Celebritology Live

May 10, 2012

Celebritology blogger Jen Cheney gabbed about the latest celebrity gossip and pop culture news making waves across the Web.

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How is everyone? So much to discuss today: Johnny Depp's weirdness, this whole Travolta situation, tonight's season finales, Mad Men, Jon Hamm's ability to rap ...

Let's just get started.

I miss my first chat in weeks and I miss an Irreconcilable Differences reference? Fantastic movie, and I have no idea why it isn't on TV more. Aside from the costumes, I can't think of much about the movie that isn't still relevant. That movie and Chances Are make it hard for me to hate Ryan O'Neal.

This is a response to something that was said last week, but I am posting it because it confirms that two people -- that would be me and this reader -- like the movie "Irreconciliable Differences."

Thing is, Johnny Depp isn't all that good at playing "un-weird." I'm struggling to remember the name of that trainwreck of a movie he did with Angelina Jolie a few years ago (and whether or not I saw it - neither are a good sign for him though); he does "straight" like every other leading man in Hollywood. I think the issue is that he could be choosier about picking films, but if that's how he has his fun I'm not going to deny him that.

That was "The Tourist." And I think, as you suggest, that more a case of bad choice than anything else.

In terms of him playing "normal," though I would point to the two films I mentioned in my post: "Chocolat" and, especially, "Finding Neverland." He was wonderful in Neverland, very understated, and I think he helped draw out a wonderful performance from Freddie Highmore.

That said, I think he excels when he plays these weirder parts because they clearly are what excite him. But yes, he needs to choose carefully. I didn't think Dark Shadows was the best choice, but I understand why it seemed like it would be and why it was probably fun for him to make -- he apparently loved the show and he got to spend the shoot with Burton and friends.

I gotta wonder if there's some sort of media conspiracy where pretty much every writer/blogger (present company excluded) must worship the dominance of Megan on Mad Men. Because I've read soooo many media outlets gushing about what a great addition she is, and I couldn't disagree more. She's all but ruined the show, and this week's episode was the worst example. Except for Pete's affair with the Gilmore Girl, the entire show was all about her -- if she wasn't in the scene, someone was talking about her. Just hoping that open elevator shaft is in her future.

Well, plenty of people have wondered if there's a media conspiracy purely because of all the coverage Mad Men gets. (As far as I know, there is not a conspiracy.)

I don't think Megan has ruined the show at all. What she has done, though, is make Don a lot less fun. Which is the point of where the narrative is going right now, but also kind of a bummer for those who miss the Don Draper of yore.

Fortunately, Peggy is still around to say awesome things.

"Pizza house!"

This kind of stuff has swirled around Travolta before but seems to be taking more traction this time. What do you think?

To be honest, this is one of those celebrity gossip stories that I hate. Why? Because it's icky and the accusers aren't revealing their real names and the potential for damaged reputations is high, as is the amount of coverage. It's a recipe for the media to sensationalize the whole thing and, potentially, post items that may or may not be true. (In case you all hadn't figured this out by now, I much prefer the pop culture side of Celebritology to the celebrity gossip side.)

That's why I've tread very lightly so far. The fact that more than one person has made the accusation gives the whole thing more of that traction you refer to. But without indisputable evidence, it's really hard to know who is telling the truth.

Clearly Travolta has something to gain from refuting the claims in as forceful a manner possible, but the accusers have something to gain from pressing this and trying to get a big settlement.

Let's talk about shows everyone has watched, like Fraggle Rock. I'm tired of not being in the cool kid club.

Oh my God, did you *see* what happened in the fourth episode of "Fraggle Rock"? It was unbelievable. Although -- spoiler alert -- I hated the final episode of that show. It didn't answer any of my questions about the whole mythology the show had established.

LOVED the goofy old TV show as a kid. I was really put off when I first saw the previews but advance word seems pretty good. Any opinions? I have to admit watching Helena B C imitate Grayson Hall is hard to resist.

I only remember seeing bits and pieces of the show, so I can't compare it on that level.

But I thought the movie was tonally inconsistent. Sometimes it was aiming for campy comedy and sometimes it was a serious love story and sometimes it was both at the same time. It just didn't gel for me.

Yes, Jen, it's just you and that one poster who like that movie. The rest of America, while not hating the movie outright, blame it as the turning point at which cute, adorable Drew Barrymore started her steep slide into her pre-pubescent drug addiction. Look at her IMDb page -- after that movie there was only one more Steven King flick (which was already in production when IR was released, then nothing but a string of TV movies and similar junk until Drew cleaned herself up. Just further proof that Shelley Long ruins everything (including Cheers).

Oh, I'm not talking about what happened as a result of that movie. That's another matter.

Also: I object to your Shelley Long comment, unless you're suggesting that her departure from Cheers ruined the show. In which case, I agree.

And I have no interest in his genres - I just think he's classy. More importantly, Jen + producer (Haley?), please let us know where to write to the Post to tell them how important the chats are to the paper's fan base! They may not make ad $ but they create a priceless bond with readers nationwide, sometimes worldwide, in a way no other paper does. We love what you do! signed, nowhere near the District

Thanks, nowhere near. I don't think the chats are going away, at least not that I know of.

If you still want to send a letter, feel free to e-mail something to me -- jen.chaney@wpost.com -- and I can forward it on to an editor. I agree with you. I think the discussions aren't always the hugest traffic drivers, but they establish a nice dialogue between readers and the people who either make or cover the news.


Jen, I noticed in your Mad Men review you forgot to point out a great pop culture sighting! Did you not notice that none other than Mr. Belding (from Saved by the Bell) played the Cool Whip boss?? Wow, he certainly looked different. I had to rewind his small bit just to make sure. That was kind of crazy; maybe he's trying to get back into acting? On another note, I didn't for one second buy Alexis Bledel as someone vulnerable enough to let Pete Campbell touch her. I thought the casting on that one was all wrong and it was distracting. But Pete is so going to bite the dust this season. RIP

I didn't realize that was him either until after the fact. He looked super-different.

(Photo can be seen here, via Best Week Ever)

And I agree, I wasn't sure how I felt about Bledel in that role either. It was hard for me to believe she was married to Howard.

You can read more thoughts on that and poor Pete in my recap.

Recently, I was doing some mandatory volunteer work and a woman started talking about the famous people she knew through the stable she boards her horse at. She went on to tell about how Ellen is not nice and so full of herself. She burst my bubble. Even if I take what she said with a grain of salt it made me feel disappointed. I always thought Ellen was a good apple, and she probably is. But from now on I think it's best not to listen to anyone's stories about celebrites...including masseurs.

I have heard other reporters tell tales about how horrible certain people are, people I had thought were nice or even concluded based on my own experience were nice.

The fact is that any observation a person makes about another individual is through Person One's prism. Maybe horse stable lady ran into Ellen on a bad day. Or maybe Ellen really is full of herself. It's hard to know unless you spend time with the person yourself, which is next to impossible to do.

Point is: take all things with a grain of salt. But know that, often,  where there's smoke there's fire, too. If someone has a reputation for being a jerk and many, many people have said that, there's usually a reason.

Given all the pre-release hype it sure seems like The Hunger Games came and went pretty quickly. Was it really not 'all that' to begin with?

I actually don't think it came and went that quickly at all. It was No. 1 at the box office for four weeks, which is a rarity. And last weekend, seven weeks after its initial opening, it was still at No. 3. That's some decent staying power, if you ask me.

I had to wait for the credits to confim that was Mr. B. His current picture on IMDB shows him much thinner than he appeared as the "Head of Desserts." I wonder if they added some weight to him- there was a joke about the Head of Desserts being 300 lbs.

Possible. Maybe they just decided to go nuts with the prosthetics budget this year. "Let's order a fat suit for Betty ... and how about a round of extra flesh, just in case we need it?"

I LOVED her in Hello Again! (Hi there Gabriel Byrne). And who can forget Camp Beverly Hills and Outrageous Fortune?! Man, I love 80's movies. As an aside, she's also a wonderfully quirky addition to the Modern Family ensemble.

I think Outrageous Fortune is the only one of those three I genuinely liked. But she has been good on Modern Family.

And she was genius on Cheers. That show still holds up so well. The clothes are dated, to some extent, but the comedy still works.

You mean Fraggle Rock = Lost, right? As for Fraggle Rock itself, I never could get over the fact that the theme song reminded me of the song that the teddy bears sing at the end of Return of the Jedi when they're all celebrating the destruction of Death Star II.

Teddy bears? They were Ewoks. Let's show them the appropriate respect.

Hey, stop laughing!

Who was the tiny guy with the model of the jutting hipbones and no underwear? Or is he normal height and she is 9 feet tall?

I am not sure I saw the tiny guy because I was too distracted by Anja Rubik's protruding hip bone. That was an example of what people mean when they say someone has no meat on their bones.

Since more than a few massage therapists have come out against John Travolta with very similar stories, it would seem Travolta's attorneys' claims of this being totally false are doth protesting too much. Do we think there is something here? And will it have legs, or will it be quietly settled out of court with huge sums of money and gag orders?

I think we'll have to see how many actual defendants come forward. The attorney representing the defendants suggests there are other people but he is still "vetting them" last I read.

If it turns out there are a lot of people and they have indisputable evidence that Travolta harassed them, then it will be harder to make this go away quietly.

The short answer is, it's hard to know yet what kind of legs the case has. But it could certainly get ugly.

That disappointed me because I've liked Sam Neill for a long time, and I like Jorge Garcia as well. Not to mention the Bend It Like Beckham girl. There were so many unanswered questions as well. I hope they at least answer some on the website. I'm also sorry to lose The Finder because I think it's a nice low-key show which reminds me a lot of The Glades on AMC (or is it A&E?). Poor Geoff Stults--first Happy Town and now The Finder.

I was disappointed that Alcatraz didn't suck me in more. I watched the first couple of episodes but my interest wavered pretty quickly.

It's too bad. I wanted to like it but there are only so many shows a person can cram into a week.

Off the top of my head I remember him being "normal" in Nick of Time and Dead Man - both of which were very good.

Yes, more examples of Depp normalcy...

Jen, did you catch Salmon Fishing in the Yemen? If so, did you like it? Personally, I thought it was a gem of a movie.

I did see it. And while I didn't love it, I definitely liked it, especially the performances by Ewan Mcgergor and Emily Blunt. They had a nice chemistry together.

Here's a piece on McGregor that I wrote around the time the film was released, in case you're interested. His fishing stories and Christopher Plummer comments were amusing.

Can someone explain to me why I should care about the lead singer of a band that's never had a song make the Billboard Top 40 and only had 1 song make the Billboard's Rock Chart (peaking at 33)? Look, I get that the issue of gender identity is a big deal, but this isn't someone famous, and the press trying to make a big deal out of it has a real "media rubber necking" feel to it that i find more than slightly distasteful. I don't care if the guy/gal tweeted this to his/her 800 Twitter<tm> followers, that doesn't make it news.

Okay, lots of interesting questions raised here. I'll try to tackle a few.

For starters: A musician's relevance, especially in this age, has nothing to do with the Billboard charts. That's one metric, sure. But there are musicians who have huge followings but never crack the Top 40.

Tom Gabel may not be famous in a George Clooney sense of the word. He's clearly not a household name. But to people who follow Against Me!, this news is significant. Now, granted, the proportion of those people to the amount of coverage is pretty out of whack.

I think you're right that a lot of the interest in reading about this comes from a desire to rubber neck. When it comes to entertainment coverage, one could frequently argue that what gets written about -- including in Celebritology -- isn't "news." It's information that's of interest to people who follow celebs and pop culture.

Are the WaPo Powers That Be thinking of getting rid of the chats?? Is nothing sacred in this world!?

No, as I said before, I don't believe so. Everyone, carm down.

The thing is, we can't necessarily make a judgment about someone based on one (or even several) encounters. Maybe Ellen's dog just died. Maybe she had a fight with Portia. Who knows? My sister lives on an island, and once commented that if she is in a bad mood, she doesn't want to go to the store or whatever because it'll be all over the island as gossip.

That's funny. And true.


The question was "Who is Suzanne Collins" (author of "Hunger Games").

Nice. You know you're big when you make Jeopardy. Oh, and when sell a million-bazillion* books.

*Number approximate.

I've been watching Cheers along with the AVClub (since I only watched it first-run after she left) and while I think it's much better than I ever thought it was (Shelly Long included - up until this, I always thought she was annoying, but she brings a lot to the role) I cannot get over the violence in the Sam-Diane relationship. They are physically hitting each other, and in one episode she slaps him across the face then gets mad when he does it back to her. While I like everything else about the show (and am not missing some of the later character additions I thought I would), the abuse between the two lead characters and the way it is played for laughs bothers me. In real life, their friends would be writing into Hax about this relationship.

That's a great point. It is a terribly abusive relationship and one that would have been dissected to death if Jezebel and similar sites had existed back in the day.

In defense of Sam and Diane, I will say that she gave it to him as good as he gave it to her. It wasn't always the man abusing the woman.

But that comes from a tradition of playing that for comedy -- The Honeymooners did the same thing, as 30 Rock recently reminded us.

Is there a particular reason that no one's mentioning "Donnie Brasco"? If that's not an examplle of great acting for a non-weird role, I don't know what is.

Oh, absolutely. Thank you for mentioning that.

Did you see The Ewok Adventure (I think that was the name) movie? I had it taped on a VHS and watched it lovingly over and over. Then one day I came home and put in the tape and it was gone. Some PBS telethon or something was recorded over it. I still have not forgiven my mom.

Why would someone record a PBS telethon? So they could watch it and think about the money they might have called in to donate?

I don't think I saw Ewok Adventure, but I do still have a stuffed Wickett the Ewok.

Is this chat in danger? So many of them have been discontinued...

If it is, no one's told me.

Again, everyone: remain carm.

To clarify -- yes, I meant that she ruined Cheers by leaving it. To this day, no matter the argument, it's the only good thing she's ever done, and by leaving it to become a "movie star" (cough - David Caruso, cough - dumb ER-lady who's now The Good Wife), she upset the balance of the cast (which had already surviced coach's untimely passing) and paved the way for pre-fat Kirstie Alley. Unforgivable, all of it. Plus, to the earlier poster, no, she wasn't good in Modern Family; she was playing a caricature of every porrly conceived comedic character she's ever played. Neither funny nor creative. Perhaps that's why Fred Willard and Nathan Lane have received Emmy nominations for their guest work on MF, but poor Shelley Long hasn't.

Man, you are bitter about this. I agree that she made a dumb move by leaving. I'm pretty she figured that out sometime around Troop Beverly Hills.

The Money Pit. To this day I don't know how she managed to keep a straight face with Tom Hanks craxking up over the bathtub falling through the floor. She deserved an Oscar just for not losing it during that scene.

Really? The Money Pit?

I remember seeing that on a half-day at the Montgomery Mall movie theater (shout-out, Bethesda/Rockville natives!) and not liking it very much. Should I revisit it? Did I miss important Money Pit-related nuances?

She's giving a concert in the new downtown Brooklyn arena owned by a Russian mogul. I'm verklempt.

Are you sure you have the emotional fortitude to take "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" I'm not sure if you can handle it if you're already verklempt.

Just because the woman "gives it back" to the man doesn't mean it's okay! It means they're both abusive. (Although did Ralph ever really hit Alice or was it just a threat? I can't think of many shows that used actual abuse during a dating relationship for laughs as much as Cheers did.)

No, it doesn't mean it's okay. But since we're talking about a fictional, comedic situation, at least it wasn't one-sided. On The Honeymooners Ralph talked about smacking Alice every five seconds. If memory serves it was mostly threats, but still.

Not to compare myself to your former Celebritology partner, but let's just say I feel the same way about Shelley Long as Liz did (does?) about Dianne Keaton.

Yikes. Good to know.

Oh, yes! Do see it again. It came out when we were teens/pre-teens and, while it's still not great, there is so much about adult relationships and struggles that I missed at that age. If you have a boring afternoon and a few hours to kill, give it a shot.

That rarely happens, but I will try!

And that brings our weekly discussion of  "Cheers" -- uh, and other stuff -- to a close. Please join me at this time next week when we'll engage in an-depth debate about whether we liked Woody or Coach more. (Can we call it a tie? They were both so great.)

All right, kids, talk to you later.

In This Chat
Jen Chaney
Jen Chaney anchors The Washington Post's Celebritology blog, The Post's online window into the world of pop culture and celebrities. She also frequently writes about entertainment trends, filmmakers and other Hollywood-related matters for the print edition of The Washington Post.

A Post staffer for more than a decade, Jen also can be seen reviewing movies on WETA's "Around Town," where she is one of the show's regular film critics. Last year, she contributed a series of essays to the book, "The Friday Night Lights Companion."

When she isn't blogging, at the movies or watching a television show, she's ... um ... probably at home watching a movie or a TV show.

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