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Everyone needs a best friend, including celebrities. In some cases, the besties are both famous… a circumstance that has made Instagram extremely happy. Checking out the site's posts to see who is hanging with whom has become its own voyeuristic pastime.
Even before there was a social media avenue for fans to get a look into their favorite celebrities' lives, famous folks have bonded over their distinctive lifestyle. Some meet while working, others become acquainted on the party and promotion circuit, and others have a shared cause that brought them together. In some cases, the friendship even predates fame. Here's a look at the best celebrity besties.
GALLERY: The Very Best Celebrity Besties
CBS Broadcasting, Inc.
When CBS renewed The Big Bang Theory for three seasons recently, it meant that the top rated sitcom is guaranteed to hit a 10th season (the show is closing out its seventh season now). While the certainty might be great for the network and the show's producers, it does beg the question of how the show will manage to stay fresh for that long. Even all-time classic sitcoms like Friends and Cheers struggled to sustain storylines when the season numbers hit double digits.
So, what will Big Bang look like in another three years? Can they find ways to keep things interesting or are they doomed to plod along through multiple seasons of rehashing what we've already seen? Obviously we can't know the outcome, but over the long history of sitcoms there are some lessons that are there to be learned. What do Sheldon and crew need to avoid in order to keep from "jumping the shark"? Let's take a look.
Limit the Break-ups
In some ways, the show has boxed itself into a corner in this regard. While Jim Parsons' Sheldon might be the most popular character, there's little debating the fact that the center of the show is the Leonard-Penny relationship. Just like with Ross and Rachel on Friends, it is the over-arching storyline even when it is seemingly dormant. Over the first six seasons, the show's writers had Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco's characters hook-up and break-up repeatedly. They're currently together and if they were to break up again, it will be really hard to put them back together in any way that doesn't aggravate the audience… at least the portion that was alienated by yet another off again period for the couple. The show's other pairs (Sheldon and Amy, Howard and Bernadette) have an entirely different issue — the female half's sole reason for being there is as part of the couple. For better or worse, the show has to come up with ways to tell stories with the relationships (mostly) intact.
Friends got away with having its characters have children by subsequently finding ways for the babies to disappear after they were born. That show, however, had the advantage of establishing extended families for the characters that lived nearby to help explain who was watching the infants. Big Bang, on the other hand, has done the exact opposite; most of the characters aren't native to the show's Pasadena setting. With the exception of Howard and Bernadette, no other characters on the show can have children that could be explained away (and it's hard to say how plausible the idea of Howard's never-seen mother taking care of an infant is). So, Penny and Leonard can't have a baby that magically ages three years between seasons and becomes a precocious genius. Same thing goes for any young relatives of Sheldon's suddenly arriving from Texas to live with him or Amy's vivacious "forgotten" younger sister showing up.
Tread Carefully With Cast Changes
With the possible exception of Cheers, no other long-running sitcom has done as good of a job of incorporating new characters into the show's mix. Not every fan may like Mayim Bialik's Amy Farrah Fowler, but the character along with Melissa Rauch's Bernadette has opened up a slew of possibilities for the show's writers. At this point, however, there is far less wiggle room. Introducing another new character, after so much time has been invested in the core group, would be a hard sell. Conversely, having a key character depart would ruin the chemistry that the show has worked so hard to establish. It's quite possible that someone will leave over the next three seasons and it will be a challenge to deal with that in a way that doesn't cause a chunk of the audience to leave along with the character. Big Bang's creator Chuck Lorre may have milked additional seasons out of his hit Two and a Half Men after Charlie Sheen was replaced by Ashton Kutcher, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone that liked the show better after the change. Of course, having a character depart is still better than going the Bewitched/Rosanne route and bringing in another actor to play the same role.
Avoid Very Special Episodes
How I Met Your Mother is the rare sitcom that can get away with dealing with issues like losing a parent without destroying the show's rhythm. Big Bang Theory isn't HIMYM (or Family Ties or All in the Family for that matter). The show isn't designed to handle heavy topics in any real way. There can't be an episode where depressed comic book store owner Stuart actually decides to end things or Kunal Nayyar's Raj gets hit by a truck and ends up in a coma or Penny awaits test results after her doctor "found something." Once that happens, the show will have gone down a path that it probably can't come back from.
It will be a challenge for the Big Bang team to craft episodes that feel new without resorting to any of the desperation plays that have doomed so many other sitcoms. If the show wants to join the short ranks of shows that have put together a solid decade of viable episodes, however, it will have to rise to that challenge.
It's almost become a game — how many things can be blamed on Miley Cyrus? When she went out on her Bangerz tour, mothers — none of whom had apparently been paying attention to what the singer's been up to since Hannah Montana — took to the web to complain about her antics, comparing the stage show to porn and lamenting the fact that their children had been exposed to it. Joe Jonas wrote a tell-all essay for New York Magazine, where he revealed that it was peer-pressure from Cyrus and Demi Lovato that got him to smoke pot for the first time. When she subsequently lit up a joint on stage in Amsterdam, she was labeled out of control. Months after, she caught a ton of flak for her "twerking" at the MTV Video Music Awards, the Internet exploded with rumors that Cyrus was the real reason behind the break-up of Robin Thicke and his wife, Paula Patton.
Now, Katy Perry is taking shots at the singer after Cyrus tried to kiss her at a concert, telling an Australian television show that she backed away from the smooch because, "God knows where that tongue has been." Even something as simple as being photographed using a teleprompter during a concert in Denver — a practice that did not originate with Cyrus — becomes national tabloid fodder. All that's missing at this point is Vladimir Putin issuing a statement saying that Cyrus is the real cause behind the unrest in the Ukraine.
Do a search for Cyrus' name and you'll return a lot of self-righteous posturing about her habit of not wearing clothes and her professed love of marijuana. The problem with all of this is that when you boil it all down, there's absolutely nothing wrong with what Cyrus is doing. In fact, if anything, it's a savvy career move.
Cyrus' image make-over isn't the first of its kind. When Drew Barrymore wanted to be seen as something more than the girl from E.T., she posed for Playboy and flashed David Letterman on national television. Within the music industry, Cyrus still has a ways to go before she tops the dual masters of self-promotion, Madonna and Lady Gaga. Heck, Madonna was kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera years before Cyrus thought of it, and Gaga has been naked (or nearly) so often that it doesn't even register anymore.
So, why does what Cyrus is doing bother so many people? Is it because there's a segment of the audience that feels like they've watched her grow up on her Disney Channel show? Is it because she comes from a country music background with its more "traditional" values and with none other than Dolly Parton as her godmother? Or is it just that even now, people have difficulty with a young woman flaunting her sexuality?
The truth is that as a culture there are continuous mixed messages about female sexuality. Being sexy is valued, but being overtly sexual can go either way. When Jennifer Lawrence goes on Conan and tells a story about sex aides, it gets treated as something cute. If Kim Kardashian does the same thing, the nicest label that gets attached to her is "vapid." Madonna and Gaga are hailed as smart business women for parlaying an image based largely on sex into millions of dollars, but Spears is continuously portrayed disparagingly for doing the same thing. Cyrus was bashed for the tone of her concerts, but mothers routinely take their daughters to Perry's shows that feature skimpy costumes, stripper poles and a variety of accoutrements tied to her breasts. How does any young female performer that's coming up know what's over the line, when the line isn't the same for any two women?
To her credit, Cyrus does not take the criticism without hitting back. When Jonas made his comments, she responded to the New York Times that, "If you want to smoke weed, you're going to smoke weed. There's nothing that two little girls are going to get you to do that you don't want to do." When Perry called her out, she took to Twitter to shoot back about Perry's ex-boyfriend John Mayer, "Girl if ur worried abt where tongues have been good thing ur ex boo is ur EX BOO cause we all know where THAT (tongue) been."
She also has a sense of humor about it, appearing on Saturday Night Live two different times in the fall to make fun of the furor over her behavior. Parton, who was never shy about using her own sexuality to gain notice, has defended her goddaughter as well, telling a London newspaper, "It's not easy being young. You almost have to sacrifice your damn soul to get anything done."
Unlike Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan, Cyrus appears to know exactly what she's doing. If she's to blame for anything, it's for showcasing again the double-standards that get applied to strong, young women.
20th Century Fox via Everett Collection
In the era of the World Wide Web, the story for Home Alone would go something like this: young Kevin wakes up and realizes that his family is nowhere to be found. Wanting to make sure that they haven't disappeared, he grabs his iPad, checks Buzz's Twitter feed which says, "On the way to the airport. Can't wait to check out Paris babes!" Relieved, Kevin brings up FaceTime to contact his mother and let her know that he was left behind. She takes a cab back to the house, goes onto the airline's website to change their flight and the two of them fly out a short while later to enjoy Christmas. The end.
When British scientist Tim Berners-Lee drew up his proposal in 1989 for what would become the World Wide Web, he was just hoping to share information within the scientific community. Instead, 25 years later the Web has changed daily life for most people in ways that are too numerous to list. The rise of the Web also did something else that wasn't anticipated… it changed movies.
From a practical standpoint, the entertainment industry has taken full advantage of the Web. Every new movie release has a web presence for marketing purposes. Websites like Netflix and Amazon deliver streaming films. There are sites to tell you when movies are playing, that rate them, that show trailers and that sell movies. Thanks to Kickstarter, there are even websites that help finance productions.
What the Web has also done is changed the way that filmmakers have to tell their stories. Besides Home Alone, there are a variety of plot points that had to be abandoned once the Web became an omnipresent part of life. Sam's family in Sixteen Candles wouldn't have forgotten her birthday, because they all would've gotten Facebook reminders. Dr. Richard Kimble doesn’t have to go all over Chicago to find his wife's killer in The Fugitive; he just needs access to Google. Ferris Bueller would've been busted as soon as his parade antics went viral on YouTube. In Sleepless in Seattle, Jonah would've just brought up Annie's profile on the Baltimore Sun website and said "See, she's pretty!" Die Hard basically wouldn't have a plot left… same with My Cousin Vinny and numerous others.
Screenwriters and directors now have to account for the Web (and cell phones), when plotting out their stories. Want to update Romeo & Juliet? Have fun trying to work around the leads not e-mailing, Skyping or texting. Want to remake The Usual Suspects? Better have an answer for why that picture of Keyser Soze isn't available on any law enforcement websites.
Anyone wishing to tell a story with farcical elements has to work harder than ever to create the ruse, because no part of it can hinge on information that is readily available on the Web. If the character could look it up on Wikipedia, it's kind of hard to explain why they wouldn't just do that.
While some have skirted the issue by finding the few corners of the world that technology hasn't reached — think Babel — a number of filmmakers have instead sought solace in the past. Whether it's Ben Affleck with Argo, David O. Russell with American Hustle, Quentin Tarantino with Django Unchained or J.J. Abrams with Super 8, big name directors are opting to tell stories from before the dawn of websites as a way around dealing with the issue. Of the nine Best Picture nominees this year, four were set before 1990… and two of the others took place in the middle of the ocean (Captain Phillips) and in space (Gravity).
Of course, one of the other nominees showed a different path that filmmakers can now explore to tell new and interesting stories. Spike Jonze's Her made technology a character all on its own. Instead of just altering the ways that filmmakers tell stories — and studios produce and market movies — maybe over the next 25 years of its existence the World Wide Web will become a movie star in its own right. Hey, it's not any more farfetched than the various John Hughes plot devices from the '80s that the Web has rendered obsolete.
20th Century Fox
As always, the summer movie season is loaded with sequels. New editions of Transformers, The Expendables, Planet of the Apes and X-Men litter the release schedule. Even kid's movies (Rio 2) and horror (The Purge: Anarchy) are in on the act. It can start to feel like everything is part of a franchise or based on something that we've already seen… even something like Maleficent is based on the wicked queen from Sleeping Beauty.
While it might seem like there's nothing new on the horizon, that's not quite the case. Just as there is every summer there are films that aren't follow-ups or retreads. These summer time releases are the ones that we're most looking forward to.
The Fault in Our Stars (June 6)
Based on the best-selling novel by John Green, Fault stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as a pair of teenagers who meet at a cancer support group. She's terminally ill and he's lost a leg, but they bond over their shared passions and fall in love. The book has a devoted fan base that went nuts at the release of the first trailer. It's hard not to get swept up in their excitement over the love story.
Tammy (July 2)
We know that Melissa McCarthy hasn't quite equaled her breakthrough role in Bridesmaids, but this time the actress co-wrote the script with husband Ben Falcone, and he's directing. If it doesn't work this time, it's entirely on the star. McCarthy plays a woman who just lost her job and found her husband cheating, and decides to go on a road trip with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon). So, like Thelma & Louise… only funnier.
A Million Ways to Die in the West (May 30)
Seth MacFarlane's Western comedy marks the Family Guy creator's first foray before the camera as a leading man. As he proved with Ted, MacFarlane's humor is tailored made for the R-rated big screen. He plays a scaredy-cat farmer who takes up with Charlize Theron's mysterious woman… who happens to be hiding from her gunfighter husband (Liam Neeson). As for the title, as the trailers have shown, MacFarlane had a lot of fun coming up with interesting ways to kill people in the Old West.
Jupiter Ascending (July 18)
The latest from the Wachowski siblings stars Mila Kunis as Jupiter, a young woman that was predicted to be great when she was born but is now a custodian. That is, until Channing Tatum shows up as an alien solider that's after her. We don’t pretend to know what any of that means, but we didn't understand The Matrix before that came out either.
Sex Tape (July 25)
Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz play a married couple that makes a video of their sexcapades that goes missing and they have to try to find it. All we really needed to know to be sold is that it features Diaz wearing roller skates in bed, and has Jack Black and Rob Corddry in supporting roles. Plus, there's a good chance that Segel will be naked, and that's worked out okay for him before.
Can a Song Save Your Life? (July 4)
Keira Knightley is a down-on-her-luck singer whose ex-boyfriend just got a big recording contract and who may have just been discovered by an even worse off record producer (Mark Ruffalo) in New York. Expect a lot of people singing in bars, but with Sexiest Man Alive Adam Levine among the supporting players it will at least be a really good looking music scene.
Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1)
Based on the Marvel comic books, it keeps within the same universe that The Avengers inhabit (two characters seen during the tags of earlier Marvel movies — Benicio Del Toro's The Collector and cosmic bad guy Thanos — make appearances), but it's got a much more loose-limbed feel to it with Chris Pratt playing the leader of the Guardians and Zoe Saldana as a green-skinned alien assassin.
Blended (May 23)
Amazingly, it's been 10 years since the last time that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore were in a movie together. The duo play a pair of single parents who can't stand each other but — as luck would have it — end up sharing a suite at an African resort with all of the kids in tow. Sandler's never been a stickler for plots that make sense, but Barrymore has a tendency to bring out the best in the comedian.
See? Plenty of non-sequels to be excited about!
Oprah WInfrey Network
We don't normally think of Oprah Winfrey as being desperate. The Queen of All Media is one of the most powerful women in the world and could buy several small countries if she so chooses. But, as any number of entertainment executives could've told her, cable television is a whole different animal. Winfrey's OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) has been around since 2011, but is only available to about 73 percent of the viewing public (for comparison, cable giants like TNT and ESPN reach about 86 percent). For a cable network to grow, it needs buzz and, with only a few exceptions, OWN has had very little. So, how does Winfrey's network go about generating some excitement?
By hitching its wagon to Lindsay Lohan's flaming star.
Winfrey interviewed Lohan when she was fresh out of her sixth stint in rehab for substance abuse last August and almost immediately began filming the actress for a "docu-series" called simply Lindsay. Presumably, this was to chronicle the struggles that a recovering addict faces. Of course, that's how VH1 tried to sell Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, too.
In reality, what it amounts to is filming someone drowning. During the initial interview with Winfrey, Lohan came away sounding like she was poised and in control. She also sounded like she had been coached and was still carrying a healthy amount of denial.
The premier episode of Lindsay showed just how far the actress has to go to really become a contributing member of society. She refused to go to a scheduled Alcoholics Anonymous meeting because she didn’t want to deal with paparazzi. She backed out of commitments to promote her movie The Canyons, causing director Paul Schrader to call her out to the media. (Not that Schrader is all that innocent; he used Lohan's extensive nudity in the film to help market it.) And, she backed out of a commitment to help a friend promote a lingerie line… which was the right move, but brought into question her judgment for agreeing to it in the first place.
Worse, it was clear that the people around Lohan are still afraid to tell her when she's wrong. She berated a real estate agent over the phone because he wasn't giving her what she wanted during an apartment search in Manhattan... and it seem that mostly what the guy didn't want to say is that no one wants to rent an apartment to Lindsay Lohan. Her "sober coach" let her off the hook for skipping the AA meeting. And, her personal assistant seems sick of dealing with her and appears to just be sticking around for some screen time.
In a clip that OWN released last week to promote the show — and subsequently took down — Winfrey herself pays a visit when Lohan begins avoiding the camera crews of her own show. Winfrey tells Lohan that she needs to "cut the bulls**t." That's a great start, but in showing Winfrey confronting Lohan and separately stating "this is what everyone said was going to happen" as she's riding to the meeting, it comes across as Winfrey trying to make sure that there's damage control if the show really goes south.
Lindsay doesn't have the kitschiness of The Anna Nicole Show on E! and its subject isn't teetering quite so close to the edge as Bravo's Being Bobby Brown showed Whitney Houston to be, but it does share something in common with both — a participant that is in a downward spiral and clearly has no idea how to stop, surrounded by people with seemingly little interest in actually helping. Just as with those shows, the process of being filmed for a "reality" series becomes just another enabling mechanism. It might be better for their personal well-being for celebrities to disappear while they try to straighten out their lives, but it's not better for their finances.
As with its predecessors, there are moments of Lindsay where you want someone besides Winfrey to step out from behind the camera and try to talk some sense into Lohan. The previews for future episodes promise not just more of the same self-involved prattle from the actress — in one clip she's confronting her assistant about his tone — but also appearance by her sycophant parents.
OWN is getting plenty of publicity for Lindsay and has made it a social networking opportunity, playing up tweets from viewers with their comments about the show and Lohan. It might even help Winfrey's channel get added to more basic cable packages and reach more viewers.
Winfrey, however, started her network with a promise of providing uplifting and empowering entertainment. With Lindsay, the network is choosing the same kind of attention grabbing programming as every other cable broadcaster. There's nothing wrong with that — it is a business, after all — but if you're going to set yourself up as being above the fray, which Oprah has, then there's going to be collateral damage when you jump in with both feet.
Lohan has dragged down plenty during her continuous descent… it will be a shame if Winfrey's and OWN's integrity joins the list.
Can A Million Ways to Die in the West is easily the most anticipated comedy of the summer. It's a big budget, high-concept, R-rated exploit lining up a slew of actors whose comedic wiles we've enjoyed on the small screen. In short, it sounds a lot like this year's The Hangover. But will the Old West parody do for 2014 what the bachelor party laffer did back in 2009? Director, writer and star Seth MacFarlane sure has to be hoping so.
When MacFarlane's movie is released on May 30 — right at the beginning of the summer movie season — it will have much higher expectations than The Hangover did at the outset. Todd Phillips comedy of inspired debauchery had three leads (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms) with very little big screen success between them. The movie relied on a slick advertising campaign that set-up the premise along with positive word of mouth from reviewers and people that had seen preview screenings to post just under $45 million its opening weekend — way above expectations — and start a run that would end with it grossing over $467 million worldwide.
If A Million Ways to Die doesn’t open just as strongly, it will be seen as a disappointment. Thanks to Family Guy, MacFarlane has a built-in audience that knows his comedy style and he showed with Ted that he can translate that to big screen success. This might be MacFarlane's first starring role, but he's been in front of the camera just enough — most famously as host of the Academy Awards — that he's a familiar face.
But the question remains: are MacFarlane's fans just as willing to go along with him as an onscreen actor instead of just having his voice coming out of an animated character? Perhaps just as importantly, are they willing to do it in a Western comedy?
The last time a comedy set in the Old West was considered cutting edge was Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles… in 1974. MacFarlane's comedy borrows Saddles' zaniness, some of the plot from Bob Hope's The Paleface (or, since it's MacFarlane, maybe the Don Knotts remake The Shakiest Gun in the West), and mixes it with some Family Guy scatological touches to arrive at something new. In the trailer, there are plenty of people dying in various cartoonish ways, but there's also Sarah Silverman's saloon prostitute graphically detailing the odd request of her last client.
As a director, MacFarlane has surrounded himself with A-list talent. Charlize Theron is the mysterious woman that has to teach MacFarlane how to shoot a gun and be a man. Liam Neeson is the scary gunfighter he has to face off with. Amanda Seyfried plays MacFarlane's ex-girlfriend, with Neil Patrick Harris as the mustachioed man who stole her away. And then there's Silverman, with her sing-songy potty mouth and willingness to say anything for a laugh. There's an allure to watching big name actors say the sort of warped and profane dialogue that MacFarlane can dream up.
If audiences can get past the comedy's setting — which really is a big "if" — MacFarlane's second directing effort has all of the ingredients to be the comedy blockbuster of the summer… and quite possibly turn him into a bona fide movie star.
Everybody has a weakness. For Selena Gomez, that is apparently Justin Bieber. The former Disney star was recently spotted with Bieber in Texas after he flattered her via Twitter during the Academy Awards. It's a shame that Gomez is so adherently linked to Bieber, since she has something special that is worthy of our attention.
Presently only 21, the actress and singer spent five years building up a tween following on Disney Channel's Wizards of Waverly Place. Like her network predecessor, Miley Cyrus, Gomez has begun working to transition into the world of grown-ups, playing a girl spiraling out of control in a kingdom of corruption in Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, opposite fellow Disney alum Vanessa Hudgens. She continues to explore more adult terrain in this fall's Behaving Badly, a sex comedy.
In the short term, her baby face might limit her in some ways, but that shouldn't stand in the way of Gomez being able to secure more substantial film roles. While the movie Getaway wasn't well received, the actress held her own while playing against type as a car-jacker who holds up Ethan Hawke. Even though Wizards didn't ask the young star to do any heavy lifting, she was able to show more range than Cyrus ever did on Hannah Montana. Spring Breakers might have been nothing more than an interesting mess (James Franco in cornrows and a gold grill?), but it did show that Gomez isn't afraid of taking chances.
Musically, Gomez's first solo album garnered mixed reviews, although it did yield a Top 10 hit in "Come & Get It." Still, Gomez has showed, in her work with The Scene, that she has a wide range of influences. She could just put out bubblegum pop as any number of teen sensations has before her, but that willingness to mix things up makes her more interesting than others that have come through the Disney factory. Being as young as she is, Gomez has time to develop a unique style. At least she seems interested in being unique, which is more than can be said for many of her contemporaries.
Hanging out with Bieber, doing a stint in rehab for "exhaustion," and partying with Hudgens and Demi Lovato might make for great tabloid fodder, but Gomez has the ability to craft a diverse and long-term career as an adult, both as an actress and a singer. Hopefully her association with Bieber doesn't drag her down to the point that when she's fully realizing her talent nobody will be able to see past the sensationalism to care.
Sadie Calvano, the 16-year-old actress who plays Anna Faris' pregnant teenaged daughter in the CBS sitcom Mom has come a long way in a short amount of time. With only a handful of credits on her resume — most notably playing the title character's niece in J. Edgar — Calvano finds herself not just on a hit television show, but with a plotline that has spurred a strong reaction. In the March 3 episode of the show it was revealed that her character Violet, intends to give her baby up for adoption.With the series recently picked up for a second season, the actress reflects on getting to work with her famous costars and playing a teenager struggling with some big life decisions.
It seems like an ideal situation for a young actress to get to work with Allison Janney and Anna Faris. What has the experience been like for you?I've gotten so lucky to work with such an amazing cast and crew, and to be with these women in Anna and Allison that are such amazing artists but still such amazing people. It's something that I don't feel really happens that often. So getting to be a piece of that puzzle is such a gift.
You've also had some big name guest stars as well, with the next episode focusing on Octavia Spencer's recurring character, Regina, heading off to jail.Octavia Spencer... what?! She is one of my biggest role models. I think all of her work is so brilliant. When she first made an appearance on the show, it took every fiber of my being not to go all fan-girl over her. She's so lovely and strong and brilliant. Working with her is such a lesson in being humble and grounded. It shows what a great artist is capable of and she's a wonderful woman as well.
What's the reaction been like since fans found out that Violet is giving her baby up for adoption?I think it's been good. Obviously, adoption is a touchy subject but I think that Mom is becoming known as being a comedy that doesn't hesitate to get into heavy subjects. I think that this really shows Violet's strength in a lot of ways because adoption isn't an easy decision for anyone, but hopefully it will create better lives for everyone involved.
Have you gotten much feedback from teens that really are, or have been, pregnant?Not me personally, but I'm sure that it's out there. The great thing about our show is that it enables teens and parents to start a dialogue about these topics and get a conversation flowing. These are real things going on in the world right now and hopefully it brings a little bit of awareness, even if it's in a comedic format.
Anna Faris also played a woman giving her baby up for adoption on Friends. Has she given you any tips on how to play pregnant?Anna is so wonderful and she's so good about answering any questions that I have. So, she's been not just an amazing coworker, but such a friend and such an influence. It's hard without a doubt [to play someone that's pregnant] because you're expected to convey so many feelings that you are just incapable of knowing about right now. But it's also been really fun in a weird way, because it feels like I've gotten to have a little secret. Obviously, everyone know that [the character] is pregnant, but pregnancy is such an intimate thing that it's taken a lot of digging and discovery. So, it's been super fun as well.
CBS just announced that Mom is coming back for a second season. How did it feel getting the news on the renewal?I could not stop smiling. I had the biggest smile on my face all day. It was the most wonderful news I could ever imagine. To find out now and not have to wait — knowing that you get to come back to this amazing project — it's just... amazing.
Any hints about what's in store for Violet?I have no idea, the writers are very good at being tricky. In the last couple of episodes, you've really been exposed to the strength that Violet has. She's made some undeniable mistakes, but she's a very intelligent girl. So, I'm hoping that you get to see the strength not just of Violet, but of the family that she's now enabling to thrive.
Homeland stars Claire Danes, famous for her role in the teen drama My So Called Life, as a bipolar CIA agent that is caught in political subterfuge as she tries to suss out terrorist plots. The Showtime series has earned Danes some of the best reviews of her career.
The Americans stars Keri Russell, famous for her role in the teen drama Felicity, as a Russian spy who is embedded in the United States with her fellow spy husband and unsuspecting children. The FX series has earned Russell some of the best reviews of her career.
So, which shows uses political intrigue, espionage and its former ingénue to best effect?
Homeland is squarely in the present, with Danes' Carrie Mathison chasing down al Qaeda types and getting caught up in schemes by the U.S. government to get people into power in the Middle East who are more favorable towards Western interests.
The Americans, meanwhile, is a period piece, with the action taking place in early Reagan-era Washington D.C. The Cold War is still raging and being a Soviet spy on U.S. soil is still a huge deal… and thanks to the distance of time, the audience can now be sympathetic towards characters that were on the other side of the conflict between the super powers. They don't spend a lot of time giving a history lesson, but sometimes they'll weave in events that took place in the '80s.
Originally, Danes' character was slightly unhinged and trying to prove that recently rescued POW Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) was really a terrorist. By this past season, Carrie was pregnant with Brody's child and she was unable to save her baby's daddy from being publicly executed in Iran. A whole lot happened in between but it's so layered with double-crosses, double-agents, and duplicitous government types that it's not only hard to summarize, it can be hard to follow. The end of the last season had Carrie taking a position at a field office in Turkey, so presumably the show's fourth season will follow her there.
The Americans, on the other hand, is much more straightforward and subtle. The show focuses just as often on the home life of Russell's Elizabeth Jennings and her husband Phillip (Matthew Rhys), as they try to do their jobs of feeding information back to the Soviet Union, while raising their children (one of whom is suspicious of them) and trying not to draw any unwanted attention from their neighbor Stan (Noah Emmerich), who works in counter-intelligence for the FBI. There are a lot of disguises and characters posing as other people — Phillip is also married to a FBI staffer as part of their mission — and the show doesn't shy away from violence when appropriate (in the second season premiere, Phillip shoots up a restaurant and another KGB spy family is murdered). What makes it fascinating, besides the various espionage angles, is watching Russell and Rhys try to sort out their feelings for each other — their marriage was mandated by the Soviets — and their children.
Advantage: The Americans.
Danes gets to play anxious and frantic a lot, which gives her plenty of showy scenes. Her Carrie is a mess most of the time. Despite being pregnant she goes on a bender and she gets prescription meds through her sister. The show started with her fresh off of a suspension for conducting an unauthorized operation in Iraq and the show plays a lot on her bipolar disorder, keeping things off-balance as to when she has good reason to be paranoid versus when she's just paranoid because that's just how she is. First she was trying to discover and thwart whatever plot Brody had been sent back to the U.S. to undertake. Then she tried to redeem and clear him, while also sleeping with him. It's almost hard to tell when Carrie's right for what she's doing — like intentionally sabotaging an operation to kill a terrorist because she thinks it's more important to capture him alive, for instance — or if she's just completely unbalanced.
Russell is all business. She leads a double life but for the most part she's completely under control. Russell is marvelous in using her facial expressions to give glimpses into Elizabeth's soul. Her character is more comfortable with the harder parts of her job, using her skills as a trained spy to get what she needs, than she is with the family that she was forced into. She wants to protect her children, but they're also just part of her cover… and she has a better handle on those feelings than she does about what she feels for her husband. They both can be sexy, but Russell's cool trumps Danes' crazy.
Advantage: The Americans.
While Homeland has the awards and has more freedom to do whatever it wants on premium cable, The Americans has quickly become the better overall show.