By Jaime Weinman, Aaron Wherry, and Kate Lunau - Saturday, December 8, 2012 - 0 Comments
More exits from Montreal’s political stage, the Pope tweets, and hockey fans finally catch a break
On the side of Angels
Ontario Judge Maureen Forestell may be the Hells Angels’ only friend on the bench. The Ontario judge ruled that a 2007 police raid had no right to seize their gold, diamonds, belt buckles and leather goods just because they had the Angels’ “death head” logo emblazoned on them. Forestell said the bling wasn’t directly related to any crime sprees or attempts to intimidate people. In fact, she added, the club has a rule requiring its members to remove their merchandise “when committing offences,” and she ordered the swag returned to the bikers.
Too random an act of kindness?
New York City cop Larry DePrimo became a seasonal hero last week when a photo of him giving a pair of boots and socks to a barefoot man on a frigid Manhattan night went viral. While the 25-year-old police ofﬁcer was instantly beloved—and earned an invite to the Today show—it took New York’s media a few days to track down the man with the new boots. When they did, the story grew a lot more complicated. Jeffrey Hillman isn’t homeless, as he appeared to be. The deeply troubled Army vet has an apartment paid for by a benefit for homeless veterans. It also turns out Hillman is still barefoot. He told reporters that although he appreciated the cop’s gesture, “I could lose my life” for wearing the $100 Skechers boots on the street. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:20 AM - 1 Comment
Characters on ABC’s new show will be flying high—but they won’t be able to light up.
You can show anything on network television these days—except lighted cigarettes. The producers of ABC’s new show Pan Am, about stewardesses in the 1960s, have announced that the network will not allow them to show the characters smoking. Producer Thomas Schlamme told Entertainment Weekly that this is “the one revisionist cheat” in a show that will otherwise try to get period detail right. Though TV characters on shows like Two and a Half Men are sometimes shown smoking cigars, cigarettes have become taboo on broadcast television due to what Schlamme calls the “impressionable element,” the fear of influencing viewers. (It doesn’t help that, unlike liquor, cigarettes can’t be advertised on TV, so the networks can’t make money plugging the products.) But shows on cable have no such fear of bad influence: the characters on Mad Men light up all the time. Of course, it helps that hardly anyone is watching.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, August 8, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 1 Comment
Bright young actors, not aging stars, are grabbing up the hottest roles this fall
When CBS announced that Two and a Half Men had signed Ashton Kutcher to replace Charlie Sheen, the executives were probably hoping it would be a unique piece of news: a young movie star, who had just made a successful film with Natalie Portman (No Strings Attached), coming back to television. But it simply became part of a larger story about the new fall season. Instead of the usual tactic of snapping up aging movie stars—like William H. Macy on Shameless, or Glenn Close on Damages—the new U.S. shows for the fall season are full of feature-film actors in their twenties or early thirties. Actors normally graduate from television to movies, but many young actors this year seem to be realizing that, as Variety TV columnist Brian Lowry puts it, “TV can be extremely helpful to an actor’s career, and quite lucrative in its own right.”
And so when Canadian networks fought over who would get to simulcast other new U.S. shows this fall, they were fighting over shows starring these young movie people. Citytv snapped up 2 Broke Girls (which CBS executive Nina Tassler touted as her “highest-testing pilot ever”) with Kat Dennings from the summer blockbuster Thor. The same network took The New Girl (touted by its own production company as one of its “highest-testing pilots ever”), in which Zooey Deschanel will go from playing adorably quirky movie characters looking for love to playing an adorably quirky TV character looking for love. CTV got the ’60s period drama Pan Am, one of several attempts to copy Mad Men (even though Mad Men doesn’t get many viewers); it will star Christina Ricci of The Addams Family fame.
It’s no surprise that television networks want to get movie stars to headline their shows. Though there has been a lot of talk about TV being better or more prestigious than movies (“TV is replacing movies as elite entertainment,” wrote critic Edward Jay Epstein last season), no one really seems to act like they believe it: “On the food chain of entertainment,” wrote sitcom writer and blogger Ken Levine, “it goes like this: movies, television, street performing, radio. Movies look down at television. Television looks up at movies with awe.” When Sheen was fired from his show, TV Guide said that the producers felt the only possible replacement would be someone bigger than a mere television star: “They were going after movie stars,” an anonymous insider told the magazine’s Michael Schneider.
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 3:05 PM - 1 Comment
I was forwarded this “exclusive” item about the fate of Two and a Half Men post-Sheen, and found that it says… basically nothing. This is not a knock on the writers of the piece, Kim Masters and Lacey Rose, who are writing what they know and, perhaps, all anybody knows at this point. But literally all we really find out about the show is this:
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that series co-creator Chuck Lorre has hatched an idea to reboot the Warner Bros-produced sitcom with a new creative direction that does not involve Sheen, who was fired from the series in March. Lorre is said to have presented close associates and Men co-star Jon Cryer with the plan, and the studio and network are aware of his intentions. According to an insider, Lorre has told Cryer this re-boot would involve a significant role for him and the introduction of a new, yet-to-be-cast character.
So the sources didn’t say what the plan is, merely that there is a plan to bring it back and that it will involve the current cast plus a new character to take Sheen’s place. But we all expected that even without insider information. Again, this isn’t the writers’ fault, but it does show the inherent limitations in articles based on anonymous insider sources. What we wind up knowing is either that a) the insiders won’t tell us anything and are just giving the appearance of leaking information, to get their show into the press, or b) the insiders really have no idea what’s going to happen, but want us to think they do.
Which is why the interesting information usually comes from on-the-record stuff, where the insider is authorized to talk (or, even better, isn’t authorized but goes on the record anyway; but that’s sadly rare). For example, Greg Daniels has a lot of interesting stuff to say about plans for The Office in the coming post-Carell episode; he can’t get specific about what’s going to happen either, but at least he can suggest some of the reasons behind the decisions they’ve been making. And he can get specific about stuff that’s happened in the past, which are arguably more interesting than speculation about what’s going to happen next season.
More about tonight’s Michael Scott farewell after we see it. Meanwhile, you can read Willa Paskin on the question of whether the goodwill for Steve Carell (who is genuinely beloved by viewers and colleagues) is spilling into the portrayal of the goodbye to Michael Scott (who is at best sort of grudgingly liked). The answer is probably yes, but that’s probably unavoidable. And maybe it shouldn’t even be avoided. Seinfeld‘s finale was controversial in part because it tried to be a farewell only for the characters as they exist in the world of the show – annoying people who aren’t liked by much of anyone outside their little circle – ignoring the love we had for them after watching them for such a long time. I think that was a mistake, and maybe not even a well-intentioned one.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, March 18, 2011 at 12:32 PM - 4 Comments
I was looking for one of the Two and a Half Men syndication promos that have reportedly incorporated the Sheentroversy into their advertising. I didn’t find them on YouTube, but I did find this, apparently made for a station in Augusta, Georgia. It’s quite possibly the most withering, corrosive criticism I have ever seen of Sheen’s show and its influence on culture and society, literally using its own words against it. And it was made to promote the show. Very strange.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, March 18, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 9 Comments
Three of the biggest hits on network TV are dealing with disappearing lead actors
When Charlie Sheen was fired from Two and a Half Men (for what his studio’s lawyers described as “shocking behaviour”), the world began arguing over whether the show would replace him or simply never film another episode. But in a more quiet way, other shows were already preparing to replace stars who aren’t Vatican assassins. The Office is doing a story arc that will lead to the exit of Steve Carell, who announced a year ago that he would not be renewing his contract. And the nudity-filled cable drama Spartacus: Blood and Sand recently hired a new actor to play the title role after the original star, Andy Whitfield, announced he had cancer.
Fans of a show often would prefer it to be shut down rather than see it change too much. Salon.com critic Matt Zoller Seitz implored The Office not to go on without Carell: “He is The Office, for better or worse, and anything after his departure will necessarily feel like a postscript.” But that can’t happen unless a network has something better to put in the show’s place, and The Office, Two and a Half Men and Spartacus are all among the biggest hits on their respective networks.
That means when the star is unavailable the writers will have to find a way to carry on. Most shows, unlike Spartacus, prefer not to recast the main character. The X-Files responded to David Duchovny’s departure by bringing in an actor from Terminator 2 to play a very different lead. When Valerie Harper was removed from her self-titled show Valerie, the producers killed off her character and changed the name to Valerie’s Family. Chip Keyes, one of the showrunners on Valerie, told Maclean’s that a situation like that is hardest on the writers, who have to “break stories and prep scripts that include an as yet unknown main character and actor,” and that his team had to shoot an entire episode without knowing who would star in it: “We’d shoot those scenes later and drop them in.”
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 8:57 AM - 5 Comments
Rock bottom? Not likely. His history of deviancy is long and accomplished.
The Hugh Hefner Sky Villa sits atop the 40-storey Fantasy Tower at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Renting for US$40,000 a night, the two-floor, 9,000-sq.-foot suite—legal occupancy 250—boasts its own glass elevator, pop-up plasma screen TVs, a fully equipped gym and sauna, and an outdoor, cantilevered jacuzzi with the Playboy bunny symbol set into the tiles. But its true, and unspeakably sleazy, selling point is the round, eight-foot rotating bed underneath a mirrored ceiling. The perfect place, in short, for Charlie Sheen.
In mid-January, the suite was the scene of an epic bender in which the 45-year-old star of the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men holed up for days, entertaining a cavalcade of porn stars, “tattoo models,” and prostitutes. Outside, the tabloid websites gleefully catalogued the self-destructive details; from 10 a.m. Grey Goose vodka shots and cocaine, to a $26,000 hooker bill. Sheen made it back to Los Angeles via private jet just in time for his show’s Tuesday morning “call,” but missed work the next day due to what producers described as an ear infection. That weekend, Ricky Gervais stood in front of an international television audience at the Golden Globes and confirmed Sheen’s status as a punchline. “It’s going to be a night of partying and heavy drinking,” the British comedian predicted as he opened the awards ceremony. “Or, as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast.”
Being the highest-paid actor in television, at almost $2 million per episode, should never be confused with being the most respected. For years now, even Sheen himself has seemed to resent the fame derived from his highly successful, yet critically reviled, comedy. Once the hot, young star of such “serious” films as Platoon and Wall Street, he has watched his career devolve into slight comedies like Hot Shots and Major League, then sitcoms, the final refuge of the clapped-out Hollywood icon. Paid to play the roué on TV—the role of boozy, lecherous “Charlie Harper” was specifically written with him in mind—he has carried the performance over into everyday life, embracing a bad-boy lifestyle with gusto. “He likes hookers and he likes coke and he’s got enough money for both,” an anonymous Sheen “friend” told the gossip site Radaronline.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 12:40 PM - 10 Comments
He trashes hotel rooms, mistreats women, parties wildly—yet Sheen’s network and fans don’t mind
Is there anything Charlie Sheen can do to make himself unpopular? Last Monday, the star of the world’s most-watched sitcom, Two and a Half Men, was removed from the Plaza Hotel in New York after trashing his room because of a missing watch; it led to a stay in the hospital, reports that he was on drugs (his retinue called it “an allergic reaction to medication”), and his abrupt decision to divorce his estranged current wife, Brooke Mueller. That’s just the latest in a long line of unpleasant stories about the 45-year-old actor, many of which revolve around his treatment of women. His ex-wife, Denise Richards, claimed that she underwent “a cycle of abuse.” In 2009, Sheen was arrested for reportedly holding a knife to Mueller’s throat. And at the Plaza, TMZ.com reported that he was with “a 22-year-old porn star” who hid in the bathroom to avoid his rampage after he thought his watch had been stolen. Yet he’s emerging from this new scandal the way he emerged from all the others: looking terrible, but otherwise unscathed.
Sheen was back at work on Two and a Half Men last week (TMZ said he was greeted with “fist pumps and hugs”), and Radaronline.com reported that he was “partying wildly” as soon as he got back to Los Angeles. His network, CBS, stood by him as usual; an anonymous insider told the New York Post that CBS is “quietly thrilled” because the publicity “will open up the show to a whole new segment of young viewers.” Dylan Howard, who talked to Sheen for Radar Online, told Maclean’s that “there are people around Charlie who are under no illusions that he needs to check himself into rehab and get himself clean once and for all.” Even Sheen’s father, Martin Sheen, told the Post that he hoped to separate his son “from the people he’s been around,” but there’s no indication yet that it will happen.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, May 11, 2009 at 11:02 PM - 2 Comments
The second and third-most-popular CBS comedies had a little too much of, respectively: Penny/Leonard (can’t they just leave him at the North Pole and give Penny and Sheldon more time for hilarious bits like the door-knocking routine?) and Ted (not a bad episode, but why spend a whole half-hour on a relationship nobody cared about and a creepy, self-loving lead character who pities himself because true love hasn’t come to him by the time he’s 30?).
But while I left halfway through the world’s most popular comedy, Two and a Half Men — I actually don’t dislike it, it just doesn’t compel me to watch it all the way through — I’m now left wondering: since part of the episode involved Jon Cryer getting a ventriloquist’s dummy, was there a scene in the second half where someone talks to the dummy as if it’s real? Because quite apart from shows like Soap that built four years’ worth of stories on that gag, it’s tradition that any episode involving a ventriloquist’s dummy must involve a scene where a character acts like the dummy is real. Now I may have to check the West Coast feed of TaaHM just to see which character followed tradition and tried to kill the dummy.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, January 30, 2009 at 10:37 PM - 0 Comments
Just some thoughts that come to mind while browsing next week’s TV listings at the invaluable Futon Critic:
- The Futon Critic himself has a review of the post-Super-Bowl The Office episode.
- I still don’t get why Lie To Me feels a need to have two mysteries per episode. (This episode is a replacement for the actual third episode, which got delayed, and which also has two mysteries.) They’re just going to double the risk of running out of plausible mysteries, all the while jamming every episode so full of mystery-solving that there’s no time for character moments. House may be formulaic, but the “meanwhile” from its upcoming 100th episode is a character-based subplot, not a slightly lighter version of the main mystery.
- What does Damages have in common with Two and a Half Men? They both title every episode after a line of dialogue from the episode that only makes sense when you hear it in context. (Damages‘ next episode is called “I Agree, It Wasn’t Funny”; Men‘s next episode is called “David Copperfield Slipped Me a Roofie.”)
- Speaking of Two and a Half Men, next time you watch one of Chuck Lorre’s shows, note that his shows use writing credits differently from almost any other prime-time show. Every episode of his two shows has both a “story by” and “teleplay by” credit (except for the pilots) distributed among different members of the writing staff. Apparently Lorre decided to more or less eliminate the first draft and the corresponding “written by” credit; the episodes are almost entirely written in the room, and then the episode assigns story and teleplay credit (and therefore royalties) to several writers. NewsRadio used that system too in some of its episodes, but not all.
- I know Knight Rider is going to be canceled and deserves to be, but plot descriptions like next week’s make me wish that they’d done the retool (dropping the terrorist-fighting stuff and getting back to cheesy ’80s-style stories) earlier. This story, you’ve got to admit, is a real Knight Rider story in every way:
Mike’s old Army friend recruits his help to investigate the suspicious death of a tough-as-nails drill sergeant Jack Burber. Mike learns that the drill sergeant was participating in an underground fight club for military veterans for extra money. In order to find out what really happened, Mike has to infiltrate the fight club and try not to get himself killed in the ring.
Why couldn’t they have done stories like that in the first place? Then they might actually have become a (cheesy but entertaining) success.
- I look forward to any How I Met Your Mother episode that offers the opportunity for more Canada jokes.