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…

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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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TV of the 2000s: 15 Sci-Fi Series That Deserved A Longer Run

It’s always been a rough go on network television for series which require viewers to think and suspend their disbelief at the same time, but despite this, many brave producers and writers have tried to capture the imaginations of couch potatoes. Sometimes it works, as evidenced by the long runs of such shows as “Battlestar Galactica,” “Lost,” “Smallville,” and “Supernatural,” but more often than not, it doesn’t, which is why IMDb is littered with listings for sci-fi series that lasted for only a single season. Looking back at the decade (which, if you hadn’t noticed, is what we’re doing with all of these TV of the 2000s features), you can also find way too many shows which survived into the second season, proved that their first season wasn’t a fluke, sometimes even improving on it, and then got canceled…and, man, does that hurt. Heck, I even included three- and four-season wonders in this list, one because it had scored such a huge upswing in quality, the other mostly because it seemed like such a gyp when it got the axe. But, then, you could say that about all of these shows, really…

WARNING! LIST CAVEAT! – To be included within this list, the show cannot have started at any point prior to Jan. 1, 2000. Without that caveat, you can bet that “Angel” would’ve been included…and, yes, probably “Farscape,” too. But definitely “Angel.”

15. Masters of Science Fiction (ABC): As an anthology series in the 2000s, it’s not like it ever had a chance in Hell of surviving, anyway, which is why it comes in at the bottom of the list. Still, it deserves mention here, partially because it was really good, but mostly because it got an even bigger shaft from ABC than “New Amsterdam” got from Fox.

Get this: during ABC’s executive panel during the TCA Press tour of summer 2007, someone asked Stephen McPherson, the network’s president of entertainment about the origins of the series, and he responded, “It was a low-cost initiative that we tried. We did this series of movies to see if there was a way to spark something different at a really low cost point. You know, I think there is some good work done there, but it’s very unseen. So it’s just been…it’s been a little bit problematic.” Okay, now, to be fair, he’s acknowledging that there’s “good work” inherent somewhere in the series, but to put these comments in a better perspective, they were made before the show had even premiered. And how did he decide to remedy this problem of the series being “unseen”? By premiering it at 10 PM on Saturday night. Hey, way to get behind your programming, Steve!

In fairness, I’m sure no one, not even the series creators, ever expected “Masters of Science Fiction” to be anything other than a short-lived midseason entry, but it’s not like it had to be. The series harked back to classic dramatic anthologies like “The Twilight Zone,” “The Outer Limits,” and the like, and while its budget might not be through the roof, the performances – including turns from Malcolm McDowell, Anne Heche, Sam Waterston, Judy Davis, Terry O’Quinn, Elizabeth Rohm, Brian Dennehy, and John Hurt – were top-notch. But, then, that’s what happens when you bring in directors like Mark Rydell (”On Golden Pond”), Michael Tolkin (”The Player”), and Jonathan Frakes (”Star Trek: First Contact”) to helm adaptations of stories by Robert Heinlein (”Starship Troopers”), Howard Fast (”Spartacus”), and legendary sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison, who actually adapted his own story, collaborating with Josh Olson (”A History of Violence”). If any of this sounds like it might be up your alley, you can at least take comfort in the knowledge that the entire series is available on DVD, including two episodes that ABC couldn’t be bothered to air.

14. Dark Angel (Fox): Nowadays, it’s best remembered for the fact that it introduced the world at large to the assets of Jessica Alba (which, by the way, look damned good in black leather), but when “Dark Angel” premiered, its high profile came from the fact that it was the first thing that it was produced by James Cameron. What not nearly as many people remember, however, is that the show also starred Michael Weatherly, who would get a much longer running gig a few years later when he took on the role of Anthony DiNozzo in “NCIS,” and Jensen Ackles, now better known as Dean Winchester on “Supernatural.”

But I digress. The slightly-futuristic (it took place in 2019) “Dark Angel” was predominantly about Alba’s character, Max Guevara, a genetically enhanced super-soldier who has escaped from the government that created her and is using her job as a motorcycle courier to cover for the fact that she spends most of her time searching for her brethren, i.e. the other 11 super-soldiers who escaped with her. She does this with the help of Logan Kale (Weatherly), a.k.a. cyber-journalist “Eyes Only,” whose unparalleled computer skills go a long way toward making up for the fact that he’s paralyzed from the waist down. The series looked great, and having John Savage serve as one of its primary villains (Colonel Donald Michael Lydecker) was inspired, but trying to get the general public to embrace the cyberpunk movement – even the highly diluted version of it that “Dark Angel” offered – was a lost cause. Truth be told, we’re probably lucky that we got as much of the show as we did. If Cameron’s name hadn’t been on it, it probably would’ve been over at the end of Season 1.

13. Kyle XY (ABC Family): Ironically, I’m writing this mere moments after getting word that a copy “Kyle XY: The Final Season” has just been sent my way. Even if you aren’t familiar with the series, you’ll nonetheless have deduced from the appearance of the word “final” in the set’s subtitle that this isn’t a show that came and went within the span of a single season. Yes, “Kyle XY” actually lasted for three seasons, but it was still going strong creatively when ABC Family decided that it just didn’t match up well enough with their other content, like “Greek” or “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” Now, look, I dig those shows as much as the next thirtysomething who wants to vicariously relive his youth through semi-realistic TV characters, but is that any reason to kill off a great sci-fi melodrama like “Kyle”? No, sir, it is not.

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TV in the 2000s: 15 Shows Canceled After Appearing in Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings*

*Probably Coincidentally

Back in 2005, Bullz-Eye kicked off a regularly-recurring feature that’s become a staple of our site: the TV Power Rankings, which gives us a chance to offer up our opinions once every six months on the best that television has to offer. Now that we’re looking back at the entire decade in our TV in the 2000s feature, however, it gave us an opportunity to look back at all of the shows that have appeared within the Rankings over the course of its history, and when we did, it was a little eyebrow-raising to see how many of our favorite programs bit the dust almost immediately after receiving accolades from us. We’re pretty sure their cancellations weren’t our fault…or, at least, not entirely. Anyway, take a look back through the list with us, won’t you? If nothing else, it shows that we’ve got good taste, even if the average viewer doesn’t always share our opinions.

1. Arrested Development (Fox, 2003 – 2006) – “Even if this is indeed the end for one of Fox’s all time greatest shows, it is better to have loved and lost…oh, the hell with that, Fox is freaking nuts if they cancel this show.” So said David Medsker in February 2006. But did they listen to him? They did not. “We’re not ones to buy into the whole dumbing-down-of-society thing,” Medsker added, “but if this show gets canned while ‘According to Jim’ lives on, maybe there’s something to it after all.” Oh, yeah, there’s definitely something to it: “According to Jim” stayed on the air until June 2009.

2. Deadwood (HBO, 2004 – 2006) – When it was announced that Season 3 would be the last for the semi-historical look at the wild west, there was really only one name that John Paulsen could call the folks at HBO. We probably shouldn’t use it here, but if you need a hint, it starts with a “C” and rhymes with “sock pluckers.” “Everything about the show – the language, the acting, the story, the sets and the costumes – is colorful,” Paulsen observed in February 2007, “and whether or not HBO wants to admit it, they’re going to miss ‘Deadwood’ once it’s gone for good.” They must’ve been in some serious denial, then: creator David Milch reportedly agreed to do a proper wrap-up of the series through a pair of “Deadwood” movies” for the network, but things never really got beyond the discussion stage.

3. Invasion (ABC, 2005 – 2006) – The fall of 2005 was a good time in prime time for sci-fi fans, with each of the big three networks offering up an entry from the genre, but by the spring of 2006, their cheers had turned to tears. NBC’s “Surface” was permanently submerged after 15 episodes, while CBS’s “Threshold” crossed the point of no return after only nine episodes had aired. Give ABC some credit, however, for at least sticking with their entry for the full 22. “’Invasion’ started slowly, but has steadily ramped up the creepiness,” said John Paulsen in February ’06, acknowledging that, although it gave its audience lots of questions, at least it was providing them with more answers than “Lost” was. Unfortunately, there was still plenty to be answered when the show was canceled, and things got even more depressing when Tyler Labine talked to Bullz-Eye about what might’ve been. “(Creator Shaun Cassidy) had written this bible for the show, and he had written this amazing five-season arc,” said Labine. “We were just floored. Our jaws were literally on the floor after he explained it to us. We were, like, ‘Wow, we’re on for a really great ride!’” What a shame for us all that the ride ended as quickly as it did.

4. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC, 2005 – 2006) – Well, you can’t say that we weren’t honest about offering up both the pros and the cons of Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes look into a late-night comedy series. “The show is pompous, unrealistic and ridiculously left-wing,” admitted Jason Zingale in February 2007, “but it also makes for some damn good television.” Unfortunately, with an awful lead-in – seriously, who thought that pairing the show with “Heroes” was a good idea? – “Studio 60” didn’t develop enough of a following to earn a second season.

5. Rome (HBO, 2005 – 2007) – In its first season, “Rome” turned up at #18 in the Power Rankings, but by the time Season 2 aired, it had leapt to #6. Not that such success earned the show a third season (it was apparently ridiculously expensive to produce, which you can absolutely believe if you’ve ever seen it, but at least the news of its cancellation came in time for John Paulsen to register his annoyance within the February 2007 Rankings. “As it turns out, ‘Rome’ isn’t the heir to the throne of ‘The Sopranos,’” he wrote. “Instead, sadly, it’s a bastard stepchild, just like ‘Deadwood.’” Creator Bruno Heller was probably even more pissed than Paulsen, having mapped out his vision of the series all the way through its fifth season, but as recently as December 2008, Heller was still sounding optimistic about the chances for a “Rome” movie. “I would love to round that show off,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. Hey, we’re behind you 100%, Bruno.

6. Four Kings (NBC, 2006) – If you don’t remember this sitcom, you’re forgiven, as it premiered in January 2006 and was gone by March. Still, it made enough of an impression to earn Honorable Mention status in the February 2006 rankings. “Four Kings” was created by David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the duo behind “Will and Grace,” and featured Seth Green as one of its cast members, so you might think it surprising that it was off the air within seven episodes (and with a remaining six episodes still unaired). Looking back, however, the fact that the greatest praise Jason Zingale could heap upon the show in his write-up was that “it’s a worthy quick-fix until NBC finds a better alternative” should’ve given us a clue that it wasn’t long for this world.

7. Jericho (CBS, 2006 – 2008) – It was the little show that could, our “Jericho.” It started with an awesomely dark premise – a nuclear bomb goes off in the U.S., and we view the repercussions through the eyes of a small town in Kansas – and, after figuring out its direction (the attempts to meld some “Little House on the Prairie” aspects to the show were soon phased out), the series found its footing, kicked some creative ass, and was promptly canceled. But what’s this…? The show’s diehard fanbase made enough noise (and sent enough nuts) to get the show a 7-episode second season which lived up to everyone’s expectations and then some. Too bad the same couldn’t be said for the ratings, but those who actually tuned in for Season 2 know how many twists, turns, and outright shocks it included. There’s still talk of a possible “Jericho” movie. We can only hope.

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Halloween on the Small Screen: 31 Memorable Halloween Episodes

Too old to trick or treat but not popular enough to get invited to a Halloween party? Fortunately, we have the perfect solution to keep you in the spirit of the holiday while keeping your brain occupied enough to forget how uncool you are: a list of 31 great Halloween episodes from throughout TV history. It’s not a complete list, of course, and we’ve left out specials, so leave your complaints about the exclusion of “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” at the door. Instead, just embrace the fact that we’ve found as many clips and complete episodes for your viewing enjoyment as we possibly could. You’re welcome…and Happy Halloween!

1. The Addams Family, “Halloween with the Addams Family”: The Addams family are all busy preparing for their favorite holiday, but their celebration is bolstered by a pair of bank robbers…one of whom is played by Don Rickles…who they welcome as trick-or-treaters.

2. The Andy Griffith Show, “The Haunted House”: Maybe it isn’t officially a Halloween episode, but it first aired in October 1963, and it focuses on Barney and Gomer trying to retrieve a baseball from a supposedly haunted house and finding some strange goings on inside. As far as I’m concerned, that’s close enough for jazz.

3. Angel, “Life of the Party”: Lorne throws a Halloween party for all the firm’s clients and employees, but during the gathering, his advice to his friends starts happening literally: Fred and Wesley get drunk after Lorne tells them to loosen up, Spike and Harmony dance the night away, Angel and Eve do the horizontal bop, and, Gunn, uh, relieves himself after being told to “stake out his territory.” Good times.

4. Beavis and Butthead, “Butt-o-ween”: It starts simply enough, with the guys trying to master the concept of trick or treating, first without costumes, then wearing Beavis’s “monkey sheets” and going as ghosts. Eventually, however, Beavis + Halloween candy = Cornholio. The equation was ever thus, and here it leads to a quest for more candy…and, y’know, some T.P. for his bunghole.


Bevis and Butt-head-Butt-O-Ween

Dreamer Neverending | MySpace Video

5. Beverly Hills 90210, “Halloween”: The stock line is that Halloween costumes allow a woman to bring out her inner slut, and when the gang from West Beverly goes to a Halloween party, Kelly’s seductive costume leads a college student to translate “no” as “yes.” It’s absolutely inexcusable, of course, but – whew! – you can’t say she doesn’t make an impression. Meanwhile, Brenda and Dylan go as Bonnie and Clyde, Steve is Zorro, and Donna comes as a mermaid, a move which seriously hinders her dance moves.

Watch the episode at CBS.com!

6. The Big Bang Theory, “The Middle Earth Paradigm”: Penny throws a great Halloween party, and she makes a pretty kitty, too, but it’s hard to top the meeting of the four Flashes.

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