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Making a "Good" TV return ...David Hyde Pierce walks onto the "Good Wife" political stageBy Jay Bobbin How much differen...

Making a "Good" TV return ...

David Hyde Pierce walks onto the "Good Wife" political stage
By Jay Bobbin

How much difference does a decade make for a familiar actor?

David Hyde Pierce is about to supply an answer. A four-time Emmy winner as Niles on "Frasier," the television and stage star starts his first continuing series job since as he joins CBS' "The Good Wife" Sunday (Nov. 2). He'll recur as media personality Frank Prady, who decides he can have more impact by entering Chicago politics ... attracting the attention of Alicia and Eli (Julianna Margulies, Alan Cu***ng).

Also preparing for his Broadway directing debut with next spring's musical "It Shoulda Been You," Tony Award recipient Pierce confirms a big reason for his "Good Wife" involvement is that "it shoots in New York, and that is very appealing. I remember when we were doing 'Frasier,' the casting director and the producers had a big attraction to bringing in New York theater actors.

"It was always about what they brought to playing the scenes more than just name recognition, and that's what I'm loving about this show," Pierce tells Zap2it. "The core actors are all so fine, many of them -- like Alan, Julianna, Christine Baranski and Chris Noth -- with solid grounding in the theater.

"Maybe I'm prejudiced, but I think that says something about why they're so good. And at the simplest level, these people are my friends, so it's a group I wanted to hang out with."

Discovering his "Good Wife" character as he films is "a lot of fun," Pierce claims. "It forces you to let go and just trust the writing, trust your fellow actors and trust your instincts. It's a kind of television that's new for me, and I'm really enjoying it."

Though his Niles portrayal remains on view in "Frasier" repeats, Pierce feels enough time has passed for him to build a new home-screen image.

"I've been away from acting the character for so long, maybe the mannerisms and voice patterns have faded away. Also, it's 10 years since we finished the show, but it's been 20 years or more since we started it ... so I'm significantly older than in those reruns people keep seeing. That's a little depressing, but it helps."

'Tis the season (and the week) ...Halloween gets real on televisionBy Jay BobbinIf Halloween isn’t real enough for you, ...

'Tis the season (and the week) ...

Halloween gets real on television
By Jay Bobbin

If Halloween isn’t real enough for you, some networks are aiming to help.

October always serves up many seasonal shows, but today’s bounty of television outlets ensures a fair amount of that programming will be unscripted. The supernatural isn’t only the stuff of fiction on TV, as these examples demonstrate this week.

“Halloween Wars” (Sunday, Oct. 26, Food Network): Which team has created the scariest pumpkin display? The winner is declared in the fourth-season finale, with the top chills translating into big bucks ... $50,000, to be exact.

“The Great Halloween Fright Fight” (Tuesday, Oct. 28, ABC): In the tradition of last year’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” – from the same producers – this special pits seasonal house displays from across America against one another, with $50,000 also going to the winners here.

“Town of the Living Dead” (Tuesday, Oct. 28, Syfy): An urban legend fuels this series as residents of Jasper, Ala., continue their efforts to finish the horror film they’ve been working on for six years.

“Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story” (Friday, Oct. 31, Turner Classic Movies): One of the producing-directing legends of horror movies is recalled in this fun documentary, as Castle’s famous knack for using gimmicks to scare audiences – as with the vibrating devices under viewers’ seats while they watched “The Tingler” – is recalled affectionately.

“American Super/Natural” (Friday, Oct. 31, The Weather Channel): A four-hour Halloween-night block of this recently introduced series relates weather (what else, given the network?) to spooky doings, as the meteorological elements of eerie happenings. A four-hour dose of “Strangest Weather on Earth” follows.

“Ghost Adventures” (Friday, Oct. 31, Travel Channel): The two-hour episode “Ireland’s Celtic Demons” highlights regional traditions dating all the way back to 500 B.C. ... related to the belief that spirits entered the living world. Among locations visited are Dublin’s tellingly named Hell Fire Club and Wexford’s Loftus Hall, the alleged home of the devil himself.

"Cheek to Cheek," indeed ...Tony Bennett goes (Lady) GagaBy Jay BobbinTony Bennett and Lady Gaga: It’s a teaming virtual...

"Cheek to Cheek," indeed ...

Tony Bennett goes (Lady) Gaga
By Jay Bobbin

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: It’s a teaming virtually no one would expect.

Ask the iconic Bennett, though, and it’s a match made in music heaven.

The two stars celebrate the recent release of their album in PBS’ new “Great Performances” presentation “Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek LIVE!” Friday, Oct. 24 (check local listings). Taped last July at New York’s Lincoln Center, the program features their renderings of such song standards as “Anything Goes,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and – of course – “Cheek to Cheek.”

“She’s a wonderful artist,” Bennett says of Gaga. “We did a benefit in Manhattan and raised about $10 million for people who needed work, and it was a great experience. The first time I met her was with her parents backstage, and she was so happy to meet me ... then we performed and I just said, ‘I’d love to do an album with you.’ And she said, ‘I would love to, also.’

“From that day on, we’ve just gotten along great,” adds 17-time Grammy winner Bennett, with whom Gaga also appeared recently in Israel and Belgium. “I think she’s one of the best performers I’ve ever met. We’ve become best friends, and she’s fabulous to be around.”

Bennett also knew what their dual effort was likely to mean culturally: “She became a phenomenon with young people who went crazy for her, and whenever she gets online, 40 million people reply. Young people have never heard the Great American Songbook; they hear something contemporary, and no matter what record’s being played, they more or less sound alike.

“To me, it’s so important for everybody to learn that no other country has given the rest of the world so many great songs. It was during the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s – when silent films became talkies – that the majority of the Songbook was introduced.”

The PBS program, introduced by Kristin Chenoweth as part of the network’s Arts Fall Festival, has an on-site audience including many New York City public-school students of the arts ... a pursuit close to Bennett’s heart, demonstrated by his and his wife Susan’s founding of Exploring the Arts, which promotes and supports related education. They also launched the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, N.Y.

Bennett is finding that his and Gaga’s merging is translating into the musical meetings of the minds and generations he’d hoped for. “I love it when someone says, ‘My father loves Tony Bennett and I love Lady Gaga. And now, we can both listen together.’ ”

Something she'll be missing soon ..."Parenthood's" Erika Christensen can't help but "plow through" each script  By Jay B...

Something she'll be missing soon ...

"Parenthood's" Erika Christensen can't help but "plow through" each script
By Jay Bobbin

Q: Since it’s such an ensemble piece, what has been your view of “Parenthood” over the course of its run?

Erika Christensen: The actors on the show are huge fans of the show as well ... which we can say and remain humble, because there are so many characters to watch. We’re all fans of each other. As an interesting side note, Dax Shepard doesn’t read the scripts except for his scenes, so that he can watch the show fresh every week. I get a script, though, and just plow through it. I can’t help it.

Q: The depth of your “Parenthood” character Julia services the type of acting it seems you’ve always liked to do. Have you ever wanted to play a silly role?

Erika Christensen: Oh, I’d love that. I think I would anyway. Of course, actors love to explore and play different characters and go from one end of any spectrum they can find to the other.

Julia is so wound-up compared to anyone else I’ve ever played; her energy is so different that to play something like a Farrelly-brothers character would be awesome.

Q: Has the quality of “Parenthood” spoiled you for future series work?

Erika Christensen: If “spoiled” means being ungrateful, no. The whole cast is aware of how amazing an experience this is, but in other ways, we are spoiled on a number of levels. It’s not just the artistry, but the way we shoot. It’s a very efficient show, and everybody at NBC and on the show grants the actors such freedom, it’s very spontaneous.

"Parenthood" airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

The "Horror" of it all ...Michael Chiklis thinks "American Horror Story: Freak Show" is "kind of genius"By Jay BobbinQ: ...

The "Horror" of it all ...

Michael Chiklis thinks "American Horror Story: Freak Show" is "kind of genius"
By Jay Bobbin

Q: What’s your thought about returning to FX in “American Horror Story: Freak Show” as the overall franchise and its repertory cast reinvent themselves, as they have every year?

Michael Chiklis: It’s really kind of genius to have an anthology not from week to week, but rather season to season. Then you have the ability to create a 13-hour story arc with a beginning, a middle and an end. That’s really satisfying not only to the creatives who are involved, but also to the audience.

Q: As different as each season of “American Horror Story” has been, do you like its connecting threads, such as the returning stars who include Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett?

Michael Chiklis: We’re in a particular genre and a particular style, but I’ve even seen a shift in style from season to season. “Asylum” was very tough and dark and scary ... then last year, “Coven” was much more kitschy and light and fun. I think this year is somewhere in-between. There’s some downright terrifying stuff in this.

There’s a reason why freak shows are gone now. They were exploitive and really quite horrible. I went to one when I was a kid, and it was an incredibly disturbing thing ... and they want to evoke that here. It kind of represents the worst of us, and that’s something that Ryan (Murphy, the show’s executive producer) does brilliantly. He speaks for the unspoken-for, the underdog. This is sort of an extreme of that.

Carrie-ing its drama overseas ..."Homeland" moves abroad for Season 4By Jay BobbinTrying to predict what to expect from ...

Carrie-ing its drama overseas ...

"Homeland" moves abroad for Season 4
By Jay Bobbin

Trying to predict what to expect from “Homeland” is generally fruitless.

A series that prides itself on surprising viewers, the Emmy-winning Showtime drama intends that again in its fourth season by moving the action overseas. Starting with two episodes Sunday (Oct. 5), the new round takes Claire Danes’ alter ego – promoted CIA operative and new mom Carrie Mathison – to the Middle East (though the season actually is being filmed in Cape Town, South Africa), where fresh danger awaits her.

“I think emotionally, she has stabilized,” says executive producer Meredith Stiehm of Carrie, “and the mental illness, she has now dealt with and she's going into this season very steady. I think there are some people that are so talented that you forgive past deeds or some erratic behavior, and I think Carrie Mathison is one of those people.”

Based on the Israeli series “Prisoners of War,” “Homeland” changed its game drastically last season by eliminating American soldier turned double agent Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). Executive producer Alex Gansa maintains he and his longtime creative partner Howard Gordon actually kept Brody around longer than intended.

“(We) always imagined the Brody story to last only a season,” Gansa explains, “so we were fully expecting to take Carrie overseas to do what she was trained to do, which is to be a case officer. And it’s just taken us three seasons to get there instead one.”

That was still enough time for Carrie to bear Brody’s baby, and Gansa says “the place that she’s in now is a place where you cannot have dependents, so she was forced to leave the child at home.” Carrie’s father is absent since James Rebhorn – the veteran actor who played him – died in March.

Stiehm adds that professionally, Carrie is “in a completely different role now that she’s overseas. And there’s a very big storyline with somebody she’s recruiting and trying to get close to and trying to get his trust.”

Suraj Sharma (“Life of Pi”) joins the “Homeland” cast in Season 4 as that “somebody,” while Mandy Patinkin remains on board as Carrie’s mentor Saul Berenson, who’s no longer with the CIA, but remains a major element of the storytelling.

“Another interesting ramification of a military drawdown in Afghanistan,” Gansa reasons, “is that private contractors become that much more important. It’s a market opportunity for people that work in private contracting, private military business. And that’s who Saul has gone to work for, so largely, that’s how his character gets introduced back into that world.”


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