Although The Museum of Television and Radio has been putting on its William S. Paley Television Festival for 24 years, this was my first year attending and it won't be my last. The festival acts as a bridge, transporting television viewers like you and me into, behind and in front of the shows we love. This year, the festival ran from March 1st through the 15th and included cast and crewmembers from shows like American Idol, Brothers and Sisters, The Closer, and Ugly Betty (the full list of show participants can be found on the MTR Website).
So just what is the Paley Festival, exactly?
William S. Paley, a visionary and media extraordinaire, was the founder of the CBS Broadcasting Network. With intentions to mix entertainment and advertising, Paley knew the positive effects that would occur if we were able to talk candidly with those responsible for making us laugh, cry, scream and anticipate on a weekly basis. This is how it all began. With a wide range of participants on both sides of the spectrum, the festival grows every year and encourages a more intimate connection between all players in the game of entertainment actor, crew, audience and everything in-between.
I spent most of my night with the cast and crew of TNT's The Closer and CBS's Jericho.
Occurring on the 5th night of the festival, the cast and crew of TNT's record-breaking drama, The Closer, congregated on the theater stage at the Directors Guild in Hollywood. Lead by Golden Globe winner Kyra Sedgwick, the ensemble cast includes G.W. Bailey, Michael Paul Chan, Raymond Cruz, Tony Denison, Robert Gossett, Gina Ravera, Corey Reynolds and J.K. Simmons.
Additionally, the stage played host to members of the creative team, which included James Duff, Executive Producer, Michael M. Robin, Executive Producer, Greer Shephard, Executive Producer and Andrew J. Sacks, Producer. Last but certainly not least, former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti joined the panel as the shows Consulting Producer.
The Closer is a riveting drama that focuses on the work and life events of Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgwick. Brenda is a CIA-trained interrogated with an aptitude for obtaining confessions, consuming snacks and inflecting the male-dominated LAPD with her Southern charm.
The foundation of the show stems from the fact that Brenda has moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles to head up the department. Along with her move to the city, she brings a keen sense of expertise and southern ways that sometimes rub her counterparts the wrong way. Creator/Writer and Executive Producer James Duff knows all too well what it is like to come from a small southern town. In fact, Brenda's voice is based on the writer's own mother and sister and is one that Sedgwick has mastered for her portrayal of Brenda.
Duff who had recently come off of the now defunct series DNA along with Greer Shepard stated, 'his goal for the lead character was to portray someone that was real' that could look at LA in the problematic way that most of America does.' It wasn't until Shepard threw out the idea of the lead character being a woman that the story started to mix into the magical concoction that we see played out in front of us.
Shepard states, 'I wanted the woman to be an actual woman. She needed to be strong, yet unafraid to show her flaws.' We all have flaws and to see them portrayed from a character that still manages to be so strong and right-on is refreshing and encouraging to viewers of all genders. Additionally, the honest portrayal of supporting character interactions falls right in line with the honesty of the show as a whole.
Gil Garcetti as a Consulting Producer on the show makes sure that authenticity and realism don't get lost in a pool of creative whimsy. Garcetti tells the audience about a time when he noticed an error in a long set of lines that Sedwick's character Brenda had to recite. 'When I looked at the script and saw that it needed to change' then I saw that Kyra had just gotten the lines down, I thought she would kill me. After making the change, Kyra sneered at me' [laughing] but she got the lines down again.'
Authenticity and Southern charm aren't the only ingredients to this show. An important ingredient is the camaraderie and respect that the cast has for one another. With some members of the cast coming off previous shows together and others designated 'newbies' the creators allow for each actor's personality to shine through their characters. For example, like Brenda's aptitude for snacks, Detective Lieutenant Provenza, played by G.W. Bailey has an uncanny sense of humor that is transparent in his character.
So, what is next for the upcoming season of The Closer? Well, Duff states that this year's theme will be based around family and that antagonism is going to come from a darker, deeper and sadder place. My prediction is that old and new fans will continue to cling to this riveting drama for seasons to come.
With natural disasters and effects of terrorism flooding today's news, it is only fitting that entertainment outlets direct their creativity to the signs of the times. This is exactly what the creators -- Stephen Chobosky (Co-Creator/Executive Producer/Writer) Jon Steingberg (Co-Creator/Producer) and Carol Barbee (Executive Producer) -- of CBS's show Jericho has done with its highly rated evening drama. On Tuesday, March 13, 2007, members of the cast and creative team sat down with fans to discuss the premise of the show.
Set in small town of Jericho, Kansas, the show transports us into the vision of a community that has just come through the woes of a nuclear attack. With its all too real portrayal of how fear grips the residents of Jericho, the creators make us think about how Americans would handle such a tragedy if and when it occurred. Stephen Chbosky, Co-Creator and Writer of the show states that the idea for Jericho started as a movie, but once him and his team began, they couldn't really come to an ending. This is what prompted the team to pitch the story as a series.
With inspirations from recent tragedies like September 11th and Katrina, the idea of this new drama was fitting for executives at CBS and seemingly with the public. Jericho is now moving into its second season and its cast members are thrilled to be a part of a show that has caught its viewers' interest.
So just how did each of Jericho's residents land in the town that depicts the 'heart of America'? Well, Skeet Ulrich (Jack Green) stated, 'I felt the heart and mystery behind the character and had to do it [take on the role]' I was drawn to the idea of the arch of the story.' Lennie James (Robert Hawkins) says that 'after reading 20 different scripts, Jericho was in his top 8' Jericho was about redefining yourself in the face of danger.'
As for what's next on the horizon for the show, the creators elude to death within the small town and additional information on the back-story to be revealed by episode 18. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens!
For more information on the show, please log onto www.cbs.com/primetime/jericho/