Category Archives: Daily Beast

‘NCIS’s’ Mark Harmon is the World’s Biggest TV Star

mark harmon

Sometimes, the best stories fall into your lap when you least expect them. At TCA summer tour, I was attending the CBS/Showtime/CW party when I unexpectedly was given face time with Mark Harmon, who very rarely grants interviews (I fact I know firsthand, after spending years unsuccessfully trying to land an interview with him while I was at People). The result is this somewhat unconventional Daily Beast profile of Harmon, who is the world’s biggest star, but also one of its most humble. As I wrote,

Harmon is an anomaly in today’s overshare-first-ask-questions-later pop culture: an anti-celeb. There’s no gushing about the secrets of his 27-year marriage to Mork & Mindy star Pam Dawber (which is more like 270 in Hollywood years), no off-the-cuff speeches about politics or anything else controversial; no statements, in fact, that aren’t in some way related to his show. And his actions speak just as softly as his words: When you search “Mark Harmon” on TMZ, not a single story comes up, which doesn’t even seem possible. He’s perhaps the only person in Hollywood who says he wants his work to speak for itself, and actually means it.

Harmon talks about his quiet approach to stardom, whether he feels pressure as the man at the center of a billion-dollar franchise, how he came to executive produce NCIS: New Orleans and how much longer he’ll stick around on NCIS, which is enterting its 12th season.

NCIS’s Mark Harmon is the World’s Biggest TV Star

The Leaner, Meaner Season 2 of ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

agents of shield s2

Back in May, I wrote about how Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD had finally found its way. As the show prepares to kick off Season 2, I spoke with its two showrunners, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen for this Daily Beast interview about balancing secrecy and spoilers, what they learned from Season 1’s rocky start and which Marvel Universe characters will (and won’t) be making appearances this season. After having her hands tied for much of last season, being forced to keep quiet about, and then react to, the big reveal from Captain America: The Winter Solider, Tancharoen talks about the freedom of Season 2:

Well, we have a very clear big bad. We have Hydra. It’s very nice and liberating to say “Hydra” and have it out in the open! Last season was definitely challenging, because we were not allowed to mention them or allude to a mole of any kind. So now, coming into Season 2, we exist in a new paradigm. S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra are viewed as one and the same.  So we’re putting our characters through a different sort of journey, where they still want to be out there and helping the world and the people through this world, but they have to do it from the shadows.

They also discuss the possible return of Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Joss Whedon’s level in involvement in the show and — something of particular interest to me — if they will can finally take the periods out of SHIELD (which is something that I’ve already done on this site).

The Leaner, Meaner Season 2 of ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

Will Gardner Had to Die So That ‘The Good Wife’ Could Thrive

good wife season 6

I’ll make this simple: no show is supposed to be as sensational in its sixth season as The Good Wife is right now. I reviewed the Season 6 premiere for The Daily Beast, and made this observation:

So much is going on, in fact, that it wasn’t until much later that I realized that one character was never referenced, possibly for the first time: the late Will Gardner. Now it can be said: Josh Charles’ exit last March, as shocking and painful as it was, is probably the best thing that could have happened to The Good Wife in the long run, and one of the main reasons this show, and these characters we’ve spent five years with, suddenly seem so fresh.

The show’s Emmy snub for best drama looks even more egregious in light of this premiere episode. And while it’s unclear how long the show can sustain this momentum without falling victim to the same pitfalls as nearly every other long-running series, I’m going to enjoy every moment of this unparalleled run while I can.

Will Gardner Had to Die So That ‘The Good Wife’ Could Thrive

‘Schoolhouse Rock': A Trojan Horse of Knowledge and Power

Schoolhouse Rock

This is the favorite thing I’ve written in quite a long while. To celebrate ABC’s upcoming Schoolhouse Rock special, I reflected on the show’s lasting legacy — it was an essential part of my Saturday mornings as a kid — for The Daily Beast:

Each song was a perfectly constructed Trojan horse: it was entertaining and infectious, while clandestinely packing an astonishing amount of information about lessons about word usage (“Verb: That’s What’s Happenin’”), America’s expansion (“Elbow Room”), women’s rights (“Sufferin Till Sufferage”), health (“The Body Machine”), the solar system (“Interplanet Janet”) and much, much more.

Like nothing before it, Schoolhouse Rock made learning fun and effortless. Multiplication tables were suddenly a breeze thanks to songs like “Lucky Seven Sampson,” while “The Preamble” was essential for anyone who had to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution in school. “I’m Just a Bill” is so concise and catchy that my high school U.S. History teacher played it in class to explain exactly how a bill becomes a law.

Not only did I get the chance to listen to watch all these segments again, but I also managed to get my two kids hooked on the show as well.

And that continues to be the brilliance of Schoolhouse Rock; it’s completely irresistible, and endlessly rewarding, whether you’re watching it for the first or the hundredth time.

Even after all these years, knowledge is still power!

Schoolhouse Rock: A Trojan Horse of Knowledge and Power 

‘You’re the Worst’: TV’s Best Couple is Awful and Perfect for Each Other

youre the worst

Some shows are so terrific that I feel as if I have no choice but to sing their praises to as many people as possible. That’s the main reason that I pushed so hard to review You’re the Worst for The Daily Beast. It’s the best, and most surprising, new series of the summer. As I wrote,

Here’s the unexpected thing about You’re the Worst: While Jimmy (played by Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) are both, yes, the worst—I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with either of them in real life—they also happen to be the most perfectly matched couple on television. There’s none of the usual forced chemistry, where a show pairs up its main characters regardless of whether it makes sense or not. These two click in every sense of the word—sexually, emotionally, comically—and it’s obvious that they need to be together, in part because no one else on the planet deserves to be subjected to either of them.

How great is this show? So great that it’s worthy of a second excerpt from my review:

We all know, and spend our lives trying to avoid, people like Jimmy and Gretchen. Thanks to You’re the Worst, now I can’t get enough of them. And while you might not have had time for the show earlier in the summer, there’s no excuse now as we limp toward September. Go to FX now and start catching up (the first five episodes are available there; the sixth airs on FX tonight). Because every once in a great while, two wrongs actually do make a right.

Start watching now — especially if you’re a Nielsen family!

‘You’re the Worst’: TV’s Best Couple is Awful and Perfect for Each Other

Life After Deaths: Sean Bean on ‘Game of Thrones’ Paternity and ‘Legends’

sean bean

Spoiler alert about Sean Bean’s acting career: He dies. All the time. And he does so spectacularly well.

That lede for my Daily Beast profile on Sean Bean pretty much says it all. But for a man who has been killed 20-plus times on screen — so many that even Bean himself has trouble remembering them — the actor was remarkably chipper as we sat down to discuss his new TNT drama, Legends. As I wrote,

Spending time with Bean is somewhat disconcerting after seeing him play so many somber, doomed roles. His infectious smile is permanently plastered on his face, and he punctuates most sentences with laughter, emotions that are foreign to almost all of his characters over the years. The actor talked, and laughed, about life after onscreen death, his toughest death scene to film, the time he almost died for real—and why we may not have seen the last of him on Game of Thrones.

Can’t stress enough how happy this guy is, and how delighted he was to talk about Game of Thrones (he really wants to figure out a way for Ned Stark to return!).

Life After Deaths: Sean Bean on ‘Game of Thrones’ Paternity and ‘Legends’

‘Sharknado 2’ in Winter: Has the Franchise Jumped the Shark?

sharknado 2

I can’t remember too many nights of TV that I enjoyed more last year than watching Sharknado last July 11, along with seemingly all of Twitter. Even Syfy was shocked by the social media tsumani that ensued, so it’s no surprise that they’re hoping to replicate it again this summer with Sharknado 2: The Second One. At The Daily Beast, I spoke with stars Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, director Anthony C. Ferrante and writer Thunder Levin (in interviews I conducted at TCA summer press tour) about the first film’s unlikely success, and the attempt to over-the-top themselves with the sequel. As I wrote,

The cast and crew also bristle whenever someone describes Sharknado as “campy,” insisting that one of the secrets to its success is that everyone involved is playing it straight. “That’s the brilliance of Anthony, because he made sure that there was never a moment where anybody would break the fourth wall. No one’s feeling better than this material. No one’s winking, like, ‘Hey, we both know…’ We took it all seriously,” says Ziering, who has now embraced the franchise to the point where he refers to the films as “S1” and “S2.” “If you put yourself in that situation, it’s lethal, and there’s really nothing funny about this. So even the most ridiculous lines have to be said earnestly. But if you step outside and you’re watching, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, did he just say there are flaming sharks flying out of the air? It sounds ridiculous!’”

Adds Ferrante, “The magic to the movie is that you have everybody play it straight, unless they’re intentional comic relief like Judd Hirsch or Judah. If everybody’s taking it seriously, that’s where it’s funny. And the fact that Matt Lauer gives a war cry before he kills the shark, and he does it with conviction, that’s just gold.”

The first Sharknado was set in L.A. and its sequel is in New York City, so where should the third film be set? I asked the cast and crew, who have some pretty intriguing ideas.

‘Sharknado 2’ in Winter: Has the Franchise Jumped the Shark?

‘Phineas and Ferb’ Pilot Disney’s Premier Voyage into ‘Star Wars’

phineas ferb star wars

When you have two young kids, you’re subjected to a lot of awful children’s TV shows. But there are a few diamonds in the rough: a very limited number of programs that are even more entertaining to parents than they are to kids. And Disney’s Phineas and Ferb is at the top of that list. On the heels of last summer’s successful Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, the show’s creators, Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, have taken on an even more ambitious crossover: Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars.

While I was in L.A. for TCA summer tour, the pair invited me to their offices (which, not surprisingly, is packed with super-cool Phineas and Ferb swag), where I talked to them for this Daily Beast profile. Among many other things, they explained how they pull off that rare feat of appealing to both parents and kids:

That’s because Povenmire and Marsh emulated the Chuck Jones formula of layering their shows with jokes that viewers will appreciate even more as they grow older. “When we watched them again in high school and college, you catch all these other levels of humor,” says Povenmire. “To me, that’s the best thing. The kids who are watching Phineas today will see it again with their kids someday, and they’ll get a whole other level of jokes that they didn’t get before.”

Adds Marsh, “We tell the guys, ‘You’re not writing kid jokes. Write funny jokes.’ You can never go wrong betting on the kids being smarter than everybody gives them credit for. Never. If we just did jokes that went over the kid’s heads, that would be a problem, but trust me, the next one we tell is going to be stupid. We’re going to follow it with a song called, ‘Squirrels in My Pants.’ You can guarantee that following the joke about existentialist trading cards will be a classic piece of slapstick.” Povenmire interjects, “Kids love jokes about Nietzsche. They eat that stuff up.”

Povenmire and Marsh also talked how Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars is “perfectly accurate” with the events of the original Star Wars (which unfold in the background), the future of Phineas and Ferb and which Disney-owned property they hope to tackle next.

‘Phineas and Ferb’ Pilot Disney’s Premier Voyage into ‘Star Wars’

Tony Goldwyn Tackles Political Scandal Again on ‘The Divide’

tony goldwyn

There are lots of actors in Hollywood who become white hot, and then quickly flame out and are never heard from again. But very few get a second chance to grab the spotlight, which is why Tony Goldwyn — who rocketed back to stardom thanks to Scandal — is making the most of his comeback. In addition to starring in (and directing episodes of) Scandal, he also has co-created his first series, The Divide, on WE tv. I profiled Goldwyn at The Daily Beast, where he talked about juggling both shows, what’s next for President Fitz on Scandal and the joy of becoming a “sex symbol” at 54.

Out of the blue, to be hot again and have this resurgence and become this leading man in my 50s, this sex symbol… [Laughs]. He’s just a very sexy character and women dig him, and it’s given me all these opportunities now. And it gives me, frankly, leverage in my other projects. It’s awesome! But also, I have a sense of humor about it because it’s a moment that won’t last, so I’m just trying to have as much fun and be as creative as I can while this Scandal train is on the tracks. And it’s wonderful.

He also had a very funny story when I asked about something I’d been wondering about for months: what it was like shooting the last season of Scandal while trying to disguise Kerry Washington’s pregnancy.

Goldwyn was a terrific interview. I could have talked to him for hours!

Tony Goldwyn Tackles Political Scandal Again on ‘The Divide’

Allison Janney’s Incredible ‘Double O’ and That ‘Masters of Sex’ Love Scene

allison janney

I cannot resist a dual Emmy nominee! At The Daily Beast, I spoke with Allison Janney, who this week was nominated for two Emmys — supporting actress in a comedy for Mom, and guest actress in a drama for Masters of Sex — and will likely win both of them. She and I spoke just hours after she received the happy Emmy news, and while we touched on that, we spent most of our conversation discussing her bravura return to Masters of Sex in tonight’s Season 2 premiere.

She was unsurprisingly in great spirits, and had this to say when I reminded her that last month she called her dual Critics Choices wins (for the same two roles) “the climax of my career,” and asked how two Emmy nominations compare.

[Laughs] I should have said, “Well, this is certainly a climax!” I didn’t mean to say that this was going to be it, because I plan on doing a lot more in my life. But it’s an incredible feeling to have a double O—a double orgasm!

Janney also talked about juggling Mom and Masters, when we’ll next see her on Masters of Sex (you’re not going to like her answer!) and why she refuses to take a vacation.

Allison Janney’s Incredible ‘Double O’ and That ‘Masters of Sex’ Love Scene