This has been one of those weeks where I’ve been afraid to read the news. Beginning with the Navy Yard shooting on Monday, it’s just been an unrelenting stream of one sad news story after another. Thank goodness we’re at the start of a new television season. I need escapist entertainment just to stay sane.
Icon of a television. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
That’s why I joined my fellow TV junkie friends Elise Crane Derby and Anne Louise Bannon in creating the Agents of Zeitgeist podcast, which we do on Thursdays (one day after I host the MOMocrats political podcast). I just like having an hour where all I need to care about is what happened last night on Modern Family.
The last couple of weeks, we’ve been previewing the new television season, which I described as my own version of Christmas. Each new show is like a brightly wrapped gift which has to be experienced before I can decide whether to keep it… or return it for a replacement series. A couple of new shows debuted on Fox this week: Dads (RETURN IT NOW!) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (give it some time to see if it meets its potential).
I haven’t yet seen Sleepy Hollow, but this snarky description makes me want to find it on demand right now (they had me at Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer).
But the real action begins next week, following Sunday’s telecast of the Emmys.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting the set of the new CBS comedy, MOM, where about 30 other mom bloggers and I got to chat with stars Anna Faris, Allison Janney and Sadie Calvano and show runner Gemma Baker. I will be posting something about that meeting next week, after I’ve had a chance to transcribe the conversation. I’m actually pretty excited about this show. Despite the AP review, I have a feeling it will be a keeper.
A couple of days ago, BlogHer contributor Jane Collins wrote a piece on the upcoming season proclaiming that everything old is new again. She cited new shows starring Robin Williams and Michael J. Fox (both of which are on my list), as well as tried and true premises like cops, lawyers and this year — robots.
The thing is: There are never any truly new premises for TV dramas and comedies. Not ever. It all comes down to execution. And casting. A visitor from another planet could be My Favorite Martian in the 1960s — or Mork and Mindy in the 1970s… or Alien Nation in the 1980s. (See what I mean by execution?)
You can have a robotic child in the 1980s with Small Wonder or android cops in 2013 in Almost Human. Over the last few years here have been a zillion vampire shows, so no wonder someone’s gone to the source at NBC with Dracula.
Back in the 1980s, when I worked for producer Mort Lachman (Gimme a Break, Kate & Allie), one of my tasks would be to transcribe the pitch meetings he would have with prospective writers. The one pitch I heard over and over again was the one about the older guy and his new, young second wife. Because after all, you write what you know and Mort was taking meetings with a lot of middle-aged TV writers who were perplexed by their much younger new spouses. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.
It was done well in the 70′s with a sitcom called All’s Fair (with Richard Crenna and Bernadette Peters). And this year, we get Bradley Whitford and Malin Ackerman in Trophy Wife – the 21st century twist being the fact that she’s the guy’s THIRD wife. And the first two (plus kids) are still in the picture. All’s Fair only lasted one season. I’m hoping Trophy Wife is good enough to do better.
When I first saw billboards advertising The Goldbergs, I thought ABC had gone way, way back in history to remake one of television’s original hit comedies which had the same name. As it turns out, nobody remembers the 1950′s Goldbergs (it actually started out in 1929 on radio, which is before even my time). The new ABC series is based on producer Adam Goldberg’s family in the 1980s, which makes this Goldberg sound more like The Wonder Years — with big hair and Cosby sweaters.
I am also anticipating The Blacklist, which sounds a lot like Silence of the Lambs (except NBC already has an SoL spinoff in Hannibal). There’s no mention of fava beans or chianti in this one, so I think it might be safe for me to watch. At any rate, James Spader usually turns in a fun performance (the exception was his time at The Office. I guess there’s a reason nobody remembers any killer James Spader comedies).
Another new network show I want to see is Lucky 7, based on a British series called The Syndicate, which follows seven co-workers who win a big lottery jackpot. This also reminds me of my days working for Mort Lachman in 1985, where I spent several months typing revisions to a pilot script called “Just Plain Rich Folks” – about a family who wins the lottery. To my knowledge, that show never got made. But it does go to show you: there really is nothing new under the sun.
What new shows are YOU looking forward to? Answer in comments below.
I have a MOM confession to make: I am a TV addict. OK, maybe that’s not much of a secret. It’s not even something I am all that ashamed of. I guess it’s not that much of a confession, is it?
Now that the Fall season is imminent, I will soon be lost to my family, as I immerse myself in all the networks’ new offerings. I have purchased a hard copy edition of TV Guide and am circling around the ones I hope will be my next go-to programs for laughs and entertainment.
One of the shows I have the highest hopes for is a little sitcom called MOM, produced by Chuck Lorre and starring Anna Faris and one of my favorite actors, Allison Janney, who play a mother and daughter (also a mom) who are both recovering alcoholics, which one might expect complicates their relationship a little. Actually, a lot.
Lorre, of course, is well known as the creator of The Big Bang Theory (which I love) and Two and a Half Men (which I don’t). But this new series sounds a little bit more like two shows Lorre produced during the 90s, Cybill and Grace Under Fire.
As a part of this campaign, I was asked to make a secret Mom confession, the more irreverent the better. Since my penchant for watching television doesn’t really count, I thought I’d try again here:
That’s as irreverent as I get. I know, if you are looking for outrageous, you’re probably not going to spend a lot of time watching ME. But THIS has potential to be really funny:
MOM premieres Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, on the CBS Television Network.
The Agents of Zeitgeist is my latest project: a second podcast (on the MOMocrats BTR channel) devoted to all things pop culture — but mostly about television.
Podcasting is something I fell into almost by accident, through my association with the MOMocrats. And much to my surprise: I’m kind of good at it. I think my early work experience in radio was good training (because if anything, I learned how to write a script for the intro and commercial breaks). The rest is pretty easy, so long as I surround myself with smart, funny women who can make up for my own awkward public speaking habits.
This has not been a problem working with the MOMocrats, who are among the brightest people I have ever known.
And I can tell it is going to be fun working with my new partners in Zeitgeist: entertainment bloggers Elise Crane Derby and Anne Louise Bannon, who may love the television medium even more than I do.
You see, I never thought of myself as a political person. I know I seem that way now, but my interest in politics is really just a desire to keep up on what’s happening in the world around me. It’s why I studied journalism in college, and why I read a newspaper every single day until recently (but still begin the morning by perusing and sharing news reports on the Internet). And it’s why I still watch an unholy amount of entertainment programming on TV.
Television was my first, real love. It was my major in college, because the only career I wanted was to work behind the scenes in TV production. This is something I eventually did, and when that ended, I had a really hard time adjusting to living in “the real world.” (Some would argue that I still have not succeeded.)
I love comedies, mysteries, action-oriented crime and science fiction series. I am equally adore the weekly sitcom antics of the Pritchards on Modern Family as I do the brooding mysteries unveiled on Broadchurch. I look forward each summer to USA Network’s light fantasy series like “Unnecessary Roughness” and “Royal Pains.” I relish Aaron Sorkin’s wordy wit on The Newsroom (enough to overlook the show’s many flaws). I relax at night to reruns of “Friends” and “30 Rock” and wonder how I can make Tina Fey become my friend.
This is probably the kind of behavior that normal people would want to keep secret. But having admitted to it, I guess that proves I’m not normal. I don’t know about my new partners in Zeitgeist — but I do know that on our first show, we had a lot of fun. And we expect to have some more when we resume the party next week.
“Agents of Zeitgeist” airs on Thursdays at 10:00 am Pacific. Listen to next week’s show here. And be sure to follow our new Facebook page.
When my sister visited last weekend, I told her I would be returning to the set of The Talk. I told her how much I thought the show had improved since its debut three years ago.
My sister gave me a look that said, “Meh.” She’s a fan of that OTHER daytime talk show with a panel of outspoken, funny women. “Nobody ever disagrees with anyone on The Talk,” she said. “They’re too nice to one another.”
To her, that’s boring. It’s a criticism she levels on my ownMOMochat podcast, where Cynematic and I talk about the news of the day with Democratic candidates, progressive advocates and other members of the MOMocrats.
I understand where she’s coming from. Bombast and outrage have built huge audiences for talk show radio. Hell, I remember the first day of my first screenwriting class, when the instructor scrawled one word on the chalkboard in big block letters: CONFLICT. Conflict is drama. It engages people. It makes you care.
And it’s why clips from The View regularly make it onto the evening news.
The Talk: Daytime Fun
But conflict isn’t always fun, and it may not be the best way to present new information. And personally, I have enough conflict in my life. Sometimes, I just wanna be a girl who just wants to have fun.
And this is why I like The Talk. As Sharon Osbourne said at a blogger luncheon following Wednesday’s show, “If you want to be serious or want something political, you watch The View. If you want to go someplace for a cup of tea and chat with your girlfriends, you watch us.”
Bloggers in the Audience
I was thrilled to see several people I knew in the audience at Wednesday’s show, including beauty blogger Romy Schorr, tech guru Carley Knobloch, “Biz Mommy” Tisha Berg, incredible Ana Flores (who just finished a book on raising bilingual kids), the winning Valerie Mitchell (whose site I must now bookmark and visit regularly) and beautiful Beth Feldman, who helped arrange the blogger event.
But I was most excited to see my friends, TechMama and Laptop Magazine contributor Beth Blecherman, Kimberley Clayton Blaine (who is THE Go to Mom), Los Angelista Liz Dwyer, and my fellow “white Latina,” Yvonne Condes of MomsLA (and now, Babble).
I almost never get to see them any more, and the walk from the parking lot to the studio was like a reunion.
And once we got into the studio, it was like a big party — complete with parting gifts. They did a product segment on Wednesday’s program, and when that happens on The Talk, the entire audience walks out with a sample of everything they featured. The theme of the day was workout gear, in anticipation of all the holiday indulgences that are coming up.
I think God – or Mrs. Osbourne – was trying to tell me something. I’m keeping most of the booty to review here later.
Dishing at the Blogger Lunch
But the real fun came AFTER the show, when we got to break bread The Talk’s outspoken stars:
I didn’t contribute much to the conversation. I did what I usually do when I’m in a large group: I took notes. Here they are, cleaned up and with added notations.
Sheryl Underwood is awesome. (I don’t remember what prompted me to write that. I think it was just my summary impression: The woman is as funny, personalbe and gracious in person as she is on camera. I’m a fan.)
Sara Gilbert thanked the bloggers in attendance, telling us that our support means the world to them. She said the staff credits bloggers and savvy social media with helping along their ratings growth.
Sharon Osbourne spent some time chatting with Beth and Kimberley (who were seated next to her). She noted how she and the rest of the ladies of The Talk treat each other with respect. And that they also respect the importance of social media. Bloggers helped to get them out in the universe.
Then, she asked US for suggestions.
Aisha Tyler said she was the last to join the show, and is just super happy to be here. “It has become a conversation with the viewers, thanks to social media,” she said. She said she was grateful that we care, bother and tweet. And that she was “super proud and loves coming here every day.”
Julie Chen: Thank you for coming. We are following you now. (NOTE: They are! I’m sure these ladies have assistants to do their tweeting for them, but it kind of makes your day when you find a celebrity following YOU instead of the other way around.)
The producers showed a three minute highlight reel of the show’s three seasons. The moments with the ladies and their celebrity guests ranged from hysterically funny to poignant.
Then, each of us had a turn to introduce ourselves, and I had the same thought I get every time I hear what my peers are doing and what their backgrounds are: how the hell did I get invited here?
I also have a hard time describing myself, because I don’t focus on just one thing. I talked about this blog and my background – totally left out the thing that has been occupying all my time recently, MOMocrats – and the work I did recently for BlogHer. Some day I need to write and practice that elevator pitch, because I suck at talking about myself. (Not like when I’mwriting about myself. Somehow, I can’t stop doing that.)
There were so many people at that table who are writing for outfits like Babble, and doing some really cool things. I really need to start getting my act together.
Enough about me. The conversation continued, and turned to a funny riff they did on Brad Pitt’s weird new ad for Chanel No. 5. Someone asked if they thought their spoof would dim their chances of ever getting him to appear on the show.
Aisha noted that they will be doing the show in New Orleans the week of the Superbowl, and the Jolie-Pitts have a house there. Brad Pitt has a sense of humor, she noted. “We may be unfiltered, but we are never mean,” she said. This is one of the things I like about The Talk.
The Conversation Gets Personal
Someone asked if guests shy away from appearing on the show, for fear of getting so caught up in the atmosphere that they say things they regret later.
(NOTE: Although I attribute the following dialogue to The Talk’s stars, I did not record the conversation. The dialogue is the result of me typing as fast as I could on my iPad, which means I was dealing with both typos AND autocorrect. So they are NOT exact quotes, but an approximation of what was said.)
Sharon: It’s a publicist’s job is to protect their client, and you don’t know what is going to be said. So that sometimes makes it difficult.
Julie: This makes our show work, because we don’t have publicists telling us you can’t do this.
Sara: My publicist dumped me a long time ago.
Sharon: We all have the same problems, it doesn’t matter where you are in life. l talked about my kids going in and out of rehab and people said it was an industry thing, but my son was in rehab with a rabbi’s son and a baker’s son. We all have times when we have trouble paying a bill. Why should we be in a position when we shield ourselves? Good to share your life.
Aisha: It’s risky, but I think the fact that we do takes risks is what people respond to. (Note: there is a good chance that the quotes I attribute to Aisha were actually made by Julie. I couldn’t see that part of the table that well.)
Sharon: I just got reprimanded by Justin Bieber fans. Because I said he still looks like a little boy… [and his fans are getting all grown up]. He can’t be the evergreen for 10 year olds. I got annihilated online.
Kimberley noted how on the tape we watched, it only took a few minutes to catch all their personalities.
Sheryl credits the crew.
Sharon: I think it’s interesting we have come together and share the ability to laugh at ourselves. When you’re not, that’s way too precious.
Aisha: Everyone is very supportive of each other taking risks. There are no judges. We’re encouraging, a safety net.
Beth Blecherman noted that the show reflects the current environment in social media, and in fact, incorporates it — not just by inviting groups of bloggers to events like this, but in using real time tweets during the show.
Tisha asked if this was the original concept for the show.
Sara: I think The View is fantastic, but with this show, I never felt [politics] was what I was talking about with my friends. I have more of a natural connection with what we are doing.
Sheryl: I like any place where I can be myself. No one ever knew I was raped or molested. Here I can be myself. We just do it in a way that any woman would do it.
Sara: I love when Sheryl does that because everyone expects her to make them laugh, and they love it when she gets serious, because they don’t expect it and it makes them pay attention.
Aisha: One thing we’re proud of is this kindness at the table, and respect. We may disagree, but there’s a respect there that makes us feel safe enough to express our views without getting shunned.
Sheryl confessed that she has trouble mastering social media, but she loves it when people quote what she says on Twitter. She was touched when someone retweeted one of her jokes.
OMG. They are actually reading US. (This notation is mine.)
Julie: None if us takes ourselves too seriously.
Aisha: That’s why you see these sketches and stuff, we will literally do anything. Everyone is super game. We do five days of TV a week. You want to make a great show. It doesn’t have to be a very special episode of The Talk every single day.
The women were asked who their favorite guests were. They started calling out names like John Stamos, Wayne Brady, Martha Stewart, Jane Fonda…
Sheryl said her best was Rielle Hunter. It was the one time she felt a good eye roll was worth more than a thousand words. She (Rielle) was an odd individual.
Sharon: She couldn’t say what everyone in America wanted her to say, and that was I fucked up.
Sheryl: We’re not that kind if attack dog show, so we let her stay back…
Sharon: If she had said ‘I messed up,’ people would have had respect and everyone would have said yes. But she is not a victim.
Julie: I wish Regis Philbin would come on again, he was lovely. He was unlike any other guest, as he has done this for 28 years. Watching him on the show was like taking lessons in listening. He doesn’t want to read a script. Some day I want to grow up to be like him as a talk show host. One of the best guests we’ve had. He was on the lot shooting Hot in Cleveland and he just walked in. He’s a pro.
Sheryl asked if they remembered when Snookie came on and she said I think you’re very talented and Aisha said, “Which show were you watching?”
Kimberley wants to know how you manage not to talk over each other (a good question, since this is a problem I have a lot on our MOMocrats podcasts, where we don’t have visual cues from each other or a director).
Aisha: We do a lot of deferring. We don’t feel we have to get points, a point for one is a point for the team.
Sara: There’s no jockeying for position.
Sheryl said her proudest moment is when Julie, Sharon or Sara gets her jokes.
“I have to try not to laugh loud in Sara’s ear because I’m like a proud mama,” she said.
Aisha: There’s no sense of competitiveness which is why there’s no talking over each other.
Sharon: If we don’t like it, we don’t talk about it.
They were asked if their camaraderie extended when they are off the set.
Sharon: I will tell the girls stuff I won’t tell anyone else, because I trust them and I know it won’t go any further. But if we were to work and socialize continually it wouldn’t work. We all have families. We would suffocate each other. Of course we socialize at functions together. But if I said to Sara let’s go to Saks, she’d say what are you talking about?
Sharon and Sara did go on holiday together once. And Julie held a party with games.
Liz asked if they do shows about social good objectives for communities.
Sheryl remembered reporting on mammograms, which dovetailed with community service work. This may not seem like that type of show, but she thinks our lives are a reflection of the community.
“So when you talk about your experience with cancer, or Sara’s life change embracing vegetables or when Dr Oz and I had the courage to be weighed in television…
Sheryl has worked in community service. When you have a audience full of cancer survivors, that’s when the community service goes into play.
There’s been a paradigm shift in how television engages the community. (YES! THIS is fascinating and should be further explored.)
The conversation continued until about 2:00, which is like the clock striking twelve for us moms who have to drive carpool (and not just us: Aisha said Sara and she had kids attending the same school).
The show’s producers thanked us yet again for coming and taking them up on the opportunity to get to know them more intimately.
It was our pleasure.
DISCLOSURE: I was not compensated to write this post. I accepted an invitation to live tweet from the audience of The Talk and participate in the luncheon because it sounded like it would be fun — and I hope anyone reading this can tell that it was. Like everyone else in the audience, I did walk out of the studio with some parting gifts. I made no promises in exchange for the experience or the merchandise.