Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Supergirl and the Four-Timers' Club

It's Supergirl!
Coming soon to CBS
So much has been made in seasons past of mega-successful TV producers who juggle multiple shows on the air, and all the moving parts that must entail.  The feat is made all the more impressive when you note how producers like Dick Wolf and Shonda Rhimes preside over programs that also happen to be among the best in their genres.

Super-successful Shonda Rhimes
Next season, both producers will probably keep their records in tact, with four definite shows for Wolf (granddaddy Law & Order:  SVU plus Chicago Fire and its now two spinoffs, Chicago P.D. and the new Chicago Medical) and probably four for Rhimes (the grandmommy Grey's Anatomy, plus mega-hot Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder and ABC's likely pickup of a new drama, The Catch.)
Prolific producer Dick Wolf

But while those producers have sold their wares all to one network (Wolf at NBC, Rhimes at ABC, and, let's not forget that before this season's finale of Two and a Half Men, Chuck Lorre had four shows at CBS), undoubtedly leveraging one's popularity to gain pickup for another, yet another megasuccessful producer has emerged, with shows all over the broadcast dial.

Four-timer (and counting) Greg Berlanti
As of Fall 2015, Greg Berlanti will also have at least four shows on the air, with the CW's Arrow and The Flash, NBC's recently picked up suspenser Blindspot, and now CBS' announcement that it has picked up Supergirl to series.  Will NBC break the tie by maintaining a fifth Berlanti series on its airwaves, the on-the-bubble Mysteries of Laura, next season?  We'll find out this coming Monday, May 11, when all things peacock will be revealed.

In the meanwhile, news is just coming out today about Supergirl as CBS' first new series pickup.  That the story broke today is already an impressive feat, considering how secretive CBS normally is about its upfront news; in fact, journalists have nicknamed the secrecy surrounding the network's last-minute programming war room each May "Les Moonves' Cone of Silence."  But with a producer like Berlanti who has clout, he can ask for an early deadline for the decision.

Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist in the title role of Kara Danvers/Kara Zor-El, cousin of Superman; the show's pilot, written by Berlanti, Ali Adler and Andrew Kreisberg, starts with Kara at age 24, deciding to embrace her superhuman abilities and becoming a hero.  The impressive cast also contains Calista Flockhart, as Kara's tough boss, Cat Grant; Mehcad Brooks as love interest Jimmy Olsen; Chyler Leigh as Kara's doctor sister, Alex Danvers; David Harewood as supervillain Hank Henshaw aka Cyborg Superman; and Laura Benanti in a recurring role as Kara's birth mother, Alura Zor-El.  All that, plus the news that broke a few months back that this adaptation will bring back some faces familiar to Superman fans, with Helen Slater (big-screen Supergirl) and Dean Cain (Lois & Clark:  The New Adventures of Superman) cast in "secret roles."

No word yet from CBS as to whether the show will debut in Fall 2015, or "midseason" (even though CBS President Nina Tassler has officially banished that word), or in what time slot.  That news will come on Wednesday, May 13, as CBS rolls out its upfront presentation at New York's Carnegie Hall.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ed Sheeran tonight on Undateable LIVE

Well at least one of the cats is out of the bag, whether NBC wanted it that way or not.  (And it's a good one!)

As he announced today on Twitter, Ed Sheeran is among the high-wattage guests joining tonight's live episode of Undateable.  The Detroit-set sitcom is a great show you may not yet be watching -- so check it out tonight, live from 9-10 PM Eastern and Pacific.

randomly, i'm gonna be on tonight for my dude , should be fun, tune in. lots of fun to be had

Monday, May 4, 2015

In tribute to Ellen Albertini Dow, 1913-2015

Ellen Albertini Dow, then 85, performs
The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight"
in the 1998 film The Wedding Singer
In the spring of 2006, as I was researching my book on The Golden Girls, I was lucky to get the chance to have lunch with Ellen Albertini Dow, a frequent guest star on the show but perhaps best known to the world as the "Rapping Granny" in Adam Sandler's 1998 film The Wedding Singer.

Ellen, who died earlier today at age 101, had an extraordinary life, from her beginnings as the daughter of immigrant Italian parents in Mt. Carmel, PA, through her Ivy League education at Cornell University, her long and loving marriage to fellow actor Eugene Dow, an early vocation in New York and Los Angeles as an esteemed acting teacher, and finally, beginning only in her 70s, a successful career in TV and film.

At 92, Ellen drove herself that day in her zippy little car to Cable's Restaurant in Woodland Hills, where she was clearly a regular presence and favorite customer.  We talked about The Golden Girls and so much more, and she shared with me the behind-the-scenes story of just how she came to perform the Wedding rap for which she'll always be beloved.

My husband Gene went with me to the auditions for The Wedding Singer, way up in Chatsworth, on a beautiful, sunny day.  I had already done Sister Act 1 and 2, and I study and read music.  Gene and I had prepared the song "'Til There Was You," and so when they asked me to sing I was ready.  I sang it without accompaniment, and they loved it.  They said, "We have to have you come back tomorrow and read with Adam Sandler."
Adam and the director Frank Coraci had gone to NYU together, and they were like two teenagers when they were together, laughing and cutting up.  They were funny, but actually they annoyed me when I was first there, because I was trying to concentrate on my song.  For a while at first, we would rehearse scenes, and I would always just be singing "'Til There Was You."  But then, one day, they said "We have an idea."
They hadn't thought of it at the beginning, but now they started wondering if it would be funny to have an older woman perform a rap song.  Well, I had never heard of rap!  I had no idea what it was.  I'm not sure, but I think I remember they gave me a cassette tape beforehand of this song, and set up a date to go to a sound studio on Santa Monica Boulevard to record it.  Well, thank God for Sister Act, and for Marc Shaiman, whom I adore,  because now I had experience in the sound booth.  
There I was with the headphones on, and they start playing "the hip, hip a hop, and you don't stop, a rock it."  Frank and Adam were there, going over it with me.  Well, rhythm isn't something that bothers me, because I've danced all my life.  So I asked the guys, "May I move to it?"  And once I got started, they couldn't believe it.  My husband was up in the booth, and he told me later they came over to him and said, "Can you believe this?  She's getting it right!"  My husband knew I would, and just acted really cool about it.    The next day, we did a table read of the script, and I hadn't realized that I'd amazed them.  But Adam Sandler announced to everyone, "Ellen got it!"  I remember everyone laughing and applauding.
When we shot the scene, I didn't want to lip synch.  So I performed the whole song again, even though I'd already recorded it.  There was something about these people, and about Adam who was so very very nice to me, that made me feel comfortable.  So even though this was a whole new thing for me, I asked them if I could do some little movements I'd worked out to go with certain lyrics.  And it just worked.
"Rapper's Delight" was so different for me, and I still don't know any other song of rap, or know anything about any other rapper.  But the song has stayed with me.  "And I'd like to say hello, to the black, the white, the red and the brown, the purple and yellow."  I still sing it often, if I need a little lift.

-- Ellen Albertini Dow, March 15, 2006 

Live and "Undateable," Tuesday night on NBC

The cast of Undateable, l-r:
 Ron Funches, Rick Glassman, Bridgit Mendler,
Brent Morin, Chris D'Elia, David Fynn, Bianca Kajlich
If you haven't yet caught on to Undateable, NBC's hip revitalization of the classic multi-camera sitcom, Tuesday, May 5 is your night.

The show's executive producer Bill Lawrence has long been an impresario when it comes to promoting his shows -- this is the guy who took his Cougar Town cast to bars across the USA, and his Undateable actors, most of whom are stand-ups, on a nationwide tour of comedy clubs.

Lawrence and the latter show's creator Adam Sztykiel have bent the sitcom form on-screen as well, allowing their Undateable actors to improv lines and physical bits, many of which end up in the episodes' final cuts.

Now, the innovations continue, as Undateable joins only a handful of sitcoms to broadcast live; the show is now in illustrious company, with such greats as 30 Rock, Will & Grace and Hot in Cleveland. (In a format similar to 30 Rock or W&G's live broadcasts, Undateable will air live at 9PM, in two separate versions for the East and West coasts.)

But Undateable's live episode is noteworthy in one other respect:  the show will be an hour long and therefore, as Lawrence and Sztykiel promise, full of surprises and special guests.

Undateable creator Adam Sztykiel (r)
with stars Ron Funches and Rick Glassman
Joining series regulars Brent Morin (Justin), Chris D'Elia (Danny), Bianca Kajlich (Leslie), Rick Glassman (Bursky), Ron Funches (Shelly), David Fynn (Brett) and Bridgit Mendler (Candace) will be a troupe of Lawrence loyalists -- such as his wife and Cougar Town star Christa Miller and Scrubs stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison --as well as Kate Walsh, Victoria Justice and even Dr. Drew Pinsky.  And then, mixing into this super-sized musical episode set during a musical competition in Detroit's Black Eyes Bar, there will be at least one surprise guest whom the network will tease only as a "super-popular Grammy Award-nominated musician."

Lawrence describes the live episode as "half scripted sitcom, half variety show." Though he compliments earlier shows on their own live installments, he notes that "this will not feel in the same vein as theirs did."

Undateable's regular tapings already have an anything-can-happen feel, he explains, with actors going off on long, unscripted tangents or even calling out audience members who think they can better perform a given bit.  The show's May 5 episode will have more of the same craziness.  "NBC, and [its president] Bob Greenblatt love live television -- they did The Sound of Music and Peter Pan.  And they love this cast.  But what they don't realize is, these are all people who take great pleasure in making each other fuck up.  When you critics aren't here, Chris D'Elia is taunting Brent, 'I'm going to make you laugh, make you forget your lines, and make you look like an idiot.'  So this is going to be torture, but I'm very excited about it."

Undateable EP Bill Lawrence
For Tuesday's episode, NBC has been wise to add a 6- to 8-second tape delay to the broadcast, to accommodate a cast quite fond of four-letter words.  But other than that concern, the network seems quite on board with the broadcast -- and by extension, all of Undateable, which after One Big Happy's season finale last week now stands as the sole comedy on NBC.  Both shows await news of their renewal or cancellation, which will be delivered at NBC's upfront presentation on May 11.  If the news coming out of New York's Radio City Music Hall that day is good, it'll be partially due to Lawrence and Sztykiel's careful cultivation of their audience, which they see as a necessity for comedies to survive on network TV these days.

"I don't know what to do to get noticed anymore," Lawrence says, "but I certainly do like trying to push the envelope [in promoting the shows]."  With Undateable's live episode, "people will either dig it, or think that it's insane.  But if I'm going to roll the dice with these clowns," he adds, gesturing towards his cast spread around the room, "I'd rather take a big shot than just do what people have done before."

Live episode Tuesday, May 5
9PM Eastern and Pacific