By Meryl Gottlieb| mg986611@ohiou.edu| @buzzlightmeryl

NBC-Hannibal-About-Cast-1920x1080UPDATE: Announcements are coming out by the second so look for the updates throughout the post!!

I have anxiously been awaiting the news of this year’s renewals and cancellations for weeks. A few of my favorite shows were on the line and I was also curious about how some newcomers would do in garnering a sophomore season. There are some surprises and some actually rational decisions. Freshmen comedies did not fare well.

The announcement I was mostly interested in was the fate of NBC’s Hannibal. Bryan Fuller’s psychological thriller is absolutely spectacular with its rich visual images, biting dialogue (pun intended) and simply scary as hell storytelling. It’s a cult favorite, but it doesn’t do well with ratings with its Friday night slot. Thus, I worried myself silly. Luckily, as I was writing this post, it was announced the Peacock network was going to renew my beloved horror, and I am ecstatic. This was the one show I was really counting on, and it all worked out! Yay Fannibals!

Continuing with NBC, there isn’t as much surprising news. Freshman series The Blacklist‘s renewal was announced ages ago while we also already knew of the demise of The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World — good riddance. However, there are still a few series left up in the air. With the renewal of Hannibal, it’s hard to tell if Dracula will get another season. Crisis and Believe are both believed (pun unintended) to be facing cancellation since their drop from the final Sunday of May Sweeps. We’ll just have to wait and see, though I don’t think anyone would really be all that upset if they were axed. Meanwhile, Nashville awaits its fate. UPDATE: CrisisBelieve and Revolution have been canceled. UPDATE: One of the most highly anticipated reveals was the fate of beloved comedy Community, and now we know we won’t meet up with the Greendale gang next season. The show has been struggling with ratings essentially since the beginning but many hoped the return of creator Dan Harmon could save the show. Unfortunately, it didn’t. UPDATE: Nashville has been renewed for a third season. According to Deadline, the delay was caused by conflict over the tax breaks the show would receive in its third season because it films in Nashville. Rest assured, it will be back with a full 22 episode season. UPDATE: NBC has canceled the Jonathan Rhys Meyers thriller Dracula, making Parenthood the last show on the bubble.

UPDATE: The Peacock network has renewed both Parenthood and Parks and Recreation, but with a catch: the upcoming season will be both shows’ last. Parenthood‘s final season will also only consist of 13 episodes, but looking at the show’s track record, this isn’t that uncommon. The drama has done a roller coaster each season with gaining and losing episodes while technically only have two full season orders. According to Entertainment Weekly, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke said Parks and Recreation would be held for midseason. Executive producer Michael Schur has made it known that he thought the show was fairly likely to wrap up with a seventh season, especially after that time-jumping monumental season finale. I can’t really comment on the fate of Parenthood but I will say that I think a seventh and final season would be a great way to end Parks and Recreation. That finale was great in the sense that it will let us see into the future of the crazy characters we’ve come to love so dearly. The show has grown so much and I think it would be a pitiful end if we never got to see the characters truly grow up as well. I’m excited to see what will happen in Pawnee.

CBS renewed some 20 shows including hits The Big Bang TheoryNCISThe Good Wife and 2 Broke Girls. Along with the well-established shows, new comedies Mom and The Millers got the greenlight for another season. Though I like Mom significantly more than The Millers, both are strong comedies that definitely deserve the renewals. Sadly, other freshman comedy The Crazy Ones is still very much in limbo. Of all the new shows of this season, The Crazy Ones was my favorite; it’s a great comedy with a hilarious cast that delivers each week. Here’s hoping I will get to watch it next season!

BnSyd9uCYAAy0X_UPDATE: CBS just made it interesting. After what seemed like it was only renewing all of its shows, the network revealed Saturday its decision to cancel five shows and renew one. Surprisingly, The Mentalist will return. This was the one show I was sure would be canceled on CBS. However, others weren’t as lucky. Midseason comedy launches Friends with Better Lives and Bad Teacher have been axed. James Van Der Beek just can’t catch a break. And for the most devastating news, CBS canceled personal freshman favorite The Crazy Ones. This was the best comedy of the season. The entire cast was hilarious and the chemistry was amazing. Sure, Robin Williams was Robin Williams, but that’s why he’s successful. It’s also quite unfair to compare Sarah Michelle Gellar’s role as Sydney to her famed breakout role as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They were completely different and were never trying to say the same thing. Just because her character now wasn’t as strong as Buffy didn’t mean it wasn’t good in its own sense. I’m very surprised at this cancellation. I had always heard it was doing very well in the ratings, especially since it garnered the most views of all the pilots this season. Go figure. I’m just hoping Amanda Setton goes on to do more because she had me laughing more than anyone. Also, I’ll really miss seeing the hunky James Wolk each week. Most of all, I’ll just miss Lewis, Roberts + Roberts.

And now the shakeups with Fox and ABC.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the only freshmen comedy that is staying on Fox. RakeSurviving Jack and Enlisted have all been canceled. I’ve heard Enlisted had a lot of potential, but I’m thinking its Friday night slot wasn’t helping with its ratings issue. Why don’t we give shows a chance? Why would you immediately put a show in a slot that will most likely kill it? Sadly, Raising Hope was also canceled. I wasn’t able to keep up with it, but I loved that show. The cast was hilarious and each week made me laugh. Instead, the network keeps shows like Glee. Riddle me that. But thankfully, new Seth MacFarlane comedy Dads has been canceled. I was instantly put off by the pilot and never gave it a second look, so it certainly deserves this fate. I’m hoping The X Factor‘s cancellation will soon lead to the demise of American Idol, which should have been done after its sixth season. Seriously, has anyone actually found success after winning that show anymore? Of the 12 winner so far, I can name five who have actually done something. Favorites The Mindy ProjectNew GirlThe Following and Sleepy Hollow will all also enjoy another season. Also, thank you Fox for not making us wait on the fate of some shows. It, along with The CW, is the only network to give all the details.

ABC is certainly mixing up its lineup as it has half renewals and half cancellations/ unknowns as of now. Obvious choices Modern FamilyScandal and Shark Tank have been renewed, but there are still a ton of shows waiting. Surprisingly, Nashville is one of them. I don’t watch the show, but I know it has a rather large fan base, so I’m curious as to what is making them wait to announce their decision. On the other hand, we already knew about the cancellation of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and there’s no shocker there. The original OUAT is enough and wearing thin in its own sense; we don’t need a carbon copy. Recently, ABC announced comedies Trophy WifeMixology and The Neighbors were canceled. I never gave Mixology a shot and thought The Neighbors was atrocious, but Trophy Wife was actually funny. It was the one ABC comedy pilot I truly enjoyed. In a way, it was Modern Family but different. Hence, it definitely should have aired after the comedy champion on Wednesday instead of on Tuesday. Put your best new comedy after your reigning best; it’s more likely to survive. Again, gives these new shows a chance! UPDATE: Suburgatory and Super Fun Night have been canceled. UPDATE: Not all of the ABC comedies have been given the ax. Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing has been renewed for a fourth season.

Total cancellations by network: ABC: 8, CBS: 5, Fox: 7, NBC: 8 and The CW: 3.

Here is a full list of the renewals and cancellations on the networks (updated as news is released):

ABC
The Bachelor: Renewed
Castle: Renewed
Dancing with the Stars: Renewed
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Renewed
The Goldbergs: Renewed
Trophy Wife: Canceled
The Middle: Renewed
Suburgatory: Canceled
Super Fun Night: Canceled
Grey’s Anatomy: Renewed
Modern Family: Shocker, it’s renewed
Scandal: Renewed
Nashville: Renewed
Revenge: Renewed
Last Man Standing: Renewed
The Neighbors: Canceled
Shark Tank: Renewed
Once Upon a Time: Renewed
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: Unsurprisingly, canceled
Betrayal: Canceled
Resurrection: Renewed
Mind Games: Canceled
Mixology: Canceled

CBS
How I Met Your Mother: Finished
2 Broke Girls: Renewed
Mike & Molly: Renewed
Mom: Renewed
Hostages: Canceled because no one will miss it
NCIS: Renewed
NICS: LA: Renewed
Person of Interest: Renewed
Elementary: Renewed
Survivor: Renewed
Criminal Minds: Renewed
CSI: Renewed
The Big Bang Theory: One of the most successful network comedies has of course been renewed
The Millers: Renewed
The Crazy Ones: The most unfortunate news: canceled
Two and a Half Men: Somehow, it was renewed
Hawaii Five-O: Wait this is still on? Renewed
Blue Bloods: Renewed
The Amazing Race: Renewed
The Good Wife: Renewed
The Mentalist: Renewed
Intelligence: Canceled
Friends With Better Lives: Canceled
Bad Teacher: Canceled

Fox
Sleepy Hollow: Renewed
Bones: Renewed
Glee: Renewed
The Simpsons: Renewed
MasterChef Junior: Renewed
Bob’s Burgers: Renewed
Family Guy: Very likely
The Following: Renewed
Almost Human: Canceled
Dads: Canceled
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Renewed
The Mindy Project: Renewed
New Girl: Renewed
American Idol: Renewed for a 14th season
Raising Hope: Sadly, canceled
Enlisted: Canceled
American Dad: Moving to TBS — interesting
Rake: Canceled
Surviving Jack: Canceled
The X Factor: Canceled — gives me hope for a future when American Idol will soon be gone

NBC
The Blacklist: Renewed
The Voice: I don’t think there’s any questions here
Chicago Fire: Renewed
Chicago PD: Renewed
Revolution: Canceled
Law & Order SVU: The only good Law & Order is renewed
Parks and Recreation: Renewed for a final season
Community: Sadly, canceled
The Michael J. Fox Show: Canceled
Sean Saves the World: Canceled
Parenthood: Renewed for a final season
Grimm: Renewed
Hannibal: Renewed
Dracula: Canceled
Believe: Canceled
About a Boy: Renewed
Growing Up Fisher: What even is this? Probably why it was canceled
Crisis: Canceled

The CW
Supernatural: Undoubtedly, renewed
Arrow: Renewed
The Vampire Diaries: Renewed
The Originals: Renewed
Reign: Renewed
The 100: Renewed
Hart of Dixie: Renewed
The Carrie Diaries: Canceled
Beauty and the Beast: Renewed
Star-Crossed: Canceled
The Tomorrow People: The only CW pilot I enjoyed, canceled

By Meryl Gottlieb| mg986611@ohiou.edu| @buzzlightmeryl    
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox    
Rating: 3/5   

ODNT_Stills_(2)I was particularly interested in tonight’s episode of Glee titled “Old Dog New Tricks” for three reasons. One, there would be dogs. Two, Chris Colfer wrote the episode. Three, Billy Dee Williams was for some reason guest starring. That’s right, Lando Calrissian appeared in an episode of Glee. I never thought I’d see the day.

I had faith Colfer would do very well in writing an episode because he is already a best-selling author. What I find interesting in his episode is how a lot more was said about certain characters than had been said in past episodes written by Glee staff writers. There has been an unusually long pause on Kurt’s (Colfer) storyline and this episode finally gave him a bit of the spotlight. Interestingly enough, Colfer managed to write Sam (Chord Overstreet) better than the writers have been doing. I think it’s great they let him guest write. I think he should do it more often, or at least once in season six.

Rumors are circulating about Rachel (Lea Michele) being quite a diva and overachiever, and she’s worried her career will end sooner than she thought. Cue Santana (Naya Rivera) and her wit to save the day: “Look at Angelina Jolie. She used to wear a vile of blood around her neck and kiss her brother and now she’s Mother Earth.” All Rachel needs is a publicist and a cause, Santana says. And Santana is her publicist and dogs will be her cause.

Thus, Broadway Bitches was born. I do adore the pun, but I like the real-life Broadway Barks event better. The gang goes to a shelter to set everything up. There’s a terrible transition about how the dogs will only stop barking with music and then they sing “I Melt With You.” Granted, I did enjoy the veterinarians dancing around and found it incredibly silly they were all dancing around rows of dogs in cages, but I am glad they didn’t do “Who Let the Dogs Out?” And it’s hard to not like a musical number when there are so many cute dogs on screen. They had an unfair advantage on this one.

At the shelter, Sam falls in love with a dog and, despite Mercedes’ (Amber Riley) wishes, adopts him and calls him McConaughey. I seriously laughed out loud at Riley’s performance when Mercedes discovers the mess McConaughey has made, including chewing up her weaves and shoes. It was spot on. Of all the original cast members, she was the best one to bring back and the only one I truly missed.

To prove to her that he can take care of the dog, Sam sets up an obstacle course to train McConaughey as he sings “Werewolves of London.” Again, it’s hard to not like a scene when you have a very cute dog doing some tricks and getting a bath.

But not everyone is a softie like me, and Mercedes still urges they find the puppy a better home because both of their schedules are so in flux and the fact they’re still just trying to figure themselves out first. I’m glad we finally saw a bit of a different side of Sam here. Before he agrees with Mercedes, he puts up a fight and reminds everyone how he was the one who took care of his family when they were so poor. Everyone now just thinks Sam is such a dunce, but there was a time when he was responsible and not just the dumb blond.

To help with publicity for the charity event, a “chance” run-in with Rachel and some paparazzi is set up, with the a little hilarious help from Blaine (Darren Criss) and Santana. It’s all going according to plan until the hungry dogs chase a man with a hotdog and drag Rachel four blocks. I’m not sure who framed this scnee, but bravo to them. It was hilarious. Anymore, I feel it is more so Lea Michele on my screen than Rachel Berry, but I’m not complaining.

You would think Rachel would include have everyone perform in this event, as per the usual Glee formula, but when Kurt asks, she denies him. And finally we have the episode where Kurt finally vocalizes how he is only their friend when it’s convenient.

At the same time, he makes a new friend in Maggie Banks (June Squibb), who starred in the biggest Broadway flop Helen Keller: The Musical. That’s definitely a Colfer joke. The odd couple met in the diner when Maggie came in to advertise for her retirement home’s production of Peter Pan. She makes a jab about NBC making Clay Aiken the star and ruining the show, a joke that is more poignant now that Fox is competing with NBC in the live musical broadcast business.

Kurt goes to visit Maggie just at the moment when their current star dies in the Peter Pan harness. Yeah, that scene didn’t feel right to me either. Kurt steps up so that they don’t have to cancel the show. Tim Conway, another random guest star, makes him audition, so naturally he sings “Memory” from Cats. I’m not sure if it’s just to continue the animal storyline or if Colfer really just wanted to sing this song, but I found it an odd song choice. It may just be because Cats isn’t exactly my favorite musical and that I can’t think about singing “Memory” seriously after my friend and I used to jokingly sing it to each other.

I have to say I’m thoroughly confused as to why Glee sought after so many renowned older actors. Squibb was the only one actually used and used pretty well. Billy Dee Williams and Tim Conway each said one line and stood in the background. I don’t get it. If you have the opportunity to use Lando, then use him!

Broadway Bitches is going well until the three-legged dog Rachel was going to use for the spotlight is about to be adopted. Rachel and Santana argue for the dog back, prompting the woman to comment on how Rachel is a fraud and doesn’t care about anyone but herself. Partially true. Season one Rachel’s selfishness always came across rather funny, but now it is mostly snobby with a hint of hilarity. That insane enthusiasm, passion and ability to spit out ten lines of dialogue in 30 seconds was what made me love her. Let’s figure out how to write for her now.

But to show she does care about others, Rachel does go to Kurt’s Peter Pan opening. In the famed green leafed suit and harness, Kurt spins around the stage and sings “Lucky Star.” It had more of a Xanadu vibe than Peter Pan but I do love Madonna. Looking at this scene in itself, it was crazy and fun. I loved that Squibb sang a few times throughout the episode.

Because you can’t end Glee without a big number, the retirement home is invited to perform at Broadway Bitches. Combining old Broadway with new and also puppies, the cast sings “Take Me Home Tonight” as they dance around the Spotlight Diner handing puppies out to potential adopters.

Give me Darren Criss singing to a puppy and I’ll tolerate anything.

dog1

dog2

I do commend Colfer on a pretty good episode. I think Smash could have benefited from doing a Broadway Barks episode — it’s the power of puppies. I really enjoyed Squibb in the episode, but don’t see the reason the show went to the trouble of getting Williams and Conway when they didn’t do anything with them. I actually enjoyed the songs. For the majority of this season, I couldn’t even tolerate the covers, but now I find myself nodding along as I used to.

There’s only one episode left until the season finale. I have no idea what will be in store and what it will lead to in season six. I’m quite interested to see where Ryan Murphy will take us.

By Meryl Gottlieb | mg986611@ohiou.edu | @buzzlightmeryl
Star Wars: Episode VII is set for release on Dec. 8, 2015

star-wars-episode-7-cast-announceThe force is strong in the universe: the new slew of Jedis has been announced.

John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker in Star Wars: Episode VII.

“We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII,” said J.J. Abrams, the director. “It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.”

I absolutely loved Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis; he was a remarkable lead with a great voice. Here’s hoping there is a folksy Jedi role to be filled. Adding Andy Serkis to any nerd classic is the right move. That man has done incredible work in Lord of the RingsRise of the Planet of the Apes and King Kong. I’m interested to see if he will do a motion-capture performance or if he will appear as himself. With the vast world of Star Wars and all the creatures it contains, it wouldn’t be a long shot to transform Serkis into an other-wordly being.

Adam Driver of HBO’s Girls has long been rumored to be connected to the latest Star Wars film, so now it’s simply official. Will he be playing the role of the villain as so many have guessed? There’s no way anyone will let that slip this early. In fact, I think they only piece of information we know for sure is that Episode VII takes place some number of years after the events of Return of the Jedi.

You may not know John Boyega, but I’m sure you will soon. Not only has he garnered this incredible deal, you will also be seeing him in the 24 reboot. Domhnall Gleeson is still relatively unknown but Harry Potter fans will recognize him as Bill Weasley from the final films. Max von Sydow is not pictured, but you may know him from as Father Merrin in The Exorcist. Lastly, you won’t really find anything on Daisy Ridley because there isn’t really anything to find. Of all the unknowns in the cast, she is the biggest mystery. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

As a Star Wars fan, it is great to know the old favorites are returning. Ford, Fisher and Hamill should all be returning to their original roles as Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, respectively. It would be more than silly if Abrams brought them all back to play random mom and dad figures to the newbies. And a major jump for joy comes from the fact that favorites Anthony Daniels will be good ol’ C3PO, larger-than-life Peter Mayhew will return as the furball Chewbacca and Kenny Baker will beep-boop back into our hearts as R2-D2.

Also pictured between Driver and Abrams is the writer Lawrence Kasdan, who also penned Empire Strikes Back — the installment I deem as the best Star Wars film ever. Furthermore, composer John Williams, who wrote the scores for all six Star Wars films, will create the music for Episode VII.

So really, what more could a fan ask for as of now? I mean, could it really be any worse than Episode I? I have faith in Abrams, so hopefully I haven’t been led astray.

By Meryl Gottlieb| mg986611@ohiou.edu| @buzzlightmeryl    
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox    
Rating: 4/5 

shirleyIt looks like we’re on an uphill streak as Glee’s fifth season nears its end. Tonight’s episode, “The Back-Up Plan” is the epitome of what I meant when I said the show would be better in New York City and without pointless side characters. Artie’s (Kevin McHale) and Sam’s (Chord Overstreet) absence went without remorse. Though they may be original glee club members, they are not interesting, and thus only bring down the show when they are forced into the storylines. Tonight’s episode was free of lackluster storylines and finally had an entire episode full of songs I enjoyed. This hasn’t happened in awhile, so let’s rejoice!

doo wop 1Mercedes (Amber Riley) needs a hit for her album, so she teams up with Santana (Naya Rivera) to help muster up that magic they made in high school together when they did duets. While in the studio, they realize the real magic comes from getting out from behind the glass. With a pretty low-tech microphone and a JAMBOX speaker, the two sing “Doo Wop (That Thing)” all throughout the building, even the bathroom. I was not a fan of the rapping; it was pretty poorly executed. However, the few times Rivera chimed in with her smooth, incredible voice made the scene acceptable.

The producer loves it, but he doesn’t want Santana on the record because she’s a nobody. As the good morals girl we all know she is, Mercedes puts her record deal at risk when she refuses to do the duet with Santana or no one at all. Good for you for sticking up for your friends and everything, but are you really in the position to make that drastic decision? I’m not sure you’re being rational, Mercedes.

Kurt (Chris Colfer) has been asked to perform at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the reveal of the new dance lab to be named in honor of socialite June Dolloway (Shirley MacLaine). Naturally, he has the authority to make it a duet with Blaine (Darren Criss) to “Story of My Life.” Seriously, you kids need to follow directions. You can’t make solos into duets at your own will. Anyway, Criss blows Colfer out of the water with this performance. Criss’ vocals are a much better match for this song; Colfer has to dig too deep in his range to harmonize and it simply doesn’t do him any favors. Maybe it’s on purpose because June is supposed to take special interest in Blaine, or because Criss just has a bigger — and, in my opinion, better — voice than Colfer.

bjuneJune wants Blaine to be her new project, the thing she will groom into a star. She takes him to a banquet in which only the 1 percent of the 1 percent are in attendance. In order to introduce Blaine and raise more money for whatever cause this banquet is for, June brings Blaine up on stage to duet to “Piece of My Heart.” Criss and MacLaine have amazing chemistry and make a great pair. I absolutely loved this performance. MacLaine has never been the strongest of singers but this song fit her talents well.

Next, June wants to hold a showcase for Blaine to really show him off. All of a sudden Blaine and Kurt are inseparable and in love again, so he asks if Kurt can be a part of the show. And June’s response really peaks my interests. She tells him to break it off with Kurt and that love comes and goes. He puts up a fight initially but doesn’t try to dissent for long. When he gets home, he lies to Kurt and tells him that June wants Kurt in the show. Oh boy. This is going to be some juicy drama.

Now THIS will be an interesting issue to follow. I don’t want Klaine’s relationship to be easy, but I also don’t want it to falter because one of them cheated or something. It should be about their careers. We all know Ryan Murphy loves Criss beyond belief, so it’s only natural that Blaine is the one who is continually handed all of these things. We’ve already seen these two get competitive in “Tested” and it led to a great musical number, so fingers crossed we get good drama and a musical number next time.

Also, congrats to Glee for finally remembering how to use a new guest star. Peter Facinelli and Ioan Gruffudd were used poorly and awkwardly, but MacLaine was great. Her character is going to be a great tool in advancing the storylines of a few characters; her musical number was fitting to her talents; and she simply knocked it out of the park. I love her, and I was thrilled to see in tonight’s episode.

montageIt’s been three weeks since the opening of Funny Girl and Rachel (Lea Michele) is on cloud nine. She is being recognized, and she even signed with one of the top five talent agencies ICA, where Richard Kind is her agent. These random guest appearances are simply too much. But not everything is perfect; she seems bored in the consistent ritual of doing eight shows a week. She sings a beautiful ballad version of “Wake Me Up” while a montage demonstrating how repetitious her job is plays. This would have been a perfect moment had that montage not botched it up. This ballad is what made Glee. It took songs and made them new by performing them in unique ways. I love this cover way more than the original. However, the continual cuts in the first part of the montage when Rachel is doing her makeup is distracting and the worst part was seeing a never-ending parade of Rachel Berrys march out of her dressing room. So close, Glee, so close.

When she is approached by Jim Rash, who plays the head of Fox, Rachel thinks the future of her career lies in television. Rash — whose character’s name escaped me — tells her to be in Los Angeles Tuesday for a reading of the pilot “The Song of Solomon.” To fulfill her ambitious dreams, Rachel goes so far as to fake call-in sick to producer Sidney (Michael Lerner) so that she can miss a show and head to LA.

She sings “The Rose” for her audition and makes my heart melt. Michele’s vocals cannot be beaten; this episode spectacularly showcased her voice. You would think the Fox producers would be equally impressed, but alas, they were not. It’s because the show isn’t a musical! Surprise! It’s a sci-fi opera, a Guardians of the Galaxy meets Game of Thrones concept with a splash of Grey’s Anatomy — an A+ description in my book. I’m not really sure if anyone else enjoyed this scene but I sure did. It was more Lea Michele than Rachel Berry doing the read-through, but I didn’t care. It was hilarious. I would personally like to give a pat on the back to whoever thought of this crazy idea.

The audition was a flop but Rachel has a bigger issue at hand when Sidney calls saying her understudy got hurt and they need her regardless of her health conditions. But Rachel is still in LA so she calls Kurt and co. to help her out. Oddly, they decided to fix this by having Santana go on as her replacement. At least they didn’t try some whacky idea where the three of them would somehow delay a Broadway show with an opening act or comedy bit. This at least got the issue taken cared of.

Rachel meets with Sidney the next morning to find out that he and the rest of the producers really wanted to fire her, but they won’t because she is so good in the role. Yet, he makes it quite clear that if she ever lets her ambition get in the way of the show, he will fire her and sue her for breach of contract — a very good point that she really should have thought of. It seems as if she has learned her lesson when Jim Rash calls her to tell Rachel that Fox wants to create an entire TV show around her and that they are sending a writer to New York to meet with her.

This is a little too meta for me. Lea Michele essentially made her Broadway breakout not too long before joining the Fox show Glee. If this show created around Rachel turns out to be about her experiences in her high school glee club, I will never forgive Ryan Murphy. This fifth season just started to get tolerable. I just stopped loathing it entirely and simply dislike it now. That’s a major improvement! Do not ruin it with that bailout, cheating “solution.” We know the sixth season of Glee will not be New York-centric, but let’s pray it isn’t set on the Fox studio lot. Writers, please don’t do this. Please.

By Meryl Gottlieb | mg986611@ohiou.edu | @buzzlightmeryl
The 68th Tony Awards, hosted by Hugh Jackman, will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sunday, June 8 on CBS

hugh jackmanThe nominations for the 68th annual Tony Awards were held early Tuesday morning and were announced by Broadway babe Jonathan Groff and TV star Lucy Liu.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder leads with 10 nominations, followed by Hedwig and the Angry Inch with eight noms and After MidnightBeautiful: The Carole King MusicalThe Glass Menagerie and Twelfth Night each garnering seven nominations. Other notable productions are The Cripple of Inishmaan with six nominations, Aladdin: The Musical with five and Rocky with four.

I suspect A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder will dominate the award show as Kinky Boots, Once and The Book of Mormon did in their respective years. I guess I’ll have to add it to my list of must-see shows for when I’m in NYC.

I haven’t heard much about Gentleman’s Guide so I can’t fairly assess the nominations, but I’m surprised that with all the buzz, Rocky didn’t make the top mark of a Best Musical nomination.

nph hedwig first look2I’m beyond thrilled to see some of my favorites up there: Neil Patrick  Harris, Sutton Foster, Audra McDonald and Kelli O’Hara. There’s no doubt in my mind that these are deserved nominations. As much as I love Idina Menzel, I have to question this nomination. I haven’t heard great things about If/ Then and am a bit surprised she is getting one of its two nominations. I hate to say it, but I feel this is more of a popularity vote because she is so high right now. Get ready for tons of Frozen jokes and “Let It Go” parodies.

The nominees in Best Revival of a Play are essentially dominating all of the other play categories — a section we can only hope is finally presented in a better way than usual.

The only snub I think worth mentioning is the absence of Cabaret in the Best Revival of a Musical category. I’m quite surprised by that one.

Lastly, my loudest initial thought is remorse over the fact that First Date was not nominated for anything. I know it was a long shot, but a girl can hope. First Date was quite possibly one of the best musical comedies I’ve ever seen. It should at least be recognized for its score.

What do you think of the nominations? Is your favorite show missing from the list? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl

Here is a full list of the nominees:

Best Play
Act One
All the Way
Casa Valentina
Mothers and Sons
Outside Mullingar

Best Musical
After Midnight
Aladdin
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Best Revival of a Play
The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Glass Menagerie
A Raisin in the Sun
Twelfth Night

Best Revival of a Musical
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Les Miserables
Violet

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Samuel Barnett — Twelfth Night
Bryan Cranston — All the Way
Chris O’Dowd — Of Mice and Men
Mark Rylance — Richard III
Tony Shalhoub — Act One

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Audra McDonald — Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Tyne Daly — Mothers and Sons
Estelle Parsons — The Velocity of Autumn
LaTanya Richardson Jackson — A Raisin in the Sun
Cherry Jones — The Glass Menagerie

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Ramin Karimloo — Les Miserables
Neil Patrick Harris — Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Jefferson Mays — A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Bryce Pinkham — A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Andy Karl — Rocky

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Idina Menzel — If/Then
Mary Bridget Davis — A Night with Janice Joplin
Jessie Mueller — Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Kelli O’Hara — The Bridges of Madison County
Sutton Foster — Violet

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Reed Birney — Casa Valentina
Paul Chahidi — Twelfth Night
Stephen Fry — Twelfth Night
Mark Rylance — Twelfth Night
Brian J. Smith — The Glass Menagerie

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Sarah Greene — The Cripple of Inishmaan
Celia Keenan-Bolger — The Glass Menagerie
Sophie Okonedo — A Raisin in the Sun
Mare Winningham — Casa Valentina
Anika Noni Rose — A Raisin in the Sun

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Danny Burstein — Cabaret
Nick Cordero — Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry — Violet
James Monroe Iglehart — Aladdin
Jarrod Spector — Beautiful

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Linda Emond  Cabaret
Lena Hall  Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Anika Larsen  Beautiful
Adriane Lenox  After Midnight
Lauren Worsham  A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Best Book of a Musical
Chad Beguelin — Aladdin
Douglas McGrath — Beautiful
Woody Allen — Bullets Over Broadway
Robert L Freedman — A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Best Score (“Music & Lyrics)
Jason Robert Brown — The Bridges of Madison County
Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey — If/Then
Steven Lutvak and Robert L. Freedman — A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Alan Menken and Chad Beguelin — Aladdin

Best Director of a Musical
Warren Carlyle — After Midnight
Michael Mayer — Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Leigh Silverman — Violet
Darko Tresnjak — A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Best Director of a Play
Tim Carroll — Twelfth Night
Michael Grandage — The Cripple of Inishmaan
Kenny Leon — A Raisin in the Sun
John Tiffany — The Glass Menagerie

Best Choreography
Warren Carlyle — After Midnight
Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine — Rocky
Casey Nicholaw — Aladdin
Susan Stroman — Bullets Over Broadway

Best Orchestrations
Doug Besterman — Bullets Over Broadway
Jason Robert Brown — The Bridges of Madison County
Steve Sidwell — Beautiful
Jonathan Tunick — A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Christopher Barreca — Rocky
Julian Crouch — Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Alexander Dodge — A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Santo Loquasto — Bullets Over Broadway

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt — Act One
Bob Crowley — The Glass Menagerie
Es Devlin — Machinal
Christopher Oram — The Cripple of Inishmaan

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho — A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
William Ivey Long — Bullets Over Broadway
Arianne Phillips — Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Isabel Toledo — After Midnight

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams — Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Christopher Akerlind — Rocky
Howell Binkley — After Midnight
Donald Holder — The Bridges of Madison County

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable — The Cripple of Inishmaan
Jane Cox — Machinal
Natasha Katz — The Glass Menagerie
Japhy Weideman — Of Mice and Men

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Peter Hylenski — After Midnight
Tim O’Heir — Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Mick Potter — Les Miserables
Brian Ronan — Beautiful

Best Sound Design of a Play
Alex Baranowski — The Cripple of Inishmaan
Steve Canyon Kennedy — Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Dan Moses Schreier — Act One
Matt Tierney — Machinal

By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu| @thewillofash
Neighbors
| Directed by Nicholas Stoller | Rated R
RATING: 3/5

NEIGHBORS-Poster-ArtDuring the past two years, it appears that Seth Rogen has finally defined his formula.

Whether it is as a star, producer, writer or director—or all of the above—he has been developing a strong sense of his comedic presence and of his own sense of rhythm and timing.

But, most importantly, he has finally figured out that he needs to be seen in the R-rated raunchy format. After some false starts staring in The Green Hornet (which he also co-wrote and executive produced) and The Guilt Trip (again, he was an executive producer, so he deserves at least some of the blame), it was apparent that he is a likable lead, but that he needed the freedom only the R-rating can give him, should he make the most of his time on the screen.

What makes this so commendable is that, where so many stars try too hard to make push their R-rating rather than actually make good jokes—I’m looking at you, Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler—Rogen has actually improved in many ways. Last year’s This is the End, which he co-directed, proved to be one of the tightest, leanest and surprisingly, delightfully dark big-budget comedies in some time.

While not quite as good as that film, he continues this tradition with his latest film Neighbors.

Centered on a clash formed between a stereotypical frat and a newly formed family, Rogen, who produces, continues his usual stick, perhaps to a fault. But the real surprise, and secret to this movie’s success, is found in Zac Efron, who plays the frat’s leader Teddy.

This is the type of movie that Efron needed. Although, to his credit, he tried it earlier this year with That Awkward Moment, this is the movie that truly gets him away from any Disney association he possibly had left and, finally, away from the lead in insipid romantic dramas. In addition to being extreme charismatic, he proves that he does have some chops in comedy beyond his good looks.

I doubt he has enough to make it completely on his own. But in an ensemble comedy like this with some strong writing by Andrew J. Cohen and Brandan O’Brien, he makes the most of his talent.

In fact, the biggest problem that this movie faces, in terms of his character, is that its attempts to make him a more fleshed-out character often feel like an afterthought. I have a hard time believing that I am criticizing a movie for giving character development, but when it is as rudimentary and ineffective as it is here, I have to say something.

Not only do these moments slow down a film that is actually quite well paced throughout, but it never fully feels like these motivations are completely figured out. Instead, it feels like the work of re-writes, potentially from other ghostwriters, that didn’t fully make their way into the final product. It is possible that some of this was just lost in the editing room too, so maybe I shouldn’t just blame the script.

Efron’s character is not alone, though. There are several moments in this script where characters act a certain way just because the script tells them to. These moments never feel authentic, and often pull back on the film’s effectiveness. Although these are mostly found in Efron’s character, it is often seen in Rose Byrne’s too, who plays Rogen’s wife. Although, the screenwriters are so wisely meta about her character, getting some good comedic mileage out of select stereotypes of female characters in raunchy comedies.

Although the writing throughout is quite good, these problems weaken the elements of the film that are quite good, including Nicholas Stoller’s competent direction and its surprisingly good physical comedy timing.  There are more than a few bits that just don’t work—whether they are just not fully formed, or too immature or just plain stupid—and most of these come in the movie’s first 10 or 20 minutes.

I must admit: the beginning of this movie is a bit of a slog before the good stuff comes around, and that is when Efron and Rogen get time to shine together with their surprisingly decent chemistry. Whether it is sex jokes that aren’t that funny, or set ups that don’t really pay off, or their attempts at awkward humor that are too heavy-handed, these opening moments are easily among the weakest of the film’s humor offers. Which is a shame, because it does drag the film from being the truly good comedy it could very easily have been into just a pretty good one.

Of course, there are more than just that that makes it just a slightly above-average comedy. In addition to what I mentioned above, there is also the problem that the movie is more amusing than outright hilarious. There are certainly some very, very funny moments, but there are some that just don’t work either. Oddly, with one or two exceptions, it is usually the smaller moments that are funnier than the brash, outlandish ones.

Rogen appears to be skating on his typical comedic personality here. Which, truthfully, is fine, but one must admit that it is going to get old pretty soon. I am hoping that he does more comedies like Observe and Report pretty soon. Because, in attention to being one of the most underrated big studio R-rated comedies in some time, it proved that Rogen could play a different kind of character and do it very well.

The main reason that this movie doesn’t live up to how good This is the End was is because it simply lacks that movie’s heart. There are moments of sweetness throughout, but where the former movie had a thoughtful look at male bonding relationships, this is mostly a strictly juvenile frat-boy comedy. Which, if done well like it is here, is fine, but not exceptional.

Admittedly, the frat boy audience in my screening ate it up like nobody’s business. But they are also the type of people that enjoy movies like Project X, so their comedic opinions don’t really matter.

Because seriously, that movie sucked. Hard.

Despite these flaws, though, this is a constantly funny movie, which is very well paced and knows how to keep things light and moving quickly. It is not hard to imagine that this movie is going to be a hit, and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be. There is a lot here to like, even if there are a couple of things to dislike too. It may be hit-and-miss comedy, but the hits are hard.

Yes, I guess that is a penis joke. But, there are so many in here, it’s hard to not get sucked up in its attempts. Oh God, there I go again.

 

By Meryl Gottlieb | mg986611@ohiou.edu | @buzzlightmeryl

Grease Sing-A-LongFor Fox, Grease is the word that will put them on the live-musical map. The network has announced its order for a live-musical adaptation of the popular ’70s musical to be aired in 2015.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the broadcast will be three hours and is the first-ever live broadcast TV production of the 1971 musical from Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs, which also inspired the 1978 hit film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Remember that the film adaptation is the highest-grossing movie musical ever with nearly $400 million worldwide.  

“From Broadway to film, and across generations, Grease is one of the most beloved musical stories ever told – and we can’t wait to bring it to our air in a spectacular live event,” said Shana C. Waterman, senior VP of event series for Fox. “Its iconic characters and addictive songs make it the perfect fit for Fox, and we’re going to give it the kind of star power and production quality to make every Sandy, Danny, Rizzo and Kenickie out there want to get up and sing along.”

I know everybody wants a hickie from Kenickie, but it’s pretty safe to say this is Fox’s move to take some of the spotlight away from NBC, who revamped the live-musical game in December 2013 with The Sound of Music Live. With The Sound of Music garnering more than 20 million views — even though the lead actress was atrocious — it was obvious NBC would continue bringing Broadway shows to the small screen. In January, the Peacock network announced Peter Pan would be the featured musical for its Dec. 4 broadcast. Now, others are clearly looking to get a taste of the musical success.

Sure, this seems like a copycat move, but didn’t NBC’s Smash feel like an attempt to cash in on the success Fox was having with Glee? It seems these two are locked in battle for the title of musical broadcast champion. You think Glee is bad now, you should have watched passed the pilot of Smash. In that sense, Fox has won the series battle, but will it win the bigger undertaking of a live-broadcast? The Sound of Music Live was accepted so wholeheartedly because it was the first and because many were curious to see how the all-star cast would do — A+ to the Broadway vets but F- to Carrie Underwood. Who knows if Peter Pan will even be as marginally successful as The Sound of Music?

A key question is when Fox will air its broadcast. NBC is clinging to its “family” angle of airing the musical in the winter so that families can gather around and watch a family-friendly show. Is Fox going for the same motif? Both networks have chosen very safe musical choices in that, yes, they are ones an entire family can watch together — though Grease definitely has that risqué factor — and they are classics that everyone knows. I’ll be more interested in this battle when they started making tougher choices and pick a musical that isn’t so obvious.

It’s also only a matter of time until the Disney-owned ABC network produces its own broadcast. With Disney’s musical history, it’s a wonder they haven’t joined in this debacle already.

What are you thoughts on Fox’s announcement? Will you be watching these live musical broadcasts? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl

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