Posts Tagged ‘John Landgraf’

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.

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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.

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 NewJerseyNewsroom.com, 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.