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  • Who’s the boss? HE’s the boss.

    08/7/2010 6:12 PM

    On a day when the U.S. cable networks served up chats with and glimpses of the most dubious class of celebrities — the Kardashians, and the cast of Jersey Shore — it took former boxer turned sitcom star turned song-and-dance man turned high-school teacher, in the person of Tony Danza, to put this latest strain of stardom into perspective.

    Danza, best known for his lengthy sitcom runs on Taxi (1978-83) and Who’s the Boss? (1984-92), is returning to prime time this fall in an A&E reality series called Teach, which follows him through a year in which he leaves his showbiz career behind and becomes a certified, full-time teacher at a Philadelphia high school.

    When met with TV critics here during A&E’s portion of the U.S. networks’ summer press tour, he had lots to say about the difficult process of reaching and inspiring kids in the 21st-century educational environment. Given his Italian-American background, it was inevitable that Danza would be asked about the sudden celebrity of the twentysomething "Guidos" and "Guidettes" on the hyper-tacky MTV series Jersey Shore.

    "I think shows like Jersey Shore make it harder on teachers in general," Danza offered. "Every day I tell kids, ‘Good behaviour will pay off. I promise. Good behaviour will pay off.’ And then they go home and watch that show and say, ‘Mr. Danza, you’re wrong. Bad behaviour pays off.’ That’s what really hurts us.

    "And by the way, that’s where we get into the cultural end of this. What is our responsibility? We yell about bad schools and bad teachers and failing grades, and then we put on shows like that that give kids the wrong kind of role models, and then we’re surprised when they act out."

    Later in the session, Danza felt compelled to return to the Jersey Shore issue, making it clear that it’s not just the antics of Snooki and The Situation and JWoww and their ilk that we should be distressed about.

    "I hate to go back to Jersey Shore, but I can’t help it," he said. "I was in the gymnasium, working out right after I got back from school, and there was a discussion of Jersey Shore and I pointed out that it’s tough on teachers. ... And this very, very wealthy woman, wealthy beyond what we can imagine, said, ‘Oh, I despise those people on that show.’

    "I had to point out to her, ‘How do you feel about the guys in suits you had dinner with last night who put that show on?’ I mean, because you can hate the kids, but it’s Viacom. It’s the big companies."

    Class dismissed.


  • Jury still out on Idol judges

    08/2/2010 2:29 PM

    The hope that Fox's portion of the TV press tour would include a major announcement regarding who will fill the empty chairs on American Idol's judging panel was dashed, quickly and completely, when the network's top programming executives met with media types here in Hollywood on Monday morning.

    "The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty right now is that no one who wasn't on the show last year has signed a deal yet, on either side of the camera, to join American Idol next year," said Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Rice. "There has been tremendous speculation ... (and) much of the information that has been written has been accurate, and some of the information that has been written is wildly inaccurate.

    "I'm not going to get into confirming or denying which ones they are."

    And with that, pretty much any discussion or line of questioning focused on Idol's future was shut down. Rice declined to comment of reports that Kara DioGuardi is also leaving the show -- on the heels of Simon Cowell's exit at the end of last season and Ellen DeGeneres's announcement last week that she won't return for a second season -- and would not discuss Randy Jackson's status or recent suggestions that producer Nigel Lythgoe might be rejoining the show.

    The Internet has been abuzz with rumours and wild guesses regarding who Idol's new judges might be -- the names most often repeated have been Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler -- but for now, rumours and guesses are all that they are.

    Rice did say that the network and Idol's producers intend to have a full judging panel -- whether that means three or four isn't clear -- by the time the show's second round of auditions begin in mid-September.

    Stay tuned.


  • A Glee-ful night at the TCA Awards

    08/1/2010 12:00 PM

    The surprise-hit Fox series Glee was the big winner Saturday night at the annual Television Critics Association Awards, taking home three trophies -- outstanding new program, program of the year, and an additional honour for series star Jane Lynch for individual achievement in comedy.

    The ceremony, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, featured an opening-act comedy contribution by Parenthood co-star Dax Shepherd, and included the presentation of awards in 11 categories.

    Rookie shows fared particularly well -- in addition to Glee's triple grab of TCA Awards, CBS's The Good Wife received the award for individual achievement in drama (series star Julianna Margulies) and ABC's new comedy hit Modern Family won the prize for outstanding achievement in comedy.

    Two series tied for outstanding achievement in drama -- ABC's Lost and the made-for-cable (AMC) hit Breaking Bad.

    The breathtaking Discovery Channel series Life won for outstanding achievement in news and information, and the HBO's epic wartime drama The Pacific was recognized for outstanding achievement in movies, mini-series and specials.

    For the second consecutive year, Yo Gabba Gabba won the TCA Award for outstanding achievement in youth programming.

    James Garner was given the TCA's special award for career achievement, and the long-running comedy M*A*S*H received the critics' association's Heritage Award, which recognizes TV programs that have had a lasting social or cultural impact on society.


  • Not-so-proud Peacock; Golfer gets guru'd; A moment for Maury

    07/31/2010 7:29 PM

    Peacock: not quite proud yet, but feeling slightly better about itself....

    Catching up on things after a jam-packed day of NBC interviews and preview screenings, followed by another celeb-filled network party atop yet another nearby parking garage....

    NBC's top execs met the press on Friday, and expressed careful optimism about the direction the network is headed in after the disaster that was last year -- fueled mostly by the decision to move Jay Leno into a 9 p.m. weeknight slot and, of course, the public-relations implosion that followed when affiliates forced the cancellation of that show and the network decided to take The Tonight Show away from Conan O'Brien and give it back to Jay.

    "We're trying to rebuild," said NBC Universal Television president Jeff Gaspin, "and we recognize some of the mistakes we've made over the past several years. We put a lot more money into development this year (and) we picked up quite a few series. We're taking more shots, certainly. We feel very good about the progress we've made during the past year."

    Gaspin admitted that some of NBC's strategy -- cutting hours of prime-time scripted programming for budgetary reasons at a time when the network should have been giving viewers more, not less -- probably wasn't the right way to go.

    "I think we made too many changes too quickly, from a position of weakness," he said, "so it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The goal is to rebuild, get stronger, and then if we need to make changes at that point, it will be several years down the line."

    Along with a roster of rookie shows that includes the intricate speculative-fiction thriller The Event, the U.S.-marshals cop-action series Chase, the lighthearted spousal-spies caper Undercovers and the franchise-spinoff drama Law & Order: Los Angeles (affectionately known to TV insiders simply as LOLA), NBC also announced that 30 Rock will do a live episode this fall (Oct. 14), Rob Lowe will join Parks and Recreation as a series regular, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will have guest appearances by Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), Joan Cusack and Maria Bello.

    The Office's Kevin: not so far below par after all

    I had an intriguing chat with actor Brian Baumgartner, better known to TV fans as The Office's burly dimwit, Kevin, about a pretty cool side project he's been working on. Baumgartner, an avid golfer who made an appearance in the Ray-Romano-themed run of The Golf Channel's series The Haney Project, has his own celeb-seeks-swing-doctoring special, titled Golf Therapy: Life, Lessons and the Pursuit of Par, airing this Sunday at 2 p.m. on NBC.

    In the special, Baumgartner confesses to his (fictional) therapist (played by The Hangover's Rachael Harris) that he's having nightmares about his upcoming appearance at the American Century Championship, an annual celebrity pro-am event in Lake Tahoe.

    To help him overcome his anxiety, she sends Baumgartner (who actually carries an admirable 12 handicap) to see a series of high-profile athletes who offer him various physical and psychological tips to improve his tee-to-green game.

    The roster of pro-sports "helpers" includes NFL stars Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Aaron Rodgers, NBA centre Pau Gasol, gold-medal gymnast Nastia Liukin, boxer Laila Ali, New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

    "I'm a huge sports fan," Baumgartner said. "This was a very cool experience."

    A moment for Maury

    I witnessed a genuinely touching moment Friday night at NBC's star-stocked outdoor party -- Saskatchewan-born actress Kari Matchett (Power Play, 24), who co-stars in the new USA (cable) network series Covert Affairs, ran into veteran actor Bill Smitrovich (Life Goes On), who's a regular on the suspenseful new NBC drama The Event.

    The two were eager to renew acquaintances, having worked together several years ago on the A&E series A Nero Wolfe Mystery, which starred Timothy Hutton and the late Maury Chaykin.

    Before they got down to chatting about what's happening in their respective careers, the two performers shared a quiet embrace.

    "A moment for Maury," Smitrovich said.


    Stay tuned.


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About Brad Oswald

Way back when Brad Oswald was TV-inclined little kid, his exasperated mother used to say things like, "Would you PLEASE turn that thing off and go OUTSIDE and play? If you insist on watching that IDIOT box day after day after day, you will NEVER amount to ANYTHING in this world!"

Well, go figure.

Brad joined the Free Press in 1987 and has spent most of the last two decades getting paid to watch the television as the paper’s resident TV critic. In addition to previewing and reviewing all the latest prime-time shows and covering the local TV industry, he also usually spends a few weeks per year in L.A., interviewing TV stars and attending Big Phony Hollywood Parties.

Brad also writes about comedy and other assorted entertainment topics, and has been known to wander onto local stages try out his own standup material as part of an ongoing quest to satisfy his deep-rooted need for affirmation. He was the winner of Rumor’s Comedy Club’s first Funniest Person With a Day Job contest.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Brad grew up in St. Vital, attended Dakota Collegiate and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba before enrolling in Red River College’s Creative Communications program. He played rugby for more than 20 years, which, quite frankly, amounts to a whole lot of blows to the unprotected noggin.

Despite that, during his two-decades-plus at the Free Press, he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about television and other pop-culture topics, and would certainly not be the worst person to pick for your trivia-contest team.

For some reason, he firmly believes his Mom really would be proud of all this.

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