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