Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cake Boss -- "Doves, Ducks, and Delicacies"

Buddy Valastro Cake Boss birdcage cake pictures photos images screencaps Doves Ducks and DelicaciesCake Boss episode "Doves, Ducks, and Delicacies" was a lot of fun, with amazing cake-making feats and nuttiness from the Cake Boss crew.

Buddy starts out with a consultation for an engaged couple, who want a dove on their cake as a nod to their family's previous live-dove wedding cake. Buddy gets excited about this, and offers to make the actual old school cake that contains live doves. The couple seems a bit startled by the idea, but Buddy reassures them and they agree to put their trust in him.

As usual, Buddy is a man with a plan. He's got a multi-tiered cake with Tuscan style roses and grapes in mind, and as a center tier they'll be a little clear box that contains the live dove lovebirds.

Watching the cake making process on Cake Boss is jaw-dropping. Like any trade skill, you've got to have the right tools for the job, and this bakery's got tools like you've never seen. There are huge ovens, automated rolling pins, spinning platforms, and carving tools and forms to create flowers and leaves out of dough. Pastry dough gets stretched over a long table like fabric, then cut and molded like clay into art. Who knew cake making could be so exciting? Cake Boss is truly riveting as we watch the masters at work.

The masters at work can also be funny, as they attempt to find live doves for the cake. A miscommunication on the phone leads to Buddy opening a box to discover two snow white wedding love...ducks. Buddy's willing to laugh about it, but he's got a giant cake with no love birds in it that needs to go to a wedding.

Buddy Valastro Cake Boss birdcage cake yellow roses screencaps images photos pictures Doves Ducks and DelicaciesWhile the bakery boys make more phone calls for doves, Buddy shows the gals how to make the handpainted roses and leaves for the ivy. It's time-consuming, and there has to be a lot of leaves to make ivy, so everyone pitches in. We get a sense of Buddy's perfectionism as he discusses the creation of the roses, noting that each one must be not only realistic but also unique--as real roses are. So petals are bent in a different way, some buds are closed, while others open, etc. This is part of what makes his cakes so special--the incredible attention to detail.

Buddy's extra proud of his creation, and excited about presenting it at the wedding. Frank rides in the back of the truck with the cake (dismantled into three parts) and the doves to make sure the birds travel safely. The cake is put together before the start of the reception, but the birds are only added shortly before the cake cutting.

As often happens with weddings, the dove releasing doesn't go exactly as planned. The happy couple has trouble getting the birds to leave their new cosy home, and Buddy has to jump in and help them retrieve the doves. As everyone laughs and then applauds as the birds fly up toward the vaulted ceiling, we see that things don't need to go perfectly for everyone to have a good time. The love birds actually end up roosting together on top of a pillar, and the voiceover lets us know the doves were later returned safely to the pet store.

The second part of Cake Boss: Doves, Ducks, and Delicacies tonight was a special delivery of pastries from a husband to his pregnant wife. Buddy was happy to hear of the wife's frequently professed love and cravings for Carlo's Bakery pastries. He whipped up an impressive batch of extra large "lobster tails", an infinitely layered pastry that's stuffed with a custard/whipped cream combo, as well as other traditional Italian delights and a few chocolate dipped strawberries. The thrilled mother-to-be nearly fainted at the sight of the gorgeous array of pastries, and Buddy once again felt the joy of making others happy.

Tune in to Cake Boss on TLC Monday nights at 10/9c. Next week we'll see what I've been fearing from day one--the boys drop one of the finished cakes!

Check out my previous Cake Boss post to see the newly added photo of Toni, Daniella, and Tone Tone molding stripper men for the bachelorette party cake!

PHOTOS: Buddy Valastro works on his prize birdcage cake; the carefully formed roses waiting to be adorn the birdcage cake, c2009 Libby Klein, TLC.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kings -- "Pilgrimage"

Christopher Egan David Shepherd Sebastian Stan Prince Jack Kings Brotherhood images photos screencaps pictures screengrabs
Tonight's episode of Kings, "Pilgrimage", was just one more shining example of why it's such a ridiculous shame that this show has been canceled. The relationships between these characters, the way they constantly evolve and reassess their choices, is amazing to watch. There's drama, suspense, sexiness, and an ethereal web of spirituality and myth that binds it all together.

Sebastian Stan once again infuses Prince Jack with a heartbreaking mix of pride and love and anguish, struggling beneath a shell of duty and appearance and arrogance. "Pilgrimage" begins with Jack's lover Joseph (Michael Arden), creating a tape that declares his love for the Prince, and sending it to all of the news programs as well as Jack. He hopes that he can out Jack and force him to face who he really is.

Thomasina intercepts Jack's mail, and brings it to his mother for damage control. Jack tries to play along, telling his mother he barely knew Joseph, and agreeing with her decision to quash the rumors as soon as possible. Jack is unprepared, however, for the startling news that Joseph killed himself after making the video.

Jack attends the funeral for Joseph, keeping to the shadows, but he's seen by the Reverend Samuels (Eamonn Walker). Rev. Samuels gives a service that mentions Joseph's bravery, for dealing with the difficulty of his differences, but living as one whole and true person during his life--unlike Jack, who constantly lives two lives. Rev. Samuels also says that Joseph died not for loving the wrong person, but for loving too much.

I was honestly expecting Jack to stick to his arrogance and anger with this, especially with all the pressure from his mother. But Joseph's drastic actions, and perhaps the words of the reverend, seem to have a strong effect on him. When his mother berates him for going to the funeral of his "accuser", he boldly confesses his love for Joseph. Even after she slaps him and condemns his "character flaws", he doesn't back down.

Allison Miller Princess Michelle Christopher Egan David Shepherd Kings Brotherhood screencaps images pictures photos screengrabsMeanwhile, David (Christopher Egan) and Princess Michelle (Allison Miller) continue their own secretive relationship. David is unhappy with the subterfuge, hating all the sneaking around and keeping it all from the king he admires. Michelle insists, however, that she can not bear her father's disappointment in breaking her vows to serve only God.

As Kings is a melodrama, we're not surprised when David's apartment is ransacked and the camera with compromising photos of Michelle goes missing. We discover that the queen's brother William (Dylan Baker) took all of the items from David's department. We also see his bizarre, recently exiled son Andrew (Macauley Culkin), discovering the photos by accident as he rifles through all of David's stolen belongings.

Michelle tries to bond with Jack over their mutual angst, and to get him to help her with keeping her relationship secret. Jack will have none of it, telling her that she can easily learn to push her feelings down so far even she won't be able to find them--but she'll suffer for it. He declares he won't help her do something that will hurt her in the end, which is pretty brotherly stuff coming from the typically self-centered Jack. It's only just the beginning, however.

Queen Rose (Susanna Thompson) makes a big mistake when she makes minister Katrina Ghent (Leslie Bibb) her enemy. Through an opportunistic employee and the queen's dissed nephew, Katrina finds herself in possession of both the photos involving Michelle, and the video involving Prince Jack. She delights in giving the queen a choice--choose which one of her children to save from scandal.

I'm not surprised when she chooses Jack. The queen's choices are always for her own and the royalty's best interests, and Jack's scandal is far more embarrassing for them than Michelle's will be. So she sacrifices her daughter to protect the image of the royal family, telling Michelle it will eventually be a positive image maker for her.

Next we see Jack meeting with Katrina, asking her to trade his tape for his sister's, giving himself up in order to save her rep and her father's wrath. It's a startling move for Jack, and Katrina is surprised--but manages to come up with a new way to capitalize on his newfound nobility. She wants the best revenge on Jack's mother, and says she'll keep both things quiet if Jack marries her.

She seems to have her answer when we see Jack handing Michelle her camera back. Michelle is as startled as we are, but I'm happy when she grabs Jack before he moves away, kissing him warmly on the cheek. Jack and Michelle get so much conflicting loveand manipulation from their parents, they really do need to stick together more.

Christopher Egan David Shepherd closeup Kings screencaps images photos pictures screengrabsWhile all of this wheeling and dealing is going down, King Silas (Ian McShane) invites David to go on his regular pilgrimage--a trip he tells his ministers and followers is where he communes with God and figures out what's next for the kingdom. On the way to this pilgrimage, he asks David to interpret his own moment with the crown of butterflies. David tells him he thinks it's a message from God to serve his king. Silas is pleased with David's devotion and seeming lack of ambition. He gives directions to David to drive, and they soon arrive at the house of Silas' lover Helen (Sarita Choudhury) and their son.

David is stunned, and unsure how to react. He can see the love Silas has for his second family, but he doesn't know how to reconcile it with his own notions of love and honor. He asks Silas why he doesn't just stay in the country, where he's happy, and Silas tells him he has a calling that he must obey.

David then makes a fatal error, out of misguided devotion to Michelle. Silas tells him that he brought him to the country because he wanted David to know all of his secrets--that if two people share secrets, they can share trust. He says David knows his secrets and can forgive him, and now David can impart any secrets and be forgiven. This is the perfect opportunity for David to spill the beans about him and Michelle, but he lies instead.

I know they're trying to create drama here, but I feel like they broke the story a bit. It seems out of character for David to lie outright--I would have thought he would have hinted at something, saying it wasn't only his secret to tell, or remaining cagey. But this out and out lie?

Sure enough, it will come back to bite him. Emboldened by her brother's actions, and his advice to avoid living a lie, Michelle goes to her father and confesses her love for David. She is overjoyed when she visits David, telling him it is all okay and that they no longer need to sneak around. David is distressed, however, and he surmises correctly that Silas feels this has been a huge breach of trust. We'll have to wait until next week to find out how Silas reacts.

Watch Kings on NBC Saturday nights at 8/7c, or catch all the Kings episodes online at NBC.com.

PHOTOS: Christopher Egan as David Shepherd, Sebastian Stan as Prince Jack, Allison Miller as Princess Michelle, Kings screencaps, c2009 UMS, NBC.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Say Yes to the Dress -- "Missing Mom"

Last night's Say Yes to the Dress episode, "Missing Mom", involved three brides with difficult parent issues. Alla's mom had passed away a few years ago from cancer, and her aunt stepped in to help pick out and pay for the dress. Ellen had lost her father recently, and was using an inheritance from her father to help pay for the wedding. Liz was somewhat estranged from her mother; living in LA herself, she traveled to the East Coast where her mother lives to meet at Kleinfeld's and help pick out a dress.

Kleinfeld consultant Keasha and fashion director Randy helped find Alla a Lazaro gown, a slimmer shaped wedding dress (similar to the Lazaro pictured above) with one decorated shoulder strap. The style of the dress suited Alla, but she wasn't as happy about the lace appliques and subtle beading. She wanted a much plainer dress.

After trying on some other dresses that didn't work, Say Yes to the Dress bride Alla returned to the original gown, and seemed adamant about asking designer Lazaro if the dress could be made without the embellishment. When she showed it again to her Aunt Gigi, however, the aunt said the dress should be left exactly as it was. Within a matter of moments, Alla did a 180 and declared that the dress was perfect as it was.

Randy and Keasha were concerned that Alla was being swayed too much by the aunt, but Alla assured them it was what she wanted. I'm not sure if it was her actual opinion, but I happened to agree with the aunt that the dress was perfect just the way it had been made.

The second bride Ellen had her heart set on a Pnina Tornai gown, and fell in love with the first one. It was a more modest version of the typical Say Yes to the Dress-featured Pnina wedding dress, strapless with lots of lace and a ribbon detail that wrapped around the lower half. The only problem was that it was $6600 and Ellen's budget was around $5000. Kleinfeld's offered her a discount that brought it to $5500 and the family was thrilled.

Ellen thought her father would be happy that she'd found the gown of her dreams with the help of the money he'd left her. I still think $5000 would have made a nice deposit on an apartment or helped with the downpayment on a townhome, but everyone has different priorities, and maybe Ellen didn't need the money for her future.

Meanwhile, down in the Kleinfeld alterations room, Say Yes to the Dress bride Timoria was trying on her sample sale dress. With an ill-fitting top and some damage to the tulle bottom, Timoria was starting to wonder if she'd made the right decision buying an imperfect wedding gown.

Not to worry, however. Wizard alterations guru Vera Skenderis and her seamstresses know how to fix nearly everything. Vera reassured Timoria as they tore away an armful of tulle. It's always the sign of an expert when they have no problem doing something that scares the pants off of anyone watching--and it all turns out well in the end. The redesigned tulle bottom looked as if it had been made that way, and the bodice would be fixed up to suit Timoria's figure in time for her wedding.

Say Yes to the Dress bride Liz found a simple, elegant dress from the start that she liked but her mother didn't. With completely different styles, and different body shapes, it was obvious there was a difference of opinion and even some mother/daughter friction going on. When Randy asked the mother if Liz wanted something to accentuate her curves, the mother scoffed and said "No, *I'm* the one with curves!"

The Kleinfeld consultants did their best to get Liz a dress that would make them both happy, but it wasn't meant to be. The voiceover at the end said that Liz returned to LA and found a dress she liked--without her mother's help. It was sad to see, but it's a common occurence on Say Yes to the Dress. Parents and family members are often too concerned about their own tastes (or own missed opportunities) and forget to consider what the bride wants or likes.

Watch Say Yes to the Dress on TLC, Friday nights at 10/9c. Check your local listings for encore showings and repeats.

PHOTOS: Bride Jennifer Nardone modeling Lazaro as Kleinfeld consultant Keasha looks on, c2009 TLC; Vera Skenderis in Kleinfeld Alterations, Say Yes to the Dress, c2007 Todd Pitt, TLC.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Philanthropist -- Pilot

The Philanthropist pilot James Purefoy Teddy Rist screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs video
NBC has been hyping The Philanthropist like crazy, and tonight we finally got to see the pilot episode. My first impression is that it needs work, but I give it credit for trying. The Philanthropist attempts to be very arty, shooting scenes through fences and jumping the camera around and trying to make it all so Noble and Meaningful.

The story surrounds billionaire Teddy Rist (James Purefoy), a spoiled playboy used to getting anything he wants just by flashing some cash around. While trying to manipulate his way out of a hurricane in Nigeria, Rist suddenly sees a young boy huddling in the corner out of his mind with fear and insists that the boy be put on the lifeboat ahead of him.

A moment later, a man leaps onto the overloaded boat so that he can be saved as well, and the whole boat overturns. Rist leaps into the water and rescues the young boy, an act that he tells us in narration is not his usual M.O.

The frame for this story is Rist sitting in a bar, chatting up a pretty bartender (Gloria Votsis) by telling her the tale of his helping a small village by bringing them much needed vaccines that the goverment is holding hostage. The barmaid doesn't believe a word of what he's saying, and quite frankly, we the audience aren't buying much of it either.

The Philanthropist pilot Dr. Chima Balo Bonnie Henna screencaps images photos pictures screengrabsThe whole thing smacks of self-indulgence, of once again focusing on a rich white man as he "digs in" to the local culture and spins around in the dirt feeling enlightened. We're just about to gag on it all when Rist gets his smug ass handed to him by Dr. Balo (Bonnie Henna), the Harvard-educated woman hoping to get the vaccines to the people who need them:
"This isn't about helping me or anyone else, is it? This is about you, playing the role of the charming, rich businessman who travels the world, getting his hands just dirty enough to go back home and tell all his American friends how meaningful his life is compared to theirs."
This wakes Rist up somewhat, and after that the pilot of The Philanthropist picks up quite a bit. Determined to prove to Balo that he's more than just a playboy, he promises he'll get the vaccines to her the next day. When using just money doesn't get him where he needs to, he starts using ingenuity, including hitching a ride on a drug dealer's helicopter.

I adore James Purefoy, and he always draws your attention, even in smaller roles (Rome, Knight's Tale, Vanity Fair, Mansfield Park). He has the capability to make Rist watchable, but they need to drop some of the High Art of the show and focus more on the action. The stories and characters should speak for themselves, and I feel we're being forcibly manipulated instead.

Pilot episodes can frequently feel forced, as creators try to give us extremely interesting characters and stories that grab us right away. The good shows will start to smooth out after 2-3 episodes, and the actors settle more comfortably into their roles. I'm hoping that will happen here.



I'm also hoping that all the episodes won't be framed as flashbacks with narration--when we were just focusing on the action of Rist pushing through the jungle, all on is own without shoes, direction, or hope of finding his way, that was good drama. The narration in other scenes just made everything seem trite instead of moving.

As I said earlier, despite its flaws, I have to give The Philanthropist an A for effort. I almost feel like NBC is trying to take a page from Studio 60 by taking quality programming that would normally air on cable and putting it on a mainstream network. Unfortunately they bailed on Kings before it even got started, and it will be interesting to see if they continue to back The Philanthropist once the initial fanfare is over.

Watch The Philanthropist on NBC Wednesday nights at 10/9c.

PHOTOS: James Purefoy as Teddy Rist, Bonnie Henna as Dr. Chima Balo, The Philanthropist screencaps, c2009 Carnival Films, NBC.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cake Boss -- "Undead, Unclothed, and Unhappy Mama"

Cake Boss Crew: Toni Walton, Stephanie Fernandez, Tony Albanese, Buddy Valastro, Violet Valentin, Christine Campanelli, Daniella Storzillo, and Frank Amato Undead, Unclothed, and Unhappy Mama images photos picturesCake Boss Crew: Toni Walton, Stephanie Fernandez, Tony Albanese, Buddy Valastro, Violet Valentin, Christine Campanelli, Daniella Storzillo, and Frank Amato.
You all just have to check out TLCs new documentary series Cake Boss. Each week we follow cake artisan Buddy Valastro as he creates one-of-a-kind cakes, with the help of his large and boisterous Italian family, for their bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey. Turns out the show is not only intriguing and awe-inspiring--the cake designs are truly works of great sculpture--but it's also a riot.

Buddy and his mom, sisters, brothers-in-law and friends at Carlo's Bakery are a lot of fun to spend time with. Sure, there are some family squabbles, but it's kind of like Joey on Friends getting in trouble with his lookalike pack of sisters. Cake Boss has a good-natured slant, with family members joking around and playing pranks on one another in between working together to finish their latest projects.

You wouldn't necessarily think of cake-making as a stressful job, but Carlo's Bakery is nonstop action every day, with orders pouring in every hour. When you're dealing with food, you can't make anything that far in advance, so every cake by nature is made on a deadline. There's little time for screw-ups or do-overs. And some of Buddy's clients have outrageous and ambitious requests, all of which have to be planned meticulously and completed in a short amount of time.

This week's episode of Cake Boss, "Undead, Unclothed, and Unhappy Mama", included two gals wanting a graphic stripper scene for their friend's bachelorette party, and a couple wanting a graphic, violent zombie cake for their Zombie Walk event celebration.

Cake Boss Buddy Valastro Daniella Storzillo zombie cake Undead, Unclothed, and Unhappy Mama pictures photos images screencapsBuddy tells us that he's used to making wedding cakes and pretty flowers, so the zombie request is a bit out of his element. He works with his crew for ideas and they manage to come up with a workable idea for a zombie climbing out of a grave, complete with dead rats and body parts and blood strewn all around.

It's amazing to watch as the Cake Boss crew puts this giant cake together, forming the headstone out of pound cake and icing and coating it with gray fondant, then building an entirely edible zombie bursting out of a red velvet cake ground covered in chocolate sprinkles to simulate dirt. It's a gory, terrifying monster cake and the zombie crowd goes crazy for it--literally. Buddy looks a little startled as partygoers decked out in full zombie gear start pulling the mock body parts off of the cake and gobbling them up with dramatic zombie-like flair.

The second and most hilarious part of the episode involved the stripper cake. Buddy blushed as his female clients described how well-endowed they wanted these cake strippers to be and for it to be as raunchy as possible. Buddy let them and us know that it had to be done "on the sneak", because Buddy's mom doesn't want any "erotic, exotic, whatever!" cakes to be made in her store.

Buddy tells the Cake Boss crew about the proposal and then comes up with a game plan. Each one of the girls will create a naked stripper man, and the guys can concentrate on making the stage. Then he decides that his cake artist protege Tone Tone, who's related to the bachelor party girls, should make a stripper as well. Tone Tone, he rationalizes, is gay, and has no doubt been to a few strip joints and it's his referral after all.

It's an outrageous scene as we watch the girls and Tone Tone modeling little naked men out of modelling chocolate. But Buddy reminds us that it's also a challenging task--the people they usually create for cakes are clothed, so if they don't look exactly right, the clothes will cover it. These little cake men have to be perfectly shaped and sculpted and anatomically correct.

Cake Boss Undead Unclothed and Unhappy Mama Toni Walton, Daniella Storzillo, and Tony Tone Tone Albanese= stripper cake naked male  dancers pictures photos images screencaps screengrabs caps capturesThe big laugh comes when Buddy notices Tone Tone's stripper is so well endowed that...well, they blur out the screen, but we get the idea that this stripper is nearly literally a tripod. No doubt this will be a hit at the bachelorette party, but then Buddy's mother walks in and sees all the naked stripper cake men and goes ballistic.

Buddy and his brothers-in-law, all big Italian men, all turn into hunched little boys as Buddy's mom yells at them that Buddy's the cake boss, but she's the Boss. And that they can't make the cake unless they have some clothes on the cake men.

Bowing to Mom's wishes, the sisters all start creating little cowboy outfits, G-strings and boxer shorts for the strippers. In the meantime, Buddy and the rest of the guys create tiles for the stage floor, dipping them in colored sugar to make them sparkle. All seems to be going well when Mom sees the clothed stripper men, but then she opens the cake refrigerator and finds Tone Tone's still-naked stripper man staring her right in the face.

The whole Cake Boss crew falls over with laughter at her howling, shocked reaction, and even she has to laugh. "They're going to have to cut half of that off just to get pants on him!" she exclaims.

Buddy finds the perfect solution. He covers the shocking stripper with an apron, which he removes when they bring the cake to the bachelorette party. Thus, he gives them what they want, while the rest of the costumed strippers made his conservative mom happy. Buddy is once again startled, but pleased at the bachelorette party's enthusiastic reaction to his cake. "You'd think I brought actual strippers!"

Which brings us to the theme of Cake Boss: There's madness, mayhem, wild creativity under extreme pressure, but what it all comes down to is making the customer happy. Buddy's joy comes from seeing the happiness his creations bring to others, and that's not a bad theme for a show to have.

Watch Cake Boss on TLC, Monday nights at 10/9c. Check your local listings for encore showings during the week.

PHOTOS: Cake Boss crew; Buddy looks on as Daniella works on the zombie cake; Toni Walton, Daniella Storzillo, and Tony "Tone Tone" Albanese work on the male stripper cake for a bachelorette party, Cake Boss, c2009 TLC.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Say Yes to the Dress -- "Two for One"

Consultant Dianne hit a double on tonight's Say Yes to the Dress episode, "Two for One". Her bride's small family entourage happened to include another engaged couple who would soon be looking for a wedding dress themselves. Halfway through the first bride's appointment, this second bride-to-be saw the dress of her dreams in a mermaid-style gown. Dianne let her try it on once the first bride found her own dream dress, and Dianne ended up making two sales during one appointment to the tune of $8000. Not too shabby.

Debbie and Carmel weren't so lucky, however, as they consulted with two sister brides getting married three months apart. The Say Yes to the Dress double appointment seemed like a good idea on paper, but as the brides vied for attention and approval from their mother and a third sister, it became clear that splitting their dress shopping time wasn't the best plan.

Further complications arose over budget. The mother had offered to pay $3000 for each girl, but for some reason one sister told the consultant she had a $5000 budget. It wasn't clear if she just made a mistake, or if she'd been hoping her mother would make up the difference, but the mother held firm.

Unfortunately, the dream dress she'd found was out of her mother's proposed budget. Her sister boldly suggested they share the dress so it would only amount to $2500 apiece.

The Kleinfeld's consultants and managers alike were wary of such a proposal. They were careful to point out that if the first sister got a stain on the dress or tore it somehow (which invariably happens) this would cause a big problem for the second sister three months later.

Despite the possibility of a sale, the consultants suggested the sisters sleep on it, rather than making a hasty decision. The Say Yes to the Dress voiceover let us know that the sisters decided not to share after all, which was probably a very wise choice.

For bold wedding dress designs, check out Pnina Tornai.

These episodes of Say Yes to the Dress continue to stun me, as brides-to-be travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to shop at Kleinfeld's and then try on a dozen of the plainest dresses you've ever seen. They have no decoration, no volume, no flair. Why pay thousands of dollars for such a plain gown?

I understand that fine gowns have nice shape and tailoring, and not everyone on Say Yes to the Dress wants a ball gown, but it seems that it's the latest fashion now to be plain. There's almost a snobbery to it, that lots of beading or volume are somehow gauche. And yet, for the most part, as we watch the brides try on these utterly plain gowns, you rarely see any true excitement over them. The sisters in this "Two for One" episode kept trying on simple, straight, plain dresses and their reactions were the same as mine: blah. Yet it never occurred to them to try on something with a little more pizazz.

C'mon brides! Live a little! Where else can you wear a truly elegant, voluminous, jewel and bead-enhanced gown except at your wedding? Unless you'll be going to presidential balls or royal events, nowhere! So go on, Say Yes to the big white fluffy tulled glittery lacy Dress and enjoy yourself. Everyone will love it, and even if they don't, who cares? It's your day!!

Watch Say Yes to the Dress on TLC Friday nights at 10/9c, right after What Not to Wear.

PHOTOS: Kleinfeld's bridal consultant Dianne from Say Yes to the Dress; Bride Gina Masella and designer Pnina Tornai from Season 2 of Say Yes to the Dress, c2009 TLC.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Royal Pains Review -- "Strategic Planning"


Royal Pains episode 3, "Stategic Planning", was a definite improvement over episode 2. It offered more focus on the patients, and Dr. Hank's quick thinking, than on "romance" and "issues".

Royal Pains is still a balance of good and bad. Margaret Colin (Gossip Girl, First Daughter) put in a stellar performance as a politician's wife who seems to be worried more about The Plan for her family's political success than her son's well-being. Christine Ebersole (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Related) once again turns in a wonderful and humorous showing as plastic surgery addict "New Parts" Newburg, the only woman on the show that can handle Evan's creepiness and somehow make it all less creepy--which is quite a feat, I can tell you.

I was glad Boris (Campbell Scott) was back in this episode, ominous as ever, making Dr. Hank once again question the sanity of accepting this mysterious man's generosity. Dr. Hank held up well each time Boris tried to get info out of him about his patients (info he already seemed privy to), and it wasn't clear if Boris was just testing his privacy ethics on behalf of his friends or to see if Dr. Hank would be a good spy for him.

Mark Feuerstein as Dr. Hank is charming as ever, and I enjoyed his interactions with Divya (Reshma Shetty), his Girl Friday aka physician's assistant. I like that he picked up on the way their wealthy clients looked down their nose at his "assistant" and let Divya know that perhaps her title should be "associate".

The show's heart is in the right place, trying to cover moral and ethical issues, the health care system, work and personal relationships, etc. Unfortunately, the role of the brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo) seems to be part of an agreement the Royal Pains writers made with the network--they'd write all that boring morality and women's rights stuff, as long as Evan gets to hang around with hot chicks in bikinis every episode. Hot, stupid chicks, who still hang around with guys they find disgusting, as long as he's got a hot tub and liquor. It's nauseating, and I wish they would stop.

I also wish they would stop Hank's "romance" with Jill (Jill Flint), the hospital administrator. The chemistry is just not there, as hard as they try. I don't know why Hank needs a love interest so soon in the Royal Pains series, anyway. He was engaged to be married and then five minutes later he's looking for a new girlfriend? It doesn't fit with his character.

Royal Pains is enjoyable if you check your brain at the door and enjoy the doctor-saving-the-day and quirky humor parts and ignore the crappy lowbrow stuff. It could be a really enjoyable show if they cut out the dead weight, but I'm not holding my breath.

Read my previous Royal Pains review.

Watch Royal Pains on USA Thursday nights at 10/9c. Check your local listings for encore showings.

PHOTO:
Mark Feuerstein as Dr. Hank and Reshma Shetty as Divya, Royal Pains, Pilot screencaps, c2009 Universal Cable Productions, USA Network.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

HawthoRNe Pilot Episode on TNT

Jada Pinkett Smith Christina Hawthorne pilot nurse Healing Time screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs caps
TNT aired the pilot episode of the Jada Pinkett Smith nursing drama HawthoRNe tonight. Like Showtime's Edie Falco nursing drama Nurse Jackie, HawthoRNe centers around a strong, female character who fights every day for the lives and rights of patients while struggling with issues in her personal life.

HawthoRNe, however, is a more conventional drama than Nurse Jackie, and I don't happen to think that's a bad thing. Smith stars as Christina Hawthorne, the Chief Nursing Officer of Richmond Trinity Hospital in Virginia who has to juggle the stresses of the job, the bureaucratic hospital machine, the doctor/nurse antagonism, and the struggles of being a single parent. When we join the story, Hawthorne is trying to get through the one year anniversary of the death of her husband. Her day begins by trying to talk a cancer patient out of committing suicide--and the cancer patient happens to be a friend of her late husband's.

This doesn't turn out the way you think it might, and sets up a day of trials for Hawthorne and her staff. The cast is filled with good actors from other TV series, and it's fun to try to place names with faces. Michael Vartan (Alias) stars as one of the more compassionate doctors on staff, and the lovely Suleka Mathew (Men in Trees) joins the cast as a sweet nurse with some self esteem issues due to her prosthetic leg.

There's also Christina Moore (90210, Hot Properties) as a nurse with an odd sense of duty to veteran soldiers, and Canadian actor David Julian Hirsh (Lovebites, Naked Josh) plays a male nurse with the hots for her. Jillian Armenante plays a much more serious and much less annoying character than her frenetic role on Judging Amy, and Joanna Cassidy (Boston Legal, Six Feet Under, and of course, Blade Runner) swoops in to play Hawthorne's icy mother-in-law.

Click for a sneak peek of episode 2.

The pilot episode of HawthoRNe is packed with character introductions, hospital emergencies, trouble with Hawthorne's teenage daughter, and the near death of a patient that has both doctors and nurses pointing fingers at each other to take the blame. It's not quite as fast-paced as ER, but has that same format of overlapping storylines and altering focus between ensemble members.

HawthoRNe has some flaws; for instance the doctor/nurse rivalry may be played a little too heavily. I'm also not a fan of bratty teenage daughters interfering in my dramas, but considering Hawthorne's work schedule and the family's grieving over her husband's death, it's understandable that the daughter would be acting out. The relationship just didn't seem all that real to me, but maybe it will improve as time goes on.

Highlights of the pilot episode were the tense scenes involving an unstable homeless woman named Isabel (Aisha Hinds), who shows Hawthorne her apparent latest find--a baby. There was also some sweet humor, too, with a young nurse Kelly (Vanessa Lengies) who soldiers on through a day of being confused, overwhelmed, left behind, yelled at, and vomited on, desperately asking Hawthorne: "Am I going to cry every day?"

I'm willing to give HawthoRNe another look. It may not be groundbreaking or trendily quirky, but it seems like it could be a nice bit of summer entertainment. It also could develop into a quality drama that gathers a faithful audience; with this cast, it definitely is possible to do great things with the characters.

Watch HathoRNe on TNT, Tuesday nights at 9/8c.

PHOTO: Jada Pinkett Smith as Christina Hawthorne in "Healing Time" episode, HawthoRNe, screencap c2009 John Masius Productions, Sony Pictures TV, TNT.

More TV News and Reviews
by Valerie David

Stacy London What Not to Wear photos pictures images TLCClinton Kelly What Not to Wear photos pictures images TLC
You may have noticed a new list in the right sidebar here, entitled "More of My TV Reviews". This new list highlights the latest of my TV articles written over at Associated Content (AC). The format lends itself to some longer and more in-depth pieces, and I hope you enjoy these reviews as much as my blog updates here:

Burn Notice Season Premiere: "Friends and Family"

What Not to Wear: Chelsea the Roller Derby Queen

Chelsea Lately Livens Up Late Night TV

What Not to Wear: Jessie the Texan with 80s Hair

What Not to Wear: Amanda the Blogger in Baggy Clothes

America's Got Talent Auditions Day 2

What Not to Wear: Kimberly the Teacher in Troll Wear with Triplets

In addition to the sidebar links, I thought it would be a good idea to create posts to highlight these TV reviews. This way I can add them in to the categories headings you see at left, making it that much easier for you, my lovely readers, to find all the TV news and reviews you are looking for.

I'll keep doing periodic posts like this one that I can edit as I add more articles at AC. Click "My TV Reviews at AC" in the "Categories" section on the left side of this blog to easily find a comprehensive list of these reviews that will continue to grow.

Thanks for reading and feel free to say "hi!" over at the AC site, as well as here in the TV News and Reviews blog.

PHOTOS: Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, What Not to Wear, c2009 TLC.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Royal Pains Review

Mark Feuerstein Dr. Hank Lawson Ezra Miller Tucker Royal Pains pilot screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs capsDr. Hank (Mark Feuerstein, right) helps young Tucker (Ezra Miller) after a car accident in the pilot episode of Royal Pains.

If you watch USA, you've no doubt seen about a million commercials for their new series Royal Pains. The show follows a doctor, Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein), who gets fired from his prestigious hospital job because of the bureaucracy that felt he should sacrifice a young man's life to devote full attention to a hospital donor. After a severe bout of depression and losing his superficial fiance (Jerry Maguire, anyone?), Hank reluctantly goes on a vacation to the Hamptons with his goofy brother Evan. At a party hosted by a rich Russian mobster type, Hank saves a guest from pesticide poisoning. His good deed spreads like wildfire, and suddenly every wealthy person in the Hamptons has his number and is calling him for help.

I've always enjoyed Mark Feuerstein, in TV series Good Morning, Miami, and shortlived doctor show 3lbs. I think both of those shows were better than this one, though I keep hoping the episodes will tighten up a bit more. It's not a bad premise, and the show deals with issues of class, the hospital system nightmare, and lots of groovy MacGyver-style medical saves by Dr. Hank.

The first problem with the show is that it spent too much time hiring women who looked like models, and not enough time hiring women who could act. Reshma Shetty as Divya, looks to have some promise, but after an interesting intro in the pilot episode, she wasn't given much to do in this one. She works as Dr. Hank's physician's assistant, is smart and ambitious, and has experience dealing with the locals. I'm hoping she'll be more than just window dressing in future episodes.

Mark Feuerstein Dr. Hank Lawson Ezra Miller Tucker Royal Pains screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs capsThe highlight of the first two shows was definitely Ezra Miller as the 16 year old rich kid Tucker living in a mansion pretty much on his own as his dad jets around the globe. Tucker and his adorable pixie of a hypochondriac girlfriend Libby (Meredith Hagner) first meet Hank when they get into a car accident, and Dr. Hank ends up saving the hemophiliac Tucker's life.

Tucker and Libby are smart and sophisticated, and ridiculously mature for their age. There's a certain melancholy around Tucker, however, as he tries to act above it all, when it's clear he needs to have some sort of parental figure around. When Tucker, Libby, and Hank are onscreen, it's like they're in a completely different show. Ezra Miller himself is mature for his age, with a deep, drawling sardonic delivery and easy rapport with the other actors. Meredith Hagner makes the crazy health-conscious Libby into an amusingly frenetic sweetie, and pretty much the only interesting female character on Royal Pains. Sure, she's a little crazy, but at least she's not dull and vapid.

The weakest link thus far is Hank's brother Evan. Some of it can be blamed on the writing, but it doesn't seem like Paulo Costanzo is doing enough to make it work, either. Evan is constantly on the prowl for hot women, makes obnoxious innuendoes at every turn, and has lame pick-up lines that usually get him disgusted eyerolls from his intended targets--though in other scenes, he seems to be surrounded by scantily clad coeds, so maybe he's more charming offscreen?

I would be able to handle it if they just made Evan a repulsive character who perhaps comes through for his brother when it counts. But instead they seem to be hinting that we should find him endearing, especially when we have to sit though endless scenes of him wooing a ballerina in the second episode. Evan is not endearing. No matter what he's doing or saying, he just comes off creepy.

Mark Feuerstein Dr. Hank Lawson Ezra Miller Tucker Royal Pains screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs capsMatt LeBlanc played Joey on Friends, and created a character who was a lasagna-loving airhead who tried to pick up women even in his sleep--but also a sweet, funny, and endearing guy. You'd think Costanzo might have picked up some pointers when he played LeBlanc's brother on the spin-off Joey, but apparently not.

The other weak link is Jill Flint as hospital administrator Jill Casey. She's a hospital administrator the way Denise Richards was a nuclear scientist in The World is Not Enough. They've set her up as a romantic interest for Hank, as he helps her with her dreams of a free clinic. I just don't feel it, and I don't believe it. And still, it keeps happening.

Personally, I think Royal Pains would be a fine show with Hank, Divya, Tucker and Libby, along with an assortment of Hamptons crazies and snobs and sweethearts. For now I'll tune in just for those four and see where the show takes them.

Watch Royal Pains on USA Thursday nights at 10/9c. Check your local listings for encore showings.

PHOTOS:
Mark Feuerstein as Dr. Hank and Ezra Miller as Tucker, Royal Pains, Pilot screencaps, c2009 Universal Cable Productions, USA Network.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Nurse Jackie Premiere Episode on Showtime

Edie Falco Nurse Jackie floor screencaps images pictures photos
Showtime's new series Nurse Jackie begins Monday, June 8. Partnered with the premiere of the new season of Weeds, Nurse Jackie follows in that series' footsteps of completely discarding all the usual conventions of female characters on TV. Whether this is a good thing remains to be seen.

Jackie (the always intriguing Edie Falco) is not your typical angel in white. She's more like a seriously flawed Robin Hood of the hospital, making morally questionable choices for what she feels is the greater good. She forges patient signatures on organ donor cards, and steals from a violent criminal to give to a pregnant widow. On breaks she grabs a quickie from the hospital pharmacist and then snorts the contents of the painkiller capsules he sneaks her for her bad back.

The other doctors and nurses on staff live largely in a state of jaded pragmatism. Nothing surprises or moves them particularly, numbed as they are by the beaurocracy of the hospital system, the horrors of what they've seen, and the darkness of human nature and behavior.



As with most series, the premiere of Nurse Jackie is perhaps too obviously quirky, running through each member of the cast and trying to summarize them with a few quips, tics, or quotable ponderings. As it settles into its normal routine, I hope Nurse Jackie will hit its stride and seem a bit less affected.

The biggest oddity of the pilot episode was Dr. Fitch Cooper, played by Twilight's Peter Facinelli. Cooper is entitled and arrogant and seemingly incompetent, and apparently reacts to nervous situations with inappropriate sexual touching. As Nurse Jackie confronts him over the death of a patient, he grabs her breast. I realize sometimes life is crazy and people don't always fit the neat, fresh stereotypes on TV dramas, but this quirk seems a bit over the top.

Weeds does all sorts of inappropriate and insane things, but Weeds is much more obviously a comedy. Nurse Jackie is being billed as a comedy, but it skirts some serious life and death issues that seem awkwardly undermined by the stabs at humor. Darkly funny dramas can certainly work and be entertaining, but Nurse Jackie doesn't quite seem to have the balance right yet.

Watch Nurse Jackie on Showtime, Monday nights at 10:30/9:30c. Watch the first episode online for free at the official Nurse Jackie Showtime website.

PHOTO: Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie, Pilot episode of Nurse Jackie, screencap c2009 CBS Paramount, Showtime.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Say Yes to the Dress -- "Second Time Around"

Leslie Saunders Ramona Keveza dress bridal gown Say Yes to the Dress screencaps images pictures photosTonight's Say Yes to the Dress episode, "Second Time Around", focused on brides who were re-doing their original wedding to their husbands. One bride had a quick wedding due to visa issues, another for military service issues.

What this episode also centered on was the great mystery of Kleinfeld's. Known for having practically every wedding dress on the market, Kleinfeld's is the frequent destination of wealthy and/or spoiled brides. Women travel from across the country, or even across oceans, in an attempt to find the perfect dress that their heart desires.

This is understandable. What is less understandable is why so many women on Say Yes to the Dress go to such a large, designer-packed wedding dress boutique when they have a relatively small budget. With two to three thousand dollars to spend, going to a local bridal boutique would get them an incredibly impressive gown. At Kleinfeld's, we continually get shots of panicking sales consultants who have no idea how to find a dress that will fit within the bride's "small" budget and still be something she wants.

Carmel bridal consultant Say Yes to the Dress screencaps images photos picturesThis is what happened to one of tonight's brides, Caitlin, in another episode of what has now become the standard "Randy to the Rescue" Say Yes to the Dress plotline. Bridal consultant Carmel asked management for some help finding her bride Caitlin a classic, lace dress with no fluff for $2200. In swoops Randy, who of course rubs Carmel the wrong way, especially when he asks Caitlin to repeat everything she's already told Carmel about her wedding and dress style.

What Randy pulls is a Ramona dress, similar to the one pictured above. Neither Carmel nor the manager she consulted thinks it looks that great on the bride. The mother of the bride isn't crazy about it. Bride Caitlin doesn't seem all that certain, either, but for some reason she caves. I almost suspect it was because a man picked it out. While the Ramona is a perfectly fine dress, it didn't seem to suit this young bride's personality and slight frame all that well. I suspect there were better options out there, but no, Say Yes to the Dress once again leaves us with a victorious Randy.

Watch all the wedding drama unfold on TLCs Say Yes to the Dress, Friday nights at 10/9c after What Not to Wear. Check your local listings for encore and repeat showings.

PHOTO: (top) Leslie Saunders wearing a Ramona Keveza dress on Say Yes to the Dress; (inset) Carmel, Kleinfeld bridal consultant, c2009 TLC.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Listener Premiere -- "I'm an Adult", "Emotional Rescue"

Craig Olejnik Toby Logan The Listener screencaps pictures photos images screengrabs caps eyes
New series The Listener premiered tonight on NBC. This new Canadian-made drama series focuses on Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik), a young paramedic who can hear (and visualize) people's thoughts. The premise has promise, as Toby uses his ability not only to help him through social situations in his own life, but to solve crimes and help people in trouble.

I'm not yet sure if The Listener is a keeper. There's some speculation online that this is just a summer filler that we won't see again, but I think that will depend on the ratings. The Listener doesn't have any big glaring flaws, but it doesn't quite have that explosive must-watch vibe to it, either.


The makers of The Listener seem to have chosen actor Olejnik largely for his Elijah Wood-esque ethereal blue eyes, which help give him that otherworldly quality. Unfortunately they spend a lot of time on eye close-ups and less time on developing his character. Toby has a possibly dark, unknown past, but it doesn't seem to have shaped his personality in any particular way.

With his slight build and sweet, open face, Olejnik has a certain boyish appeal, but he doesn't quite command the screen the way a series star should. His friend Oz (Ennis Esmer) often steals the scene, with his impish delivery of insults and amusing bouts of bumbling. Esmer and Olejnik have a pretty good rapport, but they need to give Toby a bit more of an edge to make it really work.

Craig Olejnik Toby Logan blue eyes The Listener screencaps pictures screengrabs photos images capsI enjoy the cast as a whole, and I like that the policewoman Charlie Marks (Lisa Marcos) has some height and presence to her that make her character's job description a bit more believable. Mylene Robic, as Dr. Olivia Fawcett, does a good job of playing the emotional range of affection, attraction, awkwardness and exasperation when dealing with her ex Toby.

The problem with The Listener is that it's a bit on the simplistic side. Everything is too neat, too choreographed, with every emotion, twist and hint telegraphed way too obviously to the audience. I'm the first one to say that it's fine to have a bit of enjoyable fluff to watch on primetime TV, especially during the summer, but it's important to keep us from eyerolling at the plot too frequently.

Craig Olejnik Toby Logan The Listener screencaps pictures photos images blue eyes screengrabs capsPlot holes can be forgiven if the cast is sexy, fun, and/or exciting enough to hold our attention. So far The Listener gives us likable characters, but they're not quite enough to keep us watching if the plot development doesn't pick up some complexity.

Watch The Listener on NBC Thursday nights at 10/9c.

PHOTOS: Craig Olejnik as Toby Logan, The Listener screencaps, c2009 Shaftesbury Films, NBC.

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