Archive | October 2011

birthdays: october 15

Penny Marshall, 69, she skyrocketed to fame as one half of the long-running comedic twosome Laverne & Shirley – although let’s be honest, she spent a decade on television prior, which included a stint on The Odd Couple – but the latter part of her career has been devoted to production, sitting in the director’s chair for Big, Awakenings, A League of Their Own, The Preacher’s Wife, and a few episodes of United States of Tara.
Emeril Lagasse, 52, king of “BAM!” he spent six years on Emeril Live, cooking up a storm to climb to the top ranks of celebrity chefs.  Though he devotes much more time to his cookware and food lines now, he still makes regular appearances on cooking shows, including Iron Chef, Next Food Network Star, and Top Chef.
Larry Miller, 58, comedic character actor who’s oft-collaborated with director Garry Marshall (the store clerk in Pretty Woman, a car buyer in Raising Helen, a flamboyant hairdresser in The Princess Diaries), he’s also been part of the Christopher Guest troupe, appearing in Waiting for Guffman and For Your Consideration and played a snarky administrator in The Nutty Professor and a goofy doting father in 10 Things I Hate About You.
Mario Puzo, (1920-1999), two-time Academy Award winner for his work on adapting his original novel The Godfather, his other screenwriting work includes the 70s disaster drama Earthquake and the first couple Superman movies.  He also penned The Dark Arena and The Last Don.
Jane Darwell, (1879-1967), highly prolific actress whose original goal of becoming an opera singer was delayed in favor of an acting career, for which she won an Oscar in 1940 (The Grapes of Wrath).  She also had parts in The Ox-Bow Incident, Gone with the Wind, and, in her final role, Mary Poppins.
Paige Davis, 42, television host whose biggest accomplishment was hosting and producing the hugely successful TLC show Trading Spaces for seven years (and she nabbed two Emmy nods for it).  She’s additionally played the Hollywood Squares and appeared on countless talk shows.
Todd Solondz, 52, Globe-nominated director/screenwriter who’s eccentric work includes writing/directing Sunshine, Welcome to the Dollhouse, and Life During Wartime.  His next book is no departure, Dark Horse, about a toy collector who falls in love with a family black sheep.

birthdays: october 12

Hugh Jackman, 43, he’s kept very busy over the past few years, from hosting the Oscars on a recession, to taking Broadway by storm in The Boy from Oz, to co-starring in Australia with fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman, his real wheelhouse is action.  His signature role is Wolverine in the X-Men movies, he starred in Swordfish and Van Helsing, and he just took the box office throne in Real Steel.  Next up?  A leading role in the movie musical Les Miserables.
Luciano Pavarotti, (1935-2007), the multi-Grammy and multi-platinum artist had a legendary career as one of Italy’s “Three Tenors.”  He became one of the foremost operatic singers of the 20th Century, and kept working through to his death at 71 from pancreatic cancer.
Tom Guiry, 30, though for newer generations he’s probably known as the shady character in Mystic River, he will always and forever be the duck-bill-hat-donning, black-eyed Scotty Smalls in The Sandlot.  He’s made an attempt at an adult career since, with roles in U-571, Black Hawk Down, and the short-lived TV drama The Black Donnellys.
Josh Hutcherson, 19, though he got his start as a kid star in such family films as The Polar Express, Bridge to Terabithia, and Journey to the Center of the Earth, but since hitting adulthood, he’s gone for high-profile and serious roles in The Kids Are All Right and the upcoming The Hunger Games.
Kirk Cameron, 41, the two-time Globe nominee is mostly famous for his ’80s stint as teen heartthrob in Growing Pains, but his more recent calling card is as uber-Christian book and movie mogul, headlining Christian-skewing movies Left Behind and Fireproof.

fall 2011: RATING the PILOTS

The chaos of fall television has begun. Sure, it’s fun to see old favorites back on track with some new material, but the new class is here for scrutiny.  (I know I’m a little late to the game on posting this, as at least one of these shows has already been canceled, but so it goes.)  Here’s my rundown of the pilots I took in, managing to avoid most of the crap that didn’t seem worth my viewing time…

2 Broke Girls (CBS) 
First thing’s first – a CBS sitcom is hardly groundbreaking television, well, ever. Not every show can be the second coming.  But the nice thing about 2 Broke Girls is that you aren’t expecting a thinking-person’s comedy.  So when the pilot happens to be at times gut-bustingly hilarious, albeit traditionally CBS-style raunchy now and again, it bodes well for its future.  Judging solely from the pilot (I’ve viewed the subsequent episodes since), it definitely has promise of being entertaining.  The leads Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs are an amiable twosome, but here’s hoping their portrayals don’t skew too one-note too soon.  Not great feats of writing or acting here, but a good time nonetheless.  B+

A Gifted Man (CBS)
I took a chance on this one.  It looked like yet another medical/legal procedural (Do the American people ever watch anything else?), so truly the only thing drawing me in was the fact that my beloved Jennifer Ehle was finally getting a plum role – ghostly wife and adviser.  Sure, it feels a little Ghost and Mr. Muir, but Patrick Wilson is an able enough leading man.  Plus, it was a welcome surprise to find out that Margo Martindale will be gracing the Friday night drama.  Based on the pilot, which blended some backstory with the traditional procedural “trauma of the week,” it fits nicely as a calming presence for Friday night viewers.  Though eliminating Julie Benz and Klaus Baudelaire himself after the first episode is a little bit of a bummer… B

American Horror Story (F/X)
Though I was a fan of the first four seasons of Nip/Tuck, its eventual fall from grace once the surgeons moved to Los Angeles, along with the declining quality and increasing preposterousness of Glee, Ryan Murphy isn’t exactly a reliable creator.  But something about casting the glorious Connie Britton, the pedigreed Jessica Lange, and little sis to actress extraordinaire Vera Farmiga, Taissa, how could it go wrong?  Well, the pilot was surely spastic – lots of “mysteries” presenting themselves without much connection or cohesion thus far.  But the stylish nature of the show and the awesome cast lead me to believe it stands a chance of achieving some genre greatness a la The Walking Dead.  The pilot was definitely intriguing, so I hesitate to lean toward endorsing it.  B+

Pan Am (ABC)
Clearly with the closing of Desperate Housewives ABC is looking for its next game-changing sudser.  And with Mad Men being so popular and all, it was only a matter of time for the networks to join in the fun.  With a promising premise and a likable cast, this airborne drama has a lot of potential to become a weekly standard.  The ratings are starting to dip, which spells trouble, but why not get behind a show that maintains a running storyline amidst the plethora of ones that require no dedication?  And can we all agree that it’s nice to see Christina Ricci doing something productive with her career again?  The pilot set up great interpersonal stories (mother/daughter, sister/sister, etc.) while giving us a Mary Alice-esque mystery to latch onto – espionage, oh my!  Definitely tuning in again.  A

Prime Suspect (NBC)
Though I doubt it’ll last very long due to lackluster ratings (even though Maria Bello’s got a Globe nomination in the bag at this point), the reason to return factor solely rests on the star’s shoulders.  It’s got all the elements of a traditional cop show, in that if it doesn’t develop its core characters’ personal lives fully enough, it might as well be called Law & Order: Prime Suspect. Bello’s backstory is promising.  She has issues, she has exes to deal with, and she has a significant other who seems unintimidated by her pants-wearing chutzpah.  That last element is something I really appreciate about this new outing. Having only seen one episode, I predict it goes by way of The Good Wife, in that there’s a “story of the week,” but the real draw is the ongoing behind-the-badge (or gavel, as it were) drama. B

Ringer (The CW)
I often hesitate to give a CW show a chance.  Aside from Top Model and Gilmore Girls (and Buffy I guess, though I don’t really think of that as a traditional WB/UPN/CW program), it’s not really my cup of tea.  But the entertaining Sarah Michelle Gellar is back on television, so that’s an event I want to be a part of.  The premise, a troubled woman takes up the identity of her rich, and equally troubled, recently deceased twin sister, sounds like Dyansty 2.0.  But then again, Gellar’s roots are All My Children, so… All in all, a showcase for the underused actress should be fun in theory.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a supporting cast, but the best friend character sort of seems promising.  The only question remains:  Will it last long enough for viewers to find anything out about the mysteries that lie within Ringer?  B

Suburgatory (ABC)
Ever since the explosive success of Modern Family, ABC has been looking for some compadres for the traditional family comedy.  Though Suburgatory may not equal the former’s quality by any means, it has a likable lead (Jane Levy, droll and plucky at the same time) and at least a couple of promising supporting actresses involved (the dementedly hilarious Ana Gasteyer and Cheryl Hines) to hold some people’s interest.  At least due to its proximity to the high-rated MF, it’ll get a chance to develop before premature cancellation.  It felt a little been there, done that – the mother/daughter relationship with Hines and Carly Chaikin feels very Mean Girls TV – but the premise of single dad, pessimistic daughter is somewhat unique.  I’m not completely sold yet, but here’s hoping it grows into its Stepford-goofy roots.  B

The Playboy Club (NBC)
Yes, it was the first one cut out of the gate, but don’t let that fool you.  All the negative press and terrible ratings weren’t an accurate portrayal of the entertaining, if flawed, primetime soap.  Regardless of its weak points (the high-heel murder and the Jon-Hamm-lite stylings of Eddie Cibrian), the pilot served up a stylish setting, awesome costuming, some intriguing female characters, and a non-procedural plotline.  I’m always pro-serial when it comes to modern television, as it’s a subgenre that severely lacks amongst the networks.  Amber Heard is such an interesting celebrity on the rise, and her central character served as a great straight man for the busier Laura Benanti, Naturi Naughton, and Leah Cudmore.  But trigger-happy execs didn’t give the show a chance to build on its highly intriguing, if shaky, pilot.  Kind of a shame, really.  Here’s hoping the “picked up for cable” rumors have some truth.  B+

Up All Night (NBC)
We’ve seen it before – a couple struggles with being new parents.  But thanks to great casting (I will love Will Arnett in anything, and Christina Applegate has incredible timing) it doesn’t feel entirely retread.  The pilot served up a lot of the goofy clips we were treated to in the previews, so there wasn’t much new to look at, but the central couple are a believable twosome, and Applegate is building great chemistry with her on-screen boss Maya Rudolph.  My hope is that additional characters are developed so that Rudolph’s presence doesn’t seem too tacked on.  For one, where are Arnett’s guy friends?  Surely he hasn’t spent all his time hanging out with his wife and her gal pal.  All in all, the pilot was funny, charming, and more than enough to keep me returning for week two.  B+

Whitney (NBC)
It’s getting enough hate from the blogs and the magazines, I don’t need to reiterate it here.  Yes, I’m aware that it’s very obvious, relies heavily on typical relationship goofs (I wholly expect to see a “he left the toilet seat up” episode coming up very soon.), and banks on viewers loving the pretty girl gone bad charm of lead Whitney Cummings.  Unfortunately, the formula hasn’t been perfect here.  At least they’ll have an entire season to build on the slightly weak premise (not something most new NBC Thursday comedies are afforded) of a male-female couple who live together and can’t get behind the whole idea of marriage.  I enjoy Cummings’ comedy as a general rule, which is what drew me to the show in the first place.  It seems like it may belong on CBS, honestly, but it’ll be a fun change of pace from the new-school comedies that run rampant on the the Thursday lineup… though it definitely pales in comparison to the likes of Office and Parks and Rec.  B-

New Girl (FOX)
This one made me nervous.  I love me some Zooey, but her quirky goofball antics have a high chance of bordering on annoying real quick.  So who’d’ve thought she could carry a half-hour weekly sitcom so nicely?  Her socially awkward Jess is adorable, totally likable, and incredibly funny.  The roommates featured on the series need a few more weeks to solidify a true personality, but Deschanel came to play.  In the pilot alone, she’s already got several Emmy clips ready for next fall, and it succeeding as one of the biggest hits of the season, new or returning, is a big plus for the show.  Great fun and great time had by all, so let’s hope this energy level stays up.  A-

birthdays: october 11

Joan Cusack, 49, though her brother seems to get the attention, this two-time Oscar nominee (Working Girl, In & Out) is one gifted comedic talent.  From her incredible timing to her goofy expressions, she’s kept fairly busy since her stint on SNL in the ’80s, namely a vindictive black widow in Addams Family Values, a yodeling cowgirl in Toy Story 2 & 3, a wild child principal in School of Rock, and a few stabs at television glory in the underappreciated What About Joan and Shameless.  Oh, and has anyone else seen and loved Toys?
Jane Krakowski, 43, she got her start on daytime television and has become a belle of broadway thanks to Tony-recognized performances in Grand Hotel and Nine, but she’s perhaps best known these days for her television work.  Whether inventing the face bra as quirky assistant Elaine on Ally McBeal or stealing away attention as the self-absorbed actress Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock, it’s become her wheelhouse, and she’s got eight SAG nominations to prove it.
Stephen Moyer, 42, he fell from relative obscurity on the English television scene to become one of the stars of the fan favorite True Blood, but before he was vampire Bill Compton, his notable roles included parts in The Starter Wife, Midsomer Murders, and A Touch of Frost.  Oh, and he’s married to Oscar winner and co-star Anna Paquin.
Jerome Robbins, (1918-1998), perhaps his biggest contribution to film was 1961’s Oscar-winning West Side Story, but his real corner of the arts was theater, choreographing On the Town, The King and I, Gypsy, and Fiddler on the Roof.
Luke Perry, 45, he rose to fame playing it young as a high schooler for about 10 years in Beverly Hills 90210, and has since stuck mostly to guest spots and TV movies, including a recurring role as a pastor on Oz, parts in the short-lived Jeremiah and John from Cincinnati,  and some stage work in a revival of Rocky Horror and the title role in When Harry Met Sally alongside Allyson Hannigan.
Michelle Trachtenberg, 26, parts on Clarissa Explains it All and The Adventures of Pete & Pete landed her the title role in Nickelodeon’s Harriet the Spy, which led to a teen acting career that included the roles of Dawn Summer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a figure skater in Ice Princess, a mouthy nurse in Mercy, and one of the teenage debutantes in Gossip Girl.
Emily Deschanel, 35, though she may find herself in the shadow of her quirky, goofy (and total opposite) sister Zooey, she’s eked out a place of her own on the television landscape as Bones Brennan on, you guessed it, Bones.  She hasn’t ventured much from that starmaking role, outside of small parts in Cold Mountain, Spider-Man 2, and My Sister’s Keeper.
Matt Bomer, 34, he’s hit it big as the star of USA Network’s White Collar, but he got his start on the Guiding Light, before a stint on Chuck and an upcoming role as part of the Stephen Soderbergh stripper movie Magic Mike.

birthdays: october 10

Jodi Benson, 50, she endeared herself to the world as the voice of the little mermaid that saved Disney, Ariel, but since she’s kept busy in the voice acting world, including a revisit to the Disney studio to play Barbie in the Toy Story sequels, as well as a cameo as a secretary in Enchanted.  She also managed a Tony nomination for Crazy for You in 1992.
Michael Giacchino, 44, he recently picked up an Oscar for penning the magnificent Up score, but he’s dabbled in several arenas.  Of course he also scored Pixar’s Incredibles, Ratatouille, and the upcoming John Carter, while penning the music for the legendary Lost and various thrillers like Let Me In, Super 8, and Star Trek.
Helen Hayes, (1900-1993), thanks to some incredible career longevity, she had one of the biggest gaps between Oscars (1931’s The Sin of Madelon Claudet and 1970’s Airport), won multiple Tony Awards, and happens to be one of the few actors to EGOT.
Edward D. Wood Jr., (1924-1978), being known as the worst director of all time should surely give you a complex, but his posthumous attention and cult status hopefully makes up for it a little.  From Plan 9 to Glen or Glenda to Tim Burton’s incredible biopic Ed Wood, he eventually became a legend, for better or worse.
Tanya Tucker, 53, she rose to fame as a teen country star thanks to “Delta Dawn,” and kept up a successful singing career throughout the ’70s and ’80s.  She’s largely disappeared from the country spotlight outside of some guest stints here and there.
Bradley Whitford, 52, before he was wisecracking Josh Lyman on The West Wing and the goofy Dan Stark in the short-lived The Good Guys, he screwed over Elisabeth Shue in Adventures in Babysitting, played it villainous again in Revenge of the Nerds II, and headlined (ahem) Robocop 3.  Oh, how far he’s come, and he’s got the Emmy to prove it!
Aimee Teegarden, 22, best-known as the bookish but rebellious daughter Julie Taylor on Friday Night Lights, now that the show’s ended she’s tried the big screen.  Though Prom was a little bit of a mess, Scream 4 was actually quite fun.
Wendi McLendon-Covey, 42, she’s popped up off and on in films and television over the past 10 years, and she even had a starring role in Comedy Central’s cult comedy Reno 911!, but her star has certainly risen since the summer, thanks to playing the boisterous spitfire soccer mom in Bridesmaids.