Category Archives: Television

It Caught My Eye: LA Plays Someplace Else

So in the midst of last night’s episode of Survivor, an ad comes on that jumps out of the TV at me. It’s a riveting futuristic marvel featuring a transformer-like plane swooping into a disaster area to effect a dramatic last-minute rescue atop a crumbling debris-strewn bridge littered with debris, presumably deposited by a Katrina-esque hurricane.

Removing the injured and taking off literally nanoseconds before the span collapses, I’m rapt wondering if this is a spot for Skyline, Harry Potter and the I Don’t Give a Crap, or perhaps one final political ad from Meg Whitman, until the familiarity of the location breaks the spell and I grab the remote and take myself back to the bridge. Sure enough, I pause the scene and grab the cam:

(click image to maximize)

Though I’d guess the US Air Force recruitment commercial is trying to conjure up a New Orleans bridge over the Mississippi, what you’re really looking at above is a downtownward-looking angle from our very own historic 6th Street Viaduct, albeit augmented with severe storm crap (is that part of a house?) atop a heavily CGI’d river flowing below it, literally bank-to-bank.

Ironically, there’s some truth in the apocalyptic ad showing the bridge falling apart, because indeed it slowly is. The concrete made on-site when the Merrill Butler-designed landmark was completed in 1932 is slowly failing.

From the Bridge’s Wiki page:

The quality of the concrete turned out to have a high alkali content and lead to an alkali-silica reaction which creates cracks in the concrete and saps the strength of the structure. Current estimates are that the viaduct has a 70% probability of collapse due to a major earthquake within 50 years.

Fans Going CoCo for Tonight’s Conan Debut

photo courtesy Colin Remas Brown

While Los Angeles pines for an NFL team to come back, we should feel proud that Conan O’Brien didn’t retreat back to New York after his Tonight Show gig was abruptly cancelled.

Conan’s return to broadcast television at 11pm will be beamed from the site of his new studio on Burbank’s Warner Brothers lot, where fans waited outside in the rain as early as 7am for a chance to be part of the audience (see pic).

Does anyone have any doubts that he’ll not only beat Jay Leno in the ratings, but also Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?

Halloween Wardrobe Mal-Function

Halloween detritus -- my favorite kind

L.A., how was your Halloween?  I went to the 4th annual Halloween party held by one of my writer’s group friends.  We had amazing dj music courtesy of the big outdoor Mexican wedding next door.  And we had an always enjoyable theatrical bent to many of the costumes.  These included:

–Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty
–The Cure’s Robert Smith as a goth zombie, or “Gombie.”  I didn’t realize how much he looks like Edward Scissorhands.
–A pink Crayola crayon
–A Renaissance Vampirella
–A Killer Bee
–The Bride of Frankenstein
–A crazed Laker fan (aren’t they all?)
–Charlie Brown
–Eddie Munster

Surprisingly, we had no “Jersey Shore” cast members, and no politicians.  But we had some topical characters, including a Chilean miner and a couple from “Dancing With the Stars,” albeit with a fishnet twist.  And, perhaps appropriately, our costume contest winner was a tv character: Tina Fey/Liz Lemon from “30 Rock,” including rectangular glasses, clipboard, and bag of Sabor de Soledad Mexican cheese puffs.

So, how about you? Any standout costumes at your Halloween wardrobe (mal-)functions?

RIP Stephen J. Cannell

Television icon Stephen J. Cannell died last night. He was only 69. Television might not be what it is today without all the amazing characters and shows that he created and wrote. Among many others were: The Rockford Files, The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, Baa Baa Black Sheep, The Greatest American Hero. (And my personal sentimental favorite Tenspeed and Brownshoe.)

We attended a Writer’s Guild Panel a few years ago about his legacy and career and no one had a bad thing to say about him. He was clearly a man who was open to helping anyone out, offering support and creative criticism and encouragement to all who showed gumption and talent. His own work ethic was legendary, cranking out scripts after script and later, novel after novel.

Mr. Cannell’s work might not be considered “art” but he created entertaining, fun, full-of-life tv. He will be sorely and sadly missed by so many in the business, myself included.

LA’s Nickel Diner On TV Tonight!

Maple Bacon YUM

For you lovers of the famous Maple Bacon Donut at the Nickel Diner in downtown LA (and by “lovers” I mean “fanatics”) you can see your love on television tonight. The Cooking Channel (not to be confused with The Food Network, though they are sister networks) will air a show called “Unique Eats” tonight at 7:30 pst/10:30 est featuring the amazing pastries and desserts made every day by hand at The Nickel.

If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of eating at the Nickel Diner, you are missing out. Pulitzer Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold said: “The Nickel… is a new kind of downtown diner, a Ships for a generation for whom full-sleeve tattoos are the new black, and it’s about time.” All of their food is delicious and extremely well priced. The owners (full disclosure, I’m friends with them) work hard to make you, the guest, feel welcome and safe on a block that might not seem so welcoming at first glance. The place is always jumping, the crowd always varies and the food never disappoints. Just make sure you ask if they have any maple bacon donuts left right when you sit down, just in case.

If you still aren’t sure, tune in tonight to see what all the good words are about!

The Nickel Diner
524 S. Main Street, Downtown
213 623-8301

Win Tickets To See Denis Leary on June 10

There are four pairs of tickets in my hot little hand to give away for the Rescue Me Comedy Tour 2 on Thursday, June 10 at Club Nokia.

Denis Leary, along with musical guests The Enablers (featuring the Rehab Horns) will be on stage with some special guests that night, and only that night.

How do you get your hands on these tickets? Tell us in the comments what your favorite Denis Leary song, tv show or movie is and why. My favorite Denis Leary song is “I’m An Asshole.” I love that guy.

Be sure to leave your email address (it won’t be published) so we can contact you with ticket info.

Contest closes Wednesday at Noon!

More info: Rescue Me Comedy Tour

Throughout March: Anatomy of a Script at Writer’s Guild Foundation

Pity the professional writers. They toil in relative obscurity, working long hours for low pay, pulling out hair by the fistful as they stare at blank computer screens as a creeping voice from their hindbrain tells them that even the most brilliant wordsmithing won’t bring them the fame and fortune they long for.

Well, most of us, anyway. Some writers have great jobs that pay well and make us all fall in love with them. Like, I’m pretty certain Damon Lindelof’s writing career is a lot more rewarding than mine. But then, I do occasionally get to write web copy for home foundation repair contractors. Take that, Lost-Boy!

So, yeah: Writers who produce television and movies are pretty cool. And if you’d like to hear a bunch of them chat about their trade in an intimate setting, the Writers’ Guild Foundation has you covered with their Anatomy of a Script series, which gives great TV and film writers the chance to talk about some of their most celebrated scripts. It begins tonight at 6 PM with Breaking Bad creator and X-Files scribe and producer Vince Gilligan. (OK, OK, technically it began last week with Matthew Weiner, but I didn’t get a chance to post. Please don’t be upset at me for forgetting to tell you about Matthew Weiner.)

Here’s the whole schedule:

March 3: Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad)

March 10: Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise)

March 17: Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island)

March 24: Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Zombieland)

March 31: Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give)

Visit the Writers’ Guild Foundation website for more information and to buy tickets.

PaleyFest 2010 Is Upon Us

Terry O'Quinn & Michael Emerson at the PaleyFest "Lost" panel on 2/27/10. Photo by Jodi

I’m a little late in getting this post up, considering the 27th Annual William S. Paley Television Festival (PaleyFest) has already started. You’ve only missed three events, Modern Family and Lost, which were both fantastic and NCIS, which I didn’t attend. There are 10 nights left highlighting such acclaimed shows as Breaking Bad and Dexter. The only one aside from Lost that is sold-out so far is Glee.

This is the 9th year I’ve attended PaleyFest, the ever-changing and growing celebration of television programming and its creation. It is hands-down one of my favorite annual L.A. events. For the past two years, it was held in the Cinerama Dome at the ArcLight Hollywood, a much bigger venue than the previous theater at the Directors Guild. As the festival continues to grow, it has once again moved and is being held at The Saban Theatre (formerly The Wilshire Theatre) in Beverly Hills, which can hold 1900 people.

The full programming schedule can be found here. Ticket prices are tiered based on seating section and Paley Center membership status. Seats are not assigned, just the section. Check for more information on ticket availability for the remaining shows on this site.

The Saban Theatre is located at 8440 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, 90211. The surrounding neighborhoods all have permit street parking, so be prepared to pay $10 to park in one of two designated lots.

Let us know if you plan to attend any of the events. I’ll report back on my experience at the end of the fest.

How the Internet is Spoiling My Olympics

I suppose it was inevitable.  This past year, social networking shot through the roof, with everyone and her grandmother (literally) on Facebook.  That is in addition to the explosive popularity of Twitter, as well as websites pumping out up-to-the-minute news 24/7.  At the same time, the old media NBC television network decided to tape delay its Winter Olympics broadcast on the West Coast, apparently three hours behind the East Coast, even though the events are taking place in our time zone.  And finally, as do many others I’m sure, I multitask when watching television, laptop in front of me, news headlines and social networks (and Vancouver Metblogs) never more than a click away.  All of these phenomena have come crashing together this month like a perfect storm, threatening to spoil my Olympics.

The problem is, I keep learning the results from these Internet sources hours before seeing them for myself.  I learned of Hannah Kearney’s mogul skiing gold medal, Apolo Ohno’s record-tying silver medal in speed skating, and the generous figure skating judges doling out high scores to skaters who fell during their short program, all before seeing it on tv.  I tried appealing to my Twitter peeps who aren’t located on the West Coast not to post Olympics results, but they seem to need to do so, as if their reactions won’t count unless shared electronically and immediately.

I’m sure some of you are more computer-advanced than I, and can tell us how to get a great webcast of the Games on our computer in real time, even on our big-screen hdtv.  If so, I would love to hear the solutions.  I investigated this briefly, and did not find a satisfactory solution — for example, the online ads I saw were even more annoying than those on NBC.

I’m afraid the only solution I have found to watch the Winter Games unspoiled by spoilers is the most radical solution of staying off the Internet altogether.

My Neighborhood, The Film Set

Living in the center of the film and television industry, there are some fun games we get to play, like the “That Guy” game, where you run into a random actor out and about who you can’t quite place, and whichever of your friends figures it out first without resorting to IMDB wins. Another great game is “Name That Location”, wherein you can recognize the exact location a show is using for those remote scenes, not only showing off your photographic memory, but also destroying the fictional world the show has created and disrupting its narrative. It’s fun!

Now, it’s one thing to recognize local landmarks being used in a film, but I find it especially fun seeing my own neighborhood represented on the big screen (or TV. or laptop screen.). Eagle Rock is used all the time for exteriors, as many blocks are easily disguised as Small Town, Anywhere, USA. But interiors are harder to spot on TV – I knew it was Cindy’s Diner (which quite possibly gets more business as a shooting location than a restaurant) in those AT&T ads with Luke Wilson, but only because I saw Wilson standing outside in the parking lot while the commercial was being shot.

But this weekend while catching up on The Office, I spotted another local business (Can you guess it? Identity revealed after the jump):

Screen shot 2010-02-07 at 11.59.32 PM

Continue reading My Neighborhood, The Film Set

Xena Convention. You’re Going to Go.

Not everyone gets Simpson'd
Not everyone gets Simpson'd

There are some of you – no, there are many of us – for whom Xena played more than a cultural touchstone or a convenient shorthand for lesbianism.  I know that you particular people would, given the opportunity, name your steed Argo just as readily as Adam named Eve Eve.  And for the big number of us who waited all Saturday afternoon for Xena to come on (or all day Sunday if you were crestfallen to find that the Dodgers took over Xena‘s afternoon time slot), this one is for you: Creationent will host the annual Xena Convention about a month from now, February 5-7, at the LAX Marriot.

This is the 15th anniversary of Creationent’s Xena conventions, which is testament to both the show’s detached nerdiness and its staying power.  Lucy Lawless – Xena herself to some, Number Three to more than some, and random Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me guest to still others – is going to be there (!!!), as will be Renee O’Connor, Xena’s trusty sidekick Gabrielle (think Kelly Martin if Kelly Martin traded her red rimmed, middle-class Life Goes On glasses for a staff and decidedly not-early ’90s boots).  There will be costume contests (reason enough to go); Lucy Lawless; a dessert party centerpiece contest; Lucy Lawless; and, oh, Lucy Lawless.

The bestest weekend package are sold out – this is, after all,  the Dinah Shore before The Dinah Shore – but there are second-to-bestest weekend packages still available, as well as general admission single day passes (scroll down towards the end of the page).  Ah, you’re going to go.  You just haven’t admitted it to yourself yet.

Sci-Fi Weekend: Farscape and Stargate

A true Stargate fan could read this from the back of the room.

I had lunch with a few people recently in which the conversation started and ended with a mention  of “The Plan.” Non-Battlestar Galactica associates quickly booed and told us to leave the table if we were going to talk about it, and, not wanting that, we had to cease (but really, if you’re going to have a whole movie about the Cylons, why oh why would you leave Lucy Lawless out?).  In contrast, I have an inkling that a fair number of you are unabashaed BSG fans and that an ever fairer number of you were/are fans of Farscape and Stargate SG-1. I bet some of you even loudly registered your protest to Sci-Fi brass after the network abruptly, and meanly, cancelled Farscape before its 5-year contract was up.  Lucky for you, there are fan conventions in town for both Farscape and Stargate SG-1.   Starting tomorrow and running through the weekend, Creation Entertainment is hosting the annual event at the LAX Marriot.  Stars will be in tow to commiserate and commemorate, and, of course, people will be dressed up to the gills.  Best part: On Friday, Gary Jones (Stargate‘s Chief Master Sergeant Walter Harriman) and Dean Haglund (you know, Langley) will participate in a celebrity cabaret called Starhole.  Yes, that’s right, Starhole.

Ticket prices vary depending on what days you go, and what a la carte items (i.e., autograph sessions) you want to add to your cart.  For more information on prices for the Stargate convention, see here; for Farscape, see here.

“A Celebration of The X-Files” with One Ms. Gillian Anderson

Gillian Anderson collageIt’s been about a sweet 16 years since the first episode of The X-Files aired.  It’s been about a sweet 16 years since I developed my first crush:  Gillian Anderson.  Sigh.  I think my mom sort of looked the other way and chalked it up to an adolescent search for a role model and, really, could you ask anything more from Dr. Dana Scully?  No, no you could not.  So, you can imagine the all sorts of first-love butterflies that fluttered when I got wind of this: IBG is hosting Ms. Anderson, along with executive producer/writer Frank Spotnitz, at a “Celebration of The X-Files” panel on November 14 at the Beverly Wilshire.  Along with other to-be-announced guests, the pair will remember, reflect, and re-live the ground-breaking series on a moderated Q & A panel (here’s to hoping that someone articulates exactly how one runs in high heels) aimed at raising money and awareness for a number of charities, including the Rape Treatment Center.  Tickets range from $50 for general seating to limited $125 tickets for VIP seating.  Those with the Benjamin to spare for a VIP ticket will have the opportunity to queue up for an autograph from the panelists, including the lovely Ms. Anderson.  As if that weren’t enough, IBG just organized an auction to meet and greet Ms. Anderson prior to the panel.  Additional auctions will shortly follow — keep checking IBG’s site for further details, and check out their FAQ for other questions you may have about the event.  Oh, be still my beating heart.

Clockwise from the left, Gillian Anderson is: my Dana Scully action figure, circa 1998 and recently retrieved from the back of my closet; Data Nully from the series “ReBoot”; Moro in the American version of Princess Mononoke; and Queen Vorkana in Robbie the Reindeer: Close Encounters of the Herd Kind.

Real lesbians of Los Angeles coming to Showtime

Showtime’s answer to Bravo’s Real Housewives series will be The Real L Word: Los Angeles, a reality show that will follow six real, live LA lesbians “as they go about their lives,” according to Variety. Or at least as they go about their lives with a camera crew trailing them. (And producers liquoring them up and pissing them off by telling them what their showmates are saying about them behind their backs. Ah, reality is always so much better when you plan it out.)

The show is from Ilene Chaikan, the creator of The L Word, Showtime’s scripted drama about LA lesbians that completed a six-season run this past spring.

Station Fire, Station Fail


What can local TV stations learn from Stationgate? Should they be held more accountable when it comes to informing the public about its city burning to the ground? Yes. Were viewers, bloggers, journalists, and tweeters overreacting for calling out the networks on their non-coverage of the impending doom? No.

TV and radio are old media. But, they’re still the first place that people turn when something happens. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. 9/11. There is a responsibility for stations to serve the citizens when they need it most. This includes weekends when your back porch is engulfed in a ring of fire. It is more important than any car chase, funeral procession, or award show after party interview about a $20,000 dress.

Local network executives, who today defended their “coverage” of the “brush fires” should be embarrassed. They should be ashamed. They should probably be fired. Next time, at the very least, throw up an on-screen ticker with evacuation information. That way you can still show your precious Hanna Montana.

As for defending your coverage in light of viewer outrage… How dare you. We are the reason you exist. We are the customer. And we are always, ALWAYS right.