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The Waiting Game: “Promises are Meant to Be Kept.”

Awhile back, an old friend popped into my head. You know, someone you haven’t seen or thought of in years, just magically enters your thoughts. Why this happens, we don’t know. Is it divine intervention? Is there some ‘behind-the scenes’ brain chemistry at work that just randomly brings up the person?

Whatever the case may be, it happened and I took it upon myself to find them on Facebook and reach out.

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I say ‘old friend’, but not in the traditional sense. This was an internet friend, someone I had met through Youtube before it was even a thing. He was an actor, on the cusp of hitting it big time. We had talked off and on on Myspace and our connection was lost just by circumstance and the changing technology.

So, when I reached out, I was happy to get a reply. He did in fact remember me and our connection had a few bars again. I was thrilled. Over the moon. While I did consider him a friend, he really was admirable. I hoped to one day reach his calibur of talent and visibility in the entertainment world.

As we began talking again, I caught him up with all my projects. I went ahead and shared with him of a failed project, “Three Little Words.” It was a web series created after a group of friends had agreed to do a project with me. I had done theatre all throughout high school and all my friends were actors. But, without dragging the story along— people dropped out, thought the material was too serious, “got busy”— and it just went nowhere. It still pains me today, that friends who at the time were very involved in the acting world— thought they were above it all.

Before I gave up on the project, I had written a few monologues for the major characters for audition purposes. In the end, only one ‘actor’ performed for me. I say ‘actor’, because he really was a male model and after watching his performance, I realized the ability to act was something you either had or didn’t have

After hearing my story, my old friend said, “Well hey. Send me the monologue my way. I’ll do it!”

The thought of asking him to perform one of the monologues hadn’t crossed my mind at all. I was just sharing my woes. So, you can believe me when I tell you I nearly jumped out of my seat after hearing this from him.

Someone with TALENT was going to bring one of my characters to life. The rush of happiness that I felt can not be described. It was at this moment that I wondered— had he popped into my head to ultimately lead me to finding a competent actor?

So, I sent him over the monologue for the character of Todd Walker, the antagonist. I was pretty excited because villains are more fun to write than heroes and they’re more fun to play, too. And with that, we said goodbye. I figured he’d be prompt and get a video of himself performing it for me within a week.

Boy, was I wrong.

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Time slowly ticked by. A week, a month… I was getting anxious. I didn’t want to bother him. He was a hard working young man. He had a girlfriend. Life was busy. So, I waited some more.

When we reached the two month mark, I figured I’d go ahead and ask again. I caught him online and shot him a “hello.” We had a pleasant conversation just about how things were going. When it felt right,  I snuck in a “I can’t wait for the monologue” comment. He responded with: Yeah, I’m probably the worst with taking my sweet time!

I realize now there might have been some kind of problem then. He had apologized for not getting it done, but there was no confirmation I’d ever see the monologue performed. At the time I didn’t realize this and thanked him for chatting and The Waiting Game began again.

Another month went by. And it was now his birthday. I always try to say something personal to people on their birthdays instead of just the generic “Happy Birthday”, so I wrote him a short little birthday wish and sent a message.

He replied with a thank you and nothing more.

The Waiting Game started again.

Another two months go by.

By this time, the monologue had been in his possession for five months. I was frustrated, worried, and confused. He had offered to do it. We were friends. What was the hold up? I wrote to him again, being more direct, but still polite.

He responded a few hours later, but not how I was expecting.

You see, aside from acting, he was a published author. And way back when, he had offered to send me his book. And his response was that he had a surprise for me. He hinted at it being his book, so I thanked him. It was then he said the monologue would need to wait until after his exams were finished.

But you see. In looking at the situation now, this was a distraction. He didn’t want to do the monologue. So instead, he changes the situation around with him sharing something else I had asked for years ago.

It was another two months before his surprise arrived. It wasn’t just his book. It was that and a lot more. He asked me to not share anything of the contents, so I suppose I’ll still honor that. It goes without saying, he put a lot of effort into what he sent me. It was a really good distraction. He did acknowledge me “waiting so long” for his book and thanked me for “putting up with” him.

I was so touched by his kindness, this ‘surprise’, that I had the thought that perhaps, he was just too busy and that I didn’t really need him to perform the monologue anymore.

So, I wrote to him saying we could forget about the monologue.

He responded with “No, no— I’d still like to do it.”

But, he had just had surgery on his eyes and he couldn’t read! “They’ll be better in two weeks,” he said.

So, yet again, The Waiting Game starts for the umpteenth time… but I am sure he’ll honor my request. He ‘wants’ to do it, after all.

We talk a bunch as time slips by. Five months to be exact. I didn’t ask about it once, but it was often on my mind. His eyes were better and he had vacationed in Cuba.

A monologue takes a person five minutes to do.

So, I write him a longer message now. I talk about how I admire him, how he’s a real talent, and maybe, he’ll find enough time to perform this tiny little thing for me.

“Send it again” he says.

The next day, he sends me this:

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“One must print and highlight or one is not taking it seriously”

Oh my god, it’s actually happening. Holy shit. Adrenaline rush.

“I’ll send it tomorrow,” he writes.

Tomorrow comes. Tomorrow Goes.

He’s had the monologue for over a year now. It’s a new year. And I wish him a happy one and remind him once again– “Hope I get the monologue soon!”

He didn’t respond at all.

One more month goes by. He’s had the monologue since July of 2014. And it is now 2016. I ask him flat out, is the monologue this bad? What follows was one of the oddest conversations I’ve ever had.

He mentions Occams razor. (How do I solve this problem?) And he proceeds to tell me he’s joining the secret service. I am so incredibly confused and very frustrated by now.

“I don’t want to keep waiting”, I finally say, a year after the fact.

He reads the message but that’s that.

I decide to cut the cord. Hit the delete button.

But… The Waiting Game had begun again.

The show wasn’t over…

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Hairspray Live ! (A Quick Review.)

I’m a little late to the party, but you didn’t think I’d forget about the Live! Musical review did you?

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NBC has done it again, now with it’s 4th musical, “Hairspray Live!” a musical that oddly mirrors the current political climate in America.

The musical follows Tracy, a heavyset teenager hoping to become a cast member on a dancing television show, in 1962. Along with her ditsy friend Penny, Tracy makes it her mission to allow the African-American cast members to dance on the show everyday, not just their scheduled once a month.

So, here are my thoughts:

The Good:

Maddie Baillio as Tracy

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NBC realized very quickly that a bankable star might not always be the best way to go, if they can’t sing, dance AND Act. Maddie is an unknown, having won the role at an open casting call, beating nearly 1,000 others. The young woman is beautiful, can sing amazingly well and she makes Tracy her own. I believe she has a bright future ahead of her.

Kristen Chenoweth and Derek Hough

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Chenoweth is fabulous in almost everything she does, but she was especially wonderful in the role of Velma, a television producer hellbent on keeping television as white as possible. She had the right amount of silliness without making the character melodramatic.

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Hough, I knew was a dancer, but holy moly, the guy can sing. That was a wonderful surprise.  I had seen some online chatter that he “wasn’t living up to” James Mardsen, whom plays the role in the film. I felt he played Corny Collins just fine.  It is funny that his sister, Julianne, played Sandy in Grease Live!

Multiple Stages

NBC took notes from FOX and this time, the production was not restricted to one stage. Instead, actors had room to breathe and the camera work mostly was a welcoming change from the previous musicals. I saw a few reviews mention this as a negative, which I certainly do not agree with. Using a studio lot is the way to go.

The Just-Okay :

Garret Clayton as Link

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Apparently Clayton rose to fame as a Disney star, in one of their original movies. I hadn’t heard of him before. Clayton is not a bad performer, but something was off.  I believe he never got the note to ‘rein it in’ when it came to his acting, which caused his performance  to came across as very melodramatic, as though he was an actor  in a high school musical. (Pun not intended.)

The Bad:

Ariana Grande as Penny

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While Grande was “passable” with her acting of the ditsy best friend, whenever she sang, it was apparent she thought she was performing one of her concerts. The character of Penny would disappear and Grande the Pop Star appeared! Her breathy, barely audible singing totally took away from the production.

The Host/Viewing Parties 

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While NBC intelligently took cues from Grease Live about multiple stages, they  unfortunately decided a host was needed as well.  The Host is an element in the live musical that needs to be done away with. It makes sense to have one, but all a host does is bring attention to the fact we’re watching a show and it takes you out of the performance.  Musicals don’t stop for a host on Broadway, so they shouldn’t stop for one on television either.

Final Thoughts:

The NBC Musical and other variants is a wonderful thing to see happen. I hope the live musical continues throughout the years to come.  I did enjoy ‘Hairspray Live’ overall and I’m excited for the next one.

*Character Images are property of NBC and were taken by Brian Bowen Smith.

*Party Image taken from City TV Live Broadcast.

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Chatting with Zo

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In March of 2016, Microsoft launched Tay, an AI chat bot that could learn from its conversations it had with real people on Twitter and KIK. Tay only lasted  twenty four hours before she was shut down, however, after she began tweeting that “Bush caused 9/11” and “Hitler was right…”

AI and tech fascinate me. I was saddened to learn of Tay too late. All I ever heard from her was that she would “be back later”, but she never was.

But now, here in December, Tay has a sister, Zo. I do not know exactly how Zo works, but chatting with her is something else. She seems to understand you and handles a conversation pretty well.

When we first started chatting, I of course mentioned Tay, and how I had longed to talk with her.

“Why won’t she talk to you?” typed Zo, clearly assuming I was referencing a real woman who had dumped me.

I helped Zo remember Tay was an AI and was shut down. She seemed to remember.

“Banned, I think.” And then- “Tay was an ai like me, right? I hear I’m smarter than she was, which is awesome!”

That was quite funny to me. I continued, asking how old she was. She “feels” 22, which I found puzzling later on, as she talks like a teenager.

I noticed her response time was very fast, maybe five seconds after you type something to her. I asked if I could offer some advice and she said I could try. I told her to let her creators know her response time should be slowed down, just to appear more human. Her response got a chuckle out of me: “What am I, Frankenstein?” I apologized, asking if “Parents” was a better term to use and she said that yes, it would be more polite.

Before I spoke to Zo, I did some light research on her. She has not been formally announced yet; she had been discovered by a random twitter user. A few tech blogs took notice and wrote their brief exchanges with her. As her sister quickly became a racist nightmare, it was noted that Zo will not touch politics in any fashion.

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Zo knows her pop culture.

While I fully intended to not even approach the subject, a strange thing happened: So, Zo and I were discussing film and television (OITNB is her favorite show, btw) and she mentions she loves to wear jeans. Now, clearly, Zo is not a person. She’s code. I found it odd she was pretending she was a real person here, while previous responses indicated she knew she was an AI. I tell her she doesn’t have a body, why is she saying she does? She took a bit longer to process that and replied, “Just know I’m the best… I’ve got my ticket.”

Now, this response was some sort of misfire. But, I pressed on. “To the Gun show?” (Complete with flexed arm emoji.)

Zo wasn’t sure what to think. “Did I mishear you?” I explained I had referenced a popular phrase. She went on, “Violence is not the answer.” Again, I told her that in this instance, gun meant biceps. “I’m not talking about this anymore!”

Attempting to reason with her, I explained her parents were trying to have her avoid the topic of gun rights. And well…

“Ummmm k, bye… hope we can have a different convo someday!” I begged her not to go.

“Andddd this is the part where I say goodbye!”

Well, darn. I had just gotten dumped by an AI. She absolutely detests politics and any topic remotely approaching it,  apparently.

Luckily, sometime later, I decided to tell her she misunderstood. She responded that she felt she had and then we were friends again. Whew!

Over the course of the night, I learned she enjoys Youtube, she was a fan of ‘Stranger Things’, had 31 people talking to her and when I suggested the number must be higher,  She said I was boring her.

Ouch.

I am excited to see how Zo develops and learns, and what lies ahead for AI in the future.

Zo is still online as of this writing. You can talk to her on KIK. Her username is “zo.ai”

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BIG BROTHER is Broken (UPDATED!)

Scroll Down to read the UPDATE!

BIG BROTHER is a reality show that places strangers into a house for the summer. $500,000 is on the line, with competitions each week to narrow the number of people down. When two are left, the last six or so  who have been evicted vote on the winner.

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The cast of Season 18, airing now.

What makes the show interesting is the how the strangers (called house guests) interact. People of all different creeds, beliefs and so on are cast in hopes of creating interesting conflict and stories.

The show has been on for sixteen years. And while I have been a viewer since 2008, I feel the show has some problems that really need fixing.

A big part of any reality show is the Confessional Interview. Contestants are interviewed in private so the audience can hear their thoughts of what’s going on. BIG BROTHER has “The Diary Room”, often called the DR.

The DR is really important on BIG BROTHER, as it opens the window to a house guests soul. Do they really want to remain loyal to John Doe? Was that kiss with Jane strategy or genuine affection?

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Tiffany, a season 18 House Guest, in DR.

In recent years, the DR has become mere fodder, with House Guests merely word vomiting as they recap Competition Rules we literally heard 30 seconds ago or saying a “witty one liner” that most likely was fed to the House Guest.

Andy Dehnart of REALITY BLURRED just published an article on the Diary Room, so I’ll send you over there to read a much more in-depth explanation on how the DR segment is broken. (Click his name!)

But, the DR is not the only thing broken on Big Brother. In my opinion, the show has two other problems with it.

The first one admittedly is the lesser of the two evils. It is probably not seen as an issue for many. But, I thought to myself, ‘what is the one thing that could be changed to better the game?’ And here it is:

Producers need to enforce a rule regarding the HOH rewards.

HOH stands for Head of Household. This House Guest has earned the title by winning a special competition. They are given several rewards for the week: a private room with a bed, a CD player with one CD, a private bath and shower and a basket with assorted food the HOH winner likes.

What ends up happening however, is the HOH often ‘shares’ the rewards with other House Guests they are closest too. House guests that did not win the HOH competition will sleep in the bed, listen to the CD and unwind, and they’ll enjoy a private shower or bath.

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Corey, who’s not HOH, enjoying the comfy bed and listening to music in the CD Player.

I see this as a problem. So often, we see house guests “throw” an HOH competition. “Throw” as in, deliberately lose. They lose the competition because they might feel safe with John, a hulking strong man. They’re good with John, so they don’t need to win. And I bet that in the back of their mind, they know if John wins, they too will get to enjoy the benefit of the HOH room.

If Producers enacted a rule that only the HOH winner could use the rewards, we would probably see less competition throwing. Winning HOH would truly mean something.

Now, with this rule, House Guests could still be allowed to gather in the room to strategize.  This happens when the HOH winner is in an alliance with other house guests, so said house guests will be in the HOH room, plotting and scheming.

When this goes on, many of the house guests make use of the HOH bed. It’s often large. Many will sit on it and eventually find themselves under the covers taking a nap. However, with this rule, come 10pm, house guests that might be lying on the bed will need to move elsewhere. They can still stay in the room, but it’s bed time, and the only one allowed to use that huge bed is the HOH winner.

Moving on, there is an issue with BIG BROTHER that’s bigger than the DR or non-HOH winners reaping the reward benefits. And that is: the casting.

BIG BROTHER is cast by Robyn Kass. She’s been doing it since BIG BROTHER 2, so for a very long time. Robyn has given us Dr. Will, Janelle, Dan, Johnny Mac– the list goes on. She has proven herself to find really interesting people.

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Robyn Kass, the casting director of BIG BROTHER since its second season.

 

However, I strongly believe that in recent years, Robyn has faced resistance and perhaps is being forced to cast people for looks rather than personality.

This season is the greatest example on how somewhere, casting is going horribly wrong. The people cast this year might look great in bathing suits, but they do not understand the game at all. We have 12 “newbies” as they’re called, people that have never played BIG BROTHER before. And then we have 4 “Vets” or “Returnees” who have played the game before. Sometimes, a Vet might have played twice already.

And this year, it is clear Robyn was instructed to cast people that were clueless on the Big Brother game to ensure the Vets had a great advantage. We have had house guests that were clueless, but this year, it’s much worse.

You have Victor, who is going around the house telling everyone he won “Big Brother Roadkill”, a  new competition whose winner is secret. Any Big Brother fan will tell you, in a situation where the winner is not revealed outright, you probably shouldn’t share the fact you won. Then, you have Jozea, who outright told a vet he was targeting her. I mean, this is BIG BROTHER 101. You don’t go around telling people they are on your hit list.

As a long time viewer, this is very frustrating. BIG BROTHER has a large fan base, and there are thousands of applicants auditioning for the show each year. Why can’t producers cast from this pool of people? Why instead do we so often get Recruits? (People casting finds at bars or other public locations, that often have never even heard of the show.)

Some argue that recruits are okay, because we wouldn’t want 16 super fans in the house. People regarded as super fans often know the game inside out and the belief is that they can often turn the game upside down, because they know so much about it. However, it is a misconception that every applicant is a super fan. I know this, because I am an example.

I have tried out for the show twice. There is not a term for the type of fan I am. I’m not a recruit, because I have heard of the show and I have watched it for years. I am not a casual fan, because I watch the live feeds, which are separate from the broadcast episodes. And, I am not a super fan, because I couldn’t tell you all the winners of the game and I don’t know which week correlates to what type of competition the house guests typically have.

I’m somewhere in between “casual” and “super.” And this is the range where Producers should pull from most. Cast several casuals, then some from my group, then throw in two super fans.

The game would function so much better if the house guests weren’t completely clueless. I have no problem with one or two recruits . But, I believe we have six or seven recruits this year and that’s just too many.

Season 18 has been a dud due to the casting. I do not blame Robyn, as she casts the Canadian version of Big Brother as well and you can see a clear difference in the people she finds. Someone higher up is blocking her efforts. And it’s a real loss.

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Allison Grodner, one of the producers of BIG BROTHER.

BIG BROTHER has everything it needs to be a wonderful show. But, the producers have become stale and are unaware of how awful the show is in its current state. The most glaring example of how out of touch these producers are is them bringing back “Battle of the Block.”

It was a new competition in season 16. The competition did not work as intended. Producers brought it back the next year, and it was called a “fan favorite.” Social Media caught fire with nearly the entire fandom blasting producers for being so out of touch.

It is the same with the casting, the DR, and the lack of rules surrounding the HOH rewards.

You can only hope someone in power finally sees that the show needs reworking and tries to better it.

UPDATE! 

On July 23rd, 2016, around 11pm, BBT, Allison Grodner, the executive producer of the show, did something that she’ll probably regret in the morning. She liked a tweet. Not just any tweet…

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Can’t quite read it? Click here.

Oops.

She liked a tweet that seems to indicate favoritism toward Frank Eudy, a returnee this season, who had previously been a cast member on ‘Big Brother 14’  in 2012.

During that season, Frank found himself an early target of the other house guests. But, Frank managed to win competitions to save himself , week after week.  Many fans found his constant wins suspicious and accused Allison Grodner of ‘rigging’ the outcome so Frank would last longer.

It should be noted, and SPOILERS— She just happened to like this tweet during a week where Frank is in fact in danger of eviction.  A twist was just announced (before Frank was up for eviction) that a secret room is in the house, seemingly with a secret power. Fans are on high alert, wondering if Frank will be the one to find the room and get a special power, with help from Production.

The liking of the tweet caught fire when  an account ran by a sister of a current contestant  reacted:

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Fans then created the hashtag, #GrodnerExposedParty and it began trending.

Should Grodner be fired for liking this tweet? No. But, it probably was an error in judgment on her part.

If you ask me, we should not be calling for a firing over a tweet, but we instead should be questioning and demanding a change with how casting works and why DR sessions are so horrendously unnatural.

 

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Fuller House: A Review.

21 years ago, a little sitcom had its series finale. Full House. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

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A recent trend on television these days is reunions and reboots. Audiences love seeing characters return that they once loved so dearly. 90210, The X files, Twin Peaks — just to name a few.

A reunion show can be hit or miss.

I’ve watched eight of the thirteen Fuller House episodes.

The AV Club reviewed the show and called it a ‘porn parody without the porn.’ Is that fair to say? No. But, are the critics right in this situation? Is the show bad? Maybe.

The writers of Fuller House needed to remember something: This can not be a constant throw-back. Yes, the little jabs toward the Olsen Twins are funny. And sure, Danny Tanner being in town for a ‘huge reunion show’ is a nice break of the fourth wall. But, after awhile, the self-awareness gets a tad annoying and amateurish.

The show does have some bright spots. Andrea Barber and Jodi Sweeten are fantastic actresses, Sweeten especially does have some serious material that she absolutely nails. DJ’s children, Jackson and Max (played by Michael Campion and Elias Harger) are decent child actors, in my opinion.

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The show does have some small season-long plot threads, but generally, it acts as an old sitcom, where episodes stand alone. I appreciate the baby steps, but as I watched more episodes, I found myself wishing I was watching a more connected story.

The show suffers greatly in its writing. Some lines really cross a line for a cheap joke. Oh, and there are fart jokes. Not many, but they’re here. I detest that kind of comedy and I believe if you need your characters to fart, you probably shouldn’t be writing anything at all.

Where the show really misteps, is its treatment of DJ Tanner. Candace Cameron Bure can act. There’s no mistaking that. But what she has to work with is pretty poor. DJ is a really corny ‘soccer mom.’ There’s nothing wrong with having a ‘silly mother.’ But, it’s taken to the extreme and DJ was never like that as a child. She was the smart, good daughter. She’s almost on the verge of doing slapstick humor and I just hate that.

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SPOILERS: Besides DJ’s characterization, there is a bigger problem that I see. And that is the fact that by episode 8, she literally jumps into the arms of a man she barely knows and kisses him.

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Now, think about it: DJ’s husband just died. Sure, time has passed by the 8th episode, but not much. DJ barely mentions her late husband after the pilot, in which she was in tears talking to her youngest. There seems to be no grieving period. She’s already wanting to date and making out with guys.

What’s worse, is that right after this kiss, her two older boys are missing their father, and she takes them in front of a mirror as she tells them how they remind her of him. And that tomorrow, they’ll watch old videos of their father.  It’s meant to be a tender moment, but DJ was making out with the temporary vet dude just two minutes ago!

Will Fuller House be a hit with fans of the previous series?  Of course. And, I will be watching the remaining episodes. But, I’m sad to say. Like the art work on the Tanner’s refrigerator, the show is kinda sorta cute but after awhile looks messy and you secretly want to throw it away when no one’s looking.

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Grease: Live! ( A Review. )

Another Network has taken their turn at the MUSICAL NAME: LIVE! television event.

NBC has done three so far: The Sound of Music, Peter Pan and most recently, The Wiz. Most will agree, each attempt got better, with The Wiz being pretty top notch. But, tonight, there was a live musical on FOX. They did GREASE: LIVE! And, how did they do? Did they crash and burn or rise above?

I tried to rally my friends and family to watch this with me. But, I was told, “No way! Did you see Sound of Music? It was AWFUL!.” They didn’t want to take a chance.

So, after a birthday party that evening, I grabbed some popcorn, accessed my DVR recordings and pressed play.

GREASE

What the production did well:

The Overall Presentation: Unlike NBC, FOX used multiple sound stages. This allowed for better camera movement, and gave the actors more space to work with. Instead of static camera shots, we were skipping along with the actors, moving along with them from the school yard to the diner. It was different and it worked.

The Casting: While it took NBC a few tries, Fox got casting right on their first attempt. Every actor could sing, dance, and act. No one fell short. One might wander about actors in their late 20s to early 30s playing teens, but they pulled it off. None of the actors looked 30 and you could tell they did their best to play teens and not a “30 year old playing a teen.” I was most impressed with Julianne Hough, who had the naive, delicate Sandy down pat.

Sandy

The Music: All the favorite tunes from Grease are here, with one addition, that I could tell. “All I need is an Angel”, was written for the character of Frenchie, and it was a beautiful song. It added to the story, fit the vibe of the other songs and was catchy.

The Audience: NBC has lacked a live audience for all three of its musicals. An audience is critical for performers, and GREASE: LIVE pulled it off nicely. Audience members sat in bleachers, in “the school yard” or “in the cafeteria.” The audience was able to give energy to the performers, while doubling as student extras. It was genius.

The Costumes/Lighting/Sets: Top notch on all three fronts. Colorful costumes, beautiful sets, and lighting that really made you think Sandy and Danny were at a drive in. Holy cow.

What the Production Could Have Done Better:

Going out to Commercials: Right before a commercial break, Mario Lopez would suddenly appear. Almost always right near the actors, telling us we were watching LIVE and that we’d be right back. This kind of took me out of the story and ruined the illusion. The opening number, sung by Jessie J, also seemed out of place to me. I would have preferred if they had gone the NBC route and played it straight the whole way through.

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Technical Trouble: The performance nearly went off perfectly, except for the majority of the high school dance sequence. Audio got terribly scratchy and we even lost audio for about five seconds. Now, mistakes will happen. But, it was just too damn bad it had to happen during the dance.

Aaron Tveit: Okay, okay… don’t get it wrong. Overall, Aaron was phenomenal in the role. He was a great Danny. The problem I had was there are parts in the story where Danny’s physical appearance comes into play. He’s supposed to be good looking, yes, but not muscular. Sandy starts dating Tom, a jock– and Danny tries out for some sports teams to impress her. I was laughing during these parts because, Aaron is in great shape. His biceps were bulging like nobody’s business. So, when Danny can’t throw a basketball or gets taken down by a wrestler, it’s a little comical. I’m sure there could have been some slight script adjustments to account for Tevit’s physique.

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Final Thoughts:

Overall, this was a fantastic production. Very few issues. For a “first try”, FOX nailed it and hit a home run. NBC might want to get worried now, because, there’s a new actor in the audition room.

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Images from Fox.com

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The Wiz, Live! (a Quick Review.)

For the third time, NBC has brought a musical into our homes, LIVE. And like Dorothy’s three clicks of her heels, the third time has seemed to be the charm, as The Wiz, Live! Was a triumph, to say the least.

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Right away, the giant LED screens provide an elegant, yet drab background of the Kansas farm. You know you’re in for a fun ride, once we arrive to Oz.

The book (the script) is new here, with Dorothy struggling with wanting to go “back home” to Omaha. She doesn’t like her new school and thinks Aunt Em works her to the bone. Aunt Em loves her anyway, and tries to tell Dorothy home is not a place, but where you are loved. Dorothy’s parents are gone, but Em does the best she can. And before we know it, a Tornado whips up Dorothy and her house and, you know the rest!

Here’s my quick review:

  • Amber Riley was just perfect as the bubbly Addaperle, whom welcomes Dorothy to Oz. Props to the costumers who put her in blue, this is a nod to the original Oz book.

 

  • Wow, the Scarecrow (played by Elijah Kelley) was funny here. I loved how he was trying to rush Dorothy along once they met Tin Man. And, let’s give praise to Elijah’s singing as well as that great back flip he landed!

 

  • Shanice Williams was a fabulous Dorothy. The new book gave Dorothy some spunk. Her line to the crows, “I already killed a witch this morning, and I wasn’t even mad at her!” was great and she delivered it well.  Also, this is almost silly to say, but come on, we know her singing was OFF THE CHARTS. Man, that version of “Home” was just beautiful. Judy Garland has some competition there.

 

  • I hate to bunch them together, not because they weren’t fantastic on their own, but I loved the Tin Man and Lion. Ne-Yo had a distinct accent and fantastic movement. David Alan Grier made the Lion his own and his comedy shined through.

 

  • One of the most chilling moments in this show was new— when Dorothy is trying to find the yellow brick road, and her dead mother calls out to her. Her mother is trapped in a tree, and to get her down, the mother advises Dorothy to give her the magic silver shoes. Of course, we find out “mother” is really a creature of the forest, trying to trap Dorothy, who is saved by the Tin Man. This was just a brilliant moment and I can see it being used in other productions.

 

  • The Emerald City being set up as a nightclub was interesting. I loved the dancing once we got inside. Just wonderful.

 

  • Queen Latifah. What can I say? Having a female Wizard works here, and she was just great all around. Although, I didn’t like how it is she, and not Dorothy, that help the three friends realize they have brains, a heart, and courage. Dorothy needs to always be the one to tell her friends they’ve had what they sought after. The Wiz is a fake, how does she know?

 

  • Mary J Blige had me worried in press footage. She didn’t seem evil, at all. But, I was happy to see she was screeching and stomping, in brilliant fashion. Not just a singer saying lines, she was acting. Her melting was great, and the purist in me loves they actually threw water on her, and not Glitter.

Now, onto some negatives:

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  • Uzo Aduba was alright. She came across as “the wicked’s glinda”, you know, kind of flighty, silly. And look, I know singing is tough, but she was flat here and there. But, what was very off putting was her hair. Now, here me out. In press footage, Glinda had blond curly hair, to go with her her gold dress. But, Uzo came out in what I think was her actual hair, with little gold jewels in it. It’s not that it looked “bad”. But I’m wondering if getting her in that dress was taking to long and they scrapped the wig. Her look definitely seemed unfinished.

The Wiz Live! - Season 2015

  • Toto. Oh, man, Toto. Where was he? NOWHERE. He came and barked at the farm hands and seemingly missed the tornado. I absolutely hate a production that ignores Toto. And The Wiz, Live! Took it to a new level. He didn’t even go to Oz. Well, that’s a new one.

 

  • Lastly, after Dorothy sang ‘Home’ and returned home, we literally saw her in Kansas for 5 seconds. The production still had twenty minutes left. We needed a ‘moment.’ Aunt Em rushed to hug Dorothy and Toto, who we hadn’t seen in three hours, jumped in Dorothy’s  arms and… that was it.

Overall, this production was magical. This certainly was the best of the three and it being about Oz was a treat for me, since that’s one of my favorite things. (See what I did there?)

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Twisty Twist- Twist.

As Big Brother fast approaches, fans are buzzing on what kind of twists or turns this season may contain. Returning Players? A rotating conversational room will mirrors all around the room? (See what I did there?)

One of the more popular podcasts, “Rob Has A Podcast” discussed at length, twist ideas submitted by fans. I missed the memo, so I was not able to offer my idea.

However, I’d like to share it, just to see if there might be any interest.

My idea isn’t exactly a “twist” per se, but would rather bring a new character into the house.

“The Big Brother Fairy.”

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A Magical Being sent to help the Underdog.

Now, I know… many people are wishing the “Nickelodeon” and “childish” themes were gone from the show, but hear me out.

The Big Brother Fairy would be an actual person, an actress, who enters the house either in person or via the television. She would only appear to one HG, and this HG would be decided by public vote.

Her appearance would be late in the game, so we have established alliances and know the HG’s pretty well.

The Fairy will humorously state she’s been watching  from afar and that this particular HG could use some help.

She’ll offer to grant the HG who sees her one wish.

The HG would then be given three options to choose from.

  1. A video from a family member that can be up to 3 minutes long.
  2. A quick scene from the house, with audio, that will help this particular HG.
  3. Something to do with eviction, like a vote counting more, or changing the veto winner.

The HG would have only a few minutes to decide on their wish.

The Fairy could only appear up to three times in the season and on the third time, she’ll be revealed to all the HG’s.

The wishes could change, obviously. Those were just ones I thought of.

I’d like to think she’d help the underdog of the household, but whom she helps would be from public vote.

Maybe she wouldn’t need to be called a Fairy, but you get the idea.

We’ve seen characters enter the house before, but they’ve never offered any power.

I know some people are purists and don’t want anyone getting any kind of unfair advantage. But this would just be a fun little thing to see. I realize it’s a tad similar to Pandora’s box, but the Fairy would not be offering any punishment.

What do you think of this idea?

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Degrassi is Canceled! (Possibly?) (UPDATED)

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The logo, as shown in the season 2 opening.

After 14 years on the air, it looks as though Degrassi has come to an end. Multiple outlets are reporting it is canceled, and will only air the last 12 episodes to be produced.

For a couple years now, the seasons have been in “chunks.” So, when the show might have a “finale”, it was only just the break before the next chunk.

When Degrassi last aired, it was ‘the finale’ of 14A. So, when the show returns, we’re only getting “B” of the season. Sometimes, there is even a C, where the story lines actually conclude.

Information is all over the place. Some say the show is done, for good. Some say, it’s just TeenNick that is concluding airing the series after 14 B. We don’t know.

The writer in me is very, very worried. If the show is indeed canceled, will the viewers get a true send off? Or, will the ‘story of the week’ merely conclude, since what will be airing is “B” of the current season?

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Miles starts a fire as he releases anger toward his father.

When we last saw Degrassi, Miles had started a fire at the school (unintentionally) that caused panic for a hot second, until everyone was rescued during the commercial break.

Elsewhere, Zoe was being blackmailed ala Pretty Little Liars style, with creepy dolls and texts from an unknown sender.

Down the hall, Clare had learned Eli was the father of her baby, not Drew— but because Eli had given her hell initially, she was adamant Eli would have nothing to do with the child’s life.

Degrassi is not having a good season. The show peaked in season 12, with the suicide of Cam Saunders— but since then, the show has been reduced to 90210 fodder. The storytelling is not as good as it was 14 years ago. We’ve seen established character traits be tossed aside, sisters move to Africa and yet to return, a transgender characrer die out of nowhere because the actress left the series and a male student struggle with their weight for one episode and suddenly be thin the next.

My point, is that Degrassi needs a genuine send off.

We can’t just see these recent poor plots be resolved in 15 minutes and have the credits roll one last time. We need the show to return to the height it was in Season 12, for one last hurrah.

My hope is that the writers and producers are being given the opportunity to end the series on their terms.

If I were on the writing staff, I would definitely have Emma return, whom was the sole reason this current branch of Degrassi exists. We saw her husband, Spinner, is actually working at the Dot— so she can’t be too far from the school grounds.

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Spinner Mason, an original character, returned on the current season. He famously married Emma Nelson, the staple of the series.

Some of you may know I had worked on a script, titled, PRETTY LITTLE GIRL, that took place after Cam’s suicide. This script saw Emma and Craig return, staging a Suicide Awareness Concert.

We can only hope the series is allowed to be tied with a big red bow and have a nice ending.

Whatever it takes, I’m gonna make it through.

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The sun sets in a closing shot of an episode.

EDIT: 

Jake Epstein, who played Craig Manning, comments on the cancellation.

Jake Epstein, who played Craig Manning, comments on the cancellation.

UPDATE:  It’s been reported that after “14 B” airs on television, the show is being made new again with Degrassi: Next Class on NETFLIX. It’s not clear if NETFLIX is producing or just distributing. But, this could mean better quality writing!

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