Why Docu-Reality Series Like “Lindsay” & “True Tori” Hurt Their Own Cause

With the recent premiere of True Tori on Lifetime and the recent wrap of Lindsay on OWN we have entered a new era of reality television where the celebrity docuseries serves as a catharsis or insta image rehab for the subject matter being documented. In these series, what matters not is whether or not the drama that happens on screen is being amped up for the cameras either helping or hurting theses actresses’ psyches not to mention their careers. But it is the fact they are doing these so called “serious series” in which they claim to be giving a window into their true lives showcasing their true problems which documents reality in a whole new light.

Not even Oprah Winfrey could save Lindsay Lohan from herself. Even when she told her to cut the bull while taping her docuseries Lindsay on OWN, Miss Lohan did her own things, of course we all watched.

Not even Oprah Winfrey could save Lindsay Lohan from herself. Even when she told her to cut the bull while taping her docuseries Lindsay on OWN, Miss Lohan did her own things, of course we all watched.

Lindsay Lohan agreed to do an eight episode docuseries for the Oprah Winfrey led OWN network. With its run of Tyler Perry sitcoms with recorded laugh tracks and dramas with questionable writing, not to mention inspirational shows grouped together as “Super Soul Sunday” the OWN clearly remains looking for a singular voice where it is known as a television destination for something other than unmemorable self help reality shows and creatively lackluster productions. No doubt Ms. Winfrey was hoping for “Lindsay” so be that new force where her network is positioned to be a destination for quality documentaries that appeal to the masses by focusing on a well-known entity like a Hollywood celebrity in the midst of an attempted comeback. And who better to be the face of said comeback than that of Hollywood troubled poster child Lindsay Lohan? Lindsay was fronted by documentarian Amy Rice who gets Lindsay to agree to film her a mere days from being released from her sixth stay in rehab.

So what have we learned so far? Lindsay is a hoarder, in the most serious sense possible. The series is supposed to showcase making her big move from Los Angeles back to New York, and she has to move all of her possessions. So for the first three episodes or so we see Lindsay getting her life together by unpacking her accessories and trying to sell her used clothes. Lindsay also has time management issues as she is late for everything whether it be for work or something inconsequential. Clearly whether inebriated or sober some things never change for Lindsay. Lindsay also has issues with what the truth especially when it comes to her sobriety and what that exactly means to her. Cameras haven’t been allowed to shoot all of Lindsay questionable behavior, which makes me wonder how much all-access documentarian Rice and OWN executives we expecting to get versus what they were supposed to get. We only get a little of Lindsay interacting with her equally troubled family from her father to her mother, both of whom have issues, to her more supportive siblings and friends we actually get very little into what makes Lindsay personally tick and she’s supposed to be kept sane amongst all of the madness in her life right now.

We also see Lindsay deal with the aspects of getting her life back on track. If it doesn’t completely throw her off. Everyone around her seems to be questioning her sobriety from the director, to her sober coach, to her assistant, to her life coach, everyone is keeping tabs on her. And this notion is explained by the producers (for reality television at least) with the usage of Full Screen computer graphics to explain some of the action that isn’t happening on screen that the producers feel that need to be explained. Such as “Lindsay has been upstairs for the past two hours and refuses to let cameras into her apartment.” Followed by a moment of silence meant for viewers left to ponder.

Tori Spelling let's it all hang out on her new docuseries True Tori on Lifetime.

Tori Spelling let’s it all hang out on her new docuseries True Tori on Lifetime.

That’s a similar take the producers of Tori Spelling’s new reality series True Tori is employing on the Lifetime Network. Here the issues are focuses around actress Tori Spelling dealing with the cheating allegations with her husband Dean McDermott and how she’s handling her brood of four young children on her own. Here the drama lies in the fact that McDermott is still in live-in therapy for his sexual addiction and he and Tori record their therapy sessions on camera for the world to see. (But we aren’t allowed to see their therapist on camera, oookay…) We also get Tori giving her own very long emotional confessional in multiple one on one interviews to the camera where she gets to tell her side of the story with regards to her husband, as well as her getting the chance to explain how haggard her life has now become now that she’s on her own. In terms of action, we see Tori running around her house with her young children acting up, driving them in the car as her young children act up again, and then talking with friends on how Dean betrayed her and how she’s handling all of the drama. And that’s the gist of the story behind True Tori she rants she cries we suffer as we watch.

And that is the biggest problems between these new docuseries that claim to be true documentaries and not true reality series.  There’s too much emotion on display and all of the emotion focuses on crying and whining and the “woe is me” approach. Lindsay cries because people don’t believe she is sober. Tori is crying because her husband cheated on her and has now left her on her own. These women need to get their emotion in check and not display all of their feelings on camera. It’s self serving and makes me personally not root for them, as if I had any reason to root for Lindsay and Tori. But then again I wouldn’t be watching their respective shows if I didn’t have some rooting interest for these poor pathetic women. I’m just not sure if these women need to lay everything on the table for viewers to digest. Sure this supposed to be a real “documentary” where the viewer gets an inside view of what makes these women tick during troubled times, but I just don’t want it to feel forced. And sadly as is the case with Lindsay and Tori, I’m feeling too forced fed right now. Give me a vapid self involved reality show focused on rich people and their petty problems anything and I’d hang around to watch anytime!


Why Stephen Colbert Taking Over “Late Show” Doesn’t Necessarily Wow Me…Right Now That Is

Stephen Colbert welcomes Jimmy Fallon to his new time slot and Tonight Show. Come 2015 they will be time slot rivals for the full hour when Colbert takes over for David Letterman.

Stephen Colbert welcomes Jimmy Fallon to his new time slot and Tonight Show. Come 2015 they will be time slot rivals for the full hour when Colbert takes over for David Letterman.

It was just announced today that Stephen Colbert will be taking over for David Letterman as host of CBS’s Late Show. While Colbert was the early odds on favorite for the hosting gig once Letterman announced his retirement last week. I couldn’t help but meet that announcement with a huge reaction of “Meh.” Karen Valby of Entertainment Weekly summed it up for me as a rather unsurprising pick. But then again Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter says the pick couldn’t be more inspired or better transitioned. Okay Tim, all I have to say to that is be careful what you wish for.

Don’t get me wrong I love Stephen Colbert as a performer, he’s actually a very good actor, with a sensational delivery who can add punch to any zinger especially those one liners that focus on his specialty: current events with a political twist. But the problem for me accepting this is hire is that right now all we know of Colbert is that is he a performer and not a traditional comedian, he’s an actual actor with chops, believe it or not I’ve seen him on an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent a few years back and he was hamming it up before he really blew up on Comedy Central. We don’t really know how he will fair once he’s out of his “conservative character.” He may become the normal traditional talk show host. Who’s looking forward to that? I have a distinctive feeling he’s not going to be as critical and inquisitive to his guests as he is currently on his show on Comedy Central show. He may be forced to suck up to his guests just like everyone else currently does in late night just to please the suits at CBS.

Perhaps I’m just overanalyzing this, since he is an actor, Colbert will no doubt do skits and will feel free to ham it up galore without any self-awareness. This could go either one of two ways, he’ll hit it out of the ballpark with skit after skit showing his range or he’ll mellow out and become as bland as Jay Leno when he took over the Tonight Show back in 1992. Either way we’re in for something unexpected. And the timeline of Colbert’s contract at Comedy Central clearly implied he was waiting for Letterman to retire after his own one year extension at CBS. The hiring of Colbert also raises the question of how he’ll appeal to younger viewers. His show on Comedy Central appeals to younger males which no doubt makes CBS anticipating big numbers. But right now it’s a fight between the two Jimmy’s: Fallon and Kimmel over who has the most viral buzz and best moments that have people, especially younger people, talking over the water cooler the next morning. Whether or not Colbert can join the social media conversation outside of his “character” remains a question that David Bloom at Deadline Hollywood posted and has serious repercussions in this online media world.

Another reason for trepidation comes from Valby at EW, who brings up the point that she was unpleasantly surprised by the pick because CBS wasn’t thinking outside the box enough by not picking a woman or minority for the hosting gig. She feels someone like Amy Sedaris or Amy Schumer would have been perfect for the job. I do find that reasoning a bit disingenuous because let’s face it CBS wasn’t even considering a woman or minority candidate for this important position. By previous evidence alone, CBS has never been the first place that you would find the most innovation programming decisions. Think back to 2004 when they had a chance to replace Craig Kilborn as the host of The Late Late Show, D.L. Hughley impressed everyone from his tryout that many a comedian and actor was after. But who did they hire after multiple tryouts? Longshot Irishman Craig Ferguson of “The Drew Carey Show” fame, who was not as well known at the time and not as well reviewed during his tryout. CBS took the safest route possible and now may have another problem on replacing Ferguson in the 12:35am slot since he didn’t get the job he’s thought was rightfully his at 11:35pm.

But that’s looking too far in advance. Right now there are a lot of unanswered questions. All we know is Colbert’s writing crew will be going with him and he will get to keep the “Late Show” title. Everything else is up in the air from the venue to production staff since Letterman’s production company Worldwide Pants owns both the name and concept of Late Show and The Late Late Show due to the deal that CBS made to lure Letterman to their network in the first place back in 1994. Colbert is not spring chicken himself, in fact he turns fifty this year, although his age and youthful looks not withstanding he could have a very productive Late Show career that could last as many as fifteen years. Will Colbert have another long and productive career in prime time with more corporate pressure behind him? More than likely he will. Will he make television history with his own slice of primetime broadcast immortality. The odds lean towards yes, but realistically only time will tell on that front. Colbert will have a highly anticipated launch with viewers that will no doubt initially push him to number one in the rankings. Whether or not he can keep them and our interest over the long run remains the biggest question of all.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is Worth Seeing a Second Time


The production value alone are worth a trip to visit the Grand Budapest Hotel.

The production value alone are worth a trip to visit the Grand Budapest Hotel.

What I’m Watching

I love filmmaker Wes Anderson. Not because I always confuse him with Paul Thomas Anderson who has done some fine work directing indie dramas like Magnolia and There Will Be Blood. Nor is it because I confuse his with Paul W.S. Anderson director of the action horror franchise known as Resident Evil.  (You know I’m not the only one who confuses them all together) No, I enjoy Wes Anderson’s movies like The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom because of the rich storytelling combined with the abundance of flavor and color in every one of his movies. They all tend to follow a certain path, quirky characters living in an outlandish world, experiencing a story that can only be told in narration form because it’s too impossible to believe if only it wasn’t somehow happening on film. What I also love about Anderson’s world of wonder is he clearly pays attention to style in addition to the substance. The substance is in the writing and the performances he brings out of his actors, the style is in the ornate location shoots, production design, the costumes, the makeup, the cinematography, even the musical score are so effective they play such integral parts in the movie they are almost seen as characters.

The Cast of Characters

The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different. Namely because the movie is named after where most of the action takes place “The Hotel” plays such a vital role in the movie that it becomes an essential character in the lives of our storytellers. Hotel is told through a series of flashbacks through two different narrations. It begins with the narration of the “author” as played in current form by Tom Wilkinson and his younger self known as “young writer” as played by Jude Law. The author regales a story of visiting a crumbling but still open for business hotel by the name of The Grand Budapest Hotel while traveling through an Alpine nation in Eastern Europe know as Zubrowka. There our storyteller meets and listens to the remarkable story of the hotel’s owner Zero Moustafa as played by F. Murray Abraham on how he came to own this Grand Hotel. Zero’s younger self, as played by newcomer Tony Revolori, begins as the hotel’s lobby boy in 1932 starts an apprenticeship under Gustave H. the hotel’s legendary concierge. He proceeds to learn from Gustave everything he needs to know about the hotel business including loyalty, duty, and love especially when it comes to the duties in the details of the job.

Spoiler Alert

From there we encounter a wacky story of love and loss which revolves around Gustav getting accused of murdering one of the hotel older patron’s Madame D. (as played by Tilda Swinton) who upon her death turns leaves Gustav a priceless painting, and eventually we learn her entire fortune. But Gustav gets imprisoned for allegedly murdering Madame D. and the tale turns into both a who-dun-it mystery but a wild escape-from-jail caper as well. In between there are supporting roles from many a star, some of whom have worked with Anderson before, among them Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, and Owen Wilson. Some play key roles, other have a blink and you missed it cameo role. They’re all fun and the plotting of the entire film with all of these characters helps makes the movie role merrily along.

Who isn't in this movie? Ralph Fiennes headlines an all star cast most of whom you won't recognize behind all of the costumes and makeup.

Who isn’t in this movie? Ralph Fiennes headlines an all star cast most of whom you won’t recognize behind all of the costumes and makeup.

My Take

The reason why you need to watch this movie for the second time is not about the plot. That’s not hard to ascertain. It’s a quick witted and rather simply plotted film for such a elaborate caper that straddling many genres from dark comedy to adventure to borderline suspense with a hint of emotional nostalgia thanks to the overall storytelling aspect of the movie. Strong performances by all around especially our leads Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori. Fiennes who I feel hasn’t been allowed to shine in a well made movie for so long finally gets his chance to dig his teeth into something meaty here with a touch a charisma, fun and sass. And Tony Revolori, whom I have never seen on screen before, is a total natural here playing it up against actors more seasoned and well known than he is. I do have some exception with the relationship between Revolori’s Zero character and his love interest Agatha (played by Saoirse Ronan), as they display very little chemistry and her role seems to be more of a setup character who barely aides Gustav and Zero in their quest to bring justice to light. And then there’s Adrien Brody who has another thankless role in which he plays the villain but has no deep storyline impact. The bigger scene stealer is the character of J.D. Jpoling (Willem Dafoe) as the heavy who personally goes after Gustave and Zero. Hijinks are to be had for sure with Gustav getting help breaking of prison to J.D. hunting down Gustav and Zero by taking down anything and anyone in his way.

This is black comedy for sure, with a surprising heavy dose of violence for a Wes Anderson movie. But what really grabbed me was the witty dialogue and ridiculous storyline that captures the essence of a Wes Anderson movie. This is a fun, mindless farce that means nothing in the long run but gets away with everything in the short term. I insist everyone go see it to see this movie that is filmed in a fictitious world where the ridiculous comes across as clever through brilliantly constructed dialog, with sharply executed timing, and unexpected plot changes. Especially take note when the action is taken outside, the camera shots come across as little art pieces very similar to the few of you who may have seen Moonrise Kingdom, they are beautifully constructed with edits that simply ad to the timing.  Also, go see it for the many well played performances, which enhances the one minute absurd the next minute poignant storyline which takes you through the lives to two remarkable gentlemen and how they deal with love and loss. You’re gonna want to watch a second time to make sure you got all of the plot points and cleaver dialog the first time alone.

In the end, I expect at least two Oscar® nominations come this time year for the script and the production design. Although it only in March and the Academy rarely recognizes films this early the script and locales are too mythical and urbane to forget this time next year. For that reason alone you should see The Grand Budapest Hotel twice!