From the seedlings of An American Family and Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls, the diverse flora of reality television has sprouted. Today, many of the genre's greats manifest on the shoulders of one of our country's most tried and true devotions: cupcakes. Audiences are welcomed into the elegant realm of baked goods, learning the turns of the industry and picking up some tips for writing in cursive with frosting guns. But of course, not all reality shows are so high in brow. We're also quite familiar with the programs dediacted to the every elaborate purchase, high-pitched complaint, or cocktail tossing of Hollywood socialites. And somewhere in between these two extremes, we might find Jennifer Esposito. Deadline reports that the film and television actress is working on developing a pilot centered on the function of and story behind her New York bakery, Jennifer's Way, which caters specifially to customers seeking gluten free products (as Esposito herself suffers from Celiac disease). Sounds classy enough, right? Noble, pristine, drama-free? Hold your horses — the show is set to air on E!.
And it's not as though Esposito will be at a loss for common ground with her new station colleagues. Though the Kardashian family is a hard act to live up to, the reality game newcomer (whose pilot was born from her appearance on the docu-series Playing with Fire) has a few tricks up her sleeve, beyond just healthy snack options, to help her assimilate quite nicely into the tabloid zoo that is the E! network. Her résumé includes...
A Short-Lived Celebrity MarriageCombatting even the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries is the 4-month romance that bound ever so tenuously Esposito and former husband Bradley Cooper.
An Onset Controversy on a Network TV DramaEsposito's name graced the headlines following a sudden dismissal from the CBS series Blue Bloods — the actress alleged to have collapsed on set as a result of her Celiac disease, going on to request a more lenient schedule to accomodate the requirements of her condition. When Esposito and producers could not reach an agreement regarding her availability, she left the program.
A Brief Stint as a Dancer on Club MTVWhile there's nothing that inherently screams "trouble!" about this, it's one of those things that you retroactively nod knowingly about after hearing that some celebrity went off his or her hinges: "That guy was crazy! We should have known when he took that job as an MTV dancer..."
A Father Named Robert in the Margins of the Entertainment IndustryIt worked for the Kardashians, didn't it? Esposito's dad Bob worked as a record producer before becoming a computer consultant on Wall Street.
A Childhood Home in Staten IslandAlways a red flag. Don't pretend you don't know where I'm coming from, Tottenville...
Any other reasons Esposito will fit in just fine at E!? Chime in.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
[Photo Credit: Mark Von Holden/WireImage]
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.