Ted Danson, Marg Helgenberger
It's hard to imagine Sam Malone from Cheers needing a maggot wrangler. "I've never seen anything like it," Ted Danson says. Even with silver hair, the Emmy-winning actor looks like a kid who just pulled apart his first earthworm. "You can tell how long a human body has been decomposing by the size of the bugs crawling inside!" And the wrangler's got every variety. "It's incredible, until you think, 'Oh, God. We're talking about dead people.'"
Idris Elba, Luther
Talking to Idris Elba can be disorienting. No matter how often he references his acclaimed roles as Baltimore drug lord Stringer Bell on The Wire ("That part spoiled me and catapulted me onto the radar," he says) or Dunder Mifflin big boss Charles Miner on The Office ("I can't believe I got paid to have so much fun"), it doesn't jibe with the East London inflection coming out of his mouth. Can this be the same actor?
"I can assure you I did not win some sort of contest to replace Steve Carell," insists James Spader, who joins the cast of The Office as Sabre CEO Robert California in the September 22 premiere. "I just thought, this show is fun, this character is strange and NBC asked me to sign on, so I said, 'Absolutely.'"
How's life in the office so far?
For a guy who spent years hanging with Hobbits and Orcs in Middle Earth, it's weird to hear Elijah Wood call Wilfred "the strangest project I've ever done." Especially since it's true.
FX's new comedy is the weirdest show you'll watch all summer, or maybe ever. The hilarity kicks off with — hee hee — a suicide attempt gone wrong. Unable to mix a potent enough pill smoothie, aimless ex-lawyer Ryan (Wood) finds salvation in the form of...
Rizzoli & Isles
Sexier than Cagney and Lacey, brainier than Laverne and Shirley and way better at tracking down serial killers than the women of The View, Rizzoli and Isles are TV's favorite gal pals of the moment. The show's ratings are through the roof. Bloggers obsess over the characters' "secret" love lives. Big-name guest stars are on the horizon. Still, for Angie Harmon, the show's chisel-cheeked costar, the true sign of success was getting a shout-out from Liz Lemon. Last spring, when Tina Fey's character on 30 Rock heard that her boss Jack was buying a cable network, Liz practically started hyperventilating: "Is it TNT? Are Rizzoli and Isles friends in real life?"
"I know it was a joke, but I kinda went, 'Hey, we made it!'" says Harmon. She's taking a break between scenes on the Rizzoli & Isles set in Los Angeles and talking about the 101 unexpected side effects of having the hottest new cable show of the past year. In its debut run last summer, Rizzoli & Isles drew nearly 9 million viewers a week, making the one-hour drama about a duo of mismatched crime investigators the highest-rated commercial-supported cable series of all time. And it's not just Tina Fey: "Old guys from Boston, young girls who tell me we inspire them, moms on the street," Harmon says. "I'm in awe of all the fans of this show."
All season long...
Atticus Shaffer is having Lego flashbacks. "It was a Star Wars set," he says with a groan that makes him sound 70, not 12. "Something like 1,035 pieces. It took me three days to put together." Shaffer only had a few last bricks to click when... Crash! Meowww! "My cat jumped on it and destroyed everything." Shaffer scrunches up his shoulders, tosses up his hands. "So you just start rebuilding."
The adorable young star of The Middle is tenacious like that. At a Lego store near where the ABC sitcom shoots in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, Shaffer is recalling his most memorable projects:
Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly is planning to guest star as himself — playing a "potential murder suspect" — on an episode of Rizzoli & Isles this coming season.
He and show creator Janet Tamaro have known each other ever since Tamaro's first TV job at Inside Edition, where they worked together. O'Reilly is also friendly with Rizzoli star Angie Harmon, an outspoken conservative.
It doesn't matter how many phony shoot-outs you do as an actor. Nothing prepares you for the real deal. "There's smoke in the air and I can see it and taste it," Jason Clarke says with reverence in his voice. He's recalling one of the many ride-alongs he was on with Chicago law enforcement in preparation to play a detective on The Chicago Code, Fox's new cop drama from The Shield creator Shawn Ryan. "Our car pulls up and there's a guy on the ground. He's been shot. It's nighttime. We're outside a church. My heart is pounding and my mind is going, 'What the hell am I doing here?'"
Hugh Laurie and Lisa Edelstein
With a bum leg and a skulking aversion to just about everything, House (Hugh Laurie) doesn't seem a likely candidate to trip the light fantastic with girlfriend Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). Thank the ghosts of Fred and Ginger for dream sequences. In tonight's "Bombshells" episode, Cuddy's anxiety about her relationship with House plays out in a series of fantasies — including a Hollywood Western scene — capped by the Huddsters hitting the floor to an updated version of "Come On Get Happy."
The job of turning doctors into dancers was a snap — or at least half the job was. "For Lisa, this was a dream come true," says exec producer Greg Yaitanes. "She has experience as a dancer and singer and was willing and wonderful." Laurie? "Let's just say he had to surrender to the idea," Yaitanes says, laughing.
Fortunately, they had an inspiring coach. Mia Michaels, Emmy-winning choreographer extraordinaire of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, worked for days ...
The Yuletide episodes of The Closer are true standouts every season, and this one's got it all: holiday hilarity, family dysfunction and, of course, murder. The two-parter opens tonight at 9/8c on TNT with a death on Christmas Eve in a case that threatens to dash everybody's holiday plans. "Brenda [Kyra Sedgwick] and Raydor [Mary McDonnell] always fight to gain control of cases, but they're fighting to give this one away," says exec producer James Duff.
Things get even screwier after Brenda's parents (Frances Sternhagen and Barry Corbin) show up...