27 February 2006

Death for Hollywood stars comes in 3's

First Don Knotts on Friday.

Darren McGavin on Saturday

and finally

Dennis Weaver.

Hollywood oldsters must go on lockdown when someone dies. While Knotts was a talented actor and made The Andy Griffith Show the legend that it is, I was never to keen on him, even when he played the buffoon on Three's Company.

Darren McGavin, however, was for me the best character acter out there. I still remember watching the first two Kolchak TV movies and then the limited series. And who can ever forget him in perhaps his most classic role as the Dad in the best Christmas comedy ever made made, A Christmas Story. He'll be missed.

Dennis Weaver was always, to me, a strange actor. I first saw him in McCloud, the Texas cop who befuddled the big city police with his down home country style on those Mystery Movies that aired on NBC in the 1970s. Little did I know, until years later, that he had starred on Gunsmoke -the longest running primetime TV drama in history and something that shall never be surprassed {espcially with episode count} - and a little TV movie called Duel that introduced the world to Steven Spielberg.

Still, I never found him more than one dimensional in the roles he chose. Maybe, I forever cast him as McCloud?

So, there is relief in Hollywood tonight as a rain passes to the ground like a slow divorce. Three are gone, so at least for Andy Rooney, he can rest easy.

26 February 2006

Will Toale out Justin Hartley in as Aquaman

Keeping secrets in Hollywood is tough. Just ask Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of the WB series Gilmore Girls. She and the rest of the cast and crew of her show were caught off guard when it was announced back in January that the WB and UPN would fold in the fall and be merged into the CW. She thought that both network heads Les Moonves and Bruce Rosenblum should be running some sort of intelligence agency in Washington for keeping the lid on this story for so long (as both networks had begun discussion about this merger as early as Thanksgiving).

She also knows how fast things can change. While Gilmore Girls will be one of the shows to survive the merger, she is unsure of its future beyond the 2006-07 season, the shows seventh year. Before the breakup, she and her husband had been working on a new show to debut in the fall, but because of new changes, one the first things to get dropped was her new development deal with the WB.

Meanwhile, another show in development at the WB and should survive the tansistion to the CW will be Aquaman, from the Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar. The series was pitched to the WB last fall when American Idol contestant Alan Ritchson played him on episode of Smallville. The ratings went up, and so it was thought a great spin-off could be launched.

Back on January 9, the WB announced that former Ambercromibe & Fitch model (which must be a prerequisite for working on the WB) Will Toale was cast as the fish guy.

But as quickly as the WB becomes the CW, Toale has been replaced by Passions hunk Justin Hartley, who will now play A.C. Curry/Aquaman.

CBS Corp. president and chief executive Leslie Moonves, who is known for his interest and savvy in pilot casting decisions, weighed in on the matter and recommended that they seek a new star, though Toale was still said to be in the running to keep the role as of last week. But after some testing, it became apparent that Hartley was going to move on up to the starring role.

And while the age old decision to replace Toale was "we wanted to take the role in a different direction" may be code for some one who has more experience. Hartley has more on-camera experience than Toale, having played Nicholas Foxworth Crane on Passions for three-plus years beginning in 2002. He earned a Soap Opera Digest Award nomination for his work last year. Toale's previous credits include cameo in the feature film Uptown Girls and the 2004 TV movie Tempting Adam.

Earlier this week, Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible III) and former Miss Universe Denise Quinones were added to the pilot, which will follow a twentysomething Curry as he begins to discover his true heritage.
Secrets and Mystery cast changes.
Just another day in the wacky world of Hollywood.

"Your sister's not a cold-blooded murderer. She's never been a planner."

Actress Caroline Dhavernas -star of the brilliant, but short lived FOX series Wonderfalls - has said a potential movie might be in the works. The show has done fairly well on DVD and has now nearly achieved an almost cult status, gaining it a better chance that someone might help fund a movie version of this witty show created by Bryan Fuller (Star Trek) and Todd Holland (Malcolm in the Middle).

But Dhavernas says that is as far as it's gone so far. While she would return to play Jaye Tyler - a Brown University graduate who works in a Niagara Falls gift shop and discovers inanimate objects talking to her - she said it could be a few years before it happens.

Favorite quotes:

"So, how long have you been using the Republican Party as a lesbian dating service? "

Wonderfalls Security Guard: [after catching the little boy shoplifting] "You have choices, life choices. This was a bad life choice. That's why you're in an unpleasant situation. Unpleasant situations can be avoided by making good life choices."

Jaye:"I have to disagree. I make good life choices. Mostly because they're forced on me, but I make them. And I find myself in unpleasant situations all the time. You know why? Because even if you have a choice it can and will be taken away from you. We're all fate's bitch. You might as well go ahead and bend over for destiny now. "

Darrin Tyler: Sweetheart, when's the last time you had an orgasm.
Sharon Tyler: That sound you hear is stunned silence.
Darrin Tyler: There's nothing to be ashamed of. Millions of people have orgasms every day.
Jaye: Not ashamed, mortified.

24 February 2006

Doctor Who: A Review of the Show

Back in September of 2003, when on a weekend, the BBC announced that after 15 years, Doctor Who was returning -a day that I have been waiting for -it made me excited. Of course, I would be remiss to say it coud’ve come sooner, but its finally here.

Even though the show was announced on that late summer day, it would be a year and a half before it would be broadcast in the U.K. After all, a new Doctor had to be cast and Russell T Davies had to get the scripts together, as he was now the shows new runner.

Davies is one of Britains most respected writers for TV, and has proven again and again that he can produce the best TV on what ever budget he is given. But while he is not known here in the States, he was the creator of one of the most controversial shows to hit the British shores in years. And while the British are less parochial when it comes to sex and sexuality, it still came as a shock to many when Queer as Folk appeared in 1999. It became a hit, not because I think, of the openness of the gay characters and their bed hopping, but because it well written. People may have tuned in to see men getting it on with other men, but, like all good drama, it transcended the tawdriness and people saw that the characters were real, and the writing was crisp and electric (and also featured a character who loved Doctor Who).

The US cable network Showtime picked up the show, or I should say, adapted the show for America. Vince in the UK version who adored Doctor Who, was changed to Michael here, where his love a comic books was highlighted. The US version of QAF ended in 2005 after a five year run.

Anyway, back to Doctor Who. The BBC launched the new version in March of 2005, with Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor and singer Billie Piper cast as new companion Rose. It was an instant hit. But where was it here, in the good old US of A?

For years the classic version of the show, 1963-89, had ben airing on PBS. This new show, more expensive with CGI effects and location filming in Cardiff, Wales, the show was not going to be sold to the usually financially strapped Public Broadcasting System. BBC wanted more money, so they started shopping it networks here in the US. But no one, it seemed, was biting. Perhaps -and they realized way too late - that while the BBC could bully other countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and what not to purchase the classic series along with the new one, the America network executives just shut their doors.

And then waiting game began.

Meanwhile, only two days after the new Who premiered, the BBC announced that a second season was already being planned (with a Christmas special to air during the holidays in 2005), but new Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, was bowing out. At first, it appeared that the star was doing this because he was afraid of typecasting, which eventually turned out to be red herring on the BBC’s part. It appeared long before the show was broadcast, the BBC was aware that Eccleston only wanted to do one season, and that it was suppose to be a secret. But as history has proven, one person spoiled it. And even though it was an honest mistake, the BBC was forced to apologize to Eccleston.

To further fix the damage that was done, the BBC announced that David Tennant would now become the 10th Doctor and beyond the planned 2005 Christmas episode and second season (along with a 2006 Christmas episode), there would be a third season of 13 episodes (which will include another Christmas episode for 2007).

Then the BBC came to America in January 2006 to work out a deal to bring the show here. With the show already airing in Canada, and with the DVD announced for February 2006 in both Great White North and here in the States, they still wanted a US distributor. As late as 2004 or early 2005, NBC/Universal seemed to be interested in the show, but it did not want the classic show. Now, the BBC seemed to realize that to get the new show on a US network, they would need to pull the classic show off the table.

And a deal was struck. NBC/Universal agreed to air the first season on their sister cable channel, The Sci Fi Network starting March 17. Thus, while the DVD release in Canada would remain for February 14, the US release will be pushed to July 4. And while this is intended to get as many viewers in the US as possible, Americans could still obtain the season boxed set from Amazon.ca, the Canadian version of the popular American one. Same region and all.

And being impatient, I decided to order it. I just could not wait until July 4. It took a week to get here, but I finally saw all 13 episodes, and I tell you it is worth the expense.

The first two episodes -Rose and The End of the World - are somewhat awkward, I guess. As with most "pilots", Rose suffers from too much exposition and a monster -while the Autons are an odd choice to launch the new series -they’ret that menacing. But the acting is superb, with Eccleston’s version of the Doctor being very different from the previous, but still retaining much of the mystery that he should have. If there is a need of a comparison, Tom Baker’s style of goofy humor and Peter Davison’s unearthliness are close to what Eccleston is trying to achieve here.

As for Billie Piper, well, I’m surprised on how good she is; and that’s not meant as I thought she would be horrible. Like all things on the internet, you hear the nastiest things about people. All I knew she was some popular pop singer in Britain, and was now acting. So people must’ve thought she was a horrible singer and was even less talented as an actress. Whatever they said, seems to not have been borne out here. She is a marvel, with a bright smile, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes and probably the most equal of all the Doctors companions.

The End of the World has some of the same issues as Rose, in the sense that once again, much expounding goes on, but the episode seems static with no clear purpose (except maybe as analogy on how "alien" space travel is for Rose -who is hip 21st Century girl with a black boyfriend).

Also, in those two episodes, the show features Rose’s Mum and boyfriend, Mickey (who the Doctor takes an immediate dislike for, calling him Ricky and other names). Camillie Coduri as Jackie Tyler is annoying shrew of Mother who appears to not have her daughters best interest at heart - at least at first. Noel Clarke suffers the same fate, as he appears to be the buffoon the Doctor seems to think Mickey is.

But, it is a testament to Davies, as both come into their own as the season progresses. Atypical of the old series, this first season features many of the adventures on Earth or close by. The arc of the season is Rose traveling with the Doctor, and reactions of her very dedicated mother and boyfriend. Jackie Tyler becomes three-dimensional and Coduri settles in nicely. Noel Clarke easily shakes off the "silly" boyfriend and grows to understand that he really loves Rose (like her mother) but sees that she needs to do what she needs to do. Only do we in Boom Town how important Micky has become and his admittance that he’ll wait for Rose, no matter how long she decides to stay with the Doctor.

Then there’s John Barrowman. Introduced in The Empty Child, this Glasgow born actor who was raised in Joliet Illinois -my old home state - shines as 51st Century Time Agent Captain Jack Harkness. His squared jawed gee wiz attitude makes him a perfect foil for both Rose and the Doctor. And, for the first time in the Who universe, he plays a guy who likes both girls and boys, and doesn’t care that anyone thinks. Only Davies -who is gay - could create a great character as Harkness and only could Barrowman -who is also openly gay - bring such a gregarious character to life without tipping the scale into campiness and other gay stereotypes. Barrowman almost steals every scene he’s in and is close to outshining Rose (which may be the reason he’ll be taking the Jack Harkness character to his own show, as the spin-off Torchwood {an anagram of Doctor Who} will launch in the fall of 2006. I can’t help but wonder if an American TV executive would be brave enough to launch a new sci/fi adventure series featuring an openly gay actor in the lead?).

Emotional, fast, very funny and way ahead of the classic series, this new version clearly shows what a true fan can do when given the chance. While granted Davies has a proven track record, his love of Doctor Who shines through in every episode. He knows what he’s doing and its clear that the BBC understand this, by clearly giving him latitude to do it.

So, while I was not "enthused" so much with the first two episodes, the remaining 11 shattered all my doubts. I mean, anyone that can make the Daleks scary again deserves a fair chance. While improved visual effects have made the Daleks more maneuverable and real, it still comes down to the scripts.

Fantastic, as the Doctor number nine says often. Brilliant also.

Coming soon: Episode reviews.

15 February 2006

Books of 2006, Part 2: Cell


by Stephen King

While not as bold and original as The Stand, King's return to the "end of the world" genre is still worth a read. As a long time fan, King has rarely disappointed me and Cell works on many creepy levels and from now on I will never look at my mobile phone in the same way.

While he said he wanted to retire, my guess is now that King meant retiring just from the many connections his novels were to the Dark Tower Universe. Free from that, I'm guessing he'll put out a book or two a year (whill have a new one out in October).

And then there's his articles in Entertainment Weekly, which are always interesting.

05 February 2006

A Hidden Frontier Weekend

So, the weekend turned out better than I ever thought.

Spent all of Saturday at the first(?) official Star Trek: Hidden Frontier Convention. Not that it could really be called that, but still, for lack of a better term...

Anyway, got to meet some of the people that put this fan created web series together, and while I was not surprised on how many people showed up (Star Trek fans are like bees in search of nectar; they know damn well where to find it), it still seemed a bit strange to see people gathering in this small room at the Four Points Hotel.

It was a joy to meet the adorable J.T. Tepnapa and Adam Browne. John Whiting, who is a delight to talk to and who has a great wit and sparkle in his eye was someone I would've not missed. Then there is the equally adorable Rob Caves -the mastermind behind this series, and the beautiful women of HF, Risha Denny, Jennifer Cole, Barbara Clifford, Julie Gardner, Renee Huberstock and Rebecca Wood.

Then there was the very TALL David Dial, Commodore Ian Quincy Knapp himself. God, it was a blast.

Then, Rob asked the fans to drop by on Sunday as filming continues on the first episode of season seven. It was even cooler than Saturday, as we all got to see how these actors became the characters on HF.

Seeing how John and Adam put the make-up on Julie and Rebecca and seeing how all of this is done in front of a green screen, well, I was impressed.

Plus, I got to meet some new friends (beyond, I hope, the HF crew), like Dale, Tommy and Thomas (the mastermind behind Saturday's Excelsior Ball), Will and Matt.

Live strong, indeed.

01 February 2006

Million Little Pieces author admits (in not so many words) that he lied. Adds new Author note to the book.

Despite recent revelations that Million Little Pieces author James Frey fabricated much of his addiction recovery “memoir”, the book continues to sell on both the brick and mortar level, as well as in the e-universe.

Which just goes to show you how Americans are still gullible lemmings, coming to the my book store like zombies from a George Romero film and plunking down their credit cards and purchasing the tome under the misguided notion that the “central message” of his recovery from drug and alcohol abuse is worth buying the book.

While that may be true, he still lied, which is what an alcoholic is: a master magician, conjuring stories to hide their prevarications. He has written a three page addendum to his book (and which was posted on Random House’s website) that will be added in subsequent reprints of the “memoir”.

As I wrote earlier, he now admits that the narrative flow was more important than journalistic truth. His lies included the invention of a three-month jail term, exaggerated other run-ins with law officials and distorted his role in a train crash that killed a high school classmate. He also acknowledges making himself appear “tougher and more daring and more aggressive than in reality I was, or I am.”

The book was shopped to publishers as both a fiction title and a memoir, but his literary agent, Kassie Evashevski, has said there was only brief discussion of shopping the book as fiction, out of respect for his family's privacy. But even as it was published in 2003, there were rumors that much of what Frey wrote was fiction.

In the new Authors Note, Frey defends his decision about how he wrote about his recovery, covering, saying “People cope with adversity in many different ways, ways that are deeply personal. My mistake, and it is one I deeply regret, is writing about the person I created in my mind to help me cope, and not the person who went through the experience.”

He also mentions that while he used medical records, therapists' notes and personal journals, he decided to use his memory in writing his tale. This should’ve been the publisher’s first indication that maybe what Frey was writing was coming from a fuzzy, drug addled recollections.

Like Mary Karr -author of two memoirs (The Liars Club and Cherry) - and one of his toughest critics, says that while “He keeps saying there's a great debate about fact and fiction in memoirs, but the only debate is in his mind. It's not really that hard; you just don't make stuff up.”