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Meloni says his Surviving Jack character is “Archie Bunker without the racism”

- March 26th, 2014

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If everyone had a dad like Christopher Meloni’s character in Surviving Jack, we’d all be greeting each other in therapy.

“Sometimes I would think of Archie Bunker without the racism,” said Meloni, whose new sitcom Surviving Jack debuts Thursday, March 27 on Fox and CTV.

Set in the early 1990s, Surviving Jack is based on Justin Halpern’s autobiographical book, I Suck at Girls. Halpern also is responsible for the Twitter feed and book Sh*t My Dad Says, which was turned into a TV series starring William Shatner that got cancelled after one season.

In this new series, Jack Dunlevy (Meloni) is a no-nonsense oncologist who mostly has been at work while his teenage kids Rachel (Claudia Lee) and Frankie (Connor Buckley) were growing up. But now that mom Joanne (Rachael Harris) is going to law school, Jack suddenly is “in charge of parenting,” as he puts it.

“Yeah, this also is based on my father, and I think the line we try to never cross, and the line that my father won’t cross, is I always feel he’s saying what he thinks honestly,” Halpern said. “And sometimes that will sting.

“My dad was worried I would go out into the world and live in what he calls a world of bull—-, which is, like, people in L.A. telling you, ‘Oh, this is great,’ but they don’t really think it is..”

Halpern said he knew Meloni (Law & Order: SVU, True Blood, NYPD Blue, Oz) was the right guy for Surviving Jack after seeing some of the interaction between Meloni and his own kids.

Meloni explained, “The highest compliment I have yet received in my parenting job was when I gave a look to my son like this – (Meloni glared blankly but intently) – and my son’s response was, ‘I don’t know if you’re kidding or not.’

“And I said, “That’s where I want you.’ ”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

“Dick Wolf girl” Stefanie von Pfetten gets cracking on Cracked

- December 6th, 2012

Luisa d’Oliveira, Dayo Ade, Stefanie von Pfetten, Karen LeBlanc, David Sutcliffe

To borrow the title of an old Duran Duran song, Stefanie von Pfetten was “Hungry Like the Wolf” for her new TV series Cracked.

Debuting Jan. 8 on CBC, Cracked is a drama inspired by the real-life experiences of police officers and mental-health professionals.

The two main characters are a psychologically “cracked” cop played by David Sutcliffe, and his partner, a psychiatrist on active police duty played by von Pfetten (pictured in the centre above with her castmates, and below).

“Beat cops actually are paired up with mental-health professionals on the street now,” von Pfetten said. “And 30% of crimes are committed by people with mental illness, so they’ve brought in the psychological nurses and psychologists to educate the police and de-stigmatize mental illness.

“So that’s what my character does. That’s what she is passionate about.”

According to von Pfetten, she was cast in the role of Dr. Daniella Ridley on tape, without previously having met the creator or producers of Cracked. So, Stefanie – and you don’t have to be modest – what do you think they saw in you?

“Okay … well … all I know is, nine years ago when I moved to Los Angeles, I met with an agent at William Morris,” recalled von Pfetten, a Canadian. “And he looked at me, he didn’t take me on, but he said, ‘Stefanie, you’re a Dick Wolf girl.’

“I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘You can do smart and pretty very well.’ ”

Wolf, of course, is the godfather of police procedurals, including the Law & Order franchise.

“One doesn’t find it often to see a female character on television who is powerful and kind and smart at the same time,” von Pfetten added, talking specifically about her role on Cracked.

“I think I am able to do that balance, I’m good at those roles, but I’ve never really had a chance to play it. I’ve been acting for 15 years, so it’s time.”

Indeed, von Pfetten was hungry for this role – in a fortune-telling kind of way – long before it actually existed.

“Do you know what else I have to tell you? I wrote this down, this specific role, I wrote it down in my diary four years ago,” von Pfetten said. “I’m not joking. I kid you not.

“I said, ‘I want to play a cross between Mariska Hargitay (who plays Olivia Benson) and Wong (played by George Huang) on Law & Order: SVU. So that’s a homicide detective and the forensic psychiatrist in the special victims unit. And I wanted it to be a show that had, you know, heinous crimes of a psychological nature.

“I wrote it down. And four years later – well, three and a half – it happened. Everyone in my life was like, ‘Oh my God,’ because I would talk about it all the time. And then I got the call.”

Geez, Stefanie, did you also happen to write down any lottery numbers?

“Acting is like gambling, it’s not a meritocracy,” von Pfetten said with a laugh. “So to me, this is winning the lottery.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Stefanie von Pfetten of Cracked

Dick Wolf stalks himself as Law and Order: SVU hits 300 episodes

- October 23rd, 2012

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When you’ve had shows on TV for as long as Dick Wolf has, eventually you can’t help but compete with yourself.

Wolf is the creator and executive producer of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which airs its landmark 300th episode Wednesday, Oct. 24 on NBC and CTV Two. Law & Order: SVU currently is the longest running drama on U.S. network television.

So does the series have anything left to accomplish?

“Well, if I say it, you’ll say I’m insane, but the next goal would be to go 21 years and beat Law & Order,” Wolf told TV reporters in a conference call. “Another six additional years, you never know.

“I don’t think the show has ever been better. It’s something that is a very dependable player and continues to be for the network. If you ask what my final goal for SVU is, that would be it.”

The 300th episode of Law & Order: SVU is titled Manhattan Vigil. A young boy is kidnapped while in the care of his father and the investigation reminds Captain Cragen (Dann Florek), Sergeant Munch (Richard Belzer) and Detective Benson (Mariska Hargitay) of an unsolved case that occurred in the same neighbourhood 13 years earlier.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

The Buffy effect: Sex and violence is OK if women are powerful

- August 30th, 2012
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Feeling empowered, ladies? I guess I just have that “effect” on people.

It’s not the combination of sexy times and ass-kicking on TV that reinforces negative ideas about women.  It’s the way female characters are portrayed, according to a new study.

From the news story I wrote today:

New research suggests sex and violence on TV make women feel anxious and men act sexist — but only when the female characters are portrayed as weak.

Christopher Ferguson, the Texas A&M University professor who led the research, dubbed it “the Buffy effect.”

He had 150 students watch three sets of TV shows, then fill out questionnaires about their state of mind and attitudes about women.

For the neutral shows, they watched non-sexual, non-violent episodes of 7th Heaven and Gilmore Girls. For negative shows, they watched episodes of The Tudors and Masters of Horror that depicted sex and violence and women as victims. For positive shows, they watched episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Law & Order: SVU with depictions of sexualized violence and strong, capable women.

Women scored the highest levels of anxiety after watching the sexually violent shows with victimized women. Men who watched the same shows showed the most negative attitudes about women.

What’s more, men felt the most anxious when watching powerful women kick some silver-screen butt, possibly due the stress of having their preconceptions challenged.

Watching the positive and negative portrayals didn’t do much to change women’s perceptions of other women. But, weirdly enough, women showed the most negative attitudes when subjected to the wholesome goodness of 7th Haven and the witty dialogue of Gilmore Girls.

To learn a bit more about why this might be, check out the full transcription of my Q&A with Ferguson below.

Read more…