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We’re now a week
outside of awards season in Hollywood.
And as is my new modus operandi, I defer to The
Postman and his impressive knowledge of films, film production and film
history for a recap of last weekend’s Academy Awards presentation – which he
calls The Posties.
Dear Members of the Route,
For 16 years now, I have 'reviewed' the Oscars by giving out
my own awards - The Posties - in categories of my invention and then following
those awards with a brief review of the proceedings as a whole. But this
year, for the first time, I am moved to change things up. And this is
I hated the Oscars. Just hated them. I thought
they were lazy, sloppy, and for the most part, inconsiderate. I hated the
host, I hated the sets, I hated most of the dresses, I hated the production
choices, and I even hated the results (I'll explain that later).
So if the venom level is turned up even higher than usual,
now you'll know why. You have been warned. So let's begin.
The first category...
The Spielberg Oscar
Bitch (S.O.B.) Award - given to the most ungracious person at the ceremony,
named after the person who often exudes a perverse sense of entitlement over
the proceedings even when he's not actually nominated and who gave one of my
least favorite acceptance speeches ever.
I must admit that after suffering through Jared Leto's
Q&A for Dallas Buyers Club months
ago, I fully expected him to claim this award, but I'm almost shocked to say
that his speech was fairly gracious and sweet. It's tempting to give this
award to Leto's brother, who ran over to his brother when his win was announced
and stole focus and then ran over to his mother to embrace her while Leto paid
tribute to her in his speech. Dude: it's not about you.
Or I could give this award to whoever it was who thought it
was a good idea to invite Judy Garland's children to the awards and... stand up
at their seats. I love Whoopi Goldberg as much as the next person, but
Liza Minnelli is an Oscar winner herself and could probably have handled the
duties of introducing the somewhat extraneous tribute to The Wizard of Oz along with her half-siblings Lorna and Joey Luft.
But this award this year goes to host Ellen DeGeneres.
Sure - some of her humor worked: I actually enjoyed the selfie, though
more for the celebrities' reactions who posed for the picture and less for
DeGeneres' stage management of it. And her Jonah Hill crack about The Wolf of Wall Street was hysterical
(and, it should be said, nearly ruined when she tried calling back the joke
with Hill in the audience later in the show). But not only did her
wandering-the-audience patter become incredibly tiresome, but the pizza gag
kind of nailed the point home that the only people who matter at the Academy
Awards (and therefore deserve pizza) are the 20 most famous people sitting in
the front 2 rows. Sure, it's cute to watch Martin Scorsese and Jennifer
Lawrence eat a slice, but that gag only would have worked with 50 other
delivery people spreading out all over the place. Oprah Winfrey she ain't:
"You don't get a slice! You don't get a slice! So few of
you... GET A SLICE!" Then there was DeGeneres' unfortunate joke
about the importance of staying in college and saying to Amy Adams, "You
went to college, right?" Adams
admitted she hadn't, and no one looked good as a result. Could they not
afford a research team this year? But even worse, in a year in which an
actor won an Oscar for playing a transgendered character, DeGeneres' crack
about Liza Minnelli being a man was in awfully poor taste, ESPECIALLY when
Minnelli wouldn't even be allowed to take the stage later that evening.
Ellen: you looked bored throughout the evening, and the edge that people referred
to in earlier assessments of the night was simple meanness. So, take a
Postie home for your pains.
The Jack Palance
TelePrompter Award - given to the biggest goof of the night, in honor of
the allegedly drunk Mr. Palance who allegedly gave Marisa Tomei an Oscar she
allegedly didn't actually win.
Well, folks, this one isn't hard to guess, but it is a
momentous occasion, because after 17 years, it is now appropriate - obligatory,
really - to rename this award. For the next few years at the very least,
this will now be The John Travolta
TelePrompter Award. Recall that he won this Postie last year for butchering
"Lay Mizzerah-bless" and Helena Bonham Carter's name. And this
year's enormous Idina Menzel/Adele Dazeem boner suggests that Travolta's professed
love for musicals doesn't actually extend to learning their titles or stars.
Look, I am as tolerant as anyone of how nerve-wracking a live television
event broadcast for the whole world must be (as you will see when I start
talking about people's singing a bit later), but Travolta had 2 lines to learn.
Or, rather, read off a TelePrompter. With a rehearsal.
Dyslexia isn't a valid excuse here. Maybe it's time to stop
inviting him to do things like talk. In public. Ever again.
The Joan Rivers Red
Carpet Award – paying special tribute to the out-of-theater gaffes.
Watching the red carpet coverage (which I did, as I often
do, after re-watching the telecast) wasn't very much fun this year, perhaps
because I knew what a wretched show all the guests were about to see, and it
just made me sad for them. But even more distressing, I started with the
hours of E! Entertainment coverage and found, to my horror, that Ryan Seacrest,
Guiliana Rancic, Kelly Osbourne, et al. put on a really good show. Well researched,
well paced, there were virtually no gaffes or even remotely embarrassing
moments. True, Seacrest stumbled once by saying to Bette Midler that he
couldn't believe she'd never been to the Oscars, but she corrected him
graciously, and he recovered well (though she's been before, she'd never
performed at the Oscars).
Thankfully, the proceedings over on ABC were a little more
embarrassing, both on the early red carpet and the post-Oscar celebrations.
My favorite punching bag in this category, George Pennacchio, had some
zingers: he called Kristin Chenoweth "The Voice of the Nation," which
I suppose was meant as a compliment, but I wanted to ask, "Which
nation?"; he asked Bruce Dern, "Are you ready to take a nap or go to
work tomorrow?" which seems incredibly, offensively ageist unless you
compare it to Ellen DeGeneres yelling at June Squibb inside the Dolby as if she
were hard of hearing (apparently, I'm not taking the Oscar-winning song to
heart: I just can't let it go). And though I'm sure he didn't mean to, it
really sounded like Pennacchio said "Matthew McConaughey has not made it
back to the governor's balls" which had me giggling after an extremely
long night of red carpet coverage. But still, he wasn't the worst.
Nearly as bad was Lawrence
Zarian, ABC's fashion correspondent also known as "Wait, isn't that Ty
Burrell?" by the people after the show who saw him on television when it
was on mute. No, Zarian is not Ty Burrell, because Burrell is funny and
probably wouldn't spend 30 seconds keening "Let it Go" or, in his
explanation of why he can't interview guests after the Oscars would never say,
"I have 3 words for Sandra Bullock: 'can't talk to this.'"
Strangely, the biggest gaffes came during ABC's official red
carpet presentation between 4:00 and 5:30. First there was Tyson Beckford
who is this weird automaton who called Julia Roberts "Jessica" and
described altogether too many people as "fabbuhlous."
Cagle wins this award this year, for saying to Cate Blanchett - incorrectly -
that Suzy Benzinger was nominated for Costume Design for Blue Jasmine, and
asking two different couples on the carpet the same nonsensical question:
"Do you have date nights?" Insufferable.
The Peter O'Toole
Never Won a Competitive Oscar, but Three 6 Mafia Does Irony Award
I'd like to say I think it's ironic that Peter O'Toole - an
8-time nominee and responsible for one of film's greatest performances - got
stuck in the middle of the death montage when James Gandolfini (a marvelous
actor whose most significant work was done on television) and Philip Seymour
Hoffman (a 4-time nominee and certainly one of the more celebrated actors of
our generation) got pride of place, but that's not ironic. It's rude --
especially in a year where we lost Joan Fontaine and especially iconic legend
No, for me, the one irony was that Kevin Spacey's
enthusiastic presentation of the Honorary Oscars ceremony from last November
(and the accompanying clips) made it very clear that that was the event that should
have been televised and celebrated as opposed to this graceless, formless swill
of an awards show.
The Snow White/Rob
Lowe Performance Award
First, about Ms. Adele Dazeem: I have seen Idina Menzel live
three times: in Rent, in Wicked, and doing her own show two New
Years' Eves ago. In all three, her voice has been powerful, and her
emotional connection to the material has been rich: she was wonderful.
But in this, her second appearance at a major awards show, she apparently
psyched herself out so badly that, just like the 2004 Tony Awards and that
wretched last bit of "Defying Gravity," the last big note of
"Let it Go" the other night was downright painful. It might
have been ok - people make mistakes, of course - but Menzel sounded terrified
throughout the performance - out of breath, rushing the tempo - and frankly
looked so too. This was not her finest hour.
Karen O's performance was wispy to the point of
non-existence, and her relationship with pitch cannot be considered strong.
Though I've never been a fan of Bono's voice, I must say I
enjoyed U2's performance of "Ordinary Love," at least until I hit my
threshold for whining (and I could have done without him kneeling down at the
Without question, the night's most fun performance was
Pharrell Williams' "Happy," punctuated beautifully by the ebullient
dancing of LAUSD magnet students, though Williams' live singing leaves a bit to
For me, the most annoying performance came from Darlene Love
positively shouting "His Eye Is On the Sparrow," but I didn't share
her enthusiasm over 20 Feet from Stardom's
That leaves the divas: Bette Midler (who was never
introduced, not before nor after her singing) did a really lovely rendition of
a song I can't stand, so it's hard for me to give a positive Postie to “Wind
Beneath My Wings”, or indeed anything that reminds me of Beaches.
As for Pink, I admit her breathing was a little out of
control during "Over the Rainbow," but I put that down to nerves
(I've heard her sing live as many times as Ms. Menzel, and she is just as
stellar), and her tone and her pitch were really exemplary. Pink is an
absolute favorite of mine, so I admit a bias here (in all fairness,
"Happy" probably deserves this), but I'm giving her a Postie for her
first appearance at the Oscars. Let it not be her last.
The Cuba Gooding Jr. Acceptance Speech
There are few things as satisfying as a really gracious, or
enthusiastic, or emotional Oscar speech. While I can't say that Steve
McQueen's speech inspired me all that much (he was too flustered), his joyous
jumping up and down at its end was really wonderful to see.
I also really
enjoyed Bobby and Kristin Anderson-Lopez' couples rhyming speech: adorable.
As for the actors, I've already mentioned how pleasantly
surprised I was by Jared Leto's speech, and I admit that Matthew McConaughey's
speech wasn't as tiresome as his had been the night before at the Independent
Spirit Awards in which he gave a lecture to a tent full of people who make independent
movies on How to Make Independent Movies, something that surely Matthew
McConaughey knows more than the producers, directors and writers... of
independent films. But McConaughey's faux preaching style has worn thin
for me this season, and I'm glad to be rid of him, honestly.
Cate Blanchett's speech contained my favorite element - when
a winner graciously acknowledges her other nominees - and I enjoyed the strong
feminist talk about successful movies with female characters, but somehow her
speech fell just a bit short.
Perhaps that's because my clear winner in this category is
Lupita Nyong'o, whose emotion and grace were unparalleled, and who subtly
punctuated by the moment when she mouthed "Shit!" on her way up to
the podium. Just perfect.
The Bette Midler Best
As I mentioned earlier, Kevin Spacey's presentation was
energetic, kicky, and very good, and I say this as someone who wants very badly
not to like him all that much. Well done, sir.
I also loved the
combination of Angelina Jolie and Sidney Poitier, mostly because Jolie seemed
genuinely thrilled to be standing next to the legend.
Amy Adams and Bill
Murray were cute together, and I enjoyed Murray's
impromptu tribute to Harold Ramis.
Christoph Waltz wins the prize as last year's winner who
seemed to care the most about this year's nominees.
But for me, the
giddiest heights of presenting came when Jamie Foxx tried - and succeeded - to
inject some fun into the increasingly ponderous night by singing the Chariots of Fire theme under Jessica
Biel's adequate patter. It was funny but somehow reverential, and it
worked well enough for him to get a Postie.
The Kim Basinger
Worst Presenter Award
Oh, take your pick. Anne Hathaway may not have been as
insufferable as she was when accepting her award last year, but there was
something about her that made me want to punch her yet again.
Jim Carrey's egomania might have been more understandable if
he'd made a significant movie since 2004's Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Harrison Ford seemed - don't be shocked - stoned.
Charlize Theron looked pissed off until she screwed up and
actually kind of redeemed her performance by guffawing.
Chris Evans was dull.
But I'm going to annoy everyone by picking America's
Sweetheart here, Jennifer Lawrence. When she trucked onstage to present
Best Actor, she looked into the audience and said, "Why are you
laughing?" which would have been inspired had she continued with Joe
Pesci's monologue from GoodFellas.
But no - she was having a private moment with some buddy up in front,
undoubtedly inspired by Ellen DeGeneres' pizza party (I know: let it go) or
whatever drugs she'd taken that made her trip YET AGAIN this year. Keep it
together, JLaw, and read your lines. Or let the audience in on the joke
next time. And have a Postie.
Rouge/Battleship Potemkin Montage Award - NO WINNER.
Boy, I love montages, but this year did no service to the
art of assembling clips. I don't honestly know why the Academy Awards
feel they need a theme, and this year's "Heroes in Hollywood" was particularly weak.
The various montages were basically guys (certainly not many women) who
did things in movies. Sure, some of the likely hero suspects - like
Lawrence of Arabia, Atticus Finch, and Indiana Jones - were featured, but they
were mixed in with so many other dudes who just starred in movies and did
nothing particularly heroic that the montages were just time-passers in an
extremely long evening.
I'd love to pay tribute to the lovely clips of The Wizard of Oz, but, even with the
Postie-awarded Pink performance, was that really the extent of the producers'
imagination as to what a Wizard of Oz
tribute might be? A Whoopi Goldberg reminiscence, a performance of a song
we've all heard thousands of times, and video clips from the movie? I'm
not a huge fan of the movie, but even I know that The Wizard of Oz deserves better than that.
And so do we. Better luck next year, editors.
The Joe Eszterhas
Writing Award - for the worst scripted patter of the evening.
While, yes, it's tempting to load up on my DeGeneres hatred
and find something she said the worst bit of the evening (and it wouldn't be
hard), how can I ignore the surreal moments between Kim Novak and Matthew
Novak clearly broke from the script when she said how
thrilled she was to be back at the Oscars, but surely something of what came
before that had been scripted. Their dialogue was as surreal as Janet
Leigh's seduction of Frank Sinatra in The
Manchurian Candidate but nowhere near as entertaining.
The Gwyneth Paltrow
Worst Dressed Award
As I stated at the top, I really didn't care for a lot of
the fashion on display this year. So many nude, colorless, blah dresses -
from Cate Blanchett to Sally Hawkins to Naomi Watts to Julie Delpy to Sarah
Paulson. And too many white tuxes for the men (three (including Ryan
Seacrest) is indeed too many). Everyone seemed safe, unwilling to take a
Portia DeRossi took a chance and flailed: her dress looked
like a macrame doily, and her hair and makeup did her no favors. But for
the first time, I'm not giving my award to a wardrobe choice this year.
Even my runner-up isn't a dress, but instead Goldie Hawn's
face which resembled some horrifying death mask: that seems like something to
wear (or, in this case, something to - please - take off). Goldie - you
used to be gorgeous, and you were aging with such grace, but your face made me
sad. So very, very sad.
But even worse than that face and the boring dresses was the
set. The Oscars everywhere looked inflatable and randomly placed, like a
perverse Oscar shooting gallery, and the use of klieg lights and other exposed
lightbulbs in those cubbyholes was nearly as tired as the hundreds of typewriters
trotted out - once again - to signal that it was time to give out the
screenplay Oscars. Even the 10,000 Swarovski crystals that bedecked the
set while Idina Menzel bleated "Let it Go" were barely noticeable
since the camera kept so close to her terrified face. And just because
one of the producers of the show loves the musical Follies, that's no reason to have a wall of huge red flowers on
stage. The set was familiar and a little cheap, so it wins a Postie.
There were some definite hits: Goldie Hawn's daughter Kate
Hudson looked terrific, Kristin Chenoweth was stunning in a gold Art Deco
dress, and Lupita Nyong'o was gorgeous in "Nairobi blue," as Kelly Osbourne cooed
throughout the day. Charlize Theron's structured black dress was amazing,
but it's hard to imagine her not looking good. I loved Jennifer Garner's
metallic fringe dress and her hair and makeup.
But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Camila Alves,
Matthew McConaughey's wife, because her pink dress was not only amazing, but it
reminded me of perhaps my favorite costume in the history of film: Katharine
Hepburn's Grecian swimming pool robe in The
And finally, my favorite Postie - The Jack Nicholson/Kate Winslet Audience Participation Award -
given to the person in the crowd whose sense of fun at just being at The Oscars
is completely infectious.
Again, this is why I enjoyed the selfie bit: seeing the
likes of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep
et al. jump out of their seats enthusiastically to take a picture expressed the
fun that I'd like to think I'd have if I were a nominee sitting there. So
there are many contenders for this award this year, and that makes me very
Beyond those in the selfie, Kristen Bell seemed to be the
go-to cutaway whenever Frozen was
mentioned, and she sat there beaming at her seat every time the camera found
And then there were the dancing dames of Doubt: Amy Adams' slick moves and Meryl
Streep's shimmy when Pharrell Williams Happied by them.
But this award is as easy to give as the Cuba Gooding Jr.
Speech Award earlier, and to the same person. Lupita Nyong'o was living
her dream just by sitting in that audience. Even if she hadn't won the Oscar,
she still would have schmoozed with all these wonderful stars, danced first
with Pharrell, and basked in the night. And then she did win, and her
smile beamed ever brighter. Her "performance" in the audience
was so wonderful, I'm almost tempted to call this a Luposti'e. But that
would be going altogether too far. But she still has two Posties to frame
So why am I distressed even with the results, when 12 Years a Slave was my second favorite
nominated Picture this year, and Cate Blanchett my clear favorite of all the
actors in any category? For a number of reasons.
First and foremost, the night proceeded with nothing
remotely resembling a surprise. The winner of the Oscar pool at the party
I attended got 22 right out of 24. Sure, that's impressive, but it's also
incredibly sad. All four acting winners had won the night before at the
Spirit Awards, and they had dominated the dozens of awards shows in the
preceding weeks. So there was no gasp, no excitement, no thrill at any of
the announcements (my biggest "thrill" was seeing Helium win for Live Action Short, but I
had also predicted it).
And I must say that 12
Years a Slave's triumph with only two other awards makes it all too easy to
assume that it was a film not loved by many (as it was by me) but seen as the
"right" choice, more a reflection of its subject matter, its place in
history, than a recognition of its artistry.
Sure, I admit a little schadenfreude that American Hustle got blitzed, but since
one of my favorite films ever went 0 for 11 its year at the Oscars (that would
be The Color Purple), and since my
favorite Best Picture nominee also went unawarded (that would be The Wolf of Wall Street), I don't
over-indulge such spitefulness. No, that I'll save for the producers,
writers and host of this wretched evening and hope that none of them are ever
invited back to desecrate it ever again.
You want a review??? I'll give you... A REVIEW!!!
My friend Edmund Moore is a former child actor who starred
in the 1992-1997 ABC-TV comedy series A
Family of Four with Jenifer Lewis, Mario Van Peebles and a then-unknown
Anthony Mackie as the Bennetts, a black family that moves into a predominantly
white New York City
suburb. Lewis and Peebles played his parents while Mackie played his younger
The series immediately drew comparisons to The Cosby Show, which had ended
its landmark run the previous spring. But outside of being about a
middle-class nuclear black family, the similarities pretty much ended there as
storylines were far less idealistic and comparatively more controversial than
the earlier series -- particularly with a young star who was rumored to be gay
as the series progressed.
The network, the producers and Edmund's parents wanted to
handle the situation very delicately. After all, with a popular show on a
top-rated network, there was a lot at stake. It was ultimately decided to
follow Edmund's lead as he came to terms on his own in his own way in his own
time. So Edmund's rumored sexuality never made their way into storylines --
until the final season in a well-regarded scene with fellow child star Danny
Pintauro from Who's the Boss?,
which also ended its lengthy run the previous spring.
Pintauro guest-starred as an older neighbor home from college on whom
Edmund's character confessed to having a crush.
A Family of Four was also
praised for showing a neighborhood peaceably integrating without
significant "white flight", but was also heavily criticized by a
vocal minority that found such a development to be unrealistic. Still, the
series, which premiered to moderate ratings success, rose to the Top 20 in its
third season, the Top 10 in its fourth season and #4 for its fifth and final
In the series finale, which aired in May of 1997, the
Bennett family spent their last days together before sending Edmund's character
off to college -- an event that mirrored Edmund Moore's own transition into
college that fall.
Moore was born in Illinois but moved with his mother to live with her
mother outside Los Angeles
in January of 1992 after his parents divorced. Almost immediately, Edmund was
discovered by a casting assistant while he and his mother were strolling the
Walk of Fame in Hollywood.
She liked his natural look and average build. She asked if he would read and
test for a role in a new TV series that they had been having a hard time casting.
Though Edmund had appeared in a few school plays, he had no formal acting
experience. Since Edmund had exhibited no aspirations for an acting career, his
parents agreed to let him audition if for no other reason than it would make a
great story to tell friends and family.
After the series ended, Moore
returned to Illinois for college and attended Northwestern University, where he majored in
Radio/TV/Film with a minor in media studies. He received an Emmy nomination as
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in July of 1997 for the final season
of the show but wasn't able to attend the ceremony that September on account of
having class the next morning. His entire dorm gathered into the main lounge to
watch the telecast, but he lost to John Lithgow for 3rd Rock from the Sun.
"It's alright. It's harder to sleep with an Emmy than
it is with my Golden Globe," he joked. (The Globe he won in January of
that year was actually still on display at his mother and grandmother's house.)
After graduation, he enrolled in New York's The New School, where he earned a
Master's Degree in Media Studies. Tiring of the cold, he returned to Los Angeles in 2003.
Though he still had enough Family of
Four money to live alone, he opted instead to enter into a roommate
situation with two friends from Northwestern, who had an opening in their
Westwood apartment. They lived together for six years before a job transfer and
an engagement split up the happy trio. Edmund then moved into a one-bedroom
apartment in Hollywood,
where he remains to this day -- leading a quiet existence well outside the
industry despite his proximity to it.
Edmund Moore lives well below his means. He doesn't drive a
car. He doesn't own much furniture. And he doesn't frequent any of the LA
hotspots where most celebrities go to be seen. From the looks of him, you'd
never guess that he'd ever starred in one of the most popular TV shows of the
When he does spend money, it's to travel for a few days
every month. So far this year he's gone to see his father in Illinois
and to meet up with some friends in London.
And plans are already in place for a trip to Boston
in May to see about a guy to New
Jersey in August for a friend's wedding.
Now he just needs to figure out where to go this month.
The Paley Center for Media, in conjunction with the new
Net90s network (which will begin airing A Family of Four in June), recently announced plans to
commemorate the 22nd Anniversary of the series in September with a cast
reunion, a screening of the pilot episode and a panel discussion of the show's
impact and legacy.
I used to live in the same building as Edmund Moore, who
starred in the series as Edmund Moore (even though he wasn't playing himself).
We've kept intermittent contact since I moved out a year or so ago and knowing
how much of a fan I was (and still am) of the show, I reached out to him for a brief
Q& A and he was more than gracious to oblige.
Since so many of the panel questions will be about the show,
my line of questioning is focused on his life as it relates to the show:
1. How excited are
you about this event?
It's funny to me that every four or five years or so, there's a renewed
interest in the series. The first was after I graduated college and there was
talk about my returning to television in some capacity. But I went to graduate
school instead. A few years later TV One secured the rights to the series and
promoted the launch rather heavily. Then the 20th anniversary of the series
approached and the Paley
Center tried to put this
together then but Anthony wound up not being available and the rest of us saw
no reason to do it if we all couldn't be there. Fortunately, Anthony's film
career is finally on the decline so we can all finally get together and do
2. How long has it
been since you've seen everyone in the cast?
A while. Anthony and I keep in touch but mostly by text since his film
commitments keep him rather busy. In case it wasn't obvious, that part about
Anthony's film career in the previous question was a joke. I last saw Jenifer
when she did a one-woman show at the Gay & Lesbian
Center in Hollywood about four years ago. And I run
into Mario at the most random events -- plays, film festivals or even just at a
restaurant I'm always surprised he knows enough about to patronize.
3. Do you ever catch
the show in reruns?
I try not to. A Family of Four was
a great experience for me but it sucked to be on network television sitcom
while going through such an awkward phase of life like puberty. Fortunately, a
lot of what I was going through was reflected in the scripts, so in a strange
way I didn't feel like I was going through it all alone. Still, I always hated
seeing myself on television because I never looked or sounded the way I thought
I did as I was acting out a scene, performing a piece of comedy or saying a
4. You've kept a
pretty low profile since the show went off the air. Was that intentional?
In a sense, yes. I didn't come to California to pursue an acting career. That
just happened and I'm eternally grateful for it. But once the show ended, I
wanted to go to college and then get a Master's degree. Going back to
television or doing movies was the furthest thing from my mind at that point.
And by the time I returned to Los
Angeles, the show had been off the air for six years
and I was already considered a washed-up former child star -- which I always
5. Do you have any
aspirations now of getting back into television or doing movies?
Not at all. The industry is so different than when the show
was on in the 1990s. Now, if you don't get certain ratings for your premiere,
the cancellation clock is already ticking. The broadcast networks seemed to
exercise more patience twenty years ago than they do now. I don't want to bust
my ass coming up with a great concept, having great scripts written and
producing a pilot to either not get picked up for no apparent reason or to get
picked up but then pulled after two episodes. And what I'd bring to the table wouldn't
necessarily lend itself well to the type of content being generated by cable --
although I'd love to do a guest spot or two on Hot in Cleveland on TV Land.
6. Why don't you do
more guest spots then?
I don't have an agent anymore because I haven't done
anything since the show went off the air. So when I get a call for a guest
appearance, it's usually to play myself or the character and I'm not interested
in doing either.
7. How are you
treated by the friends you've made since the show went off the air?
I was very careful about how I made friends in college. Most
people on campus knew the show and that I had been on it. I made some errors in
judgment early on but the people I gravitated to the most were those who didn't
give a shit either way. My best friend from college hadn't even heard of the
show and barely knew who I was. So my closest friends just see A Family of Four as something I had
done a thousand years ago.
8. What's your life
like right now?
Very low-key and I love it. People see me on the street and
some of them recognize me but don't say anything while others just nod and
whisper. I'm actually quite approachable when it's done respectfully -- but not
when I'm eating (laughs). I'm also very active on twitter and often get questions
from afar about the show. I don't shy away from that part of my life so I'm
happy to answer those questions. Other than that, I go grocery shopping. I walk
a lot. I go to readings. I go to comedy clubs. I love LA theatre, so I see a
lot of plays. And I occasionally take on temp work that falls randomly into my
It's a good life. And I'm very fortunate to lead it.
Details on the reunion
panel and pilot screening are still being finalized, but there will be a full
write-up on it in September.
As is my new modus operandi, I defer to The Postman and his impressive knowledge of films, film production and film history for his preferential Oscar ballot ahead of this year's 86th annual awards presentation on March 2 -- which will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.
Dear Members of the Route,
In past years, I've made it my goal to see all the
English-language non-documentary feature films nominated for Academy Awards.
Due to some privileged access and a surfeit of free time in the last few
weeks, for the first time ever, I've seen every nominated film in every
category: documentaries, shorts, foreign films, everything. So this will
be my most complete Oscar ballot ever (in the past, I've not "voted"
in categories where I haven't seen all the nominees).
Please remember that these picks are my preferences, not my
predictions. And, because I am not a member of the Academy, and because I
saw more than 100 films from 2013, I reserve the right to choose write-in
candidates when the Academy's choices just don't please me. Once again,
the nominees are:
Documentary Short: CaveDigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No
Walls, The Lady in Number 6: Music
Saved My Life, Prison Terminal: The
Last Days of Private Jack Hall
This is a pleasingly strong selection of films, making me
wonder if I've missed gems in the many years I've not watched the documentary
shorts. The only dud among these five is Facing Fear, which comes off as too self-serving to be effective.
CaveDigger is diverting but
underfed, The Lady in Number 6 is a
bit too uncomplicated for such a difficult subject but very enjoyable, and Karama Has No Walls has a great
close-to-the-action urgency. But my clear favorite is Prison Terminal which watches an inmate
die in the recently developed hospice program in an Iowa penitentiary. For personal
reasons, this movie struck an emotional chord with me, but I think it's
well-made and fascinating.
Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
Live Action Short: Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me), Avant Que
de Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything), Helium, Pitaako Mun Kaikki
Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?, The Voorman Problem
On the other hand, this category is very disappointing.
Though the perceived frontrunner is The
Voorman Problem, starring Martin Freeman and Mark Hollander, I found it an
only somewhat clever one-joke premise. Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? is similarly slight, and That Wasn't Me is fairly standard third
world strife. Just Before Losing
Everything is an intriguing, involving film about a woman trying to
liberate herself from her abusive husband, but my favorite by far is Helium, the story of a boy dying in a
hospital and the janitor who softens the blow of his final days with his
fanciful stories. Quite moving.
Animated Short: Feral, Get a Horse!, Mr. Hublot,
Possessions, Room on the Broom
Another disappointing category. Though most of these
movies are very good looking (with the exception of Room on the Broom, which is bland through and through), there's
precious little there there. Possessions
feels like it wants to be a feature: it looks great but doesn't have enough to
say. Feral has some haunting
imagery but the story amounts to virtually nothing. Mr. Hublot is beautifully mounted, but the choice of some awfully
lame pop songs towards the end breaks whatever spell the earlier part of the
film cast. That leaves my beloved Get a
Horse!, a funny, fast, violent short that recalls Looney Tunes-level mayhem
and should really be seen in 3D to fully appreciate it.
Winner: Get a Horse!
Documentary Feature: The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty
Wars, The Square, 20 Feet from Stardom
I honestly don't understand the world's love affair with 20 Feet from Stardom. The women
profiled in the film are fascinating, and their singing is glorious, but I
don't think it's much of a film. I'd rather watch a concert featuring all
of them. Then again, Dirty Wars
is simply awful; the subject matter is interesting enough (a journalist's discovery
that American wars are now often fought by guns for hire), but the journalist
is altogether too pleased with himself (the director loves his subject all too
obviously, allowing the journalist to narrate the film in a style that recalls
the worst excesses of old Dragnet
episodes). After its first 30 minutes (which feels like the longest
trailer ever), The Square gets very
good, with the same on-the-street access as Karama
Has No Walls. The Act of
Killing is a fascinating film, a portrayal of a group of truly loathsome
individuals allowed to live with impunity despite having committed unthinkable
crimes. And though I'm tempted to write in Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley's sadly not-nominated film, I'm
equally fond of Cutie and the Boxer,
an interesting portrayal of a complicated relationship between a couple of
Winner: Cutie and the
Makeup: Dallas Buyers Club, ‘Jackass’ Presents: Bad Grandpa, The
Well, first off, I have to say that Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was totally robbed here.
That said, my choice here is clear. Bad Grandpa - a shockingly entertaining film, by the way -
transforms Johnny Knoxville into a most persuasive old man and does such
effective drag makeup on an 8 year-old boy that he successfully infiltrates a
pre-teen beauty pageant.
Winner: Bad Grandpa
Visual Effects: Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger,
Star Trek: Into Darkness
While I am very tempted to be a contrarian and give this
award to The Hobbit for its utterly
wonderful creation of the dragon Smaug, even I can't deny the visual effects
brilliance of Gravity. Even if
I don't love the film as a whole, Gravity
is a game-changer in terms of technology, and its look is truly extraordinary.
Sound Editing: All is Lost, Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,
Again, I could go the easy route and just give most of the
technical categories to Gravity, but
it's my ballot, and I'll cry if I want to. So because I didn't give The Hobbit visual effects, I'm going to
spread the wealth and give this award to it -- for Benedict Cumberbatch's voice
as the dragon rumbling in my belly most satisfyingly.
Winner: The Hobbit: The
Desolation of Smaug
Sound Mixing: Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The
Desolation of Smaug, Inside Llewyn
Davis, Lone Survivor
Captain Phillips, Gravity, and The Hobbit are all excellently crafted movies (I'm no fan of Lone Survivor but the movie was
certainly awfully noisy), but there was no sweeter sound this year than Oscar
Isaac and the exceptionally talented cast singing folk songs in Inside Llewyn Davis.
Winner: Inside Llewyn
Film Editing: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave
Given the film's pacing problems, American Hustle's place here is a bit baffling, and while Dallas Buyers Club is a proficiently
assembled film, I'd gladly have sacrificed its place here to superior film
craft. Despite its gloriously long shots, meaning less editing than your
average film, Gravity is expertly put
together. And Captain Phillips
is as wonderfully tense as 12 Years a
Slave is lyrical. But my favorites are both off the board here: first
is Thelma Schoonmaker for The Wolf of
Wall Street, who, at the very least, should have been nominated here.
Though most people I know, even those who like the film, complain that
it's too long, for me, those three hours flew like no other film did this year,
so much so that I felt I could easily have sat in the theater for three more
hours. But the tensest, most exciting film experience I had this year was
the two hours of nail-biting tension found in World War Z, an expertly crafted popcorn film. So it's
zombies over stockbrokers for the win.
Winner: World War Z
Costume Design: American Hustle, The Grandmaster, The Great
Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years a Slave
I can't say I love this category this year. I'm not
prepared to say that I didn't like any of these nominees (though American Hustle felt a little too
aggressively costumed to me, and I didn't find The Grandmaster very memorable on any level), but I also can't say
I loved any of these achievements. The
Invisible Woman was a dull film, and its costumes were admirably ordinary,
but that still makes them... ordinary. So between my default favorites 12 Years a Slave and The Great Gatsby, I guess I'll throw a
nod to the splashier Gatsby.
Winner: The Great
Animated Film: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest &
Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises
How far we have fallen from 2009 when the nominees included The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline, The Princess and the Frog, and Up,
four utterly wonderful animated films, all of which tower over this year's
selections. Now we range from the awful (Despicable Me 2) to the merely proficient. Do I go with the
beautiful but achingly dull The Wind
Rises? The charming but slight Ernest
& Celestine? The adequate factory product The Croods? Or the severely flawed Frozen with its moments of absolute inspiration? I don't love
any of the choices here (nor is there a suitable write-in candidate).
Foreign Film: The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, The Missing Picture,
The Broken Circle
Breakdown and The Hunt both have
their moments, but they are also both too on-the-nose to be totally effective.
The Missing Picture is deadly:
though the director is to be commended for his artistic vision of presenting
the liquidation of Phnom Penh by creating hundreds of clay figures to
illustrate his country's history, the effect of the film is basically staring
at a diorama for 90 minutes, like getting stuck on the Disneyland Railroad in
front of the Grand Canyon and never getting to the dinosaurs. The Great Beauty is stunning, but it
owes such a great debt to Fellini that it doesn't exist as its own film enough
for me. As my top 10 list indicates, I'm a huge fan of Omar, a twisty political thriller from Palestine. The
choice is very easy here.
Original Song: “Happy”, Despicable Me 2; “Let it Go”, Frozen; “The Moon Song”, Her; “Ordinary Love”, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Unlike my disappointment with other categories this year, I
can genuinely say I like all of these nominated songs (and considering how
little I like U2's music, that is a surprise to me). “Happy” is just
plain fun, and “The Moon Song” hauntingly lilting (though I far prefer Scarlett
Johansson's version in the film to Karen O's recorded version). But “Let
it Go” is undeniable: it sticks in your head like a Whitney Houston song from
the 80's, and it has touched the public imagination in a way that no movie song
has since, maybe, the ineligible "Come What May" from Moulin Rouge! And I love it, plain
and simple, as I wish I loved the whole film.
Winner: “Let it Go”, Frozen
Original Score: The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks
I'll admit it: I seldom pay attention to a film's score.
If a score is too noticeable, it distracts and annoys me (as the Gravity score did by the third time I
saw the movie). So I listened to 20 minutes each of the nominated scores
before making my decision. While I found Her's score effective in the film, it didn't thrill me out of its
film's context. Much as I normally like Alexandre Desplat's music, his Philomena score strikes me as twittery
and insubstantial. Saving Mr. Banks
is nice, but it's all too typical Thomas Newman. Surprisingly, Gravity's music redeemed itself with me
away from the film, but I'm going with the old master in this category, John
Williams for his lovely music for the also lovely film The Book Thief.
Winner: The Book Thief
Production Design: American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby,
Her, 12 Years a Slave
This one's easy. Though there are some good looking
films represented in this category, the physical world of Her was so extraordinary - from the color scheme to the set design
to even the video games - and the look so essential to maintaining the mood of
the movie, that no other films need apply.
Cinematography: The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners
Another easy one. As I've said before, I don't love
the inclusion of visual effects movies in this category (my solution: create a
category for visual effects cinematography, where films like Gravity, Life of Pi, and Avatar
can justly thrive), so despite Gravity's
beauty, I can't vote for it. Besides, the painterly images of Inside Llewyn Davis are so stunning that
this category isn't even a close contest.
Winner: Inside Llewyn
Adapted Screenplay: Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, Philomena,
12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
This one's not so easy. Though a big fan of 12 Years a Slave, I feel its
achievements are more to be found in other categories. And the writing of
The Wolf of Wall Street is dazzling
and funny, but due to the amount of improvisation done on set, it's hard to
know how much credit writer Terence Winter is actually due (I suspect quite a
bit, still...). But my affection for the script of Before Midnight - a movie that relies almost exclusively on
the strength of its script - is unqualified. Every conversation - every
word, really - feels achingly real to me. And maybe a fantasy Oscar that
these filmmakers will never hear about will encourage them to make a fourth
Winner: Before Midnight
Original Screenplay: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers
Club, Her, Nebraska
I always tend to be partial to adaptations over original
scripts, but this year the disparity seems very high. I just don't love
this category. American Hustle
has some wonderful lines (I'm very partial to the ice fishing story), but I
think it's a structural mess. Nebraska also
has some nice moments, but its tone ended up rankling me quite a bit the second
time through. Dallas Buyers Club
boasts an adequate but, to me, honestly unremarkable and occasionally troubling
script. That leaves Her, a near
hit for me (the second time I watched it, that is), but it still reminds me so
much of Woody Allen's masterpiece Annie
Hall that I couldn't help but be distracted (seriously, the relationship
between Joaquin Phoenix and his computer system has a number of parallels with
the relationship between Alvy Singer and Annie). That leaves Blue Jasmine, a very fine film but
nowhere close to Allen's finest work. So I'm going to throw a write-in
bone to Inside Llewyn Davis, my
favorite Coen brothers script, and unjustly left off this list a month ago.
Winner: Inside Llewyn
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Jennifer
Lawrence, American Hustle; Lupita
Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave; Julia
Roberts, August: Osage
County, June Squibb, Nebraska
It's one thing to give a great performance in an otherwise
good film. It's another thing entirely to shine through a film I can't
stand. Though I freely admit that co-stars Margo Martindale, Chris
Cooper, and Juliette Lewis did very nice work in August: Osage
County, the fact that
Julia Roberts could do the finest work in her career in a badly directed, badly
edited, badly shot, badly scored film, is nothing short of a miracle to me. I'm
a fan of a number of women in this category (though I wish there were space for
Margot Robbie from The Wolf of Wall
Street and Sarah Paulson or Adepero Oduye from 12 Years a Slave here), but Roberts - an actress I was furious upon
hearing she'd even been cast in August:
Osage County - blew me away.
Winner: Julia Roberts,
August: Osage County
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips;
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle;
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave;
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street;
Jared Leto, Dallas
Why, oh why, is this category the ugly stepchild of the
acting categories, year after year after year? While I don't hate any of
these performances, I'm also not that wild about any of them. My problem
with Leto's performance is more a function of how calculated the role seems to
have been written with an Oscar in mind, but even acknowledging that bias, I
still think he only does what's required, little more. Cooper impressed
me more last year in Silver Linings
Playbook: this role just seemed needlessly hysterical. Fassbender is
a wonderful actor, but I had problems with his role: the dots never connected
to explain his evil to me. I like Jonah Hill in Wolf, but I preferred him in Moneyball.
So I could go with Barkhad Abdi as my default favorite in the category,
because I really did like his work in Captain
Phillips. Or I could go off the board and honor James Gandolfini's
sweet anti-Tony-Soprano performance in Enough
Said, or Tom Hanks' incredibly satisfying performance as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, or celebrate my
favorite performance in American Hustle,
Louis C.K. I might almost flip a coin on this one.
Ultimately, sad to say, I don't really care.
Winner: Tom Hanks, Saving
Mr. Banks (though I admit what puts him over the edge here was his work in
the last 15 minutes -- and only the last 15 minutes -- of Captain Phillips)
Actress: Amy Adams, American Hustle; Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Judi Dench, Philomena; Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Is there even a reason to discuss this? Though I'd be
happy to champion Amy Adams' very fine work in any other year but this, though
I could spend more time complaining about Meryl Streep's all-too-humanizing
portrayal of her monster mother character, there's really no point in
discussing anyone but Cate Blanchett, who gives the year's best performance
regardless of category. Blanchett is an actress I have never genuinely
loved before. I hated her drag queen portrayal of Katharine Hepburn that
won her an undeserved Oscar nearly a decade ago, and I've just never felt a
huge amount of emotion coming out of her: technical brilliance, sure, but not
much of a heartbeat underneath. Until now. Her work in Blue Jasmine is simply epic: funny and
heartbreaking, intelligent and gut-wrenching. The effect of this
performance may do what The Queen did
for me with Helen Mirren. I may now love Cate Blanchett forever more.
Winner: Cate Blanchett, Blue
Actor: Christian Bale, American
Hustle; Bruce Dern, Nebraska;
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall
Street; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a
Slave; Matthew McConaughey, Dallas
Now this one's more of a barn-burner. While I question
the choice of Christian Bale's place here, I also wasn't a huge fan of the two
performances considered "snubbed" here: either Robert Redford's work
in All is Lost or Tom Hanks' work in Captain Phillips (except, admittedly,
for those last 15 minutes). I'd throw Oscar Isaac from Inside Llewyn Davis as my fifth choice
here. But the other four? All excellent. Bruce Dern's work as
an aging man might not be as iconic for me as Jack Nicholson's in About Schmidt, Alexander Payne's far
superior film, but it is very nice. Though I'm not as seduced by Dallas Buyers Club as everyone else
seems to be, I do love McConaughey here, if only because the world has caught
up with the considerably good work he's done in the last few years (though I
still prefer him in Magic Mike).
And Chiwetel Ejiofor is exquisite in his quiet, reactive performance in 12 Years a Slave. But Leonardo
DiCaprio is so dazzling in The Wolf of
Wall Street. I have always found him a charming actor, but I didn't
know how funny he could be (based on his interviews, I'm guessing he didn't
know how funny he could be either). I'll say it again: that quaaludes
sequence has to be the best physical comedy I've seen in a film in many, many
years. And since comedy so seldom gets Oscar love, I'll correct that in
my small way.
Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Cuaron, Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; David O. Russell, American Hustle; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
As much as I love The
Wolf of Wall Street, I will admit that it doesn't exactly represent a new
chapter in Martin Scorsese's work. And as much as I haven't championed Gravity as a whole, Alfonso Cuaron's
work this year is really extraordinary: it would be a pleasure to give him this
award. But Steve McQueen gets my award here, because he has made a
wonderful film that feels especially like a major directorial achievement to
me. 12 Years a Slave is a
beautifully artful film: though unsparing and harsh, it also feels like a
finely calibrated piece of music, telling the story not simply of a man who
endures almost impossible hardship, but how that hardship shakes him out of his
relative apathy and makes him into an abolitionist. McQueen blew me away
with the power of his work this year.
Winner: Steve McQueen, 12
Years a Slave
Picture: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers
Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska,
Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of
Since I have already published my Top 10 of the year, with Inside Llewyn Davis as my #1 and (a
mere) two of these nominees on the list, my ultimate choice is no surprise.
So, as I have done in years past, I will simply rank the Best Picture
nominees in preferential order:
#1 - The Wolf of Wall
#2 - 12 Years a Slave
#3 - Her
#4 - Captain Phillips
#5 - Gravity
#6 - Dallas Buyers Club
#7 - Philomena
#8 - American Hustle
#9 - Nebraska
And with that, I close my ballot and my
all-too-well-developed Academy Award member fantasies. Now I have about
10 days to polish this year's Posties.
You want a fantasy Oscar ballot??? I'll give you... A
FANTASY OSCAR BALLOT!!!
Last October, I wrote a piece about how I would run a broadcast television network – at least from a programming standpoint. I lamented the
current state of broadcast television and made several brilliant suggestions to
the broadcast networks for remaining just ahead of TV’s evolutionary curve.
Shortly thereafter, I thought about how I would run a cable
network – at least from a programming standpoint. But instead of taking an
existing network and reprogramming it, I created one of my own. Granted, there
are already hundreds in existence, but despite that proliferation, there is
still a void not being filled since a lot of them seem to go after a similar
demographic with exploitative, combative reality programming.
I call my new cable network Net90s -- aimed at, but not directly or entirely, products of the
1970s who grew up in the 1980s and came of age in the 1990s.
We’ll launch with a mix of acquired programs hailing from
the early, middle and late 1990s and, unlike most cable networks, original
scripted programming – which will hearken back to that 1990s style of
television comedies and dramas about families, characters and their
interrelationships as they face relatable situations.
Terrence and Doris Logan –
a long-married fortysomething couple send their youngest son off to college – and now their
marriage truly begins.
Twins of Anarchy – time-jumping
stories about a family with twin boys based on the blog of the same name.
My Mother and Me – an
early thirtysomething woman has to adapt to the evolving
relationship between her and her newly teenaged son.
Just Us Guys – a gay
thirtysomething has an unorthodox relationship with his straight teenage son.
The Two of Us- an
unlikely friendship forms between a gay black man from the northeast and
a straight white man from Texas
when they become roommates in the East Bay.
I Am Erick Davidson - a
long-single gay early thirtysomething who finally, but tentatively,
enters into a relationship.
On Her Own – a 22-year-old
young woman fresh out of college lands a job, moves out of her parent’s house and into an
apartment with two girlfriends from high school.
The Happy Homemaker – an
interracial gay couple raises an adopted son.
This Life – a
sixtysomething retired from a long career as a teacher tries to find his way in a changing world and a family
that’s all grown up.
Thirty-plus & Some – a
thirtysomething moves in with his mother and her mother, who don’t like each other.
The Stag – a
broken-hearted straight guy takes solace with a group of gay men.
Lockwood Drive - a close-knit Italian family lives on the same street in the same archetypal New England town.
Anthology – a series of dramatic adaptations and original works
featuring an array of guest-starring
actors and actresses as well as a revolving door of reperatory players.
The Shepherd – a young
man steps out from the apprenticeship of a veteran pastor to take
over a church of his own.
Extended Family – a young
man has a dubious relationship with his large family.
Open Road – two men,
unsatisfied with their dead-end lives, decide to pool their money and embark on an extended road trip.
In Living Color – weeknight strip
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – weekday strip
Blossom – weekends strip
Home Improvement –
Roc – weekends
Mad About You – weekday strip
Martin – weekends
Ellen – weekday strip
Grace Under Fire – weekday strip
Living Single – weekends
Cybill - weekends
3rd Rock from the Sun – weekday strip
Moesha – weekends
Cosby – weekday strip
Spin City – weeknight strip
Sports Night – weekends
Northern Exposure –
Sisters – weekday strip
Picket Fences – weekday strip
Homicide: Life on the Street – weekday strip
York Undercover – weekday strip
NYPD Blue – weekday strip
(first seven seasons only)
My So-Called Life – weekend
ER – weekday access
strip (first six seasons only)
Chicago Hope – weekday strip
ACQUIRED YOUTH PROGRAMMING (Saturday and Sunday Mornings)
Saved by the Bell
Tiny Toon Adventures
Rugrats (first nine seasons only)
Salute Your Shorts
ACQUIRED PLUS (WEB
The Outs –
Whatever This Is –
PRIME (MON-FRI 8:30-11:30P, SAT-SUN 8PM-12M)
830pm Terrence and Doris Logan (Previous week’s episode)
9pm Twins of Anarchy (Previous week’s episode)
930pm Terrence and Doris Logan (New episode)
10pm Twins of Anarchy (New episode)
1030pm Terrence and Doris Logan (Encore)
of Anarchy (Encore)
830pm My Mother and Me (Previous
9pm Just Us Guys (Previous
930pm My Mother and Me (New
10pm Just Us Guys (New
1030pm My Mother and Me (Encore)
Us Guys (Encore)
830pm On Her Own (Previous week’s episode)
9pm I Am Erick Davidson (Previous week’s episode)
930pm On Her Own (New
10pm I Am Erick Davidson (New episode)
1030pm On Her Own (Encore)
Am Erick Davidson (Encore)
830pm The Shepherd (Encore)
930pm Anthology (New
1030pm Anthology (Encore)
830pm The Happy Homemaker (Repeats)
9pm The Stag (Repeats)
930pm Thirty-plus & Some (Repeats)
10pm The Two of Us (Repeats)
1030pm This Life (Repeats)
11pm Lockwood Drive (Repeats)
8pm Terrence and Doris Logan (Repeats)
830pm Twins of Anarchy (Repeats)
9pm My Mother and Me (Repeats)
930pm Just Us Guys (Repeats)
Her Own (Repeats)
1030pm I Am Erick Davidson (Repeats)
11pm Anthology (Repeats)
8pm The Shepherd (Previous week’s episode)
9pm Anthology (Previous
Shepherd (New episode)
11pm The Shepherd (Encore)
830pm The Happy Homemaker (Previous week’s episode)
9pm The Stag (Previous week’s
930pm The Happy Homemaker (New episode)
10pm The Stag (New episode)
1030pm The Happy Homemaker (Encore)
830pm Thirty-plus & Some (Previous
9pm The Two of Us (Previous
930pm Thirty-plus & Some (New
10pm The Two of Us (New
1030pm Thirty-plus & Some (Encore)
Two of Us (Encore)
830pm This Life (Previous week’s episode)
930pm This Life (New
1030pm This Life (Encore)
11pm Lockwood Drive (Encore)
830pm Extended Family (Encore)
1030pm Open Road (Encore)
830pm Terrence and Doris Logan (Repeats)
9pm Twins of Anarchy (Repeats)
930pm My Mother and Me (Repeats)
10pm Just Us Guys (Repeats)
1030pm On Her Own (Repeats)
Am Erick Davidson (Repeats)
8pm The Happy Homemaker (Repeats)
830pm The Stag (Repeats)
9pm Thirty-plus & Some (Repeats)
930pm The Two of Us (Repeats)
11pm Open Road (Repeats)
8pm Extended Family (Previous
Family (New episode)
11pm Extended Family (Encore)
3rd Rock from the Sun 6-7A
The Fresh Prince of
Mad About You 9-10A
Grace Under Fire 10-11A
NYPD Blue 12N-1P
New York Undercover 1-2P
Homicide: Life on the
M-F EARLY FRINGE
Northern Exposure 3-4P
Picket Fences 5-6P
Chicago Hope 6-7P
M-F PRIME ACCESS
In Living Color 8-830P
M-F LATE FRINGE
Sports Night 1130P-12M
Spin City 12M-1A
“Acquired Plus” Programming 1-2A
Salute Your Shorts 8-9A
Welcome Freshmen 9-10A
Saved by the Bell 11A-12N
My So-Called Life 4-5P
“Acquired Plus” Programming 7-8P
Paid Programming 12M-6A
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As is my new modus operandi, I defer to The Postman and his impressive knowledge of films, film production and film history for a reaction to this year's Oscar nominations -- which were announced yesterday by actor Chris Helmsworth and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs:
Members of the Route,
my Christmas morning has come once again, the one day I willingly wake up hours
before I would normally get out of bed to pad over to my couch, turn on the
television, and wait with breathless anticipation for what Santa Oscar has
brought me. No milk and cookies for me;
pen and paper, thank you. Let's open the
presents, shall we?
the nominations seem to be...
Best Picture: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas
Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska,
Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of
I don't spend a lot of energy making predictions for these nominations, it has
been very clear to me that only 12 films released this year had any reasonable
shot at being nominated for Best Picture: these nine as well as Inside Llewyn Davis, Saving Mr. Banks, and Blue Jasmine. No other films need have applied. And while everyone else seems to embrace 2013
as a film year to celebrate, I think this list of 12 represents an awfully
shallow pool as well as one in which I'm not all that eager to wade (and I say
this having already seen all 12 of these perceived "finalists" twice
each). When I publish my Top 10 list
this year, you will notice only two films nominated this year on there. Just two.
That's as bad as 2011, my vote for worst year ever at the movies, with
shining stars The Artist and The Help and The Descendants leading the Oscar charge.
biggest disappointment of this morning's revelations is not seeing Inside Llewyn Davis listed here (or,
frankly, in Best Director, Best Actor, Original Screenplay, Editing... you get
the picture). The Coen brothers may have
made their best movie yet, but it's either too low-key to be heard over the
din, or its distributor didn't have the muscle to generate enough hype. And yes, I'd rather see Blue Jasmine and even Saving
Mr. Banks on this list over the likes of the awkwardly condescending Nebraska, the Vanity Fair article-movie Philomena, and the somewhat naive and
cliched Dallas Buyers Club. And, once again, I sit in utter mystification
that David O. Russell has conned so many people into liking yet another movie
of his: American Hustle was fun the
first time through, but on second viewing, it revealed itself to me as an
amiable mess with no momentum, with characters left largely at sea by a
screenplay that revels in the sound of its own tinny cleverness, sacrificing
logic and causality whenever necessary.
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron,
Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; David O. Russell, American Hustle; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Gravity will not make my Top 10 list
this year, even I am perfectly happy to celebrate Cuaron's astounding
achievement in this category. And
certainly, I'm very pleased for Steve McQueen and Martin Scorsese, who both
made favorites of mine this year. I
won't continue my David O. Russell bashing, because I know he's very good with
actors (I just wish he were better with editing, pacing, structure... you know,
the little things). But Alexander Payne's
Nebraska, while not as egregious as The Descendants (a film I truly hated),
just doesn't strike me as that good.
Beyond one excellent performance, and a couple of other strong acting
turns, I find the movie relatively slack and I can't help feeling that Payne is
laughing at the movie's characters, not with them. That's an accusation I normally level at the
Coen brothers, something they absolutely don't do with the people populating Inside Llewyn Davis. Maybe condescension works for the Academy; I
Best Actor: Christian Bale,
American Hustle; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street; Chiwetel
Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave; Matthew
McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
this is the one category where four of my favorite performances of the year
actually show up. As much as I have
problems with both movies Nebraska
and Dallas Buyers Club, I really do
celebrate the work of Bruce Dern and especially Matthew McConaughey. But, if I have to be honest with myself, the
one thing I wished for from Santa Oscar this year, was Leonardo DiCaprio to be
remembered for his explosive, hilarious, despicable performance in The Wolf of Wall Street. Yes, I think he's better than Tom Hanks who,
despite an incredible final 15 minutes in Captain Phillips, just didn't wow me
at any other time in the movie, especially with that embarrassing Boston
accent. And, much as I respected the
filmmaking of All is Lost, I was
similarly unwowed by Robert Redford, so I can't say I'm sad to see him
neglected either. As for Mr. Bale, while
I enjoyed his Wig Performance (David O. Russell, after conning the Academy into
giving Melissa Leo an Oscar a few years back by throwing her in a ridiculous
wig and handing her a lot of cigarettes, has become the go-to Wig Director), I
would still rather have seen Oscar Isaac, Idris Elba, or Michael B. Jordan
there in his place.
Best Actress: Amy Adams, American Hustle; Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Judi Dench, Philomena; Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
much vitriol as I have to spew about American
Hustle, I must say that I really loved Amy Adams (though I think I liked
her even better in Her, but that's
another story). I am delighted to see
her nominated, even if my favorite in this category - Cate Blanchett - is oh so
clear. I truly believe the rest of the
nominees are just category-fillers here, and I'd gladly see Brie Larson from Short Term 12 or Julie Delpy from Before Midnight up here instead of Ms.
Bullock, Dench, or Streep. Emma
Thompson's absence is woeful: I certainly think her work is every bit the equal
of Judi Dench's Weinstein-encouraged vote pandering performance (lovely as it
is) and certainly better than Streep's mugging, look-at-me-I'm-acting
turn. Meryl Streep is a national
treasure, and I have loved many of her performances - truly loved them - but
she needn't be nominated every time she shows up on film, people. Really, give her a rest.
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips;
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle;
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave;
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street;
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
oh why, is this always the shittiest category of the year? Yes, I do think it's appropriate to
swear. Year after year after year, this
category is filled with adequate performances masquerading as greatness, when
the other three categories more often than not have so many options that people
are left on the curb as the bus has pulled away. Despite my love of 12 Years a Slave, Michael Fassbender's character was the one I
could never quite grasp: I just don't think the script does enough to connect
the dots to make me understand his evil (though his acting nearly does the job
that the script does not, it's not enough for me). Bradley Cooper shows a lot of nervous energy
in American Hustle, but I didn't find
his acting all that exemplary; he was far better last year in Silver Linings Playbook. And Jared Leto does his best, but his
character seems like such a collection of cliches - a made-up character served
to redeem the film's one true character (played by Mathew McConaughey) and
score audience sympathy points - that I just can't embrace his
performance. So while I am delighted
that Barkhad Abdi and Jonah Hill are nominated (a second viewing of The Wolf of Wall Street makes Leonardo
DiCaprio's claims that Jonah Hill led the cast in its largely improvised scenes
seem quite easy to believe), I'd rather have made room elsewhere in this
category for James Gandolfini's quiet work in Enough Said, Tom Hanks' quite lovely performance as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, Jake Gyllenhaal's
twitchy work in Prisoners (and for me
to celebrate anything in that wretched film is saying something), or Chris
Cooper in August: Osage County.
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Jennifer
Lawrence, American Hustle; Lupita
Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave; Julia
Roberts, August: Osage County, June
those of you playing at home, this is the only category (along with Adapted
Screenplay) that I predicted correctly (explaining perhaps why I don't share my
predictions). Sure, it's a slight
surprise that Oprah Winfrey wasn't nominated for Lee Daniels' The Butler, but ask yourself: if anyone BUT Oprah
Winfrey had given that performance, would anyone have talked about it? I am just fine not seeing her on this
list. I think this is a fine group. Though I would rather have seen her nominated
for the movie Happy-Go-Lucky a few
years back, Hawkins is a most pleasant inclusion here. And I'm pleased for June Squibb, even if I
don't love her performance as much as others seem to. But I'm still a bit mystified by everyone's
love for Jennifer Lawrence. As an
actress. Again, she seems to be a
delightful person, and if there were Oscars for Best Congeniality or Best
Post-Show Interview, I'd give them all to her.
But acting?? Her accent comes and
goes more rapidly than the tonal switches in American Hustle. Sure, if
she hadn't won her undeserved Oscar last year for Silver Linings Playbook, I might think more kindly towards her this
year (I do like her performance better in Hustle). But, see, she did; she did win. Attention must be paid!! Julia Roberts wins the same prize Helen Hunt
won last year: both women deserved to be considered as lead actress for their
respective movies (Helen Hunt in The
Sessions) but were relegated to Supporting to make room for them. While I loved Roberts in August: Osage County, Margo Martindale and Juliette Lewis also did
really nice work in what are definitely supporting roles. I would also like to have made room for
Octavia Spencer, who I so hated in The
Help but so loved in Fruitvale
Station (a movie sadly overlooked this morning), Sarah Paulson in 12 Years a Slave, Amy Adams for Her, Naomie Harris for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and
Margot Robbie for The Wolf of Wall Street. This category, unlike the previous one, is,
as ever, an embarrassment of riches.
American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers
Club, Her, Nebraska
this category is rendered absurd without the inclusion of Inside Llewyn Davis, but I'd also like to have seen Enough Said get its due here, as well as
In a World..., Lake Bell's
surprisingly fresh and tart comedy. American Hustle's script is a mess with
some crackly dialogue (boy, I do love that ice fishing story), Blue Jasmine is not Woody Allen's
greatest (though I do raise that bar fairly high), and Her - a movie I have grown to like far more the second time through
- still strikes me as a loose remake of Annie
Hall without Diane Keaton... or jokes.
Nebraska has too many moments
that feel like sitcom scenarios of how midwestern yokels might behave or talk
for my tastes, and Dallas Buyers Club
takes easy potshots at the FDA and brings its prickly, intriguing lead
character to a far too easy redemption for my liking. In short, I do not think this was a terribly
strong year for original screenplays.
Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, Philomena,
12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
this is where the quality resides. Before Midnight is little more than
talk, but the talk is glorious, from the couple's discussions about their
children, their marriage, their past, to the rousing dinner conversation where
their friends from their vacations share their different perspectives on
love. 12 Years a Slave's script is like poetry, though I must admit I
find the mastery of that film more directorial than scripted. Captain
Phillips is a taut, well-directed thriller, an excellent action movie that
I don't happen to love, but its script, along with its filmmaking, is certainly
very tight. The Wolf of Wall Street boasts an amazing script, with fast, smart
dialogue punctuated by actors' improvisations, but a razor-sharp structure that
sends its characters to the impossible heights and watches them drop ever so
excitingly. Only Philomena feels the odd man out here, as I still don't understand
what the dramatic heft of the story here is.
A woman searches for her long lost son and finds out all sorts of things
about him. OK, but what does she learn
about herself? How does she grow or
change? Again, I think the account of
what she found is fascinating, but I'd rather have seen her son's story than
watch her wander about Washington DC and crack jokes about Big Momma's House. No, I'd
have lost Philomena in this category
and replaced it with either The Bling
Ring (which I saw recently and found fascinating) or World War Z, a movie I loved and which was apparently a radical
adaptation of its source material.
Animated Film: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest &
Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises
has not been a good year for animation.
I don't love any of these films (even if I have a great deal of
affection for the occasionally delightful mess that is Frozen). The Wind Rises is really quite dull (if
beautiful), Ernest & Celestine is
charming but very slight, and The Croods
is perfectly fine. I truly hated Despicable Me 2 and would rather see Monsters University or Epic in its place. But I just don't care enough to be angry.
Cinematography: The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis,
also don't think this was such a hot year for cinematography. The inclusion of Gravity here continues the trend of visual effects-dominated work
being represented in this category, and I really wish they'd split this
category into Live Action Cinematography and Visual Effects
Cinematography. Gravity looks amazing, but so much of that is due to
pre-visualization that I don't think it can, or should, be compared to the
grey, smoky lighting of Inside Llewyn
Davis. The Grandmaster is not as interesting a movie visually as I hoped
it would be, and Prisoners is here
only because Roger Deakins shot it and not because it's actually that great
looking. And Nebraska owes its nomination to a really superb transfer to
DVD. The movie looks far better on the
small screen than it did in the theater.
I'd rather see The Wolf of Wall
Street or The Great Gatsby or 12 Years a Slave here.
American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby,
Her, 12 Years a Slave
must say, I'm thrilled Her got
noticed here. If there is one element of
that movie that works spectacularly well, it's its look, but I worried that the
near-future time frame would cripple its chances. Otherwise, the big, splashy, expected films
have all been invited to play: the period splendor of The Great Gatsby, the period squalor of 12 Years a Slave, the gaudiness of American Hustle's 70's, and the visual effects design of Gravity.
Yes, I'd like to see Inside Llewyn
Davis here, and perhaps The Hobbit:
The Desolation of Smaug or The Book
Thief, but this is a fine list.
Costume Design: American Hustle, The Grandmaster, The Great
Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years a Slave
I'm just happy I sat down and watched a screener of The Invisible Woman (a powerfully boring film) with friends,
because it's nominated here, and now I don't have to run and catch up with
it. Nice costumes though. I honestly didn't notice any costumes in The Grandmaster, so that's a bit
puzzling. Hustle, Gatsby, and Slave are all obvious choices here, but
I might have gone with Her (I spent
the entire first screening of the movie staring at Joaquin Phoenix's half
collars, which might not exactly seem like an endorsement for the film) or the
more fanciful Hunger Games 2 or even Oz: The Great and Powerful. But really, was there a costume any more
memorable than Vera Farmiga's scalloped collar in The Conjuring this year? I
don't think so.
Film Editing: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas
Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave
always amused when films that are clearly too long (I'm looking at you, Hustle) get nominated here: the second
half of that film goes dangerously slack for me. Of course, one might say the same of the
woefully not nominated The Wolf of Wall
Street, but honestly, I wanted that film to be 3 hours longer. 12
Years a Slave is a tough movie, but I also don't think it's too long:
McQueen and his editors dared to take their time to put over the idea of what
twelve years of captivity might feel like (and did so in only 134
minutes). Gravity wisely telescoped its roller coaster-like thrills into a
tight 90 minutes: bravo. I must admit
I'm shocked to see Dallas Buyers Club
here. It's a well-assembled movie, but
I'm just not sure I'd ever think of it as an editorial achievement.
Original Score: The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks
not great at listening to film scores.
Often, if I'm listening to the score of a movie, it means I'm not paying
enough attention to the story or the performances. Over the three times I've watched Gravity, I can say that I've truly grown
to hate that movie's score. It's
bombastically effective the first time through, but I don't think it's at all
good music. Otherwise, Saving Mr. Banks is so dominated by the
Sherman brothers' songs for Mary Poppins
that I don't remember the actual score.
I might have put 12 Years a Slave
and Captain Phillips up here, but
again, I seldom take the time to listen to a film's soundtrack outside of the
Original Song: “Alone Yet Not
Alone”, Alone Yet Not Alone; “Happy”,
Despicable Me 2; “Let it Go”, Frozen; “The Moon Song”, Her; “Ordinary Love”, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
year, my goal is to have seen every nominated film in the English-language non-documentary
feature categories (if I have time and am able, I'll watch the documentaries
and foreign films, but often times, they're not all available for general
consumption). And this year my total of
films I need to see to reach that goal before March 2 totals exactly: one. Alone
Yet Not Alone is a film that apparently got released in September of 2013
(or June, depending on what website you find), but only 28 people have
"graded" it on the Internet Movie Database, and Boxofficemojo.com
doesn't even have an entry for it.
Seeing this movie is not going to be easy (I've heard the song; it's
pretty enough). Otherwise, after years
with next to no viable candidates in this category, I think this is a perfectly
strong category. I am no fan of U2's
music, but "Ordinary Love" is a quite nice song, and I think Her's "The Moon Song" has real
charm. And while I might not be as
obsessed with the song "Let it Go" as every single one of my friends,
I think it's a most excellent entry into the Disney canon.
Sound Mixing: Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The
Desolation of Smaug, Inside Llewyn
Davis, Lone Survivor
to form, this category features the year's loudest films... and a musical. I'm a little surprised not to see Rush nominated here (or for Sound
Editing), and I'm distressed that 12
Years a Slave did not get the support in craft categories that it might
need to win Best Picture. I haven't
reviewed Lone Survivor, because the
movie didn't do all that much for me. I
was tempted to write a song parody of "The Lonely Goatherd" as my
review. It would have started,
"High on a hill, near some Afghan goatherds, Lay ee oh di lay ee oh di lay
hee ho. Some Navy SEALS stumble on those
goatherds. Lay ee oh di lay ee oh di
loo." I never got farther than
Sound Editing: All is Lost, Captain Phillips, Gravity,
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Lone Survivor
is perhaps a little sad that All is Lost's
sole nomination is for the sound of a storm and the sound of water lapping
against a boat, but... there you are.
Visual Effects: Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger,
Star Trek Into Darkness
someone put it many weeks ago, let's see all the other films that will lose to Gravity.
Certainly, I'm delighted The
Hobbit is here, if for nothing else but the glorious creation that is the
dragon Smaug. His scenes may go on too
long (in a Hobbit film? You're joking!), but he's one of the year's
more extraordinary delights. Beyond the
obvious visual effects on display in the Iron
Man and Star Trek sequels, I am
most intrigued by the inclusion of The
Lone Ranger here. Granted, I only
saw the movie on DVD, but the visual effects that I saw looked somewhat
dreadful. What is notable, and what
clearly got the nomination here, are the film's special effects, those moments
- the train crashes, bridge explosions, etc. - that were captured on camera
rather than added in post. I am glad
that what seems like a film's lost art is being recognized, even if the film
that contains those effects is, well, not very good.
Makeup/Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The
watched the seven films that qualified for this award (which meant I took
myself to a remote $3 theater in the San Fernando Valley to see Bad Grandpa, thank you very much), and I
have one thing to say: Hansel &
Gretel Witch Hunters totally deserved to be nominated. No, seriously. It did.
Because, really? Dallas Buyers Club? McConaughey and Leto did most of that movie's
work by losing all the weight. And I'm
just going to hope that The Lone Ranger's
nomination is more for the many wounds and things seen on other characters
rather than Johnny Depp's somewhat unfortunate Injun-face.
The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square, 20 Feet from
am devastated that Sarah Polley's film Stories
We Tell got skipped in this category but am delighted that Cutie and the Boxer is here: it's really
good. I am not upset to see Blackfish go missing here: while its
message may be important, I just didn't think the filmmaking was anything
special at all. I found The Act of Killing fascinating, if
potentially repugnant, and I'm not sure I get all the hype surrounding 20 Feet from Stardom: the singers
profiled are fun, but the movie doesn't have much to say. Dirty
Wars is a hysterical inclusion here: the movie's subject is interesting
enough, but the investigative journalist who is the film's focus is
insufferable and provides narration that would have seemed overheated in a
1950's B movie. I have yet to see The Square.
Foreign Film: The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, The Missing Picture,
only seen two films represented here (The
Hunt - bad; The Great Beauty -
good), I have nothing really to contribute here.
I also have not seen the short films in competition (except for Get a Horse!, which is one of my
favorite films of the year), so I'll have to get to a screening of those
contenders before casting my Oscar ballot.
that's it! An unsurprising, somewhat
disappointing year, despite what other critics are saying, but the nominations
actually do make a race out of a number of key categories. I can honestly say I don't know who's going
to win Best Picture, Actor, Actress, or Supporting Actress at this point, even
if I have definite ideas. But that will
be for another time. Until then, go see Inside Llewyn Davis, and see what you -
and the Academy - are missing.
want a review??? I'll give you... A
Click on any of "The Postman" links for more film reviews. The 86th Annual Academy Awards will air live March 2 on ABC at 830pm EST/530pm PST.
not a film critic. I don't know enough about the process of filmmaking to
provide legitimate film criticism, so I generally offer are reaction pieces
based largely on my feelings about a particular film.
is the case with this piece I wrote about the Golden Globe-nominated “Inside Llewyn
movies people are going to like or even love.
movies people are just not going to like or even hate.
there are movies that some people are just NOT going to understand enough to appreciate. Inside Llewyn Davis is one
of those movies. But it's not the movie's fault.
Brothers are one of those entities in moviedom that I can appreciate but
wouldn't necessarily consider myself to be a fan of. I don't specifically go
out to see THEIR movies. Any movie of theirs I've seen (and I actually can't
even think of another one besides this one), I saw based on my interest in the
film as opposed to their involvement in it.
the case with Inside Llewyn
Davis. Therefore, I didn't go into the theatre expecting to see a
standard, or even a quasi-standard, Coen Brothers movie. And this is probably
why I enjoyed it more than those whose reviews or opinions of it were mixed.
Llewyn Davis is not a heavily-plotted movie. It's basically a week in
the life of a struggling musician on several brinks during New York's folk
scene in the early 1960s. But within this simple plot are a great many story
threads that are driven by Llewyn's interrelationships with the other
characters. A lot of people find that hard to follow because they're spending
so much time looking for a clearer, more delineated plot (as opposed to a
is what makes the film so great for me. There are no explosions. There is no
heavy drama. There's very little violence. There's no sex. But there is GREAT
music -- sung live by the film's aesthetically pleasing and well-cast leading
man, Oscar Isaac. Plus it has Vinnie Delpino from Doogie Howser, M.D. (the
actor's name is Max Casella). And what Coen Brother movie would be complete
without John Goodman, who's never bad in anything good.
love most about the movie is that it's bleak and at times, depressing. There
are humorous moments, but it's hardly a feel good movie. There's no happy
ending, nor should there be. It's a movie about an artist and artistry is
bleak. At times, it's even depressing. Not everyone gets a big break. Not
everyone achieves what is conventionally considered "success". For a
lot of artists, "success" is predicated on continuing to write, act,
sing, draw, paint and design regardless as to whether anyone is reading,
watching, listening, seeing, commissioning or wearing.
A lot of
movies don't reflect that. And lesser movies would have him performing on The Ed Sullivan Show, getting a
record deal and then going out on tour.
why I don't go out to see a lot of movies these days. A lot of what Hollywood
has to offer is derivative, formulaic, sequellic and rebootal. Blockbuster
movies in the summer. Oscar-bait movies in the fall. Plus ticket prices have
gotten so high that I may as well go see a play.
Llewyn Davis was a refreshing
change of pace for me, so it was well worth the cost. Perhaps it'll someday be
adapted for the stage. And if HBO is watching, the movie will lend itself quite
well to a TV series -- with Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis and only Oscar Issac as
Llewyn Davis because Oscar Isaac IS Llewyn Davis.
I don't watch enough movies in any given year and haven't seen enough of them
throughout film history, I don't have that big-picture purview and historical
context needed to provide a thorough analysis of any individual film.
Therefore I defer to The Postman,
whose film reviews are always very insightful and based on demonstrated knowledge
of the filmmaking process, a fluid understanding of each film's approach to
that process, familiarity with a variety of film genres as well as a historical
context -- all without coming across dry, stuffy or elitist as typical film
reviewed the film on December 30 and I’ve reposted it here. With permission.
Members of the Route,
Llewyn Davis is the latest
film from the Coen brothers, filmmakers whom I have seldom loved. Much of
the time, I find them condescending towards their quirky characters, a little
too pleased with themselves, and their films are often emotionally
disconnected. I thought, I hoped, there had been a switch in recent years
with their wonderful film A
Serious Man, a funny but still affectionate look at their upbringing as
midwestern Jews in the 1960's. But then came True Grit, an utterly unnecessary
and unmemorable remake.
movie tells the story of Llewyn, a folk singer who is trying to become a solo
act after his singing partner broke the group up. He is talented, but
he's also an asshole and a drifter: he couch-surfs from one place to another,
living off the graces of a group of friends (and occasionally his sister), none
of whom seem to like him very much. Though somewhat episodic, the film's
narrative is rich: Llewyn has various opportunities to become a better man and
perhaps a more successful artist, and the dramatic thrust is to see whether or
not he can or will do so. Along the way, we meet a host of folk singers
(one of whom he may have made pregnant), a jazz musician heroin addict, some
Upper West Side professor types, an agent who might be his ticket to the big
time, and a fairly marvelous cat. This film is no comedy, despite some
very lovely moments of humor. It is the tragedy of an artist who is,
ultimately, a failure, and it's kind of wonderful to see a film avoid the
cliches of artistic expression. The ending contains a rich inside joke,
is open-ended enough to invite one's own interpretation, and is utterly
is stellar. Oscar Isaac is perfection as Davis: prickly, obnoxious, but somehow
likable. He also happens to be a marvelous musician, so there's this
grand irony that we can see his talents where the characters in the film often
can't. But every character, and every performance, is wonderful, from
Justin Timberlake to Carey Mulligan to Stark Sands to Adam Driver to Robin
Bartlett to F. Murray Abraham to John Goodman (who nearly steals the film) to
that unbelievably expressive cat. But the revelation here is that even
when some of the supporting characters seem like stereotypes (a Coen brothers
specialty), they never lapse into caricature and are portrayed with affection,
even down to the tiny secretary at Davis'
better, Inside Llewyn Davis is also one of the best crafted films
of the year. The cinematography is cold and gorgeous: all the colors
washed out into various palates of greys. The art direction and costumes are
perfect, providing an evocative sense of time and place. The soundtrack is a
marvelous collection of old folk songs, beautifully sung and produced. Inside
Llewyn Davis may be the
Coens' finest film to date, and it may also be the best movie of the year.
a review??? I'll give you... A REVIEW!!!
I met Nikki Gold and
Gerard Bianco, Jr. at the 2012 LA Web Fest. I was representing the “Bitter
Bartender” web series with its star and producer David Gunning while they were
representing “Method or Madness”, their improvisational web series about the
lives of two Lucyesque aspiring actors in New
We ran into each other
outside of a screening room where “Bitter Bartender” was showing and struck up
a conversation with them over the “Method or Madness” t-shirts they were
wearing. We exchanged information and I offered to do a write-up of the show
for the website.
At the time of this
interview – conducted April 16, 2012, the series hadn’t premiered online yet
and was a few months from doing so. Or so we all thought. But “Method or
Madness” finally premiered this past September and the entire first season is available on blip.tv (links to each episode are way below).
1. How did you
two meet and how did that evolve into this partnership?
Nikki: We talk about the day we met a lot. I don’t really
remember that much about it.
Gerard: Apparently I didn’t make a lasting impression.
Nikki: No he didn’t. (Laughs) I do remember we were working
on a TV show in New York.
Gerard said something really hilarious and I laughed and it was instant
Gerard: That’s about right.
Nikki: Well, what do you remember about the day?
Gerard: That was definitely about right.
Nikki: You said something funny.
Nikki: And I laughed. And that was how we met.
Gerard: That was how we met. Nikki had a great sense of humor as well. That
Nikki: Yes, and our friendship has been surrounded by a lot
of laughter and fun.
Gerard: We were both freezing. It was a very cold, exterior shoot
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and we ran off to Crafty to get a tea. That
was it. We made each other laugh all day.
2. Was “Method
or Madness” the foundation of the partnership or did you two join forces and
then create “Method or Madness”?
Nikki: We became friends and bonded over pursuing acting and
we were each other’s support system for a long time. I was doing theatre and
Gerard was doing film. We were not fully fulfilled in our career paths.
Gerard: We brought each other in on a lot of projects because
we were pursuing similar paths. And when people cast us for things, they’d call
me and ask if Nikki was also available. We ended up creating this partnership
that was great on a friend level but also on a professional level. It’s not
always easy to find. The first project we worked on together was a play that
Nikki was cast in.
Nikki: It was not really professional.
Gerard: Which she was not very forthcoming about.
Nikki: I didn’t mention the fact that it wasn’t in a
Gerard: She told me she got cast in this play and one of the
male leads dropped out. I should have known that was a red flag.
Nikki: You did the play regardless.
Gerard: I did an improv for the director at my audition.
Nikki: He loved you.
Gerard: We had a lot of fun.
Nikki: Gerard started helping this guy direct it as well.
Gerard: I realized I could do more directing – not just show
up and learn my lines and perform. Nikki did set design and we worked together
on some re-writes. That was the first spark…
Nikki: …that we could work together.
Gerard: Working together and creating. The creativity just
started to flow.
Nikki: We tried to write a play together. We never finished
Gerard: It was a really funny play.
Nikki: We’re going to finish it one day.
Gerard: We wanted to produce that play but we just saw no
Nikki: It’s very difficult producing a play. But we realized
we really liked working together and that’s really where “Method or Madness”
started. We enjoyed working together so much that we decided to just do our own
project. We’d get to work together more often. And make it funny.
Gerard: We watched a lot of independent projects and got to
the point where we felt we could do something better than some of the stuff
that was out there.
Gerard: Especially if we teamed up.
3. So how did
“Method or Madness” come about?
Gerard: We had other web series ideas. And because we spent so much time
together, we could capitalize on that because we had so many shared experiences.
Nikki: Walking in the city something funny would happen…
Gerard: …in the middle of the day because we’re unemployed.
So there was a lot of down time -- things that go on when you’re stuck in an
office all day as opposed to bouncing around the city the entire day. We had
seven stories in one day.
Nikki: And they were all funny. Or we thought they were.
Gerard: We only concentrate on the funny stuff…
Nikki: …that we could use in a sitcom or a web series.
Gerard: We wanted to do something that was truth in comedy.
People and situations.
Nikki: Then we started writing a little bit and
brainstorming ideas for episodes of a web series.
Gerard: We had a really fun idea right before “Method or
Nikki: I don’t remember it.
Gerard: We had the therapist and that whole…thing.
Nikki: Ohhhhhhh….we were going to do our whole series based
on us meeting with either a life coach or a therapist.
Gerard: It starts with us having a breakdown.
Nikki: That’s right! I forgot about that! You having a
meltdown in one place and me having a meltdown in another place.
Gerard: But how would that make sense? We had the same
breakdown. We had the same therapist. It was going to be too contrived.
Nikki: We wanted something a little more organic with our
Gerard: We wanted it to be a little more natural.
Nikki: Situation based.
Gerard: As natural as it can be for two people together
Nikki: That’s not
natural. We spend a lot of time together. We were doing videos while we were doing
a fundraiser for our web series – thanking people for their support and asking
for more support because we were getting closer. We were in Gerard’s apartment
and I did refer to it at one point as home. I don’t think my husband would have
Oh…now THAT is an interesting dynamic.
Nikki: Gerard was at my wedding.
Gerard: I’ve been adopted into the family. Nikki’s nana is
the Jewish grandmother I never had.
Nikki: My husband’s also in a creative field. He’s very
supportive of the work that we’re doing. And I’m very supportive of the work he
does. We both understand the importance of having a career and creating. That’s
why artists have to be together and goof up. You need to be with people that
are going to support the craziness of trying to create something. I have some
friends that are artists and they are married or they’re dating people that are
in different fields. Those are the people that have a ton of money. They don’t
quite get it. They financially support it, but they belittle what we’re doing.
Gerard: “Why would you
do that play for no money?” Because that’s what gets us up everyday.
Nikki: Fortunately I’ve got support from the hubby.
Gerard: Mr. Farren.
Nikki: Gold is my maiden name and Farren is my stage name.
It’s very funny when I check into a hotel under my married name and Gerard is
referred to as “Mr. Farren”.
Gerard: She gets “Mrs. Bianco” all the time.
Nikki: We liken our relationship to Elaine and Jerry on “Seinfeld”.
Gerard: Did they? Will they? Have they?
Nikki: It’s difficult for our series because we’re playing
exaggerated versions of ourselves. Ray Romano had his own TV show. Louis CK has
his own TV show. They use things that are part of their real lives, but it’s
not 100% true. They may be in a relationship that doesn’t carry over into the
show. When we talk about our relationship on the show, it’s not so much our
relationship in real life.
Gerard: Nikki is not married on the show.
Nikki: We thought it would be interesting if we were both
single and exploring relationships. We’re single. We’re best friends. But would
they get together? Wouldn’t they get together?
Gerard: It’s something we’re definitely going to explore.
Nikki: People are interested in that.
Gerard: Sex does sell and people want to root for the main
characters to get together. When I watch shows I think eventually they’ll get
together. Even just the idea of when my character has a date. Is Nikki’s
character going to have date? When she has a date am I going to be jealous?
Nikki: There’s a human interest in that. We could be
attracted to each other, but we’re friends. There’s fun tension there.
Gerard: People watch our video blogs together and question
Nikki: But it makes them keep watching. And that’s really what
we want. We want to build an audience. We want to tell a story that’s
entertaining and interesting. We want people to see these characters and follow
Gerard: There’s a little more truth with each other. There’s
plenty of stuff you can’t really…
Nikki: ...tell one of your guy friends?
Gerard: Yeah. I would never tell one of my bros…
Nikki: …that you’re having a bad hair day. Not that you’ve
ever had bad hair days. You’ve got great hair. That’s another thing we connect
Gerard: We’ve both got great hair.
4. Should you
two decide to go this route, how would “Method or Madness” best be adapted for
Gerard: When we start creating these episodes and doing
these outlines, we have a 30-minute episode in our minds of what it could be
and cut it down to the five. If you watch any of our episodes, they can easily
be adapted to a longer structure.
Nikki: It’s in the same style of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. And
even “Seinfeld”. Probably more “Curb”. It can be on HBO. We can adapt it for
Gerard: We introduce really fun characters throughout the
show and if we needed to adapt it we would make some of those characters more
Nikki: It’s harder to do that with a web series. You have a
shorter amount of time. So we’re really the constant things in this series but
we’d love to have other characters.
Gerard: And we’re having fun casting different actors for
every episode because we love working with more people and I think the audience
enjoys it as well. And because it’s a situational series, you can’t have the
same people playing those parts. But we could have a few more constant
characters. If we needed to adapt this, we could easily.
Nikki: Our series would fit well on television. Some web
series are more vignettes and they work well that way. But “Method or Madness” could
have stories that follow through a season.
Gerard: We’re at the point now where we have to choose whether or not to
continue this way because every episode essentially could go into the next…
Nikki: …where you have to see the episode before to keep
Gerard: We’re in that phase. Do we continue the story or do
we just keep doing vignettes?
Nikki: For the web series, we might have to keep doing the
Gerard: But what we’re going to keep constant and what would
help adapt to TV is the character traits of our main characters and any
recurring people -- constantly revisiting those characters and their traits and
their quirks. That’s what makes it human and makes it relatable.
Nikki. And fun to watch.
Episode One – “Soy Sauces”
While out to lunch,
Nikki and Gerard inadvertently offend their waitress and several customers.
Episode Two – “Put It On Your Tab?”
Nikki and Gerard
search for day jobs – at their friend Ned’s bar.
Episode Three – “Aunt ToniAnn”
Nikki and Gerard turn
to her wealthy aunt for help with Ned.
Episode Four – “It’s All About the Hair”
While at an audition,
Nikki runs into a nemesis while Gerard falls into an opportunity.
Episode Five – “Dodo Loco”
Nikki helps Gerard
prepare for his new role.
Episode Six – “The Deadly Trap”
Nikki enlists Gerard’s
help in quitting a disastrous play.
Episode Seven – “The Actor’s Support Group”
Nikki and Gerard crash
a support group, where they get some unlikely advice.
Episode Eight – “Table for Two”
Nikki and Gerard try
to spend some time apart.
To keep up with all
things Method and Mad, follow the series on twitter (as well as Nikki and
Gerard individually) and “like” the show on Facebook (as well as Nikki and
The web series Close Quarters, starring actress (now also writer/producer) Piper Major and writer/producer (now also actor) Jonathan Ritter, presents a new roommate dynamic for the 21 century. Major stars as Erica, a bombastic, outgoing, fun-loving lesbian while Ritter co-stars as Steve, a far more reclusive straight guy.
The series just completed its first season, but the journey of a couple years began with Ritter sending the script to Major. At the time, Close Quarters was conceived as a short film and neither had been cast in their eventual roles. In fact, Erica was Eric. But Ritter asked Major to read the part anyway.
"This has some funny moments, but a girl would never forget the toilet paper," Piper told him.
A lot of bad auditions for the part of Eric followed and it was decided to make the character a female named Erica. Major had already been in several of Ritter's films and he praised her with always adding depth to the roles she plays.
"Add that to the random ideas she would talk about on set and marrying her to this character seemed like a no-brainer," Ritter explained of Major's casting as Erica.
Then came the arduous task of finding the best person to play Steve.
"You know who gave the best read for Steve?" producer/director Brad Paulson asked Ritter. "You."
"I don't want to be that guy who writes and stars in his own thing," Ritter replied.
"Yes you do," Paulson retorted.
"Okay, I kinda do," Ritter conceded. And with that, he was cast as Steve.
A short called Roommates was shot at Paulson's apartment. But everyone who saw the final edit wanted to know more about these characters. And with major's casting in the Bitter Bartender web series, Ritter was inspired to expand on the idea and turn the short into a web series.
Ten episodes comprise the first season.
EPISODE ONE - "The Shoddy Tub"
While an injured Erica is preparing to head out for the night, Steve brings up a pressing roommate issue. With Jonathan Sundeen as Erica's friend Will.
EPISODE TWO - "The Trip to the Store"
The pressing roommate issue continues when a drunken Erica returns home, passes out on the couch and recounts a memorable evening that involves her friend Will becoming the subject of a news report. With Brad Paulson as Bill O'Scatly and Vanessa Ledesma as Kelly Walker.
EPISODE THREE - "The Pool Party"
Erica takes Steve to a pool party -- where she misrepresents him in an effort to help him fit in and get laid. Arlene Victoria makes her first appearance as Holly. Rachel Reilly appears as Charlene. Ben Jacobs appears as Mark. Cari Kenny appears as Angela. Deborah Jensen appears as Holly's girlfriend Catie. Also with Brad Paulson as Bill O'Scatly and Vanessa Ledesma as Kelly Walker.
EPISODE FOUR - "The Hook-Up"
Erica and Mark (Ben Jacobs) go out to a bar -- where she winds up making out with a straight woman (Liberty Freeman) and he winds up making out with a straight guy (Jesse Langston).
EPISODE FIVE - "The Anger Management Class"
Erica gets into a fight with the brother of a guy Mark (Ben Jacobs) meets at a bar. With Mike Ciriaco as Billy and David Henry as Billy's brother.
EPISODE SIX - "The New Girlfriend"
Erica and Steve head out to a barbecue with her new girlfriend Holly (Arlene Victoria) -- where Steve gets the wrong idea about her. Konstantine Anthony appears as Gene. Cari Kenny returns as Angela. Rachel Reilly returns as Charlene. With Brad Paulson as Bill O'Scatly and Vanessa Ledesma as Kelly Walker.
EPISODE SEVEN - "The Wingman"
Erica takes Steve out to a bar to help him meet women, but his ex-girlfriend (Michael Gonzales) shows up. Konstantine Anthony appears as Gene. With Caroline Montes as Melinda.
EPISODE EIGHT - "The Revelation"
Erica's relationships become strained when she discovers she doesn't have as much in common with Gene as she thought, Holly reveals a continued connection to her ex-girlfriend and she shares information with Steve about his new girlfriend Melinda. Konstantine Anthony appears as Gene. Arlene Victoria returns as Holly. With Caroline Montes as Melinda.
EPISODE NINE - "The Next Step"
Erica and Steve both face crossroads in their respective relationships. With Arlene Victoria as Holly and Caroline Montes as Melinda. Jon Paul Burkhart appears as Randy. Brad Paulson appears as Bill O'Scatly.
EPISODE TEN - "The Decision"
Steve wonders if he should continue seeing Melinda (Caroline Montes) while Erica prepares for a family event.
Plans for a second season have not yet been announced but you can "LIKE" Close Quarters on Facebook to keep up with the latest developments.
I’ve been a fan of How
I Met Your Mother since its debut on CBS eight years ago. I was among the
passionate fans who, like the cast and crew, waited nervously until the very
last minute every year to find out if CBS was going to renew the then-perpetual
In those days the writing was sharp and crisp and the
stories were fun and sometimes even outrageous.
Then a funny thing happened: the series managed to make it
into syndication and more people started watching the originals – which led to an increase
in ratings. By this point, money-grubbing CBS wouldn’t dare cancel a now solidly-performing
series leading off its strong Monday night comedy lineup and adding more and
more episodes to its profitable syndication package.
Then a funnier thing happened: the series started to age. How I Met Your Mother started to veer
into latter Friends territory where
stories were replaying themselves out, talks of a final season began to surface
and you could tell they were just stretching the series out as long as they
This became a problem. Because How I Met Your Mother played so much with time and backstory and
became more serialized than it had been previously, there needed to be a set
end date years before there ever was one in order to better close out the title
story. And as the series started to age, longtime fans such as myself started
to become impatient with the series and its continuous teasing about who the
mother is and how she and Ted (the “I” in the title) met. In the meantime, the
series became less about that and more about the breakout supporting character
of Barney and his own extended
Even as a longtime Mother
fan, I was very disappointed when it was announced in the middle of last
season that after tenuous negotiations, there would be a ninth and final season
of the show. A sitcom of this nature should only have about five or six seasons
with a long-established end date. But when a creative business becomes 90%
business and 10% creative, you come to expect a creative show to be on the
annual cancellation bubble until it becomes a more popular, but more generic
show. Then they never want to let it go no matter how booming side movie
careers and other interests become.
So as this final Mother
season progresses, I thought about a few other sitcoms that stayed (plus
two that are staying) at the TV party a couple seasons or more longer than they
probably should have.
The later seasons were wildly popular in syndication for several
decades but from a fanpoint, the series should have ended with the
health-related departure of Dick York at the end of the fifth season. Instead,
viewers were stunned by the Infamous Darrin Switch of 1969 when Dick Sargeant took
over the role for the show’s final three seasons – and a solid Top 15 series
quickly fell to #24 and then out of the Top 30 altogether.
Initially, the show set out to be a reflection of urban ghetto
life for a poor but a close-knit nuclear black family. But all that fell apart
when the father was killed at the beginning of the fourth season (John Amos was
fired from the series, reportedly after interviews he gave about his
dissatisfaction with the show’s direction). Perhaps the series should have been
killed as well.
Then the mother re-married and moved away at the beginning
of the fifth season (Esther Rolle left the series over the killing of the
father and the stereotypical nature in which the JJ character was written). Perhaps
the series should have moved on.
A Top 25 series for the first three seasons, the show
remained in the Top 30 for its infamous fourth season but fell well below that
for its final two seasons despite the return of Estelle Rolle for the latter
season. Oddly, it is those latter three seasons that are the most well-known in
Laverne & Shirley (1976-1983)
When a show shifts from a long-established location to California or New
York, it’s usually an indication that a show is
running out of creative juice. But Laverne
& Shirley hung on for three more seasons after its first five, which
were set in Milwaukee.
Despite the shift, ratings held steady and the show remained
in the Top 25 (with the exception of the sixth season during which it fell out
of the Top 30 following a time slot change).
The Cosby Show
This one pains me to have to admit. But when a show with
five children can’t come up with stories for them after five seasons and
therefore has to bring in more, then it’s time to refocus or end the series
despite a top Nielsen ranking.
Perfect Strangers (1986-1993)
Though never a major hit by Nielsen standards in that only
its abbreviated first and final seasons even ranked in the Top 20, this series
about an immigrant to America (Bronson Pinchot) who moves in with a distant
American cousin (Mark-Linn Baker) should end when that cousin gets married and
moves into a house with his new bride.
Instead, the immigrant cousin’s relationship with the
distant American cousin’s best friend is accelerated so that they can marry and
move into that same house. And then the series continues on for a seventh and
A Different World
Any series set in a college setting (which, at its creative
height from 1988-1991, was the finest such series in television history despite
a rocky first season) is going to have problems when popular characters age out
of the premise but somehow need to remain a part of the show’s main storylines.
So they become teachers and administrators for the new
characters who have to be introduced in order to carry that storyline on. The
result is an expanded cast, which gives everyone involved just a bit less to do
and sends the show in a myriad of directions.
Furthermore, any series on which a romantic entanglement
between two main characters takes center stage has no choice but to eventually
have them marry before the viewers stop caring. But of course, once they do,
then where does the series go?
In this case, it goes to a rather heavy-handed fifth season
and an unfortunate sixth and final season that focuses on them as a
newly-married couple who falls on hard times but still finds ways to maintains
ties with the nearby college they both attended.
As Glee is finding
out (and probably should have already known), sometimes it’s just better to let
people graduate – and the show with them.
From a creative standpoint, two grave mistakes were made
here: what was originally conceived as a spinoff of the aforementioned Perfect Strangers (which co-starred
JoMarie Payton-France as sharp-tongued elevator operator) quickly shifted focus
to its breakout supporting character.
While this proved to be popular move that gave the series a
longer life than the original conception probably would have, it also painted
the show into a corner once the actor’s voice became too deep to reasonably
speak in that character’s higher register.
The solution? Create other characters for him to play.
The result? Four additional seasons (including a “what was
CBS thinking?” pickup for a ninth and final season after ABC cancelled it) of a
series that still ranked in the Top 30 but had already lost most of its rooting
in actual family matters.
The series may have ended its nine-season run with a #1
Nielsen ranking (becoming only the third series in television
history to do so
after I Love Lucy in 1957 and The Andy Griffith Show in 1968), but Seinfeld was at its creative best when
it was actually about nothing -- as epitomized by “The Chinese Restaurant” from
the second season.
But most viewers never saw these episodes during their
initial airings as the show didn’t grow in popularity until a time slot move to
Thursdays at 9:30 following the departing Cheers
in early 1993. Once Seinfeld took
over the 9pm slot that fall and
became a Top 3 show, it had begun employing multiple storylines that usually
intertwined by the end of each episode.
And by the last two seasons, the series had shifted its
brand of comedy away from the minutiae of everyday life to broad, often
absurdist humor and evolved from a show about nothing to a show about a lot of
Regardless, ratings for those latter seasons were
impenetrable despite the comparisons to those earlier episodes once the series
Its record 37 Emmy Awards notwithstanding (including ten
over the unnecessary final three seasons), there were some storylines not worth
exploring such as the previously one-sided relationship between Niles and Daphne as well
as the short-lived sexual relationship between Frasier and Roz.
which was a true ensemble with a leading character, Frasier was a true leading character heading an ensemble in the
same vain as The Mary Tyler Moore Show
of the 1970s – which wisely lasted four fewer seasons. With much more story
potential that doesn’t necessarily have to involve the leading character but
typically does, the eleven seasons of Cheers
is far more justifiable from a creative standpoint than Frasier which absolutely HAS to involve the leading title character.
Being one of the few shows in television history to rank in
the Top 10 for its entire series run (including a #1 ranking after its eighth
season), it’s obvious why the show last for ten seasons.
But the last two seasons showed how the series was just
being creatively stretched out as long as humanly possible by the moneyheads at
NBC who failed to create any new hits during the show’s last few seasons. The
result was an overreliance on their biggest hit to keep them at the top of the
demo ratings despite a cast that was clearly ready to move on to other
Ratings remained largely unaffected by the creative
weakening and longtime fans were richly rewarded with a satisfying but
Two and a Half Men
Sure, Charlie Sheen’s off-screen antics curtailed the
seventh season by two episodes.
Sure, Charlie Sheen’s complete meltdown the following year
curtailed the eighth season by eight episodes – leading to his termination from
the show and the killing off of his character.
Sure, many fans clamored for the show’s demise as they swore
they’d never watch a Sheen-less Men.
Sure, Ashton Kutcher’s addition to the series as a
replacement for Sheen to maintain the “Two” in the show’s title kept it afloat
ratings-wise but the situation created for him was very lacking in
Sure, many fans clamored for the show’s demise as they swore
that Kutcher was no Sheen.
Sure, Angus T. Jones’s public criticism of the show during
the tenth season and his expressed desire to be departed from it hastened his
already reduced status on the show to that of “recurring” for the show’s current
And while the “Half” in the show’s titled needs to be
maintained, how does the addition of the departed Charlie Harper’s long-lost
lesbian daughter do that? And how do
writers plausibly explain that when
they couldn’t plausibly explain the addition of Kutcher’s Walden Schmidt?
Clearly, you don’t. And, creatively, the show suffers
mightily from it. But it’s still averaging more than 9 million viewers this
The show became a huge phenomenon by the middle of its first
season – winning a Golden Globe for Best TV Series (Musical or Comedy), an
ensemble SAG Award and 4 Emmy Awards. Each download of a cover song ranked
highly on iTunes. And each cast member became a household name.
Then the show became very aware of itself and the story-driven
first half of the first season that now serves as the show’s creative peak gave
way to musical tribute episodes and one-off issue-oriented plots that put actual
storytelling on the backburner.
And as was the case with A
Different World and its college setting, popular characters began to age
out of the premise. And was the case with A
Different World, those popular characters remained with the show. By the fourth
season, the show was going off in two divergent directions – one in New York City where the characters aging out of the show’s
original premise were sent and one in Lima,
Ohio, where the actual show
actually takes place.
Naturally, the ensemble grew to the point where no one set
of characters were being properly served by either storyline. And like Two and a Half Men, any level of
plausibility relating to the show’s original premise has been lost.
Ratings, even it its young target demographics, have
declined steadily with each passing season; yet FOX surprisingly, inexplicably
and ill-advisedly renewed it for a fifth and sixth season.
Despite this list, some shows have gotten it right in terms
of when to call it quits:
- I Love Lucy went
out on top of the ratings after six seasons in 1957.
- The Dick Van Dyke
Show ended after five seasons in 1966 (though some, include cast member
Rose Marie, maintain it could have gone on a season or two longer – perhaps in
- The Andy Griffith
Show went out on top after eight seasons in 1968, though some maintain the
show suffered from Don Knotts’ departure in 1965.
- The Mary Tyler Moore
Show followed its predecessor’s lead by going out strongly, though it had
lasted two seasons longer when it went off the air in 1977.
- 11 seasons is way too long for most series, but M*A*S*H in 1983 and Cheers in 1993 proved that a show knows no time if the stories are
still fresh, funny and engaging.
- Declining ratings stemming from a time slot move from
Thursdays nights following The Cosby Show
to Sunday nights may have hastened its demise, but Family Ties remained a truly 80s sitcom by going off the air in
1989 after seven seasons.
- Roseanne (1988-1997)
may have had a questionable ninth final season but not from a lack of story
ideas – just bad creative decisions.
- Though it hurt the series in syndication, Murphy Brown remained just as in tune to
current events by the time it went off the air after ten seasons in 1998 as it
had when it premiered.
- The kids aged, one left and the stories matured to the
point that there weren’t many more to tell so Home Improvement wisely ended its run in 1999 after eight seasons.
- No series epitomizes going out at the right time than Everybody Loves Raymond, which it did in
2005 after nine seasons. Not only did the show end its run as one of the
top-rated comedies, it also won a well-deserved Emmy as Outstanding Comedy
Series for a fantastic final season (the fourth comedy series to do so after The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1966, The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1977 and Barney Miller in 1982) over the hot new
show Desperate Housewives.
- Will & Grace may
have veered into Will & Grace &
Leo territory during the show’s fifth season, but Leo’s status as a doctor without
borders made it easy for the show to veer back to Will & Grace territory before toying with Will & Grace & Vince two seasons later and then appropriately
ending its eight-season run in 2006 as Will
& Vince; Grace & Leo.
- After a couple of comparatively lean seasons, 30 Rock roared into its seventh and
final season in 2012 with an intent on going out creatively strong, which it
did over the course of 13 episodes leading up to a wonderful finale in early
The Big Bang Theory
is riding high in its seventh season, but let’s hope CBS and Executive Producer
Chuck Lorre know when to close the lab.
There was a time when slogging through the summer doldrums
of TV reruns was rewarded with the return of our favorite shows and the
premiere of some exciting new ones.
Perhaps because there were only three major TV
networks until the late 1980s, it seemed that NBC, ABC and CBS had a better
pulse on what audiences wanted to see – broad, mass appeal comedies with
characters we wanted to check in on week after week and riveting story-driven
dramas that kept us tuning in week after week.
Perhaps audiences tastes have changed – the success of The Big Bang Theory, which experienced
its highest ratings in its sixth season, and NCIS, which hit #1 in the Nielsen ratings after its TENTH season, clearly notwithstanding. Or perhaps
network executives THINK that all their research, focus groups, misplaced focus
on younger demos, over-reliance on the same the same worn-out premises and
ridiculously high-octane, low-mileage series concepts is what audiences want to
see on television these days.
I was so terribly disappointed in this year’s TV development
season that, for the first time, the most I could muster up was ambivalence about the
new fall season. So if I ran a broadcast network”, I’d make a few seemingly
radical changes to move a bit further ahead of TV’s evolutionary curve:
LIVE FROM NEW YORK…AND LOS
ANGELES…AND WHEREVER ELSE. Their competitive elements may be a factor, but The
Super Bowl, Sunday Night Football, The
Academy Awards, American Idol, The Voice and America’s Got Talent prove that live television not only generates
interest but can also provide a boost in overall viewership. This isn’t as solidly proven with scripted television, but Saturday Night Live certainly continues
to generate buzz (both positive and negative) as it approaches its 40th
season -- as did the live 30 Rock episodes
in 2010 and 2012.
Reality-competition series and specials carry a greater
sense of urgency for viewers to tune-in since they’re not as readily available
online the following day or week – if at all. But viewers will still tune in to
watch a live episode as it airs – if for no other reason than to be among the
first to spot, tweet and post online any mistakes that are made as well as any
unexpected moments that may occur.
Therefore, I suggest an expanded slate of live programming –
regularly scheduled character-driven sitcoms in the tradition of All in the Family, early Roseanne and Everybody Loves Raymond, one-act dramatic teleplays in the vain of
the well-regarded anthologies of the 1950s, limited-run series that don’t require much by way of sets and effects as well as other comedy, drama, music
and variety specials.
BEAUTY IS ONLY SKIN
DEEP, BUT TALENT IS TO THE BONE. Of course, what makes Saturday Night Live work (when it does) and the live 30 Rock episodes such standouts
(particularly the first one – if for no other reason than Julia Louis-Dreyfus
making a cameo as Liz Lemon in flashback) is the fact that many, if not all
members of their respective casts have backgrounds in live performance.
Such was the case with many of the stars of early
television. And not only were their programs well-received in those days, that
work is still fondly remembered and appreciated -- even if moreso by baby
boomers and those such as myself who study television. Unfortunately, since the
prevailing mindset in those days was that no one would want to see the same
thing twice, a lot of this great work was either taped over or discarded and
therefore lost to the ages.
It will take this kind of talent for the network to execute
such an expansion of its live programming slate as opposed to just pretty faces
and sexy bodies who probably won’t know what to do when they or someone else
forgets a line or when a prop doesn’t work or when a set door doesn’t cooperate.
Granted, a pretty face and a sexy body are nice to look at and
television will always make room for shows and roles that are primarily about
that, but they will never be as engaging to watch without some semblance of talent backing it up.
Beauty fades as does audience interest in it because at a certain point, even
the most unsophisticated of them are going to want to see more from a performer than
AVOID STAR VEHICLES. We’ve
heard it many times before – “so and so returns to television” with a new something or other about this, that and
the other thing (usually with a lot of unnecessary fanfare because hype is king for those who don’t know any better – or choose not to).
There are many beloved actors and actress out there, but
lightning doesn’t generally strike twice and much-heralded returns to
television can become embarrassing debacles.
Creating a series or developing a role and then pursuing a well-known star because they're right for it is one thing. Building an entire series around them just because they're a big name is quite another. And more often than not, the latter becomes The Geena Davis Show or The Michael Richards Show instead of The Carol Burnett Show or The Cosby Show.
Kevin Bacon had some success with The Following last season. This season Greg Kinnear, Robin
Williams, Sean Hayes and Michael J.
Fox throw their household names into TV's three ring circus with their respective new shows Rake (on FOX), The Crazy Ones
(on CBS), Sean Saves the World (on
NBC) and The Michael J. Fox Show
(also on NBC).
(2/19 UPDATE: Rake is struggling on FOX. The Crazy Ones is being out-rated by its 11-year-old lead-out Two and a Half Men on CBS. Sean Saves the World has been unfortunately cancelled and The Michael J. Fox Show has been pulled from the schedule.)
Create the concept and then find the star – if you must have
one at all. Focus on developing new talent rather than mining Hollywood for the same personalities we may love but have already seen so many times before. There’s plenty of room for both. Give the
newcomers a shot and then bring out the stars for guest appearances in those
live one-act dramatic teleplays or comedy, music and variety specials that will
drive the bulk of this network’s programming slate.
RECOGNIZE AN UNSUSTAINABLE
PREMISE WHEN YOU SEE ONE. Every year, hundreds of comedies and dramas are
pitched. Every year, dozens of series go to pilot. Every year, a handful makes
it on the air. Every year, I wonder why and how some of them did.
Misfit friends decide to start going out and having fun on
Friday nights. A single mother takes over her son’s little league team. An
unhappily married woman has an affair. A rookie FBI profile goes up against the
world’s most wanted fugitive. A surgeon’s family is held hostage by a rogue FBI
These five series concepts sound like movie premises or
miniseries at best. Does anyone at the networks ask the question as to what’s
going to happen throughout the first season let alone where these stories are
supposed to go in the second or even the third? If not, they should. If so, they
need to re-adapt these series into limited-run programs or “event” movies –
which is another format that could suit this network quite well, especially if
IXNAY ON THE
EALITYRAY. There was a time when so-called reality television wasn’t such a
drain on the collective soul and mind of society. It existed (particularly
during the early days of FOX), but it was far more reviled than celebrated as
it is today. PBS/FOX’s American High and NBC’s
The Restaurant were low-rated standouts
in the unscripted genre before it became more about creating drama (or the allusion of it) rather than telling a compelling story using elements of drama.
So you’re not seeing much by way of this type of unscripted
programming on the broadcast networks right now – especially since cable took
that baton and ran the genre into the ground as a celebration of idiocy and
But the competition sub-genre has fared a lot better on
broadcast: FOX’s American Idol had a
heyday that lasted longer than the entire run of most scripted TV shows but has fallen off the relevance
cliff over the last few seasons. NBC’s The
Voice has risen from its ashes while CBS’s The Amazing Race, ABC’s Dancing
with the Stars, NBC’s The Biggest Loser, FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen and the Grand Poobah of
the sub-genre, CBS’s Survivor,
continue to serve as the foundation of it.
Reality television as such isn’t the problem; the problem is
the broadcast network’s over-reliance on competition programs to fill their
schedules. Yes, they’re cheaper to produce. And yes, they’re generally more
popular than their scripted counterparts. But broadcast television as a whole cannot secure its future by focusing primarily
on its shaky present.
AND WHILE YOU’RE AT
IT, IXNAY ON
THE EMAKESRAY. Knight Rider on
NBC. The Munsters on NBC (which mercifully never made it to series, but did air as a special last fall). Prime Suspect on NBC. And Bionic Woman on NBC. All are the latest
in a long line of failed TV remakes. The new Hawaii Five-O on CBS has experienced some middling success on Monday
nights, but that has been owed largely to the strength of the comedy lineup
leading into it than any genuine interest in a remake of the original 1968-1980
This fall we can look forward to a remake of the
1967-1975 series Ironside that
starred Raymond Burr of Perry Mason fame
and news of a remake of the 1969-1974 comedy anthology series Love, American Style.
I’ve always said and always will maintain that there are
PLENTY of great TV series ideas out there to render any remakes unnecessary.
With that in mind, even if the broadcast networks are looking for concepts that
already carry some built-in audience, it makes no sense that they look to
decades-old TV series the younger viewers they continue to pursue have, in all
likelihood, never even heard of.
Therefore, the sensible thing to do is to simply avoid the
remakes altogether. Even if the remakes are the network’s attempts to maintain
the older viewership they’ve otherwise largely abandoned, I’m more than certain they’d
just prefer the original versions anyway.
IT’S ABOUT THE AUDIENCE,
NOT THE DEMOS. This is a dying horse that just won’t die. So I have to keep
beating it. I don’t know where the focus on demographics came from and I don’t
care. In a BROADcast medium, the focus should be on the VIEWERS – all of them,
not just the younger ones who NO LONGER WATCH TELEVISION THE SAME WAY PREVIOUS
GENERATIONS DID. Save the demographic targeting for the cable networks, which are
generally created for specific segments of the general audience.
So while going for a large general audience may create a lot
of perceived waste (if having more viewers than you need can be thought of as
waste), consider this: for the 2012-2013 TV season, CBS’s NCIS averaged a 3.3 in the so-called all-important A1849 demo with
an average of more than 19 million total viewers. In the meantime, FOX’s Glee, which specifically aims to be more
demo-friendly, only averaged a 2.2 rating in that metric with an average of less
than 6 million viewers over that same time period.
So why aim for specific demographics only to generate a 2.2 when
you can aim for a broader audience and generate a 3.3? Granted, Glee is considered a lot hipper, cooler
and more buzzy than NCIS, but it’s
the latter program that has quietly spent the last five seasons in Nielsen’s
Top 5 while the former continues to downtrend even in its target demographic.
Call me crazy, but I’ll sacrifice being hip, cool and buzzy
in order to draw three times as many viewers. Besides, it’s harder to stay hip,
cool and buzzy in a society where those factors can change on an almost daily
basis than it is to maintain overall viewership, which tends to be far more
stable. And despite the concerns of continued audience fragmentation and
competition from cable, the internet and mobile leading to declines in that
overall viewership, the viewers are there – as long as there is reason for them
to tune in.
IF OUR LIVES CAN’T
ALWAYS BE STABLE, AT LEAST THE TV SCHEDULES SHOULD BE. Believe it or not,
there was a time when a 39-week TV season meant upwards to 39 weeks of shows. But
over the last 60 years, that number dwindled to 22 – and in the case of some
star vehicles, even less than that because they don’t even want to commit to
what is now considered a full season.
But the problem with a 22-episode season isn’t so much the number
of episodes as it is stretching out those 22 episodes over what is still a
39-week TV season. The result is 17 weeks of repeats, particularly in March and
April, and it becomes harder and harder to know when a new episode will air
regardless as to the amount of promotion for it.
The solution is simple though. Split these 22-episode
seasons into two (which ABC has announced they’re going to attempt this
upcoming season): 11 for in the fall and 11 in the spring. Save the winter
weeks in between to bring back returning series to replace any cancelled series
and to premiere new series that were held for midseason. Not only does it
reduce the number of repeats and shift the bulk of them back to the summer months,
it creates more stability for the schedule throughout those 39 weeks.
KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME
TO LET A SHOW GO. Understanding that syndication is where a series makes
the bulk of its money, you want as many episodes as possible. And when you have
a rare hit series on your air, you want it to last as long as possible –
especially if it’s helping the network keep ahead of the competition and
advertisers are willing to pay more than a mint to air an already expensive
commercial in that expensive program.
But none of it should be at the expense of the legacy of the
show itself. When the star or the ensemble cast is ready to move on, why
continue to throw money at them? Let them go and hope you’ve nurtured, are
nurturing or will soon nurture your next hit.
SUMMERTIME. In the early days of television, shows that signed off for the
season were replaced by other shows that filled in for them over the summer.
Then, with the arrival of the rerun, summer on broadcast was filled with
repeats of episodes from the just-concluded TV season. In recent years,
particularly since the cable networks gained a foothold on it, the broadcast
networks have started to recommit to original programming during the summer
months between broadcast TV seasons.
That commitment for the most part has been reality shows and
burn-offs of series that didn’t make it onto the fall, winter or spring
schedules. FOX’s American Idol and
CBS’s Survivor debuted in the summer
before being upgraded to the regular season while CBS’s Big Brother, FOX’s So You
Think You Can Dance and NBC’s America’s
Got Talent have become summer staples.
But where for art the scripted programs? Despite their success on the cable
side, the broadcast networks haven’t shown themselves as willing to fully
commit to airing worthwhile scripted programs during the summer. Rookie Blue has quietly aired on ABC for four
seasons so far and Unforgettable made
a summer return on CBS after being cancelled last year. But it’s been CBS’s success
this summer with Under the Dome that
may be the best argument for making taking that next step toward serious
investment in scripting programming during the summer. Combined with reruns of
popular shows as well as promising new ones that just need the extra exposure
to solidify it for the fall and you have a worthwhile summer slate.
So instead of the networks premiering what they think are
their most promising shows on in the fall, spread the wealth throughout the TV
season and into the summer. THAT would be a true commitment to summer
programming instead of typical broadcast network lip-service.
Of course, I’ve not worked out the financials of all this
and I don’t care. All the research, focus groups and algorithming can’t take
the place of experience. But this broadcast network will at least TRY it. And
if it doesn’t work, it will try something else. Either way, it’s going to
attempt to survive in this rapidly ever-evolving medium they call television.