Does Melissa Joan Hart plus Joey Lawrence (minus hair) equal comedy gold?
The premise is cute -- Melissa Joan Hart's Mel takes on her sister's two teens when they end up parentless after their dad gets caught running a Ponzi scheme and splits -- and mom gets sent to prison. Joey Lawrence's Joe moves right on in after he's left homeless and jobless as a result of said Ponzi scheme. He's no natural father figure, but given his basketball and girl-getting skills, he's just what young Ryder (Nick Robinson) needs. Drama queen Lennox, though, is a whole 'nother story. Mad at the world, and especially her parents, she's all about running away, bad boys and all that teen angst.
So with two summer break-outs under their belt -- "Pretty Little Liars" and "Huge" -- can ABC Family score a third? They've certainly tapped into a strong formula in bringing back TV stars familiar to Gen-X and Y -- Molly Ringwald on "The Secret Life of the American Teen" and Laura Leighton, Chad Lowe and Holly Marie Combs on "Pretty Little Liars" -- while also focusing on modern day teen angst for the younger set. It's a formula perfected by the folks over at the CW, with hits like "Gossip Girl" and "90210." But ABC Family's take tends to be a bit less scandalous, with a focus on creating shows that the adults and kids can indulge in together and even connect over. Which is definitely new and refreshing for TV.
And with Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence, they've got a pair who, surprisingly, have some strong TV chemistry. The network first put the two together in their surprise hit "My Fake Fiance," which did well enough to warrant revisiting the duo. The film will air tonight at 6 p.m. as a lead-in to the new show, which premieres at 8 p.m.
It's still to be seen whether these two former teen stars can hold their own once the fall season gets under way, but ABC Family is smartly hedging their bets by giving the pair a few extra weeks in the tail end of this slim pickins' summer to ingratiate themselves to fickle audiences, whose other major options tonight are "Glee"-peats or the primetime game show "Wipeout.
'The Next Food Network Star' Winner Aarti Sequeira brings some ethnic flavor to the party
And she's set to bring her show to the network in record speed -- her "Aarti Party" debuts next Sunday, Aug. 22, at 12 p.m. Although there are several Asian chefs on the Food Network's culinary counterpart, The Cooking Channel, Aarti will represent the only Asian chef currently on the bigger ship. It's about time the network -- who played it safe last year with the affable-if-boring Melissa D'Arabian -- brought some flavor to table. Sequeira's take is exotic yet approachable, warm and hearty without being overwhelming. A fine balance for any fledgling TV chef.
A CNN producer-turned food blogger, Sequeira actually had an online cooking show dubbed "Aarti Paarti" on the web before she brought the concept to the competition. In the season finale, three finalists created pilots under the seasoned direction of Food Network superstar Rachael Ray.
Interestingly enough -- and echoing season four's difficult final decision -- Sequeira's major competition on the finale, Big Chef Tom Pizzica, is also scoring his own show, "Outrageous Food," set to premiere in November. Several former "Food Network Star" winners have made a home for themselves on the network, most notably season two champ Guy Fieri, who has had a few shows, including "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives" and "Guy's Big Bite," running for several seasons.
After last night's episode, AMC's ad-world drama nearly obliterated the memory of HBO's vamp-fest
Last night's episode of "Mad Men" ("The Rejected") was so good, it left myself, and many others viewers, breathless. It was the first, "I can't wait until the next episode and might have to kidnap someone at the network for advanced footage as an alternative" week of AMC's rightfully beloved drama.
And truth is, after experiencing 60 minutes of Don getting his comeuppance from a scorned secretary; Peggy smoking pot at a downtown loft party with lesbians; Peter evolving into a man for the first time all series; and exiled Cooper Sterling Price salesman Kenny popping up for a sharp-tongued, hilariously biting guest spot, the excellent-but-showy final minutes of "True Blood," which concluded just prior, seemed anticlimactic (if hysterically over the top) in comparison.
Which leads me to wonder: Much like "Parks and Recreation" began to overshadow its sister show and scheduling lead-in "The Office" this past season, is "True Blood" worse for, er, were by airing the hour building up to "Mad Men"?
What do you guys think?
Here are a few other familiar faces returning to the small screen this fall.
Oka, who played Hero Hiro Nakamura, has just inked a deal to appear on the new CBS remake of "Hawaii-Five-O," as a coroner who helps the team out on a few murder investigations. He shows up in episode four and will likely stick around for a bit, though the show's currently billing him as a guest star. The show features TV vets Alex O'Loughlin ("Moonlight," Jennifer Lopez's "Back-Up Plan"), Daniel Dae Kim ("Lost") and Scott Caan ("Entourage").
Oka isn't the only TV vet who's making a return to the small screen this fall.
Sendhil Ramamurthy, who played scientist Mohinder Suresh on "Heroes," is already in action on the new USA spy drama "Covert Affairs."
And the rest of the TV season may start to look like deja vu all over again, too, considering the familiar faces we'll be seeing this fall. Here's a few for starters -- but, really, the list is endless.
Mehcad Brooks, who played the scrambled serial killer Eggs on "True Blood" last season, is headed to ABC's new comedy "My Generation."
Then there's the hot comedy "Running Wilde," which stars "Arrested Development" hero Will Arnett and Keri Russell, who's been laying relatively low since "Felicity" wrapped in 2002.
Another comedy, "Better With You," features TV staple JoAnna Garcia -- most recently of the CW comedy "Privileged" and formerly of "Reba." The show will also star "That '70s Show" mama Debra Jo Rupp
NBC's highly anticipated "The Event" is chock full of comeback players, including Blair Underwood, late of "Sex And The City" and "Dirty Sexy Money," as the President, and Scott Patterson, of "Gilmore Girls" and "Aliens In America," as the mourning father of the missing girl who's disappearance unravels a major government conspiracy. The show's break-out star will be Jason Ritter (yes, John Ritter's son), who cut his TV teeth on "Joan of Arcadia" and "The Class."
And in perhaps the most unusual pairing, ABC Family hopes sparks will fly between former teen stars Melissa Joan Hart ("Sabrina The Teenage Witch") and Joey Lawrence ("Blossom") on "Melissa and Joey," which debuts next Monday. That one -- billed as a "Who's The Boss" update, should be worth checking just for train wreck appeal alone.
New show's preview will air during 'Jersey Shore' tonight, but see it here first
Andrew Jenks is kind of a badass. At 24 years old, he's directed a documentary that was picked up by HBO, "Room 335," been at the helm of "Zen of Bobby V," part of ESPN's acclaimed "30 for 30" series and, well, does he really need to further justify himself?
But alas, never satisfied, the enterprising filmmaker and life-observer then embarked on his boldest journey, "World of Jenks," a half-hour MTV docu-drama premiering Sept. 13 at 10 p.m. that follows Andrew as he spends one week living completely inside the lives of people with polar opposite experiences from himself, and never stops the camera rolling.
Memorable installments will include Andrew living on the streets with a homeless woman, hanging out in the high-stakes gambling world with a barely legal poker champion and going into Brooklyn tenements and backstage at hip-hop clubs with NYC rapper Maino.
And having seen said Maino episode in preview, I can assure you that "Jenks" will be the most believably touching, tumultuous, poignant and funny instance of "real" programming on MTV since the days of Eric, Kevin, Norman and Julie.
So, where else would the extended two-minute trailer for such a genuine slice of small-screen life premiere? During tonight's 9 p.m. airing of "Jersey Shore," of course. But in case you'd rather cheat and see what all the TV Buzz fuss is about early rather than sit through 60 minutes of some guy named The Situation degrading women over Size 2 despite having desperately chased after them in strobe-lit clubs, here 'tis for your anticipatory viewing pleasure:
Here are three other former 'Mickey Mouse Club' Members we'd like to see on the show...
Sounds like fun. In fact, they should bring some other former "Mickey Mouse Club" stars on the show, you know, just to pay further tribute to what these Disney kids have contributed to art and culture -- and how they've inspired teens across the country to get into song-and-dance, not unlike the "Glee" kids.
Hey, Ryan, here's some more inspiration:
Justin Timberlake: How cool would it be if Mr. Schue's cute kid brother came to down -- and showed the newly-single Schuester how to bring sexy back? He could also start another super-hot love triangle between Kurt and Rachel.
Keri Russell: The former "Felicity" star is a bit busy with her own new show, "Running Wilde" with Will Arnett this fall, but we could totally see her rocking into town as Terri's long-lost cousin -- who's always had a bit of a thing for Will. Or maybe she could show up as a rival cheer coach who's out to take Sue Sylvester DOWN. Reooor! Can you say claws out?
Ryan Gosling: Gosling may be the longest shot, but we think he'd be super-hawt as Kurt's new boyfriend -- and bring "Glee"'s thoughtful exploration of teen sexuality to a whole new level. Or, he could play the new English teacher who's out for Mr. Schue's Glee gig, considering he earned an Oscar nod for his portrayal of a tweaked out teacher in the 2006 indie "Half Nelson."
Who was your favorite "Mickey Mouse Club" kid?
Alex survives the beast, while Ed wins 'Restaurant Wars'
By Sora Young
Special to MSN TV
As soon as I heard former New York Times food critic Frank Bruni was a guest judge on Bravo's "Top Chef” this week, I was sure he would steal the show. That's partly because I am a little bit obsessed with him and I secretly plan to convert him into my best food friend forever. But then "Top Chef” abruptly knocked off my Frank Bruni-colored glasses and left me floored. Kenny? Did the judges really just do that? They killed Kenny! It's "Restaurant Wars” and anything goes, including the beast. In the process, we saw his very ugly side, but we'll get to that.
The other main character in this week's war was not Kenny's normal nemesis Angelo, but bumbling Alex. Alex, with his subpar cooking skills, his lack of prep skills and zero people skills. It didn't take long for Alex to draw the disdain of his teammates during the tag team cook-off challenge for this week's Quickfire. Each team of four chefs had to wear a blindfold until it was their turn to cook, and then hope the other chefs figured out what they were cooking. The team of Kenny, Kevin, Amanda and Kelly sailed through, thanks to the help of "the preppin' weapon” Kenny (how many nicknames can one guy have?), and they made their pasta with mushroom cream sauce and shrimp look like child's play. But the team with Tiffany, Angelo and Ed also included Alex, who got on Tiffany's bad side as soon as he salted the fish too early in the cooking process. Tiffany, horrified, said, "Why are you touching the fish? Leave the fish alone!” Angelo, not knowing, re-seasoned the fish during the last leg of the challenge. Once he realizes he doubled up the salt, he tries to save the fish by adding dill and cilantro to brighten up the flavor, but guest judge Nancy Pelosi still noticed.
But first, let us discuss the presence of Pelosi, who looked elegant in an eggplant suit. I found her presence baffling. It never surprises me when "Top Chef” snags top chefs as guest judges. Duh. But I am mystified by the presence of top lawmakers on "Top Chef.” I don't care if this season is based in D.C. Doesn't the Speaker of the House have more important things to do than judge dubiously salty food on a reality cooking show? I would prefer she work on world peace in the Middle East. Or fixing the economy. Or something.
But I totally approve of the presence of Bruni, whom Kelly called "notoriously, the toughest critic ever." He is the perfect guest judge. He showed up for the elimination challenge, "Restaurant Wars," which, between coordinating a kitchen and running a dining room, is famously hard to pull off. The chefs had to keep the same teams, and Ed, Angelo and Tiffany were less than pleased about a second challenge with Alex as their fourth. After Angelo despaired watching Alex butcher the butchering, Alex was shoved out to the front of the house to run the dining room. There, he charmingly yelled at the wait staff to do things "mucho rapido!" and stomped about. The other team however, was an oasis of calm, sure of their menu, sure of their direction with Kenny the beast at the helm and confident they were going to win.
But, if there's one thing to learn about winning on "Top Chef," it is that if you don't cook your food right, you don't win. For all of the blue team's calm demeanor, they sent out food that often sounded terrible. Amanda's beef drew stares of deep concern from head judge Tom Colicchio and Bruni. The beef could not be saved by its jus, Bruni said. "It's like having a great pair of shoes with a really mediocre suit. It's not going to save the suit,” he mused. He had even harsher words for Kenny's crisp goat cheese served with strawberry rhubarb relish, calling it a "horror show.” The judges liked Kelly's "clumsy charisma” at the front of the house but panned her thin and flavorless corn and crab soup.
Alex fumbled as his team's host, introducing one lamb dish as pork, but the team made up for it with food. The judges adored Angelo's tomato confit, thought Ed's slow-baked turbot with eggplant caviar was "sensational” and called Alex's lamb "beautifully cooked.” Bruni lauded Ed's dish as the one "most of us remembered best and would run back and order soonest.” Ed also walked away with a three-liter bottle of "kick-ass” wine: "I can't wait to dive into that thing head first.”
But, the beast, who started off the episode saying he was keeping his ego in check, could not go down without a fight. He informed the judges he was surprised to be there after watching the other team fumble in the kitchen. Gail chided him and said diners don't see what's going on in the kitchen, they only care about execution. But instead of acknowledging he put out an awful cheese dish and an overly complex beet salad, Kenny, with the aid of sidekick Kevin, promptly threw Alex under the bus. They accused Angelo and Ed of covering up for Alex by conceptualizing and executing his lamb dish. "If Angelo wasn't a beast in the kitchen, and Ed wasn't a beast in the kitchen, they would never have gotten through,” Kenny told judges, flames practically coming out of his ears.
Those cold, cold judges didn't care. Kenny's dishes didn't work and the beast was no more. We won't get our Angelo vs. Kenny showdown, but we'll still get another week of Alex. And with the chefs cooking for the C.I.A. next week, spies plus Alex is sure to be a combustible combination.
Inquiring, Ryan-hating minds want to know this, and the answers to four other questions
Per a couple weeks ago when I last previewed the upcoming "Real World" episode, I am heading into tonight (MTV, 10 p.m.) with a heady mixture of preemptive nausea, giddy excitement and worrisome trepidation. Between Ryan's almost abusive, camp-cabin antagonizing of the utterly charming Preston, Jemmye's excruciating Southern accent and the patronizing attempt to make it seem as if aspiring-singer Sahara happenstantially fell into accomplished artist Theresa Andersson's good graces, this is the "RW" season that has concurrently repelled and engaged like no other in recent years.
Alas, all we can do between now and the bitching hour is sit with the above preview clip of this seventh installment and wonder aloud about how the following five questions will be resolved:
- Will tomboy Ashlee and Spock-eared Eric be given anything to do besides sit around and look more mature than everyone else? The last time there were two characters this boring on one "Real World," Jesus was still offering sermons at the local parish.
- If McKenzie hooks up with Knight, will Jemmye go totally trailer trash and shred her to pieces like a carrot slicer? And will we ever figure out what the attraction would be to Knight at all? Dude looks like he's in fifth grade.
- How long will it be until Sahara has the obligatory episode where she performs with passing mediocrity to a mildly interested cafe audience after being introduced by her genuine "friend," recording artist Theresa Andersson?
- Is Preston going to realize Ryan tore up and threw out his favorite beanie? And if so, will he inquire how willing Ryan was to really take the heat if he ostensibly discarded of his evidence before it caused harm to its victim?
- Will Ryan continue to rival "D.C." cast member Ashley for flabbergasting mangling of basic English syntax? Unfortunately (or awesomely), judging by Ryan's "Are you joking me?" moment with Jemmye in the footage above, not gonna happen.