Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why Justin Bieber getting roasted on Comedy Central is a smart career move

So, reportedly Bad Little Boy Justin Bieber will be the next celeb Comedy Central roasts.

Over the years, roasters have zinged everyone from Donald Trump to Flavor Flav. But The Biebs has to be one of the most inviting targets ever. Jeff Ross is salivating so much, there's probably a pool of drool in his front yard.

Where to start?

The Biebs' brushes with the law? Those ridiculous Calvin Klein ads? The hair? The tats? The music? The monkey he ditched in Germany?

Roasters may have too much material. Comedy Central should consider making a two-part special.

Give the Biebs credit, though. Apparently, he's been begging to be roasted for years and is more than game for being the butt of cruel jokes judging by the series of tweets he sent today.

The Biebs had done a lot of dumb things in his 20 years. So have a lot of other 20-year-olds. Thing is, The Biebs has had to grow up on a public stage, in front of millions of people. Not an easy thing to do.

Despite all the dumb stuff, getting roasted on Comedy Central could be one of the smartest things The Biebs has done.

Appearing as a good sport on national TV all the while get toasted and roasted can't hurt album sales, right?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Is 'Empire' a hit? Fox will say 'yes' as ratings climb in the second week

Looks like Fox has the makings of a hit in Empire, its blinged-out, hip-hop soap.

Generally, ratings often decline in the show's second week. But they actually went up for Empire, with the show averaging 10.3 million viewers in the 18-49 demo Madison Avenue so desperately craves, up 5 percent from the previous week.

While I'm enjoying the show so far, some of the performances -- especially Taraji P. Henson as turned up Cookie -- are a little over-the-top and need to go down a notch. The writing could also be a bit stronger.

For instance, it doesn't make sense that after spending 17 years in the joint, Cookie would expect her sons to immediately embrace her coming home. She should've expected the cold shoulder.

And having Lucious (Terrence Howard), the dying rap mogul, solving his little extortion problem from his boy, Bunkie -- and Cookie's cousin -- by putting a bullet in Bunkie's head just didn't ring true. If they were so tight, why did Lucious resort to murdering his friend so quickly?

Oh, I know....makes for better drama than Lucious actually, you know, sitting down and ironing out his differences with his homie.

Who wants to see that?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why Ann Curry will probably shine in her new role away from NBC News

Former 'Today' co-anchor Ann Curry tearing up while announcing her departure from the show.

Maybe it's just me, but when you're paying someone $12 million a year, you expect them to, well, work.

That's a hefty sum to shell out for someone to simply sit on the bench, which is what former Today co-anchor Ann Curry has been mostly doing since her messy divorce from the show in 2012.

Sure, Curry did the occasional interview or made appearances on Meet The Press and Nightly News, but, for the most part, she was persona non grata at 30 Rock.

Clearly, the suits at NBC got tired of cutting such a big check for someone the network had very little use for anymore.

On Tuesday Curry announced she was ending her long-term relationship with NBC News to develop a new media start-up that will be partially funded by, of all companies, NBCUniversal.

That's a good move for Curry and more up her journalistic alley. The start-up will give her a chance to produce documentaries and cover stories that interest her most. Curry was never really a good fit for the happy talk, morning TV world. It's all about chemistry and Curry had very little of it with her co-anchor -- and possible backstabber -- Matt Lauer. It was often difficult watching all the forced and phony smiles. At times, Lauer looked as if he would've preferred sitting next to a tarantula.

I was never a big fan of Curry's mostly because she talked too much and never had an off switch. Good journalists know how to listen. There must've been a clause in Curry's contract that stipulated she would get paid by the word. Why else would she consistently interrupt guests with her incessant yapping?

I didn't even like the way Curry talked, all deep and whispery like she just got the scoop of the century when she was only interviewing a so-called expert about online dating.

But, I gained a new found respect for Curry for the way she handled her ugly ouster, all dignity and class. She even cried on live TV while announcing her departure and rightfully pulled away as Lauer tried to hug her.

Sometimes bad things happen for good reasons. Curry will probably shine in her new role. She doesn't have to play nice on air with people she clearly doesn't like. And, if she finds herself talking too much during her interviews, at least she, or one of her producers, can trim the segment in the editing room, something she could never do on live TV.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mary Murphy hoofing her way off 'So You Think You Can Dance'

So You Think You Can  Dance judge Mary Murphy is leaving the show, according to ew.com.

No reason was given for Murphy's departure. The show begins its 12th season this summer. Perhaps 12 years of doing the same thing had something to do with Murphy calling it quits.

At least with Murphy gone, viewers won't need earplugs anymore since no one else will ever scream "Hot Tamale Train!" quite like she does.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Will Lifetime's Whitney Houston film live up to the legend?

Music icon Whitney Houston (left); Yaya DaCosta and Arlen Escarpeta who play Houston and hubby Bobby Brown in the Lifetime movie, Whitney
So, Lifetime is about to give another superstar R&B artist who died way too young the royal biopic treatment.

But Whitney, the long-awaited film about Whitney Houston and her tumultuous relationship with hubby Bobby Brown, can't be as bad as Lifetime's hot mess film about Aaliyah's life and tragic death, can it?

Well, I haven't seen Whitney yet, so I can't say. But, my initial impressions aren't good.

For starters, Yaya DaCosta, the actress playing Houston, looks very little like the music icon in the clips I've seen. That may not matter, though, if DaCosta is able to convey Houston's essence. After all, Denzel Washington didn't look anything like Malcolm X in Spike Lee's mesmerizing 1992 film, but Washington still made you believe he was the outspoken black activist.

But DaCosta has a tall order to fill Houston's pumps.

Another thing: The producers were unable to use Houston's vocals, so all of her songs in the film will be sung by Grammy nominated singer Deborah Cox. While Cox is talented, she's no Whitney Houston. But who is?

The film, which premieres Jan. 17, marks the directorial debut of Angela Bassett, who co-starred with Houston in the film Waiting To Exhale and who knew Houston fairly well.

While speaking to a group of TV critics on Tuesday during the winter session of the Television Critics Association press tour, Bassett stressed the film is about Houston's combustible relationship with Brown and is more of a loving tribute to her.

Bassett basically hinted the film will sidestep the more sordid aspects of their relationship, which I took to mean that it will essentially whitewash many of those parts of Houston's life.

"Do we really need to see that?" Bassett was quoted in the Los Angeles Times.

If you're going to make a true and honest biopic on Houston's life, the answer is, yes.

Here is the official Whitney trailer if you haven't seen it already.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Stuart Scott: The ESPN anchor who always did it his way

If Stuart Scott, the trailblazing ESPN anchor who died this morning after a seven year battle with cancer, had a theme song for his life, it would've been Frank Sinatra's My Way.

That's because Scott, gone way too soon at age 49, always lived life on his terms in front of the camera. He wasn't a stiff corporate suit on air, like many black TV anchors believed they needed to be to succeed.

Scott, always comfortable in his own skin, brought a decidedly edgy and funky hip-hop flavor to ESPN when he joined the network in 1993. He talked like the guys did in the barbershop, in the bars, in their homes while watching a game. Scott routinely spouted memorable catch phrases ("Boo-Yah!" "cool as the other side of the pillow" "holla at a playa when you see him on the street") like they were sports scores and he was a platinum-selling rap star.

The brash style made Scott a must-see (not with everyone, however) and gave him instant street cred in the industry and in locker rooms. On NFL Countdown this morning, Cris Carter said while he was playing, he always gave Scott more information than he did to other reporters because Scott was one of his favorites. That's called respect. Scott never felt the need to speak the perfect King's English, although he could. That wasn't him. There were too many bland TV sports anchors doing that already.

Clearly, Scott wanted to carve his own, distinctive niche so his voice wouldn't be lost in the 5,000 TV channel universe. He succeeded. You could make a strong case that after Chris Berman, Scott was the second face of ESPN.

Like Sinatra so eloquently sang many years ago on his signature song, "For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows I took the blows and did it my way"

That was, and always will be, Stuart Scott.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Why I can't wait to watch 'Empire,' Fox's trippy new drama

Terence Howard plays a dying music mogul on Fox's new drama, 'Empire'
Empire, Fox's new hip-hop drama about a dying music mogul who must decide which of his three sons will inherit his business once he's gone, is notable for several reasons.

For starters, the series, which premiers Wednesday at 9 p.m., reunites Oscar nominees Terrence Howard, who plays Lucious Lyon, the dying mogul and Taraji P, Henson as his ex-wife/ex-con, Cookie, a woman all turned up and who desperately wants what she believes is hers -- that profitable empire. Howard and Henson, of course, starred together in the film, Hustle & Flow.

Secondly, the show's co-creators have impressive Hollywood cred -- Lee Daniels was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for The Butler while Danny Strong won an Emmy for writing Game Change, the HBO film about the historic 2008 presidential election.

Empire also boasts all that hip-hop music, if you're into that sort of thing, with Timbaland overseeing the beats.

But, what stands out is this: Lucious's son, Jamal (Jussie Smollett), is gay. Sure, there are plenty of gay characters on television today. Hell, Shonda Rhimes wouldn't be in business with them. There's even a whole cable channel -- Logo TV -- aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender viewers. Point is, it's no longer earth-shattering -- and it shouldn't be -- like it was in 1997 when Ellen DeGeneres' character announced in an airport that she was a lesbian.

Network TV writers, however, haven't created many black male characters who happen to be gay.

The two most memorable: Omar Little, the shotgun-toting gangster on The Wire who was often seen in bed with his pretty boy lovers, and Lafayette, the short-order cook on True Blood. Both were fleshed-out, three dimensional characters who weren't simply there to serve the white characters on those shows.

And it's no accident that both shows aired on HBO, a premium cable channel known for taking risks because, well, it's not beholden to advertisers and doesn't have to reach a broad audience like broadcast networks.

Andre Braugher now plays one of the most prominent black male gay characters on the Fox sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But that's played for laughs.

Making Lucious' son gay is a delicious twist on Empire because most black men in the ultra-macho -- and homophobic -- hip-hop world would rather be diagnosed with Ebola than to be known as someone who sleeps with other men.

How much the writers delve into this aspect of Jamal's life remains to be seen.

But, let's hope Empire doesn't punk out and has the nerve to realistically explore a sensitive topic that is still viewed as taboo in many parts of the hip-hop community.