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First Charlie Sheen, now Angus T. Jones; is it all Jon Cryer’s fault?

- November 27th, 2012

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So what is it about Jon Cryer that pushes his co-stars to such extremes?

Another question: Will the newly God-fearing Angus T. Jones (pictured above, getting closer to God) give back all the money he has earned from “trashy” Two and a Half Men?

If you haven’t heard about it, this week some online videos emerged featuring Jones urging people to stop watching Two and a Half Men. The kicker, of course, is that Jones is on Two and a Half Men, playing Jake, the son of Cryer’s character Alan.

These videos have not gone viral by accident. Jones wanted them to come out, even saying at one point, “Maybe this will mean more coming from me.”

I’m kidding, of course, about Cryer (pictured below left, with Jones at right) somehow being responsible for all this. But it is intriguing that Two and a Half Men is the same show from which Charlie Sheen’s bizarre, self-destructive behaviour emerged last spring.

Sheen eventually was fired. And he was the series lead. One would have to assume that the producers of Two and a Half Men would lose less sleep over the jettisoning of Jones, who was hilarious when he was a squirt but in truth has been dead weight on Two and a Half Men for at least three or four years.

So the 19-year-old Jones has found God. What goes on between the two of them is none of my business. But Jones should stay out of everyone else’s business, too.

It’s easier to be preachy once you’ve made a fortune from the very thing you’re preaching against.

Angus T. Jones says he doesn’t want to be on Two and a Half Men any more. Christmas is coming. Please, please, please, grant him this gift.

And if you’re really seriously saying that you’ve found religion, Angus, give all the cash back from the “filth” machine that is Two and a Half Men. Money where your mouth is, kid.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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Manage your expectations when watching Saturday Night Live

- September 16th, 2012

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I don’t expect Saturday Night Live to be good.

I guess that’s the difference between me and other people.

SNL is a live TV show, pre-taped bits notwithstanding. I expect it to be largely bad, with flashes of brilliance. That’s what it always has been, which will be shocking news to those who watch only “best of” DVDs, or seek out selected clips on the internet.

A lot of the comedy on SNL should be experimental, and as such, much of it probably will miss the mark. It’s when the show doesn’t try that it really deserves to be criticized. It should be swinging for the fences, which often means a high strikeout percentage, but the home runs stay in our memories forever.

Which brings us to the debut of the 38th season of SNL, which occurred this past weekend on NBC and Global. With Seth MacFarlane serving as host, were there any home runs?

Well, SNL is at its best when it’s daring, and the most daring moment came during Weekend Update. Anchorman Seth Meyers referenced the film Innocence of Muslims, which has caused violent and deadly protests in the Middle East.

With a picture of a riot in the background, Meyers said, “This week the new film Innocence of Muslims was released, and so far, the reviews are not great. You guys know YouTube has a comments section, right?”

There were some nervous, uncomfortable murmurs from the live audience. But those almost always are a good sign, if you ask me.

The ballyhooed new blood never got flowing. With the likes of Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and Abby Elliott gone this season, rookies Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon virtually were invisible.

High points included Vanessa Bayer’s Honey Boo Boo, MacFarlane’s Ryan Lochte (pictured above left, with Meyers at right) and a cameo appearance by Korean rapper Psy, who probably got the biggest cheer of the night.

The musical guest was Frank Ocean, who was wearing a hockey-style sweater that looked as if it had been purchased in a casino gift shop. John Mayer played guitar for Ocean.

Significantly as the U.S. plods toward a presidential election, all the moaning that people used to do about Fred Armisen’s Barack Obama impersonation finally can stop. Cast member Jay Pharoah is the new Obama, with Jason Sudeikis back as Mitt Romney.

You knew SNL would have to reference the infamous Clint Eastwood performance talking to a chair at the Republican National Convention, and it did so with a pre-taped bit. Bill Hader played Eastwood in an ad promoting Eastwood’s tour with the chair, with the tag line, “No script, no set tour dates, no predetermined theatres.”

Hey, didn’t Charlie Sheen do that already?

Overall, the return of SNL can be described as steady. It was an okay start, provided your expectations are properly aligned.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Clint Eastwood and chair, the newbies nowhere; review of SNL 38th-season debut

- September 16th, 2012

Frank Ocean, Seth MacFarlane, Fred Armisen

The new blood on Saturday Night Live never really got flowing as the 38th season began with a reasonably clot-free episode Saturday night on NBC and Global.

Host Seth MacFarlane served as an able utility player in a series of skits that had good energy, which is a key consideration on SNL. Notably, for a guy with basically normal hair, MacFarlane had more wig changes than Lady Gaga in concert, for some unknown reason.

But with the likes of Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and Abby Elliott gone from SNL this season, new featured players Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon virtually were invisible. The only extended contribution came from Strong, playing a Dominican voter with a bad accent in a Weekend Update segment that never quite took off.

The most edgy line during Weekend Update surfaced when anchorman Seth Meyers referenced the film Innocence of Muslims, which has caused violent and deadly protests in the Middle East. With a picture of a riot in the background, Meyers said, “This week the new film Innocence of Muslims was released, and so far, the reviews are not great. You guys know YouTube has a comments section, right?”

SNL leaned heavily on returning cast member Bill Hader early in the show, and heavily on returning cast member Kenan Thompson later in the show.

You knew SNL would have to reference the infamous Clint Eastwood performance talking to a chair at the Republican National Convention, and it did so with a pre-taped bit. Hader played Eastwood in an ad promoting Eastwood’s tour with the chair, with the tag line, “No script; no set tour dates; no predetermined theatres.”

Hey, didn’t Charlie Sheen do that already?

High points included Vanessa Bayer’s Honey Boo Boo, MacFarlane’s Ryan Lochte and a cameo appearance by Korean rapper Psy, who probably got the biggest cheer of the night.

The musical guest was Frank Ocean, who was wearing a sweater that looked as if it had been purchased in a casino gift shop (that’s him, and it, at far left in the above photo, with MacFarlane in the middle and Fred Armisen at right). John Mayer played guitar for Ocean.

Speaking of Armisen, as the U.S. plods toward a presidential election, all the moaning that people used to do about Armisen’s Barack Obama impersonation finally can stop. Cast member Jay Pharoah is the new Obama, with Jason Sudeikis back as Mitt Romney.

Pharoah’s Obama posed a question to America: “Stick with what’s been barely working, or take your chances with that.”

The “that” referred to Romney. But the jab had unexpected resonance on an evening when Saturday Night Live leaned heavily on its veterans and left the newbies to dream of future glories.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Olympics? When did those start? Emerging from the Television Critics Association tour bubble

- August 5th, 2012

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TCA TLC: Random thoughts at the conclusion of the Summer 2012 Television Critics Association tour in Beverly Hills, Calif.  See if you can spot me in the scrums pictured above with Russell Brand of Brand X with Russell Brand (FX, FX Canada) and Charlie Sheen of Anger Management (FX, CTV) – kind of a “Where’s Dumbo” thing.

Person I never anticipated I’d speak to: Sarah Palin poolside at the Beverly Hilton. Her husband Todd is in a reality show about snowmobile racers. Just kidding, it’s called Stars Earn Stripes (NBC, Global).

Most bizarre panel session: Kelsey Grammer of Boss (Starz, Super Channel) takes a non-emergency, personal phone call from his wife for 90 seconds as an entire ballroom full of journalists waits for him.

Most electric session: Normally blase critics genuinely were excited to see the stars of Downton Abbey (PBS, Vision TV). Hugh Bonneville’s “Free Bates” T-shirt was the topper.

Best interview in a post-panel scrum: Sophia Bush of Partners (CBS, Citytv). Intelligent, thoughtful, fun, swears like a sailor, will talk about anything.

Best interview at a party: Let’s call it a three-way tie between Elisha Cuthbert of Happy Endings (ABC, Citytv), Matt LeBlanc of Episodes (Showtime, The Movie Network, Movie Central) and Kiefer Sutherland of Touch (Fox, Global).

Misplaced arrogance: A dude in a tank top and a trucker cap calls critics “ignorant” for daring not to take his TV series 100% seriously. The series is called Finding Bigfoot (Animal Planet).

Nice girl: Canadian Emily VanCamp of Revenge (ABC, Citytv) sends word to reporters before our set visit that she isn’t feeling well, so please don’t be offended if she doesn’t shake hands. Awww. You could tell she was under the weather by her crackly voice, but she patiently and pleasantly answered questions for a long time.

Coolest party: The folks behind Copper (Showcase, BBC America) – filmed in Toronto, set in 1860s New York – turned a West Hollywood restaurant into an 1860s whore house, complete with come-hither actresses-as-hookers in the balcony. Saw a picture afterward of what the restaurant normally looks like and it was virtually unrecognizable.

Sad moment: Just before I interviewed Michael C. Hall of Dexter (Showtime, The Movie Network, Movie Central), I realized I was very near the exact spot in the hotel where, one year ago, I interviewed Davy Jones of the Monkees. Jones passed away last February.

Best individual panel performance: Toronto native Stephen Amell of Arrow (CW, CTV Two). Charming, engaging, speaks in sound-bytes, told stories people could use. Good-looking show, good-looking guy. Star in the making.

Panel at which the reporters were most prickly: The panel for The Newsroom (HBO, HBO Canada) with Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels. Apparently a high percentage of TCA members take this series very seriously and very personally.

Panel at which the main panelist was most prickly: Showbiz mogul David Geffen, who supposedly was there to “promote” the PBS documentary Inventing David Geffen, would have preferred to be anywhere else on earth. He seemed completely bored, even exasperated, with the subject matter, namely himself.

Panel at which one of many panelists was most prickly: At the panel for Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars (ABC, CTV), Bristol Palin (Sarah and Todd’s daughter) was equal parts bold and cold. Keeping politics out of it, when I spoke with Sarah and Todd Palin (pictured below at the NBC party), there seemed to be genuine warmth there. They were cordial and pleasant and friendly. I actually found Bristol to be icy.

Breaking news: Fox president Kevin Reilly announces Mariah Carey is joining American Idol (Fox, CTV) as a judge, then gets her on the phone immediately to give a statement to reporters.

Right place, right time: Being seated beside Whitney Cummings of Whitney (NBC, CTV) and Love You, Mean It (E!) when she first found out about the Kristen Stewart cheating scandal. Cummings gleefully exclaimed, “That whore!” (Not to be confused with the whores at the Copper party.)

Coincidental “in the TCA bubble” benefit: I was completely, blissfully oblivious to the first half of the Olympics. Checked in just in time to see Usain Bolt, though. That dude is Usain in the membrane.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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Charlie Sheen’s “Anger” builds more slowly in Canada

- June 27th, 2012

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Apparently it just takes Canadians a little longer to get angry.

You may know this already, but we offer the following as a final public-service clarification with regard to the broadcast schedule for Charlie Sheen’s new series Anger Management (the picture above is from the show, not from Charlie’s real life).

Anger Management makes its debut on the cable channel FX in the United States on Thursday, June 28. In Canada, however, Anger Management won’t be airing regularly until the fall, on CTV.

The Canadian network plans to promote the hell out of Anger Management during its coverage of the London Summer Olympics, and will “stunt launch” the first episode of the Sheen series after the Games, meaning some time in August. The specific date has not been announced yet.

If Anger Management is on FX in the States, why isn’t it on FX Canada, you ask?

Well, FX Canada – which is owned by Rogers – has the right of first refusal to acquire anything FX actually produces itself. Because FX did not make Anger Management, but merely purchased it from a studio, it was open to the highest bidder in Canada. Bell Media (which owns CTV) emerged as the winner, or loser, depending upon how much you like or dislike Charlie Sheen.

We’ve seen the first episode of Anger Management. It actually seems like it will be a better fit on CTV than on FX. The tone is very Two and a Half Men-ish, and FX is known for edgier stuff.

Regardless, curious Canadians will have to wait a bit longer as the anger builds.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv