TIME Television

So What Has Bethenny Frankel Been Up To Since Leaving Real Housewives?

Bethenny Frankel attends Angel Ball 2014 at Cipriani Wall Street on Oct. 20, 2014 in New York City.
Bethenny Frankel attends Angel Ball 2014 at Cipriani Wall Street on Oct. 20, 2014 in New York City. Joe Stevens—Retna/Corbis

Everything you need to know about the last few years in Bethenny Frankel's life — for better or for worse

One divorce, one talk show, and many millions later, Bethenny Frankel is returning to the series that made her famous, The Real Housewives of New York City, which she first left in 2010. Back then, Frankel was one of the franchise’s stars, but said she could no longer stand the “dirty and nasty” drama. When she returns for season 7, it’ll be to a different show — only two of her then-castmates remain — as a different woman, and in front of a nation that has half-forgotten this ever happened.

Here, a refresher on Frankel’s RHONY arc and what she’s been up to the last four years:

As a Real Housewife, Frankel was a Carrie and a Miranda. In a 2011 Forbes cover story, Meghan Casserly wrote, “Frankel has become the most well-known entrepreneur on television by making her business everyone’s business.” Frankel worked as a natural foods chef and businesswoman who first broke out as a finalist on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (on RHONY, viewers watched the early stages of her Skinnygirl empire). She was deft enough to land on the right side of two high-profile feuds — opposite Kelly Bensimon and Jill Zarin. But all that fighting took its toll, and Frankel styled her Housewives departure as a reboot, beginning life as a new wife and mom.

She used to be on a show called Bethenny Ever After. A mark of her fame, Frankel starred solo in a 2010 summer-long series called Bethenny Getting Married?, about her courtship with Jason Hoppy. Its premiere broke viewership records for Bravo, and it ran for three seasons as Bethenny Ever After, following its star through some of the rubber band burdens of maintaining a beloved brand.

She’s rich. Frankel sold Skinnygirl to beverage company Beam Global in 2010 for… some money. One analysis said at least $64 million; another, $120 million. The speculation led to backlash, and then backlash of the backlash, and finally, to some predictably astute Gawker comments. The Huffington Post, finally, cleared its throat, and argued that the price tag was actually only $8.1 million. To which Frankel responded, “Come on… I’m going to be paying a hell of a lot more than $8.1 million in taxes.”

She came in second on ABC’s Skating with the Stars. By the time Frankel appeared on this Dancing With the Stars-on-ice show, in the fall of 2010, she was already a successful chef, author, and entrepreneur. That didn’t make her a good ice skater, but it made her an excellent competitor — she was the runner-up, behind Rebecca Budig.

She used to host a show called Bethenny. When Frankel announced an eponymous syndicated daytime talk show, with a test run in the summer of 2012 and a debut the following fall, she had already successfully appeared on four other TV shows. But Bethenny was a failure and ended this February after drawing a fraction of Judge Judy’s numbers. Still: We can always rewatch the moment where Omarosa worries — to Bethenny’s face — that she isn’t “walking in [her] own truth.”

She is divorcing her husband. Frankel and Jason Hoppy split up just before Christmas of 2012, and divorce papers soon followed. “This was an extremely difficult decision that as a woman and a mother, I have to accept as the best choice for our family,” Frankel said at the time. But a custody battle between the pair dragged on until this summer and Frankel alleged that living with Hoppy during their separation was “brutal, horrendous, excruciating.”

She wrote a book (on an iPhone!) about how great her dog is. The dog’s name is Cookie and she has more than 25,000 followers on Twitter. That’s probably more than you.

TIME Television

Why Nothing Is Getting Cancelled (Yet)

It's not quite time for last rites for Mulaney just yet. FOX

It's not that every new show is a hit. It's just harder to figure out what a hit is nowadays.

We’re a month into the official fall TV season, and the big news so far is… nothing. As in: nothing has yet been cancelled. (I realize, of course, that I may shake loose the season’s first cancellation simply by typing these words.)

What’s happened? Have the broadcast networks finally perfected their art, discovering the unerring secret of delicious, addictive entertainment? No. As usual, there have been some out-of-the-box hits (How to Get Away With Murder, in particular). And there have been a few thundering disappointments (at Fox, especially, where Mulaney just had its episode order trimmed back while vultures are circling above the Utopia compound).

Yet the Reaper has been pokier this season than last year, when, for instance, Lucky 7 had already come up snake eyes by now. Part of the reason may simply be that networks had been so quick to reach for the hook over the past several years–when cancellations after two or three episodes became common–that the slightest restraint looks like mercy. And at NPR, Eric Deggans offers a few explanations–for instance, that networks have done better at protecting new shows with better scheduling.

But a big part of the explanation goes back to something you should keep in mind when following any TV-biz news today: Nobody knows what is a hit anymore. At least not right away, and maybe not for a long time.

There are different kinds of hits: shows that a lot of people watch, and shows that make a lot of money (two factors that can be, but are not automatically, related). For the purposes of cancellation, a hit means the latter. If a show makes money, or is likely to, it stays on the air.

But how a show makes money, and how can you tell, are more complicated questions than they used to be. You need to know the ratings, of course–specifically, the ratings in the age demographics that advertisers will pay for.

That’s not so easy anymore–even if Nielsen doesn’t screw up the ratings for months as it did earlier this year. With DVRs, viewers may watch a show live, or later the same night, or later that week. So you may not know how popular a show is for weeks after it airs, once you get the DVR ratings such as “live plus seven”–the number of viewers who watched a show within a week of its airing. Now advertisers don’t pay for all those viewers; generally, they pay for what they call “C3″–not the measure of viewers within three days but the measure of commercials watched within three days. (If you have any sense, you skip the ads on DVR, and if advertisers have any sense, they know that.)

And all that assumes the relatively simple world of broadcast TV. It’s even more complicated on cable (where revenues like carriage fees from cable providers factor in), pay-cable (where HBO and Showtime make money from subscriptions, not ads) and streaming (where Netflix will never tell you how many people watch its “hits”).

So we wait longer for the ratings. In the meantime, networks–to counter the impression that a show’s a bomb from its live ratings–have begun issuing “projected” time-shifting ratings, which you should no more take seriously than you would fill out an insurance form giving your “projected” blood pressure six months from now after you finally give up French fries and start going to the gym.

But wait, there’s more! TV ads are still the main way broadcast shows make money, but they’re not the only way. There’s also the smaller but growing amount of online streaming, which shows up nowhere in those DVR numbers. And besides possible future syndication, there’s also the possibility of the sale of a show to Netflix down the road–a potentially lucrative deal that can make a relatively low-rated show like New Girl stick around. DVR ratings a week later may not be worth anything for ad sales, but maybe they indicate a fanbase that can be monetized later through streaming sales, or overseas sales, or… something else someone will invent soon.

For now, we wait, deciding whether to commit to new shows, while the networks wait and parse a growing mound of data, trying to decide whether to make the same commitment. For some shows, this more complex TV business could mean a longer life, as they get a second season to prove their worth. For others, it may just mean a slower death. Bottom line, the more ways TV has to turn viewership into money, the more complicated it becomes to turn new shows into old memories.

TIME Television

Watch Alan Cumming Share His Side of the Shia LaBeouf Cabaret Incident

LaBeouf was arrested in June and later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct

Alan Cumming finally dished about Shia LaBeouf’s wild night at Cabaret during a sit-down with Conan O’Brien on Monday.

Cumming, who starred in the Broadway performance this summer, was onstage when LaBeouf was removed from the theater for erratic behavior and arrested. (He later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.)

“He was just wasted, and he was wasted from the second he walked into the thing, so there was an atmosphere when I went to go down onstage and start the show everyone’s freaking out because there was, you know, somebody seemed to be a crazy person shouting,” Cumming recalled.

LaBeouf is currently promoting Fury, and Cumming is starring as Eli Gold in CBS’ The Good Wife.

TIME Television

Dancing With the Stars Watch: Pitbull Gets Caliente on Latin Night

CHERYL BURKE, ALFONSO RIBEIRO, ANTONIO SABATO JR., ALLISON HOLKER, BETHANY MOTA, MARK BALLAS, ARTEM CHIGVINTSEV, JANEL PARRISH, PETA MURGATROYD, JONATHAN BENNETT, LEA THOMPSON, VAL CHMERKOVSKIY, MICHAEL WALTRIP, WITNEY CARSON, SADIE ROBERTSON, DEREK HOUGH, TOMMY CHONG, EMMA SLATER
Adam Taylor—ABC

Salsa and cheese on the dance floor

Welcome to Dancing with the Stars, where the hair is big, the clothes are small and the stars are eager to shine. Tonight the dancers head south of the border for a night of salsa, samba, rumba and Pitbull, because nothing says “It’s Latin night!” like Pitbull screaming “Fireball!” while surrounded by a group of women scantily clad in gold lamé fringe. Since Len Goodman is still embedded at Strictly Come Dancing, after performing and presumably yelling, “Dale!” a few dozen times, Pitbull will join the judges to assess the stars on their passion for dance.

Also on hand is former Dancing With the Stars contestant Leah Remini, who has left the jazz shoes and picked up the microphone to step in for baseball enthusiast and AWOL host, Erin Andrews.

Here’s what happened on Dancing With the Stars:

Jonathan Bennett and Allison Holker: After his dismal performance last week, Allison takes Jonathan into the closet, away from the cameras, but still on microphone, and whispers in his ear, “Be you! Be you!” While the promos for the show promised (promised) that all shirts would be off tonight, Jonathan and Allison wore suits and ties for their jazz routine to Pitbull’s “Back in Time.” After lowballing his scores for the past two weeks, the judges finally recognized his hard work, and he earned a respectable 32/40.

Fashion 911: During an interstitial dance, Tony Dovolani wore an all-lace long-sleeved shirt with a deep diagonal V cut into it, which was something to behold. Host Tom Bergeron calls it a lesson in how to make a shirt out of pantyhose.

Janel Parrish and Val Chmerkovskiy: In their rehearsal footage, the producers give Val and Janel the serious are-they-or-aren’t-they-in-love treatment, that is not resolved. While their love might not be in jeopardy (or exist) the couple is at risk of going home. Val politely abided by the rules of the competition and shed his shirt for his saucy samba to a Celia Cruz song. Bruno thought it was well executed, but Pitbull did not feel the passion and gave them a mere 7. 33/40.

Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd: Last week, Julianne Hough told Tommy that he seemed tired and lowballed him with a 5. So Tommy took Peta (and some poor cameraman) to a sweat lodge in the desert to recharge, and a vision of Cloris Leachman gave him the energy to get through his foxtrot. (Man, this show is weird sometimes.) Pitbull dubbed Tommy “the most interesting man in the world,” and Julianne warned him that he could be in the competition for a long time. 28/40.

Antonio Sabato Jr. and Cheryl Burke: Antonio finally hit his stride in a nearly-shirtless salsa, even almost managing to hold his own against the pros who helped get the dance floor party started. He’s still a little Frankensteiny, but both Paula Abdul and Florence Henderson, who may have carpooled to the show together, seemed to enjoy the routine. Leah Remini demanded Antonio take off his shirt, but forgave him when he didn’t, because rules are meant to be broken. 28/40

Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: This week, Mark was tasked with striking a balance between Sadie’s need for modesty under the watchful eyes of her family and his need to make a slightly racy rumba. He managed the feat and the Duck Dynasty scion maintained her chastity by dancing a PG-rated routine to Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” The judges loved it, with Pitbull giving it a 10, which was balanced out by Julianne doling out an 8. 35/40.

Lea Thompson and Artem Chigvintsev: For this week’s salsa, Lea went full Miami for her routine to “Sexy People,” which, of course, is a track that features Pitbull. Bruno loved the routine, but Carrie Ann Inaba thought Lea didn’t stay true to herself and stumbled. Pitbull took one look at Artem and said, “I didn’t know Jean Claude Van Damme could dance so good.” He also thought Lea let it out, which is apparently a good thing. Lea put Artem in a Lea(h) sandwich with Leah Remini playing bottom slice, which she did not seem to appreciate. 32/40.

Michael Waltrip and Emma Slater: After last week’s dismal performance, Michael went to Talladega to renew his self-esteem on the race track, like Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 8: Straight to Therapy. Back on the dance floor, the poor beaten-down dancer nailed his Argentine tango causing Tom to take a moment, pull him aside and tell him he thought it was great. The judges agreed and Michael earned his highest score ever. 30/40.

Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: Due to Bethany’s YouTube promotion schedule, she and Derek didn’t have much time to practice their tango. What time they did have was spent in a rehearsal studio in Australia where gawking koalas and wallabies interfered with their practice (Guessing!), and the producers devoted a lot of tape to how unprepared they were. Despite the big asterisk on their performance, the tango was nearly flawless. 36/40.

Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: “Tell me about your groin,” said Witney with a straight face. Apparently, Alfonso pulled his groin doing the Carlton last week and had to rehearse around the injury. It’s not his groin that’s the center of attention during their hip-hop influenced salsa routine, though, but his “booty.” Witney choreographed a whole routine to J. Lo’s “Booty” and it was bootylicious, but then Alfonso pulled his groin again. Despite his injury, Carrie Ann spanked him 10 times as a sneak peek of his score. 39/40.

In Jeopardy: At the end of the show, Michael Waltrip, Jonathan Bennett and Janel Parrish are in jeopardy of leaving the show. It’s quickly announced that Michael is safe to dance another week.

Who Went Home: Between Jonathan and Janel, the answer is clear: It’s Jonathan’s time to go. He takes the news well and announces that he “had the time of his life.”

 

TIME Television

Bryan Cranston Responds to Mom Against Breaking Bad Toys

Tread lightly, action figure haters

Multiple Emmy-winning actor Bryan Cranston became the One Who Tweets Monday afternoon, following an uproar over Toys “R” Us selling action figures of Breaking Bad‘s drug-dealing characters.

The action figures of chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-maker Walter White and his sidekick Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) stirred controversy with a Florida mom.

Susan Schrivjer, based in Fort Myers, Fla., launched a petition to have the store remove the toys from shelves. Schrivjer was a fan of the AMC series, despite her opposing views on the toys’ appropriateness for children.

“I thought it was a great show,” she told a local TV station. “It was riveting!”

The petition calls for Toys “R” Us to stop selling the doll collection, which comes “complete with a detachable sack of cash and a bag of meth.” Cranston, however, got in on the fun:

Aaron Paul has yet to chime in, but seems to have no problem with children being involved in the fun of the characters.

As of Monday evening, the Breaking Bad action figure collection did not turn up in a search of the Toys “R” Us website. The company did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

TIME Television

Zombies, Aliens and Robots: The ‘Walking Dead’ Producer on Her Greatest Hits

Producer Gale Anne Hurd at "The Terminator" 30th Anniversary Screening on October 15, 2014 in Hollywood, California.
Producer Gale Anne Hurd at "The Terminator" 30th Anniversary Screening on October 15, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Albert L. Ortega—WireImage

The executive producer of 'The Walking Dead' talks about the making of the hit show, the 30th anniversary of 'The Terminator' and how 'Aliens' got its name

This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

When The Walking Dead premiered on Halloween 2010, long before it would become AMC’s most popular show to date, one name in particular stood out in the opening credits. It was not Robert Kirkman, the cult hero/comic-book writer whose graphic novels (created with Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard) gave the series its sickening, gory source material. It was not Frank Darabont, the filmmaker best known for directing The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Mist (2007) who would be Dead‘s first showrunner and help set its course. It would not even be one of the cast member’s names, as most of these talented journeymen actors would become famous via the show later on.

No, the name that would give those in the know pause was one of five listed executive producers on the show: Gale Anne Hurd. For genre-film fans, this was the credit that suggested this serialized tale of zombies and survivors might be more than a Sunday night lark. If you grew up watching The Terminator movies, if you ever ran around your front yard pretending to be Ripley or Vasquez or Corporal Hicks from Aliens, if you remember when superhero films were still considered pulpy pleasures instead tentpole collossi, if you still love that certain B-movie thrill, then you knew what this pioneering writer-producer’s name on a project meant. And as The Walking Dead became a gigantic hit, lost key creative team members and experienced growing pains, viewers would come to realize exactly how important her continued involvement would be. Showrunners would come and go. Hurd’s hand on the wheel not only kept things steady, it insured that someone who understood what the series was really about was helping to call the shots. “The title doesn’t refer to the walkers,” she says. “It refers to the survivors. That’s the key to the whole show right there.”

Speaking to Rolling Stone as she was getting ready to attend the Season Five premiere in Los Angeles (“I’m literally trying to get into my dress as we’re talking, so my apologies in advance”), Hurd talked about where The Walking Dead had been and where it was headed, the 30th anniversary of the film that established her as a producer — the original Terminator — and how she and then-husband James Cameron turned the sequel to Alien into a template for blockbuster sci-fi action flicks.

MORE: The 10 Best ‘Walking Dead’ Episodes

Let’s go back to the very beginnings of The Walking Dead. Zombies were already prominent in pop culture, but not on TV. What made you think these comics would work as a series?
Anyone who’s read Robert Kirkman’s books can tell you that the story he’s telling…it’s not really about the zombies, or what you need to do to survive a zombie apocalypse — thought you will pick up some tips on that, definitely. [Laughs] They exist to ask a certain question: What does it mean to be human? More specifically, can you maintain your humanity in a world where there is essentially no civilization left, no law and order left? The zombies were simply a way to raise the stakes for the characters in a way that wasn’t, you know, “They are trying to survive in a warzone, they’re experiencing something that people actually went through.” I mean, you could not tell this story if it was set during a real war — it would be genuinely horrible! But you set it in a world beset by zombies, and look at these issues in a situation that could never possibly happen…

So you say!
I think it’s a pretty safe bet that this will remain a work of fiction [laughs]. I was impressed by the way Robert had set it up without losing the key questions behind everything. That, more than anything else, was what drew me to this.

Why not adapt it into a movie, then?
The idea that these characters were all on a journey, one which didn’t really have an end in sight — that meant something longform. That didn’t mean two hours. Frank Darabont, Robert Kirkman and I all shared a vision of doing this in a way that wouldn’t rush things and wouldn’t be camp. Thankfully, when we brought this to AMC, they didn’t want to turn this into something silly either. They were committed to taking something that might seem preposterous but playing it very straight, and very, very real.

Did the fact that the show was hugely popular right out of the gate surprise you? Horror TV shows have traditionally been cult hits, not pop-cultural phenomenons — so you can’t really chalk it up to genre.
I’ve thought about this a lot. I think it’s this sense we all have that each and every one of us is dancing on the edge of some sort of abyss. I think social media and the Internet has made every global catastrophe feel like it’s right next door. Whether it’s civil war, an Ebola epidemic , a tsunami, global financial collapse — we now get this news immediately, and it feels as if it’s happening right next door to us. So our characters are in the worst of all possible worlds — a world which, as I said, any one of us is very unlikely to encounter. But the moral and ethical dilemmas they face…we can all identify with those right now. You know, “What would I do if everything collapsed around me?” I think that struck a chord with everybody.

So it’s the moral and ethical dilemmas that keep people tuning in, you think?
If you go on social media after an episode airs, you’ll find a small percentage of people talking about the “kills” — and a large percentage of people talking about the choices and decisions these people had to make. We took a risk in doing an episode like “The Grove,” in which we had a character, Carol, who had grown to love these surrogate daughters — and then had to do something absolutely horrible. When we went on Twitter or Facebook once the episode had aired, we had no idea what to expect. And what we got was a lot of people admitting that they’d cried. That, and a lot of discussions over “What would you have done in that position?” It generated discussions like that for days afterward. They responded to the human element, not the fantastic elements. It made me think, “Okay, this is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. This is still working.”

MORE: No Guts, No Glory: The Rise of Gross-Out TV

There have clearly been a lot of behind-the-scenes changes that have gone on around the show, all of which have been widely reported. In a lot of ways, however, The Walking Dead seems to be very much the same show four seasons in that it was when it started. How has you managed to maintain a sense of consistency when so much was in flux?
[Pause] You know, the great thing about television is that it’s a collaborative medium. So, you absolutely have a showrunner — but you’ve also got a writer’s room, and you have a certain core of our actors have been there since the very beginning. The cast…they know who their characters are, and they would call bullshit if that changed.

It’s not like a movie where sometimes a sequel is really a remake, or it’s a complete reinvention. The world is the same, and you have to put any kind of upheaval aside and say, “You know what? We’re still telling Robert Kirkman’s story.” There is very much a universe, and as long as we stay within that universe and we work with people who embrace and understand that universe, it’s going to remain fairly consistent.

So what can you tell us about Season Five?
[Laughs] Ah, right. Well…we left our characters split up. Beth is gone; we assume she’s been kidnapped. We’ve got Carol and Tyreese with Baby Judith, separated from the rest of the group; we’ve seen a number of people reunited in the worst of all possible circumstances. And we’ve seen Rick come full circle to…it doesn’t matter how tough or bleak the circumstances, he’s embraced that mantle of leadership again. He’s no longer “Farmer Rick.” He’s, excuse my language “don’t-fuck-with-me Rick.”

So they’re in a fairly precarious position when we see them again, and it’s a question of who will get out of this situation and who won’t. There will also be a number of new characters getting introduced — some from the comics, and some not.

That was very deftly played. You managed to do that without really giving anything away.
I have to choose my words very, very carefully, here [laughs].

This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Terminator, which you co-wrote and produced. What do you remember about making it?
Oh God, I remember it all!

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
[Laughs] Good question. You have to remember, both Jim [Cameron] and I worked for Roger Corman at the time. Jim’s first movie was Piranha II: The Spawning for Roger; had he not directed that, there would be no Terminator films! So Roger was the first person we took the script to, and I’m paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines of “I really don’t think you want to do this for me. You should do this for someone who will actually give you a budget.” [Laughs] Even he could see that this was not a quickie, do-it-for-no-money film. He was nice enough to know when someone had outgrown working with him, and that was the point when he basically told Jim and I, you should fly the coop with this.

MORE: In Pics: 8 TV Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now

Was there a moment when you realized that this would not be something that would just play on the back half of a drive-in double bill, and that it would have life 30 years later?
Oddly enough, it was the guy who was on the financial side of things, this industry veteran named Lindsley Parsons, who caught on very early that this would work. Actually, he saw a rough cut that didn’t even have any of the effects in there, and he still said, “This is going to be a classic.” We thought he was nuts. But that was what we needed to hear, because everybody else looked at it and called it a down-and-dirty exploitation film that they were embarrassed to have been involved in. It’s funny though, that the money guy is the one who had the greatest passion for it and protected us. He was there to make sure the interest of the bond company was represented, and when certain people were coming to take the film away from us, he was the one that threatened to post guards outside the editing room’s doors so we could finish cutting the movie. You just don’t get those kinds of ballsy individuals anymore.

You said in 2003 that The Terminator would not have been made in this day and age. Do you still think that’s true?
We could if we still made it for $6.4 million, sure [laughs].

Really? Because if you look at how the Comic-Con demographic has completely taken over mainstream culture, it actually seems like you get this made in a heartbeat today.
You have to realize that most people underestimated the fact that, once the quality of the entertainment based on genre books and and comic books had the production value and the talent to make them A-picture quality, the audience would show up. Most people in the industry looked down on genre stuff in a condescending way until the one-two-three punch of 2001, Jaws and Star Wars hit within a decade. And even then, it still took a while.

As someone who’s always loved genre movies, it’s an exciting time, but the fear — my fear — is that it’s going to be nothing but tentpole movies based on pre-existing material. So 30 years later, yes, people want to remake the Terminator movies. If it hadn’t been something people already knew, however — it doesn’t matter that sci-fi movies are now accepted. It wouldn’t get made.

So Aliens would get made today, but the Terminator wouldn’t?
Probably, yeah. But the funny thing is, in terms of Aliens…this was a time when people weren’t really making sequels, certainly not like they are now. What happened was, we were all set to make The Terminator, but Dino De Laurentis had Arnold [Schwarzenegger] under contract to make a sequel to Conan the Barbarian. So we knew we were making the movie, but we weren’t going to start for a year. In that time, Jim took a couple of writing assignments — one of which was Aliens, though it wasn’t called that yet.

The story, and it may or may not be apocryphal, was that Jim went into a pitch meeting with the studio executives and the first thing he said was “I am not making another gothic sci-fi film; I’m making a combat movie.” Then he walked up to a white board in the room, wrote “Alien” — and then added a dollar sign to it.

Alien$.
Exactly! That’s how he came up with the name. [Pause] Again, no idea if it’s true, but I’ve heard this story so many times from so many people, including Jim, that, you know…print the legend! [Laughs]

MORE: The Best TV of 2014 So Far

TIME celebrities

Martin Short’s Big Fat Funny Autumn

Actor Martin Short during the 52nd New York Film Festival on October 4, 2014 in New York City.
Actor Martin Short during the 52nd New York Film Festival on October 4, 2014 in New York City. Jim Spellman—WireImage

The dynamic comedian talks about his 'Mulaney' role, the joys of working with Paul Thomas Anderson and his famous last words

This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

Martin Short is having a bit of a moment. His memoir, I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, is out in November, and he’s earning huge buzz for playing a drugged-out dentist in the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film, Inherent Vice. Right now, you can see him on Mulaney, the new Fox sitcom starring stand-up comic John Mulaney. Short plays Mulaney’s boss, Lou Cannon, a narcissistic TV game-show host who comes on to female guests and obsesses over how his eventual death will be covered on TV. “He’s a moron with power,” says Short, 64. “Those people are my specialty.”

It’s surprising that it’s taken you this long to become a regular on a sitcom.
Actually, my first job in America was a small role on a James L. Brooks sitcom called The Associates [in 1979]. It didn’t last a season. Then I was on another sitcom called I’m a Big Girl Now, which was about a think tank in Washington – but then, suddenly, by episode 12, we’d become a newspaper. No explanation whatsoever.

SCTV came soon after that, and SNL a little while later, so I found myself doing stuff that was either a late-night show or, eventually, the movies. At a certain point when you’re not struggling for rent money, you have the luxury of keeping yourself intrigued by something. The idea of being a regular on a series felt limiting; you know, you’re on a TV show every week, and that’s what you do. The eclectic nature of being able to do a sketch show and then a movie and then go out and do live shows with Steve Martin for a bit — that intrigued me.

However, Lorne Michaels, who I have a huge amount of respect for, called me up and said “You know, I know you’ve never really done something like this before, but John [Mulaney] is a great guy and I think you want to be part of this.” Once I met John, I got what he was saying. It made perfect sense. The voice of that show is very specific.

MORE: Fall TV Preview 2014: The Good, the Bad & the Gotham

How would you describe Lou Cannon?
Lou can’t comprehend why people wouldn’t be constantly thinking about what’s most important in life – which is Lou and his well-being.

I think you’ve just described 90% of people in show business.
Oh, absolutely.

Is the character based on anyone in particular?
President Harry Truman. [Laughs] Oh, I don’t know. Every character I’ve done has been based on one or two specific people, but then they’re colored by many, many other folks. It’s the same with Lou. He’s more of a type.

But you know, I do have famous friends who I’ve sat with over the years, and they’ll go on and on about themselves for so long that — since you tend to drift when these conversations take place — I wonder what they would think if they saw a transcription of this exchange. I think they’d be stunned. It’d be me going “Uh-huh” and then pages and pages of them droning on. [Pause] That’s my long-winded way of saying I’m not telling.

He’s essentially sort of a descendant of Jiminy Glick [the preening, clueless fake talk-show host Short played on Primetime Glick], who once said, ”You know, the problem with Charlie Rose as an interviewer is that he listens.” Lou would agree.

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You originally came up with Glick when you were doing an actual talk show, right?
It was a syndicated talk show, and I wanted to create a celebrity interviewer who could go to junkets and looked nothing like me, so that people literally wouldn’t recognize it was me. Since my show was being broadcast at all sorts of different hours, including during the day, I thought, Well, I’d better take a look at daytime TV and see what it’s like. These were the pre-Ellen days, mind you; Rosie [O'Donnell] was on, and that was cool. But other than that, it was mostly people with large staffs and huge budgets who had no business being on TV whatsoever. To me, the notion that they’d be terrifying to the people who worked for them and that there would be some production assistant who’d be scared that they’d messed up someone’s tuna-fish sandwich order made me laugh. That’s where Glick came from.

You’ve got a busy fall: There’s your memoir, and you’ve got a small role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.
If you ever have a chance to play a horny, swinging, coke-snorting dentist, you really have to take it. I was expecting Paul to be this brooding auteur, but he’s really a regular guy. He likes doing fast takes, and lots of them. I’d improvise something and he’d say, ”That’s great, Marty, do some more of those.” ”You sure it’s not too big, Paul?” ”Nah, nothing is too big!”

He keeps a very relaxed, cool vibe on his sets, which is something he and Mulaney have in common. You have some actors where they need the World War III of it all to be creatively juiced; unnecessary tension stifles my creative instincts. I just find that to be such pretentious bullshit. But those guys aren’t like that at all. They keep it loose. The best stuff happens that way.

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SNL is coming up on its 40th anniversary. Do you have fond memories of your time on the show?
I was on during the Dick Ebersol years – or the George Steinbrenner years, as we called them, since that was when he brought in a bunch of players who were already well-known and gave us one-year contracts. You’ll get horror stories from some folks, but I was treated like a prince.

My situation, of course, was very different. Having just come out of doing SCTV for three years, there was a part of me that really wasn’t sure whether I wanted to jump back in to something like that. Dick called me up and said “We’d love to have to have you on the show for the next year, along with Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest.” I thought, well, they certainly aren’t going to do it, so I said “Hey, as soon as they agree, phone me, Dick!” I figured I was safe until they’d called a press conference announcing those guys had joined, so I jumped aboard at the last minute.

Since I knew I was only going to be there for a short time, I treated every show like a stand-alone TV special. I drove myself crazy, putting all this pressure on myself, so it was like final exams every week. That’s my only regret, that I didn’t enjoy it a bit more or be a little more open to the idea of staying for a few seasons and seeing what I could have done with it more.

Is there a surefire way to get a laugh?
You know, I had done some stage work in the Seventies and was a funny guy at parties but having to come up with it on demand? But as I watched a bunch of my friends go to Chicago when Second City opened up a sister company in 1973 — people like John Candy, Eugene Levy, Gilda [Radner], Danny [Aykroyd] — and thought, well maybe I could do that. It still took me four years to join them, of course.

But what I quickly leaned was that it was usually the reaction that got a laugh. The fact that you could have a drycleaner sketch and you could say “I cleaned your stain out, mister” — and if you said it right, you could get a laugh. When I first played Ed Grimley at Second City, I’d stick his hair straight up to try to make [scene partner and Danny's younger brother] Peter Aykroyd laugh. Then the audience laughed too. So, basically, a funny look is a surefire way to get a laugh. That, and falling down.

Lou’s ideal last words are “I did it for the laughs”. What would yours be?
Something more practical: ”Pass me a tissue,” maybe. ”Could you hold this for just a second?”

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TIME Television

Sharknado 3 Will Sink Teeth Into Washington, D.C.

"The entire Eastern seaboard will be devoured by flying sharks"

First Los Angeles, then New York, now the nation’s capital — the third installment of the over-the-top original movie franchise Sharknado will partly take place Washington, D.C., SyFy announced.

But the third film in the so-bad-it’s-good series can’t just be confined to one location when it touches down in 2015. Oh no. This new Sharknado will only begin in Washington before it chews the scenery all the way down to Orlando, Fla.

“The entire Eastern seaboard will be devoured by flying sharks,” Syfy’s website reads. “No seaboard city below our nation’s capital is safe!”

Perhaps some politicians will contribute another round of memorable celebrity cameos.

TIME Television

New Ryan Murphy Anthology Scream Queens Coming to Fox

Ryan Murphy
Ryan Murphy Tonya Wise—Invision/AP

“We hope to create a whole new genre — comedy-horror"

Ryan Murphy really loves his anthologies.

Fox has announced a straight-to-series order for Scream Queens, a new anthology series with hour-long episodes from Murphy and his Glee and American Horror Story co-creator Brad Falchuk, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The 15-episode series will premiere next fall and focus on a college campus that becomes the site of several murders.

“We hope to create a whole new genre — comedy-horror — and the idea is for every season to revolve around two female leads,” Murphy said in a statement. “We’ve already begun a nationwide search for those women, as well as 10 other supporting roles.”

It’s the second new anthology series from Murphy coming to television soon. Earlier this month, FX, the home of American Horror Story, announced American Crime Story, which will devote its first 10-episode season to the O.J. Simpson trial.

[THR]

TIME Television

Jay Leno Deserves His Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Comedian Jim Norton during an interview with host Jay Leno on June 27, 2012.
Comedian Jim Norton during an interview with host Jay Leno on June 27, 2012. NBC/NBCU/Photo Bank/Getty Images

As a friend and mentor, Jay Leno helped me countless times

“I was with the same girl for three years and I started to have erection difficulties. We had different ideas as to what the problem was. She bought me Viagra — I bought her a treadmill.” This was the first joke I ever told on The Tonight Show. My second joke dealt with hating my man breasts and wanting to fall on a knife (not to be confused with the reference to shooting myself because I hated the rest of my torso two jokes later). This was September 9, 2004, and it marked the beginning of my 10-year relationship with Jay Leno and The Tonight Show.

Being a harsh, dirty comic, the last person on earth I ever expected to help my career was Jay Leno. I had always thought of performing on The Tonight Show as an unachievable goal, because I bought into the myth that only squeaky clean, family-friendly material would be welcome there. In the years that followed, I can’t remember one instance where I felt like I couldn’t do the material I wanted to do.

I arrived at the studio the day of that first appearance around 3:00pm for a 4:00pm taping. One of the producers brought me onto the set to show me where I’d be entering and walked me out on the masking tape X I was expected to stand on and do my set. I was grateful to be physically walking through the process: I was so nervous that if he hadn’t showed me, I probably would have walked straight off the stage and plowed into the audience.

As I was dutifully standing on the X and confirming (“Here, right? This X right here?”), I glanced over and saw Jay at his desk going over a piece with his executive producer. My nervousness (mortal terror) must have shown, because he stopped the rehearsal and walked over to introduce himself to me. He asked how I was doing and I blurted out, “Fine, just fine!” nodding my head like John Candy in Stripes.

I’m sure he could sense the impending disaster on hand, and immediately launched into calm-this-nervous-idiot-down mode. “You’ve got nothing to worry about,” he said. “The crowds are here to laugh and they’re gonna love you. There’s no pressure. If it goes great, you come back. If it doesn’t go great, you’ll have a cool story. And then you can come back and try it again anyway.”

Obviously I knew that if I was awful I wouldn’t be asked back, but I also understood what he was doing and it meant a lot to me. Jay was notorious for loving comics and treating us well, and his taking that minute to help me is something I never forgot. Unfortunately, that type of altruism isn’t as common as you’d think. There are some hosts who are legendary for the immeasurable apathy they manage to show every comedian with whom they come in contact.

The better I got to know him, the more I began to use him as a sounding board whenever I was stuck at a crossroads in my career. I spent the majority of our dressing room chats picking his brain for solutions. He was such a great person for me to talk to because of his level-headedness and ability to think before reacting. When things go wrong, my first instinct is to strap on a bomb belt and run through the front door screaming. Jay’s advice was always smart and well thought-out, and he saved me on more than one occasion from making a total ass out of myself.

He stressed to me to never make it all about the money — that if you do the right thing, the money will eventually come. He also tried to drill into my head not to feed into the negativity in the business. He meant it. In all the talks we had, even when the country was preparing itself for civil war over the Conan O’Brien situation, he never once came from a place of bitterness or cynicism.

I have so many great memories of Jay and The Tonight Show, but that first moment together is still my favorite. He did so much not only for me, but for countless other comedians. I don’t know one comic who did the show and wasn’t blown away by how Jay treated them.

Congratulations, Jay, on receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. You were one of the most respected headliners in the country and then went on to dominate late night television for almost 20 years. You deserve it. And thank you for taking such good care of me for so long. I will never be able to repay the debt.

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