Archive for Cable

Vamping out over HBO’s “True Blood”

Repeat after me: There is no shame in wearing a red T-shirt proclaiming, “Friends don’t let friends drink friends.”

Moonlight might have been staked, but those of us who like our boys with a little bite can take comfort in the fact that HBO is offering up a tasty new vampire treat on Sept. 7. “True Blood” is based on the popular Sookie Stackhouse novels about a perky waitress from a backwater Louisiana town that’s lousy with leeches — and we aren’t talking the swamp variety.

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Ah, Sookie. There’s plenty of sizzle going on between Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) on HBO’s new series “True Blood.”

Sookie can’t believe it when brooding vampire Bill steps into her backwoods Louisiana diner and orders up a cup of Joe. OK, make that a cup of synthetic Joe blood.

She’s been waiting for this all her life. And vamp fans know exactly how she feels. Fangers may be blood-suckers, but what a way to go. Most of our favorites are tortured souls looking to toss immortality for a sensual relationship with a mortal. Or those mighty queens of the damned. And you can always count on the strong mortals like the spunky Buffys and Sookies to get that vamp blood to boil. While I love curling up on the sofa for a nice wallow in Interview with the Vampire or Lost Boys, the old Dracula movies leave me cold. I like my vampire shows loaded with snark, hold the cheese.

Not since Buffy staked out a place in our hearts has there been a show about vampires we could really sink our teeth into like True Blood. But will viewers tune in? TV history has not been kind to the night dwellers. Check out our top-10 list of TV vamp-centric series:

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: All hail the creator, Joss Whedon. Both the original series and the Angel spin-off were smartly written and acted. Who can forget when Angel appeared out of the darkness and came into Buffy’s life? Buffy made history with an episode shot almost entirely without dialogue, and also produced one of the best TV musical episodes ever. Buffy was all about girl power, and what just one girl could do. As it said on her tombstone, “She Saved the World. A Lot.” But the excellent spin-off with David Boreanaz as private investigator Angel proved to be a higher ratings grabber.

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“Sons of Anarchy” roars into FX – Here’s some more motorcycle moments

Just for the moment, we’ll disregard the fact that FX’s new series “Sons of Anarchy,” airing at 10 p.m. Wednesday on FX, might actually help swell the ranks of certain unnamed motorcycle clubs, headquartered (let’s say) in Oakland, and running illegal operations (let’s say) in California’s central valley.

Clubs that might refer to themselves by a name that would reflect Lucifer’s fallen status.

Nah, the producers and crew — many of whom came from FX’s The Shield — think of their series about a gun-running motorcycle club that isn’t opposed to murder and mayhem as sort of a take on Hamlet.

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Charlie Hunnam and Katey Segal play son and mom in “Sons of Anarchy” on FX

Charlie Hunnam plays sexy bad boy Jax, who has a bit of the poet in him. He’s the Hamlet, with a father who was perhaps murdered by the man who wanted to take over his territory — a man who was also his best friend. That man, Clay (Ron Perlman), took over the gang and married Jax’s mom Gemma (Katey Sagal). Gemma’s one tough momma who loves her son, yet sees him as a threat and isn’t sure how much of his dad is in him.

Like The Sopranos, it’s all about family values. But this family mostly values criminal activity, wrapped up in an odd code of honor that allows despicable acts in the name of solidifying the family.

FX proudly claims that this is the first TV series to center on the motorcycle club subculture, although many films have used the theme. That’s true — even as HBO is trying to get 1% off the ground despite a lawsuit launched by Hell’s Angels leader Sonny Barger — but motorcycles have played an important (if not central) role in other shows. We offer our top-10-bikes-on-TV list:
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Best Moments from “The Shield”

The Mack is back

The ends justify the means in Vic Mackey’s book, and from the first time we met him we knew this wasn’t just another cop on the beat. The Shield brought FX up to the big leagues, with an edgy cop drama unlike anything else on television. You secretly cheered when Mackey, leader of L.A.’s elite, and morally decayed, Strike Team tortured child molesters, drug dealers and other scum bags. But like a mad dog, you never knew when way he was going to turn.

“Good cop and bad cop left for the day,” Mackey says in one episode right before he begins beating up a pedophile to discover where he was hiding a young girl slated to be sold in slavery. “I’m a different kind of cop.”

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THE SHIELD: Episode 2: “Snitch” airing 9 p.m. Tuesday on FX. L-R: CCH Pounder and Michael Chiklis. CR: Prashant Gupta / FX

And now, judgment day may finally be at hand for Mackey as The Shield begins its final season at 10 p.m. Sept. 2 on FX. Just to catch you up to speed, Mackey’s still miffed at Det. Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins) for killing Strike Team guy Lem (Kenneth Johnson), but then everyone thought there was a good chance Lem would turn them all in. Mackey’s in trouble with the Armenians for that little robbery in Season 2, and he’s getting ready to lose his badge if he doesn’t figure out a way to get back into the good graces of the higher ups.

This was FX’s first scripted drama, and it blew the doors off of the competition and opened up the basic cable landscape. Creator Shawn Ryan says he wanted to give FX an ending that the network could be proud of and would set a template for other series.

CCH Pounder, who plays Captain Claudette Wyms on the show, says it’s the greatest finale every. Period.

“Hands down, blew my socks off. I’m not a great fan of The Shield as a watcher in the sense of I’m like a cringy person. I’m a bit of a chicken even though my role is so huge and non-chicken-like, “Pounder says. “But this finale is what Vic Mackey deserves.”

Does he get what he deserves?

“What thrills me about the finale is you will not see this coming,” Michael Chiklis, who pays Mackey, says. “When you look back at you’ll go, holy cow, yeah, that’s exactly right. I think he’s a man who is plagued by regret and the fallout of his actions starting from pretty much day one of the series, and all of those actions have led to other actions and created a sort of course that, as C.C. probably would agree, leads him to where it ends up.

“He’s definitely become a guy that understands that there is tremendous consequence, not just for himself but everyone around him, for the decisions that he’s made.”

Some strands from previous seasons will be picked up, others will never be resolved. Ryan says he took a crash course in The Shield history prior to working on this final season.

“There are a couple of characters that are a blast from the past that we bring back and wrap up in some ways,” Ryan says.

As Catherine Dent, who plays officer Danny Sofer, says, you don’t want to get so wrapped up in the final score that you miss a really great game.

“It’s going to be a great game and you’re not gonna want to know how it ends,” Dent says. “You’re going to want to watch every quarter because it’s so intense.”

For the next 13 episodes, of which I’ve seen eight so far, it’s edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that promises to be one of the best season’s ever. Here’s a top-10 look at some unforgettable moments in The Shield history.
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The Unit – Shawn Ryan thinks Season 4 a Go

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Shawn Ryan, “The Unit”

“The Unit” executive producer Shawn Ryan has been slammed locking the final edit of “The Shield,” but took time to shot me an e-mail about “The Unit” coming back this fall.

As for “The Shield,” Shawn shares that it was “very satisfying to end it the way I wanted to, but a little sad that I’ll never be in the editing room again on ‘The Shield.’ ”

But for fans of “The Unit,” Shawn says “I’m glad that you have a number of fans clamoring for the show. Here’s the scoop: When the strike ended, we were hoping to get additional episodes for the spring, like most shows.”

Unfortunately, Shawn says, CBS didn’t need the episodes for April and May because the network had filled the schedule with new episodes of reality shows like “Big Brother” and “Survivor.” Shawn assures us that CBS loves the show and that ratings-wise it is a “solid base hit although not a home run against brutal competions in ‘House” and ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ ”

Shawn says he thinks the chances are good the “The Unit” will be picked up for the fall – but doesn’t expect CBS to give them a solid answer until closer to the May upfronts.

“We’ve always had to wait until the May upfronts to find out our fate (even after our first season when we were the top rated new show of the year!). I imagine it will be the same again this year,” Shawn says, adding that they don’t feel safe by any means.

David Mamet, Shawn and the other writers have broken out the big plot points for next season, he says, and “I think it’s pretty great and it shakes up the show in a really wonderful way. We’ll go in and pitch it to them soon. I’m very confident they’ll be excited about it creatively. Maybe they’ll be inspired and give us an early pickup after hearing it. More likely, we’ll be waiting until May to learn our fate.”

And that’s the scoop, straight from Shawn. He’s also one of the nicest guys around, and deserves to be treated better by CBS. But, what are you gonna do?

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Michael Chiklis and Shawn Ryan of “The Shield,” courtesy of ViewImages

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Auditions for new CW Reality Show

The show is being described as “The Devil Wears Prada” meets “The Assistant” and it comes from Tyra Banks and Ken Mok, who teamed up for “America’s Next Top Model.” The new cycle of ANTM starts Feb. 20.

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Miss Tyra Banks of “America’s Next Top Model” is looking for contestants for her next reality show.

Bottom line, do you want to enter the fashion world as a minion?

“It is a competition show about aspiring assistants looking to become assistant editors at a fashion magazine,” says Mok. “At the same time they’re trying to prove themselves as aspiring fashionistas, that they have a sense of style and savvyness, all the things to make it in the fashion world.”

Open auditions will be held this Saturday, February 9, at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District, 750 Kearny St. from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Written applications will be available for download here. , however it’s not required that you have a completed application in order to audition. Applicants must be between 18 and 27 at the time of application.

According to an article in the Hollywood Reporter, Eli Holzman, who developed “Project Runway” at Miramax TV, and the show’s executive producers Jane Cha and Desiree Gruber, fashion experts and managers of “Runway” host Heidi Klum, came up the initial idea for the new series and pitched it to the CW.

The network in turn suggested a collaboration with Banks and Mok in mounting the production because of Banks’ background as a supermodel and the duo’s experience in the fashion reality genre with “Top Model.”

Banks, Mok, Holzman, Cha and Gruber will executive produce the series, which has received an eight-episode order and will begin production in April for a launch in late spring or summer.

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Showtime taps Call Girl

Now, here’s a way to make an end-run around a writer strike: Just buy a series that’s already been produced.

The downside, for Showtime, is that there’s already a Web site that lets you watch episodes of “Secret Diaries of a Call Girl.”

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Billie Piper as Belle, sort of a modern Moll Flanders if you will

For years, American producers have snatched up British ideas like “The Office” and “Coupling,” and Americanized them with varying degrees of success. Today, Showtime announced it has purchased the UK half-hour comedy and will air it as-is.

Taken from best selling, real life diaries, this series on the life of a high-end call girl leading a double life became an immediate ratings winner in the UK. Showtime airs the first season’s 8 half-hour episodes beginning in Spring or Summer 2008, with a commitment for an additional 12 episodes.

To her friends and family she is Hannah, a legal secretary clocking in regular hours and enjoying a “normal” life. To her clients, she is Belle, the answer to all of their fantasies. Her challenge is to keep her two lives separate. Inevitably they begin to blur.

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Belle assumes many identities for her clients, so now I’m thinking maybe she’s closer to a Sydney Bristow on “Alias.”

The real Belle, whom actress Billie Piper met and worked closely with pre-and during production, published her diaries in 2005 and, despite many attempts to discover her true identity, remains anonymous.

“When Chris Albrecht (formerly of HBO) called me to take a look at this show we were intrigued,” said Showtime’s Robert Greenblatt. “Initially we thought we should make an American version of it, but we fell in love with the original episodes, were captivated by Billie Piper’s Belle, and decided to bring it to Showtime as is. American audiences will be transfixed by the series poignant, sexy, comedy meets drama elements and the series’ will fit in perfectly with our line-up of original programming. It is also a pleasure to be back in business with my old friend Chris.”

And it doesn’t hurt they they don’t have to count on the writers coming back to work any time soon.

You would need a search and rescue team to find the link on this site to get my blog delivered to you free through an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed, so just click here.

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Project Runway: Man O’Fashion

“What was it they had right before the Titantic sunk? Oh, yeah. Panic.”

Steven nailed it. Tonight, the designers were in full-on freak mode as they struggled to make something snappy in men’s wear for “Today” correspondent Tiki Barber. The designers admitted they didn’t know much about designing for men and that was an understatement. The clothes overall were horrible.

Even the tonight’s top designers shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back. It was more about judging the best among the mediocre. There was a sea of barely wearable, with the bottom trio justifiably ashamed of what they had created.

“This challenge is going to be so difficult to judge because there’s going to be so many things that are so jacked up,” Christian said, summing up the fashion disaster that was tonight’s show.

True words, Christian my friend.

U.C. Berkeley grad Jack won the challenge with an interesting stripe pant and shirt combo. He wisely decided not to try to make a vest or jacket to go with it, because he knew he didn’t have the time or the expertise to pull it off.

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Jack’s creation

And speaking of pulling it off, when he couldn’t figure out how to make a pattern for the pants, he pulled his own pants off and turned them into a guide to making a pattern. Cheater? Maybe. But the judges decided to give him the win anyway.

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Jack takes the win tonight

Actually, I thought Kit’s design was better, but Tiki seemed to like the idea of parading around in stripes.

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Sweet Pea in her less haggard pre-taping days

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And her pitiful creation

Sweet Pea dodged a major bullet, probably only squeaking out because of her previous work. Her shirt’s collar went wildly out of control, with too much fabric slopping around the neck. So what did she do? Sweet P put a tie on it. That’s like the days when pregnant women put a big bow on their blouses so no one would notice the huge basketball they were carrying in their tummy.

The tearful Ricky blubbered away when he got a pass for a boring suit held together with pins and good thoughts.

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Ricky when he’s not crying

But at least he didn’t drape fabric around his model’s neck to hide the fact that he wasn’t wearing a shirt under his jacket. Tiki’s wife called the jacket very “Members Only” – a dated throwback that had problems all on its own without any help from the drapery.

And before her model could even leave the dressing room, Carmen was sewing the waistband where a button would have worked so much better. And safer. There was no doubt who was getting Auffed tonight:

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Carmen — Bravo Photo: Barbara Nitke

And the loser is….

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“John” gone, but Kiwis come back

We weren’t surprised when HBO announced it was canning “John From Cincinnati” or that “Entourage” would be back for another season.

But color us wowed when the network announced today that “Flight of the Conchords” will be back for another season.

Starring the New Zealand music-comedy duo of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, the kooky show follows transplanted New Zealanders Jemaine and Bret, who live on New York City’s Lower East Side and split their time between seeking venues where they can perform and awkwardly courting women.

Since they find they can express themselves easier with music, about once or twice an episode, they break into song. Really, it’s the songs that make the show.

Here’s a few samples if you haven’t heard these boys before:

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“John” wipes out

Apparently, audiences didn’t take to David Milch’s cryptic series “John From Cincinnati,” about levitating surfers hanging out in the border town of Imperial Beach.

Or Venereal Beach as we used to call it when I was growing up in San Diego.

On Monday, the day after the season finale aired, HBO canceled the series after mixed reviews and lackluster ratings.

So devoted fans – and you two know who you are – will never know what the mysterious final line in the season finale meant.

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JOHN FROM CINCINNATI: Austin Nichols. HBO photo: John P. Johnson

John says “Mother of God, Cass Kai” over a shot of Kai (Keala Kennelly) surfing.

But the good news is perhaps now Milch will have the time to write that “Deadwood” movie fans have been wanting.

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And the winner is…

Here’s what it’s like to present a Television Critics Association Award:

You go up on the stage where the Golden Globes are presented, looking out at an audience that includes “Sopranos’’ creator David Chase with Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco, Alec Baldwin of “30 Rock,’’ Matt Dallas of “Kyle XY,’’ “Heroes’’ creator Tim Kring with Adrian Pasdar, Masi Oka, “The Office” producer Greg Daniels and castmembers and Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights.’’

And you pray you don’t black out.

Makes you understand yet again just how good these people in the room are at what they do.

Alec won the award for individual achievement in comedy and rocked the room. He told the story about how he tried to get a role on “The Sopranos.’’

In New York, he was going to a meeting with “a famous socialite’’ to raise some money for some foundation. But he went to the wrong place, and had to bolt down Park Avenue, he’s drenched in sweat. So he excuses himself to use the men’s room and takes his shirt off, and dries his shirt in the men’s room of the Four Season’s Restaurant.

And David Chase walks in and says, “Alec Baldwin?’’

He didn’t get a role on the show.

Of course, when Chase took the stage to accept the award for Outstanding Achievement in Drama, he says that in response to Alec, “When I walked into the (restroom), I thought `Holy (Shucks), that was Alec Baldwin the famous movie star. I didn’t even notice he didn’t have a shirt on.’’

When he came up again for the Heritage Award, Chase remarked that when you are in New Jersey, you can be sitting in a restaurant and have everything stop.

“It’s not that big of a deal,’’ he deadpans.

He then mentioned that he was awed by other nominees, which included “M*A*S*H,’ `Roots,’ `Mary Tyler Moore Show’ and “Sesame Street.’’

“But I thought we had a pretty good shot when I didn’t see any Muppets in the audience,’’ Chase says.

Then he said a TV critic told him it would be good to actually explain the ending of “The Sopranos.’’

“I wasn’t going to get into it, but when I was going to Stanford, at 23, I went to see the `Planet of the Apes’ with my wife,’’ Chase says. “At the end I said, `Wow. So they had a Statue of Liberty too.’ So that’s what you are up against.’’

For a better insight, check out the season one finale.

“The Office’’ producer Greg Daniels says he spent the whole day reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

“I’m on page 450, and it’s good,’’ Daniels says. “If we adapt it for American audiences, it could be really successful.’’

He then introduced the cast that showed up for the awards – and said how he would cast them as “Harry Potter’’ characters.

Brian Baumgartner as Hagrid; Mindy Kaling as Pavarti, or Luna; Angela Kinsey as Delores Umbridge; Kate Flannery as Aunt Petunia; Oscar Nunez as Viktor Krum; Leslie David Baker as Mr. Dursley and Creed Bratton as Lucius Malfoy.

“Is this too nerdy for everyone?,’’ Greg asked.

Not for this crowd.

2007 TCA Award recipients are as follows:

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: “Heroes” (NBC)

OUTSTANDING NEW PROGRAM: “Friday Night Lights” (NBC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA: “The Sopranos” (HBO)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY: “The Office” (NBC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NEWS & INFORMATION: “Planet Earth” (Discovery)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING: “Kyle XY” (ABC Family)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MOVIES, MINI-SERIES & SPECIALS: “Planet Earth” (Discovery)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock” (NBC)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA: Michael C. Hall, “Dexter” (Showtime)

HERITAGE AWARD: “The Sopranos” (HBO)

CAREER ACHIEVEMENT: Mary Tyler Moore

Oh, and I’m now the newly elected secretary of the Television Critics Association. Go TCA.

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