Babylon 5, Grease & Taxi Star Jeff Conaway Dead At Age 60 UPDATED: Dr. Drew Speaks on Conaway’s Death (VIDEO)

Jeff Conaway: 1950 - 2011

It is with great sadness that we report that it has been confirmed that Jeff Conaway, star of Taxi, Babylon 5 and the classic film Grease has passed away at the age of 60 due to complications from pneumonia and an apparent overdose of prescription pain killers which he suffered on May 11th.  He was taken to a Los Angeles area hospital that day and put into a medically induced coma.  Based on the advice physicians who had described his situation as “hopeless” for several days, his family made the decision to remove him from life support.  Conaway’s history of substance addiction was well-documented in the media and on the VH-1 reality series Celebrity Fit Club and Celebrity Rehab.

Conaway’s manager, Phil Brock, said this to the media:

“We loved Jeff as a person, respected him as a consummate performer and entertainer. Somewhere in heaven, somebody is getting a hickey from Kenickie.  On a darker side, we’re happy his personal struggles are now over. We do not have memorial plans yet. The family has asked for forbearance and privacy today. It’s a very difficult time.

Our staff has been with him through his struggle over the last few years. He is one of the nicest, kindest people. The most gentle person, and that may have been his downfall in the long run. He was a really nice guy in general, a person who would give the shirt off his back for anyone. He loved and lived to be on stage and entertaining others.

Jeff Conaway on Babylon 5

On a personal note, I shared a flight with Conaway and a female companion (not his girlfriend, Vickie, who appeared on Celebrity Rehab) in 2006 to Burbank on my way to appear on a game show in Studio City.  Phil Brock’s statement mirrors my impression of him.  He was a very kind and gracious man and very accessible. I spoke at length with him both during and after the flight and completely enjoyed my limited time with him. Although, even I could see that he was someone who had a long history of drug and alcohol use despite the fact that he was sober on that flight, he was nothing like the persona that was portrayed on VH-1 and I hope that people realize how greatly reality television distorts our perception of people, celebrities and otherwise.  Yes, Jeff Conaway had his demons that he could never exorcise, but he was a truly decent human being.

Noel Gallagher of Oasis: Pretentious Limey Prick

In closing, not only would we like to thank Jeff for the years of entertainment he provided (especially on Babylon 5) and the wonderful conversation I had with him on that flight but I’d also like to thank him for doing what someone should have done a long time ago: Conaway pulled a knife on Oasis’ Noel Gallagher backstage at a Marilyn Manson concert in 2008 for mocking him.  We really don’t care why he did it, we’re just glad it was done and for his efforts, he posthumously earns The TV-Tastic Bad-Ass Seal of Approval, ‘The Walken.’  Thanks Jeff, you’ll be missed.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Will Ferrell Temps On The Office For Four Episodes Starting Tonight, Five (Well, Four) Other Big Guest Stars To Follow

As you’ve probably already heard by now, Steve Carell is leaving Dunder Mifflin this season (in three episodes to be exact) to focus on his film career.  While we’ll certainly miss the world’s best boss, we’ve felt for some time now that as much as we’ll always have a special place in our heart for The Office, it’s not the same show it was just a few seasons ago when it was appointment television and it really could use a breath of fresh air.  That’s why it delights us to no end that Will Ferrell will be temping at the Scranton branch from the home office beginning tonight for four episodes.

D’Angelo Vickers (Ferrell) Will be Dry-Humped by Michael Scott (Carell) at Least Once Over the Next Three Weeks, but He Will Not Be Permanently Replacing Him.

Now, folks, please don’t be confused and don’t believe the rumors.  Ferrell is not replacing Carell on The Office (he was just kidding when he claimed that he was two weeks ago, EW), he is merely guest starring for four episodes and will be the interim branch manager when Carell departs for good on the third episode of the stint.  So basically, you get one episode of a solo Will Ferrell (whose character’s name is D’Angelo Vickers… and no, we’re not making that up, but that is so Will Ferrell) and three episodes with him and Carell (not a bad deal at all).  This is nothing more than a concerted effort to bring some excitement to the show and eyeballs on it in the home stretch, but yes, we do recognize the magnitude of awesomeness that we would have if Ferrell was going to be a permanent cast member.

Catherine Tate: Somebody We’ve Never Heard Of.

And Ferrell’s not the only big name who will be making the rounds at D.M. Over the rest of the season expect to see an appearance by perpetual atheist Ricky Gervais, who, of course co-created the British predecessor of The Office and stars as the Michael Scott character (David Brent) on the U.K. version.  Also appearing will be the perpetually unemployed Will Arnett (Running Wilde, Arrested Development), the perpetually whining and nasally funny-man Ray Romano (Men of a Certain Age, Everybody Loves Raymond, which is still my grandmother’s favorite show), the perpetually chicken-necked James Spader (Boston Legal… crap… what else has he done in the last two decades?  Oh, that’s right: Stargate.  Yeah, that’ll work), and the perpetually unrecognized, Catherine Tate (Dr. Who).  OK, we have to be honest on this one: other than her role as Donna for one season plus one episode on the incredibly awesome BBC hit, Doctor Who, we have no idea why she’s considered a guest “star.”  Sheesh… for Pete’s sake her iMDB listing doesn’t even have a photo of her, we had to look this one up! Quite frankly, though, and let this serve as a public service announcement for anyone outside the U.S. who wants to be famous here, if you’re only mildly famous in the U.K. then we really won’t be considering you a star on this side of the pond, as it were, until you make a sex tape and it gets “stolen” and “released without your permission.”  This is America, and that’s how we roll with our celebrities.  Sorry about that, and yes, as a society, we are that stupid.  But as an aside (and perhaps referring back to the previous comment about the tape?), we must say, this British gal certainly has a balcony you can perform Shakespeare off of, so that’s got to be worth tuning in for, right? Yes, we know we’re reaching… and we know that we’re being piggish.

From the Left: Ray Romano, James Spader, Will Arnett and Ricky Gervais. Let the Hilarity Ensue, Just Don’t Get Slapped in the Face by Spader’s Chicken Neck!

Anywho, despite our parodying of the guest stars, we really think that Carell leaving and these guests coming in at the end of this season is probably the best thing that could have happened for the show, because frankly we could have cared less if it had been canceled or not at the end of the season.  The show needed a shakeup and not having Michael Scott as the central character will change the entire atmosphere of it entirely.  Fortunately, these stars will be there to soften the blow and ease us through the transition of what was The Office to what will be The Office.  Now, we’re actually excited about the rest of this season and what’s to come for next season.  It’s a whole new office.

‘Undercovers’ (NBC – Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.)

From acclaimed writer/producer/director J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek,” “Fringe,” “Lost,” “Alias”) and executive producer/writer Josh Reims (“Brothers and Sisters,” “What About Brian”) comes a sexy, fun, action-packed spy drama that proves once and for all that marriage is still the world’s most dangerous partnership.

Outwardly, Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Vacation,” “Soul Food,” “Resident Evil: Afterlife”) and his wife, Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Dr. Who,” “Bonekickers”), are a typical married couple who own and operate a small catering company in Los Angeles – with help from Samantha’s easily frazzled handful of a sister, Lizzy (Mekia Cox, “90210,” “This Is It”). Secretly, the duo were two of the best spies the CIA had ever known, until they fell in love on the job five years ago and retired.

When fellow spy and good friend Leo Nash (Carter MacIntyre, “American Heiress,” “Nip/Tuck”) goes missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer, the Blooms are reinstated by boss and agency liaison, Carlton Shaw (Gerald McRaney, “Deadwood,” “Jericho”), to locate and rescue Nash.

With assistance from resourceful CIA field agent Bill Hoyt (Ben Schwartz, “Parks and Recreation,” “Bronx World Travelers”), whose professional admiration for Steven isn’t hard to miss, the pair is thrust back into the world of espionage, disguises and hand-to-hand combat.

Following leads that take them to cities spanning the globe, Steven and Samantha quickly realize that perhaps this supercharged, undercover lifestyle provides exactly the kind of excitement and romance that their marriage has been missing. – NBC

The Preview (originally posted on 9/17/2010)

Shawn:     Wow.  There is not a whole lot more to say about Undercovers than that.  J.J. Abrams has done it again and NBC has proven again that they have gone from being the worst network on TV to perhaps the best.  Do we really have to see even see one episode to be sure that this show is going to be great?  The answer is a resounding, “no.”  You’ve got a great cast with some actual chops, a relationship that I truly believe and care about from just the trailer and non-stop, J.J. Abrams-style action and spy-goodness that makes this show another moral imperative.

The Review:

8.5 out of 10

As I noted in the preview, there isn’t a whole lot to say about Undercovers than “wow.” Seriously, if it’s action, Sci Fi or mystery and J.J. Abrams is attached to it you can pretty much guarantee that it’s going to be fantastic. It’s akin to when Martin Scorcese’s name is attached to projects about organized crime or if Stephen Spielberg’s name is attached to a project about World War II. We know what these greats do best and Abrams is establishing himself as one of the greats in both Film and TV.

Undercovers is no exception. It’s an exciting adventure from beginning to end on every episode. Kodjoe and Mbatha-Raw have excellent chemistry and both play the role of the domesticated spy perfectly.  They both carry themselves with an air of sexiness that both male and female audiences can appreciate. 

The supporting cast is fantastic and all provide differing levels of comic relief to lighten up the episodes.  Gerald McRaney is their C.I.A. handler who’s supportive (albeit a little crotchety and annoyed by them at times) but who knows more about their reinstatement than he’s letting on. Carter McIntyre as the fellow agent who keeps it light with his sense of humor and wise-cracks and Bill Hoyt is the quirky, eager mission contact who provides the duo with operational support and can speak nine languages. He’s also an uber-fanboy of Steven and to Steven’s dismay, Hoyt has no shame about constantly reminding him of that.

The action and the fight scenes are great, the production values are fantastic with excellent CG that actually convinces you that you are in multiple foreign locales during every episode as opposed to watching scenes against an obvious green-screen backdrop, and most of all the character interaction and stories are compelling.

Undercovers is like watching a feature film every week and I look forward to many more adventures with the Blooms.

Watch full episodes of Undercovers, here.

Fall 2010 TV Preview – Wednesdays

Part Three of the Seven Six Part Series (This has been edited because  I realized that there’s nothing on Saturdays but College Football, COPS and America’s Most Wanted.  Do you really need a review of those?)

Wednesdays

8:00 p.m.

NBC:     Undercovers – September 22, 2010 (NEW SERIES!)

From acclaimed writer/producer/director J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek,” “Fringe,” “Lost,” “Alias”) and executive producer/writer Josh Reims (“Brothers and Sisters,” “What About Brian”) comes a sexy, fun, action-packed spy drama that proves once and for all that marriage is still the world’s most dangerous partnership.

Outwardly, Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Vacation,” “Soul Food,” “Resident Evil: Afterlife”) and his wife, Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Dr. Who,” “Bonekickers”), are a typical married couple who own and operate a small catering company in Los Angeles – with help from Samantha’s easily frazzled handful of a sister, Lizzy (Mekia Cox, “90210,” “This Is It”). Secretly, the duo were two of the best spies the CIA had ever known, until they fell in love on the job five years ago and retired.

When fellow spy and good friend Leo Nash (Carter MacIntyre, “American Heiress,” “Nip/Tuck”) goes missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer, the Blooms are reinstated by boss and agency liaison, Carlton Shaw (Gerald McRaney, “Deadwood,” “Jericho”), to locate and rescue Nash.

With assistance from resourceful CIA field agent Bill Hoyt (Ben Schwartz, “Parks and Recreation,” “Bronx World Travelers”), whose professional admiration for Steven isn’t hard to miss, the pair is thrust back into the world of espionage, disguises and hand-to-hand combat.

Following leads that take them to cities spanning the globe, Steven and Samantha quickly realize that perhaps this supercharged, undercover lifestyle provides exactly the kind of excitement and romance that their marriage has been missing. – NBC

Shawn:     Wow.  There is not a whole lot more to say about Undercovers than that.  J.J. Abrams has done it again and NBC has proven again that they have gone from being the worst network on TV to perhaps the best.  Do we really have to see even see one episode to be sure that this show is going to be great?  The answer is a resounding, “no.”  You’ve got a great cast with some actual chops, a relationship that I truly believe and care about from just the trailer and non-stop, J.J. Abrams-style action and spy-goodness that makes this show another moral imperative.

8:30 p.m.

ABC:     Better With You – September 22, 2010 (NEW SERIES!)

 The comedy explores love through three couples: Maddie and Ben, who have been dating for nine years; Mia (Maddie’s sister) and Casey, who have known each other for only seven weeks and are about to marry; and Maddie and Mia’s parents, who have been married for more than 30 years.

Shawn:     (****sighs… shakes head and prepares for the shortest preview of the season***)

What more can be said but that this show looks awful.  This is up there with Mike & Molly as a prime example of why I hate sitcoms.  This is recycled crap.

9:00 p.m.

ABC:     Modern Family

Shawn:     This is by far the funniest show on television, and yes, even funnier than The Office.  The cast is brilliant and the writing is head and shoulders above any sitcom in the last decade and why brings it all together is just how incredibly relatable all of the less-than-perfect characters are that could really be in any of our families.

Watch full episodes of Modern Family, here.

The CW:     Hellcats – September 8, 2010 (NEW SERIES!)

Marti Perkins (Aly Michalka) uses her dance and gymnastics skills to win a cheerleading scholarship at Lancer University after losing her other scholarship, but it is only the beginning of the drama she will encounter. – The CW

Shawn:     (****sighs… shakes head and prepares for the second shortest preview of the season***)

The CW needs to be smacked on the nose with a newspaper for this.  Although, I will say that this certainly will appeal to 14 year-old boys and I have no doubt that stock values of Jergens and Kleenex are going to skyrocket, so it’s definitely time to call your broker. 

Here’s another group of Hellcats that seem far more interesting:

Watch full episodes of Hellcats, here (if you must).

10:00 p.m.

ABC:     The Whole Truth – September 22, 2010 (NEW SERIES!)

This unique legal drama chronicles the way a case is built from the perspective of both the defense and prosecution. Showing each side equally keeps the audience guessing, shifting allegiances and opinions on guilt or innocence until the very final scene.

Kathryn Peale, the product of a New England background and a sheriff father, is the Deputy Bureau Chief in the New York State District Attorney’s office. Jimmy Brogan, born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen and a friend of Kathryn’s since their days at Yale Law School, is one of New York’s rising criminal attorney stars. Buoyed by their respective teams, these evenly matched lawyers—each with a strong streak of competitiveness, a fervent belief in their clients and an equally intense passion for the law go about creating two different stories from the same set of facts. As this up-close, behind-the-scenes look at the legal process mirrors the excitement of a championship match, it becomes evident that truth has nothing to do with innocence or guilt—at the end of every trial, the only thing that matters is what the jury believes. – ABC

Shawn:     “A totally new kind of legal drama!”  Really, ABC?  Sorry, but not quite.

So, yeah,  I admit it.  Occasionally I read other reviews before I post if for no other reason than to see if the pros caught the same thing about a particular show that I did.  This certainly was the “case” with The Whole Truth, because this time, I knew that I had seen this show before but I just couldn’t put my finger on where and I was hoping that someone’s review would ring the proverbial bell for me.  That’s when I came across this from Paige Wiser from the The Chicago Sun and it all fell into place:

There’s no skimping on the sordid and blunt evidence, but the cases are absorbing. And unlike “Law & Order,” which had a way of leaving us hanging, we do learn the “whole truth” by the end of each episode. You can’t put a price on closure.

That’s it!  The multiple perspectives AND the big reveal at the end of the episode explaining what really happened… it’s Jerry Bruckheimer’s 2006 flop, Justice!  So, apparently, Jerry is just recycling old projects and hoping that no one will notice.  Regardless, I was one of the folks who really did like Justice, despite it lasting only 13 episodes.  Like Justice, The Whole Truth has a very strong ensemble cast and appears to be pretty compelling.  That being said, I am a little irked by the main premise of this show which is going to stick in my craw every episode:  are we really supposed to believe that the same defense attorney and A.D.A. are going to be adversaries EVERY week in EVERY case… in New York City ??? Seriously, are these the only two lawyers in town?  Jerry Bruckheimer plus the fact that it’s Justice recycled are the only two reasons that I am in the category of “reluctantly” watching the pilot.

CBS:     The Defenders – September 22, 2010 (NEW SERIES!)

Two colorful Las Vegas defense attorneys who go all-in when it comes to representing their clients. Nick and Pete are the local go-to guys with an eclectic client list who are still looking to hit their own jackpot. Leading the law firm of Morelli & Kaczmarek are Nick Morelli, an earnest, hard-charging attorney who represents his clients to the best of his ability, no matter how big or small the case; and his partner, Pete Kaczmarek, whose passion for the law is matched only by his love of fast cars, beautiful women and expensive clothes. Joining them in their growing law practice is new associate Lisa Tyler, an enthusiastic young attorney looking to put her exotic dancing days behind her; and their young assistant, Zoe Waters, a spunky and sweet ingénue who is eager to please her bosses. While Lady Luck shines on their legal careers, the partners have their hands full when it comes to their personal lives. With Pete busy cruising the Vegas Strip for his latest romantic conquest, Nick is focused on repairing a fractured marriage to his estranged wife and remaining present in the life of their young son. No matter the offense, Nick and Pete aim to prove that when the stakes are high, they’re willing to bet the house on the clients they defend in Sin City. – CBS 

Shawn:     I have to keep reminding myself that I am sick of legal procedurals and why but then I get dragged right back in by shows like The Defenders starring Jim Belushi (According to Jim) and Jerry O’Connell (Sliders) who star as a couple of working-stiff lawyers here in my city, Las Vegas.  Here’s the thing, I’m not going to be watching this show because I expect it be some fantastic weekly legal thriller, on the contrary, I expect that part of the show to be clichéd as every other legal show.  No, I’m watching because I like Belushi and O’Connell and after seeing the trailers and interviews associated with this show, I think I like these characters.  Again, how relatable the characters are can make or break a series.  Truthfully, this show doesn’t have to be about lawyers, it could have been about cops, plumbers, copier salesmen, the Mexicans on The Strip shoving the cards in your four-year old’s face offering hookers direct to you hotel room… whatever.  It doesn’t matter because this is a buddy-[insert profession here] show and nothing more and this could work with Belushi as the comedian and O’Connell as the straight man.  I think I’ll need to watch the first few episodes to get a handle on whether this show is worth hanging on to, but I will say this:  if they start that crap like they do on CSI of randomly mentioning streets and neighborhoods in Las Vegas without any actual resemblance to where these landmarks truly are geographically-speaking, I will shut it off. 

(EDIT: I completely forgot to include in ‘Terriers.’  Sorry about that. )

F/X:     Terriers – September 8, 2010 (NEW SERIES)

Donal Logue plays Hank, an ex-cop who partners with his best friend to launch a P.I. business. The duo solve crimes while trying to avoid danger and responsibility.

Shawn:     Terriers is a very good show and I’ve already done a full review on it, here.  You can also watch full episodes of Terriers, here.

NBC:     Law & Order: Los Angeles – September 29, 2010 (NEW SERIES!)

The newest addition to the Law & Order brand, “Law & Order: Los Angeles” fuses classic ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling with the distinctive backdrop of LA – delving into the unique attitudes, cultures and crimes of the West Coast.

The drama follows Detectives Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich, “Jericho”) and Tomas “TJ” Jarusalski (Corey Stoll, “Midnight in Paris”) as they pursue cases through the diverse City of Angels. As members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Robbery Homicide Division, Winters is a straight-shooting ex-Marine with a clear-cut worldview as stubborn as he is, while TJ, who grew up the son of an Oscar-winning Polish cinematographer, knows too well the dark underside that is behind-the-scenes Hollywood.

Deputy District Attorney Morales (Alfred Molina, “En Education,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “Spiderman 2”) is a sarcastic realist who believes moral righteousness is great in theory, but ineffective in a street fight. Though he knows how to manipulate both his public image and the behind-the-scenes politics, he’s still a killer in the courtroom who lives to see justice served. – NBC

Shawn:     Hi, my name’s Shawn and I’m a recovering Law & Order fan.  You see, one day about four years ago, I decided that the entire franchise, which I had been watching faithfully since 1990, had turned to utter crap (and that includes SVU which people still think is good for some reason).  The formula was stale and the “ripped from the headlines” garbage became a convenient crutch that was about as exciting as your local theater group practicing their ad-libbing skills by randomly choosing topics from a hat (which of course, is a common theme in television production lately. see: Running Wilde in the Tuesday Preview.).  Unfortunately, it took about a decade too long for this show to be cancelled.  What I can’t seem to figure out is why the arrogant Dick Wolf thinks that simply taking the brand of crap that is Law & Order and moving it from one side to the country to another is actually going to produce a better product. 

And before you say to yourself, “Well, this could be different,” I’m going to have to stop you right there because, no, it’s not going to be different.  Do you know how I know? There are two obvious reasons.  First, take a look at the first sentence of the show description by NBC:

“Law & Order: Los Angeles” fuses classic ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling with the distinctive backdrop of LA – delving into the unique attitudes, cultures and crimes of the West Coast.

The first thing that they mention as a selling point is what made the show suck to begin with (the “ripped from the headlines” crap).  It’s the reason that people stopped watching… period, you unoriginal nit-wits at Dick Wolf Productions. 

The second reason that stands out is the simple fact that NBC doesn’t have a single trailer of this new series out that shows a single scene from the show.  What are they hiding?  After all, this cast is amazing.  Skeet Ulrich, Alfred Molina and Academy Award nominated Terrence Howard star in this and NBC isn’t highlighting any of them in the promotions for this new “hit” series?  It makes absolutely no sense, unless of course, they know the moment that they show five seconds of this show in a trailer, audiences are going to sing in unison, “I thought they cancelled this stupid show.”

Here’s my theory:  NBC owes Dick Wolf a lot for twenty seasons of L & O,  twelve seasons of SVU and amazingly, nine seasons of CI (whatever network it’s on now).  That’s 41 seasons of television.  To put that in perspective, that’s 50% more than all five series of the entire Star Trek franchise.  So, Dick Wolf says, “You’re doing another ‘Law and Order’ series whether you like it or not and you’re going to do it in L.A., because that’s where I live now.”  NBC’s response was, “How high did you say you want us to jump, Mr. Wolf?” and voila, L & O: L.A. is born.  NBC knows it’s going to be crap but in order to keep it semi-profitable, they sunk a lot of money into casting and even I have to say that was a brilliant move on their part because as much as I have no interest in anything L & O, even I’m considering watching the pilot just for the cast.  So, in principle, no, I would not recommend this but for curiosity’s sake I probably will watch the pilot and only make it halfway through because I’ll be so disgusted.

NEXT: Thursdays

 

 

TV SCOOP! Quantum Leap Movie in the Works

I’ve made the case that we’re all a little sick of television remakes, but this is one I really want to see.

Scott Bakula, star of the hit show Quantum Leap announced at Comic-Con last month that – FINALLY – there will be a Quantum Leap movie, according to a Salt Lake Tribute report. There’s been rumors for years about a film, but as the actors have aged, and the show’s demand quieted, I had my doubts. According to a report by Cinematical, Bakula said he and Dean Stockwell, who played the helpful and humorous hologram Admiral Al Calavicci, will not be cast in the leads but they may return in some way for the film. He didn’t say in what form, though.

Bakula said:

“The good news is that Don (creator Donald P. Bellisario) is working on the film script and has a big time Hollywood producer who wants to do it … it’s about time. But what I always thought would happen, happened … [that he’s now too old for the role]. But Dean and I will have a part in it somehow. Don did say that as he was writing, he told me he was having trouble, ‘getting you and Dean out of my head.’ But I know he will do it.”

IMDB has not listed the project, which hasn’t been optioned yet. This movie has been rumored since the show went off the air, so many people overlooked Bakula’s announcement at Comi-Con. The movie may never get off the ground, but Quantum Leap was one of the best shows of its era, having a five-year stint of 97 episodes from 1989 to 1993. It was playful, sentimental, poignant, and full of action, drama and comedy. It was a truly original program.

If you’ve never seen the show, the intro pretty much sums it all up

Watch the first two seasons of Quantum Leap on Hulu.

Netflix Subscribers can watch all five seasons streaming right here.