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A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht


The Fall Pilots Continue Their Stampede!

By ChrisFaile

February 1st, 2004

Casting calls and news items in the TV community come in each day here to Filling in for the soon-to-be-wed Amy Lawrence, Chris Faile catches the minutiae that falls through the cracks and discusses them more in depth than most of them probably deserve. Today, read news on a number of different pilots working their work towards fall consideration that look the most interesting, as well as news on “Six Feet Under,” “Angel,” “Alias,” “Frasier,” “ER,” “Charmed,” and others. 38 little nuggets of goodness can be found here.

Alias: The currently filming episode 15, entitled “Façade,” was casting this week for two minor characters, members of the SWAT and Bomb Squad team— both with Irish accents. This is the episode starring “The Office” creator Ricky Gervais and I’m still stuck back in the second season, trying to catch up.

American Dad Seth McFarlane’s next attempt at an animated comedy for FOX is looking to cast vocal talent for the roles of Maurice the Fish, a smarmy and lascivious type who speaks with a French accent and daughter Hayley, an 18 year old community college student who is described as “smart, confrontational, argumentative and rebellious in the way a teenager can be when she’s “this close” to adulthood but still living with her family.” Why just not bring back “Family Guy” as is, instead of this retread of a show? (Pilot)

Angel: Episode 17, which begins filming February 6, is looking to cast Nancy, a pretty suburban housewife, and Zach, her well-adjusted suburban 10-year-old son. Pretty thin info on the episode entitled "Underneath" so far, but early info indicates this may be villain Lindsey’s wife and stepson. Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft are credited as the writers for this episode and Skip Schoolnik the director. Additional tidbit added on February 2nd: Producers are now looking to cast a possibly recurring character named Hamilton, listed as being in his 30s to early 40s. The character is described as having an "imposing physical presence, but not muscle-bound...[he is] elegant, articulate, wears an expensive suit well." He replaces Eve as Angel's liason to the Wolfram and Hart senior partners.

Anonymous Rex: In this now-rescued show for the Sci-Fi Network, private investigators Vince and Ernie get hired to locate stolen valuables, snap pics of cheating spouses and find former high school flames. And on occasion, mark for extinction any human being who might have seen something they weren't supposed to see. In the world of Anonymous Rex, you see, descendants of the Jurassic Age still exist— evolved, downsized and living secretly in perfect human disguise among us. Did we mention that lead characters Vince and Ernie are dinosaurs as well? This sounds terrible.

Average Joe: Adam Returns: When casting notices first went out, they wanted “attractive” women. Now they’re looking for “outgoing” women 21 years old and over who think they would be the perfect match for Adam Mesh— perhaps these are our average Janes. All possible candidates must be familiar with the outcome of the first “Average Joe” and must know who Adam Mesh is. Bachelor Bob, anyone? Shooting for the NBC reality show begins on Valentine’s Day and lasts through March 13.

The Bernie Mac Show: In the untitled 20th episode, it looks like the man who tells it like it is gets himself a commercial gig for Malvert's Department Store, home of the "instant designer knockoffs."

Big Love: This upcoming 1-hour drama from HBO focuses on Bill Henderson, a practicing polygamist with three wives and three sets of children. He has done well for himself with a successful home improvement warehouse store and a new one about to open. But life with three growing families is complicated, not to mention expensive, and Bill is starting to feel the strain of taking care of everyone— including a new store chock full of new employees. To make things worse, Bill learns from his estranged brother that their father is extremely ill and their mother refuses to take him to a doctor, prompting Bill to make a visit to the squalid rural fundamentalist community he grew up in. Tom Hanks’ Playtone production company is producing this odd-sounding show.

Charmed: Episode 18, “Spin City,” finds Chris, infected by a spider demon, turning on his family, while Leo and Paige attempt damage control. Apparently, you see, this demon feeds off the energy of magical beings every 100 years, enveloping her victims in a cocoon. Also, an Irishman beseeches Paige to remove the curse that robbed him of his rightful persona as a Leprechaun.

Cold Case: Craig Cardiff is out celebrating New Year's 1999 when he gets sick, leaves the party, and is apparently killed by a drunk driver. But the case is not at its seems and is reopened 5 years later when then the widow’s new husband is poisoned. Can you guess what really happened, and who is responsible for both deaths?

CSI: Miami: The 17th episode, “Money for Nothing,” focuses on an armored-truck security guard who switches his 3.2 million dollar load with counterfeit dollars so he can give the real money to the supposed kidnappers of his sister. The next episode, which is untitled, introduces Wally Shamagin, a nebbish, young forensic geek. In what is billed as a large guest star, he's a CSI groupie and wannabe CSI Tech who idolizes Rory Cochrane’s Speedle.

The District: In an episode that just was filmed, entitled “On Guard,” Chief Mannion's fencing instructor, Sonya Otto, is forced to get a restraining order against her husband after a scuffle that Mannion witnesses. The husband nonetheless returns to her place of work and is killed by the sword of Sonya. Sonya claims self defense. But there’s more to the story, apparently— he was there to ask for a divorce, so it may have been a crime of opportunity. In the next episode, “Lost and Found,” a woman kidnapped at age 3 and found 19 years later working as a drug-using stripper in a Las Vegas club is blackmailed by her ex-boyfriend. She later confesses to having accidentally shot him in a struggle for the gun after he threatened to murder her parents and collect their life insurance.

Enterprise: In the episode entitled “E2,” producers are now casting for three parts: Lorian, a half-Vulcan, half-human captain of a starship who has an edge to him; Karyn Archer, his first officer and Greer, Lorian's tactical (weapons) expert. The episode begins shooting February 3 and is directed by Roxann Dawson.

ER: In “Where There’s Fire,“ the hospital risk management executive is working with Dr. Lewis on an investigation of a fatality that happened in the ER, while a patient makes the complaint that Neela is not old enough to be a doctor. And a bunch of firefighters are brought into the ward after a fire.

Eve: Here is the obligatory UPN sitcom update for you…In the episode “Pimps Up, DivaStyle Down,” a slick looking man dressed in a loud orange suit (who the girls correctly deduce as being a pimp) comes into the DivaStyle shop and wants the girls to make him a hideously tacky suit using shiny metallic fabric and crushed velvet. When the girls refuse his business because of his occupation, “Rodney P” has his entourage stage a protest in front of the shop until they complete his suit. Heee-larious.

Everyday Life: Rob Reiner will direct the NBC comedy/improv’s pilot episode. The series focuses on an eccentric family of therapists who appear to be crazier than their patients, with the action taking place in a Greenwich Village brownstone. The lower half of which serves as offices, the upstairs is the family residence. (Pilot)

Frasier: For an upcoming episode that shoots between February 11 and 18, producers are looking to cast the mother of Wendie Malick's character. Described as very prim and proper, she is 70 years old. Fare thee well in your final season, “Frasier.”

Girlfriends: Fine, I’ll do another UPN sitcom. An upcoming episode finds the regulars meeting an Asian-American version of themselves, who become a thorn in the girls’ sides when they seem to be everywhere: their favorite table at their favorite cafe as well as their favorite stools at the Girlfriends' favorite hang out, the Blu Bar. And each has an attitude which reflects each of the Girlfriends: Cordial, Flighty, Materialistic and Sassy.

Good Morning Miami: Episode 17 brings the arrival of Jake's best buddy from college, who arrives on the scene looking far more attractive than ever before, as well as the mother of Gavin Stone, described as a charming, elegant country club type with a great comic flair. By the way, can someone explain to me why Jeff Zucker still has a job leading NBC’s entertainment programming, as well as being given additional responsibilities over the past 18 months? Can you one name one successful non-reality series he has launched during his tenure that had nothing to do with its timeslot?

Grounded for Life: Taking a page from this weekend’s flop “The Perfect Score,” episode 18 focuses on Claudia’s professor failing her for stealing a paper off the Internet. Donal Logue is so much better than this.

Harry Green & Eugene: Re-uniting the group behind “Keen Eddie,” this pilot focuses on private detective Harry Green, who has to suffer many fools. His dim but lovable brother Eugene has decided to become his partner, a new partner at the law firm that employs him regularly hates his guts, and he can't quite find the man who's trying to kill wealthy heir Rupert Rossington. Given that it’s an ABC pilot, I don’t have too much hope here. (Pilot)

Hollywood Division: Fox’s pilot possibility counts Matthew Settle and D.J. Cotrona among its cast. Women swoon. As long as this is better than the similar-sounding Harrison Ford vehicle of yesteryear (which is a low bar to hurdle), I can see this one doing well for the network. It seems they screw up everything— witness their recent handling of the “Karen Sisco” relaunch, now cancelled. (Pilot)

J.A.G.: In the upcoming episode “Take It Like a Man,” a former Marine sergeant passing himself off as a Silver Star recipient and who is charging fees for speaking about his combat experiences is revealed to be deceitful. Once found out, he faces a court martial. This man, Hal Strange, is abrasive and obnoxious in manner— and his personality has stood in his way all his life. As his attorney later learns, Strange actually did perform all those heroic deeds he's been bragging about. But his personality was the difference in him not getting a medal. Will he still be convicted, or given leniency?

Joan of Arcadia: Joan joins the band. I’m still waiting for God to tell the series’ hero to make like Mary Magdalene. Or, in a promotional tie-in, tell her to join her church group to see “The Passion of the Christ.”

Law & Order: In an episode that sounds an awful lot like the Robert Durst case, a multimillionaire has "hacked up" an elderly neighbor. This character, though, has been in hiding for years and been living as a woman in a downtown tenement - wearing wigs and dresses. Small in stature, he goes by the name Jennifer Sheldon and has also been pretending to be deaf. He once lived as a member of one of Manhattan's most prominent families and has twice been married to women. Oh, yeah, an additional fact: Ten years ago he was suspected of murdering his wife— her body was never found.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: In the episode “Sick,” police suspect a 12-year-old has been molested and a father has detectives Stabler and Benson believing he is protecting his son by refusing to let him testify. Viewers are to later learn it is due to a non-disclosure agreement he and his wife settled upon years earlier nabs him millions of dollars as a payday. He'd rather sacrifice his son than lose the money.

Malcolm in the Middle: In the episode entitled “Malcolm Goes to College,” Malcolm visits a college dorm to see what the school is like— man, these kids are growing old fast. As there is a gal staying in the overnight room as well, Lois bunks in with them. Also, a new narc comes to Reese and Malcolm’s high school campus. Reese leads her to believe he is a druggie just to get her attention but Christie ultimately has Hal arrested for supplying to his son.

My 11:30: Despite points deducted for the fact that Paul Reiser is the executive producer of this potential series for NBC, this looks like an interesting premise: Each episode will begin with lead character Jeff Sharpe sitting down for another therapy session. As he ducks, dodges, and massages the truth, we see the dark-comic roller-coaster ride of Jeff's past week -- and the various arenas of his life: his office, his business partner/best friend, his ex-wife (who knows him better than anyone) and young son, his sweet but needy female neighbor, and the parade of lovely (and usually too-young) women Jeff somehow can't stop getting involved with. Jeff and his female shrink – who he is attracted to – view each other as the ultimate challenge. Each is determined to "break" the other. (Pilot)

Navy NCIS: The investigative focus of “Enigma” (episode 18) is Marine Colonel Will Ryan, suspected of stealing two million dollars from a Marine in Iraq. NCIS is alerted by the FBI when Ryan sneaks back into the U.S. because Ryan was Gibbs' commanding officer in the Gulf War and is considered his close personal friend. Ryan does claims to have proof that the stolen two million was destined to fund covert operations outside U.S. military and government oversight. When Gibbs urges him to come back to NCIS, Ryan refuses because he fears for his life until he can expose the person at the top of the money smuggling operation.

NYPD Blue: A trusting 22-year-old aspiring DJ is signed by fake record producer and, while visiting him with gun in hand, demands the return of her $1,000 "front money.” When she thinks the “producer” will harm her, she fires the gun and it kills the man living next door. Also in episode 16, the detectives try to find out who shot their fellow detective Hatcher.

The Office: How great is it that Steve Carrell has reportedly landed the lead role of the BBC remake to appear on NBC and that series creator Ricky Gervais nabbed two Golden Globes a week ago? Even NBC couldn’t screw this project up (we think). The production is now looking to cast the possibly recurring role of Kevin, who works in the accounting department. The character is described as totally average with no charisma whatsoever. In other words, his description is redundant to the job he holds. (Pilot)

Seventh Heaven: Episode 18 finds a gutsy waitress giving Vic a hard time for sitting at her station for four hours and for only two cups of coffee. Yawn.

Six Feet Under: The fifth episode of the upcoming new season is called “That’s My Dog” and will be a Alan Poul/Scott Buck directorial/writing pairing, where a new lead character will join the mix. Described as a well-built and handsome young man, Jake’s charming manner conceals a deeply sadistic and unbalanced nature. It looks like this week’s opening death involves a 40ish couple having some fun in a hot tub. Also, Nate attends a church’s bereavement support group; everyone there is in their 60s except for Nate, resulting in him feeling terrifically out of place.

Stargate: Atlantis: Producers are still searching for their Teyla, and are now asking for an actress with classical training— guess the auditions are not going well. Click here for additional details on this character, once known as Mikala. The clock is ticking, they have less than a month to begin filming.

Survivor: All-Stars: Has the entire new season, featuring best-known contestants from installments past, been spoiled by someone involved with the show who has a grudge against Mark Burnett? Or is it a CBS plant?

Tru Calling: It will be interesting to see if Episode 17 even makes it to the air, with the ratings the way they have been— but I never expected it to last this long. This week Tru has to save two people, both who are forced to enter a high-stakes poker game. Melissa is a 19-years-old college student with a double major in math and engineering, as well as a teaching assistant. The first one in her family to go to college, she’s lost her college money gambling and enters a high stakes poker game to win it all back and avoid having to tell her parents. Geoffrey, meanwhile, is an entrepreneur in his 30s who is attempting to run six different businesses out of a warehouse in hope that one will hit. But he’s not doing so well– his house is in foreclosure. Trying to hide his lies and failures from his wife, Geoffrey enters into a high stakes poker game hoping to turn his luck around. “Smallville vets Doris Egan and Rick Rosenthal write and direct, respectively.

Untitled Bigelow/Kessler Brothers Project: A Fox drama in contention for the fall season is now casting its leads in preparation for a March 8 filming start. The show focuses on undercover DEA agent Elizabeth Worth, a 21 year old DEA Agent who passes for a 17-year-old female high school student. She’s there to break up a complex drug ring and is described as “intelligent, resourceful, quick-thinking, a consummate agent/actress, capable of going from her conservative-suited DEA persona to her low-riding jeans-wearing teenage counterpart in seconds.” Her cover is in trouble when her investigation is compromised by the murder of the young football hero she's been seeing. Isn’t this sort of fraternizing not allowed, as well as sort of creepy? The story was inspired by a Playboy magazine article written by Mark Boal. (Pilot)

Untitled Bounty Hunter Project: Casting is now happening for all leads for this show piloting at CBS, which focuses on a father and his two sons in the bounty-hunting business. Father Jerry is, like his car, classic. Physically imposing and gruff, he can go from being a hothead to a teddy bear in an instant. He's an expert at dealing with people on the job but he gets easily frustrated and defensive in personal relationships including his girlfriend, Beth, and his sons. One son, Colin, is cool and quick-thinking; the other, Matt, is goofy and happy-go-lucky. (Pilot)

Without a Trace: Episode 18 is entitled “Legacy” and the person gone missing this time is George Elliso, a laid-back, middle-class guy from Queens. He disappears after leaving his wife at the local salon. As our investigators discover, George has been in a downward spiral: Losing his job, having confrontations at the local bar and fighting with his wife and son. As it turns out, George is seeking revenge on the man who raped his wife ten years ago, while he was bound, gagged and forced to watch.

Amy, congratulations on getting hitched! Please come back to us!