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Chicago narrowly missed out on being the home of Meredith Grey.
Shonda Rhimes, creator of the ABC hit "Grey's Anatomy," thought about setting the medical drama in her hometown, the Windy City, but eventually nixed the idea because of a "certain medical drama" that is already set in Chicago (could she be referring to "ER"?).
"My best friend lives there; I come back there all the time," says Rhimes, a former resident of University Park and a 1987 graduate of Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights (also my alma mater; our time there overlapped for one year, but we didn't know each other.).
Chicago's loss was a gain for Seattle, where Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and four other interns are struggling through a grueling internship at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital.
Though the show has its soapy elements - Grey is in a tangled relationship with one of her superiors, Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) - "Grey's Anatomy" is actually a refreshing oasis of intriguing, nuanced characters.
In particular, "Grey's" offers a compelling range of female characters in a TV season in which many of the women on hour-long dramas are lawyers, crime fighters of some kind or crime victims. Then again, "Grey's Anatomy" is one of the few network dramas created and written by a woman.
"I think there are men who can write fantastically for women," Rhimes said, "but a lot of times, women have been modulated to be fantasies, not necessarily in a sexual way, but they're written to be what men would like a woman to be like, not what women are really like."
In the first episode of the new season, intern Cristina Yang (Emmy nominee Sandra Oh) talked with her friend and fellow intern, Grey, about Yang's unexpected pregnancy. "Cristina says, said, `Surgery is my life. I'm too talented [to quit],' Rhimes notes. "People were surprised at that line, but it's only because it was a woman saying it."
Grey has her own personal struggles to deal with. Her mother, a renowned surgeon in her own right, has Alzheimer's disease, and Rhimes says Grey's family problems will come to the fore in the next few episodes of the show.
Rhimes "can understand how people think and feel and also understands the difficulty of how you protect yourself in the world," says "Grey's" executive producer Betsy Beers, who laughingly characterizes Rhimes' worldview for "Grey's" as "not too much hugging, not too much crying. No whiners."
The women of "Grey's" "absolutely screw up sometimes, and they have great days too," Rhimes noted. "They enjoy the competition of the job.
"I wanted these characters to be characters who liked what they did and were unapologetic about it. It's not `Oh, she's powerful, but she's deeply hurt inside,'-" Rhimes says. "And I like the fact that Cristina and Meredith have this friendship, and Cristina is a person who is very competitive - but she's not incapable of having a friendship with another woman. That was really important to me."
More from Shonda Rhimes:
Will Meredith's mother come to the fore in upcoming episodes? "Yes, she will have a much larger role coming up. We originally shot 13 episodes [and not all of those episodes have aired yet], and some of those were going to finish off that [13-episode] season. So four of the first five episodes of this season will be from last season, and we'll be seeing Meredith's mother fairly soon."
On the diversity of the cast: "It's a diverse world. I wanted this hospital to look like the world I live in and work in."
On the medical situations on the show: "It's not a medical solution of the week. We don't do the medical mystery show. It's not about how we solve the problem. I always say, it's not about the patients or how the patients feel about their issues, it's about how the doctors feel about how the patients feel about their issues." [Still, the show has an extensive medical staff and experts on call to help with the medical information and procedures on the show].
Do you have a long-term concept or story for the show? "Yes. I feel like I know what the last scene in the last episode of the show will be. We just have to get there first."
Have you thought about having to add new characters yet? "Not really. Not all interns survive, not all of them make it through these kinds of programs. But we've got such a large group of people already, why would we add anyone yet?"
On casting the leads, Ellen Pompeo [Dr. Meredith Grey] and Patrick Dempsey [Dr. Derek Shepard, a.k.a. Dr. McDreamy]: "I kept saying we need a girl like that girl from 'Moonlight Mile,' and after a while, they were like, 'We think we can get that girl from 'Moonlight Mile.' I spent time with her and got to know her, and then we started casting for the men.
"We brought in a lot of guys [for Shepard]. Ellen wasn't an easy role to cast, but Derek was really not an easy role to cast either. You had to believe he was intelligent, so you can believe he's a brain surgeon. And while you're watching, you'd be like, 'I wish my boyfriend looked like that.' [laughs] But he had to be rugged, not pretty. Handsome, sexy, but not in an obvious way, sexy in a smart way.
"He had to be able to pull off being really witty and you had to believe he'd care about people too. This was not easy to find! Patrick came in and he was just perfect. It was one of those moments when you're like, 'This is why I'm a writer.' There was just great chemistry, they were fun and flirty and it was just right."
The cast as a whole really seems to gel well. "They really do. For me the fun is to put different combinations together and discover things. For instance in the premiere episode for this season, it was the first time we had George and the chief of surgery together. And they had such great comic timing together. Later in the season, Izzie and Dr. Burke have their first real [work together] and their interaction is really dynamic. It's fun to discover that chemistry."
People online are pairing up various combinations of interns and supervising doctors, interns with other interns: "There is this consistent and intense need to pair people up."
Will Izzie and Alex get together, as has been hinted? "I don't like to say. They could get together, it's not something I've planned out or written out. Sometimes it's a matter of seeing how the journey progresses, how it progresses. The relationship between Dr. Burke and Christina came about from watching these two actors and their great banter together back and forth. [With those two characters] there's great humor and pain and pathos watching these two people who don't know how to communicate try to communicate.
I think one thing that may be a factor in the show's success, and its appeal to women, is that it's a show largely about women written by a woman. Not that a man can't write for a woman and vice versa, but so much of the show rings true for me, and that's a factor for a lot of women I talk to. "I hope it's a factor, in a way. I really wanted this show not only to be something other people would watch, but something I would watch. The way women talk, my friends and I, the conversations we have with my best friend or my sister on the phone or my friends out here [in Los Angeles], I want to hear that conversation, in which women aren't victims or afraid to be strong.
"In the episode that just aired, Cristina was talking about what to do about her baby [she's pregnant], and she says, 'Surgery is my life. I'm too talented [to quit].' People were surprised at that line, but it's only because it was a woman saying it. It's how women speak now.
"I think there are men who can write fantastically for women, but a lot of times, women have been modulated to be fantasies, not necessarily in a sexual way, but they're written to be what men would like a woman to be like, not what women are really like. Women can be flawed, nasty, strong, good. The definition of female is as broad as the definition of male. What's revolutionary is that we're letting ourselves be women, not having to represent anything. They're just women trying to make it through the day at work.
"They absolutely screw up sometimes, they have great days too. They enjoy the competition of the job. I wanted these characters to be characters who liked what they did and were unapologetic about it. It's not 'Oh, she's powerful, but she's deeply hurt inside.' I like the fact that Cristina and Meredith have this friendship and Cristina is a person who is very competitive, but she's not incapable of having a friendship with another woman. That was really important to me."
You're from Chicago, right? "Yes, I went to Marian Catholic, I graduated in 1987. I was in the band, I lived in Park Forest South, now it's called University Park. My best friend still lives [in Chicago], I come back there all the time. It was where I wanted to set the show, but there is that certain other medical show that films there."
Rhimes on the show's music, which just came out on a "Grey's Anatomy" soundtrack CD: "I love the music. What Alex [Alexandra Patsavas, who is also the music supervisor for 'The O.C.'] does for us is give us a great pool of music to choose from. Placing the music in the episodes is one of my favorite things to do. It's really fun. Alex introduces us to all these amazing bands. I'm not a music aficionado, but Alex puts us in touch with this great world of music."
Executive producer Betsy Beers on the show's music: "We were incredibly happy to get Alex on the show. She's been with us since the pilot. Very very early on, we knew that the music would be incredibly important. We try to find songs that have not been heard too much and really seem to get into the spirit of the show, songs that sort of say, 'I may be hurt but I don't wear my heart on my sleeve.' The tone of this show is very different from 'The O.C.,' and Alex really got the spirit of it. These are people working at hard jobs and are determined not to let anyone see their pain. The music can underscore the frustration, the emotion, the humor."
CHANGE AHEAD FOR 'EVERWOOD': This fall, the annual shuffling of the TV schedule put fear in the heart of hard-core "Everwood" fans. The WB moved the acclaimed family drama, which just began its fourth season, to Thursdays, where it's up against "CSI" and "The Apprentice" as well as highly touted newbies such as "Reunion" and "Night Stalker."
"We didn't expect [the move] at all, because everyone was so happy with our Monday nighttime slot. It kind of threw us a bit;, we were all a little nervous," said "Everwood's" Emily VanCamp (Amy Abbott), who was in Chicago on Thursday promoting the show. Still, she noted that "we have a pretty strong core audience who have been pretty faithful to the show."
Her co-star, Chris Pratt, who plays her TV brother, Bright Abbott, saw a bit of a silver lining in the move. "Thursday night, that's the night for all the big advertisers, for all the [commercials for] movies for the weekends. That's the spot where the networks bring out the big guns," Pratt said. "So to be considered the big gun could be looked at as a compliment."More from Emily VanCamp and Chris Pratt:
Do you think the show is changing at all this year?
Chris: "When you have the first season of Everwood, the pilot was just awesome, just perfect. There was this 30 episode arc in his head that was his vision. If you see the first couple season on DVD, you can really see how awesome that was. The show totally had its stride, and it's like passing the baton to someone and keep that stride, it's difficult. Because a lot of the stories that kept the show so compelling, you have to stop telling after a while. Ephram and Amy only works as long as it takes to get them together, then its like, 'Now what?' it's like [trying to create] part two of 'Romeo and Juliet.' The [strength] of the show [has been] that it's something that's it's a little atypical of the WB, which is why we have fans outside the typical demographic recognize us. I don't know, I think we're becoming a little more close to what their core audience is used to, and that's definitely a change from what it was in the beginning.
Emily: "There's less John Beasley, for instance, who I think is one of the most amazing characters on the show. I love watching him, I love working with him. And Debra Mooney."
Chris: "The voiceover."
Emily: "The voiceover. We're certainly lacking things that I loved as if I was watching as a viewer. But then we have new characters that are wonderful as well. I think that that's one thing I'd like to see more of, John. I have every bit of faith, though, that the people behind the show and the passion that all of us actors have, that if we do go off track, we'll get back on. It'll always work out.
"Amy's entering this whole new world of college, and that experience is a frightening, and Ephram's realizing all these things. They're trying to maintain a friendship, which I think happens a lot in relationships that don't turn out particularly well, you try the friendship thing and that can be tough, but it's realistic."
Chris: "Bright will try to become more self aware and try to become a better person."
Emily: "And there's the whole Nina-Jake-Dr. Brown triangle, which is fun. And Tom [Amandes, Dr. Abbott], who's just Tom, who can just be his own storyline and still be the most interesting thing about the show. He doesn't really need anything to play off of, he can just walk around."
Chris: "He's so great."
And there's the fact that your characters' mother has cancer. It's funny, there has been all this tragic stuff on "Everwood," yet it never feels exploitative about the bad things that happen.
Emily: "I was on '[Late Night with] David Letterman' and he summed up the show in this extravagant, funny way. He hit all the key dramatic points and that's how he summed up the show, and it was so funny because it sounded completely melodramatic. If you watch the show though, they do those things very nicely and thoughtfully. You can't just have someone's mother have cancer and not approach that with grace and delicacy, because so many people know someone who's had it or who has experienced it."
Chris: "The day we filmed the episode on Rose's surgery, Tom's own mother went into surgery for cancer, that same day."
Emily: "It's amazing how close to home those things can be, you have to be careful."
But other shows aren't. People on other shows get cancer and get over it in two weeks.
Emily: "They do, yeah, on other shows. There's an integrity that we all really try to maintain on the show. That's something that's really important to us. [To Chris] Would you agree?"
Chris: "Yes, totally."
Emily: "Sarah [Drew] and I are constantly fighting to not take our clothes off. It's like this ongoing battle. Obviously, that stuff sells."
Chris: "Especially on the WB."
Is that coming from the network? The producers?
Emily: "I don't know who that really comes from."
Chris: "It wasn't like that always, was it?"
Emily:"No, it wasn't always like that, but it's just, you know, there are moments, that all the young women [encounter]. Thankfully they brought in someone like Sarah who is just as adamant about that stuff as I am."
Chris: "I'm always fighting to take my clothes off [laughs]."
Emily: "It's all bout maintaining that integrity, that's what holds it all together, I think."
What do you think will happen with Bright and Hannah - are they too different?
Chris: "I've been so lucky to work with Sarah, she's classically trained, she's been on Broadway, she's 25, which you would never know, playing a 16 year old. [As far as Bright and Hannah], it's one of those situations where Bright is the kind of guy who does best when there's someone who's proud of him. Now he's got Hannah, and he wants to make her proud. He wants to do things that would make him character, and himself happy too. He was existing in this world where it was okay for him to do whatever he was doing because he was Bright, 'Oh, that's just Bright, he's funny,' you know? But he was really saved by Hannah, I think."
Where would you like Bright to end up?
Chris: "I bet college wouldn't be right for him, but I'd like to see him do something like become a hero of Everwood again somehow, become a firefighter or EMT, and [have] the community be proud of him somehow. Helping people, but I don't know if he saw blood, he might be queasy. There's been a lot of stuff written [that implies Bright might not deal well with the sight of blood]."
It looks like Amy has a new love interest in Bright's new roommate, the medical student.
Emily: "Yeah, that's Justin Baldoni, he plays the new love interest. It's kind of interesting at first, there's a misunderstanding and she thinks he's gay. She finds out that he's not, and that turns into something, but Ephram ends up moving in with those two boys, so it's like this weird thing where Ephram sees us and we're together and there's this whole triangle thing.
"I think that politically, Amy starts to get involved with her university, I'm not certain if that's going to happen, but I really hope that that happens. There's conflict with Hannah and Amy, there's all sorts of conflict all the time on 'Everwood.' [laughs]"
Do you have input into your characters?
Emily: "Not particularly, that's what's scary [laughs]."
Chris: "We'll get little tidbits."
Emily: "You never quite know what they're going to throw at you until you get the script. But we have this great executive producer, Mickey Liddell, he's just awesome and easy to talk to and takes everything into consideration. It's really nice to have someone like that you can go to, [someone] who's involved and knows what's going on. And we also talk amongst each other, we're a pretty tight family. I'll talk to Tom [Amandes] about concerns and he'll give me dad-like advice."
Chris: "And we'll stick together. There's something that just recently came up in a script, where Sarah [Drew] was concerned about something, they were going to have us almost being naked together And then it just turns out that all we had to do was have a conversation with everbody and they totally made everything work out to make her happy."
But isn't the character of Hannah not into premarital sex?
Emily: "I know, that's why we didn't get it. I don't know. Sometimes they forget we're not like a mountainous 'O.C.'- [laughs] 'No wait, this is just actually just 'Everwood.'"
What would be your ultimate wishes for your characters, just your own personal wishes?
Chris: "I wish for Bright to marry Hannah. Marry her, then he can finally get down [laughs]. No, no. Marry her, hang around Everwood and be a fixture of the community, open a sporting-goods store, coach the football team."
Emily: "I think Amy needs to spread her wings and get out of Everwood and see some of the world, put things into perspective. And then come home, and I bet her and Ephram will end up together and have a happy family."
Emily and Chris then told me what happens regarding Rose Abbott's bout with cancer, but I promised not to tell and I won't.
Some random TV quotes and observations:
- Her first week in the reality TV arena, Martha Stewart used the phrase "You just don't fit in" to get rid of "Apprentice" ejectee Jeff.
This week, however, Matchstick team member Chuck was bounced with "I wish you good luck and goodbye." So did Stewart change her mind about her firing phrase, which had been criticized for being too catty? Hmmm.
When asked about the disappearance of "You just don't fit in," a spokesman for "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" said, "Who is to say that is the catchphrase?"
- Writing on Salon.com, Judd Apatow, the writer/director of "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" confessed his love for reality TV, especially the recently concluded "Rock Star: INXS." He did have one quibble with the "Rock Star" finale, though: "The band seems supercool, they appeared to pick the right guy to win, and then they ended the show with him singing their new single. The only problem was that the new song is terrible. There you had this young guy - so excited to be in this band - and they make him play a song as bad as something you would hear on one of the albums the Doors made after Jim Morrison died."
- The video-game firm Gameloft announced last week that the company is working on a Sims-style game based on "The O.C.," which produced a bit of snickering in the gaming community. As Joystiq.com noted, "What button combination approximates 'Become jealous and totally diss Marissa behind her back while pretending you're not an alcoholic'?"
- Wouldn't it be totally weird if the guy who's locked in Mrs. Applewhite's basement on "Desperate Housewives" was named Desmond?
- Great news: "Veronica Mars" got its best-ever ratings in its season premiere Wednesday, when it was up against "Lost." By the way, thanks to reader Dave Juhl of Naperville, who points out that WPWR-Ch. 50 rebroadcasts each episode of "Veronica Mars" at 9 p.m. Sunday.
- I don't know about you, but when that full-scale riot broke out on "Prison Break" on Monday (and how cool was that episode, by the way?), I was most concerned about the older prisoner's pet cat, which ran off during the melee.
- I was sad to hear that Kathy Griffin and her husband Matt Moline are divorcing. Based on what I saw on her reality show, he seemed like an incredibly nice guy and very supportive of his wife's career in an extremely cutthroat industry. What a shame.
- I'm obsessed with how "The Amazing Race" is filmed. When I saw a bit of the sixth edition of the show being shot here in Chicago, each team had its own sound person and camera person, and from watching the show, I've always assumed that, when the team is driving, the camera person rides up front and the sound guy sits in the back. But given that there are four-person teams on the current Family Edition of the race, I've been wondering where the sound person sits when the team is driving, because the back seat is occupied by three team members. Maybe there isn't a sound person this time around? As I predicted, CBS wouldn't answer questions about how the show is produced or whether there is a sound person hidden somewhere in the car. Oh well.
- There's a long profile of Conan O'Brien in a recent issue of New York magazine, and in it, writer Vanessa Grigoriadis notes that O'Brien resents the attention lavished on "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart for his "far less complex, toilsome, and popular show." That's Grigoriadis' characterization, and it strikes me as really off-base. Yes, Stewart's show is half the length of O'Brien's, but it's twice as funny.
- The "Battlestar Galactica" cliffhanger Sept. 23 left me completely dying to know what happens next on the show. Aggh, what a cruel cliffhanger! And Tricia Helfer and Grace Park gave outstanding performances in their harrowing scenes as victims of rape and near-rape. In the wake of the brutal attacks on these characters, though, I will be very interested to see if we see some serious emotional consequences for them. The reason I wonder is because the cliffhanger only focused on the consequences for the two Galactica crew members who rescued Park's character, and we still have not seen any follow-through regarding what happened to Kara "Starbuck" Thrace on the creepy body-part harvesting episode, "The Farm."
- On HGTV's upcoming "Bad Baths USA," which premieres Oct. 9, families with world-class ugly bathrooms will get some help from the how-to network. Some of the nasty baths from the show (leopard-print wallpaper - in the bath?) are on display at www.hgtv.com/uglybathroom; you can vote on which is worst starting Wednesday.
By the way, if you've written off the show, don't. If you're a reality fan, you might just get a kick out of the operatic obnoxiousness of Matchstick's non-stop talker Jim, who has kicked into such high gear that the motormouth contestant can barely speak already.
- Speaking of "Rock Star," what band do you think should be featured on the next edition of the CBS show (and I'm betting there will be another version next year)? Of all the rock bands without lead singers, I really can't think of any whose back catalog I'd really want to hear every week (except Nirvana, but I'm not really thinking that's going to happen.) What bands do you nominate?
- In the new BBC America program "The Robinsons," a character contemplates breaking up with her boyfriend simply because he doesn't like "Fawlty Towers" (personally, I'm in the boyfriend's camp - so sue me). Do you have any "dealbreaker" TV shows? Let's say a potential or actual significant other said he or she had seen one of your all-time favorite shows and disliked it, or even hated it. Would that give you pause?
- Finally, what are your favorite - and least favorite - new shows of the fall TV season, and why?
September 23, 2005 2:10 PM CDT: What to watch this week and a 'House' party: Plus, what the heck is up with Martha?
CRUNCH TIME, PART 2: What to watch this week, another festival of multiple TV returns and premieres.
- Sunday: "Rome" is on and "Grey's Anatomy" returns, yippee! And check out the terrific backstage drama "Slings & Arrows" on Sundance Channel. Record for later viewing: "Desperate Housewives," "The West Wing."
- Monday: "How I Met Your Mother" is just cuter than a newborn puppy. Charlize Theron guests on the great "Arrested Development." Plus, "Prison Break!"
- Tuesday: "The Amazing Race" family edition, "House," "Boston Legal," "My Name Is Earl," "The Office," "Gilmore Girls" and "Nip/Tuck" are all must-sees. Record the much-hyped "Commander in Chief" for later; it's worth seeing for Donald Sutherland's crafty performance.
- Wednesday: "Lost" is a must, natch, plus "Veronica Mars" returns, yippee!
- Thursday: It's "Everwood's" season premiere (lots of other shows return as well), but the only other must-watch shows here are "Survivor" and "Everybody Hates Chris." Record the live "Will & Grace" season-opener for later.
- Friday: "Threshold," people!
- Saturday: Catch up with all that stuff you recorded earlier in the week. And rest up for next week.
MARTHA'S STRANGE MOMENTS: It was hard to decide which Martha Stewart performance last week was more puzzling.
Given all her television experience, the fact that the low-rated Wednesday premiere of "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" felt so flat and stilted was strange. Then again, Stewart's always been best suited to the 15-minute chat-show cooking demonstration, so maybe it'll take her some time to ease into the role of starring in an hour-long reality show.
One odd omission from Martha's first "Apprentice" outing was any real explanation of her recent stint in jail. In the opening moments of the NBC program, a brief news clip showing Stewart presumably leaving the courthouse was shown, and in a voice-over, she alluded to "challenges" and "difficult times."
Perhaps a more overt mention of Stewart's conviction was nixed by the media magnate herself, because, as she told David Letterman on Monday, she "doesn't feel guilty."
What a jaw-dropping statement that was. At first, Stewart herself tried to avoid Letterman's pointed question about her trial and conviction. At one point this savvy business titan hinted that she couldn't quite remember what her conviction was for.
"Why did you go to jail -- what were you convicted of?" Letterman asked.
"I don't know," she said with a shrug. "I don't have a long memory for bad things, so I'm trying very hard to put it out of my mind and get on with the future."
Later she confirmed that she was not convicted of insider trading: "It was about, I think, obstruction of justice."
Letterman appeared mystified by Stewart's repeated insistence that she had put the whole thing behind her and never felt "down" or "depressed" about her conviction or prison time.
"But how can you not let yourself get depressed? What do you do? It's a chemical reaction that kicks in," Letterman said.
"But I have other good chemicals too," Stewart chirped.
Letterman didn't give up.
"Your composure and presentation here this evening seems to be happy, unflappable, cheerful, positive, and you said that the worst part of this was that you were horrified and concerned not so much for yourself but your family and everyone else. Is that the worst it got for you in all this?"
"Yeah, because, you know, you're worried about the people you're taking care of," Stewart answered.
"What about concerns for your well-being, physically and mentally? This is, you know, not a day in traffic court," Letterman said.
"I'm really strong, Dave. And I can take care of myself," Stewart answered.
Perhaps what got her through those experiences is the fact that, as she told Letterman and his audience a minute later, she "doesn't feel guilty."
Though she whispered the word "guilty," it was obvious what Stewart said. Not only was her lack of remorse off-putting, you'd have to think it made her lawyers cringe.
As she told Letterman, her conviction is currently under appeal, and one has to wonder at the wisdom of saying that she felt she "had an unfair trial" -- on national television, no less - before that appeals process concludes.
"I can feel good," she stated as her appearance on Letterman came to a close.
Well, at least she can.
Link to the above item. The medical show's season opener attracted almost 16 million viewers, and on Tuesday, the Fox network announced it had ordered two more episodes of the program, bringing the second-season grand total to 24. Oh, and "House" won an Emmy for best drama writing on Sept. 18 too. "It was surreal," says "House" creator and executive producer David Shore of his win for the stellar first-season episode, "Three Stories." "There were [winners] up on the stage who were like, `Oh, it's just another day.' Tony Shalhoub, God bless him, for him standing up there, it was just like he was talking to a buddy. For me it was completely bizarre" - in a good way, Shore notes. Still, the "House" staff was disappointed that Hugh Laurie didn't win as best actor. "I think the show would not be on the air if we did not have Hugh Laurie in this role. It's a tough character to play and play well," Shore says. "To have turned that character into one of the sexiest characters on TV, that is not something I foresaw when I was writing this," he notes with a laugh. So sexy that House now has not one but two potential love interests. We grilled Shore about the love stuff and more: House's relationship with Sela Ward's character, his ex-girlfriend Stacy, will be explored and resolved in the first half of the season. "Obviously, anyone can relate to certain things about love - the thing you love [about someone else] is the same thing you hate. If you take that and apply it to a guy like Dr. House, it's going to be pretty extreme, if you had to live with him," Shore noted. But wait, don't get any ideas - "She's not moving in with him, though!" What about House's flirtation with a junior doctor on his staff, Dr. Allison Cameron (Chicago native Jennifer Morrison)? "As for Dr. Cameron, it would be disingenuous to ignore that [attraction]. She has feelings for him, she can't just turn that off. And he has feelings for her too, in a much more subtle way. It'll probably always be there." Expect to see more of Robert Sean Leonard's character, oncologist James Wilson, especially now that the show has revealed that the offices of the two doctors have a connecting balcony. Should viewers assume the balcony was always there? "Yes," Shore said with a sheepish laugh. Don't expect House to get all mushy and nice. "TV is a tricky medium," Shore says. "People want the lead character to develop, but they also love him the way he is. They're watching him because of who he is now. You walk that line - you have to answer a question while asking two others. We're not going to turn him into a good guy." So House is not going to get a puppy or adopt a cute orphan? "Call me back in five years, if we're still on the air. But then again, if we're still on the air in five years, I don't care [what happens]. No, seriously, the character is what made the show a success. We'd be idiots to change it." Will we see more of Dr. Wilson this season? It seems like he's been around a bit more this year. "Really, the second half of last year, we've found our sweet spot with him. It does go up and down, but we've learned how to handle getting him into scenes with House. He relates to House so well, and those scenes are so much fun for them. But those scenes tend to be less about the medical [developments], so sometimes there is not as much room for them. Is the balcony a new thing? "Yes." Were we supposed to assume it was always there? "Yes [laughs]." It has been great to see Fox promoting the show and standing behind it. "I want to say, Fox has been really good to us. They've never once said, 'He seems too mean.' I'm not sure any other network, aside from HBO, I don't think any broadcast network would really embrace that. And they announced from the start of the show that they were going to put us on after 'Idol,' and they stuck with that. We were not setting ratings records at first, but they stuck to their game plan. Was there some nervousness about coming back without "American Idol" as a lead in? "There was a bit of nervousness about coming back this season, but I try not to worry about that. The network was sweating a bit, but we always just try to make a good show." On where will House go as a character: "TV is a tricky medium. People want the lead character to develop, but they also love him the way he is. They're watching him because of who he is now. You walk that line -- you have to answer a question while asking two others. We're not going to turn him into a good guy." So no flowers and puppies? He's not going to adopt a cute orphan? "[laughing] Call me back in five years, if we're still on the air. But then again, if we're still on the air in five years, I don't care. No, seriously, the character is what made the show a success. We'd be idiots to change it." What's happening with House's personal life? Will there be romance with Dr. Cameron? Dr. Cuddy? His old girlfriend Stacy (Sela Ward)? "Well, we've got one leading man on the show, a guy who's been on all these 'sexiest men on TV' lists, and there are three female characters, so there is going to be speculation about all of that. "The first half of the season, we're going to deal with and ultimately resolve, in what we hope is an interesting and fun and satisfying way, his relationship with Sela Ward's character. Obviously, anyone can relate to certain things about love -- the thing you love [about someone else] is the same thing you hate. If you take that and apply it to a guy like Dr. House, it's going to be pretty extreme, if you had to live with him. She's not moving in with him, though! "But to him, she's incredibly smart and still very significant. [Sela Ward] is a dominant presence on TV and in real life. It's a really interesting relationship. [Stacy's] married. I think it'd be the easy route if Stacy were to fall for House again because there are problems [in her marriage], but it's much more interesting to say -- she loves her husband, and there may be problems, there are in any relationship, but she loves him. But there's still this attraction to a very significant person, and how does she deal with that? "As for Dr. Cameron, it would be disingenuous to ignore that [attraction]. She has feelings for him, she can't just turn that off. And he has feelings for her too, in a much more subtle way. It'll probably always be there." How did the Emmy-winning episode "Three Stories" come together? "A lot of stuff just came together nicely in that episode. Right from the start, I wanted an episode with House lecturing. He's the type of guy who spouts off anyway, why not put him in a situation where that's all he's doing? That's what's happening anyway, in those episodes [with the three young doctors], he's shaping their skills with lectures and discussion. So let's put him on a stage and let him talk. "Then we had this notion of introducing a person from his past, it seemed like a nice fit with that idea. I had that lecture story at the back of my mind, and we knew we wanted to do several stories all at once. [Doing three stories at once] freed us up, on TV you want stories that start small and grow bigger, or start big and grow bigger, and we had these different stories [that had been developed but not yet used], so we thought why not use them all together? Then we thought, why not have one of the stories be his own?" What was great about that episode is that you really had to pay attention, it was a great character piece but you had to really watch closely. "I don't like to write down to people. It was a puzzle. You had to pay attention. Nothing was as it seemed. The crew loved it, there was stuff for wardrobe, for lighting, for everyone to do to differentiate the three stories. Paris Barclay directed it and he did an amazing job. And Carmen Electra was so sweet, coming in and playing herself." On Laurie not winning an Emmy: "We were sad here, it definitely would have been an unbelievable night. It was very disappointing. I think the show would not be on the air if we did not have Hugh Laurie in this role. It's a tough character to play and play well. To have turned that character into one of the sexiest characters on TV, that is not something I foresaw when I was writing this [laughs]. This guy can barely walk, he's hateful, but I found him really interesting. Hugh has taken it and just gone with it. "It annoys me and it annoys him too when people write about him and say, 'He's crusty but with a heart of gold.' No, he does not have a heart of gold! [laughs]. He's way more complicated than that." How did the casting of Laurie come about? "When his name came up, he was older than Fox would have wanted. They were pushing [that House be] a traditional, studly TV star in his early 30s. We knew this had to be somebody who understands pain. So Hugh put himself on tape, he was making a movie in Africa. "His agent sent him the [script pages] and Hugh tells the story that he thought House was the second banana -- he thought the show was about Dr. Wilson. He didn't think the show could possibly be about House. So he puts himself on this tape. "And I'm a huge fan of his comedy, but it literally wouldn't have occurred to me that he would be so good in a role like this. Like everyone else, I was aware of his English twit roles and then we saw this tape, this bad tape from Africa, and we had to bring him in. Fox was not resisting him directly, but there was resistance to the idea of someone in their mid-40s in this part. After the audition, there was no resistance. There were no discussions. That was it." I read a great New York Times piece in which a doctor said what House and his team do is a fantasy of what doctors wish they could do, with all the money and time in the world. "In the reality of TV, a guy filling out a requisition form for an MRI is just not dramatic. But that's what we set out to create -- a character who only deals with bizarre cases and one case at a time. He's so brilliant that he can do that." Hugh Laurie has talked about how freeing it is to play House, a character who doesn't care what others think of him. "He just doesn't care. He doesn't say things to make people like him, not to make them hate him, but he just says what he's thinking. He has an objective, but that objective is not to make people be nice to him. "I have a general rule about humanity in general: We like what we do more than the people we work with. It's the person in the cubicle beside you, the supervisor who annoys you, the client who calls you to complain that you have to deal with for an hour. You just want to do your job, and there are all these people stopping you. He's just saying to all those people what we wish we could say." What "House" really is, to me, is about moral questions and human nature, the choices people make in their lives and why they do the things they do -- it's not about the disease of the week. "Thank you for saying that. The medical mysteries have to be good, but to me, this is not a medical show. That is not what is driving it. We need to hang the stories on that, if we didn't have a good medical mystery, we would not have that life and death tension. "But what we really have is Dr. House talking to us about ethical issues. It's about how people behave in irrational ways, how people act in order to achieve something and fail miserably in doing so, why people deceive themselves. Almost every time they [solve the medical problem] not by spotting a rash but from learning something deeper. That sounds like what the best mystery novels do - examining "why" is much more important than figuring out "how." "You can do that much more readily in a murder mystery. They're less about methods than motives." So is Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie's frequent acting and writing partner, coming on the show? "We have thought about it, we just have to find the right thing." Link to the above item. She was stuck up on some balcony with bland E! personality Guiliana Depandi -- Griffin wasn't even shown much of the time, you'd just hear her off-camera -- and Depandi looked stricken when Griffin would do something normal like comment on how scarily skinny the Desperate Housewives are. Please, someone just let Kathy do her very own red-carpet show, on the actual red carpet, or -- here's an idea for Bravo executives: Put a camera in Griffin's living room as she dishes on the arrivals with the deliciously catty friends we saw on her recent Bravo reality show.
SHORE THING: All is well in the house of "House."
More from David Shore:
TAKE A MEMO: Some recommendations and ruminations, based on recent TV viewing:
Link to the above items.
September 21, 2005 6:45 AM CDT: Marty rocks on: Chicago's Casey not INXS' pick
In the end, Chicagoan Marty Casey was not right for INXS.
Swivel-hipped belter J.D. Fortune was chosen by the Australian rock band to be their lead singer on the Tuesday season finale of "Rock Star: INXS."
Casey, who grew up in Hickory Hills, did get a consolation prize: The band invited Casey and his band the Lovehammers to open for them on INXS' upcoming world tour.
"I can't say I wasn't disappointed not to get the gig, it's what I came here to do, but it seemed like it was meant to be," Casey said in a phone interview after taping of the "Rock Star" finale ended Tuesday evening. "I'm still part of the INXS family, but with a different twist."
During the run of the CBS show, which saw its ratings increase markedly in the key 18-49 demographic, Casey debuted an original song, "Trees," which became a fan favorite, but in truth, didn't have much in common with INXS' pop-funk.
"My concern going into this was that my music is a little different than their music. J.D. seems like he's in the same style," Casey said, who competed against Fortune and Australian Mig Ayesa in the finale. "I totally respect INXS' decision, it is their band and they've given me so much."
For Casey, the next few weeks will be about reconnecting with friends and family and trying to get a record deal for his band.
"I'm being told how much this has changed my life, but I haven't stepped outside into the civilian world for weeks," said Casey, who spent Tuesday evening with family members who flew out to Los Angeles for the finale. "My family doesn't treat me any different, but a lot of people ask me for autographs. That is completely different for me, but I'm a lead singer, I love attention."
So what's it like hanging out with INXS?
"It's like hanging out with your buddies. There's so much youthful energy with those guys, they're so upbeat. They're so positive, they're about, 'Let's work really hard, and then let's party really hard.' They have a good time, but they get the job done first. Get the job done, there's no celebration until then. They're hardworking Australian dudes, that's why they are so successful. They were not overnight successes, they developed over 12 albums. They worked their [butts] off."
Do you think part of the reason the show's ratings grew was because it was not about ripping people apart?
"I 100 percent agree with that. It wasn't the same old, same old. It was 15 extremely talented people getting a once in a lifetime chance with INXS and Dave Navarro, who were trying to make you better, not taking shots at you. It wasn't about unneeded drama, it was about getting the best out of each singer.
"You can see that in the monumental songs we got to do, 'Wish You Were Here' was never done on TV except for a benefit after 9/11. That shows you how much artists respected the show, what we were allowed to cover -- it was not about drama, it was about singers trying to give great performances."
Did you ever get any feedback from bands whose songs you covered?
"I heard Pink Floyd liked my version of 'Wish You Were Here.' That was enough for me. I mean, Roger Waters saying he liked it... it doesn't get any better than that."
So you think the competition turned out for the best in the end?
"If you would have told me that 24 hours ago, I would have told you you're crazy. Still, there's a silver lining in this tour with INXS. I get to tour with INXS in a different way, I get to open for them. It really worked out to be perfect for me, I get to be part of the INXS family but with a different twist.
"I can't say I wasn't disappointed not to get the gig, it's what I came here to do, but it seemed like it was meant to be."
I actually wondered if your songwriting style would fit in with what INXS wanted to do.
"My concern going into this was that my music is a little different than their music. J.D. seems like he's in the same style. I totally respect INXS' decision, it is their band and they've given me so much. It is their band. I have grown so much, they are so wise. I can't complain about my experience here, it's been amazing. Even though J.D. is going to be the lead singer of INXS, they're still helping me out."
When does the tour start?
"I think New Year's Eve."
How long have you been with Lovehammers?
"Half my life, since we were about 15 years old. [Casey is 31]. We had no idea what we were doing when we started. [Going on `Rock Star'] was me coming to a point where I thought I had to step outside that fold a little bit and see what I had going on on my own.
"Lovehammers' version of `Trees' is apparently on some chart somewhere, it's crazy. It was in a drawer somewhere [in a band member's house]. Now the band is blown away, they can't even keep up with the amount of sales they're getting."
How did you feel when it was announced that J.D. Fortune would be the winner?
"I just threw my shoulders back and took the bad news. I didn't want to be the sad guy in the corner. I put a smile on my face, because it was his moment. It was nothing to do with me. I give props to him, he did what he came here to do."
It seemed like the singers had their ups and downs but were pretty tight, is that really the case?
"That's the honest truth, we were tight. People have their ups and downs, artists tend to be hot or cold and creative people tend to be kind of moody. We had our moments, we had some arguments, but we were really trying to help each other too."
"What's happening for me now is that I want to take a bit of time and step back and see what the big picture looks like without being in it. I don't even know what happened at this point in my life, it's all been a big tornado [the last few weeks]. I've got to figure out what's happening. I've got that Midwestern backbone, I'm hardworking. I want to figure out how to parlay this into a record deal for the Lovehammers. I'm not really one to slow down, so I'm just going to go with the momentum.
"It's been such a positive experience, there are minute things I would change here and there, but really, it's been amazing. I lost, but it's okay."
Link to the above item.
The medical show's season opener attracted almost 16 million viewers, and on Tuesday, the Fox network announced it had ordered two more episodes of the program, bringing the second-season grand total to 24.
Oh, and "House" won an Emmy for best drama writing on Sept. 18 too.
"It was surreal," says "House" creator and executive producer David Shore of his win for the stellar first-season episode, "Three Stories." "There were [winners] up on the stage who were like, `Oh, it's just another day.' Tony Shalhoub, God bless him, for him standing up there, it was just like he was talking to a buddy. For me it was completely bizarre" - in a good way, Shore notes.
Still, the "House" staff was disappointed that Hugh Laurie didn't win as best actor.
"I think the show would not be on the air if we did not have Hugh Laurie in this role. It's a tough character to play and play well," Shore says. "To have turned that character into one of the sexiest characters on TV, that is not something I foresaw when I was writing this," he notes with a laugh.
So sexy that House now has not one but two potential love interests. We grilled Shore about the love stuff and more:
House's relationship with Sela Ward's character, his ex-girlfriend Stacy, will be explored and resolved in the first half of the season. "Obviously, anyone can relate to certain things about love - the thing you love [about someone else] is the same thing you hate. If you take that and apply it to a guy like Dr. House, it's going to be pretty extreme, if you had to live with him," Shore noted. But wait, don't get any ideas - "She's not moving in with him, though!"
What about House's flirtation with a junior doctor on his staff, Dr. Allison Cameron (Chicago native Jennifer Morrison)? "As for Dr. Cameron, it would be disingenuous to ignore that [attraction]. She has feelings for him, she can't just turn that off. And he has feelings for her too, in a much more subtle way. It'll probably always be there."
Expect to see more of Robert Sean Leonard's character, oncologist James Wilson, especially now that the show has revealed that the offices of the two doctors have a connecting balcony. Should viewers assume the balcony was always there? "Yes," Shore said with a sheepish laugh.
Don't expect House to get all mushy and nice. "TV is a tricky medium," Shore says. "People want the lead character to develop, but they also love him the way he is.
They're watching him because of who he is now. You walk that line - you have to answer a question while asking two others. We're not going to turn him into a good guy."
So House is not going to get a puppy or adopt a cute orphan? "Call me back in five years, if we're still on the air. But then again, if we're still on the air in five years, I don't care [what happens]. No, seriously, the character is what made the show a success. We'd be idiots to change it."
Will we see more of Dr. Wilson this season? It seems like he's been around a bit more this year. "Really, the second half of last year, we've found our sweet spot with him. It does go up and down, but we've learned how to handle getting him into scenes with House. He relates to House so well, and those scenes are so much fun for them. But those scenes tend to be less about the medical [developments], so sometimes there is not as much room for them.
Is the balcony a new thing? "Yes."
Were we supposed to assume it was always there? "Yes [laughs]."
It has been great to see Fox promoting the show and standing behind it. "I want to say, Fox has been really good to us. They've never once said, 'He seems too mean.' I'm not sure any other network, aside from HBO, I don't think any broadcast network would really embrace that. And they announced from the start of the show that they were going to put us on after 'Idol,' and they stuck with that. We were not setting ratings records at first, but they stuck to their game plan.
Was there some nervousness about coming back without "American Idol" as a lead in? "There was a bit of nervousness about coming back this season, but I try not to worry about that. The network was sweating a bit, but we always just try to make a good show."
On where will House go as a character: "TV is a tricky medium. People want the lead character to develop, but they also love him the way he is. They're watching him because of who he is now. You walk that line -- you have to answer a question while asking two others. We're not going to turn him into a good guy."
So no flowers and puppies? He's not going to adopt a cute orphan? "[laughing] Call me back in five years, if we're still on the air. But then again, if we're still on the air in five years, I don't care. No, seriously, the character is what made the show a success. We'd be idiots to change it."
What's happening with House's personal life? Will there be romance with Dr. Cameron? Dr. Cuddy? His old girlfriend Stacy (Sela Ward)? "Well, we've got one leading man on the show, a guy who's been on all these 'sexiest men on TV' lists, and there are three female characters, so there is going to be speculation about all of that.
"The first half of the season, we're going to deal with and ultimately resolve, in what we hope is an interesting and fun and satisfying way, his relationship with Sela Ward's character. Obviously, anyone can relate to certain things about love -- the thing you love [about someone else] is the same thing you hate. If you take that and apply it to a guy like Dr. House, it's going to be pretty extreme, if you had to live with him. She's not moving in with him, though!
"But to him, she's incredibly smart and still very significant. [Sela Ward] is a dominant presence on TV and in real life. It's a really interesting relationship. [Stacy's] married. I think it'd be the easy route if Stacy were to fall for House again because there are problems [in her marriage], but it's much more interesting to say -- she loves her husband, and there may be problems, there are in any relationship, but she loves him. But there's still this attraction to a very significant person, and how does she deal with that?
"As for Dr. Cameron, it would be disingenuous to ignore that [attraction]. She has feelings for him, she can't just turn that off. And he has feelings for her too, in a much more subtle way. It'll probably always be there."
How did the Emmy-winning episode "Three Stories" come together? "A lot of stuff just came together nicely in that episode. Right from the start, I wanted an episode with House lecturing. He's the type of guy who spouts off anyway, why not put him in a situation where that's all he's doing? That's what's happening anyway, in those episodes [with the three young doctors], he's shaping their skills with lectures and discussion. So let's put him on a stage and let him talk.
"Then we had this notion of introducing a person from his past, it seemed like a nice fit with that idea. I had that lecture story at the back of my mind, and we knew we wanted to do several stories all at once. [Doing three stories at once] freed us up, on TV you want stories that start small and grow bigger, or start big and grow bigger, and we had these different stories [that had been developed but not yet used], so we thought why not use them all together? Then we thought, why not have one of the stories be his own?"
What was great about that episode is that you really had to pay attention, it was a great character piece but you had to really watch closely. "I don't like to write down to people. It was a puzzle. You had to pay attention. Nothing was as it seemed. The crew loved it, there was stuff for wardrobe, for lighting, for everyone to do to differentiate the three stories. Paris Barclay directed it and he did an amazing job. And Carmen Electra was so sweet, coming in and playing herself."
On Laurie not winning an Emmy: "We were sad here, it definitely would have been an unbelievable night. It was very disappointing. I think the show would not be on the air if we did not have Hugh Laurie in this role. It's a tough character to play and play well. To have turned that character into one of the sexiest characters on TV, that is not something I foresaw when I was writing this [laughs]. This guy can barely walk, he's hateful, but I found him really interesting. Hugh has taken it and just gone with it.
"It annoys me and it annoys him too when people write about him and say, 'He's crusty but with a heart of gold.' No, he does not have a heart of gold! [laughs]. He's way more complicated than that."
How did the casting of Laurie come about? "When his name came up, he was older than Fox would have wanted. They were pushing [that House be] a traditional, studly TV star in his early 30s. We knew this had to be somebody who understands pain. So Hugh put himself on tape, he was making a movie in Africa.
"His agent sent him the [script pages] and Hugh tells the story that he thought House was the second banana -- he thought the show was about Dr. Wilson. He didn't think the show could possibly be about House. So he puts himself on this tape.
"And I'm a huge fan of his comedy, but it literally wouldn't have occurred to me that he would be so good in a role like this. Like everyone else, I was aware of his English twit roles and then we saw this tape, this bad tape from Africa, and we had to bring him in. Fox was not resisting him directly, but there was resistance to the idea of someone in their mid-40s in this part. After the audition, there was no resistance. There were no discussions. That was it."
I read a great New York Times piece in which a doctor said what House and his team do is a fantasy of what doctors wish they could do, with all the money and time in the world. "In the reality of TV, a guy filling out a requisition form for an MRI is just not dramatic. But that's what we set out to create -- a character who only deals with bizarre cases and one case at a time. He's so brilliant that he can do that."
Hugh Laurie has talked about how freeing it is to play House, a character who doesn't care what others think of him. "He just doesn't care. He doesn't say things to make people like him, not to make them hate him, but he just says what he's thinking. He has an objective, but that objective is not to make people be nice to him.
"I have a general rule about humanity in general: We like what we do more than the people we work with. It's the person in the cubicle beside you, the supervisor who annoys you, the client who calls you to complain that you have to deal with for an hour. You just want to do your job, and there are all these people stopping you. He's just saying to all those people what we wish we could say."
What "House" really is, to me, is about moral questions and human nature, the choices people make in their lives and why they do the things they do -- it's not about the disease of the week. "Thank you for saying that. The medical mysteries have to be good, but to me, this is not a medical show. That is not what is driving it. We need to hang the stories on that, if we didn't have a good medical mystery, we would not have that life and death tension.
"But what we really have is Dr. House talking to us about ethical issues. It's about how people behave in irrational ways, how people act in order to achieve something and fail miserably in doing so, why people deceive themselves. Almost every time they [solve the medical problem] not by spotting a rash but from learning something deeper. That sounds like what the best mystery novels do - examining "why" is much more important than figuring out "how." "You can do that much more readily in a murder mystery. They're less about methods than motives."
So is Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie's frequent acting and writing partner, coming on the show? "We have thought about it, we just have to find the right thing."
Link to the above item. She was stuck up on some balcony with bland E! personality Guiliana Depandi -- Griffin wasn't even shown much of the time, you'd just hear her off-camera -- and Depandi looked stricken when Griffin would do something normal like comment on how scarily skinny the Desperate Housewives are. Please, someone just let Kathy do her very own red-carpet show, on the actual red carpet, or -- here's an idea for Bravo executives: Put a camera in Griffin's living room as she dishes on the arrivals with the deliciously catty friends we saw on her recent Bravo reality show.
She was stuck up on some balcony with bland E! personality Guiliana Depandi -- Griffin wasn't even shown much of the time, you'd just hear her off-camera -- and Depandi looked stricken when Griffin would do something normal like comment on how scarily skinny the Desperate Housewives are.
Please, someone just let Kathy do her very own red-carpet show, on the actual red carpet, or -- here's an idea for Bravo executives: Put a camera in Griffin's living room as she dishes on the arrivals with the deliciously catty friends we saw on her recent Bravo reality show.
September 18, 2005 11:17 PM CDT: 'Lost' in Emmy land with Ellen and the housewives
Not even Ellen DeGeneres could save the Emmy broadcast from itself.
Genial and sprightly, DeGeneres opened strong but soon the show spun out of control, and then it was hard not to feel like a character on "Lost," wandering aimlessly and grasping for something to sustain you through the exile in nowhereland.
Even the surprising awards were surprising in a "Huh?" sort of way. James Spader of "Boston Legal" winning as best drama actor over the geniuses Hugh Laurie of "House" and Ian McShane of "Deadwood"? Huh?
Patricia Arquette, the star of "Medium," is a lovely, talented actress, but her beating out the fiery Glenn Close of "The Shield" as best actress in a drama is one of the most head-scratching Emmy moments ever.
And let's not even get into the glut of "Everybody Loves Raymond" awards.
Well, at least the Emmy voters didn't rob "Lost" of the best drama statue (though the award for the white-hot show was hardly a surprise). And the most deserving housewife, Felicity Huffman of "Desperate Housewives," won the best comedy actress (a category the ladies of the ABC hit had a virtual lock on).
Though DeGeneres tried her best, there are a few simple fixes that might make the yearly death march more bearable (and no, I'm not thinking of a repeat of the entirely goofy "Emmy Idol" musical numbers).
Well, obviously, "Everybody Loves Raymond" won't be around next year to make the night such a crashing bore by grabbing so many comedy statues -- including best comedy -- for the zillionth time. So that's a start. But ensuring that the Emmy nods get more evenly spread out among deserving actors and shows would be an excellent (and long overdue) change.
And the Emmy folks ought to sign a multi-year contract with host DeGeneres. She made everything about hosting the ceremony, especially the opening monologue, look easy. And that job is not easy.
Early on in the show, DeGeneres addressed the victims of Hurricane Katrina with disarming simplicity and heart: "New Orleans is my hometown, and I have family in Mississippi. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to everyone affected."
And only she could make a reference to her post-Sept. 11 hosting of the Emmys by making a crack about where her next gig will take her: "Be sure to look for me next month when I host the North Korean People's Choice Awards."
It's kind of a shame DeGeneres more or less disappeared halfway through the broadcast, or only popped up to do inexplicable comedy bits (why the heck was she carrying around parrots at one point?).
Another suggestion for the powers that be: Streamline the bloated broadcast by shifting some -- OK, a lot -- of the awards to the Creative Arts ceremony that happens just before the big enchilada. The third award of the evening was presented to Hugh Jackman for starring in the Tony Awards. Who cares? And before the first hour was up, we had to endure some guy named Bucky Gunts thanking whomever after he got his award for directing the Olympic opening ceremony.
Come on. Take a page from the book of the always entertaining Golden Globes; you don't necessarily have to liquor up the participants (well, you might think about it), but only broadcast awards that the regular folks at home will care about. That should cut at least an hour off the doings.
The first hour had two decent-sized awards -- best supporting comedy actor (Brad Garrett, who, yes, is funny, but you know, if I see another "Raymond" actor up on that Emmy stage ever again, for any reason, I'll scream) and best supporting actor in a drama, once again, to William Shatner for "Boston Legal" (Shatner won in the category last year).
And it was like that, all night long. Every so often, an HBO movie or miniseries would win something, as HBO always does (and please, could we cut down on the miniseries and TV movie and guest-actor awards? They've spun entirely out of control).
But what Emmy viewers mostly saw was a parade of shows that won in previous years -- "The Daily Show" won two awards Sunday, Doris Roberts won again for her work on The Show That Cannot Be Named, "The Amazing Race" won as best competitive reality show -- for the third time.
And though DeGeneres was as light and charming as she always is, the writing on the rest of the ceremony was not so good. Poor Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey, the dreamy docs from "Grey's Anatomy," had to make do with a line about how, what with all the doctor shows represented at the Emmys, it was great that we had "universal health care."
The silence from the audience was deafening.
Yeah, maybe hire some of those "Daily Show" writers. That's another suggestion.
But still, for those who braved the Iron Man Pain-a-thon of the Emmys, there were the usual occasional bright spots. David Shore won a writing award his insanely great "House" episode, "Three Stories."
There was something so surreally awful about the "Emmy Idol" music numbers scattered throughout the broadcast that you had to almost dig them.
Four times, the broadcast came to a screeching halt so that famous people could sing famous television theme songs. No, really. So we had Donald Trump and Megan Mullally singing "Green Acres," and the lovely Kristin Bell of "Veronica Mars" singing "Fame," leg warmers and all.
It's not quite the Rob Lowe-Snow White ballad of that famously wretched Oscar broadcast of yore, but still, anyone who saw all four numbers will be battling damaged retinas for some time to come.
But let's get back to the good stuff. Jon Stewart tweaked FCC paranoia on all the networks by doing a bit in which all his naughty words were bleeped out or substituted with voice-overs promoting CBS shows. He finished his routine, echoing Kanye West's famous statement during the NBC post-Katrina telethon, with this: "George Bush hates Black [Sabbath]."
Slipping in comedy about network censorship on the network that was fined for showing Janet Jackson's body parts. Now that's funny!
"Arrested Development" spiking the "Raymond" onslaught by winning the best comedy-writing award was a thrill. Tony Shalhoub of "Monk" getting a win as best comedy actor was out of left field, and really, Jason Batemen of "Development" should have won, but, well, everybody loves "Monk."
Zach Braff getting snippy with Hugh Laurie because Laurie tried to "upstage" him by doing a British accent (Laurie is actually English. And that bit was actually funny, amazingly). Liked that four seconds.
David Letterman's tribute to Carson was classy and wonderful. Same goes for the tribute to Peter Jennings by Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw.
The good parts helped block out -- temporarily -- the fact that Jeremy Piven was robbed, yes, robbed, of a best-supporting comedy actor statue for his work on "Entourage." (Curse you, Brad Garrett!)
But let's not even get into who else was robbed, or we'd be here for hours and let's face it, if you sat through the Emmys, you've been through enough.
Link to the above item.
September 16, 2005 2:57 PM CDT: No 'Scrubs' (not until October): Plus, a new redhead on 'NCIS' and 'Threshold's' Brent Spiner
At a press event for television critics over the summer, NBC execs floated the story that "Scrubs" would not be on the network's fall schedule because star Zach Braff was off making a movie, which allegedly would have delayed the start of the show's shooting schedule.
That's horse manure, according to "Scrubs" creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence (in truth, Lawrence used a different but even more colorful phrase to describe the network's excuse).
"Zach finished his movie. I could have episodes ready already," Lawrence said from the show's California set, where he was directing an episode. "That was just network spin."NBC's failure to give "Scrubs" a firm start date looked even more dopey when the hospital comedy got four Emmy nominations in July, including first-time nods for best comedy and best comedy actor for Braff.
"It was honestly a huge morale boost for us," Lawrence says. "We're going into the fifth year of our show, we work out in the [San Fernando] Valley in this old hospital, it's a billion degrees and we didn't have a slot on the fall schedule. [The Emmy attention] really raised people's spirits."
"On the positive side, I couldn't get too angry [about the fall schedule] because it's not as if they're making us come in at mid-season," Lawrence continued. "It's not like `24,'; they can't wait until January to start running episodes. They'd have to air two episodes a week" given the number of "Scrubs" episodes that would have piled up by then.
Lawrence predicts "Scrubs" fans will have to wait only until October before the show pops up on NBC's schedule, and when the show does return, Dr. Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke) will be working at a different hospital - for a while, anyway.
"The end of last year, [Elliot] walked out of Sacred Heart," Lawrence explains. "We built a different hospital set out here, and she's going to be over at her new job for at least a couple months."
What about guest stars on the show?
"All the guest stars on the show have been friends of the cast and crew, but we've almost exhausted the list of friends," Lawrence laughed. "We've been begging [Zach Braff's girlfriend] Mandy Moore to come along and do some episodes, and Johnny McGinley [Dr. Perry Cox] is good friends with John Cusack, so one of these days we're going to get him on the show too, I hope."
In the meantime, the entire "Scrubs" cast and crew plans to party hearty at the Emmys, win or lose. "We're going to go have a blast," Lawrence said. "We're not going to go and be the jaded people. The biggest thing for us is just to go and have fun being a part of it."
Link to the above item.
REDHEAD'S RETURN: It took a lot to pry Lauren Holly away from her suburban Chicago home and her three sons, but the actress decided the chance to work with her old friend Mark Harmon on "NCIS," which has its third-season premiere at 7 p.m. Tuesday on CBS-Ch. 2, was too good to pass up.
Holly and her family moved to the Chicago area three years ago when her husband, an investment banker, was transferred here, and she says she doesn't regret leaving the West Coast for a minute.
At first, she and her family lived in Lake Forest, according to Holly, who shudders at the memory of being chased by a paparazzi in an L.A. supermarket shortly after her first son was born four years ago.
"I had that L.A. mentality, I shredded the garbage and I had picked a house that was isolated," for security reasons. "But nobody here cares" that she's famous, Holly said with laugh.
In her new Barrington-area neighborhood, the locals were interested in her acting career "for about five minutes. Now I go outside to walk the dog in my pajama pants, and it just doesn't matter. I love that."
Nor are her kids, boys aged 4, 3 and almost 2, impressed with the "Chicago Hope" and "Picket Fences" star's extensive film and television resume. "They call them mommy's work videos," Holly says.
Her current gig has her playing the onetime lover of Mark Harmon's "NCIS" character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, who has long been known to have a thing for redheads.
"The last time [my character] saw him was six years ago," Holly says. "All of a sudden, I'm back, and I'm his boss, which can lead to tons of conflict."
Holly's character, Jenny Shepard, and Gibbs will be leading the search for Gibbs' longtime nemesis, the terrorist Ari, whom Gibbs thinks may be responsible for the death of agent Kate Todd, who was murdered by a sniper in last season's "NCIS" finale.
Holly says she never watched "NCIS" before signing on to do six episodes, but now she digs the show so much she may extend her contract, if the producers want her to. Part of the fun is working with Harmon, whom she first met on the set of "Chicago Hope."
"We didn't get along at first" on "Hope," Holly says. "Some women were let go the season before, and three new women joined the cast for a season. Mark is a very loyal guy, and he'd be the first to tell you this wasn't right, but he had a little resentment toward me."
Holly was dreading it when Harmon was set to direct an episode of "Hope," but, by the end of that experience, the actors had become good friends.
"He had big input into me coming on the show," Holly says. "I was wary of coming back into that hour [drama] world, and to join a show that's already on - you never know the temperament of the set. You better love working there, because I can't tell you how depressing it can get if you don't."
One phone call with Harmon convinced her to take the job, and now she says she has no regrets. And neither do her kids, who get to travel to L.A. and swim in a hotel pool while mom is making her work videos.
But she plans to keep Chicago as her home base. "The Midwestern sensibility is markedly different. It's affected me, living here," she says. "Now I talk to people in elevators. People in L.A. look at me like I'm crazy."
Link to the above item.
BRENT'S BACK: The first question for Brent Spiner, one of the stars of CBS' "Threshold,' has to be: How cool is to be out of the "Star Trek" face paint?
"It's so good, I can't even tell you," says Spiner, who played the yellow-skinned android Data for seven seasons on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and in various "Trek" films. "The makeup was a wonderful part of the role, a mask that allowed me to be anonymous. But now I can finish the day, wipe my face with a baby wipe, and go home. When I was on `Star Trek,' it took 45 minutes to get enough [makeup] off so I could walk out the door."
On "Threshold," CBS' thrilling entry in the post-"Lost" sweepstakes, Spiner plays Dr. Nigel Fenway, a former political radical and top NASA biologist who's bitter and caustic in a way Data never was. Fenway is working with a disaster specialist (played by Carla Gugino) and two other scientists (played by Rob Benedict and Peter Dinklage) to figure out what the heck is going on after a very strange alien object enters Earth's orbit -and possibly starts messing with human DNA.
"We're going to discover as time goes on that there is some adversity" among members of the `Threshold' team, Spiner says. "They are not in love with each other. These three guys were essentially shanghaied and made to do this job, whether they want to or not. And they're geniuses, so they have egos. I play a doctor, and I never met a doctor without an ego."
Still, Spiner's a bit amused at the thought that his new TV gig, as his "Trek" job did, involves saving the world on a regular basis. "If I was choosing what do to next, it probably wouldn't be a genre piece," says Spiner, who has shown a talent for comedy in guest turns on "Friends" and "Mad About You."
Still, Spiner was the last cast member hired, and he says when he heard who else was working on the show (Charles S. Dutton is also in "Threshold"), he wanted in. His reaction, he says, was, "I don't care what genre this is in, these are good people to work with.
Plus, I don't have to wear makeup and I get to wear cool clothes."
More from Brent Spiner:
On how he got involved with "Threshold": "I hadn't really passed on a lot of [TV scripts because] I hadn't really planned on doing another hour-long show. Having done seven years on an hour show, I was sufficiently beat up. Half-hour is the cush[y] job, and I have a three year old, so time is precious these days. At the beginning of pilot season, though, I said to my agent, let's look at some stuff, and before I knew it, I got a phone call, CBS wanted to know if I would read this script. Given the people involved, I thought, `This is a good party, if they've invited me I should go.'
"Basically, if it was me choosing what to do next, it probably wouldn't be a genre piece, but given the credibility of the people involved I was the last cast member hired, and when I heard about the other cast members, I thought, `I don't care what genre this is in, these are good people to work with.' Plus, I don't have to wear makeup and I get to wear cool clothes."
On the differences from "Star Trek": "We don't talk about dilithium [laughs]. I am a doctor, and we don't really deal that much with that kind of stuff. There are no spaceships after the pilot, we don't see people who look like lizards or people who look like dogs. Not to denigrate `Star Trek,' I loved it, but this is just different.
"The fact is, I'm a little older now, and Data is essentially a youthful character. I'd be hard pressed to play Data now. There's a childlike quality about him, and historically, where film is concerned, characters who are essentially childlike don't work as well [after a time]. People like Harpo Marx, he was wonderful in the early Marx Brothers films, then he got older and was still in the makeup. There was something not quite right about that. It was time to wrap up Data for that reason."
On "Threshold": "It has to be [tense] at times, given that there are only six people who know about [the alien incident]. There is a procedural quality at times, they are investigating this phenomenon but at the same time, the stakes are much higher [than a typical procedural]. They're not just trying to solve the crime of the week, they're trying to save mankind. That's a continual theme that grows through the series.
"It's funny that I wound up doing this kind of work in my [career], essentially I think of myself as a comedian. But somehow life led me to these kinds of parts. My career has a life of its own, I don't know that I have that much to do with [controlling] it. I either go along for the ride or not. And I'd rather go on the ride."
On where TV is now: "It's nice to be doing this smart TV. I do feel that playing to the lowest common denominator just doesn't work. I've never agreed with that. I actually think audiences are smarter than they used to be. I can remember a time when I actually felt doing smart TV was a waste of time, because clearly people didn't want it. That's not true now."
On "Lost" comparisons: "I think in any other season, this is a knockout show. For people who enjoy shows like this, they're going to have a field day.
"This is a really smart show, and it requires some work. The best shows do, my favorite shows do. My favorite show is `Deadwood,' and with that show, you've got to pay attention. "A lot of shows are all about the plot, with very little character [development] in them. `Deadwood' is all about the characters, and you don't know what the hell the plot is [laughs]. It's a fascinating show for that reason."
So you can't explain the Yankton plot for me? "No, I really can't. I have no idea."
On working with "Star Trek" head honcho Brannon Braga, who is the showrunner on "Threshold": "Brannon is fantastic, he's a hugely creative guy. As long as he can stay awake [laughs]."
On the fate of "Star Trek": "I don't know, I'm split. Part of me wants them always to be making [new episodes of `Trek'], no matter what. It's such a huge part of the tapestry of our country for almost 40 years. On the other hand, I think, let's give it a rest and let it regenerate, and let it come back with a strong new desire and vision.
"It will be back. I guarantee that. I don't know when, but it is going to be back at some point. And I think it should be on TV, myself. I don't know where they should go with a feature.
"I actually think where it is right now is in the perfect place. It's hibernating. It'll come roaring back, when there's a hunger for it. After something like 800 episodes, it needed a rest. It needed to step back for a minute and whet people's appetites again."
On Paramount's treatment of "Trek": "They really did let it wither. I think it deserved a better fate than that. But I'm sure it will be back in some form eventually.
"`Enterprise' was getting really good when they pulled the plug on it. The problem was there was a new generation of executives who came into the studio and really didn't care about [`Trek']. But it's going to be back at some point."
Link to the above item.
OFFICE SITE: In what's becoming the go-to television marketing strategy, NBC will be offering a peek at the second-season premiere of "The Office" at 6:30 p.m. Monday at nbcfirstlook.com. The Webcast preview, a first for NBC, won't contain the entire season premiere, which will air on TV 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
ONE LOVE: People have a lot of love for "Veronica Mars."
Director Kevin Smith recently posted a rave about the UPN drama at his Web site, and Joss Whedon, the "Buffy," "Angel" and "Firefly" creator whose word is law in the genre world, shared his love of the show with the world a few weeks ago.
Now comes word via Whedonesque.com that he's set to make an appearance as a testy rental-car manager in episode six of the second season of "Mars."
I can exclusively reveal here that his name will be Douglas, and his scene will be with Kristin Bell.
Now, if they could just snag Smith to play a substitute teacher at Neptune High. It's not so farfetched - Smith just guested on "Degrassi."
PRACTICALLY SPEAKING: I know this isn't a reason to watch a show, but I found it kind of cool that the male actors on "Out of Practice," the new CBS sitcom that debuts Monday," actually look like they could be family members. Henry Winkler, Christopher Gorham and Ty Burrell all actually look a bit alike, which is cool, because a very minor TV pet peeve of mine is shows where blood-related "family members" don't look even remotely like each other.
ROME, IF YOU WANT TO: The first three episodes of HBO's "Rome" repeat starting at 7 p.m. Friday.
My favorite line from last week's episode is Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) on women: "Of course, your best method for pleasing a woman is the warm beating heart of an enemy. I mean, women will say they don't like it, but they do."
SPEAKING OF `THE OFFICE': Here are a few nuggets from an interview that HBO sent out about "The Office" creator Ricky Gervais' new series, "Extras," which premieres Sept. 25.
"Question: How did you recruit the celebrities who appear as themselves on `Extras'?
"Gervais: Every time we read an article about 'The Office,' and a celebrity said it was their favorite show, we made a note to call them. First, they shared our comic outlook. Second, they liked us. Third, they might want to put their career in jeopardy!
"Question: What is the writing process like? Is it really slow and painful?
"Gervais: No, it's very slow and a joy. If [co-creator] Stephen [Merchant] and I get a minute a day, we're happy. If we sit down for four hours, three hours is talking about what we saw on telly last night or what we hate.
"When I came to this business and started writing `The Office,' I had a much bigger list of don't's than do's. In fact, my list was only don't's. It was things that I hated: bad exposition, bad acting. Don't hang around too long. Don't do this because you want to be famous. Don't do it for the money."
Gervais also said he's working on Christopher Guest's next film, "For Your Consideration," which Gervais said is "going to do for Oscar frenzy what `Spinal Tap' did for heavy rock."
EMMYLICIOUS: I have a few wishes for Sunday's Emmy broadcast, which begins at 7 p.m. on WBBM-Ch. 2:
- First, I pray it doesn't go on too long. Fewer musical medleys, more crazy acceptance speeches from winners - that's always my biggest awards-show wish.
- Could there be a tie in the male dramatic actor category, so that Hugh Laurie of "House" and Ian McShane of "Deadwood" can each win?
- Ditto for Jason Bateman of "Arrested Development" and Zach Braff of "Scrubs" (though, OK, if you made me pick I'd have to choose Bateman to win the comedy-actor category).
- I wish Ellen DeGeneres would just sign a contract to host the Emmy shindig every year. Because I'm betting the Louisiana native will handle any references to Hurricane Katrina, as well as the broadcast's less serious moments, with class and grace. Plus, she's funny.
- I really, really want Jeremy Piven to win a supporting actor award for his "Entourage" star turn. Can't you just picture Ari's fury if his client didn't win a big award?
- Can we step into the wayback machine and nominate Lauren Graham as best actress in a comedy (or best actress in a drama, for that matter)? No, I'm not over the fact that she has never been nominated for her work on "Gilmore Girls." Deal with it.
- The broadcast will open with a musical number called "Emmy Idol," a "tribute to television's favorite theme songs" featuring the vocal stylings of William Shatner, Gary Dourdan of "CSI" and Donald Trump, among others. Can I just pretend this is not happening?
Link to the above items.
September 13, 2005 3:06 PM CDT: What to watch for the next 7 days: Plus, what alien is showing up on 'Lost'?
It's crunch time. New shows are debuting left and right, and there's plenty of good TV on tap from returning programs as well. How's a viewer to choose? Easy. Just obey my instructions for what you should be watching every day for the upcoming week:
- Tuesday, Sept. 13: Hugh Laurie. Maybe you've heard of him? He's just about to win an Emmy as the cranky doctor on "House," which returns tonight. And -- don't call it a comeback -- but LL Cool J is in the, er, house as a Death Row prisoner with a strange medical problem. Also on tap: "Gilmore Girls." Does Luke say yes? I've seen the season premiere, but I'm not telling.
- Wednesday, Sept. 14: Shout it with me: Marty! Marty! Marty! If Chicago's own Marty Casey doesn't win "Rock Star: INXS" (next week is the finale), especially after he debuted his great original song, "Trees," last week, I'm just going to resign from the human race. You have been warned.
- Thursday, Sept. 15: You say you're not going to get sucked in this time, but then you do: "Survivor" is back, and they're stuck in the Guatemalan jungle, not some beach (thank goodness). Be sure to record the guilty pleasures "Reunion" and "The O.C." on Fox as well.
- Friday, Sept. 16: Nerd heaven: A two-hour premiere of the excellent CBS alien-invasion series "Threshold" ("Star Trek's" Brent Spiner is one of the leads) plus, on Sci Fi, there's a new "Battlestar Galactica" and a two-hour "Stargate SG-1" summer finale.
- Saturday, Sept. 17: Time to print out your Emmy ballot in anticipation of Sunday's big awardsfest and pop in those "Nip/Tuck" DVDs in anticipation of the FX show's Sept. 20 return.
- Sunday, Sept. 18: Yes, the first hour dragged a bit, but now HBO's "Rome" has hit its stride, and it is sensational. Not only does it boast an "O.C." worthy villainess in the lovely (and sex-crazed) Atia, it's also got the best mismatched-buddy relationship since the first "Lethal Weapon" movie. Roman soldier Titus Pullo (the terrific Ray Stevenson) just wants to pillage all night and party every day; uptight centurion Lucius Voreno - not so much ("When's the last time you had a woman who wasn't crying or demanding payment?" Voreno snaps at Pullo). Add in the lavish sets and the magisterial English actor Ciaran Hinds as Julius Caesar, and you've got a classic toga chronicle. Plus, for sheer train-wreck fascination, on Sundays you can't beat "Breaking Bonaduce" on VH1.
- Monday, Sept. 19: The new CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" actually gives one hope for the genre. Seriously. And do I need to tell you to watch "Prison Break"? If you haven't, here's the 4-second summary: A guy commits a crime to get sent to prison so he can spring his wrongly convicted brother, who's on Death Row. The guy has the plans to the prison tattooed on his body. On the outside, his brother's ex-girlfriend, a lawyer is unraveling the conspiracy that got Death Row guy sent to jail.
BLOG NEWS: On Monday, CBS News debuted a new blog, Public Eye, on cbsnews.com. A CBS press release says it will allow "a candid and robust dialogue between CBS News journalists and the public." The site will be edited by Vaughn Ververs, "most recently editor of The Hotline, a daily Web briefing on politics published by the National Journal."
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: WTTW-Ch. 11 is broadcasting the 1975 made-for-television film "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" on Thursday [July 15]. In honor of the film's 30th anniversary, Queen Latifah has taped an introduction that will air before the film.
From the PBS press release on the film, which stars Cicely Tyson: "Based on the best-selling novel by Ernest J. Gaines, 'The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman' is an inspiring story of human dignity. This fictionalized historical drama from director John Korty follows Jane Pittman on her incredible life journey from the end of the Civil War in the 1860s through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Through the years Jane survives the last vestiges of slavery in Louisiana, Jim Crow laws, encounters with the KKK and the slaying of her husband, only to triumph in the end over social injustice."
A CLARIFICATION: As a in Saturday's Tribune noted, key information was left out of my Sept. 9 article on Oprah Winfrey's trip to New Orleans and other flood-damaged areas of the South. As the clarification stated, the article "contained comparisons of Winfrey to President Bush that were unfavorable to Bush." It goes on to state that last year, I contributed to the presidential campaign of Bush's opponent, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and that "Tribune standards require disclosure of any such conflict of interest."
You should have had that information up front. I am sorry you did not.
Having said that, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that if Kerry had been elected, and events in New Orleans played out exactly the way they did last week, I would have written the same piece, substituting Kerry's name for Bush.
Though I contributed to a Democratic cause, last week I praised Fox News' coverage of the post-Katrina disaster. Though I celebrated Oprah Winfrey's actions after the flood, I have written articles critical of her in the last year.
As I have in the past, I will continue to attempt to be as honest and as fair as I can be in my television coverage, and I would feel honored if you could forgive this unintentional oversight and continue to share this space with me.
Because you readers -- even those of you who disagree with me -- are the reasons I do what I do.
Link to the above item.
September 7, 2005, 1:55 PM CDT: President Bush, call Oprah: In New Orleans, talk-show host gets to the heart of the matter
Can someone tell President Bush to call Oprah?
In her response to the Katrina disaster, the talk show host got everything right.
In the episodes that aired Tuesday and Wednesday, Oprah once again proved why she's the best at what she does. She went to the Superdome. She heard firsthand about what went wrong from New Orleans' chief of police and mayor.
She hugged evacuees -- as Bush did as well on his visits to the region -- but then she stayed. She listened to the stories of horror and rape and loss and heartbreak.
After grieving and listening, she began her giving. And Oprah knows a thing or two about giving.
Oprah and various celebrity friends went to work at various evacuation centers across the South, bringing in truckloads of supplies, water and clothing.
Faith Hill sang "Amazing Grace" with evacuees by the side of a road in Mississippi. Lisa Marie Presley, wearing sweats and no makeup, bought diapers and T-shirts at Target. John Travolta delivered tractor-trailers full of food and drink.
"I felt helpless, and I wanted to do something," she explained at the beginning of her Tuesday program.
And when Oprah wants to do something, it gets done.
Of course, governmental agencies, the Red Cross and other charities are giving away meals and other essentials, and have been doing so for days.
But Oprah's impromptu gifting of the Katrina victims -- getting all those supplies to the region quickly, and getting herself to the heart of the madness as well -- demonstrates that where there's a very powerful, very determined will, there is a way.
Armed soldiers didn't want to let her in to the Superdome, but Oprah, being Oprah, got in, and showed viewers the mountains of garbage and debris left inside.
"You know, this is what I'm now just getting, standing in urine and water and feces and stuff. This is what I'm now just getting. It is dark in here, and it was dark the whole time," she said.
Why is it that Oprah Winfrey has looked upon the horrific conditions inside the Superdome, but our president has not?
So far, Bush has only visited New Orleans' airport. Not the city itself.
That task was left to Oprah, and to the dozens of journalists who braved the perilous conditions New Orleans over the past 10 days.
She didn't stop at the Superdome. In the two episodes broadcast Tuesday and Wednesday, Oprah and her "Angel Network" friends made it to refugee centers in the region, to New Orleans and to various devastated towns in Louisiana and Mississippi.
She covered a lot of ground, and people wept when they saw her.
Not because they were expecting a free car, but -- who can blame anyone for thinking this -- because when Oprah visits, free stuff can't be far behind.
Never has Oprah's penchant for giving things away been put to better use.
And she's Oprah, so please, don't tell her that getting mad about what happened post-Katrina is part of some "blame game." This is the woman who taught Dr. Phil everything he knows, so when Oprah gets mad and tells people what's on her mind, everyone had better listen.
"When it comes to what happened, and didn't have to happen, to children, it's pretty overwhelming," Oprah said, fighting back tears on Tuesday. "It makes me so mad. This makes me mad! This should not have happened."
Oprah's biggest gift may just be telling those in power what many of us in her viewing audience were already thinking.
Link to the above item.
Jaw-dropping TV: Moments of truth in the coverage of the post-Katrina disaster: September 6, 2005 11:27 AM CDT
If anyone needed proof that television viewers spent the last week in an alternate universe, Sean Penn's appearance Monday evening on Fox News more or less sealed the deal.
Actually, the actor didn't appear on camera -- having spent part of the Labor Day weekend in stricken Louisiana, he phoned Greta van Susteren's Fox News show to note that the rescue workers he traveled with didn't have enough bullhorns and therefore found it difficult to get the attention of those in need of help.
It was a civil exchange between van Susteren, she of the flag-waving, right-friendly news network and he, honorary president of the Lefty McLiberal Memorial Hollywood Democrat Coalition. That civility -- and Penn's appearance itself -- were among the weirdest footnotes to the roller coaster ride that was post-Katrina television coverage.
Since the middle of last week, when television coverage of the tragedy in New Orleans turned from informational to simply outraged, anyone scanning network or cable news has seen a week of jaw-dropping moments, most of which are readily available for replay all over the Internet. These are just a few moments that are still indelibly imprinted on my mind.
Photojournalist Tony Zumbado's stunning report on Thursday's extended NBC Nightly News broadcast set a new standard for impassioned reporting. Having spent the better part of the day inside the hellish New Orleans convention center, he appeared near tears as he talked of babies dying. "I just tell you, I couldn't take it."
Minutes after Zumbado's wrenching testimony aired, NBC News anchor Brian Williams interviewed Michael Brown, head of FEMA.
Williams: "Why can't some of the helicopters that we have heard flying overhead for days and days and days simply lower pallets of water, meals-ready-to-eat, medical supplies right into downtown New Orleans? Where is the aid?"
Brown: "Brian, it's an absolutely fair question The federal government just learned about those people today."
A millisecond later, Williams' jaw hit the ground, metaphorically speaking. And that's when everything changed.
Williams' incredulity matched that of CNN's tireless Paula Zahn less than an hour later, when she grilled Brown about the situation at the Superdome and at the convention center, where bodies were left to rot and children went without food and water. Brown said again that federal officials had just learned of the suffering thousands at the convention center that day -- Thursday.
"You're not telling me that you just learned that the folks at the convention center didn't have food and water until today, are you?" Zahn asked. "You had no idea that they were completely cut off?"
He didn't know. But anyone who'd been watching at home did. And clearly, the anger of the reporters and anchors was not a case of "What, you haven't been watching our reports?" but "Can you tell me what planet you've been on all week?"
What was more frightening than Brown's admission was the fact that that he spent much of Thursday doing interviews. If you were glued to the news coverage -- and it was nearly impossible to wrench oneself away Thursday and Friday, so heartrending were the stories and so impassioned were the reports -- you had to wonder who was in charge of the relief efforts while Brown was making the TV rounds.
On Friday, the alternate media universe became truly mind-blowing. It's not exactly a state secret that the Bush administration can usually count on getting a reasonable amount of support from the anchors and reporters on the Fox News Channel.
Not so post-Katrina. Fox News reporter Shepard Smith, who'd spent a week reporting from New Orleans' fetid, makeshift refugee centers, wore a look of outrage Friday that would have made even Dick Cheney quake.
Fox's Geraldo Rivera, for his part, shed tears as he held up a 10-month-old baby, who'd been trapped with family members at the squalid convention center for six days, and ranted at Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes on the Friday edition of their Fox News show.
"Let them walk out of here. Let them walk away from the filth. Let them walk away from the dead bodies," he ranted. "What has happened since [the hurricane] is as bad or worse than what mother nature did."
"It's not a question of subjectivity," Rivera said, and for once his hyperbolic delivery matched the horror of the situation. "It's about reality."
If anything, Smith's stunned, almost resigned anger during much of the same broadcast was more terrifying. Whom does one ask for official information, Hannity asked Smith at one point. "I don't know," Smith said, stone-faced. At another point, Hannity tried to interrupt Smith, who'd been reporting from New Orleans for days ("We've seen this," he said, grim-faced. "We can smell it.")
Hannity wanted to step back and "get perspective" on the situation. "This is perspective," Smith shouted, losing his cool once and for all. "This is all the perspective you need!"
That same evening, Kanye West interrupted the flow of professionally written charity solicitations on the NBC telethon that aired Friday night.
"George Bush doesn't care about black people," West stated, as stunned co-presenter Mike Myers looked on.
It was one more jaw-dropping moment in a week when everyone's mask dropped and raw honesty was everywhere. Whether you agreed with West, it was a riveting moment of live television (though one that was not audible to West Coast viewers).
Surely George Bush doesn't share West's view, but he didn't show any of the musician's directness.
All week long, Bush seemed to weave in and out of different personas; at one point, he jocularly joked with Sen. Trent Lott about how, down the road, the two men would one day enjoy the porch on Lott's rebuilt southern Mississippi home, which was destroyed in the storm.
At another point, on Friday's flying visit to the region, he hugged bereft Mississippians like a concerned uncle. He was grim and tough in press conferences as the political crisis deepened later in the week, then signed autographs like a rock star at a Baton Rouge evacuee center on Monday.
It's a good thing that Bush didn't cross paths with Anderson Cooper, who didn't mince words with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on that fateful Thursday.
The platitudes that usually go unchallenged on cable news channels (the unchallenged platitudes that usually air just before the latest update on a missing white woman) were savagely torn apart by Cooper, who, like Smith, could smell a whole lot more suffering from where he was sitting than Landrieu could from her operations center in Baton Rouge.
Like an award winner on Oscar night, Landrieu tried to launch into a laundry list of all the good things that had happened that week.
"I have to tell you, there are people here who are very upset and angry," Cooper cut in, "and when they hear politicians thanking one another, it just, you know, it cuts them the wrong way right now, because there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats, because this woman has been laying in the street for 48 hours, and there is not enough facilities to get her up. Do you understand that anger?" Cooper said.
When "The Daily Show" finally returns from its weeklong Labor Day break, expect Landrieu's tepid response to get withering treatment.
While it was impossible to watch some of the coverage -- in particular the Penn-van Susteren exchange -- without thinking of what "The Daily Show" writers would make of it, what one was left with, as the week of outrage wore on, were the holes that Katrina -- and the subsequent bungling -- left in the hearts of real, live people.
Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard's appearance on "Meet the Press" on Sunday put everything into perspective, if, by that point, perspective was still needed.
"Shouldn't the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility" for the tragic events in that city, host Tim Russert asked Broussard.
"They were told, like me, every single day, the cavalry's coming, been promised the cavalry was coming," Broussard shot back. "I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry and we're almost a week out."
And Broussard wept, as veteran CNN correspondent Jeanne Meserve wept on Tuesday after hearing the cries of scared people trapped in their homes.
Through his tears, Broussard put a face on the tragedy.
"The guy who runs this building I'm in, Emergency Management, he's responsible for everything," Broussard told Russert. "His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, `Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' and he said, `Yeah, mama, somebody's coming to get you.'
Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night!"
At that point, Broussard was sobbing.
"I'm sick of the press conferences. For God's sake, just shut up and send us somebody."
If the role of journalism is to shine a light in dark places -- Broussard, Smith, Rivera, Meserve, Cooper, Zahn, Williams, Zumbado they all did their part last week.
Link to the above item.
September 3, 2005 12:07 PM CDT: 'They're dying': Plus, readers respond to post-Katrina TV coverage
Now's not the time to be speculating about the future of journalism - the merging of the work of citizen journalists, traditional media, blogs and videoblogs - but something that NBC Nightly News just aired was a deeply compelling mixture of all those things.
It was a personal testimony by NBC photojournalist Tony Zumbado, which aired just after 6 p.m. Thursday, in the extended NBC Nightly News broadcast.
The footage for the piece was shot outside the New Orleans convention center; presumably video filming is not allowed inside, though there were what looked like a couple of still photos from there.
Zumbado's emotional story was remarkable, and an example of how the merging of the personal and the professional can create powerful testimony. The look on Zumbado's face during his personal commentary, combined with the footage he shot of desperate refugees, made for a devastating piece.
Here is the text of the piece (and some of his footage can be viewed here), in its entirety.
Brian Williams' introduction: "Those scenes that emerged today at the convention center in downtown New Orleans. NBC News photojournalist Tony Zumbado made it inside, and here is his description of what he found there in his own words."
Zumbado: "I gotta tell you, I thought I'd seen it all, I've never seen anything in my life like this."
Angry Man: "No food, no water, I mean, the bare necessities."
Zumbado: "And you will never, never imagine what you saw in the convention center in New Orleans. I just don't know how to tell you just how bad it is and how they need help yesterday."
Man with baby: "You got a three-week old infant out here, how is a three-week old infant going to be able to survive out here with no milk, no water?"
Zumbado: "These are the families who listened to authorities, who followed direction, who believed in the government. They were told to go to the convention center, they did. These are law-abiding citizens who've been left behind. They did everything they are told. They are just left behind.
"There's nothing offered to them, no water, no ice, no C-rations. Nothing, for the last four days. It's getting very, very crazy in there, and very dangerous. I don't want to sound negative against anybody or any official, but according to them, they're there on their own. There's no police, there's no authority.
"They've been behaving, they have not started any melees, any riots, nothing. They just want food and support. There's no hostility there, so they don't need to be bringing any guns or anything like that. They need support."
Young girl: "Tell them that we need to get out of here!"
Woman: "People are dying. They're dying. Babies are dying."
Zumbado: "There's no support here. There's no foundation. There's no Plan B, Plan A. These people are very desperate. I saw two gentlemen die in front of me because of dehydration. The sanitation was unbelievable. The stench in there, it was unbelievable. Dead people around the walls of the convention center, laying in the middle of the street, in their dying chairs, where they died, right there in their lawn chair.
"They were just covered up. In their wheelchair, covered up. Laying there for dead. Babies, two babies. Dehydrated and died.
I just tell you, I couldn't take it."
UPDATE FRIDAY: A response to the entry above from reader Kathy Tolomeo of Downers Grove:
"I will keep this short and sweet....
"As a parent and American I am fully disgusted by what I am seeing on the news. I am ashamed in our Federal Government and in the individuals trying to make a profit to this terrible catastrophe. However, I am most at shock and appalled at the choices we are making as a nation. When I see that the babies and children are dying I am disgusted and heartbroken. I don't know if anyone else feels the way I do, but to me they should be the priority that we are saving!
"These 'critical' patients that are elderly and dying, I have the utmost respect and compassion for them. However, if I was ever in this type of a situation I would rather them save the life of a child/infant rather then my own. An child/infant has their whole life ahead of them, most of these 'critical' patients are adults and have lived a much longer life.
"I have never written to a columnist, I do not expect a response. However, I just felt I needed my words to be heard by someone!!!!
"SAVE THE CHILDREN FIRST!!!!! If I could take them into my home temporarily until their family(ies) were taken care of I would. NO child should be tortured like this for this length of time."
Another response from reader John Shack of Germantown, Tenn.:
"I have been watching a lot of television and it seemed that CNN, for a time, became the conscience of the country and in no small way prodded the government agencies to get their collective butts in gear. We owe the network a debt of gratitude.
"Also, there seemed to be something obscene by going ahead with the broadcast of the Packers-Titans football last night on ABC. I did not, and could not watch it. I may be getting a little soft, in the heart and in the head, in my old age.
"And finally, has anyone seen Dick Cheney? This guy is useless!"
A note from Kristin Taghon of Chicago:
"I agree with Kathy Tolomeo that we, as a nation, should be appalled at our government and how this tragedy has been handled. But I do NOT agree that adults/elderly have less to offer this nation than children and infants. No one should be treated first, second, last based on gender, race, age. EVERY human is of utmost importance. Children have their whole lives ahead of them. Elderly have lived and shown us how to live. They are to be respected, revered, protected. They have helped us all to grow. The elderly AND the children should be saved. They are of equal importance in this country. When will the American people learn that?
"President Bush's agenda is with the war in Iraq. A supposed war against terrorism in Iraq. Do we put more weight on saving the people of Iraq, before saving the people from a national disaster, in our own country?
"As I see it, the exodus of the people from Mississippi has been handled poorly by the United States Government. And I wonder why? Why have they been left to die? Why? I don't understand. I don't understand why Bush had to wait until Friday, September 2nd to go to Mississippi. I watch what is happening with my heart in my throat. "I feel so helpless, ashamed. In my eyes, this situation is worse than the tsunami in Asia because, here, we could have helped sooner. They are right here in our country. And yet, people are dying. We could have helped them sooner. What happened? What IS happening? Please tell me why."
Late Friday evening I received a note from Cynthia Krol of Fort Worth, Texas, part of which read as follows:
"Our country is so vulnerable right now. It scares the hell out of me thinking about how vulnerable and open we are for terrorists. The terrorists are sitting back and laughing at how we can't even take care of Louisiana and Mississippi. Can you imagine what they are thinking? We can't handle this disaster, can you imagine having to handle a full blown terrorist attack?? I am at a total loss for words."
Link to the above item.
September 1, 2005 10:50 AM CDT: TV shows what it's capable of
As it did with the Asian tsunami last winter, television has brought us pictures that break our hearts.
The destruction of New Orleans and the suffering of thousands of people along the Gulf Coast is providing us with images that we won't easily forget.
Aerial pictures of entire neighborhoods destroyed, footage of thousands of folks lined up along roads and around the New Orleans convention center, the tale of one CNN correspondent - calling in from a pay phone - who said that a baby had just died at the convention center ... all this terrible imagery can make us feel powerless and utterly at a loss to do anything positive.
But, in some small ways, we're not at a total loss. As with the Asian tsunami, we can give money to those in need; here and here are places to start. The telethons that NBC will air Friday and MTV and VH1 will broadcast Sept. 10 will surely have more information on charities accepting donations.
Will that cash reach the people in immediate need right now, and can New Orleans ever be rebuilt into what it once was?
Who knows? Lives are irrevocably changed by this event; seeing the devastation on our TV screens makes that clear. People are not just without food and water and medicine, their homes are just gone. It's a terrible picture.
It's impossible to truly comprehend what the situation must be like, especially for a town such as New Orleans, home of les bon temps for music lovers, food lovers and Mardi Gras revelers for centuries.
But if nothing else, Katrina and her terrible aftermath have driven the silly, the vapid and the tangential from the national news channels. The world stepped up to the challenge after the tsunami crisis, and Americans are doing are doing the same with the post-Katrina disaster.
And for the most part, the broadcast news media has shown what it's capable of when the chips are down. The broadcast coverage provided by the big networks and the cable news channels has, for the most part, been exemplary and truly informative.
That's a small thing, compared to the suffering in the South, but it is something.
ROCK THIS: On a completely different - and vastly less important - subject, it's nice to see "Rock Star" rise in the ratings over the last few weeks. The singers left - with the exception of J.D. Fortune, in my humble opinion - are all excellent, and, after her blistering version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" this week, I am a Suzie McNeil true believer now.
Then again, Marty Casey has that certain something, and I'm a serious Jordis Unga fan, despite her weak performances the last couple of weeks.
I can't wait to see the remaining contestants take on the INXS catalog, which, as we've seen week after week on Wednesdays, is deceptively difficult to sing (I know nothing about music theory, but I've come to think that Michael Hutchence's voice must have been in a very rare and distinctive tonal range).
I wasn't sad to see Ty Taylor go Wednesday night, and I think the eminently ejectable J.D. will most surely go next. Check out the poll at the right to vote on who you think will ultimately be right for their band, INXS.
Link to the above items.
Note: All of the stories below were written before the devastation in the South became truly apparent this past week. I've been glued to that TV coverage for days, as I'm sure many of you have been. So if the TV feaures below are of no interest, I understand.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GOLD: Ari Gold is a lying, scheming, greedy, self-centered jerk.
And we love him.
Why do we obsess over the "Entourage" agent, when he constantly does such terrible things, then fixes it by "hugging it out"? I really have no idea, and I don't care. I'm too mesmerized by Jeremy Piven's tour de force performance, which (sniff) ends Sunday with the "Entourage" season finale, to find a deeper meaning in the growing worldwide Ari Gold love-fest.
Then again, how can you not love a guy who:
- Threatens a Hollywood exec with starting a Web site called imahollywoodproducerwhore.com and posting nasty pictures of that executive there.
- Takes a phone call during a marriage counseling session, which he says he must do if his wife wants "a Beverly Hills mansion, a country club membership and nine weeks a year in a Tuscan villa."
- In a rage-filled rant, fires a hapless co-worker ("What the [hell] do we pay you for? To get your agency card laminated so you can go to Shelter and try to [sleep with] Mischa Barton?").
- Spews a constant stream of ethnic jokes to his long-suffering Asian assistant, Lloyd ("Is that the way they drive in Tiananman Square?" "Lloyd, do you want to make it or do you want to fold shirts at a Chinese laundry?").
- Tells his wife that his daughter was terrible at chanting for her bat mitzvah ("It doesn't mean that I don't love her, but she's just awful, baby.").
- Then again, he redeemed it all by drunkenly dancing with his wife on the driveway of their home after his entire career imploded. Dang, I loved that scene. I loved the whole episode. And it's because it was all about Ari, the best character on TV right now.
Bad boys. Wouldn't want to marry one, but oh, is it great to hang with them once a week.
By the way, props to Lloyd (the terrific Rex Lee) for standing up to Ari in last week's episode, and for providing the best speech in "Entourage's" best-ever episode:
"Ari, I worked 18 hours a day to save up the money to put myself through Stanford Business School. While I was there, I cleaned the cafeteria in the hours I wasn't studying, and still graduated top of my class. Only to take a job delivering mail to unappreciative, overpaid little [nasty people]. And to finally get the big promotion that would allow me to answer your phones and be both racially and sexually harassed for the next nine months. But I know the endgame, and you are, Ari Gold, you are it. So stop your [gosh darn] whining and go into your gorgeous $3 million house and your beautiful goddess wife and figure out how you're going to make both of our lives happen tomorrow."
Dang, Lloyd. I know you're gay, but I love you too.
Link to the above item.
O.C. NEWS: It's senior year, people. Things will get a little nuts.
That's the word on Season 3 of "The O.C.," according to creator Josh Schwartz, who did a conference call with reporters earlier this week.
The main teen foursome on the hit Fox show will be entering the last year of high school, and Schwartz hinted there will be plenty of drama for the grown-ups on the show as well (and I hate to sound like a broken record here, but don't read this if you want to be 100 percent spoiler-free):
Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher): The affable dad and former hippie lawyer will begin helping out at the Newport Group, the real-estate empire headed by his late father-in-law, Caleb Nichol. Though he once viewed it as "the evil empire," Cohen begins to think "he can use the company for good, to effect change in the community, but it's a slippery slope," Schwartz said. Sandy becomes the family breadwinner for the first time, now that his wife, Kirsten, a Newport Group exec, is in rehab. That creates "a really interesting dynamic" in the couple's relationship, Schwartz notes.
Kirsten Cohen (Kelly Rowan): At her posh rehab center, Kirsten meets a mysterious woman named Charlotte (Jeri Ryan). Schwartz says that, despite the extensive press coverage of Marissa's lesbian flirtation last season, Kirsten and Charlotte will not kiss. "We did a lot of that last year," Schwartz said, laughing. "Where that story line is going is not what people are expecting."
Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton): The rich girl gets booted from the ritzy Harbor School by a new dean (Eric Mabius), who is soon nicknamed "the mean dean."
Julie Cooper-Nichol (Melinda Clarke): Caleb's widow will have a tough time getting her taloned claws on the real-estate magnate's moolah. "She's in for a bumpy ride" for the first 10 episodes, Schwartz said. On the upside, her tribulations bring her closer to her daughter, Marissa.
The whole issue of Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie) and the paternity of his former girlfriend Theresa's baby is the "O.C." plot that people ask him about the most, Schwartz noted. It will be resolved this year, he said.
Other Season 3 characters include a social rival for Summer at Harbor School, a business partner for Sandy and "a bunch of new kids" at Marissa's new school.
By the way, perhaps in light of the pasting the show took online for its meandering midseason lull last year, Schwartz had one bit of advice for budding television-show creators: "Don't read message boards!"
Link to the above item.
PRIME TIME, CRIME TIME: Always dreamed of a Hollywood career? Now it can be yours.
All it takes to get an hour-long drama off the ground these days is a few tweaks on the concepts behind the scads of existing crime/police/coroner/detective/legal shows. The flood of copycat cop/crime shows this fall ("Killer Instinct," "Criminal Minds," "Bones," just to name a few of the more derivative ones) proves that point amply.
But if you don't have time to rack your brain in order to create your own network drama idea, worry not! Use this handy create-a-crime-show chart to come up with something the networks will love.
1. Choose a lead character:
- Tough-talking, tortured guy.
- Tough-talking, tortured gal.
- Tough-talking, sassy Southern gal (i.e., TNT's "The Closer").
- Math whiz (see CBS' "Numbers").
- Earnest young woman.
- Attractive, earnest young woman.
- Attractive, earnest and plucky young woman.
- Hot, impulsive young guy.
- Gruff and tough.
- Gruff, tough and female (see "The Shield," Season 4).
- Gruff, tough and minority (see "The Shield," Seasons 1-3, to cite just one example).
- Serial killer ("Killer Instinct," "Criminal Minds").
- Freaky, otherworldly hot young woman (WB's "Supernatural") who preys on men.
- Freaky pervs (see any of the "CSIs").
- Young women.
- His own family (see CBS' "Close to Home").
- Young, hot women in scanty camisoles.
- Likes sweets ("The Closer").
- Speaks in a monotone (Fox's "Killer Instinct").
- Has post-traumatic stress disorder (CBS' "Criminal Minds").
- Likes to travel with a skull in hand luggage (Fox's "Bones").
- Yes, of course.
- Yes, but not before several more women are murdered and/or locked in a cage and covered in bugs ("Killer Instinct").
- Yes, and then we'll get a judge to throw the book at him, too ("Close to Home").
- Yes, and then the victims will go have a chat with "Medium's" Patricia Arquette or Jennifer Love Hewitt of "Ghost Whisperer."
'LOST' FACTS FOUND: Just a few fun tidbits gleaned from the hours of extras on the delicious "Lost" Season 1 boxed set, which comes out Tuesday (Hey, don't say you weren't warned -- don't read this if you don't want to know any info from the boxed set's extras!):
- For their auditions, Jorge Garcia (a.k.a. Hurley) and Dominic Monaghan (Charlie) read Sawyer's role. Monaghan noted on the DVD that he was glad the "Lost" role wasn't one of the many "elves and pixies" parts he had been offered after "The Lord of the Rings" films.
- Sawyer was supposed to be from Buffalo.
- The mud on the Hawaiian island where the show is shot is "very smelly."
- Ace composer Michael Giacchino used actual plane parts from the Hawaii set for some of the percussion on the "Lost" soundtrack.
- Evangeline Lilly almost didn't make it into the show because of a work visa problem. She finally got clearance to come to the U.S. the day before she was set to begin filming - and the day that producers met with more than a dozen actresses in case they had to replace her.
- The character of Jack was originally envisioned as a guest star who'd get offed in the middle of the pilot - and co-creator J.J. Abrams wanted Michael Keaton for the part.
NEWS THAT DOESN'T SEEM ALL THAT IMPORTANT, GIVEN WHAT'S GOING ON, BUT ANYHOW, HERE IT IS:
- Finally, the Food Network has given Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh's new show a name -- but it's tentative, according to a press release. Smith and McDonagh, Chicago caterers and the owners of the North Side restaurant HB, won "The Next Food Network Star" contest in June, and the grand prize was their own show. That program, which debuts Sept. 18, will focus on home entertaining and will probably be called "Open House With Dan and Steve." Or not.
- TV Guide's Michael Ausiello reports that R. Lee Ermey ("Full Metal Jacket") has been cast as Dr. Gregory House's dad, and that House's parents visit "House" on the Fox show's fifth episode.
- "Degrassi: The Next Generation" actors Miriam McDonald (who plays Emma Nelson) and Ryan Cooley (J.T. Yorke) will be signing autographs 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee.
- TV Filter (spaces.msn.com/members/tvfilter/) reports that every season of "Friends" will be released in one humongous boxed set Nov. 15. It'll set you back a mere $300 (or $245 through Amazon.com).
- Tell me I'm dreaming and that Paramount is not making a film out of the 1970s camp competition "Battle of the Network Stars."
- There's a candid and engaging interview with Chicago theater veteran Jill Soloway, a "Six Feet Under" writer and author of the new memoir "Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants," at televisionwithoutpity.com.
- A reader wrote in to note that new "Boston Legal" cast member Justin Mentell is a local boy, having gone to Waukegan High School and graduated in May from Northern Illinois University. The reader was none other than Mentell's proud mom, Alicia, of Waukegan.
- I didn't think the opening music of "Stargate SG-1" could get any shorter, but I'd swear it's been downsized again; it's no longer than five seconds now. Yikes.
Blog entries from August (including lots of previews and stories on the new fall TV season) are here.
Blog entries from July are here.
Blog entries from June are here.
Blog entries from May are here.
Blog entries from April are here.
Blog entries from March (including Dan Rather, "Arrested Development," "The Office" and "Star Trek") are here.
Blog entries from February (including Ben Browder on "Stargate," mullets and Mongo) are here.
Blog entries from January (including lots of "Battlestar Galactica" goodness) are here.
Blog entries from December are here.
Blog entries from November are here.
Blog entries from October (including lots of "Farscape" goodness) are here.
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