Clippin’ Out: “Gossip Girl” / “Life Unexpected” (The CW)

“Gossip Girl” – Blair has spent a fabulous summer in Paris without realizing her former love, Chuck Bass, has been shot. As much as Blair tries to distract herself from the pain Chuck caused her, his mysterious appearance in Paris with a beautiful new woman will force both of them to face what happened. Meanwhile, a newly single Serena has been enjoying a Parisian summer of love with boys, Blair and Balenciaga as she tries to avoid the inevitable decision about which of her two long-time beaus, Dan or Nate, she should return to. Back on the Upper East Side, Nate meets an intriguing girl, Juliet, who helps him realize that his summer of sexual conquests with the help of Chuck’s little black book was his way of avoiding his unresolved feelings for Serena. Meanwhile, Dan’s baby mama drama continues with Georgina. Finally, the van der Woodsen apartment is buzzing with activity as the “Fashion’s Night Out” event is planned. (Season Premiere Sept. 13)

“Life Unexpected” – Cate and Ryan return from their honeymoom only to discover that major changes have been made at the radio station in their absence. A very confused Baze struggles with his feelings for Cate, and ends up hooking up with the hot new bartender, Paige, at his bar. Meanwhile, Lux and Bug find themselves at a major crossroads in their relationship. Shaun Sipos (“Melrose Place”) guest stars as Eric, a newcomer to Portland who befriends Lux. (Season Premiere Sept. 14)

  

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Greetings to the New Season: The CW – UPDATED

And so we come to the last of the big network upfronts…if, that is, you consider The CW to be a big network. I’m not saying I don’t, you understand. I just mean that there are still some people out there who haven’t yet accepted Fox as being a real network, so you can only imagine what they think of The CW.

But I digress.

Sort of.

It probably is worth noting that, unlike ABC, CBS, NBC, and, yes, even Fox, The CW held their upfront without providing photos, let alone videos, to accompany their new fall series…and since there are only two of them, you’d think they could’ve at least managed to throw together logos for them to serve as preliminary artwork. Instead, I’m stuck falling back on the tried and true network logo.

Yawn.

Okay, sorry, that really was a digression…and, as it turned out, a mostly unnecessary one, since the photos had appeared on The CW’s press site by 10:30 AM EST. Still, that was well after the press release about the fall schedule went out…a press release which, FYI, required two revisions due to various accidental omissions. I’m just saying.

Anyway, on with the show(s)…

MONDAY

8 – 9 PM: 90210

9 – 10 PM: Gossip Girl

TUESDAY

8 – 9 PM: One Tree Hill

9 – 10 PM: Life Unexpected

WEDNESDAY

8 – 9 PM: America’s Next Top Model

9 – 10 PM: Hellcats: a coming-of-age story about Marti Perkins, a young, pre-law student at Lancer University in Memphis, Tennessee. Marti is cool, hip and alt, but her world flips upside down, literally and figuratively, when she loses her scholarship, and realizes the only way she can stay in school is by reigniting her dormant teen gymnastic skills to win a place on Lancer’s legendary cheerleading team, The Hellcats. Against her every instinct, Marti goes for it and makes the squad, and is thrust into a world of camaraderie, backstabbing and the intersection of sports, backroom academia and big money.

Marti’s new roommate, Savannah Monroe, a petite, peppy Texan, is among the diverse cast of athletes, undergrads, family and friends, all set on the sprawling campus of a powerhouse college football program in the deep South. The series stars Aly Michalka as Marti Perkins, Ashley Tisdale as Savannah Monroe, Heather Hemmens as Alice Verdura, Robbie Jones as Lewis Flynn, Matt Barr as Dan Patch, with Sharon Leal as Vanessa Lodge and Gail O’Grady as Wanda Perkins. “Hellcats” is executive produced by Kevin Murphy (“Desperate Housewives”), Tom Welling (“Smallville”), and Allan Arkush (“Heroes,” “Crossing Jordan”). The pilot was directed by Arkush.

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TCA: Life Unexpected

When The CW held a preliminary panel during the summer 2009 TCA tour for its yet-to-be-scheduled series, “Life UneXpected” (the “X” has since been de-capitalized), one of the critics posed this question to the show’s creator, Liz Tigelaar:

“Is there any concern that you may have made this pilot for a network than doesn’t exactly exist? Because this is sort of a warm, fuzzy, family, everybody-together pilot, and if you look at The CW’s shows for the Fall, they’re less that.”

It’s true: when compared to shows like “Melrose Place” and the late, apparently-not-all-that-great “The Beautiful Life,” “Life Unexpected” stands out in a big way simply by offering some semblance of a proper family dynamic. It’s the story of 15-year-old Lux (Britt Robertson), who, after spending her life bouncing from one foster family to another, has decided it’s time to become an emancipated minor. Her journey through the legal maze leads Lux to her biological parents, Nate “Baze” Bazile (Kristoffer Polaha) and Cate Cassidy (Shiri Appleby). When a judge unexpectedly grants temporary joint custody to Baze and Cate, they agree to make a belated attempt to give Lux the family she deserves. A series on The CW that not only doesn’t immediately make parents flip out at the effect it might have on their children…? Talk about unconventional.

When The CW held the panel for “Life Unexpected” during the winter 2010 TCA tour, things once again kicked off with a question for Ms. Tigelaar, but it was a bit of a left-field query this time around…or, at least, it was to me, as I’d ever heard the rumor that her birth mother was Nancy Reagan. She’s not, as it turns out, and the question was a bit tongue-in-cheek to begin with, but the story of its origins was certainly a funny one.

“I’m adopted,” she explained, “and there’s a big kind of fantasy element of the show of being an adopted kid: you imagine who your birth mom, especially, might be. When I was little, I didn’t know that much, but I knew I was born in D.C., so I was always, like, ‘I think Nancy Reagan’s my birth mom, and this really sucks. I should be living in the White House, and I should have a $100-a-month allowance.’ It started when I was little and, weirdly, it lasted for a long time, until finally, when I was eight, my mom was, like, ‘You’re an idiot. You’re not doing basic math. There’s no way that Nancy Reagan could be your birth mom.’ But the idea of it was definitely what I brought into the series, which is, again, that fantasy of who your parents might be. I think when you have no idea and you really have nothing to go on, you really create something in your head, so this story is very much a story of Lux having this fantasy and in some ways it really coming true: her mom is this super successful, glamorous radio DJ, and her dad is this pretty cool guy who owns a bar and lives with friends and lives in a sweet loft. The idea is that just because people are kind of cool fantasy people doesn’t actually make them fantasy parents.”

On the flip side of the coin, however, “Life Unexpected” also explore how different things are today for individuals in their thirties than they were when, say, “thirtysomething” was on.

“In our parents’ generation, maybe thirtysomething means maybe 401(k) plans and mortgages and suburbs and dogs,” Tigelaar said. “And for me – and maybe some other people – thirtysomething can mean a person who really has prioritized their professional life over relationships or whatever. Or a guy who still lives like a frat guy and lives with his buddies and plays video games and drinks Coors Light. So what happens when you make it a coming-of-age story, instead of the one person who is the age of a person that would need to grow up, the grownups are the people that need to come of age, and Lux is the catalyst for them to do that. I think that was the impetus of the idea.”

The thing that I love about the show so much – and the CW has been so great and really believing in these characters – is that all these characters get to be flawed, damaged, real people who grapple and struggle, and things aren’t easy and they don’t do things right,” she explained. “They often do the right things for the wrong reasons and the wrong things for the right reasons…and it’s kind of fun to live in that world every day.”

  

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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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