Archive for July, 2006

Aaron Sorkin cracks up critics

You just know that before Sorkin took the stage in front of a room filled with close to 200 critics, his handlers laid down a few rules that started out with “no drug talk” and ended with “really, no drug talk.”

Sorkin was at the summer TV critics press tour to talk about his new series, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” a fictionalized look at the backstage works at “Saturday Night Live.” The large ensemble cast includes Bradley Whitford and Timothy Busfield from “The West Wing” and Matthew Perry from a little sitcom called “Friends.”

The critical darling’s acclaimed work includes the film “A Few Good Men” and series “Sports Night” and “The West Wing.” But he became a late-night talk show punch line after his much-publicized arrest at the Burbank airport for possession of cocaine, mushrooms and marijuana in 2001.

In the first few moments of “Studio 60” opens with a “Network” rant by the producer about how bad television has become, and cites shows that resemble such NBC fare as “Fear Factor” and Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.”

So Sorkin was asked about using this show and how he felt about the state of network TV.

“I do think that television is terribly influential part of this country and when things that are very mean-spirited and voyeuristic go on TV,” Sorkin said. “I think it’s bad crack in the schoolyard.” Sorkin immediately tried to turn into the incredible shrinking man, going through a wide array of crimson tones.

“Why did I use that word?” he said.

Later, Perry was asked what it was like playing a character that is based on both Sorkin and his creative partner Thomas Schlamme.

“I think it’s more like bad Vicodin in the schoolyard,” quipped Perry, who had a little scandal in 1997 about being in the early stages of dependency on Vicodin.

The stage, and audience, erupted into laughter as Sorkin tried slinking even lower in the chair, rubbing his forehead like a magic lantern that might transport him elsewhere.

“I never wished I had a drug problem,” said Whitford, who plays Perry’s character’s partner on the show.

Until now, perhaps.

Finally, when cast member Steven Weber started talking about aspirin and cloth diapers on the schoolyard, it was more than Sorkin could take.

“I’ll pay $100 to everyone in the room if I can just get that quote out of the papers tomorrow,” Sorkin begged.

No such luck.

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NBC’s Watching YouTube

Somebody was watching.

A while ago, someone put up bootleg copies on of a 2005 WB comedy pilot that wasn’t picked up, produced by Bill Lawrence (“Scrubs”). The innovative series is about two guys who want to become sitcom writers and end up being part of a reality series.

The series pilot, which is shown in three parts, was downloaded more than 600,000 times from the San Mateo-based YouTube Web site. People started writing about it. (see for Susan Young’s column on it.)

On Friday, NBC announced that it will pick up the series, first airing as webisodes, then later on the network. The stars, Paul Campbell and Taran Killam, will return to their roles as best pals from the Midwest who get the call from a network to come work for them “if they think they can do a better job.”

The two try to develop a great TV sitcom, unaware that the network is actually manipulating and recording their every move for a reality series.

“This comedy pilot has generated a life of its own and we are intrigued by its potential to develop into a series,” says NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly. “Sometimes, if you show it, they will come. We’ve seen how people have responded on the Internet, plus we always bet on Bill Lawrence’s work.”

Lawrence says he’s always been passionate about the project and “I think we will see more launched on the Internet in the future.”

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Bumps in the Night

Perhaps it was an homage to “Lost,” but for whatever reason the limited lighting at the ABC stars party made the whole affair turn into blind man’s bluff.

Still, we were able to find enough people to shed some light on what’s going on with the networks two top series.

For one thing, “Desperate Housewives” opens up with Mike Delfino (Jamie Denton) in a coma. Susan (Teri Hatcher) starts a vigil at his hospital bed, but before she knows it, she finds herself attracted to the man played by Dougray Scott, across the hall whose wife is in a coma.

“It’s like she’s waiting for Jimmy Stewart to wake up, but she’s looking at Cary Grant across the hall,” says creator Marc Cherry.

Bree (Marcia Cross) gets married to Kyle McLachlan, while Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) gets stuck caring for the mother of her unborn child, who was fathered either artificially or the old-fashioned way by tossed out hubby Carlos.

And make no mistake, they are putting the funny back into the show by lining up an A-list of comedy writers from such shows as “Frasier” and “Will & Grace.”

As it turned out, the night was filled with producers ready to spill series secrets. When news that “Lost” producer Carlton Cuse was having an attack of loose lips over in the corner, almost every critic in the party clawed their way through the crowd to get the low down.

First, Cuse says, Desmond isn’t dead. And we’ll be spending the first six episodes, before it goes on hiatus until next spring, seeing Kate, Jack and Sawyer dealing with life in captivity.

The trio will be with The Others, and Cuse says we’ll discover that The Others are quite different from what we thought. Also, the outside world was introduced in the season finale (“and that’s not going away” Cuse says), with men at an ice station detecting where the Losties are located.

So again we ask, “Does this explain the polar bear in the first season?”

“Well, the artic is the only place where polar bears live,” says Cuse. “And polar bears will be back this season.”

Three actors playing characters on “Prison Break” have made their getaway to ABC. Patricia Wettig, who played the ambitious vice president, will now be “Brothers & Sisters” which is produced by her husband Ken Olin.

Sunnyvale’s Camille Guaty, who played the girlfriend of one of prisoners and John Billingsly, who played the supposedly dead brother of the vice president, joined the cast of “The Nine.”

There was supposed to be some “Dancing with Stars” action later, but the professional dancers said they just couldn’t work under these conditions.

Too dark.

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Checking Out “Grey’s Anatomy”

Nothing better than getting on the set of “Grey’s Anatomy” and immediately bumping into Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey), Patrick Dempsey (Derek “Dr. McDreamy” Shepherd) and Emmy nominee Sandra Oh (Cristina Yang).

So, Ellen, after having your way with the very married Dr. McDreamy in the season finale, just who else might you bed?

“No one is safe,” she says smiling wickedly. “All cute boys beware.”

(We’re still pushing for a return of Eric Dane, who played the guy who almost broke up McDreamy’s marriage. Although McDreamy seems to be doing just fine all on his own now.)

As for McDreamy, or rather Dempsey, he says that the two things fans always say to him are “My mother loves you” and “Who are you picking?”

They are referring, of course, to whether the good-in-bed doctor will choose Meredith or his wife, played by San Jose native Kate Walsh.
“Well, I can tell you that the triangle gets resolved rather quickly,” says Walsh, who looks as if she’s still part of the cast. Perhaps she gives McDreamy his come-uppance finally and she can get back to that dishy Eric Dane.

Seeming every bit as socially awkward as her straightforward character, Oh watched as the critics taking the tour of the set rushed her co-stars.

“No one is going to want to talk to me, are they?” she said, looking nervously at me.

No worries. It didn’t take long for folks to zone in on her.

Sitting in a remote spot on the set was Sara Ramirez, who plays Dr. Callie Torres on the show. She says she was picked to join the show after she was seen in the Broadway smash hit “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”

“They came to me, although I don’t know what about my over-the-top performance (as Lady of the Lake) said orthopedic surgeon to them,” says Ramirez, who won a Tony for her role.

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Heche still crazy?

You would have thought journalists would pounce on the chance to ask Anne “I think I’m an alien” Heche if she was a bit more grounded these days.

Instead, when Heche showed up at the summer TV press tour to pump up interest in her ABC series “Men in Trees,” there was more curiosity in raccoons.

The series, with Heche as a self-help guru who just got dumped by her boyfriend after she arrives for a gig in Alaska, has a lot of wildlife.

Turns out the raccoon Elvis has a dog as a stunt double. And he sleeps at night. And they wake him up to go to work.

Finally, a reporter stumbled out a question about her mentally unstable past, saying something like is she now…

“Sane?” asked Heche.

Heche says she’s now very blessed, although she still has some quirks. Like covering her ears and do the LA-LA-LA whenever anyone asked about where the series was going.

“Anne doesn’t want to hear about what’s happening in the future,” explained creator Jenny Bicks, like this was perfectly reasonable behavior.

Later, when asked if anyone could relate to Heche’s character, she quipped, “Clearly, I never used a life coach.”

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“Desperate Housewives” gets back to the funny

“Desperate Housewives” season two.

Hated it.

But word has come down from ABC president Stephen McPherson that second-season showrunner Tom Spezialy has left the helm and creator and first season showrunner Marc Cherry will be back this season.

“I think it’s going to get back to the heart of it, which was kind of a wicked comedy,” McPherson says.

We’re just hoping for no more Susan pratfalls.

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Jimmy Kimmel’s cookin’

Last weekend, hip chick chef Rachael Ray oversaw a lunch with her famous miniburgers.

Ray, Jimmy Kimmel kicked your backside.

And Kimmel, I forgive you for “The Man Show” and the trampoline.

It had to be 100 degrees out on the patio at the Ritz-Carlton where Kimmel was cooking up his favorite burgers for TV critics.

Sweat poured down his face as he made some yummy patties for everyone. So we mentioned how impressed we were with him, unlike slacker Ray.

“Well, Rachael doesn’t have to work that hard because she has people and I’m not smart enough to have people,” Kimmel quipped.

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“Lost” 2.5

“Lost” producer Bryan Burk doesn’t want you to think of this coming fall season of “Lost” as season 3.

“It’s more like ‘Lost’ 2.5,” Burk says. “This fall is like a miniseries, then in the spring you’ll have season three.”

ABC announced today that the series would be coming back for only six episodes on Oct. 4, then do a “Sopranos” disappearance until 2007.

Taking the “Lost” slot will be a “Groundhog Day”-like drama starring Taye Diggs as a guy reliving each day while trying to prevent his girlfriend from being murdered in “Day Break.”

Then “Lost” comes back for a spring run that would not include any reruns.

“There’s going to be more romance on the series this season,” promises ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson. “The only note I give that show is character-character-character because I believe that’s what brings people back.”

Burk says to expect more issues addressed and, of course, what the heck becomes of Sawyer, Jack and Kate left in the hands of The Others and the tribe back home trying to cope without their leader Jack.

And let’s not forget those guys sitting in the artic monitoring some activity.

“Yeah. What’s up with that?” says Burk.

Well, at least we know where the polar bear came from.

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So, are you still crazy?

“Gilmore Girls” has a new producer since the exit of creator Amy Sherman Palladino and her husband Daniel.

And David S. Rosenthal has a rather shaky past.

Six years ago, the former “Spin City” writer fixated on Heidi Klum after the model appeared on the series as a guest. He left his wife and began obsessing about having sex with Klum. He even wrote a profane play “Love” about it all.

When his rabbi dad read the play, he had his son committed to a mental hospital.

So now Rosenthal is the showrunner for a series about the close relationship between mother and daughter.


When asked during a press session on Monday how his past makes him the right guy to lead “Gilmore Girls,” the air was sucked right out of the room.

“My personal life is not an issue here,” said Rosenthal who looked like he just took a punch to the gut. “It’s not worth getting into. I’m just here to talk about the show.”

Star Lauren Graham quickly shut down any follow up questions on the subject by saying, “It has nothing to do with anything. Next?”

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Kill “Gilmore Girls’ ” Luke?

It’s no secret that Lauren Graham isn’t co-star Scott Patterson’s greatest fan.

Earlier in the “Gilmore Girls” press session, Graham also admitted that she doesn’t like working with the dog, named Paul Anka on the show. Not that she doesn’t love dogs, mind you. She just doesn’t like doing dog dialogue with the hound.

“I have made no secret of the fact that I do not enjoy working with the actor Paul Anka, although the person Paul Anka was joyful and a delight and gave me a stack of CDs, I just am not a fan of dog comedy.”

So is Paul Anka returning?

“Yes. See? I have no power here. No one cares if I don’t like working with Paul Anka,” Graham says.

Was that just a thinly veiled reference to dog or Patterson?

All we know is afterwards during the rush to the stage, she was asked if she would try to get rid of Patterson.
“I can’t get the dog killed,” she says jokingly. “How can I do that?”

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