Category: Web videos

'Mad Men:' New trailer asks if fans missed Don Draper [Video]

For use on external sites w/exclusive video premieres.

The upcoming return of "Mad Men" has fans licking their lips for all things Don Draper. Among the many plot turns to look forward to when the show restarts with a two-hour premiere on March 25?  Draper's marriage proposal to Megan, and the small matter of Joan's baby (and Greg's inevitable disillusionment when he realizes it's not his).

But promoting a show that's been gone for more than 17 months isn't easy. AMC has taken several tacks to tease the upcoming fifth season, the most playful of which has been to, well, acknowledge that the series has been gone a while.

In the exclusive new digital trailer (you can see it above; check back at Show Tracker later today and Wednesday for first looks at other spots), the network set footage from past episodes of the series against Wanda Jackson's 1957 hit "Did You Miss Me?" (Lyrics: "Did you miss me while I was gone/Did you want to kiss me when you were alone?")

In the spot, you can see shots of the show's iconic characters smiling, scheming and, of course, smoking (not to mention engaging in various forms of steamy behavior). The trailer will go out later this week on a number of digital platforms.

Network executives said that rather than pretend everything is picking up where it left off, they decided to nod to the long lag -- and do a double-entendre that could also apply to several character dynamics within the series.

"We wanted to acknowledge that the show's been away a while," Linda Schupack, senior vice president of marketing for AMC, told Show Tracker. "The song works on multiple levels."

Of course, fans might expect some Sterling Cooper-level talent in the "Mad Men" spots -- it's a show whose characters spend their days dreaming up clever advertising campaigns.

For fans scrutinizing the teaser for clues about the new season, there's no new footage from the show -- as a rule, the Matthew Weiner-created series doesn't offer that in its teasers that run before the season starts. But AMC hopes the new montage will allow fans to fill in the blanks themselves.

"The campaign is very simple. But the appeal of 'Mad Men' is that it's powerful enough that people can bring their own thoughts ... to the canvas," Schupack said.


Jon Hamm recounts the dangers of the "Mad Men" set

"Mad Men" gets well-timed PR leak from Christina Hendricks photos

AMC confirms return dates for "Mad Men," "The Killing," "The Walking Dead"

-- Steven Zeitchik

Illeana Douglas puts herself together in 'Easy to Assemble'

This post has been corrected, as detailed below.

In 2008, the actress Illeana Douglas, known for her roles in Allison Anders' “Grace of My Heart,” Gus Van Sant's “To Die For” and Martin Scorsese's “Cape Fear,” among many other parts, created a Web series for IKEA, the Swedish furniture maker and lifestyle retailer. In “Easy to Assemble,” she plays herself as an actor-in-recovery-from-acting who goes to work at IKEA. The title, of course, has meanings beyond that of putting together a bookcase: It’s also about the process of putting oneself together (there is perhaps some irony in the “easy”) and, in a meta way, the process of making the series itself. I should say that it's a comedy.

“It has this sort of vaudeville sense of 'grab some actors, grab some directors, put 'em all together and they're easy to assemble,'“ Douglas told me not long before the series' third season began in October. (When lined up, its 17 constituent webisodes will form a 90-minute movie.) We were having coffee in the cafeteria of the Burbank IKEA, where the first two seasons were filmed, largely during store hours, while customers milled in the background.

“It was just at the point that the stock market collapsed,” Douglas remembered, “and people were in a little bit of free fall in terms of independent films -- I had three movies that just vaporized -- and so I thought, well, we'll do this thing; it'll be fun. I had no idea that it would grab hold of me and become so much fun that I would want to to do it exclusively."

The current season, which is titled “Finding North,” is set in Sweden (doubled by Big Bear Lake, Calif.), where Illeana has gone to accept an award as “Co-Worker of the Year.” That is also the title of the series’ second season, which pitted her against fellow employee and manipulative frenemy Justine Bateman (a brilliant Justine Bateman). (Those seasons are linked by the three-episode “Flying Solo,” which takes place on the flight to Stockholm.) You need to see the second season to understand the third, but the entire run of the show is ever-present on the Web, most comprehensively on, an executive producer of “Flying Solo,” and a dedicated YouTube channel.

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'French in Action': Now on an Internet near you

"French in Action," a 1987 public-television, total-immersion language course in the form of an annotated romance -- there are fellow fans, I know, already shaking in excitement from these few words -- is now available online in its 52-episode entirety, for free. (You can also buy it on DVD, if you are rich, and it is bootlegged higgledy-piggledy on YouTube.) Produced by Annenberg/CPB (whose Annenberg Learner site hosts the series) along with Boston's WGBH and Yale and Wellesley universities, it is a pedagogical romcom whose secret weapon is a cast so incredibly good-looking that you really, really want to be able to talk to them. It is learning by desire.

I watched much of "French in Action" around the time it first appeared and I was still dizzily under the spell of my first trip to Paris -- a spell I am still under, frankly -- and interested in learning the language, if only to read "Tintin" in the original. I wrote briefly about the series in 2008, when I discovered it rerunning at 4 a.m. on the LAUSD-connected PBS station KLCS. (I've kept several episodes on my DVR since, in case of emergency.) Even without understanding much French, it's entertaining as a kind of audio-visual collage and an evocation of a time and place.

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Q&A: Felicia Day, from 'The Guild' to 'Dragon Age'


This week in Felicia Day news: Tuesday saw the premiere of "Dragon Age: Redemption," a Web series the actress-writer created as an extension of the video game Dragon Age II, and Wednesday that of the downloadable Dragon Age II adventure Mark of the Assassin; both feature Day in the role of Tallis, an elf with killer skills -- a skilled killer elf. On Thursday, the fifth-season finale of Day's "The Guild," the online comedy about online gaming that made her name, goes wide on the Web. (It has been an ambitious year for the series, with myriad celebrity cameos, a fully staged fan convention and a flying "dirigible boatmobile.") I spoke to Day, who is also known for her work on "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," Joss Whedon's Web musical "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" and the Syfy TV series "Eureka," for a Times profile last month. Here is a Q&A cut of some of the rest of our conversation.

We began by talking about women and the Web.

Felicia Day: There was a really good blog the other day about the huge decrease in the number of women on staff and women show runners in TV. When I go to a Web video meeting and look around, at least half the show runners are women. And a lot are actors-cum-writers, who are frustrated with the situation of being a woman actor in Hollywood and have decided to create their own show. There's definitely a higher proportion of women in Web series because, I guess the money's not there. [Laughs.] I think it's an outlet for people looking to create without waiting for someone to give them a permission slip.

You first wrote "The Guild" as a TV pilot.

FD: I did. I showed it around and got some compliments on my dialogue and my characters. People said, "You should write a spec script for whatever sitcom -- you could get on staff." I know a lot of writers and I knew that being a staff writer wasn't really what I wanted to do. But [future "Guild" co-producer] Kim Evey, who was actually my first writing teacher -- my only writing teacher, I did a sketch-writing class with her -- had done a lot of Web video. She had a show called "Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show" that took off a little bit that she sold to Sony for distribution. And after she read "The Guild," she said, "We should make this for the Web, because that's where the people who you're talking to are, not TV."

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'True Blood' recap: Out of the darkness and into the light

'True Blood's' Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). Credit: Art Streiber / HBO

What a way to end an episode -- vampire Jessica opening the front doors of Bill's mansion, allowing the blinding bright light of the mid-day sun to come streaming in over the threshold, just seconds before the screen goes black. Sunday's "True Blood" installment, "Cold Grey Light of Dawn," was undeniably one of the best of the season so far, with Jessica's life (or is that undeath?) hanging in the balance as Jason raced to save her from the spell cast by the returned necromancer Antonia and her coven, which includes a heartbroken and mighty angry Tara.

The spell, the same one Antonia successfully invoked centuries earlier, is, of course, designed to draw all vampires in the immediate area out into the open to meet the true death. Bill -- having learned from his now-deceased sheriff (and Antonia's rapist turned supplicant) that the witch had returned by taking possession of Marnie's body -- predicted that she would attempt to cast the spell and instructed his subjects to either leave the state or to voluntarily bind themselves in silver before going to ground for the night.

Jessica, though, who was chained beside the king in one of his underground cells, broke out of her bonds and struggled to meet the call of the curse, ignoring Bill's pleas to her to free him so he could join her. Let's hope that gunshot we heard offscreen wasn't the sound of one of the guards stopping Jason from coming to her rescue...

Although Antonia's point that "Vampires are not immortal, they are only harder to kill" is absolutely true, Bill's plan worked to protect most of the vamps we know and love. Pam spent the evening first terrorizing Tara and her girlfriend -- stopping only when she realized she was being filmed by a crowd of onlookers -- then undergoing some sort of supernatural chemical peel after one of the gapers hilariously wondered if she might be a zombie.

Eric, on the other hand, spent the episode with Sookie. First out in the woods where they're spotted by newly initiated werewolf pack members Alcide and Debbie, then on Sookie's living room floor and in her bed. The happy couple did find time for some conversation, too, perhaps the most poignant moment coming when Eric asks Sookie if she wants him to regain his memory. Would she/will she still feel the same way about him? She struggles for an answer.

(Not that anyone's asking, but I, like Pam, am really starting to miss classic, cocky, chaining-people-up-in-the-basement-of-Fangtasia Eric. This new version is a little too sweet. Anyone else with me?)

This being "True Blood," there was plenty of emotional turmoil to go around. Debbie's having a difficult time containing her jealous feelings toward Sookie, who occupies a whole lot of space in Alcide's thoughts, and Jason's having just as much trouble fighting the feelings he's having for his best friend's girl. Andy Bellefleur's awkward, truncated date with Holly signals that that pairing might be over before it had even begun, which could be for the best -- her position in Antonia's powerful circle might not leave her a lot of time for romance.

Lafayette and Jesus are living with the knowledge that Lafayette is a medium (back home at Merlotte's he's already seeing dead people as he spots the woman who's been visiting Arlene's baby, confirming that she's a spectral presence of some sort). And Sam and Luna attempt to pick up the pieces of their budding romance after they realize that it wasn't actually Sam but Tommy whom she slept with last week.

Rightfully irate, Sam nearly strangles his no-account brother and throws him out of his life for good. Somehow, I have the feeling he's not going to go quite so easily or quietly.


Last week on 'True Blood'...

The Cheat Sheet: Who's who in 'True Blood' Season 4

TCA 2011: 'True Blood' creator Alan Ball to return for fifth season

-- Gina McIntyre

Photo: Deborah Ann Woll plays Jessica in "True Blood." Credit: Art Streiber / HBO

Jerry Lewis on the MDA telethon: Five memorable moments [Video]

Jerry Lewis MDA telethon

Jerry Lewis may have a big, new documentary coming to Encore this October, but you won't see him hosting the annual Labor Day telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Assn. Even though this year's telethon was reportedly going to be the last for the 85-year-old comedian, the MDA released a statement Thursday confirming that Lewis was off the telethon and out of the organization effective immediately.

Lewis has been hosting telethons for the MDA since 1952, but the national Labor Day telethon we're all familiar with began in 1966. Now that era is over. There will be new hosts for the telethon and money will still be raised, but we won't have Jerry Lewis to kick around anymore.

Photos: Jerry Lewis

Here, then, is a look back at five of the most memorable moments from the telethon's first 4 1/2 decades -- a time that future generations will come to know as the "Jerry Years."

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Mocking the news: 10 classic Funny or Die videos

Fod It’s all about speed at Funny Or Die. The comedy website-turned-digital-entertainment-studio churns out 40-45 original video shorts a month, all on a compressed timeline by Hollywood standards.     Concepts are nailed on the fly and Web videos are set up via quick phone calls to A-list friends, often bypassing agents and managers entirely.

At the height of the Charlie Sheen media frenzy, they pitched him a cooking video. Three days later they shot it, edited it that night, and it was live on the site the next day.

Will Ferrell, who founded the site along with Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, calls it “guerrilla-style” production. He says the site’s making an effort to be extra-timely when it comes to current events, creating more sketches in sync with the news cycle.  Like a pig in a Donald Trump wig.  Or a Will and Kate reality show spoof.

Unlike “Saturday Night Live,” which is tied to a weekly production schedule, Funny Or Die can respond to current events practically while they’re still happening. “It moves so quickly and that’s kind of the beauty of it,” Ferrell says.

Read the L.A. Times Sunday Calendar feature on Funny Or Die.

Meanwhile, here are 10 classic news-based (give or take) Funny Or Die videos, after the jump. (Warning: many of the videos include profanity.)

--Deborah Vankin

Photo: Producer Mike Farah (standing) with editor/director Bradly Shulz (sitting) in the Funny or Die offices. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times.

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