Our "Doctor Who" favorite becomes (fictionally) a '60s model

Everything about "Doctor Who" has been a delight since the latest makeover began. Steven Moffat took over as writer-producer, with Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor and Karen Gillan as his companion.

Now Gillan -- in her third and final "Who" season -- is in an interesting cable movie Saturday (March 3), playing 1960s supermodel Jean Shrimpton. You might have trouble finding it (Ovation is on satellite and some cable channels), but Gillan and Shrimpton are interesting. Here's the story I sent to papers:


At first, Jean Shrimpton was just this
face on a photo, taken a half-century ago.

“My boyfriend at the time showed me
this picture,” Karen Gillan said. “He was like, 'This is the most
beautiful woman who existed.'”

The boyfriend is gone, but the memory
persists. Gillan – the “Doctor Who” co-star – plays Shrimpton
in “We'll Take Manhattan” on Ovation, a fairly obscure channel on
satellite and digital cable.

Gillan and Aneurin Barnard play
Shrimpton and photographer David Bailey, on a historic photo shoot.

“She was dressed in haute couture,”
said Kris Slava, Ovation's programming chief. “She was clutching
her teddy bear and he shot her against the gritty mean streets of New

The couple helped launch a
swinging-'60s era, with Shrimpton symbolizing it and Bailey living
it. He was, Barnard said, “best mates with the lead singer of the
Rolling Stones, sleeping endlessly with several models, cheating,
drinking, drug-taking.”

It was a zestful time to re-visit,
Gillan said. There was “the whole sense of change, of revolution;
young people were so powerful at the time.”

In some ways, this role is a natural.
The 1960s Shrimpton had:

– A little in common with Amy Pond,
the “Doctor Who” character. Each is “a girl kind of figuring
out life and something extraordinary happening to her.”

– A lot in common with Gillan. Tall
and slim, both grew up far from London culture.

For Shrimpton, it was an English farm.
At 16, she was dispatched to a “charm academy” in London; a year
later, she met Bailey, who – with his leather jackets and East End
accent – seemed distant from the high-fashion scene. They were a
romantic couple (engaged, for a time) for four years. Now she's been
married to another photographer for 32 years; with their son, they
run an ancient hotel in Cornwall.

For Gillan, it was Inverness, Scotland.
An only child, she obsessed on acting, studying in Edinburgh and (at
18) in London. She dropped out of the London school almost instantly,
when she landed a role in a TV episode. Next came modeling,
sketch-comedy shows and “Doctor Who.”

The change started when Steven Moffat –
also the creator of “Coupling” and revisionist “Jekyll” and
“Sherlock” TV shows – took over “Who.” He brought in Matt
Smith as the 11th Doctor and Gillan as his latest
companion, red-haired and exuberant.

She'll be leaving that role, sometime
in her third “Who” season. “We kind of had this lovely dinner
and decided when the best time for me to go was,” Gillan said,
without giving details.

Amy Pond will vanish; Karen Gillan, 24,
seems to have a lot ahead of her.

– “We'll Take Manhattan,” 8-10
p.m. Saturday (March 3), Ovation

– Ovation is an arts-oriented
channel, on satellite (Channel 274 of DirecTV, 291 of Dish) and
generally on digital cable


A stroll through Oscar night

During this Academy Award night, I'll do a sort ongoing commentary. For some preview stories, please check previous blogs; here we go:

1) Ryan Seacrest does a fine job in the red-carpet interviews. At a time when vapid is normal, he has solid questions to ask, BUT ...

2) I was surprised that he didn't react well to the Sasha Baron Cohen stunt. The idea was actually kind of clever: In his character for the upcoming "The Dictator," Cohen pretended to be carrying an urn with the ashes of fellow dictator Kim Jong-Ill, then accidentally spilled it on Seacrest. This would provide a fresh answer, Cohen said, to the question of "who are you wearing." It was kind of funny ... except Seacrest clearly saw no humor in it. Others tried -- "you're a victim of comedy," Tina Fey explained -- but he couldn't be budged.

3) In one way, the Cohen stunt was deeply tragic: It led to a long time when police and security swarmed and a clean-up arrived. That seemed to keep Seacrest off the air for a long stretch .... while his fashion experts nattered on and on. Vapidity reigned.

4) As long as you asked me -- you didn't? why not? -- these were my favorite dresses: Jessica Chastain's deep gold and black, blending perfectly with her red hair ... Stacy Keibler, looking like a golden Oscar statue alongside George Clooney (who didn't look bad himself) ... and, most of all, Jennifer Lopez. The swirls of her dress seemed to flow like an undersea sculpture.

5) My favorite Billy Crystal line so far is, "We're here at the beautiful Chapter 11 Theater." This used to be the Kodak Theatre, until a bankruptcy judge let the company out of its $3.6-million-a-year commitment. There was talk of lining up someone new in time, but it apparently didn't work. Later, he called it the "(Your Name Here) Theatre." 

6) The attempt to stuff nine movies into Crystal's opening song parody was a bit rushed. There were several times I couldn't tell what was said. Still, the "Descendants" song was terribly clever and Crystal summed up the Tom Hanks movie "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" with a Bob Hope parody that was shorter than the title: "Hanks is a memory."

7) "Hugo" won the first two awards, for set design and cinematography. (That cinematographer has some serious hair; I mean really serious.) Then "The Artist" won for costumes and "Iron Lady" won for make-up. The one trend here -- all four Oscars have been for movies made by Europeans or set in Europe. Maybe that continent isn't dying after all.

8) Crystal had a great "super Tuesday" quip -- one so quick and complex that I can't quote it here. Then "A Separation" won for foreign-language film, good news because: a) There was a smart speech savoring the fact that Iran is suddenly noted for art, not war; and b) In Michigan, at least, people can see the film, starting Friday at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor.

9) Then Octavia Spencer won the first acting award for "The Help." The most popular (box office-wise) of the best-picture nominees, "Help" is worth seeing.

10) "Hugo" got two more Oscars -- for sound editing and sound mixing -- and one very clever speech. The world is seriously off-kilter when a sound guy gives a much better speech than the actors.

11) The editing award went to "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," which is a good thing; it's a beautifully crafted film. "Rango" won for best cartoon, "Undefeated" for feature-length documentary.

12) The Cirque du Soleil number was quick and spectacular. Cirque has a longer movie show -- also by my favorite film composer, Danny Elfman -- nightly at this Whatever Theatre.

13) Since that number was introduced by Kermit and Miss Piggy, Crystal said: "Puppets and acrobats -- we're a pony away from a bar mitzvah." He's been scattering good moments throughout the night.

14) Another Oscar win for "Hugo," this one for special effects. That makes five so far, a good start. Also, a supporting-actor nod for Christopher Plummer. So far, my predictions are two-for-two; they sometimes go bad.

15) Crystal's new best line: The Harry Potter movies made a combined $7.7 billion ... and still only paid 13 percent tax rate.

16) "The Artist" has won for costumes and now for music -- which you kind of expected. The guy got to write an entire movie's length of music, with none of that annoying talk to interrupt it. Carmine Coppola (Francis' dad) once marvelled to me that his then- son-in-law, David Shire, had won an Oscar for writing 11 minutes of music. Coppola had just finished writing two-plus-hours for a Napoleon silent-film re-release.

17) Will Ferrell and Zach Galinfalakis did a cymbal duet in front of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie -- sort of a merging of the sex cymbals. They announced the song Oscar for "Man or Muppet." It's a great song, but the category was terribly screwed up this year; changes in the voting rules left only two nominees, in a year that would have had five terrific ones.

18) Script Oscars just went to "Descendants" and "Midnight in Paris." Woody Allen wasn't there for the latter, of course, but I was still happy; that means I'm 4-for-4 so far

19) OK, the shorts category disappointed me entirely. I liked "Time Freak," "La Luna" and -- especially -- "Barber of Birmingham." The winners were "The Shore" (a very good one), "The Flying Books of Morris Lessmore" (OK) and "Saving Face" (a good film, but painfully hard to watch). You can catch them all at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor, through Thursday; you can also catch my comments, a few blogs back. The live-action shorts are especially good; the animated ones good, the documentaries mixed.

20) Now I'm on a losing streak; I predicted Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") for best director; instead, Michel Hazanavicius (my preference, but not my prediction) won for "The Artist."

21) "The Artist" foiled me anew. Its Jean Dujardin won for best actor; I had predicted "Descendants." Two to go and I need a comeback.

22) Sparse on music, the show still did wonders with what little it had. The band, visible in the side balcony, was zesty. The in memorium song, by Esperanza Spalding and a choir, was great.

23) Mixed emotions again: For best actress -- as for best director -- the winner is the one I prefered, but not the one I predicted. I'd prefered Meryl Streep, predicted Viola Davis. Streep won. "The Iron Lady" is an OK film -- flawed by spending too much time at the end of Margaret Thatcher's life, the least interesting part -- with (as usual) a perfect performance by Streep.

24) So the night finished with its odd arc -- five Oscars apiece for "Hugo" and "The Artist," but the latter big ones at the end (best picture, director and actor). Both are superb films celebrating Hollywood traditions. "The Artist" was my preference but "Hugo" was my prediction. That's why I finished with only four out of eight in my printed-in-the-paper predictions. That won't win any Oscar pools.

25) A final overview -- partly because 25 is such a nifty number to end with. Crystal did a terrific job. His monolog was way too short, but he peppered in funny comments throughout the night. The band was good, the shorts were terrific, the acceptance speeches were so-so, but many of the presenters crackled with wit. A couple of people who showed up in the closing credits are worth mentioning: Christopher Guest directed that dandy film that claimed to be a "Wizard of Oz" focus group. Also, Marc Shaiman did the music for Crystal's opening song parodies. Presumably, his lyricist Scott Wittman helped with the words. Those two write an original song every week for the wonderful "Smash" -- which you should definitely see at 10 p.m. Monday on NBC.















It's Academy Award day

This is Academy Award day, when all reasonable people get terribly excited.

Well, I do, anyway. On this site, I'll put:

-- The overall preview that I sent to papers. It also includes a couple comments from Frank DeCaro, whose "Dead Celebrities Cookbook" might be helpful at next year's party. You'll find more details at www.deadcelebritiescookbook.com.

-- A look at the three shorts categories -- something that might come in handy during the contest at this year's party. You'll find that three blogs down from here. And if you live near Ann Arbor, Mich., you can still see the shorts any time through March 1; I've included a schedule.

-- And during the ceremony, I'll do a sort of running commentary.

For more on tonight's pre-show ceremonies, check the Feb. 26 column, under "TV columns" above. For all the nominees, check www.oscars.com. First, here's the overview:



Like much of Hollywood, the Academy
Award ceremony has had its youth fling.

Now it returns to its favorite subject
– movie memories. On Sunday, that will include:

– The films. Two front-runners –
“The Artist” and “Hugo” – reflect movies' earliest days.
Also, “Midnight in Paris” visits the Hemingway era; “War Horse”
is a World War I film with a classic feel.

– The filmmakers. There are nominated
movies by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen; these
men (ages 65, 69 and 76) already had seven Oscars and 41nominations
before this year.

– The host. Last year's youth kick
brought in James Franco and Anne Hathaway, with mixed results; now
Billy Crystal hosts for the ninth time.

This retro mood is logical, said film
critic Frank DeCaro, . “We get nostalgic for a time when the future
seemed unlimited …. It was all going to be jet packs and we could
all live our dreams.”

Hollywood fueled that optimism; now
DeCaro suggests nostalgic Oscar parties, complete with recipes from
his “Dead Celebrities Cookbook.” With or without that, this year
will seem like a throwback.

Stretching for young viewers, last
year's show had young hosts. Midway in a wobbly night, Hathaway, then
28, introduced “one of the greatest Oscar hosts of all time –
someone I have even more respect for right about now.” Crystal drew
a standing ovation and some hardy laughs.

There was talk of bringing him back to
host this year, but the Academy hired action-comedy director Brett
Ratner (“Rush Hour”) to produce; he chose his “Tower Heist”
star, Eddie Murphy, to host.

Crystal shrugged it off. Oscar duty
“became months and months of work,” he told one interviewer.

Then came a short cut: Talking to a
screening audience in November, Ratner used a gay slur; he soon
apologized, but was dropped (or resigned) from the Oscars. Murphy
dropped out, too, putting the Academy in a tough spot. “When the
man who said yes to 'Norbit' says no to you, you know you're in
trouble,” Ricky Gervais joked as the Golden Globes host.

Crystal was brought back. He contacted
Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (the “Hairspray” and “Smash”
songwriters) about resuming their old habit of creating song parodies
for the Oscars. Then came the nominations, neatly fitting a retro

The old movie masters created miracles,
Scorsese once wrote. “They invented a new language based on images
rather than words,” he wrote in “A Personal Journey” (Hyperion,
1997). This style “would fade away as Hollywood embraced sound, but
the legacy of the silent era is remarkable.”

So it's appropriate that his
Oscar-nominated film, “Hugo,” is partly about Georges Melies, one
of the great silent filmmakers. And that Scorsese's prime competition
is basically a silent film.

If “The Artist” wins, it would be
the first mostly black-and-white winner since Spielberg's
“Schindler's List” in 1994; it would be the first mostly silent
film since the first Oscar-winner, “Wings” in 1929.

That doesn't mean everything is
old-school, though. “Hugo” is in 3D; so are two of the nominated
animated features (“Puss in Boots” and “Kung Fu Panda 2”) and
even a documentary feature (“Pina”).

Presenters will include people
considered young, hip, or funny, including Bradley Cooper, Emma
Stone, Angelina Jolie, Tina Fey, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the
cast of “Bridesmaids.” The two nominated songs are youthful;
also, Cirque du Soleil will perform

Still, this is a retro night, which is
fine with DeCaro, 49. He was film critic at “The Daily Show” for
almost seven years. He's a fan of Oscar parties – “everyone gets
together and you watch it in real time” – preferably with food
from his book (www.deadcelebritycookbook.com).

DeCaro has recipes of the famous –
from Elizabeth Taylor and Bette Davis to Frank Sinatra and Dean
Martin – sometimes long ago. “I found Ramon Novarro to be
fascinating,” DeCaro said.

Novarro's big moments (including
“Ben-Hur”) came in the silent movie days. This is his kind of





Yes, Fridays can be saved

Fridays were once a perfectly fine time to watch television. Really

At various times, you could find "X-Files" or "Miami Vice" or "Friday Night Lights" (appropriately) or a pile of adequate ABC comedies. Not lately, though.

Now Friday is where reality shows live and "Chuck" died; now it may be the death spot for "Fringe." The show has a key episode tonight (Feb. 24), takes a month off, then has eight more episodes. After that? If this does happen to be the final season, producers promise, it will end at a fairly satisfying point.

Still, there is some good news on the night:

1) CBS continues to have some scripted shows. "Blue Bloods" is solidly crafted.

2) PBS has made it a performance night. Tonight, it's "Memphis," the Tony-winner that has enough great music to make us forgive its clumsy story and hapless central character.

3) And on March 16, cable's USA Network will use Fridays for the final season of "In Plain Sight" and the second season of "Fairly Legal."

Like all USA shows, "Fairly Legal" starts by looking good. Sarah Shahi may be the best-looking star to arrive since ... well, maybe Matt Bomer of USA's "White Collar." She plays Kate Reed, a lawyer who hates the law and became a mediator.

A pretty good show its first season, this is a better one in its second. Kate's marriage is dead; so is her dad. Now the soul of his law firm is being fought for by his young widow ... and Kate ... and a brash newcomer.

These people are opposites, forever having pragmatism and idealism collide. The first episodes of the new season are smart and fun; Fridays might be OK again. 







X Factor has its double search

For "The X Factor," a double search is starting.

On one hand, new contestants can start lining up for the second season. Auditions start March 1 online and March 14 in person. (See www.thexfactorusa.com.)

On the other, there's the search for two more judges.Today (Wednesday), Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid said:

-- Both judges will be female; that's "100 percent sure," Cowell said.

-- There will be two hosts -- a man and woman -- instead of one. Chances are, Cowell said, both will be known for something else, not hosting. Also, "it's important there are more Americans on the show."

-- The talk of Whitney Houston judging was promising, but "it never got to that point" of specific talks, Reid said.

-- Other top names have been tossed around, including Britney Spears, Fergie and Janet Jackson. Cowell ducked questions on them; the first step, he said, came when he waited to see who contacted the show.

-- The first-year contestants are lining up record deals. The latest came today, with 14-year-old Rachel Crow signing with most the Columbia radio and the Nickelodeon network.

-- And no, Cowell doesn't expect Ryan Seacrest to jump to his show. "He's a brilliant negotiator. He'll stay on 'Idol.'"