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Greetings to the New Season: Fox

The network upfronts roll on, this time with the fine folks at Fox trotting out their new fall schedule and revealing which new series have been selected to accompany those series which have survived. As of this writing, there are no clips to accompany the descriptions of the new shows, but I’m led to understand that we’ll be getting those in due course, so…oh, wait, scratch that: they just arrived!

Well, with that being the case, you can read the descriptions and check out the clips of what Fox has for us for the upcoming season. Just be sure to let us know what you think about what they’re offering up! Oh, and before you ask, we didn’t forget to include a clip for the last series. They didn’t offer a clip for the last series…but, hell, I don’t even think they’ve cast it yet, so at least they’ve got a good excuse.

MONDAY

8 – 9 PM: HOUSE

9 – 10 PM: LONESTAR: a provocative soap set against the backdrop of big Texas oil, from Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman, the creators of “Party of Five”; Marc Webb, the director of “(500) Days of Summer”; and creator Kyle Killen. Robert / Bob Allen (newcomer James Wolk) is a charismatic and brilliant schemer who has meticulously constructed two lives in two different parts of Texas. He’s juggling two identities and two women in two very different worlds – all under one mountain of lies. As “Bob,” he lives in Houston and is married to Cat (Adrianne Palicki, “Friday Night Lights”), the beautiful daughter of Clint (Jon Voight, 24, “Midnight Cowboy”), the patriarch of an ultra-wealthy Texas oil family. More than 400 miles away in the suburban west Texas town of Midland, he’s “Robert,” living a second life with his sweet, naïve girlfriend, Lindsay (Eloise Mumford, “Mercy,” “Law & Order: SVU”). In Midland, he plays the perfect boyfriend while secretly bilking local investors of their savings. In Houston, he’s a devoted husband, charming Cat and her family to cement his position in the rich family business he aims to clean out. Bob has lived both lives successfully for years without arousing any suspicions…so far.

While one brother-in-law, Drew (Bryce Johnson, “Popular,” “The Mentalist”), admires Bob, his other brother-in-law, Trammell (Mark Deklin, “Nip/Tuck,” “Desperate Housewives”), is suspicious of his motives. Bob begins to fear his secret lives may unravel. With the cons closing in on him, Bob is divided by his love for two women; his loyalty to his father and mentor, John (David Keith, “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “The Class”); and his respect for his father-in-law, Clint. Now as he tries to hold his two lives together, while fending off angry investors and the suspicions of those around him, Bob puts it all on the line hoping he can beat the odds, leave the schemes behind and keep two separate relationships afloat.

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2009: A Year’s Worth of Interviews – The Top 100 Quotes

Some people think that the life of a work-at-home entertainment writer is one of the most lax jobs out there, since the perception is generally is that all you do is sit around and watch DVDs, occasionally venture out of the house to see movies or concerts, and then sit in front of the computer and write about them. Okay, it’s a fair cop. But when you throw interviews into the mix, there’s a bit more work involved. First, you’ve got to get the interview (they aren’t always handed to you on a silver platter), then you’ve got to do the research to make sure that you can ask some halfway knowledgeable questions, and after you conduct the interview, let’s not forget that you’ve got to transcribe it, too. In other words, yes, there really is work involved…and when I went back and discovered that I’d done well over 130 interviews during the course of 2009, I suddenly realized why I’m so tired all the time.

For your reading enjoyment, I’ve pulled together a list of 100 of my favorite quotes from the various interviews I conducted for Premium Hollywood, Bullz-Eye, Popdose, and The Virginian-Pilot this year, along with the links to the original pieces where available. As you can see, I had some extremely interesting conversations in 2009. Let us all keep our fingers crossed that I’m able to chat with just as many fascinating individuals in 2010…

1. Pamela Adlon: “In the first season (of ‘Californication’), when we had the threesome with the nipple clamps, I was, like, ‘I don’t get this, I don’t know how you’re gonna do it.’ And then, all of a sudden, there’s a crane with a camera hanging over our heads, and you’re, like, ‘Okayyyyyyy. But how are you gonna sell this? How are you gonna make it work?’ And they ended up shooting it brilliantly, cutting it together, and it just all ended up working without me having to compromise my own personal morals.”

2. Jonathan Ames: “After my first novel, my mother said to me, ‘Why don’t you make your writing more funny? You’re so funny in person.’ Because my first novel was rather dark. And I don’t know, but something about what she said was true. ‘Yes, why don’t I?’ Maybe I was afraid to be funny in the writing. But since then, seven books later, almost everything I’ve done has a comedic edge to it.”

3. Ed Asner: “I loved journalism until the day my journalism teacher, a man I revered, came by my desk and said, ‘Are you planning on going into journalism?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘I wouldn’t.’ I said, ‘Well, why not?’ He said, ‘You can’t make a living.’”

4. Sean Astin: “When somebody brings up a movie (of mine) that I haven’t heard about in a long time, I feel like a 70-year-old pitcher at a bar somewhere, and somebody walks in and says, ‘Oh, my God, I was in St. Louis and I saw you. You pitched a shutout.’ It’s real. I really did do that, because someone today remembers it.”

5. Darryl Bell: “The legend of ‘Homeboys in Outer Space’ has become much more incendiary than the actual show. It’s funny how I usually challenge most people who talk about how much they disliked ‘Homeboys’ to name me five episodes. Most of them can’t, because they just bought into the ‘oh, it’s awful, just the title. Oh, it’s terrible.’ What’s interesting is that I had a great conversation with Chi McBride, who was doing ‘The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer,’ which, if you want to talk about in terms of the imagery of what was wrong, that show was much more infamous than ‘Homeboys.’ Yet it’s not remembered in the same way because the title didn’t grab you in the same way. I remember Chi pulled me aside and he was, like, ‘Look, everyone who is criticizing what you’re doing would take your job from you in two seconds. All of them. So all I can tell you is that this is one blip on both of our careers, and we are moving on.’”

6. Adam Campbell: “For some reason, people always pick on the British sensibility, and we always come across as stupid, but remember: we used to run this country!”

7. Nestor Carbonell: “Let me make this perfectly clear: I do not wear make-up, and I do not wear eye-liner. This is something I’ve had to deal with my whole life. I remember I was in college in Boston, I had a commercial agent, and they sent me out for some print commercial stuff. And they called me into the office and said, ‘Look, we called you in to talk to you because we just want you to know that…well, we don’t think you need to wear eyeliner.’ And I’m, like, ‘What?’ ‘Yeah, it’s okay, you don’t have to wear it for print ads.’ ‘No, I’m not wearing eyeliner!’ And I kept dabbing my eyes and saying, ‘Look! No eyeliner! I’m not wearing any!’”

8. Elaine Cassidy: “The last two days of shooting (‘Harper’s Island’) was probably the most hardcore, the coldest anyone has ever been. It was like your head was freezing, and my motivation for most scenes was, ‘The minute this scene is over, I’m heading straight over to that heater to get warm.’”

9. Chris Cornell: “I started as a drummer, so I sort of took on singing duties by default. I had sung backgrounds and some lead vocals from behind the drums in different bands that I’d been in, and I’d gotten great responses for the songs I would sing. I really started pursuing the possibility of being a lead singer based on the fact that I was working a full-time restaurant job and then playing gigs at night, hauling drums around. One day, it just dawned on me that, ‘Hey, I could be in a band and be the singer, and it would be a lot easier!’”

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Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2009 Summer Press Tour Wrap-Up: Cougars, Muppets, Vampires, and Gordon Ramsay, Too!

God bless the TCA Press Tour, where the television industry gives critics from throughout North America the opportunity to play with the folks who live and work in Hollywood. The tour allows us a remarkable amount of access to the stars, producers, directors, and writers of the various shows currently taking up residence on the various cable and broadcast networks. Yes, while I may spend 48 weeks out of the year feeling like a nobody, for those four weeks – two in the summer, two in the winter – which are taken up by the tour, I’m at least made to feel like I’m a somebody. (Really, though, I’m not anybody.)

This was the first time the summer tour had been held after Comic-Con rather than before, so there was a certain amount of grumbling about the fact that the fans were getting a certain amount of information that would’ve ordinarily gone to the critics first, but it must be said that the networks did a pretty good job of pacifying us. And, besides, aren’t the fans supposed to come first, anyway?

Although the content that I managed to accrue during the course of the tour will continue to come your way for quite some time to come, what you see before you is a summary of the highs and lows of the event, mixing stories you may have already read on Premium Hollywood with many that I simply haven’t had a chance to discuss yet. As ever, it was a heck of a good time, full of the kind of moments that leave me grateful that I managed to get that journalism degree from Averett College back in 1992, pleased as punch that Bullz-Eye and Premium Hollywood have given me the opportunity to cover the tour, and, most of all, that there are lot of great readers out there who seem to enjoy the tales I bring back from these strange TCA adventures that I’ve embarked upon.

Let’s get started, shall we?

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TCA Tour: Gordon Ramsay

During Fox’s session to promote Gordon Ramsay’s three series on their network, we enjoyed a rare bit of interactivity between panelist and audience, and…oh, wait: if you’re a Ramsay fan, then you probably noticed that I said that he has three series on Fox. Well, okay, you’re right, he does only have two at the moment, but come December 15th, you can say “hello” to his latest endeavor, “Gordon Ramsay: Cookalong Live.” To celebrate this development, Chef Ramsay led us all through an attempt to whip up some topping for Baked Alaska, promising that the person who did the best job would earn themselves a table for four at Hell’s Kitchen.

Sadly, I did not win…and when I say I didn’t win, what I mean to say is that it wasn’t even close. I added too much of the egg-white mixture, resulting in a topping so pitiful that Chef Ramsay took one look at it and said sadly, “Oh, mate…” But I took comfort in the fact that it still had enough substance to it to be browned a bit when he took his pocket blowtorch to it, and when I met up with him post-panel, it definitely seemed to be a case of “no harm, no foul.” (What, like he’s not used to dealing with the occasional sub-par chef…?)

I just want you to know that your sad delivery of the words, “Oh, mate,” about my Baked Alaska will ring in my ears forever.

Oh, shit. Really? Was it that bad?

No, thankfully, there were others that were worse. But it was just the way you said it…

Well, I just wanted to have a little bit of interactivity…and it was fun doing it as well!

I had the added bonus of Fox’s photographer snapping a picture of me when you were hitting my Baked Alaska with the blowtorch.

Oh, really? Even better.

So, Gordon, when do you sleep? You’ve got three shows now on Fox, and that’s not even counting what you’ve got going in the UK.

Yeah, good question! Chefs aren’t very good at sleeping, anyway. Guy Savoy said to me 20 years ago, when I was in his kitchen and said, “Sorry, Chef, I’m a little bit tired,” he said, “Tired? How many hours sleep did you have last night?” I said, “Six.” He said, “Fucking way too much.” I said, “What?” He said, “Think about it: the average person sleeps for eight hours a day, so when you get to sixty years of age, that means you would’ve slept for twenty years. Does that scare you?” I said, “Yeah!” He said, “So shut the fuck up, sleep four hours a night, get to sixty, and only have slept for ten years of your life!” And so that’s ringing in now. That’s in there now.

Is every contestant who appears on “Hell’s Kitchen” really an aspiring chef? Because you get someone like Joseph on there, and he’s too good for TV to actually be real.

If I had to cast for that program, then I would be looking at one-star, two-star, three-star Michelin chefs all day long. Did they try with Thomas Keller? Did they spend time with Jean Georges or Daniel? Did they come out and advertise? Because I want to be surrounded by, sort of, chefs in that environment. Out of respect for them, I never get to see any of their resumes before we meet, and so it’s quite an interesting fact because they all seem excited and motivated on winning the challenge. This year’s responsibility in terms of running that restaurant at the Araxi up in British Columbia, Vancouver, is a perfect setup. 99.9 percent of the ingredients are located within a hundred miles of that radius. So, from a chef’s point of view, it’s a dream come true, even the wine, meat, fish, vegetables located within a hundred miles of that radius. So that outburst was ridiculous because no one could ever foresee what was going to happen. I didn’t realize that he was acting, you know, the way he was behind the scenes of the dorm. I never see any of that stuff going on because it’s unfair for me to judge them on the downtime because that is purely off my limits, and I didn’t know what to do in terms of — I asked him a very simple question three times, and he didn’t want to answer it. It was hard because I’ve been to Afghanistan, and I’ve been out, cooking for the Marines last year for a thousand of them, U.S. and the U.K., and the atmosphere was electric. The banter was phenomenal, and to go and change their view and give them something that they deserve in terms of a decent meal on Christmas Eve was a dream come true. So to have that kind of negativity from him, I think there were issues on a personal front that needed to be solved before he came into “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Which “Hell’s Kitchen” contestant over the years has surprised you the most from when they started to when they finished?

Elsie (from Season 1). Yeah, what, from a Waffle House chef to cooking the most amazing, authentic American food? And then an extraordinary palate like that…? That was amazing. Yeah, Elsie. She’s good.

Are you surprised when people take your comments as personally as they do, given that they’ve gone out of their way to be on your show?

I’ve gotten a little bit sort of surprised, in a way. But I don’t edit it, because I’m a chef, not an entertainer, so I call it as I see it. If you had to come in my kitchen tonight at The London West Hollywood, and things went wrong, of course I’m going to cane someone’s ass! But when things go right, I’m going to equally compliment them! When we’re in the middle of that pressurized environment, getting straight to the point is the healthiest thing. I don’t want it becoming cancerous, where they come into work the next day and it’s still on their shoulders. I get straight to the point. Don’t question me in there; question me after it. When we come out of it, if you want to talk to me and you want insight, fine. Because it’s not that one incident, it’s the 25 chefs behind and 180 people sitting in the dining room as well. So sitting and discussing it at length…? You haven’t got that time. It’s live, and…that’s what I said earlier about the “Cookalong.” For me, it’s how I am, and cooking along…I think it’s going to be a huge insight into what I can really do, because not enough people see me cooking, and that’s been frustrating for the last three or four years! All they say is, “Stop cursing and cook more!” So I’m going to do it!

And, lastly, are you surprised that your shows have taken off as well as they have in the States? Because, y’know, we’re not always necessarily known for embracing the abrasive.

No, I suppose I just try to keep it real. I am somewhat surprised, but, y’know, we work hard at it. That’s the most important thing.

(Special thanks to our man Mike Farley for the questions. Wish you could’ve been here, sir; I know you would’ve dug it.)

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TCA Tour, Day 2: “Occupation”

I knew less about “Occupation” than any of the four series that were being spotlighted during the course of BBC America’s time at the TCA tour, but I certainly recognized the actor who was in attendance to promote the show. James Nesbitt’s been working steadily since he turned up at the 2007 TCA tour to sing us a song or two and tell us about “Jekyll,” having played both a tabloid journalist (“Midnight Man”) and Pontius Pilate (“The Passion”), but this time he’s part of the ensemble of “Occupation,” a series which takes a look into the lives of three soldiers who all return to Iraq for the wrong reasons: one for love, one for money, and one for duty.

We do see at least one American within the context of “Occupation,” but for the most part, we’re offered the British perspective of the war in Iraq. It’s a side of the story that we haven’t really gotten to see before, but creator Peter Bowker (“Viva Blackpool”) believes that the themes of his series are fairly universal.

“I think it’s about love, about what it is to be a man, and it’s about doing the right things for the wrong reasons and the wrong things for the right reasons,” said Bowker.

He is not, however, going to hazard a guess as to how Americans will respond to the series. “I think fairly typical things happen in any wars that are engaged in,” he said, “and I think that in this particular war, although it took awhile longer in Basra for the local population to become alienated from the Brits, I think it did happen. I think maybe the surprise will be that it’s not a war drama in that the whole thing isn’t set actually in the war. One of the starting points for this for me was ‘The Deer Hunter’ and noticing in ‘The Deer Hunter’ how little screen time, relatively speaking, is spent in Vietnam. As a writer, ultimately, for me what happens afterward is a far more interesting dramatic field than actually what happens during wartime.”

In order to acclimate himself to the material of “Occupation” as much as possible, Bowker worked with the charity Combat Stress, which counsels traumatized ex-servicemen.

“What the counselors said there was that the mind-set of soldiers who were seeking help was very similar to the mind-set of soldiers coming back from Northern Ireland, in that it didn’t seem entirely clear what the aims of the war were, and going in to ostensibly help a civilian population, which then became hostile…and with good reason, in lots of cases,” said Bowker. “That seemed to be the mind-set. The thing they said that was most significant was the speed with which ex-servicemen were seeking help from the Iraq war. They had never seen that before. They thought of a new intensity, but they said that was partly because young soldiers were no longer seeking solace in alcohol, they were seeking solace in drugs…and we do touch on that in the piece.”

If you’ve never been a situation such as this, then it may strike you as a bit unlikely that a soldier would make a concerted effort to return to the country where he once fought a war. Nesbitt has a theory about that.

“In the arena of war there is, sort of bizarrely, a sense of security for soldiers, because they’re more comfortable in their uniforms, I think, than they are in their civis,” he said. “I think the rhythm that war gives them with the camaraderie, which we discovered, was so important to them – that they can confide in each other, that they are completely together – is in stark contrast to them coming away from that situation losing the uniform, going back into a family life where they feel terribly displaced because of what they’ve seen and what they’ve gone through. They can’t really share that with their partners and their families. I was struck very much by how they’ve lost the rhythm of how to behave physically and emotionally at home. In our piece quite early on, you see when my character comes home he just doesn’t know how to be with his family. They don’t know who turns the kettle on. They don’t know how to react. It was something about the human element of the impact of war that it has on the families that struck me as something that I think is and will hopefully be universal.”

“Occupation” premieres on BBC America in October.

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