There was a time, children, when the American people would anxiously await the start of a new American Idol seasons. A time when they would hold finale parties. A time when spending an hour trying to get through to vote for Clay Aiken seemed anything but a waste of life. That time has passed, though until now, Fox has been treating the behemoth it used to be.
But for this upcoming season, the network has decided to cut the American Idol results show down from 60 to 30 minutes. That's 30 minutes less scripted fighting on the judging panel; 30 minutes less shilling for Coke products; 30 minutes less Seacrest banter; or a combination of all three. The second episode of the week isn't the platform it once was for other artists to come by and perform their new singles, so Fox would do better to lend that time to another series. This choice makes sense.
So You Think You Can Dance had its results episode cut entirely; after some growing pains with the elimination process, it became a leaner and meaner show. The major loss there was the opportunity for the series to showcase dance companies from around the world and expose them to a new audience. Fortunately, they've found a spot for that in the performance show.
It's unlikely that American Idol will recapture the magic formula of simplicity, corniness, and Simon Cowell v-necks that made it into the number one show in the country, but at least its producers will learn that bigger isn't always better.
What is it about scary kids? Maybe it's the marriage of the innocent and the grotesque. Or maybe it's just your ticking biological clock. Either way, there are few horror tropes more terrifying than a creepy child (or two!) You may recognize them from your nightmares.
The Grady Girls — The Shining
Played by Lisa and Louise Burns (who we're sure are very nice), the Grady Girls' appearance in the hallway is nevertheless one of the films most iconic, frightening images. It's unfair, really. The only thing they ever did wrong was get murdered.
Henry — The Good Son
Already making moves to combat type-casting, cutie Macaulay Culkin took on this role as a teeny sociopath who terrorirzes his entire family. The people weren't into it. The movie was a bomb, financially and critically.
Esther — Orphan
The Coleman family gets more death and destruction than they bargained for when they adopt a nine-year-old girl from Estonia. Despite the film's mind-bending, ridiculous twist, it makes the list.
Samara — The Ring
The Ring led to our mistrust not only of unkempt, brunette little girls, but also of our own televisions. Chances are, you can't see a static-filled screen without imagining Samara crawling out of it.
All Hallow's Eve is right around corner, which means that the season of the greatest multi-holiday, stop-motion masterpiece is upon us and won't be over until after Christmas. Jack Skellington and Sally the rag doll might be the emo stars of The Nightmare Before Christmas, but it's the awesomely weird cast of minor characters that were birthed by Tim Burton's imagination that make this movie one to watch over and over.
The Behemoth is just a sweet, unassuming lug of a guy — with an ax sticking out of his head. He's the strong and silent type, though he does lose his cool around bunny rabbits.
Every mad scientist needs a hunch-backed assistant, and Dr. Finklestein has Igor. He's helpful, dedicated, and only requires payment in the form of delicious crunchy bugs.
Mr. Hyde is four-times the fun of a regular Halloweentown character, because he always has three progressively tinier versions of himself hidden under his jaunty top hat. They even get a solo in the "Town Meeting" number.
The Vampire Brothers
The town's four resident vampires are both practical (they walk around with umbrellas during the day) and very thorough (they "peeked behind the Cyclops's eye" when Jack went missing.) Also, they're surprisingly agile hockey players.
With two easily interchangeable faces, this guy was made for politics. It could be argued that he led the campaign of pressure that drove Jack off, but we forgive him because he got endearingly into the whole Christmas thing. And he's only an elected official — he can't make decisions by himself.
The intriguing rumor about casting for Broadway's upcoming revival of Of Mice and Men was quickly confirmed, and now we know that Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids) and James Franco (everything else) will be our leads. Neither is without a great deal of talent (though some might argue that Franco's talents don't lie, as he would have us believe, in every art form), but the announcement still raised some eyebrows. "Huh," we all said, collectively. But this show wouldn't be the first time that Broadway has brought such seemingly disparate actors together. Here are some of the more memorably unexpected onstage duos.
Nick Jonas and Beau Bridges — How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
When the youngest Jonas took over the role of J. Pierrepont Finch from Daniel Radcliffe and Darren Criss in the revival, he was paired up with veteran thespian Beau Bridges as his boss, J.B. Biggley. Their big moment as a delightfully mismatched stage team is a musical production number that involves mimed, old-timey football and Jonas ending up on Bridges's shoulders.
Paul Rudd and Michael Shannon — Grace
These actors are heavyweights , and both of them have plenty of stage experience. The fun here is picturing the totally chill Rudd hanging out with Shannon, the human embodiment of intensity, for eight shows a week.
Alicia Silverstone and Henry Winkler — The Performers
The Performers didn't last very long and begs the question, "Who thought a romantic comedy set at the Adult Film Awards would?" But the show left its mark in the annals of Broadway history by pairing up Cher Horowitz and the Fonz within its ensemble, in one big meta-celebration of the coolest kids in school.
Diddy and Audra McDonald — A Raisin in the Sun
When a stage virgin who's willing to leverage his industry power and put up a lot of cash to play a legendary role in a legendary play, you'd do well to ground that production with a stalwart talent. Say, a five-time Tony Award winner?
Sean "Diddy" Combs has returned to the public consciousness to heavily promote the limited release launch of his new music network, Revolt. What is Revolt? Well, we're still not sure.
It seems that Diddy and the Revolt team have mastered the fine development trick of talking a lot without really saying anything. Revolt will be "ESPN for music." Okay. "We're just going to do it better." Sure. "No rules. Anything can happen." Mm-hm. "The first channel of the social media age." What?
The channel, now available on TimeWarner and a few Comcast outlets, plans to target the elusive Millennials. Through what kind of programming? What kind of music? "If young people bang it," CEO Keith Clinkscales says, "we'll cover it." The vision is so wide and blurry that it's almost impossible to bank its success. "Music Television" may have been enough of a network pitch in the '80s, but not now. One channel can't possibly compete with the unimaginable scope of music and music news on the web. Wouldn't it make more sense to focus and specialize?
Diddy's been talking up Revolt's social networking integration, the details of which we've yet to see, and claims that it will bring back the music fans that reality shows like Teen Mom have driven onto the internet. The Twitterati usually rebel when the suits attempt to control the social media conversation, so it will truly be a feat if Diddy and Clinkscales can Pied-Piper the young ones into doing their grassroots marketing for them.
So far, the fledgling network has failed to make any waves and the first few hours of broadcast were plagued by technical issues. The first video played on Revolt was 1994's "Juicy," so anyone who had bets on Diddy's continued reliance on Biggie's legacy can collect now. Have you been watching Revolt? Do you think it has a shot at making a mark? Discuss in the comments.
"Hit List," one of the rival fictional musicals in the second season of Smash (RIP), is getting a real, in-concert performance in New York City. And it sold out in a manner of minutes. The "let's fix up the old barn and put on a show!" motif is still alive and well, so we've put together a shortlist of contenders for the next fully realized production of an onscreen play.
"Hamlet 2" — Hamlet 2
No one better described the often ludicrous nature of live theater better Dana Marschz, the drama teacher who saved his high school's theater program with their production of his original Shakespearean sequel, "Hamlet 2": "Yes, it was stupid, but it was also art." Can't you just picture erstwhile host Neil Patrick Harris introducing Steve Coogan, Skylar Astin, and the rest of the cast to close out the Tonys with a rollicking performance of "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus"? Plenty of cutaway reaction shots to a confused Elaine Stritch, of course.
"Bombshell" — Smash
In the middle of a whole lot of wrong, one thing Smash always got right were the songs. With music composed by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman of Hairspray fame, the long-term plan for the series was to eventually present the theater tie-in — a real, Broadway production of Bombshell. Let's rescue Megan Hilty from Sean Saves the World and get her back into that Marilyn dress where she belongs.
"Snow White and the Seven Dorks" — Saved by the Bell
Get Lin-Manuel Miranda from In the Heights to punch up these songs and an Elizabeth Berkley straight on the heels of her successful Dancing with the Stars run, and we could really have something here.
"Spectacular Spectacular" — Moulin Rouge!
Baz Luhrmann is planing to bring his first feature Strictly Ballroom to Broadway, but we'd prefer the full version of genius poet Christian's Bollywood-style masterpiece, "Spectacular, Spectacular." We've already been promised that "it will run for 50 years," so investors should be lining up with their checkbooks.
"A Midsummer Night's Rockin' Eve" — Get Over It
Because Sisquó needs a job.
"Red, White, and Blaine" — Waiting for Guffman
An Off-Broadway theater. The Christopher Guest ensemble. Classic songs like "Stool Boom" and "Nothing Ever Happens on Mars." The triumphant return of Corky St. Clair. A real, onstage tribute to the fictional town of Blaine, Missouri would be an instant high-brow hit and a dream come true for fans of one of the greatest mock-docs of all time.
A nail polish collection inspired by Burlesque, we understand. The glitz, the glam, our fleeting interest in the Christina Aguilera vehicle – all perfect for a Limited Edition run of shades. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, on the other hand? That's a stretch. Cosmetics companies and studios are teaming up more and more often to market tie-in collections. Some make sense, but even more are weirdly incompatible.
The Amazing Spider-Man Nail Polish
In 2012, repeat movie tie-in offender O.P.I. released a collection of colors inspired by the Spidey reboot. A little incongruous, sure, but names like "My Boyfriend Scales Walls" and "Just Spotted the Lizard" make up for it.
The Muppets Nail Polish
When you want your laquered digits to conjure up images of felt-covered frogs, bears, and whatever Gonzo is, O.P.I. has the collection for you. On the other hand, The Muppets are just the best, so why not?
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and NYX
A line inspired by a YA-lit film adaptation isn't too crazy, but unfortunately, NYX bet on the wrong horse. The movie bombed at the box office, wiping away hopes for a Twilight-style juggernaut franchise. Cute gloss though.
Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides Nail Polish
At this point, we wouldn't be surprised if Johnny Depp himself swept into the O.P.I. offices and mixed these colors himself. We'd say that pirates and make-up don't mix, but Captain Jack's expertly smudged eyeliner would beg to differ.
There's only so much adorable precociousness one can handle in television's glossy kid characters. So let's hear it for the straight-up weirdness of Trophy Wife's Bert.
Because kids are weird. Their little minds are churning constantly, trying to make sense of the barrage of information and opinions coming at them at all times. So, as those partially formulated opinions and worldviews make it to their mouths, they can often come out sounding totally insane. Thus far Trophy Wife is avoiding the archetypal kid-on-TV trap that so many other series (we're looking at you, Modern Family) have fallen into. While you can always count on Haley Dunphy to be reliably ditzy, you can't count on Bert Harrison to be reliably anything.
It's that unexpectedness, plus little rising star Albert Tsai's enthusiastic and surprisingly nuanced delivery that will melt every cold, dead heart that ever complained about annoying child actors. In an ensemble that includes Malin Akerman, Marcia Gay Harden and Bradley Whitford, we find ourselves waiting for scenes with Bert, especially those with his hippie mom, Jackie (the fantastic Michaela Watkins.) Whether he's having troubling nightmares ("Kate, could a doctor steal my uterus?") or reconciling with his mother after a fight ("I can never resist your Christopher Walken."), this tiny comedian is a bright spot in a bright show.
Who better to play a couple that the entire viewing public will root for than the uncommonly adorable and blue-eyed Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel? That's their job in the upcoming Fox series Us & Them: to make us fall in love with them enough that we understand why their family and friends uproot their lives to bring the long-distance pair together. At a special New York Television Festival screening event on Tuesday night, Ritter (Gavin) and Bledel (Stacey) were joined by executive producer David Rosen and their castmates Ashlie Atkinson (Nessa), Kurt Fuller (Michael), and Dustin Ybarra (Archie) to air the pilot and talk about this American adaptation of hit British sitcom Gavin & Stacey.
The pilot recreates a few classic moments from the first series created by James Corden and Ruth Jones, but deviates widely in places. The arc of the developing long-distance relationship of our title characters, for example, won't move as quickly as the British six-episode season format demanded. The city/country action has moved from Essex and Wales to New York and the very real Dillsburg, PA, respectively. ("I have their weather on my phone!" Atkinson said.) The cast talked about the meshing of their ensemble (Fuller: "We would sit at the table and just laugh and tell jokes and before we knew it, an hour was up and we were doing the scene again.") which also includes a mini-reunion of The State with Michael Ian Black as Stacey's Uncle Brian (perhaps the fan favorite of Gavin & Stacey) and Kerri Kenny as her mom Gwen, plus Malcolm in the Middle super-mom Jane Kaczmarek as Gavin's mother Pam; the pressure of playing an existing character ("I started to watch [Gavin & Stacey] when we were shooting, but then freaked out and had to stop," Ritter said); and high hopes for the future of the show. Atkinson bet one of the producers that if the series is picked up for a full season, she'll get a real version of Nessa's bacon tattoo.
The future of the show looks murky at the moment — Fox halted production with only six episodes finished. Those will air early next year. We hope it gets another chance. Us & Them is the rare adaptation that has its own vision, voice, and a sparkling cast chemistry. The panel encouraged those who want to see that develop to tweet, Facebook, and email Fox to demand more.
As Abed Nadir once said, "Some flies are too awesome for the wall."
So last weekend, a group of dedicated Community superfans took it upon themselves to host the second annual CommuniCon — part convention, part rally, part celebration of the perpetually on-the-bubble show. The process started, as is now so often the case, on Kickstarter, where over $18,000 was raised in support of the event. 300 attendees showed up to a Los Angeles area hotel decked out in their finest Inspector Spacetime cosplay and Jeff/Annie t-shirts to geek out together, this time in person. Organizer Gillian Morshedi describes the appeal of that facetime: "Being an uber fan of Community can be pretty exhausting, because you're constantly wondering if your favorite show is going to get cancelled or put on hiatus or renewed, but not given an air date. So it's so great to have a few days just celebrating how great the show is, completely surrounded by other people who love it as much as you do."
The itinerary included a "No Small Parts" panel, where the actors who play recurring Community characters like Neil, Vicki, Garrett, and yes, even the terrifying "Human Being" got to claim the spotlight; a Fans vs. Writers trivia contest; a fan art showcase; and a session with outspoken returning showrunner Dan Harmon and co-Executive Producer Chris McKenna. Main ensemble members Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown crashed the convention for the second year in a row, taking selfies with fans and asking a few leading questions from the audience during panels. Why do these busy Hollywood-types make the time to convene with the little people? "CommuniCon is a way for them to directly feel how much their fans love and appreciate and admire them and their talents. We get to thank them for their passion by throwing our own right back at them," Morshedi says.
Community returns to the NBC schedule in January. In the meantime, satiate your Greendale cravings with this documentary on the events of the show's first fan-run convention.