CBS Networks’ progression of the day indicated the breathe of material but also the specific detail intonated in each of their respective programs. This becomes more apparent even as the network found the balance between purely broadcast and All Access, which is quickly gaining traction as the place to watch new genre series (as the newly announced “Twilight Zone” spearheaded by Jordan Peele attests).
The World’s Best The reality genre, specifically the idea of what this consists of, has considerably changed over the years. Mike Darnell, who produces this new “variety show” on CBS per se has led the way. Currently as President Of Alternative Programming at Warner Brothers Television, he understands the way things work. The idea here was finding acts that had not been seen before that don’t necessarily need to be “found” to guarantee their success. He explains how he approached this show: “Sometimes we say it was expensive and you can see it on the show. [But] CBS stepped up to make it big. The sale of the show was based on a built concept. When I was working at Fox and we did ‘Idol’, a lot of singing shows came along. [With] “The Voice”, [we] took the singing show and added a game show element. Here we have was spinning chairs [but also add] the aspect of the “Will of the World”. This adds a global feel of selling it, making it fresh and new.” Darnell continues: “There are so many singing shows. There has been only one variety show. While ‘America’s Got Talent’ is the best in the world, the format has got to change.” Executive Producer Alison Holloway, who has also worked on “America’s Got Talent”, had to find those acts that were perhaps a little harder to uncover: “I have a small casting team because it is very hands on. The Internet is a great tool for casting. That is where a lot of work is done. But talking to your contacts…seeing what the local papers in China are talking about…[that is how] we want to get something [that] is a little different.” Darnell also explains the changing directive of what alternative programming means: “Alternative covers this wide umbrella of variety. Other genres are fairly well defined. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard in my career that reality is dying. [But] the networks rely on them, especially for same day numbers, which is important for advertising.” Ru Paul Jones, one of the judges on the show, concludes with a perception of the talent: “In our lifetime, we have had a lot of things happen. These [acts we see] are people who have spent their lives perfecting what they do. [As judges] we weren’t prepared for the emotional journey and the expertise.”
Red Line This new dramatic/event series uses the texture of the Red Line which is a force in terms of geography that both connects and separates Chicago’s different sides, both financially and racially as a train system. The two show runners come from independent cinema with their film “A View From Tall” playing the Los Angeles Film Festival. Their play “A Twist Of Water”, which played Off Broadway was actually the inspiration for the show. Caitlin Parrish, one of the show runners, explains their trajectory: “We come from theater but with a cast this sprawling there was something enticing about the longer form. The red line is one of the main lines in the city from the very north to the very south. For as segregated as Chicago is, this touches upon every person in the city. It was our metaphor of choice.” Her co-showrunner Erica Weiss continues: “I think Chicago has a lot to say in the national communication. We did our research to make sure we are giving the fullest picture possible. The socio-politcal element in Chicago is rich and we’re telling stories about characters and their personal choices.” Noah Wyle, who plays Daniel Calder, wanted to try something perhaps more grounded than his recent roles like “The Librarian”: “The emotional reaction I had to the first reading of this script was so intense. It was about leaving a lot of my creature comforts as far as wearing hats and doing it differently on every single level.”
The Neighborhood In the first of quick freshman show highlights, this show moves forward in a structure like a reverse “All In The Family” where it is more based in a white family moving into a black neighborhood. Show runner Jim Reynolds, who has written for such shows as “Samantha Who?” and “The Big Bang Theory” offers his perception: “I don’t think the show is written from a black perspective. I think it is balanced. It is based on my experience of moving into a predominantly African American neighborhood.” Cedric The Entertainer who plays Calvin talks about the show: “Calvin is the patriarch of the neighborhood. This is where the character is rooted, where he is grounded. In a lot of ways, ‘All In The Family’ was set up where that character has the biggest perspective to have the greatest change. [For me] it was trying to get across a point of view. Luckily the way I have discovered Calvin in his hubris and how he discovers who he is is endless. [But] no one wants to see [the two sides] bicker or him being mean. It is about that line.” Tichina Arnold, who also starred on “Martin”, explains the balance: “Racism comes from fear, the fear of unknowing. I think that it is important that this conversation does happen. When two households get together and have conversation, they learn from each other.”
FBI From Dick Wolf, creator of “Law & Order” and the “Chicago” franchise, this look into the Bureau is built to be a launching board for a whole new world of spin-offs. Missy Peregrym, who recently guested on “Hawaii Five O”, takes up the lead as Special Agent Maggie Bell. She explains the balance and challenge in creating a new character in this world: “The first season is really tricky [as far as] developing the dynamics. It is a grind but it is such a win when it works. Z (her co-star Zeeko Zaki) and I have had a lot of conversations as to how that works. We’re not making a judgement about what is happening.” Zaki portrays her partner, Special Agent Omar Odom. “I was surprised at how a lot of pieces that are not FBI are within the family. It is such a bigger thing without egos,” he explains. “They shoot these episodes really big to make them as big and intense as reality. That is the goal of the show. [And we are] doing 22 [episodes]. I am not sure it is normal.” Peregrym also discusses her trajectory in the law enforcement genre as she started with the ABC show “Rookie Blue”: “I was a rookie and I had to go through every mistake and embody it. [With] every single person here I interview [here for my role]…I really want to listen and give them the respect of being a human being no matter what the situation is. I had to really grow up to do this.”
God Friended Me This other new freshman series has a unique perspective in its use of social media but with an intriguing religious balance (which brings to mind the defunct 2018 series “Living Biblically” which was covered at CBS TCAs last year in addition to an exclusive one-on-one with Ian Gomez ). But the texture is always timing within the zeitgeist. Brandon Michael Hall, who previously was the lead on ABC’s “The Mayor”, plays Miles who gets a text from God. His approach to the material is the essence of creating “a deep and honest friendship” within the show. Bryan Wynbrandt, the show runner, who also co-created “Alcatraz” with JJ Abrams explains: “We haven’t put any restrictions on topics. The show is no really about religion but rather humanity [because] religion is just one aspect of being a human being. Nothing is really off limits but we don’t let religion drive the show.”
With CBS All Access, CBS has begun to engage a new audience with originals shows that occupies even a different space than CW and Showtime, thereby ensuring its uniqueness.
The Good Fight This spin-off of “The Good Wife” starring Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart allows the acidic wit to simply wash with delicious aplomb over the audience. Robert & Michelle King, who also created “The Good Wife” as well as the short lived “Brain Dead” starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, looked to find the right tone as they molded the show. Robert explains: “What you try to do is stay as close to the zeitgeist as possible. We are not real fans of shows that preach to the choir.” He continues that in creating story lines “a lot of it is about a satire to the left.” Baranski talks about how her character continues to build: “It is quite serendipitous is that [my character] was emboldened by what happened in history (Trump being elected instead of Clinton).” As a result, she explains, “it is a show with a lot of people dealing with what is going on. [Diane] was always the woman in the room when it happens [but she is] trying to keep her balance in a dystopian world…[which is] inspired for me.
Star Trek: Discovery Heading into its second season, this flagship show for CBS All Access does have to walk the line between new storytelling and the aspect of canon. With Alex Kurtzman taking full helm of showrunning duties this season along with the new cast fodder in Anson Mount as Captain Pike and Ethan Peck as Spock, the texture of how it all fits together still continues as a puzzle. Kurtzman explains: “We see canon as an amazing opportunity. There is amazing grey area where we didn’t know what happened to Spock in his life. [But] we certainly know that in order for ‘Discovery’ to live on, we have to be able to operate outside of canon. The common denominator among the cast is that they are empathetic [But from what you are seeing] these are the proto versions [of these characters]. Mount speaks to taking on a character straight out of canon: “Ethan had a tougher job that I did. Obviously it is an enormous sense of responsibility. I grew up with Kirk as my captain. [But] my favorite character was Data.” Ethan Peck, grandson of Gregory Peck has the undeniable pressure of taking on the iconic character of Spock: “It is a huge responsibility [but] I had the faith of people. I spent a lot of time of Nimoy’s performance. [This space in canon” exists] 3 years after the TOS pilot “The Cage”. Finally Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays the lead Michael Burnham, (whom IR has interviewed for both Season 1 and Season 2), knows that the character is still evolving in many ways: “The guilt is going to take a long time [for her] to process and set aside. It is a big part of the overall feeling that needs to happen [for her]. There is a deep desire to rewrite history to make up for these major mistakes. [For Michael], reinstatement into Starfleet is a big step forward. There is a lot of healing on Discovery…[and] a journey towards restoration.”
By Tim Wassberg
CinemaCon, like its namesake Showest before it, has always been about exciting the theater owners with new technology and product meant to get them pumped for their direct connection to the customer. While the textures of this year from “Life Of Pi” to “Skyfall” provided some interesting visions, none was more discussed or contested like the footage that Peter Jackson showed of “The Hobbit”, shot at 48fps, which only a year or so after the acceptance of 3D and the near conversion to full digital, takes the string up one more notch. It is all about what you show.
Paramount Heading into summer, Paramount opened the con by honoring Dwayne Johnson with the “Action Star Of The Decade Award” with studio head Rob Moore calling him “franchise viagra”. Johnson, with his textbook charm along with director John Chu, best known for the”Step Up” films, introduced a dexterous element of scenes from the film which both showed humor and drama. Next, Tom Cruise, in a taped greeting from the set of “Oblivion” [directed by Joe Kosinski] in Baton Rouge, spoke before showing scenes from “Jack Reacher” directed by Christopher McQuarrie whose last helming outing was “Way Of The Gun”. Two scenes adapted from the graphic novel distinctified “tone” which Cruise mentioned in his opening remarks. Rob Moore then turned the stage over to Jeffrey Katzenberg who, after a great year with “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Puss In Boots”, brought “Madagascar 3” and “The Guardians”. The third entry into the “Madagascar” franchise showed almost 15 minutes of the opening optimizing new animation techniques since the last one in the series with Chris Rock coming on stage saying that it was the best so far adding that some parts were “trippy” which reflected in a circus montage. “The Guardians” based on a children’s book is a completely different animal using “myth” and “belief” to approach its subject matter with an edge and texture. Chris Pine who leads the cast as the voice of “Jack Frost” spoke about the key in the character to finding “the center”. Interestingly, the whole time he was speaking, all of his remarks also applies everything he sees in this character to James Kirk for which he is currently shooting the sequel to “Star Trek” as. The ending of the presentation did not disappoint with Sascha Baron Cohen making his second public appearance as “The Dictator” complete with girls and soldiers in tow and walking through the crowd. After throwing some zingers on stage as is his MO, Cohen as the character angled out Katzenberg as the other “dictator” in the room before announcing (which most thought as a joke) that the film would be screening at 11pm up the Strip and that it was not a threat before he exited with great fanfare as Katzenberg kissed his ring.
Warner Brothers The texture of Warner Brothers relies in being able to follow up the powerhouse of Harry Potter. While the arrival of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp to introduce an extended trailer of “Dark Shadows”, it was Christopher Nolan talking about shooting almost a 1/3 of his “Dark Knight Rises” in IMAX that offered a stemming view of a brooding dark conclusion so much so that Adam Shankman who showed an extended trailer of “Rock Of Ages” including the first bit of Tom Cruise singing threw a “you fucker” line at Nolan because of how unbelievable bad ass it was. Director Jay Roach then talked about the balance of political “broo-haha” in regards to his new film:”The Campaign” starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. However it was moving into fall that offered the most interesting view with the first glimpse of footage from Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” in 3D which Luhrmann explained in a taped message from Australia allows you to see the actors shine without any visual effects. Lastly, Peter Jackson introduced in 3D from New Zealand, the first footage of 48 frames per second from “The Hobbit”. Like seeing “Avatar” for the first time, it takes some getting used to because it is a completely different movie experience in terms of perception with Jackson showing distribs around 10 minutes of footage. One piece in particular showing Gollum’s face very close to camera shows the distinctiveness of this frame rate as do flying shots (like those seen in the original trilogy). Another one very specific to the changing viewpoint of the immersion of the technology is when Gandalf is alone in the catacombs. The depth of the shot makes you think you are actually there though the process does retain an almost HD camera quality in terms of perspective which is rather hard to describe.
Disney Balancing out with the texture of brand specifications from Warner, the Mouse House used the cross structure promotion with Marvel, Pixar and Dreamworks to fuel the fire. Marvel presented a short clip from “The Avengers” intermixing Iron Man, Thor and Captain America with bone-crunching sound followed directly with the announcement of Thor II and Captain America II before Marvel President Kevin Feige showed a small clip leading to the production of Iron Man III which begins production in North Carolina later in the month. Progressing into Dreamworks, the aspect of “People Like Us” starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks (and directed by Alex Kurtzman of “Star Trek” and “Fringe” frame) capitalizes on the studio’s penchant for more novel based forms. “Lincoln” which makes its distribution stateside through Fox, was also mentioned, without texture of a trailer likely to be seen at Fox’s Presentation two days later. Disney Pictures itself started quietly with sleeper quality textures of the stop motion film “Frankenweenie” directed by Tim Burton which does contain odes to Brad Bird’s “Family Dog” episode of “Amazing Stories” and definitely suburban angles of “Edward Scissorhands”. “The Odd Life Of Timothy Green” starring Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton seems more reminiscent of Disney fantasy/morality films of the 70s like “Pete’s Dragon” depending on the tone of the eventual picture. “The Wonderful World Of Oz”, which just completed filming just a couple weeks ago, boasts a great pedigree in director Sam Raimi re-teaming with his “Spiderman” villain James Franco as the titular character here. The story details unearthed by the director speak to an interesting betrayal in the story of sorts centering around Mila Kunis’ character which fuels the intentions of what happens in the world. The footage shown dictates a mixture of sets, which producer Joe Roth identified as Detroit, as well as some interestingly created background CG mattes which might or might not be the final textures. Conversely, Jerry Bruckheimer was brought out by current live action film prexy Sean Bailey after a short live stage bit about Kermit wanting to be the Lone Ranger and Miss Piggy wanting to be the Good Witch in Oz. Entertaining for sure. Bruckheimer spoke of them shooting in Arizona with Johnny Depp coming out and speaking as well. Depp made reference to that fact that “I just saw a frog and pig out here. Did anybody else see that?” When asked about Tonto, Depp deferred in a show of modesty saying, kindly, that he wants the theater owners to see it when it is done. With no footage to speak of for the title with the exception of a photo, details are still scarce. John Lasseter, head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, came out next to discuss his slate. “Wreck It Ralph” is a non-Pixar film which is interesting in its own right following a bad guy in an 8-bit video game stuck in an arcade. Lasseter spent a good ten minutes setting up the premise and characters before showing the first ten minutes of the film. John C. Reilly, who spoke about trying to improvise during the recordings with sometimes co-star Sarah Silverman, gives a definite heart to the character. A specific “bad guys anonymous” scene represents this with a dexterity and tongue-in-cheek element replete with visual gag cues. Representing beyond and speaking into the Pixar mode, the announcements in terms of new structures (beyond “Monster University”) border on more esoteric which might be undeniably groundbreaking with one being “The Last Dinosaur” with only a silhouette of a brachiosaurus present and another one that can be encapsulated as “Journey Into The Mind” but probably not in the “Fantastic Voyage” way. Finally, as a perspective of a film which has been interestingly placed without any real knowledge of it, Lasseter unspooled nearly a half-hour of “Brave” which follows the exploits of a tomboyish princess in the highlands of Scotland. While interesting echoes of Robin Hood play through especially when the heroes take disguise, what does seem to ring through. which was not prevalent before as much in the other Pixar movies (because this is inherently a human world), is the reactions of the animals and others in a more realistic way which was a hallmark of say “Beauty & The Beast”. It shows how the feature animation side of Disney is being impacted by Lasseter. While not at the full potential of Disney because of responsibility to the shareholders, he is pushing the bar in subtle ways as he can.
Filmmaker Forum: Martin Scorsese & Ang Lee Whenever you get Martin Scorsese in the room, the perspective becomes one of a film class which is interesting when he is speaking to a roomful of theater owners. The impact of “The Hobbit” footage at 48fps had been ringing for about 24 hours and everybody had an opinion on it, both good and bad. This forum was more about 3D with Scorsese’s “Hugo” pushing the barrier last year in terms of serious filmmakers from a dramatic point of view. Ang Lee, mostly known for his more direct non-genre dramas (but Oscar-winning fare) recently immersed himself in 3D for his Christmas release “Life Of Pi” which many said to be “unfilmable” (and for good perspective reason). While it is interesting to see these men discuss the virtues of this medium, it almost feels like they are behind the ball because the technology is moving so fast. Before the discussion began, a sample of 120fps technology was shown. The eye cannot see, for what is being said, beyond 60fps. The footage here was more smooth gliding elements but the separation dictates the depth. This is one thing that did interact in terms of the Scorsese/Lee discussion because lighting becomes even more of an important structure which Lee said drove him mad in certain respects on “Pi”. Scorsese reflects that the I/O, which determines depth in 3D, was something he and his cinematographer Robert Richardson constantly toiled with on “Hugo”. He however said it was one shot when Sascha Baron Cohen is staring down into the camera with his dog in forced perspective that gave him chills because it showed what the technology was capable of doing. Lee, still in the midst of figuring everything out on his movie, spoke on the essence of using water since a lot of his movie takes place in the ocean. The Taiwanese government ended up building him a massive tank but the camera was the first to use a housing to shoot 3D actually underwater. Neither had seen “The Hobbit” footage so they could not comment though Scorsese seemed visibly intrigued at everyone’s reaction. He compared it to a movie he showed to his daughter, her school friends and some of their mothers at his home in New York recently. It was from back in the 30s where the aspect ratio and the color changes during the film (much like “Wizard Of Oz” in some respects). People, he said, spoke the same way about color. It is just something that will eventually, after growth spurts, become a mainstay. 3D took a little longer but eventually is having its day.
Sony While franchises seem to pile on with respect to the Sony brand, the intention seems to reflect that bigger is better quality. While “MIB 3” and “Total Recall” showed extended structures in 2D, it is interesting to perceive their eventual release.The time travel perspective of Men In Black does not quite have its plot direction set in the footage shown but the humor, as always, plays dry and loose with Josh Brolin doing a spot on impression that you would almost think that Tommy Lee Jones is doing the voice over. “Total Recall” oddly enough recreates an almost deja-vu situation because the set ups in terms of plot device to the original are eerily similar with a swig of “The Fifth Element” thrown into the mix. The world is intense and Kate Beckinsale, melding a character that mixes Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside from the original, is bad-ass especially in an extended foot chase sequence that just screamed with adrenalin yet felt wholly original. The intention of what Douglas Quaid is being accused of here is played a little more than conjecture. “That’s My Boy” looks to bring Adam Sandler back to full resolution after the misfire that was “Jack & Jill” but the man experiments with comedy (albeit more low brow) much like Will Ferrell but with more success on an ongoing basis. This is an R-rated romp that has textures of “Little Nicky” but with more curse words and breasts. Sort of like Billy Madison grown up. It looks hilarious because Sandler’s character can go nuts because Andy Sandberg takes on Adam’s usual role with aplomb. It should kill for sure. And as the announcements proved, “Grown Ups 2” is around the corner a summer from now. “The Amazing Spiderman” also seems to be trying to find its footing. The hardest thing in rebooting the franchise is selecting the right tone and space within which to set it. The humor and action shown here is seeking a balance for sure and the scale surely feels much bigger than the last franchise. Andrew Garfield’s approach is more aloof at times though Emma Stone stabilizes the structure. Denis Leary as the police captain who sees Spiderman as a threat will bring some added tension and the more comprehensive view of Lizard Man promises interesting feelings but it all contains relevance in heart depending on the end product. “Resident Evil: Retribution” shows Paul W.S. Anderson pushing the 3D ideals but the mythology is getting extremely deep. However as long as Milla Jovovich can wield a sword and guns with fire blazing behind her (with extended I/O mind you) people will flock. The final perception allowed was a first look at the Bond film “Skyfall” directed by Sam Mendes. The teaser is dark with overcast skies and dark rooms. It seems almost built like a brainwash sequence. The music is rumbling and has tendencies of foreboding much like “Road To Perdition” which gave chills. Granted it gives no perspective of overall story but the tone indicated feels much like “The Dark Knight Rises”: a dark humor that mixes with tragedy.
20th Century Fox With two summer films that hang on the precipice with different elements at stake, the ideas are humming. With “Prometheus” and a bang up viral campaign, director Ridley Scott seems to know what he is doing. The extended trailer showing the landing sequence onto the planet in its full glory has a dexterity and industrial feeling that only Scott can do. “Alien” DNA plays heavily into the trailer from the ship to the Space Jockey. The blood letting definitely paints it well. It looks phenomenal on the big screen. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” I have been interacting with over the past couple months. It is a near idea that is perched between real life and genre which is always a hard sell. Director Timor Bekmambetov has the chops to make it happen and the new footage plays to more the historical basis and less of the acrobatics which may be a conscious decision. “Neighborhood Watch” is another interesting amalgamation with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill moving into an alien invasion hybrid comedy where they become defenders of their community, swilling beer and taking no bullshit. It is interesting but the line being walked is a tightrope. The final perception to be mentioned on Fox’s upcoming slate is “Life Of Pi”, Ang Lee’s 3D epic to be released at Christmas. Lee showed one sequence and one scene from the film to show what he is trying to do. What comes across for sure is a necessity to use 3D as a storytelling mechanism of immersion. The sequence involves the marooning of the lead character on the ocean and the sinking of the freighter he is traveling on. At first it seems almost simple but the single long takes show a deeper thought at work. Like “Titanic” in a way but more intimate, Lee’s camera follows the actor (picked from a worldwide casting search) underwater trying to save his family who is trapped in the water below deck. The 3D camera picks up the bubbles which gives a much more real feel. Pi, the lead character, ends up on a life raft which a zebra (there are a lot of animals on the ship) jumps onto. The perspective of that and then a Bengal tiger (an integral part of the story) jumping on as well while rain is pouring down, makes on realize that there is a lot of stuff going on technically here. One of the most beautiful shots comes around this point where you can see the sinking ship lingering below Pi in an overhead shot with its lights still on. He disappears below the surface and you get a sense of scale. When 3D starts to be used for this kind of thing (which Cameron embraces as well) is when you will get some killer stuff. The other scene Lee showed is very reminiscent of “Old Man & The Sea”. You can tell at a point it is in a studio stage while Pi and The Tiger fight over their food of flying fish along with tuna that sail into the boat. It has that aspect of Anthony Quinn and the primal fight. The tiger (which is probably CG but it is so seamless as not to be believed) blows Aslan from “Narnia” out of the water with its reality.
CinemaCon, showing new advances, continues to challenge theater owners and, by extension, audiences by trying to keep up with changing technology and rights conversion which, while exciting, always seems to come with a bit of apprehension but ultimately interest.
HIn structure of its new season, CBS understands its structure of comedy, both new and proven with the high performing “Big Bang Theory” but also freshman entries like “Mike & Molly” and “S%&t My Dad Says”. However, in parallel, the network is also embracing sleek hour long programming to structure balancing the high octane elements of “Hawaii Five-O” with the characters drama of “Blue Bloods” starring perennial Tom Selleck.
The Big Bang Theory Entering into a fourth season, the idea becomes to not become complacent in the character structure but also being aware of how finite the experience can be. The chemistry and timing of this series much like “Cheers” or “Night Court” funnels the show from not taking itself too seriously.
Chuck Lorre, the creator of the show, says its inception was a very tortuous path because the writer’s strike abbreviated the first season. With the current coming season, it will be their 4th move in just as many years which, given their success after three seasons, doesn’t worry him too much. His perception is that “our job is to make a good show” insisting that “we grow the crops but we don’t bring them to market”. In terms of Penny & Leonard, he said it was always built-in that they would have a difficult relationship but like the audience, the bond is “fragile”. In terms of writing, you can’t think completely in terms of a season because “there are too many choices”. One specific example is Sheldon’s speeches which are meant to allow a view inside his head. The irony and realization now coming forth is that Penny is domesticating Sheldon which they discovered as they went along since the characters are so monumentally different. The one aspect that remains true is that Leonard’s affection for Sheldon is unspoken which exec producer Bill Prady mirrors saying that what anchors the show is that Leonard is “the center between two worlds” as “he is the character mostly in motion”.
Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny, follows up this up saying that “none of us really knows what’s going on”. In terms of contract negotiations for the coming seasons, she jokes that she “would do next season for free”. The reaction from the fans makes her “extremely touched” which the boys jump on her for. The relationship with Leonard and its falling out last season she calls “super realistic” which Johnny Galecki mirrors acknowledging his character is the most normal but “doesn’t have the navigation tools” to excel. Cuoco admits that Penny and Sheldon have a special relationship in that they now respect each other.
Jim Parsons, who plays series favorite Sheldon, says that the ideas for his character play simplistic but there are variations and, within that, it is interesting to find the rhythm. He resolutely agrees that their “fan base is distinctive” calling their most recent Comic Con, which they will always attend, a “pep rally”. For him it is always easier when they get to show night where the speeches become “a surprisingly non-thought process” though he admits that “rock/paper/lizard/spock” was never easy.
Simon Helberg, who plays Walowitz, jokes when Kunal Nayymar (also known as “Raj”) mentions the influx of Indian proliferation in Hollywood that “someday Jews will make their mark in show business”. With the love relationship last season which built then faltered (though Lorre says that the love interest is coming back), Simon says that “it’s nice to cut through the sleaze a little bit and get to the character” insisting that there is “a bleeding heart underneath” Walowitz’s charming exterior. His belief is to not ask questions but when pushed about the bromance between Walowitz and Raj, he says that “they love each other” to which Kanal say “non-sexually…mostly”.
After the presentation, discussing finer character points with Johnny Galecki who plays Leonard, he admits these kind of events make him nervous which is probably why he can seem “too-cool-for-school” onstage when it is simply about maintaining face. While the rest of the cast seems to ham it up he reflects that he just loves playing in the character in that he wants people to see the tenderness of Leonard and not the actor behind it. This, in effect, is the hardest job on the show compared to a more showy role like Parsons’ Sheldon. The chemistry of the characters come from the pure basis of the idea but he admits that their evolution is a slow burn that might go on for many years. He understands that he is the view through which people structure their perception of what happens in the show. This is especially true in that he doesn’t wear glasses but yet he has them perched above his brow as we are talking. Galecki is a very thoughtful person which definitely needs to be brought to bear and will be interesting to see perhaps a darker tread in the series to see how it evolves.
Mike & Molly This new series again from the prospect of Chuck Lorre uses the structure again of off-set social groups to motivate comedy from all structures. Since this series follows two overweight people falling in love it provides a more standard structure that allowed “King Of Queens” to flourish.
Chuck Lorre admits doing the pilot was really fun and they are just starting to move on the series with Jim Burrows doing a majority if not all of the directing. In terms of handling his three shows (2 1/2 Men, Big Bang and this one), Lorre says that he is balancing all of this poorly but that it is mostly terrifying. With 2 1/2, it might seem like it is on autopilot but all those scripts need to be written at top level. With “Mike & Molly”, he hopes the humor comes off as “self deprecating with affection”. In terms of success, he says “I felt for a long time that all shows are fundamentally family shows” using examples such as “Cheers” and “Taxi” as primaries adding that both those shows also had “alot of characters and intricacies”.
Mark Roberts who co-created the show with Lorre, says that they talked very early on of comparisons to “Marty”. Mark had been thinking more within the context of two cops in a car show structured within a relationship comedy. The Overeaters Anonymous angle, he admits, was Chuck’s idea.
Billy Gardell, a working stand-up comic, who plays Mike, comes out of the gate with the joke that “my wife is little and I’ve done a little better than I should have”. He goes on to say “everybody has a different tick…mine just happens to be pizza”. In terms of character structure in reference to overeating, he reflects with the idea that “when you don’t deal with emotion, you push it down with a piece of cake”. Ultimately though, for him, the series is a love story adding that he is “humbled, to be at my age and weight in Hollywood” adding that “I got the Willy Wonka ticket”. The press tour is the part, like Galecki, that makes him nervous. Billy admits that he is 40 and that he has been a road comic for 20 years. He is just happy not to be at the Holiday Inn. His point with the concept: “We’re fat…the show’s funny!” adding “What else is there to say?” In terms of what idealism in stand up comedy he brings to the show, Billy says that “I had alot more dysfunction to pull on than just me and weight” explaining that he used “a sense of humor as a defense mechanism” most of his life.
Melissa McCarthy, who plays Molly, adds to Billy’s perception saying “anytime you see a broad spectrum, it is good”. The show, for her too, is not about weight but more about a “lovely relationship, both with Billy and with the family”
After the discussion, getting into finer elements with Billy, he says he is wonderfully content with not “having to play Chuck E. Cheese or the back of an Eckerd Drugs that has been converted into a nightclub”. In terms of the comedic basis, he says his biggest influences on the stage were Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Lately however with “The Honeymooners” all the way up to “Smokey & The Bandit”, it was Jackie Gleason saying “he had a gut but he was cool”. He also pays homage to John Candy whom he says “had a big heart”. Jim Burrows, best known for directing almost all of “Cheers”, is of particular help to Billy who says the seasoned professional “does little tweaks but let’s you know if you’re doing something wrong”. When he first came in for the audition. the concept was still functioning as the buddy cop show. With Lorre’s track record, he said he knew best “not to tell these guys anything”. But being on the stand-up stage is different than being able to do a retake in a taping though “if it doesn’t work, nothing can save you”. In retrospect, he said, he wouldn’t have been ready for this kind of breakthrough in his 20s but always thought he would get the wingman part and not the lead, since right now “thinner guys always get the chicks”. He quietly tells us of one of the first episodes, which he seems very excited about, which is about getting ready for the first date which might hit all the right notes.
The Talk In creating competition programming against ABC’s “The View”, the key is to have a more specific parlay in terms of approachability. With “The Talk” the focus more is around the maternal progression hoping to further capture that thought process with a rather diversified panel.
Sara Gilbert, who brought the project together, said it all came from a new perception. She was a new mom with her partner Allie and went to a group to gain perspective and found a great synergy. Even though she has been acting her whole life with recent stints on “The Big Bang Theory”, this will be the first time “I will be discussing my life”. Being able to talk about one’s relationship is key and she makes the point that “Allie is much taller than I am” and “clothes always look better on her”. She is hoping with her widely varying co-hosts that during their discussions that “it will be alright to interrupt” and long as they don’t “stampede”.
Leah Remini, who co-starred with Kevin James on the hit TV show “King Of Queens”, defends her point of view saying that “sometimes I am very unlikable as a person” but that “anything that comes out of my mouth is who I am”. She jokes that “there is the fear that I could be hated [on air] but I’m hated at home”. The fact, she relates, is that all the hosts on the show are moms that “have trials and tribulations we all go through”. She jokingly admits that “Sara is a better mom” in that “she feeds her kids”. As far as her perception on her relationship with her other half, he says that the most annoying aspect is that what he wants for the holidays or the like is always sex. Ultimately she says, she guesses that it’s good he still wants sex from her. She hopes that in this format she can help by letting women hear a story that makes them laugh.
Sharon Osbourne, well known as businesswoman, wife and mother, says that husband Ozzy probably doesn’t even know she is doing this show calling him “the perfect partner”. While she considers her views very liberal when it comes to kids she ironically is “very conservative” because “there is a fine line you have to take”. Regarding her exacting opinions, she makes the point that “I am not running for mayor” or “looking for votes” but “if people like it, fair enough”.
Julie Chen, rounding out the extension of the pack and who will be taking an abbreviated turn on “The Early Show”, explained her decision to join signifying that “I have a ten-month-old at home and I thought it would be a perfect match” but she could not serve as co-anchor for the morning as well, a feat impossible even for “The Chen-Bot” as she calls herself.
Hawaii Five-0 Reinventing a show with different dynamics and bringing it full throttle into the new century requires a bit of mirth and luck to play the game. Fortunately with a showrunner adept at reboots (Alex Kurtzman with “Star Trek”) and a diversified cast including Alex O’Loughlin (“Moonlight”), Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost”), Grace Park (“Battlestar Galactica”) and movie vet Scott Caan who make his first starring role to TV, the pedigree is high.
Alex Kurtzman, the show runner also responsible for “Fringe”, says in rebooting the series that “it was about keeping the quality level the same”. One of the first questions he said that people ask him in terms of this series is “Why now?” He said what convinced him was Peter Lenkov talking about watching the show with his father. That reflected his thought within the show of a take on family since a major progression is O’Louglin’s McGarrett returning to the island to face his past. Obviously because of “Lost” finishing its run, Hawaii he says has been “wildly receptive” in bringing the show back but says they “had to be sure it was reflected in the right way”. The key, like with “Star Trek”, was that “you have to find what that original experience was about” and then “remain true to the spirit”. It becomes for him “what am I going to keep and what am I going to reinvent?” One of the aspects that they could not change was the original theme song, even explaining that they brought back some of the original musicians.
Peter Lenkov, also an exec on the show, says that his initial progression was taking the cases from week to week as the original show did. The key, in retrospect, was that it had to be the two guys (McGarett and Danno) as the principles with the latter functioning more as a foil. All of the footage is original using their 2nd unit, even to the point where they have a cameraman solely with a Canon 5D picking up cool shots on the fly. They are shooting the office building for the department directly across from where the original 5-O shot but has since become a federal building. They are trying their best to keep the talent, in terms of casting featured extras and guest stars, as local even going so far as to attend acting workshops on the island. What is most interesting for him to portray within the series is that what makes McGarett and Danno is that “they make mistakes” because “we love flawed heroes”. In terms of other cast members, Park and Kim are shooting currently in Hawaii but Lenkov calls Daniel “the unofficial mayor of Waikiki” since he knows everyone there from “Lost”. The story lines, he says, will structure in placing the fact that, in a global arena, Hawaii is the first line of America’s defense in The Pacific especially when threats are being flung from North Korea. Lenkov continues that “there is such global stakes to that region in terms of storytelling” but even on the ground, he points out there are unique problems such as “ice”, meth and human smuggling which in his definition makes for “big crimes and international stakes”. He textures also some connections to the earlier show specificying that O’Loughlin’s McGarrett will be rebuilding his father’s old car.
Alex O’Loughlin, who assumes the role of McGarrett, says that he remembers alot of the original show when he was growing up. In comparison to his earlier series: “Moonlight” and “Three Rivers” which ended abruptly, he says he feels more confident in this progression explaining that there is a reason things work or don’t work. He has seen the pilot and admits “there is something about it”. He pays his homage to Jack Lord’s McGarett saying “I love his hair” and “he started Blue Steel”. His McGarrett, he sees as “stoic in alot of ways” as “a military guy”. The difference in this aspect between his character and that of Caan’s Danno are very apparent. The key for him, as far as a character at the end of the day, is that he has to deliver. On some of the other series, through whatever perceptions, he says “shades get cut” which is “not possible in human nature” because “the more flawed you can make it, the better”.
After dictating during the presentation that when he first read the pilot, he didn’t quite get if he would work, Scott Caan says his fears were quelled when he understood that it is about seeing Danno’s personality. In discussing this aspect one-on-one, he said it came down to the fact also that he didn’t want to leave Los Angeles (which has always been his home). However now he is happy that he did. He only came in for the press tour for 24 hours but says he is already wanting to get back to the set (which was less an aspect of the publicity machine but more that he has gotten to used to the rigors of a TV shooting schedule). Currently they are only one episode beyond the pilot but in future episodes, Caan’s character will reveal his ex-wife as well as kids. In responding about the humor, Caan resolutes that it will be there but more hard-edged. His perception is that on the show, they can do anything but say the F word. The bromance element is, of course, there but the aspect is figuring out what and how it works. In making the move to television, he said he simply committed himself to doing movies for so many years adding that he doesn’t watch network TV because it is “simply not his thing” though he does say he might be back on “Entourage” though he thinks that this might be its last season.
The Defenders This series follows a pair of lawyers in Las Vegas who make sure the motor’s running but aren’t necessarily sure who is driving at any specific point. With the texture of Jim Belushi and Jerry O’ Connell filling the core, the genre specifications allows from some dexterity of play.
Jim Belushi, broaching the character structure, says that the initial interviews he did with defense attorneys just showed him that they’re just guys. They just happen to be doing a job that sometimes some people don’t find savory. Many will represent murderers and gypsies. The characters that these specific guys are based from are the subject of a documentary of the same name made by The Gantz Brothers. What intrigued Belushi is that “these guys are good on the floor but morons with women”. Some of the stories that he has heard, especially when they were shooting in Vegas, push the limit. One he mentions is of a young robber who holds up a liquor store and gets the cash but then asks for some cigarettes. The owner won’t give them to him because the kid is obviously underage and the proprietor doesn’t want to be shut down. The biggest challenge for Belushi was the aspect of the hour-long episodic series. The words here are definitively set in stone for the most part while with sitcoms you are writing every day. What is funny, he says, are that alot of the static sets are in the same location as the ones for “According To Jim”. He says he has much love for the CBS Radford Lot in Studio City. They are on the same stage. He has his same dressing room. There are five sushi restaurants nearby. He is happy. He relates though that shooting the pilot mostly in Vegas was intense. In reference back to “According To Jim”, he says that he had a contract for 8 years. When the plug is pulled on any series, he agrees “those moments are shitty but you get through them” adding that “I got it down to 3 days of morning [when] it used to be six months”.
Jerry O’Connell mirrors his riffing co-star saying that when he saw that there was interest in terms of him doing the show, he went to Jim’s house to meet him. Belushi had been watching the original documentary on these Vegas lawyers with intense interest and after a couple drinks, Jim started acting out the part. O’Connell relays that the transition from docu to TV show is very disimilar in that it mainly only shares the title. He says though, from a professional standpoint, these guys they are playing are fascinating. He also talks about when he used to go with a bunch of friends to Vegas but expresses that now he goes with his wife [Rebecca Romijn] and “we shop”. He speaks of acting across from Belushi with his “Albanian dead eyes” which he calls “chilly on-set but very exciting”. In terms of shooting the pilot, O’Connell had an interesting reaction. The call time was 1am which meant they were shooting until 3pm. He had to buy the no-sleep pulls and “was worried that my performance looked like a crackhead”. He compared it to recently when he was going to law school at night at South Western. He says the reading for that degree was “more than anybody should have to do”.
Blue Bloods This new drama series from two of the executive producers behind “The Sopranos” follows the inherent intensity within a NY power family involved in every aspect of law enforcement from the Police Chief to lead detective to beat cop. Starring CBS maven Tom Selleck who made “Magnum P.I.” there, with Donnie Wahlberg starring as his son alongside Bridget Moynahan as his daughter who works with the D.A.’s office, the possibilities are rife with tension.
Mitchell Burgess, the first of the former “Sopranos” producers, calls the series “the melding of a family drama with a police show” highlighting that their big concern was “going against too small a world” while co-creator Robin Green dictates that it comes down to “the weight and gravity”. For years, on “The Sopranos”, he says they did the anti-hero angle but they “wanted to find what a hero is today”. They discussed other cities in which to place the story but admits that nothing has the aspect of New York, where the show is shot.
In terms of bringing himself into the fold of this series, Tom Selleck, who plays the patriarch and police chief, says that, “first, the script was good, and, two, it was an ensemble that would clearly require talented actors”. While his experience on “Magnum” all those years ago would come up, he says that with that show “he was not tired of it but tired from it”. Initially when he heard thoughts that “Blue Bloods” might be shot somewhere other than NY, he took a specific look and decided that “conflicts make it interesting”. He adds that “I love my ranch and that lifestyle” and that “the location [change] was the biggest challenge” but adds that life “never works the way you plan it”. He relays that he is still working on Jesse Stone and the 7th picture, which was shot in Halifax, will be coming soon as he made sure the production schedule for “Bloods” does not interfere with that production. He says that when CBS gave up their movie-of-the-week, Jesse Stone became a two-hour event, which he is fine with. In terms of his new character he says that it is very important that the character wear the uniform which is indicative of the NY enforcement mentality. He also adds that the Chief has learned to be more diplomatic on the way up. In terms of his producer chops he says that “I don’t butt in…but I have learned things” but continues that “I am pretty good at not throwing my weight around too much”.
Donnie Wahlberg, who plays his son Danny who is a detective on the force, says that he “was attracted to the family element” of the series specifically noting that the initial dinner scene in the pilot jumped out at him because it shows “the character stuff brought into the procedural directly”. He admits that he did play some things differently than he anticipated. He adds that Selleck had “a gaze that reminds me of my dad” in that “my dad is a powerful man but that [certain elements] are always grey”. Aside from that he says that he has never felt more safe as an actor in a job.
S%&t My Dad Says This new comedy sitcom brings the powerhouse of possibility and culturally-skewed tendencies together in the form of William Shatner. The series is actually based on a book of the same name by Justin Halperin who just started writing what his dad would talk about. It became a Twitter sensation.
Bill Shatner is so one of a kind that once he starts his thought process one has to follow it through to the end which might work exceptionally well here if it is done right. He begins with this: “I have problems with electronics”. He continues with the fact that he needs to modulate what he says in that this series “has been an exploration in the immediate language.” He admits that he didn’t want to do another series but that the writing here “very precise” but adds that “physically and mentally” he is the same as the guy he is playing. He sees this character as “very much with it” and “has a snap to the way he speaks”. In ever Shatner fashion, the punchline is “if I am fumbling, it’s me” but explains that “lurching is good”.
With this new outlay, Shatner says that “I am trying to make a character that is coming from a different place”. He says that there is a passion and an anger inside this character which “we don’t quite know” saying that they fumble around with what he actually is aware of. In making reference to his own father, Shatner shares that his dad was “somewhat tactitern”. He explains that the name Shatner is Austrian and somewhat Germanic but adds that with his father there was “a silence and passion underneath”. Shatner then suddenly realizes with mock possibility: “maybe I’m channeling my father” and “wouldn’t that be wonderful”. The word play continues in flagrante with Shatner proudly stating that “this show was born in a twitter” and that “it is all a-twitter” as “an electronic show”. He loves that the show is “ahead of the curve” but still “going in a different direction”.
In terms of joining this electronic era, Shatner says that he has ignored it all until only recently. He recounts starting in live television when the cooling systems for the cameras were as big as a large coffee table. He said now they as actots can be put in Paris without leaving their Warner Brothers shooting stage. He waxes poetic saying that “the miracle and tragedy of our lives is invention” adding that it is “all about survival”.
And as far as the title, he wished they would just call it “Shit”. He says that he brought up kids. He says relating “take a shit…you’ll feel better” is what it is all about (which sent people howling) adding that “it’s a natural function” and that “let’s not pussyfoot”.
Shatner continues with an opus on fatherhood. His dad, he says, was “a man of action” and that “the worst tragedy was him taking me up to a stream in the Podstachy Mountains [in Canada]”. He builds on the fact that “my father fell in the river and lost a fish…a big bass” and that it was never the same. He speaks in relation to the series and life that “there is a warmth and connection between a father and son” but adds that that the key is to not be “overbearing”. The progression of the character he says is “an acting choice” but you have to see the “evolution” because “to condemn heartily all the time doesn’t work”.
In terms of approaching sitcom comedy, originally Shatner says he was “started slow and low and not enough”. The build for for him here entails going “through the work, camera day with an audience and then 200 people [live]” but what is most interesting for him is that the “fourth wall is totally gone”. He adds that now “the audience is aware of the process” calling his new experience “enthralling but chaotic” categorizing himself in the situation of “part minstrel and part actor”.
Justin Halperin, who wrote the book upon which the series is based, says that, in adapting his book they had to find an angle where the premise is “entertaining” because “otherwise who cares?”. He relates that his father doesn’t use the Internet because “ever since [my dad] saw the Sandra Bullock movie ‘The Net’, he’s been scarred”. Halperin admits “it is tough to get my father to a taping” but says that, in terms of comparisons between his father and Shatner, “they have the same warmness”.