September 30, 2013



NOTE: This post contains spoilers from the season three premiere of REVENGE.

Previously on REVENGE...

It’s no secret that a good chunk of the REVENGE faithful found other ways to occupy their Sunday nights last season. Ratings were down, griping from fans was up and a palpable funk was in the salt-kissed air. Things just weren’t as deliciously wicked in the Hamptons anymore.

I never thought season two of REVENGE was a total loss but there were enough stinkers in the mix to make it easier to skip episodes and lose interest. I don’t know anyone who cared a whit about the “bad guys take over Jack’s bar” subplot and I’m still at a loss to explain the odd trajectory of the storyline  involving Kara Clarke (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Plus, I think we can all agree that the  name “Padma” should never be uttered again…ever!

On the flip side, we did finally get the demise of Faux-Manda (Margarita Levieva) in an unexpectedly poignant mid-season shocker. The World of Jack (Nick Wechsler) was downsized further when annoying younger brother Declan (Connor Paolo) bit it prior to things wrapping for the summer. Even better, Daniel (Josh Bowman) was eventually allowed to shed the douche bag shroud that he had been saddled with for much of the season.
Season three of REVENGE opens with Emily (Emily Van Camp) in mortal danger.
As the ABC promos have revealed, Emily (Emily Van Camp) is indeed shot twice by an unseen assailant within the first minute of the season opener. She ends up in the drink, floating Jesus on cross style in her wedding gown. True to series form, we then flash backward two months prior to the incident and will spend the first half of the season re-living the events that lead up to Emily taking those bullets.

Within five minutes, you’ll also know the show is serious about going back to the format that made it such a buzzy hit in season one. Nolan (Gabriel Mann) is sprung from the pokey and, in a sharp bit of dialogue, Emily makes it clear that we have heard the last of Carrion and The Initiative. We also find out that the Grayson fortune has gone poof and the poor saps are down to the manor house and whatever salary Conrad (Henry Czerny) draws from his new job as Governor of New York.
Justin Hartley plays Patrick, the son Victoria gave up for adoption years ago.
Wrapping up bits of story left hanging from last season, we see grating skank Ashley (Ashley Madekwe) go bye bye and Victoria’s recently revealed son Patrick (new hottie Justin Hartley) already fully in the mix, sans shirt. The Patrick stuff seems a little too neat and tidy but the scene where Victoria (Madeline Stowe) and Emily send Ashley packing is classic REVENGE. After verbally berating the conniving harpy, she makes her exit not on the sleek jet that has been in the background the entire time but, instead, on a crappy propeller plane that is revealed just as Ashley turns to do her walk of shame into the night. Meow!

The first target of Emily’s revenge is, of course, the Grayson family. Her plan involves a garden party, spiked water and an elaborate medical malady scheme. Emily's end game is forcing Conrad into a situation where he has to give up the governorship. With some help from Nolan (who parachutes into the party in a silly, throwaway moment), her plan is executed without a hitch. Emily, already re-engaged to Daniel, tells him she is now ready to set a date. Her preference: August 8th (8/8). Fans will recognize the significance of that choice. Two interlocked number 8s form the double infinity symbol that is central to the series.
Victoria (L), played by Madeline Stowe, and Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) reconnect.
This feels like the REVENGE you knew and once loved. There’s plenty of bitchy banter and gloriously fake green screen sunsets. Nolan’s witty in-jokes and wordplay are back in all their glory. Emily Van Camp is still the most stunning vengeful femme fatale on television. There’s even a neat twist at the end of the hour that sees Aiden (Barry Sloane) making a surprise return. Let’s just say he’s not back to shower Emily with hugs and kisses. (UPDATE 10/13: Surprise! Aiden never really left Team Emily...yay. We don't like him not liking her).

On the potential downside, Christa B. Allen still plays Charlotte as a one-note prig and Jack returns in full grouch mode. The latter may grow tiresome in the coming weeks but, for now, is well played in a scene where he kisses and then rejects Emily (brutal to watch) as well as an encounter involving a potentially game-changing ultimatum. Overall, it’s a strong start to the season.

REVENGE airs Sundays at 9PM E/P on ABC with next day streaming on Hulu.

September 28, 2013


Barilla Ad

UPDATE: 11/4/2013: Looks like the bottom line at Barilla might be taking a hit. As Think Progress and others have reported, the pasta peddlers are in a bit of a damage control panic. Too bad, so sad. As millions of consumers already know, finding a hate-free pasta brand is remarkably easy. While Barilla scrambles to throw together a silly "diversity" thing, I'll keep enjoying more delicious Prince Pasta. Barilla, vaffanculo!

At the request of Guido Barilla, I happily returned two boxes of his pasta and two bottles of his sauce to my local super market for a full refund. Given that I don’t fit his stated definition of a family and would never want to sully him with my dirty gay money, I simply switched to Prince pasta (happy 100th).

The main competitors to Barilla in the US, Ronzoni (like Prince, owned by New World Pasta) and Bertolli, have both jumped on the “dump Barilla” bandwagon and I couldn’t agree with them more. Sure, it’s a marketing stunt but at least I know where they stand and can feel better about more of the products I spend my money on.

As you’ll see in the video below, at least one of these companies was on the right side of the issue long before Guido acted like such a…well…guido. Enjoy this clever, nicely produced ad by the Bertolli folks that was made way back in 2009. Barilla would hate it.



Ah, Fashion Week! Crazy clothes, nutty hats and more tight faced, skinny bitches per square foot than any location in Los Angeles. Enter Rick Owens, an American designer who, in ten magical and ferocious minutes, may have changed the runway show forever.

In a story that has deservedly gotten more buzz than anything else out of Paris this week (even the model meltdown, post topless protest), Owens gave a grand and glorious middle finger to “typical” by hiring step teams to show off his latest collection. Most of the models were black and there’s not an emaciated body in sight. Cue horrified looks from the closet racists who lurk behind the catwalks.

Enjoy the full show below and CLICK HERE to check out the Rick Owens collection. If you’d like a particularly hilarious rundown of what Anna Wintour might have been thinking during the show, CLICK HERE. It’s very funny stuff from writer Kyle Fitzpatrick.

September 25, 2013



Typically, I don’t cover CBS programming in large part because network president Les Moonves is not what I would call a friend of digital content distribution. He’s also an arrogant gas bag who never met a cookie-cutter procedural he didn’t get hard for. Unlike ABC, NBC, Fox and The CW, CBS makes it difficult to watch their shows anywhere outside of the traditional broadcast model. My response: why give free publicity to a network that doesn’t play nice with viewers?

With that said, I watched the new Chuck Lorre series MOM, laughed my ass off and decided to give CBS a little love. Of the half-dozen or so new fall comedies I’ve screened, it’s the only one that feels like a fully developed show. It’s definitely adult and uptight media watch dog groups will hate everything about it. No matter, MOM is undeniably hilarious and handles some very sensitive subject matter with deft skill.

Anna Faris plays Christy, a hard working single mom who waits tables at an upscale restaurant. She had her two kids very young and is also grappling with the reality that she’s an alcoholic. When we first meet her, Christy is just shy of four months sober (118 days, to be precise).
(L-R) Nathan Corddry, Anna Faris and French Stewart star in MOM.
In short order, we are introduced to Christy’s married boss Gabriel (Nathan Corddry), fussy restaurant chef Rudy (nicely played by French Stewart in a pointed “homage” to Food Network staple Ted Allen), her semi-trampy and full-on resentful teen daughter Violet (Sadie Calvano) and adorable younger son Roscoe (Blake Garret Rosenthal).

Violet is already sexually active with her doofus boyfriend Luke (a strong, well modulated turn by Spencer Daniels) and Christy is having an affair with Gabriel. Oh, did I forget to mention that his wife’s father owns the restaurant?

As if all of that family drama wasn’t enough for Christy to deal with, it’s in her AA meeting that we first meet Bonnie (Allison Janney), Christy’s mother and fellow recovering addict. It’s also readily apparent that mom was into a lot more than wine and liquor:

BONNIE: (To a waiter) Can I trouble you for some water without ice. Ice isn’t good for my digestive system.

CHRISTY: Really? Ice? I think your digestive system has seen worse than ice.

BONNIE: Excuse me?

CHRISTY: Mom, I’ve watched you lick cocaine crumbs out of a shag carpet.

BONNIE: It’s not a sin to be thrifty, dear.
Allison Janney and Anna Faris star in MOM.
The script pulls no punches when it comes to drugs, sexuality and the rather loose morals of just about everyone in sight. Still, in the hands of Faris and Janney, the laughs come fast and furious and things never move into that skeezey, mean-spirited  territory occupied full-time by TWO AND A HALF MEN (another Chuck Lorre series). This is a show where the writers like the characters, warts and all.

Janney plays Bonnie with admirable restraint, a wise choice given how horrible of a mother she was. Resisting the temptation to take the character over the top makes Bonnie likable enough that you don’t root for her to fall off the wagon and drop dead. She’s still blissfully ignorant of the damage she’s done but in her own bizarre way Bonnie is trying to cobble together a relationship with Christy. As always, Janney is spot on.
(L-R) Spencer Daniels, Matt Jones and Anna Faris star in MOM.
I’ve always liked Faris but this is definitely her most grounded and earnest performance. She has comedy chops to spare but it’s her sweet exasperation and genuine heart that make the show so enjoyable. Even if you can’t relate to her addiction or family situation, most Americans can identify with her financial struggles. MOM does an admirable job of not avoiding economic realities, something most other sit-coms don’t touch (yes, MODERN FAMILY, I’m talking to you).

MOM really shouldn’t be this funny or, dare I say, sweet but somehow it is. The lion's share of the credit must go to Faris, Janney and that part of Chuck Lorre’s brain that gave us a great show like BIG BANG THEORY. MOM is well worth your time.

MOM airs Mondays at 9:30PM E/P on CBS.




ABC has guarded the pilot episode of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (with its annoyingly long title) almost as closely as Colonel Sanders used to guard his 11 herbs and spices. It’s an odd choice that ended up starting fanboy chatter of a major letdown. You can breathe easy…there is no bomb here. To be clear, AOS is not the best scripted drama of the new season (so far, that honor goes to SLEEPY HOLLOW) but it’s off to a darn good start.

The easiest way to enjoy AOS is to lower your expectations slightly and be very, very happy that writer/creator Joss Whedon is back in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER mode. It is now officially safe to call DOLLHOUSE a one-time lapse. The script for AOS is sharp, full of well placed in-jokes and funnier than most sit-coms. That’s a big plus because the pilot is very talky. In fact, if I was to ding the opener for anything, it’s a lack of one really mind-blowing action set piece. 
Deconstructing an explosion.
AOS is on ABC so top notch production values are a given. Still, the opening scene reeks of backlot sets and theme-park-style explosions. Pay no attention this brief moment of cheese. What follows is an almost elegant foray through the world of secret agencies and super heroes. It’s refreshing to see a television series with enough confidence in itself to not rely on the crutch of non-stop gadgets and digital effects. What is on display is there for a reason and is organic to the story. Nice!

AOS picks up after the terrific box-office smash THE AVENGERS (which you really should watch if you haven't seen it yet). S.H.I.E.L.D. is a secret organization that sometimes functions like a high-tech version of the poop sweeper who follows horses in a parade. Other times, it’s a globe trotting operation that tracks down rogue individuals with special powers. If S.H.I.E.L.D. contains them first, they can prevent a potential super hero from being corrupted, exploited or dissected by nefarious forces. These baddies, known as The Rising Tide, are mentioned but barely seen in the pilot.
Coulson (Clark Gregg) tries to contain Mike Peterson (J August Richards).
Most of the first hour is a tennis match of sorts between scenes of the team being assembled by a resurrected Agent Coulson (fan favorite Clark Gregg) and an attempt to track down a mysterious “hooded hero” (nicely played by J. August Richards) who rescued a woman from that opening sequence boom boom. These twin tracks eventually converge at Union Station in Los Angeles for the oddly muted action finale.

Big kudos for choosing Union Station for the final act. It’s an underappreciated architectural wonder and Whedon uses his big screen directing prowess to maximum effect in this small screen production. Why then, with such an epic backdrop, do we get a chase and fight sequence that seems so familiar and conventional? I don’t need lasers and alien beasties but we are definitely led to the water expecting something a little more spectacular than a few gang bangers being hurled into news kiosks. It’s a bit of a letdown.
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill.
What doesn’t disappoint is the decision to bring the Coulson character back to life. It’s immediately clear that there’s more to his story that we (and he) have been told, thanks to a very well-played bit between guest stars Cobie Smulders (reprising her role from THE AVENGERS) and Ron Glass (in his second great guest stint of the year after a bang-up performance in MAJOR CRIMES on TNT).

Gregg is in top form here and really let’s his snark flag fly. His timing is impeccable and his chemistry with Smulders makes their intro scenes sparkle. Coulson’s self-referential emergence from a shadowy corner and her run-down of the action from THE AVENGERS (reacting to being told Thor really isn’t a God: “You haven’t seen his arms.”) are both priceless moments. Let’s hope AOS sticks around for awhile so she can make a return once HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER finally bows out.
Tech duo Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge).
The rest of the cast is a mixed bag of (mostly) newcomers. It’s hard to call it on any of these actors after what amounts to brief introductions but I’m already not grooving on the Simmons half of tech nerd duo Fitz-Simmons (get it?). Elizabeth Henstridge fills the now de rigueur role of “hot female sidekick with British accent” but I didn’t believe a word that came out of her pretty mouth. She’s just not a very good actor. Faring much better is Iain De Caestecker, the Frick to her Frack. He's a delightful player from Scotland who makes the role of Leo Fitz his own without hamming it up.
Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) takes aim.
The hot guy role is filled by Brett Dalton. He plays black ops agent Grant Ward but doesn’t do much more than react to stuff and express disdain. To be fair, that’s really all he is asked to do. Dalton is, however, the second male lead and he’s not good looking enough to skate by on charisma and manliness alone. If the writers want to pay more attention to one of the regulars, I would start with him. The guy is a graduate from the Yale School of Drama. Time to let him put that MFA to work.

Rounding out the team is Chole Bennet (playing computer hacker Skye) and Ming-Na Wen (playing Agent Melinda May). Bennet, who had a supporting role in NASHVILLE last season, grew on me over the course of the opener. She starts off as your stock “annoying angry computer nerd” but, once the nuances of her character start bubbling up, her potential is much more obvious.
Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) finally kicks some ass.
Less satisfying is Wen. I love that they’ve cast an actor who is pushing 50 but, sad to say, she has zero presence. Melinda May is a role that screams for a Kelly Hu or Maggie Q type but instead, we get someone with a range that runs the gamut from stern to really stern. Her character has a reputation as a formidable agent but she is easily overtaken in one clunky scene and her sole bit of ka-ra-tay would have been better handled by my old GI Joe with kung fu grip. Fingers crossed that Wen comes into her own in future episodes. I’m kinda rooting for her.

At the end of the day, this is an “origin episode” (which is nicely referenced in the script at one point). Is it a home run? No. Is there enough here to merit coming back for more? Absolutely. Long running series have been launched with much shakier foundations and few of them were better written than AOS. The key, however, will be keeping Joss Whedon as present and attentive as possible. My worry button is pushed just a little knowing that he did not write or direct the next two episodes. MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of those series where what goes on behind the cameras is infinitely more important that what happens in front.

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 8PM E/P on ABC and next day on Hulu.


September 24, 2013



NBC has been making breathless claims about THE BLACKLIST being one of the most “buzzed about” dramas debuting this fall. I won’t begrudge network PR flaks their heavy dose of wishful thinking but, if this is the best they’ve got to offer, we’re in for a rocky TV season. It’s a series that feels like someone gathered cutting room floor rejects from ALIAS, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE then said “let’s put on a show!”

Undoubtedly, the pilot will get a decent sampling because it’s got THE VOICE as a lead-in and James Spader stars. Lots of people think he’s a great actor. I’m not one of them. Spader is a self-impressed circus monkey who excels at scenery chewing. He’s a favorite of TV viewers who still think BOSTON LEGAL was brilliant stuff.
James Spader stars in THE BLACKLIST.
In THE BLACKLIST, Spader plays Raymond Reddington, an FBI agent gone wrong. He’s made the jump from hunting fugitives to being one of them. In the silly opening scene, he strolls into FBI headquarters and turns himself in as part of some master plan that only he fully comprehends. If you half expect Dr. Evil to stroll in at any time, you’re not alone.

When Spader isn’t sitting in a chair channeling a dinner theater version of Hannibal Lecter, he’s puffing his chest and issuing some sort of faux-menacing proclamation. His babbling is often punctuated by a cheesy score that sounds as if it was lifted from a bargain bin video game. Spader does a lot of talking in the pilot but doesn’t say anything that made me care a whit about why his character went bad or what the hell he’s got up his sleeve.
James Spader talks a lot but says nothing in THE BLACKLIST.
One of his demands is that he will only speak to FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a newbie profiler who is about to start her first day of work at the bureau. Why her? Who knows? I guess if enough people tune in and the show doesn’t get yanked, that not-so-burning question will eventually be answered.

Boone is the best thing in the opener and tries her darndest to cobble together a compelling character from the scraps she’s given. I don’t believe, even for a second, that she’s FBI material and when she talks about training at Quantico I choked back a chuckle. The scene where she is asked to profile herself is particularly ham-handed, especially when she declares that her colleagues think she’s a bitch. If you had a dollar for every moment in the pilot where she backs up that claim, you’d have an empty wallet.
Megan Boone stars in THE BLACKLIST.
THE BLACKLIST is one of those series where you are asked to believe two things: almost everyone who works in a Federal intelligence agency is a clueless nincompoop and US military personnel are absolutely useless at providing an armed escort.

There’s a scene early on where Keen walks out of her brownstone and is greeted by a chopper fly-over and a small army of black SUVs teeming with FBI agents (don’t ask). Later on, however, she is transporting a high-value asset in an FBI convoy that is easily ambushed and overtaken by a half dozen bad guys…in broad daylight at a very public location. Never mind that Reddington already telegraphed just such an attack to Keen, the soldiers present are all killed before they can return fire and reinforcements never show up. Umm...ok.

If half-baked action, crappy dialogue and hammy acting are your cup of tea, you’re going to love THE BLACKLIST. Me? Not so much.




Now entering it’s 17th cycle on ABC, DANCING WITH THE STARS has been a reliable performer for the network. I’ve been a fan of the show (a reformat of the UK hit STRICTLY COME DANCING) since day one, only skipping those two unfortunate seasons where a Palin offspring sullied the dance floor. Here’s a look at what’s new, what’s wrong and who has the best chance of winning the coveted mirror ball.

In order to appreciate and enjoy DWTS, you first have to accept certain ground rules. You can whine and bitch and moan but these oddities are part of what makes the show as infuriating to watch as it is fun. Accept and move on!
  • THE NUMBERS: Scores are wildly inconsistent, period. Look for rhyme and reason in the music and choreography because you won’t find it behind the judging table.

  • THE BAD SEED: At least one wildly horrible and wholly undeserving celebrity will make it much farther in the competition than he or she should. Cue social media conspiracy theories.

  • THE YOUNG ONES: If you don’t know one of the younger stars, chances are they’re from a Disney Channel or ABC Family series. You might not know them, but millions of young people do. Stop scratching your head because it just makes you look old and out of touch.

  • THE DRAMA QUEENS: There will always be at least one star with a compelling sob story, one looking for redemption and one who will come out of nowhere as a legitimate contender for the top prize.

  • THE BRUNO: Judge Bruno Tonioli is VERY Italian and VERY gay and that’s why we love him. He’ll always be responsible for one of the biggest laughs in every episode and for it’s most inappropriate, uncomfortable moment. Sit back and enjoy!
Bruno goes in for the kill!
This season, DWTS underwent a bit of an overhaul. The most obvious change is the new one night format, meaning no more stand-alone results show. Each week, all returning couples perform and then one is eliminated at the end of the episode. SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE did the same thing this past season and, personally, I think it works equally well for both veteran series.

The other changes on DWTS this cycle run the gamut from cosmetic to bizarre. The judging table is now on the opposite side of the dance floor (just because) and the live musicians have been relegated to steerage. They’re still there, hidden behind set pieces and livestock, but now couples also dance to pre-recorded music sung by the original artists. Given that host Tom Bergeron barely mentioned the existence of the orchestra in the first two episodes, it feels like a trial balloon for scaling back on costly union positions. That’s a shame, really, because it makes the show feel less grand.
DWTS host Tom Bergeron.
Also flopping big-time is the ham-handed decision to nix the sky box and, instead, shove the couples into in an uncomfortably tight “Glitter Pit” located next to the judging table. It confines too much of the action to a very small area of a very large set and gives Bruno another “shiny object” distraction that he doesn’t need.

The former sky box is now a warm-up area that looks a little sad and is barely used. Occasionally, co-host Brooke Burke Charvet grabs her mike and wanders up there for no compelling reason. She does her thing while one of the couples goes through the motions behind her and pretends to be doing final prep for their routine.
Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke Charvet from DWTS.
Speaking of Charvet, the poor thing has never been more irrelevant. The physical changes to the production now enable Bergeron to do more than half of the set-ups she used to be responsible for. Perhaps that’s why he seemed so peevish throughout the premiere last week. Bergeron reverted back to his unflappable self in week two but Charvet was still saddled with stuff that looked like it was created just so she had something to do.

One important note to DWTS producers (because, you know, I’m sure they’re hanging on my every word): whatever that weird bleacher seating annex thing was that popped up throughout week one, please see to it that we never have to look at it again. It was an awkward disaster.
The season 17 cast of DWTS.
Of course, DWTS is all about the dancers and this season has some of the best I’ve seen over the entire run of the series. A full two thirds of the twelve couples are legitimate contenders for the top prize and there are more than a few pleasant surprises in the mix.
Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus.
The biggest story is Valerie Harper and, if you like a good cry, she does not disappoint. I was a sobbing wreck both weeks during her rehearsal package and performance. She’s not a great dancer but no one really cares. She’s 74, has terminal brain cancer and a knee injury but goes out there with the determination of a bull and not an ounce of “woe is me” patter.

It also helps that her partner, Tristan MacManus, is a total class act. In week one, he left the dance floor and let Harper soak up the standing ovation solo. In week two, during the rehearsal segment, he began to cry watching her work through a bum knee. Keep tissues handy. You’ll need them.
Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke.
Upping the ante on the “stars with diseases” front this season, Jack Osbourne is also on board. He was diagnosed with a form of multiple sclerosis and went public with the news last year. Anyone looking for a pity party here will be disappointed. Osbourne can dance (despite his massive self-doubt) and is already one of the most charming break-outs of the season. He’s so damn cute and endearing, you can’t help but root for him. Yes, Ozzy and Sharon have been in the audience both weeks doing just that.
Tony Dovolani and Leah Remini.
Rounding out our dramatic story arc is Leah Remini (partnered with the always wonderful Tony Dovolani). She made headlines over the summer with her much publicized split from the The Cult…er…Church of Scientology. Though mum about the brouhaha during week one, Remini let loose in a balls-out week two rehearsal package. I give the show a lot of credit for running it. Her assertion that church members want her to fail is probably quite accurate. In fact, if you look carefully, you might catch a glimpse of Xenu (or Jenna Elfman) hurling body thetans at her from the audience.

I also wonder what Remini is thinking every time she dances by Sharon Osbourne. The two used to appear on THE TALK together until Remini was unceremoniously dumped from the show. Osbourne was less than kind to her in interviews. No matter, Remini can dance and I sincerely hope she has the last laugh.
Brant Daugherty and Peta Murgatroyd.
The stars most likely to make it to the final rounds are Corbin Bleu, Amber Riley, Christina Milian, Brant Daugherty and Elizabeth Berkley. All of them can dance, with Bleu, Riley and Berkley particularly strong. Daugherty, a fan favorite from PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, is ridiculously hot (see above) and, unlike most pretty boys who appear on DWTS, he’s fearless when it comes to dancing. Corbin Bleu is all grown up from his HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL days. Apparently being on a soap suits him well. He looks great and is an amazing performer. Also turning my head is new mom Berkley. She has never looked better and is a delight to watch.
Val Chmerkovskiy and Elizabeth Berkley.
The first star booted was ESPN host Keyshawn Johnson. The former NFL player moves like a tree trunk with legs and was kind of dickish to partner Sharna Burgess in the week one rehearsal package. He will not be missed. I would also expect Bill Engvall, Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi and Bill Nye to get the boot sooner rather than later.
Nicole Polizzi and Sasha Farber.
Bill Engvall seems pleasant enough but he's a weak dancer. I don’t follow the Republican, redneck comedy circuit but, if he expects to survive, he’ll need those who do to come out from their duck blinds and vote. Polizzi is actually a surprisingly good dancer but every time she opens her mouth you cringe. All the glitter in the world can’t make the classless classy. As for Nye, I have never been a fan of “The Science Guy” and here he just creeps me out. He’s an awful dancer and I'll just keep my thumb on the fast forward button during his routines until he is voted off.

DANCING WITH THE STARS airs Mondays at 8PM E/P on ABC and next day on Hulu.

September 19, 2013



In the aftermath of another mass shooting here in the US, “discussion” of our woefully inadequate gun safety laws is again front and center. Of course, with our short attention span and 2nd Amendment zealots always at the ready to do the bidding of the NRA, you can expect two things: nothing will change and the next headline grabbing slaughter is probably just around the bend.

I don’t mean to sound hopeless or morbid but, let’s face it, gun loving extremists have the upper hand. We can pretend that the majority of gun owners, by and large a rational and law-abiding lot, are in the driver’s seat but anyone paying attention knows that isn’t our reality. In fact, in many states, a semi-automatic weapon is held in higher regard than the rights of a potential innocent victim. Want proof? Check out these three laws currently on the books in at least four states. They are just the tip of the gun nut iceberg.

The Governor of Louisiana is a tool named Bobby Jindal. Aside from the fact that he resembles a russet potato on a stick, the guy never met an NRA-backed idea he didn’t love. How else to explain his loud and proud support for Amendment 2, a significant change to the State Constitution that passed with support from more than 70% of  voters who showed up at the polls in 2012.

Basically, Amendment 2 made gun ownership a fundamental right in the state. Not only did it cover ownership of firearms but also transportation, carrying, transfer and general use. Even more onerous, it made imposing any firearm-related restrictions on individuals an action that was subject to the highest standard of review by Louisiana courts. 

Never mind that Louisiana is one of the poorest and least educated states in the Union. Forget about the fact that it has the highest murder rate in the nation and is the only state with a double digit stat in the “murders per 100,000 citizens” column. Who cares that opponents of the amendment red flagged it for potential abuse. Jindal, always the reliable NRA bitch boy, kept waving his pom poms of support right through it’s passage.

So how could a law like this end up coming back to haunt an already crime-ridden state? The most jaw dropping example comes from the hallowed halls of justice presided over by New Orleans Criminal District Court Judge Darryl Derbigney. In March, he sided with lawyers representing a group of felons with priors and threw out weapons charges that were lodged against them. His reasoning? Apparently, post Amendment 2,  the fundamental right of gun ownership also applies to those with criminal records. Among other things, his ruling meant a convicted felon that was caught with two semi-automatic weapons (one of them an AK-47) was allowed to walk free.

How did Governor Potato Head respond? In June he signed into law six more NRA-backed bills designed to “strengthen 2nd Amendment protections.” Louisiana is indeed the “Sportsman’s Paradise,” especially if you’re a gun-toting criminal and humans are your big game of choice.

North Carolina might be “First In Flight” but the state is now in serious contention for the title “First In Crazy” on more than one front. Firmly in the grip of GOP control, the Tar Heel state has become a petri dish of sorts where all kinds of extreme Right Wing ideas get a vigorous tire kick before being rolled out to other Red States.

The summer of 2013 was an especially productive one for conservative wing nuts in the state, with goof ball governor Pat McCrory leading the charge. North Carolina legislators passed some of the most restrictive and onerous voter ID laws in the country, with proponents wearing accusations of voter suppression as a badge of honor. McCrory also signed a restrictive anti-abortion bill in July and just hired an anti-abortion activist as a senior policy advisor to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

But wait, there’s more! Effective this month, a new law prevents any state law enforcement agency from destroying weapons that they receive during voluntary gun buyback programs. Now, if the weapon isn’t broken and has a viable serial number, police in North Carolina must keep, donate or sell the guns to licensed dealers. The legislation was backed by the NRA with the stated goal of stripping away discretion from judges and police by curtailing their ability to melt down buyback weapons. By neutering law enforcement agencies, buyback programs can no longer be looked upon as a guaranteed way of getting weapons of the streets.

This asinine law comes on the heels of similar legislation that recently went live in Arizona, courtesy of bat-crap-crazy Governor Jan Brewer. Brewer and McCrory have a lot in common, including some of the lowest approval ratings in the country among state governors (Brewer is in the low 30% range and McCrory hovers just above those pitiful numbers). Still, the Dumb-namic Duo keeps on truckin’ and doing as much damage as they possibly can until voters in both states wake up and kick their sorry asses to the curb.

Of course, I’ve saved the “best” for last. Remember that song “Iowa Stubborn” from THE MUSIC MAN? Well, if one was to do a modern re-write, “Iowa Stupid” would be a perfect title. Why? In Iowa not only can a legally blind person buy a gun, they can also carry it in public thanks to changes in firearm ownership laws that hit the state books in 2011. The updated law also prohibits local law enforcement officials from denying a gun permit to a citizen if they feel the individual is too visually impaired to handle a weapon. After all, what do police and sheriffs know about firearms?

Now, before you get your panties in a twist and accuse me of being mean to visually impaired folks, CLICK HERE and watch the video of Michael Barber and his wife buying a gun. Barber is blind. He and his wife look like lovely people but when he says “I can hear where people are…so I just point and shoot” all I can think of is how I don’t want to in the mall, park or food court when Barber decides he needs to defend himself.

I have no objections to laws that allow visually impaired citizens to buy and use firearms in controlled circumstances (like a shooting range) and with a required sighted companion or instructor. The new firearm ownership and carry laws in Iowa have no such restrictions and have already resulted in citizens being granted handgun permits despite the fact that they are so blind they are not permitted to drive.

There’s been more than a little noise made about the Iowa “blind people with guns” conundrum and it has made headlines across the country and around the world. Naturally, a number of legislators in the state are calling for changes to the law that would impose reasonable restrictions specific to the visually impaired. What does Governor Terry Branstad plan to do to address the hue and cry? Not a damn thing.

September 17, 2013



Every so often, a completely preposterous series concept turns out to be one of those rare pleasant surprises. Based on the sometimes dark and sometimes rollicking pilot, SLEEPY HOLLOW on FOX could very well be one of them. This isn’t the next LOST or even the next BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and, truth be told, it doesn’t aspire to be like either of those iconic shows. It’s barely half as deep as the former and not nearly as witty as the latter. Still, SLEEPY HOLLOW is immensely charming (even with the frequent beheadings) and a heck of a lot of fun.
L to R: Katia Winter, Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie and Orlando Jones from SLEEPY HOLLOW.
The pilot opens with a pitched battle between Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and a masked Hessian during the Revolutionary War. In short order, Crane lops off the head of his foe and is next seen rising from the thawed earth in a dank cave (see video at the end of this post). The twist: he has been in a flash-frozen slumber for more than 200 years and wakes up in present-day Westchester County, NY (played by various North Carolina locations). Why stick to one Washington Irving classic when you can borrow from two?

After almost becoming a pavement pancake courtesy of modern vehicular traffic, Crane eventually ends up as the prime suspect in a twin beheading. One of the victims is town Sheriff August Corbin (Clancy Brown). His protégé, Deputy Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), was there when he was murdered and knows the truth: a headless horseman is the real killer. Problem is, she can’t make any sense of what she has witnessed and initially refuses to corroborate Crane’s plea of innocence. There’s more to her reluctance here than simple denial but I won’t spoil too much of her intriguing backstory.
He's headless and he's pissed!Things move at a brisk pace throughout the opening hour and, thankfully, we’re not subjected to one of those draggy tales of “no one believes I pulled a Rip Van Winkle and am really 200+ years old.” Abbie eventually comes around, but not before most of the supporting cast is offed, one friend betrays her and a well-pickled severed head is unearthed by Crane. By the time we reach the end of the pilot, it's clear that this is going to be less about a time traveling Revolutionary War vet and more about Satanic beasties, battling witch covens and four horseman you won’t see at any rodeo.

Some of SLEEPY HOLLOW is silly. There’s the atmospheric storm effects that look like they were lifted from an old Universal horror film (you know, where thunder and lighting happen simultaneously), an unintentionally hilarious scene where a priest goes all Jedi Yoda and a dated Starbucks joke. Still, even with these lapses, the show never loses steam. SLEEPY HOLLOW is on a mission to entertain and doesn’t waste too much time lugging around plot or dialogue baggage that might weigh it down. It’s also not afraid to go dark and scary when appropriate. Nice touches and clever visual flourishes balance out the chop chop; like one beheading shown from the perspective of the beheaded…even after their head falls off.

Equally well handled is the fact that Crane is now living in a very different world from the one he knew. We are spared an assault of non-stop “wow, what’s that doohickey” prattle. Instead, we get subtle and endearing moments, like Crane’s inability to unlock a car door, or the terrific scene where he first meets Abbie. His reaction to seeing a black female police officer is priceless and their banter about slavery and historical perspective is executed with deft skill and not a whiff of preachy cheese.
Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison from SLEEPY HOLLOW.
As Ichabod Crane, Tom Mison is well cast and quirk free. He’s not channeling Johnny Depp (thankfully) or any other previous iteration of the character. His Crane is smart, assured and brave to a fault. Mison is handsome (but not too pretty) and deftly balances the cocksure bravado of a high-ranking military officer with the slack-jawed awe of a true fish out of water. Mison plays the part with effortless charm and spot-on earnestness. Camp and vamp would sink this ship and he never falls into that trap, nor do the writers.

The real find here is Nicole Beharie. Like Mison, she knows that sometimes less is more and avoids every scenery chewing trap that would trip up a lesser talent. You are with her from the start and she's a pleasure to watch. Not only is she is exactly right for the part, she also happens to NOT be a hot blond chick. It’s beyond refreshing to see a series kick a tired character crutch to the curb and opt, instead,  to cast based on talent. In fact, the only place a tony Westchester, NY town this diverse exists is on SLEEPY HOLLOW. That's a shame, really. More network shows should wake up, smell the proverbial coffee and adopt similar color-blind casting practices. 

Considering all of the ways SLEEPY HOLLOW could have mucked it up, that it’s this good out of the gate bodes well for the future. It could have been a weak disappointment like GRIMM or REVOLUTION but it isn’t. The “coming this season” trailer at the end of the hour more than hints at the supernatural horrors ahead. Let’s hope SLEEPY HOLLOW continues to keep it’s eyes on the prize and doesn’t stray down the primrose path to becoming an overstuffed bore like my former favorite ONCE UPON A TIME did last season. So far, I’m all in.

SLEEPY HOLLOW airs Mondays at 9PM E/P on FOX.


CLICK to buy the Washington Irving classic THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW from Amazon.CLICK to buy full episodes of SLEEPY HOLLOW from Amazon Instant Video.

September 16, 2013


Stephen Amell from ARROW. CLICK on image to enlarge.

Subtlety has never been the hallmark of The CW marketing strategy. The little network that could often has some of the most striking and overtly sexual print campaigns each TV season and Fall 2013 is no exception.

Behold, the roll-out of character-specific key art for season two of ARROW which premieres on Wednesday, October 9 at 8PM E/P. Series star Stephen Amell is pictured above and the three other male leads are equally stripped down below (Top to bottom: David Ramsey, Manu Bennett and a newly ripped Colton Haynes).

Oogle away here or feel even more inadequate by clicking on any image to enlarge it. If you want more photos and backstory, CLICK HERE to access all of the ARROW posts in the RONTHINK archive. You can also check out a season two preview hosted by Amell, a re-cap of the shocking season one finale and the 2013 ComicCon reel. These three videos follow the image gallery below. Then tune in to ARROW on 10/9 for more hot stuff.

Oh, did I forget to mention that it’s also a damn good show?

David Ramsey from ARROW. CLICK on image to enlarge.
Manu Bennett from ARROW. CLICK on image to enlarge.
Colton Haynes from ARROW. CLICK on image to enlarge.

September 15, 2013



It’s been a long time since any major chain had the balls to release a promo as gorgeous, haunting and emotionally riveting as the new “Scarecrow” short from CHIPOTLE. It is easily one of the best marketing stunts of the year.

Anchored by a lush and creepy Fiona Apple cover of “Pure Imagination” from WILLIE WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, the digitally animated short is designed to hype a new game app for the iPhone and iPad. In the process, CHIPOTLE also delivers a tour-de-force of a body blow to the world of factory farming and the inhumane treatment of livestock.

Check out the animated short here and then click on the resource links below the video player.


CLICK HERE for the iPhone and iPad app.

CLICK HERE for the Fiona Apple cover of “Pure Imagination” on iTunes. Proceeds are being donated to the non-profit Chipotle Cultivation Foundation.

September 14, 2013


The cast of THE MINDY PROJECT. CLICK to visit the official series site.


Somehow THE MINDY PROJECT escaped the Grim TV Reaper and got a second season pick-up. Why I’ll never know. It’s a terrible waste of the considerable comedic talent of star Mindy Kaling.

I just watched the second season opener hoping for a phoenix-like re-birth. Alas, all I got was warmed over “more of the same.” To that end, I give you my review of THE MINDY PROJECT in limerick form.







But I'm not annoying, I thwear!

Season 2 of THE MINDY PROJECT debuts Sept. 17 and airs Tuesdays at 9:30PM E/P on FOX.



UPDATE 10/31/13: Now that the series has launched, I took a look at the re-shot pilot and the episode that followed. While things were tightened up enough to merit a slight bump in my overall grade (from an F to a D) this is still a far cry from THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and remains a major disappointment. I stand by the vast majority of my critiques of the "Director's Cut" version of the backdoor pilot, including my right as a critic and blogger to review it on its merits (which were few and far between). Contrary to some of the more childish comments that were made below, I was pretty spot-on in my assertion that the producers of THE ORIGINALS were not going to do a drastic re-shoot (no matter what BS Julie Plec was feeding you in online interviews). What eventually aired as the first official episode of the series was largely a re-edited version of the backdoor pilot with re-shoots giving us a more coherent and stronger opening, too much Elijah, too little Marcel and a few decent twists. All of the problems with the overall story, pacing and cast remain intact. While you are free to disagree, this blog was not created to serve the brat contingent. Sorry to school you on the way things work outside of your cozy Tumblr cocoon but, you are not always going to read things you agree with online. There are dozens of ways to disagree that don't involve name calling, accusations of wrong doing and some of the other silly hissy fits thrown my way. This is not a rubber-stamp fan site. It's a blog with a point of view. If you can't handle that simple fact, there are a million other places on the internet for you to visit. 

A few years back, The CW scored big with the surprisingly addictive THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. Last season the network debuted ARROW, easily one of the best action dramas on television. Series like this are proof that The CW can launch great scripted programming. That’s why I’m at a loss to explain the existence of THE ORIGINALS, the TV equivalent of those dried up veggies in a Swanson’s frozen dinner. You know, the ones you never eat because it’s all of the other stuff in the microwave safe tray you were really into.

This spin-off from THE VAMPIRE DIARIES (more on that later) is one of those shows that starts off messy and then goes downhill. By the time you figure out what the hell is going on, you’ve already stopped caring. With writing this haphazard and lazy, I’m not even going to bother to try and sift through the tattered set-up for you. Suffice it to say, it’s a rancid gumbo of witches, vampires, werewolves and these pointless beasties known as hybrids. The key art for THE ORIGINALS (shown above) is more exciting than any scene in the pilot.
The lead actors from THE ORIGINALS.
As if a murky plot wasn’t bad enough, with two exceptions, THE ORIGINALS showcases some of the worst acting on television. Seriously. Even the leads in that dreadful SAM & CAT abomination on Nickelodeon have more thespian prowess. I would encourage The CW to start a self-imposed ban on enabling the careers of wooden “actresses,” especially those from Australia. It’s never too late to kill off the characters played by Claire Holt (even worse here in the role of Rebekah Mikaelson than she is on THE VAMPIRE DIARES) and Phoebe Tonkin. It won’t save THE ORIGINALS but it would make it a little less unbearable.

Though the series is set in New Orleans (and shot on location), I guess all of the black folks were busy because this is the whitest version of The Big Easy I’ve ever seen. There is exactly one African American lead (Charles Michael Davis) and even he is bi-racial (half black, half Filipino). Oh, and guess who the bad guy is played by?
Charles Michael Davis as Marcel in THE ORIGINALS.
Speaking of Davis, he's easily the best thing in THE ORIGINALS. He brings infinitely more sexiness and depth to the character of Marcel than is written into the script and he’s the only actor who appears to be having fun. Considering the army of pretty, vapid cardboard cut-outs they’ve surrounded him with, that’s no small feat.

Also coming out unscathed is series lead Joseph Morgan (Niklaus Mikaelson), transplanted from THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. He tends to assuage his boredom with a little too much scenery chewing but, honestly, who can blame him? I hope his contract has a better escape clause than Normal Fell and Audra Lindley got with THE ROPERS.

If you’re expecting THE ORIGINALS to have any of the wit, charm and sparkle of THE VAMPIRE DIARES, you’ll be profoundly disappointed. Without Kevin Williamson’s involvement, this spin-off is a wormy apple that fell far, far away from the tree. I didn’t love the backdoor pilot for this mess when it was wedged into THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. As a stand-alone, it is even more of an abortive effort.

THE ORIGINALS debuts Thursday, October 3 at 9PM E/P then airs Tuesdays at 8PM E/P starting 10/8 on The CW.