Archive for February, 2009

Geroge Clooney back in ER March 12

NBC won’t be saving George Clooney for last.
While no one is saying the C-word exactly, word has leaked out that Julianna Margulies will be making her appearance on the March 12 episode of “ER” with guest star Susan Sarandon. And where Margulies goes, her TV husband Dr. Doug Ross, played by Clooney, is sure to follow.
Clooney, the box office success story for “ER,” has been the subject of much speculation since the announcement that most of the original cast would return at some point this season.
Clooney was the big draw, with co-star Anthony Edward saying he thought Clooney would be crazy not to come back and do it because he had so much fun returning for his guest spot last fall. Edwards proved a tricky puzzle, given the fact that his character had died.
Producer John Wells has said that if he could come up with a story that “made sense,” then Clooney would probably come back. Then it was widely reported last month that Clooney had been seen filming an episode of “ER.”
The only question remaining was when the episode would run. That has been answered with the scheduling of this episode. The story centers on Surandon’s character, a grandmother with a tough spirit trying to cope with her grandson’s untimely death. There’s little information about how Margulies’ character, nurse Carol Hathaway, is involved in the case other than the fact that she will be featured in the episode.
Producers say the stories will be heating up in the march towards the series finale on April 2.

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Welcome to Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse

Imagine a world where there is no past and no future, where every day is different and exciting.

And all you have to give up is your memory, and perhaps a bit of your soul.

In the world of Dollhouse, beautiful people are rented out like boogie boards at a tropical resort and the tourists use them and move on. These blank boards get imprinted with your exact specifications for your unique needs and desires from a crack kidnapping specialist to the perfect girlfriend – then get wiped clean after the adventure ends, ready for their next assignment.

In between, these child-like creatures live in a carefully crafted environment, a lovely underground abode decorated in a heavily Asian influence of dark woods, fountains, koi ponds, spas, exercise rooms and a sleep room that whispers mindless calm.

“It’s supposed to feel organic, free and open. A zen loveliness,” Dollhouse creator
Joss Whedon
says as he gives a tour of the set. “You know, I read Shogun when I was 13 and never got over it. I’ve always loved that Asian influence.”

But looking down on this tranquil world is the sinister corporation overseeing the dolls. It’s a theme we’ve seen often from Whedon, who gained fame with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer before spinning off the vamp hit Angel, which had similar tones of corporate baddies.

Just looking at the lavish set, which cost close to a $1 million, makes you believe that Fox would never put this kind of money into a project without a substantial commitment to make it a success. But then, we remember the incredible space ship Serenity, built for Whedon’s last Fox series Firefly.

Only 11 of the 14 episodes produced for that series ever saw the light of TV tube, and not only ruined Whedon’s friendship with former production collaborator Gail Berman, who was then the head of Fox entertainment, but also made him shy away from doing any more TV series.

Initially, Whedon agreed to write the Dollhouse pilot plus six more episodes, but that quickly turned into a 13-episode order from Fox.

“At first I thought, great, I’ll make seven and then go on with my life, making movies again, but then it started tumbling over itself,” Whedon explains. “There was something completely organic about this experience, from that meeting with Eliza, and then my wife saying it sounded like a neat thing. I’m dealing with new people, and it just feels right.”

Although he did pause when he learned Dollhouse had been shifted from Monday nights to Friday – the ratings death zone where Firefly once was slotted.

“I’d had a bad experience on Friday. You might have heard about it,” says Whedon. “But I knew that was sort of just an instinctive reaction to something that had happened before. (Fox) made it very clear that this was a different agenda. They weren’t looking to stick us on a Friday, not promote us, and then expect us to be a huge hit instantly.”

Fox hopes that by pairing Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles with Dollhouse, the two sci fi shows starring strong sexy women will bring in the Friday night crowd.

Eliza Dushku, who played the anti-Buffy vamp slayer Faith on Buffy stars as Echo, a woman who made a mistake and now must pay for it by becoming one of the so-called Actives in the Dollhouse. But while most of the dolls have no knowledge of their former lives, Echo is starting to retain some memories after getting her memory wiped.

She’s assigned engagements by the mysterious and all-powerful Adelle (Olivia Williams) and has a handler named Boyd (Harry Lennix). Boyd is only slightly more moral than the science genius Topher (Fran Kranz), who imprints and wipes the actives. Former Angel co-star Amy Acker plays a physically and emotionally damaged scientist also working with the Actives, which include Sierra (Dichen Lachman), the closest thing to a friend Echo has in the house.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Paul, played by Battlestar Galactica’s Tahmon Penikett, tries to track down the Dollhouse operation to find Caroline – the woman who is now Echo.

The genesis of the story came from a lunch meeting between Dushku and Whedon.

“I literally just came up with the idea based on our conversation about her as an actress,” Whedon says of her ability to play so many different characters. “And she said that people expect her to be a certain thing, and I went, wait a minute. That’s the show.”

Every episode of Dollhouse is self-contained so anyone can drop in and enjoy the show, but there’s an underlying mythology to keep regular viewers hooked.

“There’s an engagement, a resolution and the arc story of Echo’s burgeoning awareness and the people around her,” Whedon says. “It’s sort of La Femme Nikita, but she won’t be killing people as often or as well, but that influence is certainly there. I have actually described this show as Alias meets Quantum Leap, where she gets into people’s lives and helps them and you never know from episode to episode what the tone is going to be.”

While Echo may be the almost perfect avatar, the emphasis going forward will be on the “almost.”

“Echo has glitches and flaws,” Dushku says. “She’s absolutely glitching and starting to become self-aware and the memory wipes aren’t entirely working.”

Whedon says viewers will get a lot of payoff this season. Paul will be hunting the illicit operation and won’t always be one step behind them.

“Every now and then, he’s going to come up against them in a rather abrupt fashion,” Whedon says. “He’s not going to be the reporter in The Hulk, always five feet behind.”

It’s been a while since Fox had a Friday night hit, back when The X-Files ruled the night, but the one-two distaff punch might be just the ticket to draw viewers.

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Spending Time on Mentalist Set with Simon Baker

Simon Baker‘s smiling a lot these days.

On the Warner Bros. set of The Mentalist, Baker’s relaxed and comfortable talking to the small group of reporters gathered on his home turf. It’s quite a departure from a few years ago, when Baker starred in another CBS drama The Guardian. Then, he came across as resentful and angry, much like the repressed and depressed character he played.

“(The Guardian) was a harder show emotionally, playing such a depressed character did rub off on me,” Baker says in his native Aussie accent. “I never thought I’d be the kind of actor who would be affected by the role that I’m playing, but playing it day in and day out, it does, yeah. But (Patrick Jane) is such a fun character.”

Baker says The Mentalist is all about entertainment.

“When I was doing The Guardian, I wanted to act and move people and move the world,” says Baker, 39, before breaking into a grin. “I was young.”

In the crime drama, Baker plays Patrick Jane, a man who used his powers of observation to become a celebrity psychic. When his wife and child are brutally murdered by a serial killer, he starts working with a special statewide police unit to solve crimes. While he deals with the devastating aftermath of that act and solves brutal crimes each week, there’s a playful spirit in both Jane and the show in general.

But the spector of the killer known as Red John is always there, and viewers learned recently that Jane spent time in a mental institution following the death of his family.

Creator/producer Bruno Heller says the show will stick to solving the crime of the week more than concentrating on that storyline.

“We won’t be going back to the institution much. With Red John, that’s always part of his journey, but we’ll go there sparingly,” Heller says.

The simple gray set looks like a basic office, except one wall filled with gruesome shots of a murder victim. Oddly enough, the office of Teresa Lisbon, Jane’s boss played by Robin Tunney, has not one but two doors. And in the break room, there’s an odd assortment of ads on the bulletin board including a cute picture of a horse for sale.

But the main draw on this set is the star of the show, Baker. He’s wearing gray herringbone jacket and a rumpled blue button-up shirt that looks like it’s never met an iron. On anyone else, you’d think Columbo. On Baker, he’s more dreamy, slightly eccentric, college professor with a killer smile.

“Most people under scrutiny don’t expect a policeman to be candid, genial and relaxed. If you are in a bad mood, and someone smiles at you, it’s infectious, and it can be a way to disarm a person,” Baker says. “I play around with that (as Jane).”

One of the charming aspects of the show is the easy relationships between the characters, which include Owain Yeoman as Det. Wayne Rigsby, Amanda Righetti as Det. Grace Van Pelt and Tim Kang as Det. Kimball Cho. And then there’s that sizzling connection between Jane and Lisbon.

“Some of it can be attributed to workplace banter. Also, at times it can be paternal and maternal and sometimes almost like siblings,” Baker says. “But I think my character is flirtatious just in general, so (the relationship) works on a lot of levels.”

As for Jane having something dark and twisty in his soul, Baker says dark doesn’t quite describe it.

“It’s just a painful place,” Baker says. “A sad, sorrowful place.”

And a vulnerable place that makes his character all the more intriguing, especially to woman eager to help him heal.

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Simon Baker and the Cute Crime Solver Crowd

For a tragic figure, Patrick Jane wields a wicked sense of humor.

It’s not just the dialogue on the CBS sleuth show The Mentalist, although that can be very funny at times. It’s more than just the snappy comeback lines, or the ironic observances that makes the character of Jane, played by the ubersexy Simon Baker, one of the most attractive characters on TV. Baker’s tousled blond hair and sly grin make him easy to love, but that sense of humor makes Jane irresistible.

Out in the real world, viewers live with financial uncertainty and professional perils, so spending some time with a cute crime-solver with a sense of humor seems like just the ticket out of dismal town.

And the ratings would seem to agree.

The Mentalist is the top rated new show of the season, making a regular spot for itself in the Nielsen top-10 shows. Crime shows have shoved their way into most of the top TV spots, especially if you stretch that definition to include Desperate Housewives, which always includes some murder mystery of the season.

CSI and even NCIS have passed ABC’s hit Dancing with the Stars in the ratings. The Mentalist consistently remains the highest rated new show of the season, running neck-and-neck with DWTS result show.

While The Mentalist ranks as our No. 1 crime-solver series featuring cute guys with a sense of humor, here, in descending order, are the shows that round out our top-10 list.

9. In Plain Sight – While the main character in this USA series about the witness protection program is a non-nonsense Marshal Mary, half the reason why we like it is her partner, Marshal Marshall (Fred Weller), the quick-witted, slightly goofy guy whose mind is a junkyard of facts.

8. Psych – In this USA series, you get not one but two cute young crime-solvers, Shawn (James Roday) and his buddy Gus (Dule Hill). While both The Mentalist and this series feature a guy using his amazing powers of observation to solve crime, this is a lightweight version. Shawn’s humor may lack sophistication (“Wow Dad. Tell me you’re wearing that shirt because someone has to spot you from space”), but he’s always good for a chuckle.

7. Life – If sardonic, dark humor is your thing, then you’ve got to love Life’s Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis).

6. NCIS – “What’s your clearance?” demands a military cop when Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) arrives on the scene. “About 6’1,” he replies. “Why? Do you have low ceilings?” Yep, that’s DiNozzo. Always quick with the quip, and a face that could make him a mint as a model.

5. Life on Mars – Cop Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara) mysteriously gets knocked back in time after he’s hit by a car, so most of his humor centers on living in a time not his own. And he’s pretty good with the physical humor.

4. Bones – Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) loves making stupid jokes, but mining the humor in this series about solving gruesome deaths has made this Fox series a popular viewer choice. And did we mention how cute Boreanaz is?

– Who is our favorite hunk who fights crime throughout the universe and still has time to bring some humor into it all? Gotta be Capt. Jack (John Barrowman).

– Talk about stretching the crime show genre, but how can we pass up this season’s sexiest wise guy Peter(Joshua Jackson)? And he’s never better than when interacting with his crazy scientist dad Walter (John Noble). Hey, crimes are somewhat solved in the compelling Fox show.

1. And coming in at practically a dead heat to Patrick Jane is the
Burn Notice
boys Michael (Jeffrey Donovan), a former spy who now solves crimes as a P.I. and his buddy in crime-solving (Bruce Campbell), whose line “You know spies…bunch of bitchy little girls” is so good, it holds up repeatedly in the opening credits.

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Will Ferrell Talks George Bush, Eastbound & Down

Will Ferrell’s looking distinctly unpresidential in his 2009 New Year glitter glasses and flap hat.

The 41-year-old Saturday Night Live alum insists the glasses are prescription and he’ll be wearing them until he needs a new pair.

If anyone else went on this riff, you’d probably be yawning or checking out the latest iPhone app until it stopped. Ferrell not only makes it work, he also gets some solid laughs out of a room full of TV critics gathered to hear Ferrell, Adam McKay and
Danny McBride
talk about their new HBO deal.

Ferrell’s Broadway show, You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush, airs live on HBO on March 14. He’s also producing and guest starring in the HBO series, Eastbound & Down starring McBride (Pineapple Express ). And Ferrell and McBride team up in the upcoming feature film, Land of the Lost.

Ferrell’s first trip to Broadway has been a roaring success, and he caps off his run in March with the live performance of his show. Ferrell says it felt right to go live with the show after so many years of doing Bush on SNL.

Ferrell was first approached by Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels to play Bush when the Texas governor first started his presidential campaign. Ferrell said he agreed mainly because he never thought the gig would last more than a couple of months at best.

“(I thought) he probably won’t win,” Ferrell says.

Instead, Bush was voted into office not once, but twice.

“He just kept kind of gaining momentum in terms of his comedic persona (after he became president),” Ferrell says. “There’s been an incredible combination of some insane news events that he’s had to deal with and obvkously some poor decisions on his part. (Combining that) with his type of personality and the fact that he can’t speak properly makes for a wonderful kind of comedic stew.”

And a thick, rich stew it is. Ferrell latched on to Bush’s funky language skills, and brought the term “strategery” into the lexicon.

Ferrell says the beauty of the Bush Admininstration was tht it never lacked in comedic material from the very beginning of Bush’s bid for the White House


Bush appeared on SNLduring his first campaign in 2000 after Ferrell had already started his Bush gig. Ferrell was told that Bush and his staff were huge fans of his and Bush would love to meet him.

So he hurried down to the studio to meet the man who would become the president of the United States. Photographers pushed Ferrell into this circle of cameras and people and told him to say “Hi” to Bush.

As cameras clicked away, Ferrell nervously went up and thanked the Texas governor for doing the show.

“And I could just tell he had no idea who I was,” Ferrell says.

After more than eight years, Bush probably knows who Ferrell is now, and that he helped an already promising comic explode.

Ferrell says his favorite SNL Bush skit was “Palm Beach Nights,” written by McKay.

“It was about the vote recount,” Ferrell says. “And the final beat was George Bush playing with a cat toy on the sofa like a cat.”

Ah, good times.

But Ferrell isn’t just resting on his Bush laurels. He’s also producing McBride’s new HBO series, Eastbound & Down and makes a cameo appearance when it debuts at 10:30 p.m. Feb. 15. The comedy series tells the tragic tale of Kenny Powers (McBride), a disgraced former major league pitcher whose bad boy stunts got him kicked out of the bigs. After years of a downward spiral, where he’s lost all his money and torched all his bridges, he’s back in his small town childhood home trying to squeeze the last drop out of his former celebrity status.

He’s at the bottom of the social rung, teaching physical education at his old middle school in North Carolina.

In the series, Powers is given many opportunities to redeem himself.

“He’s in the moment, but he always chooses the path that will lead him further down,” co-star Ben Best, who also serves as a writer/producer on the show, says. “In each episode, he’s thinking this is the lowest a man can get. And then you’ll see it’s like, wait, this is the loest a man can get. And that will just continue.”

You can see where that kind of story would appeal to Ferrell after almost nine years of playing Bush.

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Demetri Martin – Jon Stewart’s Latest Spin-Off Guy

There’s something not quite right about Demetri Martin.

Martin’s brain seems to be routed through the non-sequatur with a side trip to crazy town. The comic’s roots clearly dig down to stand-up star Steven Wright and “Far Side” creator Gary Larson.
He may look like a typical board boy with his cute little cereal bowl hair cut down to his skater shoes, but that brain’s constantly churning with odd little takes on life.

The former Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart staff writer gets his own sketch show Important Things with Demetri Martin at 10:30 Wednesdays on Comedy Central. Martin, who would need to chug an entire Starbucks inventory to get excited, serves up his cool observations in a deliciously level manner. And speaking of coffee, he can make a drawing of coffee spin off in a variety of comic directions just by adding a few lines making it hot coffee or speeding towards you hot coffee.

Guess you’d have to see it.

Important Things come from Stewart’s Busboy Productions company. This is only the second series picked up through Stewart’s agreement with the cable channel. The first resulted in a show called The Colbert Report.

Martin should be pounding out his own distinct comedy path soon. The series was set to air last year, but the writer’s strike and a starring role in Ang Lee’s upcoming film Taking Woodstock put Important Things on hold.

First off, Martin wants people to know a few things about him.

“Some stats. I’m 5’11, I dropped out of law school. I have extensive food allergies, seafood, poultry, nuts. It’s pretty serious, anaphylaxis, it could kill me, but I’m still pretty tough despite that,” Martin, 35, says. “If I avoid those foods, I can hang with anybody. I’ve got a lot of stamina.”

The son of a Greek Orthodox priest, who died of cancer when Martin was 20, grew up in New Jersey knowing that he probably wasn’t the kind of person who was going to become gridiron star.

“My grades, coupled with my inability at team sports, would probably put me in the nerd category,” he admits.

He almost opted for a traditional career as an attorney after graduating from Yale with a degree in history, but dropped out of New York University law school to take a shot at comedy. The funny guy found his spot in the world of stand-up and in comedy, and even gets a big screen premiere in the upcoming Lee film where he plays concert promoter and gay-rights pioneer Elliot Tiber.

“What a weird, unbelievable opportunity. I’m just trying to get some small parts in movies, to get some chops, to see if I can hold my own in a scene with a trained actor,” Martin says. “And I get the call (from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Lee). This guy made people run on the tops of trees. This is a talented person.”

Lee cast him as the lead in the film, which freaked Martin out just a little bit.

“I didn’t really act much before, so my first thing was you’re going to be in the ’60s and you’re Jewish and you’re gay, so just know that you’re going to make out with a guy,” Martin says. “So, wow, that’s a crash course in acting. That’s a triple. But it was cool.”

His new show, Martin explains, is a “thing show.” He chooses a thing, and then chats about it. Some people wouldn’t be able to pull of a show about, say, power. But Martin’s got it covered.

“People are arrogant,” Martin says about power.

Like they see a bird in flight and decide to toss it into a cage “and make it crap on old information.”

“Bears like honey. So what do we do? We serve honey out of a bear,” Martin observes.

Yes, Martin has the power. And he’s not opposed to using it.

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