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How I like to go to the movies…and a link for Mike Farley

This is, by the way, the first scene from Juzo Itami’s hit 1985 comedy “Tampopo.” A classic work of what I call culinography (i.e., food porn). We may be seeing bits of other examples, plus more from this one, later in the week.

Speaking of gratuitous depictions of the acts of cooking and eating, it is part of my duties as a regular PH blogger to ensure that our own TV cooking maven Mike Farley see this “Julie and Julia” inspired post on “10 TV Chefs Who Need Their Own Movie.” An okay list, I guess, but how did he miss Graham Kerr? And what of the various Iron Chefs? Personally, I find just about any episode of the original Japanese “Iron Chef” series 100 times more exciting than most summer movies. I also wonder if Christopher Campbell knows that Alton Brown of “Good Eats” was a film school geek long before he went to cooking school.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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TCA Tour: “Dollhouse” set visit

Last year, I had a chance to visit the “Dollhouse” set, and it was absolutely breathtaking. This year, I went to visit it again, and the effect was the same. I just wish I liked the show as much as I like the Dollhouse itself. But, hey, maybe that’ll change when I finally get a chance to sit down and watch the Season 1 set in its entirety…particularly the bonus 13th episode, “Epitaph One,” which the show’s creator, Joss Whedon, describes as “an incredibly strange sort of bookend to the show.”

When we first arrived on the set, the actors were still shooting elsewhere on the Fox lot, so Whedon held court before the assembled throng of critics (some of whom may or may not have actually been bowing before him) and spoke to the second season of “Dollhouse” all by his lonesome, which he described as “the biggest surprise of my career.”

“What can I say?” asked Whedon. “I really didn’t expect to be sitting here again for a while. This has been like skiing in a cartoon where you go up the mountain and down the mountain and up and down. Right now, we are pretty high up on it because we realized that we were actually going to have to work for a living this summer.”

Okay, I’m sure the Whedon-ites will want to know every last word that Joss had to say, but for the sake of those who – like myself – still have good intentions of playing catch-up before Season 2 begins, I’ll do you the favor of waiting ’til post-jump to offer up his comments.

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Hollywood manages its baser instincts (updated)

Yes, it seems to be a day when we’re avoiding the worst that the film biz has to offer. Take that Sammy Glick! Maybe.

* Notorious screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, who brought the world such morality plays as “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls,” is handling the kind of character/person you’d never expect him to write about, or meet. A virgin. Apparently the once severely overpaid, self-aggrandizing writer not exactly known for any particular virtues of any particular sort became a born-again Catholic following a bout with cancer. Naturally, a recent memoir tells of his conversion.

* I’ve never watched the most recent iteration of “At the Movies,” but I’m happy to say that the next version will be hosted by the New York Times‘ A.O. “Tony” Scott and the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips. They had both been my favorite subs for the still-going-strong but voiceless Roger Ebert during the final days of the old show’s run, and having them both return gives me a small but solid happy. These guys know movies and should be worthy successors to Mr. Ebert and the late Gene Siskel. I’ll be tuning in.

UPDATE: Glenn Kenny weighs in on “when good things happen to good film critics.” He also has something to say about the predecessors…and one of their daddies. It’s critical go-time. A humorous must for fans of critic-on-critic pugilism and praise.

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TCA Tour: “NCIS: Los Angeles” set visit

I’m a big fan of CBS’s “NCIS,” but I’ll freely admit that I didn’t get in on the ground floor. I didn’t find my way into the series until the second season of the show was released onto DVD, but once I started working my way through the set, I found that it was almost impossible to stop. Ever since then, I’ve been making it a point of watching the show…though, of course, I’m far from the only one at this point. Back then, it was still kind of an under-the-radar series, but, really, how far under the radar can a show possibly fly when the USA Network is running three back-to-back episodes every weeknight?

This heightened off-network profile, combined with the remarkable accomplishment of having its new episodes grow in popularity with each subsequent season, is no doubt why CBS has decided that the time is finally right to gift the show’s fans with a spin-off: “NCIS: Los Angeles.” It’s probably also why the new series has no less than three instantly recognizable faces – Chris O’Donnell, LL Cool J, and Oscar winner Linda Hunt – within its cast.

It’s gotta be tough to break out from a series like “NCIS,” where the fans are about as die-hard as they come, but at least the cast is aware of their responsibilities.

“My biggest concern, and I think for most of us, is to please the current ‘NCIS’ fans first and foremost, because they’re very loyal fans and a huge following,” said O’Donnell. “And, you know, if new people tune into the show, that’s great, but I feel more pressure to live up to their expectations than I do maybe to the network or the studio expectations, to be honest with you. I was overwhelmed how many people were watching the show. It was a similar reaction to when I went on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ and I would go through the carpool line, and every mom wanted to know what was happening in the show. Everywhere I’ve gone this summer, you know, it’s just…I’m overwhelmed. People that I don’t even think watch TV are coming up to me. ‘What’s going to happen? I love her. I love him.’ It’s amazing. You look at the numbers there, and everyone says, ‘Well, his TV numbers are pulling back, and not as many people are watching network TV.’ I’ve got to tell you, so many people are watching ‘NCIS.’ It’s amazing.”

“I think the main thing for us is just approaching it with humility and being clear that nothing is guaranteed and that our job is to do the best work that we can,” said Mr. Cool J. “We depend on Shane (Brennan, the show’s executive producer) to bring the best stories to the table, and then we will try to bring those stories to life in a great way. And I think that that, for us, is the main focus. Obviously, we want to maintain the current ‘NCIS’ fan base and all of those people that are joining the show. We don’t want to, you know, make them have an allergic reaction to what we’re doing on screen. But I think it’s just about having fun. You know, the pressure part of it…I don’t think anyone here is being arrogant. We’re not making any guarantees or predictions for the playoffs. We’re cool. We just want to do a great show, and we hope that you guys like it. That’s the real thing.”

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Paula Abdul leaving American Idol


After eight seasons as a judge on the nation’s most watched show, FOX’s “American Idol,” Paula Abdul is not returning for Season 9. After it was announced last week that Kara DioGuardi, a rookie this past season, would be returning next season, Abdul’s sudden departure is not a huge surprise considering that many thought it was awkward at times having four judges. And as you might suspect, the bottom line was her contract. Abdul was making $4 million per year and was seeking in the neighborhood of $12 million, but she was only offered a 30% increase, or about $1.2 million.

FOX issued this statement today: “Paula Abdul has been an important part of the ‘American Idol’ family over the last eight seasons and we are saddened that she has decided not to return to the show. While Paula will not be continuing with us, she’s a tremendous talent and we wish her the best.”

Let’s face it, Paula’s antics were both entertaining and disturbing at times, and she sometimes rambled on for far too long when giving contestants feedback. And while ultimately this is probably good for the show, let’s face it… Paula was part of the fabric of the show and in some weird way, we’re all going to miss her.

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Melissa D’Arabian: from home cook to network star


Melissa D’Arabian won Season 5 of “The Next Food Network Star” on Sunday, but what you may not have known was that since the finale taped (about two months ago, so we were told by the network), her new show, “Ten Dollar Dinners,” already has taped six episodes. The show premieres this Sunday, August 9 at 12:30pm ET/PT, and on the it Melissa will demonstrate how to create flavorful and interesting meals for a family of four for under ten bucks.

DArabian, who recently moved from Keller, Texas to Kirkland, Washington, beat out runner-up Jeffrey Saad of Los Angeles to take the title of Next Food Network Star, and we had the chance to participate in a conference call with Melissa this past Monday. Here are a few of the highlights of what she had to say…..

On her new show’s premise: “The challenge isn’t how to feed a family of four hot dogs on ten dollars. The challenge is how to feed them shrimp or a well-rounded meal that has several components. I think you’re going to be really surprised by the ingredients and by the recipes.”

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TCA Tour: NBC Executive Session

We just had NBC-Universal Executive Session, with Angela Bromstad (President, Primetime Entertainment) and Paul Telegdy (Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming and Production) taking the stage to answer our questions, and…you know, I’ve got to be honest: it was pretty underwhelming. No surprise: the first two words of the very first question were “Ben Silverman,” and his name remained a recurring theme for the remainder of the session. It also wasn’t a surprise that the topic of Conan’s ratings and the expectation for Jay’s ratings were brought up, but it was absolutely ridiculous that neither Bromstad nor Telegdy seemed prepared to handle the queries, instead either feigning uncertainty about the numbers, offering vague responses which signified nothing, or attempting to pawn the questions off to Jay’s panel this afternoon. This immediately came back to bite Bromstad on the arse when she was asked outright if she’d be on that panel (she won’t be), and it led to one critic offering a sarcastic apology for asking questions of the wrong people.

Here’s the extent of information that I was able to glean from the panel:

* Bryan Fuller’s latest departure from “Heroes” was dismissed as being due to the fact that he’s at a point in his career where he’s really wanting to create his own shows, so NBC is focusing on their development deal with him. As for “Heroes,” Bromdstad said that Fuller helped Tim (Kring) get back on track, helped everybody decide where they were going, and that the show is doing exceptionally well creatively.

* The start of “30 Rock” has been delayed due to Alec Baldwin’s movie schedule, which is why the network is kicking off “Community” in its timeslot. The 8 PM timeslot will therefore be filled with six Thursday night “Weekend Update” specials, three of which are currently on the schedule.

* We are assured that, despite the fact that some shows which were previously airing in the 10 PM timeslot are now being moved to 9 PM out of necessity, there should be no issue with their content in their new time periods.

* The network’s new zombie series, “Day One,” is being embraced due to the sci-fi success of “Heroes.” “It’s a genre we cannot ignore,” said Bromstad, though she admitted that it does tend to be a little more of a narrow genre. Her most notable comment on the matter, however, was the acknowledgment that the network is viewing “Day One” as a “big event” for the network…but not necessarily one which would return for a second season.

* There is always talk of doing another regular “Apprentice,” but according to Telegdy, the most recent “Celebrity Apprentice” had a ratings jump from the previous, so we probably shouldn’t look for it to happen any time soon.

* “Friday Night Lights” will not be back until summer 2010. “We just think that ‘Friday Night Lights’ is a sensational show,” said Bromstad, “but it doesn’t have the ratings to justify it on the fall schedule.”

* Regarding “Southland,” the network has “incredible passion” for the future, but its future depends on how it does in the fall. “We’ve made some creative adjustments,” said Bromstad. “I feel like they tried to do too much in the first six episodes – instead of letting the audience become more familiar with characters, they became too serialized – so the show will focus on Regina King and Ben McKenzie, the crimes, and how they come together.”

* RE: “Medium,” “It was definitely a show we were considering picking up ’til the very end, but we had to make choices creatively and financially.”

* RE: “Chuck,” “The great thing is that they’re on a great track collectively. We’ve got 3 or 4 scripts in already, and it is something we can move around, but right now it’s not scheduled to come on until March.” The series has a 13 episode pick-up, and it’s possible that it could be bumped up, but “these are just discussions we’re continuing to have.”

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Hell’s Kitchen: Lovely = useless

As things literally heat up with tensions mounting in FOX’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” some contestants, as they do each season, show us early on why they don’t belong. It’s almost like we are waiting for all the chefs who have no chance get eliminated so we can get to the good stuff. Anyway, as they recapped the previous week, Lovely and Tennille were spared because of chef Joseph’s disrespect for Gordon Ramsay. And Lovely made the comment that Ramsay “loves Lovely.” Uh, I don’t think so. And Tennille was still pissed that Suzanne made the comment, “If you sink our ship, I’ll be pissed,” during dinner service. Tennille told Suzanne that she could kiss her ass. Nice. But there was tension on the blue team as well, with Van and Kevin talking trash about Andy and how Andy was bringing their team down.

Then came the initial challenge, which was to make sausages. They had to do this in teams of two, and Ramsay made sure to pair Van with Andy and Tennille with Suzanne. Then before they started, the sexual references were flying….Ramsay asked Tennille if she liked sausage, to which she replied, “no chef, I don’t.” Van also made some comment about “pumping it slowly” and Ramsay told them all that “size matters,” which it did in this case, but still, did we need all the references?

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