Tuesday, October 9, 2018

An Evening with Sunday Morning, a Night with CBS Sports

The stage is set for "An Evening with CBS Sunday Morning"
October 1, 2018, Town Hall, New York City
In 2014, Netflix reconstructed Friends' Central Perk coffeehouse in Manhattan's East Village.  The following year, Hulu recreated Seinfeld's Monk's Diner on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood.  And this past spring, PBS brought Downton Abbey to life in the 21st Century, with an exhibition of props and memorabilia that has toured from Manhattan's 57th Street to its upcoming next stop in Florida's West Palm Beach (opens November 10.)

Jane Pauley interviews The Front Runner director
Jason Reitman (l) and star Hugh Jackman
Town Hall, NYC, October 1, 2018
Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS
Now CBS is the latest network to get in on the action -- and it has created a whole new division to do so.  With TV audiences becoming ever more fragmented, one of the best ways to bond with viewers -- and in some cases, start a new stream of revenue -- is via "interactive television," giving audiences a chance to experience aspects of their favorite shows live and in person.

On October 1, CBS Experiences (or CBSX) debuted its first presentation, a live version of its well-heeled newsmagazine CBS Sunday Morning at Manhattan's Town Hall.  "An Evening with CBS Sunday Morning" was hosted by some of the morning show's famous correspondents, and featured interviews with the likes of the director and star of the upcoming film The Front Runner, Jason Reitman and Hugh Jackman; the cast of Murphy Brown; subjects from favorite past stories such as Georgia widower Dan Peterson and Norah Wood, the little girl who asked to hug him in the supermarket; plus live performances by Late Show with Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste, David Yazbek of the Broadway show The Band's Visit, David Brown's The Harmony Project, and more.

The cast of Murphy Brown (l-r, Grant Shaud, Joe Regalbuto,
Faith Ford, Candice Bergen) with Lee Cowan
NYC's Town Hall
October 1, 2018
Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS

Next up, CBSX tackles an even bigger demographic, putting together a program for sports fans called "CBS Sports Friday Night Tailgate."  Featuring the networks' famed sportscasters Phil Simms, James Brown, Bill Cowher, Nate Burleson and Boomer Esiason, plus gourmet "tailgate food" from Bareburger, Mighty Quinn's barbecue, Tao and more, the program will take place at Times Square's PlayStation Theater on Friday, November 9 at 7 PM Eastern. (Click for more info.)

Stay tuned for more announcements of unique CBSX experiences, which I hear are planned thru 2019 and beyond.

Musician David Krauss kicks off the evening
with a performance of the CBS Sunday Morning theme
"Ablassen," by Gottfried Rieche.
October 1, 2018, Town Hall, New York City
Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS

Correspondent Mo Rocca introduces his fellow CBS Sunday Morning Journalists
October 1, 2018
Town Hall, New York City
Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS

CBS Sunday Morning correspondents:
(l-r), Tracy Smith, Lee Cowan, Rita Braver,
Martha Teichner, producer Rand Morrison,
Jane Pauley and Mo Rocca
Town Hall, NYC, October 1, 2018
Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert's Jon Batiste
performs at Town Hall, NYC,
October 1, 2018
Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS

A performance by The Harmony Project, led by David Brown
 From left: Candace Haynes, Nicole Jie, Sybil Scoby, Joshuah Campbell,
 Jamie Leonhart, Damaras Obi and Chanté Odom.
Town Hall, NYC, October 1, 2018
Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS

Charles Osgood, host of CBS Sunday Morning from 1994-2016,
waves to the crowd at NYC's Town Hall,
October 1, 2018.
Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Last Chance to Join Will & Grace on Set

Since the start of the series' "reboot," the producers of Will & Grace have been doing something extraordinary, partnering with a different charity each week and providing a pair of tickets to the show's taping, complete with VIP access.

For the taping on September 26, the show joins with the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBTQ advocacy group, providing not just tickets to the show and a tour of the iconic sets, but also round-trip airfare to Los Angeles and a two-night stay at the super-luxe new Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Beverly Hills.

Each $10 donation to HRC buys an entry into the ticket drawing, and all entries must be completed by 11:59 PM tomorrow, Monday September 10.  Good luck!

Info below:

I'll keep this brief, James —
Next Monday is your LAST CHANCE to win a trip to Los Angeles for you and a guest to attend the taping of “Will & Grace”! Donate $10 before 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, September 10th and be entered to win before it’s too late.
Your chances of attending the taping of “Will & Grace” in LA just DOUBLED – we now have two sets of tickets to the September 26th taping with hotel and flights on us!
And remember, you can enter more than once – each $10 you donate gets you another chance to win. But hurry, we’re closing entry Monday at 11:59 p.m. ET!
James, if attending the taping of NBC’s hit show wasn’t exciting enough, the two winners also receive:
  • A tour of the iconic set
  • Round trip airfare for you and a friend
  • A two-night stay at the new Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, an urban oasis in one of the world's most glamorous cities
Even if you aren’t selected, you’ll still be helping Will, Grace and rest of the beloved cast and crew promote LGBTQ acceptance. Your donation also invests directly in HRC’s work to protect our civil rights and to secure equality for all. So can we count you in?
Good luck,

Zack Hasychak
Deputy Director of Membership Outreach
P.S. The more times you contribute $10 by 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, the more times you’ll be entered for a chance to win. Boost your chances of winning ASAP.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Born This Way Continues to Unite and Uplift

The Housewives certainly have their place.  But if, like me, you're also looking for something a little bit kinder and more uplifting in your reality TV, check out tomorrow night's season 4 premiere of A&E's groundbreaking series Born This Way.

Born This Way is the continuing story of seven adults living with Down Syndrome as they strive for more independence, career success (cast member Megan Bomgaars is the force behind a fashion collection, Megology) -- and in this season, marital bliss.

The show debuted in 2015, and has been an important force in changing public perception of people with disabilities, and what they can achieve if given the chance.  Cast member Elena Ashmore's mom, Hiromi, told me how much the show has helped Elena grow in her understanding that "Down Syndrome" need not be a label used to hold her back, and has helped the two of them grow closer together.  And this series has had a powerful effect in depicting people with disabilities not only in the U.S., but as Hiromi reminded me, around the world as well.  When Born This Way showed their visit to their native Japan last season, Hiromi was pleased to see how that country's attitudes about disability have also improved.

Today, A&E Networks, in association with the fantastic group Best Buddies International, threw a wedding-themed premiere event at Catch restaurant in West Hollywood, to celebrate the union of cast member Cristina Sanz with her new husband Angel. Celebrities such as Maureen McCormick and Kelly Hu, each with a personal connection to intellectual disability, came out to help celebrate.  And as part of the festivities, A&E has posted a "registry" for Cristina and Angel, allowing fans to donate to one of several related charities.

Kelly Hu (top, center) with Born This Way cast members (l-r)
John Tucker, Megan Bomgaars, Angel, Cristina Sanz, Rachel Osterbach,
Elena Ashmore, Sean McElwee, and Steven Clark.)

Maureen McCormick with the Born This Way cast

Cast members Angel (center) and Cristina Sanz (right) with
Born This Way executive producer Laura Korkoian

Born This Way has shown us Cristina and Angel's relationship as it began and as it progressed, and now season 4 will conclude on September 5 with the episode showing their wedding.  As one A&E executive told me, it's such an emotional episode, be prepared to cry. 

Congratulations to newlyweds Cristina and Angel!

Born This Way
Season 4 debuts Wednesday, August 15, 2018
8 PM - 10 PM Eastern/Pacific (two episodes)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Marvelous Campaign

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's instagram
post from earlier today, depicting its
FYC "MARVELOUS" installation
at Glendale's The Americana at Brand
shopping center.
Despite assertions to the contrary, life in Los Angeles is indeed measured in seasons -- awards season, pilot season, staffing season, and in the past few years, an ever growing "For Your Consideration" season, during which just about every show on peak TV throws a celebration of itself, in hopes of reeling in an Emmy nomination.

Most of these events consist of a panel discussion, followed by some sort of cocktail party.  And while they're a great way for both journalists and fans of a show to get a fun glimpse behind the scenes, these soirees do all tend to blend together come nomination time.

Occasionally some shows cut through the clutter by doing something a bit different, as in the case of the fabulous Amazon Prime show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  Yes, Mrs. Maisel creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, plus actors Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Marin Hinkle, Tony Shalhoub and Michael Zegen already participated in a panel at Amazon Studios' temporary exhibition at the Hollywood Athletic Club this spring.  But the show is just beginning another campaign, drawing attention not just itself but to some deserving female-run enterprises as well.

As announced today, Amazon Studios has selected eleven "women-led companies, individuals with a voice, and those who continue to usher in change and progress" as honorees.  In front of each place of business in New York and Los Angeles, Amazon will be erecting, starting today and lasting for one week, an installation of letters spelling out "MARVELOUS," in reference to the series' trailblazing stand up comic and heroine.

I devoured the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and am excited that production on the series' second season is currently underway in New York.  But I'm even more excited that among the honorees is Lizz Winstead, the co-creator of The Daily Show, the founder of Lady Parts Justice League (advocating for and safeguarding women's reproductive rights), and the officiant at my wedding in 2011.  Hopefully, this recognition will put a spotlight on women like Lizz, doing amazing work, and empower them to keep up the fight.

Lizz, by the way, kicks off her 2018 "Vagical Mystery Tour" tonight in Bethlehem, PA, and will continue to six more cities through early August.  Check out the Vagical Mystery Tour schedule here.

Below, Amazon's official announcement: 


Eleven sets of eight-foot-tall “Marvelous” block letters are being installed across Los Angeles and New York to celebrate women-led companies, individuals with a voice, and those who continue to usher in change and progress

SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 12, 2018 – Amazon Prime Video today announced it is launching a unique Emmy FYC campaign for the series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel celebrating empowering and inspiring individuals. Starting today and lasting for one week in Los Angeles and New York, Amazon is installing eleven sets of “Marvelous” eight-foot-tall block letters in front of businesses that are founded and led by women, as well as locations where individuals are driving positive change in the world. These illuminated installations are a recognition of the honorees’ achievements and their innovative businesses. They celebrate women with a voice and those who are leading change and progress. 

“The character Midge Maisel is a strong, talented woman who strikes out on her own to forge a new path, and in the spirit of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, we are excited to shine a light on other fantastic, entrepreneurial women,” said Mike Benson, Head of Marketing, Amazon Studios. “We hope that this campaign will inspire others to find their unique voice.”

Fans of the series are encouraged to take photos with the letters and join the conversation on social media by using the #Marvelous and tagging @MaiselTV across all social media platforms. Not only can they share the unique things that make them feel “Marvelous,” but they can also nominate another person in their lives who they feel embodies what it means to be marvelous as well.

The women being honored include:  

  • Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, co-Founders and co-CEOs of theSkimm – Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin are the co-Founders and co-CEOs of theSkimm, a membership company that makes it easier for millions of female millennials to live smarter
  • Whitney Wolfe Herd, Founder of Bumble – In 2014, Whitney Wolfe Herd founded Bumble - where women make the first move - in order to challenge the antiquated rules of dating. Now, that idea has expanded into BumbleBFF and BumbleBizz. Bumble users can connect with confidence whether in dating, networking, or meeting friends online. Bumble prioritizes kindness and respect, providing a safe online community for users to build new relationships. In just over three and a half years, Bumble has 33 million registered users, who have made 561 million first moves and over 165 billion swipes! 
  • Katie Rosen Kitchens, Founder of FabFitFun – Katie Rosen Kitchens has led the evolution of FabFitFun as a leading female-focused media brand, curating fresh and exciting products for FabFitFun members and overseeing all brand partnerships and product development 
  • Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code – Reshma Saujani is the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, the nonprofit dedicated to closing the gender gap in tech that has already reached 90,000 girls of all backgrounds in all 50 states
  • Payal Kadakia, Founder of ClassPass – Payal Kadakia is the Founder and Executive Chairman of ClassPass, the leading membership to the world’s largest fitness network with over 9,000 partners in 50 cities worldwide
  • Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne, James Beard Foundation award-winning Chef and Restaurateur – Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne are founders and owners of The Lucques Group, a Los Angeles hospitality company that comprises three fine dining restaurants – Lucques, a.o.c., and Tavern – and four marketplace restaurants – The Larder at Maple DriveThe Larder at Burton Way, The Larder at Tavern and The Larder at Tavern at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Along with these culinary enterprises, the company also operates Lucques Catering, the Larder Baking Company and comprehensive food and beverage services for the Hollywood Bowl
  • Florence Shin and Athina Wang, Founders of Covry – Florence Shin and Athina Wang are the founders of Covry, an eyewear company embracing and celebrating diversity. Their innovative approach to comfortable eyewear goes beyond the standard fit by catering to diverse face shapes
  • Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson, co-Founders of The Kind Campaign – Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson, co-Founders of The Kind Campaign, are the internationally recognized nonprofit that brings awareness and healing to the negative effects of girl-against-girl bullying 
  • Lizz Winstead, Founder of Lady Parts Justice League and co-Creator of The Daily Show – As co-creator of The Daily Show and co-founder of Air America Radio, Lizz Winstead has helped changed the very landscape of how people get their news. Known as one of the top political satirists in America, Winstead was recognized in Entertainment Weekly’s “100 Most Creative People” issue. Lizz currently spends her time at the helm of Lady Parts Justice League (LPJL), a comedy-driven reproductive rights organization she founded
  • Cecile Richards, Former president of Planned Parenthood and author of Make Trouble – Cecile Richards is a national leader for women’s rights and economic justice, and a lifelong activist

Amazon will have the “Marvelous” block letters in the following locations:
  • Westfield Century City
  • The Grove
  • The Americana at Brand
  • 9200 Sunset Blvd.  
  • Santa Monica Pier 
  • The Four Ladies of Hollywood Statue adjacent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • 8500’s The Larder at Burton Way (Caruso’s luxury residential landmark which is also at 8500 Burton Way at the intersection of La Cienega will be turning its iconic cloud light pink for the campaign)
  • FabFitFun Offices
  • Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center 
  • Time Warner Center 
  • 10th Ave. and 33rd St. in New York City

About The Marvelous Mrs. MaiselThe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel from renowned creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) and Executive Producer Daniel Palladino (Family Guy), written and directed by Sherman-Palladino and Palladino, stars Golden Globe winner Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1958 New York City woman who has everything she’s ever wanted—the perfect husband, two kids, and an elegant Upper West Side apartment perfect for hosting Yom Kippur dinner. But her perfect life suddenly takes an unexpected turn and Midge discovers a previously unknown talent—one that changes her life forever. 

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel also stars Golden Globe winner and three-time Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub (Monk) as Midge’s father Abe Weissman, Alex Borstein (Family Guy) as Susie Myerson, Michael Zegen (Boardwalk Empire) as Midge’s husband Joel Maisel and Marin Hinkle (Two and a Half Men) as Midge’s mother Rose Weissman.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the winner of two Golden Globes (Best TV Series, Comedy and Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy (Rachel Brosnahan)), two Critics’ Choice Awards (Best Comedy Series and Best Actress in a Comedy Series (Rachel Brosnahan), a 2018 Peabody Award, a PGA Award (Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy), and was nominated by the DGA and Costume Designers’ Guild.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sex and the City is almost old enough to drink a cosmo

With much fanfare this morning, Sex and the City is celebrating the 20th anniversary since its debut on HBO in 1998.

Popping up around the web have been stories about the show's place in the late '90s zeitgeist -- and critiques of how episodes don't hold up to our current standards when it comes to LGBT and other minority depictions -- plus click-through galleries of Sarah Jessica Parker's best and worst Carrie Bradshaw fashions.  A blog at cabletv.com has compiled a list of dozens of New York eateries patronized by the fab foursome of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha.

But for me, the best way to reminisce about Sex -- and its huge impact on pop culture, on depictions of women on TV, and even on the world's view of New York (sorely needed after the crisis of 9/11) is via a brand-new book published today, Sex and the City and Us, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.

The author of two other fabulous TV behind-the-scenes companions -- Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted (2013) and Seinfeldia (2017) -- Armstrong takes the reader step-by-step through Candace Bushnell's early years in New York, the origins and evolution of her Sex and the City column, and the development of that material with producer Darren Star into a new half-hour comedy for HBO.  From there, we go behind-the-scenes to learn how characters and storylines were conceived, and how everything changed once the show blossomed into a mega-hit.

Armstrong doesn't shy away from criticisms of the show as well, pointing out places where its conceits haven't quite aged as well as one would like.  And yes, there is mention and some explanation of the Parker-Cattrall "feud," the back-and-forths of which, as the planned Sex and the City 3 feature film met its premature demise, were only becoming public as the book went to print.

Personally, I'm still hoping all differences will be ironed out and SATC3 will eventually happen -- I guess that makes me an optimistic Charlotte.  Yes, some of those over-the-top Sex and the City 2 Dubai moments were more cringeworthy than fun -- oy, those outfits as they walked the desert dunes! -- but one of the things we've always loved about Carrie is her willingness to take chances, including with her fashions.  I, for one, would never have advised wearing a tutu on the Manhattan streets -- especially if there's a chance you'll be splashed by a bus (with your face on it) -- but Carrie somehow made it work.

Yes, some of Carrie's voiceovers or Samantha's double-entendres may no longer seem exactly cutting edge.  But twenty years ago today, Sex and the City was a show that changed the way single women were perceived, and perceived themselves.  It brought whole new glamour to their world, and to New York as a whole.  So let's sit back, binge-watch, and follow along in Armstrong's fabulous new book.  Because after all, as with pizza, even imperfect Sex is better than no Sex at all.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Designing Women Reboot? If so, Annie Potts Wants In

PaleyFest's Young Sheldon panelists:
(back, l-r) creators Chuck Lorre and
Steve Molaro, moderator Jessica Radloff,
stars Montana Jordan, Annie Potts,
Zoe Perry, Lance Barber and
Jim Parsons, and (front)
Iain Armitage and Raegan Revord
March 21, 2018, The Dolby Theater, Hollywood
Photo by Michael Bulbenko for the Paley Center
Last night at Hollywood's Dolby Theater, the 35th Annual PaleyFest presented two related panels, featuring the creators and stars of both the 11th season sitcom megahit The Big Bang Theory, and its freshman prequel Young Sheldon, which in its debut season ranks as the top new show on TV.

As Young Sheldon stars Iain Armitage, Raegan Revord, Montana Jordan, Zoe Perry, Lance Barber and Jim Parsons also walked the blue carpet prior to the panel (expertly hosted by Glamour's Jessica Radloff), I was most excited to talk with Annie Potts, who of course had already portrayed one of the protypical Southern women on TV on the '80s-'90s CBS sitcom Designing Women, and now was playing a slightly older model as Memaw on Young Sheldon.

Ironically, Young Sheldon is set in the late '80s, when Designing Women was one of the sitcoms ruling CBS' airwaves.  During the panel, the cast was even asked if Raegan's character Missy, always parked in front of the TV, might end up watching Designing Women, but the show's creators, Steve Molaro and Chuck Lorre, and particularly Annie, think that might be too bizarre.

But clearly, with the return of Will & Grace and the impending returns of Roseanne and CBS' own Murphy Brown, the idea of somehow rebooting Designing Women is in the air.  In fact, when I asked Annie if she had any interest in a Designing Women reboot, she noted that someone earlier on the carpet had already asked the same thing. 

So, would Annie like to juggle her current role as Memaw with a reprise of her beloved Mary Jo Shively?  "Yes, I would," the actress immediately answered.  "I'd love to!  I don't know when I'd do it, but if Linda Bloodworth[-Thomason] wanted to write six episodes or something, that could be done during a hiatus period, yeah, I'd do that!  Because I think it's important. Those were strong characters, and we got to say stuff that women haven't been able to say since. I mean, we took on Donald Trump long ago!  We were speaking truth to power."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Will & Grace Renewed -- Again

At PaleyFest at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood:
l-r, moderator Dan Bucatinsky, NBC president Bob Greenblatt
Will & Grace director Jimmy Burrows, stars Sean Hayes,
Debra Messing, Eric McCormack and Megan Mullally,
co-creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan.
As of tonight, it's official: Will & Grace is back for the long haul.

As the cast of the popular rebooted sitcom took the stage at Hollywood's Dolby Theater for a panel on night two of the annual PaleyFest, it was Megan Mullally who urged co-creator Max Mutchnick to announce the official news:  not only will W&G's rebooted season 2/overall season 10 be increased from a planned 13 to now 18 episodes, but NBC has already renewed the show for a third (or eleventh) season.

After a day on a photo shoot at the W Hotel in Hollywood, the cast assembled -- along with Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes, plus Mutchnick, co-creator David Kohan and director/executive producer Jimmy Burrows -- at the Dolby for an interview conducted by Scandal actor, writer/producer and W&G super-fan Dan Bucatinsky, who recently reprised his character Neil, from the original series.

Below, NBC's official announcement of its pickup of the series for season 3:


Additional Season Two Episodes Ordered as Critical Acclaim Builds for Original Cast and Production Team

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – March 17, 2018 – “Will & Grace” is giving you more, honey!

The return of “Will & Grace,” which began as an Internet reunion that turned into a one-season order and then a two-season order before it even went back on the air last fall, has just been ordered for a third season to premiere in fall 2019. With its razor-sharp wit intact and all four Emmy Award-winning actors back at the top of their game, one of the best NBC Must See comedies will return for an 18-episode third season.

In addition, the network has increased the season two order, which will begin again next fall, from 13 to 18 episodes. The announcement was made by Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment.

“As far as I’m concerned, we can’t get enough of ‘Will & Grace’ and 23 more episodes is music to my ears,” Greenblatt said. “We’re eternally grateful that Debra, Eric, Sean and Megan feel the same way and wanted to keep this good thing going. I’m overwhelmed by the euphoric response the new show has received from the press and the audience, and my hat is off to the unrivaled writing team of Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, as well as the brilliant directing of Jimmy Burrows, for consistently delivering one of the best shows on television.”   

So far this season “Will & Grace” is averaging a 3.1 rating in adults 18-49 and 9.8 million viewers overall in “live plus seven day” figures from Nielsen Media Research. “Will & Grace” is NBC’s most-watched primetime comedy at this point in the season in eight years and has improved its Thursday timeslot by +48% versus NBC’s year-ago results for regular non-sports programming in 18-49.

“Will & Grace” has received critical acclaim since the show’s return in September.  “Watching it is like running into an old flame who looks fantastic and is as bright and fun as ever,” said The New York Times. Entertainment Weekly wrote that 
“‘Will & Grace’ has been just as incredible as the original series: hilarious, poignant, contemporary” while USA Today added, “Watching the foursome is like taking in a tango by professional dancers.” 

Season one has been highlighted by an array of top guest stars, including Jennifer Lopez, Alec Baldwin, Minnie Driver, Ben Platt, Molly Shannon, Jane Lynch, Andrew Rannells and more.

“Will & Grace” stars Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally. Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, who co-created the series, write and executive produce. James Burrows directs and executive produces. “Will & Grace” is produced by Universal Television.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Maurice Made "Golden" Magic

Recently, I learned of the passing of makeup artist and inventor, Maurice Stein.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Maurice in 2006, inside Cinema Secrets, the Toluca Lake, California store which sells not just cinema-quality makeup, but also many of his ingenious innovations.

Talking with Maurice was one of the most memorable experiences I had in researching Golden Girls Forever -- and that's really saying something, because I also got to sit for a day each with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White!  But for one thing, makeup artists are often privy to the most intimate details of stars' personal lives, spending so much time with them each day.  And Maurice's memories of the groundbreaking show, and his storytelling skills, were both superb. 

But the most interesting thing I learned that day was about how, out of Golden Girls necessity, Maurice ended up inventing a brand new cinema technique that is still used to this day.  Below, a featurette that didn't make it into Golden Girls Forever, due to space constraints.  (Hopefully it will someday, in some kind of expanded edition.)  I think it's a proper tribute to a funny, warm guy whom I had the pleasure of meeting, and who helped bring the world laughter via Sophia Petrillo.

As The Golden Girls progressed, the series’ hair and makeup crew would be tasked with some very specific challenges, such as turning Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur into a convincing Sonny and Cher. But by then, such sartorial switchups were old hat for costume designer Judy Evans, hair stylist Joyce Melton and makeup artist Maurice Stein.  After all, they’d already been convincingly transforming Estelle – actually a tiny bit younger than her co-stars Betty and Bea – into an old lady for years. 

For the earliest episodes in season one, Estelle's hair was merely sprayed gray, as the actress herself had done to perform her shtick for producer after producer during her many auditions.  But very soon, as it became clear that The Golden Girls would be an enduring hit, it also became obvious that some things had to change.

And so, not far into the first season, the show's producers commissioned Sophia's trademark -- and expensive -- curly white human-hair wig.  But the larger problem was, the prevailing old-age makeup technique at the time, a process called “stretch and stipple,” took over four hours to apply, and as Maurice remembers Estelle saying, “an hour and a half, and a couple of vodkas, to take off.”  Each week, that added up to five or six hours of expensive production time – and an extra headache for an already nervous Estelle.

And so, Golden Girls producer Marsha Posner Williams had made a call to Maurice, luring him out of his early retirement; as luck would have it, Maurice had spent his newfound spare time inventing a new waterproof, oil-free foundation.  Now, instead of putting his star through the time-consuming application, blow-drying and powdering of layers and layers of latex, Maurice was able to cover Estelle’s face with several strata of the fast-drying foundation, and followed by accentuating her natural wrinkles with a makeup pencil (and, after Estelle’s facelift between seasons one and two, creating those lines anew.)

Today, Maurice still sells his Cinema Secrets Ultimate Foundation to the public; and because it's one of the only products medically approved to cover radiation burns, he donates his time and product to kids in burn units and to women with cancer.  As Maurice jokes, his products “aren't tested on animals…but on actors.”  So really, he adds, in the end, it was partly Estelle's ambition to play Sophia that has resulted not only in an innovative new product, but also in charitable work that has benefitted people around the world.

Jim Colucci, Golden Girls Forever, copyright 2016 HarperCollins Inc. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Join The Good Fight

The Good Fight season 1 DVD
featuring stars (l-r) Cush Jumbo,
Christine Baranski, Rose Leslie
I have a confession to make: I'm not a huge TV streamer.  There's simply too much good stuff to watch on network and cable TV, and it fills up my DVR (again, old fashioned tech, I guess, but it works for me.)  So I rarely have to go looking for extra ways to watch even more TV, especially at an extra cost, even if those series are widely acclaimed.

For one thing, eventually they'll come out on DVD.  And that's exactly the case with my favorite show currently on any platform, CBS All Access' The Good Fight.  A continuation of CBS' former (and amazing) series, The Good Wife, The Good Fight may even be a bit better than its predecessor.

Season 1 starts with Christine Baranski's Diane Lockhart, on the eve of her planned retirement, finding out that her savings have been wiped out by a Madoff-esque Ponzi scheme, perpetrated by her supposed friend, Henry Rindell.  Now, with Henry's daughter Maia (Rose Leslie)'s reputation destroyed as well, the two women join one of The Good Wife's most recently introduced and yet most beloved characters, Cush Jumbo's Lucca Quinn, at one of Chicago's pre-eminent, predominantly African-American, law firms.

CBS All Access is of course also the home of the newest Star Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery -- and its run, which began this past September, has been a boon to the now nearly four-year-old service in terms of attracting subscribers.  But Star Trek or no, The Good Fight is so good, it itself is also worth the monthly cost.

Season 1 consisted of ten, nailbiting episodes (and, it's worth noting, episodes which are free of network standards and practices constraints in terms of language and nudity) -- and as of this week, they're available on a three-DVD set, which also contains a gag reel and deleted/extended scenes.  The show's already captivating season 2 began "airing" -- if that's what one can call episodes which continue to drop each Sunday -- on March 4, and so now is the perfect time for newcomers (even non Good Wife watchers) to catch up.

The Good Fight
Season 1 available on DVD, release date March 13, 2018
Season 2 airing on CBS All Access, beginning March 4, 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

GALECA Announces its 9th Annual DORIAN Award Winners

For the past nine years, I've been honored to be a member of the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA), which bestows its Dorian Awards on shows depicting, serving and generally entertaining the LGBT community.

This year's winners have just been announced, with awards to be distributed at our February 24 "Winner's Reception" in Beverly Hills. And although of course I voted for Will & Grace, I am happy to see RuPaul's Drag Race and Feud: Bette and Joan get much-deserved recognition in those categories.

Other winners include Greta Gerwig as best director, Sally Hawkins as best actress, Timothee Chalamet as both best actor and rising star, Jordan Peele for best screenplay (and another win as a "Wilde Wit"), Michael Stuhlbarg and Laurie Metcalf for best supporting actor and actress, and Meryl Streep winning our version of a lifetime achievement award, as our "Timeless Star."  Call Me By Your Name wins the award for best film of the year.

On the TV side, winners include Big Little Lies as best drama, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as best comedy, Nicole Kidman and Kyle MacLachlan winning the acting awards, and the amazing Kate McKinnon winning twice, as a "Wilde Wit" and also for her musical performance as Kellyanne Conway.

The full list of nominees and winners is below.

GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics
 (as in Lesbian! Gay! Bisexual! Transgender! Queer!)
Name Dorian Award Film/TV Winners

• • • • •

'Call Me By Your Name' is Best Film, Greta Gerwig Takes Best Director
'Get Out' Auteur Jordan Peele Scores Best Screenplay and More
Sally Hawkins Wins Best Actress, Timothée Chalamet is Both Best Actor and Rising Star
'American Gods,' Kyle MacLachlan, Samantha Bee, ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race' Rule TV Categories
Meryl Streep is Group’s Latest 'Timeless Star’ Honoree

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 - Hollywood, CA — The distinctly unique GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, comprised of over 200 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally entertainment journalists in the U.S., Canada and U.K., has announced its ninth annual Dorian Award winners. This year’s 26 TV and film categories, again running from mainstream to LGBTQ-centric, include inaugural awards for Supporting Film Performance. A handful of select recipients will join the group for GALECA’s annual Winners Toast on Saturday February 24th in Beverly Hills.

Broflakes won’t be happy about this: Call Me By Your Name, which led with nine nominations, was named 2017’s Film of the Year. The bittersweet story of two American men — a teen and a 20something — falling for each other in Italy also earned Timothée Chalamet a Dorian for Film Performance of the Year — Actor. Chalamet, seen in Dorian nominee Lady Bird as well, was also the group’s Rising Star pick. Meanwhile, Greta Gerwig, writer and helmer of the female-focused coming-of-age drama Lady Bird, was named Director of the Year. 

Jordan Peele, formerly of TV’s acclaimed Key and Peele sketch comedy series, earned Screenplay of the Year for Get Outthe heart-stopping thriller and acidic satire about a black man (Daniel Kaluuya) who discovers his white girlfriend’s “liberal” parents are secretly murderous racists. Peele was also crowned Wilde Artist of the Year (nominees included Gerwig, Patty Jenkins, David Lynch and Guillermo del Toro) and Wilde Wit of the Year. Peele shares the latter award with Saturday Night Live fixture Kate McKinnon, nabbing her second win in that race — along with a victory for her sing-songy imagining of Trump explainer Kellyanne Conway taking her "alternative facts" act to Broadway.

Film icon and feminist activist Meryl Streep was the group’s latest choice for Timeless Star, a career achievement honor previously won by such equally beloved stars (and human-rights champions) Jane Fonda, Dame Angela Lansbury and Sir Ian McKellen. 

“Who doesn’t love Meryl Streep outside of non-feminist Donald Trump?” quipped Diane Anderson-Minshall, GALECA’s president as well as editorial director of The Advocate magazine. “Streep’s latest film, The Post, speaks to her commitment to playing, and supporting, strong women who push for or at least embody the need for equality. As The Washington Post’s firebrand Katherine Graham, she inhabited the role of the first female publisher of a major American newspaper — a woman who went from housewife to overseeing the revelations of both Watergate and the Pentagon Papers at a time when most of the men around her were too afraid to take on either. And this was all long before the #MeToo movement.” Adds John Griffiths, GALECA’s Executive Director, "From Sophie’s Choice to Postcards from the Edge, Streep’s an incredibly stirring and affecting actress who transports, delights and nails various accents like no other. I’d say she definitely qualifies as a timeless star — and amid all the headlines about sexual harassment in Hollywood, she’s also a very relevant current voice.” 

Fun fact: Streep won a Dorian Award for The Iron Lady back in 2012. 

In additional trademark races, God’s Own Country — 2017’s other visceral love story involving two gay men — won as GALECA's Unsung Film of the Year (the competition included director Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women). Awards-season darling The Shape of Water impressed as Visually Striking Film of the Year. And mother!, Darren Aronofsky’s over-the-top psychological chiller starring Jennifer Lawrence, was deemed Campy Flick of the Year.

Among TV categories, HBO’s sleek murder mystery Big Little Lies took TV Drama of the Year, with star Nicole Kidman (as a battered wife) triumphing too. Kyle MacLachlan was Kidman’s male counterpart for Twin Peaks: The Return. Starz’s provocative gods-among-us fantasy American Gods took Unsung TV Show, fittingly as its future the freshman series’ future is reportedly up in the air. And programs each celebrating their second win in a row: TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (Current Events Show of the Year) and the Lady Gaga-loved gay performance contest RuPaul’s Drag Race (LGBTQ Show). 

Below is the complete list of Dorian winners. 

GALECA, The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, previously known as the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, includes members who review, write and/or report on film and television for a diverse number of media outlets, including BuzzFeed, The Daily Beast, Entertainment Weekly, TV GuideThe Advocate, CNN, the Associated Press, PeopleVariety, The Hollywood Reporter, Collider, Vanity Fair, Screen Crush, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, New Now Next, The Guardian and the BBC. For more information, visit GALECA.org. Also find us at #DorianAwards, and enjoy our posts via @DorianAwards on Facebook  Twitter  Instagram 

BPM (Beats Per Minute) - The Orchard
Call Me By Your Name - Sony Pictures Classics (WINNER)
Get Out - Universal
Lady Bird - A24
The Shape of Water - Fox Searchlight

Sean Baker, The Florida Project – A24
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water – Fox Searchlight
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird - A24  (WINNER)
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name - Sony Pictures Classics
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk – Warner Bros.
Jordan Peele, Get Out - Universal

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water – Fox Searchlight  (WINNER)
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Fox Searchlight
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya - Neon
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird - A24
Daniela Vega, A Fantastic Woman - Sony Pictures Classics

Nahuel Perez Biscayart, BPM (Beats Per Minute) — The Orchard
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name - Sony Pictures Classics  (WINNER)
James Franco, The Disaster Artist – A24
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out - Universal
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour – Focus Features

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound - Netflix
Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip - Universal
Allison Janney, I, Tonya - Neon
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird - A24  (WINNER)
Michelle Pfeiffer, mother! - Paramount

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project – A24
Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name- Sony Pictures Classics
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water – Fox Searchlight
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Fox Searchlight
Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name - Sony Pictures Classics  (WINNER)

BPM (Beats Per Minute) — The Orchard
Battle of the Sexes - Fox Searchlight
Call Me By Your Name - Sony Pictures Classics  (WINNER)
A Fantastic Woman - Sony Pictures Classics
God's Own Country – Samuel Goldwyn Films

BPM (Beats Per Minute) — The Orchard  (WINNER)
A Fantastic Woman - Sony Pictures Classics
First They Killed My Father - Netflix
The Square – Magnolia Pictures
Thelma – The Orchard

James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name - Sony Pictures Classics
Jordan Peele, Get Out - Universal  (WINNER)
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird - A24
Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water – Fox Searchlight
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Fox Searchlight

(theatrical release, TV airing or DVD release)
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story – Zeitgeist/Kino Lorber
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson - Netflix
Faces Places – Cohen Media Group  (WINNER)
Jane ­– National Geographic/Abramorama
Kedi - Oscilloscope

(honoring a production of stunning beauty, from art direction to cinematography)
Blade Runner 2049 – Warner Bros.
Call Me By Your Name - Sony Pictures Classics
Dunkirk – Warner Bros.
The Shape of Water – Fox Searchlight  (WINNER)
Wonderstruck - Amazon

BPM (Beats Per Minute) - The Orchard
Beach Rats - Neon
God's Own Country – Samuel Goldwyn Films  (WINNER)
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women - Annapurna
Wonderstruck - Amazon

Baywatch - Paramount
The Disaster Artist – A24
The Greatest Showman – 20th Century Fox
I, Tonya - Neon
mother! - Paramount  (WINNER)

Big Little Lies - HBO - HBO  (WINNER)
The Crown - Netflix
Feud: Bette and Joan - FX
The Handmaid's Tale - Hulu
Twin Peaks: The Return - Showtime

Better Things - FX
GLOW - Netflix
The Good Place - NBC
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Amazon  (WINNER)
Will & Grace - NBC

Clare Foy, The Crown - Netflix
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies - HBO  (WINNER)
Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan - FX
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid's Tale - Hulu
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies - HBO

Aziz Ansari, Master of None – Netflix
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us - NBC
Jonathan Groff, Mindhunter - Netflix
Kyle MacLachlan, Twin Peaks: The Return - Showtime  (WINNER)
Alexander Skaarsgård, Big Little Lies - HBO

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee – TBS  (WINNER)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - HBO
Late Night with Seth Meyers - NBC
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert - CBS
The Rachel Maddow Show - MSNBC

Lady Gaga, “God Bless America,” “Born This Way,” etc., Super Bowl LI - Fox
Kate McKinnon, “(Kellyanne) Conway!” Saturday Night Live - NBC (WINNER)
Brendan McCreary, John Mulaney, “I’m Gay,” Big Mouth – Netflix
Pink, “Beautiful Trauma,” American Music Awards - ABC
Sasha Velour, “So Emotional,” RuPaul's Drag Race – VH1

Difficult People - Hulu
RuPaul's Drag Race – VH1 (WINNER)
Sense8 - Netflix
Transparent – Amazon
Will & Grace - NBC

American Gods - Starz  (WINNER)
Dear White People - Netflix
Difficult People - Hulu
At Home with Amy Sedaris - TruTV
The Leftovers - HBO

Feud: Betty and Joan  (WINNER)
RuPaul's Drag Race
Will & Grace

Timothée Chalamet  (WINNER)
Harris Dickinson
Tiffany Haddish
Daniel Kaluuya
Daniela Vega

(honoring a performer, writer or commentator whose observations both challenge and amuse)
Samantha Bee
Stephen Colbert
Kate McKinnon  (WINNER - TIE)
John Oliver
Jordan Peele  (WINNER - TIE)

(honoring a truly groundbreaking force in the fields of film, theater and/or television)
Guillermo del Toro
Greta Gerwig
Patty Jenkins
David Lynch
Jordan Peele  (WINNER)

TIMELESS STAR (to a living actor or performer whose exemplary career is marked by character, wisdom and wit)
Meryl Streep  

GALECA’S MISSIONHome of the Dorian Awards for the best in film and TV, GALECA aims to generate camaraderie in an unsettling media environment, and elevate professional entertainment criticism and journalism, all while bolstering art and humanity. Via panels, screenings, events and its occasional “Ten Best" lists, this 501 c-6 organization also strives to remind the everyone from at-risk youth to bullies that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people have a rich history of putting great movies and TV on the radar. How would the world fare without knowing what's campy?
Diane Anderson-Minshall, GALECA Presidentdiane@retrogradecommunications.com
John Griffiths, GALECA Executive Directorjdgriffiths@earthlink.net