and dowdy wardrobe as props of ugliness.  Really I went on my own.  It was really just using the telenovela feel, the heightened, over-the-top [tone]."
  • So, Horta was asked:  will Betty and Daniel ever get together romantically?  In a word -- no.  In the show's pilot, he reveals, the ending had Betty walking away, and the two exchange looks.  But he changed his plan when "at a certain point as we were filming it, it became obvious that the chemistry was brother and sister and not romantic.  It was its own relationship, and it was something very special.  [Pairing them up] doesn't seem like the right thing to do."
  • And Field revealed some of her favorite places to shop for the characters' clothes:  a consignment shop in NYC called Ina; a vintage store on Orchard Street between Stanton and Rivington, called Frock, specializing in "'90s Dynasty clothes," she says; and of course, old standby Century 21.

Okay, here they come:
  • In an upcoming episode, Vanessa Williams and returning guest star Christine Baranski duet on "The Man That Got Away."
  • Last season, there was talk of a musical episode which never materialized.  Tonight, EP Horta revealed that the musical episode will indeed happen, at the end of next season, which is season 4.  "The entire cast can sing -- it's incredible," Horta bragged.
  • The show has already featured a huge host of famous guest stars, like Patti LuPone, Victoria Beckham, Tim Gunn, Lindsay Lohan and Salma Hayek (one of the show's producers.)  This year, in the season finale, expect to see Rachel Dratch -- playing twins.  Also coming up:  Tommy Hilfiger, Billie Jean King, Rachel Maddow, Adele, and Antonio Sabato, Jr., playing his hunky self.
  • Mode magazine will soon have a new boss, who will cause some problems for Claire and Wilhelmina.  And no, that's not Betty's boyfriend's father, played by David Rasche.  Yes, he'll be there, too -- but he's not the troublesome new big cheese.  So who is it?  "Whoever this person is, we've already met," Horta said teasingly.
  • According to Shaw, she's heard that baby William is about to be kidnapped.  Who would do such a thing? I don't know for a fact, but I personally believe that there are actually clues in tomorrow night's episode.
  • There's a wedding coming.  And we'll learn some secrets about Judith Light's character Claire, secrets which "will propel a lot of what will happen next year," Horta reveals. And add Christopher Gorham's character Henry to the list of returning characters.
  • Justin is about to start high school next year -- possibly a school for the performing arts.
  • And here's the biggest news of all:  next year, Betty gets promoted -- and finally gets her braces off!

Ugly Betty
Season 3 returns 4/30
Thursdays at 8 PM

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Speaking of Southland...

If you watched the show's premiere back on Thursday, April 9, you may have noticed -- or may have missed -- a hint at a defining trait for one of the show's main characters.

NBC has urged journalists to keep the story temporarily under wraps -- not because it's a "secret," but because the network would like the show to have a chance to play out the drama of this character's storyline unfettered.

But as I mentioned during my report on OutQ, you might want to go back and re-watch the final scene in that pilot episode, where Officer Cooper relaxes at a bar after a tough day.  Judging by the internet speculation I've read, some fans have already picked up on the storyline.  So go back, and watch closely, because the hint is, so far, subtle.

Better Off Ted returns next week

Fans of Better Off Ted, worry not:  even though it may not have aired tonight as originally scheduled, the show is not gone.  Not for at least one more week, anyway.

The laugh-out-loud comedy -- if you haven't found it yet, I urge you to catch it -- was due to air its sixth episode tonight, but was preempted by President Obama's press conference to mark his first 100 days in office.  (Wow, how I still love typing that phrase:  "President Obama!")

In fact, as is customary, ABC, CBS and NBC all set aside their regularly scheduled programming in tonight's 8PM hour in order to bring us the president's address.  But in a historic -- and troubling -- move, Fox opted not to use its place in the public trust to bring us the words of the leader of the free world, instead thinking we might be better served by an hour of Lie To Me (which really just sounds more like a speech from the previous administration.)

Anyway, the President's speech meant that Better Off Ted will now air its season (and hopefully not series) finale next week.  But it won't be on Wednesday night, which will be reserved for the Scrubs season (and hopefully series) finale.  So mark your calendars and set your DVRs, because next week, Better Off Ted airs on Tuesday night (5/5) instead, at 8:30 PM.

To promote the date and time change, the show's creator Victor Fresco has created a clever commercial parody, along the lines of the fake ads for evil megacorporation Veridian Dynamics which air as part of the show.  Check it out below:

And to learn more about Better Off Ted, listen to The Frank DeCaro Show on OutQ (Sirius satellite radio channel 109 or XM channel 98) tomorrow, Thursday, April 30, at 11AM Eastern/8AM Pacific, for an interview with Ted's delightfully funny female, Andrea Anders.  And to hear series creator Victor Fresco's interview about the show from Frank's show last week, click here.

And check out Better Off Ted.  I guarantee, you'll like it.  Everyone does -- except maybe President Obama?  Otherwise, why would he schedule an address that could harm a fledgling comedy?  Maybe Veridian Dynamics was a big campaign contributor.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Broadway to Dim Its Lights for Bea



(New York, NY)  April 28, 2009 -- The Broadway community mourns the loss of  Bea Arthur, who died on Saturday at age 86.

The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in her memory on Tuesday, April 28th, at exactly 8:00pm for one minute.

Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League, commented, “We are so fortunate that Bea Arthur’s portrayals of memorable roles graced our Broadway stages. With a career spanning so many forms of entertainment, there is no doubt she will be missed by all.”

Before she became an iconic Emmy®-Award winning television star, Bea Arthur received a Tony Award® for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 1966 for her performance as Angela Lansbury’s best friend Vera Charles in the original Broadway production of Jerry Herman’s musical Mame, directed by Gene Saks, her husband at that time.

Ms. Arthur’s Broadway career began in 1955 with the original musical Plain and Fancy and continued with roles in Seventh Heaven and Nature’s Way. Among her Broadway credits, she played Yente the Matchmaker in the 1964 premiere of Fiddler on the Roof and appeared in Woody Allen’s The Floating Lightbulb in 1981.

In 2002, she returned to Broadway starring in Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends, a collection of stories and songs based on her life and career. The show was nominated for a Tony Award® for Best Special Theatrical Event.

In a career spanning seven decades, the celebrated actress, comedienne, singer and writer became a television star as the title character, Maude Findlay, on the 1970's sitcom Maude, and as Dorothy Zbornak on the 1980's sitcom The Golden Girls. She won Emmy® Awards for both roles.

She is survived by two sons and two granddaughters.

#  #  #
The Broadway League, founded in 1930, is the national trade association for the Broadway industry.  The League’s 600-plus members include theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters, and general managers in over 240 North American cities, as well as suppliers of goods and services to the theatre industry. Each year, League members bring Broadway to nearly 30 million people in New York and on tour across the U.S. and Canada. Visit

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bea Arthur, 1922-2009

As I've been traveling today, as I will be tomorrow as well, I heard the terrible news about Bea Arthur's passing this morning.  I will always cherish the memory of the afternoon we spent together in research for my book on The Golden Girls.  And next week, when I have time to collect some thoughts, I'll share some more memories of this fabulous actress, singer, comedienne and charity activist we all came to think of as a Friend.

Friday, April 24, 2009

He's Not a Celebrity, Get Him Out of Here

Yes, proving that it is truly the network to plumb the depths of questionable taste, NBC just trotted out disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich as a cast member (but in an undecided and limited capacity and not on every episode, they said -- because a judge's recent ruling prevents him from traveling to Costa Rica with the show) of the upcoming I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

To his credit, Blagojevich said he doesn't consider himself a celebrity -- "it should be called a bunch of celebrities and a former governor."  He says he's participating as a way to earn a living and support his daughter, and is enjoying meeting the other celebs.  And in an interesting comparison, he compared himself to his former "second favorite governor," but now that he's out of office (and looking forward, he says, for the courts to find him innocent of all allegations of wrongdoing), his "favorite governor," Arnold Schwarzenegger.  But whereas Arnold started in bodybuilding and proceeded to office, Blagojevich is working it in reverse, going from the governor's mansion to life under NBC's big top.

Other announced cast members include Heidi Montag & Spencer Pratt (not in attendance today in Pasadena), Stephen Baldwin, Janice Dickinson, NBA star John Salley, American Idol's Sanjaya Malakar, and professional wrestler and beauty queen Torrie Wilson.

Greetings from NBC in Pasadena

This morning, on the heels of Jay Leno's surprise cancellation of his Thursday and Friday night editions of The Tonight Show this week, NBC presents a short, one-day press tour for TV critics.

Although the network has no presentation scheduled for Leno's new, Monday-Friday 10PM series -- they're concentrating on Southland, some reality crap, and some better cable fare like Law & Order:  Criminal Intent and an intriguing new Sci-Fi (sorry -- SyFy) series called Warehouse 13 -- you can bet that the question will come up, and soon.

Reports are now circulating that Leno's ailment is a simple case of food poisoning, and that he'll be back on Monday.  But the timing of his illness may turn out to be auspicious for network television.  You can bet that there are some execs over at the peacock network this morning second-guessing their plan to destroy the network -- er, subsume the 10 PM hour -- and risk it all on Jay Leno, who turns out to be mortal after all.  Let's hope that this means life for a few more drama pilots at the network -- if only as a plan B!

Speaking of Southland et al, more info coming on these new series...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Introducing... The Confirmed Bachelors

Introducing... Frank DeCaro of Sirius XM Radio and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in...

The Confirmed Bachelors!

RIP Guiding Light

Today, a sad and historic day in TV history:  after 72 years, including its radio days, TV's longest-running show of all time, Guiding Light, has been cancelled.

CBS made the announcement -- strangely, on April Fools' Day -- after months of speculation about the show's future.  GL -- as well as the daytime daypart overall -- had been suffering from declining ratings of late, and its reinvented "production model," which entailed shooting two days per week with handheld cameras in the real-life town of Peapack, NJ, had amassed as many detractors as it had fans.

Still, it's a shame that the show seems to be falling victim to the panic that has currently set in across all media.  No one seems to have any confidence in what they're doing anymore -- hence Jeff Zucker's recent pronouncement that he never again expects NBC to be #1 in prime time.  That's a pretty big concession and admission of defeat!

Soaps may not be as popular these days in the Nielsen ratings, but their buzzworthy moments, such as the Luke & Noah "Nuke" romance on As The World Turns, continue to attract viewers via new media such as youtube and on mobile devices.  Someday soon, daytime producers hope, Nielsen and the networks will figure out how to measure all these new forms of viewing, and will recognize their value.

Until then, it seems, we're all in for a bumpy ride courtesy of some short-sighted decision-making.  RIP, Guiding Light.