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


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


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

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
Sirius 109 / XM 98