Tag Archive for alumni TV

Kail ’99 Directs Musical Extravaganza Grease: Live

Grease: Live

Thomas Kail ’99, far right, oversaw the stage direction for Grease: Live.

Thomas Kail ’99, who is currently directing the blockbuster hit Hamilton on Broadway, written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, brought the energy of live theater to the small screen as he set the stage direction for Grease: Live, a musical extravaganza starring Julianne Hough as Sandy and Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo, along with Aaron Tveit as Danny, Carly Rae Jepson as Frenchy, Mario Lopez as Vince Fontaine and Boys II Men in the role of Teen Angel. The musical, which was staged in front of a live audience, aired on Fox on Jan. 31. 

Visiting Writer Windolf Interviews Game of Thrones Creator Weiss ’93

Game of Thrones cast members Emilia Clarke and Iain Glen are seen in this image by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.

Game of Thrones cast members Emilia Clarke and Iain Glen are seen in this image by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.

On the eve of the fourth season of HBO’s fantasy hit Game of Thrones, Wesleyan Visiting Writer in English Jim Windolf talks with series creators D.B. Weiss ’93 and David Benioff and novelist George R.R. Martin – on whose works the show is based – in Vanity Fair:

“Based on ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ the epic series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, the show seemed like an odd fit for HBO. But Benioff and Weiss believed it was in the tradition of The Sopranos,Deadwood, Oz, and other HBO shows in that it would breathe new life into a tired or maligned genre. It wasn’t an easy task, though, to persuade executives that something belonging to a category that includes Xena: Warrior Princess was right for the crown jewel of premium cable. ‘That was one of the big uphill sells,’ Weiss says. ‘It was just a question of convincing them that it applied to a genre that had never seriously crossed their minds before.’”

Windolf traces the history of the show’s creation and rocky HBO debut, and asks author Martin about the relationship between the source material and the series:

“Game of Thrones, which enters its fourth season this month, may be heading toward its second massive problem, as tough to solve as the messed-up pilot, which is this: the show is in danger of catching up to the books.

“Martin started writing the epic saga (more than 4,000 pages and counting) in July 1991. He has published five of a planned seven books. If the 2015 television season carries Benioff and Weiss through Book Five, which is possible, and if Martin has not completed Book Six (The Winds of Winter) by that time, which is also possible, there could be trouble.

“Asked if it’s conceivable the show could overtake its source material, Benioff says, ‘Yup.’ When I mention to Martin that Benioff and Weiss are catching up, he says, ‘They are. Yes. It’s alarming.’”

Windolf is editor of M magazine, contributing editor for Vanity Fair, columnist for Capital New York, and writer for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The New York Observer.

Students Gather to Watch How I Met Your Mother Finale

On March 31, students and staff gathered at the Career Center for the series finale of the hit TV show, How I Met Your Mother. The show was co-created by Carter Bays ’97 and Craig Thomas ’97 and has won several awards throughout its nine seasons.

University Relations and the Wes Watches HIMYM Blog sponsored the event so the Wesleyan community could watch the final episode together.

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Ryan Heffernan ’16)

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Film Studies’ MacLowry Co-Directs PBS Show on Penn Station

Randall MacLowry '86 co-produced, directed and wrote the PBS episode.

Randall MacLowry ’86 co-produced, directed and wrote the PBS episode, “The Rise and Fall of Penn Station.”

Randall MacLowry ’86, visiting instructor in film studies, co-produced, directed and wrote an episode for the PBS history series American Experience. Titled “The Rise and Fall of Penn Station,” the hour-long episode premieres at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Pennsylvania Station, a monumental train terminal in the heart of Manhattan, finally opened to the public on Nov. 27, 1910. Covering nearly eight acres, the building was the fourth largest in the world. By 1945, more than 100 million passengers traveled through Penn Station each year.

But by the 1960s, what was supposed to last forever was slated for destruction. In 1961, the financially strapped Pennsylvania Railroad, which had been losing customers to air and automobile travel, announced that it had sold the air rights above Penn Station. In 1963, the demolition of the grand edifice began and construction on the new station was completed in 1968. Watch a preview of “The Rise and Fall of Penn Station” online here.

MacLowry is an award-winning filmmaker with over 25 years experience as producer, director, writer and editor, and is co-founder of The Film Posse with producer and partner Tracy Heather Strain. His work for American Experience includes “Silicon Valley,” “The Gold Rush” (2007 Erik Barnouw Award), “Building the Alaska Highway,” “A Brilliant Madness and Stephen Foster;” he also served as editor of “The Polio Crusade” and an episode of the two-part series “Reconstruction: America’s Second Civil War.”

MacLowry majored in art with a film studies concentration at Wesleyan.

Whitford ’81 Stars in New ABC Comedy Trophy Wife

Malin Akerman, Bradley Whitford '81, Machia Gay Hardin and Michaela Watkins in "Trophy Wife" on ABC

Malin Akerman, Bradley Whitford ’81, Machia Gay Hardin and Michaela Watkins in “Trophy Wife” on ABC

Bradley Whitford ’81 (The West Wing) stars as Pete Harrison, a high-powered environmental lawyer with three kids and two ex-wives in the new ABC comedy Trophy Wife, which premiered in September on ABC. On the Tuesday night show, Pete marries Kate, a younger woman, played by Malin Akerman, who previously led a rowdy, carefree life and whose life is shaken up with the new responsibilities of family life.

In his review of the program in The Hollywood Reporter, Tim Goodman wrote: “Whitford shines with his surprisingly Zen-like approach to having three women he’s been married to weave in and out of his life with varying results.”

In a positive review on the A.V. Club, Todd VanDerWerff writes that “the show has a supreme confidence in its ability to reveal character through conflict, something many comedy pilots avoid. … In particular, the series is smart about letting viewers know the point of view of everyone in the show, from Akerman to Whitford to all of the kids, right down to the 7-year-old adopted son from China. These points of view are inherently in conflict most of the time, which makes for funnier gags.”

And Matt Zoller Seitz of Vulture/New York Magazine said: “Trophy Wife is adept at sending up a certain segment of upper-middle-class America: its politically correct gestures and rituals, its overscheduled near chaos,

Emmy Award Winner Margolis ’93 Is Show Runner for Adult Swim’s Newsreaders

Jim Margolis ’93 (Photo courtesy Jim Margolis)

Jim Margolis ’93, a six-time Emmy Award winner, left his job last year as an executive producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to become the show runner for a new series, Newsreaders, which airs at midnight Thursday on Adult Swim, part of the Cartoon Network.

Co-created by Rob Corddry, Jonathan Stern and David Wain, Newsreaders is a sketch comedy show in the form of a fake TV news magazine and a spinoff of a successful Adult Swim series, Children’s Hospital, a parody of the hospital drama genre. The new series features both established and up-and-coming comic talents.

In a recent review in The New York Times, Mike Hale wrote: “The two shows [Newsreaders and Children’s Hospital] share a writing and performing style that is simultaneously over the top and dryly understated, as well as a funny quirk of showing us enticing excerpts of scenes or segments that don’t exist.”

Michael Heaton at the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently spoke to Margolis about his new position.

Margolis said:  “I still work with incredibly funny and talented people, but creating a new show and producing a single season of a scripted comedy show is wildly different from producing a daily late-night comedy show. …

“I was amazed at all of the great people we got. People really wanted to do the show. It was kind of a who’s who of comedy, along with an actual bond girl (Jane Seymour) and a New Kid on the Block (Joey McIntyre).”

About leaving The Daily Show, Margolis said: “It was a very difficult decision, but it was a great opportunity to create something completely new and collaborate with people I really like and respect. It was also a great opportunity to have no job security. I think what you’re really asking is what was I thinking? A lot of people have asked that question.”

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Mark ’71 is Executive Producer of USA Network’s Political Animals

Laurence Mark ’71

Political Animals, a six-part television mini-series created and written by Greg Berlanti with Lawrence Mark ’71 as an executive producer, premiered on USA Network on July 15. Sigourney Weaver stars as Elaine Barrish Hammond, a former first lady divorced from the ex-U.S. president who becomes secretary of state after losing the presidential nomination to a younger, less experienced male candidate. The series follows Elaine’s political success in her new job and touches upon her desire to run for the presidency again, but it also revolves around her family relations.

In an article in The New York Times, Amy Chozick notes that creator Greg Berlanti donated to Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008. But “although he found initial inspiration in Mrs. Clinton, the fictional family drama that engulfs the Hammonds interested him more than poll numbers, policy and, well, reality. This is, after all, Hollywood.”

“ ‘It’s politics as theater,” [says] Laurence Mark … ‘There’s a stage, and then there’s backstage.’ ”

Sigourney Weaver and Carlo Gugino in “Political Animals.” (Photo by David Giesbrecht/USA Network)

In his positive review in the Los Angeles Times, Robert Lloyd calls Political Animals  “an unusually ambitious production from the home of Monk, Psych and Royal Pains. … this is a family drama, a high-class, relatively naturalistic, behind-closed-doors soap opera that plays in fairly obvious yet also fairly affecting ways with the space between public face and private pain and is made highly watchable by an excellent cast that finds the human among the hokum.”

And Rob Brunner in his Entertainment Weekly review writes: “What’s it like working for the man who snatched away the Commander-in-Chief job she thought was hers to lose? This six-part miniseries … tries to imagine some answers, and the result is a well-acted, entertainingly soapy drama that might not crack the Clinton code definitively but still offers a fun and credible look at the complicated intersection of love, gender, and politics.”

Jan Eliasberg ’74 Named Fox Writers Initiative Fellow

Jan Eliasberg ’74

Jan Eliasberg ’74, of Aquinnah Films, was chosen as one of 10 fellows for the Fox Writers Initiative, a highly selective four-month program designed to groom writers to run television series and write and direct features across all the divisions of 20th Century Fox.

The 10 were chosen from more than 350 nominations by representatives and arts organizations across the country. The initiative sought unique voices, as well as a diversity in backgrounds and life experiences.

In a company press release, Nicole Bernard, senior vice president of audience strategy for The Fox Group, said, “These 10 incredibly gifted writers represent the high-caliber talent we’re looking for at Fox, and we’re extremely excited to work more closely with them through this initiative.” She noted that tapping into a wide pool of talent was crucial to reaching their constituents, adding, “This is an important step toward ensuring that our film, TV and digital productions better reflect our broader audience, and we’re thrilled that so many writers and producers have signed on to lend their expertise.”

Eliasberg, who majored in theater at Wesleyan, is a graduate of the directing program at the Yale School of Drama. She has directed plays at Joe Papp’s Public Theatre, South Coast Rep, and the Royal Court Theatre in London. She has taught and guest lectured at USC School for Cinema Studies, the Sundance Lab, Yale School of Drama, Wesleyan Program for Writers, and the Art Institute of California.

Her television directing career was launched when she was selected by Michael Mann to be the first female director on Miami Vice. She was also the first woman to direct episodes of Crime Story, Wiseguy and 21 Jump Street.

Eliasberg has directed television pilots for all networks as well was hundreds of hours of award-winning television, including episodes of Blue Bloods, Parenthood, N.C.I.S.: Los Angeles, Criminal Minds, Supernatural, In Plain Sight, L.A. Law, Party of Five,and Dawson’s Creek.

Wesleyan Alumni Join Roth, Bays ’97, Thomas ’97 for Talk in L.A.

Carter Bays ’97 and Craig Thomas ’97, co-creators of the television comedy, “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS), sat down with President Michael Roth ’78 and nearly 200 Wesleyan alumni at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles, Calif. on Jan. 12. What followed was all Wes!

In addition to the video below, you can view photos taken during the event in this online Wesleyan Flickr gallery.

YouTube Preview Image

View 11 other videos featuring Carter Bays and Craig Thomas are in the links below:
Part 1  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl504Uh8HFc
Part 2  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdT0tXGBm-c
Part 3  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BV4cP6l8JW0
Part 4  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7lRQdgQpaw
Part 5  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZDE5wh4Gh0
Part 6  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYuM6f8Xvv8
Part 7  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NKbOp7VsPU
Part 8  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReRStEZRnGs
Part 9 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjyJtQW-JAA
Part 10 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qx_xlU1-IU
Part 11 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruClNDnST4E
Part 12 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LI3tzxU2mi4

Enlightened, Created and Written by White ’92, Premieres on HBO

Mike White '92 and Laura Dern star in HBO's Enlightened - Photo: Nicola Goode/HBO

Mike White ’92 has created (with actress Laura Dern) a new comedy-drama for HBO, Enlightened, which premiered on HBO in early October. White also wrote all 10 episodes for the first season, and directed two of them. Other directors include co-executive producer Miguel Arteta ’89, Jonathan Demme, Phil Morrison, and Nicole Holofcener.

Enlightened tells the story of Amy Jellicoe, played by Dern, a self-destructive executive at a large company who has a hugely dramatic meltdown in her office and is sent to a New Age treatment center in Hawaii, where she swims with sea turtles and heals. She returns to her former company ready to change herself and the world but her workplace reassigns her to the basement with a bunch of misfits who are destined for obscurity. White plays one of Amy’s co-workers.

In his review in The Los Angeles Times, Robert Lloyd said that Enlightened is “the most interesting and ambitious series of the fall season.”

In The New York Times review, Alessandra Stanley said: “It’s a funny, sardonic premise, but Enlightened is not just one big joke at the expense of crystal-carrying California narcissists. Comedy thrives on exaggeration, so it’s a credit to the show’s creator, Mike White, that Enlightened isn’t an entirely sarcastic title. The series embraces the absurdities of its subject with enough compassion to avoid outright parody.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Judge praised the show, writing: “This isn’t just the story of one woman’s search for relevance or power in a man’s world; it’s the story of one human being’s search for meaning, one soul’s search for redemption. How many lower circles of hell will Amy and those she hopes to save descend into before they are all truly enlightened? God knows. But it certainly will be fun finding out.”

White was profiled by Carina Chocano in The  New York Times on October 7, 2011. Chicano said: “As a writer, White is intrigued by people in crisis and by the way in which they seem to draw the people around them into a reluctant dance of identification and rejection.”

Chicano continued: “Because White’s film characters tend to elicit existential discomfort, he often gets pegged as a satirist. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I think I’m more of an absurdist than a satirist. I think I’m more of a — humanist? I hate to say it!’ This made him laugh. But it’s an accurate description, in the sense that he returns again and again to the subject of what it’s like and what it means to be human — to try to do the right thing, to screw up, to feel bad, to try again. This is perhaps the most salient quality in his body of work.”

Eliasberg ’74 Directs N.C.I.S. Episode

Director Jan Eliasberg discusses a scene from the "Greed" episode of N.C.I.S.-Los Angeles with actors (left to right) Sherman Augustus, Chris O'Donnell, and Todd Smith (aka LLCoolJ), which will air on Nov. 8 at 9 p.m. on CBS.

Jan Eliasberg ’74 of Aquinnah Films directs the episode of N.C.I.S.-Los Angeles that airs on Nov. 8 on CBS at 9 p.m. The episode, entitled “Greed,” marks the second time Eliasberg has been tapped to put her directorial perspective on the dramatic action series featuring a Naval Criminal Investigative squad working in conjunction with local Southern California law enforcement.

Eliasberg, a theater major at Wesleyan who earned her graduate degree in directing at the Yale School of Drama and studied in London, says that she enjoyed directing plays by Bertolt Brecht and Shakespeare for “the large-scale themes, examining where the tears are in the fabric of our society, who is fighting on the front lines, who is impacted by it, and why.

“Yes, there is violence,” she says, “In the culminating scenes of Hamlet, or Macbeth, or any Greek tragedy, because the stakes are so high. That was the component of theater that really interested me.”

She finds those same aspects in some of today’s most popular television series and savors the directorial challenge.

“Action is thematic story-telling at its richest, in a funny way. It’s not just the ‘flash and bash’ — the action — ultimately it’s about what is at stake and why. What story and character threads have woven together to culminate in that action scene, and how the power is going to shift from that moment on.”