Archive for December, 2012

Best 2012 recap you’ll ever read: MY year in TV

December 24, 2012

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Dec. 24, 2012 — Let other critics waste their time on year-end lists of the Top 10 this and the Top 10 that.

My long experience in this business tells me readers aren’t interested in any of that.  What they really want to know is: How was my year in TV?

My year amounted to just shy of 600 stories.

Dennis Farina and Dustin Hoffman in HBO's "Luck" (Photo: HBO)

Dennis Farina and Dustin Hoffman in HBO’s “Luck” (Photo: HBO)

My favorite: The story of the HBO horse-racing drama “Luck,” and how it was cancelled due to the deaths of three horses.  I’ve been covering the TV business as a journalist for the better part of 29 years, and this one was a first — a TV show ceasing production due to animals being injured so grievously that they had to be put down.  It was a shame — for the horses, certainly, and also for anyone who, like me, happened to like the show.  Alas.

Odd as that story was, another one was even odder, and also sad: The attempted suicide of character actor Daniel Von Bargen, who’s been in a lot of movies and TV shows but was best known for playing George Costanza’s boss, Mr. Kruger, in the final season of “Seinfeld.”  There have been no updates on his health since the incident last February, and I hope he’s doing better.

The TV phenomenon of the year was Honey Boo Boo.

Warwick Davis in "Life's Too Short" (Photo: HBO)

Warwick Davis in “Life’s Too Short” (Photo: HBO)

My favorite scripted show of the year was “Life’s Too Short,” the reality-style comedy series about a dwarf.  Produced for HBO by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, this show had dwarf actor Warwick Davis suffering humiliation and embarrassment everywhere he went.  It was just savage.

The year’s most memorable TV event was Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk over Niagara Falls on a Friday night last June.  ABC aired it and everybody watched.

My favorite non-scripted show (though it may have been scripted just a little bit) was “American Colony: Meet the Hutterites,” seen last summer on National Geographic Channel.  Though the Hutterites are not Amish, they were part of the whole “Amish” trend this year in “reality” TV shows.  “Meet the Hutterites” was by far the best of them, though, and I won’t soon forget plucky Claudia, her brother Quentin, their mother Bertha and all the rest of them.

I watched a lot of late-night TV this year, recapped “Saturday Night Live” after practically every show and endured, along with everyone else, the presidential campaign.  The nightly dissection of the battle on the news channels every night was a tough slog.  By contrast, the four debates this past fall — three presidential and one vice presidential — were among the year’s TV highlights.

I also watched too many violent TV shows — “Boardwalk Empire,” “Sons of Anarchy,” Dexter” and heaven knows what else.  It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?  The real world is violent enough.

I would like to thank the following personalities for illuminating interviews: Ray Romano, Chuck Lorre, Jonathan and Drew Scott (the HGTV twins), Mark Feuerstein, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Danny McBride, and Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” (great guy).  I loved encountering about two-thirds of the “Celebrity Apprentice” participants last winter at 30 Rock.  Shout-outs to Lisa Lampanelli, Dee Snider, Clay Aiken, Paul Teutel Sr. and Victoria Gotti for a great afternoon.

I met Aaron Sorkin for the first time this year too, and he was a great interview.  I also came face-to-face with Wilson Phillips and all three of them were a pleasure to talk to, though their reality series on TV Guide Channel was short-lived.

You get the opportunity to meet a great many interesting people in this business — and two of the most interesting personalities I ever encountered were among the TV personalities who died this year.  I loved meeting Sherman Hemsley back in ’96, and years before that, Dick Clark, who posed for a picture with me back in ’83 when I was very young and very green, and he treated me like I was the most important person in the world.  This was a guy who knew how to be a celebrity.

"The TV Guys," WOR, New York, summer 2002. Bert's the one seated and holding a pair of headphones up to his ear (Photo: personal collection)

“The TV Guys,” WOR, New York, summer 2002. Bert’s the one holding a pair of headphones up to his ear (Photo: personal collection)

We lost Bert Gould this year, my co-host on the radio show we threw together in the summer of 2002 on WOR in New York.

For 13 glorious weeks, we were “The TV Guys,” two self-styled experts on the TV business who talked about television, interviewed a couple of celebrities (Larry David and Michael Chiklis, most notably) and took viewer phone calls.

Short-lived as the show was, it was a highlight of my professional life and in no small way I have Bert to thank for it.

Without his brashness and enthusiasm, this idea for a radio show about television — an idea he concocted while we were talking randomly about TV on a bus to midtown one weekday morning — would have gone nowhere.  As it was, it went somewhere, if only for a short time.  Thanks, Bert.

As 2012 comes to a close, I ask myself the same question I ask every year at this time: A year from now, will I be doing this again?  Really?  Surely, there is something more to life than television …

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

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Close to the end: Larry Hagman’s last hurrah

December 18, 2012
Larry Hagman in one of his final episodes of “Dallas,” just a few weeks before his death. (Photo: TNT)

Larry Hagman in one of his final episodes of “Dallas,” just a few weeks before his death. (Photo: TNT)

WHAT YOU’LL SEE IF YOU WATCH ‘DALLAS’ JAN. 28

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Dec. 12, 2012 — Larry Hagman must have had strength and courage to spare because, except for looking a little thin, you would not otherwise think he was close to death when you watch the upcoming first episodes of his final season on “Dallas.”

Sure, he looks elderly (he was 81) in the two episodes TNT sent out for preview.  But, we know now, he was also terminally ill, and would die of cancer just five weeks after shooting the second of those two episodes.  He died in Dallas on Nov. 23, midway into the shooting of the sixth episode of the upcoming second season.

The season starts on Monday, Jan. 28, with two back-to-back episodes starting at 9 p.m. eastern.  In the episodes, Hagman — as J.R. Ewing — has considerably more to do in the second one than the first.

To be precise, I tallied just two scenes with J.R. (plus one quick glimpse) in the first episode, titled “Battle Lines.”  But he figured in seven scenes in Episode 2, titled “Venomous Creatures.”  Filming on the second episode wrapped on Oct. 15, five weeks before his death.  In those five weeks, he participated in the filming of three additional episodes and at least part of a fourth.  (His final shooting date, before his illness prevented him from continuing, has not been disclosed.)

In both of the episodes I watched the other day, J.R. is positioned as a kind of  mentor for the just-as-devious John Ross — his son played by Josh Henderson.  In Episode One, J.R. turns up to deliver a couple of pointed, but throwaway lines — one about snakes, and the other an off-color comment about how much fun it used to be to chase pretty secretaries around the office.

In Episode Two, the “Dallas” writers not only gave him more to do, but more to say, including lines that are so colorful they border on ludicrous (or march resolutely across that border).  “Love, hate, jealousy — mix ’em up [and] they make a mean martini!” he hisses, in one of his conversations with John Ross, as the two plot an underhanded takeover of the Ewing family business.  “And when we take over Ewing Energies, you’ll slake your thirst – with a twist!” J.R. adds, for good measure.

In another conversation with John Ross, J.R. notes his son’s anger with a former love, Elena (Jordana Brewster), who’s now married to John Ross’ cousin and rival, Chris Ewing (Jesse Metcalfe).   “She really did a number on you, didn’t she?” J.R. says to John Ross.  “Carved your heart out with a spoon, then licked it clean!” J.R. added (though his point was already made).

In retrospect, though, the lines were probably fun for Hagman to recite.  And if he was feeling any physical pain, or if he knew he would soon die and these scenes would be among his last, there’s no evidence of that in his performance.

He filmed these scenes (and the ones to come) so close to his death that you might say Larry Hagman died doing what he loved best — playing J.R. Ewing literally to the very end.

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com

First photos: Larry Hagman’s last days on ‘Dallas’

December 12, 2012
Here's Larry Hagman, as he looked in early October during the filming of Episode Two of the upcoming season of "Dallas." (Photo: TNT)

Here’s Larry Hagman, as he looked in early October during the filming of Episode Two of the upcoming season of “Dallas.” (Photo: TNT)

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, Dec. 12, 2012 — TNT has released the first photos of Larry Hagman from the new, upcoming season of “Dallas.”

The photos were taken just weeks before his death, during the filming of the second episode of the new season.  Titled “Venomous Creatures,” the filming of the episode took place from Oct. 4 through Oct. 15.

Hagman lived long enough to film scenes in the first six episodes of the upcoming “Dallas” season, sources confirmed.  But the beloved TV icon seems to have passed away while filming was still underway on Episode Six.  The shooting schedule for that episode was Nov. 15 to Nov. 28.  Sadly, Hagman died Nov. 23 in Dallas, succumbing to cancer at age 81.  TNT reps have not revealed the exact date of the last day Hagman worked on “Dallas.”

Larry Hagman and Jesse Metcalfe on the set of "Dallas" earlier this fall (Photo: TNT)

Larry Hagman and Josh Henderson on the set of “Dallas” earlier this fall (Photo: TNT)

The new season of “Dallas” is scheduled to start Monday, Jan. 28, with two back-to-back episodes on TNT (starting at 9 p.m. eastern).  The “Venomous Creatures” episode is the second of the two that will air that evening.  The show is expected to deal with the death of J.R. Ewing later in the season.

Contact Adam Buckman: adambuckman14@gmail.com


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