Apparently, so impressed by his performance in the Celebrity All-Star Game during the NBA’s All-Star weekend, Mark Wahlberg has pitched Paramount Studios a dramatic, street basketball centered film starring himself and in his “scripted” feature film debut….JUSTIN BIEBER! (Cue the shrieking tweens.) The film, being produced by Wahlberg and written by How to Make it in America creator Ian Edelman, is described as The Color of Money meets The Karate Kid, but with basketball instead of pool and karate. Before he pitched it to the studio though, Wahlberg must have pitched it to the Biebs himself. This is how that conversation went.
(Lights up on Mark Wahlberg, very sweaty and panting after a heavy boxing workout. He asks his assistant (who has been watching Wahlberg box all morning) to connect him with Justin The call goes through and the assistant hands Mark the phone as soon as Justin picks up.)
Justin Bieber: Hello?
Mark Wahlberg: Hello Justin Bieber, how are you right now?
JB: I’m great man, just chilling in my jacuz with Selena.
MW: You sound like you’re having a very fun time, Justin Bieber. Tell Selena I say hello and that I think her show is very funny for small children who love laughter.
(Justin turns to Selena and tells her that Mark says hello. Selena giggles and says that she thinks Mark is cute.)
JB: Selena says you’re cute.
(Selena playfully slaps Justin)
MW: That is very nice of her to but I don’t care about what she has to say right now. I called you because I would like to talk to you about something very huge.
JB: Is it that big dick you had in Boogie Nights?
(Selena splashes Justin for being so inappropriate. Justin splashes back. Giggling.)
MW: Yes I was in Boogie Nights and yes I’m very proud of that film, god bless, but I didn’t want to talk to you about Boogie Nights right now so would you just LET ME TALK!
(Almost in tears) Thank you! I’m sorry I didn’t mean to lose my temper but this idea I have is very huge and I really think you’ll be interested if you just gave me a chance.
JB: Alright Mark go! But Usher’s coming over in 15 and I got to make sure my bed is made.
MW: Ok then. Justin Bieber, I recently saw you play in the celebrity all-star game during the NBA’s All-Star weekend.
JB: Yeah, that was great.
(Justin smiles and whips his hair at Selena who giggles)
MW: And I saw that you won the Most Valuable Player of that game which is a great accomplishment.
JB: Yeah. (Smiling) I guess I did.
MW: And I’m no stranger to great accomplishments, and if I had been playing you probably wouldn’t have won that award, but that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about, ok! I had this idea that since I am good at basketball, and you are also good at basketball, we should star in a movie about basketball together, what do you think?
JB: A movie? Well my manager did say I should get into acting more…
MW: I really think you should. I saw you on that episode of CSI: Miami which is a wonderful show on cable if you’re into crime procedurals like my friend Vincent Chase is. Do you know Vincent Chase?
JB: Isn’t he the dude from Entourage?
MW: Yes. But Vincent Chase is actually me. I am into crime procedurals.
JB: You want to star in a movie with me?
MW: Yes I really want to. I think it could be really, really huge. I’ll take care of everything Justin Bieber, the scripts, the director, the costumes—everything. Did you see The Fighter?
JB: Naw, I missed that one. I was on tour.
MW: Well that is a huge regret of yours then.
JB: (Pause) I just don’t know…I got this other tour coming up…
(Selena gets out of the tub)
JB: Babe, can you get me a smoothie. (He winks. Selena blushes and scampers away).
MW: No, I cannot get you a smoothie right now Justin Bieber, I am in Boston shooting a film and you are in Los Angeles most likely. Those two cities are very far away. You would have to take an airplane to get from one of those cities to the other.
JB: Listen Mark, I just don’t really have much…like…acting training.
MW: I can teach you Justin! Bieber! That’s why this is perfect! I was at one point in my life, when I was younger, a huge rap star, god bless, and then I transitioned into serious work like The Basketball Diaries with Leonardo DiCaprio and the aforementioned Boogie Nights. I learned how to act and now I’m one of the best actors that I know. I can make you a great actor, you just have to trust me on this one, ok? This is a very big decision, I understand, but know that this can be very, very huge. My friend is already writing the script. You’ll get to play basketball in it. Don’t you love basketball?
JB: I do, but…
MW: Look Justin Bieber, I tried to be nice, I tried to be polite, but I can’t do that anymore. This is the biggest decision of your life, do you understand! And I’m not going to let you throw it away because of fear. Fear about learning lines and crying in front of guys and knowing where to put your hands when you’re on camera. I had those fears myself and I’ve overcome them and you can overcome them too, you just have to believe in yourself and overcome the obstacles! Like I did in my movie Invincible! Everything is possible Justin Bieber!
JB: Alright, I’ll do it!
MW: That is a very smart move, Justin Bieber. (Pause) Did you see Invincible?
JB: Oh shit! Usher’s here and my bed’s not made. Shit! I got to run!
MW: Ok Justin Bieber it was great talking to you. One more thing. (Pause) Say hi to your mother for me.
I’m now going to finish up writing about the notable NBC fall pilots.
COULD BE FUNNY
FREE AGENTS- Based on a British TV series, this show is set to star Hank Azaria (who does one-third of the voices on The Simpsons), Kathryn Hahn (Adam Scott’s hilarious wife in Step Brothers who has “sex” with John C. Reily in the bathroom and then pees at the urinal), and Anthony Head (who was on the UK Free Agents and also played the Prime Minister in Little Britain). Writing and executive producing is John Enbom, who worked on the fabulously underrated series, Party Down. The show “explores the attraction between two PR executives who are on the rebound.” I have never seen the original British version but Hank Azaria is a great live-action actor with very funny turns in Along Came Polly, The Birdcage, and Mystery Men (Azaria is also set to play Gargamel in the new Smurfs movie, and is one of the finalists for the Farrelly Brothers Three Stooges Movie) and Kathryn Hahn is one of the funniest women around. Adam McKay and Will Ferrell put her in everything they do together. It’s also a good sign that Anthony Head is coming over the pond to play the exact same part he played in the original. If this show makes it to air I would definitely give it a shot.
MY LIFE AS AN EXPERIMENT- This project is based on a book by A.J. Jacobs (also the author of The Year of Living Biblically) about a writer (played by comedian Jon Dore) who undergoes experiments, like going on a dates dressed as a woman, outsourcing everything in his life to a company in India. He also has a wife who is not so approving of his decision-making. It is produced by Jack Black and his production company Electric Dynamite, and written by a team of writers who worked on Til Death and The King of Queens. I don’t know if this show follows a structure similar to My Name is Earl where each episode features a different “experiment,” but I do think the concept is ripe for comedy. It will also be interesting to see Donald Sutherland (Kiefer’s dad) back in comedy after spending the past few years in drama (Dirty, Sexy, Money among others).
EMILY SPIVEY PROJECT- Emily Spivey, a former SNL writer and Parks and Recreation producer has the backing of none other than Lorne Michaels behind this project. Accumulating the talented trifecta of Christina Applegate, Maya Rudolph (in her first primetime TV series gig), and Will Arnett, this show seems to be a lock to make it to series. It is not an absolute certainty though because Lorne had a similarly promising pilot, the Matthew Broderick-starrer, Beach Lane, which never made it to air. The show is described as a look at parenthood through the eyes of an “acerbic working mother” (Applegate), her stay-at-home husband (Arnett, whose 30 Rock character Devon Banks coincidentally also is a stay-at-home dad for his gay-bies) and opinionated parents. Rumor had it though that after last year’s disastrous Running Wilde, Arnett was not ready to come back to television, but he really liked this script, which is a great sign. I will surely give this show a look.
Now I am turning my focus to the new pilots on FOX.
EXIT STRATEGY- This show is notable not only because it teams together the Training Day combo of director Antoine Fuqua and star Ethan Hawke, but also it is produced by the JJ Abrams-approved combo of writer/producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. If you do not recognize their names, you are certainly familiar with their work as they wrote the films Star Trek and Transformers (I and II), and the TV shows, Fringe, Lost, and Alias. They also wrote for Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess). Ethan Hawke (who arguably is one of the biggest movie stars to make the transition to television) will play the team leader of an elite CIA team who are deployed to help clean up the mess when a CIA mission gets botched. Each episode will deal with a different crisis. Tom Sizemore (of Saving Private Ryan and Celebrity Rehab) also stars. This show kind of reminds me of a more serious Human Target, which I actually enjoyed when I watched one episode. However, I don’t know that I would carve out precious TV time to watch this. Even if the star’s name is Ethan.
TOUCH– Jack Bauer is back! Kind of. After a one year hiatus from television, Kiefer Sutherland is back on Fox with a show from the creator of Heroes. He plays Martin, a father, who discovers that his autistic, mute son, can predict events before they happen and is capable of communicating through a complex series of numbers. So Mercury Rising meets Knowing. For those of you who don’t remember Mercury Rising (and honestly, no one would expect you to), it is a 1998 Bruce Willis film about an FBI agent (check out that hilarious screencap to the right) assigned with protecting a 9-year old autistic kid who cracked a government code. And Knowing is a Nic Cage movie about a numerical code his son uncovers that predicts the future. So there you go. Perfect combo. Fun fact, all the critics absolutely hated Knowing, except for Roger Ebert who called it, “among the best science-fiction films I’ve seen — frightening, suspenseful, intelligent and, when it needs to be, rather awesome.” I’m sorry Mr. Ebert, but you are so very, very wrong. Even if this show is silly (which it probably will be), I will have to give it a shot simply because there hasn’t been any terrorist attacks on US soil since Jack Bauer has been on television, so the sooner he can get back on the TV, the safer America can feel. Since the pilot isn’t even filming until June, this will probably be a mid-season order.
ALCATRAZ– No wonder Star Trek 2 isn’t in pre-production yet! J.J. Abrams has been too busy developing TV shows. This one, a crime drama set in (wait for it) Alcatraz, revolves around a team investigating the “mysterious disappearance of its 1960s inhabitants in the present.” So maybe Prison Break meets The Rock. Not able to get enough of Hurley, Abrams has cast Jorge Garcia in the pilot as well as Dr. Alan Grant (Jurassic Park reference) himself, Sam Neill. I’ve spoken about J.J. Abrams track record in the past so I won’t go into that, only to say that it’s mostly strong. The show’s writer, Liz Sarnoff, wrote for Lost and Deadwood, both notable, acclaimed shows (at least at one point). There have been many prison break type shows in the past (and there’s even one now on A&E) so the determining factor to me is how is this one different. Will there be flashbacks? Why is anyone investigating a fifty-year old occurrence? Is Hurley going to say funny things? Alcatraz has been mythologized about for years, and if this show can pull something new and exciting out of it, then I can get on board.
THE FINDER– That sounds like a fake TV show title right? It’s not. It’s a Bones spinoff based on The Locator books, about a “finder,” a former military policeman, who finds people and things. Sounds stupid? Well it gets stupider! Geoff Stults, one-half of the handsome twin fireman duo from 7th Heaven is the star. Needless to say, you don’t guest star on 7th Heaven because you can act. (See: Haylie Duff). He was in Wedding Crashers too, but as the handsome guy getting married in the beginning. He’s just so bland, I can’t see him carrying a series. At least The Mentalist’s Simon Baker is a roguishly charming. This show also has Michael Clarke Duncan, but I don’t think he’ll be enough to bring this show out of mediocrity.
More to come!
I’m going to be bouncing around now with post topics to satisfy my writing ADD. So stay tuned for more iconic role/upcoming TV pilot posts. In the meantime enjoy my latest post topic—Celebrity Siblings with Huge Disparities in Success!
1. Dennis Quaid and Randy Quaid- Randy’s film career started off very strong, appearing in Peter Bogdonovich’s The Last Picture Show, and moving on to even getting an Oscar nod for his work in 1973’s The Last Detail. He segued successfully into comedy appearing on SNL (1985-6), the Vacation series, Kingpin and Independence Day. But in the last few years a series of incidents have lead the public to believe that Randy Quaid is certifiably insane. In 2008, while rehearsing for a Seattle production of a Western-themed version of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor called Lone-Star Love, the Actor’s Equity Association (a union which represents stage actors) banned Quaid for life and fined him more than $81,000 for “physically and verbally abusing his fellow performers.” Quaid responded to this charge stating, “I am guilty of only one thing: giving a performance that elicited a response so deeply felt by the actors and producers with little experience of my creative process that they actually think I am Falstaff.” In 2009, Quaid and his wife were arrested for allegedly defrauding an innkeeper, burglary, and conspiracy and they kept missing their court appearances leading to arrest warrants, fines and probation. A year later they faced burglary charges again, reportedly living in a guest house without permission, to which they claim that the house was actually theirs, but had wrongfully transferred to a third party by the use of the forged signature of a fake dead woman named Ronda Quaid. In October 2010, Randy and his wife hauled ass to Canada to seek protection under the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Act but were arrested at the border. They claimed that their lives were in danger as they, along with numerous actors, were being followed by “Hollywood star whackers.” Needless to say, Randy isn’t viewed as a Hollywood success story.
His brother Dennis on the other hand has continued to work steadily since the mid-90s, appearing in family friendly fare such as The Parent Trap, The Rookie, and most recently, Soul Surfer, action films such as The Day After Tomorrow and G.I. Joe, and dramas such as the HBO Film, The Special Relationship. While he’s had some tabloid worthy stories in the past (a cocaine addiction in the early 90s, being cheated on by Meg Ryan), he’s considered a fine, bankable, likeable actor and can be seen in the upcoming Footloose remake.
2. Rob Lowe and Chad Lowe- Rob Lowe has managed to work and stay relevant since 1983. He first appeared with Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze and Ralph Maccio in The Outsiders and cemented his position as a Hollywood hottie/bad boy in 1985’s St. Elmo’s Fire. In 1988, he was involved in a sex scandal when a videotape surfaced of him having sex with two women, one of whom was sixteen. He of course asserted that he didn’t know she was underage at the time. Another part of that same sex tape featured him having sex with a model in Paris and became one of the first commercially available celebrity sex tapes. After its release Lowe entered rehab for sex and drug addiction. But since then he has been clean, married, and well-liked appearing in comedies such as Wayne’s World and Austin Powers 2, and critically acclaimed television dramas such as The West Wing and Brothers and Sisters. He is in marvelous shape and currently he can be seen pointing at people and saying their name (“Ann Perkins!”) as the hilarious Chris Traeger.
Chad Lowe is most famous for being left out of wife at the time Hilary Swank’s Oscar acceptance speech for Boys Don’t Cry in 2000. He is an actor though, mostly on televison, whose biggest role was as Deputy Chief of Staff on the sixth season of 24.
3. Sean Penn and Chris Penn- Sean Penn is a two-time Oscar winner (for Mystic River and Milk) who is considered by many to be one of the greatest actors of his generation. He is an actor, screenwriter and director, as well as an outspoken social/political activist. In his personal life, Spicoli has always been a center of attention as he was at one point was married to Madonna and later, actress Robin Wright (Better known as Forrest Gump’s Jenny or The Princess Bride. Which one moreso?!) They recently got divorced and Penn can be currently be seen in Us Weekly in pictures where he is canoodling with Scarlett Johanssen.
Chris Penn on the other hand, while mostly well-liked, seemed to only play lugs, low-lives, villains or bit comic parts and never quite achieved his brother’s success. He’s best known for his appearances in Resevoir Dogs, True Romance, and for me, Rush Hour. Unfortunately Chris died in 2006, at the age of 40 from heart disease, probably caused by his weight and prescription drug usage.
4. Ron Howard and Clint Howard- Clint Howard also happened to be a child actor, but never quite reached the fame of his older brother. His most famous parts as a child were as a weird looking baby in an episode of Star Trek, the voice of the little elephant Hathi Jr. in Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967) and as the voice of Roo in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966). Later, Clint became a mostly one-scene cameo actor, appearing in all 17 of his brother’s films as well as in non-Ron Howard related work such as Austin Powers, Night at the Museum 2 and That Thing You Do. His biggest professional achievement was being the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1998 MTV Movie Awards, an award whose previous recipients were Chewbacca, Godzilla and The Three Stooges.
Ron, as I wrote about previously, is perhaps one of the most successful child stars of all-time, finding success as a child, a teenager and an adult. Despite living his entire life in the business, he never had any notable run-ins with the law, seems to be well-adjusted, has well-adjusted kids, and is a big-time (though not necessarily fantastic) Oscar-winning director. He also is responsible for producing and narrating the funniest television series of all-time, Arrested Development.
5. Hilary Duff and Haylie Duff– Hilary Duff was at one point the biggest, hottest young star in the Disney universe. She starred in the number-one show for kids (Lizzie McGuire), recorded three platinum albums (Metamorphosis, Hilary Duff, Most Wanted and apparently she even has a “Best of” Album!) which are filled with some quality hit pop songs (So Yesterday, Come Clean, The Math(!)). Billboard even ranked her the 69th artist of the 2000s! She had a clothing line (the cleverly titled Stuff by Hilary Duff), perfume collection, and she even wrote a young adult “novel.” She was also in the news for a while for dating the tattooed Good Charlotte “badboy” Joel Madden (though how “bad” can you be when you write lyrics like “Girls don’t like boys, girls like cars and money/Boys will laugh at girls when they’re not funny.”) While she isn’t so hot right now, she is still producing and acting, appearing on Gossip Girl and Community. She is also slated to appear in a remake of Bonnie and Clyde and can still hold her own starring in direct to DVD movies. She’s rich, she’s famous, she can still get on the cover of magazines…she’s doing just fine.
Haylie Duff? She’s the one that Hilary’s mom makes her include in everything she does. “Hilary, let your older sister sing on your album! Let her design something for your collection! Let her have sex with someone who you didn’t want to have sex with, but you feel sorry for.” Somehow Haylie actually finagled her way into a producer’s credit on A Cinderella Story! Her biggest non-Hilary related role was in Napoleon Dynamite. Since then she’s hosted the reality show Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods (a musical she only appeared in as part of the chorus) and appeared in straight to DVD movies. Definitely the lesser Duff.
I will return to my fall TV pilot preview in a later post, but in the meantime I want to address an interesting dilemma (at least twice as interesting as the film The Dilemma) that a comment by reader Greg Gilbert brought up. In the previous post I referenced actor BD Wong to the film Sixteen Candles, while Greg insisted that he will always associate Mr. Wong with the role of Dr. Henry Wu from Jurassic Park. This got me pondering about actors who have played multiple iconic roles. Some actors have had the opportunity to play an iconic part and for the rest of their lives are forever associated with that part; for example, Christopher Reeves as Superman and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. There are a select few actors though have had the privilege of playing multiple iconic roles. In this post, which will surely be controversial, I plan to give my take on which roles of certain actors should get first “billing” when discussing an actor’s career.
Robert DeNiro- Jake LaMotta (Raging Bull) vs. Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver)
Ironically, Jake LaMotta is #10 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time, while “You talking to me?” was voted as the #10 movie quote by the American Film Institute. So already it’s a tough decision. DeNiro won his first Oscar for Raging Bull, and the story of him gaining 60 pounds to play older Jake LaMotta is legendary. His performance in that film is raw, unhinged, powerful, demonic, and will be looked to as a model of “method acting” for generations. As the mentally deranged Travis Bickle, DeNiro is also incredibly powerful. Diving into method acting once more DeNiro actually worked twelve-hour days for a month driving cabs before the shoot. DeNiro made the character of Bickle, a psychotic murderer, actually likable. If I have to choose one performance though to represent his legacy….I choose Bickle, by a hair. While DeNiro certainly made LaMotta his own, I feel like because you can call Raging Bull a fantastic “boxing movie” or “biopic,” it belongs in multiple conversations. When you think about Raging Bull, you think about a lot of elements, whereas with Taxi Driver, all you can say about that movie is, “Wow. Robert DeNiro. What a performance.” That seals the deal for me.
Winner: Travis Bickle
Al Pacino- Michael Corleone (The Godfather Trilogy) vs. Tony Montana (Scarface)
Many cinemaphiles will tell you that as Corleone, his first major role, Pacino gave the best performance of his career. His descent from family golden boy into ruthless, fratricidal Don is a marvel of tightly clenched intensity. Pacino was also nominated for the Oscar (losing to Cabaret’s Joel Grey) and The Godfather is also ranked #2 on the AFI’s 100 Years….100 Movies list. Then you have Scarface, a character and film which has become a cultural icon, especially in the hip-hop community. The poster and image are still immensely popular appearing on everything from t-shirts to bedsheets to baby bibs, to shoes to teeth. On the other hand, the movie and performance itself was ridiculed. Leonard Maltin said, “[Scarface] wallows in excess and unpleasantness for nearly three hours, and offers no new insights except that crime doesn’t pay” and another top critic noted, “[Pacino’s] efforts expended on the flawless Cuban accent and the attempts to flesh out a character cut from inch-thick cardboard are hopeless.” But critics be damned because the line “Say hello to my little friend” is one of the most quoted lines of all time. So while Michael Corleone may be the better performance, at the end of the day though, in my opinion, when you think of The Godfather, you think of Marlon Brando, and the entire scope of the film (ie. the cast, the music, the direction etc.). When you think of Scarface, you think of Al Fucking Pacino. And vice versa.
Winner: Tony Montana
Harrison Ford- Han Solo (Star Wars Trilogy) vs. Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones… Movies)
Harrison Ford is the box-office champion of all-time. Combined, his movies have grossed more than any other actor, and most of those dollars come from his two giant franchises: Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Han Solo is many Star Wars fans’ favorite character. He’s handsome, rugged, sly, sarcastic, clever, and rebellious and his “journey” into deciding to be more selfless and fight for the cause is one that carries the trilogy. Coincidentally, Indiana Jones is also handsome, rugged, sly, sarcastic, clever, etc. Examining both characters by themselves, maybe Han Solo is a little more entertaining and special because he came first, and Indiana Jones is a bit derivative. However, personally, when I think of Star Wars, I think of Darth Vader, Yoda, the force, Luke, Chewy etc. Han is an integral part of that universe, but he’s just a part. The Indiana Jones trilogy is Indiana Jones, who is played by Harrison Ford. At the same time though, it’s Star Wars, the single most culture-seeping franchise of all time. The fact that Harrison Ford helped create that gives Han Solo the upper hand for me. I know this is reverse logic from the reasoning I took with Pacino, but this isn’t The Godfather. It’s Star Wars, and in 100 years, Star Wars will still be relevant. I can’t say the same for Indiana Jones.
Winner: Han Solo
Ron Howard- Opie (The Andy Griffith Show) vs. Richie Cunningham (Happy Days)
Both are television classics for sure, but whenever I hear people talk about the career Ron Howard has had, they always begin by mentioning Little Opie. As in, “Can you believe Opie went so far and is now a big time director? Or “Can you believe that Opie made such a shitty movie as, The Dilemma? (Alright! I get it! It’s not a good movie! Get over it Ethan!) Plus, we all know that Happy Days belongs to Fonzie. At one point the network even wanted to change the show’s name to Fonzie’s Happy Days. How do I know this? Because when I was sick one day when I was 11, I watched a Henry Winkler biography special on E!. To this day I’m amazed by how many Winkler facts I’ve retained from that day. What do I remember about the Gold Rush? Not much.
Will Ferrell- Frank the Tank (Old School) vs. Ron Burgandy (Anchorman)
Marlon Brando- Don Corleone (The Godfather) vs. Stanley Kowalski (A Streetcar Named Desire) vs. Terry Malloy (On the Waterfront)
AND MORE! Send your own suggestions in!
I’m sorry I’ve been absent this past week (and will continue to be absent this upcoming week.) I’ve been working 18-hour days as a Production Assistant on a CW pilot entitled, Cooper and Stone. Hopefully it will get on the air as it is a really fun show set in Chicago! But while I have a free moment I will continue to delve into next season’s pilots.
SMASH- Capitalizing on the success of Glee, this show, produced by Steven Spielberg and the writers of the Hairspray musical, and written by acclaimed playwright Theresa Rebeck, is about a bunch of characters trying to put a Marilyn Monroe musical on Broadway. It stars Will and Grace’s Debra Messing (ok…), Anjelica Huston (she’s legit, though I fear her role will be similar to Cher’s in Burlesque) and American Idol superstar (that was a joke) Katherine McPhee. The Hairspray guys will provide the show with original music, and I’m sure there will be lots of Glee-style merchandising tie-ins. I think that there are frankly too many talented people behind this project for it to fail miserably. And I like Broadway musicals so I’ll probably give this show a chance.
REM- This show, created by Kyle Killen of the short-lived, but critically acclaimed FOX series, Lone Star, and 24’s Howard Gordon is described as an “Inception-style thriller centering on a cop who wakes up after an accident to find he is living in two different realities.” It does not surprise me that studios are trying to capitalize on the public’s obsession with the “mind-fuck” genre, and I was pleased to find that Lucius Malfoy himself, Jason Issacs, was cast as the lead. But then I was less excited that Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) was cast as the other lead. But then I was excited again that B.D. Wong (Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles) is also in the pilot. David Slade (Twilight: Eclipse) is directing, which boosts its credibility. Not that I’m giving Twilight credibility, I am merely stating that when any director comes off of a movie that has made $300 million, he can pretty much choose to do whatever he wants. I will probably give this show a shot.
WONDER WOMAN- This is perhaps one of the most high-profile pilots of the new season for numerous reasons. One, Wonder Woman is one of the best-known comic book characters who has yet to recently appear in a movie. She is still a moneymaking symbol of female empowerment, appearing on t-shirts, lunchboxes and other merchandise, and has much more name recognition than heroes like Daredevil and Ghost Rider. The Matrix producer, Joel Silver, tried for years to make a Wonder Woman movie, hiring at least five writers, Joss Whedon among them, to write a draft , but nothing ever made it past that stage. This EW article explains in detail the reasons why. But now, NBC has signed off on a David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Public) penned script and is shooting a pilot. Different from the Lynda Carter starring, campy 70s TV show, this script finds Wonder Woman/Diana Prince not only as a crime fighter in LA, complete with invisible jet and lasso of truth (which sounds silly as I’m typing the words), but also as a successful cosmetic company exec trying to balance all the different elements of her life. I’ve spoken to some insiders who’ve read the script and they have said it was absurd and terrible, but I am definitely going to give it a shot. Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights) has already been cast as the titular star, along with Austin Powers’ (!!!!) own Elizabeth Hurley and Cary Elwes (Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The Princess Bride, Saw).
17TH PRECINCT- The logline for this sounds extremely silly—“Sci-fi drama set in the fictional town of Excelsior, where magic and supernatural elements rule over science”—however it has Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore behind it, and he’s done more great things with the sci-fi genre as anyone around. So while I might not watch this show, I’m sure it has promise.
RECONSTRUCTION- This show, that I doubt will make it to air, is a period Western which revolves around a solider from the Civil War who settles into a Missouri town during the Reconstruction period. This is an intruiging premise, and I’m glad NBC is investing money into a historical drama, but this show seems like it’s a better fit for cable where it can be content with a smaller audience. If even Deadwood can get cancelled on HBO though, I just don’t’ see this show going anywhere.
PLAYBOY- This show—which happened to be shot in Chicago, and stopped traffic because for two weeks a bunch of “bunnies” were walking around street sets—is another high-profile pilot due to its subject matter. It is a historical drama set at the famed Playboy Club in Chicago in 1963. Think Mad Men with more sex, but with network TV standards (like no nudity). (*UPDATE. Apparently there will be nudity. ) Can you figure out what that means? Me neither, but it stars Amber Heard (Drive Angry, Pineapple Express) and promises to be sexy, like Playboy. The director, Alan Taylor, actually did a lot of work on Mad Men, so that’s good. I’ll check it out. What the hell.
A MANN’S WORLD- Created by Michael Patrick King (Sex in the City) and starring Don Johnson (Miami Vice), this show revolves around a straight Beverly Hills hairdresser in his fifties trying to stay relevant. Much like Don Johnson is. Nothing about this show interests me. But it will be interesting to see how Michael Patrick King writes for non-women/non-gays.
GRIMM- This show, produced by Sean Hayes (the new Three Stooges’ Larry) is another dark, fairy tale show much like Once Upon a Time, but this one happens to also be a cop drama (really) set in a world where characters created by the Brothers Grimm (Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel) exist, and a detective who “starts to see humans as beast/animals discovers he has a mandate to protect ‘humans’ from the beasts.” This just doesn’t seem up my alley. And the creators/writers aren’t anyone I care about. So I’ll probably miss this one.
ARE YOU THERE VODKA? IT’S ME, CHELSEA- This adaptation of Chelsea Handler’s book stars Laura Prepon (That 70s Show) as the titular star, an “alcohol loving” (drunk-ass), “oversexed” (slutty), “waitress” (waitress). I don’t like Chelsea Handler, because I never laugh when I watch her show, and I thought her gig as VMA host was a bust, but apparently women love her, and her “proud to be a drunk-ass slut” ways. I think this show will be successful, but I will probably not watch.
There are a few more I have to write about, but I have to go to sleep as I have to be on set at 5:30 AM tomorrow.
The following are some of the pilots in contention at CBS:
RINGER– This is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s first series gig since Buffy so one would think it has to be pretty strong. It also has director Richard Shepard (The Matador) behind it. In the show SMG plays a woman hiding from the mob by pretending to be her rich sister, but then she learns her sister is also in pretty deep with the wrong guys. Ioan Gruffudd (Mr. Fantastic in Fantastic 4) also stars. CBS typically deals with crime procedurals (CSI, Without a Trace) but with the success of The Good Wife it seems they are actually serious about investing in more serial dramas, with ongoing story lines.
PERSON OF INTEREST- This I pronounce “promising” because it has Chris Nolan’s brother Jonathan writing the script and producing with TV genius J.J. Abrams. The show, starring Jesus himself—Jim Cavizel—is a crime drama (of course it is, CBS) about an ex-CIA agent who every thinks is dead, teaming up with a reclusive billionaire (Lost’s Michael Emerson) to prevent crimes in NYC. Also starring is Taraji P. Henson better known as Tyler Perry’s girl who can “do bad all by herself,” or Jaden’s mom in The Karate Kid. Abrams’s track record on TV is better with serialized dramas (Alias, Fringe, Lost) than it is with more episodic shows (Undercovers) so it will be interesting to see what this show leans towards. Also, will the show stay firmly rooted in reality or will it explore more fantastical elements? Either way, the Nolan/Abrams combo is one that will get me to at least watch the premiere.
HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN- This show is a buddy comedy written, produced and stars It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s priest turned homeless crackhead CRICKET as an uptight columnist who navigates bachelorhood with friend/trainer…JOHNNY DRAMA! Yes, Johnny Drama actually made it to network television. Also starring in this show is Murray from Flight of the Concords (easily the best part of anything he’s even been in) and Dave Foley, a very underrated comedic actor, who has said that he has so much child support and alimony to pay to his crazy ex-wife that he is doing almost anything that he is offered. With this cast, silly premise aside, I’m definitely on board.
VINCE UNCENSORED– I would completely ignore this show except Conan O’Brien is an executive producer. Michael Chiklis (The Shield and the likely soon to be cancelled, given Julie Benz is also lined up for another pilot, No Ordinary Family) stars as a father who takes a more “honest approach to life” after going through a life-altering experience. Chiklis hasn’t done an outward sitcom since being the titular star of the cancelled 2000 sitcom, Daddio, but if Conan thinks he can pull it off, so do I. Also, Kelsey Grammar (Frasier) will be directing the pilot, so that’s…cool… I guess.
TWO BROKE GIRLS- Starring 40 Year Old Virgin’s Kat Dennings (also, the picture on the right) in her first regular TV role, this show and created by Sex in the City’s Michael Patrick King and comedian Whitney Cummings, this show revolves around two…broke…girls who live in Brooklyn and chase their dreams. I really like Kat Dennings and while I’m not a fan of Sex in the City it clearly is a show with merit. Whitney Cummings I do know is a very dirty comedian with an acerbic wit, so that’s a plus. While I would probably not watch this show, I’m sure some would.
UNTITLED SUSANNAH GRANT PROJECT- Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) and Julie Benz (Dexter) star in this drama about a hyper-competitive surgeon (Wilson) who’s ex-wife dies and starts teaching him lessons about life from…the afterlife. Benz plays his sister, a single mom with a big heart. Sound familiar? While the great Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) is directing a script from Erin Brockovich writer Susannah Grant, this concept just seems a bit too cheesy for me. Sounds like that terrible Hilary Swank movie, P.S. I Love You, mixed with the Ghost Whisperer. Patrick Wilson does have a nice film career going (he just appeared in big studio movies ike The A-Team, Morning Glory, and The Switch) , but like what’s turning out to be a lot of movie stars this season, he’s probably after the steady paycheck and work schedule that television offers.
UNTITLED REDLICH & BELLUCCI– This looks like typical CBS shlock to me. A cop show about a female detective who “possesses the special ability to remember everything.” That just doesn’t seem interesting to me, especially because it seems like detectives on CSI and Law & Order seem to remember every little thing anyway. “WAIT! Four days ago that cab driver we spoke to mentioned that he had to go pick up salmon at the LaSalle Market on the Lower East Side. But LaSalle Market is actually on the Upper East Side! And salmon’s not in season in October! And that pink mark on his upper lip looked traces of salmon! So either he already ate salmon, which means that he would have no need to get more, or he’s the murderer because there were pink specks left on the 1984 Louisville Slugger bat in the victim’s aunt’s apartment!”
HAIL MARY– Starring Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting) as a suburban mom in Atlanta who partners with young black actor Brandon T. Jackson (Tropic Thunder) to solve crimes. Maybe they’ll share a dynamic similar to the one between Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker) and Conrad (Romany Malco) on the first few seasons of Weeds. I put this in the NOPE pile because I just think this is kind of a silly concept and I’m sick of buddy-cop comedy/dramas. It does have Joel Silver (Die Hard, The Matrix) producing it, but it also has Brad Silberling (Land of the Lost) directing it.
UNTITLED ROB SCHNEIDER PROJECT- This is Deuce Bigelow’s first major TV gig since he starred in 1996’s one and done’s Men Behaving Badly. I wouldn’t say he has a film career so much as he’s been lucky that Adam Sandler puts him in all of his hit movies. This series, which was co-written by Schneider as well is somewhat autobiographical as it centers around a man who has just married into a very close Mexican-American family. (I think that’s his wife in the picture on the right.) Apparently Schneider is married to a hot Latina because playing his wife is Nadine Velazquez, who also plays another Jewish shmuck’s (Nick Kroll) wife on The League and was the object of Randy’s (Ethan Suplee) affection in My Name is Earl. What’s with all these beautiful Latina women being married to old/not attractive shmucks on TV? (Sophia Vergara, I’m looking at you!) I guess if they wanted to partner with sexy Latina men they’d have to star in Univision’s telenovela, Amarte Es Mi Pecado (Loving is my sin). I put this in the nope pile because I simply do not care for Rob Schneider. Some people might, and maybe this show will get on TV, but I feel like if you polled 1000 people, at least 650 would say they Rob Schneider sucks. I don’t think he’s necessarily unfunny. He does some silly characters in the previously mentioned Sandler flicks, but I just wouldn’t go out of my way to watch him. In fact, I would probably go out of my way not to watch him. Like if that show is ever on TV, I would probably go into another room. If he was on TV in that room, I would probably kill myself.
Whether you knew it or not, we are smack dab in the middle of pilot season right now. Pilot season occurs from January-April every year and is the time when new shows for the fall are being strategically planned out by networks. What is a pilot? A pilot is a single episode that typically serves as the series premiere of a television show. It is one of the early stages in the development of a television series. Typically the development process begins when a writer or producer pitches an idea to the networks. If the idea gets a green light, the network will commission a script to be written by the series creator or a well-known writer. Out of the 300 or so pitches that are given, about 50 are given commissioned script offers and out of those around 10-20 are given money to produce an actual pilot. The pilot must set the stage for the entire series by introducing characters, a tone, the concept, and a sample story line. Think of a pilot therefore as a testing ground to see if the series has potential.
In the next couple posts I will discuss the most/least promising pilots for each network based on their creators, concepts and casting.
Charlie’s Angels– This is a reboot of the popular 70s series and Diaz/Barrymore/Liu flick, taking place in Miami. Thankfully there is no subtitle like, “Fuller Throttle.” This show is promising to me because the concept is a no-brainer—3 hot chicks go on missions/kick ass and the creative team behind it is Alfred Gough and Miles Millar who created Smallville, a great show near and dear to my heart. The angels have been cast with Minka Kelly being the only real name of the bunch, but after checking out the first released photo, it seems they all have the necessary requirements to fulfill the roles. Robert Wagner (Dr. Evil’s Number 2) is providing the voice of Charlie, with Shia LaBeouf’s annoying Mexican friend from Transformers 2 taking on the role of Bosley. This bit of casting seems to be the weakest link, but I guess you would be annoying too if you were chased by giant robots and had to listen to Shia and Megan Fox squabble for hours. Overall, if they can get some good story lines and ramp up the sexiness, there’s no reason why this show can’t find an audience.
Pan Am– A sexy soap opera taking place in the 60s jet-age about a group of pilots/stewardesses (I guess we call them flight attendants now) working at the iconic Pan Am Airways. Think that sequence in Catch Me If You Can. The premise is interesting, and it stars Christina Ricci in her first network television role, which to me gives it a plus. Also a plus is that Tommy Schlamme (Aaron Sorkin’s right hand man who worked on SportsNight, West Wing etc.) is producing/directing. Period shows are expensive for networks to produce, that’s why they mostly go to cable, but lots of networks are investing in period pieces this year (as I’ll get to later) so that gives it more of a shot of making it to series. If this series is more Mad Men than that god-awful Gwyneth Paltrow flight-comedy View From the Top, it has got a shot.
Once Upon A Time- Capitalizing on the recent obsession with updating fairy tale stories (which are public domain) by making them darker, this show is about Anna (House’s Jennifer Morrison), who is drawn into a town where the magic and mystery of fairy tales may be real and hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of her troubled past. Characters include the Evil Queen, Snow White (Big Love’s Ginnifer Goodwin), Rumpelstilskin (The World Is Not Enough’s Robert Carlyle), Jiminy Cricket, Prince Charming, etc. This show is promising because it has a good cast and an interesting concept, but if it cannot set the right tone and if the writing is weak, I probably won’t watch it. It also must find the right age bracket. If it’s too dark, it loses kids, but if it’s too precious, it loses teens and adults. At least ABC is taking a chance though. One less cop/medical/sexy neighborhood show is a plus.
Damage Control- This Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy) show revolves around Kerry Washington (Ray, The Last King of Scotland) as the legendary Washington D.C. crisis management consultant Judy Smith, or a “fixer” with a dysfunctional staff. Also starring in this show is young black actor Columbus Short, Guillermo Diaz (Half-Baked and Weeds’ Guillermo), and Tony Goldwyn (the voice of Disney’s Tarzan and the director of Zach Braff’s The Last Kiss) as the President. This is promising because it has a diverse cast, and there aren’t enough political shows on TV right now so it might be able to fill a hole. Also, Ms. Rhimes has three other shows on ABC right now so the odds are that she’ll get a fourth.
Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23- Created by Malcolm in the Middle and American Dad writer Nahnatchka Khan, this comedy revolves around “June (Dreama Walker), an earnest, optimistic girl from the heartland, who is forced to move in with Choe (Breaking Bad’s Krysten Ritter), a sexy, unstable New York City party girl who has the morals of a pirate”. Also starring in the series, as a heightened version of himself (think NPH in Harold in Kumar) is James Van Der Beek. This show shows promise, not only because it’s being directed by Modern Family director Jason Winer, but also because I love Krysten Ritter and the Van Der Beek has successfully poked fun at himself in the past. See: Van Der Memes.
Suburgatory- This show is promising to me because it stars Cheryl Hines, Steve the Pirate (Alan Tudyk) and Clueless’ Jeremy Sisto in a comedy. The show revolves around a New York City teen who moves with her dad into a frightening suburb. This is not a horror show like The Gates, or a soap opera like Desperate Housewives, so I feel like it will probably be more along the lines of The Stepford Wives. Mocking the suburbs (not to be confused with Rocking the Suburbs, which is something only Ben Folds can do), when done well, (see: Weeds) is a ripe source for comedy.
LESS THAN PROMISING:
Untitled Tim Allen Project- This show, created by Tim Allen and 30 Rock’s Jack Burditt revolves around Tim, “fighting for his manhood in a world increasingly dominated by women.” So basically this is kind of Home Improvement 2.0. By the way, I’m a huge fan of Home Improvement 1.0. While Burditt no doubt is a great writer, and Tim is certainly a TV star, who has spurned offers to get back to television every year since Home Improvement was cancelled, I just feel like it’s hard for lightning to strike twice. Actors who leave a hit show and then return to television later are successful when they can reinvent themselves a bit (see: Ted Danson, Ray Romano, Matt LeBlanc on Episodes), not when they play the same type of character, even if that character was beloved (see: Michael Richards, Kelsey Grammar on his last two failures). Although there are always exceptions and I think American does love Tim Allen, he is much older now and doesn’t have the attention of the young adults. (You don’t see his face in Toy Story 3). If this show is a sitcom and Tim Allen plays a father who makes sexist jokes, I don’t see it making it. But if the show is something different and the writing is really clever, it’s got a shot.
Partners. This show lost me at the logline which reads: “Cop drama centered on two female police detectives, Mattie and Jess, who also secretly happen to be half-sisters, which explains their intense loyalty to one another.” OH! That’s the twist. They’re HALF-SISTERS! Now you have my attention! Why they have to keep it a secret I can’t fathom. It’s one thing if one was a criminal and the other was a cop and they were half-sisters, but they’re on the same team. Plus, I don’t know what kind of drama begets from the complexity that is the half-sister relationship. The cast is filled with no-names and the team behind it isn’t too compelling. I doubt this makes it to series.
Work It- The official description reads: Two out-of-work car salesmen, Angel and Lee, realize that in order to find employment again, they’ll need to dress as women to land jobs as pharmaceutical reps – inadvertently making them better men, husbands and fathers. So basically Bosom Buddies meets Tootsie meets Mrs. Doubtfire meets every cross-dressing movie ever. There’s no one worth mentioning behind this pilot, and god knows how they can stretch this half-assed tired idea over 22 episodes. Expect lots of period jokes, sexist humor, guys hitting on “guys,” high voices, and stupid wigs.
Poe- A show featuring Edgar Allan Poe as the world’s first detective, using unconventional methods to investigate dark mysteries in 1840s Boston. Like Sherlock Holmes, but with Edgar Allen Poe. Why didn’t I think of that? Because it’s a crazy idea that seems to make as much sense as Abraham Lincoln being a vampire hunter. What? That’s going to be a movie? Coincidentally this is the second (?!) project this season to feature Edgar Allen Poe as an action hero. John Cusak is also playing him in The Raven, a thriller directed by Ninja Assassin’s James McTeigue. The creators and the cast of the series are no names (which isn’t a knock against it, but doesn’t help it either). All in all this sounds so crazy…it just might work! (But I doubt it will.)
STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES ON THE PILOTS ON THE OTHER MAJOR NETWORKS!