Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CBC picks up eleventy billion Gemini noms

Canadian TV: either overdressed or underdressed
The Gemini Award nominations were announced Tuesday in Toronto. Once again, every fucking thing ever made in Canada over the last 12 months was nominated. There are 107 bloody categories. Find the complete list here. Sorry, here.
CBC alone drew 151 nominations, or one for every ten viewers of The Hour.
Are there too many nominations when Kenny and Spenny are included in the best ensemble performance category? That would be yes.
Flashpoint drew the most series nominations with 15--and neither Rico Colantoni or Hugh Dillon were nominated. How is that possible? Republic of Doyle's Allan Hawco pulled a well deserved nomination, along with his terrific co-stars Rachel Wilson and Linda Boyd (below with Hawk). The Newfoundland cop drama pulled five noms altogether, including one for best drama. No nom for Sean McGinley though, that's a stunner.
Dan For Mayor earned a Best Comedy nom but the other new CTV comedy, Hiccups, did not. Brent Butt, still being punished for making a show Canadians watched.
Actual Gemini category: "Best performance or host in a variety program or series (individual or ensemble)." Who writes these things, the guy who translates the IKEA instructions from the original Swedish? Another one: "Best cross-platform project--non-fiction." I think I once assembled that at IKEA.
Not sure why Global and CTV still buy tickets to this rubber chicken dinner. All three nominations for Best News Anchor went to the usual CBC suspects. Thanks Kevin Newman, don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.
CTV, as one reader pointed out, no longer submit entries in the news category. That's significant; imagine if CBS, say, boycotted the Emmys.
Rookie writer Tim Cherry picked up a nomination for that TV-movie on his dad Grapes, Keep Your Head Up. I'll drink to that.
Happy for the folks at That's So Weird. The very entertaining YTV sketch comedy series received three nominations, including one for trooper Kayla Lorette and a nom for the writers. Season two of the series, which relocated to Halifax, begins in October.
It's just that that's so weird sums up too much about the Geminis, for this cranky critic at least. Too many categories, too many awards, not enough viewers. I don't think that's a coincidence. Nobody a foot outside the industry takes it seriously.
The show itself still has potential to entertain. The main Toronto gala will be broadcast Nov. 13, on the old Dumont network, I think. No, it's Global and Showcase. I'm guessing the 13th is a Saturday.

TVFMF Salutes Ross Brioux on his 95th

Happy 95th birthday today to my dad, Prosper A. ("Ross") Brioux. The Toronto native predates not only television but Betty White; he refers to her as "that kid." Ross, who attended the very first Toronto  Maple Leafs game ever played at Maple Leaf Gardens (and is still bitter about the loss) saw the Leafs win the cup 11 times so far. He may have to live to 195 to see a 12th. He has never missed a broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada, which premiered in 1952.
Dad was born the year Birth of a Nation premiered. He's still getting used to "talkies." Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Quinn, Arthur Miller, Orson Welles, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Thomas Merton and 60 Minutes creator Fred Friendly were all also born in 1915.
Arthur Godfrey, Buddy Hackett, Chris Tucker, Fannie Flagg, James Colburn, Richard Basehart, Van Morrison and Richard Gere were all born on Aug. 31. See, there's a TV tie-in to everything.
Ross can be seen around his Etobicoke neighbourhood sporting every TV network cap I give him. He is a walking TV billboard. Ross and Marg are both good with the fact PBS still carries Lawrence Welk.

Hoff hoofs onto Dancing with the Stars

Quick, try and spot Jennifer Grey in the shot above. The surgically erased Dirty Dancing star is one of 12 new celebrities named to the 11th edition of ABC's Dancing with the Stars, which returns with a two hour season premiere Sept. 20 at 8 p.m.. They are (l-r): Brandy, David Hasselhoff, Jennifer Grey, Kurt Warner, Margaret Cho, Kyle Massey, Audrina Patridge, Rick Fox, Florence Henderson, co-host Brooke Burke, Bristol Palin and host Tom Bergeron. Henderson is 76, another career resuscitated by Betty White.
UPDATE: Yes, there were two missing. ABC confirms Michael Bolton and Jersey Shore dude Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino are also in the mix.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Strong numbers shine on summer Emmys

Emmy pair Jon Hamm and Betty White
Even though they came earlier than usual this year, the Emmy Awards held their own in the ratings. Especially in Canada, where nearly 2.5 million turned in to CTV's coverage of the live broadcast (according to overnight estimates).
(UPDATE: CTV's release says the show drew 2.7 million across Canada but hold on--they're adding the 2,429,000 CTV viewers BBM Canada counted in the overnight estimate tally with 245,000 encore viewers on CIVT. Really? C'mon. CTV also says the total is up 18% over last year's 2 million total.)
Even CTV's broadcast of the red carpet show at 7 drew 906,000. Keeping a lid on CTV's Emmy number was Global's Sunday night Big Brother broadcast, which drew a solid 1,759,000 at 8 p.m. in 2+ early estimates. CBC drew less than half-a-million with a movie.
In the States, the overnight number is a bit harder to track this year given live results from the West Coast, but most returns seem to indicated the show performed above expectations, especially considering it arrived in the summer, three weeks earlier than last year. TV By The Numbers has the show down slightly among 18-49-year olds and up slightly among total viewers.  Deadline Hollywood says NBC pulled 13.5 million "according to time-adjusted early numbers."
As TV consumption continues to evolve from strict schedules to iPads, PVR's and computer screens, final numbers are starting to reflect a whole new reality.  The number of hits on the viral video of host Jimmy Fallon's Glee-full opening number could reach millions. The total Emmy picture could look very different in nine days.
NBC bumped the award show up a few weeks so as not to interfere with one of their most solid performers, Sunday Night Football. There is some talk that the Emmys could shift to a U.S. cable network like TNT in future seasons as the TV academy looks to nail down a new broadcast deal.

Jimmy Fallon big winner at Sunday's Emmys

Jimmy Fallon (left) blew the roof off the dump with his high energy opening at Sunday night's 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards.
The Late Night host wisely side-stepped the usual awards show monologue (not Fallon's strength) and instead began the broadcast with a video goof on the night's top nominated show, Glee. Fallon had Cory Monteith, Lea Michael, Amber Riley and Chris Colfer running down the high school hallways in what became a "Born to Run" sequence. Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, Betty White, Jane Lynch, Vampire Diaries' Nina Dobrev, Joel McHale from Community and even Kate Gosselin got in the act (although the Gosselin gag misfired because nobody recognizes her anymore, especially without her suburban asymmetrical hair wedge).
Fallon got the Conan joke out of the way early. What could go wrong when NBC asks the host of Late Night to go west and put on a show, he asked. Cut to bearded O'Brien, who, unfortunately, we never saw again.
Even funnier was the "messing with Modern Family" video which has already gone viral thanks to nbc.com. A goof on all the notes shows get from networks, check it out below:

Fallon also scored with his musical salute to three long-running shows which bowed out in 2010, 24, Law & Order and Lost. His Green Day impression killed, especially the give-it-away lyric, "The island it was mythical/And in the end they died/I didn't understand it/But I tried."
NBC should get Temple Grandin to host the season opener of SNL, the girl can't stay in her seat. There's Betty White potential there. You Don't Know Jack winner Al Pacino was rambly as usual. As my old pal Keith Marder has already Facebooked, Dr. Jack Kervorkian should have given a speech, he would have killed.
Nice to see Maury Chaykin saluted among those in the "In Memoriam" spot but where was David Mills?
The show moved at a fairly brisk pace and actually finished on time! Aside from Ricky Gervais, nobody ate up time with a self indulgent comedy spot. Gervais brought a welcome edge to the evening, passing out beer and nailing Mel Gibson. ("He's been through a lot. Not as much as the Jews...").
As for the awards themselves, great to see Modern Family do so well. Eric Stonestreet, well deserved, lovely, heartfelt speech. Jim Parsons (right with Sofia Vargares), double yes, Jane Lynch, of course, Kyra Sedgwick, OK but should have gone to Margulies, Bryan Cranston can never win enough of these things, always well deserved, nice to see his Breaking Bad co-star Aaron Paul pick up a best supporting prize. Edie Falco proved she's hilarious trying not to be funny and thus deserves the Best Comedy Actress prize. Archie Panjabi's win for Good Wife supporting helps make up for Margulies. Wins for Modern Family and Mad Men, exactly right.
No win for Conan sucked, cheated us all out of a great moment. Top Chef defeating Amazing Race must have Mark Burnett asking what do I have to do to win this thing after that Survivor rebound last season.
Emmy mixed things up and moved statues around this year, which was nice. Besides Race, no win for Monk was about bloody time.
Like the deal where they asked nominees one question to lead into categories. Gave writes a chance to show off their smarts. Steve Levitan, for example, is as funny as his series, Modern Family.
Besides Amazing Race, some other streaks were snapped. 30 Rock went 0-for-15 despite winning Best comedy the three previous years. Lost found just one editing win out of 12 noms.
The Daily Show's win in the Variety/Comedy category was its eight wins in a row. That streak will end next year, however, doe to no-show Jon Stewart's snub.
Fallon's idea to use viewer tweets to introduce presenters got old quick, as did the voice over bits from PC vs. Mac guy John Hodgman. Fallon should have used my tweet. For LL Cool Jay: "not to be confused with the guy who stole Conan's job, Not So Cool Jay."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Emmy will be Mad for Men, Modern Family

Sunday is Emmy night, worth watching just to see if Conan O'Brien pulls NBC's pants down if he wins for his seven month stint hosting The Tonight Show.
There are other awards up for grabs, of course. Most of the big categories seem fairly tight this year, making predictions especially stupid and pointless--something we specialize in here at TVFMF:
Outstanding Drama Series
SHOULD WIN: Dexter and Breaking Bad had electrifying finales, but Mad Men (starring Jon Hamm, above right) ended a marriage, dissolved an ad agency and assassinated a president.
WILL WIN: Lost, for six years viewers will never get back. Now that’s drama! Emmy loves it when shows end so this one's a shoe-in. Also nominated as TV's Best Drama: True Blood, Dexter, The Good Wife, Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
Outstanding Comedy Series
SHOULD WIN: The other week I was watching TV episodes off the monitor in the seat back of an airplane. Earphones on, I was laughing out loud and didn’t realize it, until the flight attendant stopped by. “Oh, no wonder,” she said. “You’re watching Modern Family.”
WILL WIN: Modern Family (featuring Ty Burrell, left), with points to Curb for those funny Seinfeld reunion shows. Not funny: omitting The Big Bang Theory from this category.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
SHOULD WIN: Matthew Morrison should have been saluted here, instead of in comedy, after that terrifyingly real marital meltdown scene that yanked Glee off a campy cliff last December. Not even Morrison could save it from the giddy karaoke excess it devolved into in the spring.
WILL WIN: Meth actor Bryan Cranston (right), scary good as always as pushed too far Walter White in Breaking Bad. If he wins it will be his third Best Actor Emmy in a row. Also nominated: Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, Michael C. Hall and Matthew Fox.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
SHOULD WIN: A few seasons ago, Julianna Margulies (left) was mis-cast as an unsympathetic superwoman in the klunker Canterbury’s Law. Perfectly cast as The Good Wife, she brought grace, edge and courage to a complicated character.
WILL WIN: Damages law diva Glenn Close (but no cigar). Other nominees: January Jones, Kyra Sedgwick, Mariska Hargitay and Connie Britton.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
SHOULD WIN: Jim Parsons (right), The Big Bang Theory. Parsons is the breakout star of what is now TV’s hottest comedy (especially in Canada). Sheldon Cooper is a narcissist know-it-all and yet Parsons finds a way to make him sympathetic if not quite lovable. That’s quantum physics.
WILL WIN: 30 Rock's bloodless network boss Alec Baldwin. Hey, he’s Alec Baldwin. Also in the running: Larry David, Tony Shalhoub, Steve Carell and Matthew Morrison.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
SHOULD WIN: Glee’s breakout star Jane Lynch, not even nominated here. C’mon, Lea Michele is nominated in this category and Lynch is relegated to supporting actress? That’s not how Sue C’s it. The others nominated here (Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Edie Falco and Toni Collette), are all funny ladies but, as Sue would say, nobody watches their shows.
WILL WIN: Tina Fey. And why not.
You can find a full list of Emmy nominees here. You can also find a whole Emmy category full of critics weighing in on who will win over at TV Worth Watching, David Bianculli's newly redesigned on-line magazine of all things television. It's critic-o-licious! 
The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards air Sunday night at 8 p.m. on NBC and CTV. Jimmy Fallon hosts.

Global gets a Big Brother summer boost

Divided houseguests (L-R) Hayden, Britney and Brendon
Big Brother continues to be a big draw this summer at CBS and Global. The human zoo reality series captured the three top spots in the weekly BBC Canada national ratings for Aug. 16-22. Global, in fact, has six of the Top-10 shows that week across Canada, including Rookie Blue with nearly 1.5 million 2+ viewers.
Break it down regionally and Global's hot summer hand is even more impressive. In Vancouver that same week, for example, Global had nine of the Top-10 shows (including six regional newscasts), with only Citytv's America's Got Talent cracking the west coast list at No. 6. It's been a long time since CTV was skunked in any Canadian Top 10 region.
This week, on Wednesday, CTV's summer Fox pickup Masterchef cooked up nearly a million overnight, estimated BBM viewers opposite Global's Big Brother, which topped 2 million with a double elimination, power of veto competition. CBC's resilient reality series Dragon's Den found nearly a million viewers the same hour.
The night before, Tuesday Aug. 24, CTV's SYTYCDC's results show drew over a million, a shade less than the estimated audience for relocated Betty White pickup Hot in Cleveland. Global took the 8 o'clock slot with Wipeout at nearly 1.3 million. CBC was pretty much wiped out on the night, with a rerun of Being Erica limping in at 173,000 viewers.
Monday's biggest 2+ draws were Lie to Me on Global at over 1.5 million, SYTYCDC at an overnight, estimated 1,262,000 and the usual million-pluses for reruns of Two and a Half Men (1,115,000) and The Big Bang Theory (1,247,000). Between Jeopardy! and the National News, CBC had nothing in prime crack the 250,000 mark.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Emmy host Jimmy Fallon Ready for Primetime

Jimmy Fallon: no ax to grind in late night
NBC executives seemed keen to showcase Jimmy Fallon at the recent television critics press tour. The former Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" anchor is passing into the rite of late night manhood by hosting Sunday's 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards (NBC, CTV, 8 p.m.). Beyond that, with little fanfare (and staying smartly under the radar), he's done a pretty good job at something that went horribly wrong at NBC last season--hosting a late night talk show.
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has reversed the trend that has seen the older, established talk shows grow older in terms of audience. Fallon, at 35, has brought younger viewers into the mix, giving NBC some hope that they haven't completely wrecked their late night future.
I spoke with him about the Emmys and other things at NBC's press tour party, where he cheerfully engaged with reporters and hobnobbed with NBC execs. I wrote more about Fallon's Emmy emergence today for The Canadian Press. You can read that story here, including the amazing story of the day David Letterman dropped by his studio and gave Fallon the late night equivalent of the blessing from the Pope.
Fallon repeatedly made the point at press tour that he is Switzerland in the late night wars, that he bears no grudge and holds all in high esteem. To that end, I put a few names to him at the NBC party and asked for a top-of-his-head response.
Johnny Carson
Class. Respect, respect for the business. He’s a really classy dude you look up to--that guy, he did it right. I grew up with him; my first memories of late night are Johnny Carson and Saturday Night Live.
David Letterman
Again there's a respect. Fearless. He tried new stuff and changed the game.
Conan O'Brien
Perseverance. He stayed in the ring when people were trying to knock him down. He got back up and proved that he was funny and awesome and really someone to look up to. No matter how bad it gets, it’ll never get as bad as when people picked on him. He stayed in the ring and he did it.
Jay Leno
One of the hardest working people in the business. And the guy is ruthless, he's crazy, he works every weekend, does stand up, it's insane I’ve never ever met—Tina Fey worked really hard, wow, Tina Fey worked really hard. We would do "Weekend Update." The night before, I would leave and she would stay until two, three in the morning. She would never complain, she'd sit there with a ski hat on, sweat pants, typing, whatever, a cup of soup next to her coffee.
Lorne Michaels
One of my favourite human beings on the face of the earth. He’s again class all the way. Very class act. Taught me to think before you speak--think quickly, of course. What you say, it means something. He comes to every show.
He goes through my monologue, changes it—he’s a great comedy mind who’s seen it all. He thought of Conan before anyone thought of Conan.
Craig Ferguson
A mensch. Very funny. During Shark Week, he wanted me to do some commercial with him. We did it and I think it turned out funny.
Jack Paar
Jack Paar is fantastic. That is a great conversation he's having back in those crazy old time slots, an hour and a half to fill. Ed Ames tomahawk chop. He goes to grab it. Johnny Carson's hand comes down, "[AS CARSON]Oh no. I’ve got an hour and half to fill. We’re milking this laugh. We’re going to milk this because we’ve got time to kill."
The TV Academy has prepared a clip of Fallon rolling out the red carpet for Sunday`s bash. You can watch that below. Also, if you want to help Fallon introduce some of the big name star presenters, tweet him your one liner here. Jimmy Fallon: tweeting his way into late night history.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Live in New York with Regis Philbin

Ever wanted to attend a taping of Live with Regis and Kelly? Host Regis Philbin has been crossing the street from his Central Park West apartment and shooting Live out of New York's WABC since the series began as a local morning show in 1983. It went national in 1988 (with then co-host Katie Lee Gifford) and is still one of the most popular daytime shows on network television. Except for a poster outside for the upcoming ABC series No Ordinary Family, WABC looks like a pretty ordinary office building. There's a small gift counter in the ground floor lobby as well as a plaque on the wall honouring Donald DiFranco, WABC's transmitter maintenance engineer who died in the 9/11 attacks; the WABC tower was on top of the World Trade Center (it's now on top of the Empire State Building).
ABC Disney TV publicist Barbara Warren--a friendly voice on the phone for years--gave me a short walking tour of the studio before the taping. Live! shares studio space with the New York ABC local news and every day, the news sets have to be swung under the lights once the Live! set is struck.
The studio audience seats about 150 and the stands are sharply raked, offering excellent viewing. The guests at the show I attended last Thursday included Jennifer Aniston and Kyle Maclachlan, so folks were literally lined up outside the studio and right down the block by 8 a.m.
An hour of Live! races by in what seems like 10 minutes. Executive producer Michael Gelman does the warm up himself, instructing the audience that clapping faster sounds louder. You'd have to clap loud, I'm thinking, to be heard over the pumpkin-coloured set, which doesn't look as garish on TV.
With five cameras on the floor, the show begins and Philbin's contest-winning co-host (Kristin Cruz from LA radio station KOST) took their places behind the desk. Fully recovered from hip replacement surgery, Philbin is as nimble as ever, steering his co-host in and out of topics like a tug in the Hudson River. He really did a wonderful job making her feel at home and welcome on the set and getting the studio audience on her side.
During the commercial breaks, Philbin works the crowd, venturing into the stands to shake hands. There are quite a few visitors from eastern Canada and Philbin is still feeling the love form his visit to P.E.I. earlier this summer.
Aniston's gets three segments and turns on the star power. At one point, she casually drops the "R" word while describing herself as an imbecile; they'll bleep that out later, I think, until I remember that the show is called Live! for a reason. A fan yells out during a break that she is Aniston's No. 1 fan. The former Friends star does that thing when she clutches her heart and looks moved to tears while remaining glued to her director's chair.
Philbin greets visitor from Lenscrafters
Which may be the only way to look comfortable on those things. Poor Cruz seems to be second guessing her short dress as she tries to maintain her balance on the high chairs.
The taping turns into a party as giant beach balls are volleyed from the back of the stage and bounced around the bleachers. Ringleader Gelman keeps the mayhem moving. Philbin remains unflappable, working just another day at the office.
Afterwards, Warren steers me backstage for a meet and greet with Reege. Having blown a photo op earlier in the week with Donald Trump, I'm relieved when a Disney shooter arrives to record the moment. Warren apologises later when it turns out the main shot didn't turn out, but a side shot did. Feel free to provide the caption in the comments.
To get tickets to a taping, and it is heartily recomended, follow this link. Be advised you could face a 12 month wait, although there is a standby line for those who feel lucky.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Beautiful Bryant Park: grace, civility and HBO

Still in a New York state of mind, so allow me to tip the TVFMF hat to HBO. The premium cable network sponsors a summer long outdoor film festival in the most civilized patch of green on the planet--Byrant Park.
The Manhattan greenspace is an inspiring find. Just a few blocks from the noise and neon of Times Square, it is an oasis of tranquility and meditation in the middle of an urban canyon.
On Monday nights throughout the summer, HBO sponsors an outdoor film festival. Movies are projected (real 35mm, not that digital crap) on a giant, louvered screen. Last Monday I sat on a marble bench at the far end of the park and watched a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon from the '50s. Then came the main feature, Twelve Angry Men starring Henry Fonda and a staggering bench of top character actors. This Monday Bonnie & Clyde was the main feature.
Monday in the park with Bugs: enchanting Bryant Park
Throughout the year, the park features concerts, poetry readings and all kinds of attractions. Check out the schedule here.
HBO does not clog the bill with promos for Boardwalk Empire or True Blood or anything else they could easily promote. There is a simple announcement and then the show starts. Would that the folks behind the Toronto International Film Festival would follow this lead when it comes to a simple, elegant, sophisticated approach toward corporate partnerships. Sometimes less really is more.
After the cartoon, the giant flood lights 50 stories up on a high rise facing the park are turned off, leaving the football field-sized lawn of Bryant Park in darkness for the feature. It was drizzling on and off last Monday but people came prepared and few left.
New Yorkers in the know flood this park day and night. The field is rimmed by tall, elegant London plane trees and gardens as well as hundreds of green wire chairs and tables. Not one stick of furniture is chained to anything. Most are occupied by people with books, laptops or just 20 minutes to unwind. The entire park is a WiFi zone, and it makes a hell of an office.
Thirty years ago, when I first came to New York as a university student, Byrant Park was a dark, broken field, a haven for junkies and a virtual crime zone. You just didn't go there. Today it is all culture and civility. Anyone studying urban planning should investigate and celebrate this great civic turnaround.
The park actually dates back to the 1840s and covers land once used as a mid-town reservoir. At the east end stands the mammoth New York Public Library. A vine covered Bryant Park Grill and Cafe sits right behind the library, on the terrace, offering a breathtaking view of the park.
There is a small carousel which costs two bucks to ride. There are statues and busts throughout the park along with ping pong tables and chess and backgammon boards.
All this was right outside the Bryant Park Hotel on 40th Street. Staying there isn't cheap, but 12 floors up, I was treated to a spectacular view of the park outside three large windows. You have to pay for the WiFi at the hotel, so take your laptop to the park.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I`ll Take Manhattan--for $28.5 Million

The Kleirer clan: Sabrina, Michele and Samantha. Ready for their close up
NEW YORK--What can you get for US$28.5M in Manhattan?
Found out Thursday as I toured a castle in the sky with the amazing Kleier's of Gumley Haft Kleier. These well-connected residential real estate agents are featured on Selling New York, which premieres on HGTV Canada Sept. 8.
The kitchen, opposite a 18 x 17 breakfast room
Mom Michele Kleier and daughters Samantha and Sabrina (yes, named after classic movie roles) are taking to their new found TV fame just fine, thank you. They've got a reported six-figure book deal in the works with HarperCollins and are more than open for some sponsorship deals on their show. The gals have to look the part, and these three arrive dressed head-to-designer-toe in Channel, dripping with jewelry, They are the original Housewives of the Upper East Side.
Michele knows this 'hood like the back of her well manicured hand. She has to--she doesn`t use email or a computer, working it old school all inside her head. They travel in threes, arriving in matching red pumps and offering a family touch to what is often an overwhelming personal transaction.
Looking northwest up Fifth Avenue
And what a transaction. On Thursday, the Kleiers took myself and HGTV Canada publicist Ursula Terlecki on a tour of 995 Fifth Avenue, a breathtaking, 8360 square foot 16th floor penthouse overlooking Central Park and the Met.
The traditional, pre-war residence occupies the top full floor of the stately Upper East Side Candela classic. It has seven bedrooms and 8.5 baths. The .5 bath would be the showpiece of just about any other house.
Amenities include a concierge, health club and spa. There's no parking, but what do you want for $28.5 million?
Don't forget the maintenance fee: $35,620.47. Hey, there's a main floor laundry room and pets are allowed.
Some of the multi-million dollar condos shown on this tour of Selling New York real estate give you the wowwee moment the minute you step off the elevator. There's an old money restraint at 995 Fifth. When you exit the private elevator, you enter a gracious entry gallery. It's when you step around into the 42 x 19-foot living room that you lose your breath. The space is a hotel lobby-sized showcase and beyond the nearly 10-foot walls out the deeply recessed windows is a staggering view of Manhattan. You can see some crazy birds nest art piece being installed on the roof of the Met. Further up town, the large Central Park reservoir can be seen and further still, George Washington bridge.
The residence has windows facing north, south, east and west. Look south down Fifth and there's your view of the Empire State Building.
John-John once enjoyed the view from there. Mr. Big and Carrie, too. The place has played host to Manhattan's rich and famous.
The 42.3 x 18.9 foot living room. Don`t spill the Grey Poupon
The his and hers dressing rooms off the master suite are the size of many Manhattan apartments. There`s a sitting room off the bedroom so the Missus can conclude her business deal without any of that unpleasantness spilling onto the sheets.
Michele said one of the 60 most wealthy men in the world checked the place out the day before. Biggest complaint so far is that the joint is too big. Exactly why I didn't buy it.
The Kleiers say being on TV is good for business. Not all of their rich and famous clients want any face time on the show but so far they've been able to shoot around that.
At $28.5 million, 995 Fifth may not move right away, especially in this economy. The owner, says Michele, may be willing to rent it out for a couple of years--at 75k per month. Look for it to be featured on the finale of the first season of Selling New York, starting Sept. 8 on HGTV Canada.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

NY Post a tabloid with teeth and 'tude

MANHATTAN, N.Y.--The New York Post is hilarious AND informative.
Brazenly tabloid, the no B.S. newspaper is dropped at the door here at the Bryant Park Hotel and makes for perfect breakfast reading. Today I learned:
  • That former Edmonton Oiler Mike Comrie--who just married Hilary Duff over the weekend in Santa Barbara--is heir to the family that owns Canadian retail giant The Brick. Page Six sez Camerie's family fortune is worth $500 mil. That's a lot of brick!
  • That Laurence Fishburne's daughter Montana is becoming a porn star and daddy is steamed that she's using her real last name. Would you piss off Laurence Fishburne?
  • That Conan O'Brien was not recently in Manhattan with Maury Povich and Connie Chung. The comedian responded to a Page Six item saying they spotted him by tweeting, "Who ever's impersonating me--aim higher."
TV critic Linda Stasi also filed her report from Monday's set visit to The Good Wife with more details about the oral sex scene kerfuffle (reported here at TVFMF in an earlier post). Stasi identifies veteran AP TV columnist David Bauder as the reporter who asked the "research" question that set off Julianna Margulies. Bauder, filing for the more conservative wire service, made no mention of the sex talk misunderstanding in his report. The Post's gloriously unsubtle headline: "Below the belt: Star gets hot & bothered about sex scene that'll make history."
CBS would love to lower the median age of the audience of The Good Wife and all this sex talk could help when the show returns Sept. 28.
The Post also had news Scott Cann had ripped up his knee doing stunts on the set of Hawaii FIVE-O. Hell of a read, this Post. If the Toronto Sun needs a tabloid blueprint, here it is.
Best feature was on casting for the film version of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." Virtual unknown Rooney Mara won the part and here's how The Post instantly dismissed the also rans: "Scarlett Johansson: Too Busy. Anne Hathaway: Too princessy. Evan Rachel Wood: Too Obvious. Ellen Page: Too Asexual. Allison Pill: Too Theater-y. Emma Watson: Too Hermione."
Too funny.

TV Merch Feeds NBC Family

MANHATTAN, NY--New York New York, it's a wonderful town--to promote NBC.
The Peacock network is in your face all over mid-town Manhattan. Get in a cab, there's a TV set in the seat back with Craig Robinson from The Office welcoming you to NBC Taxi TV. Plenty of NBC (as well as other networks) bus and billboard ads on the streets and around Times Square. Depending on which U.S. air carrier you flew in on, you may have been held hostage by NBC stars like Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey setting up clips for NBC shows you are forced to watch. (I had choice on Air Canada and love to get caught up on Modern Family episodes from the seat back on-screen menu.)
The NBC store at Rockefeller Plaza is the ultimate network merch zone. T-shirts, hats, mugs, pens, DVDs--they are everywhere. 
And not just from the usual suspects like The Tonight Show, 30 Rock, SNL and The Office. Friends and Seinfeld gear are right up near the front entrance--surrounded by shoppers. NBC's golden gooses are still laying gold. There's even a large mug featuring the likeness of the actor who played the Soup Nazi. No returns for you.
As were T-shirts from oldies like The A-Team, Knight Rider and Star Trek. Stuff you might not associate with NBC like The Smurfs and Animal House (a Universal film) and even The Simpons (?) were on display. House (on Fox but a NBC Universal TV production) also get plenty of rack space. You can buy those giant red tennis balls House has in his office. Way back in the store, on the clearance wall, sat unloved junk from Heroes. How the mighty have fallen.
Also not selling: Mad Money crap featuring that biz hack Kramer and MSNBC mugs and shirts hawking Rachel Maddow. Dr Oz and The Biggest Loser had their own racks.
The SNL wall had a screen showing Sinead O'Connor tearing the Pope's picture in half. Below it, MacGruber and "More Cowbell" T's. There's a message there, I just don't know what it is.
Somewhere in the basement must be boxes and boxes of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien goodies. That's been replaced by a Jay Leno bobblehead with an enormous chin.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NYC Day Two: hanging with Trump in the Tower

MANHATTAN, N.Y.--This is the spectacular view from the 26th floor of the Trump Tower. The Fifth Avenue landmark occupies a coveted corner of Manhattan real estate, as its savvy owner Donald Trump will tell you. His large corner office--cluttered with dozens of signed footballs and framed photos with no wall space left for them to be hung--looks out over Central Park, the magestic Plaza, and all the world below. No wonder Trump still has that blue sky, optimistic attitude. He can see everything he wants right outside his window.
Was a kick to get to meet the man in his lair. Trump is a busy fellow, so when he grants you 15 minutes, you jump.
Trump and Brioux. Combined net worth: US$3 billion
Our conversation was far more focused than our photo op (right). Not Rhona Graff's fault. The Trump v.p. kindly snapped the shot, I just set it up wrong. Graff was featured on early editions of The Apprentice.
Was klutzy enough to forget my digital recorder, too, left running on Trump's desk after our conversation ended and his next meeting commenced. Trump joked as the recorder was retrieved that I had landed an exclusive with my sneaky little leave-it-behind plan. If I was that smart, I  would have had the camera on the right setting!
Trump set up the new season of his NBC reality series, which has been on the air since 2003. The latest edition starts Sept. 16 at 9 p.m. on NBC and Global, and returns the series to its civilian roots. Another celebrity edition, featuring bigger names than ever, promises Trump, returns early in 2011.
Trump says the new edition reflects the new tough times. Episodes will be more aspirational, he says, although don't expect any free rides. He still fires people and he still makes them earn it. Tough times call for tough people, says Trump.
He hears things are better in Canada and is bullish on his Toronto Trump Tower, which he says is on course. We talked about Joan Rivers ("she's tough"), Letterman ("great guy") and the war in Afghanistan ("a mess"). He said "I better not comment on that" when asked if he'd been approached to be an American Idol judge--the perfect answer.
The real estate and entertainment mogul deals charm without even trying. He couldn't be friendlier. He draws you in with "off the record" banter. I'll never forget a Frank Sinatra story he told several years ago when he was first promoting The Apprentice at press tour, it was fascinating and chilling.
What closes the deal, however, is that Trump is also genuine. He has the security of knowing exactly who he is and clearly loves what he does. He embraces his role as one of TV's greatest anti-heroes, and he sells it with style.
Neither of us brought up hair. Hey, you won't catch me throwing stones in that direction any more.
After Graff snapped our photo, he extended his hand and I shook it--so that bit on Wikipedia about him being a Howie Mandel-like handshake avoider? Not true.

Day One in New York: on set with The Good Wife

Baranski, Margulies, Noth: now they can laugh about it
BROOKLYN, N.Y.--The Good Wife lives the good life.
She does if you take a close look at her well  crafted studio surroundings, as I did Monday with a van load of TV writers from the New York City area.
CBS was hosting a press tour-like session with the cast on the set of The Good Wife, which shoots on CBS Productions Broadway Stages, a series of retro-fitted suburban warehouses much like the places where most TV shows are shot nowadays in Toronto. The Studio is hidden in an industrial patch of Brooklyn, with CBS newcomer Blue Bloods, starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg as father and son cops, spread over several adjoining soundstages. The HBO series Making It In America just wrapped their second season in the same scattered Brooklyn production centre.
Emmy-nominated Good Wife star Julianna Margulies, co-star Chris Noth and fellow nominee Christine Baranski sat on the courtroom set of the law drama and took questions along with other cast members. A court reporter took everything down, just like she would in a real courtroom!
The Good Wife was embraced by critics and audiences last year as the best new network drama. The men and women of the press were teased with a clip from the upcoming second season which showed Margulies and Noth's reunited characters Alicia and Peter enjoying a risque (by network standards) Mr. and Mrs. Reporters wondered if we were going to see a sexier Good Wife this season (which begins Sept. 28 on CBS and Global).
That led to a misunderstanding that likely won't find its way into The Canadian Press version of this story. I hesitate to spill it here, but, what the hey, it's funny and nobody lost an eye.
Margulies thought the scene was about as frisky as you're allowed to take things on network television, especially on CBS. "I think that is the first time network television has had an oral sex scene. No?" she asked the reporter. (The scene, of course, was not explicit.) The clumsy follow up question--"have you researched that Julianna?" was taken the wrong way.The reporter wanted to know if Margulies knew for sure a sexual taboo had been broken. Margulies took it as the kind of saucy follow up a scribe might fling at "Snookie" from Jersey Shore and was suitably outraged. Things got straightened out and order was restored in the courtroom.
Bottom line, The Good Wife is not going to turn into HBO after dark next season, but viewers will be in for more passion from the reunited leads.
How reunited? As Noth dryly noted of the couple's brittle marriage, "I don't think the stitches are out yet of the wound that never heals, but leaves a scar."
The show will continue to rip into the headlines with legal cases touching on the BP oil spill and political affairs. There will be new characters, an office merger and a political campaign.
After the press conference, reporters were taken on a tour by veran set decorator Beth Kushnick. Kushnick has worked on movies as well as seven series, including Fringe, Trial By Jury and Margulies' previous series, Canterbury's Law. Part of her job is to make sure the show looks Chicago (it is set in that town's "Cook County") even though it is shot in New York.
Alicia's kitchen: big as a whale and seats about 20. CBS photos: Kathleen Prutting
Kushnick says she gets inundated with emails by sharp-eyed viewers who follow her CBS.com blog "The Good Look of the Good Wife." the blog is the perfect compliment to this series, allowing fans to ask Kushnick as well as Emmy nominated costume designer Daniel Lawson where they got that sofa, rug, sweater of slacks. Both take the time to respond to viewer questions and are very passionate about their jobs and high on this show and this cast.
I had one for Kushnick--where'd she get the amazing linoleum fake antique bathroom tile floor found in Margulie's character's bathroom? Kushnick found it in Los Angeles and says suppliers from all over have been terrific this season. (Find out the make of Alicia's stove and other details here).
She says she's careful to dress the set with furniture and accessories a real Chicago attorney could afford and says she often hears from lawyers asking where she got so-and-so. Kushnick  recognizes that The Good Wife is a very aspirational series and has made a point of extending that philosophy to viewers who aspire to the look of the drama. Some of the stuff comes straight from Pottery Barn, some from department stores, she says.
That being said, Alicia's apartment is enormous. As one of the reporters said, you could put her whole New York apartment into Alicia's massive kitchen.
Lawson: if only he dressed critics on press tour
Lawson's costume space is set up in a former machine shop, with dozens of size 0, 2 and 4 skirts and dresses floating on hangers. Like Kushnick, he keeps things real, saying 85% of the clothes used on the series are current season. "You can run out and buy it," he says.
That Lawson's work was recognized for an Emmy nomination is remarkable given the splashier competition from Glee and period shows like Mad Men and The Tudors (all nominated in the same category). Lawson is grateful Hollywood recognized that such care was taken to dress his characters and keep them identifiable--and still stylish--for fans of the show.
As thrifty as Kushnick (as as you have to be in this still slow economy, say both professionals), Lawson has found $5,000 designer jackets for as little as $400 at thrift shops. One was loaned out to one of the stars who wore it to a wedding.
While most of the stuff is "regular clothes," Lawson--who previously worked  on Kings, Lipstick Jungle and Bored to Death--admits, "everything has been fitted to within an inch of its life."
Check out his fun and informative blog here. Kushnick will field your questions at her CBS.com blog here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to the Chase

BRAMPTON, ONT.--Been away so long, Brampton feels like the road to me.
Suitcase is barely unpacked and here I am loading up  again. Boarding a plane to New York Monday morning (courtesy Global airlines) with a set visit and interviews in the afternoon. It is the second season of The Good Wife, last season's best new drama, and Julianna Margulies (left) is the star attraction. Margulies recently  won the Television Critics Association award for outstanding performance in a series. Way to go nurse Hathaway.
Hanging around mid-town Manhattan a few days after that to tail a few well-heeled real estate agents at the centre of a new series coming to HGTV Canada--Selling New York. These pros move only the most posh Manhattan penthouses. Have seen the first two episodes and looking forward to the kind of penthouse view Lisa Douglas used to adore on Green Acres. Hope I don't catch 'lergic smelling hay on the way back to Brampton.
He's still Chevy Chase and you're not
Meanwhile, my press tour feature on Chevy Chase moved the other day on the CP wire. Chase was at this impossibly crowded party Sony Television threw last week at the Beverly Hilton, in what used to be Trader Vics. They've ruined the place by taking out all the thatched huts and Tiki torches and rendering into one long dark cube. It was so dark in there I'm still not sure if it really was Matthew Perry I spoke with as I entered the room--I never did see his face. He seemed to know all about Perry's new mid-season sitcom Mr Sunshine and also a lot about skating on the Rideau canal, so I'm guessing it really was Perry.
The party spilled into this tiny outdoor patio which was also crazy over crowded. Hollywood-based publicist Cynthia Snyder recognized me from way back in the day and asked if I'd like to speak with Chevy Chase. Now in his mid-sixties, white-haired Chase has found a third act in his career as part of the very funny ensemble on NBC's Community. He's more laid back and, frankly, likable then he was 17 years ago when that doomed Fox late night fiasco The Chevy Chase Show blew up in his face. Now he's full of stories and happy to chat in any direction. Wished I could have spent more time with him, but here is the gist of the conversation as it appeared in my Canadian Press piece.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This Week's Podcast: Press Tour post mortum

SHERMAN OAKS, CA--Scott Thompson at CHML wanted to know how things wound down at the summer 2010 TCA press tour. I brought him up to date on Yoko Ono's PBS appearance, the visit from the kids from Jersey Shore and the final Cable day, where HBO hosted panels featuring Carrie Fisher (in her princess Leia wig) and the great Steve Buscemi (starring in HBO's next big hit, Boardwalk Empire). You can listen in here.
Beyond that, here are a few links to features I wrote off the tour for The Canadian Press. One suggests there's more glee ahead for Glee Canucks Cory Monteith and Jessyln Gilsig. The second spills the beans on Dr. House and Cuddy's relationship next season on House.

Monday, August 9, 2010

TCA Press Tour 2010: Bye Bye Beverly Hilton

ANAHEIM, CA--As Richard Stursberg or Stephen McPherson might say, all things must pass. Another summer TCA press tour is in the books. We laughed, we cried, we kissed two weeks goodbye. Once again, Dave Taylor and his AV wizards have managed to pack up a hotel full of state-of-the-art staging and electrical equipment and beat it out of hotel faster than most critics can pack a suitcase.
We leave you with the above vidcast, captured (to the great amusement of fellow critics at the BBC America closing party) with the camera attached to my laptop. Flipcam donations welcome.
Highlights for me was seeing Yoko Ono (tiny in her black suit and hat but as feisty as ever),  Robert Conrad (damaged after a severe car crash and years of arrogance but as cocky as ever) and Jimmy Fallon (humble and living his dream). Tom Selleck put on a clinic in professionalism. Steve Buscemi, who is riveting as "Nucky" Thomson in Terry Winter's engrossing HBO drama Boardwalk Empire seems like a genuine dude (humble and hilarious in the post-session scrum.) Boardwalk Empire, which is set during prohibition in Atlantic City, is a show you won't want to miss. It premieres on HBO Canada in September.
Had a great sit down--in a hotel hallway--with four of the five Kids in the Hall (on press tour to promote the pickup of Death Comes to Town on IFC). Scott Thompson looks healthy and robust after almost living up to the title of the series. His cancer, he is thrilled to report, has been chased back into remission.
Carrie Fisher, who attended the closing day HBO sessions, was a scream, way funnier than Tracey Morgan who followed. Fisher actually came on stage wearing her Princess Leia wig, which was a trip.
Have banked the usual ton-and-a-half of stories and hope to share some here and across several print platforms in the coming months. The set visit to the Big Brother House needs to be broken down and described because it seems like a I might have dreamt it at this point.
The one big failure of the press tour was ABC's photo department somehow not posting a shot of Sophia Vergara from the Modern Family back-end-of-the-session-room scrum sessions. Vergara wore a dark blue (probably has a fancier name like midnight blue, or steaming hot Sophia Vergara blue) that seemed painted on her incredible body. The Colombian goddess is 38, has a 19-year-old son and stands right up there in the Carla Gugino press tour appearance Hall of Fame. If anybody at ABC/Disney or any fellow critic has a photo of this vision, please share it. Al Bundy, you lucky bastard.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jersey Shore fist pumps up tired TCA

BEVERLY HILLS, CA--The first of two cable network days got a slap upside the head Friday as the Jersey Shore cast was in the House. The Situation, Snookie, JWoww, Pauly D, Sammi, Hungadunga and McCormick all stood on stage throughout the entire session, prompting questions like: "Do any of you know why MTV didn't let you sit down?" (it had something to do, we learned later, with micro-skirts and wardrobe malfunctions) and, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
Yes, critics are tired after 11 days of this nonsense, and people seemed pretty punchy. When the session ended, I wanted to rush the stage and get in on the "Snookie scrum," but my legs refused to carry me to the stage. It was like, with my brain already turned off and powered down (I think it might have shorted out during the Sister Wives session), my body was stepping in and overriding any remaining journalistic instinct. Don't go, Bill, there is nothing to see here, resist temptation, move along...
Snookie is the Jersey Shore moppet with the high teased hair, squat torso and perma-tan. She drops so many kooky phrases she is coming out with a "Snooktionairy," she told us. It wasn't a joke.
"Snookin'," for example, is Snookese for "lookin'," as in, "I'm snookin' for love, I'm snookin' for a guy. If I snooked the night, then I took the night. Get it?"
Snookie, who couldn't stop touching her hair, talked about her recent arrest. "I was in the drunk tank for a little bit," she said. "I had too many tequilas."
"It happens," said Pauly D.
Afterwards in the scrum (according to a colleague--again, my legs said no), Snookie was asked about president Obama going on The View and confessing that he is out of the Snookie loop. Snookie isn't buying it. "He knows," she said.
The Situation did most of the talking, insisting they were all the same kids they wuz before they wuz. Rob Salem of The Star, who'd had a smoke with the dude, called him on that, saying what about the $4 million GNC pill deal, etc. Situation insisted he was still Situation normal.
Finally, the gang was asked, now that they have this incredible platform, "what message do you have for the world?"
JWoww said "a shared house," Deena Nicole said "live life to the fullest" and DJ Pauly D said, "You will be surprised how entertaining you are just being yourself." The Situation said, "Be proud of who you are, black hair, white hair, blond hair. You know what I'm saying? Pretty much, that's about it."
The message I take from all of this: trust your legs. They know.
Later in the day, there was a press tour session with Tony Danza, who is starring in an upcoming A&E reality series called Teach: Tony Danza. The former Taxi and Who's The Boss? star goes back to school as a 10th grade English teacher in a large urban Philadelphia high school.
Have to admit I missed the session but was tipped by Bill Harris at the Toronto Sun that 59-year-old actor had a great take on Jersey Shore. Here it is from the transcript:
I think shows like Jersey Shore make it harder on teachers, in general. Every day I tell kids, "Good behavior will pay off. Promise. Good behavior will pay off." And then they go home and watch that show and say, "Wait a minute. Mr. Danza, you're wrong. Bad behavior pays off." So that's what I think. That's what really hurts us. By the way, that is where we get into the cultural end of this. What is our responsibility? We yell about bad schools and bad teachers and failing schools, and then we put shows on like that, that give the kids the wrong model, and then we're surprised when they act out.
Sounds like Mr. Danza's class is well worth taking. Teach: Tony Danza starts Friday, Oct. 1 on A&E.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Stursberg out at CBC; McPherson available

"The senate gig pays how much?"
BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Word has filtered down to the floor of the press tour session room that CBC president Richard Stursberg (left) is adios. Some tiff with the big boss at the public broadcaster, CEO Hubert Lacroix, apparently. We're hearing that Kristine Stewart is stepping up to clean up Stursberg's mess and that Christine Wilson is going to fill in at programming.
The news is not a complete shock to colleagues here at TV ground zero. Stursberg pulled a few stunts--along with ads--in his dealings with the media, which were never warm and fuzzy.
Showrunners with track records talk of deals falling through at the eleventh hour and a lack of flexibility at the corporate level. One big Canadian player told me recently his show was aborted when it was deemed too expensive. "That wouldn't kill it here," he said, meaning Hollywood.
All this is happening on the Cable portion of press tour. A TLC session for a show called Sister Wives featuring polygamists from Utah left critics queasy right before lunch. News that the Kate Plus 8 kids would be joining the Palins on the Mark Burnett miniseries Sarah Palin's Alaska (coming in November) had critics checking to see if it was a twitter gag.
As it happens, I'm in the middle of a series of cross country CBC syndicated radio interviews with calls coming up in St. John's, Calgary, Thunder Bay and Winnipeg. The topic is the new TV season and the view from the press tour.
I'm also on a Sunday Star deadline. And getting ready for this afternoon's Jersey Shore session...the death march with cocktails continues.

Yoko Ono: baffling critics since 1967

BEVERLY HILLS, CA--So Yoko Ono's in the house. Here to promote Lennon NYC, an American Masters special coming to PBS November 22. Critics were shown a clip and it looks pretty cool, all about Lennon's last decade, his fight to stay in New York, a city Yoko said was "the city he loved so much but it killed him."
The 77-year-old was dressed all in black with dark round Lennon specs and sporting a black hat. Full of energy at first, she seemed to crash toward the end of the session, which was easily the most well attended of the two day PBS portion of press tour.
One reporter seemed to strike a nerve when he asked why she chose to continue to live in the Dakota after Lennon was gunned down on the front steps of the Manhattan condo 30 years ago this fall. Ono found the remark "slightly racist" and "maybe sexist, too." She simply wanted to stay in the place she shared with her spouse. "You cherish the memory of that person," she said. People who say, "How day she's living there" are sexist, she tried to elaborate, because "all guys wouldn't care. They would just live in the house, you know."
Ono couldn't leave it alone. "No one's going to comment that you would go to maybe a whorehouse or something like that right after your wife died. 'I'm so sorry. He must be so sad.'"
Critics were baffled. "I was still sad, so I'm still living in that house. Do you mind?"
Buddy who asked the question tried to make amends. "Listen. I'm sorry," he said. "I did not mean to be racist nor sexist, and I don't know where whorehouses got into this conversation."
Yoko later tried to pass her outburst off as a joke, but an artistic temperament has always been part of her kooky charm.
Yoko went on to say that it was great that Beatles music is "still around in such a heavy way" but that their music really wasn't all that hip, even at the time. "I think that probably Rolling Stones was hipper," she said. What the? Who the? Why I outta...
I finally grabbed the mike toward the end of the session. The woman was right there. Might as well try and find out if a famous Lennon in New York story was fact or myth. Not sure if the question was answered (American Masters producer Susan Lacy gets into the act) but Ono did show she still has a sense of humour:
QUESTION: Yoko, we're all TV critics in this room. I wonder what your memories are of a famous story about Paul McCartney visiting you and John in New York, and you're watching “Saturday Night Live," and there was a story that --
YOKO ONO: Oh, yeah, yeah. Paul came --
QUESTION: -- you actually went to -- what actually happened? Did they get in a cab? Did they almost do it?
YOKO ONO: That's exactly what happened.
SUSAN LACY: Why don't you tell everybody the story.
YOKO ONO: Oh, if I remember it correctly. So Paul and Linda visited us, and we were all watching the TV, and we said, "Oh, you know, one day we'll go there," or something like that. It was just a little sort of mention, you know.
SUSAN LACY: And then didn't somebody on the show said --
QUESTION: Lorne Michaels offered a check for 3,000 if the Beatles would reunite and come down.
SUSAN LACY: Lorne Michaels said, "I'll give $3,000 of a check if Paul and John come and record -- come to the show right now."
YOKO ONO: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
SUSAN LACY: I think the question was did they get in a cab and go there.
YOKO ONO: No, no.
SUSAN LACY: They were going to, though.
YOKO ONO: It's not because they were not interested in $3,000.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

TCA Tales from the Pioneers of Television

Martin Landau, Nichelle Nichols, Mike Connors, Robert Conrad and Linda Evans
No, these aren't the stars of CBS's fall rookie dramas. These are five "Pioneers of Television"--Martin Landau (best known for Mission: Impossible), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura on Star Trek), Mike Connors (Mannix), Robert Conrad (The Wild, Wild West) and Linda Evans (Dynasty).
PBS has hosted icons from the past at the last three summer press tours to promote this series, an uneven tribute to the Golden Age of television. These sessions, in fact, are generally much more entertaining than the series, especially one hilarious encounter a few years back dominated by Red Buttons and Mickey Rooney.
Evans, 67, was the kid of this crop. She was on stage mainly to take a bow from her TV debut on The Big Valley. That western starred film legend Barbara Stanwyck and Evans was lavish in praise of the actress.
The former Dynasty star was modest about her own talents but seems pretty savvy as a business woman. She says Mattel is coming out with a Barbie "Krystle" Dynasty doll and she gets a cut. There's also a brand new "Big Valley" feature film in the works, with Jessica Lange in the Stanwick role.
Landau was the one "pioneer" who is still working, appearing recently on Entourage. He talked about his many movie roles, including a memorable turn as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. He saw Lugosi as a classic Chekhov character, a tragic figure.
The 82-year-old actor says never met Lugosi (who died in the '50s) but did have "sandwiches and tea" once with another iconic horror star, Boris Karloff. It was the early '60s, and Karloff had just shot a movie with a student of Landau's, Jack Nicholson. Landau asked how that went. "Oh dear, poor boy," said Karloff, who didn't think Nicholson would have much of a career.
Landau also said he turned down about as many roles as he took. He was Gene Roddenberry's first choice as Spock on Star Trek but didn't want to play a pointy-eared Vulcan. He turned down Gene Hackman's part in The Poseidon Adventure, because he didn't want to shoot a movie about "an upside down boat."
Conrad, on the other hand, got his most memorable roles after other actors turned them down. The 81-year-old was cast in Wild Wild West after another actor ditched the western at the last minute. Conrad was one of 16 actors who auditioned to step in and was pretty sure John Derek--once married to Linda Evans--had the role. Derek, for some reason, turned it down and Conrad got the part.
He says he owes his career to James Dean. Dean's sudden death before the release of East of Eden left producers without a major star to promote the film. Conrad's mom was in P.R., and talked the lad into getting his hair cut like Dean in order to pose for publicity stills and work background on newsreels.
He was also a last-minute replacement in Assignment: Vienna, an early '70s action hour shot on location in Austria. When the original star quit, Conrad was only too happy to live it up in Europe for a year.
Conrad was also asked about his many Battle of the Network Stars appearances. The highly competitive actor was a team captain for the mid-'70s series, which featured Howard Cossell and many many series stars. Conrad challenged Welcome Back Kotter star Gabe Kaplan to a famous race, which the action star lost.
What he won from that, however, was a million bucks. An on-camera, "you-want-a-piece-of-me" gesture landed the Hollywood hothead a lucrative sponsorship deal with Eveready batteries. "Go ahead," Conrad used to seethe, "knock this battery off my shoulder." The full story, from Conrad:
I got into an argument with Telly Savalas, a legitimate argument. And I did this (makes a fist). I did that. And Bill Livingston, the president of Eveready, said, "Did you see that guy on TV? Did you see that guy that was going like that (making a fist) on national TV?" And the next thing I knew, they showed it six times during the football championship, and I went, "I dare you. I dare you to call it," whatever. And thank goodness for "The Battle of the Network Stars."
The actor remained confrontational years later when he attended the summer, 1985 press tour. Conrad was in Phoenix with his sons Christian and Shane promoting High Mountain Rangers. The actor came to the CBS executive session that tour and, in front of a room full of press, openly challenged CBS programming boss Bud Grant. Grant, who could have starred on The Sopranos, was somebody you didn't screw with, and Conrad admits the stunt didn't go over well with the boss. "He wasn't happy about that. I got a call two days later. Hey, I just told you what I thought," he told Grant. Mountain Rangers was quickly pulled "for some Dirty Dancing show featuring the nephew of the network president." Conrad is still Mr. Angry.
The 81-year-old actor does a weekly digital radio show today, something he plugged continuously during the Pioneers session. He remains partially paralyzed on his left side, the result of a 2003 car accident. Conrad was convicted of drunk driving and the young driver he hit, head on, eventually died as a result of his injuries.
The Wild, Wild West star did not seek or get much sympathy. The other panelists seemed to ignore him, especially Nichols and Evans, who had to endure the brunt of his charm. "Being next to these beautiful women ain't bad, works for me," he said. Later on he pointlessly extolled the virtues of Viagra.
Nichols, 77, told a long story about meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, who introduced himself as her biggest fan. Who knew Dr. King was a Trekkie? Nichols was set to ditch Star Trek after one season when King turned her around, telling her she was a role model and an inspiration.
Connors, 84, who told his pal Landau to "stay perpendicular," beat it out of the hotel directly after posing for the group shot. He was last seen sliding across the hood of a Pontiac Le Mans, leaping into the bench seat of a convertible and giving the tour one last squint in the rear view mirror.