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Oxygen Media Announces New Reality Competition Series Featuring Naomi Campbell

Photo Credit: Laspata DeCaro

Oxygen Media, most recently awarded a 2012 Gracie Award for Outstanding Reality Show for its series The Glee Project, today announced its latest foray into unscripted programming: The Face, a new reality competition series along the lines of America’s Next Top Model or Project Runway, will showcase the efforts of three teams of up-and-coming models competing for the chance to become the spokesperson for a nationally recognized brand. World-renowned supermodel and businesswoman Naomi Campbell will be one of three supermodel coaches, who will each scout and choose their teams from the ranks of young models striving all over the world, then mentor and guide them through a series of trials representing the steep ladder to success in the fashion industry.

The Face will be produced by Shine America, a producer and distributor of many well-known hit series such as The Biggest Loser, The Office and Ugly Betty. Oxygen has formerly been home to cycles of America’s Next Top Model and, in its stated purpose as “a leading force in engaging modern young women,” is undoubtedly a good home for this new series. As Eden Gaha, President of Shine America says, “We are pleased to bring The Face to Oxygen, which we believe is the perfect fit for this new competition series that will take viewers behind the scenes of the glamorous and fast-paced world of modeling. It’s an incredible opportunity for these young models to work with and learn from an industry icon such as Naomi Campbell and the chance to become ‘the face’ of a national brand will be an exciting and meaningful start to their career.”

The Face is reportedly part of a fifty percent increase in Oxygen’s original programming, and the presence of a star like Campbell should attract plenty of viewers. Fans of scandal and drama would do well to hope for some onscreen displays of her legendary temper, though it is doubtful she will actually assault anyone, as has so often been alleged in the past. At any rate, even without the possibility of such histrionics (and only time will tell), the series should provide plenty of entertainment for fashion junkies everywhere. As Campbell says, “With The Face the audience will get a real insider’s look at this exciting industry that has been so good to me. One lucky girl will become the face of a major brand.”

 

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

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Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2011 Winter Press Tour Wrap-Up: Kneel Before Oprah!

The TCA Winter Press Tour is an event which never quite seems to live up to the TCA Summer Press Tour…but, then, that stands to reason, as the mid-season series rarely match the ones which hit the airwaves in the fall, right? Still, the experience never fails to be one which I enjoy, mostly because you never know what’s going to be around the corner, and Day 1 really set the stage for that: during the course of 12 hours, I interviewed Betty White, Henry Rollins, and Bruce Jenner, and, thanks to National Geographic, I wore a giant snake around my neck. Not a bad way to begin things…

It felt like there was more star power on hand than usual for a winter tour…but, then, having Oprah in your midst kind of skewers your perceptions on that sort of thing. I suppose it’s a testament to how many famous people I’ve met over the years, though, that one of the biggest reasons I look forward to the tour is not because of who I might interview but, rather, because I’ll get the chance to hang out with the friends I’ve made within the TCA. All told, it was another great time, but, as ever, when it was over, I was more than ready to get back home to my family and share my memories with them…and with you, too, of course.

Well, let’s get on with the reminiscing, shall we?

Oh, but one word of warning: if you followed my daily dispatches during the tour, then a couple of these stories will sound strikingly familiar, but please rest assured that the majority of the material has not been copied wholesale and is, in fact, 100% new. Swear to God.

Most entertaining panel by a broadcast network: “Made in Spain” (PBS)

Not being a foodie, I wouldn’t have known José Andrés prior to his kick-off of PBS’s first day at the TCA tour if he’d been standing next to me…and, even then, I wouldn’t have known that I was supposed to care who he was. After several minutes of clips from the first season of “Made in Spain,” however, I was already in love with the series, and when Andres himself took the stage, it was impossible not to be charmed by him. He’s a sweetheart of a guy for whom food truly is life, but he’s also a hoot.

Most entertaining panel by a cable network: “An Idiot Abroad” (Science Channel)

I was seriously bummed when I heard that no one from “An Idiot Abroad” was going to be in attendance for the show’s panel, but I figured, “Okay, at least they’ll be there via satellite.” In retrospect, there’s no way they could’ve been funnier if they’d actually been onsite. Naturally, just being in Karl Pilkington’s presence was enough to inspire Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant to dissolve into a fit of giggles, but they were utterly warranted this go-round.

Here, see for yourself:

Most annoying panel: “Platinum Hit” (Bravo)

Between Kara DioGuardi handling a question about “American Idol” about as poorly as she possibly could have – read more about that here – and Jewel dropping names like they were hot potatoes (“I was talking to Steven Spielberg…”), I’m hard pressed to think of any panel that left a worse taste in my mouth.

Panel which had the least need for an audience: “The Best of Laugh-In” (PBS)

It wasn’t entirely surprising that a panel consisting of Lily Tomlin, Jo Anne Worley, Ruth Buzzi, Gary Owens and George Schlatter would be able keep things moving along without any of the critics in attendance actually needing to ask a question, but they kept passing the conversational ball back and forth until someone in the crowd finally had to stand up and ask if it was okay to ask a question. Schlatter instantly shot back, “We’re trying to talk here!” Laughter ensued, as did plenty of questions about the history of “Laugh-In.” “Are you guys having fun?” Schlatter asked later. “Because we’re having a ball!” Must be what keeps them looking so young: you’d never in a million years believe that Worley – that’s her in the feathered boa, in case you hadn’t guessed – is 73 years old.

Funniest panel that you probably had to be there to appreciate: “Community” (NBC)

The only person not in attendance was Chevy Chase, who was described as being “very under the weather,’ but his co-stars more than made up for his absence. If I tried to tell you about it, though, you’d probably just stare blankly at me. Some of the funniness came from the giggling of the various panelists, some it involved one-liners which would require a lengthy amount of set-up for you to appreciate, some of it was totally visual, and…well, you get the idea. But it really was hilarious, I swear. The most easily-translatable moment is probably Donald Glover’s story about how they had to teach Betty White the lyrics to Toto’s “Africa” on the set. “I assumed she knew ‘Africa,’” he said. “I was, like, ‘Everybody knows that song!’ But, like, that song was out when she was already old. She was already 50-something.”

Greatest Moment of Complete Honesty During the Tour: When I approached Jack McBrayer (“30 Rock”) to ask him a question, he agreed, but then he looked down at my recorder and said, “Oh, my! You’re not going to record this, are you? I’d rather you didn’t.” At this point, he performed a perfect mock aside, holding a hand to his mouth and whispering, “I’m a little bit tipsy!” So I turned off my recorder. Kudos to you, Mr. McBrayer. Would that more actors had that blend of good humor and common sense.

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Day 10 – or – The Day Will Hit the Wall

The TCA tour lasts for about two weeks. That’s two weeks away from your family where you’re spending the majority of your time sitting in a hotel ballroom, listening to panel after panel about upcoming TV shows. Don’t get me wrong: I’m enough of a TV geek that I enjoy it from start to finish, but at a certain point, you find that your enjoyment begins to be regularly supplanted by the desire to just grab your shit and go the hell home. As a professional, I do my best to rise above this, which is why I invariably stick it out ’til the very last panel of the tour, but when you start considering the shit-grabbing and home-going more often than you find yourself thinking, “Say, this show sounds pretty good / awful,” this is what is known in TV critic parlance as “hitting the wall.”

And, baby, I have hit it.

When I woke up on the morning of Day 10 of the tour, I had a headache. It was the first time I’d had one since arriving in Pasadena, and, of course, I took it for what it was: a sign that both my body and mind were ready to return to Virginia. Little did I realize that it was really more of a portent of the evil that would cross my path on this day…but we’ll get to that. With a job to do, I popped a couple of Motrin, swigged some coffee, and entered into the day’s panels, which consisted of shows from the CBS family of networks, which includes, of course, CBS (“Chaos,” “Mad Love,” “The Good Wife”), but also Showtime (“The Borgias,” “Shameless,” “Californication,” “Episodes”) and The CW (“Shedding for the Wedding”). There were also executive sessions for the various networks, as well as one for the “Kick Ass Women of The CW,” featuring stars from “Hellcats,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Nikita,” and “Smallville.”

Looking at the talent list for the various panels, there were certainly people I wanted to chat with, but I’ve always had trouble picking up interviews for Showtime series, a fact which all but killed my chances with many of the most interesting actors in attendance, including Jeremy Irons, William H. Macy, David Duchovny, and Matt LeBlanc. Heck, I couldn’t even pull a one-on-one with Colm Feore, although I did end up chatting with him later in the evening while pretending to be Canadian. (Don’t ask.) But I did at least make it into post-panel scrums for Irons, Macy, and the ever-gorgeous Carla Gugino, so there’s that, at least. And amongst the cast of CBS’s “Mad Love” is the always amiable Tyler Labine, who I’ve been interviewing at TCA since my first tour, when “Reaper” debuted, so he and I got in a good one-on-one.

Most of my afternoon, however, was spent in a funk. Maybe it’s because I’d hit the wall, but I found myself getting progressively grumpier about the way various actors’ personal publicists were acting. One assured me that I could do a walk-and-talk with their client, who was in a rush to get to another appointment, only to promise the same thing to another writer moments later and leave me in the dust. Another deigned to let me do a one-on-one with her client, then – outside of her client’s line of vision – starting tapping her watch ferociously before I’d even had two minutes of conversation. (This was particularly infuriating because the writers before and after me had neither a time limit nor been “chaperoned” during their interviews.) It was also a major bummer that the evening event was an hour-long cocktail party where the attendees were limited to the shows on The CW which were represented on the network’s panels.

Despite my relatively grouchy attitude throughout the day, there were still some highlights on the panels that are worth mentioning, so here they are…

1. Q: Given Charlie Sheen’s antics over the weekend, how would you characterize your level of concern about him, and what is the network doing to help him?
Nina Tassler (with all due sarcasm): Well, I really didn’t expect that question this morning. So I’m just…I’m really taken by surprise. Look, obviously, we’ve thought, and I personally have thought, a lot about this, and we have a high level of concern. How could we not? But I have to speak to this personally first. On a very basic, human level, concern, of course. This man is a father. He’s got children. He has a family. So, obviously, there’s concern on a personal level. But you can’t look at it simplistically. Charlie is a professional. He comes to work. He does his job extremely well. We are taping tonight, and it’s…it’s very complicated, but we have a very good relationship with Warner Bros. I have a tremendous trust and respect in the way they are managing the situation. So, on a personal level, obviously concerned. On a professional level, he does his job, he does it well, the show is a hit, and…that’s really all I have to say.

2. Question: Jason, what about your character (in “Mad Love”)?
Jason Biggs: Without giving too much away, obviously, I have sex with a sheet cake in the second episode.
Sarah Chalke: We weren’t going to reveal that!
Judy Greer: Way to go.
Jason Biggs: I don’t know if that’s a spoiler alert. Sorry, guys.
Judy Greer: That’s the cake we used for what’s her name’s birthday? Just kidding.
Jason Biggs: Yes. Yes, it was.
Judy Greer: I had a piece of that!
Jason Biggs: No. There are some situations. I wouldn’t say they are exactly, you know, akin to some of the I mean, let’s be honest. Those were very R rated, and some pushing NC 17 scenarios.
Matt Tarses: He loses his pants in Staten Island.
Jason Biggs: But I do lose my pants in Staten Island. So you do see me pantsless, which I think is what my fans demand of me in general and but yeah, there are some I mean, Matt has written, for all of us, some kinds of crazy situations. I mean, it’s inherent to this format, I think, is to create situations that are quite comical and kind of crazy. And for someone who can the person that does it right, they are funny, but they are also grounded in reality somehow, and they are with characters that you like and all that good stuff. And I feel like that’s what’s happening here. So, among those situations, which I believe there are some in every episode, one of them I lose my pants in Staten Island. The other one I have sex with a sheet cake.

3. Q: Freddy, describe what happens when you read a script that says, “Next, Rick eats a scorpion.” What was that like? And when you filmed it…I’m sure you didn’t eat a scorpion, but whatever you were holding…
Freddy Rodriquez: How are you so sure?
Q: It looked realistic. You were holding something that was wiggly and scary. Just describe what it was like when you heard you were going to do it and what it was like to do that scene.
Freddy Rodriquez: Well, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what it was going to be when I got there. And when I got there, if you remember, Tom…
Tom Spezialy: Oh, I remember.

Freddy Rodriguez: …it was a real scorpion. I had a slight anxiety attack, to be honest, right? And then I got over it. And then I asked Brett Ratner to hold it. I would do it if he would hold it, and he refused, and we had an exchange. And after a while I got over it, and it was fun. I mean, when I read the script, there were so many great things that my character was doing in the pilot that I had to be involved even if it had to do with holding a scorpion. It was a real scorpion. I think they put Krazy Glue on the stinger, (but), yeah, it was real.
Q: What does it look like to see that thing wiggling in front of your eyes?
Freddy Rodriguez: Scary. It’s scary.
Tom Spezialy: It peed on him.
Freddy Rodriguez: Oh, yeah, it did. At one point in the night, it just…I didn’t enjoy the experience…it started peeing on me. And I didn’t know what it was. I just thought it was, like, spraying me with some sort of poison or…I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was urine.
Eric Close: Are you sure it was urine?
Freddy Rodriguez: Yeah, it was urine. Gave me golden sunshine, I guess.

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: 9 Memorable Moments from Day 9

For all of the panels that NBC-Universal offered us yesterday, none of them were really chock full of memorable quotes, so I thought I’d go a slightly different route with today’s retrospective and just cite some of my favorite moments from throughout the course of the day…and if you think this is mostly just a way for me to avoid having to trudge through the transcripts, give yourself a hearty pat on the back. Give me a break: it’s Day 9, and I’m very tired from arguing with Kara DioGuardi fans.

And on that note…

1. Bravo’s “Platinum Hit” session

You’ve hopefully already read my open letter to Ms. DioGuardi about my disappointment with the way she handled the inevitable question about her departure from “American Idol,” but that wasn’t the only part about the panel that grated on my nerves. One of the other judges on this songwriting-competition series is Jewel, and…okay, first of all, let me acknowledge that I’m not really a Jewel fan and under threat of death wouldn’t be able to come up with a more recent Jewel song than 2001′s “Standing Still,” but even when it comes to artists I do actively like, I don’t enjoy it when they slip into braggadocio. After Jewel dropped these lines during the panel…

* “I was talking to Steven Spielberg…”

* “I bought my house from all my hits.”

* “Bob Dylan took me under his wing when I was about 20. My first record was considered a failure, but he liked it and he was like, ‘Don’t sell out, don’t change, don’t start doing grunge, just do what you do, stay on the road, stay solo acoustic.’ And I did because he believed in me. And Neil Young was the same way.”

…I pretty much tuned out. I’m sure Jewel’s a very talented songwriter, but as I walked away from the panel, it was more with the feeling that she’s much more talented at namedropping.

2. Oxygen’s session for “The Glee Project.”

Actually, I couldn’t tell you a thing that was said during the session. I was too busy looking at the mike girls – they bring you the microphones to ask questions, then take them to the next person when you’re done – who were dressed in cheerleader outfits for the panel. Yeah, it’s definitely time for me to get home to my wife…

3. Keith David talking about the development of his awesome voice during the panel for “The Cape.”

“I was always a second tenor,” said David. “I was never, you know, Alfalfa. But when about 13, and I was a singer before I was an actor, and all I could sing was loud, and certainly I came into this I came into that Alfalfa transition where all I could do…”

At this point, he switched into a wobbly voice… “is talk like that all the time.”

Back to his regular voice. “And then something began to switch, and now I sound like I sound, you know. I’m grateful to be here because I do get a chance to use all you know, in the first episode, I say I’m using my stage voice. Well, you know, I mean, that was one of the when I read the script, that was one of the funniest moments for me because it’s, like, when I’m auditioning for things, many times I’m told, ‘Can you tone that down a little bit? Can you bring that back?’ So this is one of the few times I’m not always told that. That’s kind of nice.”

4. The “Harry’s Law” panel discussing the age of the show’s star.

By the time someone asked about the fact that Kathy Bates is 60 years old, which is pretty elderly when you consider the demos that the broadcast networks tend to look for, she’d pretty well charmed most of the audience. First, she said she decided on doing the show because, in her character’s first scene, “she had her feet up on the desk, she was smoking pot, and watching ‘Bugs Bunny.’ After that, I was in.” Then, when asked if it was hard to sustain her character’s grumpiness, she admitted, “I come naturally to that. Not to be flip, but I can be a naturally grumpy person…and adjusting to the long hours on the set helped that right along!”

When the topic of age was addressed, which series creator David E. Kelley took it in stride. “Not many networks have come to me recently and said, ‘Can you give me a series with a 60-year-old lead?’” he admitted. “But I have to believe that, given the universe of 500-plus channels, there has to be room on the landscape for one. When we landed Kathy to play the character, (NBC) were beyond thrilled. You can say it’s one thing to have a 60-year-old lead. It’s quite another to have Kathy Bates as your lead. So they probably, with a grain of salt, said, ‘Gee, do we want a series with an older actor?’ But once it became Kathy, there was no hesitation whatsoever.”

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An Open Letter to Kara DioGuardi

Dear Ms. DioGuardi:

I realize that, by virtue of our longtime Facebook friendship, I could probably go out on a limb and address you by your first name, but I wouldn’t want to lean on that too heavily.

Besides, this is a serious matter.

I’m sure you’ve been following my coverage of the 2011 Winter TCA Press Tour here in Pasadena, so it won’t surprise you that I was in attendance for your panel for Bravo’s new reality competition, “Platinum Hit.” Given your experiences with us TV critic folk on previous tours (not to mention all of the interviews you’ve done outside of the tours), you surely must have known what to expect when you sat down in front of us…

But I’m being rude to the other readers. Since this is an open letter, I should offer my readers a quick blurb about the show you were there to promote.

Here’s what it has to say about “Platinum Hit” on the NBC-Universal website:

Bravo’s new music competition series “Platinum Hit” showcases emerging singer-songwriters on their quest to become the next big hitmaker. The series will give viewers a front row seat to experience the journey and aspirations of these gifted songwriters and an inside look at this unique creative process for the first time. The series will follow 12 musicians as they battle through innovative songwriting challenges that will test their creativity, patience and drive. From dance track to love ballad, every episode will feature a different theme that will require the contestants to write and perform lyrics from multiple genres. Their intimate life stories and personal drama will unfold within the show and in their lyrics as they compete and live together. In the end, only one will be crowned the ultimate hit-maker and walk away with a $100,000 cash prize, a publishing deal with Sony and BMI Songwriters and The Writing Camp, and a recording deal with RCA/Jive.

So there you go.

I know you’re the head judge on “Platinum Hit,” Ms. DioGuardi, and I know that’s what you were there to talk about. I get that. But with that said, you sat before an audience of TV critics, one of whom asked you to offer us some insight into your departure from the show you had previously been here to talk about, “American Idol.”

It was a perfectly reasonable question, one which you and the executive producers of “Platinum Hit,” Evan Bogart and Glenda Hersh, had to know was coming. Instead of answering the question, though, your feathers seemed instantly ruffled. You didn’t want to talk about anything but “Platinum Hit,” and after a throwaway one-liner (“it was an incredible experience, it really was”), the onstage conversation suddenly descended into a defense of your accomplishments as a songwriter…which, of course, we already know all about from all of the pieces we wrote about you when you were on “American Idol.” Worse, when the critic who’d asked the question tried to press the issue to get something of substance on the subject, you said that you’d address it later, but when you were approached after the panel…well, my close friend and Canadian equivalent Bill Harris, man on the scene for the Toronto Sun, wrote it best in his article:

Then afterward in a small scrum, DioGuardi literally scooted away from reporters before cornering herself at the side of the stage. She was asked, “So you really have nothing to say about your memories of Idol, good or bad?”

“You know what? There’s going to be a time when you’ll know all about that,” DioGuardi said.

She then was asked, “When? In a book?” That was when DioGuardi’s personal publicist stepped in and revealed DioGuardi has a book coming out in the spring.

Wow.

Ms. DioGuardi, I don’t even know what to say. You’re certainly within your right to keep the focus on “Platinum Hit,” and you’re also within your right to save the juicy “American Idol” stuff in order to sell copies of your book, but I just have to believe that you could’ve handled that situation better. I mean, you got booed. Better you should’ve put on a happy face, offered some token tidbit, and then teasingly said, “If you want more, you’ll have to read my book!” Admittedly, that would’ve been frustrating, too, but it still would’ve been better than acting like it was some sort of affront that we should’ve dared to ask you about a legitimate credit on your resume.

Actually, I realize I’m using “we” a whole lot. In truth, I’m really only speaking for myself. But I’m pretty sure that if I performed an informal poll among the critics in the room with me at the moment, the majority of them would agree that you didn’t exactly endear yourself amongst the populace.

Sorry for the tough love, Ms. DioGuardi, but I thought you needed to hear it. Maybe you disagree with what I have to say. If so, keep an eye out for me at the NBC-Universal all-star party this evening. I’d love to hear your take on the situation. But that’s mine, for what it’s worth.

Best,

WILL HARRIS

Bullz-Eye.com

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Welcome Back, “Wipeout” – A Chat with Jill Wagner and Matt Kunitz

You don’t find that many shows on prime-time television that can successfully capture all ages of the viewing public, but ABC’s “Wipeout” is definitely one them…you know, provided that you can stand to see grown men and women bust their butts as they try to complete some very outrageous (and significantly foam-covered) obstacle courses. Although now on its fourth season, the show has switched things up a bit for its winter episodes, offering what would appear to be ice and snow – though, given that the proceedings are taped in California, it almost certainly isn’t – as the contestants battle obstacles like the Wipeout Ski Lift, the Polar Bear Run, and…well, you get the idea.

Co-host Jill Wagner and series executive producer were both on hand during the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour to talk about the show. So, for that matter, was commentator John Henson, but he always seemed to be otherwise occupied when I was free to chat, so we never successfully crossed paths. Still, if you’re going to talk to someone about a show, better to go with the brains behind the outfit…and, of course, the hottest of the co-hosts.

Jill Wagner, co-host


Bullz-Eye: Well, first of all, let me just tell you that I’ve got a 5-year-old daughter who has made “Wipeout” appointment television for the entire family.

Jill Wagner: Yes! I love your daughter! (Laughs)

BE: Well, she is pretty awesome. So how did you come onto “Wipeout” in the first place? I presume an audition was involved, since you have to be both funny and quick on your feet.

JW: You know, it’s funny, because…I was doing commercials for Lincoln-Mercury, and (executive producer) Matt Kunitz had seen me on the commercials, so they called me from them. And I was in North Carolina at the time, and they said they wanted me to fly back for an audition, but I was, like, “I’m with Grandma! I can’t fly back now!” It was some holiday, so I had to stay at home…and they actually wound up having a camera guy come over and shoot my audition at my grandma’s house, interviewing my brother and his two friends. So that was my audition for this show! And I knew that a lot of my friends were also auditioning for it, so I thought, “There’s no way I’m ever gonna get it, because I’m doing it from Grandma’s house!”

BE: Yeah, but maybe that gave you an edge, because it was so different.

JW: Well, the thing is, my brother now credits all my success to him, because he says that his interview was the best, and he made me shine. Which is probably accurate. (Laughs) But I would never tell him that!

BE: Where in North Carolina are you from?

JW: Winston-Salem. Well, my parents are in Winston-Salem.

BE: I’m in Virginia.

JW: I love it! We actually have a house in Gretna, Virginia. I was actually just home for about a month. It’s so nice to just go back and get my fill of my country people… (Laughs) …and then come back out here to La-La Land?

BE: So have you ever been watching the course, seen someone go down, and just thought, “Well, they’re dead. They’re not getting back up”?

JW: Yes! All of the time! I wish the camera would show that half the time I’ve got my hands over my eyes going… (Sucks in breath) “Just don’t tell me, don’t tell me…” And then the person comes up, and they’re laughing! And I’m, like, “What is it, did they hit their head too many times?” You know what? You would be really surprised to see how much foam padding we have on all of those things.

BE: Yeah, Matt was saying that you guys get a bulk discount.

JW: It’s unbelievable. It’s, like, two feet of foam. So it really would be hard for someone to get hurt seriously, and they take it very seriously, so they have medics and everybody standing around, just hoping that no one gets hurt. And it’s been very rare. I think out of 200 people, only two got mildly hurt and had to go to the doctor. But, I mean, that’s a pretty good number for that show, which to the normal person watching it, who’s not on the show, makes you think, “Oh, my God, people are getting really hurt!”

BE: It’s ironic that it plays so well to a family demographic, since it regularly inspires me to curse. I’ll see someone go down, and I’ll be, like, “Oh, shit!”

JW: Well, that’s funny, because that’s what they do. They just have to…I can hear people on the set, and I’m, like, “Pottymouth!” (Laughs) And, of course, that’s what I do out there, too. It’s all in good fun.

BE: Do you find yourself frustrated for people because it’s taking them so long to get through an obstacle?

JW: Oh, yeah. More times than not I’m frustrated because it’s taking them too long to get through it. But I understand that it’s hard, and a lot of these people aren’t athletic at all. So you just have to keep that in mind. It’s, like, “Oh, it’s a grandma who is 53 years old, and she probably hasn’t done anything like this in her life, and she probably doesn’t work out, and the last time she went running was 10 years ago.” You just have to keep that in mind. And then there’s some people who I’m, like, “Oh, they’re never going to make it through there,” and then they blow through it! So I’m surprised every day. I bet on the side. I have my own favorites. Sometimes I lose, sometimes I win. (Laughs)

BE: Who was the contestant that you were most excited to see win?

JW: God, there’s been a lot. You know what? I can’t pick one person. Normally, I really fall in love with all of our characters. They’re really all so different, and you want to root for each one for different reasons. So normally, with the four that we have at the end, usually I’m happy with whoever wins. Unless I’ve bet money on the other one. (Laughs)

BE: A lot of times, you go to silence in lieu of possibly saying something that might offend a contestant.

JW: You know, I have to watch my mouth. Sometimes you have people that are really, really cocky, and…I wish the audience could hear what I hear, because you guys…obviously, they don’t show all of the interview. But there are really some odd comments that we get. (Laughs) To each his own, though. That’s the beauty of our contestants: they’re wacky, they’re crazy, they’re funny. That’s what makes the show. Thank God for them, or I wouldn’t have a job.

BE: For my money, there’s nothing better than a contestant who talks a load of shit, only to slip and bust their ass before they even get to the first obstacle.

JW: (Laughs) My God, I know…and I kind of like that! It’s, like, hey, karma’s a bitch…

Matt Kunitz, executive producer

Bullz-Eye: I was just saying to Jill that my 5-year-old daughter has made “Wipeout” into appointment television for our family.

Matt Kunitz: It’s interesting how…in the ratings last week, they said that we were the #1 2 – 11 year old show all season long so far. (Laughs) But what I love about that…because, obviously, we’re not trying to target 2 – 11 year olds. Everybody wants 18 – 49. But 2 – 11 year olds are watching with their parents, which is great. And I hear that all the time. “My 5-year-old…” “My 4-year-old…” I heard it yesterday: “My 3-year-old loves the show!” And this person was telling me that the 3-year-old even gets up and…when the contestants do their shout-out and do some kind of scream, the 3-year-old gets up on the couch and does the same scream! So it’s good.

BE: I keep saying that you guys should have a TCA day on the “Wipeout” set, where the TCA members run the course.

MK: You want to come run the course? (Laughs)

BE: I want to. And I think my daughter wants me to. But I don’t think my wife would ever let me.

MK: Yeah. (Laughs) That’d be good stuff, though, watching the critics take a shot at it!

BE: So how often do you try to mix it up and add new stuff on the course?

MK: Well, every episode there are new stunts. For example, they start the qualifier, and the very first stunt they do is new every episode. And then there’s different ways of switching it up throughout the show. The winter season is one season, and then when we get into the summer season, it’s a completely different course…times two! We shoot for about five weeks, then we shut down for about a month and a half and build a completely new course, so that during the summer we have two full completely separate courses that we can mingle together and try to keep it fresh. I think it’s important to keep it fresh and to keep not only the audience but also the contestants on their toes, so that they don’t know what to expect.

BE: So, now, are you always on the set when they’re running the course?

MK: Yep.

BE: Has there ever been a point when you’ve seen someone wipe out and just thought, “Oh, my God, that person has died”?

MK: No, not that, but definitely…like, I mean, this clip they’re showing right now… (Points to a nearby monitor) …where this girl is smacking her head into that beam, there are times where I’m just, like, “Ohhhhh!” But, you know, safety’s a number-one concern for us, so we spend…hundreds of thousands of dollars on padding alone. Just on foam. We have a special deal with foam manufacturers now. We go directly to the manufacturers to get foam. So while everything looks like it’s a hard impact, there’s usually anywhere between six and 18 inches of foam that they’re smacking into. So as hard as the impacts look, I know that it’s safe, because we’ve put so much into it.

BE: My daughter is of the belief…and keep in mind that she’s only five and hasn’t seen every episode…that no one has ever successfully gotten past the Sucker Punch portion of the course.

MK: Here’s the thing: we don’t show everybody. And sometimes…I mean, the show’s called “Wipeout,” so if I showed everybody making it, it’s not really interesting. People have made it across, for sure, and we’ve shown a few of them. But we don’t show all of the successes because, ultimately, it’s about the wipeout. So when we plan the show and design the stunts, we plan it for 90% failure. We want to see that 10% of the people can actually do it, so everything that we have out there is do-able by that one out of ten people that attempt it. Or, at least, that’s the plan. (Laughs)

BE: What’s the most amazing performance you’ve seen on the show?

MK: We had this woman who was an ex-stuntwoman who came on the show. She was on a “Blind Date” episode, and…I don’t know whether she was doing it on purpose, but she was really good, and every wipeout that she had involved some kind of crazy flip in the air. I’m often impressed by the women on the course. You don’t expect them to do as well, and they come out and…I mean, this woman was incredible.

BE: Has there been anyone in the Wipeout Zone who just legitimately depressed you because of how long they were taking to complete the course?

MK: Oh, that happens a lot, where you’re just, like, “C’mon, please! We need somebody to finish this course!” (Laughs) It’s tough. When you get to the Wipeout Zone, that’s really tough. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s wet, it’s scary…and difficult. So, yeah, we’re always crossing our fingers on that one.

BE: Lastly, can you even believe how successful this show has become?

MK: I’m thrilled by the success. I mean, ultimately, we set out to do a family show, and it’s turned out to be just that. And it’s reaching across all demos. You can’t ask for more than that.

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 5 Quotes from Day 5 (+ 1 Great Anecdote)

Day 5 of the Winter 2001 TCA Press Tour felt mildly anticlimactic after the previous day, with its strong focus on entertainment-related panels. I still maintain my “PBS rocks” mantra, but all things being equal, it might’ve been nice if they’d mixed up the proceedings a bit more, maybe putting Jeff Bridges and the “Best of ‘Laugh-In’” panels on different days.

Instead, we started with a panel for “PBS Newshour,” moved into a via-satellite appearance by Placido Domingo for his “Great Performances” special, and then slid into several panels in a row which, God bless them, simply weren’t as scintillating overall as one would’ve liked them to be. “Black in Latin America” did had Wyclef Jean on hand, which was kind of cool, and I’m very intrigued by the concept of “NOVA: Smartest Machine on Earth,” about a computer that’s going to compete on an episode of “Jeopardy,” but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that either kept me riveted from start to finish. Ironically, though, a panel I’d planned on skipping – “American Experience: Freedom Riders” – turned out to be so fascinating that I stayed ’til the bitter end, thrilling to every word. From there, we got a few sneak previews of future PBS projects, most notably Ken Burns’ look into Prohibition, and had a long-winded but still entertaining panel from highly underrated talk show host Tavis Smiley, but after that, the triple-threat of “Frontline: Are We Safer,” “Where Soldiers Come From,” and “StoryCorps” was more than sufficient to leave me wishing and hoping for the evening event to arrive sooner than later.

Finally, the event did arrive, and, boy, was it worth the wait. “Great Performances: Hitman Returns – David Foster & Friends” features the imminent songwriter performing his songs with vocal help from several other artists, and we’d been forewarned that at least one of them would be turning up and joining him onstage for his TCA performance, but believe me when I tell you this: it’s one thing to know that Donna Summer’s going to be in the house, but it’s quite another to actually have her belting out “Last Dance” only a few feet away from you. The woman turned the Langham’s Venetian Ballroom into a discotheque, and it was fucking spectacular.

Best moment of the tour…? Try one of the best moments of any TCA tour ever.

And, now, on to our quotes…

1. “The world of conventional television recording has pressed down the length of a report from three minutes to two and a half minutes, to two, to one and a half, to now one minute and 10 seconds, becoming more like a radio spot on a lot of the network news, there are actually stories that need telling that can’t be told in a minute and 10. Sorry. You just can’t. You could be a clever journalist. You could be a good writer. You just can’t do it.

The (PBS) Newshour is a great place to do that, but also, because of the new online opportunities, a place to bring the tremendous cargo that you come back from the rest of the world with in your reporter’s notebook, in your camera, and find another way to tell ancillary stories, to tell stories that didn’t make it into the main report, to start a dialogue with viewers, and really to do the other part of coverage that you can’t necessarily do on television. And also because a flight from Maputo, Mozambique, takes 31 hours, you’ve got a lot of time to work on your reporter’s notebook on the way back.” – Ray Suarez, PBS Newshour

2. “You live almost a life of tragedy constantly on the stage and you are rehearsing those big dramas, but, of course, you concentrate at the performance and even in the rehearsals, but doesn’t have to touch you. I know many people, many actresses, that were having problems after playing ‘A Streetcar Named Desire,’ for instance. And I believe that, after all, you are acting. You cannot let yourself in the suffering. That’s the reason I am a happy person.

Of course you have your sad moments in life, like we all have, like tragedies, losing dear people, dear relatives, parents, friends. But you live optimistically a life, which I like to live. But as I say, I love to be happy, but I love to suffer on the stage. On the stage it’s wonderful, the suffering. I like also the comedy, but I am better at suffering.” – Placido Domingo, “Great Performances: Placido Domingo – My Favorite Roles”

3. “As Watson’s developed over the years, it’s had a lot of silly answers. There’s quite a variety of them. I guess one of my favorites is we asked it what do grasshoppers eat and the answer was ‘kosher.’” – David Ferucci, “NOVA: Smartest Machine on the Planet – Can A Computer Win on ‘Jeopardy’?”

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 4

Not all of the critics who attend the TCA Press Tour care a lot about PBS’s days of the tour, but I always try to attend as many of their panels as possible. For one reason, I’m a longtime Anglophile, so it’s like shooting fish in a barrel to convince me that I ought to check out a new episode from one of the “Masterpiece” shows. For another, I’m a former record store clerk and music critic, so the concerts are always an easy sell. And then, of course, you’ve got the retrospectives of various actors, films, and televisions series. Basically, there are any number of reasons for me to get excited about PBS…and, as usual, they gave me several this tour.

Breakfast came with an introduction from and a short Q&A with Jose Andres, host of “Made in Spain,” a show which I now feel like I need to watch just because he was so darned charming. After that, we got an update from PBS Kids which was surprisingly unexciting, but I stuck it out because I didn’t want to feel guilty about strolling out with the “Dinosaur Train” and “Super Why” toys that were on table. (My daughter’s going to love them…) From there, we shifted into the big ballroom and spent some time with Jeff Bridges as he talked about his upcoming “American Masters” special, then back to the small ballroom for the “Masterpiece” presentations on “Upstairs Downstairs” and “Zen.”

Back to the big ballroom again for “Bears of the Last Frontier,” but although I was fascinated, I had to slip out early in order to do a one-on-one with Rufus Sewell about his work on “Zen.” Thankfully, I made it back in time for the long but wonderful panel for “The Best of Laugh-In,” featuring Gary Owens, Jo Anne Worley, Ruth Buzzi, Lily Tomlin, and creator George Schlatter. Sadly, I missed most of the next two panels, “Forgiveness: A Time to Love & A Time to Hate” and “Independent Lens: Artists Profiles,” but on the other hand, it’s because I was able to help my buddy Brian Sebastian on interviews with Owens and Tomlin, even getting a few questions in myself.

The evening event was a performance by Harry Connick Jr. in conjunction with his “Great Performances” special, and I thought it was fantastic, if unabashedly jazzy. But, really, if you were expecting anything else, then you clearly haven’t been listening to the man’s music very much. All I know is that he tore the roof off the joint, and I loved every minute of it.

Okay, time for your top 10 quotes of the day. You’ll note more repetition of shows this go-round, but all I can tell you is that there were fewer panels and less instantly memorable moments in some of them. I think you’ll still get a few good laughs from this bunch, anyway, though. See you tomorrow!

1. “I got a little bit nervous when they told me that I had to be speaking in front of TV critics. I knew I was coming here to share time at PBS, but all of a sudden it’s, like, ‘The room is going to be full of TV critics.’ Great: all my life dealing with food critics one by one, and now I’m going to have to be dealing with an entire room of TV critics…?” – Jose Andres, “Made in Spain”

2. “There’s an element in making movies, the collage, that you give all your stuff and then the director cuts it up and makes a different piece out of it. Seeing myself as this young guy (in ‘Tron: Legacy’), it rubbed my fur a little bit the wrong way. You know, it was a bit like…remember the first time you heard your voice on a tape recorder, how weird it sounded to you? Early on in my career…I don’t know if we have time for kind of a long story. You feel like a story or not?

“My first film was called ‘Halls of Anger.’ The movie was about busing white kids into a black school, and I was the white kid who was supposed to be, you know, trying to integrate into the sports and all these things. And the black kids keep beating me up. So now this is the scene here; what I’m going to describe is the climax of the film. And Calvin Lockhart, wonderful actor, is playing the boys’ vice principal. And the scene is; I’ve been beaten up, and now I’m there, and I say, ‘I’m quitting.’ And I’m in tears and everything. He says, ‘No, you got to stick.’ I say, ‘I’ve had it. I’ve had enough,’ you know. So we started shooting the scene, and we did Calvin’s side first. And all my emotion came, and I was thinking, ‘God, I hope I have it when we come back to my side.’ Then they shot all the coverage of all the people’s reaction, and I was there. And then they came to my side, and I kicked ass, man. I was so…it was like fresh, and I got applause from the crew. And I was, like, ‘Oh, man, maybe I should do this acting thing. I’m pretty good!’ Now we cut to Watts, and it’s the premiere of the show, and I’m sitting there with my brother on one side and my father on one side. And I’m saying, ‘Wait till you guys see my…’ Well, you know, not saying it to them, but I’m saying it inside. And here comes the scene. And here it comes. And now they’re on Calvin. Yeah, Calvin, the boys’ vice principal. Yeah. Cut to me. Cut to me. Why aren’t you cutting to me? And now they cut to me…and my face is something like (a grimace). And the entire audience laughs…and I just about had a bowel movement. And if you listened, it was the perfect opposite reaction that I wanted from the audience.

“That was like a real crossroads for me with the acting, because I thought, ‘God, how do you protect yourself?’ And you don’t. You just have to be willing to lay it out there and put yourself in some director’s hands.” – Jeff Bridges, “American Masters: Jeff Bridges – The Dude Abides”

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 3

Day 3 of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour ran me ragged, moreso than any day which preceded it and, I feel rather certain, than any day to follow. Very rarely has it ever come to pass that I schedule a day full of one-on-one interviews and have every single of them go off without a hitch, and you can probably already guess that yesterday wasn’t an exception to that rule. I should probably just be happy that I got some of them, though: the way things were looking, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I was going to get any of them.

The last day of the cable portion of the tour began with breakfast with the members of the Rainbow Networks: WEtv (“Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best” and “Braxton Family Values”), IFC (“Onion News Network” and “Portlandia”), and AMC (“The Killing”). Shifting ballrooms, we next listened to A&E (“Breakout Kings”) and Lifetime (“Seriously Funny Kids” and “Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy”), but…do you detect a trend here?…we soon moved back to the other ballroom to get the scoop on stuff from Hallmark (“Goodnight for Justice”) and Starz (“Camelot,” “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” and “Torchwood: Miracle Day”). Lastly, it was – oh, dear – back to the other ballroom again. This time, however, HBO kept us sitting still for the duration of the afternoon, giving us looks into “Mildred Pierce,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway,” “Cinema Verite,” “Game of Thrones,” “Too Big to Fail,” and “The Sunset Limited.”

My problem, however, was this: I had to keep bowing out of this panel and that in order to participate in various roundtables and one-on-one interviews. Worse, one of the roundtables – stand up, please, Tommy Lee Jones – was shifted from a perfect location on the schedule into a spot which utterly disrupted almost all of the interviews that followed. In the end, though, I did manage to participate in two roundtables for “Game of Thrones,” including one with author George R.R. Martin, I and two other writers sparred with Mr. Jones (surviving the encounter without having any of my questions ridiculed or dismissed outright has earned me some sort of entertainment journalism merit badge, I feel certain), and still managed to chat one-on-one with the too-sweet-for-words Eve Myles (“Torchwood: Miracle Day”) as well as John Hannah and Peter Mensah (“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”).

The evening event was brought to us by Hallmark, and it took place at the Tournament House…as in the Tournament of Roses…in Pasadena. It was a pleasantly low-key event which began with cocktails and featured a classy sit-down dinner. What I’m saying, basically, is that it was old-school in all the right ways, including familiar TV faces like Doris Roberts, Marion Ross, and Marilu Henner, who regularly found herself holding court about her superior autobiographical memory. I also had an opportunity to sit down and chat with 11-year-old Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper on “Mad Men.” What a little sweetheart.

Okay, that’s it for the Day 3 wrap-up. Time for your daily dose of my favorite quotes…

1. “I knew that I was doing a lot of plastic surgery, because Melissa, one time, called me when (my grandson) Cooper was four years old and they had ‘Return of the Mummy,’ and he ran to the TV and went, ‘Grandma, Grandma.’ But I think plastic surgery come on, guys. You know. How many people have you interviewed…if you had a stitch for every if you had a dollar for every stitch in the face of someone you’ve interviewed, you wouldn’t be sitting here. You know what I mean? It’s part of our business.” – Joan Rivers, “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best” (WEtv)

2. “It is literally impossible to be more ridiculous than Fox News or MSNBC. It’s actually impossible. It’s happened multiple times that we’ll be kind of talking and brainstorming a joke in the writers’ room, we’ll get excited about it, and then it’s literally on the FoxNews.com website. So I think we have to kind of embrace that closeness. And the excitement for us is not being a parody of 24-hour news, but we are real news. Those are our competitors in a kind of slightly different world, and I think that believability is also part of what’s exciting about it. We’ve had online cases where, for example, last year there was a case where we published a story about Neil Armstrong now saying that the moon landing was a hoax, and all these papers in Bangladesh picked it up. There was a story about the Make-A-Wish Foundation being bankrupted by a child who wishes for unlimited wishes, which is pretty out there. It went on MySpace, which is kind of the Internet hub for morons, and we got this letter from the Make-A-Wish Foundation that was, like, ‘We’re getting hundreds of e-mails every hour, people who are concerned.’ So how ridiculous those things are, I think, really kind of opens up a lot of doors for us.” – Will Graham, “Onion News Network” (IFC)

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 2

The first half of the second day of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour belonged solely to the Turner networks, who had been notably MIA from the summer tour. Although there were unconfirmed reports that they were not entirely thrilled with the dates that had been set for that tour, as most of their summer programming had already premiered by the time the tour kicked off, but during the opening remarks, we were assured that “we ask for time on the critics tour schedule when we can make it worth your while.” Fair enough, then.

After an “Adventure Time”-themed breakfast from Cartoon Network, Adult Swim brought on a plethora of panelists for “Childrens Hospital” (everyone in the above photo was in attendance, plus executive producers Jonathan Stern and David Wain), TNT followed with “Franklin & Bash,” “Falling Skies,” and “Men of a Certain Age,” then HLN and CNN wrapped things up by getting real and presenting the new talk shows from Dr. Drew Pinsky and Piers Morgan, respectively. Given that I ended up pulling one-on-one interviews with Malcolm McDowell, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Breckin Meyer, Garcelle Beauvais, Ray Romano (and Jon Manfrellotti), Scott Bakula, and Henry Winkler, I am hard pressed to have an unkind word to say about the Turner experience…except, that is, the fact that I diligently and politely contacted publicists for both networks and studios in an effort to nail down interviews in advance but was still ultimately left to fly by the seat of my pants and spend the morning in catch-as-catch-can mode.

Our working lunch was brought to us by the unlikely tag-team of BET (“The Game,” “Let’s Stay Together”) and Playboy TV (“Brooklyn Kinda Love,” “Swing”), and from there it was on to the Discovery family of networks: Animal Planet (“Taking on Tyson,” a look into Mike Tyson’s love of pigeons…yes, seriously), Science Channel (“An Idiot Abroad,” with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and title character Karl Pilkington), Investigation Discovery (“The Injustice Files”), and the mothership, the Discovery Channel (“Gold Rush – Alaska” and “Kidnap & Rescue”).

By then, the excitement / cynicism in the room was palpable: it was time for the OWN Network presentations. We’d been promised a welcome from Oprah, but we didn’t get one. Instead, we got an introduction from network CEO Christina Norman. She’s a very nice lady, but it wasn’t quite the same, and she admitted as much when she came onstage after a lengthy series of clips featuring Ms. Winfrey, saying, “I know: after all that Oprah, I am a massive disappointment to all of you.” Her Majesty did indeed deign to participate in a Q&A with us, but not until after we sat through panels for “Your OWN Show” (10 finalists compete to get their own series on the network), “The Gayle King Show,” and “Our America with Lisa Ling.” After Oprah held court, using what my esteemed colleague Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun referred to as the George W. Bush Technique, which involved offering incredibly lengthy answers in order to minimize the number of questions actually asked.

After the Q&A came to a close (and you can believe that it only ended when Oprah wanted it to end), we were all invited to attend the evening event which, although it was ostensibly brought to us by the OWN Network, nonetheless featured attendees from shows throughout the Discovery family of networks. This resulted in my having close encounters with Mike Tyson, author James Ellroy, and…well, I didn’t actually get to talk to Oprah, but I did stand very close to her (along with Carson Kressley and Nancy O’Dell, hosts of “Your OWN Show”) and breathe the same air as Oprah, so my understanding is that I will now never get cancer…which is nice, of course, but, damn, I really could’ve used a new car.

I know, you wish I’d gotten a new car, too. Don’t be sad, though, as I’m already sad enough for both of us. Besides, I’d much rather you read my selections for the top 10 quotes of Day 2 and leave me wallowing in my own car-less misery. No, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine…just as long as you don’t forget to come back for my coverage of Day 3.

1. “The one note we did get (for ‘Children’s Hospital’), it was from Warner Brothers…I hesitate to even tell you this, but when we turned in our first script for the web series, Warner Brothers called us up and said, ‘Um, do you think you could cut the shot where we actually see the Twin Towers burning?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, do you know what? That’s a great note.’” – Rob Corddry, “Children’s Hospital” (Adult Swim)

2. “I actually improvise all my own parts. I don’t know why they hire writers. I enjoy ad-libbing greatly, because I…basically, I can’t remember what the hell I’m doing. What’s the show called?” – Malcolm McDowell, “Franklin & Bash” (TNT)

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