Enigmatic yet appealing young actress of film and TV who received her first substantial screen role as the estranged troubled teen daughter of Patrick Swayze in the comedy-drama "Father Hood" (1993)....
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has been enjoying success on both the big and small screen for decades, but his career high clearly came last year with The Social Network. Sorkin, thanks to A Few Good Men, The American President and Charlie Wilson’s War, had already been a household name for movie geeks, but the explosion of “that Facebook movie” made him into a household name for non-geeks alike.
But before Sorkin was making appearances on 30 Rock and Oprah, even before he made The West Wing, he was busy fine toning his walk-and-talk writing on Sports Night, one of the best TV series you’ve probably never seen completely. That’s okay, though, because now the complete show, which only lasted two seasons, is now available for streaming on Netflix. If you were at all impressed by Sorkin’s knack for rapid fire dialogue in The Social Network, this is a must watch series.
Who Made It: Aaron Sorkin, obviously. This was his first TV show and his first produced script since The American President. The show originally aired on ABC between 1998 and 2000, and enjoyed a brief life on late night cable syndication in the early ‘00s (which was actually when I first started watching it).
Who’s In It: Sports Night boasts one of the most cohesive ensemble comedy casts since Cheers, filled with the likes of Peter Krause (Six Feet Under), Josh Charles (Dead Poets Society), Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives), Joshua Malina (The West Wing), Sabrina Lloyd (Sliders), Robert Guillaume (the excellent voice actor), Teri Polo (Meet the Parents), William H. Macy (Fargo) and a whole lot more.
What’s It About: Sports Night is a walk-and-talk comedy (with dashes of drama) about the behind-the-scenes antics of the fictitious sports commentary show, Sports Night. Basically, it’s about the cast and crew of a wannabe ESPN show, their lives, their relationships, and their love of sports.
Why You Should Watch It: The best, must succinct endorsement of Sports Night I can give is that I unabashedly love the show and yet I watch zero sports and never turn on ESPN. Sorkin’s writing is just so damned sharp, his wit so exacting and his knack for making hurts swell with feel good endings, that no love of sports is required to enjoy it. If you like people, flaws and all; if you appreciate good writing, this is a show for you, plain and simple.
The cast is so extraordinary, their interplay so organic that it blows my mind that they haven’t all become A-listers in the TV world. Peter Krause has of course enjoyed plenty of praise and steady work, having followed SN with Six Feet Under and Parenthood, and Felicity Huffman has been earning her fair share of ratings as a part of Desperate Housewives, but the rest of the cast have pretty much all resigned to jumping from mid-level TV show to TV show. And to think that asshats like Charlie Sheen enjoyed nearly $2 million per episode for crap like Two and a Half Men. It hurts my brain just thinking about it.
The first few episodes of the show are crippled by a network-mandated laugh track, but aside from that goof, Sports Night is the rare kind of TV show that brings its A game every episode without fail. There are no ups and downs, no silly plot threads that are drawn out too long. Everything in it just... works. It just works. Granted, with only two seasons to live, Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes sports show didn’t live long enough to be brought down by its own formula, but that just makes it all the more precious. Had I been a fan of the show when it aired, I probably would have been pissed about its cancellation, but as it stands right now, two seasons is the perfect length.
Those two seasons were solid enough to provide me with countless scripted conversations and exchanges that I think about often, be they thoughts on the legalization of marijuana, working in the porn industry, having a stroke, or just watching the human spirit push itself to new highs in sports. Sports Night is the kind of perfectly balanced, warming and familiar show I put on for comfort food. Hopefully it’ll be the same for you.
The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
You know the TV gods just don't care when "Sports Night" gets the hook, while Jon Cryer gets his umpteenth chance to prove he is, too, more than The Guy Who Played Duckie. But so it goes. Top-rated ABC took its turn at the here's-our-fall-schedule game today, introducing four new series (starring the likes of Geena Davis and, yes, Jon Cryer), axing more than a half-dozen (including the likes of "The Hughleys" and, yes, "Sports Night") and keeping Regis more than fully employed for another TV year.
The network dissed "NYPD Blue" for a second straight year, asking the long-running cop show to again share its longtime Tuesday night time slot with returning drama series "Once and Again."
Among the goners, "Sports Night," which drew lots of praise from reviewers, but little attention from viewers, reportedly is bound for HBO, where things like ratings (or lack thereof) are relative. "The Hughleys," meanwhile, gets booted after two years as ABC guts its "Sabrina"-less "T.G.I.F." lineup.
As for the new shows? Why, they're guaranteed to "capitalize on the stability of [the network's] returning hits." ABC mucky-muck Lloyd Braun said so himself.
The fresh meat: "Geena" (working title; suggested title: "Thanks a Lot, Cutthroat Island"), a sitcom starring Geena Davis just nine years past her "Thelma & Louise" prime; "Gideon's Crossing," a really innovative drama about a sensitive doctor (Andre Braugher) unlike all those other shows about sensitive doctors; "Madigan Men," an hourlong drama about the dating woes of a single parent as played by Gabriel Byrne just six months past his "End of Days" prime; and, "People Who Fear," an "outrageous" sitcom co-starring Jon Cryer just 14 years past his "Pretty in Pink" prime.
Jennifer Love Hewitt joins the adult race today, reaching the ripe-old, legal-drinking age of 21.
Hewitt will, presumably, display some very adult-like maturity in the forthcoming ABC biopic "The Audrey Hepburn Story," in which she portrays the late actress-turned-humanitarian, a role that departs from Hewitt's usual angst-ridden (and stalker-pursued) TV and film roles.
The real Audrey Hepburn, by the way, was 25 when "Sabrina" was released, 28 when "Funny Face" came out, 32 when "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was released and 34 when "My Fair Lady" premiered.
Good to know Jennifer's doing her best to catch up.
MEA CULPA: Back on the job after a nasty illness sidelined him for more than a month, Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein has this to say: Blame me.
You can't hold a grudge against a guy who came down with a bacterial infection that laid him up for weeks and caused him to lose 40 pounds. But Harvey says he it's his fault that "The Talented Mr. Ripley" didn't get an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, as many people thought it should have.
"I was the captain of that ship and I was, unfortunately, convalescing in the hospital and at home when I should have been out there campaigning for it," Weinstein says in the Newsweek magazine hitting stores today. "I would have just made sure the right people saw the film. Even though the movie is a tremendous financial success, it is hard to motivate Academy people. ... I feel like Matt Damon and Anthony Minghella got robbed because I was away."
Weinstein, 47, became ill while vacationing on St. Barthelemy Island in the Caribbean over the holidays with his family. While he was rehabbing, he missed the Golden Globes and Sundance, two popular Miramax stomping grounds.
Still, Harvey doesn't feel all that bad. Although "Ripley" didn't get the Best Picture nod, another Miramax picture, "The Cider House Rules," did. That means Miramax has had nine Best Picture nominations over the past eight years, a not-too-shabby streak.
"We know that pundits wanted to see us get our ass kicked, and we're sorry to disappoint them. We will continue to disappoint them," Harvey tells the newsmag.
As it turns out, the Oscar scenario might be a better deal for Miramax anyway. Miramax co-distributed "Ripley" with Paramount, with the latter studio taking the domestic receipts and Miramax hauling in the foreign box office; therefore, any Oscar-related windfall for "Ripley" would have gone into Paramount's pocket. Meanwhile, the post-nomination pipeline for "The Cider House Rules" feeds right into Miramax's coffers.
Harvey never misses a trick.
NEUTERING "CATS": Say it ain't so, Old Deuteronomy. The Jellicle Cats are headed for the big litter box in the sky.
"Cats," that incomprehensible-yet-wildly-popular Broadway musical, is nearing the end of its nine lives. Actually, it's more like 7,397 lives -- that's the number of performances that will have been given by the time the show closes this summer.
The show's promoters have announced that "Cats," which opened in New York on Oct. 7, 1982, will close June 25. By the end of its run, those mangy alley cats will have sung their kitty hearts out to more than 10 million theater patrons in New York and sold an estimated $380 million-plus worth of Broadway tickets. The show has also toured across North America and Europe.
Ticket sales for Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, based on stories by T.S. Eliot, have been slow of late, but they are sure to surge as fans rush to see it one more time before it ends. And that, for the promoters, is the cat's meow.
"When you look at it, we're running into our 18th year, and the houses have been slow," Marlene Danielle, who has played Bombalurina since the show's Big Apple debut, told The Associated Press. "It's a business, and they have to make their money."
NOTHING ODD HERE: Too bad Tom Hanks isn't nominated for Best Actor this year. It might make things easier for the Las Vegas oddsmakers.
Joe Lupo of the Stardust Hotel says Kevin Spacey is the favorite to win the Best Actor award, with 9-to-5 odds, followed by Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.
In the Best Actress race, Lupo figures Hilary Swank is the favorite (3-1). And Best Picture? He's got that down for "American Beauty" (5-2), followed by "The Cider House Rules" (4-1).
If you wanna make a boat-load of money, bet on nominal Best Actress hopeful Meryl Streep (25-1) and pray for a freakin' miracle.
MIAMI VICE: Ah, to be mega-rich, to buy and sell multimillion-dollar homes on a whim. News flash: Madonna wants $9 million for her nine-bedroom home on Miami's Biscayne Bay. No word yet on whether she's simply bored with the drapes or she needs more space to unwind. According to Reuters, she bought the house for a mere $4.9 mil in 1992. Last year, she turned down a $6 million offer from Rosie O'Donnell to buy the place.
TV debut in an episode of the NBC drama series "Law & Order"
Cast as Pepper in a production of "Annie" (date approximate)
Had regular role in the ABC sitcom "Sports Night"
Studied drama as an exchange student at the Brisbane Royal Theater Company
Starred in Hal Hartley's "The Girl From Monday"
Moved to NYC
Played the role of Wade Wells on the Fox sci-fi series "Sliders"
Co-starred with Patrick Swayze in "Fatherhood"
Began acting in community theater productions in Mt. Dora, Florida
Enigmatic yet appealing young actress of film and TV who received her first substantial screen role as the estranged troubled teen daughter of Patrick Swayze in the comedy-drama "Father Hood" (1993). Lloyd began acting in community theater in Mount Dora, Florida. As a high school student, she was accepted as a foreign exchange student at the Brisbane Royal Theater Company where she studied drama for a year. Back stateside, Lloyd appeared on NBC-TV's "Law and Order" and the CBS-TV School Break Special, "Love Off-Limits", the directorial debut of actor Steve Guttenberg. She also had small roles in the features "Chain of Desire" (1992) and "That Night" (1993). Lloyd became a TV series regular in the role of Wade Wells, one of time-travelling quartet in the sci-fi series "Sliders" (Fox, 1995-97). When the show shifted to the Sci-Fi Channel, Lloyd decided not to renew her contract. Instead, she landed a regular role in the ABC sitcom "Sports Night" (1998-2000).