Friday, July 30, 2010

Ellen Bows Out of American Idol -- Who Will Replace Her?

Simon Cowell Kara DioGuardi Ellen DeGeneres Randy Jackson American Idol judges panel leaving photos images pictures photos screencapsThe big news today is that the newest American Idol judge, Ellen DeGeneres, is leaving the show after just one year on the panel. AC's May Monten has all the details on Ellen's departure, and Ellen's declaration that it just wasn't the "right fit". I always thought it was something of a surprising decision on Ellen's part to join American Idol, considering her current success as both a comedian and talk show host--not to mention her lack of professional music knowledge and experience.

MSNBC has a great article by Craig Berman on why Ellen's reign failed. Despite all the criticism that Ellen received before the American Idol season even began, I had thought there was a chance she'd bring a lot of life to the party. In early interviews, she seemed ready to spar with Simon, and also determined to offer the contestants constructive criticism.

Unfortunately, as Berman points out, Ellen never lived up to her potential. There may have been behind-the-scenes drama, because Ellen seemed like a different person once she was up there on the American Idol panel. Though she started fairly strong, eventually her appearances were reduced to repetitive one-liners and bizarre flirtations with Simon. (Shouldn't she have been flirting with Kara? That might have gotten the ratings up.)

Ellen also seemed excited about doing the show with Simon, so her enthusiasm for the venture no doubt waned once he announced he was jumping ship. Most critics also agree that AI had one of its worst seasons so far, so it's not surprising that Ellen wants to leave. There've been some rumblings on the Web that it was a mutual break-up, since Ellen's popularity still didn't hold off the substantial ratings slip AI suffered this year.

ETA: News flash! MTV reports that Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler might be the next American Idol judges!

ETA2: TMZ reports that Kara is out, and Jennifer and Steven are in!

(previous conjecture continues:)There have been countless rumors floating around about possible new American Idol judges: People magazine lists Justin Timberlake and Elton John as possibilities, along with Shania Twain, Harry Connick Jr., and Chris Isaak. I'd be happy with any of these choices, though I think Justin is the least likely due to his current pop icon schedule. Shania and Harry have already proven themselves as entertaining guest judges and mentors on American Idol, and I suspect Sir Elton wouldn't be afraid to speak his mind to the contestants. Chris Isaak is talented, successful, respected in the industry, and has a fabulous dry sense of humor. (He's also pretty darn cute.)

Recent rumors also point to Jessica Simpson as a possible American Idol judge. I could only tolerate this if she would tone down the stupid act that she's played up in the past to fit her "airhead blonde" persona.

It will be interesting to see if American Idol sticks with the somewhat crowded four-person panel or goes back to a trio. Apparently Kara DioGuardi's contract hasn't yet been renewed, so there's still no official word on if she'll be returning. Will we get an all-new panel for next year's American Idol? Who would you vote for?

ETA: News flash! MTV reports that Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler might be the next American Idol judges!

ETA2: TMZ reports that Kara is out, and Jennifer and Steven are in!

PHOTO: The 2010 American Idol panel, Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi, and Randy Jackson ; c2010 Michael Becker, FOX.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hot Guys, Hot Panels at Comic-Con

Nathan Fillion Comic Con Firefly Serenity Shiny Castle screencaps images photos pictures screencaps images screengrabs capturesComic-Con 2010 is going on right now in San Diego, a bonanza of geek girl and boy goodness no matter what genre you love. Checking out the schedule of offerings on the official Comic-Con International site is awe-inspiring. There are comic artist and writer panels, movie and TV series previews and Q&A sessions, artist spotlights, art tutorials, fanfiction forums, and plenty of geek fandom worship everywhere.

And there are lots of hot guys. Sure, girls can geek on fantasy plots, sci-fi glitches in logic, and thematic issues in manga, but just like the boys love Princess Leia in her slave girl outfit, geek girls love the handsome (and often buff) boy stars that turn up to pimp their latest and/or greatest works.

Nathan Fillion, of beloved Firefly and Serenity fame, is a favorite at Comic-Con. This year he's promoting crazy comic hero film Super as well as his current hit series Castle. The Comic-Con also has plenty of other hot boys whose characters include gladiators, powerful wizards, white collar criminals, male prostitutes, and of course, loads of vampires. Yum. You can read about the best of the best in full detail, in Hottest Guys, Hottest Panels at Comic-Con 2010.

PHOTO: Nathan Fillion at a Serenity convention, c2005 RavenU, Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Covert Affairs Pilot Review

Annie (Piper Perabo) and Auggie (Christopher Goram) discuss her mission
in the Covert Affairs pilot.

If you're considering whether to watch USA's new show Covert Affairs tonight, go ahead and make the leap. If the pilot is an indicator of future episodes, Covert Affairs looks to be an entertaining and sassy addition to the USA line-up of hits.

One of the big things that USA does right on their shows is the dialogue. My fave USA shows, including Burn Notice and White Collar, have a goofy charm but also snappy sarcastic conversation. These characters are not only fun to be with, they're smart. The reason the yin/yang of White Collar works so brilliantly is that Peter and Neal are each clever in their own way. Neal is sneaky, but Peter isn't a cliched bumbling FBI pursuer--he caught Neal (twice) because he's just as quick on the uptake.

This is the sort of trend I hoped would continue with Covert Affairs. There's a good chance a majority of the male viewers are tuning in for lead actress Piper Perabo's gorgeous porn star lips, but I think even they would prefer a good show over a bad one. Thankfully, an early scene in the Covert Affairs pilot showed instant promise: When Piper's CIA trainee character Annie Walker is immediately schmoozed at headquarters by CIA stud Conrad Sheehan (Eric Lively), she asks him if he typically hangs out at the front door to "chat up girls on their first day?" Conrad smoothly replies, "Absolutely. I'm both lazy and predatory." Bazinga.

Things improve from there. Perabo gets hooked up with tech genius Auggie Anderson (Ugly Betty's Christopher Gorham), her literally blind guide to the CIA. Gorham brings buckets of charm to the role, as the steady and practical balance to Annie's impulsiveness. He's also a bit of a rake, as the romance novels would call him, using his blindness as the best pick-up strategy ever.

Though her role was fairly ridiculous in short-lived series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I was riveted by Kari Matchett's performance in it. She just commands attention on the screen, with her sexy confidence and sultry voice. Here she's Annie's boss (see pic above), Joan Campbell, a determined woman who appears emotionless and in perfect control in her job. Things in her personal life are a bit more complicated and irrational, however.

While doe-eyed Perabo doesn't completely sell me on the tough CIA girl personality, she's plenty likable and is refreshingly convincing in the action sequences. I like that her fight with an assassin is rough and tumble, and she's realistically losing for most of it. She gets by with some self defense techniques, rapid movements and quick thinking, but Covert Affairs gets it right when she loses out to the sheer strength of her opponent. Though she should be in the hospital at the end of the scene instead of wincing from a slight bump on the head, at least she doesn't leap up three feet to punch a guy--and miraculously knock him unconscious--ala Holly Hunter's 80 lb. character on Saving Grace.

The Covert Affairs pilot delivers on action, fun, humor, sexiness, and intrique. There were a few mysteries I thought were telegraphed too obviously, but a couple twists did take me by surprise. The clever dialogue from all of the characters was the best revelation, and Covert Affairs boasts a talented cast that should be skilled enough to make up for any plot holes or silliness.

The most common comparison reviewers are making to Covert Affairs is Jennifer Garner's Alias. While I did love the latter show in the beginning, the hooker costumes and wigs and convoluted plot just got too cartoonish after awhile. Where Covert Affairs has the edge is that we already expect it to be a bit cartoonish, so all the focus on sexy costumes and flirting between missions isn't quite so jarring.

Watch Covert Affairs Tuesday nights on USA at 10/9c, and see for yourself!

PHOTOS: Piper Perabo as Annie Walker, Christopher Gorham as Auggie Anderson, Kari Matchett as Joan Campbell; Covert Affairs "Pilot" screencaps, c2010 Dutch Oven, Universal Cable, USA Network.

Friday, July 9, 2010

How 5 Actors Deal with Dyslexia

Patrick Dempsey Ellen DeGeneres McDreamy Grey's Anatomy February 11 2010 screencaps images photos pictures captures screengrabs dyslexia actors
What do a dreamy doctor, sci-fi hero, toy octopus, and two sexy pirates have in common? They're played by actors who haven't let dyslexia get in the way of their success. You may be startled to find out your favorite stars have struggled with school, had trouble reading scripts, and floundered through auditions. What's amazing is how they've worked around these difficulties and been successful both creatively and financially.

As you can see from the pic above, one of those successful actors is none other than Grey's Anatomy hottie Patrick Dempsey, aka Dr. McDreamy. You can read about his life experiences as well as four other major stars in How 5 Actors Deal with Dyslexia. Each actor offers their own unique perspective and wisdom on dealing with a disability that may affect up to 20% of school kids.

PHOTO: Patrick Dempsey on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, February 11, 2010; c2010 Time Telepictures Television, NBC.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

5 Best Woman TV Characters, 5 Best Kid Characters on TV, and 5 Trailblazing Female Sci-Fi Characters

Julianna Margulies Alicia Florrick The Good Wife screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs captures
I always like to point out the best of TV when I get a chance, particularly when it comes to strong and complex woman characters. The last couple of years have given us plenty of female leads to admire, and I've written up a list of five of my favorites. You can read all about The Good Wife and more in my AC write-up "5 Best Woman TV Characters".

Medium Patricia Arquette, Miranda Carabello, Sofia Vassilieva, Maria Lark, Allison, Marie, Ariel, Bridgette Dubois screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs captures
Kids can be a great part of any genre of TV show, adding humor or poignancy or just plain adorableness. The sad fact is, though, that many kid characters on TV are annoying or inappropriate--or often completely forgotten about. So it's a joy when a show gets it right and has kid characters we like spending time with. You can see a list of my favorite kids here: "5 Best Kid Characters on Primetime TV"

Jewel Staite Kaylee Frye Firefly umbrella screencaps images photos pictures captures screengrabs
The first time I saw the series Firefly, I was overwhelmed at how interesting, complicated, and enchanting all of the characters were. Even more overwhelming was that half the cast in a sci-fi show were women, and these women were just as awesome as the guys. The female roles also offered us some character types we hadn't seen before, and I've put Kaylee on my list of "5 Trailblazing Female Sci-Fi Characters".

Do you agree with my choices? Who are your favorites?

PHOTOS: Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife, c2009 Scott Free Prod., CBS; Patricia Arquette, Miranda Carabello, Sofia Vassilieva, and Maria Lark as Allison, Marie, Ariel, and Bridgette Dubois on Medium, c2009 Picturemaker Prod., NBC, CBS; Jewel Staite as Kaylee Frye in Firefly, c2002 Mutant Enemy, Fox.


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