by Julian Spivey
Lifetime’s original drama series “UnReal” has been hailed by critics as one of the best television shows of the summer and one of the best new dramas of the entire year, but the series that satirizes the reality TV genre has found one famous critic in that of “Bachelorette” host Chris Harrison.
Harrison recently told Variety: “It’s complete fiction. As much as they would love to jump on our coattails – they were begging for us to talk about it and for people to write about it – at the end of the day, no one is watching. I mean, absolutely nobody is watching that show. Why? It is terrible. It is really terrible.”
Harrison couldn’t be more wrong. Enough people have been watching “UnReal” that Lifetime renewed it for a second season a few weeks ago and the premiere drew over 800,000 viewers, which is a pretty good number for an original cable series.
Harrison just seems to be lashing out against “UnReal” because it paints an extremely unflattering and likely very realistic portrayal of reality shows, which is a format that’s turned him into a millionaire as host of ABC’s popular “The Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” series.
In “Unreal,” which airs its season one finale on Lifetime on Monday, August 3, the show satirizes reality programming in such measures as showing executive producers scripting and fixing the majority of the fictional reality series “Everlasting,” which is an obvious parody of Harrison’s “Bachelor/Bachelorette” series, where a group of single women fight for the affection and love of a bachelor. The series includes producers starting friction between contestants to lead to catfights on the air, the host (who looks similar to Harrison) sleeping with contestants of the show and the bachelor not seemingly caring about the competition, but doing it to further his own career and aspirations.
These are all things that most TV viewers with a brain realize most likely go on behind the scenes of actual reality shows like “The Bachelor,” and have known for many years. But, reality shows still thrive on viewers tuning in to see these shows thinking everything they’re viewing on television is 100 percent accurate and this is why Harrison is seemingly having a hissy fit over a fictional series pulling the curtain down that hides the puppet masters (reality TV producers).
“UnReal” has been a riveting drama throughout its first season – partially due to this revealing of behind the scenes reality TV life and simply because it’s incredibly dramatic and well-acted by a cast led by Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby.
It’s not going anywhere any time soon, so Harrison should learn to live with it and not act so obviously threatened as he does in his Variety interview.
by Julian Spivey
The Lip Sync Battle was one of the greatest things to ever come to late night television when it debuted on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” with game co-creator Stephen Merchant (who created it with John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) and soon became a recurring segment on Fallon’s version of “The Tonight Show.”
However, the game had become somewhat boring and uninteresting lately thanks to it becoming a hit (which likely means I’m in the minority in my viewpoint) Spike show that debuted in early April. The show was thrilling early on with matchups like Krasinski vs. Anna Kendrick and Fallon vs. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but soon became less exciting and interesting when it started matching celebrities like Justin Bieber against NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and “Today” co-host Hoda Kotb against NFL Hall of Famer and talk show host Michael Strahan.
Despite the ratings popularity, I believe we got too much “Lip Sync Battle” in such a short time that it was no longer thrilling to watch and you ultimately realized you were wasting 30 minutes a week simply watching famous people fake perform to other famous people.
It had gotten to the point where I would delete episodes of the Spike series from my DVR without even giving a thought to actually viewing them. Why would anybody really need to see Julianne Hough compete against brother Derek Hough, after all?
And then came last night’s episode of “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon,” where the Lip Sync Battle returned for its first segment in months. Tom Cruise was the guest pimping his latest “Mission: Impossible” film and had challenged Fallon to a duel.
I never thought in a million years I’d ever praise Cruise for something, but he revived the dying segment. Cruise absolutely owned his performance of The Weeknd’s summer smash hit “Can’t Feel My Face,” putting forth what truly is one of his finest acting performances in recent memory. Then things got even better and funnier when he faked Fallon out by acting like he was going to lip sync to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll” as he famously did in his underwear in 1983’s “Risky Business,” a movie that truly turned the then young actor into a movie star. He didn’t end up doing “Old Time Rock & Roll,” but instead utterly thrilled the audience both in the studio and watching from home with the perfect choice of Meat Loaf’s epic “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” a song that truly begs for a lip sync performance and one I’m astounded no contestant has ever chosen before. The great thing about this performance from Cruise is he perfectly lip syncs both the male and female vocals from the song in rapid succession.
It was then topped off by Fallon inviting Cruise to do a lip sync duet on the Righteous Brothers’ classic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” which memorably appeared in Cruise’s 1986 film “Top Gun.” The two performed the classic to an unsuspecting female guest in the front row of the audience who seemed shell-shocked by the Hollywood royalty in front of her.
The Lip Sync Battle truly needed some life thrust back into and it came in the somewhat surprising star power of Cruise, who you might think would view such a thing as beneath him, but absolutely owned every second of it. The problem with the Lip Sync Battles is that they honestly work better as a recurring segment on Fallon’s program than they do as a stand-alone 30-minute show that somewhat waters them down with lesser star power and performances.
by Julian Spivey
The Emmy Award nominations come out on Thursday morning, July 16 and there’s some excitement this year that there might be a handful of newcomers (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Bloodline,” “Inside Amy Schumer” among others) among the nominees to go along with some of the usual suspects (“Mad Men,” “Louie,” “The Big Bang Theory”).
Here are 10 nominees that are likely extreme long shots to grab Emmy nominations, but truly deserve the accolade:
10. Mindy Kaling
One could argue that the third season of Fox’s (and soon to be Hulu’s) “The Mindy Project” was actually its weakest season of the three to air, but star Mindy Kaling continues to give the best comedic performance from any actress on network television. She has truly been snubbed the last two years for Best Actress in a Comedy Series and likely will be once again in a packed field that includes almost perennial winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) and likely going away nominations for Amy Poehler (“Parks & Recreation”) and Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”).
9. Will Forte
Will Forte was absolutely perfect as the lonely wanderer, turned jealousy-filled protagonist Phil Miller on Fox’s freshman comedy series “The Last Man on Earth” this spring and deserves to breakthrough in the Best Actor in a Comedy Series category. Of all of the longshots on this particular list Forte likely has the best shot at breaking through according to entertainment websites like TVLine.com and EW.com. The last nomination for the category might actually come down to a fight between Forte and his former “Saturday Night Live” cast mate Andy Samberg for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” In a perfect world they’d both receive nominations.
8. Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson
Craig Ferguson hosted possibly the most unique late night talk show that there has ever been on network television. The uniqueness mostly stemmed from the fact that Ferguson truly never gave a damn, which lead to a loose and unstructured format. Ferguson has never once been nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Variety Series and really deserves the nomination for his final season.
7. Person of Interest
“Person of Interest,” the supreme CBS crime thriller, is never going to be nominated for an Emmy Award in a major category. Anybody who has spent a lot of time watching and studying Emmy nominations knows this to be a fact. However, the show has been one of the two or three best dramas on network television since its debut with fantastic performances, truly fascinating storylines and has proven that a crime drama can be so much more than a case of the week show.
6. Craig T. Nelson
Craig T. Nelson is a former Emmy winner, in the ‘90s for his sitcom “Coach” (which NBC is reviving next season), but has done his best television acting over the final two seasons of the realistic NBC family drama “Parenthood.” For the first few seasons “Parenthood” frankly didn’t give Nelson a whole lot to do, which was criminal given his status as a terrific actor. In the last two seasons Nelson got some meaty storylines and knocked every one of them out of the park. He deserves Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series recognition, but is perhaps the biggest longshot on this entire list.
5. You’re the Worst
“You’re the Worst” was a little seen, but almost unanimously critically beloved, comedy on FX last summer hailed for its portrayal of a realistic, modern relationship between its too main characters – who are narcissistic jerks who would almost be impossible to like in real life, but somehow come off as likable when together on screen. The show premiering an entire year ago and actually being transferred to the FX minor league affiliate FXX might have hurt what little chances it had at a nomination.
4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” was the best new sitcom on network television two years ago and surprised many in the entertainment community and those watching at home when it won the Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy Series just halfway through its first season. During its second season, which ended in the spring, it turned into the best all-around sitcom on network television with one of the best complete casts of any comedy on television in quite some time. It belongs in the Best Comedy Series category, but likely falls short due to a packed field.
NBC’s realistic family drama “Parenthood” has been incredibly well-acted, well-written and highly critically acclaimed throughout its entire six season run, which ended in late January, but has never gotten its due notice from the Emmy Awards voting committee. It’s a true shame and has led to the show truly being one of the greatest dramas ever to never receive a nomination in the Best Drama Series category. The show has little-to-no-shot at a nomination on Thursday, due to an incredibly packed field and a little network bias on the part of voters, but should’ve been acknowledged years ago.
2. Ray Romano
Ray Romano is a multiple-time Emmy Award winner for his performance as schlub of a husband Ray Barone on the incredibly popular CBS ‘90s sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” in which he just played a version of himself without much acting really involved. But over the last five or so years in dramas like TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age” and his guest role on NBC’s “Parenthood” Romano has turned into an incredibly gifted and nuanced actor. Romano’s Hank Rizzoli on “Parenthood” over the show’s final three seasons was nothing short of amazing, particularly when you look back to his acting performance (albeit award-winning) in ‘ELR’. Romano should have been nominated for Best Guest Actor in a Drama the last two years. This is the year the Emmy committee should make of for those egregious mistakes.
1. “Late Show with David Letterman”
At one point the legendary late night talk show “Late Show with David Letterman” was the all-time winningest series in the Best Variety Series category at the Emmy Awards. The show has since been surpassed by “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and hasn’t even been nominated for an Emmy since 2010 (which is truly ridiculous). David Letterman’s farewell season of the ‘Late Show’ was not only perfect, but proved he was still the best host in late night and very possibly the greatest there’s ever been at the job (no disrespect toward his hero Johnny Carson intended). It wouldn’t be surprising for the Emmys to continue the streak of not nominating the ‘Late Show,’ but it would be a major slap in the face to a television legend and a legendary television show.
by Julian Spivey
ESPN has decided to part ways with Keith Olbermann after just under two years of his daily sports show “Olbermann,” which means the network is losing its finest show.
It also means the network has lost its credibility as an unbiased sports journalism entity and is obviously in the NFL and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s pocket.
ESPN wants to act like the decision to not renew Olbermann’s contract is about money, and it somewhat is – but it’s more about the content of his show and the fact that he’s repeatedly taken on the world’s biggest sport, the NFL and its dictator of a leader.
ESPN released this statement on Wednesday, July 8: “Keith is a tremendous talent who has consistently done timely, entertaining and thought-provoking work since returning to ESPN. While the show’s content was distinctive and extremely high quality, we ultimately made a business decision to move in another direction.”
The fact that Olbermann’s 30 minute daily show, which began its run as an hour-long nightly show, was “thought-provoking” is what ultimately did it in. Olbermann is likely the smartest and certainly the wittiest guy in sports journalism with a penchant for wanting to do good and this lead to him taking on high profile figures like the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell when they erred.
The “business decision” ESPN made was to kowtow to Goodell and the NFL and forget ethical and responsible journalism. The NFL makes and breaks ESPN and both ESPN and the NFL realize this and so morals go out the window and Olbermann is out the door and his legions of loyal viewers (including this one) are left without a voice on the network that we can trust to give us unfiltered and ethical news.
It isn’t the first time ESPN has stooped beneath itself to please the NFL. One of ESPN’s first forays into scripted entertainment was an hour-long drama called “The Playmakers,” which premiered in 2003, and featured the behind the scenes of a fictional professional football team. The series was a critical success and beloved by viewers, but the NFL didn’t like the negative portrayal of the sport the show featured and despite its successes the network scrapped the show after just one season even though it was its most watched original program even over SportsCenter at the time.
ESPN has bended over backwards to please the NFL before and the network will certainly do it again in the future. All the NFL has to do is ask ESPN to jump and the network will immediately respond with “how high?”
Olbermann’s contract with ESPN ends on July 31 and “Olbermann” will end sometime later this month.
by Julian Spivey
The debate over the Confederate flag has been raging for two weeks since Charleston mass murderer Dylann Roof was seen in photos sporting the controversial flag that is deemed offensive and racist by some.
The controversy reached a new level on Wednesday, July 1 when cable television network TV Land announced that it would be pulling the popular ‘80s drama “Dukes of Hazzard” from its schedule. The show, which features the Confederate flag on the top of its famous Dodger Charger nicknamed The General Lee, had been airing twice a day on the network.
The decision by TV Land comes less than a week after Warner Bros. announced that it would no longer be manufacturing “Dukes of Hazzard” memorabilia featuring the Confederate flag.
Many have spoken up against the network’s decision to pull the show from the lineup, including stars of the show John Schneider (who played Bo Duke) and Ben Jones (who played Cooter). Those speaking out against the show’s removal from the TV Land schedule are railing against a society gone rampant with political correctness run amuck.
Schneider said to The Hollywood Reporter: “The ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ was and is no more a show seated in racism than ‘Breaking Bad’ was a show seated in reality. I am saddened that one angry and misguided individual can cause one of the most beloved television shows in the history of the medium to suddenly be seen in this light.” He also added: “Come on, TV Land, can’t we all just watch TV?”
The decision by TV Land is honestly a little overreaching, in my opinion, and this comes from someone who despises the Confederate flag and would like to see every one of them thrown in a landfill. However, people are forgetting one important thing in the controversy of the network pulling the show from its schedule.
TV Land is a business and has the ability and right to run its business in any way or fashion that it sees fit. Nobody really has any business, in fact, in telling the network what it should and shouldn’t be doing with its programming schedule. If TV Land wants to remove “Dukes of Hazzard” from its schedule than it has every right to do so whether its viewers like it or not. You, as a viewer, have every right to agree or disagree with the decision and if it bothers you too much than you have the right to refuse to watch TV Land.
This is really common sense and should go without saying, but the fact that so many people are acting like they’ve been stripped of a basic right leads me to have to come out and say it.
People are frankly making too big of a deal out of TV Land’s decision to pull “Dukes of Hazzard” from its schedule. If you really want to watch “Dukes of Hazzard” complete seasons of the series can be purchased on Amazon.
by Julian Spivey
ESPN is the worldwide leader in sports and it seems it probably always will be due to years of being able to build up a brand with virtually no cable competition whatsoever. As long as the network has multiple channels dedicated to broadcasting and commentating on news it’ll be king, no matter what. But, that doesn’t mean its product will always be what it could be.
There are a few high profile ESPN personalities coming up for new contracts soon and it looks like the network might rather let them go than pay them what they probably deserve, even though it’ll be a detriment to the network to potentially lose them.
Author James Andrew Miller, who co-wrote the ESPN anthology Those Boys Have All The Fun with Tom Shales, seemingly keeps track of all things ESPN and has been very vocal on Twitter recently about the future of the network. According to Miller the contracts of high profile ESPN personalities Keith Olbermann and Colin Cowherd are coming up for renegotiation and the network might not want to pay them what they could potentially make after recent negotiations with other network talent have irritated ESPN President John Skipper due to rising prices. This comes just over a month after news broke that ESPN would not be re-upping with high profile columnist and Grantland.com creator Bill Simmons, who always had a contentious relationship with network executives, as well. Simmons could end up at ESPN’s main cable sports rival Fox Sports 1 or with HBO Sports. Those networks could also prove to be future destinations for Olbermann (likely not Fox though as he’s burned that bridge before) and Cowherd.
Miller reported that certain ESPN personalities were looking for contracts in the north of $7 million a year range and that Skipper wouldn’t have any part of that.
The only issue with Skipper and ESPN not being willing to pay talent what they think they can get elsewhere is it could easily lead to a downward spiral in the network’s product. Sure, people will watch no matter what, but the network should continue to worry about fielding both entertaining and informative programming, not just stuff that brings in viewers. If the network loses both Olbermann (who hosts a daily 30-minute show for ESPN2) and Cowherd (who hosts a daily sports talk radio show for ESPNRadio that is simulcast on ESPNU) they would effectively be losing two of their most unique personalities. Olbermann is, by far, the smartest personality on the ESPN family of networks and his show has proven to boost ESPN’s smarts and quality particularly with his informative, witty and passionate monologues that he begins each show with. Cowherd, almost the exact opposite in style from Olbermann, is unique in his own right as a highly energetic, sarcastic, voice of the everyday sports fan who seems to take entertaining glee in voicing his loud, but often unique opinions.
It’s understandable that ESPN might not want to shell out major bucks for talent when viewers would likely tune in for anybody in a suit to get their sports news and commentary, but the network would be served well by keeping big personalities like Olbermann and Cowherd, especially Olbermann, to give fans another alternative to the splitting headaches caused by cancerous broadcasters like Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.