Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

The Alphabet Network

n my little hiatus before last week, I actually had an amazing amount
of stuff happen to me. I feel like I lived about six months in that
three week period. One of the best and most incredibly awesome
experiences I had was working the ABC fall press tour.

I’ve written about these press tours before, and I know, for the
people involved in television shows, they are the least favorite part
of their job, but I love them. It’s an experience where, I, as a
wannabe writer get to meet my real heroes, the people who write the
shows. Most people love the press tours because we interact with the
stars. And yes, I was a little excited the I got to meet and hang out
with Kate Walsh because Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepard is my favorite,
but really I love hearing all about the development of these new
shows.

Let me back up a little bit. Basically, the fall press tour is where
the networks bring out all their new shows for the fall. Only one or
two (maybe three) will make it to season two and even less will make
it past that, so it’s always nice to get some bets down during the
press events. I, of course, love to preview new shows because I love
to see what’s coming out. This year the theme seems to be, let’s take
HBO and Showtime shows and take it down a notch. Basically (and I
promise I’ll dedicate a rant to this at some point), right now HBO and
Showtime have the best programming on T.V. and the reason why is
because they aren’t censored. Now, I think that many times censorship
can create great television. Hello, we wouldn’t have the infamous Va
Jay Jay if we didn’t have censorship. But, the fact that on an HBO or
Showtime show people can say fuck and they can have sex and they can
be real people means that the shows on HBO and Showtime are, for the
most part quality programming that can explore aspects of humanity
that Network television simply can’t.

Now, that being said, the one Network that is making quality
programming across the board is ABC. With programming like Desperate
Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, Brothers and Sisters, Lost,
etc, ABC really concentrated on Character shows rather than High
Concept shows (thought sometimes there’s a happy medium). ABC is
taking risks and I totally respect that. Plus, many of their risks
are paying off.

So it is no shock to say that ABC definitely has the most exciting new
fall lineup, and I’ll give you my predictions for what will survive,
what will fail, and what will be good. And I’ll give you some good
stories behind them all.

So we’ll go alphabetically because I’m looking at an alphabetical list
so I don’t forget anything. First we’ve got Big Shots. The original
title was supposed to be Big Dicks (which I think was a great title)
but of course, you can’t do that on Network television, hence Big
Shots. Now, for the ladies this is the most eye candy and
ridiculously hilarious cast of the new season. It’s starring Josh
Malina (West Wing), Christopher Titus, Dylan McDermott (who is
surprisingly short), and Michael Vartan (who I was in charge of at the
press tour and was so unbelievably sexy I almost peed like twice.
Plus he was charming and funny and nice, and said he’d rather be
surfing…lord knows I can’t resist a surfer). Anyway, this show has
been lauded as Sex and the City (HBO show) for guys. I think this is
going to be a great show, but I don’t know if it will last.

Next, we have Carpoolers, Jerry O’Connell’s new show. And though
Jerry is very nice and very down to earth, I give this show three
episodes at the most before it is cancelled.

And then there’s Cashmere Mafia, a.k.a. Sex in the City Light.
Starring Lucy Liu, Bonnie Somerville, Frances O’Connor, and Miranda
Otto. I was in charge of Bonnie, thank god. She didn’t talk to me at
all, but she wasn’t crazy like some of the others. Basically, Lucy
Liu was nice and didn’t have a huge ego. Frances O’Connor refused to
come out of her room on three separate occasions, she was the worst by
far. All these ladies were surrounded by their publicists and hair
and make up people and all that shit, they were celebrities of the
most annoying kind. Kevin Wade, the creator, was, however, one of the
nicest, most down to earth guys. He asked me about my aspirations as
a writer and warned that it was hard work, but ultimately wished me
luck. He even remembered me the next night when I was working the
party. Because I liked Kevin it does pain me to say that I don’t
think this one will last, I think it’ll be lucky to see a season, but
it could surprise in either direction.

And then there’s the Caveman show. Called Cavemen. If you’ve seen
those Geico commercials with the cavemen that’s what the show is based
on. It does have one of my favorite actors from Detroit Rock City,
Sam Huntington, who proudly shouted to his bible-thumping mother, ‘I
just lost my virginity in a confessional. Lord. Have. Mercy.’ It
might be my favorite scene of all time in a movie. Apparently racism
is a big theme in the show. I give it 5 episodes.

Next we have Dirty Sexy Money. Now, this show is shooting on the
Paramount lot and the whole production seems sort of up their own
asses about how fucking great they are. They won’t allow tours on the
set (which is the stupidest thing ever because people will watch the
damn show if you let them on the set). The saving graces are Peter
Krause (from Six Feet Under, HBO) and Donald Sutherland. The girl
they cast is Samaire Armstrong (from The O.C. and Entourage, HBO), and
even though she’s been on two of my favorites (actually three because
she was in Freaks and Geeks as well), she’s not a very good actress.
She’s stiff and speaks haltingly and I generally don’t really like
her. This one I could see lasting for at least a season…or it could
get cancelled immediately because of high production costs (the sets
are ridiculous).

Miss/Guided, I don’t really know much about. There’s a copy of the
pilot sitting in my house, but have no desire to watch it. It is
starring Judy Grier, who you will recognize when you see her. She’s
hilarious, but this just doesn’t seem very good. Can’t even tell you
what the story is. 3 episodes before this is cancelled.

Then we have the shining star. Another HBO rip off, but one that has
major potential. It’s called Pushing Daises. It is a Diet Six Feet
Under type of show, but the cast alone is enough to get me to watch.
Anna Friel, who was kind of a bitch, but has been in a million movies
and been great in them, leads the cast with Swoosie Kurtz (of Reality
Bites fame) and Kristin Chenoweth (my favorite good witch from
Wicked). Basically, it’s a great cast of true characters and that’s
where it’s charm comes from. If I had to put money on one show this
season, I’d say this one will make it past season one.

And the magic words that give me goosebumps…PRIVATE PRACTICE. My
girl Shonda seems to be poised to do it again with this show.
Basically, this is the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off with the superstar
cast. Taye Diggs (who is even sexier in real life), Tim Daly (from
Wings), Amy Brenneman, and of course Kate Walsh. Now, Kate is who I
spent the most time with during the tour. She was so polite, she
remembered my name the next day at the party, she introduced herself
and shook my hand, she apologized for speaking on the phone.
Basically she was one of the nicest celebs I’ve met. But even Kate
was trumped by Shonda, Betsy and Marti. So basically, the Grey’s
Anatomy creative team is the Private Practice creative team. And
basically, I’m putting this out here right now, I will believe in God
if I have Shonda Rhimes’ life for even one day. I started shaking a
little bit when I met her because I think she’s the best writer in
Television (well, she’s neck and neck with Aaron Sorkin). Then, Betsy
Beers, executive producer of Grey’s, got out of her car and I met her
too. I listen to her every week on the Grey’s Anatomy podcast and I
think she’s amazing and awesome and a genius. And then there was
Marti Noxon, another executive producer on Grey’s Anatomy, who got her
big break as a writer on my favorite fantasy show, Buffy the Vampire
Slayer, and who is…………a banana slug. That’s right Marti is a
UCSC grad and gives me hope every week when I watch her name in the
credits. Now, as for the show, I think it’s actually going to be
really good (despite the less than stellar pilot) but it might have
trouble finding an audience because many Grey’s Anatomy fans seem so
opposed to the idea.

Next there is Samantha Who? which is Christina Applegate’s new show.
She was great. Very nice and very down to earth. This one has an
all-star cast (which usually means big ratings at first, but the true
test will be can this show hold it’s ratings…think Studio 60…big
cast and then huge ratings drops). So along with Christina we’ve got
Jean Smart (from Designing Women), Jennifer Esposito (who will be a
huge star soon, she’s freaking hilarious), Barry Watson (7th Heaven),
and Melissa McCarthy (a.k.a. Sookie from Gilmore Girls). Seems funny,
but I guess we’ll see.

Lastly, there is Women’s Murder Club. It looks not too good, though
it’s set in San Francisco, so that can often be charming, though hard
to watch for me since it’s so clearly not San Francisco and is, in
fact, L.A. I have the same problem with Monk. This is basically
Murder She Wrote with four Angela Lansbury characters. Though there’s
no big names, so that sometimes spells a hit (hello, Friends, Grey’s,
90210, etc.)

So that’s my wrap up for the ABC fall lineup. I guess we’ll just have
to wait and see if I’m right.

Peace, Love, and New Television,
Julia

August 17, 2007 Posted by | Grey's Anatomy, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Parties, Sex and the City, Studio 60, Television | Leave a comment

Up Front Season

So a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how hard it is when you and
your favorite t.v. show break up, and a few months ago I was writing
about awards show season and how it is my favorite time of year.
Well, right now we’re in my least favorite time of year.  It’s called
Up Fronts and they hurt me.

Basically, up fronts are where each network goes to new york and
announces their fall lineup.  Then, advertisers buy advertising space
from the shows that they want to advertise on.  And that shit can be
expensive.  A 30 second spot on the series finale of friends was
something like $500,000.

The Up Fronts are the time of year when I remember much of what
television is actually about.  It’s not about the great writing and
great acting, it’s not the complex story lines involving multiple
flawed, but charmingly loveable characters.  Nope, now is the time of
year that reminds me that television is about ratings because ratings
equal more advertisers and more advertisers equal more money.

So the shows with the not great ratings (a.k.a. the good ones) are
usually cancelled this time of year, and thus this is my least
favorite time of year.  Not only am I reminded that this business is,
in fact, a business, and as such, great works of art are often tossed
by the wayside for hopes of a bigger paycheck.

The fact of the matter is that many times the networks get it wrong.
They cancel shows that then go on to sell millions of DVD’s, they
don’t give shows time to come into their own (because sometimes it
takes a little while to really get the swing of things…look at the
first season of Gilmore Girls or even Friends, it takes them about a
season before they really hit their stride).  I mean, shows like My
So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks are now lauded as some of the best
shows of all time, but they didn’t make it past one season.  Bosom
Buddies only lasted two seasons and is now known as Tom Hanks’ first
real start in the business (and they sell millions of DVD’s).

So this week, instead of breaking up with my t.v. shows where you’re
certain that though it hurts right now, it’s for the best, I have my
shows ripped from me.  Basically, it’s like that break up that comes
out of nowhere.  That break up where all of a sudden ‘it’s not you,
it’s me’ and ‘I’m just really busy right now’ and you’re left in
shock, not really knowing where to look or what to do with your hands.

That’s right folks, this week is the week where Julia’s heart get’s
ripped out because I have to part with shows I’m not yet ready to let
go of.  This season has been the most brutal because after this past
weeks up fronts I was left with one, that’s right one, show left on
network television.  Studio 60, which had been put on hiatus a few
months ago, has been officially cancelled and yes, there are still 4
mystery episodes that may or may not be aired (but will hopefully
appear on the DVD).  And most painful of all, my favorite show,
Veronica Mars, was cancelled as well.  So it seems that the shows that
don’t play it safe this season are the ones that will no longer be
airing.  And as much as I try to be optimistic before the up
fronts…as much as I try to have faith in the industry that I am a
part of, this week usually takes a little peice of my youthful hope, a
little peice of my innocence.

The one ray of light is that there will be a new show on the horizon.
A new pilot, that will capture my heart and mind, that will marry
great acting with great writing…and hopefully, hopefully will not
get cancelled in just one or two seasons.

Peace, Love, and Up Fronts,

Julia

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Grey's Anatomy, Hollywood, Studio 60, Television, Veronica Mars | Leave a comment

Best of the Best Part 2 of 3.

Okay peeps, well I promised three awesome T.V. shows (with a little crappy interlude about the Cohen Brothers that was written over a 4 hour period in between work stuff on monday…that’s why it kind of sucked) and here’s the Number 2, not that these are in any particular order (though I am saving the best for last). 

Let me just preface this by saying I DID NOT watch the West Wing.  Get your angry torches and pitchforks, that’s right, I didn’t watch it.  I always thought it was great, but I just never got hooked.  But before you come torch my tiny apartment, I will say that I plan to watch the whole series (and that’s what Netflix is for) because of a new series. 

If you all haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  The show was created by Aaron Sorkin, the creator of The West Wing and a short-lived, but great show, called Sportsnight.  Aaron Sorkin (also the writer of a movie being filmed at Paramount right now, called Charlie Wilson’s War), is just fantastic.  I love his idealism.  His political idealism comes through in the West Wing, much like the film ‘The American President.’  God, don’t we wish our President was actually like that?  Don’t we wish the government really ran like that?  Well in the same way The West Wing is my mother’s dream (though she’s never seen the show, but it would be if she had), Studio 60 is my dream of how Hollywood, especially television, should be run. 

The storyline I’m referring to in particular came to a bit of a head on Monday night.  I’m talking about the censorship storyline.  In the show, the network is called NBS.  Well, on one episode of NBS’ nighly newscast, during a segment on the war, a soldier yelled ‘fuck’ as a bomb went off directly behind him.  The FCC wants to fine NBS upwards of 70 million dollars (a few hundred thousand dollars for every network affiliate).  The Network Execs decide to fight the FCC on this.  Now, in real Hollywood there is absolutely no way in hell this would happen.  But God do we all wish it would. 

So for those of you who have better things to care about than how badly your T.V. is censored, I’m going to paint a little picture.  You might remember a few years back when a hot new singer named Justin Timberlake performed a song at the Super Bowl with a washed up pop star named Janet Jackson.  There was the little ‘gotta have you naked by the end of this song’ line that was followed by Nipplegate.  Yes, Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ flashed 80 million people (that’s how many people watch the Super Bowl) a glimpse of her nipple.  Now, if you watched it, you really couldn’t tell that that was her actual nipple.  And let’s face it.  It was a goddamn nipple.  We’ve all got them, what’s the big deal.  Now, some folks from that lovely part of the country commonly known as the Bible Belt (or What is Wrong with America) were horribly offended at seeing a nipple other than their own and called into the FCC.  The FCC then proceeded to fine ABC a butt-load of money (that’s an industry term), and ever since network T.V. has been suffering the consequences.  Every week, Shonda Rimes (writes Grey’s Anatomy) has to battle the FCC to say the word Vagina on television.  That’s right, in a show about doctors, there has to be a battle to use the correct term for female anatomical parts (of course if it weren’t for that, the phrase Va Jay Jay would never have been invented so…).  The moral of this is that thanks to Janet Jackson, everything, and I mean everything, is time delayed.  That means they can fuck with what shows up on T.V.  Hmmmm….what’s another word for this, oh right, CENSORSHIP. 

That’s right people, every single thing you watch on t.v, including most news broadcasts, are time delayed, and can be censored.  Isn’t that a scary thought.  Just sit with that for a bit.

While you’re processing that, I’m going to get back on topic (I can hear my professors cheering).  My above point was to show how Studio 60 is idealistic, but a kind of idealistic that has the potential to be realistic, and isn’t that the best kind?  The thing I love about Studio 60 is that it’s a version of Hollywood that we all wish and hope for.  It’s a version of Hollywood where the Executives are on the side of the artists (this doesn’t happen often in real life).  It’s a version of Hollywood where new writers are given the chance to have sketches on the air (lord do I wish).  And it’s a version of Hollywood where people get second and sometimes third chances. 

But you know what I love the most about Studio 60.  It gives all the people who get down on Actors a chance to see the fact that there’s alot more to acting then just standing in front of a camera and saying some lies.  Now, they don’t go into how technically difficult acting can be or how an entire scene has to be blocked and actors are actually counting steps between their marks while they are performing a scene.  It doesn’t get into the fact that actors are put in the most amazingly awful conditions (cold, heat, rain, snow, pretending that they are somewhere they really aren’t, etc.) and then asked to perform, and do it well.  Now, I’m not an actor, but I have an immense respect for them.  And I think that Studio 60 does a great job of showing some of the other stresses that actors have to go through in their job.  Say for instance, Sarah Paulson’s character Harriet Hayes (based on Kristen Chenowith who was the original Glinda in Wicked) is a christian woman who has to deal with the fact that her fans are mostly christian, who have traditional christian values.  Her whole struggle with this is really interesting because generally we only see the people/us magazine side of fame, not the fact that the actors have to actually deal with that too. 

But the plight of the actor is not the only thing Studio 60 does well.  The writing is absolutely phenomenal.  Of course it’s Aaron Sorkin and he’s just a master of words, the Shakespeare of television drama, but it’s more than that.  It’s the combination of fantastic writing, phenomenal acting (Sarah Paulson and Amanda Peet are especially awesome, even if no network exec would be as awesome as Amanda Peet), and an optimism about where the industry could go that come together and make this show a treat. 

Plus, it’s frankness about the state of television is absolutely priceless.  In one episode the network exec is trying to get a great show for NBS and asks the producer of Studio 60 (Bradley Whitford) to help with courting the creator.  The Producers response is spot on: he says that the show is good so it should be on HBO, not network T.V.  Now riddle me this folks, Are there better shows on HBO and Showtime or on NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX?  I think we all know the answer.  And I wish it would change because I can’t afford those channels. 

In any case, I hope I’ve done it justice.  I know many people who don’t like the show, but if you want the insider scoop it’s not going away because even though it’s not pulling in the huge ratings, it is pulling in the right demographic.  Pretty much, the people who watch Studio 60 are people who live in Beverly Hills and the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  In other words, the rich people who buy the cars that are advertised on the show.  So don’t expect Studio 60 to go anywhere anytime soon because advertisers love advertising expensive shit to people who will buy it.  And that’s what T.V. is all about.

Peace, Love, and Good T.V.

Julia

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Hollywood, Studio 60, Television | Leave a comment