Friday, August 31, 2012

New season start dates now just a click away

"When does the new TV season start?" It's the No. 1 question I get asked these days.
The good news is you can find out exactly when your favourite network prime time TV shows, as well as the brand new offerings, officially begin their runs right here at TV Feeds My Family. Simply click on the button at the top, left under the site logo marked "*NEW* 2012-13 PREMIERE DATES" anytime you want to check what launches when. They're all there in chronological order, including The Mindy Project (left), launching Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Fox and City.
A new TVFMF Fall Preview page, reviewing all the new network shows, will be up shortly.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

REVIEW: True Blood Season Five finale

True Blood showrunner Alan Ball put a bow on his hands-on involvement with the series with Sunday's Season Five finale and the dude pretty much let 'er rip. There was plenty of sex, violence and especially blood in the episode, which to my eye played like a campy old Batman episode as if directed by Quentin Tarentino.
The Toronto Star asked me to review Sunday's finale. If you've seen it and don't mind the spoilers, check out the review here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Toronto-lensed Copper makes Showcase debut

Coppers Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) and Maguire (Kevin Ryan)
One of the most impressive sets I've ever been on is the one for Copper. The pre-forensic cop show premieres Sunday night at 9 p.m. in Canada on Showcase.
I had an opportunity to visit the Toronto set back in early May. The producers, Cineflix and BBC America, have build this gigantic recreation of the Five Points neighbourhood of lower Manhattan, circa 1864, inside what was once an enormous car parts factory.
One small corner of the huge Five Points set; five streets, three alleyways
There's really a tremendous amount of detail on display, with ragged tenement shacks set up on cobblestone streets, bordellos and police stations and even outdoor markets. The amount of cobblestone alone is impressive.
Everything in this shot is inside an old car factory
The series hails from executive producers Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana, revered for their modern day cop show Homicide: Life on the Street. Fontana told me he was looking for something completely different to do (he's also working on his version of the Borgias saga) and was always curious about the whole Irish immigrant story in New York, especially the flood of arrivals during and after the potato famine. Five Points, he told me, was built over a filled-in, spring fed lake and the muddy and murky place never quite settled. Buildings shifted and the ground reeked. That was one element that was thankfully not recreated on the set.
Initial reviews for Copper have been mixed. A lot was expected from Levinson and Fontana and the duo may be cursed with high expectations. The word "lacklustre" has come up a few times in U.S. reviews. (The series nevertheless opened strong on BBC America Aug. 19). John Doyle in the Globe and Mail calls it "surprisingly bland."
I don't think he's wrong, although I thought the pilot set everything up tidily and gave up the requisite murder of the week. British actor Tom Weston-Jones, as the copper in question, detective Kevin Corcoran, is watchable in a understated, Clint Eastwood-meets-Jim Morrison kind of way.
Fontana and Levinson were proud of the way the set captured the claustrophobic nature of the grim Five Points ghetto but this may also be a turn off for viewers.
For more on Copper, read this feature I wrote for The Canadian Press.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong: 1930-2012

Half a billion people watched Armstrong's ghostly descent
Have to agree with colleague David Bianculli of TV Worth Watching that the 1969 moon landing was "the best TV show I ever saw in my life."
Neil Armstrong, who died today at 82, was the biggest star on or off the planet that summer. It was July 20, 1969, and--like every July--I was up at the cottage with my parents at our own sea of tranquility, Oliphant, Ontario, somewhere on the Bruce Peninsula.
My dad helped build the wood frame cottage in 1947, and the place is still fairly On Golden Pond-ish. A septic tank was installed just two years earlier, forget a TV set, so I saw Armstrong take his odd little hop/leap off the last step of the lunar module ladder on the portable set at Oscar and Mazie's cottage next door. The silver antenna extended all the way, the image on the 19-inch screen was black and white and fuzzy and still we all thought it was a miracle. The studio, after all, was 238,000 miles away.
I was just 12 at the time, born a few months before Sputnik--the Russian satellite that kick started the space race--was launched. Watching history unfold like this was a trip for a 12-year-old and, like everyone I knew, I ran out and bought a plastic model of the Lunar Excursion Module as soon as it arrived--in my case, at Rigbey's hobby shop, then on Bloor Street West in Etobicoke. Some lucky kids got the whole command module to assemble. The spindly, retractable legs of the LEM drove home the whole idea of weight and gravity on the moon (before snapping off in kid's rooms all over planet Earth).
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin took this famous moon shot
Major Matt Mason also landed at my house soon after Armstrong's grand adventure. The bendable spaceman was a little big for the model of the LEM, plus his arms looked like vacuum cleaner hoses.
Crowding around that small TV set up in Oliphant, it sure sounded to me like Armstrong said, "one small step for man...," not, "a man" as he later claimed and as was written on the plaque left on the lunar surface. It didn't matter. The part we all got right away was the "giant leap for mankind."
Like others, my memories of watching the event on television centre around CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite. Mopping his brow, saying "Whew!" for the rest of us, Uncle Walter brought the whole moon landing down to earth for viewers across North America. I don't have any memory of a CBC or CTV guy calling the moon shot, or even who they might have been at the time.
What I do remember was the awe of it all, and the promise. The idea that people could do anything, that the future was going to be very cool. Everything leading up to this had been a tease--Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Planetarium, Space Food Sticks. We'd all be taking commercial jets to the Sea of Tranquility by the time we were as old as Armstrong, 38 at the time.
It hasn't quite turned out that way. Still, I'm forever thankful Oscar and Mazie brought a set up to their cottage that July and that I saw the best TV show ever in Oliphant. It is a still, clear, primitive place where the night sky still holds that same sense of awe. There's never been a reason to install a proper cable or satellite reception up there--you look up over the bay at night and can see shooting stars and satellites streaking across the Milky Way, the greatest show on earth. On night's when the moon is full, the white light dances off the rippling waves of Lake Huron and washes all over Lonely Island. It is beautiful and humbling, and to this day, whenever I'm at the cottage on a clear night, I still look up at the moon and think of Neil Armstrong.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lost Girl can be found Saturday at Fan Expo

Saluting Silk. I tried to dress classy like
Looking for Lost Girl? Showcase's favourite succubus can be found Saturday at Fan Expo in TorontoAnna Silk (Bo), Kris Holden-Ried (Dyson), Ksenia Solo (Kenzie), Rick Howland (Trick), Zoie Palmer (Lauren) and KC Collins (Hale) will all be live and in person, appearing together on a panel in Hall G from 12 to 1 p.m. and signing autographs from 2 to 4 p.m.
I spoke with Fredericton, N.B. native Silk Thursday on the set of the series, which has about a week of production left to go in Season Three. The series is wrapping on a high note, with ratings higher than ever in Canada as well as in the U.S. (on SyFy).
Silk says she's psyched about meeting fans Saturday in Toronto after seeing the reaction from folks attending the most recent Comic Con in San Diego. She's amazed at how the series has taken off in the States.
I was invited down to the Lost Girl studio in south Etobicoke Thursday, along with Rob Salem of The Toronto Star, to get a little face time on the series. This series is doing so well, the producers must figure, even we can't wreck it!
The two of us were dudded up as Fae VIPs and thrown into the background extra holding room for the day. Director Steve DiMarco, freshly tattooed and looking like Pierce from Zits, called us out for several takes as he shot a big banquet scene. (Can't say more because of the old embargo thingy; Season Three premieres on Showcase early in the New Year.)
Brioux & Salem, a.k.a. Earl Camembert and Count Floyd
You won't find two bigger ham bones than me and Rob. Salem's been sneaking into scenes going all the way back to SCTV, when he managed to find his way into the "Bob Hope Desert Classic" sketch as John Candy's caddy. He even married Snake and Spike on Degrassi; you can look it up on IMDb.
I think we were pampered a little more than the average BG extras. Both of us got van pickups from transportation, a perk usually only the stars enjoy. The wardrobe fittings saw us hooked into tuxes, with Salem getting the full cape and chain of office treatment. Hey, he's taller and looks more like Count Chocula. The makeup trailer is a pampering place, where I even picked up a much-needed hair trim.
Lost Girl director Steve DiMarco
There is so much TV and film work in Toronto right now, I was told by a few of the extras Thursday, you can make a steady little living at it. Many are at this full time, booking three, four days a week and sometimes weekends. One woman, who earned her ACTRA card long ago, has been making the rounds from Flashpoint to Covert Affairs to Suits and has even worked upcoming shows like Transporter and Beauty and the Beast as well as the Hallmark movies shooting in Hamilton. Seven different agents keep her on the go.
Be prepared for a LOT of waiting around if this is something you think you may want to try. It took about ten hours to get our 15 seconds of fame, and that's with speedy DiMarco at the helm. The dude marches through takes like he has ADS, cutting off A.D.'s in an effort to keep cameras rolling. All pierced and leather, he dresses like a Lost Girl villain, which is an episode I'd pay to see.
DiMarco kept asking us extras to give more. "You can't go too big," he said. "BREATHE" was tattooed in gothic script across his bare mid-drift. All I could think of was Kenneth Mars from The Producers.
Still, the guy gets results.
Rick Howland, who plays Fae bartender Trick, swears by him. Says DiMarco gave him a role in something years ago that could have been cast with a much taller actor. DiMarco just sees talent, says Howland.
Hope having to look past two pseudo extras didn't slow him down Thursday.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

This week's podcast: Dieppe book deal, etc.

After a few weeks off, CHML's Scott Thompson had plenty of questions. First he wanted to know all about my recent trip to Dieppe. I was in France for the memorial celebrations surrounding the 70th anniversary of the WWII invasion (see previous postings). David O'Keefe, the Montreal historian who spent 15 years digging into  declassified, ultra top secret files about the WWII raid, just announced a book deal with Random House based on his findings. Good thing, too--O'Keefe's work on this subject pretty much re-write the history books.
Scott also wanted to talk about Charlie Sheen's new sitcom Anger Management, which he likes. I tell him Martin Sheen is joining the show as--who else?--Charlie's dad. We also talk about Rosie O'Donnell's heart attack, reports Michael J. Fox may be set to make a return to series TV and cutbacks at NBC's Tonight Show--sounds like Leno is taking it on the chin. Yes, I actually typed that. You can listen in here.

Late night joke of the week

From Tuesday's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon:

At the age of 50, Roger Clemens has signed on to play for a minor league team in Texas. You can tell he's getting up there. Today he tested positive for Activia.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Phyllis Diller: 1917-2012

Phyllis Diller, who died Sunday at 95, always struck me as the female Bob Hope. Her delivery and timing were very much patterned off Hope's confident, straight at you patter. Like Hope the master, how she said things was usually funnier than what she was saying.
With Diller, you thought it was all about how she looked or what she said, but it was really all about how she sounded. Listen to her analyze herself after her very first national TV appearance, as a contestant on Grouho Marx's You Bet Your Life.

 Her trademark cackle laugh--developed later--was used like Groucho's cigar, a way to pause or punctuate a joke. The laugh was very infectuous as you can clearly see by the stir Diller made in an early appearance on the panel show What's My Line?:


Diller, who was born in Lima, Ohio (where Glee is set), was very effective on TV in small doses. She shone in showcases like The Ed Sullivan Show, on game shows or on the Dean Martin comedy roasts. Her headlining series gigs, including the ABC sitcom The Pruitts of Southampton (kind of a reverse Beverly Hillbillies), did not go as well. Diller was more the cherry on top, not the cake.
In later years she became as famous for her plastic surgeries as for her comedy. She continued doing stand up well into her 80s. "You  know you're old," she cracked on her last live stage show in 2002, "when your walker has an air bag."
I never had the pleasure of interviewing her one-on-one. She was supposed to be part of a PBS Pioneers of Television panel at the TCA press tour a year ago but was a last minute scratch. Word then was that she was gravely ill but Diller rallied.
Now, the comedy world has been de-Fanged. By all accounts she was a warm and well-liked entertainer, clearly evident by all the tributes pouring in this week.

Monday, August 20, 2012

William Windom: 1923-2012

Windom in 1997
William Windom's death last Thursday brings up another indelible memory from that last stop on the fame machine, the Hollywood Show. Back in 1997, the Emmy-winning actor, who died of heart failure at 88, was among many celebrities from TV's "Golden Age" taking part in autograph meet-and-greets with fans. At the time it was held at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in North Hollywood.
Windom always seemed to stand out no matter what show he was on, including episodes of The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery.
I was a big fan of his one-season wonder My World and Welcome To It (1969-70), a thinly disguised sitcom based on the life and works of cartoonist/humourist James Thurber. Windom played a curmudgeonly cartoonist and I probably liked the show at the time because it featured these little animated sequences inspired by Thurber's stark, two-dimensional style.
Lisa Gerritsen played the daughter on the series and would go on to appear the next season on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Sheldon Leonard, legendary Dick Van Dyke Show executive producer, ran this series, too.
When I spotted Windom at the autograph show he was sitting next to former Jackie Gleason Show regular Sheila MacRae and just down from Ken Berry and Larry Storch from F Troop. You got older stars at the Hollywood Show back then because, well, they were still around.
Scoping out the show with Sheila MacRae
Windom did not bring any stills from My World and Welcome To It to this particular Hollywood Show as I recall. He might have had a few photos from his three seasons on The Farmer's Daughter or his later years on Murder, She Wrote. What I know he had was a stack of black and white 8x10s from his one episode appearance as commodore Matt Decker from the original Star Trek. When I asked him why he brought so many Star Trek photos, Windom, a practical man, said, "if you're going to a snowball fight, bring snow."
Eccentric and fidgety, I noticed he kept monkeying with an old navy telescope gizmo, a small brass thing he kept looking through when he wasn't being bugged for his John Henry. "Check this out," he finally said to me. I looked through it and realized that it was a trick telescope with a mirror in it so you could look directly sideways from where it appeared you were looking. Windom, married five times in his life, was scoping out the Playboy bunnies signing at a nearby table. The man knew what to bring to the show.

Les Arcades offers room with a view in Dieppe

DIEPPE, France--This is the view from my window at Les Arcades de la Bourse at Port de Plaisance.
Well, it was when Joseph Vernet painted it back in the late 1700s.
There are fewer tall ships now, a lot more white cruisers and power boats. Still, not a lot else has changed, as you can see by the shot I took this week from my 3rd floor balcony.
Husband and wife innkeepers Karine and Matthieu Leducq could not be more accommodating. Les Arcades offers 21 tidy rooms spread over four floors, so it is small enough that you don't have to ride the tiny, red rug-lined elevator in the lobby. Take the squeaky, twisty, hardwood stairs instead. Just ask for a room that faces the spectacular Port de Plaisance--it's worth the extra ten Euros. The little balconies off the large french doors offer the best view of the marina. The three star hotel, which offers free WiFi, is also just two short blocks from the historic Madeleine Church.
The restaurant on the main floor, which spills out into the sidewalk, was busy throughout the Dieppe 70th anniversary memorials. Les Arcades specializes in sea food, all brought in daily from local fishermen. You can't finish the seafood salad, which is smothered in prawns, and the salmon entree I ate late last week was tender and flavourful.
If you're looking for something fast, run around the block after you run down the stairs and stop at La Mie Caline. The little pastries shop has morning breads to tempt all tastes and their crusty, french stick sandwiches are fresh, reasonable and delicious.
Matthieu speaks far more English than I speak French, not a high bar, granted, but helpful nevertheless. He can be seen in Dieppe Uncovered, the History Television documentary which bowed to 545,000 overnight, estimated viewers Sunday and repeats tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
He is a history and architecture buff and will tell you most of the buildings around the port--including Les Arcades--date back to 1697, when a large fire ravaged much of the downtown. He figures his place has been operating as a hotel for at least 100 years. Churchill stayed there, and so did Orson Welles, who probably found no wine was served before its time.
Among the regulars who now make Les Arcades a second home is a chap who owns and operates a historic automobile which dates back as far as 1903. Matthieu, who is up on the local antique car rally scene, took it for a spin. I think he told me the car was capable of 200 horsepower, which is what my little Neon used to get on a good day. Check out how it can still snap into traffic, below.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Le Royal Cheese and other fun facts from France

DIEPPE, France--Ten things I've learned from five days in Dieppe:

  1. A McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese in France really is called a Royal with Cheese
  2. The French like to crack eggs over everything
  3. Three words: pain au chocolat
  4. You can apparently never have enough prawns
  5. Fraise is not something you coin
  6. Air conditioning is for sissies
  7. Soap, shampoo, conditioner--all in one!
  8. Locals love Canadians, not so crazy about Canadian Tire money
  9. People here pronounce my name better than I do
  10. Canadians have it way better here than they do in Brampton

Dieppe embraces Canadians at war memorial

Paul McGrath landed at Dieppe with the Royal Marine Commandos--and
went on to Normandy and Algiers. He's featured in Dieppe Uncovered
DIEPPE, France--O Canada, Dieppe stands on guard for thee.
On the 70th anniversary of the raid on this French coastal town, thousands came to pay homage to the valour of Canadian and other Allied soldiers who fought and died on Aug. 19, 1942 on this beach. Sunday's celebration at Square du Canada--a park which sits under a spectacular cliff topped by a medieval citadel--was filled with soldiers young and old, dignitaries and visitors from Canada, France, The U.K., America and beyond.
Troops representing all the original regiments marched in Sunday's parade
Many in the crowd wore Maple Leaf flags as well as the bleu, blanc rouge of France. Marching military bands played the anthems of France, Canada, the United States, The U.K., Australia, Belgium and Poland, representing soldiers who found from those nations. The crowd was mostly French, a fact driven home by the stirring sound of countrymen and women singing along to the "La Marseillaise." It was moving to look out at the beach during the playing of "O Canada," almost 70 years to the minute when the bloody raid would have ended. The anthem has become so associated with an Olympic podium or a hockey game that hearing it used to salute a military effort was almost nostalgic.
Two of the Canadians who fought at Dieppe escorted by their accountant
Canadian Governor General David Johnson and Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney marched with the the soldiers and various colour guards as they paraded out of the park and along the boardwalk overlooking the main "White" and "Red" beach areas where so many paid the ultimate price. Along the way, more wreath planting and moments of silence were observed at various war memorial monuments honouring various detachments. Overhead, military aircraft old and new from France, Britain and Belgium did noisy fly pasts.
The cenotaph festooned with wreaths at Square du Canada
Seven surviving Canadian soldiers were honoured at the ceremonies. All in their late-80s to mid-90s, the men are at an age when it is no longer reasonable to expect them to parade in the heat under their own steam. Wheel chairs were at the ready and used by most. A couple, including spry 95-year-old David Hart from Saint-Laurent, P.Q., walked the entire route.
Dieppe Uncovered, a new documentary based on 15 years of investigative research by Montreal professor David O'Keefe, premieres Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on History Television. O'Keefe and filmmaker Wayne Abbott used reinactors, archival footage and many trips to Dieppe and the surrounding beaches to stitch together this look at the real reasons behind the raid. O'Keefe found evidence in "ultra" top secret files, newly declassified, that suggests espionage, not a military strike, was the real reason for the invasion.
The Essex Scottish of Canada Regiment is saluted on the Dieppe boardwalk
No matter what was behind the Dieppe invasion, the French city has embraced the Canadian effort to an extraordinary extent. Flags fill shop windows and public spaces. As a Canadian here it is an almost overwhelming outpouring of affection, deeply moving and impressive. Vive Dieppe!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Screening proves Canadians not the Expendables

Wayne Abbott and Sly: where was Rambo in Dieppe?
DIEPPE, France--The Karma gods have a sense of humour. How else to explain that Wayne Abbott's documentary, Dieppe Uncovered, is having its premiere today in Dieppe at a local theatre that's soon to be playing The Expendables 2?
There are many who still think the Allied commanders must have thought the Canadians were expendable after they way they were thrown into the buzz saw of German resistance on the pebble shores of this coastal town. A few of the surviving veterans--brought to Dieppe this weekend to mark the 70th anniversary of the doomed raid--feel that way themselves.
Abbott's film, which premieres Sunday night at 9 p.m. on History Television as well as on uktv, goes some way towards clearing up old notions about Dieppe, revealing long hidden secret strategies behind the operation.
Two screenings of the film are being held here today, at 2 and 4 p.m., before an audience of veterans and current servicemen. The young soldiers represent regiments that fought at Dieppe. The Duke of York is also supposed to be in attendance, as is Canada's Minister of Veteran Affairs Steven Blaney.
It was another, much older film that first made me aware of Dieppe: All Star Bond Rally. My dad, a WWII veteran who served in France and Germany in the Canadian Provost Corps, was given a 16mm print of the 20th Century Fox short. He would haul out the ol' Kodak Pageant projector and show the durable two reeler at home every year.
"Til the lads come back again, back the old attack again..."
The film features Bob Hope, Bing Crosby (left), Frank Sinatra, Harry James, Betty Grable, Harpo Marx and even the popular radio duo Fibber McGee and Molly. Hope acted as Master of Ceremonies, and in the "Canadian" part of the print, he comes from behind a curtain to deliver a wartime propaganda message to try and sell a few war bonds (available at local theatres at the time).
"It was no hit or miss, but a generalship, that you Canadians were chosen for that battle at Dieppe," said Hope. "What was that?" I asked my dad. "More like slaughter at Dieppe," he would answer every time.
Most Canadian forces personnel felt the invaders were sorely under supported.
The failed invasion wasn't exactly a moral booster back home at the time. Still--as Abbott's film helps explain--lessons were learned which paved the way for the successful D-Day invasion two years later. Certainly, judging by all the Canadian flag waving going on this weekend in this French coastal town, the heroic Canadian effort did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Canadian veterans go back to the beach at Dieppe

DIEPPE, France--Went to the beach today and met seven heroes: Russ Burrows, Fred Englebrecht, Ray Gilbert, David Hart, Arthur Rossell, Donatian Vaillantcourt and Roman Wozniak.
These seven surviving members of the Canadian armed forces who fought the Battle of Dieppe were brought back to France this weekend as guests of the Canadian government. Minister of Veteran Affairs Stephen Blaney (front right, kneeling) described them correctly Friday as men of incredible courage. The guy in the black shirt, above, is David O'Keefe, a military historian from Quebec who spend countless hours reading thousands of pages of recently declassified "ultra" top secret documents before piecing together the true purpose of the Dieppe raid. It's all in the documentary Dieppe Uncovered airing Sunday night at 9 p.m. on History. Sunday is the 70th anniversary of the battle.
Hart (front row, right), from Saint Laurent, Quebec, was a Sargent with the Royal Canadian Corps Second Divisional Signals when he was dodging bullets and shrapnel at Dieppe. He's sticking to his view that the raid was one big screw up. "The retaining wall, we were told, was four feet tall. It was seven," says the fit and with-it 95-year-old.
He survived basically because the large, bulky radio he was lugging around never really got off the landing boat. The batteries alone weighed 75 pounds. Hart kept his radio line open and successfully messaged his 4th brigade to retreat. With other lines down, and the boat battered and rudderless in the waves, Hart asked permission to leave his post in an attempt to deliver the signal to 6th division. He got two minutes and in that time managed to get the vital call out to the other troops. The gutsy and unselfish move under fire probably saved hundreds of lives. It earned him the Military Medal for Bravery and a hand shake from King George VI at Buckingham Palace.
Hart went on to a career as an accountant but stayed in the reserve. Stayed, in an honorary capacity, until last year. At 94, as an honorary lieutenant colonel, he was the oldest and longest-serving officer in the Canadian army!
Gilbert (next to Hart, back row left in cap) was with the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment. He was in one of the new Churchill tanks that were useless on the round rocks of Dieppe. The rocks got caught up in the works and broke apart the tracks, immobilizing many of the tanks. The Calgary-native says he emptied all his ammo into the beach casino house that was full of German snipers. Eventually he was captured and taken prisoner, spending 13 horrible months in shackles.
Still the tank, he feels, saved his life. "It's why he's here today," says Dorothy, his wife of 64 years.
Both Hart and Gilbert have returned to Dieppe at least five times in the past, celebrating various anniversaries with other survivors. What's Gilbert do for fun? Barbershop performance singing. Hey, he's earned the right.
The two men remember one other thing about that day--it was warm and sunny, just as it was for Friday's photo op.

Tout va bien for free man in Dieppe

DIEPPE--Been in France a whole day now and still haven't seen that dog from The Artist.
Seen plenty of other cool things however, including more Canadian flags here in Dieppe than you see at home in Brampton. I'm here to cover Dieppe Uncovered, a documentary premiering Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on History Television. The production, from director/producer Wayne Abbott and featuring military historian David O'Keefe, sheds new insights into the 1942 invasion that was Canada's costliest war time maneuver ever. Close to a thousand Canadian troops sacrificed their lives within three hours of the raid, cut down by German forces waiting on high in this seaside town across the English Channel from The U.K. O'Keefe sifted through hundreds of recently declassified documents to discover military strategies that suggest the lessons learned at Dieppe served the Allies well two years later when D-Day finally arrived. O'Keefe's discovery of the full extent of Sir Ian Fleming's full involvement in the planning of the Dieppe raid is also an eye opener. The future James Bond author saw the "pinch raid" as more about cracking German codes than establishing any kind of a beachhead.
Surviving Canadian veterans from the invasion are due her Saturday for two special screenings of the film. More on that later, off now to find Fido.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Time catching up fast with stars of '70s sitcoms

Sweathogs (l-r) Robert Hegyes, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs,
John Travolta, Ron Palillo and teacher Gabe Kaplan
Hate to keep dipping into this same well, but news of Ron Palillo's death brought back more memories of the Hollywood Show out in Burbank, California.
Palillo, who played goofy Arnold Horshack on the '70s sitcom, died Tuesday at age 63 of an apparent heart attack. He was with a "Welcome Back Kotter reunion of people not named Travolta or Kaplan" at a Hollywood Show I attended a few years ago. Robert Hegyes ("Epstein"), another former "Sweathog," was at that same show. He also died earlier this year, just 60.
A few rows down from that table was a group of former stars from the movie Grease--also not named Travolta (or Olivia Newton John). Among the stars sitting and signing autographs there that day was former Taxi star Jeff Conaway, who died last year at 60. Conaway, who never could shake his very public addictions to drugs and alcohol, was a disturbing fixture on Dr. Drew's Rehab shows. He was in a wheelchair that weekend at the Hollywood Show and did not look well.
Perhaps it shouldn't be so shocking that a handful of former celebrities have died since being featured at these autograph gatherings. Most of the ex-stars featured at the Hollywood Show are older. Many are there because they can use the cash they get from signing items for fans.
Several years ago I spoke with Buddy Hackett and Alvy Moore (Green Acres) on separate occasions at these "oldies" gatherings. Both passed away soon after they made those last in-person appearances. Moore, in particular, did not look well. When I  asked if I could take his picture, however, he reached beneath the table top, picked up and put on the old fedora he used to wear on Green Acres, and sprang back to life with that old Mr. Kimball smile. Photo op over, he just as quickly slumped back into looking older than his 75 years again. You had to admire his show-must-go-on pluck, but yikes.
It must be hard on the celebs who keep making these appearances--the room keeps shrinking. Guess it is good that these folks get to take one last bow, but too many seem to be dying twenty years too soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

More big fish stories from The Hollywood Show

Ben & me in '97. He worked for scale
Wrote another take on the Hollywood Show for Saturday's Entertainment Section in The Toronto Star. Can't find a link to it yet on-line, so you know what? Buy a newspaper!
The Hollywood Show is usually held four or five times a year. The next one is in Chicago  Sept. 7-9. Then back at the Burbank Marriott Oct. 5-7. The two shows after that are in Las Vegas Nov. 9-10 and at LAX Jan. 11-13, 2013.
I've gone to at least a half dozen of these shows over the years, starting back in the mid-'90s, and it always fascinates me to see long lines of tourists from all over seeking autographs for actors nobody could even recognize. 
Ben Chapman is the example I give in The Star piece. He was one of the actors who played the Gill-man in The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Basically any tall, older actor could show up at these shows with a stack of glossy 8x10s of the gruesome fish-head and say they were the guy. Chapman, who died in 2008, used to fly in from his home in Hawaii and pocket loads of cash from the collectors who would line up--some bringing with them 40 or 50 photos--and pay for him to sign away. Chapman charged more than other celebrities at the show because he knew these dealers would then sell them for two- or three-times that again on eBay.
Another guy whose face you never saw was Bob May, who was inside the robot suit in the ‘60s sci-fi series Lost in Space. Any short actor could have shown up and claimed it was him inside that suit, but May had the stories and was happy to share them. He died in 2009.
This summer in Burbank, there were a couple of guys also trying to cash in on their relative anonymity: Booth Coleman, 89, who was signing his portrait as Dr. Zaius on the TV series of Planet of the Apes. Coleman was unrecognizable on that series under all that latex and face putty, not to mention fur.
Also at the show was Walter Emmanuel Jones. He played Zack Taylor, one of the six original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, so his face was usually hidden by his black, tinted motorcycle helmet. In the last year of the show, when Jones and others walked in a contract dispute, another actor replaced him and was only ever seen from the back of his head unless he was in the Power Ranger suit!
Jones was unfortunately set up outside the main room in the hall of the Marriott's big banquet room, as if he was in detention. He sat with his Black Power Ranger helmet and stacks of colour 8x10s. Friendly guy, spoke glowingly of shooting in Montreal for another project. Hard to believe Power Rangers began nearly 20 years ago.
Jones is still acting, and was in an episode of Prime Suspect last season.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

TONIGHT: Matthew Perry attempts to Go On

Perry surrounded by his new friends on Go On
Matthew Perry's new comedy Go On starts tonight--the first network series debut of the 2012-'13 season. The episode will get a sneak peak in late night after NBC's Olympic coverage. My Rogers' Cable on-screen info says it will air around 11:05 P.M. ET, but that time could vary depending on Summer Games events.
Perry plays Ryan King, an edgy sports radio talk show host not unlike Jim Rome. He's still reeling from the recent death of his wife but wants to get right back on the air. Not so fast, says his boss (John Cho from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), who insists he attend grief therapy counseling first. King does, starts screwing with the group, and hilarity ensues.
Perry is on familiar turf as a wise-cracking smart-ass. He's much more sympathetic here, though, than in his last short-lived series, Mr. Sunshine, where he was just a cranky drag. Here he has a reason to be in a funk and audiences have a reason to root for the character.
Laura Benanti (The Playboy Club) plays Lauren, the no-nonsense group leader. She's the backboard to Perry's many jump shots. Perry told me at press tour what a fan he is of Bob Newhart, who shone in his '70s series about a therapist, The Bob Newhart Show. The difference here is that Perry is one of the patients, not the doctor, and freer to push the stories forward and play for laughs.
Like Newhart, the Ottawa-raised actor has always had a natural sense of timing and gets to throw it around here with a strong supporting cast. Brett Gelman, as Mr. K, is effectively unhinged as one of King's fellow patients. Tyler James Williams--now all grown up from his days on Everybody Hates Chris--nicely underplays his role as patient Owens.
A highlight of the pilot is when King organizes a "March Sadness" pool to see which patient has the saddest stories. The pilot is directed by Todd Holland (Wonderfalls) who brings his usual snap to the game.
Go On isn't as smart, original or as illuminating as CBC's failed therapy comedy, Michael Tuesdays & Thursdays, which, sadly, may mean it will play to a larger room. I wonder if the title is strong enough--Go On doesn't quite sell it for me--but the pilot is worth staying up for tonight. The series will begin running in its regular Tuesday night timeslot starting Sept. 11 on NBC and Global. For more on Perry and this series, check out this story I wrote for the Canadian Press.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fonzie, rock stars at Burbank Hollywood Show

Denny Laine. He was in Wings; I eat them
BURBANK, CA--What better way to celebrate the end of another press tour then to go to the place where the stars ultimately wind up--The Hollywood Show.
The celebrity autograph exhibition and marketplace takes place a couple of times a year at the Burbank Marriott hotel. Other shows are in Chicago and Vegas. Get more information here.
About 70 stars are there through the end of today, Sunday, including Henry :The Fonz" Winkler, Dean Cain and Todd Bridges.
I've been checking out these shows for many years and it is interesting to see how things shift. Used to be stars from the '50s and '60s were the main attraction. Now it is '70s and '80s. Pretty soon the joint will be filled with reality stars looking to make one last cash grab.
Sometimes it takes five, 10 or 20 years after a press tour appearance for a star to get to the Hollywood Show. Sometimes it takes a few hours. Cain was at the NBC sessions last week as part of the cast of Stars Earn Stripes but there he was Saturday, with autograph seekers lined up outside the door and down the hall.
He was mainly signing photos from his days as TV's Superman. He wishes he had photos from Stars Earn Stripes he said when I asked him about the new series. He said that experience working out with real U.S. army recruits was killer tough.
Winkler was busy signing Happy Days board games and posters and anything you wanted for forty bucks. He says he reports to the set of Arrested Development to start shooting those new episodes Thursday.
Denny Seiwell. Still chats with Sir Paul
There were several musicians at the show, including two of Paul McCartney's former bandmates: Denny Laine and Denny Seiwell. Seiwell was in on the Ram sessions and signed a photo of he and McCartney at CBS's 52nd Street studio where much of that album was recorded. Lane was tremendously good natured with fans, posing for photos and half the time forgetting to collect the $20 bucks folks were shelling out for their signed pics. He says he just spoke with McCartney two weeks ago and the two are planning a trip to Chicago next year to visit this dude who collects all kinds of keyboards and other instruments.
Another rocker, Keith Emerson from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, is also at the show. A guy from one of the dealer rooms walked up with six electric keyboards and had Emerson sign each one. Does the dude plan to sell them for a hefty mark up? That's the plan, Stan.
Some stars don't seem that removed from the scene. Charles Shaughnessy, from The Nanny, was there. Others go way back. All of the Dallas cast members not on the new Dallas are there, including Ken Kercheval, Steve Kanaly, Jennilee Harrison, Charlene Tilton, Morgan Brittany, Cathy Podewell and Tracy Scoggins. Tilton, still cleaving for the media, did sneak onto the new Dallas and did not seem shy about signing any of her racy Sports Illustrated swimsuit shots. In fact, that signature will cost you a little extra.
Ken Kercheval: much nicer than Cliff Barnes
I caught up with Kercheval, who has spoken with the producers about getting in on the new Dallas next season. (The first season finale is this Wednesday on TBS). He remembered the celebrity food story I wrote about him way back in the day for TV Guide Canada, mainly because of the photo shoot. Kercheval had invested in a popcorn farm at the time and my good pal, photographer Gene Trindl, took a large box lid, cut a hole in it for Kercheval's neck, and filled the lid with popcorn. It made for a memorable shot. Gene was always making gold out of things like popcorn.
Unfortunately, Kercheval did not have the same luck, which is probably why he is signing his autograph this weekend at the Hollywood Show. He did have fond memories of Gene, though, recalling days when the two of them just sat around and talked about this whole crazy business. He was sorry to hear he had passed away.
There were a few stars there that were hard to recognize--not because they weren't so famous, but because they had gone too far in their attempts to look young. One actress, who worked on two of the biggest TV comedies and dramas ever, had these giant breasts put in, perhaps in hopes one would not notice that too much work had been done to her face. Spoke with her, and she was warm and friendly, but there are moments at these shows were you wish you didn't know what these stars look like today.
Autograph: 20 bucks. TV memories: priceless
That's not true for Brandon Cruz, who played the adorable tyke Eddie 40 years ago in a show that was pretty sophisticated for its time, The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Cruz, grayer but fit at 50, has been through his own highs and lows, battling drug and alcohol addictions. He's now clean and sober and counsels others, particularly fellow surfers. He was just back from France where he performed an intervention.
Cruz had some interesting things to say about Courtship. Yes, the series ended when star Bill Bixby and creator/producer James Komack had a falling out. Komack, who went on to create Welcome Back Kotter and Chico and the Man, was getting pretty hard to take, says Cruz. Miyoshi Umeki, who played housekeeper Mrs. Livingston, had already served notice she was not coming back.
Cruz says Umeki contributed something now standard on every movie and TV set--the portable dressing room trailer. The Oscar-winner demanded a dressing room as big as Bixby's and when she didn't get it, she had one built and moved it right on the lot. As Bixby later noted, it was bigger than his. Umeki, who passed away in 2007, went on to have many more built for other series stars who liked the idea; today, her family is still in the star trailer business.
Other former child stars at the show include Johnny Whitaker (Family Affair), Todd Bridges (Diff'rent Strokes) and Tracey Gold (Growing Pains).
Wacky prop comedian Rip Taylor is also at the show. "Yes, I'm not dead yet!" he proudly declared. He's sitting next to Whitaker. The two made a movie together many years ago.
Robert Loggia was also there. More famous today for bouncing on the keyboards with Tom Hanks in Big, I asked him about his mid-'60s series T.H.E. Cat. "Did all my own stunts," he said with pride.
The oldest guy in the room may have been Booth Coleman. In his 90th year, the Broadway veteran has been on TV for 60 years, appearing on everything from Frasier to The Monkees to Gilligan's Island. He most recent credit is an appearance on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
He sat behind stacks of photos from his stint on the TV series version of The Planet of the Apes. Took three hours to get into makeup as Dr. Zaius. "Makeup at 5 a.m., on set at 8."
There wasn't much action at Coleman's table. Was coming to these shows worthwhile, I asked? "Eh," said Coleman. "Not so much."
If you're in Burbank today, stop by and tell him you remember him--and give Kercheval a hug.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Schwarzenegger terminates press tour

"I vill crush you like the pencil neck geeks you are!"
BEVERLY HILLS, CA--And now a man who needs no introduction," said ESPN vice president Connor Schell. "Do it anyway," said Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The former "Governator" was ESPN's way of getting us to stick around to the very end of this summer's TCA press tour. While some journalists had already bolted for the airport, everyone who was left got in on the Schwarzenegger session.
He was here to promote Arnold's Blueprint, the first 30 for 30 short being introduced this fall on ESPN. The 12-minute film, by documentary filmmaker Michael Zimbalist, chronicles Schwarzenegger's one year of obligatory service in the Austrian army. The army stint was mandatory if the future Mr. Universe was going to get a passport. He packed on 25 pounds of muscle in that one year, chowing down on all the meat and working out every chance he got. He repeated several times during the session how important that one year was in his life.
"I wanted to be the strongest man in the world and all those kind of things," he said. "It was just a matter of now putting the work into it and keep seeing it in front of you and chasing that vision."
The Guv was relaxed and smooth throughout the session, showing flashes of humour as he worked the room. He says he's doing a bunch of films now with Sylvester Stallone because, "we're in love with each other." He says he worked four hours on the first Expendibles movie, four days on the one about to be released and will work four weeks on the next one. Hey, the man is 65.
Schwarzenegger admitted he took steroids back in his body building days, suggesting the artificial enhancers were "experimental" back then. He doesn't recommend that route today. "Every sport is trying to get rid of the drugs," he says.
He's proud of his accomplishments in office, pointing out he was the lone Republican in Sacramento, surrounded by Democrats. Then he's piss off the Republicans by backing same sex marriage. Life is so much easier in the movies.
He says he never pays attention to the naysayers, a belief that has informed his whole life. "When people say no, I hear yes," he said, triggering a few of us in the room to think about his former housekeeper. it had been a long press tour, and we were all out of steroids.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Paley exhibit "Television Out of the Box" a winner

Looks like Linda Carter had her face lifted
BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Ever wanted to sit in the Seinfeld Monk's Diner booth? Get right up close to the ER doctor and nurse name tags? Get close enough to Wonder Woman's boots that you can smell them?
Well, that last one is pretty sick. But if you can't get help, or are just a true TV fan, check out the amazing "Television Out of the Box" exhibit on display for the next three years at The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills.
Reporters were given a V.I.P. tour of the exhibit earlier this week. Several luminaries from TV shows old and new, including Ed Asner, Joe Regalbuto from Murphy Brown, Robert Conrad from The Wild Wild West, Marg Helgenberger from CSI, Big Bang creator Chuck Lorre, Warner Bros. TV president Peter Roth and Donna Mills, Joan Van Ark and Michelle Lee from Knots Landing all mingled with critics at the event.
Conan out of Lego. On loan from Jay Leno 
Lorre, who also writes and executive produces Two and a Half Men and Mike & Molly, says he has few TV goodies in his house. "Just pictures of each cast in my office," he says. He was surprised to see TV props and costumes wind up on display in a museum. "When you're making it," he dryly noted, "you're just trying to not get cancelled."
The artifacts--and the guests--all had some connection to Warner Bros. television productions. The studio got into the TV game in the mid-'50s and some early westerns are represented in the collection, including cowboy duds from Cheyenne and Maverick. Letters from real FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, commenting on the FBI TV series, are on display.
Asner's worked for everybody in Hollywood but his main Warner Bros. connection is the groundbreaking ABC miniseries Roots.
Joe Regalbuto and gruff but lovable Ed Asner at the Paley
Asner's still working of course. He says he had fun working on the CBC comedy Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays last year and was sorry to hear it did not get picked up. How did he come to be part of a Canadian comedy? "One of the geniuses up there realized they needed me."
Asner says he didn't keep many artifacts from the many shows he did. "I had a fan who wanted the clock on Lou Grant's desk," he says. "It's in the Kansas Hall of Fame or something."
Donna Mills next to some old thing from Knots
Van Ark says she didn't keep any of Val Ewings clothes from Knots Landing because they were awful. Instead, she hoarded many of Nicolette Sheridan's duds. "We were the same size and he clothes were way better," says Van Ark.
The exhibit also has a "Theme Song Sing-a-long Theatre" where you can belt out the theme to Friends or The Flintstones or even Growing Pains. There are several animation cels from Saturday morning kiddie shows, and even a large "cell" you can step into and be in a scene with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
There is also a wall full of vintage lunch boxes from the '50s, '60s and '70s as well as dozens of Bugs Bunny dolls wearing costumes designed by top Hollywood costumers like Bob Mackie. It is fun just walking up the Paley Center's long stairway/ramp carpeted in colour bars. It leads directly into a funky TV screen.
Always thinking, Lorre used the occasion to have chocolate bars handed out with wrappers promoting his upcoming book of vanity cards. The title: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Bitter. Which reminds me--one of Charlie Sheen's bowling shirts is also on display.
Urkels's shoes. They wore socks back then
Not all of the Warners' stars were talking at the Paley party

O Canada! Four true north TV success stories

BEVERLY HILLS, CA--There are times when it seems as if half the actors on American television are Canadians--if not Brits, Aussies or Kiwis. It's as if Hollywood was trying to address the growing number of Americans in the National Hockey League by allowing more Canadians into Hollywood.
Besides the usual suspects such as Tyler Labine (NBC's notorious "Monkey Show," Animal Practice) and Joshua Jackson (Fringe), there were sightings this summer 2012 press tour of Hannah Simone (New Girl), Carrie-Anne Moss (Vegas) and Shenae Grimes (90210).

Here's a new name to remember: Tracy Spiridakos. The friendly Winnipeg-native is currently in North Carolina shooting J.J. Abrams' NBC adventure series Revolution. She landed the gig in her first try at pilot season. Read more about Spiridakos, who misses her family back at Winnipeg's Olympia Diner, here at one of four stories I filed off this tour for The Canadian Press (CP).


Kristin Kreuk is a familiar face on press tour for Smallville. This season, the pretty Vancouver native is the beauty in The CW's Beauty and the Beast.
Kreuk shoots the series in Toronto, while Stephen Amell, the athletic Toronto lad who headlines The CW's Arrow, shoots his series in Vancouver. In fact, it seems as if everything on The CW is either shot in Canada or stars a Canadian. I spoke with Warner Bros. Television president Peter Roth and a couple of CW execs about their Canadian crush. Read more about that here.

Matthew Perry is no stranger to press tour. The American-born, Ottawa-raised actor is back with a new comedy about group therapy, NBC's Go On
Perry admits he didn't have to do a ton of research to get up to speed on his character, a radio sports talk show host who goes to grief counseling after the death of his wife. As Perry says, "I have a ton of experience of sitting in circles and talking about my problems." Read more about the 42-year-old, a big fan of Bob Newhart's old shrink sitcom, here.

Kiefer Sutherland is always mobbed at press tour. One year, I teamed up with Globe and Mail TV writer Andy Ryan on a plan to get an exclusive. We figured out the exit Sutherland would have to take to escape a very intense press scrum and set ourselves up on the other side of the doors. Andy had something to lure Sutherland over--Canadian cigarettes. I made with the hockey stories. It was just a 2-4 of 50 away from the perfect Canadian trap.
Sutherland didn't have to be tricked this time to talk about his latest Fox series, Touch. You can read that story here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Charlie Sheen declares he's "not insane anymore"

Charlie Sheen can still draw a crowd, on press tour and on TV
BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Looks like CTV's gamble on Charlie Sheen's new series Anger Management may just pay off.
The Canadian network scooped the series despite rival Rogers' deal with FX for FX Canada. Anger Management is distributed internationally by Sony, so CTV made a separate side deal for Sheen.
Then CTV announced they were going to sit out FX's summer run on Anger and wait until September to launch the series in Canada.
The risk is that Sheen's show could be cancelled by then. FX has this unusual deal with the Anger producers to automatically order a further 90-episodes of the series should the first 10 maintain a high ratings level.
FX president John Landgraf told reporters last week that, so far, Sheen is drawing more than enough for renewal. "Anger Management has been the No. 1 scripted comedy in cable, season-to-date, and it's averaging 13.8 million total viewers and 7.1 million adults 18-49 per week," he says.
Landgraf revealed that ratings results for the first two episodes were thrown out. Sheen's "Winning" and "warlock blood" ravings during his lost year guaranteed he'd get a huge early sample, tilting the odds.
 Episodes 3 through 6 "have exceeded the ratings threshold that's required for a back 90 renewal," he said. Episode 7 airs tonight at 9:30 p.m. on FX. Landgraf says there is every indication the series will get picked up, although no decision will be made until all 10 from the initial order have aired.
One hiccup ahead: tonight and next week, Anger Management must battle NBC's Olympic coverage for U.S. viewers, which could put a dent in FX's momentum.
EP Bruce Helford (left) and Sheen. Nice shorts
CTV plans to sneak Anger Management starting Sunday, Aug. 12 at 7 p.m., directly out of their afternoon coverage of the Closing Ceremonies for the London Summer Olympic Games. The series will join the weekly schedule Tuesday nights at 9 in September.
Landgraf also announced that Charlie's dad Martin Sheen (The West Wing) will become a series regular (he guests on Episode 9). He'll play Charlie's dad, which shouldn't be a stretch. Charlie's character, by the way, is named "Charlie Goodson."
A clip was shown of Sheen and Sheen on the set, with Senior doing his spot-on Brando impersonation from Apocalypse Now. Charlie previously worked with his dad on Spin City and Two and a Half Men. Also in the clip as a bartender was Brett Butler, the stand-up comedienne fired from her own series Grace Under Fire. Sheen's EP, Bruce Helford, survived previous showrunning stints with Norm Macdonald and Roseanne. He's now just Cybill Shepherd away from winning the Nobel Peace prize.
As for his own career freak out last year, Sheen said, "my life's different now that I'm not insane anymore. Pretty accountable most of the time. Right Bruce?"

Russell Brand zeros in on Sarah Palin's appeal

Reporters don't want to miss a word Russell Brand says
BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Tonight is the final night of the initial six-episode test run for Russell Brand's late night series Brand X. It airs on FX and FX Canada at 11 p.m.
The cable network has already ordered seven more episodes featuring the blunt Brit, although the series has only been drawing so-so ratings. The new episodes will premiere in October.
The problem, as I see it, is harnessing Brand's kinetic mental and physical energy into some sort of coherent format. When I tune in, I feel like I've missed the beginning of the show, that it kind of starts in the middle.
Brand indicates the days he's gone sockless
Brand suggested changes will be coming. Right now, he interacts with his studio audience in what looks like a high school theatre. He riffs on the news, throwing headlines around, distilling it through his active mind and seeing what sticks. That approach has been hit and miss.
Maybe they should start the show with Brand at a desk like Jon Stewart, then have him kick it over. Maybe they should just follow him around as he rants, a half hour version of Rick Mercer's bit.
Or they should just shoot Brand's press tour sessions. They're bloody brilliant, hilarious, although most of the content probably would not pass muster with standards and practices.
Brand had critics in stitches last week as he succinctly summed up the appeal of Sarah Palin, this tour's hot button after her distracting NBC party appearance.
"I think the reason Sarah Palin has been so long tolerated is because of the latent inquisition around the vagina." Critics seemed stumped; this was cryptic even by Brand's elastic standards.
Brand broke it down for us. "People want to f--- her, don't they?"
As Homer Simpson once said, "it's funny because it's true."
"That's why you tolerate the other stuff," he continued on Palin. "You think, okay, that is a mad thing to say about seeing Russia out your window, but the dick don't lie."
FX head of publicity John Solberg was standing at the podium, trying not to wince. The session was already into overtime. "John, you could have had me out of here before I said that," Brand pointed out. "That's all they're going to write about now. I was trying to get changes to the format. Now, all of a sudden, I'd f--- Sarah Palin."
The dick don't lie.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Aaron Sorkin stares down critics of The Newsroom

Jeff Daniels (left) and Aaron Sorkin
BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Aaron Sorkin isn't afraid to take the heat.
The Emmy- and Oscar-winning screenwriter (The West Wing, The Social Network) closed HBO's sessions at the TCA press tour Wednesday by defending his new drama The Newsroom. It is a show that seems to have split the room: some critics don't like the way women are portrayed on the show or how characters tend to speak in preachy rants. Others nitpick at the way journalists are portrayed. Others think the show has problems but they like crusading news anchor Will McAvoy, played with zeal by Jeff Daniels.
The fact not everybody likes The Newsroom is cool, says Sorkin, who is used to being a critic's darling. "Anytime people are talking this much about a show, it's good for television."
What he didn't like were a couple of "untrue and unsourced" Internet rumours he felt besmirched his good name. He denied reports that he has fired his writing staff. While there were a few changes, for the most part, "I want the old gang back," he says. He did say consultants are being hired to keep the series honest about how actual TV newsrooms operate.
Another untruth out there: "I do not have an ex-girlfriend on the writing staff," he insists.
Daniels came to his bosses aid a few times during the 30-minute session. "I completely get why you do what you do," he told critics. "God bless you. You don't do it for me, and you never have. It took me a long time as an actor to stop reading you."
Daniels wondered if he might have gone a little too far. "Did I just offend all of them?" he asked Sorkin.
Sorkin admitted his writing tends to be romantic and idealistic. That's where he is coming from. He added that "hubris on this show is always punished."
There were tweets-a-plenty during the lively session. Afterwards, in the post session scrum, Sorkin admitted that HBO at one point wanted to bail on this Newsroom panel, but he insisted on coming. "I don't want to have an adversarial relationship with the press," he said. "I get that there are people who don't like the show and who are writing honestly about the show...I've always had a great relationship with TCA."
He also talked about the YouTube "Sorkinisms" mash-up video where he is shown to repeat lines of dialogue on his different shows ("You think?"). Check it out here. Sorkin says he loves the seven-minute clip, thinks it is well edited and heard from the person who put it together.  "He was mortified," he told Sorkin. "He meant it as a tribute" and then saw it get turned against the showrunner in the wake of the mixed reviews for The Newsroom.
Asked why he repeats certain snippets of dialogue, Sorkin said it was because "I have a very limited imagination."
HBO has already ordered a second season for next year. The seventh episode airs this Sunday.