Monday, January 01, 2018

What They Said in 2017: Sterling K. Brown, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, RuPaul, Danny Trejo and More

One of the great things about covering the TV biz is all the interesting writers, producers, stars and executives you get to speak to throughout the year. I combed through some of my IndieWire pieces to come up with some of the most interesting things people said to me in 2017:

“I thought that diminished the show,” "Moonlighting" creator Glenn Gordon Caron  said of turning down lucrative merchandising deals at the time. “I look back on that and think, what a fool!”

“The fact that we have flat-earthers is evidence of two things: that we live in a country with free speech and we live in a country where our educational system has failed us,” said Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

"If you go an extended period of time without seeing a reflection of yourself, it’s easier to believe you’re invisible and of minimal value," said Sterling K. Brown. "I want everyone to know that they are seen, appreciated, and their story is being told.”

“I think the world is getting better despite some evidence to the contrary," "The Good Doctor" creator David Shore said of his show's success. "We are watching a character that we’re not used to seeing on TV and we are relating to him.”

“The fact that I would have eyelashes and makeup and pretty hair and a manicure — I’d never been considered in that way — to tell you what that meant to me. I’m always thinking, ‘You gotta lose 50 pounds, no one’s going to consider you for this or that.’ And then this role came along, and on top of it all, she’s funny," actress Ann Dowd said of her role on "Good Behavior."

"This guy is, like, Marlon Brando good," Ryan Murphy said of Sterling K. Brown. "This guy has huge, huge depth of talent, and on top of that, he’s charismatic and good looking, and sexy.”

“How is that not somebody who’s gay?” "Will & Grace" co-creator Max Mutchnick said of Vice President Mike Pence.

“We’re in a very dangerous, very degraded moment in time where the values that everybody who came before us fought and died for are all being tromped upon,” Ron Perlman said. “For no good end except power and greed.”

“I like to think of myself as the king of streaming,” joked Paul Reiser, who had shows on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu this fall. “And then I still need my son to show me how to watch these things. But the point is, I am the king.”

"Now people have to cobble together a career or a salary through four jobs where one job used to pay," Nick Kroll said of the modern economics of being a comedian. "But the reality means there’s a lot more people working and making a living doing the thing they’ve always wanted.”

“I’m fascinated by writers," said Kyra Sedgwick, who played one on "Ten Days in the Valley." "They’re such weird creatures!”

"In this day and age and this show, our goal is to never just brutalize people and leave them brutalized," "This Is Us" creator Dan Fogelman said of his emotional drama. "It may happen in an episode from week to week, but it’s not our long-term plan. Our belief is even in tragedy, despair, loss, there’s a way to come through it."

“It’s kind of a nutso world right now,” said "The Opposition" host Jordan Klepper. “Everybody is fighting. All we know right now is that we’re angry. Even when the country seems to be agreeing on something what the news becomes is how angry everybody is on the agreement. Boy, this is only going to get more tumultuous and you can feel more addicted to this news cycle right now. It can get pretty overwhelming.”

“I’ve had a number of people murdered in my family and I know the pain of it,” said Robert F. Kennedy, who is adapting a TV project based on his cousin, whom he believes was wrongfully convicted of murder.

“Distractions will be the new norm,” said CBS marketing president George Schweitzer. “We just have to live within this world. This is survival of the fittest in the entertainment marketing business. Everyone’s competing for leisure time attention. Bring it on."

 “I wanted to make sure we weren’t ‘Slapsgiving’ it,” "You're The Worst" creator Stephen Falk said, explaining why he didn't produce a "Sunday Funday" episode this season/ “We were getting to the point where it felt a little stunty. We said we were going to make it the last one and we did. I think it’s easy money now that if we get a Season 5 that, like Freddy or Jason, there will be a new beginning.”

“It’s so slow,” "Young Sheldon" executive producer Chuck Lorre lamented about the difference in producing a single-camera show. “A dinner scene where the family is sitting around the table having dinner, that’s maybe four pages long. It takes as long as it takes us to shoot an entire episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ in front of an audience. It’s unbelievably, torturously slow. When the camera moves from one place to another, you start thinking about alternate lifestyles for yourself, and maybe I should pick up a hobby… I’m brand new, and still learning about this.”

“I truly believe at some point everything will be the way it’s supposed to be," Faith Evans said when asked whether she thinks the mystery of her husband Notorious B.I.G.'s murder will ever be solved. "If it’s not meant for the LAPD to finally resolve this and say this is what happened, then it’s not meant to be. All we can do is pray that one day they do.”

“Our show is the voice of the 21st century,” RuPaul said of his Emmy-winning "RuPaul's Drag Race." “What’s happening politically in our country is people trying to hold on to the 20th century. The kids who watch our show are future forward thinkers.”

"I always try to get some time with Jessica Walter, who plays Lucille Bluth, because right when she starts saying Buster’s name in her passive aggressive degrading tone, it’s just like a Pavlovian response,” "Arrested Development" star Tony Hale said about getting back into character years later.

“Nobody wants to see me get naked and say bad words,” Kellie Martin said of playing a straight-laced character on "The Guest Book." “People feel like they know me in a strange way, like they grew up with me or they went to high school with me!”

“There isn’t a Plan B for that,” PBS president/CEO Paula Kerger warned if public broadcasting is defunded.

"Lock him up!" Matt Groening led the crowd at Comic-Con in a chant during "The Simpsons" panel.

“I’ve told everybody since the show ended, I’ve been on the record saying I have every desire and intention to make a ‘Chuck’ movie," said star Zachary Levi. "I just got to wait on the right time for it. I do believe whole-heartedly there will be a day when it happens.”

“He has a standing ‘yes’ no matter what when he calls,” Danny Trejo said of his relationship with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. 

“I come from knowing my lines and the perfect scene, and none of those tools worked in the ‘Black Market’ world," Michael K. Williams said of hosting the Vice channel docuseries. "I had to let go of all of that and be Mike. Mike is not the most educated person in the world. When I let that go, that fear of looking ignorant in this world, I got to learn.”

“The language is horrendous, but it’s not as damaging as watching a terrible Disney show,” Matt Walsh said of when he'll introduce his kids to "Veep."

“Ultimately the network’s largest fears won out and they decided not to air it,” Jerrod Carmichael said of NBC's decision to pre-empt an episode of "The Carmichael Show" about a shooting.

“In this day and age of opposition research, we have to be buttoned up and squeaky clean," said Vice boss Shane Smith. "At some point there has to be a backlash. Everyone goes after everybody. It becomes mud slinging.”

“People are worried that she’s going to die, but just as worried that if she’s there, how corrupt is she?” "Better Call Saul" star Rhea Seehorn said of fan theories about her character Kim’s fate.

“I watch it and think, if Hillary [Clinton] were president, this would be a very entertaining and intelligent show,” writer Julie Plec said of "The Handmaid's Tale." “Donald Trump is president, and I want to vomit. It’s so harrowing in the context of the reality we live in. The speculative fiction feels so presently of today in a way that it absolutely wouldn’t have if Hillary were president.”

“What Kathy Griffin did, whether you like it or not, is a piece of political art,” said Javier Grillo-Marxuach (“The Middleman,” Netflix’s upcoming “The Dark Crystal”). “For politically conscious art it was fairly mercenary and kind of banal but she did it, and we have to defend her right to do that. Or we will not be able to do much more milk-toast crap that is much less defensive than what she did.”

"The President of the United States has not lost his job for committing numerous crimes, and admitting to having sexually assaulted women,” said "House of Cards" creator Beau Willimon in June. “The double standard is that the person who bears the most responsibility, the leader of the free world, should be held to the highest standard and that seems to be the only person not losing his job!”

"When Trump got elected, almost all of the ideas that Mark and I had immediately dropped off the table,” Jay Duplass told IndieWire at a SAG-AFTRA Foundation panel. “We were like, ‘everything has changed.’ Humor has changed. Impulse has changed.”

Margo Martindale, who plays the Russian handler, Claudia, on "The Americans," has a specific request for her character before the show ends: “I want to slit one more person’s throat!”

"The Bachelorette" Rachel Lindsay on why she ignores commenters on social media: “I don’t care. I don’t know you!”

"American Gods" co-creator Bryan Fuller on how actor Mousa Kraish, who plays the Arabic god Jinn, wound up with a rather hefty prosthetic penis:  “We got on the phone and said, our intention was to do a beautiful love scene between two men, and he was like, ‘OK, as long as its not exploitational, and as long as you give me a beautiful cock.’ The funny part was somehow the visual effects guy got it in his head that it’s an 11-inch cock… We sent this 11-inch cock to Mousa with a note – ‘How’s it hanging?’ – expecting him to be like, ‘Jesus Christ!’ But his only response was, ‘It looks good, but should be darker!'”

Ron Howard on why it took "Genius" for him to finally direct for TV: “Nothing came along that I thought I could really lend myself to and make a difference.”

“I had written off network TV,” Jenna Elfman said. “I told my agents not to come to me with another network show. I work really hard and I do my best to promote the shows. I feel like mostly I do a good job. In any other field that would give you job security. Sometimes it’s like it doesn’t matter.”
“It’s one thing to be an idiot and not know what you’re talking about,” Chelsea Handler said of her right, as a celebrity, to discuss politics. “But if you’re informed and have an opinion, why would I not talk about politics?”

“There are moments where it’s genuine disbelief,” Trevor Noah said of his incredulousness over the past year. “I know, for all intents and purposes, hypocrisy is dead. Hypocrisy is not the tool it once was. Shame is not something you can use to smother the flame of a hypocrite anymore.”

“We piggyback on the work of real journalists,” former "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" executive producer Jo Miller said. “Sometimes we’ll fill in some gaps where there hasn’t been coverage, but we couldn’t do our work without journalists. We’re commentary and point of view, but we’re not a newsroom.”

Dan Harmon on the delays in getting a third season of "Rick and Morty" on the air: “If Justin were here he’d agree. He and I would go, ‘Yeah, we fucked up,’ and it’s hard to put your finger on how we fucked up. ‘Rick and Morty’ keeps taking longer and longer to write, and I don’t know why.”

Bryan Tyree Henry, on how he bonded with pal Sterling K. Brown by borrowing his shaver: “He went and got clippers, and we’ve been best friends ever since. Once you shave a guy’s face, man, you’re best friends after that.” 

Friday, December 29, 2017

What We Lost in 2017: Cellino & Barnes, Trader Joe's Corn Dogs, LAist And More

When Elon Musk's SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket at sunset last week, half of Los Angeles wondered whether a UFO had finally made contact. After the events of 2017, I, for one, welcome our new alien overlords.

Turns out the creatures from outer space haven't arrived to save us from ourselves just yet. That leaves us to have to try and once again do better in 2018.

Looking back at this year, there was some reason to be hopeful — particularly as voices were heard and amplified as countless instances of serial sexual harassers and cases of assault were finally exposed.

But we also lost a lot in 2017, including superstars like Tom Petty, Mary Tyler Moore, Chris Cornell and even Judge Wapner.

Some of what we lost we won't miss (remember that tone-deaf Kylie Jenner Pepsi commercial?) and some of what we lost we really won't miss (ahem, "The O'Reilly Factor," ahem). But here are a few more things we said goodbye to in 2017:

10. Cellino and Barnes 
Yeah, Selena Gomez and The Weeknd was big, Fergie and Josh Duhamel was sad, Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor was unexpected, and Chris Pratt and Anna Faris was heartbreaking. (Let's not discuss Kylie Jenner and Tyga or Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian.) But the most stunning breakup of the year had to be the ugly split between ambulance chasing attorneys Cellino and Barnes. You know their mad catchy jingle, the staple of daytime TV across the country. Ross Cellino and Stephen Barnes hate each other so much now, they're tossing grenades at each other while launching separate, rival firms. Who gets the jingle? Apparently Barnes spent nearly $1 million to recraft the song with his new phone number.

9. Wet Seal 
The "retail apocalypse" continues. As someone who spent a great deal of time at shopping malls as a teenager in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it's quite sad -- and yet fascinating -- to see the collapse of something that once defined the retail experience. (I still remember Wet Seal as the store with the big video screens blaring freestyle music videos by Seduction and Stevie B as teens shopped.) Also in 2017, The Limited closed its doors, American Apparel shut all of its retail locations, Radio Shack is mostly out of business, Teavana announced it was closing all of its stores, and even retail giants Sears, JCPenney and Macy's shut down hundreds of stores. Also in 2017, Toys 'R' Us, Gymboree and Payless ShoeSource were among the companies filing for bankruptcy — which means the retail apocalypse will likely consume many more major companies in 2018.

8. Cloo, Esquire, Chiller, Seeso
NBC Universal continued streamlining its entertainment offerings in 2017, eliminating some of its smaller cable networks, including crime drama channel Cloo, the young male-oriented Esquire, and horror channel Chiller. Cloo was the successor to Trio, a channel still fondly remembered for its scrappy pop culture programming (including franchises like “Brilliant But Canceled”), while Esquire replaced Style Network's channel slot (and G4's programming mandate) as an attempt to reach upscale male audiences, and Chiller began life in 2007 but was never a major cable player. Several channels have shut down over the past year as the cable industry prepares for an uncertain future in the wake of so-called “skinny bundles” (cable packages with fewer channels) and the growth of cord-cutting. But the rise of over-the-top platforms has already gone through a shakeup of its own, as witnessed by the decision to shut down comedy service Seeso so soon after launch. The comedy streaming platform pitched itself as a home for “Saturday Night Live” episodes as well as originals like “Take My Wife,” “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$” and “HarmonQuest,” but after it failed to find much traction, NBCUniversal pumped the brakes on original content.

7. 140 characters 
We didn't ask for 280 characters. We didn't need it. Twitter, fix youself.

6. San Diego Chargers
Speaking of what we didn't need, Los Angeles went 21 years without an NFL team, and suddenly it has two. The return of the Los Angeles Rams in 2016 made a lot of sense, as that team still had fans in Los Angeles and an emotional attachment to the market, having been here from 1946 to 1994. Still, the Rams had a bumpy first season back in L.A. (it's been a different story this year), making the arrival of the Chargers all the more perplexing. In a city with many more Oakland Raiders fans, and transplants rooting for their old hometown teams, the Chargers are now more like the fourth NFL team in Los Angeles.

5. Popular Photography, Surfing, Self, Teen Vogue, Nylon
Of course, even bigger than the retail apocalypse is the continuing slow death of the media. In 2018, we'll be discussing the disappearance of the Time Inc. and Tribune Media labels, as both disappear for good (unless Tronc comes to its senses and grabs back its rightful claim to the Tribune name). In 2017, we said farewell to several major titles — perhaps, most notably Teen Vogue, a more recent title that has made a name for itself in covering politics and social issues.

4. "The Carmichael Show"
Plenty of shows ended their runs in 2017, including faves "The Leftovers" and "Orphan Black." But at least those shows got to tell the endings they wanted to tell. There was no bigger TV tragedy than the end of NBC's "The Carmichael Show," a comedy that received plenty of critical acclaim but never turned into the hit it should have been. Despite being on the air for three seasons, "Carmichael" only produced 32 episodes. And the show never even aired in the fall, having been relegated to the summer in 2015 and 2017, and late spring in 2016. Could it have thrived with more care? Unfortunately, we'll never know, but at least Jerrod Carmichael had the chance to craft the right comedy at the right time, and provide a platform for performers who have already gone on to big things — including Tiffany Haddish and Lil Rel Howery.

3. Trader Joe's Veggie Corn Dogs
How dare you, Trader Joe's. I'm not vegetarian, but these were better than any regular corn dogs (including the disappointing Trader Joe's turkey corn dogs, which are rubbery in comparison). On the go, the TJ veggie corn dog was the perfect lunch meal. Then, like so many great TJ products, they just disappeared one day without any explanation. This one hurt.

2. Gothamist/DNAinfo/LAist
In a depressing, shrinking media world where local news has been hit hardest, sites like DNAinfo and the Gothamist chain (including LAist in Los Angeles) were more important than ever. As the alternative press shrinks, these sites picked up the slack and covered stories that other outlets were also struggling to handle, given smaller staffs and budgets at even major newspapers across the country. That all came crashing down when billionaire owner Joe Ricketts shut the sites down in November, without warning. Ricketts closed them down after the staffs of DNAinfo and Gothamist had unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East. A right-wing owner who had donated to anti-labor causes, the swiftness of Ricketts' decision to shut the sites was stunning, and left a tremendous void in local coverage.

1. Shame 
The Republicans pass a tax bill that funnels money into the pockets of millionaires and corporations, yet drags its feet to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program. Hundreds continue to die in Puerto Rico, where power won't be restored for several more months, and the administration says nothing about it. Donald Trump lies with impunity, and has golfed at least 80 times (at a cost to taxpayers at over $40 million) after having criticized President Obama for spending a fraction of that time on the course. Louis C.K. apologizes for sexual harassment but makes it all about himself. Many Republicans flocked to Roy Moore, despite the fact that he's a pedophile, choosing party over country. Moore lost, but still won't concede. Kellyanne Conway made up the fake "Bowling Green Massacre." Trump said there were "some very fine people" among the white supremacists causing violence (and an eventual death) in Charlottesville. There is no shame anymore, and hypocrisy now rules the land.

It's been a rough year, setting the stage for what should be a history-making 2018. "Looking back and looking ahead: 2017 was the Year of the Con," tweeted U.S. "House of Cards" creator Beau Willimon. "2018 will be the Year of the Turn." Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve 2017 In Los Angeles

There's no place we'd rather be on Christmas Eve than in Los Angeles — the weather's great, and we've got a whole host of traditions to celebrate the Blogger Kid's birthday.

The Blogger Kid turned 13 today. He's now... the Blogger Teen.

One of our Christmas Eve traditions: Breakfast at Square One (formerly at the Echo Park boathouse, now at their Fountain Ave. location), followed by paddle boats in Echo Park. The weather was great for an hour on the water.

Even a rainbow peered through the Echo Park fountain!

Halo Halo for lunch at Max's in Glendale

Another annual tradition: Christmas Eve mass at the Cathedral in downtown...

... followed by the final hour of the free annual Los Angeles County Holiday Celebration at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

A bonus treat at the end of this year's show: An engagement, live on stage!

A beautiful way to end the night. Hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Elon Musk, Stop Getting Our Hopes Up That The Aliens Are Coming

After the year we've had, I'm weirdly disappointed to learn that this wasn't an alien invasion. As we now know, it was a SpaceX launch out of Vandenberg AFB. But the hope was there.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Santa and Jacks: How Our Dog Met Jolly Old Saint Nick

We haven't written much here about our dog Jacks -- partly because we've been too busy to write about anything lately. But the bichon/poodle mix has been a part of our family since October 2016, which is pretty surprising given that I didn't grow up with a pet and had no interest/desire to have one now. But the Blogger boys wore me down, and when we met Jacks via a rescue service a little over a year ago, it just felt right. He was the perfect size for our tiny house, super mellow, house trained, and even hypoallergenic. How could we say no? Now, I couldn't imagine our home without him. 

Recently, our neighborhood had a Christmas carol event, and Santa was there to visit with the kids. We brought Jacks along, and Santa asked to see our little dog. They quickly bonded. I have a feeling Jacks will have a few extra treats in his stocking this year.

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