The right dance moves soar on TV

There's some superb dance on TV these days, much of it coming from an interlocking set of friends. Now comes "All the Right Moves," a dance show that focuses on a new group that includes the brilliant choreography of Travis Wall. Here's the story I sent to papers:


LOS ANGELES – For some people,
choreographing is Phase Two. It's something old dancers try.

And for Travis Wall, whose cable show
debuts Tuesday? “I started when I was 2,” he said.

That was at his mother's dance studio
in Virginia City, Va. “Music was my babysitter. She would put me in
a room and turn on the music and say, 'You have a half-hour to come
up with something.'”

So he did. He became a tot
choreographer, then a dance champion and co-founder of the Shaping
Sound dance company.

Now it's the centerpiece of the “All
the Right Moves” reality show – at a time when dance is thriving
on TV. “We are riding that wave at the highest peak right now,”
said co-founder Nick Lazzarini.

That's a wave that neatly centers on
the Shaping Sound people. “The competitive dance world … is so
small when you are a kid,” Lazzarini said. :”These were all my
best friends.”

At the core was Denise Wall's studio.
Travis danced there; so did Jaimie Goodwin and Taja Riley (both now
in Shaping Sound) and Danny Tidwell, who eventually moved into the
Wall home.

They met others – Lazzarini, Teddy
Forance, Kyle Robinson – at competitions. When “So You Think You
Can Dance” began in 2005, Lazzarini was a contestant; Wall, his
apartment-mate, watched on TV.

“I was too young to audition for the
first season,” Wall said. “So I rooted him on the whole way, and
I just counted down the days, hoping it got picked up for a second

It was. Lazzarini was the first-season
champion … Wall was the second-season runner-up … Tidwell was the
third-season runner-up.

Wall kept dancing, but he also focused
on choreography and created Shaping Sound with Lazzarini and Forance.
It was a group project – except some people think of it as Wall's

“I have a controlling issue,” Wall
granted. “I like to control every single thing.”

Now he's merging with his friends,
including Goodwin. “We dated for two years,” said Wall,who now
lives with his boyfriend, who is a gymnast and a cheerleading coach.
“I'm still in love with her.”

And dance is their shared passion. “I
grew up being home-schooled,” Goodwin said.” This was my outlet
…. For a lot of us, this was our only thing.”

It still is, said Wall, 23. “Dance is
all I know.”

Fortunately, he knows it well: Last
season, he received an Emmy nomination for his “So You Think You
Can Dance” choreography. This year, Shaping Sound made its debut on
“Dancing With the Stars”; he and Forance received an Emmy
nomination for choreographing the number.

They live in Los Angeles, so the Emmy
news arrived at 5:30 a.m., their time. “I ran into Teddy's room and
jumped on the bed,” Wall said, “which was kind of bad because his
girl friend was there”

It was a rude awakening, Forance
grants. “He was sort of choking me.” But the news was worth it;
in a difficult dance world, Shaping Sound had made the right moves.

– “All the Right Moves,” 9 p.m.
Tuesdays, Oxygen, repeating at 11 p.m.

– Opener, July 31, reruns often,
including 9 a.m. Wednesday (Aug. 1), 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, 10
a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. Sunday, 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Aug.

– More dance: “So You Think You Can
Dance,” 8-10 p.m. Wednesdays, Fox; “Dancing With the Stars”
starts its “all-star” edition Sept. 24 on ABC; “Step Up 4:
Miami Heat,” with Travis Wall doing some of the choreography, is in


"Ruby" sparks a "Purple Rose" moment

In real life, alas, there aren't nearly
enough “Purple Rose of Cairo” moments.

Last night, I had one, at the end of an
alternately deep and charming movie, “Ruby Sparks.”

In Woody Allen's “Purple Rose,” one
of the actors in a movie steps out of the movie screen and talks to
someone in the audience. That doesn't seem to happen in real life,
but it should.

So on Saturday, I was watching “Ruby
Sparks,” a mostly delightful film from the “Little Miss Sunshine”
directors. Afterward, Zoe Kazan – who wrote it and played the title
character – unexpectedly stood in front of the audience, along with co-star
Chris Messina, and answered questions.

(Maybe I should mention that this was
in a theater in Beverly Hills. This has hardly ever happened to me in
Lansing or Clintonville.)

As most people guess, Zoe, 28, is the
granddaughter of the late Elia Kazan, who directed perhaps the two
best-acted films ever (“On the Waterfront,” “A Streetcar Named
Desire”), plus “East of Eden,” “A Face in the Crowd” and
more. She graduated from Yale, did well in the New York theater
scene, but – like most actors – found herself with way too much
free time.

That's when she turned to her parents'
profession, writing. Separately, Nicholas Kazan wrote “Reversal of
Fortune” and Robin Swicord wrote the “Little Women” remake;
together, they wrote the wonderful “Matilda.”

So Kazan wrote a couple plays. Then she
was thinking of the “Pygmalion” tale – a man forming re-shaping
a young woman in his preferred image. For Kazan – who had
previously been dating some older men – that had resonance.

Walking home one day, she was startled
by a sight – a mannequin in a trash basket – that initially
looked like a person. That night she thought and dreamed; the next
day she had her story of a a lonely writer whose fictional character
– his ideal woman, actually – suddenly appears in real life.

As Kazan began writing the screenplay,
her boyfriend (Paul Dano of “Little Miss Sunshine”) foundthe
characters interesting.”Oh, you're writing about us?” he asked.

Not deliberately. Kazan said she even
tried to avoid that. Once the filming began – with Dano and Kazan
in the leads – they became more like the real people. “I have my
own mood swings, without having to have someone write them,” Kazan

Living in New York, she made the
screenplay a love letter to her Los Angeles roots. That's where the
directors (the husband-wife team of Robin Jonathan Dayton and Valrie
Faris) directed it. They cast two Hollywood icons – Annette Bening
and Antonio Banderas – as Dano's eccentric mothr and father-in-law
and put them in the wonderfully quirky home of Sid Krofft, of “H.R.
Pufnstuf” fame.

That's how Messina (who plays Dano's
brother) ended up being charmed by Bening. “Everyone falls in love
with her,” he said, “which I had to avoid, because I was playing
her son.”

And yes, things all come full-circle:
Bening is married to Warren Beatty – who became a star in Elia
Kazan's “Splendor in the Grass.” Messina, among other things, is
HBO's “The News Room” as the antagonist of the star – played by
Jeff Daniels, the guy who walked out of the movie screen in “The
Purple Rose of Cairo.” That really should happen more oftem.

Now it's "Dancing With the All-stars," sort of

OK, it was fun to see "Dancing With the Stars" unveil its "all-star" (well, some star) cast today. Earlier, I sent papers a quick version of the story; see previous blog. Here's the second version I sent, after talking with more of the people:


LOS ANGELES – “Dancing With the
Stars” began as a silly summer show. Semi-known actors did barely
known dance styles; the winner got a chintzy-looking disco ball.

And then? “The show just became this
juggernaut,” marvels Drew Lachey, its second winner.

Ratings soared. In total viewers –
but not in younger viewers – “Stars” came close to “American
Idol.” And on Friday, it announced its first “all-star” cast,
for this fall.

That includes the show's first five
winners – Kelly Monaco, Lachey, Emmit Smith, Apolo Anton Ohno and
Helio Castroneves – plus Shawn Johnson, the eighth winner. It also
includes people who didn't win, but stirred interest or controversy –
Melissa Rycroft, Kirstie Alley, Gilles Marini, Pamela Anderson, Joey
Fatone and, of course, Bristol Palin.

“The press is going to talk about me
no matter what,” Palin said, so she might as well have fun and make

One more person will be added. Fans
will vote for Sabrina Bryan, Carson Kressley or Kyle Massey.

The casting illustrates the
omnipresence of reality competitions. An NBC one – the
military-style “Stars Earn Stripes” – includes both Palin's
father Todd and Lachey's brother Nick.

Dancing may be harder than war games,
Nick Lachey joked. When he was in the real military “I didn't have
to worry about being spray-tanned or sequins falling off.”

But there are benefits. In his
pop-music days, he was known mostly by young girls; after his “Stars”
sting, “it was everybody, all ages.”

Monaco found the same thing. “This
was the first time people called me by my own name and not just by my
character's name,” she said.

Back then, her soap opera (“General
Hospital”) was much better known than this reality show. “The
cast would tease me about it,” she said. “I was embarrassed.”

And tired. “Doing eight hours on
'General Hospital' and then rehearsing eight hours (for 'Stars'),
that was exhausting.”

Then she saw the first hint of what
“Stars” could do. “When my 'costume malfunction' happened, the
next week the audience went from 13million to 25 million. That's when
people started to realize, 'Oh yes, this is really live.'”

Ratings stayed high and a mid-season
edition was ordered, with novices learning ballroom dance moves. “I
thought I had good rhythm,” Lachey said, “but my dancing was very

He learned, partly through the nudging
of his professional dance partner, Cheryl Burke. In the years that
followed, interest grew and the dances became more sophisticated.

Now the show could sift through 14
editions to choose its “all-star” cast. “This is almost like
'The Avengers,'” said producer Conrad Green.

Except that none of the people can fly
or turn green. And six of them have championship trophies – some
upgraded and some the early, tacky version. “I like the old,
chintzy one,” Monaco said.


:"Dancing With the Star" has its "all-star "moment

For Kelly Monaco, this was just an odd
summer diversion.

Already busy with “General Hospital,”
she was racing off to do “Dancing With the Stars” in her spare
time. “The cast would tease me about it,” she said. “I was

And tired. “Doing eight hours on
'General Hospital' and then rehearsing eight hours (for 'Stars'),
that was exhausting.”

Rhen the silly summer show caught on:
This fall, its 15th edition will be its first
“all-star”one. It will have previous winners – Monaco, Drew
Lachey, Shawn Johnson, Emmitt Smith, Helio Castroneves, Apolo Anton
Ohno – and others, including Bristol Palin and Melissa Rycroft.

All are part of a show that surprised
people with its ability to soar in the ratings. Monaco, 36, recalls
the first hints:

“When my 'costume malfunction'
happened, the next week the audience went from 13million to 25
million,” she said. “That's when people started to realize, 'Oh
yes, this is really live.'”

The show soon challenged “American
Idol” for the top of the ratings (albeit with lower ratings in the
younger ages advertisers provide) and propelled people to personal
fame. “This was the first time people called me by my own name and
not just by my (soap-opera) character's name,” Monaco said.

Other “all-star” contestants
include Gilles Marini,Pamea Anderson, Kirstie Alley and Joey Fatone.
For the 13th and final candidate, viewers will choose
between Sabrina Bryan, Carson Kressley and Kyle Massey.

Some of the winners received an updated
trophy; Monaco still has the original version. “I like the old,
chintzy one,” she said.

NBC cheers: "We're No. 3"

Here's the story I sent to papers this morning, on NBC and its post-Olympic world:


LOS ANGELES – This is not a statement
you would have heard from NBC a while back:

“We're really happy to be No. 3,”
Robert Greenblatt, the programing chief, told reporters Tuesday.

In the “must-see TV” days, NBC
topped the Nielsen ratings. In the current, needn't-see times, it
spent about seven years in fourth place.

Things perked up when the Super Bowl
led into “The Voice” and “Smash.” At least in the18-49
category (the one cherished by NBC and advertisers), the network
escaped the bottom.

Now comes a new springboard, with the
Olympics starting a 17-day run Friday. It gives NBC a:

– Rare chance to have viewers
actually see promo ads for its new season. Usually, Greenblatt
granted, it's hard to promote because of “the general decline
across the week and the loss of circulation.”

– Comeback chance for “Today,”
which has slipped after16 years of ratings dominance. It will
broadcast from London (the Olympic city), leading into the games at
10 a.m. weekdays.

– Showcase for two comedies, which
will run their pilot films commercial-free during the Olympics.
Matthew Perry's “Go On” runs Aug. 8; “Animal Practice” runs
Aug. 12, complete with veterinarians, dogs, snakes and a monkey in a
suit. “We're looking for stuff that doesn't live in the middle,”
said Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment.

– Reality show that debuts the day
after the Olympics, just as “The Voice” did after the Super Bowl.
“Stars Earn Stripes” gives military-type demands to such people
as Dean Cain and Terry Crews (former football players), Laila Ali (a
boxer, like her dad), Todd Palin and ski champion Picabo Street.

– Second phase for “America's Got
Talent.” Ratings have been down in this Howard Stern season, NBC's
Paul Telegdy granted, but it's “likely to (be) the No. 1 show this
summer …. We'd be delighted if (Stern) comes back” next season.

– Head start for the fall shows.
Virtually all will begin before the season officially starts in
mid-September, Greenblatt said.

The key question is whether people
will like those new shows. One drama (“Chicago Fire”) is a fairly
standard firefighter show; another (“Revolution”) is a strong
drama about a world with no power sources and little government. The
comedies are big, broad and plentiful, sprawling over three nights.

And “Smash,” the one new NBC show
that critics rave about? It will be back at mid-season.