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Transcedental Alignment & Vivid Entanglements: The Fox TCA Summer Press Tour 2012 – Feature

The alignment between the transcendence of real and the modulation of the self continues to show its penchant revolving into the 2012 TCA Summer Press Tour for Fox Television as the engagement of re-emerging ideas as well as mind altering new ones forms the structure for either engaging television or vivid entanglements.

Starting within the reality purveyance of the world, the build up of “The X Factor” judge panel with the inclusion of Britney Spears offers the hope for spellbinding TV (or, at least, deer-in-the-headlights mayhem). Appearing via satellite from Miami where they are currently judging the next round of possibilities, the tension and energy seemed fruitful, if not a little unstable.

Spears, for her part, seems relatively focused and positive yet understandably reserved and restrained. She speaks that “I think that this show has been very good for me to do” because “I can relate to them [the contestants]” connecting that “I know the foundation and depth you go through”. Her instincts are “based on who I am and my personality”. One angle people might not know is “I am a huge fan of hip hop” but “I like cabaret music and bands [as well]”. In terms of the reality of “making it”, she explains that “in this industry, there are so many auditions” and “it is the way” but “having done 8 tours, this is different than anything I have ever done”.

For Simon Cowell, as the brawn behind the might, he explains that he “was fascinated by her [Britney] as a person and as a pop star” and “thought it would be interesting to put on this show”. By contrast, he says that “Demi [Lovato, another judge] is a brat but there is something about her”. In terms of structure, Cowell says “you are going to see some changes editorially” from last season. He admits that “there is an awful lot of competition that we have to fight against this year” but “I brought this show to America because I think the best singers in the world are here”. Examining pushing himself for excellence, he says “I put myself under a great amount of pressure” but “this is on a little of an upscale of the thing”. Commenting on the possibility of Mariah Carey on his previous show “American Idol”, he simply says “I think she will find it difficult to say no”. As to his impression of Britney’s judging, he says “she is as sweet as a lemon” but then addressing the departure of previous “X-Factor” judges says that “no one has job security anymore, [not] even myself”.

Demi Lovato, reacting with intensity to Cowell’s jabs, says that “any little bit of criticism hurts when you are growing up.” She remembers “when I was auditioning for things and I was dropped, it would hurt me” but “you can’t prevent anybody from going down the wrong road” though “fame makes the problem a little worse”.

Swirling within his own private empire, much like Martha Stewart, Chef Gordon Ramsay expands his domain with “Hotel Hell” where he helps provide new perspective within the texture of the bigger picture that surrounds his restaurants and, by extension, hotel service. He initially offers that “we have had good and bad experiences, like with ‘Kitchen Nightmares'” but believes that “we don’t book or banter on the hotels”. The idea of this show was “the next extension”. In terms of his presupposed omnipresence in the media landscape, he explains “I pace myself” but “the appetite’s there” and “I work for a living”. Implementing his work ethic, Ramsay says “if you are that talented and that determined to do something, all is well”. The focus with him starts with the fact that “I was dealt a dysfunctional card when I got into the industry” which reflects in his current propensity to that “when you undermined the customer and [take] shortcuts in hygiene”, all is not well. Reflecting on the rage that seems to be his persona, Ramsay retorts “I think it is misconstrued at times. [I think] it is passion. It is what I know” and “deep down inside, I don’t know any better.” His advice to patrons worldwide (but especially in the US): “We are too polite. We need to complain more”.

Entering into scripted territory, “The Mob Doctor“, currently shooting in Chicago, follows a female surgeon that is forced to moonlight to treat one of the city’s major crime lords. Josh Berman, who also works on “Drop Dead Diva”, explains “the doctors to the mob are usually motivated by greed…but I think we flipped that”. The key with this show is that it “does not need to be black and white” and “we love that, with our idea, the starting point is that there is no rules”. As far as shooting in the Windy City, he states “it is tough to beat Chicago for a mob town [because] it has an old world feel”. In terms of the mob doctor Grace (played by Jordana Spiro), “we have really mapped out [her] story” adding that the narrative “is really grounded” and “we are not playing to the humor at all”.

Rob Wright, also an executive producer, who concurrently works on “Diva” with Berman as well as previous stints on “Las Vegas” and “Knight Rider”, sees the progression of “Mob Doctor” “sort of like ‘Faust’ with elements of ‘The Sopranos’ meets ‘ER'”. The thought for them of the notion of “‘Do No Harm’ juxtaposed with ‘No Honor Among Thieves'” creates an interesting dynamic because the jealousy of the hospital mirrors the mob world.

Jordana Spiro, who plays Grace, speaks that, with Chicago, “when you are on location, it lends to the authenticity”. The physical aspect of that “a house is a house” gives it a weight for her. She agrees though, in terms of the tone, that “the timing of this will have to be handled carefully” because “it is the seduction of that kind of human desire [that leads] to the dark side”.

William Forsythe, no stranger to heavies (he famously played Al Capone on the TV series of “The Untouchables”), explains years ago when that show ended “they placed me [as Al] in prison”. “The Mob Doctor” begins with him being released (though he is not playing Capone here). It plays full circle in his mind.

Circling into closure, “Fringe” finds its notion of heaven and redemption possibly in the resurrection of its final season. J.H. Wyman, an exec producer on the show, speaks that the goal of this season is “because we have done so much work to get people interested in the mythology”, that has to come to fruition. The key beneath is that “the root of it all is that these people [Walter, Peter & Olivia] are what the fans care about” but “the relationships need to pay off”. In terms of lessons learned, he says “Akiva [Goldsman, another executive producer] taught me that being clever is not an emotion”. Looking at the endgame of the series, he states “we want the end of these characters to be beautiful and touching” while “still connecting to the metaphor of the difficulty of keeping families together”. He accentuates that “where else can you talk about an affair [in a series] that involved two of the same people”. Seeing the ending in sight, he says that, over the years, there have been 3 or 4 possible end scenarios, but “it [the show], being a living breathing organism, is going to change” and “I truly believe the show has a natural end”. How that is seen takes the form of “something that we know is right but how that takes shape is always in flux” though he resolves “I want them to have what’s been earned”.

Anna Torv, having taken the duality of a character like Olivia Dunham to new heights, explains “the more you have to do, the more you are engaged in it”. In terms of playing both sides, she says “I loved it so much because, when ‘Ultimate Olivia’ came in, I knew what I didn’t want to repeat” but continues that “it is very much on the journey”. As far as seeing what the end has in store, she hints that “we have a little bit of a clue in terms of what is going on more than ever before”. Speaking of her co-stars, “for me, watching John [Noble] and Josh [Jackson] taught me how television works and how you attack [it]” in that “you look at the story and plan out your arc”. One of the key lessons, she says is leanring that “television is fluid” sensing that “you’d watch them [John & Josh] pushing the envelope” . She adds that “John [Noble] tries anything and everything”. The complication for her becomes “you don’t realize things unless you can define it” but “because we are a cult show with a cult following, you can [end] it right”.

Joshua Jackson, playing the essence of Peter Bishop, waxes that “in an odd way, I have plenty of actor friends that had shows cut before their time” but this one “is not bittersweet since all shows end” but it is important “to have it end well”. Looking at John Noble’s immersion as Walter Bishop, Jackson explains “what he has done and created in the character in Walter, it is once in a lifetime”. He continues that “we are in a good era of television” but specifies that, with “Fringe”, “great science fiction takes big think ideas and makes the entry point lower” but “you have to have the cahones to do it”.

Fox continues to move to the balance without rocking the boat. Allowing “Fringe” to exit with grace definitely creates a specific tone while maintaining with tried and true formulas across the board that both engage and intensify their viewership.

Britney: Inside The Dream – Book Review

The relevance of “Britney: Inside The Dream” [Steve Dennis/Harper Collins/406 pgs] is reflected in its approach to the perception of what psychologically permeated Britney Spears’ breakdown in the long lead up to her now famous and very intrinsic meltdown. This book is especially interesting in the context of her return to fame and seemingly re-structured bliss. What the book does, in a surprisingly unbiased way, is try to show the perspective of what happened leading up to the incessant bounds of rehab and eventual committal that was happening even 2 years ago. By instilling these facts gleamed from court records and the own writings of both Lynne and Britney Spears, the argument claimed is fairly sound while also backed up by the thoughts of a supposed clinical psychologist.

The book begins with the structure of Britney’s parents relationship and how their behavior at times might have affected her at a young age. However add to this an inherent element of a woman who truly was a performer in her bones from her birth. Ultimately what it created was a paradox at play. What the book strives to show is that Britney’s gulf between her identity as a performer and as a person was tainted from the beginning and is what suggests her eventual progression into full blown tabloid fodder. The ideal is that she never wanted to be alone almost in fear of this.

The book also claims that the Justin Timberlake relationship was her “ballast” since he was someone she could relate to and be herself with. When that disappeared, everything after it (including her quicky Vegas wedding, her marriage, her pregnancies with Kevin Federline and her eventual committal) was based in the belief that these could fill the void in her life. The book moves to say that these elements never did.

The interaction with the paparazzi down the line became something of a dependent relationship since her kids were being kept from her, she shut her parents out and she was surrounded by people in her staff who, while not wishing her harm, probably had their own agendas compounded by the fact that they probably didn’t know how to help her. The eventual conservatorshop placed order back into her life but the reveal that the book admits is that this is compounding the problem possibly by forcing back into the artifice she had experienced for so many years which caused the initial problem.

Granted the ending of the book is based on the perception of sources that cannot be confirmed since they are anonymous. The rumored element is that Britney probably had to do “Circus” album and the subsequent tour because of a contract committment to Jive Records. Ultimately her life is a business, and if the facts are true, she could have been sued for close to $100 million for breach.

Now at the time this article was written, her concerts have earned nearly 92 million in the US alone making it among the top tours of the year. The perception of the psychotherapist is that this performing is not going to solve the problem because eventually she will have down time again (which seems to be maddening at times if she is not kept busy). The therapist suggests a full withdrawal from public life for a while to repair this problem. It is a fairly sobering judgment but one, because of its irony, that might not be possible in this life for this woman who only just turned 28.

“Britney: Inside The Dream” is filled with details, many of which may seem accurate but the truth it is sometimes hard to discern because of so much disinformation in the media. That said, this book is a fairly compelling and in-depth study of the behaviors and reactions that created this pop princess. It is a different approach that might not be for everyone but, even for people not intrinsically fascinated by this woman’s rise to stardom, it is an interesting breakdown of human frailty. Out of 5, I give it a 2 1/2.

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