June 9th, 2009
08:32 PM ET

Why did Ben kill Jacob on 'Lost'?

(WARNING: Spoilers ahead.)

I caught up with Michael Emerson, who plays the mysterious “Ben Linus” on “Lost,” at a premiere recently. And yes, he does have eyelashes (I lost that bet with my camera guy Rick).  The show has one last season to go and a lot of loose ends to tie up. I asked Emerson what he’d like to see “Ben” do in the remaining episodes.

emerson lost

“I would like him to do a lot. I would like him to find out - I would like ME to find out - what the heck is going on. You know, it will be exciting. I don't know any more than the viewers of the show know at this moment. But I'll get a script for the first episode in August and I hope it will be revealing.” Shooting resumes mid-August in Hawaii.

As for life after “Lost,” what’s in store for him? “I wonder. I mean it will be interesting to see. It will be not be “Lost” for sure. And I assume I will play something different.” But after leaving so indelible a mark as “Ben” is there the danger of being typecast? “Well there's, yeah there's always that danger, you know, once you play someone sinister, so I’ll just have to do something goofy, I guess, or something. A change of pace. Maybe I will get to do a play. I would like to go back on stage.”

Before we parted company, I asked jokingly, “Why did you have to stab poor Jacob like that in the finale?” Diehard “Lost” fans know the scene well, but for those who don’t, a quick recap: At long last, “Ben” comes face to face with the mysterious “Jacob,” a character often spoken about but never seen till that episode. “Ben” follows every order given to him by the enigmatic “Jacob” over the years and wasn’t allowed to ever see him in person. He finally gets to meet him, but only because he’s tagging along with another character who’s been granted an audience. Angry about “Jacob’s” lack of respect and why the other character got to see him so quickly, he asks, “What about me?” Jacob just looks at him and says, “What about you?” And then, Ben stabs him.

“That's what he had to do. Jacob was so mean,” Emerson says, “Ben was looking for a father.” And then of course there was “Jacob’s” agonizingly vague answer to “Ben’s” question, “What about you?”

“What kind of answer is that?” I asked.  “That's a good question. Does Jacob wish to be killed on some level and transform or move on to the next stage?” Emerson wonders, “I don't know what's going on.”

Speaking of “Lost,” seasons one and two are out on Blu Ray June 16th. I got my hands on some advance copies and decided to watch the pilot episode just to see what struck me, lo, these many years later. Something did - one exchange in particular had added interest seen through the lens of the season five finale. Young “Walt” comes across “Locke” on the beach playing Backgammon:

Locke: “Backgammon is the oldest game in the world. Archaeologists found sets when they excavated the ruins of ancient Mesopotamia. Five thousand years old. That's older than Jesus Christ.”

Walt: “Did they have dice and stuff?”

Locke: [nods] “But theirs weren't made of plastic. Their dice were made of bones.”

Walt: “Cool.”

Locke: “Two players. Two sides. One is light. One is dark.”

Hmm…  Are Jacob and a character some fans call “Loophole Guy” light and dark forces from ancient Mesopotamia playing some cosmic contest with human lives on the island?

I agree with Emerson, I don’t know what’s going on.

June 9th, 2009
06:53 PM ET

Why Danny Gans Died

Danny Gans' death was an accident. That's according to the coroner's office in Las Vegas, Nevada, which has just issued the results of toxicology tests.

danny gans

The coroner's report says the entertainer and impressionist suffered a fatal reaction to hydromorphone, a medication he was taking for chronic pain. The report says he also had high blood pressure, which contributed to his death.  It explicitly states his death was not due to drug abuse.

Gans was only 52 when he died on May first. His wife called paramedics after she found him in bed, unresponsive.

Gans spent much of his career performing at the Mirage.  He was named "entertainer of the year" in Las Vegas 11 times.

Oddly, the Web site for Clark County (which includes a link to the coroner's office) still includes a video of Gans congratulating the county on its 100th anniversary. He does his tribute in the voice of George Burns.

June 9th, 2009
06:24 PM ET

Adam Lambert: New civil rights leader?

“I think I reserve the right to talk about my own sexuality.”

Today, Adam Lambert exercised that right, in his own way. In the cover story of the new Rolling Stone magazine, Adam opens up about his sexuality and the impact it has had on his rise to fame.  He wanted to make one thing very clear: “I’m proud of my sexuality, I embrace it. It’s just another part of me.”

Adam has been living as an openly gay man in Los Angeles for 8 years so he expected that there would be rumors about his sexuality as he progressed on American Idol.  He had taken down his MySpace and Facebook pages before he went on Idol but had forgotten about another site.  Risqué pictures from that website quickly made the rounds and Adam says he “didn’t count on that. Wasn’t ready for that.”

He chose to wait to speak out until now and to do it in his own way. He now finds himself in a similar situation to another Idol runner-up, Clay Aiken who famously revealed his own sexuality after the show ended.  Adam is quick to point out the differences though: “Clay Aiken’s gay, and I’m gay, and we couldn’t be more different. The only thing that’s the same about everyone in the gay community is that we’re gay…. Why can’t we just talk about a human community?”

Adam does recognize though that in today’s society things are not that quite that simple.  When talking about his support of same-sex marriage he says, “I’m not asking to get married in your church, but you don’t have any right to tell me I can’t do it.” Yet he is just as quick to say that, “I’m trying to be a singer, not a civil rights leader.”  

Whether or not Adam Lambert is trying to be a civil rights leader, he is certainly putting a new face to the hot button issue of same-sex marriage.  We will be talking about that with our fired up panel tonight on Showbiz Tonight, 11pm Eastern and Pacific on HLN!

June 9th, 2009
04:30 PM ET

A 'Saved by the Bell' reunion?

In the summer of 2000, my college friends and I spent hours playing "Saved By the Bell" trivia. We'd try to one-up each other with obscure SBTB references, such as:


Which "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" student regulars didn't make it to "Saved By the Bell"? What were the names of the competing friendship bracelet brands Zack and friends sold to the students of Bayside High? What teacher called Zack a "blond Tom Cruise" in the episode about subliminal messages in advertising? (See below.)

Yes, it was a lame way to spend a Saturday night.

But it was also a revealing insight into what a cultural touchstone "Saved By the Bell" was for my generation - those of us born in the late '70s and early '80s. We knew the show was cheesy, for sure, but we couldn't turn away.

Now buzz on "Saved By the Bell" is building, largely thanks to Jimmy Fallon, who is campaigning for a "Saved By the Bell" reunion. Last night Mark-Paul Gosselaar -­- in character as Zack Morris –­ announced on Fallon's "Late Night" that he would participate in the reunion, where he'll join Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins), Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies), Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) and A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez).

Today Gosselaar cracked the top 20 on Google Trends, following yesterday's strong showing by Voorhies at number 14 and Tiffani Thiessen (Kelly) -­- formerly known as Tiffani Amber Thiessen ­– at number 39.

What is it about this show that captivates us? I think its ubiquity in the '90s helped; I remember coming home from high school and being able to watch two hours of "Bell" per day in syndicated repeats.

And then last night, as Gosselaar delivered his tongue-in-cheek performance as Zack on "Fallon," he appeared to lampoon his adolescent acting skills, his impossible SAT score (1502? really?) and the band, Zack Attack, of "Friends Forever" fame. And yet we're still interested.

Even if it's a little shameful to admit it.

(Incidentally, the answers to the questions in the second paragraph are, respectively, Nikki and Mikey, Friendship Bracelets and Buddy Bands, and Miss Wentworth. But you knew that, right?)

- Debra Alban, CNN.com Writer/Producer

Filed under: television
June 9th, 2009
03:45 PM ET

'Gran Torino' gets Detroit love

"Gran Torino" is out on DVD today. Got no love from the big famous awards– no Oscars, no Golden Globes. It did get a couple NBR Awards. OK, prestigious, yes, but, call me when you can tell me what NBR stands for without Googling.  Still,  Best Movie of Last Year in my humble-if-not-slightly-skewed opinion. I'm from Detroit, and will cheerlead anything Detroit. Eminem, Kid Rock –brilliant cultural geniuses, just on principle of being from D-Town.

Here's a "Torino" synopsis: Clint Eastwood gets all Senior Citizen Dirty Harry on his gang-infested abandoned-house-filled Detroit neighborhood. Shot all in Metro Detroit, the film and Eastwood's presence in the area became legendary, like the cavalry had ridden in. The movie came out just after the city had been ridden through the auto bailout hearings in Congress and Detroit was a dirty word and Detroiters were starting to believe it. Then, for a brief shining moment at Christmas time, Clint came in to clean things up.

Six months have passed. No Oscar for Eastwood, GM and Chrysler are in bankruptcy, more jobs gone, and Detroit's corrupt former mayor was sprung from prison and moved to a mansion in Texas. So much for a storybook ending.

This week, Detroiters are in the middle of a legal battle to save the old Tiger Stadium. The historic ballpark got a reprieve last week because a new movie was shooting there. This one, "The Irishman," is about union organizer and mobster Danny Greene. Stars Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken. Have no idea if it will be good, but hoping its chock-a-block full of big bad heroes.

Meantime, go rent "Gran Torino."  Betting you'll like it. You'll see why it resonated across Metro Detroit, even if not with Academy voters.

- Rachel Wells

Supervising Producer, CNN Entertainment

Filed under: Uncategorized
June 9th, 2009
03:19 PM ET

Snapshot from a movie junket

Not all journalists enjoy asking painful questions.  My old journalism professor would tell us about how he would arrive at the home of a murder victim, to gather information for a story... only to discover the police hadn't yet told the family the news.  He'd have to break it to them - and then get background, and a photo of the deceased for the paper.  Not a job for a sensitive soul.

Entertainment news is usually a lot lighter than that, of course, but "real life" often intrudes, whether it's Phil Spector, Chris Brown, or David Carradine.  This past weekend, I attended the junket for "My Sister's Keeper," which stars Cameron Diaz as a mother desperately trying to keep her eldest daughter from dying of leukemia.  Emotional stuff, but fiction.  What wasn't fiction was what happened in the middle of filming last April: her beloved father, Emilio Diaz, died of complications from pneumonia.

So, do I ask about it at the junket?  Depending on how you look at it, it's directly related to the movie and her performance, or not related at all.  I figured if the conversation led to an opening, I'd take a shot.

For the interview, Diaz was joined by the actresses who play her daughters, Sofia Vassilieva and Abigail Breslin.  All three are quite good in the film, especially Vassilieva, who plays Kate, the daughter with cancer.  The 16-year-old co-star of TV's "Medium" told me she loved that Kate didn't waste precious time with attitude and isolation: "She cut right to the point of being happy, and thankful for every day and the relationship she had with her sister, her mom, and her family."

"And the rare times that attitude flagged," I noted, nodding at Diaz and Breslin, "one of you was there to pick her up."  I'd meant their characters, of course, but... hmm, the idea of mutual support - maybe this was my opening?

"I'll ask this and we can just move on," I began, looking at Diaz.  "You had some tough stuff during filming... while you had your own family problems, did it help to have already bonded with these people [the cast]?"

Diaz didn't flinch.  "Absolutely.  I had to go back to work - there was no option to it, and of course I want to fulfill my responsibilities, and it really helped to go back to a group of people who I trusted, and who were there with open arms and who - literally, I mean these girls literally held me," she said, reaching out to Sofia and Abigail on either side of her.  "So it was a blessing: even though that happened at that time, the blessing is I got to go back to that group of people."

We went on to other topics, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  I'd tried to be polite; she had been gracious; and the potentially awkward moment was past.

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