August 7th, 2009
04:58 PM ET

Miley's new faerie tale: "Twilight" wannabe?

Considering the popularity of "Twilight" and the phenomenon it has launched, it stands to reason that others would try to replicate it. Hence, the recent profusion of young adult novels that, for lack of a better term, I like to call “Twilight Wannabes.” If you’ve walked by any major bookstore in the last year, you’ve seen them in the window display...books with titles like "Vampire Academy "("Twilight" meets Harry Potter?) and "Blue Bloods" ("Twilight" meets "Gossip Girl"?). Their covers even look like "Twilight"–black with a single image of a flower or fruit.

I love Stephenie Meyer’s series,  so I had studiously avoided the whole flock of what I considered her imitators. But when I heard that Disney bought the film rights to the latest Twilight wannabe – "Wings", by first-time author Aprilynne Pike – and had attached teen queen Miley Cyrus to star as the heroine Laurel, I decided that I had to give it a try. And to my surprise, I liked it. A lot. Probably more than the first "Twilight" novel (cue outraged gasps from Twi-hards everywhere).

In many ways, the story echoes that of "Twilight": a teenage girl moves to a new high school, only to become entangled in the conflict of two mythical species. This time, instead of the Cullen family of vampires and werewolves, the warring parties are trolls and faeries (I won’t spoil the faerie mythology except to say that it’s incredibly creative). Of course, Laurel quickly finds herself the center of a love triangle, caught between her reliable, human friend David, and the mysteriously sexy faerie Tamani. It’s easy to see why Disney snapped this one up. They’re targeting the "Twilight" audience, trying to do with faeries what Summit Entertainment – and HBO, and now the CW – have already done with vampires.

Which got me to wondering, will it work? Will Miley Cyrus and her costars be able to rival the famous onscreen chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson? Miley, who’s made it clear that she wants to break out of the Hannah Montana mold, obviously believes so.

What do you think? Can faeries overthrow vampires and become the new phenomenon, or will the undead remain our favorite supernatural creatures?

–Katie McGee, CNN Entertainment Unit Intern

August 7th, 2009
04:20 PM ET

The return of 'Millionaire'

Can you hear the music? That synthesized rumbling, haunting contestants as they come up with their “final answer”?

millionaire

You’ll be hearing a lot of it very soon. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” returns for a two-week, 11-episode run Sunday night on ABC, with Regis Philbin once again occupying the chair he held for the show’s original prime-time run 10 years ago. (Meredith Vieira has been in charge for the show’s syndicated version.)

When “Millionaire” appeared on ABC as a summer replacement in 1999, it was a phenomenon. The network – and many observers – were caught flat-footed by the show’s skyrocketing popularity, which earned it a spot on the network’s fall schedule. In the 1999-2000 season, the three editions of the show ABC aired were Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the ratings, and it was almost as popular in 2000-01. (Full disclosure: I was one of those who flamed out during an appearance on the show. )

But overexposure – ABC ran the show up to four times a week – eventually doomed “Millionaire,” and by 2002 it was off the prime-time schedule.

Enter “Slumdog Millionaire,” the Oscar-winning movie that also caught many observers flat-footed with its sudden rise to prominence earlier this year.

With the film filling theaters all over the world, ABC decided to give “Millionaire” another chance. Philbin and producer Michael Davies couldn’t be happier: "Regis and I have really just [been] tickled pink the last few days, the atmosphere in the studio and the atmosphere with our contestants and our celebrity guests and our experts,” Davies told Jim Halterman of The Futon Critic. "It's been very magical and we'll see what happens."

There have been some changes to the prime-time edition, matching those of the syndicated show. There’s now a time limit for answers, and among the people contestants can use as resources are experts. (Among them: CNN’s Candy Crowley and Wolf Blitzer, not to mention “Jeopardy!” king Ken Jennings.) But the biggest change could come with the ratings. With network viewership down, and reality shows having become TV’s go-to genre, can a quiz show still grab a big audience?

For that, there won’t be any final answers … for a few days, at least.

How about you? Are you going to watch “Millionaire’s” return?

August 7th, 2009
01:32 PM ET

Judge Sotomayor: another "West Wing" prediction?

Where does realism end and prognostication begin?

10 years ago, The West Wing premiered, starring Bradley Whitford as a DC insider based on Rahm Emanuel.  Whitford's character, Josh Lyman, eventually became chief of staff to the first member of a racial minority to become President (Jimmy Smits as Matt Santos), who defeated a veteran, moderate Republican senator from the West (Alan Alda as Arnold Vinick).  True, Santos was a Hispanic Texan, not an African-American from Illinois, but still, not bad - especially since West Wing writer and producer Eli Attie confirms Santos was modeled in part on Barack Obama, back in 2004 before Obama was even a senator.

Now, with the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, we have another real-life parallel.  For his first appointment to the high court, West Wing president Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) decided to nominate the first Hispanic justice: Roberto Mendoza, played by Edward James Olmos.  Again, hardly perfect prognostication - among other things, Mendoza was from Brooklyn, while Sotomayor grew up in the Bronx - but not bad, especially for a show written a decade before Sotomayor's nomination.

August 7th, 2009
10:59 AM ET

Kim-tervention fails on 'Real Housewives'

I am really wondering if there is going to be a major blowup this season on every episode of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

We can only hope.

Thursday night’s episode could have almost been titled “Sheree gets into it part II.”

After the huge blowup with party planner Anthony on the season premiere, this time around she faced off with Kim after NeNe arranged a night out for the three of them to clear the air.

There has been a lot of "she said, she said" going on in the ATL, and kudos to NeNe for wanting to put all of the cards on the table after she and Kim had earlier met and made peace.

It all started out reasonably, but you knew it was about to go bad when NeNe choked on her wine after Sheree said Kim had talked badly about NeNe’s husband Greg and called him broke.

Soon accusations of lies were flying back and forth between Kim and Sheree, and there was lots of cussing and fussing as Sheree denied that she ever told Kim that NeNe and her family were renting a house (which is apparently a huge diss in a city as house-proud as Atlanta).

NeNe clearly didn’t know who to believe, and the fight escalated enough for Sheree to follow Kim outside in some drama to be continued on episode three. I wonder how all this factors in to reports that Kim and NeNe recently got into a confrontation in which Kim alleges that NeNe tried to choke her.

So who do you believe told the truth at the dinner? Should the three women just give up on the friendship or at least try and be frenemies?

For more on this season of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," visit Essence.com.

August 7th, 2009
08:40 AM ET

Your pop culture cheat sheet

Here's what's going on in the world of entertainment this morning:

  • It's full speed ahead on "Mission Impossible 4." Variety reports that two writers have been hired to pen the screenplay.
  • "So You Think You Can Dance" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe only wants Paula Abdul as an occasional guest judge, not full time, according to USA Today.
  • More details have come out about the "Family Guy" abortion episode, which the Fox network has declined to air, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
  • Is the much-anticipated "Spider-Man" Broadway musical in trouble? Variety reports that preparations for the show may have been halted due to funding issues, though a representative for the show says it will debut in February as planned.
  • They may have canceled it, but NBC is none too happy with CBS rerunning episodes of "Medium" over the summer (prior to its fall debut on the network), according to Variety.
  • In theatres today: "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," "Julie and Julia," and "A Perfect Getaway."
August 7th, 2009
08:33 AM ET

And the winner of 'Dance' is...

After last night's final performance show, it was clear that Jeanine had done one of the most brilliant solos ever seen in the history of "So You Think You Can Dance," and a final solo, to boot. What wasn't as clear, at least to this blogger, was whether her extraordinary performance in the final week, including a smoldering paso doble with Brandon, would be enough to place her in the winner's circle.

dance winner

Then, after reading your comments Thursday morning, many of which were from fans of Jeanine, it looked like she might just pull this one out after all. The way that the audience at the finale erupted at the mention of her name early on was another clue.

Week after week, Evan escaped the bottom two and even Wednesday night, the audience chanted his name, so there was no doubt that he was formidable competition. At he same time, the judges praised Kayla's skill time and time again, and Brandon wowed us on so many occasions this season, that it wasn't always easy to see the Jeanine train coming.

But when host Cat Deeley announced that Evan came in third place, it seemed like the voters had taken what host and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said to heart, and Brandon and Jeanine were destined to go to the end together. Looking back on some of the judges' favorite routines as presented in the finale, we saw the two evenly matched, including judge Mary Murphy wanting to see the pair's paso doble one more time. It could very well have been to that solo, and possibly even memories of that Travis Wall choreographed routine with Jason (and the "unchoreographed smooch") to make the difference.

Of course, let's not underestimate the power of a strong personality. We were reminded more than once that Brandon wasn't showing enough confidence for the judges' taste (which might have had a little something to do with a certain Emmy-winning choreographer with the initials M.M.), whereas Jeanine had charisma to spare (see her "Thanks to the Academy" comment at the end of the show).

In this humble blogger's opinion, both Brandon and Jeanine were more than deserving of the title, and it was inspiring to see such drive and creativity in the final stretch rewarded by so many of the record 21.6 million votes.

Some final notes on the finale itself:

- It was terrific to see Brandon and Janette (this year's Katee and Joshua) back together. But where was their Wade Robson jazz routine? No extra staircases in the Kodak Theatre?

- After swearing off the idea of judges dancing on the show ever again after last season's finale, Lythgoe and company had one more trick up their sleeve with a surprise entrance at the end of the final group Broadway routine. From what little we saw of them actually dancing, Tyce Diorio seemed the most into it, but then again, that's his style.

- On second look, that group routine choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin, and Tabitha and Napoleon D'Umo might just be one of the best things I've ever seen on the show.

And now for your thoughts: Does "America's Favorite Dancer" Jeanine deserve the title? Do you agree with Lythgoe's comment (made just prior to the finale) that the best dancer every season has never won the show?

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