Born 92 years ago today: the beautiful Audra Lindley. Decades before she rocked a red wig and a muu-muu as Three's Company's sex-starved landlady Helen Roper, she turned heads as a stand-in and a stuntwoman. And as an actress, this marvelous woman was a chameleon. Her body of work on stage, film and TV is as stunning as she was laugh-out-loud funny as Mrs. Roper. I'll never forget the time I got to spend with her--especially the screening we attended of Dangerous Minds (eat your heart out, Norman Fell)--and how deeply sad I was to hear we'd lost her. She was the bomb.
Snooki and The Situation: I'd tell them to "Sit on it!" but they probably already have.
Guest Shot blog by James DuBuc
I want to meet the individual who created the modern-day boob-tube genre we call "reality television." I would love to sit with this person and hear the tale of how he or she came up with the idea of a show with no script, no paid actors, just cameras and regular folk like me. I want to know how they got past the whole “tell a tale, teach a lesson, solve a problem and leave the audience with something to think about” thing that comes to mind whenever I think of television when I was growing up. Yes, I want to meet this person … and punch them right in the mouth.
Aren’t these newer, slice-of-life "reality" shows such as Jersey Shore and Real Housewives of (Insert Metropolitan Area Here) supposed to have a point? We’re supposed to be cheering for someone, right? Isn’t there some sort of “voting” that’s supposed to take place? I could tolerate these shows if they had some sort of “thing” that I wish I could win.
At least the "classic" reality shows (I can't believe I just used that phrase) were--and in same cases still are--somewhat entertaining. I wouldn’t want to work for Donald Trump, but I’d be willing to go on The Apprentice just so he could fire me and I could whip it out and pee on his desk before walking out the door. Of course, this season he's pitting down-on-their-luck, once-employed entrepreneurs against each other, so in essence Trump is already raining on his own "ha-ha-you're-fired" parade.
I could see myself signing up for Survivor, except it reminds me of going camping with a bunch of really creepy people who probably badmouth me behind my back. I'm okay with the “strength” challenges or the “swimming” challenges, but I always flip the channel when it came to the “food” challenges. That was usually when the one person out of the group, the good looking attractive buff & built guy with the nice smile, would be chowing down on something like sautéed beetle rectum … ugh. Now THERE’S a mouth I want to kiss! Tic Tac, anyone? I'd rather go see what ole’ Fonzie’s up to, even on murky Happy Days YouTube clips. He’s also cute, and probably not munching on beetle butt.
But back to my point: What’s the goal of the new crop of reality shows? What gives? It seems like we’re just watching a bunch of really crappy home movies. But instead of it being some cute little kids playing in the park or celebrating a birthday, we’re watching “Snooki” and “The Situation” in a foul-mouthed drunken stupor in the hot tub. I don’t think “cute.” I think “douche,” as in she probably needs one, and he just IS one. These aren’t people I’d hang with, so why would I want to watch them on TV?
These new reality shows can’t be good for our kids. Think about it. You have an impressionable fourteen year old daughter. You want her to grow up to be a mature, responsible young woman, right? You want her to be polite, respectable and have manners so that eventually she’ll meet her Prince Charming and get married, right?
Now let’s say you have a choice of evening entertainment for your little Princess to watch. Channel one is an old episode of Designing Women. Channel two is The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Now let me remind you that your daughter will be watching women who will set the tone for how she interacts with others and is therefore an expression of you as a parent. Make your choice now … I’ll wait. (Insert Jeopardy! theme music.) I can’t tell you WHICH show to choose, but in a few years everyone you know will describe your daughter as either “Classy” with a capital “C” or as a sniveling little “Runt” … with a capital “C”.
I say we put it to the test. I have a concept for a show that would not only be entertaining but educational as well. It might take some schmoozing with TV execs, since it’s a long-term show, but I think the ratings will be through the roof. Think of it as The Truman Show only with identical twins, each being raised in a carefully planned and scripted life. So let’s say we have little Johnny and little Jack. We’d snatch them from their mother’s arms immediately after being born (oh, the drama!) and separate them into two new families. Johnny lives with “Family A” and his life is molded around old family television shows. Jack, on the other hand, lives with “Family B” and his life is shaped by reality shows.
Johnny’s early years are pleasant enough. Picture him growing up in a household that is a healthy mixture of Happy Days, Eight is Enough, The Brady Bunch, Growing Pains and The Partridge Family.
Now without even watching a single episode, you already know how little Johnny’s going to turn out. He’s polite. He respects his elders. He studies hard in school. He gets his first girlfriend and she’s that sweet girl in his Algebra class that his parents often invite over for dinner.
Sure he gets into trouble sometimes--what adolescent boy doesn’t? But even when his mom and dad catch him ditching school or sneaking a sip of beer from the fridge, gosh darnit, we still love him. His parents have that “family meeting” and they tell him how disappointed they are in him, and he feels terrible about what he’s done. He swears he’ll never do it again, and we believe him. And when that day comes when Johnny drops to one knee and proposes to his girl, (after getting her father’s blessing, of course) we’ll be on the edge of our sofa chairs as she accepts, and we’ll wipe away a tear when he breaks the news to mom and dad. We want Mr. & Mrs. Johnny to have beautiful children that mom and dad dote over. Yes, we watch Johnny over the years and quietly say to ourselves, “I want my kid to be like Johnny.”
And then there’s Jack. His world is a healthy mixture of COPS, The Bachelor, The Anna Nicole Show, Jersey Shore and Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Dixie Carter's "This is not a whorehouse" rant seems so appropriate here.
So let’s talk about Jack. I’m guessing he doesn’t like authority, dabbles in drugs, has a mouth that would make a sailor blush and respect for elders and for women? Umm, sure. He’ll probably have a girlfriend or two or three, but if his parents know about them, they won’t want them sitting at the dinner table and if they do show up, they’ll probably want to wash the chair cushions when they leave.
If Jack does manage to get married, (oh let’s not kid ourselves--he’ll change wives like he changes his underwear, assuming he does the latter) she’ll look pretty but will be the foul mouthed gold digger who secretly wants Jack’s mom and dad to kick the bucket so she can get her hands on their money. Not that they HAVE any, but Jack has her convinced he’s the cock of the walk with his cool rocking Camaro and his gallons of cologne. Mr. & Mrs. Jack won’t just have children; they’ll breed like roaches. Oh joy. We watch Jack over the years and quietly say to ourselves, “If my kid turns out like Jack, I’ll push him down a flight of stairs myself!”
Now that Johnny and Jack are adults, (Johnny just started college. Jack just made bail … again), which one would you want to marry your daughter? Well, I guess that would depend on what you chose to let your daughter watch on TV as well. I’m guessing Johnny has a grand church wedding with “Class” and Jack enjoys a quickie Vegas wedding with his little “Runt.” Let me know soon because I’ve already purchased their gifts. I’ll be sending either a nice set of monogrammed bath towels or a chainsaw enema.
We've brought you exclusive Q&As with TV's new butt-whoopin', retro-influenced tough chicks, The CW's reimagined Nikita star Maggie Q and Chase star Kelli Giddish (and Chase creator Jennifer Johnson, who credits Charlie's Angels and Kate Jackson for inspiring her as a young girl). Now here's a sneak peak at the kick-ass fall cover of Get Active! magazine featuring my cover-story interview with Winter Olympics gold medalist Lindsey Vonn and In the Gym interview with tennis legend Chris Evert. The issue will be available at health clubs nationwide early next month.
Chris and her longtime rival (and friend) Martina Navratilova are the subject of the fascinating 30 for 30 documentary Unmatched, which premiered last week on ESPN. An encore performance airs on ESPN Classic on Oct. 25. Check out this trailer:
Lindsey and her ski racing rival (and once-close friend), Julia Mancuso, will likewise likely be linked for life. In her Get Active cover story, she discusses her rivalry as well as her love for the late, great Law & Order. Below is a clip of her appearance in the series finale that aired in May.
If Angelina Jolie gives a new kick-ass name to Salt, then Chase star Kelli Giddish adds a sexy roundhouse kick to the phrase "salt of the earth." As U.S. Marshal Annie Frost, Giddish tackles the big, bad guys and the big, bad reality that her father--a long-on-the-run fugitive--is one of them. Here are outtakes from my interview with Kelli for my recent story about TV's Tough Chicks in the the Los Angeles Times' fall preview section.
You kick some serious butt in the Chase premiere. Are you exhausted?
Am I exhausted? Lord, no! You have to have a lot of energy to do this role. Tomorrow we do a huge shootout. I don’t know how we make these mini-movies every week. Last week I was running through a field and jumping on a biplane. I did that about twelve times.
It’s great, man. The stuntwoman’s there. She kind of perfects the stunt. I show up and get to do it. I get to do it every time. Eric Norris, Chuck Norris’ son, is the stunt coordinator. I could not be in better hands. We got out and have a helluva time doing all these stunts. It’s what I love about this show. It’s not like other action shows that put the CGI and special effects in later. We’re actually doing it.
What fuels Annie’s aggression and her bloodhound tenacity?
It’s wonderful to play a character, a woman, so committed to her job. As the season unfolds we’re gonna see where she gets that fire and that ability to focus so intensely on getting the bad guy. She comes from the same criminal mindset that she chases after every day.
Her father is a criminal who’s still at large. The audience is going to glean more information as the season goes along about what exactly he did. It’s so interesting the way Jennifer Johnson created it. With Annie, it’s either one side of the law or the other. And Annie Frost ended up on the right side of the law. And she’s damn good at it.
She’s serious about what crime does to a family, what it does to being a daughter, a wife. She went through all of that growing up. Once you see that first hand, it’s impossible not to follow through and be committed to getting the bad guy.
And you’re playing a Texas girl. And everyone knows you don’t mess with Texas.
That’s right. (Laughs.) And you don’t mess with Annie Frost either.
Yes. I was training down in Houston. When you see it with your own eyes, it’s intense what these guys (U.S. marshals) do, man. They don’t even raise an eyebrow.
Annie Frost has got the Texas in her. It’s a rich place to draw from. Filming here is so saturated—the culture and the colors and the patriotism. What a better place than Texas? So often things are black and white here. It’s right or wrong.
(The Texas female marshal) came up through the ranks, just like any other police officer. I call her the Queen Bee. I got to see what kind of road she took to get where she is. It’s an interesting road, being female and in charge of something you’d see as male-dominated.
(Executive producer) Jennifer Johnson, the cast and I did a lot of ride-alongs with them, too. You serve the warrants with them, too. I was in a car with this guy for 15 hours, for five days. You hear all these war stories, and you see them with your own eyes.
This show has a HUGE production value—it’s a Bruckheimer show—at our fingertips. To show these little snippets that Jennifer Johnson and I heard on these ride-alongs and throw them up on the TV screen with these great production values and a seasoned, interesting cast … We have great directors coming through and the writing has been phenomenal.
It’s a different show. It’s not trying to find out whodunit. We know who did it.
Why will a kick-ass woman who can kick ass resonate with audiences in 2010?
When was the last time you got to see a woman go to work with cowboy boots and jeans and actually get the work done? Ya know? We haven’t seen that. I read the script and said, “Yeah. This is my kind of lady.”
It’s sexy to see a woman instinctually know how to get the job done. That’s the kind of woman I’ve always been friends with. To see a strong woman and see how her mind works—not only the physical stuff—but how she filters out the bullshit noise so she can focus on what’s important.. To see a girl take down a 180-lb. man, that’s always gonna be fun, man.
I’m from Georgia, baby, and I grew up around some real strong women. My co-star Rose Rollins can take on anybody, man. You’ve got two kick-ass women on that show.If I go out with Rose, I know I’m cool. Nobody’s messin’ with us.
The underlying thing with Annie Frost—and why I love her—is she has a huge heart. She can connect with people. And at the end of the day she’s protecting people like me and you. (I want) to show what an honorable job that is, that you come from a place of truly wanting to help other people.
How important is it to you to show Annie’s vulnerabilities—namely, her daddy issues.
I think a lot of time it’s interesting to see people holding that (vulnerability) back and fighting through it. I did a scene with an older gentleman who reminds Annie of her dad. When I was done with the scene, I swear to God I went to the bathroom and bawled my eyes out for ten seconds.
It doesn’t always come out. And I don’t think it always should. That’s a trait of Annie’s and why people are gonna root for her. As we get to know her more and more we’re gonna get to see a little bit more of the vulnerability.
You’ve definitely done your share of close-up emoting, especially on All My Children. How cool is it to get to run, jump and kick butt as an actress?
I get up in the morning and I’m like, “What am I gonna do today? You’re sprinting 50 yards and then jumping on the wing of a biplane as it’s moving, and then shooting out its propeller. Or I get to crash a car or two with my buddy Cole Hauser. Okay! It’s gonna be a great damn day.”
It’s exhilarating to be able to use your body. So often we’re talking heads on TV. I get to run in fields and jump in rivers and hang off the sides of cliffs and do shootouts and kick doors down! It’s a mental and physical chase. It’s full throttle.
I’m looking at my fingernails now. There’s brown stuff in them and they’re all jagged. I’ve got two huge bruises on my shin. My elbow is scraped up all to hell. Thank God my daddy’s not around me. He’d think someone was beating up on me.
I grew up playing sports. I was a catcher in softball. I remember throwin’ girls over my shoulder if they’d try to steal home. I’ve always loved being outside. And thank God, because it’s 105 degrees here. This role is so up my alley.
So your job is really the ultimate workout.
The female marshal I trained with was 41. Not a wrinkle on her face. I said, “You don’t look a day over 32.” She said, “Kelli, I have no stress. Look at what I get to do every day. I’m out running every day and getting the bad guy into custody. I have no stress. It’s all good, babe.”
In these outtakes from her interview for my Los Angeles Times fall preview story on TV's Tough Chicks, Chase creator and executive producer Jennifer Johnson tells how Charlie's Angels' Kate Jackson inspired her as a girl who loved to climb trees and chase--and be chased by--her brother. "I grew up watching Charlie's Angels and always wanted to be Kate Jackson because she was the smart one," Johnson says in the LA Times story. "She could do it all. That's what I gravitate to. [Annie's] gonna have to beat these guys with physical prowess combined with a smart plan of attack."
The former Cold Case producer and Lost scribe also reveals how she hopes Chase star Kelli Giddish (All My Children) will be a new empowered female role model for Johnson's four-and-a-half-year-old daughter. The Jerry Bruckheimer action-adventure drama premieres tonight on NBC.
Kelli’s moves are even more impressive considering you’re filming in 100-degree-plus heat in Texas. I’m from Oklahoma, so I totally appreciate that.
Oh, are you? So you understand completely. We’re going to Oklahoma soon for some of our U.S. marshal exploits. It’s 105 degrees and Kelli does her own stunts—as well as the stuntwoman. We have to roll cameras before everyone starts sweating. They get powdered up and then we say “Action” before they start sweating again.
I got lighter in the moment that I met Kelli because I’d found the perfect person to do this. She came in for the screen test and had learned Waylon Jenning’s “Armed and Dangerous” on her guitar. And she had it. I had a pretty good feeling at that moment!
And of course there’s her voice. How gorgeous is her voice? It’s confident and it has gravel in it, and you feel taken care of by her. So she’s earned the song.
I’d started considering changing to (pilot) scene to not saying “I am Mason Boyle,” because it’s such a hard theme to pull off. And here comes Kelli Giddish. She put down her guitar and said, “I learned ‘Armed and Dangerous’ over the weekend.” She walked onto the set and said, “I’m Mason Boyle.” It felt like my whole soul raised to the 40-foot sound stage. And I said, “There’s our girl.” She has all the characteristics that Annie does.
Kelli definitely has grit in her voice and her performance.
One of the first times in Dallas we went out to dinner and were walking back to the hotel. There were all these trees around us and she said, “Do you like to climb trees?” I said, “I love to climb trees.” We just kind of looked at each other and that’s all we had to say.
I grew up with a brother who’s 18 months younger than I am. And I grew up in upstate New York. My brother and I chased each other through the house, played gags on each other, beat each other up.
I know a lot of men who are in basketball leagues or play pick-up games. But I hadn’t found that outlet. So this show is that outlet for me. To be 11 again and chasing my brother through the house. (Laughs.) To be running from him and being genuinely scared—that adrenaline and rush that you get. My experience with women—I don’t have that outlet.
I love the concept of a female U.S. marshal leading the team in a role traditionally seen as male. You’ve said Chase sort of reintroduces the American hero. In which ways does it redefine the American heroine?
My proudest moment in the development of this show was when my attorney, Matt Johnson, called me and said, “Jennifer, I love the pilot. But my daughter really loved the pilot.” I was thrilled because his daughter just started high school. He said, “Especially when Annie jumped off the bridge. I think she felt Annie was a role model and she wanted to watch the show.” It was my proudest moment because I have a four-and-a-half year-old daughter. So these are issues I think about constantly.
We had a placemat of the presidents of the United States. The other day I said to her, “Ingrid, you could be president of the United States.” And she said, “No, I can’t, Mommy. They’re all men.” So these are the subliminal messages that our kids get every day, that young girls get every day. So I promptly threw out the placemat. It’s coded in our language. If you see a dog or a cat go down the street it’s “He, he, he, he, he.” So in our house we say “she” a lot just to reposition her perspective.
We see women who can kick ass. But with Annie I’m trying to combine that with commitment to her job, intelligence and compassion. It’s that full package I think that could potentially translate to role model.
There are so many movies where rights of passage are looked at as kind of cool for guys. But rights of passage for a woman, it’s like, “That’s a chick flick.” That’s a demeaning, condescending remark. I would love to sneak it in, to not have people say, “It’s a chick flick” and have it be a smart, empowered, kick-ass woman.
How far TV has come since the mid-’70s empowered woman—particularly the beautiful women who never broke a nail, ever got dirty. Annie gets down in the dirt and jumps into the river. Why is important to you to show that earthy, gritty element of today’s empowered female?
Because it’s real and it expresses confidence in the character. She’s more concerned about catching the bad guy than she is about how she looks. She’s not a woman who cares about whether she’s having a good hair day or a bad hair day. So I hope she’s a role model, because even empowered women are expected to look beautiful. Kelli Giddish on Chase doesn’t have to work at that. It’s a character’s priorities that tell you who they are. Hers are her commitment to her job and finding the bad guy. She’s about justice.
Kelli’s spent a lot of time with the U.S. marshals. When she talks about them she gets a little teary-eyed. She gets very emotional. Because what they do is so admirable.
I think it’s a realness, a daringness, a complete focus on what she’s doing and a refusal to be distracted by anything less important. (To focus on her appearance) is not part of her DNA—but her commitment to her job is.
Annie’s dad is a fugitive, so her commitment seems to come naturally.
Her family experiences and family roots simply inform who she is. There’s a part of her who’s let go of her past. It just is who she is.
Another thing that I’m going to explore in the earlyish episodes of the first thirteen is what kind of makes her jump. In conclusion after being in conflict with Jimmy (Cole Hauser) over it—because he perceives it as sometimes being a little reckless—is that it is who she is.
We do see Annie kick a lot of male butt in the pilot. Given her issues with her father, does the character get satisfaction in taking down the bad guy?
Absolutely. Every time she captures a male fugitive, she feels a step closer to finding her father. And at the same time, ironically, she proves that she’s not a bad guy. She proves that she’s not like her father.
You’ve also said that once psychologically you get into a fugitive’s head you can pursue them physically. Coming off of producing Cold Case for four years, why is it important to you to show a woman who can handle this on both levels?
I think when you talk about redefining the heroine, for me that’s the modern-day version of the heroine who is smart but can also use her physical power to capture them.
In my experience women don’t have as much participation in team sports. In my experience in TV-making Hollywood, there are a lot of men’s basketball pickup games … I didn’t want to limit her (Annie.) Working on Cold Case for four years was so satisfying, and Lilly was really was a rich character. So dimensionalized. Kathryn Morris, I love her and consider her a friend. So for me this was a progression. And I really didn’t think about it. And I really didn’t think about it. When I created my show … it’s a little bit my own personality. That’s the character I wanted to write, to see.
I knew it would be a show about fugitive hunters, but that’s all I knew. I wanted to create a female lead who could run and jump and make physical contact with even the toughest fugitive because she has some great moves. She can do a roundhouse kick. And she combines it with smarts. When a guy has a choke-hold on her, she has the idea to yank off his belt and use it to throw him over her shoulder. Because she’s a woman she maybe has to use her head a little bit more.
She knows that even if she takes a few punches it will be worth it. And hopefully what we’ll intuit from that is, that’s how committed she is. Every time she runs after that guy … we will hopefully intuit: no. 1, she doesn’t consider herself inferior to men so there’s nothing to ever stop her. And no. 2 there’s such a purity of purpose that she’d never consider not pursuing the fugitive.
Sounds like a winning recipe for today’s young heroine.
Hopefully the 13-year-old girls will feel empowered by that. And also it’s okay for women to care deeply about what they do. That’s not new but I think it may be the physical side of that in combination that makes her not only kick ass and (but?) intelligent and compassionate.
It’s that whole package that to me equals role model. And that’s what I saw in Kate Jackson and Sabrina on Charlie’s Angels: a willingness to engage, intelligence and I think she cared less about her appearance … I don’t know. I haven’t watched it in a really long time. (Laughs.) But I do remember her wearing a little less make-up than the others did.
Potentially and hopefully this is a new thing that young girls will watch.