New branch of Seth MacFarlane Inc. opens on the Internet

By Barry Garron

The guy behind "Family Guy" and the wag behind "American Dad" is set to launch a new attack on our funnybones. Beginning Wednesday, Seth MacFarlane will present "Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy," a series of animated shorts, each about a minute or so long.

Under the deal with Google, Burger King and Media Rights Capital (remember them? they're the company that has taken over the programming of CW on Sundays), MacFarlane and his writers will create a total of 50 animated shorts, rolling them out at the rate of one or two a week. You can find them at either or (If you go to the site before Wednesday, you can see trailers of the shorts, each a few seconds long and without the punch line at the end.)

Seth_macfarlane Late last week, some members of the press, myself included, got a preview of the first 10. They range from mildly funny to hilarious. There are no recurring characters, just fast zingers, typically with pop culture figures, programs, movies or trends. My guess is that fast food restaurants are probably off-limits.

The first one has a dog giving clues on "The $25,000 Pyramid" and Super Mario saving a less-than-grateful princess. Each rates a solid belly laugh. MacFarlane supplies a lot of the voices but he also relies on voice talent from his other projects, including Alex Borstein, Seth Green and Alec Sulkin. Of the initial batch, MacFarlane said he wrote half and a small staff hired for the project wrote the other half.

I asked MacFarlane if he had thought about repurposing these clever shorts. He said it's possible they could be anthologized on DVD or on a TV program or even transformed into a book of cartoons but there were no definite plans. It's even possible that one or more of the shorts could inspire a TV show in much the same way "South Park" was born. That, too, is not yet in the cards.

Once the YouTube web site is up and running, visitors can enter a sweepstakes to--and I'm quoting the press release here--"win the chance to buy Seth MacFarlane dinner at a Burger King restaurant." Well, it beats getting one of those doofus paper crowns.

It's a big day for personal managers and their livelihood

Gavel_2A federal court will decide today whether contracts written between personal managers and their clients are worth the paper they're written on -- or nothing at all. To be more precise, a hearing will determine whether the California Labor Commission is vulnerable to a lawsuit alleging that enforcement of the Talent Agencies Act deprives managers of their right to contract in violation of the Constitution.

It represents an important milestone in the longtime fight logged by Rick Siegel, himself a longtime personal manager via his Los Angeles-based Marathon Entertainment. Having piled up enough victories over the years to continue to carry on his legal quest -- including a major one earlier this year relevant to the TAA's enforcement in the California Supreme Court -- Siegel has carried the battle through a marathon (true to his company's name) of upheavals at once judicial, financial and emotional. He's largely had to fight this particular war on his own, pushing forward where others before him had been shot down and/or given up in the face of a legal brick wall.

But today, Siegel anticipates having plenty of company in the form of dozens of both fellow personal managers and former managers in attendance with him. Their goal, besides offering moral support, is to at last stand up to what they all consider nothing less than the siege on their livelihood, one that has resulted in hundreds of their fellow managers having contracts with clients broken while offering them no recourse to recoup promised wages. Among those attending the hearing, according to Siegel, will be Matthew Katz -- who in 1968 lost millions in commissions from managing the Jefferson Airplane rock band; and Brad Waisbren and Howard Wolf, who after losing several court of appeals battles walked away from their jobs as personal managers.

For five decades, Siegel maintains, the California Labor Commission has routinely stripped those who violate the TAA of their contractual rights. He believes that if managers are unable to be relieved of their contractual risk when sharing their actor, writer, director, musician or comedian clients with agents, their profession is in essence a joke. Today's hearing will not determine the merits of the case, according to Siegel -- who is representing himself in court pro per; rather, it will seek to answer whether Siegel has shown that 1. The California Labor Commissioner, Angela Bradstreet, is the proper party to sue in this case; and 2. There are clear and cognitive claims for relief that can be corrected by the suit going forward.

It is yet another pit stop on a long and winding road to justice, but the potential impact on the representation industry by a successful suit could be enormous, Siegel believes. Besides contractual enforcement for agents going forward, he foresees a possible massive class action suit that could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in previously deprived contractual property.

Siegel is confident. "There is a litany of precedents showing that not only is the Labor Commissioner the right party to sue, but that any immunity she might be afforded is waived when her actions are shown to be unconstitutional," he believes. "And as per the relevant case law, courts have a duty to dismiss a complaint based on statutes that do not contain a penalty provision. Not only does the Labor Commission ignore that imperative, it has routinely and unconstitutionally interfered with managers' rights to contracts."

Honey, they shrunk HBO's 'Entourage'

By Barry Garron

Today marks the return of HBO's "Entourage," which is probably all the encouragement needed at

Entouragebookcoverthumb The Web site, which specializes in recasting hit shows with youthful buzz, did it again. It posted three webisodes of "Tiny Entourage," in which Vince, Drama, Eric, Turtle and Ari are played by little people.

Each webisode runs about two minutes, give or take, and is a shot-by-shot remake of original scenes.

The "Entourage" parody is the latest on Previously, the site recast "Sex and the City" with female body builders and renamed the show "Flex in the City." There's a parody of MTV's "The Hills," too. In that one, called "Over the Hills," the main parts are played by geriatrics.

Other parodies Include "Superficial Friends," "Behind the Music That Sucks," "Kung Fu Jimmy Chow" and ""The Burly Sports Show," which nabbed a Webby award.

The webisodes attract a young adult audience coveted by advertisers. "Tiny Entourage," for example, is sponsored by caffeine-laden alcoholic beverage Sparks. Please be safe and don't drink while you watch.

Casting call for the McCain/Palin motion picture

So I was just sitting around here and couldn't help but notice how this whole soap opera known as the Republican National Convention -- which concludes tonight with the Presidential nomination of you-know-who -- fairly cries out for a movie. Not a feature, mind you. It's a bit too declasse' for that. I'm thinking more of a made-for-TV flick. On Lifetime. Called "Maverick & Huntress: The John McCain and Sarah Palin Story."

Mccain_3Hoffman2_2It's the story of a hot babe who dons a pair of sleek specs to play down her Fox News-worthy sexiness quotient and is immediately elected governor of Alaska, where her refusal to terminate any of her multiple pregnancies and devil-may-care attitude toward all living beings that aren't human brings her to the attention of POW-turned-Presidential candidate John McCain. Together, they win over evangelicals with their pro-human life/anti-animal life platform and become the toast of Conservative America.

Here is how I see the thing being cast:

  • Dustin Hoffman is Sen. John McCain: Not the most conventional choice, I know, but kind of perfect when you think about it. Also considered were Sean Connery, Paul Newman and Brian Dennehy, but for various reasons none is as well-suited physically and in terms of temperament as Hoffman. A no-brainer, in fact. (UPDATE: My friend Lenni just suggested Ed Harris instead of Hoffman for McCain -- and she's right! Much better. Perfect physical match. So ignore what I said earlier about Hoffman and let's go with that.)
  • Megan Mullally is Gov. Sarah Palin: One immediately thinks of Tina Fey for Palin, but that's just because of the glasses and the way she wears them. Mullally is really a better Palin2_7 Megan_7 physical resemblance and has the kind of edge and sass to pull it off best. Fey is a bit too flippant and intellectual.
  • Aaron Eckhart is Todd Palin: I'm thinking the Eckhart who starred with such sleazy perfection in "Thank You For Smoking." Everything about him kinda screams, "I'm Sarah Palin's long-suffering husband!".
  • Jamie Lynn Spears is Bristol Palin: Well shoot, how much more perfect could casting be? We're talking pregnancy twins. I'll bet they walk alike and talk alike, too.
  • Shia LaBeouf is Levi Johnston: While it's obviously true that LaBeouf lacks the athletic hunk factor of the hockey-playing Johnston, and lacks the GQ looks of the daddy-to-be of Bristol Palin's unborn, he's the only dude of much renown who is similarly youthful. So let's say this one is subject to change. Maybe. Eventually.
  • Will Smith is Sen. Barack Obama: A big fat "Duh!". I mean, who else? Denzel Washington? Forrest Whitaker? Blair Underwood? Eddie Murphy? No, no, no and NO! It's really Smith or no one. So let's go with Smith.
  • Robert Redford is Sen. Joe Biden: Absolutely perfect casting, if I do say. Redford can be made to resemble the Democratic VP contender and longtime senator from Delaware, and he embodies the ideal style to boot. Plus, Redford already starred with distinction in the classic 1972 political farce "The Candidate." Done deal.
  • Felicity Huffman is Cindy McCain: The first thought here was of Amy Poehler, because she's a pretty good physical match if she puts a can of spray into her hair and has a few yards of gauze implanted surgically below her first layer of skin. But Huffman has it all: a reasonably similar look along with the acting chops to pull it off brilliantly.
  • Regina King is Michelle Obama: Check out photos of King, who once starred in the NBC sitcom "227" as a kid. The physical resemblance is pretty solid.
  • James Woods is Rudy Giuliani: This is a bit of a cheat, since Woods already portrayed Giuliani in a USA Network biopic in 2003. But he's still perfect for this job in every way. So bring it on.

P.S.: Any under-the-table casting director fees here would be greatly appreciated. (Only kidding! No, really!)

The Front Page: September 3, 2008

FrontpagenewBy Randee Dawn

So, Gustav has dialed himself back, and the real show can now get underway: The Republican National Convention. Conservatives and media all over St. Paul are wiping fevered brows that the news, as they expected it, can continue.

Our Paul Gough is down there and today reports on the latest way the Internet is pwning the MSM: Twitter and blogs. And it's a continuing battle between what grabs an audience interest and what keeps them reading and gets them talking. Writes Gough, "Nina Easton, Fortune's Washington editor and a Fox News contributor, said that gone are the days of the Richard Ben Cramer-esque long magazine-style pieces on the candidates. 'Nobody reads them. It's not the water cooler conversation. The water cooler conversation is what happened in the last second.'" Meanwhile, in this corner, Gough continues, "Politico chief political columnist Roger Simon, a pioneer political blogger, said that 50-word blog entries can't capture the entire issues of the environment, health care and other important topics."

Which is true. We've all got short attention spans -- look! shiny! -- but it's hard to imagine any actual progress or insight obtained in soundbites or 50-word stories. Balance, people, balance! And maybe a little focus.

Speaking of people who have short attention spans, today Shannon L. Bowen's article leads off the fantastic Showbiz Kids section of the magazine, with a discussion of how talent agencies are going after clients (natch) and also the best agents around. UTA's Mitchell Gossett notes, "The industry to some extent is shrinking. There are fewer jobs. So like General Motors did, you just swallow up your competitors as much as you can." There's also a list of the top 25 shorties who are "shaking up Hollywood" put together by Denise Abbott and Irene Lacher, which is grouped into "The Oscar Darlings," "The Drama Queens," "The Method Actors," "The Comedians," "The Next Big Things" and "The Musicians." Though in the case of The Jonas Brothers, that should have been The "Musicians."

And finally, "In A World" will never sound the same, now that we've lost the sonorous severity of Don LaFontaine's baritone, as Barry Garron writes. Fontaine was one of the great trailer/voiceover actors and was taken away too soon, at age 68. Here's a fantastic clip created by Aspect Ratio and used at THR's Key Arts awards a few years back which got all of the great voiceover men in the room (well, in a limo) at once, and proved they were also fantastic sports. To me, LaFontaine was the star of the piece -- which is enjoyed by those in the industry and out, based on the hit count. Enjoy -- you'll be missed, sir.

A convention overdose: Was it all a dream?

By Barry Garron

I can't say for sure this happened. I might have dreamed it. I've been watching a lot of convention coverage and, after a while, one interview flows into the next. Still, when I awoke this morning, there were these notes I'd made from the night before.

According to my notes, CNN's Campbell Brown was interviewing James Dobson of Focus on the Family about Sarah Palin, the new Republican candidate for vice president.

Campbellbrown_ac360_20071115_01cr Brown: How do you feel about Palin on the ticket?

Dobson: I feel great. You're part of the liberal media and you're quick to put her down, but Americans are going to see through your phony criticism.

Brown: Actually, I hadn't criticized her.

Dobson: No, but you were going to. I'll swear to that on a stack of Bibles. In fact, I'll use this stack that I brought to sell on the convention floor.

Brown: That won't be necessary. Mr. Dobson, you've spent a lifetime stressing the importance of family values ...

Dobson: You bet I have. Someone has to speak out against a leftist media that is destroying the country by encouraging teenagers to fornicate before they're married. Well, it's not OK. It's wrong. The Bible tells us so.

Brown: So how do you reconcile that with the pregnancy of Palin's unmarried teenage daughter?James_dobson

Dobson: That's entirely different, though I would expect someone on the far left not to recognize it. That girl got pregnant to demonstrate that abortion is wrong. She is standing up for life. We need to praise this example.

Brown: OK, but doesn't Sarah Palin, by running for vice president, make it harder on her daughter? Now this young lady has to deal with her pregnancy in the public spotlight. Shouldn't the focus on the family start with your own family?

Dobson: Before I answer that, let me say this: "Devil, get thee out of Campbell Brown." OK, now let's untwist this from the liberal agenda. By running for vice president, Sarah Palin is making all of America her family. She's teaching her family to respect life, to learn creationism in public school, to put God and guns in every home. It's what we've been praying for.

Brown: Thank you, Mr. Dobson for joining us ...

Dobson: Wait a second. You haven't let me explain how Sarah Palin is ready to lead the free world. She's going to be a light to all nations. Unless, of course, one of her kids adopt that gay lifestyle.

Brown: Back to you, Anderson.

The Front Page: September 2, 2008

FrontpagenewBy Randee Dawn

Mark Urman, you'll be missed at ThinkFilm. Mark's one of those great guys who always makes himself available and always has salient, interesting things to say -- and according to Steven Zeitchik and Gregg Goldstein's article today, he has now decamped from his longtime home at Think to "take the post of president at the revamped Senator Entertainment U.S." In some kind of amusing twist, Senator is producing a film (with Samuel L. Jackson) called "Unthinkable," which is what I'd have told you before today about Urman's departure. However, notes the article, this really says more about ThinkFilm than anything else: "Despite a track record of quality and creative marketing since its inception, ThinkFilm has faced financial troubles, and was sold two years ago to Capitol Films entrepreneur Bergstein."

Another person of interest, Gregg Kilday, uses his Take Two column today to note that whatever movie seems to come out these days, "someone, somewhere, is lying in wait, preparing to launch a protest." Between the self-appointed arbiters of reason who went on the attack for releasing "Disaster Movie" on the third anniversary of Hurricaine Katrina and those who took offense at "Tropic Thunder's" coining of the phrase "going full retard," it is true that the PC wagons circle just about every film made these days, and as Kilday notes, "the media is only too happy to rush in to cover the 'controversy.'" There's even a shortlist of films you may have forgotten drew protest -- including "Shark Tale." Apparently it was protested by Italian-Americans, who said it characterized Italians as gangsters. Do sharks have ethnicities?

Continue reading "The Front Page: September 2, 2008" »

Lessons learned -- one convention down, one to go

By Barry Garron

If you really care about what gets said at the political conventions, what network should you watch? After four days of Democratic activity, I realize there is no easy answer.

Convention2_2 The broadcast networks, with their "be-grateful-for-the-one-hour-we-give-you" attitude, missed the boat. This is a historic election for many reasons, and there is enormous public curiosity. One hour is not nearly enough to summarize the speeches, analyze the content and report on the impact inside and outside the convention hall.

Someday, historians will struggle mightily to understand how, for example, NBC can justify a couple hundred hours of network time for gymnastics and beach volleyball but only eight hours to set the stage for what is arguably the most significant event on the planet this year.

So what's left? There's Fox News, if you like your coverage tilted to the right, or MSNBC, if you favor a more leftward bent. Instead, I gravitated to CNN and PBS.Cnn

The best thing about CNN, at least in my home, is that I got it in high definition. Second best, it provided some reasonably good analysis, especially from David Gergen but also from Gloria Borger and John King. I tuned to CNN for most major speeches and a little reaction afterward.

Every time CNN was on, though, I wished I had the power to remove all of those distracting elements that some consultant with attention deficit disorder told them people wanted to see. I didn't need an omnipresent box telling me what day of the convention this was. I sure didn't need lights dancing up and down to tell me the noise level on the convention floor (thankfully, they got rid of them).

Like the other cable news operations, CNN talked over many of the speeches, including some significant ones. (I gave up on MSNBC when it covered over the John Kerry speech, considered by many to be the best one given at the convention after Barack Obama's acceptance speech.)

Pbs_logo Most of all, I didn't need the historical trivia that told me over and over again that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first nominee to deliver an acceptance speech in 1932 or that, in 1936, a black person was a delegate for the first time. With all due respect to history and the makers of "Trivial Pursuit," the sequential flashing of these facts was hugely annoying.

That left PBS. It had all the speeches of significance. It had a small number of analysts, all of them with more wrinkles than their counterparts but also more cogent observations. If only the picture I got from Dish had been sharper, or just less grainy, I don't think I would have picked up the remote for the entire night.

It took a while, but I now have a TV viewing game plan for when the GOP on Monday starts telling me how much better off I am than I was eight years ago.

The Front Page: August 28, 2009

Frontpagenew3By Randee Dawn

And then there are those days when a doctor's appointment just makes the whole day run a little later, so just try and excuse the lateness of your friendly neighborhood Front Page.

So let's get down to business.

First off, Kevin Cassidy is my new hero because he's got a Music Reporter column today which turns on the tin ears of (most) Republican and (some) Democratic candidates who try and co-opt songs for their campaigns. If you ever needed to know just how many "yes" men are surrounding a campaign, take a listen to the song used for the campaign's anthem -- because that number is directly disproportionate to the likelihood that the candidate a) listened to the song and b) has any idea what the lyrics mean. Notes Cassidy, "Republican strategists would be wise to concede a point that has become abundantly clear over the years: By and large -- with the notable exceptions of Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper -- rock stars don't like you. Why they don't like you should be plenty obvious: You're the Man. We know you don't like to think of yourselves that way, but when you own seven houses, golf, wear $500 loafers or travel by a private jet, that pretty much makes you the Man by default. You're better off just accepting this fact and abandoning attempts to show us how cool you are because you like Springsteen." Hear hear! (Or maybe, try to start listening, rather than just hearing.)

Swimming Second: this may be the first time in 20 years I tune in, but I'm going to check out "Saturday Night Live" on Sept. 13. Why? Michael Phelps is going to host, according to James Hibberd, who writes: "Though it might seem like an awkward pairing, several professional athletes have hosted the show in years past (Wayne Gretzky, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning)." And, of course, it's great synergy.

Here's my prediction: He'll swim laps around everyone. People who don't think he's funny are all wet! (All right, all right, enough. But please, oh, please: Bring back the Olympic sport of Men's Synchronized Swimming, even if for just one night!)

Continue reading "The Front Page: August 28, 2009" »

Olympic Postscript: Better late than never

By Barry Garron

The 2008 Summer Olympics are over, the medal counts are finished and the factories around Beijing have reopened and begun once again to belch pollution into the air.

Olympics_full_2 Throughout the games, I've been impressed at NBC's coverage of events and depressed at NBC's repeated failure to dig into controversies, both outside and inside the various venues. The disappointment was all the more keen because I've always considered NBC host Bob Costas to be the most trustworthy of all big-time network sports anchors.

I haven't changed my opinion about NBC's strengths and failures but, based on coverage the night before the closing ceremony, I need to give the network some credit for tackling, albeit belatedly, some thorny issues.

That night, Costas interviewed IOC Ppresident Jacques Rogge on a wide range of topics, including the serious questions about the age of Chinese gymnasts and the virtual stifling of any protests during the games.

Rogge defended the IOC against charges it was soft on Chinese repression. He said that many foreign leaders had tried to get China to liberalize its policies and failed. Why would anyone expect the IOC to succeed where they failed?

Costas pressed as far as he could but the fact remains that, had Rogge called a press conference during the games to denounce China's beating of reporters and protesters, it might have gone a long way.

By the same token, had NBC's announcers spoken up louder and longer, that, too, might have had an impact.

The interview with Rogge, broken up and shown in three parts, was an important step in answering NBC's critics and asserting its journalistic integrity. What a shame it didn't come at least a week earlier.

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