Network Equation & Special Challenges: The TCA CBS/CW/Showtime Summer 2013 Press Tour – Feature

Equating the ideas of major networks as well as their cable spinoffs and genre casings poses special challenges as creating edgy fare comes with its own contrivances about how to make things but economically and creatively viable. CBS though seems up to the task.

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The Arsenio Hall Show”, which brings back the once stalwart cool man of late night who abruptly fell off the scene, comes with an interesting delight: how to make this older man who epitomized the 90s into the fold two decades later. He told us two years ago at a cable function in a small group that he was planning this. What is interesting is that he is doing it with the same people as before and by extension the same company with a couple extras. Arsenio himself notes the change in times with the technology saying “Debbie Gibson [back in the day] sent me a FAX that she wanted to sing on my show. That was my text”. Another example he gives is “I remember Barbara Streisand calling me with a Bill Clinton question. Now she can tweet”. Sounding a little too much in the play, he speaks that “with a joke, you are able to Google now”. One of the things that he thinks gave him the confidence to return to this specific fray was his win on “Celebrity Apprentice” because “I have been Number Two at anything I have ever done” so “it was nice to win”. The aspect that also promoted it was the enticement of his son. He relates that he left the late night show he had at the top of his game but it was to spend more time raising his son. He explains “I needed balance in my life” and “the compliment from me to Paramount was that they don’t want you on the air if you know you’re going” which was the reason for the show’s abrupt end. Now that his son is older, when the finale of “Apprentice” came along, his son told him “we could win it!” This showed to him that his son had some investment in what he was doing. Arsenio was known in breaking music acts back in the day but the actuality is that “the stats point that music doesn’t get as good numbers as the talk”. He points that someone who has been supportive is Jay Leno, whom he says many people think as combative but he explains that this is true only when they are in direct competition with him. Jay, Arsenio explains, just wants to win, making the comparison that “Ali & Frazier didn’t get along initially”. His end game is that “at the end of the day, I am a stand up comic and I am there to get laughs” but “I just need to be funny in the way that I do it”.

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The Good Wife”, continuing its much ballyhooed run on CBS, recently received a watercooler boost with the campaigning of the infamous Anthony Weiner back into the New York mayoral race. Robert King, who exec produces the show with his wife Michelle, says that “there is a certain demand in telling the story” but “sometimes the audience is [only] inches ahead of us [and] sometimes yards ahead of us”. In comparison to the real life reflections with the recent Weiner situation, he says “we are the happiest people since we have so much to write about” saying “the Weiner thing hit it right on the head” though “Julianna [Maguiles] creates a good temperature on set”.

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Mom”, a new series starring ever blonde Anna Faris and Alison Janney, seems like an interesting mix especially with its addiction background of the story thrown in the comedy mix. After having her baby with husband Chris Pratt (from “Parks & Recreation”), Faris says “I wasn’t ready to get back to work” but he read it and pushed her to do it. Of her character, Faris admits “She’s so dimensional and a mess…basically like me”. Addressing her longevity in the business and getting that first job, she explains “I slowly came to realize that getting your first job is hard but not as hard as the second one” because “you have to peddle yourself around town”. At this point in her career, she says “there is a difference in that you graduate as a woman into a different element in your 30s”. Asked to what her mom might think of her portrayal on-screen in this series, Faris jokes that “my mom is a prude but half the time she doesn’t know what the vocabulary means” adding that “she says she’s never seen a condom”. Chuck Lorre, who continues to build his empire here after the successes of “Two &A Half Men”, “Big Bang Theory” and recently “Mike & Molly”, concludes with the admission that “I once asked Norman Lear what he did [with all his shows] and he said you go where the fire is burning the brightest and where you are most needed”.

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Showtime swoops with interest into the battle with the return of “Homeland” and the texture of how you change up the show with two red hot Emmy winners on the roll. Claire Danes, whose lead character is always on the verge of exploding, says that “Carrie is always sitting on her own personal ticking bomb” adding that “it is an impossible dilemma”. In terms of the recent progression, she continues that Carrie “is not great on the meds and she is even worse off them” posing that “it is pretty bleak”. When asked about her recent quotes about having trouble finding work after her lauded performance as “Temple Gradin” for HBO before she started “Homeland”, she explains that after the former, “I think I emerged energized and emboldened” and “I wanted a similar type of challenge” but “there wasn’t any roles like that” adding that “I didn’t have patience for the regular old stuff”. She says that she guesses “there was a dirth of material in general at that moment” but, for her, “to do a job for the sake of it is a really bad idea”. She postulates that ”we are freelance, dare I say, artists”. Despite the bent of this series, she says “I have not become a political creature” though, for this season, “I have returned to my bipolar books” admitting “they are right near the bed” because “it is our job to interpret the heavy lifting the writers do”. Damian Lewis, for his part as Brody, is not seen for the first two episodes of the new season, which is unusual for the most recent Emmy winning Best Actor – Drama, but he says “it is a function of the story that we have to see Brody”. He explains with a little chicanery that “he disappeared into a tunnel system” because “he is the most wanted criminal in the world so he has to lay low”. Asked whether he sees his character’s bleak end coming in droves, he jokes that “these guys [the creators] have been trying to kill me since Episode One”.

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Masters Of Sex” continues the predilection with an piercing view into taboo and science in the late 40s with a kind of voyeurism that apparently pushes the boundary. Michael Sheen, who plays the lead character Bill who is studying the science of human sexuality in a conservative time, says that, with the series, it is about seeing the time as “prudish” but more about seeing it as a journey about “a sense of control in this man’s life” since “he is a mystery to himself”. The idea for him of this man is that “he has a locked-down desire to keep control”. In comparing the sense of sexuality to our perception of sex today, he explains “the same problem of intimacy applies now”. The key is “with the sexuality of the piece, it has to be realistic” but “your have to find a way to set the tone with all the right things” adding that “you discover through experimentation”. In terms of his relationship with his study partner Jane (played by Lizzy Caplan), he says “you find your way with the chemistry” because “the humor comes out of the situation” because (let’s face it), “it is interesting how sex is done on-screen” but “there is an awkwardness”. From his perspective, in “Masters Of Sex”, “there are a lot risks, not just the nudity”. What he likes about this character and the challenge is that “in the multiple episodic format, you can get to the complexity of a novel”. The disconnect for Bill, he says, is that “he tries to keep sex and attraction separate”. As for his view on sex after doing the series, he says “I found myself talking about relationships more” because “the more you are doing [or watching] a show about sex, you are finding more how you connect with human beings”. The take-away is that “sex is a conduit for any area you feel shame about”.

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Lizzy Caplan, from her point of view playing a period woman after she had played many outspoken modern women, says “when you are telling a story in present day, you can [show the modern woman] with clothes and a strategically placed tattoo”. With all the sex and nudity floating throughout the series, she says “some of the situations were ridiculous but accurate” but “there are moments of levity”. She says “the idea of Jane is that every step of the way she is a contradiction” using the comparisons that “she is a secretary but she is also a partner” and that “she is sexually adventurous but she is a mother of two” and most specifically “she becomes close with Liddy [Bill’s wife] but she is also the other woman”. What throws her is that people were told different underlying falsehoods about sex (like masturbation) and, as she puts it, “you just needed to tell people that what you were doing was normal but people weren’t doing that…and that is some bullshit!”

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CW closes out with the consideration of “The Tomorrow People” which is based upon a series that Greg Berlanti (who also produces the CW’s “Arrow”) saw as a kid. He speaks of it with glee saying “Julie [Line, the exec producer] and I have been talking about this show since we were in college” adding that “the originals played in reruns on Nickelodeon”. Mark Pellegrino, recently of “Lost” as Jacob, returns to genre here with a multi-facade character teasing that “I don’t consider myself the hero of the story right now” but explaining that “I am protecting the human race and you have to do dirty things”.

The triumvirate in CBS, Showtime & CW continues to show that the separation of brand and knowing the angle at which to engage the audience is decidedly important in facilitating bigger and bigger ratings.

IR Exclusive Print Interview: Drew Carey For “The Price Is Right” [CBS Daytime TCA Set Visit 2012]

Connecting with the psyche of America, especially in its vast middle section, has always been a great talent of Drew Carey from his days on his own highly rated sitcom to the bombastic fun of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” When “The Price Is Right” came along, allowing him to take over the legendary shoes of Bob Barker, Carey did not waiver, understanding the power of this specific game show. After seeing the people lined up for a day of taping at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, IR’s Tim Wassberg talked to Drew Carey upon the famous stage of “The Price Is Right”, wheel in walking distance and colors abounding, about the key to the game show’s demo, its slice of Americana and the surrealism of it all.

Tim Wassberg: How does “The Price Is Right” appeal to the college audience, because it seemingly does in droves.

Drew Carey: Tons of college kids are fans of “The Price Is Right”. [Some of it is] breaking from classes. There are  [also] “Price Is Right” watching clubs all over the place. We don’t do anything special to appeal to college students. Well…maybe the models (laughing).

TW: At what moment does it become surrealistic for you?

DC: It’s always like that. [In terms of prep], I get here about a half hour before the show starts. I go to my dressing room. I put my bag down. Put on my suit. Do hair and make-up. And walk on-stage. I don’t even know what the games are going to be half the time. They leave me a list of games to play on my desk but I never even look at them anymore. I just walk out. There is a stagehand that points me to go over here and over there. I know if we do a car, we do them every act. If we have done two games and we haven’t done a car yet, the car is coming up. I am just as surprised as everyone else when I see the games.

TW: The energy is great but it is so fast paced to the point that there is no room for improv. Does it just become instinct?

DC: It is instinct. My whole job out here is to be nice and have fun with everybody. [It is to] make sure they have fun, and guide everybody through the game and hope they win.

TW: When you look out at these audiences for “The Price Is Right”, what do you see?

DC: Man…when I look out there, I just see America. It is all workers of America. I ask people what they do all time and I never get “I’m a CEO” or “I’m the president of a company”. It’s all “I’m [some kind of] a worker”. It’s the like the “working class” of an audience every single day.

“The Price Is Right” airs on CBS weekdays at 11am.

IR Exclusive Print Interview: Terry O’Quinn For “666 Park Avenue” [ABC Summer 2012 TCA Cocktail Event]

Creating new mythology around the notion of the supernatural is always an odds ratio but the game gets stepped up when the character you are playing against is that of “Locke” in the seminal series “LOST”. Carefully picking his follow up to the infamous and multi-layered castaway is no small feat but Terry O’Quinn has fashioned his approach as the mysterious Gavin Doran in ABC’s new fall series “666 Park Avenue” with pinache. Dressed in tuxedo trim with the same piercing gaze that made Locke’s eventual tendencies so iconic, O’Quinn talked to IR’s Tim Wassberg at ABC’s TCA Summer 2012 Cocktail Mixer about the allure of evil, the intentions of will and physically manifesting his characters.

Tim Wassberg: Can you talk about the allure of such a character as Doran with his temptations, his manifestations of power and what enters into the mindset of playing him.

Terry O’Quinn: If you don’t have that in your life, it is nice to play it. This is a very intransigent man and he is very one minded about where he is going. He is kind of immovable. He is cold, except to his wife, who is even more so. He can’t be warmed to people because he is unscrupulous.

TW: What is the hardest thing about playing the line between approachable and dastardly?

TOQ: The hardest thing is finding out where to start. This guy started at go and was going 100 miles an hour. You couldn’t tiptoe your way into this character. The hardest thing is starting at punching somebody in the face and then being nice and having a normal life after you do that kind of thing; to able to speak softly or have any kind of warmth or charm. And everybody already knows you are capable of that [other end]. It’s easy to introduce a character softly and then have people surprised by the evil. It is very difficult to introduce a character with a punch to the face and then convinced people (chuckling) that he is not a bad guy.

TW: How do you modulate the energy of this guy with that specific kind of tone?

TOQ: That is what I am trying to figure out because everybody knows about the punch in the face so, consequently, whenever he speaks softly or seems to be warm, you all assume he is being manipulative. So the trick is going to be [trying to] display moments when he is not being manipulative and just being warm…if, in fact, that happens.

TW: Can you talk about expectation, both in terms of the audience and yourself, as to what you find intriguing to bring you into this specific world.

TOQ: The funny thing is when the writers and producers asked me to have dinner, they said “We want to pitch this to you” but the truth is I had already read the script. They didn’t need to pitch it to me because I would have taken it anyway. All they risked is by [doing that is] losing me when they pitched it because I could already see what I wanted to see. I might have questions such as “Where is this going to go?” or “What are the colors I can give this guy?” Normally, they [the producers] are listening to what your questions are and trying to guess the answers you want to hear, and give you that answer. So, it is an act of faith to take a part like this. To be quite honest, you look at a bunch of scripts and say “I don’t like this or this” then “This isn’t bad” or “I kind of like the character”. [Then it becomes] “OK…I guess I better take this” because the river keeps moving on by. The next thing that comes by might be total shit.

TW: You spoke about taking things on faith, and with a mythology-based series like “666 Park” as well as with “LOST”, you have to go on the perception that you don’t know where it is going.

TOQ: But I play like I know where it is going so you believe me. Every script really is: You’re in a forest. But I don’t have to show you the forest. I just have to show you the next tree. My job is to get to that tree. If I get to that tree, I get another scene or I get another script. It is like a puzzle. If something comes along and I say “That doesn’t jive with what you have given me” or “I have a question of where that ties into that”, they may have to answer me or they [the writers] say “Trust me” in which case I have to trust them.

TW: Can you talk about the importance of the physical interacting with the emotional within your characters.

TOQ: I think it is important if you can bring it. I am not always comfortable [with it]. You take on a role like this and you go “What if this lasted [for] 5 years?” I think of my friend Michael Emerson [“Benjamin Linus” on “LOST”] who started working with a limp on “Person Of Interest” [on CBS], and now he has to walk with a limp for the next 5 years or so. I haven’t asked him if he regrets making that choice.

TW: But it is all about choice.

TOQ: It is all about choice. I rarely consciously make an effort to sound different or look different because I don’t have a lot of faith in my ability to do it. I hope I can convince an audience that the character is feeling and believing what he’s saying, despite how he looks or sounds. That is my first job: to make sure they [the audience] understands what I want as a character.

TW: And the second part?

TOQ: Colors. The rest of it is painting. But you have to stay within the lines. A scene is written to make this point and you have to make that point. How you decorate that point is where the creativity comes in.

“666 Park Avenue” premieres on ABC Sunday September 30th, 2012 at 10pm.

IR Print Interview: Jon Cryer For “Two & A Half Men” [CBS TCA]

Revolving in notions of what is said and not said has never been more truthful in the drama of “Two & A Half Men” over the past year. Jon Cryer, long the unsung hero of the show as Alan because of his ability to sacrifice dignity at times for the sake of a joke, spoke to The Inside Reel’s Tim Wassberg on the texture that makes the show more than it might seem.

Tim Wassberg: Can you talk about the story progression on the show after the loss of Charlie?

Jon Cryer: First of all, it was very strange to have the plots hang on Alan which happened a few times last season but was unusual still for me. What’s been nice about the last few episodes we’ve been shooting is that it has mostly been hanging on Walden [Ashton’s character] (sighs) just like old good times. I think the hardest episode for me to do is when Alan lost it and started thinking he was Charlie…because to find a tone that worked was difficult. The writing came through so strongly on that episode that it did alot of the work for me. I’d love to take credit (chuckling) but it was mostly the writing.

TW: But you had to angle the comedy differently though to make that angle work.

 JC: Yes. Because we didn’t want to do an impression. We thought that would be inappropriate but we had to sort of embody who he was and who Charlie Harper was…and not obviously what Charlie Sheen was. I don’t know. It felt like very risky territory but I feel like we got away with it. And we had to deal with it in some respect. When you lose a sibling, it’s a devastating experience and obviously dealing with it in any way comedically is hard. But I think the writers have jumped through some really amazing hoops on this.

TW: Do you feel that Alan is a more confident character now?

He gets full of himself because he’s actually on the board [of Walden’s company] and has an actual job. But I don’t know how long that’s going to last.

TW: Is this different perspective of who Alan thinks he is manifested differently for you through both the physical and emotional comedy?

JC: Part of what’s always been fun is that Alan is “Job” [from the Bible]. He gets humiliated, dresses in women’s clothing and has no dignity whatsoever. And that’s great. I’m happy to continue that. But what I am doing hasn’t really changed. It’s just a small change in the dynamic of the scenes in a general sense.

Ironic Social Endeavors & Artistic Paradox: The CBS Summer 2011 TCA Press Tour – Feature

The texture of comedy versus drama placates itself in the idea that people act and function a certain way because of notions of situation, upbringing and general perceptions of morality.

With the greatest market share of viewers, CBS uses their intentions to pick shows that both reflect the brand but progress the narrative to create a sense of tension, both sociologically and psychologically.

With “2 Broke Girls”, creator Whitney Cummings envisions an ideal of life that is prevalent very much in youth culture today in the aspect of doing bad jobs against a better thought process. Whitney herself dictates that the concept is very relatable. What motivated her though was the opportunity to mix with Michael Patrick King, the creator of “Sex In The City” saying that his “work formed me as a person” adding that after consuming “Sex” she “went and bought 100 Christian Louboutin shoes”. The key for this series she says King came up with and would not back down from is “two girls in yellow uniforms” and the fact there “was a diner and places where you put trays down” alluding to his style as more “visceral”. For her, the original names of the two girls were “Black” and “Blonde” which evolved when one of her descriptions for “Blonde” became “Homeless with a Horse”.

King, for his part, wanted to try to make “Girls” as “contemporary and edgy as it could be”. He did what he deems his “Scarlett O’Hara search” before integrating with Whitney in terms of the style. One of the cruxes that drew him to this specific concept was the idea of the “scary dynamic of talking about money on TV”. In terms of comparison with his earlier show, King says Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex” and these girls are very different in their DNA. If Carrie Bradshaw and her closet were Narnia then “2 Broke Girls” is their evil twin with chick lit. “Sex”, he interrelates, was playing with “the reality and fantasy of girls in their 30s”. Whereas the girls in “Sex” have check lists, the girls on “Broke” barely have checks.

Adding within the ideal of sociological structure and its reverse intentions, “How To Be A Gentleman” works in the congruence that equal reaction in terms of manners requires a bit of a kick in the pants.

David Hornsby plays the lead character here who is a bit of a stick in the mud. The idea to create this sort of buddy comedy of sorts grew out of a short manners book that crossed his desk. The progression, he dictates, is based in idioms like “When waiting at an ATM, a gentleman does not check his balanc”e. The structure of a gentleman he finds rests within the auspices of Cary Grant or George Clooney who reflect in the ideals of the “strong-jawed but less-misogynistic James Bond” types.

Dave Foley, ever in lighthearted mode, moonlights with gusto as Hornsby’s boss explaining “I think that he knows it is pathetic trying to stay relevant” but that he “is charming in his need to try to appeal to the younger” sect. Part of the notion for him in the character reflects on the idea of being 50 in the workplace because “the intention is hilarious”.

Kevin Dillon, playing the macho structure to Hornsby’s featherweight, was shooting the end of the HBO series “Entourage” at the same time though he said he hardly planned it like this. The irony is that besides the pilot, the first day of the cast being together is right now.

Angling away into the perspective of drama, “A Gifted Man” takes on a more paranormal structure while dictating a grounded scenario where a doctor recently mourning the death of his wife begins to become aware of other possibilities around him as he makes his rounds.

Patrick Wilson, playing the doctor of note, says people will want to assume certain aspects about his character especially in the fact that “he has an answer for everything”. Wilson explains that this man has a connection to the spiritual world and that “this constant struggle will be explored” in the fact that he is battling “being frustrated and being heartbroken”. The biggest challenge for him, as an actor, relies in the fact of not being a film or a play, is that “you have to give it out in small doses” which necessitates not thinking “from an acting perspective too far ahead”.

Exec producer Neal Baer indicates that, as the series progresses, the character that haunts the doctor will be revealed more than simply in the texture of a morning drink. Visually the idea of the show will develop , even though in the pilot, whilst setting up the relationship, doesn’t show the clinic prevalently.

Resolving the idea of a more procedural intention, “Person Of Interest” tries to spin the narrative on its head through the story influx of creator Jonathan Nolan who specifies that “the title for me suggests alot of what the show is about”. This theme, he explains, that fascinates him, is “uncertainty” which “we are all very aware of these days”. The basis for him suggests a-case-a-week structure. While the process within the medium is very different than working in film, approaching these kind of characters in this structure has always been of interest to him in that he “wanted to write something all the more dangerous”. Nolan continues that “the Batman analogy is not so far away” because these ideas were “a small feature of ‘The Dark Knight'” in that “it examined Batman and the lengths to which he will go”.

In reflection of the genesis of “Interest”, Nolan speaks about growing up as a kid in England in the 70s noting that “there was a lot of cameras up in London during the IRA attacks”. His family moved to Chicago a little later but when 9/11 happened, “you started seeing cameras everywhere again. For this reason, he explains, “it was a rich story to tap” but, for him, “the draw of the characters” is within “the way they can build change and grow”.

Michael Emerson’s character is enticed as the catalyst. Emerson describes him as “a shadowy tech millionaire…who wanted to apply himself to a justice mission” but “needs to team up with someone who is more active and skilled than he is”. The actor offers that the character can be called “Mitch”. In reflection of his earlier TV exposure, Emerson says that part of him wants to leave behind the “Lost” perception but “at the same time I have a working method” and “it has a certain sound and feeling to it”. He explains that his character on “Lost” was supposed to be just another guest spot but “I was never allowed to go home from the Hawaiian Island” which for “every character actor would be a secret dream” though it became “a little harder for me to hide”. He hopes though to “still do the odd turn here” adding that “I’d like it to have a limp or an accent”. The key for him though is “the idea that you can never have a life unobserved” because “it doesn’t seem so far out anymore”.

Jim Caviezel who plays the officer that Emerson’s character recruits for his “mission” describes his character as “a former Special Forces/CIA operative on the surface” but “deep down is a guy who is searching for a performance”. Ultimately the ideal for him is about becoming “redeemable” though achieving this through different roles was a “little more controversial than he thought it would be”.

Examining the new shows of CBS leading into the fall, the inherent balance shows the continued predilection towards a movement of both broad comedy but also edgy drama fare which challenges the norms of audience involvement with a definite creative edge.

PBS TCA Summer Press Tour: Cameron Crowe For PEARL JAM TWENTY

Promotional Still Pearl Jam Twenty "PJ20"

Pearl Jam: Matt Cameron, Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard

The Inside Reel’s Tim Wassberg got a chance to speak with director Cameron Crowe at the TCA PBS Summer Press Tour this past weekend about his new documentary Pearl Jam Twenty. The doc marks the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s tenure as juggernauts in the music industry. “PJ20” spans the band’s history from their inception in the Seattle grunge scene of the early 90’s to their position today as a monument to the musical idealism that is too often sacrificed for money or individual praise. Read on for the brief interview with Pearl Jam Twenty director Cameron Crowe.

TIM WASSBERG: As a community of musicians that both make up Pearl Jam and surround them as well, how has that social interaction affected how their sound and music has evolved over the years from your perspective?

CAMERON CROWE: The band has changed and they talk about that pretty openly in the film. The band started out as Stone Gossard’s group and really evolved into Eddie’s band. And one of the things that Jeff Ament, the bass player of the group, told me early on is “I hope this movie is like group therapy. I want to learn about us”. So we really tried with the interviews to discuss all that as well as the dynamic and how the songs have changed. I know Eddie [Vedder] in particular says “I don’t work so hard at trying to get every song to be three dimensional and mean so much…I just want to breathe right now with the music” which is all part of it. The song “Just Breathe” is a fantastic journey because, I think, it is about being true to your roots while still moving on. 

TW: Could you also talk about achieving a visual style for the doc. After a short while following “Ten”, Pearl Jam stopped making music videos. Because of the lack of that visual representation, could you talk about capturing who they are now? For example, within the footage in “PJ20” of them performing “Release Me” in Verona, you really get to see who they are now which is not possible to a mass audience now that often.

CC: I love that “Release” performance that you mentioned. It’s so much about Eddie and his own relationship with his father…still. That’s one of the things we tried to capture in the film is that, with all these songs, Eddie still means them when he sings them. The band still feels it. And some of these songs are pretty aching content-wise. They [Pearl Jam] don’t just go through the motions. The live footage [thereby] is generally riveting in that way.

Pearl Jam Twenty will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is part of PBS’ “American Masters” series.

Cable TCA Summer Press Tour: Jerry Lewis On Reality TV, “American Idol” & Technology [Encore]

Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis Encore

This weekend at the TCA Cable Press Tour, The Inside Reel’s Tim Wassberg asked legendary comedian Jerry Lewis (who was there to promote the Encore original documentary Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis) to discuss the differences between the entertainment industry nowadays compared to back when the comedian was getting started. Tim’s question spurred a rant in which Lewis called television a “medium that’s running around knocking their brains out trying to see how we beat the fat lady at 375 pounds, and in four months she is going to be 240.” Lewis adds, “Who gives a shit?” He went on to refer to “American Idol” contestants as “McDonalds wipe-outs” and the motion picture industry as dead because “they put all of their product on the goddamn stupid phone.” Check out the full response below. It’s definitely worth the read.

 

TIM WASSBERG: My question is about making bones in the business and paying your dues. You obviously did. What does it take now versus then to pay dues in the business and become a great comedic actor and person like yourself?

JERRY LEWIS: You just have to be bad. The business is scrounging around for what to do. The first thing a good comic must do is let them know he hasn’t changed. He can bring that same veracity, and that same performance to a medium that’s running around knocking their brains out trying to see how we beat the fat lady at 375 pounds, and in four months she is going to be 240. Who gives a shit?

It’s ridiculous…ridiculous. And kids, they get on “American Idol”. They’re all McDonalds wipe-outs. They’ve all been dumped. They’ve worked there and now they’re doing that. And they all play guitar which takes the place of music.

We don’t have the soul in this industry that we had when I was working. The soul has been desperately deteriorated, only because you’ve got a guy who is running a network whose aunt died and left him some stock. So someone says: “Make me a malted.” And he says “Poof. You’re a malted.” He’s now an executive in charge of entertainment. Do I sound pessimistic?

I love my industry. I love what it does. I don’t allow the people in my family to use the term “TV”. That’s stupid. It’s “Television”. It’s a miracle. It’s entitled to that respect. And that’s the way I am about it. And when I watch it, I want it to grab me. I want it to be like I ran home and made sure to be there before goddamn “Law & Order” went on, and long before Jack Webb and the cop shows. We ran home to see [Milton] Berle on Tuesday night. Nobody wants to run home now and see anything. They run home and hope there’s something. And we got to fix that.

The industry has destroyed themselves. The motion picture industry is no longer as far as I’m concerned. And we can fix it. But it’s no longer because they put all of their product on the goddamn stupid phone. You’re going to put “Lawrence Of Arabia” on that stupid son-of-a-bitch [device].

That gets me crazy pal. That gets me crazy.

But you’ll see “Lawrence Of Arabia” on your television set because there won’t be a television set in three years. Why? Because Proctor & Gamble says “Are you nuts?” You want me to spend 1.6 million for that variety show when I can get that fat lady to lose weight for 62,000 bucks? Let’s go with that one. We’ll call it “reality”, And that that’s what they’ve done. Do you notice that in a dramatic part in a film, you don’t hear music…you hear a vocal. You hear someone singing a vocal that relates to the scene. Well the first thing you don’t do as a filmmaker is distract. The biggest danger in your work is distraction. And you’re putting the vocal at the top of the film’s big moment because they don’t want to spend it on an 80-piece orchestra to score. [Instead it’s] “Let’s do what they’re doing with the guitar. It will be fine”. Oh OK.

Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis premieres on Encore this fall.