The walls inside the Tail Sticks Casting office (the official extras casting department for NBC's "Chicago P.D.") are plastered with headshots. As the NBC drama enters its third season, extras casting director Adrienne Lewis will analyze hundreds of these hopeful faces each day searching for the extra with the right look. On the rare occasion that she finds exactly what the directors are looking for, she must then ask some uncomfortable questions: "Are you comfortable being half-naked in a strip-club scene?" "Do you ride a BMX bike?" "Is your pinky broken at a 45-degree angle?" For this extras casting director, there is no such thing as a realistic expectation. (Season 3 of "Chicago P.D." premieres Wednesday, Sept. 30.)
Is it difficult to find extras for "Chicago P.D."?
It's not very difficult finding extras. The difficulty is finding the number of extras that we need sometimes. Like 40, 50, 60, 70 -- even 100 extras -- it's fairly doable. It's when we need like 500 extras and are searching for really specific things like, "we need an extra that looks like the guy from the Dos Equis commercial" and really really weird, specific things like that is when it gets really hard. We've had two shoots now where we've had to find two African-American kids that were not minors, that were 18, but looked younger, who also had BMX bikes. We didn't find those kids. We found a different version of what they wanted. Or having girls who are comfortable being half-clothed on national television for everyone to see in a room full of 100 men -- that can be a little bit difficult.
The producers of "Check, Please!" are launching a new half-hour series about Chicago, focusing on local residents and lesser known locales. Hosted by The Interview Show's Mark Bazer and WBEZ journalist Odette Yousef, "My Chicago" premieres this Friday at 8:30pm.
"We interview people at a place that has significance to them," Bazer says, "their workplace or home, or someplace they hang out a lot, and then drive around with that person in their neighborhood. Sometimes we pick up a second person who sits in the back seat -- for example we interviewed (Chicago comic and Vocalo personality) Brian Babylon, and during the segment we picked up Peter Sagal (host of 'Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!') Having a second person provides an interplay between the two."
"Having a second person changes the interplay of the conversation," Yousef adds.
By now most of you have heard of web series, for those of you that have not, it is simply a series of video content posted and obtained online. The most popular, and probably most recognizable, of these today is arguably "House of Cards." Mind you, "House of Cards" is not what I would consider typical, or most common, when thinking about web series. Most web series that are being produced today are independent, made by people that want to tell a story or be a part of the entertainment or film/video world but do not feel it is accessible from where they are, so like all great producers they just get out there and make it happen.
YouTube, Blip and Vimeo have given video creators a platform for distributing their footage. Today I want to focus on five web series being produced in Chicago.
Comedian Robin Harris made you laugh -- uproariously -- whenever he touched a microphone. His unapologetic "blue collar" comedic style, comprised of an effortless and expert blend of "signifying" and anecdotes, turned him into a household name.
Harris, a native of Chicago's South Side, put in major work in comedy clubs across the country, eventually landing in L.A.'s famed Comedy Store; however, it wasn't until 1985 when he became the house emcee for the Comedy Act Theater that people really began to take notice.
Andrea "Drea" Kelly is vivacious, witty, and loaded with artistic talent; as owner of the Andrea Kelly Dance Theater, the Chicago native has emerged, in her own way, from the shadows of her famous ex-husband, R&B superstar, R. Kelly. And now, as part of the ensemble cast of VH1's hit show, "Hollywood Exes," the scene-stealing Kelly has definitely made her mark in the world of reality television.
Having been involved with the entertainment industry for years as principal choreographer and dancer for R. Kelly's award show appearances, music videos, etc., not only has Kelly long been aware of public personas and images, she certainly recognizes the stigma attached to reality TV stars. "If you act a fool, honey, they're gonna edit a fool," she said. Recently, I spoke with Kelly about her love of dance, what fans can expect from the show's second season, and what makes "Hollywood Exes" stand out from its reality television counterparts.
Through his writing, commentary, and appearances in clips on "Conan," comedian Deon Cole, using his unique brand of humor, hilariously offers his views on subject matter that has included everything from political pandering to hurricane hardships. But for this native South Sider, sometimes, both comedy--and life--are more than just about the laughs. "I like to be in an environment that I can learn from," said Cole. "I hate when I'm the smartest person in the room because then I can't learn." Now, viewers can see even more of Cole and his perspectives in his new pop culture-themed television series, "Deon's Cole Black Box," premiering Monday, June 10 on TBS. Here, the two-time Emmy-nominee talks about creating the show, viral videos and fame in the digital age.
PBS' current "Masterpiece Classic" series is set a century ago in London but has a strong Chicago connection. "Mr. Selfridge" is an eight-part series about the founder and founding of Selfridge & Co. in London. The program can be seen at 8pm Sundays on Channel 11, Chicago. PBS streams the series too, so you can catch up with most of the past episodes.
Harry Gordon Selfridge, played by Chicago actor Jeremy Piven, was born and raised in Wisconsin. He came to Chicago in 1879 and worked for Field, Leiter & Co., became a director of Marshall Field and later manager of the State Street store. He sold his interest in Field's in early 1904, bought the firm Schlesinger & Mayer (including the famous store building at State and Madison designed by Louis Sullivan) and renamed it H.G. Selfridge & Co. Selfridge sold that business to Carson, Pirie, Scott by the end of that year.
Fawzia Mirza's hilarious web series "Kam Kardashian," which follows the daily adventures of the long-lost gay Kardashian sister Kam, is having a huge season two launch party this Sunday in association with the monthly Chicago queer event "T Party" at Studio Paris in River North. If you want to party like a Kardashian with some of the funniest and most successful people in Chicago, Studio Paris on Sunday is definitely the place to be. I had a chance to talk to Mirza, the creator and star of "Kam Kardashian" and director Ryan Logan , about their incredible project as it launches into its second season, and why you can't afford to miss the upcoming sexy fun Kardashian party this weekend.
What are you most excited for about the Season 2 launch party? Logan: We're excited to launch our season at the T Party at Studio Paris because it's a place where everyone can have fun, celebrate in style and party like a Kardashian but in a queer-friendly environment. And I am always eager to bring different communities together: queer, comedy, theatre, film.
For African-American celebrities, the long-running joke has always been, "You haven't really made it until you're on the cover of Ebony or Jet; and when it comes to television, the same is also true about "Soul Train."
When it comes to live shows, however, a whole other stage marked the pinnacle of one's career--the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
Well, this looks like as much of a train wreck as everyone expected. The trailer for "Mob Wives Chicago," the local spinoff of VH1's popular New Jersey-based reality show, has been released, giving viewers an introduction to the women involved. The cast includes Nora Schweihs, daughter of feared hitman Frank "The German" Schweihs; Renee Fecarotta Russo, niece of hitman "Big John" Fecarotta; Pia Rizza, daughter of a dirty cop turned informant; Christina Scoleri, daughter of a mob fence and thief; and Leah Desimone, daughter of alleged Outfit "associate" Wolf Desimone. As the Beachwood Reporter notes, the connections to the Outfit get pretty thin toward the bottom of the lineup.
"Animal Furnace," Chicago-born standup comedian Hannibal Buress' first comedy special, debuts on Comedy Central this Sunday, May 20 at 10pm. According to the press release,
[Buress] brings his celebrated deadpan wit to life's absurdities with stories of his three-cop jaywalking bust in Montreal, a bloodless airport shoot-out, and various late nights with questionable women. In front of a live audience at the Gramercy Theatre in New York, Buress re-imagines hardcore rappers as real estate agents, skewers grown men who can't hold their liquor, and, as an enterprising reporter actually wrote, performs "comedic jokes related to personal stories, current events, the streets, and even food."
An unrated DVD will be released on Tuesday, May 22. The DVD includes a short documentary, "A Week To Kill," which follows Buress around New York and Chicago the week before the show taping.
Chicago native Da Brat has always been known for her tomboyish appearance, sporting everything over the years from oversized t-shirts to baggy jeans to baseball caps to bandanas; with the exception of a few music videos, magazine spreads and awards show appearances during her heyday, the rapper has always been more than reluctant to show--or embrace--her girly side.
Working to craft a new look in an effort to restore her self-esteem and help get her career back on track in the fiercely competitive hip-hop industry, celebrity fashion stylist June Ambrose gives the rapper a complete style makeover in her VH1 reality series, "Styled by June." In the half-hour episode, which airs tonight at 8:30pm, it becomes obvious early on that Da Brat is one of Ambrose's more challenging clients. Click below for a sneak peek:
Barbara Bates is "taking her talents" to Los Angeles; a fashion industry staple for 25 years, this Chicago-based designer will compete against 13 other designers in the new reality series "Fashion Star," hosted by Elle Macpherson, premiering March 13 on NBC. Here, Bates talks about fashion, her newfound love for reality shows, and how she wouldn't mind joining the ranks of another Chicago-born former reality show star.
You're a self-taught designer--when did you know you had a talent for designing? Was it a particular piece you created or did someone tell you that you were good?
I can't really say there was I time when I said, "Hey, I got it goin' on." Even though I've been doing this for 25 years, everyday is a new day and something new comes along. I'm never that confident; I mean, I love when people buy from and shop with me--that's like the best compliment ever--but I always know how life can take a turn. I'm always humble, so I can't say there was never a moment.
The ride from Chicago to Los Angeles is indeed a long one, but for the very determined "conductor" of one particular "train," it was a ride that was definitely worth taking.
Don Cornelius, 75, "Soul Train's" creator and founder, was pronounced dead yesterday in Los Angeles, sending shockwaves through the entertainment community; for many, this legendary TV icon epitomized what the culture of soul music was all about.
Cornelius, a Chicago native, created "Soul Train" to provide a platform for African-American singers and performers who weren't booked on mainstream programs. The nationally-syndicated show, which ran for 35 years, began in Chicago and later moved to California, and featured the latest trends in the world of fashion, music and of course, dance.
To celebrate the legacy of Don Cornelius, WCIU, which aired the original "Soul Train" at its former Chicago Board of Trade studios, will simulcast "Bounce TV Remembers Don Cornelius," this Saturday at 6pm. Hosted by Chilli of the 90s R&B trio TLC, the marathon's episodes will feature R&B/Soul music stars such as The Commodores, Kool and the Gang and Gladys Knight and the Pips; in addition, Cornelius' last show as host in 1993 will be aired.
For a full list of Chicago's WCIU broadcast channels, click here.
The Second City has a deep vault of material shot over the years that they've posted on YouTube -- including a special made-for-TV show called "The Second City's 149½th Edition" made for A&E. The 48-minute show featured a young Steve Carrell and Jackie Hoffman; Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris were among the writers. It's hard to tell whether it ever aired, but it was available on VHS from A&E Home Video. Watch the whole thing, sans commercials, here:
The annual VH1 DIVAS specials are the ultimate showcase of superstar songstresses from the world of pop, rock and R&B -- and this year, Chicago will be represented in a major way.
In "VH1 DIVAS Celebrates Soul," soul/R&B music will honored for its influence "on the 21st century's music and pop culture landscape" with performances by three of Chicago's own: the legendary Mavis Staples, "Queen of Funk" Chaka Khan and Academy and Grammy award winner, Jennifer Hudson, who, coincidentally, were also honored here in the city last week via Deeply Rooted Dance Theater's Chicago Women of Song. Additional performers on this year's line-up include Kelly Clarkson, Estelle, Mary J. Blige and Florence + the Machine.
Charming Chicago-area officer Drew Peterson (Lowe) seemed virtually "untouchable" in more ways than one when it came to his womanizing ways, having been married three times before landing the eye and affection of Stacy Cales (Kaley Cuoco, The Big Bang Theory), a woman half his age. As Peterson's relationship with Stacy blossoms, his relationship with third wife Kathleen Savio (Cara Buono, Mad Men) unravels in a bitter divorce -- until Kathleen is inexplicably found dead in an empty bathtub. Soon after making Stacy his fourth wife and having their first child, Peterson's jealousy and controlling ways begin to strain their marriage. Suddenly Stacy disappears, leaving her two children, and Peterson's older children behind. Peterson insists that Stacy left him for another man but in the wake of her disappearance, new questions are raised about Kathleen's death and her case is re-opened, drawing national media attention to Peterson and the strange cases of Kathleen and Stacy. Peterson seems to bask in the media attention, professing his innocence and announcing his engagement to yet another younger woman. But when authorities take a closer look at the circumstances surrounding both cases, a different kind of spotlight is placed on him as more questions arise. Are Kathleen's death and Stacy's still-unknown whereabouts just a tragic coincidence? Or is there more there than meets the eye?
Peterson remains in jail awaiting trial for the alleged murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, who was found drowned in a bathtub in 2004. The death was originally ruled accidental, but the case was reopened after the disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, in 2007.
For Children, By Children (FCBC), a Chicago-based youth theater and performing troupe, will honor Michael Jackson and his iconic "Thriller" video in a Halloween performance tomorrow on "Windy City Live." FCBC, known across the city for its amazing and entertaining tributes to the late pop legend, also performed at the City of Chicago's annual "Chicagoween" festival over the weekend.
Chicago's Deon Cole, part of the Emmy-nominated writing staff at "Conan," is interviewed in a recent clip on "CNN Comedy"; in this funny feature, the comedian tells how he first hooked up with Conan O'Brien, being the staff's only black writer and how O'Brien uses his guitar to let his writers know if their joke and sketch pitches are a hit or a miss.
It's hard to think of the cheesy, goofy Three's Company as groundbreaking television, but when it comes to cast changes, the show went where no sitcom had gone before. Everyone knows the three roommates were Jack, Janet, and Chrissy. But when Suzanne Somers left the show after a now-infamous salary dispute, Three's Company went on without a Chrissy...for four entire seasons.
First, Chrissy's cousin Cindy took her place for most of season five. Then Terri, the sexy nurse, stepped in for seasons 6-8. And of course, when new landlord Mr. Furley (played by Don Knotts) replaced the warring Mr. and Mrs. Roper, he carried on the misconception that Jack was gay -- otherwise, his living with two ladies would be scandalous! Nowadays, the idea of one guy and two girls as roommates seems like no biggie...maybe Three's Company was groundbreaking television after all.
When everything changes on one of TV's most popular shows, it can be pretty harrowing.
That's what happened when Shelley Long left Cheers, putting an abrupt end to the show's primary continuous plotline -- Diane and Sam's tumultuous romance. Rather than create a Diane Redux, the show's producers introduced the sweeter, much less self-assured Rebecca (Kirstie Alley). Most of the show's old fans were won over, and some hold-outs who were turned off by the haughty Diane became Cheers converts.
When it comes to cast changes, it doesn't get ballsier than just replacing an actor and acting like nothing happened. That's what went down on Bewitched when Dick York, who played Samantha's husband Darrin, was in poor health and replaced by Dick Sargent as...Samantha's husband Darrin. In the immortal words of Wayne Campbell, "Shyeah, right, as if we wouldn't notice! Oh hold on: Dick York, Dick Sargent, Sergeant York... Wow, that's weird."
The saga of Becky, the slightly dopey eldest child of Dan and Roseanne Conner, Becky was played by Evanston-born Lecy Goranson until season five, when Goranson left the show to go to college. She was replaced by Sarah Chalke, now of Scrubs fame, until season eight, when Goranson returned.
Except when she didn't. Sometimes, if Goranson wasn't available, Chalke would fill in. The Becky-Switching was a kind of running joke on the show, until producers decided to keep going for a ninth season, Chalke returned full-time, and the self-referential casting jokes stopped.
Ah, now for a cast-change drama that's still playing itself out! When Steve Carrell's contract expired during last season (the seventh for the US version), he decided to part ways with the popular NBC show. An Office without Michael is difficult to fathom, but Will Ferrell's run as interim branch manager helped soothe the break. Whether or not a Michael-free Office will make any sense -- and, in fact, who the new boss will be -- remains to be seen. The show's 8th season premieres on September 22.
As silly and campy as it was, That '70s Show had a way of just making you feel good. But the show also stands as a classic example of a sitcom outliving its stars. By the final season, Topher Grace, who played Eric Forman, had decided to move on.
It's hard enough to keep on trucking without your main character, but fan favorite Kelso (Ashton Kutcher, whose upcoming role on Two and a Half Men inspired this countdown) was also missing from the final season. In their place came the uninspiring Randy (Josh Meyers) and a slew of changes to keep things remotely plausible. The gang could still hang out in the Formans' basement, because Steven lived there with his new stripper wife, Samantha. But the action could also take place at Grooves, the record store where Hyde and Randy worked, or at Fez and Jackie's new apartment. With all that excitement, who needs a central character!
Do you remember The Hogan Family? These days, the late-'80s sitcom is notable primarily as the first starring role for a teenage Jason Bateman (he played the oldest brother, David). You might also remember that it was set in Oak Park. But today we're focusing on another highly notable facet of the program: one historic casting change.
When launched in 1986, its title was Valerie, and it was intended as a vehicle for its star, Valerie Harper. What's that you say? Valerie Harper wasn't on The Hogan Family? Well, you're right, sort of. Valerie was fired from the show just two seasons in, after sternly objecting to plans to shift the show's tone and focus. Matriarch and prior focal point Valerie was "killed off" in a car accident, and the show was now about the rest of her family-- her three sons, her pilot husband, and now her husband's sister. Sandy Duncan was brought in as Aunt Sandy, and the show went on, awkwardly at first, as Valerie's Family: The Hogans (logical enough: the old show was about Valerie, now this new show was about her family). Aunt Sandy and the gang would carry the show through 1991, accounting for four of the show's six seasons.
Meanwhile, Harper was suing producers for breach of contract, a case she eventually won, and before long those same producers decided "Valerie" should be eradicated from the title, too. In 1988, it became The Hogan Family we know and love. Or at least know. Unless this is the first you've heard of it. In which case, tune in next time for a more familiar #6 in our Sitcom Cast change Countdown.
In TV and movies, sometimes cast changes leave the realm of fussy babies and moody stars and enter the territory of the tragic. When an actor dies unexpectedly, a sitcom's producers have some big decisions to make: do they go on with him, or do they fill his spot with a replacement character (and a replacement actor)? Is it more respectful to the actor's memory if the character he plays dies as well, or does it make more sense to have him be on some kind of permanent vacation?
The sitcom world has had two "sudden death" cast changes in the past few decades. Both situations were handled relatively well, but neither resulted in a long second-life for their respective shows. In 1998, the tragic and bizarre murder of Phil Hartmann caused national shock. It also left his sitcom, NewsRadio, with a barely-won fifth season to totally retool. The show elegantly chose Hartman's fellow SNL (and Groundlings) alum Jon Lovitz, as Max Louis. Hartman's character, Bill, was said to have died of a heart attack. Lovitz, like Hartman, was just one of an ensemble cast on NewsRadio, but it's the loss of Hartman's Bill may have been the final death knell for the show, which lasted only one more season.
A similar scene played out in 2003, when John Ritter died suddenly of a heart complication. One big difference: RItter had been the star of his show, 8 Simple Rules. Ritter's character, Paul Hennessy, was the patriarch of both his program and his TV family. Upon Ritter's death, the producers decided his character had died in a similar manner. Katey Sagal, who played Mrs. Hennessey, became the show's star. In a star-for-star move similar to NewsRadio's, James Garner and David Spade were brought in as relatives (grandpa and an adult nephew, respectively). Needless to say, this changed the nature of the show quite a bit. It lasted two more seasons, for a total of three.
All things considered, the loss of two actors, particularly those as precious as Hartman and Ritter, goes far beyond the downfall of a hundred NewsRadios. But a change had to be made, and that's what we're documenting here.
Check in Thursday for #7. It will be a little more upbeat, I promise.
"Soul Train," the syndicated dance show that for over 30 years was considered Saturday morning "must-see TV," pulled into Chicago in a huge way to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Through photography exhibits, film screenings and other events over the summer, the celebration culminated in a free Labor Day concert last night in Millennium Park.
Of course, the show is mostly known for being in Los Angeles; however, lifelong Chicagoans know about "Soul Train's" humble beginnings when it debuted on WCIU-Channel 26 in 1970 with its "conductor," Chicago's own Don Cornelius. Although the show is no longer on the air, except for occasional episodes on some cable stations, there is no denying its indelible impact on American culture.
Did it ever bother you that on Friends Ross's son Ben seemed to change ages and faces from season to season? First he was a baby, then he was played by little twin toddlers, and for the last few seasons, he was played by the too-old Cole Sprouse, back when he was known as half of the cute kid from Big Daddy (instead of one of the creepy twins from Suite Life and freaky GoGurt commercials).
Well, this kid-switching happens all the time in the world of sitcoms. And sometimes, all rules of time and space are ignored. One season, a baby is born, and the next season, a cute little toddler has miraculously taken his or her place. For the producers, it's a win-win: they get all the drama of a birth episode, get to skip the inconvenience and expense of having a baby in the cast, and then revel in all the refreshing cuteness of a precocious youngster. And all it costs them is a WTF moment from their adoring fans, along with a certain amount of our trust and goodwill - after all, we thought these people were supposed to be, like, real!
Unsurprisingly, shows that pull this drastic maneuver are sometimes trying to rejuvenate a cast of kids past their prime, or refresh the plot possibilities of a long-running program reaching a lull. Family Ties' baby, Andrew, was born in Season 3 and somehow started preschool in the premiere episode of Season 5, less than two years later. Baby Einstein indeed! Some genius producers recognized that the show was going to outlive Tina Yothers' girlish cuteness. On Growing Pains, fourth child Chrissy (born at the start of Season 3) was aged into a 6-year-old just as the old cutie-pie Ben became the tallest member of the cast (Ashley Johnson debuted as the older Chrissy in the premiere of Season 6, about the time the character should have been turning three).
So, is it even possible to have a baby on a show and let him age as normal? Case and point: I Love Lucy. Little Ricky's "birth" in 1953 was watched by an estimated 44 million people, and the attention-grabbing baby managed to mature at a relatively normal speed. That said, there were a few cast changes involved, and the actor we associate with the character (Keith Thibodeaux) was actually born in 1950. But come on, guys. It still counts.
By now, the big TV news has had time to sink in. The drama surrounding Charlie Sheen's real life has faded, but a little fading is nothing compared to his parody life on Two and a Half Men. The world has officially learned that Sheen's fictional counterpart, Charlie Harper, is dead, or will be come this fall. The show will go on without him, however, when a web mogul names Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher, of course) buys Harper's house. Sounds pretty crazy, right? Maybe so, but it's hardly the first time in sitcom history that a popular character has been replaced.
As Fall premiere season nears, let's take a look through the annals of primetime and countdown ten of the biggest cast adjustments in the world of sitcoms.
#10 Saved by the Bell This may be one of the least important cast change stories in the history of the sitcom, but it still frustrates me to even think about it. When Tori, the butch (but purportedly straight) motorcycle chick, rides into Bayside, she seems like a fun-enough addition to the gang. But wait, something's wrong...where are Kelly and Jessie? They aren't there! And fun though she may be, Tori is no substitute for the two leading Lady Tigers.
The explanation? NBC ordered more episodes for the final season od the show, and Elizabeth Berkley and Tiffani Thiessen didn't sign on. They'd already taped a final season, including a graduation episode, so the Tori senior year episodes, taped later, were aired interspersed with the Jessie and Kelly senior year episodes. And when Jessie and Kelly are gone, no one mentions them. It's surreal. And annoying.
This Friday, head back here to find out what big sitcom cast change clocks in at #9.
Good TV fans know there are shows to get excited about, shows whose return dates get marked on the calendar. Perhaps you've already shed tears over the fact that Mad Men isn't set to return until 2012; maybe you're already counting the days until Modern Family and Community come out of summer reruns.
Comfort ye, my television-loving people. These days, summer marks the return of some great programming, including some shows you might not have made room for on your DVR during the heady days of fall primetime. Here are a few I'm most excited about, including one that premieres tonight:
June 7, 8PM Central, USA White Collar
The bromance at the center of this USA crime show is truly something special. Yeah, it's between an FBI agent and his favorite con, who just happens to be one of the world's foremost white-collar criminals, but somehow it stays believable. Witty, breezy summer fun with a touch of glitz.
June 14, 8PM Central, TNT Memphis Beat
It stars Jason Lee as cop by day, local country music star by night. Enough said.
Official announcements about show renewals are in from the major networks, and the horde of programs set in Chicago has suffered some major blows. Fox's The Chicago Code and Traffic Light have both officially been cancelled. A drama shot in here in Chicago and a comedy shot in LA, respectively, the two shows shared a Chicago setting in common... and little else. But they were both relatively strong programs, and it's sad to see them go. Loss of The Chicago Code will be doubly felt by Chicago actors (and other television workers), who were provided work opportunities by the high-profile show's presence in the city.
All this cancellation news aside, the official count of Chicago-set programming remains the same. Add to the count ABC's late-season addition Happy Endings, whose ensemble includes SNL alum Casey Wilson. The romantic-sitcomedy is set here, though it doesn't draw a ton of attention to that fact. And have you seen the commercials for NBC's new Mad Man-esque drama, The Playboy Club? It documents the early days of Hugh Hefner's sexy, controversial Walton Street nightclub. The show was shot here back in March, and is set to be back for more this summer. That makes things a little better, right?
I guess it could be worse. A lot worse. A regular visitor to American Idol's "bottom three" stools, the soulful, raspy-voiced Haley Reinhart (of Wheeling, IL) came close to being voted off the show week after week, and was perhaps as surprised as anyone to find herself in this Wednesday's "Final Three" battle, up against countrified teenagers Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery. But third place was as far as Haley would make it. Despite an evening of three gutsy, exciting performances (my favorite was her rendition of Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be," with her dad wailing on guitar), Haley was voted off of Idol's 10th season last night.
In a season marked by an astonishing level of talent, surprising early exits (Pia! Casey! Jacob!), and strange, inconsistent criticism from the new Simon-free judging panel, it was never easy to predict who'd be going home on Thursday night. Personally, I was rooting for a Haley/Lauren matchup, not only because I felt that they were the most talented and versatile singers, but because it's about time we saw two girls in the top spots. Considering the wide variety of musical styles this season's contestants embodied - jazz, R&B, gospel, metal, pop, country - it's a real let down to lose Haley's dynamism, leaving the finale to two decidedly country-pop kiddos, talented though they are. Of course, American Idol finales aren't really made for dynamos. With few exeptions, they showcase the two milk-toast crooners who chose the most popular songs to sing. The show's history is full of interesting also-rans who are now more famous than the actual Idol winners. As Ryan Seacrest pointed out, last week (when four contestants were cut down to three) "was the week Daughtry was voted off." Seacrest's statement was intended as a warning that voting was critical, but instead it ironically pointed out the opposite: If an artist is talented and interesting, making it to the end is unnecessary. Regular old Kris Allen won Idol Season 8, not the exciting and celebrated Adam Lambert. And who could forget how Oscar winner (and Chicagoan!) Jennifer Hudson went home after reaching a mere seventh place.
So, Haley fans at home and abroad, fear not. As a smiling Haley pointed out while singing her farewell number, "this isn't over."
When you hear the words "Fox midseason replacement," your first instinct probably isn't to make a run for the TV set. So maybe you haven't seen Traffic Light, the next in our tour of Chicago TV shows, which started this February in the timeslot vacated by the defunct Running Wilde.
Even if you've seen the show, you may not have realized that it's set in our fair city. As a single-camera (read: movie style, not "live studio audience") sitcom with tons of outdoor footage - the characters are frequently on the phone with one another while driving thier respective cars - the program is full of opportunities to glimpse the city in action...but not this city. Traffic Light is shot is Los Angeles.
In fact, the show rarely brings up its Chicago setting. Aside from the pilot, which discusses the main characters' move to the city after bonding at U of I, and the presence of "Bloke Magazine," which could be a sideways nod to Playboy, Chicago isn't really mentioned. This is probably for the best. Had its purported setting been more obvious when the show started airing in February, the barrage of scenes set at BBQs and public pools might have driven freezing Chicagoans mad with confusion and jealousy.
Last week, I wrote about the Chicago police drama The Chicago Code; this week I want to focus on another show about Chicago cops: "Mike & Molly."
"Wait just a minute," perhaps you're thinking, "'Mike & Molly' isn't a show about cops, it's a show about fat people." And you'd be half right. The first few episodes find the title characters (played by Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy) at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, so their size is a clear catalyst for the series. Yet for all the attention "Mike & Molly" has gotten for focusing on an overweight couple -- not the typical look for television sweethearts -- the show isn't about fat people any more than it's about cops. It's about two people falling in love, and those people happen to be overweight. And one of them is also a cop.
When The Chicago Code premiered in February, it had its share of critical acclaim. Chicagoans of the Twitterverse wasn't quite so sure. My favorite opinion came from @Joethecop (an actual chicago cop, as the handle suggests). He called the show a "new guilty pleasure."
Those closest to the city's police and government systems are the most likely to balk at the details of The Chicago Code. One of the lead characters (the openly Polish Jarek Wysocki, played by Jason Clarke) is a cop who's been given a free reign to take on whatever case he wants. He's constantly interrupting high-powered Superintendent Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals), waltzing in and taking her away from city meetings to talk about specific investigations. Another is the dirty-yet-untouchable Alderman Gibbons (Delroy Lindo) whose mysterious "ward" seems to roam around the city as the plot deems necessary and who is supposedly "more powerful than the mayor." Keen-eyed viewers might also wonder why Alderman Gibbons' office appears to be located inside one of Northwestern's Chicago Avenue Law School buildings.
If you've been watching TV lately, you may have noticed a trend:
Currently, there are no less than five shows on the air that are set in Chicago. Five! Now, only two of those shows are actually shot in our fair city, but it's still an impressive number. Fox has both the politically polarizing Chicago Code and the funny (but clearly shot in Hollywood) Traffic Light; CBS airs the provocative drama The Good Wife and the traditional sitcom chuckler Mike & Molly; Showtime recently finished off season one of the spectacular Shameless. While Chicago has been the back drop to a huge number of television programs over the ages, viewers across the country have never before had so many opportunities to see the exploits of fictional Chicagoans all in the same week, just by changing the channel.
If you're hoping to catch an authentic glimpse of the Windy City, some of these shows require you to look closer than others. Shameless typically revels in Chicago down to the details - in one episode, you can see a character's shopping bag from Akira, even though neither the store nor the bag is ever mentioned explicitly; Traffic Light has a frustrating habit of setting scenes at outdoor pools or barbecues, doing so even as the real Chicago was suffering through the frozen doldrums of February.
Over the next few weeks, I'll take a look at these shows, from both a critical perspective and one of relative Chicago-iness...Chicagocity? Chicagotude? No matter how you say it, we'll investigate how the shows depict Chicago and how faithfully.
Chicago will be represented during the new season of "America's Best Dance Crew," MTV's reality-based competition series for street dancing. Led by "American Idol" staple Randy Jackson and hosted by Mario Lopez, the show's sixth season will feature Chicago's own FootworKingz, an ensemble dance crew that specializes in "footworkin'," an energetic, fast-paced dance style that has been described as "part tap, African tribal, and breaking."
This isn't the first televised competition for the FootworKingz; they were also finalists in the fourth season of NBC's "America's Got Talent."
Catch the FootworKingz as they go for it all on the season premiere of "America's Best Dance Crew," airing Thursday, April 7 at 9pm on MTV.
It's true! Starting this Saturday, Chicago's very own "Svengoolie" will be crossing state lines, introducing the rest of the country to the pun-infused, song parodying, rubber-chicken throwing show that first aired in Chicago in 1970. I got to ask Rich Koz, the man behind "Svengoolie," every last burning question I've always wanted to ask.
GB: Because of you I can't hear the name "Berwyn" -- either in reference to the suburb, or the street on the North Side -- without hearing "Beeeerrwyyyn" in my head. I understand this began as a spoof of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" which used the name "Burbank" with the same derision.
RK: Yes, Jerry Bishop did the original "Svengoolie" show and introduced that, they'd make the Burbank joke on Carson's "Tonight Show" about "broadcasting from beautiful downtown Burbank."
Also, I'm so clueless that I just learned the name Svengoolie is a play on Svengalie; I live so close to Andersonville that I assumed he was so named because he was Swedish.
No, he would have had a different accent. Svengalie is a term that was better known 20 years ago.
So this is pretty exciting, you're going national!
It is, we've gotten a lot of email in the past five or six years from people who used to live in Chicago and used to watch it, asking how they could still see it. They couldn't before, other than clips on YouTube and that we posted on the website.
When I picture you at work, I see you, a cameraman, and a guy throwing rubber chickens, is that about right?
It depends. Sometimes it's just one other person in the studio operating a teleprompter and a robotic camera, and a lot of times we have volunteers throw the chickens.
A new episode of Fear No Art Chicago is about to hit the airwaves on WTTW11. The third episode of this wildly popular arts program will feature Chicago legend Tony Fitzpatrick, actress Joyce Piven and puppeteer Blair Thomas. I encourage all of you to tune in at least once to help Chicago get WTTW11 to make this program a regular series and finally get Chicago some serious arts programming.
March 31 @ 10pm
April 3 @ Noon
April 6 @ 10:30pm WTTW Prime
April 1 @ 4pm
April 7 @ 4:30pm
April 9 @ 5pm
"The Chicago Code" premieres tonight at 8pm on Fox 32. If you want a light viewing experience -- something with a plot and fast-moving action, with characters you don't have to figure out -- then feel free to enjoy it, as I'm sure many people around town, and the nation, will.
But if you want to avoid Hollywood stereotypes, don't bother. It has the predictable characters we often see: strong men and weak women. We're supposed to believe that the first female police superintendent, played by Jennifer Beals, has paid her dues by toughing it out on the streets to eventually beat out all the guys to reign, but the toughness she shows conveys an adeptness at memorizing her lines rather than reflecting the battles she fought to get there. I was actually looking forward to seeing her in the show, since she's from Chicago and already has a long acting career, but was surprised that she doesn't have the gravitas that her male coworkers seem to effortlessly possess.
CBS sitcom "Mike & Molly" is just one of a slew of current TV shows set in Chicago ("The Good Wife," "The Chicago Code," "Shameless"), but its references to the Windy City aren't always spot-on. Tonight's episode managed to successfully suggest that the characters head to a Bulls game, correctly painting the Bulls-Celtics matchup as unmissable. They manage to refrain from easy details like mentioning the UC, D Rose or Benny the Bull by name -- lazy, sure, but not fallacious. The writers make it almost to the end and then tragedy strikes: after the game, the guys rejoice in the fact the the Bulls won and scored over 100 points, earning everyone in the crowd a free...chalupa? Real Bulls fans know the prize is actually a free Big Mac.
My guess: the writers thought "chalupa" sounded funnier than "burger." And rightly so.
Here are some radio folks who were featured on Fox Chicago this week, and I was very fortunate to meet a few of them: the crew from the B96 morning show. I interviewed the on-air talent and met Tony Kelly there, who's one of the producers featured in the video below. Visiting that morning show was very fun. Too bad life can't be like that more often.
Conan O'Brien has returned to television and is back among the so-called "late night wars" with his new show, "Conan," that premiered on TBS on November 8. For the most part, he is pretty much the same (although seemingly a bit more relaxed); however, so far, according to some reviewers, the show in general is lukewarm, but is on a slow boil to being "hot."
According to comedian and "Conan" staff writer Deon Cole, one surefire way to get hot is to reach out to a more culturally diverse audience with a commercial about the show, targeted to at least one demographic--see Cole's "commercial" here:
Here's some good TV: the documentary Typeface is going to be on WTTW Channel 11 tomorrow, November 18 at 9 pm, and will be rebroadcast on Friday, November 19 at 3 pm, and on Sunday, November 21, at 4 am.
If you are interested in design, traditional methods, creativity, and history, then check it out. It's refreshing to see something being made independently of a computer.
And if you want to participate in a live chat with the director, Justine Nagan, go right here, where there's also an email reminder that you can sign up for. The chat will take place on Friday, November 19 at 2 pm, just before the 3 o'clock rebroadcast.
Wow, I checked out the site of the upcoming cop show "The Chicago Code," and it looks like it's actually made here -- imagine that! Not a soundstage or exterior set in Toronto, LA or New York, so you might see them shooting around town now, because it doesn't premiere until Feb. 7.
Unfortunately and weirdly (since it would help their publicity efforts, and you'd think they'd want to spread the word around even more), they don't allow embedding of their video, so you'll have to go to their site to see it, where you can read all about the show as well.
Greg Proops is making the Chicago media rounds because of his show at Zanies, and something interesting happened during his appearance on WGN today: showing news footage while he's talking.
Around the 30 second mark, he talks about a cruise ship, and exactly at the point when he says the word "Spam", they cut to news footage from KGTV in San Diego. It's so well-timed, it's as if he's part of the WGN show, and he's doing a segment for them. So were they interviewing him, or did they integrate him as one of their own for today's show?
The incredibly excellent show, "The Good Wife", will not be on tonight because of election coverage. It's ironic because the show is currently focusing on its own election drama in The Chi. In case you're going through withdrawal, here's some behind-the-scenes footage of the show.
At one point, Chicago was actually a pioneer of creative television programming, and you can find out all about it this month at the Chicago History Museum. They're going to feature the history of Chicago TV in a series of seminars, retro TV shows, and a tour. It looks like a very interesting bunch of activities, and you can find out more information right here, and get more details and contact information at their site.
"Unsung," TV One's popular "docu-series" that showcases singers who were in the prime of their careers and who, for different reasons, became unsung, will feature Chicago's own Miki Howard.
Howard, whose parents were both gospel singers, was a popular R&B/jazz artist who rose to prominence in the late 80s through the early 90s. She enjoyed a solid stream of hits including "Come Share My Love" and "Love Under New Management," and was also nominated for an American Music Award and a Grammy Award.
With powerhouse vocals like Howard's, why did she suddenly disappear from the music scene altogether? While several rumors persisted, no one ever really knew what happened to her--until now.
"Unsung: Miki Howard" airs Monday, November 1 at 9pm on TV One.
I was a kid when "Image Union" premiered, so I sort of "grew up" on it. The opening and closing of the show freaked me out, though I loved Bob. He's the cartoon guy who turns on his TV after driving on the expressway to get home. It's hard to find decent images of Bob--I found this one at the "Image Union" Facebook page.
I know shows have to evolve, but I miss that old opening and closing. You can see what the show used to look like at the excellent Chicago TV archive Mediaburn.
For instance, check out this episode from the mid-80's (I can't embed it here): see the opening with Bob, and then go to the 24:08 mark to see how it used to end. That footage of a car crashing into TVs is from a video called "Media Burn".
Catch Chicago native Craig Harris Tuesday, October 19, in the new ABC homicide police drama, "Detroit 1-8-7." Harris, also an award-winning screenwriter, stunt performer and voiceover artist, will appear as Rev. James Boon, a "slightly unorthodox and tattooed pastor" in the episode entitled, "Murder in GreekTown/High School Confidential." He has also appeared in a number of feature films including The Unborn (2009), Eagle Eye (2008) and Pleading Guilty (2010), a made-for-TV movie filmed in Chicago.
I went to a radio get-together and ended up meeting someone from TV: Duffy Atkins, who's a meteorologist on CLTV from 4pm through the evening newscasts. I think she's the only female meteorologist working there, which is a big deal, for sure.
She grew up in Schaumburg, and is really glad to be working in Chicago. She's not full of herself and is very friendly and down-to-earth, and is really enthusiastic, too. So what you see on TV isn't an act -- she's the real deal.
What's funny is that I was trying to take a candid photograph of her while she was talking to someone, but in true TV style, she managed to smile for the camera.
It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so WGN and CLTV are airing a half-hour special called "Stories of Hope: Facing Breast Cancer", hosted by medical reporter Dina Bair and entertainment reporter Dean Richards. Here are the times and channels where the special will air:
Thursday, October 14 at 9:30pm - WGN America
Saturday, October 30 at 6:30pm - WGN-TV Chicago
Tuesday, October 19 at 8pm and Sunday, October 24 at 2pm - CLTV
Sadly, I know someone whose father recently died of breast cancer, so it's been a hard month for some. In honor of those who are struggling with breast cancer, I donated blood last week. If you want to help in non-monetary ways, you should consider donating blood to save a person's life.
Sometimes lame shows don't go away, such as "Still Standing", which lasted from 2002-2006. It's in syndication on ABC Family, if you want to see a Hollywood set with fake Chicago snow outside and a screwed-up family inside.
I don't know why the trend in television sitcoms is stupid dads, but this show is yet another one that adds that junk to the pile. The father has no problem showing his ignorance, and is pleased with himself because he's an unattractive, overweight slob who was able to manipulate his attractive wife into marrying him. He also openly lusts after teenage girls and gives sleazy advice to his kids, who he doesn't seem to care about anyway.
If Chicago has such stupid people in it, why does Hollywood have to broadcast it to the world? Thanks, again, for churning out lame shows and reminding us of them even when they officially die.
Oh Fridays, the traditional day for a gallery opening or some cultural experience or another. Well of course we can't go out every Friday but if you happen to be calling it an early evening on the 8th make sure you don't miss that art and culture so much of us dedicate to this day. Fear No Art Chicago is airing its second show at 8pm on WTTW. Elysabeth Alfano hosts this interview series, engaging with artists of all sorts in their creative spaces. Watch as she cooks with Frank Orrall of Poi Dog Pondering, and Tangos with Jorge Niedas; the original Chicago Tango instructor.
Fear No ART Chicago airs on WTTW on
October 8 @ 8:30pm
October 18 @ 10:30pm
October 24 @ 5:30pm
October 31 @ 12:30pm
Wow, I just sat through an episode of "Mike and Molly," which takes place in Chicago. Mike is a Chicago cop and Molly is a teacher. They both live in the city, and occasionally you can see images of Chicago, but it's too bad they don't actually film here. If Chicago is such a popular locale, then why can't it be a production location as well?
Anyway, the show is awful, but I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who like it. I hope they do, because I have nothing against the actors. They're doing the best they can with horrible writing. Cliches, one-liners, just dumb lines. I remember watching Melissa McCarthy in "Gilmore Girls," which I loved, even though a couple of seasons weren't so good (you can see reruns on ABC Family), and she was great in that. And she seems to be good in this show, but it's too bad it's so bad.
Yesterday, Kanye West made his second appearance on "Saturday Night Live," and performed two of his songs, "Power" and "Runaway."
For "Power," he did something a bit different; instead of using the traditional "SNL" Grand Central Station terminal backdrop for his performance, he used an all-white background. What is especially worth noting though, was West's use of performance art--he employed modern dancers to accompany him onstage, which brought more visual and artistic effect to the performance.
Steve Harvey is just about everywhere these days--via his weekday, nationally-syndicated morning radio show, his wildly popular best-selling book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man (another book is scheduled for release in December) and his latest gig as the new host of "Family Feud," the stand-up comedian is definitely one of the hardest working folks in show business.
Harvey's success though, isn't exempt from backlash; the blogosphere is full of comments by many who refer to him as "arrogant" and "full of himself." To others though, he's just a talented, charismatic comedian who is expanding his brand.
While Harvey is clearly enjoying his rising success, one thing has always nagged both fans and non-fans alike: His relationship with the late Bernie Mac.
Earlier this year, I did a profile of J'mme Love, who's a producer and recording artist. Since then, not only has he been quoted in the Chicago Tribune and featured in Timeout for his part in the upcoming Transformers movie, but he's been on TV as well.
Unfortunately and typically, CBS 2 won't let anyone embed their video, so you have to watch it at their site. He appears early in the story--check it out.
We all know what happens when Oprah Winfrey really likes something--authors' books become bestsellers, singers' CDs go double platinum, and if you're Lynn Nottage, well, your play just might be adapted for television.
Nottage, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for Ruined, will see her award-winning play hit the small screen via HBO and Winfrey's Harpo Productions.
Ruined, co-produced by the Goodman Theatre and which enjoyed its world premiere there in 2008, is the story of a tough madam who, despite the turmoil of civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, manages her brothel all while confronting the physical and sexual abuse and other volatile situations her "workers" endure.
When the critically acclaimed play actually transitions to its telefilm version is unknown; according to a representative for Nottage who spoke to the L.A. Times, "The project is still in its early phases and no production dates or release dates have been announced."
Ruined joins a long line of other Pulitzer Prize winning works that have also gone to HBO including Angels in America.
Kanye West is certainly making his rounds lately; after his recent performance on MTV's VMAs and taking over the entire October issue of XXL, he returns to FOX's "The Cleveland Show."
The rapper first appeared as "Kenny West" on the hit animated series last May and will reprise his role during the second season's premiere episode, airing Sunday, September 26.
In the episode entitled "Harder, Better, Faster, Browner," Kenny has been feeling a bit bummed lately (hmmm...) and gets his spirits lifted via the song "Be-Cleve in Yourself," a rap duet with the show's title character.
"The Cleveland Show" airs at 7:30pm Sundays on FOX-32. Catch a preview of the season debut here:
You may have heard David Bianculli on "Fresh Air" today say that the only television show being released this fall worth watching is "Boardwalk Empire." Well, in the spirit of supporting the only television show worth watching this year (according to him), I have news.
In celebration of "Boardwalk Empire", Cornerstone promotions is kicking off a unique month-long speakeasy campaign, and they asked me to tell you about it. Passwords will be distributed weekly to local market influencers, which will allow them to enter some of the most exclusive speakeasies in Chicago and receive complimentary prohibition-era cocktails. Here's a list of those events:
Bar Deville (1958 W. Huron St.) Tues. Sept. 21, 28 & Oct. 5, 7pm - 9pm
In addition to that, "Boardwalk Empire" is giving one of ya'll assorted HBO DVD boxsets ("Sopranos" Season six part two, "Deadwood" season three, and "Rome" season two), a "Boardwalk Empire" hip flask, and a Boardwalk Empire USB drive. To be in the running for these goodies, just comment on this post. Three lucky readers won this one! Thanks for reading!
One winner will randomly be selected this Friday, September 24. Good luck and happy guzzlin'.
I really hope they don't screw up the show. I've been able to enjoy it because the female characters are interesting and complex (and the storyline is intriguing, of course). Even though Lili Taylor doesn't seem dumb (based on a video and interview I saw), who knows--they could write some stupid script for these new gals and that would cheapen the show.
If the show goes down, I'm out. The season premiere is on September 28 at 9:00 on Channel 2.
The Chicago-themed (just "themed" because they didn't film any episodes here) of "My Boys" isn't going to be renewed, and I'm not going to miss it, actually. I just wanted to mention that here in case you like it.
I checked it out and wanted to like it, but it was hard with all the Chicago and non-Chicago cliches. And it was difficult for me to identify with anyone, even the female star whose career includes playing someone "ditzy" where she "put a funnier, feistier spin on dumb."
Wow, we certainly want more such women in entertainment...as if there aren't enough dumb chicks already out there.
If you want to see full episodes, check them out at the TBS site.
Her character is interesting and multifaceted (not the typical slut/bimbo that TV likes to give us), and she's a good actress. However, I sometimes notice that her American accent slips to reveal her British one when she uses words with "r" and some vowels. Since I'm into language, I tend to catch weakened American accents, and while she gets it right most of the time, I still discern the imperfections. I think the show implies that she is American-born and her parents immigrated from India, so her accent should be totally Chicago or wherever she's supposed to be from.
Anyway, I'm very glad she won and look forward to watching the new season!
From local Chicago comedy clubs one minute to joining Conan O'Brien's writing team the next--impossible, right? Not really--especially if you're Deon Cole. Here, the edgy, Emmy-nominated comedian talks about his Chicago roots, working with O'Brien and what it means to be "super black."
Tell us how you got started. Where in Chicago did you hone your skills?
I got my start years ago on the South Side, where I did a lot of my first stand-up performances. I performed at All Jokes Aside and the Comedy Act Theatre and at different schools and clubs.
Would you say your Chicago roots have an influence on your style?
Absolutely, especially since Chicago is a very diverse place. You can go on any side of the city and it can feel like you're in another state. All of that is why I'm so well-rounded with my material.
You were in the Windy City earlier this summer for Martin Lawrence's "1st Amendment Stand-Up", TBS's "Just for Laughs" and for the Conan O'Brien Tour. What was it like being onstage in front of your hometown again?
It was phenomenal. To host "1st Amendment Stand-Up" and the TBS special with all of Conan's writers was great. Andy Richter also has Chicago roots, so it was really a homecoming for both of us.
Even though I wondered if we should support WTTW due to their weird/inappropriate spending habits and perhaps unnecessary layoffs, I ended up renewing my membership because the bottom line is that there's a lot of junk on TV and we need to support institutions that offer quality programming.
No, I don't work for that station and never have, but it's really nice to see alternatives to shows that cater to the lowest common denominator. At least Channel 11 attempts to offer more sophisticated programming, in spite of a few exceptions.
Maybe if more people become members, they'll stop doing so many fundraisers and use their money more wisely. Let's hope public TV doesn't go away because I can only take so much reality and trash TV.
Way to go, Chicago. Just when we thought "Jerry Springer" was gone, we'll get a dose of more sleaze to replace it: "The Bill Cunningham Show." The press release doesn't talk about the sleazy content of the show, but an article about a lawsuit that the show got early on features a video and description that reveal how they're trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
In fact, the show was so bad, the test run failed. But it doesn't matter. They're planning to release it next year, and the very friendly Larz from Chicagoland Radio and Media has a great opinion piece about the show and its creators. Good thing there's still a media that watches the media.
Chicago's Craig Robinson, currently hosting this season of NBC's "Last Comic Standing," certainly knows what it takes to be funny. The actor/comedian, known for bringing on the laughs through his role as Darryl Philbin on another NBC hit, "The Office," has his own formula for being funny.
Here, Robinson recently spoke with TV Guide and offered aspiring stand-up comedians tips on how to get the laughs, including the standard "practice makes perfect," and how to handle hecklers.
Wow, I guess I didn't truly understand how different TV people can be from us regular folks. After a long day, I realized I had no milk or novelty junk food, so I went to the store to get some. I was walking outside, enjoying the nice weather and night views, when I saw a TV person who I'd met before and even wrote about here. So I figured they'd remember me, and if they didn't, perhaps a light bulb would go off and they would be cordial.
Not quite. I was walking right past them and said hello, and they looked at me, puzzled. So I told them my name and where I'd written about them. I even mentioned someone both of us knew. But by that time, my voice trailed off because I could tell I was being a nuisance. Not just to them, but to their companions as well, because they looked at me askance, probably because I was not only obscure, but I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt instead of the fancy duds they were wearing. And I wasn't wearing makeup. Or hairspray. Or anything else that would make me look "important."
Here I was, thinking I would be rude if I didn't say hello, and I ended up being the obstruction. Next time I won't assume well-known people are like others: whereas an average Joe might try to figure out the connection I was referring to, well-known people need a clear context to acknowledge another's presence. Such as a ballroom or some other type of important event.
I raced home to watch "Poirot" on WTTW and was greeted by some really odd audio that got fixed towards the end of the program.
First of all, the sound when the characters were speaking was echo-y, then I noticed that whenever the characters stopped talking and there was just visual action, a female voice would describe every non-dialogue scene. It happened from the beginning of the show towards the last part, when Poirot had everyone sit around (as is typical in Agatha Christie mysteries) to sum up and solve the murders.
I kept wondering who the phantom narrator was, and why. Then I surmised that it's probably a version of "Poirot" for blind people, because every single aspect of the show had either dialogue or specific descriptions of what was going on.
Well I'm glad that someone at Channel 11 had the sense to correct the problem, though I was growing increasingly dependent on the extensive narration, especially when I had to leave the room to make something to eat :D
I seriously don't get it. Why would WTTW, home of documentaries, British dramas and mystery series, independent movies, and other seemingly sophisticated programming create something that is so unnecessary and resembles what we can get on commercial TV?
I'm talking about "The Chicago Stand-Up Project". If we want to see the struggles of comedy, why not show us comedians trying to make it, instead of random Chicagoans who are not funny, even though they've been coached? I saw last week's episode with meteorologist Amy Freeze (not funny) and Olympian Shani Davis (a little funny), and I thought I was no longer in the nation's third largest media market.
Newsflash: there's a lot of good comedy in Chicago, and a lot of emerging comedians here, so show us them, not personalities whose placement doesn't make sense. Maybe it's really a promotional vehicle for Zanies and everyone involved with the show. It's amateur and doesn't give us any insight into how comedy is created, and it's not even entertaining.
If you want to see the second installment of this baffling production, then watch tomorrow night (Friday) at 8:30 pm. They'll probably rerun it during the weekend, just like they did last week. Which was enough for me.
Just when I thought I was a pop culture professional, especially when it came to "all things Chicago," something manages to slip by my radar: I never knew that actress Janet Hubert, better known as [the original] "Aunt Viv" from "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," is from Chicago.
Yesterday, TV One premiered the new season of its biographical series "Life After," with Hubert's profile kicking off the season. In the half-hour program, she noted her Chicago roots, even listing her former address at 6131 S. Aberdeen in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood. She also mentioned that her parents moved her and her brothers to Momence, Illinois to begin a new life away from "the big city."
In addition, Hubert talked about her accomplishments in dance and theatre, her book, and of course, her departure and subsequent replacement on the popular sitcom.
"Life After: Janet Hubert," repeats on Sunday, July 25, at 7pm. Here is a preview of the show:
In case you missed "The Garry Meier Special" last week, you can see it again tonight at midnight on Me-TV, which is channel 23 on regular TV, and channel 223 on Comcast.
I saw it and was puzzled about why the interviews with a variety of interesting, well-known people were short, so I asked Garry about it. He said that the show is "a compilation of four full shows I had taped. They decided to cut them into one bigger show using pieces from the four...All the interviews were longer in their original form."
He also purposely chose to use a cheesy set, which is worth a look. He takes his work very seriously, so if you perceive any imperfections, they'll probably be ameliorated in future shows.
This Arkansas family will probably set a world record because of the frequency of their family reunions. And amazingly, I know their Chicago relative, because he's my boss. His name is Jason Skaggs, and his mom is the seventh sibling of the Phillips family featured in this piece (her first name is Shirlene, which sounds quite southern, actually).
Here's a radio guy who's got a face for TV too: Garry Meier, who looks really good for 60 years old.
It's not just about looks, of course, but that's what seems to matter for TV, since we see a lot of vacuous people flapping their gums in front of lots of people just because they have the right smile without too much brain.
But the reason why Garry should be doing more media is because he is a nice guy, professional, a hard worker, and isn't arrogant or jerky at all. I've talked to him on a number of occasions and he's never pulled the "Why are you talking to me? I'm a radio legend you mere mortal."
Since today is Independence Day, we can throw off the negativity that surrounds us to have some fun...and to just think about the positive aspects of our country. You're probably thinking of lots of negative things right now, wondering how anyone could extract anything good from all the bad news we've received over the past year.
But John Stossel has done that in a special called "What's Great About America" which celebrates the good of our country. I saw it last night and it was actually good enough for me to forget the roadblocks I've encountered. He even mentions Chicago's very own Reverend "Them Jews" Wright.
The special will re-air tonight on the Fox News Channel at 8:00 (and maybe again at 11 pm, according to their schedule grid).
It's Independence Day, which means there's lots going on, including live fireworks on TV and a chance to support WWII veterans.
At 8 tonight, WGN will feature "Honor Flight Chicago" which is a program to fly World War Two veterans to Washington, DC for free to see the national memorial. The special features some of the vets and their reactions to seeing the memorial. I met one of the guys who's involved in Honor Flight, and they're the real deal. They really want to honor WWII vets, so it's a good cause. Below is one of many videos at the site.
Then, at 8:30 tonight, WGN will air "Summer Blast" which will feature live fireworks and patriotic chit-chat for an hour. Well, I don't know if they'll be talking about patriotic topics, but at least it will be festive.
Recently, a couple people have reminded me of the horrific duck face, and amazingly, Chicago news has already covered this annoying phenomenon in a TV "news" segment or whatever they call it. The guys who created the site must really know how the media works, because it was also discussed on a national show as well.
Go to approximately 35 seconds into the video, and you'll see the report.
Get ready for the return of Chicago's own Kanye West: After taking a hiatus from television after his headline-making, stage-stealing incident last year, the hip-hop superstar will return to live television at the 10th annual Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards.
Hosted by rapper/actress Queen Latifah, West will open the awards show with a performance of his latest song, "Power"; in addition, he is nominated for two awards in the Best Collaboration and Video of the Year categories.
"What will he do?" "What will he say?" "How will the audience react?"
Since the show will be live, these are indeed legitimate questions; however, West knows for sure all eyes will be on him. With that said, it should only be expected that he will not do anything other than put on one heck of a show (his awards show performances never disappoint) and not do anything to detract from his "moment."
But then again, this is Kanye West we're talking about...
To see for yourself, tune into the BET Awards tonight at 7pm!
There have been a series of reports about the layoffs and financial problems at WTTW (such as in the Tribune, Sun-Times, and Crain's). But it's Robert Feder's column that makes me wonder what is really wrong with that station, other than lack of funds.
According to Feder, the CEO is overpaid and incompetent. Since I don't work there, I don't know if he's really inept, but Feder lays out enough information to make us WTTW supporters wonder why he "was able to survive a near mutiny in 2003 when it was disclosed that the company paid for the luxury Lexus he drove (and the cars three other top executives drove) shortly after they'd laid off 56 employees -- one-quarter of the station's workforce" and links to an article about how he was bringing the station to financial ruin.
He also makes over $300,000, a result of a salary cut (according to Crain's). I know that executives usually make a lot of money because they're running large, complex organizations, but should executives of a listener- and grant-supported entity make that much, especially when the station is not doing well?
I highly recommend reading Feder's critique of the situation, in addition to the news stories. Then ask yourself: do you want to continue supporting a media outlet that is run by someone who seems to not be a good steward of what we've given him?
Between filming her role as Winnie Mandela in the upcoming movie Winnie and recording a new album due in the fall, Jennifer Hudson is one busy lady. In addition, the singer/actress will be one of the stars profiled on the new season of VH1's "Behind the Music."
"Behind the Music" will feature Hudson from her days growing up with her family in Chicago, her time as a contestant on "American Idol," and her Academy-Award winning role in the movie Dreamgirls. The special, which includes interviews by "Idol" judge Randy Jackson, actor Jamie Foxx, and music producer Clive Davis, will also show Hudson speaking candidly for the first time about overcoming the tragedy involving the murder of her mother, brother, and nephew.
"Behind the Music: Jennifer Hudson," airs Monday, June 28 at 9pm on VH1. Catch a preview here:
In case you missed it, here's the Betty Loren-Maltese interview that ran on Channel 5. I guess her appearances all over the media are to gain support or pity. But she stole more than 12 million dollars from the town that she was supposed to be caring for (yes, I knowingly used a dangling preposition just now). She was sent to prison for extreme corruption, but what changed? Let's hear an "I'm sorry" and "I realized I did a lot of harm to the people of Cicero and beyond." Not excuses.
I got a chance to meet Sarah Spain, who's one of the hosts of "Chicago's Best" (which I mentioned here before). I was at the Media Monolith (aka 190 N. State Street) and saw her, so I took a chance to actually talk to her for a few seconds. After asking her some biz-related questions, I complimented her on the fact that she's not a ditz, that she seems bright and witty. She thanked me and said something self-deprecating, which was funny in itself.
It's nifty to run into Chicago TV folks who don't know that I write for this site :D
If you know about, or have been to, Wheaton, then the word "crime" wouldn't pop into your head. But this bandit got away with a lot of money from various banks in Geneva, Glen Ellyn, and other nice areas out in the western burbs. You can see a slideshow of what he was up to at the CNBC site.
The episode aired tonight, but if you want to watch it online, go to Hulu. It's the second part of the show, after the meth identity thieves. But do it soon. I'm afraid that they might yank it since it originally aired a few years ago, and I can't find it elsewhere on this month's schedule.
On Monday, June 7th, get ready for a double dose of Chicago's own Craig Robinson ("The Office," Hot Tub Time Machine): The multi-talented actor and comedian will host two different shows on both network and cable television.
The funnyman from the South Side is the new host of NBC's "Last Comic Standing," the network's reality TV competition for stand-up comedians. Here is a clip of him introducing the new season:
On the music side, Robinson, a musician in his own right, hosts VH1's "Hip Hop Honors: The Dirty South," a special that pays tribute to hip hop artists and producers from the South.
The two-hour premiere of "Last Comic Standing" airs at 7pm on NBC-5 and "Hip Hop Honors: The Dirty South" airs at 8pm on VH1.
I saw a rerun of an episode of "History Detectives" that featured the Columbian Agency, which was located in Chicago from the late 19th to early 20th century. According to a historian on the program, "If you were in South State Street in the late 1800s, early 1900s, this was the heart of what they called 'Satan's Mile'. It was an area that was like a virtual shopping centre of sin. You could get anything you wanted: gambling houses, houses of prostitution, mayhem." There were also a lot of marriage bureau scams in that area, and The Columbian Agency was one of them.
Well, according to the excellent site Chicagolandradioandmedia.com (run by a really nice guy who apparently gets the juicy press releases), tomorrow from 11am to 7pm Me-TV will have a "Diff'rent Strokes" marathon. You can see the schedule at their site.
Way to go! The winner of "The Biggest Loser" is Chicago DJ Michael Ventrella, who was interviewed on the "Today" show, posted below. He started at 526 pounds and got down to 262 pounds, and was the heaviest contestant ever. That's an incredible achievement--his willpower must be incredible, and I hope he continues and finds out why he let himself become so big.
WTTW has a new show called "Fear No Art Chicago" that premiered last week, but is being re-broadcast tonight at 10:30. The show takes you "behind the scenes...to discover what is involved, mistakes and all, in making of sculpture, painting, fashion, music, theater, and food of all types in the back studios, kitchens and stages of Chicago's artists."
You can also see the show again on May 23 at 4:30pm.
Wowie, you never know what types of drama is going on, especially in tiny towns such as Milford, Illinois (a couple hours from Chicago). "The Steve Wilkos Show" managed to dredge up some really fine, quality people from Milford's small population that doesn't even come close to exceeding 1,500.
See the video (unfortunately, they don't allow embedding) of Milford's finest discussing the more challenging aspects of life, including a mother telling her daughter's cheating boyfriend that, "The day my daughter brung you home, I told her you [bleeped out]". I guess she didn't get the memo that English has irregular verbs.
Actually, I know someone who grew up in Milford, and she is so normal, she makes me look crazy. I guess she's not from those folks' part of town. And neither are her friends, for they're still trying to get over their shock and dismay at such a display.
This week is "Psych Week" on Discovery Health, and this Wednesday, May 5 at 8pm, the Chicago production company 20 West will present their show "My Strange Addiction", which features four people with unusual addictions: an excessive shopper, a guy who runs 20 miles a day, a woman who's addicted to tanning, and a woman who eats chalk.
Psychiatric commentary will be provided by Dr. John Zajecka, a psychiatrist at Rush. The show will also run on TLC on May 12.
I love the show "Pawn Stars". In fact, I know someone here in Chicago who grew up in Las Vegas, and when she went back there to visit, I asked her to take a picture of the pawn shop that's featured in the show. But, unfortunately, she didn't have time to do that. Otherwise, I'd post the picture here.
The picture you see here is from a "Pawn Stars" fan site. It's a coffee grinder proudly made in Chicago. Even on the show, Rick (one of the owners) said that Chicago was the center of the world for iron production, which lasted until the 1970's. Products were so well made that they lasted for a very long time. And this coffee grinder is no exception: all it needed was a few minor repairs and some paint to restore its beauty and functionality.
I'm sure I'm not the only person who wishes Chicago would return to its iron-glory days. But just like a lot of other American cities, we've been affected by global commerce.
Rapper Kanye West, out of the spotlight ever since he infamously interrupted singer Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at last fall's MTV Video Music Awards, finally returns to television--well, sort of.
The Chicago native guest stars as "Kenny" West on an episode of FOX's hit animated series, "The Cleveland Show". Using his own voice, (You didn't think he'd let someone else do it, did you?) West plays a rapper who competes in a rap battle with "Cleveland Jr."
Will "Kenny" win the rap competition? Will he get through the performance uninterrupted? Tune in to "The Cleveland Show," Sunday, May 2, at 7:30pm on FOX-32 to find out!
Remember when Chicago lost the Olympics bid and everyone was freaking out? Well MeTV countered the misery with these cute promos that offered their wonderful programs instead of some fancy schmancy Olympics.
Which made me wonder: what if the Cubs and/or White Sox got so far, as in World Series far, and they lost? Would MeTV do promos to try to soothe the suffering fans?
I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) every Saturday at Daley College, and I've been using English in Action for a couple of years. In every class, I use the CD's that come with the book, and the female voice I hear is the same one I hear on Channel 11.
When I met Gene Honda, I asked him if he knew who that voice is because he used to do a lot of voice work for WTTW, but all he told me was that the station wanted a softer sound, so they hired her, and she's out of LA. Then I thought that voice was this woman, but when she was kind enough to return my phone call, she told me that it's not her, even though they sound similar.
So who is she? I don't know. But I do know that she has some sweet gigs: lots of voice work in the ESL world, and lots of promos and other voiceovers for Channel 11. Way to go!
In order to make up for my excessive food consumption at RJ Grunts, I decided to walk from Lincoln Park back downtown (where I live). The walk was beautifully pleasant, but what made it really worthwhile was what I saw on Division Street near State Street: going westbound, I saw a police car, followed by a flatbed truck. On the back of the truck was a film crew: one guy was holding some lights while another was filming inside an unmarked police car, which was sitting stationary on the back of the truck. In other words, I'm pretty sure they were filming a scene of a guy actually driving that unmarked police car, and maybe they were even recording what he was saying.
Following that truck were a few Chicago police cars with their lights on. As they made their way down Division, they turned on their sirens. I just stood there, impressed. I've seen film crews all over the city, but I've never seen such a vehicle-oriented scene being shot.
Well someone told me that perhaps it was one of the many pilots being filmed in Chicago. That is highly plausible. And it's highly exciting, because we all know what a great city we have for filming anything, and how such activity helps our image and economy.
And according to the Hollywood Reporter, we probably have the President to thank for the increased activity: they say it "might be the Obama Effect, which...would explain the popularity of the president's hometown, Chicago, as the setting for four pilots this year."
Starting tomorrow night at 10 pm on WGN, you can find out about food, entertainment, and other things to do in the city on "Chicago's Best".
There are a few hosts who sound and look like they belong on TV: Ted Brunson (nice name for TV), Sarah Spain (nice alliteration), and Brittney Payton, who got this sweet gig less than two years out of college (she's Walter Payton's daughter).
If you watch it and want to let them know what you think, ie, if you think that they're not really featuring the best of Chicago, feel free to post your opinions at their blog.
Last July, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was one of four cities chosen to host an open casting call for Bravo's newest reality experiment, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. It has now been announced that two of the fourteen particpants chosen for the show hail from SAIC--alumna Jaime Lynn Henderson who received her MFA in 2009 and John Parot, former sculpture department faculty member. Artists will compete in challenges involving various mediums for the chance to win a solo show and cash prize. Tune in on June 9 at 10pm to catch the season premiere and cheer on our local artists!
Enjoy it now, because I don't know how long it will last--their ratings are worse than their predecessors. Maybe it's the odd mix of people (which in a way is interesting) or the very different format than what people are used to seeing that early in the morning, but something has to be done to make it work.
I have yet to see an entire show (though I should so that I can respond here), but I will say this: I've always liked Dan Jiggetts, so I'm really glad he's on the air. And I support Terry Savage because I've met her a couple of times, and she was decent and nice, and I've also dealt with her when she's appeared on a couple of radio shows I've worked for. She has never been anything but completely professional, so I wish her success.
I've been watching the "Mystery" marathon on WYCC during their fundraising drive (which I'm hesitant to give to based on the political videos scandal and other corruption I've heard about), and while I was watching my favorite "Sherlock Holmes" series with Jeremy Brett, it became very clear that "House" has ripped it off in some ways: Dr. Gregory House is a drug addict (painkillers), just like Holmes (heroin); he's brilliant, like Holmes; solves medical mysteries, like Holmes (murders); and his name is "House", a variation of "Home"...Holmes...get it?
And Dr. House has a coworker-pal called Dr. James Wilson, who is similar to Holmes' Dr. Watson: both of their names start with "W", they're both doctors, and they listen to their pals' clever theories, occasionally offering their own ideas while remaining very cerebral and calm, personalities which diverge from their intense main men.
This Sunday, April 4, WGN-TV will premiere "What it Means to be a White Sox" (7-8 pm) and "What it Means to be a Cub" (8-9 pm), just in time for the new baseball season.
Each special will feature several interviews from each team, including Lou Piniella, Ozzie Guillen, Ernie Banks, Luis Aparicio, Ryne Sandberg, Frank Thomas, Carlos Zambrano, Mark Buehrle, and various legendary players and employees.
If you were to look up the word "tenacious" in the dictionary, you would probably see a picture of LisaRaye McCoy next to it. For this native Chicago actress, giving up is simply not an option.
In a new eight-episode series that debuts Thursday, Apr. 8 at 8pm on TV One, LisaRaye takes viewers with her on her journey to take back her place in Hollywood after experiencing a brief career setback. The actress was enjoying a burgeoning movie and television career that came to an abrupt halt amid a failed marriage to the Premier of Turks & Caicos. Despite this highly publicized scandal, she has persevered in a major way.
In the series, we see LisaRaye's putting it all back together: getting back on the small and large screen, finalizing her divorce, being a single mom to a teen daughter and maybe even taking another shot at love.
Okay, I have to post this because it looks sort of odd: check out Phil Rosenthal's Tower Ticker post about Fox Chicago News. Rosenthal says that Nancy Loo is not going to get her contract renewed. Meanwhile, they will hire Joanie Lum. What's weird about that is it makes you wonder if there's a kind of expectation to hire a Chinese-American woman when they let another go. Do viewers now expect Asian women on newscasts, and does it really matter what someone's ethnicity is?
It just looks sort of weird, like the station is saying, "Hey--we're getting rid of one Asian-American woman, but look--we might hire another!"
I haven't met either of them, though I did see Joanie Lum interview Spike O'Dell a few years ago about experiencing loss. She looked cheerful and friendly. I should've at least said "hi" but I guess I hesitated because I have no idea if TV people get annoyed when a non-famous person approaches them.
"Mystery Diagnosis" on the Discovery Channel (aka Discovery Health) will feature someone from Chicago this Monday, March 22 at 9 pm: Conor Heybach, who had the rare disease Prader-Willi Syndrome, which causes obesity. His parents, John and Sue Heybach, had to lock up the food in their house because the disease made him eat so much, that by 15 he was over 200 pounds when he just over five feet tall.
If you miss the episode, they show reruns and also have podcasts available--check out their site for lots of info.
This is sort of odd: Eddie and Jobo, who made millions of dollars in radio and were ushered out before their contract was up (which means they were still making millions for not working), went on WGN-TV to promote the fact that they will be on the radio just one day next week. That's quite a big plug for such a tiny gig. Their PR people must be happy they got such exposure.
I know there must be some White Sox fans here (I'm one of the few who's switched allegiances), so here's some good news, though still puzzling for me, because of all the confusing blackout rules: according to Phil Rosenthal, the MLB network will broadcast today's spring training opener at 10 PM. It's six hours past the real time, which is better than nothing, but if you want to see it live, Rosenthal thinks that "it's available live nationally on MLB's online pay service and in Los Angeles on Fox Sports West (which also reruns it at 9:30 p.m. Chicago time)."
I'm sure you've seen reports on TV about the earthquake in Chile (in English, of course). Well here's the Spanish version that I found at Univision Chicago, which redirects to the national site for the written story. Note how some of the people talking are the same people you've seen elsewhere, but the words are their own--no English overdubbing.
I've never met the guy, but I've watched him enough on NBC 5 and CBS 2 to conclude that he is my favorite reporter. He should be an anchor. Let's pray he gets through this cancer--he seems very smart and talented, and has a great TV presence.
Chicagoans are full of pride in their city as a whole, but we all tend to identify ourselves with cross streets and "El" stops. From the Wicker Park Hipsters to the Wrigleyville Frat Boys, we all have a love/hate relationship with our respective hoods. Stephen Colbert picked up on this neighborhoodiness, in a brief segment celebrating those sectioned off to the north side of Chicago- "Better Know a District- Illinois's fifth." In this video, Colbert discusses the Cubs of Wrigleyville, the "Bears" of Boystown, and the foul-mouthed Vienna Beef establishment, The Weiner Circle. I think we're getting made fun of for the most part, but when Colbert is doing the name-calling, you take it with pride!
I'm often annoyed with local TV news because they'll tease a story endlessly, and then when the story comes up, it will last for a minute and won't say much. So basically, they wasted time teasing instead of putting those seconds into the story itself.
Or sometimes what I think is a "report" is really a video news release (VNR), which is just a visual press release passed off as "news." It's a way to save, or make, money, and the sad thing is that the viewers have no idea that they're being duped.
But earlier this week, there was a story on CBS 2 that actually reported something: proof of people sneaking on to the Brown Line for free. Unfortunately, the station doesn't allow embedding of video, but check it out at their site. And because of the report, the CTA responded as best they could. We'll see what happens now that the cameras are gone.
Remember my last post, where I talk about Jeff Garlin in an LA restaurant talking to a New York Times reporter about dreading recognition and questions [allegedly]? Well the interview has been released, though nothing I mentioned is in there. But who cares, because it's worth the read! I even like how he shows appreciation for being a rich TV celebrity: "It's pretend, and I receive a big check at the end...I'm all good with it. I have no problems."
Oh...and here's some video of Garlin being recognized. But if I ever see him around town, I will try not to bother him.
If you ever see Morton Grove native Jeff Garlin, don't say anything because he doesn't like to be recognized. And if you see him at a party, don't ask him about show business or "Curb Your Enthusiasm" because he doesn't want to answer any of those questions.
How do I know this? I know someone who was having dinner at a restaurant in LA, where Garlin was doing an interview with a New York Times reporter, and I guess Garlin was talking so loud, it was easy to hear what he was talking about. In fact, he apologized for talking so loud, and said that he likes Chicago.
Here are a few things he said which may or may not be included in the interview, which will be published next week: he misses his family when he's on the road; a good day is when no one recognizes him; and sometimes he doesn't feel like going to parties because people ask a lot of questions about the show and other show biz topics.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s fight for civil rights wasn't only confined to the South; Chicago also played a huge part in the late civil rights leader's movement. In 1966, King came to Chicago--even took up temporary residence on the West Side--to confront housing discrimination and segregation, as well as other issues that plagued the city's urban community.
As part of its Black History Month series, WTTW-Channel 11 will air King In Chicago, a documentary about the challenges King faced during his stay in Chicago. Directed and produced by Seth McClellan, the film "explores what happened when Dr. Martin Luther King and the Chicago Freedom Movement began to confront urban poverty."
King in Chicago airs Sunday, Feb. 14 at 3pm. A preview of the documentary is shown here:
I'm still watching "The Good Wife" because it hasn't become corroded [yet?] and in last night's episode (called "Hi"), I saw one of the best scenes ever. Unfortunately, CBS won't allow embedding of their full episodes, so you have to go to the show's site to see it. If you don't want to see the whole episode, fast-forward to just before 37 minutes (36:45 to be precise) and watch that incredible scene where Kalinda is on the witness stand. How people are able to write so well, I have no idea.
Dean says: "[The PR company] told me that I could talk to [Gibson], but only if I didn't bring up any of his much publicized personal problems of the past few years, and stuck to talking about his movie. I told them no, thanks. I don't do interviews with conditions on them."
Here's some info about TV segments that are going run in February to celebrate Black History Month: Bob Jordan will profile prominent African American Chicagoans on February 14 and 28 during the "WGN News at Nine."
And every week this month, Garrard McClendon will feature African American Inventors on his CLTV show, which airs Monday through Saturday at 6pm and 9:30pm. Throughout the week, he will feature clues and questions, inviting viewers to call in and guess who created the invention or modern convenience. And each Friday, he will reveal the answers during the program.
I still feel bad for McClendon because his parents were murdered. He's a strong person to still be able to do his show and carry on. I've heard he's a nice guy too.
I'm sure I'm not the only person to say this, but now that Conan O'Brien is off the "Tonight Show," why doesn't he just come here? Oprah is leaving anyway, and he's done his show here before (at the Chicago Theater). Or are we just fly-over country?
I heard that Roe Conn and Cisco Cotto were on TV, and now the proof has surfaced, thanks to the embedding feature on the CBS news site. Cisco said how their TV appearance came about isn't "a very sexy story": CBS was looking for reactions to the Scott Brown victory, so they sent a camera to WLS Radio. Cisco and Roe briefly appear just past five minutes into the newscast below.
Tonight at 9:30, "Paranormal Cops" is going to be premiering on A&E. According to the site, the show "follows a group of larger-than-life cops who walk one beat during the day as real-life Chicago-area police officers and another at night when they apply their forensic and investigative expertise to paranormal casework...As they investigate, the team will also uncover the dark underworld of Chicago's sordid history, which will both inform and enrich their cases as they seek to rid people of the fears that plague them."
If you miss it at 9:30, you'll get a chance to see it at other times. See the schedule for details.
I was at the Media Monolith, aka 190 North State Street, which houses various radio and TV outlets, including ESPN and WLS-TV. I was in the waiting area downstairs and saw a guy and a woman dressed in identical sweatsuits discussing what seemed like a segment that they were going to be doing that day.
So I asked them if they were going to go on TV, and they looked at me as if I was asking them for money. They eventually said "yes" and I told them that I write for this site, which means I'll be able to write something about them. They looked at me again as if I was deranged, and they mumbled something about "[blah blah] exercises for 2010". So I asked them if they were going to go on Channel 7, and the guy started listing exercises they were going to do.
Um, that's not what I was asking, but apparently they were so freaked out, they didn't want to incriminate themselves by being specific or forthright about their purpose at the Monolith.
It contained the usual problems: lazy staff, debt, chaos, sloppy management. But what caught my eye was when the owner, Janeen Nufer, yelled out her frustrations towards Lake Michigan.
That's what I want to do! I want to yell, "It is too cold!" "Why is it so hard to make decent money?!" "I want that guy to pay for what he did!"
I've walked along Lake Michigan several times, wanting to scream at the top of my lungs to let out my frustration about unfair situations. But I've never done it because I didn't want people to think I was crazy. But now that I saw Janeen do it, I want to do it too! Even right now!
According to his Facebook status: "i'll be guesting on fox 32 tomorrow at 9-30 to discuss the halas hall shuffle........ why, why would a quality mike martz type coordinator want to come to halas hall with lovey really operating on a one year leash....... don't worry Jerry 'Draft king' angelo has this whole situation under complete control..... sort of like the edmund fitzgerald..."
Even though I don't know what he's talking about, I'm going to watch because I've met him a couple of times and I want to see what he's like on TV. He seems like a talented guy but I've heard he's a lightning rod. I think he's even implied that, but he doesn't seem to care.
Update: I saw the segment which seemed very short. I was able to grasp some of what he was talking about, but he seemed to be the same guy I've met off the air.
So here's the scoop: she's cute and bubbly and looks good before 4 AM. She also was having trouble talking straight into the microphone: she kept moving her head around, and I wondered if she thought she was in a TV studio where the mic is somewhere floating above and all that matters is that you look good.
But really, you know how TV people "need" makeup to look pretty? She doesn't. And the cool thing is that she didn't seem arrogant or anything, just peppy and ready to go to work. Little did she know that I was planning this post as she was sitting on the other side of the glass, having a good time.
For my last post of the year, I'd like to quote Robert Feder, who's been writing about television and other media for years. A lot of people in The Biz "know" him but haven't actually met him, but I was lucky to run into him at an event, and he was really friendly. He was so easy to talk to, I almost told him all about the troubles I'd seen at work, but I refrained. I also managed to not shed a tear about my situation, though I wonder if he could tell I was trying to hold it all in.
He has some good advice in his last blog post of the year for tonight's countdown, which is missing on Chicago TV:
Well tonight she came back to Chicago to take over another salon (Chicago Male Salon) and if you see this post before midnight, you'll catch the rerun then. But Bravo usually reruns her show on other days, so I'm sure you'll get other chances to see it.
Of course, the salon had a viewing party, so if anyone wants to add any comments here about that or about the show, feel free.
And below is a clip of her in Chicago giving tips on cross-promotion.
Today is Bill Zwecker's birthday, and if the world were run by me, I'd give him another TV job as a birthday present.
In the video clip below, you see how Bill talks--he seems friendly and smiley. Well that's how he was when I met him when he was waiting for a cab outside of the MCA. I walked up to him and he had no idea who I was, but he smiled and said hello. Then I dropped a name of someone I worked with who knew him, and asked him some questions about working in TV, neither of us knowing that he'd eventually be canned from CBS-2. He was totally friendly and wasn't snobby at all, which is why I wish he'd end up on TV somewhere instead of just writing for the Sun-Times.
Happy Birthday Bill and hopefully 2010 will be a better year for you.
I rarely watch "Dog the Bounty Hunter" but when I saw this conversation with a Chicago-born woman, I felt bad for her because she's really destroying herself and ruining her life, and she's only in her 20's.
Phil Rosenthal will be on CNN tomorrow morning. What's amusing is his announcement in his column: "This columnist is scheduled to be a guest on Sunday's edition of CNN's 'Reliable Sources.' Look for me -- or avoid me, completely your call -- between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., barring something unexpected."
I've run into him a few times, and one time he didn't recognize me and wasn't the friendliest person on earth. I sent him a message, letting him know that it was me who he saw, and he sent a very nice response, apologizing for the indifference. So when I read that self-deprecating announcement about his appearance on CNN, I thought it seemed consistent with what I've encountered, ie, he's a nice guy who is probably pleased to be on TV but isn't all arrogant about it. So I'm going to tune in and offer my anonymous support.
Chicago native Morris Brent has always had music on his mind; with over 15 years as a music professional, he has written songs, managed artists, and has even fronted his own band. He has now added to his passion for "music and life" by creating CounterPoint, a positive outlet for teens who are interested in pursuing a career in music. When it comes to providing positive opportunities for teens, Brent gets "the point."
Tell us about CounterPoint.
The CounterPoint Music and Life Workshop is an eight week program that is also an after-school arts program for kids who are interested in pursuing music. It is designed to bring out the positive aspects of music as it relates to life.
What are the criteria to join?
Only one: They must be passionate about music. Once they're in the program, they are required to improve in at least one of three key areas--attendance, grades, or behavior.
Why did you decide to create the program?
There are kids who want to be hip-hop artists, DJs, poets, singers, etc. I noticed that there really isn't a specific platform for this in high schools today; to be involved with music, you have to basically be either in the choir or in the band.
Tonight at 10 o'clock, WTTW will be airing "Raising the Barre: The Homer Bryant Story" about Homer Hans Bryant, who has worked with famous people and Olympians. He's received the Chicago Cultural Alliance's 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2009 Illinois Arts Alliance Award. He's also the founder and artistic director of the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center and is the assistant artistic director for Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and a ballet master for the Giordano Junior Youth Performing Groups.
It's a 30-minute documentary that should be interesting because he's really done a lot in this city and beyond, and is considered one of the top teachers in the country.
It is no secret how proud Jennifer Hudson is of her Chicago roots--and she showed us just how much in "Jennifer Hudson: "I'll Be Home for Christmas," her holiday special that aired last night on ABC-7.
In the special, the singer/actress took viewers on a journey to her favorite parts of the city that included a ride down the Chicago River and a stop at Navy Pier and her other Chicago stomping grounds, including Evergreen Plaza, as she sang holiday classics along the way.
One of Hudson's stops included a visit to her alma mater, Dunbar Vocational Career Academy. There, she gave an auditorium full of students a mini-concert where she belted out her rendition of holiday classics like "O Holy Night" and "The Christmas Song." Next, the Grammy and Academy Award winner visited the South Side church where she honed her singing chops and sang more holiday tunes, this time, backed by the Soul Children of Chicago choir. Together, they sang a high-energy, gospel-influenced version of "Go Tell It On The Mountain" and other Christmas songs.
Singer Michael Bublé also joined Hudson for a couple of duets that included "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "Let It Snow."
The show was an excellent showcase for Hudson's singing talent, (not that we don't already know about her powerhouse vocals) and her fans everywhere were certainly treated to a warm and family-friendly holiday special.
Since WFLD-TV (Fox Chicago) has decided to not renew Jack Conaty's contract, they'll most likely be deleting his bio from their site. So I've posted it here. I think it's important to preserve it, especially since they said, "We appreciate all of Jack's hard work and dedication during his time with Fox Chicago." So much so, they've shown him the door.
Rick Kogan has the best media gig in Chicago, and it hasn't gone to his head -- unlike some other folks who shall remain nameless. He's a generous person and isn't snobby at all. I met him a while ago, and he's one of the few people who judges people according to their personality and character, not how famous, rich or successful they are, even though he is definitely successful and well-connected.
Now that the show "Monk" has ended, I'm going to say what I've been thinking for a long time: it wasn't even good anymore! It especially went downhill when Bitty Schram (who played Sharona) left the show. There was always an interesting tension between them because they had different personalities, and she called him out on his weird behavior.
But more than the unfortunate departure of Sharona was that the early episodes were actually mysteries, and after a while, the show became just about him and his annoying quirks. What we ended up watching was his amicable relationship with his new assistant Natalie, which seemed boring because there was no tension, and one big character sketch, supported by lots of extras at the show's site. I stopped watching it, even when Sharona came back to the show for one episode, though I did see the finale (which was better than most of the show's episodes anyway).
And btw: Tony Shalhoub, who's the producer and lead actor, is Jonathan Brandmeier's cousin (at least according to Shalhoub's IMDb bio).
Well, Brandmeier definitely doesn't have a "face for radio." Compare him to other 50-somethings, and I'd say he looks a lot better -- he obviously works out and takes care of himself. Yes, it's superficial to talk about his looks, but that's what matters when it comes to TV.
Check out this clip below from a cancelled TV show and you'll see what I mean. And check out his site to see more videos (they don't let anyone embed them elsewhere).
This week I met Debra (Deb) Coltune-Mendez, who is going to host the show "Dig In! America" on Bravo TV. She'll be talking to renowned chefs about their restaurants and neighborhoods, then they'll show where the food came from, and how people can cook a meal featured in the show in their own kitchens.
When I first met Debra, I thought I'd seen her before, and she said that people think she looks like Eva Longoria. But Debra has none of the Beverly Hills attitude. She's really easy to talk to and has had an interesting life, including working in TV in Las Vegas and Florida.
The director is another Chicagoan, Marc Shaykin, who's worked all over the city for every TV station, and also teaches at the City Colleges of Chicago. And Anzour Jallouqa, a tech guy in Chicago, is also helping out with production.
I'll post more details about the show when it premieres, but I just wanted to give folks a heads-up.
I guess I'm the only person who doesn't like "My Boys" because it's going on its fourth year, which means it has lots of viewers. This is not to diss the actors--they seem talented, but the show is not funny and reminds me of the shallow interactions you see in tacky Wrigleyville bars, which is probably what this show is based on. I could barely get through one episode, and I don't want to give it another shot.
The only thing I find entertaining about the show is [are] all the Chicago references and seeing if they got the details right, such as our glee about balmy days within harsh winters. But I have to disagree with the TBS slogan ("very funny"): not very funny. Not funny at all.
I said before that if Oprah leaves Chicago, it won't be good for us. Well, now that she's announced the end of her CBS-syndicated show, my opinion remains unchanged. Since Discovery Communications, the company that's going to partner with her for her OWN cable network, isn't located in Chicago (except for a sales office), that means that a lot of resources and opportunities are going to disappear from our fair city.
Let's hope that another innovative, successful person in Chicago steps up to the plate to keep our city prosperous and dynamic.
I am old enough to remember when Walter Jacobson and Bill Kurtis hosted, I mean read, the news on Channel 2. The newsroom was behind them and had a realistic, gritty, serious feel to it. But we're in the 21st century now--news has changed. So it was weird to see them together on Friday (you can see the video here). And I wonder if younger viewers were puzzled about what all the hype was about, and if they cared. What demographic did they think they were appealing to?
I was at a Blackhawks game on Monday (they won, btw) and I met Gene Honda, who's the public address announcer for them and other teams in town. I think he does voice work for Me-TV, and I've seen him on WTTW during pledge drives, but what's weird is that he's not listed at their site, and he doesn't have his own site either. So I'm not clear what he exactly does at Channel 11, but he has a great voice.
He seemed friendly, though I probably annoyed him because I asked him for advice about some stuff, and he gave me some obtuse answers. He probably thought, "Great, another wannabe asking me about the dwindling competitive voice business," so perhaps he didn't want to be specific because there was no point. I did get a chance to ask him if he speaks Japanese, because I lived there and can speak it ok, but he said "no." After he disappeared into the announcer's booth, I thought I would never see him again, but I later ran past him in a hall downstairs. So I said it was nice to meet him and he smiled, and I haven't emailed him yet to follow up (he doesn't know I write for this site and I seriously wonder if he's glad to be rid of me).
There's been a question posted in Fuel that asks what you think of Oprah leaving Chicago. Well I think that Chicago will definitely suffer if she leaves.
Not only will hundreds of people lose their jobs, but all the residuals that go along with her presence here will be affected as well. Remember what the West Loop used to look like? It was a bunch of emptying warehouses and decrepit buildings, a kind of no-man's land where parking was plentiful, but restaurants weren't.
Not only did her studio bring about urban revitalization, but it's also increased tourism and enhanced Chicago's exposure. Before, Chicago was known more for the mafia and Al Capone than Oprah. Now we get all sorts of people here who want to see what her "hometown" looks like, and even if their friends and family aren't fans of hers, they at least become curious to see what type of place they've been to.
So as a non-fan of her show (though if I got an invite, I'd gladly go), I'd like to publicly plea that she not leave Chicago because we need her. Otherwise, we might slip back to the Chicago of the 70's, when the city was grim and people stayed away.
I love this show--I watched the entire first season and was impressed. It's not just about a salon, but about how to run a business, have pride in your work, and take responsibility for even seemingly mundane details. It's entertaining, but I've also come away from the show thinking about how to "step up" (as Tabatha often says) in my own projects and jobs.
There's a really good article in the Sun-Times that talks about some reality behind what we saw: what the stylists had to say compared to what was shown. If you watched the show with the stylists at The Stretch, feel free to talk about it here.
After watching this interview with Sherri Shepherd (who grew up in Chicago and Hoffman Estates before moving to California), I really want to meet her. I'm not a fan of any of the shows she's been involved with, but she seems like a very vibrant person who's funny too. I wish I could make a living off my personality as she's been able to do.
People shouldn't get too much plastic surgery. Actually, no one should get it, but since some segments of society are materialistically self-absorbed, plastic surgery is "inevitable." Just take a walk around the Gold Coast or the Viagra Triangle to test such a theory.
Last night I spotted plastic surgery overkill: Cindyana from "Million Dollar Listing." This photo does not capture the hideousness that appeared on camera for several moments at a time. In fact, I think the producers purposely did close-ups of her face to expose us to such horror. If you want to be creeped out, watch Season 3, Episode 3 -- they'll most likely rerun it multiple times.
When it comes to performing, Chicago native Robert Townsend has certainly done it all; beginning with his 1987 directorial debut, "Hollywood Shuffle", (and before then with a bit part in the 70s cult classic "Cooley High")Townsend has gone on to produce, direct, write and act in several feature films and television series.
After a television hiatus, Townsend returns to the small screen, adding another entry to his repertoire: "Robert Townsend's Musical Theater of Hope." Airing this weekend on the Gospel Music Channel (GMC), "Hope" is a trilogy with a "theatre-like quality" that shows "characters dealing with the challenges of life." I have seen all of his projects, including "Meteor Man", (but don't hold that one against him) and he has consistently put out quality, entertaining, and family-friendly material that everyone can enjoy.
So, if you're all tuckered out from watching football, tune into "Robert Townsend's Musical Theater of Hope" on GMC this Sunday, Oct. 25 at 7pm. Encore performances are scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 11pm.
Though I'd like to commend CBS for posting full episodes of "The Good Wife" at their site (for those of us who can't record it on Tuesday nights), I've noticed an inconsistency: the Chicago police in Highland Park. Highland Park has its own police department, so realistically, the police who arrested the teenager in the clip below would be from Highland Park, not Chicago.
After a long search, this is the only picture I could find. If you have a better picture, feel free to let me know. Nene's uncle is on the far left, and to the right of her is the co-author of her book (Denene Millner), and Nene's alleged real dad.
Someone sent me info about CLTV (which according to some people is the Triple A/Farm Team for WGN): you can now watch it if you have RCN. Finally. It's obviously impractical that for years, people could only see it on Comcast, but what's odd is that not even all Comcast subscribers can see it either. I don't know what CLTV's plan is, but I hope they get more exposure because it's refreshing to see news presented in a regular way (instead of the fluffy presentations on other stations). And they have pleasant weekday morning anchor Tonya Francisco and earnest weekend anchor Judy Wang, two women on TV who don't act dumb.
From the local club scene to cable TV to feature films, Chicago comedian Deon Cole has been steadily climbing the ranks in stand-up comedy; now, he has a new feather in his cap: He is the latest addition to the writing staff of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien."
Here is Cole at work:
Be sure to tune in to "The Tonight Show" to see one of Chicago's own in action!
Let me honestly say that I've wanted to write about the Lettermansituation since the story broke, but I've refrained because it seems that everyone is writing about it. But here's something you haven't seen in the Chicago media: any mention that it happens here as well.
I walked over to the Borders to try to get a picture of her, but all I saw were hundreds of people lined up on the first and second floors to get their books signed. What's D-List about that? Staying at the Ritz, wearing beautiful clothes, surrounded by handlers, sold-out shows at the Chicago Theater, hundreds of people waiting for her to just sign their books...she's obviously a success!
Dean Richards said that he got a chance to talk to her, and she totally made him laugh. That interview will be on the WGN Morning News tomorrow (Thursday), and he said it will be funny. Hopefully they'll post the video online as well.
Here's the context: in the episode The Lazarus Experiment, the Doctor was playing an organ to try to destroy an evil creature and said, "I'll have to turn it up to eleven."
Yes, I'm a Spinal Tap fan which is why I caught that reference easily. I'm sure many people in Chicagoland were smiling and nodding their heads when they heard that. I just wanted to celebrate such a pop cross-cultural reference here. Thank you and have a good night :)
I had a membership with WTTW/Channel 11 but let it lapse, and eventually got a desperate-sounding letter from them, with several paragraphs that started out with the phrase "We took the chance..." followed by "There's only one problem with 'the honor system,' and running a public service on faith--everyone has to keep doing their fair share or it falls down." They said that they're worried, which made me wonder how bad TV would be without them around.
So I sent my membership check in, and I'd like to suggest that other people do the same. They're one of the few TV stations that doesn't require trash to fuel their programming, and they don't use visual extremes or try to melt people's minds.
I've never worked for them and don't know anyone there, so I don't have a ulterior motive. I just appreciate that they're around.
If you look at the opening scene in the video below, the alarm radio goes off, and the traffic reporter is talking about how backed up Michigan Avenue traffic is. But really, do we ever hear about it? Real Chicago traffic reports focus on expressways and Lake Shore Drive. But I guess the show wanted to feature that famously pretty street, not only visually (you see Michigan Avenue a lot in the opening credits) but on the radio as well.
I honestly didn't expect much from the new CBS show The Good Wife, but it was actually really good. I still can't believe they created a main character who is female and complex! And we can identify with her--not just her struggles but her strength as well--who would've thought that TV shows could do that?
What's amusing is that the woman's husband was the Cook County State's Attorney, and before he was thrown in jail, they lived in Highland Park.
I was surprised to see Matt Czuchry in the show--I watched him in many episodes of Gilmore Girls, where he played a smug rich kid. Now he's an ambitious junior lawyer, working on cases that are tried in our glorious Cook County.
I'm going to tune in next week, but if CBS decides to make any of the mainfemalecharacters stupid, slutty, weak, shrill, or shallow, I will no longer watch.
Oprah (aka Opie to some folks) promptly paid back the city for closing down Michigan Avenue to kick off her 24th season. (Why she wouldn't wait for "25" to make it really special, I have no idea. Which makes me wonder what she has planned for next year.) That was fast. And responsible. Thanks.
I don't worship at the Temple of O, and I'm not a buddy of Da Mayor either, but I had no problem with her closing down Michigan Avenue to throw her party. It might not be a hip opinion, since it seems that a lot of people wanted to complain about how she pushed her way onto the most prestigious section of street in the city, but it's only helped. Chicago got exposure not just on TV, but in all the residuals that surrounded the event, and businesses made money.
I had difficulty getting down the street, but I got a clear view from a high floor in the 333 building, and sure, there were a lot of people, but it was organized and festive and they cleaned up real nice, too. We didn't hear about any crime or freak-outs, so let's just be happy a TV powerhouse chose Chicago to celebrate success, and let's hope that gets more visitors here.
First it was Pat O'Brien, now we find out that Chicago stand-up Hannibal Buress has also been hired to write for the newest season of Saturday Night Live. Buress has been living and performing in New York City, having recently appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and he recently announced on his Twitter page that he would be joining the SNL cast on the 17th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
"hey. i found out that ill be writing on this season of SNL. lots of elaborate poop sketches will be pitched this season:"
Tune in to the season premiere of the 35th season of SNL on September 26th on NBC!