Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rest In Peace - Marcia Wallace

TV Tour Guide mourns the great loss of comedienne and Emmy Award-winner Marcia Wallace, who was the voice of Edna Krabappel on FOX's long-running animated series The Simpsons and receptionist Carol Kester on The Bob Newhart Show.

Wallace passed away Friday, Oct. 25, just a week shy of her 71st birthday,  from complications from breast cancer, a cause she was an advocate for for many years.

Please help support the fight against breast cancer this Breast Cancer Awareness Month and all others.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fun on The Middle!

Last month I had the fun opportunity to do background work on ABC's long-running sitcom The Middle.  I admit I am not a regular viewer of the show, but I had a blast on set that day.  It actually happened to be the series' 100th episode, so it was a huge filming day with tons of us creating the Orsontennial parade and festivities.

I watched the ep, which aired tonight, and it was like playing "Where's Waldo?" but with me as Waldo.  Fortunately I was wearing a bright purple hoodie and had my bright red hair - plus I knew exactly where I was in each scene.  I had a bonus scene in the beauty shop where I could see my hands and blurred face in action.

I love being on set and playing along with other actors, and to see the final product is awesome!

As for The Middle, it's a hit for ABC and has a great cast, including Neil Flynn (Scrubs) and Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond).  If it weren't conflicting with other shows in the same hour (yes, I know, I need a DVR that can record more than two shows at once!), I'd probably tune in more.  It is in syndication now, though, so maybe I'll just catch up!

The Middle airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Which Witch Show is Worth Watching?

Admittedly I am a fan of witches and am thrilled that this appears to be the Season of the Witch on TV (vampires, werewolves and zombies have had a LOT of exposure ...), but Hollywood tends to focus on darker, evil, wicked witches - I've been told they're more interesting.  But if Charmed can pull off the good side of them, why can't other shows (you hearing me, Supernatural?)?

The new CW show The Originals, a spin-off from The Vampire Diaries, is decent and does feature witches, but it failed to win me over when the psuedo-pilot aired as an ep of TVD last season, plus I already reviewed it, so I'm concentrating on two new shows that are very witch-centric: Lifetime's Witches of East End and FX's American Horror Story: Coven.


Now, this is a Lifetime series, so going in you know it's going to center on the female characters (yay!) and feature lots of big drama, sexy couplings, maybe some outlandish plot lines ... but of course, this is a series based in the supernatural, so that's to be expected.  So did the pilot cast a spell of good storytelling?


Beauchamp sisters Freya (Jenna Dewan Tatum, American Horror Story), an uninhibited bartender, and Ingrid (Rachel Boston, In Plain Sight), a shy librarian, lead seemingly normal lives (Freya's even engaged), until a warning arrives from their estranged aunt Wendy (M├Ądchen Amick, Damages), forcing matriarch and free-spirited artist Joanna (Julia Ormond, Mad Men, Temple Grandin) to reveal the family secret:  they're witches, gifted (and cursed?) with a magical birthright, immortality and great power. 


Let me start by saying, Ormond looks incredible (if I can look that stunning at 48 ...). And the lead ladies fit their parts esthetically, though blond Ingrid looks a little out of place given the rest of her family with their very long, dark locks.  She embodies her character, though, with soft, light make-up and very modest attire.  On the flip side, right from the jump we see Freya is this:

The yummy she's canoodling with is not her fiancee, handsome Dash Gardiner (Eric Winter, The Mentalist) - yes, that's his name - but a man she's never met but has been having unexplained dreams about, the dashing Killian (Daniel DiTomasso, CSI), who happens to be Dash's brother.  Turns out he's been having the same dream, which, after confessing this to Freya, leads to hot (literally ... they start a small fire) make-out session in a side room at her engagement party.

Friends, if you've ever wanted a cheesy romance novel brought to life, here you go.  The pacing is fast enough and does its job getting to the sexy and forbidden moments (there are plenty), the dialogue is bantery and light with lots of sparring.  And then, of course, there's conversations like this:

Wendy:  "I know you've been angry at me these past hundred years."
Joanna:  "Why would I be angry at you?  You only killed my eldest daughter."
Wendy:  "It was an accident!  Plus Ingrid was reborn."

Yep, it's that kind of show.  Overall, this is a good, not-taking-itself-too-seriously fit for the network that features fun fare like The Client List and Devious Maids.

As for the witch aspect, the show puts it right out there:  a black cat when hit by a car turns into a naked woman who is seemingly dead but later walks right out of the morgue very much alive; there's lots of spellwork spoken in a rapid foreign tongue, tons of candles, freaky (and kind of cool) visual effects and "what was that?" quick camera cuts.  Nothing that ties to the Wiccan spirituality here, which Charmed did at least in its earlier seasons.  And I know Ingrid knew nothing about witchcraft when she and her friends, out of curiosity, tried to do a spell in the library, but did they have to resort to wearing pointy black hats?

Speaking of Charmed, can't help but notice, whether intentional or not, the similarities:  the Beauchamp house is quite similar to the Halliwell homestead, especially the kitchen and functional attic.  There's also three female witches living together.  Both shows have their lead characters learning the secret of their magical heritage well into adulthood, having had their powers hidden as children ... they do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery ...

Guest stars of note in the pilot included Tom Lenk (Andrew from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) and Jason George, who seems to be on everything these days, including regular gigs on Grey's Anatomy and Mistresses.

The show is cheesy and entertaining enough to earn a second-episode viewing (I didn't really connect with Devious Maids till the third episode, then I enjoyed the whole run).  As I write this review, I haven't yet watched American Horror Story: Coven, but try as Witches of East End might to create some scares, I guarantee it ain't gonna have NOTHING on that show.  Keep reading to find out ...

BOTTOM LINE:  Not ready to "End" my ride with this show just yet ...

Witches of East End airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.

Now ...


What I really like about the AHS series is the repertory theater aspect of it:  the fact that it keeps brining back the same actors in different roles (sometimes so different the level of talent astonishes - I'm looking at you, Paulson). Loved the first season - dark, shocking, so very, very twisted.  Didn't care for the second - overly dark, trying-too-hard-to-be-REALLY-shocking, too twisted to be fun.  I've read this third outing is going for some chuckles (still in a very twisted way) as well as the usual shock value and genuine creepiness and terror.  So did the pilot bewitch me to return?


AHS: Coven tells the secret history of witches and witchcraft in America. Over three hundred years have passed since the turbulent days of Salem and those who managed to escape now face extinction. Mysterious attacks have been escalating against witches, so young girls are sent to a special school in New Orleans to learn how to protect themselves. Wrapped up in the turmoil is new arrival, Zoe (Taissa Farmiga, making her second AHS run), who is harboring a terrifying secret of her own. Alarmed by the recent aggression, Fiona (Jessica Lange, in her third AHS role), the long-absent Supreme, returns determined to protect the Coven and hell-bent on decimating anyone who gets in her way. 

The impressive cast includes Kathy Bates (above, R, Harry's Law), Angela Basset (above, L, ER), Patti Lupone (Life Goes On), Emma Roberts, Gabourey Sibide and returning AHS alums Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe and Jamie Brewer.

First, NEVER get on Kathy Bates' bad side.  Second, normally too numerous quick cuts in succession bothers me, but here, because the images are so creepy and disturbing, I'm kind of grateful they go by fast.

In true AHS tradition, the opening credits are creepy (sorry, gonna use that word a lot here).  Remember the video from The Ring? Times that by about 10.  The KKK-like people in black robes is particularly unnerving.

Farmiga's Zoe, like Ingrid and Freya, didn't know she was a witch, but I liked the way the reveal to her was done better.  Again her character, like the one she played in season one, is forced to reside somewhere she doesn't want to be, but here there are at least others girls like her.  Not sure that's a good thing, though ... they are a whole new kind of mean girl (be glad the ones in your school didn't have powers like these chicks) Each has her own ... specialty, though Zoe's is more of a curse than a gift.  Roberts is really good at being conceited and cruel and you just know Zoe is gonna get sucked into her character Madison's darkness (when Madison is viciously gang-banged at a frat party, she barely bats an eye enacting swift, explosive revenge).   Nice to see Farmiga and Peters reunited - they have great chemistry.

Love the angles and images that the cinematographer and director create - it's like video art.  Nice to see Lange playing a more glamorous role from her others on AHS ...  she really eats up being evil and manages to (most times) not chew the scenery to bits.  And I love that she and Paulson are always direct antagonists - they really play off each other so deliciously.

The flashback sequences enhance the overall story incredibly well, and I like that FX has always and continues to allow this show the freedom of language, the portrayal of vices (smoking, drug use, sex) and graphic images and violence, although it's best when it works and is not just gratuitous, which is how I felt through much of season two, AHS: Asylum.

Already I like this season much better and I can't wait to see how this story unfolds.  I fully expect it to go off the rails in true AHS form.  I just hope this doesn't hurt the oft-negative perception of witches even more (yeah, right).  To be fair, the show will focus not just on typical witchcraft, but also voodoo and other black magic.

BOTTOM LINE:  Wicked good fun. 

American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

After Thoughts - Supernatural

Supernatural is back!!

My Boys are back on the air with the Supernatural season premiere last night (finally!) and I have to say I really liked it.  Couldn't say that last year when season 8 started.  It helps that the season finale last May left us with a terrific cliffhanger - all angels expelled from Heaven, Sam dying, Cas newly human, Crowley nearly demon-cured and the Winchester's prisoner.


We jump back into the action with Sam (Jared Padalecki) lying in a coma, very near death (he;s seriously physically damaged as a result of last season's trials to close the doors to Hell forever) and struggling within his own mind whether to fight to live or choose to cross over.  If the latter, it wouldn't be the first time ... these guys die A LOT.  They also come back a lot. 

But I appreciate Sam - in a face-to-face conversation with Death (the Horseman) himself (Julian Richings) - making sure that cycle, which has had major consequences and tragic results, stops once and for all:

SAM:  "If I go with you, will you promise that this time it will be final?  That if I'm dead, I stay dead. Nobody can reverse it, nobody can deal it away and nobody else can get hurt because of me."
DEATH:  "I can promise that."

Up to this point, Sam's inner psyche came to him in the forms of Dean (Jensen Ackles) as the Sam that wants to fight and Bobby (Jim Beaver - welcome back!) as the Sam that is ready to let go.  Bobby's argument is that Sam has done so much, sacrificed so much and saved the freakin' world, so it's okay to go.

BOBBY:  "What you call dying, I call leaving a legacy."

I like here how Sam - even though speaking through Bobby - finally takes credit for the good he's done.  So much of the long run of this show has had Sam swimming in guilt over the bad things he's done and mistakes he's made.  But here he finally lets himself acknowledge the hero he also is, and it's nice to think he'll end up in heaven when it is indeed his time.

Of course Dean is having none of this, both inside Sam's head and out.  The real Dean is again in a position where he might lose Sam forever, and despite everything they've gone through, all the past deals and death-cheating, he still refuses to let his little brother go.  He's not selling his soul this time.  This time his course of action directly violates what Sam would consciously want or agree to:  angel possession.

After Dean puts out a planet-wide prayer for help, the angels come running, mostly to get revenge against Cas (Misha Collins) ... more on that in a minute.  The angel that gets to Dean first is Ezekiel (Tahmoh Penikett, Battlestar Galactica), a seemingly good angel who only wants to help.  He can do so by healing Sam and himself from inside Sam.

Therein lies the problem.  Sam has been possessed before - lost a whole week and even killed someone during it. He was also inhabited by Lucifer himself, and that led to 150 years of personal torture by the Devil's is his cage in Hell.   So to say Sam would NEVER agree to being possessed - even to save his own life - is an understatement.

Ezekiel (He's gonna become Zeke, you just know it) also blocks some of Sam's memory, which is reminiscent of the Wall Death put on Sam after his soul was returned to him (I know:  if you don't watch the show, a lot of this is out-of-context.  I highly recommend getting caught up!).  So he's not going to appreciate the mind-sweep either. 

Suffice to say, when Sam finds out what Dean has done (even though technically Sam said yes to this plan in his mind, thinking it was Dean asking when it was asking Ezekiel masquerading as Dean), the s**t's gonna hit the fan. Dean did wrestle with the decision to proceed, hesitated momentarily, but ultimately it's as it has always been:

DEAN:  "There ain't no me if there ain't no you."

I wish this plot point wouldn't come to pass ... again.  They have split the guys apart so many damn times because of secrets, betrayals, outside players, bad choices ... enough!  We FINALLY had them back as brothers, working together, having each others' backs in the second half of last season and it felt like classic, great Supernatural - two against the world.  To divide them yet again ... ugh.  It probably won't happen till right before the winter hiatus, and I have my theories about details, but I won't look forward to it.  I want them to stay a team, dammit!

In the meantime, Ezekiel apparently is able to take over Sam at any time, so look for that to happen.  I'm sure Dean is gonna regret his plan to some degree, knowing it's not at all what Sam would choose for himself.  I will say that Jensen was terrific as always, portraying the torment and conflict and fear of loss to perfection.

As for Cas, he's human now, having had his "grace" stolen from him.  He gets hungry, he can bleed and he needs money.  He also has a new mission: to help all his fallen brothers and sisters find their way.  Trouble is, they're pissed.  REALLY pissed.  They were expelled violently from heaven and they blame Cas.  So look for him to be dodging a lot of bullets (or the equivalent of angel bullets).  But we finally get Misha into some new clothes!

Ultimately, I'm very happy with the kickoff of the new season and look forward to future developments concerning Crowley (Mark Sheppard) and the boys' new mission, which is always based on ridding the world of evil.
  • Loved that Death gave respect to Sam and came to collect him personally.
  • Acting by all was terrific, but it always is.  Jared had one of his best runs at the end of last season.  Looking forward to more.
  • Loved seeing Bobby again.  Hey, if there's any show that can kill you and bring you back again and again, it's Supernatural!
  •  Interesting that a show that started out focusing on demons and monsters has become so much about angels.

Here's to a thrilling new season!

Supernatural airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Great Binge Watch - Orange is the New Black


Got your newest binge-watch recommendation and it's fantastic!

You may have already heard all about Netflix's breakout hit about inmates at a women's prison and how great it is.  I'm here to tell you the critical acclaim is absolutely merited.  This is one terrific show.


Piper Chapman (the perfectly cast Taylor Schilling, Mercy) has it pretty good and is happily in love with fiancee Larry (Jason Biggs, Mad Love, American Pie) until it all comes crashing down.  Turns out Piper has quite a wild past as an international drug mule for ex-girlfriend (yep) Alex (Laura Prepon, That '70s Show) and a decade later it results in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary. Off to pay her debt to society, Piper trades comfort and luxury life for bad food, fearful conflicts and expected camaraderie and confidence amidst an eccentric group of inmates.

Because this program is on Netflix, it has the freedom to portray everything, including language and graphic sex and you actually don't feel for a second you are watching a television show.  You lose yourself in the lives of these people and their lives behind the bars.  The acting by all is so natural and the characters so rich and varied.  Not to mention this has the most realistic looking cast of women you'll ever see. 

This isn't a show of entirely beautiful, young starlets.  There are women of all shapes and sizes, shaved heads, bad teeth, bad hair, makeup-free faces - so refreshing and real.  Terrific array of ethnicities and sure, stereotypes are enacted, but in the prison setting, it works without offending.  It also helps to make Piper more of a odd fish in a very uncomfortable pond.

The performances are amazing across the board and I can't even point out one above the rest.  As I was watching I felt like they were all actors I've seen before, but when I IMDB'd them, I found that so many are new to me.  But I think that's a testament to their talent - they all felt like season veterans.  I do want to at least mention them:

Kate Mulgrew (Red)
   Natasha Lyonne (Nicky)
       Michelle Hurst (Miss Claudette)
              Pablo Schreiber (Mendez)
                  Laverne Cox (Sophia)
                      Nick Sandow (Caputo)
                           Uzo Aduba (Suzanne, a.k.a. "Crazy Eyes")
                              Dascha Polanco (Daya)
                               Samira Wiley (Poussey)
                                   Yael Stone (Morello)
                                        Danielle Brooks (Taystee)
                                            Constance Shulman (Yoga Jones)
                                                Taryn Manning (Pennsaticky)
                                                    Beth Fowler (Sister Ingalls)
                                                        Madeline Brewer (Tricia)

It's one of the best ensemble casts on TV and it was such an easy binge.  Couldn't wait to get to the next episode.  Piper's evolution during her incarceration is fascinating to watch and season one left us with a hell of a cliffhanger.  Too bad we have to wait till next year to see what happens.  But damn sure I'll be watching!

BOTTOM LINE: Truly arresting television.  Lock me in for Season Two!

Orange is the New Black is streaming on Netflix.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review - Super Fun Night

Oh dear.

Um ...

Wow.  This show is not super.  It's not fun.  It's probably the saddest show I've seen in a long time ... and I saw the premiere of Dads.

Normally I'd give you a quick lowdown of the show, but since I want to forget I've even seen it, I'm gonna pass.

It's a shame, too.  I like Rebel Wilson.  I root for the shows that dare to feature women physically outside the Hollywood norm (Mike and Molly, Drop Dead Diva).  But this one doesn't capitalize on what Wilson does well - bold, boisterous comedy.  I'm not saying she has to be pigeon-holed into that role (Melissa McCarthy hasn't been), but does she have to be turned into a pathetic, insecure wallflower whose dialogue is riddled with long bits of nonsensical noises when she has nothing to say?  She deserves more than to be saddled with tired plot points, like being bullied by a hot mean woman, constantly wanting food (seriously, there were three nods to junk food in a one-minute period) and obvious physical antics (watching her fight to get into spanks was so painful) that worked for I Love Lucy but here seem forced and ... sad.

Can't get past the fact that ABC opted to premiere the show tonight with not the original pilot but with the actual second episode.  Makes you wonder just what was so bad in that first ep that the net opted to bypass it completely.

Wilson can't quite pull off the American accent they have her doing and I'm not even sure why they've made her American (she's Australian) - they have foreign characters (British) in her workplace.  And I guess she's playing a lawyer?  Wasn't really listening to be honest.  Wilson just looked so uncomfortable and sad.

That's the only word I can really use to describe this program - sad.  Here's to Wilson's quick freedom from this wreck so she can move on to better projects.

BOTTOM LINE:  No.  Just, no.

Super Fun Night airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.