Exotic Missions & Slick Timelines: New Television Shows: Fall 2010 – Part I – Review

Bringing new ideas within certain conventions becomes the challenge of originality versus a notion of comfort. Whether new perceptions of law-based inventiveness, a conspiracy-fueled mythic series, a remake or a good old fashioned spy romp, the catch becomes exciting the audience with fresh enough characters to give the series stamina.

Outlaw Within the ideal of a show revolving in the law, the concept, in its dexterious evolution, needs to involve a hidden motive. While this new Jimmy Smits-led ensemble places that in context, it does not give enough motivation to make it undeniable. The strength here lies in Smits not letting his character take himself too seriously (like a “House” structure to the law profession). What keeps his brevity moving is the throttling between his younger and more visceral underlings (specifically in the tension between Jesse Bradford’s straight laced Eddie and Carly Pope’s saucy Lucinda). The key becomes how far one can bend the rules without losing the structure of loyalty and decency within the moral foreground.

The Event Creating a mystery-throttled mythology series and calling it by a name like this is pretty forward. Considering the similarly based “Flash Forward” couldn’t maintain the status quo that “Lost” had undeniably filled is based purely on character. The set up of this series and its multi-episode narrative placement requires attention to detail despite the fact that the characters, though defined, suffer from a lack of depth. Jason Ritter’s character Sean provides the catalyst while Blair Underwood’s President Martinez gives the conflict a global platform. The key character which the series seems to most likely rest on gives it hope in the form of Ian Anthony Dale’s Simon Lee who holds the morality and intelligence-based key to the entire infrastructure in is hands. The question becomes how interesting can the intensity get and will the audience care?

Hawaii Five-O In resurrecting a perception of new blood within a Hawaiian tropic, the idea is to make it specific without being too broad. The integration tends to work because of the characters involved with some doing more than others as the episodes progress. The idea of different smuggling and different barrier-based operations speaks well, especially with the island chain being the first line of defense in the Pacific against attacks. The idea of insiders and outsiders within the first couple episodes seems to speak to a darker underworld without damaging the tourism angle of the show which definitely speaks through. Alex O’Loughlin plays McGarrett with a little more coldness than some of his previous characters but this tends to create decent machismo in respect to Scott Caan’s Danny. Caan brings street cred in terms of indie edge to the series. His lines are written fast and furious giving a sense of improv to the proceedings. Rounding out the team is Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, both genre veterans with intensity and previous shows which allowed them to truly shine. Unfortunately so far, besides some texturing of past daliances, there hasn’t been a veracity of distinctive storylines to truly give the series edge while maintaining its stand-alone episode progression.

Undercovers Using the elements of “True Lies” within a structure of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” dynamics, “Undercovers” works because it is made with lush texture that dictates that its ideas are being portrayed seriously. In returning to this high octane personification (ala “My Own Worst Enemy”), the question becomes keeping the characters engaged enough that the mythology will work in tandem. While different backstories within the first four episodes reveal themselves, the balance relies on the fact of the two leads, who operate and live as a husband-and-wife catering team, have to be constantly jumping to conclusions to keep the audience on its feet. Saving the world and doing it as off-the-books black ops means restriction of identity and a need for progressive storytelling which seems unbalanced at best.

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Dramatic Progressions & Comedic Timing: The 2010 CBS Summer TCA Press Tour – Feature

In structure of its new season, CBS understands its structure of comedy, both new and proven with the high performing “Big Bang Theory” but also freshman entries like “Mike & Molly” and “S%&t My Dad Says”. However, in parallel, the network is also embracing sleek hour long programming to structure balancing the high octane elements of “Hawaii Five-O” with the characters drama of “Blue Bloods” starring perennial Tom Selleck.

The Big Bang Theory Entering into a fourth season, the idea becomes to not become complacent in the character structure but also being aware of how finite the experience can be. The chemistry and timing of this series much like “Cheers” or “Night Court” funnels the show from not taking itself too seriously.

Chuck Lorre, the creator of the show, says its inception was a very tortuous path because the writer’s strike abbreviated the first season. With the current coming season, it will be their 4th move in just as many years which, given their success after three seasons, doesn’t worry him too much. His perception is that “our job is to make a good show” insisting that “we grow the crops but we don’t bring them to market”. In terms of Penny & Leonard, he said it was always built-in that they would have a difficult relationship but like the audience, the bond is “fragile”. In terms of writing, you can’t think completely in terms of a season because “there are too many choices”. One specific example is Sheldon’s speeches which are meant to allow a view inside his head. The irony and realization now coming forth is that Penny is domesticating Sheldon which they discovered as they went along since the characters are so monumentally different. The one aspect that remains true is that Leonard’s affection for Sheldon is unspoken which exec producer Bill Prady mirrors saying that what anchors the show is that Leonard is “the center between two worlds” as “he is the character mostly in motion”.

Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny, follows up this up saying that “none of us really knows what’s going on”. In terms of contract negotiations for the coming seasons, she jokes that she “would do next season for free”. The reaction from the fans makes her “extremely touched” which the boys jump on her for. The relationship with Leonard and its falling out last season she calls “super realistic” which Johnny Galecki mirrors acknowledging his character is the most normal but “doesn’t have the navigation tools” to excel. Cuoco admits that Penny and Sheldon have a special relationship in that they now respect each other.

Jim Parsons, who plays series favorite Sheldon, says that the ideas for his character play simplistic but there are variations and, within that, it is interesting to find the rhythm. He resolutely agrees that their “fan base is distinctive” calling their most recent Comic Con, which they will always attend, a “pep rally”. For him it is always easier when they get to show night where the speeches become “a surprisingly non-thought process” though he admits that “rock/paper/lizard/spock” was never easy.

Simon Helberg, who plays Walowitz, jokes when Kunal Nayymar (also known as “Raj”) mentions the influx of Indian proliferation in Hollywood that “someday Jews will make their mark in show business”. With the love relationship last season which built then faltered (though Lorre says that the love interest is coming back), Simon says that “it’s nice to cut through the sleaze a little bit and get to the character” insisting that there is “a bleeding heart underneath” Walowitz’s charming exterior. His belief is to not ask questions but when pushed about the bromance between Walowitz and Raj, he says that “they love each other” to which Kanal say “non-sexually…mostly”.

After the presentation, discussing finer character points with Johnny Galecki who plays Leonard, he admits these kind of events make him nervous which is probably why he can seem “too-cool-for-school” onstage when it is simply about maintaining face. While the rest of the cast seems to ham it up he reflects that he just loves playing in the character in that he wants people to see the tenderness of Leonard and not the actor behind it. This, in effect, is the hardest job on the show compared to a more showy role like Parsons’ Sheldon. The chemistry of the characters come from the pure basis of the idea but he admits that their evolution is a slow burn that might go on for many years. He understands that he is the view through which people structure their perception of what happens in the show. This is especially true in that he doesn’t wear glasses but yet he has them perched above his brow as we are talking. Galecki is a very thoughtful person which definitely needs to be brought to bear and will be interesting to see perhaps a darker tread in the series to see how it evolves.

Mike & Molly This new series again from the prospect of Chuck Lorre uses the structure again of off-set social groups to motivate comedy from all structures. Since this series follows two overweight people falling in love it provides a more standard structure that allowed “King Of Queens” to flourish.

Chuck Lorre admits doing the pilot was really fun and they are just starting to move on the series with Jim Burrows doing a majority if not all of the directing. In terms of handling his three shows (2 1/2 Men, Big Bang and this one), Lorre says that he is balancing all of this poorly but that it is mostly terrifying. With 2 1/2, it might seem like it is on autopilot but all those scripts need to be written at top level. With “Mike & Molly”, he hopes the humor comes off as “self deprecating with affection”. In terms of success, he says “I felt for a long time that all shows are fundamentally family shows” using examples such as “Cheers” and “Taxi” as primaries adding that both those shows also had “alot of characters and intricacies”.

Mark Roberts who co-created the show with Lorre, says that they talked very early on of comparisons to “Marty”. Mark had been thinking more within the context of two cops in a car show structured within a relationship comedy. The Overeaters Anonymous angle, he admits, was Chuck’s idea.

Billy Gardell, a working stand-up comic, who plays Mike, comes out of the gate with the joke that “my wife is little and I’ve done a little better than I should have”. He goes on to say “everybody has a different tick…mine just happens to be pizza”. In terms of character structure in reference to overeating, he reflects with the idea that “when you don’t deal with emotion, you push it down with a piece of cake”. Ultimately though, for him, the series is a love story adding that he is “humbled, to be at my age and weight in Hollywood” adding that “I got the Willy Wonka ticket”. The press tour is the part, like Galecki, that makes him nervous. Billy admits that he is 40 and that he has been a road comic for 20 years. He is just happy not to be at the Holiday Inn. His point with the concept: “We’re fat…the show’s funny!” adding “What else is there to say?” In terms of what idealism in stand up comedy he brings to the show, Billy says that “I had alot more dysfunction to pull on than just me and weight” explaining that he used “a sense of humor as a defense mechanism” most of his life.

Melissa McCarthy, who plays Molly, adds to Billy’s perception saying “anytime you see a broad spectrum, it is good”. The show, for her too, is not about weight but more about a “lovely relationship, both with Billy and with the family”

After the discussion, getting into finer elements with Billy, he says he is wonderfully content with not “having to play Chuck E. Cheese or the back of an Eckerd Drugs that has been converted into a nightclub”. In terms of the comedic basis, he says his biggest influences on the stage were Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Lately however with “The Honeymooners” all the way up to “Smokey & The Bandit”, it was Jackie Gleason saying “he had a gut but he was cool”. He also pays homage to John Candy whom he says “had a big heart”. Jim Burrows, best known for directing almost all of “Cheers”, is of particular help to Billy who says the seasoned professional “does little tweaks but let’s you know if you’re doing something wrong”. When he first came in for the audition. the concept was still functioning as the buddy cop show. With Lorre’s track record, he said he knew best “not to tell these guys anything”. But being on the stand-up stage is different than being able to do a retake in a taping though “if it doesn’t work, nothing can save you”. In retrospect, he said, he wouldn’t have been ready for this kind of breakthrough in his 20s but always thought he would get the wingman part and not the lead, since right now “thinner guys always get the chicks”. He quietly tells us of one of the first episodes, which he seems very excited about, which is about getting ready for the first date which might hit all the right notes.

The Talk In creating competition programming against ABC’s “The View”, the key is to have a more specific parlay in terms of approachability. With “The Talk” the focus more is around the maternal progression hoping to further capture that thought process with a rather diversified panel.

Sara Gilbert, who brought the project together, said it all came from a new perception. She was a new mom with her partner Allie and went to a group to gain perspective and found a great synergy. Even though she has been acting her whole life with recent stints on “The Big Bang Theory”, this will be the first time “I will be discussing my life”. Being able to talk about one’s relationship is key and she makes the point that “Allie is much taller than I am” and “clothes always look better on her”. She is hoping with her widely varying co-hosts that during their discussions that “it will be alright to interrupt” and long as they don’t “stampede”.

Leah Remini, who co-starred with Kevin James on the hit TV show “King Of Queens”, defends her point of view saying that “sometimes I am very unlikable as a person” but that “anything that comes out of my mouth is who I am”. She jokes that “there is the fear that I could be hated [on air] but I’m hated at home”. The fact, she relates, is that all the hosts on the show are moms that “have trials and tribulations we all go through”. She jokingly admits that “Sara is a better mom” in that “she feeds her kids”. As far as her perception on her relationship with her other half, he says that the most annoying aspect is that what he wants for the holidays or the like is always sex. Ultimately she says, she guesses that it’s good he still wants sex from her. She hopes that in this format she can help by letting women hear a story that makes them laugh.

Sharon Osbourne, well known as businesswoman, wife and mother, says that husband Ozzy probably doesn’t even know she is doing this show calling him “the perfect partner”. While she considers her views very liberal when it comes to kids she ironically is “very conservative” because “there is a fine line you have to take”. Regarding her exacting opinions, she makes the point that “I am not running for mayor” or “looking for votes” but “if people like it, fair enough”.

Julie Chen, rounding out the extension of the pack and who will be taking an abbreviated turn on “The Early Show”, explained her decision to join signifying that “I have a ten-month-old at home and I thought it would be a perfect match” but she could not serve as co-anchor for the morning as well, a feat impossible even for “The Chen-Bot” as she calls herself.

Hawaii Five-0 Reinventing a show with different dynamics and bringing it full throttle into the new century requires a bit of mirth and luck to play the game. Fortunately with a showrunner adept at reboots (Alex Kurtzman with “Star Trek”) and a diversified cast including Alex O’Loughlin (“Moonlight”), Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost”), Grace Park (“Battlestar Galactica”) and movie vet Scott Caan who make his first starring role to TV, the pedigree is high.

Alex Kurtzman, the show runner also responsible for “Fringe”, says in rebooting the series that “it was about keeping the quality level the same”. One of the first questions he said that people ask him in terms of this series is “Why now?” He said what convinced him was Peter Lenkov talking about watching the show with his father. That reflected his thought within the show of a take on family since a major progression is O’Louglin’s McGarrett returning to the island to face his past. Obviously because of “Lost” finishing its run, Hawaii he says has been “wildly receptive” in bringing the show back but says they “had to be sure it was reflected in the right way”. The key, like with “Star Trek”, was that “you have to find what that original experience was about” and then “remain true to the spirit”. It becomes for him “what am I going to keep and what am I going to reinvent?” One of the aspects that they could not change was the original theme song, even explaining that they brought back some of the original musicians.

Peter Lenkov, also an exec on the show, says that his initial progression was taking the cases from week to week as the original show did. The key, in retrospect, was that it had to be the two guys (McGarett and Danno) as the principles with the latter functioning more as a foil. All of the footage is original using their 2nd unit, even to the point where they have a cameraman solely with a Canon 5D picking up cool shots on the fly. They are shooting the office building for the department directly across from where the original 5-O shot but has since become a federal building. They are trying their best to keep the talent, in terms of casting featured extras and guest stars, as local even going so far as to attend acting workshops on the island. What is most interesting for him to portray within the series is that what makes McGarett and Danno is that “they make mistakes” because “we love flawed heroes”. In terms of other cast members, Park and Kim are shooting currently in Hawaii but Lenkov calls Daniel “the unofficial mayor of Waikiki” since he knows everyone there from “Lost”. The story lines, he says, will structure in placing the fact that, in a global arena, Hawaii is the first line of America’s defense in The Pacific especially when threats are being flung from North Korea. Lenkov continues that “there is such global stakes to that region in terms of storytelling” but even on the ground, he points out there are unique problems such as “ice”, meth and human smuggling which in his definition makes for “big crimes and international stakes”. He textures also some connections to the earlier show specificying that O’Loughlin’s McGarrett will be rebuilding his father’s old car.

Alex O’Loughlin, who assumes the role of McGarrett, says that he remembers alot of the original show when he was growing up. In comparison to his earlier series: “Moonlight” and “Three Rivers” which ended abruptly, he says he feels more confident in this progression explaining that there is a reason things work or don’t work. He has seen the pilot and admits “there is something about it”. He pays his homage to Jack Lord’s McGarett saying “I love his hair” and “he started Blue Steel”. His McGarrett, he sees as “stoic in alot of ways” as “a military guy”. The difference in this aspect between his character and that of Caan’s Danno are very apparent. The key for him, as far as a character at the end of the day, is that he has to deliver. On some of the other series, through whatever perceptions, he says “shades get cut” which is “not possible in human nature” because “the more flawed you can make it, the better”.

After dictating during the presentation that when he first read the pilot, he didn’t quite get if he would work, Scott Caan says his fears were quelled when he understood that it is about seeing Danno’s personality. In discussing this aspect one-on-one, he said it came down to the fact also that he didn’t want to leave Los Angeles (which has always been his home). However now he is happy that he did. He only came in for the press tour for 24 hours but says he is already wanting to get back to the set (which was less an aspect of the publicity machine but more that he has gotten to used to the rigors of a TV shooting schedule). Currently they are only one episode beyond the pilot but in future episodes, Caan’s character will reveal his ex-wife as well as kids. In responding about the humor, Caan resolutes that it will be there but more hard-edged. His perception is that on the show, they can do anything but say the F word. The bromance element is, of course, there but the aspect is figuring out what and how it works. In making the move to television, he said he simply committed himself to doing movies for so many years adding that he doesn’t watch network TV because it is “simply not his thing” though he does say he might be back on “Entourage” though he thinks that this might be its last season.

The Defenders This series follows a pair of lawyers in Las Vegas who make sure the motor’s running but aren’t necessarily sure who is driving at any specific point. With the texture of Jim Belushi and Jerry O’ Connell filling the core, the genre specifications allows from some dexterity of play.

Jim Belushi, broaching the character structure, says that the initial interviews he did with defense attorneys just showed him that they’re just guys. They just happen to be doing a job that sometimes some people don’t find savory. Many will represent murderers and gypsies. The characters that these specific guys are based from are the subject of a documentary of the same name made by The Gantz Brothers. What intrigued Belushi is that “these guys are good on the floor but morons with women”. Some of the stories that he has heard, especially when they were shooting in Vegas, push the limit. One he mentions is of a young robber who holds up a liquor store and gets the cash but then asks for some cigarettes. The owner won’t give them to him because the kid is obviously underage and the proprietor doesn’t want to be shut down. The biggest challenge for Belushi was the aspect of the hour-long episodic series. The words here are definitively set in stone for the most part while with sitcoms you are writing every day. What is funny, he says, are that alot of the static sets are in the same location as the ones for “According To Jim”. He says he has much love for the CBS Radford Lot in Studio City. They are on the same stage. He has his same dressing room. There are five sushi restaurants nearby. He is happy. He relates though that shooting the pilot mostly in Vegas was intense. In reference back to “According To Jim”, he says that he had a contract for 8 years. When the plug is pulled on any series, he agrees “those moments are shitty but you get through them” adding that “I got it down to 3 days of morning [when] it used to be six months”.

Jerry O’Connell mirrors his riffing co-star saying that when he saw that there was interest in terms of him doing the show, he went to Jim’s house to meet him. Belushi had been watching the original documentary on these Vegas lawyers with intense interest and after a couple drinks, Jim started acting out the part. O’Connell relays that the transition from docu to TV show is very disimilar in that it mainly only shares the title. He says though, from a professional standpoint, these guys they are playing are fascinating. He also talks about when he used to go with a bunch of friends to Vegas but expresses that now he goes with his wife [Rebecca Romijn] and “we shop”. He speaks of acting across from Belushi with his “Albanian dead eyes” which he calls “chilly on-set but very exciting”. In terms of shooting the pilot, O’Connell had an interesting reaction. The call time was 1am which meant they were shooting until 3pm. He had to buy the no-sleep pulls and “was worried that my performance looked like a crackhead”. He compared it to recently when he was going to law school at night at South Western. He says the reading for that degree was “more than anybody should have to do”.

Blue Bloods This new drama series from two of the executive producers behind “The Sopranos” follows the inherent intensity within a NY power family involved in every aspect of law enforcement from the Police Chief to lead detective to beat cop. Starring CBS maven Tom Selleck who made “Magnum P.I.” there, with Donnie Wahlberg starring as his son alongside Bridget Moynahan as his daughter who works with the D.A.’s office, the possibilities are rife with tension.

Mitchell Burgess, the first of the former “Sopranos” producers, calls the series “the melding of a family drama with a police show” highlighting that their big concern was “going against too small a world” while co-creator Robin Green dictates that it comes down to “the weight and gravity”. For years, on “The Sopranos”, he says they did the anti-hero angle but they “wanted to find what a hero is today”. They discussed other cities in which to place the story but admits that nothing has the aspect of New York, where the show is shot.

In terms of bringing himself into the fold of this series, Tom Selleck, who plays the patriarch and police chief, says that, “first, the script was good, and, two, it was an ensemble that would clearly require talented actors”. While his experience on “Magnum” all those years ago would come up, he says that with that show “he was not tired of it but tired from it”. Initially when he heard thoughts that “Blue Bloods” might be shot somewhere other than NY, he took a specific look and decided that “conflicts make it interesting”. He adds that “I love my ranch and that lifestyle” and that “the location [change] was the biggest challenge” but adds that life “never works the way you plan it”. He relays that he is still working on Jesse Stone and the 7th picture, which was shot in Halifax, will be coming soon as he made sure the production schedule for “Bloods” does not interfere with that production. He says that when CBS gave up their movie-of-the-week, Jesse Stone became a two-hour event, which he is fine with. In terms of his new character he says that it is very important that the character wear the uniform which is indicative of the NY enforcement mentality. He also adds that the Chief has learned to be more diplomatic on the way up. In terms of his producer chops he says that “I don’t butt in…but I have learned things” but continues that “I am pretty good at not throwing my weight around too much”.

Donnie Wahlberg, who plays his son Danny who is a detective on the force, says that he “was attracted to the family element” of the series specifically noting that the initial dinner scene in the pilot jumped out at him because it shows “the character stuff brought into the procedural directly”. He admits that he did play some things differently than he anticipated. He adds that Selleck had “a gaze that reminds me of my dad” in that “my dad is a powerful man but that [certain elements] are always grey”. Aside from that he says that he has never felt more safe as an actor in a job.

S%&t My Dad Says This new comedy sitcom brings the powerhouse of possibility and culturally-skewed tendencies together in the form of William Shatner. The series is actually based on a book of the same name by Justin Halperin who just started writing what his dad would talk about. It became a Twitter sensation.

Bill Shatner is so one of a kind that once he starts his thought process one has to follow it through to the end which might work exceptionally well here if it is done right. He begins with this: “I have problems with electronics”. He continues with the fact that he needs to modulate what he says in that this series “has been an exploration in the immediate language.” He admits that he didn’t want to do another series but that the writing here “very precise” but adds that “physically and mentally” he is the same as the guy he is playing. He sees this character as “very much with it” and “has a snap to the way he speaks”. In ever Shatner fashion, the punchline is “if I am fumbling, it’s me” but explains that “lurching is good”.

With this new outlay, Shatner says that “I am trying to make a character that is coming from a different place”. He says that there is a passion and an anger inside this character which “we don’t quite know” saying that they fumble around with what he actually is aware of. In making reference to his own father, Shatner shares that his dad was “somewhat tactitern”. He explains that the name Shatner is Austrian and somewhat Germanic but adds that with his father there was “a silence and passion underneath”. Shatner then suddenly realizes with mock possibility: “maybe I’m channeling my father” and “wouldn’t that be wonderful”. The word play continues in flagrante with Shatner proudly stating that “this show was born in a twitter” and that “it is all a-twitter” as “an electronic show”. He loves that the show is “ahead of the curve” but still “going in a different direction”.

In terms of joining this electronic era, Shatner says that he has ignored it all until only recently. He recounts starting in live television when the cooling systems for the cameras were as big as a large coffee table. He said now they as actots can be put in Paris without leaving their Warner Brothers shooting stage. He waxes poetic saying that “the miracle and tragedy of our lives is invention” adding that it is “all about survival”.

And as far as the title, he wished they would just call it “Shit”. He says that he brought up kids. He says relating “take a shit…you’ll feel better” is what it is all about (which sent people howling) adding that “it’s a natural function” and that “let’s not pussyfoot”.

Shatner continues with an opus on fatherhood. His dad, he says, was “a man of action” and that “the worst tragedy was him taking me up to a stream in the Podstachy Mountains [in Canada]”. He builds on the fact that “my father fell in the river and lost a fish…a big bass” and that it was never the same. He speaks in relation to the series and life that “there is a warmth and connection between a father and son” but adds that that the key is to not be “overbearing”. The progression of the character he says is “an acting choice” but you have to see the “evolution” because “to condemn heartily all the time doesn’t work”.

In terms of approaching sitcom comedy, originally Shatner says he was “started slow and low and not enough”. The build for for him here entails going “through the work, camera day with an audience and then 200 people [live]” but what is most interesting for him is that the “fourth wall is totally gone”. He adds that now “the audience is aware of the process” calling his new experience “enthralling but chaotic” categorizing himself in the situation of “part minstrel and part actor”.

Justin Halperin, who wrote the book upon which the series is based, says that, in adapting his book they had to find an angle where the premise is “entertaining” because “otherwise who cares?”. He relates that his father doesn’t use the Internet because “ever since [my dad] saw the Sandra Bullock movie ‘The Net’, he’s been scarred”. Halperin admits “it is tough to get my father to a taping” but says that, in terms of comparisons between his father and Shatner, “they have the same warmness”.

First Look: HAWAII FIVE O – CBS

CBS Press Express just provided IR with a new still from the highly anticipated fall series redo of “Hawaii Five-O” starring Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park.

3D Love Affair & Star Spinning: Showest 2010 – Feature

Showest is always about showing the evolution of the movie theater experience. Whereas two years ago, the worry was that home theaters would take away the element of going to movies, the advent of 3D in the past two years has completely turned that angle on its ear. Last year’s argument involved the greater thought of how to afford to fit the current theaters to have 3D capabilities but the realization with “Avatar” is that there is always possibility. This motivated a new level of capital involvement because the films opening now do not have enough screens with audiences screaming for their inclusion. The paradox is quite humorous in its overall irony. This jolt of energy reflects in the intent of the studios and the inclement of star involvement which in recent years had been waning. The business is cyclical as ever.

Toy Story 3, Big 10 Award & Disney Opening Day Luncheon For the opening of Showest proper, Disney brought, through the voice of John Lasseter, the next installment in the Toy Story saga. While not directed by him, but rather by his longtime editor, his thought was that he wouldn’t give the films he made to anyone. After accepting the award from NATO for having 10 successful films at Pixar in a row, Lasseter introduced a new 3D short, “Night & Day”, shown for the first time outside the studio which he is says is the most creative piece he believes they have done to date. After this short, which uses Master Image 3D as an alternative to Real D, the producer and director of Toy Story 3 came out. Reflecting an earlier sentiment from John Lasseter that this screening would be in 2D and not 3D because post still had 5 or 6 weeks to go, illicited some questions. They also spoke that there was still temp score and that some shots near the end were not fully completed. Afterwards Disney held a luncheon in the main ballroom lining up the posters for all the Pixar Films side by side while Nathan’s served hotdogs and an 80s band worked the crowd. Buzz and Woody were present for pictures before the day moved on.

Letters from Juliet & Summit Dinner After a one/two punch last fall with “New Moon” and with a newly minted Best Picture Oscar in the form of “Hurt Locker” only a week ago, Summit is occupying the slot once beheld by Dreamworks. The key now is the types of films they present which is always in a general sense across the industry a crap shoot. This year they brought “Letters To Juliet” starring Amanda Seyfried set in Verona Italy which releases in the next couple months. The dinner following highlighted the Italian essence while the intermittance of Budweiser motivated conversation with theater owners on the pros and cons of restaurant integrated theaters and the hope of their return to major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles.

Lionsgate Reception, Kick Ass & Dinner The essence of Lionsgate this year rests in their progression of “Kick-Ass”, their take on the superhero genre. Lionsgate and the distribution team presented the screening to packed house along with a test consumer audience which allowed for a more organic interaction. It was proceeded by a new trailer of “The Expendables”, the new action movie directed by Sylvester Stallone and starring nearly every action star on the planet. The day before at the Bellagio at a private reception, Stallone interacted with the theater owners which is always important in terms of extending goodwill on the basis of the film. Crown shots and Patron Screwdrivers swirled with fondue as guests could take pictures in a green cape where their heads are photoshopped on top of one of the “Kick Ass” characters. The dinner proceeding the screening featured a great performance by all-female string quartet Phat Strad who played everything from “Moon River” to “Live & Let Die” as the character banners of “Kick Ass” flowed behind. With other films coming this year whose titles flew by on the party screen including “Killers” starring Ashton Kutcher and “Buried” (acquired at Sundance) starring Ryan Reynolds, Lionsgate as evidenced by the speech of one of its executives at the screening, is moving to evolve to the next level but realizes that the motion picture division is still what motivates the entire ancillary market whether it be digital home distribution, on demand or home video.

Back-Up Plan & CBS Films Luncheon CBS’ first foray into feature films plays into the aspect of its strengths but also in highlighting from possibilities in its TV archive. The first film “Extraordinary Measures” showcased Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser but in a structure more suitable to a TV movie. “The Back-Up Plan”, the second outing in more in structuring with a formative genre outlay. This romantic comedy stars Jennifer Lopez in a role both truthful for her but also formative as her comeback vehicle after taking some years off to be with her twins with husband Marc Anthony. Joining her in the film is Alex O’Loughlin who starred in the Joel Silver vampire series “Moonlight” and then the short lived “Three Rivers” both on CBS. It speaks to cross medium interaction which will be key to the introduction of new talent. With Lopez guesting on “How I Met Your Mother” in advance of the film opening, this kind of symbiotic element is in congruence of a new way of reaching audiences.

Post screening at the luncheon, Lopez took the podium, poised and business-like as she has always been, knowing the product that she is selling but also the importance of the business. She indicated her love of the genre and that it was the correct film to return in as she moves back into her movie career after her maternity break. Amy Baer, the head of the film division, seems to understand the aspect of demographic but also the necessary breakdown of different ideas at play.

“Beastly”, CBS’ next film, keys into the teen demographic but understanding that the young population is more adept to needing more stylistic substance as “Twilight” has shown. Stars Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer approached on stage but not to be undone by Neil Patrick Harris, who after hosting the Tonys and the Emmys, knows how to control a room. His humor spoke to the fact that Vanessa was hot but that Alex cannot be denied. In seriousness after showing a clip, Harris says that the key is giving this young person’s story the slickness of an ultra Hollywood production. He enjoyed watching it beyond being in it which speaks to his taste.

Aside from announcing the film adaptation of “Gunsmoke” which has not yet set its cast or director, Baer and her crew brought forth Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton straight from the set of “Faster” which is only two weeks into production. They showed a quick clip reel of what has been already shot which looks like a return to hard action form. Johnson spoke that after doing the family films, it was time to return to the genre he loves. He understands the balance needed. Thornton, a little thinner with dark hair, plays to the fact that these types of films are cool but that having the right studio behind you is necessary.

New Visions & Corner Spots Outside the ballrooms and screening theaters in the corridors of the Paris Convention area, the halls are covered with posters and standups providing trailer looks at new material to entice the theater owners. “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” [Fox] tells of the return of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) as he seemingly draws in the young Shia Laboeuf who is involved with the former magnate’s estranged daughter. The poster is seemingly reminiscent of “Devil’s Advocate”. “Knight & Day” [Fox] by comparison in its trailer has paradoxes that can be effective and interesting depending on how it plays out. There are some feelings of a “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” though Cruise’s performance seems to play a bit broader with his comedy. It is actually refreshing to see him in this form. At one point he places on sunglasses and you see that glint of Maverick. Cameron Diaz is playing more to a bumbling form of physical play but you don’t get to see as much of the character persona in this short look but the action seems less CG motivated and more practical based. “The Other Guys” [Sony] involves a cool teaser where both Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell are vaulting through the sky in slow motion but ends with them in the rigging that they use in the actual production so it is uncertain in terms of what the plot will revolve around. “Takers” [Screen Gems] plays to the dealer incentive and boasts an interesting street cred cast including Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen and recording star TI but gives no true indication of the narrative flow.

When in Las Vegas, it is always nice to get away to essential regulars and a new transition. Hidden on the other side of the 15 on Charleston, Frankie’s Tiki Room shelters itself from the knowledge that it loves what it is. The drinks have a verve of possibility from the Mutiny to the Bender Ender. Off Strip spots cater to the locals and understand the vibe. From the ultra grooved decor to the chilled bartender and specifically the sound appropriate set up, the cool spot to be was here. Not to say, that evenings don’t evolve. Always a place of infinite fun, especially when talking back to the girls behind the bar, Hogs & Heifers is a mainstay in downtown. Michelle Dell’s transplanted roughhouse from New York is the original inspiration for Coyote Ugly. Tequila shots go down every which way and balance especially on top of the bar received applause. With Fremont Street reaching South ever so succinctly, The Griffin Bar shows it dark coolness late into the evening. The Irish purmutation of the night requires Irish Car Bombs post Jameson with the pouring reaching generously into the night even as the signal light remained dim.

Warner’s Big Picture 2010 Warner has always been known for pulling out the stops at Showest. In a return to form, many studios understand the power of bringing talent out to meet the exhibitor since it shows an essence of enthusiasm on the part of stars themselves. This of course is buoyed by some script writing of course but the reality is that you can see when Alan Horn, head of Warner, believes in something. He gave the go ahead to “Harry Potter” when he became the top dog at the studio and the franchise has performed with flying colors.

Dan Fellman begins the presentation by bringing his distribution staff on stage. Warner has always been about making sure the right angle hits the screen. It is a very specific process which has become more and more refined over the years. When Horn comes onstage, he speaks of the record breaking year Warner has had and speaks to the success of “The Hangover” as a good example of cooperation between the studios and the exhibs as the longer it played, the more money it made everyone. He also hails the extreme success of 3D and that most of their films will be upgraded to the format to meet demand. This intrinsically painted the structure for “Clash Of The Titans”.

Director Louis Letterier who spoke of being an inherent fan of the original at the age of 8 also made reference of the man who they would all ask their 3D questions to in the form of Sam Worthington, the star of 2009’s monster hit “Avatar”. The 3D footage of “Clash” shown represents a cross section of what was completed in advance of the film’s anticipated release date. Christopher Nolan then came to the stage, professional, cut in a suit that has become his trademark. He explained that he wanted to give a little more of a glimpse into “Inception” without giving too much away so the exhibitors could have some sense of what they would be playing. He summarized the gist with Leonardo DiCaprio being a type of investigator who is able to enter other people’s dreams. The extended footage speaks to the more noir specifics of this perception.

John Patrick King next unveiled a more worldly approach with “Sex & The City 2” speaking of the essence of Morocco and the absence of Kim Catrall as his lovely ladies approached the stage with finesse in the form of Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and exec producer Sarah Jessica Parker. Catrall he speaks was starring in a production in the West End of London and could not be there. Zack Snyder, deep in post on his new “Sucker Punch” movie, presented his “Guardians” animated family picture. He admits that his kids wanted to know why they never saw his films which motivated him into this space at the motivation of Animal Logic whom he had worked with on “300”. This angle for him seems like a natural extension though the edginess needs to be maintained.

“Life As We Know It” brought director Greg Berlanti to stage in a romantic comedy format starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel in advance of his next directing duties on “Green Lantern”. Heigl spoke of her love of the genre and doesn’t intend to slow down though Duhamel seemed a little uncomfortable on stage rather letting the material speak for itself. Todd Phillips, who brought “The Hangover” to Showest the year prior, precluded the volleying daredevil antics of Zach Galifinakis and Robert Downey Jr.as they perpetrated their new comedy “Due Date” which keeps the “Road Trip” mentality clear. Zach and Downey’s seemingly easy prankish carefree idealization in no small way helped by the smoked-out coolness of Phillips himself who knows how to keep the ball rolling.

The closer of “Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows” involved some unfinished sequences and shots that showed some of the darkness coming forth buoyed by the fact of Alan Horn’s announcement of the continuation of the 3D proliferation within their biggest franchise. Warner keeps the pace going understanding that the necessary is a nice cross section filled with energy and star power.

Prince Of Persia & Showest Awards Dinner Jerry Bruckheimer, in town to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, introduced his next big screen outing in the form of “Prince Of Persia”, being released this summer starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Post screening, the press interaction before the awards brought through three of the ensuing recepients. Jerry Bruckheimer spoke of “Pirates 4” which is set to start shooting in June but unsure if the film would be done for 3D. The market, he says, is saturated but what allows him to keep going at this level is his executives. In terms of “Persia”, he describes it as a romantic adventure, albeit one set in the 6th Century and says that is the kind of fun “Pirates” was but clarifying that it is much more plot driven. He also spoke of a new project entitled “Horsehunters” set in Afghanistan which was based on a NY Times article.

Comedy Director Of The Decade Jay Roach, best known for “Austin Powers” and whose “Dinner For Schmucks” comes out later this year, says no one knows what is funny. You tend to find it in the uncertainty. Steve Carrell, for example, he says, has a way of playing off-center delusional characters. In the end it all becomes about casting. Next, Katherine Heigl, recently a mother, came out with a new black hairdo which was seen earlier at the Warner function. She says she didn’t understand before what Showest really was about but now realizes that the theaters are trying to keep it current. She says that the hairdo is in anticipation for a role she is hoping to get off the ground which is Stephanie Plum, the heroine of Janet Evanovich’s “One For The Money” which is part of a franchise of books. She doesn’t she doesn’t feel like her native German/Irish with this hair. She also laughingly talks that she is beating comedies to death but that she loves them. She said also her next film which is in the can (“Life As We Know It”  spotlighted at the Warner presentation) allowed her to “learn on the go” for her new role as mother.

With Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” hosting, the dinner sped by with chicken, salad and asparagus leading the way. Jerry Bruckheimer accepted first speaking of the point that the Lifetime Achievement Award is usually given when somebody is approaching the end of the career. He says though that his mother lived to be 104 so by that standard he has over 48% of his career still ahead of him. He also referenced his roots as a Detroit boy. Jay Roach balanced his perception as Comedy Director Of The Decade saying that “comedy is about exagerration so this is a very funny award”. The young in play were highlighted in the stars of tomorrow in Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer, both of CBS Films’ upcoming “Beastly”. Hudgens says that in this business she already feels old while Pettyfer gave his props to CBS Films Head Amy Baer who picked him from obscurity though he did have the lead in Weinstein Company’s “Stormbreakers”.

Amanda Seyfried, who received the Breakthrough Star Of The Year Award for her roles in “Dear John”, “Chloe” and the upcoming “Letters From Juliet” which also screened at Showest, maintained a humble structure calling the award “encouraging”. Katherine Heigl, picking up Female Star Of The Year, seemingly set her dress aflutter as one strap came undone as she was walking up to the stage. Billy Bush then became the designated holder as he tried to keep from breaking into a laugh on-camera. Heigl’s first comment revolved around “Thunder Down Under”, the male revue show in Vegas describing that the advertising couldn’t be any more obvious. Drumroll.

Sam Worthington, honored with Male Star Of The Year, said the honor was “embarassing” but also “gives you a shitload of confidence” adding that he has “the best job in the world” despite starting off as a bread maker in Perth Austrailia. Zach Galifinakis, with a newly forming beard collecting his Comedy Star Of The Year Award, seemingly went off script without even knowing the venue he was in which made his act all the more surreal and applause worthy. His “Hangover” director Todd Phillips, who nabbed Director Of The Year, accepted in perpetuity admitting “I am a moron” while simultaneously telling stories of loving movies in youth particularly encouraging movie theater attendees to buy “Ice Pirates” and see “Star 80”.

The darkness of the desert speaks to the evening even as the wine flows beyond the tables. The last year of Showest at Bally’s showed an increasing return to form after years retained of less stars returning to the confab in the desert. The companies realize that especially with the new advent of 3D, the exhibitors are essential to the formula especially with the riveting performance of “Avatar” in 3D. With its translation into Cinecon at Caesars Palace next year, the new decade will begin in earnest, hopefully with many new surprises and advances ahead.

Rivers & Spanish Fly: CBS Studio Day Set Visits: Three Rivers & NCIS: Los Angeles – TCA Summer Press Tour 09 – Feature

The allure of the Paramount Lot has taken on the guise of the CBS lexicon. For the CBS Set Visit Studio Day of the TCA Summer 09 Press Tour, the possibilities were in force with two distinctly different new series in different stages of extension. One uses the power of CSI and brings it into the medical profession. The other takes a tried and true franchise and seemingly gives a heap more coolness, fun and sex appeal.

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Three Rivers Entering into the red and orange slick set of this new medical drama, the aspect is of realism. But upon hearing from show runner Carol Barbee, the essence comes from the paradox of true life. The design mirrors in many ways the layout of the Cleveland Clinic which Robin Williams only mentioned yesterday in terms of where he had his heart surgery. This new drama is set in Pittsburgh as the center of transplants central. Nowadays the medical technology can do a lot more than since the time of “St. Elsewhere” which cast member Alfre Woodard was on with Denzel Washington. The first thing that expands when lookng at the set is the amount of plasmas permeating throughout that have a little bit of the CSI tinge to it. Turns out all the monitors are being controlled from a secret compartment between the sets run by 3D Mike. 3D, who was given his name by director Steven Soderbergh on “Oceans 11” is responsible for all the killer graphics. This all comes under the auspice of Rob Bailey, one of the key minds currently behind CSI: NY who the CBS Brass brought over to work on the show. Carol works the character and story but Bailey seems to be the one to work the style.  The shooting on the series post pilot had only started a couple days ago. They were reworking it since the first one was shot in Pittsburgh itself in a shut down hospital. New characters were added specifically Alfre’s character who hired everyone at the hospital. The lead is Alex O’Loughlin who killed last year in the underrated cult CBS  series “Moonlight” (originally known as “Twilight”) which 3D worked on.

O’Loughlin said during the press conference that he got really into the science of it. He was able to witness a couple surgeries and was proud of himself that he didn’t pass out. The key of the show is that Three Rivers is the hub of the action but it also the juncture metaphorically for what happens. The story on some given episodes runs from the victim to the recipient to the doctor. The key of course for a series like this is the balance to keep it from becoming too downtrodden.

Listening to the perspective of someone who had seen the performances in the form of Mike 3D, there seems to be a nice balance between Alex and the two girls in Justina [Machado] & Kate [Moennig], not unlike, in a certain way, the relationship between him and two other girls in a certain “Moonlight” series worked. Kathryn is the dark, serious girl who shows her vulnerabilty and strength that is undeniably alluring but also a little less attainable. Justina by comparison always tries to get Alex’s character to go out and enjoy a real life. You balance this with high octane scenes and there is possibilty. My question was how to make it cinematic without getting too gruesome.

The key was found in earnest and seems to be a Rob Bailey induced element that if done right could be great. It involves when the patient has that moment of either rejection or acceptance, you see their entire life flash behind them. This would be done with a green screen behind the operating table. The actual operating theater which was shown to me is much different than the rest of the hospital although most of the readouts that Mike 3D helped create look like something cool out of “Star Trek”.

At the moment they are reshooting Episode 1 with Scene 21 being done later that night where a young woman Christy either survives or not. Then it is off to Pittsburgh for some shooting on the street to give that edge. Not everything can be green screen. From what is seen here, there is a lot of versatile hand held motion of camera with some dolly iterations. That said, in order for “Three Rivers” to succeed. it will have to find its middle ground.

[Three Rivers premieres Sunday, October 4th at 9pm]

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NCIS: Los Angeles After trekking across the Paramount Lot to Stage 9, the inside doors opens into a beautiful Spanish design house which is the team headquarters for this new gestation. Unlike the previous series, the simple basis of this iteration seems sleek, young and cool if the tone is set just right.

Walking in the upstairs glides around you like a combination of Marin County home and New Orleans chill. The study off to the right has the right degree of Indiana Jones antique cool. The Google Earth playing on the Monitor goes from space down into the Paramount Lot and then a wireframe of the set.

Linda Hunt plays the Matriarch of the House who delegates its doings. She says that the space reflects her a great deal in that it is eclectic. It reflects her business and art but her little study (the Indy spot) looks like a museum. Her  curiousity is a reflection of her but she is on her 7th life, as she puts it, with only two to go.

LL Cool J sees his character Sam as the backbone of the team. He is a former Navy Seal that speaks a couple different languages. His boy Callum, played by Chris O’Donnell (who is his partner in this operation), has a troubled past. Callum, as O’Donnell sees him, is purely a loner, LL’s Sam tries to help him with that but he is still rebuilding himself, as LL puts it, as a human being at the same time. Wrapping up the curve is Daniella Ruah who plays Detective Kinsi working with a bit of  international flavor. Ruah actually quickly started to speak in Portuguese. Even far away her itonation had infinite possibility.

As the panel discussion broke, the wandering to the second floor began. The view from above shows infinite possibilities in terms of shooting. The lighting of the entire downstairs “bullpen” as they call it is built through diffusion to look like skylights and gives a great warmth. The inkling coming around the back crest is the impression of the flamenco scene from “Mission Impossible 2”. This set has a great vibe about it if it is used properly.

Entering into the “war room” which it looks like command central, the high tech comes into pay but there is something inherently boy-like and fun. Think “True Lies”. Again that is the impression with the cool lighting but it depends how it is played. Sitting at one of two consoles with major information firepower at your fingertips, the actual working videophones are integrated across the room. On the wall, a touch activated wall-like screen shows that everything here is real world practical. The set has that edge.

As I start to leave the room to head downstairs, Ruah, possibly still in character garb in form fitting jeans and a white T-shirt with silken flowing locks and a casual but killer smile, turns to watch me go. I tell her that she “is going have fun”. She smiles wide and knowing. She looks and acts like a real woman who can kick people’s asses. This might be a good ride.

[NCIS: Los Angeles premieres Tuesday, September 22nd at 9pm]