The truth is, I don’t actually watch a lot of TV. I can’t remember a time that I did, at least not after college started. The list of shows that pull my full attention can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.
I hold three museum memberships within the city; the one I hold most dearly is my membership to the Paley Center for Media, formerly the Museum of Television and Radio. They just announced their fall schedule, and the events are worth looking at.
(Ticket prices are listed with member prices first, and non-member prices second. Ticket on-sale dates differ depending on a few factors, so check the website if you’re interested.)
Includes three seminars: Beyond the Anchor Desk: The Rise of Citizen Journalism , Extraordinary Work: A Conversation with the IWMF Courage in Journalism Honorees, and Truth and the Iraq War: Frank Rich Converses with Television Journalists. Notable panelists and guests include Andrea Mitchell and Dan Rather. Series is $35/60, individual events are $15/25. [link]
Includes four seminars: An Evening with Mary Tyler Moore, An Evening with Glenn Close, An Evening with Angela Lansbury, and An Evening with Kyra Sedgwick and The Closer. I don’t think I need to tell you who the guests are. Series is $85/100, individual tickets are $25/35. [link]
Includes three seminars: Upright Citizens Brigade, Fun Facts, Top Tens, and Stupid Humans: The Writers of Late Show with David Letterman, and Scrubs: The Farewell Tour. Guests include all four members of the UCB and seemingly all major cast members of Scrubs. Tickets are a steal: $35/60 for series, $15/25 individual. [link]
This year’s docfest includes some notables: To Die In Jerusalem, Larry Flynt: The Right to be Left Alone (Larry Flynt appearing for Q&A), and Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who, where Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are scheduled to attend the event. Many ticket configurations are available, so check the site. [link]
(Yeah, I don’t live in LA, but I always get jealous at their festival schedule.)
Two events: Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna & Pablo Cruz on Cinema, Politics, and Mexico’s New World View, and Raising Cane: Behind the Scenes. Prices are $25/43 for the series, or $15/25 individually. [link]
The most mainstream of the four Entertainment schedules: Two and a Half Men: 100th Episode Celebration , American Masters Premiere: Carol Burnett, Inside the Creative Process: Tom Selleck on Jesse Stone, and ER Celebrates the Big 300!. Series is $50/85, individual tickets are $15/25. [link]
Here comes my jealousy: Inside Robot Chicken (Seth and Matt and others to appear), Lovin’ Las Vegas, A Night in Hell’s Kitchen (Gordon Ramsay appearing), and the duality of Scrubs: The Farewell Tour. Series for $50/85, individuals for $15/25. [link]
Just two, and not what I had anticipated: Smoke and Sympathy: A Toast to Mad Men, and Back in Circulation: A Lou Grant Reunion. Can’t go wrong with Ed Asner. $25/43 for both, or $15/25 individually. [link]
There are some events in life that play out in front of you like a slow-motion trainwreck; where you feel pity and sorrow for some involved and white hot anger at others. Tonight was one of those nights.
Katie and I attended yet another seminar at the Museum of Television and Radio; tonight was The Edible Airwaves: Cooking for Television. On the slate to speak were celebrity chefs Alton Brown, Mario Batali, and Giada De Laurentiis, as well as Senior VP of Programming for Food Network, Bob Tuschman.
But there, like a cloud looming, was the fifth member and moderator of the panel: Jeffrey Steingarten. Arguably one of the most known food critics, I only knew that he could be a bit ascerbic.
Soon after the event started, it became immediately obvious that this was going to be different. Steingarten was, to put it nicely, off-topic. To put it poorly, he was a rude, obnoxious asshole. Some examples:
I felt the most pure, unbridled pity I’ve felt in ages as I watched three expert cooks share baffled and slightly shocked glances as they were taken out of the conversation we all expected and had to defend their right to even have books. I felt minorly bad for Alton and Mario, but I cheered them on as Alton fired a number of shots back at Steingarten and Mario joined in occasionally. I felt horrible for Giada; she tried her damndest to sit there and smile that wonderful smile of hers and just take it, but by the end of the night she looked run down and a bit hurt over the repeated implication that she was just another pretty face.
The audience was largely in agreement; as the seminar went on, the mutters of “what the hell?” and “what a prick” grew louder in a slow but steady manner. By the end, a number of people felt ready to shout out whenever Steingarten made a bitter comment at any of the panel.
I kindly request that if anyone at the Museum of Television & Radio want to have another Food Network panel, that they keep Mr. Steingarten as far away from it as possible. I’m sure he’s a wonderful food critic, but it’s obvious from his actions at this event that he is not a big fan of the way food television has been evolving over the last ten years. This squarely puts him in opposition with much of what the Food Network has been doing since its inception.
Huge thanks to Alton, Giada, and Mario – all marvelous people, and were kind enough to stick around and talk to the fans afterwords – as well as Bob for putting up with all this nonsense.
At 5:15 tonight, I found myself standing outside the Museum of Television and Radio waiting for three people.
One was my lovely wife, Katie.
This seemingly random meeting was spawned by somewhat random chances. Originally, Katie had asked that I pick up two extra tickets for coworkers of hers that wanted to go, and of course could not make it. After trying in vain to find someone at work who watches the Office, I noticed a post from Jen about the event at the MTR. I took a shot in the dark, and somehow it worked out. Adam came along for the ride.
Order of arrival was Adam, Jen, and Katie. Adam and Jen offered to go hold seats for us, which was quite noble and kind. The screening was quite packed by 6:20 (the main auditorium, plus three closed circuit rooms, were sold out), and it’s definitely a different experience watching The Office in a room full of people. The uncomfortable scenes get less uncomfortable, and it’s easier to laugh at things. This is not a bad thing.
After the screening, Ricky sat down for the Q&A, which mostly went off without a hitch. My recap follows, although it should be noted that if you haven’t seen the special yet, there may be some mild spoilers. Alternately, Adam was sneaky enough to record the thing on his camera, and while it’s a bit muffled in some portions, you can grab the MP3 from me (64kbps VBR, 33:04, 8.1 MB) and certainly make out some parts I didn’t transcribe.
I’m sure Jen will have her recap up soon as well. Jen has her write-up and a picture posted.
Regarding The Creative Process
Each entire season was written in one block, and re-edited to add seeds to ideas they came up with later, before they shot anything. Casting lasted a year, and the fact that the show seems so real (and not scripted) is a testament to the actors in the program.
Lots of gags were thrown out over the years due to a desire to maintain realism. In terms of a moral balance, Ricky feels that the bad outweighs the good, but as anyone who sees the Special can attest to, he who laughs last does indeed laugh the longest.
One of the hardest points, apparently, was that they had to be “hyper-real”, and couldn’t cheat on some things like regular documentaries do.
The Slough Tourism Board apparently tried to convince the BBC that “Slough has really changed a lot” before the second season started taping; Ricky and Stephen refused to bend the script at all, unsurprisingly.
Regarding Other Characters On The Office
Gareth was originally going to be a large, beefy military type, and Tim was originally going to be a large, Norm-from-Cheers style character. Both characters were somewhat rewritten when Mackenzie and Martin (respectively) came in for the parts.
The only character that Ricky did not write – and it ended up being his favorite – was that of Keith. Ewan apparently ad libbed the deadpan delivery and they just ended up writing more and more for him.
Gareth’s haircut was given to him entirely to make him look like a prat. Mackenzie, unfortunately, got married a little too close to the end of filming the second season, and was married with that haircut. Poor guy.
The character of Carol (seen only in the special) had to be worked on a lot, because in the words of Stephen Merchant, “Who would go out with a fat git like you, Gervais?” In terms of the morning after, Ricky could only guess that she called and said “Sorry, I was on drugs.”
Regarding The US Version Of The Office
Ricky confessed to not being terribly involved in the US version. This is due to part of what his original plan for The Office was – he wanted people to be able to go “That’s my office!” in the UK. Since he hasn’t worked in an office in the US, he admits he doesn’t know what he would need to input to make that happen here.
He said the pilot is quite good, and it’s a very close remake to the UK version – but is quickly diverging into their own story lines. He says the US version is for the 249,000,000 people who *didn’t* see the original version and would be viewing it “without prejudice”.
Ricky is glad that they did not name the boss David Brent, but he did not specifically ask for them to change it. It would have been too confusing, apparently.
And the answer to the question we were all wondering: The US equivilent of Slough is Scranton, PA. So completely spot on…
Regarding His Next Project
The next Merchant/Gervais project is known as Extra. The main character – and I’m not clear on whether or not it would be played by Gervais – is an extra who thinks he should be a leading actor. He is very unlike David Brent – very self-aware and angry, like a “dissatisfied Socrates”. A misanthrope who cna’t keep his mouth shut, he is apparently angry that De Niro is getting all his parts.
It won’t be a documentary-style ala The Office, but it will still be a very natural sort of comedy. Stephen Merchant is the only person from the Office team that will be coming along to Extra; it is currently planned through two six-episode seasons, and may stretch to three, but definitely not four.
Regarding His Influences
Laurel and Hardy was referenced a lot, and Ricky says all his influences have a lot of heart behind their comedy. “Heart first, comedy second” is a sort of personal motto, and I think it shows in his work.
Gervais also claims to be able to cry at both The Waltons and The Simpsons (which he called “the greatest comedy on TV”). He adds, “Maybe I’m a bit of a sissy.”
He truly enjoys working on television shows, and being part of the common conciousness. Being talked about the next day, or “making a date” to watch a show is a big deal for him.
Regarding The Longevity Of The Office
Season 2 was never meant to be the final end of the season – a special was always planned. However, the special is explicitly the end; it was always planned to be somewhat cinematic and “an event”.
Regarding Side Projects
Ricky still hasn’t watched himself on Alias yet, as he cannot fathom seeing himself “being cool”. He adds that in the scene where Victor Garber strangles him to death and then tells Sydney to get the defibrillator, he cracked up at least five seperate times at the word “defibrillator”, until Garber actually threatened to kill him if he blew another scene.
There are no plans to release a David Brent full length album, but he did enjoy writing the songs. He also revealed that a full band version of Free Love On The Free Love Freeway will be on the Office Special DVD, coming out this November in the US.
He also had a fantastic idea for a new reality TV show: You would gather all the “D-list” celebrities that have come to be through reality TV shows, you put them all in a house together for 10 weeks, and then when they come out, you tell them that you didn’t tape any of it.
Regarding People Who Confuse Him For David Brent
“People who think I’m the real David Brent are the same people who send wreaths to soap stars that die.”
So that was about it. I’d like to thank the MTR for being hospitible as always; to Jen and Adam – both complete sweethearts, two people I hope that I can get to know better – for making the evening even better; and to Ricky for being a good sport, even without giving autographs. And no thanks to the Crazy Microphone Woman, who screeched at one person to WAIT FOR THE MICROPHONE, even though he was perfectly audible to the entire audience.
There’s something about October in New York City that seems to make it particularly likely there’s an event you want to go to. Last year, we hit Paul Van Dyk, Neal Stephenson, John Lithgow, and Jamie Oliver.
As a reminder: tomorrow continues the juggernaut of October 2004, as Ricky Gervais invades the holiest of museums, the Museum Of Television And Radio. There’ll be a screening of The Office (Christmas) Special, and then a “conversation” with Ricky directly thereafter. While I doubt the entire event is going to be quite on the insanity level of the Anchorman premiere, it should be a fantastic time.
Making it potentially even more fantastic is something that I may get to meet a blogger I admire very much right beforehand; I’ll save that for another post, though.
As usual with MTR functions, I’ve posted event details on upcoming.org, just in case you’re in NYC and interested and I haven’t talked your ear off about this already and you missed the last post about it. Expect a long-winded starstruck post tomorrow night!
I gained an unfortunate curse in college. During my time working with the Cornell Concert Commission, I had the “professionalism” thing drilled into my head so much – and had to work in role model positions enough where I had to practice it – that I find it hard to get excited over celebrities when I see them in person. They are, honestly, just people like you and me.
What this leads to is a slightly surreal situation when I see one – “Oh, there’s ______. Yup.” What I don’t normally have to deal with is seeing more than one at a time, but when this does happen, it leads to an exponential growth of the surreal feeling I get.
No time has that ever been more true than tonight – for the Anchorman seminar I talked about a few weeks back (note how the card says “Special screening”) was not in fact a seminar. It was the NYC Premiere.
I can only write about what happened as though I’m retelling it in one big gasp of breath. The story is too disjointed for regular sentences.
At around 6:30 James Lipton got out of a big humvee and then Al Sharpton came out from down the street with two girls on his arm (turned out to be his daughters!) and then George Whipple went by and we freaked him out by saying hi (the eyebrows went up!) and then we talked to other people in the crowd none of whom had tickets and then finally we were let in around 7.
And at the reception Al Sharpton was in the corner and James Lipton looked lonely and Amy Poehler looked really bitter (she’s a little hard to recognize with the makeup off) and then the crowd just gradually grew and we saw some journalists we didn’t recognize and the finger food was decent and there was a giant table where they were pouring scotch and more people I didn’t recognize came in and then Kenan came in and Katie said he was in Burgertime (instead of Good Burger) which made me giggle and then she started going for autographs and got Kenan’s and Zoe Saldana and then managed to get Tina Fey’s and I heard Tina say “Aww that’s so SWEET!” to her at least four times and then we saw Will Farrell progressing slowly down the interview line and Katie managed to step on James Lipton’s foot and said “I’m sorry Mr. Lipton!” and he apparently REALLY does talk like he does on tv, and then Paul Rudd came in and okay this crowd was too much so we went to get seated.
After considering the placement of the reserved seats and our leg room where we were sitting we moved up behind two reserved seats which happened to belong to Bill Kurtis who was the one that was going to be interviewing Will Farrell in character and then we saw the other reserved seats start to fill in and Jimmy Fallon was less dressed up than I was (shock, awe) and Gwenyth Paltrow was sitting in Christina Applegate’s section, right next to her in fact, and she looked pretty good for having just had a baby, and there were more SNL cast members like Molly Shannon and then okay time for the movie to start but wait there’s Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins and their kids wtf are they doing here?
Bill Kurtis gave the opening speech and took a shot at Michael Moore which caused an exchanged glance between Sarandon and Robbins, but afterwords Kurtis gave Robbins a reassuring pat on the shoulder, very strange and the movie started. During the movie Bill and Tim were laughing by far the loudest out of anyone in there and at one point Christina Applegate got up to go out of the room but when she came back she sat on the stairs about five feet from me for the rest of the showing which was rather amusing but then again I was directly behind Bill Kurtis so what the hell and I’ve never been at a movie with so much applauding and cheering and laughing, are all premieres like this?
*deep breath, calm down*
Okay, here’s the serious movie review: Go see it. It was quite funny. The plot isn’t deep, and it’s a pretty typical “wacky lead character” comedy, but there’s so much oddball stuff, so many fantastic cameos – at least three Mr. Show alums, as well as the best comedy fight scene in the history of film with essentially FOUR cameos, including someone I’ve mentioned in this writeup already – and Steve Carrell literally steals the most laughs I’ve ever seen. Like Dodgeball, you will find yourself laughing at goofy shit and not caring. See it with the kind of friends you see screwball comedies with, and you’ll have a good time. And stay all the way through the credits.
As for Will Farrell’s in character interview – apparently Ron Burgundy had some homosexual relationships. By “some”, I mean “eleven” – straight from the horse’s mouth. The Q&A was not quite as funny as the movie was, but it was fun watching Will Farrell improv.
And then, it was over, and we headed out (it was late and I was sort of dead tired of people watching), and I think at least one idiot paparazzi accidently took our picture.
So. Yeah. Kind of a crazy night.
In my mailbox yesterday:
On the back:
Please Note: It has come to our attention that Ron Burgundy does not exist, but is in fact a character portrayed by one Will Ferrell, late of Saturday Night Live and the feature films Elf and Old School. Bill Kurtis does exist, however; the documentary producer, host, and news anchor will interview Mr. Ferrell, who will appear in character as Ron Burgundy.
All of this confusion will be resolved by the new film Anchorman, a comedy directed by Adam McKay and costarring Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Fred Willard, which will be screened in its entirety at this event. Anchorman, produced by Judd apatow (Freaks and Geeks) and Shauna Robertson, excutive produced by David O. Russell, and coproduced by David Householter, will be released nationwide on July 9.
We apologize for any inconvenience or emotional distress caused by the above.
Tickets for members were $20 – and given that includes seeing the movie before release, plus watching Ron Burgundy LIVE, I think that’s a fantastic deal. It’s also two days before the next Tinkle Show, which means that’s going to be a hell of a week.