Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party!

It's a family favorite halloween tradition, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom!

This year was a bit different for our boys, mostly because they LOVE Mickey's Toontown, which is closed due to construction.  But it did open an opportunity for us to do lots of rides that we normally don't ride.  We rode Peter Pan, I think, for the first time EVER in our lives.  The boys enjoyed It's a Small World, but about half-way through they were finished.

It's a great event for the whole family.  Lots of great people watching opportunities! Check out my photo gallery.  You'll see the big giant penguin dad - he was pretty awesome - except for the fact that the rest of his entire family came in regular clothes.

And then there's the male Blow Pop dude - he's a bit...interesting.

The candy was great this year - lots of chocolate - which they haven't had a lot of in years past.  You could tell due to all the construction issues the candy areas had to move around a lot.  Some seemed a little crowded and the lines were a bit confusing.

But all-in-all, great night by all!

Today, they added a new interactive element to the Halloween party.

A new game called Mickey's Trick or Treat available from Disney on Facebook lets users get in the Halloween spirit by virtually trick-or-treating with online friends and decorating their own porch.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has added signs scattered throughout the park with a code guests can submit in the game and unlock prizes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Fall 2011 Television Season - Hits and Misses...

It's really my favorite time of the year...time for new television shows!

I do a fairly decent job of recording everything on tv at least once...give it a chance...and then decide if I'll record it again.

Warning tv show producers - you are judged on your pilot episodes!


Let's start with the brand new:

The Playboy Club:  Hated it.  Perhaps it's geared toward men?  I'm not so sure, but the story line was weak.  Writing was poor - it just didn't move for me.  Overall, I haven't seen many positives reviews.  I don't expect it to last long at all.

2 Broke Girls: LOVE THIS SHOW.  It's a new CBS sitcom.  Characters seemed real and believable.  A simple premise, girl in New York works at a diner.  Rich girl from a Madoff-like family losses everything and lies to get a job at the diner, but doesn't even know how to make coffee.  Comedy ensues.  This one could last, all depends on where they take these characters.

New Girl:  Not to be confused with 2 Broke Girls, New Girl is the big Fox comedy that they are banking on this season.  This new show stars Zooey Deschanel and has had a lot of pre-publicity.  It's funny, smart and exactly what you expect.  Sometimes, that's not a bad thing.

Up All Night: Perhaps the best new comedy of the season.  This new show stars Christina Applegate and Will Arnett.  Two of my favorite people in the television comedy world are paried together in this totally believable comedy about new parents trying to adjust to working life with baby.  This show has a very Modern Family feel.  If the writers can keep up, this show could be around for a long time.  And I love Maya Rudolph!

Free Agents:  This comedy has potential, but walks a fine line to me.  This NBC sitcom stars Hank Azeria.  Now, I LOVE him in The Simpsons.  He's a comedy genius...but only when you don't see him.  He's pretty much ruined every other movie that he's been in.  Night at the Museum 2?? Terrible performance!  I was worried about him in this show, but so far, so good! Funny, good characters, so we'll see where this goes!

Charlie's Angels:  I thought the first episode was terrible.  I actually deleted it off the DVR about 20 minutes in.  Perhaps it wasn't a fair shake, but I couldn't take it anymore.  Not sure how long I expect this one to be on the air!

Whitney:  I think Whitney Cummings is hilarious.  I want this show to be successful...I think.  It's in 30 Rock's spot right now, so not sure what's going to happen there once the schedule shakes out.  I like the characters in this show, but the comedy seems a little forced.  I'm not sure if I like the "this show is filmed before a live studio audience" thing, but it has potential.

Pan Am: I think this is my big surprise show of the season.  I watched the first five minutes and was hooked.  Once the show was over, I looked back over the credits and realized why I loved it so much.  Two words: Thomas Schlamme.  

My new favorite show this year is not a prime-time show at all...it's daytime baby!

Anderson:  Cooper Anderson gets his own television show and I declare it a success! It's funny, honest, and he's managed to get some big names on his show in such a short time!  PLUS, I love that Kathy Griffin is on a lot so far.  She makes him so uncomfortable, and it's hilarious to watch him squirm.

Still waiting to see ABC's Suburgatory, that will air on Wednesday.  Also looking forward to How to be a Gentleman, which airs Thursday on CBS.  That will go against Parks and Recreation, which is pretty damn awesome.

Next time we'll talk about what I've taken off my DVR list....like Desperate Housewives.  And some of my favorite returning shows, like The Good Wife.  And what do you guys think about Grey's Anatomy these days?

Discuss...what are your favorites? What should I be watching that I'm not?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Scott Harris - The Journalist

I met Scott Harris 11 years ago, when I started at Central Florida News 13.

I was hired as a news producer, and started working the night shift.  The anchor at the time, Scott Harris.

I didn't know much about the man, but I knew what that I was scared of him.

He was a serious journalist.  An "old school" news man who would question and rewrite every single story before he read it.

"Who wrote this?"  "Why is this news?"  "Where did we get this information"  All these were common questions for each story he was asked to read on the air.

As a producer, the worst answer you could give was, "I don't know."

He would insist on getting the facts straight.  And if it was a story he just didn't like, or didn't think was news, get ready.  He would cut the majority of the story and you'd be left with three sentences and about a :15 second story.  Makes it hard as a producer to build the show.

Scott always explained that being an anchor was about much more then just being on television.  He was the face, yes, but it was his responsibility to the viewer to make sure they trusted him.  It's his reputation on the line, not mine as the producer.  No one at home knows who I am.

This made him one of the greatest teachers in my life.

He taught me the difference between county/city government; the difference between police/sheriff; the difference between council members and commissioners.

But his single greatest gift, his knowledge of politics and space.

Even just having Scott do one quick NASA-related story, you could tell this man knew his stuff. 

I remember the very first time I wrote a shuttle package script for him, and he didn't change a word.  I remember exactly where I was at that time, because it was such a big deal.  I really thought, "I finally get it." But I don't think I ever will...

By 2003, I was promoted to Executive Producer.  One Saturday morning my pregnant self was home in pajamas, eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and flipping tv channels.  I was the "on-call" manager that day and I knew there was a shuttle landing, so I thought I should pay attention. 

I turned on NASA TV and all was well...but just a few minutes later there was a comment that there was no communication with space shuttle Columbia, and I knew (thanks to Scott's previous lectures on the subject) that while there was a time when communication was lost, there was a specific time period that it should be restored, so if it wasn't, something may be wrong.

My first phone call, to Scott Harris.  This is how I remember the phone call...

ME: "Hey Scott, it's Jen...are you watching the shuttle landing?"
SCOTT: "I just woke up and was about to turn it on....what's up?"
ME: "GET TO WORK.  NASA lost communication with the shuttle."

He hung up and was at work 30 minutes or so later.  One of the best decisions I've ever made as a manager.

He sat on the anchor desk for hours, with my other good friend Jennifer Roberts.  And the two of them made some television magic.

Scott asked for us to get him a model of the space shuttle so he can demonstrate to viewers what had happened to Columbia upon return into the earth's orbit. And that wasn't an easy task! We called all around and could only find models of shuttles in thousands of pieces that had to be put together.  Finally, one appeared and again, television magic.

That was just one of the many days that Scott Harris hands down beat those network news guys.  He seemed to have the shuttle operation manual memorized and was able to break it down in a way that no one could ever match.

It was also this day that I realized Scott was much more then just an "anchorman."  He was a lover of knowledge, a former engineer in the Air Force and had emotions, because during a short "smoke break" he was visibility upset at the destruction of the space shuttle.  It was an emotion that I had not seen before now. 

It was also at this point, at least in my memory, that Scott and I became a team. Something clicked between us that we just understood each other, trusted each other and began to rely on the other to push through the tough times.

For some reason, the work bosses let us just go and produce television.  We went to political events, shuttle launches/landings, even drove to a meeting about water in St. Augustine.  Stories that no other station really ever touched, especially in the way Scott did.

We would spend hours in the car together, where he would basically lecture me on our surroundings, or the importance of the people we met or events we witnessed. 

He would introduce me to people as, "Jen's my Don Hewitt." Sometimes he would throw out other random names, and I would try to remember them so I could run home and google what he was talking about.

We shared great knowledge, great laughs and great memories. He would share his history-rich knowledge, and I would verse him on my pop-culture knowledge.  He was the yin to my yang.

He would make it a point to "get out of the building" daily during lunch, to "clear your head."  We went to lunch almost daily, and would rarely ever talk about anything work-related.  It was always about an issue or idea.

We would also joke that people probably thought we were a couple...and older man with a younger woman.    He would talk about his son, his sailing, the cats that lived in his backyard "jungle."  He let me see him more then just a newsman, but a real man.

He would walk me to my car every night, making sure I got there safe.  He would send me off with a big sigh, and then..."See ya Jen....enjoy your kids...have a good night..."[[posterous-content:pid___1]]