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TELEVISION & RADIO

'Charlie Rose' this ain't

No Good Television lets celebrities cut loose while helping them to sell their wares.

August 31, 2007|Gina Piccalo | Times Staff Writer

Shia LaBEOUF fantasizing about sex with a Transformer, Amy Poehler advising viewers to "get stoned" before her film "Blades of Glory" because "it'll be funnier," and Robin Williams lobbing F-bombs in foreign accents for "The Night Listener" doesn't sound like studio-sanctioned movie publicity. But in the free-for-all world of the Internet, that's exactly what it is.

No Good Television is a YouTube.com favorite precisely because it shows celebrities riffing wildly about drugs, sex and anything else, while somehow also promoting their latest films. Imagine "The Daily Show's" straight-faced shtick with "Superbad's" raunchiness and you get No Good Television.

It's a brand that fits perfectly online, but could end up on mainstream media; it was picked up earlier this month by Endeavor's Ari Emanuel, who sees it as a late-night show that will upend the staid celebrity interview for the most bankable and elusive demo: 18- to 34-year-old men.

"The good thing about those guys, they're not E! channel where it's gossip," said Emanuel, whose clients include such boundary testers as "Borat's" Sacha Baron Cohen and "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" Larry David. "They just let [celebrities] be natural. That's the differentiating factor. . . . They make it easy. They make fun of the right things. It's what guys go to."

It doesn't hurt that No Good's primary host is Carrie Keagan, whom Thomas Haden Church pegged as a "smart Pamela Anderson." She's a Buffalo, N.Y., native who came to Los Angeles a few years ago to become a music promoter. Instead, she landed a regular on-camera gig interviewing the stars for the small TV production company in Beverly Hills that later became No Good Television.

NGTV.com launched in February, but the site didn't take off until its clips were first posted on YouTube.com in May. Aside from the website, No Good Television is a self-contained production company with in-house music composing, animation, puppetry, a makeup artist, a stylist and a vast content library, much of it uncensored music videos. NGTV.com features more than a dozen other online shows, but Keagan's "UpClose" and "In Bed With" are its cornerstones.

It's Keagan's effervescence, cut with a razor wit, that creates the freewheeling sensibility in the junket interview. She puts actors in the right mind-set to, say, banter about group sex or -- as Matt Dillon did for "Factotum" -- muse on the conspicuous absence of pubic lice since the waxing craze.

"Why can't all the interviews be like you?" Dillon told her.

Laughs, not gossip

Even during the PG-rated "Shrek the Third" interview with Cameron Diaz and Mike Myers, Keagan managed to devolve the chat into an R-rated discussion of "happy endings." Even Myers -- Mister "Fat Bastard" -- was squirming in his seat.

"How come I feel like I'm on the set of 'Hee-Haw' right now?" Myers asked the camera.

It's a startling change for the stars, noted Keagan.

"They do sit in those junket rooms for what feels like days answering the same questions over and over again," she said. "I think it's a nice break to be able to cut loose; instead of going in there with 20 bullet points, I'm trying to be conversational and just have a moment with them that I think they'll respond to."

On one hand, No Good Television shows a cruder side to A-list actors than what's shown on mainstream TV. It feels risqué and completely spontaneous, so viewers don't feel like they're being spoon-fed studio rhetoric.

On the other hand, it's tame compared with the galaxy of tabloid websites and TV shows competing for the next gruesome celebrity train wreck. Interviews steer clear of gossip. No personal questions are asked and the celebrities are always in on the joke. Studio executives can vet footage if they're worried an actor went too far. (An NGTV spokeswoman said that has only happened twice.)

Kourosh Taj, NGTV's co-president and head of programming, put it bluntly: "We want to help them sell their product."

For all that "win-win" synergy, the access is striking considering how far some actors have taken the whole naughty act. Actress Ashley Scott (who costars in the CBS fan hit "Jericho") joked while promoting "Into the Blue," the 2005 bikini thriller starring Jessica Alba, that her brother called the movie "Into the Crotch."

"I've done television shows where you say one wrong thing and the publicist will never talk to you again," said No Good Television executive producer Robert Morton, who has produced "Mind of Mencia" and NBC's "Late Night With David Letterman." "But these guys get away with it. I think a lot of it is the power of the audience they attract."

Generally, Keagan deals with R-rated films appropriate for the raucous interviews. But even when the whole premise falls flat -- like when "Resurrecting the Champ's" Alan Alda stumbled over the show's concept -- it's good TV.

"What kind of a name is that?" he asked Keagan when she introduced the show. "And anyway, what am I doing on it?"

Banking on it

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