Archive for the ‘FX’ Category

FX’s Boxing Drama ‘Lights Out’ Takes A Shot At Home Shopping Networks

January 23, 2011

We get review DVDs from FX, and last night we watched the third episode of “Lights Out,” which airs this Tuesday. And the boxing drama, which we love, pokes fun at home shopping networks and even mentions QVC this week.

The show, which unfortunately has posted disappointing ratings, features Holt McCallany as Patrick “Lights” Leary, a former heavweight champ whose $12 million fortune has been mismanaged and squandered by his brother. Leary is broke, and he needs to raise cash.

As Episode 3, “The Shot,” opens we see a row of Leary bobblehead dolls. Leary is selling the tchotchkes on a home shopping network named CCN, Collectors Corner Network, where viewers bid on items.

The screen is set up just like it would be on QVC or HSN, with the item name, price, and network phone network listed in a box on the left side of the TV screen. We believe the bobbleheads were going for $57.50.

Learny is also selling signed boxing gloves, including a pair from one of his most famous bouts. The starting bid for the special set of gloves is $2,000.

Later in the episode, an up-and-coming boxing chides Leary about his home shopping stint. The young boxer takes a towel from around his neck, throws it at Leary, and says, “Sell this on QVC when I’m the champ. Make yourself some real money.”

“Lights Out,” by the way, is set in New Jersey, which is another reason we’re partial to the show. Nice job, John Landgraf.

FX’s ‘Rescue Me’ Was Once Headed To USA Network, And Denis Leary’s ‘Tight Little Irish Ass’

June 25, 2010

Rescue Me cast at screening

Denis Leary on the red carpet Thursday

We went to the screening last night of the 6th season premiere episode of “Rescue Me,” hoping to see the cast get into the hijinks that made the headlines in the past – dropping their pants to moon (as we recall) bystanders and behaving rowdy enough to be the lead item on Page Six.

We had hoped to catch a view at what one of our high school classmates on Facebook described as “Rescue Me” creator and star Denis Leary’s “tight little Irish ass,” and she meant that in a complimentary, lustful manner. (See what we can write about in a blog, as opposed to the bible of the cable industry?)

Well, unfortunately for us the cast behaved themselves this year, at least up until the time we left the premiere after-party at the rooftop terrace of the Empire Hotel on 63rd Street. So we didn’t a good look at Leary’s butt.

Michael Lombardi heisted a bottle of water

But we were still shocked by something we learned at the screening at the 42nd Street AMC Theaters: “Rescue Me” almost wound up on USA Network instead of FX.

We can’t imagine what “Rescue Me” would have been like if it had gone with USA. At FX, then-new president John Landgraf was looking for raw, edgy, dark dramas when Leary approached him about the show.

Lenny Clarke is a stand-up guy

Landgraf gave lanky Leary, who plays tortured firefighter Tommy Gavin, the freedom to make “Rescue Me” a breakthrough drama, with lots of sex and the constant pushing the boundaries of taste.

That couldn’t be more different than USA’s programming strategy which, as chief Bonnie Hammer told us once, was to do upbeat, “blue sky” series. That strategy definitely works: USA is No. 1 in the ratings.

But the skies in “Rescue Me” aren’t blue. They’re grey, still filled with the ashes of the crumbling towers on 9/11 and the bodies of World Trade Center jumpers, exploding like water balloons when they hit the ground, as Tommy Gavin graphically put it in one episode.

We're available Adam Ferrarra

Landgraf said, and Leary confirmed at the screening, that USA had offered to order six episodes of “Rescue Me.” But that would have been a very bad fit.

USA’s tagline is “Characters Welcome.” But Landgraf said, “I’m pretty sure these characters aren’t welcome,” referring to the alcoholic, dysfunctional, womanizing, promiscuous, violent but brave denizens of “Rescue Me.”

When Leary, in an orange T-shirt and jeans, got up to speak he said when he met with FX he was impressed with the marketing plans that John Solberg, who is actually PR chief for the network, already had cooked up to promote “Rescue Me.” That helped make Leary go with FX.

John Scurti

Leary also poked fun at himself before the screening.

“I’d like to thank myself for having a giant forehead,”
he said, noting saying if he didn’t have such a big noggin, there couldn’t have been ads for “Rescue Me.” The campaign features a close-up of Leary’s forehead with the word “Rescued” on it.

So enough of the serious stuff, we know you want to hear the skinny about the cast members that attended the screening and after-party.

The men, a handsome lot, all dressed down, while the women dressed up. Actor Michael Lombardi, who plays childlike dummy firefighter Mike, was behind us at the concession stand at the AMC theater trying to get a bottle of water. He was told he had to stand on line by concession workers who didn’t know he’s one of “Rescue Me’s” stars.

Natalie Distler and Olivia Crocicchia, who play Gavin's two girls

Lombardi was polite: He didn’t say “Get me a friggin water, I’m part of the cast.” But after patiently waiting, he grabbed a water and took off, as the concession workers yelled out to him to stop.

Actor Steve Pasquale, who plays the dumbbell Sean, was on crutches. John Scurti, who plays the smart and sarcastic lieutenant Lou, has gained a ton of weight, all in the belly (sorry Lou).

Rescue Me guys' cast

And Leary’s fellow stand-up-comedians-turned actors, Lenny Clarke and Adam Ferrarra (sexy, but with his girlfriend), were at both the screening and the party.

At the party the food was great, short ribs and delicious chicken and pasta. Even better, the alcohol was free. And despite a weather report of big thunderstorms looming, we were out on the rooftop terrace – on a balmy summer night – enjoying the gorgeous view we had of Manhattan.

Leary as Tommy Gavin, FX publicity shot

A footnote on PR maven John Solberg, who is so much more than a publicist. We’ve heart Michael Chiklis, star of FX’s “The Shield,” personally thank John for his work. And Leary cited Solberg as helping him to believe that FX, not USA, was the proper home for “Rescue Me.” Talent never cite and praise network PR people by name, but Chiklis and Leary did.

John also told us on the rooftop terrace last night that he was the one who lined up Yankee Derek Jeter to appear in the promo ads for “Rescue Me,” whose sixth season debuts next week. John has been with FX basically from the beginning, and has played a big part in its success.

Leary and Callie Thorne, who plays Sheila

FX president Landgraf, who we have had our arguments with, is nonetheless a smart, talented programmer who has made FX into basic cable’s HBO.

“Rescue Me” doesn’t sugar coat the flaws of the FDNY, or what happened on 9/11, or its repercussions. As the daughter of a retired NYC firefighter, we thought the way Leary addressed the lingering issues of the tragic terrorist attacks brilliantly in the first season of “Rescue Me,” without being maudlin.

Right off the bat, Leary tried to convey the horror of the bright, crisp September day. Leary’s cousin, fellow fighterfighter Jimmy Keefe, was decapitated when the Towers fell. His ghost, head intact, has been a recurring character on the show. Tommy is involved in a tumultuous affair with his cousin’s widow Sheila, played by Callie Thorne.

Callie Thorne, Tatum O'Neil and Natalie Distler

The fact of the matter is that the World Trade site was a scene of carnage, with severed limbs and body parts strewn about. The Daily News caught flak for running a photo of a hand lying on the ground. One of its reporters saw a man cut in half by a falling pane of glass.

But we have had our arguments with Landgraf about “Rescue Me,” as wel. The memoriable one was about a controversial scene where Tommy essentially rapes his estranged wife Janet. Landgraf defended the scene as realistic for the characters. It turned our stomach as women.

Spoiler alert: The first episode of Season 6 is masterful. Tommy, shot by his Uncle Teddy (played by Clarke) in a cliffhanger last season, is seen lying on the floor in his own blood. This seaaon, he dies in an ambulance. His “going-to-the-white-light vision” when he passes gave me goosebumps.

It looks like the rest of the season will deal with a recurring battle for Tommy: His fight against alcoholism.

Co-executive producer Tom Sellitti, Leary and FX president John Landgraf (right)

Speaking of alcohol, there was an open bar at the party, as we mentioned. We ordered our two appletinis, but only drank one and half. Some woman hit our table, and we wound up wearing half of our second appletini on our snakeskin print cocktail dress.

Rushing out to catch the last bus back to Montclair at 12:45 a.m., we grabbed a white chocolate cookie and brownie, and stuck them in our purse “for tomorrow.” They were gone before we went to bed in the wee hours this morning.

Happy Anniversary: We Got Laid Off Exactly One Year Ago, Jan. 26, And Have Lived To Talk About The Joys Of Being Pink-Slipped

January 27, 2010

This is the only blog I’ll ever write in the first person here. I debated all day whether to write it, but I must.

Last January was the biggest month for layoffs last year, I’ve read. And I, and several close colleagues, were among those who were pink-slipped. The three boxes, with 16 years of memories, that I packed up that week are still sitting near the door inside my condo. Reed Business Information, my ex-employer, paid for the shipping.

Being laid off has its rewards, like getting free margaritas and meeting Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora

I guess there are a lot of people who are a lot more resilient than I am, but I took it hard. It’s tough when you’ve been getting in work by 7:15 a.m., and leaving at 6 p.m. or later, working on weekends, working on vacations, to screech down to zero miles an hour.

For several months, I could not eat. For several months, I could not sleep. For several months, I literally could not smile. For several months, I could not laugh. For several months, I could not listen to music. For several months, I did not have one minute of happiness. No exaggeration.

I saw “Up In The Air” recently — which features folk who were laid off in real life in the movie as actors — expressing their anger at being fired. I almost wish I had thrown everything off the table like some of those people, instead of acting “professional.” But what goes around comes around. The HR guy who gave me my bad news was himself laid off recently.

You know those cliches you hear about, about finding out who your real friends are? Those cliches are true. You don’t hear a peep from your good “friends” at work. The PR people who loved you at upfront parties don’t return your phone calls. The cable network presidents who always seemed to enjoy chatting with you when you were employed are curt during phone calls. Some idiot asked one of my laid-off compadres how they where enjoying their “vacation.”

People — and I’ve interviewed them in my new incarnation — have survived real challenges and tragedies, like cancer or losing a loved one. What about the people in Haiti? So boo-hoo for me being upset about not having a job. Big deal. Don’t whine. But like I said, it hit me hard. At one point, I even feared I could never write a story again.

New Jersey became the new Hollywood for reality TV, and I wrote about the trend and the shows, like Jersey Shore

But my family and true friends pulled me through, and this is my thank-you note to them. You guys know who you are, in Parsippany, Whippany, Staten Island, Wyckoff and Westfield, and Vermont.

And the tide turned for me.

When I filed my first major story after my layoff, for a startup Web site, the editor said it was the cleanest story he ever read.

A very kind PR executive at a local hospital chain gave me a break, and let me do volunteer work for her department. Several of my press releases got placement, in papers including The Star-Ledger. I had the honor of interviewing people who wept as they told me how the hospital had saved their lives. I loved writing their stories.

Bon Jovi released a new album, and Showtime aired a documentary on them. I got to go a screening, where they served margaritas (my favorite), and I later interviewed the band. It became another story that generated a lot of Web traffic.

All of a sudden New Jersey, of all places, became a mecca for reality TV shows like “Jersey Shore.” And I was able to write stories about the shows, and about the trend. They were among the Web site’s Top-10 viewed stories.

Who wouldn't want to write about Kurt Sutter, creator and showrunner of FX's Sons of Anarchy?

I got back on the cable-network PR radar, and was able to interview and write about Kurt Sutter, creator of one of my favorite shows, FX “Sons of Anarchy.” Hey, he’s from Jersey.

I realized I still had my reporting chops when a got nice exclusive for TVNewscheck. It felt great.

Cablevision, with 900,000 customers in New Jersey, and Food Network got in a fight. Another story for me.

I posted a note on my bulletin board shortly after I was pink-slipped. It’s a quote from Western author Louis L’Amour: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.”

It turned out to be true. Without my layoff, I would never have been able to tell the tales of those who were saved by the hospital, and I would not have met the great women in the PR department there.

I would not have sat down and eaten in a soup kitchen, as I did as part of my research for a series on the Salvation Army. The people eating there, some homeless, were so kind. Seeing me as a newcomer, and not knowing I was a reporter, one came over and welcomed me.

I launched my home shopping blog when Suzanne Somers moved from HSN to ShopNBC

I wouldn’t have had the nerve to start a blog, on home shopping, timed to coincide with Suzanne Somers’ move to ShopNBC from HSN, a seismic shift in that little world. In only five months, people in the home-shopping industry tell me Homeshoppingista is now a must-read for them.

I have had to think long and hard about what I want to do.

On “Southland” — right now airing on my TV, and on TNT — one character says, “You’re a cop because you don’t know how not to be one.”

I’m a writer because I don’t know how not to be one.

FYI: ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ Finale Gets Top Ratings And New Jersey’s Kurt Sutter Gets Third Season For Biker Drama

December 3, 2009

Kurt Sutter, Photo By Prashant Gupta, FX

Home shopping fans, we knew we’re off topic. But we had to follow-up briefly on the season finale of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” and Kurt Sutter’s future with the cable network.

Tuesday’s Season Two wrap-up of “Sons” was cable’s No. 1 program for the evening, drawing 4.33 million viewers and 2.99 million adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The episode, written and directed by Sutter, was the most-watched ever for “Sons,” outdelivering its Season Two premiere, which attracted 4.29 million viewers. Sutter, a native of Clark, N.J., is the creator and executive producer of the drama about a California motorcycle club.

Sutter had some more good news, because FX has ordered 13 episodes for the show’s third season, which is set to start in September 2010, FX president and general manager John Landgraf said in a press release Wednesday.

Sutter also struck a deal with FX on a two-year extension to continue his services as showrunner/writer on “Sons.” And just as good, all the series regulars will be back next season. Hello Charlie Hunnam.

“This has been a wonderful ride and we’re just getting started,” Sutter said in a prepared statement. “I’m really proud of the work by our incredible cast and crew. The response this season from the fans and critics has been terrific and I can’t wait to get back to the writer’s room and start on Season Three.”

Jersey Guy Kurt Sutter Ends FX’s ‘Sons of Anarchy’ With Several Cliffhangers, As He Writes, Directs And Acts In The Season Finale

December 2, 2009

Kurt Sutter, Photo By Prashant Gupta, FX

Jersey boy Kurt Sutter did himself, and the state, proud with the finale Tuesday of his creation, FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.”

Sutter, a native of Clark, N.J, wrote, directed, executive produced and even acted in the 13th episode of the second season of “SOA,” as fans of the show refer to it.

The episode was called “Na Triobloidi,” Gaelic for “the troubles,” a term referring to the period of Protestant-Catholic conflict in Northern Ireland from the 1960s to the late 1990s.

We profiled Sutter in October for, writing two companion stories, one an interview with him and the other on his views about the TV industry.

We did the phone interview after Sutter — who in his bio said he was “raised in the soul-numbing, homogenous suburbs of Central New Jersey” — had just finished directing the “SOA” finale. We asked him how he thought viewers would respond to the season’s end of this tale about a motorcycle club in Charming, Calif.

Center, Charlie Hunnam, right Ron Perlman, Photo By Prashant Gupta, FX

“I think people will like it,” Sutter said. “The trick with the finale is often the same trick you have with the premiere episode: Honoring the arc that existed before you and to bring some closure to that, and enticing the audience and setting up something they potentially might want to continue on the ride with.”

Sutter, Photo By Prashant Gupta, FX

He went on, “And I think I was able to that with last year’s finale and hopefully we’ll do the same with this year’s finale, so there is some conclusion to the arc that we played out and an introduction of something new – not so much as a cliffhanger so much as it is thematically where we might lead to if there’s a third season.”

In fact, the finale episode had lots of action and several cliffhangers.

Ron Perlman, Katey Sagal, Photo By Prashant Gupta, FX

Henry Rollins, the punk rocker who played the White Supremacist who raped the main character’s mother, Gemma, is shot to death by the son Jax, played by Charlie Hunnam. Motorcycle matriarch Gemma is played by Katey Sagal, who is married to Sutter.

In the episode, Gemma kills the daughter of the brains behind the White Supremacy movement — and instigator of the rape — Ethan Zobelle. The daughter had lured Gemma to the attack. As the show ends, Gemma is on the lam.

Zobelle, played by Adam Arkin, is about to be killed by the SOA when they have to take off because Jax’s baby son has been kidnapped by an IRA guy who the SOA has been gunrunning wth.

The villain escapes in a boat with the babe-in-peril as Jax and the gang watch helplessly on the dock. Meanwhile, Zobelle flees the U.S. in a chartered jet.

Sutter as Big Otto

Showrunner Sutter, who started out his career as an actor, has appeared in several of the episodes this season, playing Big Otto, a SOA member who is in prison. He is beaten by White Supremacists, who stick a broomstick in his eye. But he gets his revenge at the end, when he stabs his attacker in the neck.

Sutter doesn’t have to do much physically to pass for a SOA member, with his long hair, tribal tattoos and rugged good looks.

And here’s another “SOA” tidbit for you: The evil AFT agent June Stahl is played by actress Ally Walker, who is married to FX president John Landgraf.

Here’s the blog we did about our experience with Sutter.

We’re going to miss “SOA” on Tuesday nights.

Bare Breasts On TV? It’s Not FX, It’s The Boobs At QVC And A Model On Nolan Miller’s Jewelry Show

November 4, 2009

Want to see a gorgeous woman’s breasts, although her nipples were concealed? Then you should have been watching QVC Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

We tuned in to a Nolan Miller jewelry show, and one of the models was wearing a gown that had a sheer bodice that let you basically see her braless breasts. When the camera went in for a close-up of a Miller watch she was presenting, you could see that area where her breast folded over a bit on her chest.

We expect this kind of stuff on FX, not QVC. We’re shocked, shocked! The dress reminded us of the sheer gown that actress Halle Berry wore when she won her Oscar. QVC models typically wear Nolan’s gowns during Nolan jewelry shows, so the daring see-through number was probably his design.

Anyway, the producers finally woke up and caught on, and the next shot the model had a fake fur stole over part of her top. But one breast was still basically exposed. The next shot, the model was gone, replaced by another who was more modestly clad.

We guess it’s no coincidence that there isn’t  a video attached to this watch on the “Items Recently On Air” section of  QVC’s Web site. Appropriately, the item is named “This Is Your Moment Watch.” It was that model’s moment, all right.

On a much more somber note, Nolan is suffering from cancer, so does not appear on QVC. His designer-business partner Mark Zunnino does.

We Take Third Shot At Finding Out If Plastic Surgeon Dr. Robert Rey Will Keep HSN Gig, While Also Selling Product On ShopNBC

October 28, 2009

Call us crazy, but we’re taking a third shot to try to find out if Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Rey will continue to appear on HSN now that he’s got a gig at rival ShopNBC.

Rey, star of E! Entertainment Television’s “Dr. 90210,” has been selling Shapewear, fancy undies and bras, on HSN for some time. But last weekend he went on  ShopNBC selling a skincare line, Sensual Solutions.

We don’t offhand recall a time when a vendor was selling goods on two home shopping networks at the same time. We want to know if Rey’s tenure with HSN is over.  

So far, we have sent three e-mails to HSN corporate, which states it will only take questions  from “a media professional with a specific request.” No response yet. Maybe HSN doesn’t think The Homeshoppingista is a media professional.

Not for nothing, and not to toot our own horn, but we will when we must. We went to one of the best J-schools in the country, Medill.  We helped launch Crain’s New York Business. We won one of the most prestigious awards for business journalism, the Gerald Loeb Award, for a story on the impact of AIDS on the fashion industry.

We covered the cable industry for 16 years at Multichannel News, writing stories about the business and programming such as HBO’s “The Sopranos.”

And we are still reporting on the cable business, the multi-billion dollar home shopping segment, with this blog. QVC and ShopNBC are totally owned or partially owned by two key media giants, John Malone’s Liberty Media and NBC.

In between job hunting, we are also writing for the growing Web site, with a recent profile on Jersey’s Kurt Sutter, creator of the FX hit “Sons of Anarchy.”

We believe this all qualifies us as a media professional. 

We have e-mailed Rey twice, no response. But then we learned today that he has a PR firm that handles the media, and we shot an e-mail to them. Maybe they will answer our question. 

And we even e-mailed ShopNBC this morning, asking them if they know if Rey will remain on HSN.

Once again, we’ll let you know what we hear.

From QVC To FX: Shameless Self-Promotion Of Our Interview With Kurt Sutter, Creator of TV’s Edgy ‘Sons of Anarchy’

October 19, 2009

We told you that home shopping is one of our guilty pleasures, but great TV programming is also one of our passions. And FX is one of our favorite networks, and its drama “Sons of Anarchy” is one of our favorite shows.

Today our interview with Kurt Sutter, a fellow New Jersey native and the creator/producer of  “Sons,” is on It’s a Web site, started by former Star-Ledger reporters, that we have been writing for while looking for a full-time gig.

Some may think it strange that we can turn from the safe haven of QVC to FX, home of some of TV’s most risk-taking shows. But we’re interested in many aspects of pop culture. That’s how we roll.

If you don’t like sex, nudity and violence on TV, don’t tune to “Sons of Anarchy.” But we do, and that’s part of the reason we watch the show. But we’re also drawn because it’s a compelling drama. The lead, Charlie Hunnam, is pretty easy on the eyes, too.

“Sons” is about an outlaw motorcycle club in California, with elements of “Hamlet.” Sutter, who is from Clark, N.J., also has a small role in the show as jailed Sons of Anarchy member Big Otto. Sutter’s wife, actress Katey Sagal, plays the tough matriarch of the club, Gemma.

We also have a second story on how Sutter feels about the business of TV up on

Although Sutter is no fan of New Jersey, like many natives who have gone on to bigger and better things, he is proud of his blue-collar roots and work ethic.

We’ve heard another Jersey guy, actor James Gandolfini of “The Sopranos,” make the exact same comments about his background and its impact on his career.

And need we state the obvious: Bruce Springsteen.

We’re cut from that same Jersey blue-collar cloth.

Sutter may not talk up Jersey, but it’s like being a lapsed Catholic. You may try to shake off the religion, but it sticks with you. So does Jersey. Sutter was down to earth and nice, not a Hollywood prima donna.

Right now we’re working on a story on a Bon Jovi documentary that will air on Showtime.

In that doc, Tico Torres articulates his thoughts about what it means to be from the Tri-State area when he talks about Bon Jovi.

“We’re going to fight to make it the best band, the best music and the best show possible,” he says. “That’s inherent in our upbringing. That’s a Jersey-New York signature. You’ll find it with anybody from that area.”