Friday, August 18, 2017

Final Episodes of Episodes

Matt LeBlanc at Episodes season 5
premiere screening, Paley Center for Media
Beverly Hills, CA, August 16, 2017
Photo by Imeh Bryant /
 The Paley Center for Media
This Sunday, August 20, Showtime's brilliant comedy Episodes returns for its fifth and final season, of seven...well, episodes.  And having seen the screening of the first two installments of the season at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills the other night, I can tell you the show is back in fine form.  (In fact, while episode 1 was very, very funny, episode 2 is one of the series' best, right on par with the revelation of the "artwork" in Merc's blind ex-wife's living room.  Episode 2 was so screamingly funny that I actually missed some lines, drowned out by audience laughter, and will have to watch again.)

We pick up season 5 right where the season 4 left off:  Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) are stuck working for their odious former assistant Tim (Bruce Mackinnon), who is now the showrunner on the new series he and Sean once came up with together.  Matt LeBlanc is hosting a cheesy game show for his old network, uneasily working with its producer, his nemesis Merc (John Pankow).  Having been fired after her affair with her boss Helen (Andrea Savage), Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) is wallowing in seclusion at home.  And Morning?  (Mircea Monroe)  We don't know where she is yet -- but as Episodes' creator/writer/producers David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik revealed that night, she returns in episode 3.

Episodes creators/writers/producers
Jeffrey Klarik (l) and David Crane
Paley Center for Media, Beverly Hills
August 16, 2017
Photo by Imeh Bryant /
 The Paley Center for Media
As Crane and Klarik long ago revealed, they had the idea for their show years ago, after a bad experience working with CBS on their underappreciated sitcom The Class.  While they were pitching their show to the BBC, they deliberately set it in Hollywood, thinking -- wrongly, it turns out -- that they'd have to shoot it in L.A.  But ironically, the budget said otherwise.  And even with the injection of funds from partnering with Showtime, the producers found themselves recreating the look of L.A. in London, and living in the U.K. for up to six months to produce each season.  (Limited exterior shooting, plus post-production, is then done in real-life Los Angeles.)

For Sean and Beverly's show-within-the-show, Klarik and Crane -- partners in both writing and life -- wanted to take a smart, prototypical British setting, and dumb it down the way an American network might.  So they started with History Boys -- and then Klarik had an epiphany:  "Hockey!"  Having co-created and -produced all those seasons of Friends, Crane knew just who to approach to play a teacher as far as one can get from British propriety:  Matt LeBlanc.  (When that was revealed on the panel following Wednesday night's screening, LeBlanc feigned insult.  But both writers also revealed that had LeBlanc said no, they would have opted not to proceed with Episodes.  Well, Klarik joked, "maybe with David Schwimmer.")
Episodes panel at The Paley Center for Media, August 16, 2017:
l-r, creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, stars Mircea Monroe,
Kathleen Rose Perkins and Matt LeBlanc,
 moderator Jarett Wieselman of Buzzfeed News
Episodes cast and creators
The Paley Center for Media, Beverly Hills
August 16, 2017
Photo by Imeh Bryant /
 The Paley Center for Media

Other burning questions arose on the panel, such as Morning's real age (even Klarik and Crane don't know, and we love it that way); Myra's constipated noises (which actress Daisy Haggard performs brilliantly, and which Klarik sweetens even more with his own whines in post-production); and Carol's attraction to authority figures, whether they be male or female (a plot point which Perkins says she was told as far back as season 1, and couldn't wait to play.)  And while fans have speculated for seasons now whether the characters of Merc, Carol, Myra, Andy (Joseph May) and others might correlate to any real-life network execs, Crane and Klarik do admit that two characters, Sean and Beverly, are directly modeled on real people -- namely, them.

"I'm like Sean, thinking the glass is half-full," Crane says.  Then, pointing to Klarik, he adds, "And he thinks the glass is an idiot."

David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik on Episodes panel
The Paley Center for Media, Beverly Hills
August 16, 2017

Episodes returns to Showtime Sunday, August 20 at 10 PM Eastern/Pacific

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dear Will and Grace

The cast of Will & Grace with its
episode 2 guest star, l-r:
Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally,
Ben Platt, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes
Photo by Chris Haston, NBC
Amid the excitement about not just the reboot of Will & Grace, but the announcement -- before an episode had even been shot -- that the show has been picked up for a 13-episode second season, now comes word that the show has booked the star of Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen, Ben Platt, fresh off his Tony win for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical.

Will & Grace taped its first episode this past Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning, the cast convened for a "table read" of episode two.  That's when the cast took a beaming photo with guest star Platt, and tweeted out the news to fans.

NBC sent out the following press release as well, with news about the show and episode, which will air Thursday, October 5 at 9PM Eastern/Pacific.:

The cast of “Will & Grace” announced Ben Platt’s guest starring appearance below:
Will & Grace: McCormack: Hayes: 
ABOUT BEN PLATTPlatt won a Tony Award earlier this year for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for his role in “Dear Evan Hansen,” which captured the Tony for Best Musical.  “Dear Evan Hansen” was a huge winner at the Tonys and won six awards in all.  In addition to taking home the Tony, Ben also won the Drama League Award for distinguished Performance making him the youngest actor to have won the coveted award.  Ben was awarded an Obie and Lucille Lortel Award as well as  nominations for Outer Critics Circle and Drama League awards for his performance in the Off Broadway run.  Prior to his award winning turn as Evan Hansen, Platt made his Broadway debut in  the musical, “The Book of Mormon.” On the big screen, Platt has co-starred in both “Pitch Perfect” and “Pitch Perfect 2” as well as “Ricki and the Flash”, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” and the soon to be released “Drunk Parents.”
ABOUT “WILL & GRACE”A decade after their unforgettable eight-season run, Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally reprise their infamous roles in “Will & Grace” in a 16-episode event. In addition, at NBC’s recent Television Critics Assn. day, the network also ordered a 13-episode second season.  The legendary James Burrows, director of every original “Will & Grace” episode, returns along with a slew of razor-sharp jabs and dirty martinis. Behold once again, from the minds of Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, TV’s wittiest ensemble ever.  Max Mutchnick and David Kohan will write and executive produce. Tim Kaiser, Alex Herschlag, Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally also executive produce. James Burrows will direct and executive produce. “Will & Grace” is produced by Universal Television.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Andy Cohen's Love Connection renewed for season 2 on Fox

It had been decades since the original Love Connection had aired in original syndication, and I admit that when I first heard that Fox would be reviving the series for a run this summer, I was skeptical it would work.

For one thing, ever since the show's original host, Chuck Woolery, took to twitter and other social media, his horrible, right-wing politics have come to the fore.  And so my memories of Love Connection had become tainted.

But then Fox announced that the show's new host and executive producer would be Andy Cohen, whose charm and style have launched not only his talk show Watch What Happens Live! on Bravo but now a burgeoning empire that includes Sirius XM's Radio Andy and his several hit volumes of published memoirs.  And in just the show's short first-season run, some other welcomed changes have become apparent; for the first time this summer, Love Connection featured a same-sex couple.

This morning, Fox announced its pickup of Love Connection for a second season, with no timeframe or air dates yet revealed.  Details below:


Andy Cohen Returns as Host and Co-Executive Producer

An All-New Episode Airs Tonight at 9/8c on FOX

LOVE CONNECTION has been renewed for a second season, it was announced today by Rob Wade, President, Alternative Entertainment and Specials, Fox Broadcasting Company. Andy Cohen will return as host and co-executive producer for Season Two, along with executive producer Mike Fleiss (“The Bachelor”).

“Andy Cohen is a phenomenal host, not only because he has brought so much fun to the show but also because he truly wants these participants to find love, and that genuine level of interest enables him to elicit both touching and hilariously awkward dating moments from them,” said Wade. “I’d also like to thank Mike Darnell and Mike Fleiss, who, along with Andy, have helped redefine this show.”

"This show fits like a glove and I can't wait to make more love connections," said Cohen.

“We are excited for a second season of LOVE CONNECTION,” said Mike Darnell President, Warner Bros. Unscripted & Alternative Television. “Andy Cohen is a natural provocateur and is beloved by so many for his uncanny ability to bring out the most revealing details about the couples and their dates.” 

In tonight’s all-new episode of LOVE CONNECTION, “Devilish in a Blue Dress,” airing at 9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT, singles Adam Menchaca and Casey Tatum dish the dirt on some of the best, worst and awkward moments of their dates in front of host Andy Cohen and the live studio audience. Alex recounts a match who led him on a cemetery outing, while Casey reveals what happened when her date got a little too drunk.

The revival of the dating show sends hopeful singles on three dates in order to ditch the apps and find true love. Each hour of LOVE CONNECTION features single men and/or women in search of romance. They tell Cohen exactly what they're looking for in a partner and why they've found it so hard to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right.

LOVE CONNECTION is produced by Warner Horizon Unscripted & Alternative Television and NEXT Entertainment in association with Telepictures Productions. Mike Fleiss, Martin Hilton, James Breen and Jason Ehrlich serve as executive producers. Andy Cohen serves as a co-executive producer. “Like” LOVE CONNECTION on Facebook at Follow the series on Twitter @loveconnection and join the discussion using #LoveConnection.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Will & Grace already renewed -- but minus one key character

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti proclaims
August 2, 2017 "Will & Grace Day"
at Universal Studios Hollywood.
l-r, NBC president Bob Greenblatt,
L.A. mayor Garcetti, W&G creators
Max Mutchnick and David Kohan,
stars Eric McCormack, Debra Messing,
Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes, and
director Jimmy Burrows.
Photo by Chris Haston/NBC
At today's panel for the revival of Will & Grace at the Television Critics of America (TCA) convention in Beverly Hills, things started with a bang -- the announcement that not only has the episode order for season 1 been increased to 16 (from the original 10, then 12), but the show has already been renewed for a second season.

Ever since the announcement of the revival -- and even before, with the debut of the #VoteHoney video that the cast members and producers made to get out the vote last fall -- Will & Grace has been drawing major buzz.  Yesterday, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti attended the inauguration of the show's new stage 22 at Universal Studios, accompanied by the cast, fanfare and confetti.

The show's producers have stated that they intend to work around the original W&G series finale -- by pretending it didn't ever happen.  Other than that, they were mum on most details, including the returns of recurring characters, guest stars, etc.  Could Cher appear?  Maybe, but it's not set up yet.  Harry Connick, Jr.'s Leo, they confirmed, will be back. Leslie Jordan's Beverley Leslie?  Others?  Talks are ongoing.

But the one piece of bad news I received personally after the panel:  despite appearing in the VoteHoney video, Shelley Morrison has decided to retire, and will not be reprising her character of Rosario at all on the series.  "It's a Larry Bird type of retirement, not a Michael Jordan retirement," David said -- completely confusing fans like me, but I'm sure that analogy makes sense to straight fans out there.  :)  (I'm told it means that Shelley's retirement is complete, and she really can't be persuaded to return.)

Will & Grace's now 16-episode 1st season debuts on NBC on Thursday, September 28.