LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - If the MTV Video Music Awards looked boring on TV, it was even worse watching the show in person. Sunday night's ceremony was held at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., a venue so monstrous not even Taylor Swift could fill all the seats. Unlike most concerts, there weren't any TV screens in the venue that broadcast the performances live, which is why crowds kept looking restless when the camera cut to them. It was hard to see what was happening.
At every commercial break, a VMAs stage manager with a bullhorn would bark at the fans on the ground floor to move as the clunky sets weaved around them. There was a smattering of boos when Miley Cyrus tried to make a political statement by sending a homeless man onstage to accept her Moonman trophy for Video of the Year. When Beyonce finally delivered her showstopper finale, half the crowd was on their feet -- the other half headed out the door because a random wall blocked many in the audience from seeing her.
The VMAs are usually packed with pop stars, but most of the bigger names stayed away (like Lady Gaga) or just presented (like Jennifer Lopez, Demi Lovato and Lorde) this year. Who could tell the difference between Fifth Harmony and 5 Seconds of Summer? To help me navigate, I took along resident music expert Eloise Eller (@Eloiseeller), the 14-year-old daughter of Variety editor-in-chief of film Claudia Eller. Here's our joint review of the 2014 VMAs.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - What felt so sweet when "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" brought gay style to straight men becomes borderline offensive in "Girlfriend Intervention," a Lifetime series that enlists a quartet of African-American fashionistas to make over a "basic" white woman. Loud, brash and filled with stereotypes, it's hard to know what's most irritating -- the sweeping declarations about black women as if they were monolithic, or the forced remodeling of women who are perfectly comfortable with their looks and style, after subjecting them to a "Catwalk of Shame." If indeed there's cause for shame here, the producers should start with a mirror.
"Trapped inside of every white girl is a strong black woman ready to bust out," explain the four magical style mentors, who invade the woman's home (a friend or relative is in on the plot), proceeding to spend a week dispensing fashion wisdom.
In the premiere, there's 24-year-old Emily, a mother of two (she started young, obviously) who has just earned her real-estate license. She is put through the paces by self-described "confident plus-sized woman" Tanisha Thomas, fashion maven Tiffiny Dixon, sanctuary guru (a fancy way of saying home remodeler) Nikki Chu, and beauty pro Tracy Balan.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Lifetime has given a straight-to-series order to "Damien," a thriller from Glen Mazzara based on the 1976 horror pic "The Omen."
The cabler has ordered six episodes from Fox Television Studios targeted to air early next year. Mazzara, the drama vet and former "Walking Dead" showrunner, Ross Fineman and Pancho Mansfield are exec producers.
Fineman developed the concept with Mazzara. Series picks up from the movie's storyline by focusing on the adult life of Damien Thorn as he realizes he is the Antichrist.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Amazon Studios has announced it has ordered three animated and two live-action pilots of kids shows for the third installment of its kids pilot season, which will debut in early 2015 on Amazon Instant Video.
The shows will debut alongside a new version of the previously announced "Sara Solves It" pilot. Keeping with the Amazon business model, these first episodes go live for customers to watch and provide feedback to help execs decide which pilots become full series.
"We're very excited to be working with such talented creative minds in kids entertainment to bring these five new pilots to life," said Tara Sorensen, head of kids programming at Amazon Studios. "At Amazon, we're focused on great characters and storytelling to create engaging programming for children. We've been overwhelmed with the positive reaction to our first three children's series that debuted this summer -- "Tumble Leaf," "Creative Galaxy" and "Annedroids"--and look forward to giving parents more episodes of these beloved shows to enjoy."
Nick Vadala, Philly.com
Yes, Beyonce's performance at the VMAs last night was nothing short of incredible. But, lest we forget, the world also approached terminal Swift-ocity during last night's ceremony thanks to Taylor Swift's very Taylor Swift performance of her new single, "Shake It Off."
Last week was a busy one for Swift, with the Reading, PA native both announcing her first "straight-up" pop release, 1989, and releasing its first single, "Shake It Off," with a less-than-well-received video. But last night's performance of "Shake It Off," the track's first live run-through, was far less awkward and cultural appropriation-filled.
Lorde introduced Swift, saying that 1989 would signal the beginning of a "new era" for the pop country star. And, apparently, it did.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - What a strange trip it was for "True Blood," a series that began with enormous promise, began to drunkenly stagger as if it was imbibing something more mood-altering than blood, and finally lurched back toward a measure of sobriety in the home stretch of its seventh season. Still, Sunday's series finale (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven't watched) -- despite some poignant moments -- was simply too little, too late to redeem a show that frequently managed to feel absurd even for those who once happily believed in a world filled with vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, faeries and demons.
Before settling into a focus on wrapping things up where the program began -- with the telepathic Sookie (Anna Paquin) and her seriously complicated relationship with vampire beau Bill (Stephen Moyer) -- "True Blood" spent too much time throughout the season dealing with peripheral characters, occasionally killing one here or there, without yielding much of an emotional payday. Nor did it really make sense to elevate Anna Camp's Sarah to become such a centerpiece of the plot, with her blood representing the salvation to a vampire plague.
Credit Brian Buckner and Scott Winant -- who wrote and directed the finale, respectively -- for deftly flipping "happily ever after" on its head, with Bill having chosen to die rather than condemn Sookie to a dead-end life with a vampire. The producers built to that in previous episodes with flashbacks about Bill, setting the stage for his noble sacrifice.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Too frugal to pay for cable TV, but still willing to fork over the dough for a super-fancy DVR?
TiVo now has a product aimed at just such a niche group of cord-cutting DVR lovers: The company has announced its first antenna-only DVR, the Roamio OTA.
Priced at $50, the limited-edition DVR is not equipped to receive or record cable or satellite television. According to TiVo, 88% of the most-recorded shows among its customers are available free over-the-air with a digital antenna.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Are we there yet?
That age-old lament of kids in the backseat of the station wagon has been expressed more than once during the past few days as Emmy season headed into the home stretch with an extra-long weekend.
The move of the ceremony from September to the last Monday in August this year prompted more parties, receptions, toasts and photo ops throughout the weekend. And there's plenty of agita building about the potential for limo gridlock around the Nokia Theater Monday afternoon as Emmy-goers battle non-pros in downtown L.A. traffic.