Here's What You Need to Know About Season Three So Far
And looking back at the season so far, things have moved at a dizzying pace. Here's a quick update, in case you've just started tuning in. Plus, a sneak peek at next week's all-new episode!
-Vampire hook-ups are uber-violent. Our genteel Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) turns heads -- literally -- when he gets down and dirty with his maker, Lorena (Mariana Klaveno) after telling her he'll never ever love her. Right. Because he's supposed to love our heroine Sookie Stackhouse, no? So what's with the cheating, Mr. I'm-From-the-1800s-and-So-Such-A-Gentleman? This hook-up doesn't bode well for the future of Bill and Sookie -- who's been going around wearing his engagement ring.
-Despite being a stone cold Nordic God, Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) does have feelings. The badass bloodsucker is clearly, truly smitten with Sookie (Anna Paquin), not just concerned about what she can do for him. To protect her from her newfound werewolf foes -- and there are a plenty -- he's lined up a hunky werewolf bodyguard Alcide (Joe Manganiello). And things are about to get even more complicated here, because we can expect some sizzle between Sookie and Alcide, too. Yay!
-Once an idiot, always an idiot. In one the classic scenes from season three thus far, Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten), having shot and killed Tara's love Eggs (Mehcad Brooks) in order to protect his pal, Detective Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer), has some weighty issues on his mind. He finds himself in his dream scenario -- with too slick city co-eds very willing to commit to a raunchy threesome, but can't perform under pressure. Why? Because he just keeps imagining the two pretty girls with bullet holes in their foreheads. When he tells them as much, well, that's the end of that. Look for Jason to try his hand at becoming a Bon Temps law enforcement official -- or to get his butt kicked when Tara finds out he's really the one who killed Eggs.
-Tara (Rutina Wesley), meanwhile, has hooked up with a shady vampire named Franklin (James Frain), whom we discover has some sinister plans of his own. At least, that's what I'm getting from the dour persona he presents to stressed-out newbie vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), who's still split with her sweet human boyfriend Hoyt (Jim Parrack).
-Now we know where Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) got that super-feisty spirit from. In episode two, we met his mama, Ruby Jean Reynolds, played by the powerhouse Alfre Woodard as a racist, homophobic nutcase of a woman. We also got a gander at Lafayette's new love interest Jesus, an orderly (Kevin Alejandro) at the mental institution who's taking care of Ruby Jean.
-Family'll screw ya, no matter that they're a bunch of shape-shifters. Sam Merlott (Sam Trammell) went looking for the Mickens clan in Arkansas, and he found them alright. His brother Tommy (Marshall Allman) nearly got him killed. So Sam headed back to Bon Temps to ground himself in work, hoping things would get back to normal. But wouldn't you know it, trouble followed him home. And from the looks of it, they're planning to suck him dry.
What's your favorite "True Blood" plotline this season?
After dabbling in 'Real World' politics, this season takes a step backwards
Take, for example, the iconic Pedro Zamora, who on the show's third season in 1994, became the nationwide face of the AIDS epidemic. Or, on 2009's Brooklyn-set show, Ryan Conklin, a war vet suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Sydrome who received word that he was being called back to action before the show even wrapped. And also on that same season, the scandalous Katelynn Cusanelli, a transgendered twenty-something who decided to undergo gender reassignment surgery. These were real, relevant issues that today's young people are dealing with. So I was hoping that with MTV's 24th season of "the Real World," we could expect more of the same.
Alas, I was mistaken. Yesterday's premiere episode of "The Real World: New Orleans" really sent the series spiraling back into threesome and drunken arrest territory. It's not that the opportunities aren't there -- and perhaps, down the line this season, they will be explored. But first and foremost on these eight strangers minds was getting down-and-dirty with some Southern-style hearty partying.
Already we've got our stereotypes set: there's the lush (Jemmye), the bore (Ashley), the funny guy (Eric, who also may be the most serious of the bunch, for a stand-up comedian), the diva (Preston), the sunshiney one (McKenzie, from Florida, of course), and the country boy who just got out of rehab (Knight).
Two wild cards: Perhaps the most interesting and potentially corruptible of the castmates is Muslim-American Sahar, who thus far has never lived outside her parents home. Then there's Ryan, the bigmouth "sensitive" nutjob who suggested one roommate, having donned a sexy ensemble, was begging asking to get raped. And that's before he called her trailer trash. Eeeps.
Yup, looks like this one's going to be a bumpy ride.
Do you still watch "The Real World"?
The ballet phenom was stunning doing hip-hop, but you'd think it was the greatest thing to ever happen to dance
Don't worry, I'm not gonna jump on the Alex Wong hater-ation train. The "So You Think You Can Dance" standout and formally trained ballet dancer is monstrously talented and more or less nailed a hip-hop routine last night set to Lil Jon's "Get Out Of Your Mind" (pause for new album plug).
But gauging by the reaction of "SYTYCD" judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mia Michaels and Adam Shankman, you'd have thought he just introduced the new Lambada or something.
Lythgoe was correct that the concept for Wong and partner Twitch's segment was brilliant, playing up on Wong's coy resistance to stepping outside of ballet's soft shoes. Otherwise, the hyperbolic Brit breathlessly touted the dance as some kind of earth-shattering urban-choreography epiphany, clearly trying to push the agenda of "SYTYCD" being as hip, an hip-hop friendly, as "America's Next Best Dance Crew."
Photo: Kelsey McNeal/FOX
Then came Michaels with her overwhelmingly calculated, "Who the hell are you?!" Google-headline-baiting, rhetorically inquisitive praise. Although personally, I was too distracted by how uncanny her resemblance is to Kris Kardashian.
And then there was Mr. Shankman, who, despite having a solid two or three minutes to settle down before his turn, still exploded with quasi-spontaneous exclamation-gasms. The whole situation devolved from a dance competition to a tug of war between three judges self-consciously grappling for airtime on "The Soup."
So, just to bring some rational evaluation to Wong's routine, it was very good. Astounding, considering his unfamiliarity with hip-hop's intuitive swagger. But it lacked for signature moments and was no more worthy of gravitas than virtually any "ABDC" episode highlights.
As for Lythgoe, Michaels and Shankman, they're starting to make Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson seem informatively composed.
Chefs face their fears with desserts and grills
By Sora Young
Special to MSN TV
The good news is we're now three episodes into "Top Chef," the chefs are oh-so-slowly being whittled down and it's getting easier to keep track of who's who, their cooking style and who is genuinely talented. I'm intrigued for no reason by weird, weird Alex (On pork butt: "I'd want to eat the ass out of this pig all day"), I am totally pleased by chatty, funny Arnold ("I'm not a grill guy; it'll clog the pores way too fast"), who won his first challenge and I was disappointed to see friendly, enthusiastic Tracey get the boot even if her sausage sliders were terrible. But I'm getting ahead of myself, because there's still the bad news, otherwise known as whiny chefs: chief among them Amanda, who elbowed Alex out of an oven she said she claimed, calling it "prison rules." Amanda, I know you were a former drug addict, but could you please be quiet? Thank you.
Now that there is silence, we can talk pie. Or rather, the disturbing, upsetting lack of pie knowledge among the chefs. How is it possible there are chefs in the world, let alone chefs who made it onto "Top Chef" who have never made pie? It's unconscionable. Have these chefs never celebrated Thanksgiving? Who raised them? When Amanda tells guest judge Johnny Iuzzini and his rockabilly coif that she's not a pastry chef, he retorts: "I think it's kind of a cop out though to say you're not a pastry chef. My grandma's not a pastry chef either and she can make a pie." Touche.
There were indeed some strange pies, including Ed's banana cream pie with salted peanuts and frothy celery spuma and Alex's tapioca pie with almond crust. Kelly asserted herself with a simple raspberry and dark chocolate ganache tart, but Kenny won Johnny's approval with a bananas foster-style pie with currants and Chinese five-spice. In other pressing news, Ed hates chocolate.
For the main Elimination Challenge, the chefs were asked to come up with a picnic menu for 150 Capitol Hill interns, to be served at Mount Vernon. Arnold: "My sister's been an intern, which basically means you're somebody's bitch for awhile. I've never been the bitch." Not even Padma's?
Firing up a charcoal grill itself was a challenge for some, including Arnold, who had never lit charcoal briquettes before. (I thought it was bad with the pie, but now grills too?) Alex and Amanda got into a fight over an oven that Amanda claimed she had labeled as hers. When Alex put a pan in there, she took it out, then whipped out the old "prison rules" when explaining the situation to judge Tom Colicchio. Whatever those are. Tiffany summed up: "I hear Amanda running and screaming a lot. I have to stop looking at her because she starts stressing me out." Me, too.
But Amanda landed in the top four with ribs that even Angelo praised, while guest judge Jonathan Waxman was rhapsodic about her grilled asparagus. Angelo and Ed also made it to the top tier with Vietnamese lettuce wraps and spiced grilled tuna, respectively, but Arnold pulled out the win with skewered, grilled lamb meatballs judges praised as "full-flavored" and a "nice surprise." Kudos!
They weren't so nice when it came to the bottom four, which included Ed, Stephen, Tracey and Kevin. Gail, who often comes across as remarkably nice, clearly isn't afraid to go for a chef's soft underbelly. When Kevin defended his poorly received Puerto Rican dish as similar to the food he's had cooked by Puerto Ricans, Gail asked, "Are they chefs?" Kevin: "No." Gail: "Exactly. You are. So show us great Puerto Rican food that a professional chef would make. Step it up!" But Tom was not to be outdone by Gail. When discussing Tracey's homemade sausage slider, he told her: "If that's what you call Italian food, then it's almost insulting to Italians, me being one." Jonathan piled on poor Tracey: "Part of being 'Top Chef' is when things go wrong, that's when you pull inside yourself and figure out how to fix it. You kind of stopped trying, basically, and chefs should never do that."
I'm sorry to see Tracey go. The girl had pluck and energy and anyone who says she's a psychic is worth having around. But next week, judge Eric Ripert is back (yay!), and two chefs are headed home. A double elimination is sure to bring on the drama and we can't wait.
Apparently, you will never need to watch another cable network again
Not since FOX encroached on the Big Three networks during the early '90s has a cable outfit suddenly posed so much of a threat to steal mainstream TV audiences from underneath them.
USA has gotten a lot of ink on this blog, and across small-screen-critiquing outlets, and with meritorious reason. "Their unexpected roster of sophisticated guilty pleasures ("White Collar," "Psych," "Burn Notice," "Royal Pains" and "In Plain Sight"), in addition to upcoming powerhouses such as the Piper Perabo-starring "Covert Affairs" (which is spearheaded by "Bourne" trilogy mastermind Doug Liman), has obliterated demographic barriers and satisfied the gamut of primetime viewer needs.
And now it looks like all that extra revenue will lead to some major syndication scores, beginning with the announcement that, beginning in 2013, the network will air reruns of TV Buzz fave "Modern Family" (and the never-not-funny Phil Dunphy). Which is good news on multiple fronts, as it indicates "Family" will remain on the air long enough to warrant the USA purchase.
And with FX catering to a very specifically mature audience, and the likes of TBS and Comedy Central grasping for an identity that works, USA---once the dubious home of Rhonda Shear's "USA Up All Night"---may be poising itself to be an unofficial fifth addition to the Big Four.
And cause he's the funniest non-super-celeb comic out there
(Photo: E. Charbonneau/WireImage)
As all you dedicated TV Buzz readers already are aware, I'm a big, big fan of standup comedian, late-night- and sketch-comedy writer, and former HBO star Louis C.K. And had a feeling his hilariously underplayed supporting turn on "Parks and Recreation" would lead to another shot at network redemption. Because that, foremost over actual insider knowledge, is what determines executive programming decisions.
As it turns out, and as was fascinatingly detailed in Nathan Rabin's "A.V. Club" Q & A with C.K. this week, the potently funny 42-year-old had a wide array of options for writing and producing his next starring small-screen vehicle.
Fortunately for us, he went with FX, the home of no-holds-barred primetime favorites like "Justified" and "Rescue Me," and, of course, the longtime destination for "Nip/Tuck" (which I admittedly never watched for squeamish reasons), when it was time to develop "Louie." It's also the perfect safe haven for C.K.'s brutally honest, generally self-eviscerating style of everyman humor, which marries a bit of Ralph Kramden's put-upon modern man with Rodney Dangerfield's lapdog candor and Richard Pryor's emphatic crassness.
Unlike his prematurely canceled HBO sitcom "Lucky Louie," this titular abbreviation finds C.K. dealing with life as a 40-something divorcee with two kids, and intersperses standup bits with natural situations that provoke his unwitting brand of dead-on b.s. detection.
So for the sake of a man who's long since earned his time, and the proliferation of genius downer comedy, tune in to the premiere of "Louie" tonight at 11, or miss 22 minutes of this:
There's plenty of Turkey to go around in Istanbul
By Diane Vadino
Special to MSN TV
Recap: Kasey implodes, Chris N. goes home. Preview: "It's Turkey, baby!" And here's the 15-second guide to "Istanbul, Turkey." It's like Ali's contractually obligated to say both city and country in each utterance ... with architecture, the cityscape. But who cares? Because we are about to get body-slammed with the drama right from the opening bell. Excuse the wrestling reference. Ali's just chilling out, as one does when visiting Istanbul, Turkey, going over the questions of the day: "Who do I see as a husband, and who do I see as a friend?" (Husband: Frank. Friend: Roberto, Kirk, Chris L., Craig R. Cannon fodder: Ty.) "I don't think anything could go wrong at this point," she says, and immediately there's a knock at the door. The vibe here is roughly that of a horror movie where someone just said something like, "I'm so glad they caught that nasty serial killer. Finally, I can relax with a bath!" It is not a serial killer at the door, but Chris Harrison, who is nevertheless here to assassinate Ali's heart: "You have a second to talk?"
"I'm scared," Ali says, which I can only imagine is the most appropriate emotional response to Chris Harrison showing up unexpectedly at one's hotel room door. "Something was just brought to our attention. I've checked it out, and it's a real story I think you need to hear," Chris says, while we envision him investigating various clues, wearing a private investigator's fedora. "One of the guys here has a girlfriend." Honestly, when Justin's name comes out of his mouth, I'm telling you, Ali was relieved. Angry? Sure. But relieved. Stay strong, Ali, and whoever else read last week's shocking -- shocking! -- In Touch with Ali on the cover. Via ex-"Bachelor" contestant Jessie, Ali is connected to Jessica, Justin's girlfriend. Err, one of Justin's girlfriends. "Me and Justin have been dating for almost two years now," she says from -- is she in a bathroom? I can't entirely parse the scene here, but Jessica's crying, Jessie's briefly on television again, and Ali is steamed.
Off we go! It's confrontation time! We are ready to rrrrrumble! Bear with them: These are the last of the wrestling allusions in this year's addition of "The Bachelorette." Ali marches in, all "J'accuse!" But Justin just sort of shakes his head, then stands up and hobbles away, an action made all the more ludicrous by the boot on his leg. "I'm out," he says. "I've got my passport. I've got my wallet. That's all I need." Ali's sort of following, but the whole thing is pathetic and tragic, and increasingly so, as he tries to escape down a stairwell, into a locked cafe, across the hotel landscaping. We've already used the words pathetic, tragic and ludicrous, so we'll say here that it was just ridiculous with a hint of lame. It is all of those things and more, and remains so even as Justin finally sits down with Ali. "I did not come here to get famous," Justin lies. "I gave up my job, I gave up my apartment, I gave up everything to be here," Ali says. It would be so much better if this were somehow not true, and yet it probably is. "You're going to regret this," Ali barks. And it really is a bark: It's an octave lower than her normal speaking voice. And as he walks away, for good, the producers play a medley of Justin's voicemail messages to Jessica. In short: I love you, I miss you. "You are my world and I want you to be my wife," Justin's voice says to Jessica. "It kinda made me regret even coming up with this thing." Justin: loser. Sorted. Let's hope his 15 minutes of fame are of the 15-second variety. Never again shall his name or stumbling form darken this recap, in any case.
Moving on. It's one-on-one date time. Craig wants it, but Ty gets it, and he and Ali are sent to the Turkish bath. I like Ty. He seems like a good, genuine guy, but I don't see any chemistry here whatsoever. That's true both during the strangely rote massage portion of the bath visit and their dinner afterwards. "I do have concerns," Ali says, as she gives tradition-loving Ty a rose. "'Traditional' is the last word I'd use to describe myself."
The group date is altogether more entertaining: The powers that be have decided that our four attendees -- Craig R., Chris L., Kirk and the dreamy Roberto, who gets dreamier with every episode -- should battle professional Turkish wrestlers. "Olive oil wrestling is actually a professional sport here in Turkey," Ali helpfully explains. The Turks roundly defeat the guys. But then the guys take on each other, with the ultimate prize being a bit of one-on-one time. That's in addition, of course, to a truly hideous trophy made of a miniature pair of the leather trousers the wrestlers wear. "I fight with words ... generally ... that's like ... my job," Craig R. manages to say. But since we've been hearing him talk about how much he wants an individual date after this evening's brouhaha, we know he'll get it. And he does, body-slamming both Chris L. and Roberto. Was this challenge dreamed up while Justin was still around? Because it would have been simply divine, let's say, to see him somehow defeated and professionally humiliated. Craig R. and Ali head out on their mini one-on-one. "I've never met anyone like you," Craig says to Ali. "I'm definitely, without a doubt, falling for Ali," he says to us. Ominously. This is clearly true, though it may not be ideal.
Next, Ali and Frank have their one-on-one. It's difficult to get into the Frank-Ali thing without addressing the spoilers reported everywhere, so we'll stick very close to the facts: Frank and Ali visit a bazaar, they somehow purchase a rug, and they have dinner in perhaps this show's most romantic location ever -- hyperbole for once deserved, in this very unusual case. Ali stares at him like he's made of her most favorite food after she hasn't eaten for a week, and we move on.
At long last, it’s the rose ceremony. But first, one last bit of drama: Ali doesn’t need a cocktail ceremony, people, because her mind's already made up. Since Ty and Frank already have roses, that means Chris L., Craig R., Kirk, and Roberto are up. And based on nothing more than his pleading, keening screen time this week, it's clear who's going home. Roberto gets his rose, then Chris L. And finally, it's Kirk who's safe. Mind you, I wrote that before it actually happened, because it was so ridiculously obvious. "This has been an incredible experience that I’ll never forget," Craig says. "I just think the romance or something was missing between us," Ali says. Sigh. In a cast of absolute losers and liars, Craig seemed like a good guy. This is not the first time in the history of the franchise that the final pick is an indictment of the bachelor/ette, and not the one going home.
Next up: Portugal? I thought we were going around the world? Portugal and then back to L.A. is not around the world. Also: taxidermy! And Tahiti! And then ... the longest previews of all time, which basically give away the entire Frank deal, beginning with "Ali, we need to talk." Your heart just breaks for her. Man, alive: If half of what we heard is true, that guy is a douche.
ABC Family goes big with a fat camp dramedy worth catching
Well, ABC Family does, too, so they've taken that classic summer camp experience and super-sized it with their newest original dramedy, "Huge," which premieres tonight at 9 p.m. EST.
All punny-ness aside, though, this is a major development in TV land, where plus-sized generally equates anything bigger than, say, a size six. In a world where "Gossip Girl" and even ABC Family's own "Pretty Little Liars" reflects small and lithe as the norm for teens, the show is truly groundbreaking in that it features not one but a cast full of heavyset kids -- who represent nearly one out of five teens in country today.
The show, based on a teen novel by Sarah Paley and created by "My So-Called Life" co-creator Winnie Holzman and her daughter Savannah Dooley, the show focuses on Will (Broadway star Nikki Blonsky, whose big break was "Hairspray"), a fun and feisty teen who's quite the unhappy camper. See, she's comfortable in her own skin and not happy with the fact that her parents shipped her off to fat camp. Meanwhile, barely chubby blonde Amber (played by David Hasselhoff's daughter Hayley) finds herself wearing the prettiest girl at camp title, something she's totally not used to. Plus, she's got the hots for her slim-and-trim jock of a counselor, George (Zander Eckhouse, who's also celeb offspring: dad is "Beverly Hills, 90210" star Jim Eckhouse).
Here's the thing about "Huge": it's perhaps the first and only show to feature a full cast of un-skinny actors, and not only that, it doesn't make the fat thing the only thing. These kids may be overweight, but they're normal teens going through those everyday identity crises and transformations that all teens go through. Here, they're all the fat kid, so we've gotta go deeper than the surface and realize that there's different ways to be that kid, too. They're the underdogs, but at camp, they've got a level playing field on which to experience life, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Unlike its eye-candy competition, that's what will make "Huge" worth watching this summer.
Will you be tuning in?