It's that time again. Time for an overload of burnt sienna epidermises, gaudy Ed Hardy gear and drunken moments of overexposure. "Jersey Shore" returns for its fifth season Thursday on MTV.
The eight roomies are back in their natural habitat, Seaside Heights, after an Italian getaway this past summer that saw them navigate the unknown in Florence. And Vinny Gaudagnino and Pauly Delvecchio, who spoke to ShowTracker about the upcoming season, insist there was no break in filming between the two seasons — OK, maybe an hour or two.
"It was non-stop," Delvecchio said. "I think we hit it harder than we ever have this season because we were so glad to be home."
But will viewers be too? Much has been made about whether the show has lost its sleazy charm after numerous installments. The recent Season 4 finale delivered 6.6 million viewers, down 13% from Season 3′s finale. And significantly lower than 8.8 million viewers who tuned in when the Italian season premiered. Was the Florence setting to blame?
"I think that we did fine," Guadagnino said. "Things always die down a bit. Even the Jersey seasons — it starts off really big and then the audience drops off a little bit. I don’t think Italy had anything to do with it. Maybe it was the same storylines, maybe things seemed a little redundant to people. It happens all the time. First it was the Ron and Sam stuff. Now we got Mike and Snooki drama. However, Jersey has its perks. It’s where we started. Italy was traditional and artsy. The background of Jersey lends itself to comedy. We have that to fall back on."
TV series have gone into overdrive with star cameos in recent years, particularly during ratings sweeps periods. Here are some of our favorite guest appearances of 2011:
Matt Dillon on "Modern Family": Bringing back classic TV actors to play parents on contemporary sitcoms has become something of an art, and "Modern Family" nailed it when the series cast former "Cheers" star Shelley Long as DeDe, Claire's and Mitchell's mom. Even better, DeDe arrived with Matt Dillon as Claire's creepy ex-boyfriend, whose visit caused havoc during little Lily's princess-themed birthday party. He's not exactly competition for Phil, though. “The truth is, I am rich," Dillon boasts. "But not with money. I’ve got my abs, I’ve got my hair, and I’ve got a super sweet job ridin’ that limo outside.”
Steve Buscemi on "Portlandia": The sketches on IFC's cult comedy may be built around the talent and charm of its two cult stars, musician Carrie Brownstein and "SNL" star Fred Armisen, but the series quickly proved that it can throw in a low-key guest star when it cast Kyle McLachlan (who did his time as a northwestern character in "Twin Peaks") in the role of the whimsical faux-mayor of Portland. Even funnier is the use of Steve Buscemi, dropping his "Boardwalk Empire" period garb to play a regular guy who foolishly attempts to use the bathroom in the local feminist bookstore, Women & Women First. Word is that Season 2 will feature even more cameos, from the likes of Eddie Vedder, Kristen Wiig, the Smiths' Johnny Marr and several "Battlestar Galactica" cast members.
Parker Posey on "Parks and Recreation": If you've ever wondered why Parker Posey doesn't have a quirky yet sweet NBC comedy of her own, the actress' hilariously snooty appearance as Amy Poehler's best-friend-turned-archnemesis Lindsay Carlisle Shay probably soothed the pain slightly.
Honorable mention: Posey gets extra points for her sharp turn on "The Good Wife" as Alan Cumming's ex, a presidential campaign worker who offers to do him a favor — in exchange for something she needs, of course.
Condoleeza Rice on "30 Rock": Jack Donaghy has had plenty of famous lady friends (played by Edie Falco, Isabella Rossellini, Salma Hayek, Julianne Moore), but the former secretary of state is the most unlikely. Rice was game to play silly, defending her love of "Mars Attacks!" and agreeing to help rescue Jack's wife from the clutches of Kim Jong Il.
Which brings us to honorable mention Margaret Cho, who impersonated that now-deceased North Korean dictator on that very same "30 Rock" episode.
Michael J. Fox on "Curb Your Enthusiasm": Larry David knows how to put a guest star to work. Past seasons have featured stars such as Ben Stiller and Jerry Seinfeld, and this season Ricky Gervais, Rosie O'Donnell, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and ballplayer Bill Buckner showed up to great effect. But Fox closed the season with a self-deprecating wink, leaving Larry convinced that the actor's shaky behavior isn't related to his Parkinson's disease — it's just rude.
Sarah Silverman on "Bored to Death": Silverman plays it straight as a rather unorthodox "friendship therapist" trying to help Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) and his mentor George (Ted Danson) mend their relationship. By massaging her feet.
Josh Holloway on "Community": No list of clever and wacky cameos would be complete without "Community," which brings referential comedy to a new level.This fall featured an amusing appearance by Luis Guzman as a graduate of the community college returned to make a promotional video for the school, but the Season 2 finale wins the prize by bringing in Josh Holloway — a.k.a. Sawyer, lost to us since "Lost" — who swaggers in like a gunslinger in a spaghetti western. Sure, the guns are loaded with paintballs, but still, he darkens Greendale's halls with hints of a giant conspiracy all around them. “Sweetie, this thing is so much bigger than you can imagine," he mutters, before dashing out to catch a Coldplay concert.
What great guest appearances did I miss? Let me know below in the comments.
Starz has given the green light to "Da Vinci's Demons," a new historical fantasy adventure series that the cable network will produce with BBC Worldwide Productions.
The drama will be written by David Goyer, co-writer of "Batman Begins," "The Dark Knight Returns" and the upcoming Superman reboot, "Man of Steel."
"Da Vinci's Demons," according to the network, follows the "untold" story of the world's greatest genius during his raucous youth in Renaissance Florence. The 25-year-old title character is an artist, inventor, swordsman, lover, dreamer and idealist who begins not only to see the future, but also to invent it.
The series, the first to be produced under the multi-year agreement reached last summer between Starz and BBC Worldwide Productions, is scheduled to debut in 2013.
Alec Baldwin, 53, might just be NBC’s hardest-working employee: He appears in his Emmy-winning role as the bombastic network executive Jack Donaghy on “30 Rock,” which returns with new episodes in January (and can be seen in syndication beginning Monday); he’s also gearing up for another stint as host on “Saturday Night Live” Sept. 24 for a record-setting 16th time.
Let’s talk about your latest achievement: holding the record for hosting ‘Saturday Night Live.” When you hosted in 1994, you said then you could do it with your eyes closed. Does that remain true today?
“SNL” and I are like a well-oiled machine. I find the one issue is to save your energy. It’s an intense week of prep. By Saturday night at 11:30 I just want to say, “Can I just lie down and you can start without me?” But they throw cold water on me and slap me across the face. They treat me like a … I don’t know what -- like a horse, like a carriage horse.
But, no, it’s always been varying degrees of a great experience. Always.
You recently said you gave up sugar. Where’s all that energy going to come from?
When you climb the Himalayas, you can’t pack your backpack full of Twinkies now, can you? This is my 16th climb on the comedy Kilimanjaro, and I will have no Twinkies in my backpack this time.
You’re practically a cast member now.
Well, I do feel very welcomed there. Lorne [Michaels] is a dear friend. I feel comfortable there. I can’t say that I’m never going to do it again -- I’m doing it now. And I have another year on the TV show …. Every time I do it, I say to myself, “Is this it?” I want to make sure, if this is my last one, that it’s going to be good.
It can’t be the last one! What if Steve [Martin] takes your title? (Martin has hosted "SNL" several times.)
Steve is what -- about 20 years older than I am, isn’t he? I’m 53, so Steve is almost 80. I have a few more years, if he does decide to catch up, to reclaim it. I think I have the edge in terms of the clock. I wasn’t going to bring that up, but it’s true.
And he doesn’t have an ice cream flavor to brag about. (Ben and Jerry’s recently launched Schweddy Balls, a flavor named after a Baldwin “SNL” skit.)
Tracy Morgan returned to Nashville and again apologized for his comments during a recent performance there in which he reportedly said that if he discovered his son were gay, he "would pull out a knife and stab" him.
Appearing at the Nashville convention with Herndon Graddick, senior director of programs for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and Kevin Rogers, an audience member at that June 3 performance who publicized Morgan's remarks, the costar of NBC's "30 Rock" was low-key and contrite.
"I apologize to Kevin and people who were at the show," Morgan said. "I want to apologize to my friends, and my family and fans and everyone in every community who were offended by this. ... I don't have a hateful bone in my body. I don't believe that anyone should be bullied or just made to feel bad about who they are. ... I really don't care who you love, same sex or not, as long as you have the ability to love."
Morgan added, "I pride myself on 18 years of stand-up, using it to heal people and not hurt them. I hurt people with this."
After speaking, the three left the stage without taking any questions from the audience.
The comedian's latest apology comes two days after he met with gay, lesbian and transgender homeless youths in New York and with Elke Kennedy, whose 20-year-old son, Sean, was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime. She then founded an anti-violence group called Sean's Last Wish.
Although several comedians in recent years, including Eddie Murphy, Eddie Griffin and Andrew "Dice" Clay have poked fun at gays and at times have made controversial comments, Graddick said Morgan's remarks definitely crossed a line.
"This went far beyond the bounds of humor by any reasonable standard," he said. "The notion of violence against children and that kind of language is unacceptable and inappropriate. The culture has changed, and while comedy often treads a line, that kind of language can't be tolerated."
Graddick said of Morgan: "He's really been stepping up to the plate. I believe he was trying to be funny, but that's not the kind of language that passes as acceptable."
Following Tracy Morgan’s apology early Friday regarding his homophic comments at a Nashville comedy gig, NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt and “30 Rock” creator/executive producer/star Tina Fey have issued their own statements on the matter.
Greenblatt, the first openly gay man to head a broadcast network, had this to say: “I speak for NBC and myself personally when I say we do not condone hate or violence of any kind, and I am pleased to see Tracy Morgan apologizing for recent homophobic remarks in his standup appearance. We will always recognize an artist’s freedom to express him or herself, but not when reckless things are said no matter what the context. Unfortunately, Tracy’s comments reflect negatively on both '30 Rock' and NBC — two very all-inclusive and diverse organizations — and we have made it clear to him that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Fey’s statement, which acknowledges the artistic rights of comedians, denounced Morgan’s comments — and she also managed to poke a little fun at Morgan:
“I'm glad to hear that Tracy apologized for his comments. Stand-up comics may have the right to 'work out' their material in its ugliest and rawest form in front of an audience, but the violent imagery of Tracy's rant was disturbing to me at a time when homophobic hate crimes continue to be a life-threatening issue for the GLBT community.
"It also doesn't line up with the Tracy Morgan I know, who is not a hateful man and is generally much too sleepy and self-centered to ever hurt another person.
"I hope for his sake that Tracy's apology will be accepted as sincere by his gay and lesbian co-workers at '30 Rock,' without whom Tracy would not have lines to say, clothes to wear, sets to stand on, scene partners to act with or a printed-out paycheck from accounting to put in his pocket.
"The other producers and I pride ourselves on '30 Rock' being a diverse, safe and fair workplace.”
Tracy Morgan apologized Friday after coming under fire for anti-gay remarks he made during a stand-up performance in Nashville last week.
“I want to apologize to my fans and the gay & lesbian community for my choice of words at my recent stand-up act in Nashville,” Morgan said in a statement. “I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others. While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context.”
Morgan’s remarks were slammed around the Web and by groups like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Human Rights Campaign. And it all stemmed from a Facebook post (“Why I No Longer ‘Like’ Tracy Morgan—A Must Read” [Warning: contains profanity]) written by an audience member, Kevin Rogers, who attended the June 3 Nashville show. In it, Rogers details Morgan’s anti-gay tirade which included the "Saturday Night Live" alum saying he’d “pull out a knife and stab” his son if he were gay and talked in a high-pitched voice.
It wasn’t long before the comments drew criticism.
GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said: “Tracy Morgan’s management needs to investigate these allegations and should they prove true, we call on him to remove these violently anti-gay remarks from his show and send a strong message that anti-gay violence is not something to joke about.”
This post has been corrected. Please see the note at the bottom for details.
Fox News found out the hard way that there's nothing like the real thing when it comes to Sarah Palin, especially when it comes to Palin impersonator Tina Fey.
A story on "America's News Headquarters" about Palin's current bus tour, in which she may be testing the waters for a 2012 presidential bid, was illustrated with a graphic of Fey portraying Palin, according to Mediaite.com. The snafu was particularly glaring since Palin works for Fox as a correspondent.
While viewers may have chuckled at the mistake, Fox News did not find the issue a laughing matter. The website reported that Fox News executive producer of weekend programming David Clark said the producer responsible for the mistake will be "disciplined," and an apology and explanation will be provided during the show next week.
[For the record, 3:52 p.m, June 6 A previous version of this post said an internal Fox News memo to the staff about the Palin error indicated that there would be "zero tolerance" for on-screen errors. That memo was actually issued two years ago and was unrelated to the Palin incident.]
"Up All Night" will kick off NBC's new Wednesday comedy block this fall.
The sitcom stars Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as a young couple whose busy lives are interrupted by the arrival of a baby. Maya Rudolph, a "Saturday Night Live" alumna, costars. The series is executive produced by "SNL's" Lorne Michaels, who's also behind "30 Rock."
Rather than concluding its fifth season with a cliffhanger, "30 Rock" took a trip down a freaky rabbit hole Thursday night, and I'm still too confused to say whether it was an enjoyable journey or not. To be fair, the show has been on a zany streak for a while now. The uneven 100th episode was unusually antic, even by "30 Rock" standards, and had a distinctly surreal quality to it. Last week's "Everything Sunny All the Time Always" was perhaps more successful but, if anything, even more fantastically bizarre. (Talking plastic bags, anyone?) So it was surprising to see "30 Rock" push further into the realm of the unreal this week.
But boy, did it ever.
First, there's Jenna, who's thrilled to discover that she's up for a job as the face of wool. (Did anyone else think this might have been a subtle jab at celebrity cotton endorser, Zooey Deschanel?) She meets with the Wool Council, whose members include the venerable Eugene Gremby (Victor Garber), a sheep, and a mascot named "Wooly" who looks like that thing behind the dumpster in "Mulholland Drive." Eugene wants to hire Jenna, but he's concerned that her colorful personal life might not jibe with wool's wholesome image.
At first, Jenna tries to play along, forcing Paul to dress in men's clothes for a dinner with Eugene and his wife, U. Jean. The facade nearly falls apart when Paul and Jenna's "sitter" -- a sinister-looking dwarf dressed as a court jester -- barges in during the meal, but Eugene is impressed with how Paul handles the interruption. "Very wool," he says. Ultimately, though, Jenna decides that she doesn't want to pretend to be someone that she's not. She and Paul show up at the wool commercial shoot in their favorite wool outfits: Paul in a blonde wig and a woolen dress suit, Jenna in a wool turtleneck and fake beard. "You want us to be normal? Well this is our normal," she proudly declares, planting a kiss on her boyfriend's glossy pink lips. Who needs Lady Gaga when you've got Jenna Maroney?
It may have been unintentional, but there was a kind of cross-dressing theme in this episode. With Avery still in Kim Jong-Il's custody, Jack is feeling lonely and develops a deluded attachment to Kenneth -- like a sailor, lost at sea, convinced that he's seeing mermaids. "You two have similar-shaped buttocks," he tells Kenneth. The look on Kenneth's face when he was forced to model Avery's earrings was priceless, but then things got creepy. Jack forces Kenneth to sleep over at his apartment, wearing Avery's pink kimono. It's all in good fun, and in its own perverse way, sort of sweet (Jack really, really misses Avery) but there are times when "30 Rock" functions as a textbook example of how not to behave in the workplace.
Community: In the opener of a two-part season finale, the students of Greendale celebrate the end of the school year with another paintball game. This time it's supposed to be a fun. “Lost's” Josh Holloway guest stars (8 p.m. NBC).
American Idol: Jennifer Lopez performs with Pitbull in a results episode that also features a performance by Lady Antebellum (8 p.m. Fox).
The Mentalist: When a prison guard is stabbed to death, Patrick (Simon Baker) suspects one of the victim's charges and Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) thinks his own father (William Forsythe) might know something about the case. Robin Tunney and Tim Kang also star in this new episode (10 p.m. CBS).
30 Rock: Now that “TGS” has wrapped for the summer, Liz (Tina Fey) is looking forward to relaxing in the Hamptons, but her low-stress getaway is interrupted when Tracy (Tracy Morgan) moves in next door in the season finale (10 p.m. NBC).
The strangeness of this week's "30 Rock" can pretty much be summed up by the following: The episode featured guest appearances by Margaret Cho, Condoleezza Rice and a talking plastic bag.
After last week's antic 100th episode, the show's writing staff was no doubt a little exhausted, and it showed. I actually mean that in a good way; this episode had an improvised, slap-happy quality, like something that was conjured up after a sleepless, highly caffeinated night of spitballing ideas. (I imagine lots crumpled-up pieces of paper were tossed into a wire wastebasket along the way.)
At first, I worried that the plot conceits were too ridiculous to carry an episode. Liz, adopting the same take-charge attitude to her domestic life that she wields at the office, spiffs up her apartment. But her plans are scuttled when a plastic bag, stuck in the branches of a tree outside her window, spoils her perfect view. Her repeated efforts to remove the plastic bag -- going to City Hall, training a squirrel to retrieve the bag -- are unsuccessful, pushing Liz over the edge.
It was a willfully goofy plotline, yet somehow -- probably because the writers really ran with the absurdity of it all -- the plastic-bag war worked. The whole thing played like a nightmarish version of that scene from "American Beauty." Instead of inspiring trite ruminations on the beauty of everyday things, the plastic bag outside her window drives Liz to paranoid hallucinations. All it takes is getting Tasered by a cop, but eventually, Liz triumphs over the plastic bag -- at least for a moment. In the episode's final moments, Liz bumps into a delivery man, sending dozens of his plastic bags once again into the tree outside her window. "Noooo! Mortality!" she screams in frustration. Personally, I happen to like when "30 Rock" takes a turn for the dark and off-puttingly weird, as it did in this episode.